We just wrapped up a busy third week of Session! The General Assembly heard many pieces of legislation which impact the retail industry. These issues include mandated paid leave, disposable bag ban and tax, wage theft, and Accelerated Sales Tax.

MANDATED PAID LEAVE

Several mandated paid leave bills were heard in committee in both the House and the Senate. These bills covered  legislation ranging from the care of immediate family members (SB 41), the establishment of paid family leave for businesses with 50 or more employees (SB 736) and a paid medical leave program for private employers with 50 or more employees (SB 421), to mandating paid medical and family leave that includes civil penalties (HB 973). VRF maintains its position of opposition to all four of these bills, emphasizing that our members value the flexibility they have with the current law, and oppose a mandate being placed on them as they feel they should be able to make a business decision as to whether or not they can afford to offer paid leave. All four of these bills were defeated in committee.

 

DISPOSABLE BAG BAN & TAX

 

Two additional bag ban/tax bills were heard last week, both of which were local option bills. The first would allow localities to chose whether or not they would like to ban plastic shopping bags (SB 193 - CARRIED OVER TO 2019), and the second would allow localities to choose to tax distribution of disposable paper and plastic bags (HB 981 - DEFEATED). VRF maintains its position of opposition and emphasizes the importance of our efforts in the recycling of disposable bags.

 

WAGE THEFT

 

The topic of wage theft was also heard in House Courts Subcommittee #2 last week, and two bills reported out in regards to the topic. The first bill seeks to create a private cause of action for nonpayment of wages (HB 551). This bill would allow the employee to recover the amount of wages due, plus interest at eight percent annually from the date the wages were due. In addition, the employee will recover attorney fees and other costs if the court finds that the employer knowingly failed to pay wages. The employee can even recover triple the amount due in certain situations. This bill reported out of subcommittee 5 to 3 and will now be heard in full committee. The second bill creates new requirements for employers in addition to a new cause of action against employer for failure to pay employees (HB 259). This bill was referred to Appropriations due to the fiscal impact.

 

ACCELERATED SALES TAX

 

We had several bills on the topic of Accelerated Sales Tax, two of which are identical bills. Senator Sturtevant’s  SB 746 and Delegate Head’s HB 1339 seek to phase out Accelerated Sales Tax and create notice requirements for if the threshold changes between now and 2020. Both of these bills were carried over until 2019, giving the interested parties time to determine if it is financially possible for the state to eliminate AST completely. Finally, Delegate Wilt introduced HB 512 which would completely eliminate AST by 2020, the subcommittee recommended referring this legislation to Appropriations due to the fiscal impact to the state budget.

 

VRF is very appreciative to Senator Sturtevant, Delegate Head, and Delegate Wilt for their willingness to carry this legislation. We emphasized to the committees how important this issue is to our members.