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The National Restaurant Association has been busy on Capitol Hill this year as credit-card swipe fees, health care reform and menu labeling regulations continue to take center stage for the industry.
Scott DeFife, the group's executive vice president of Policy & Government Affairs, updated attendees at this year's Pizza executive Summit in Chicago, on a number of issues impacting restaurant operators and where those issues now stand at the national level.
Although the group is always working on a number of issues, DeFife described the status of several that could directly affect the restaurant industry. Here's a look at where they stand:
DeFife said banks collect about $16 billion in swipe fees annually, which chips away at restaurant operators' profits, considering the restaurant sector is the second-largest, private-sector employer.
The NRA supports the Federal Reserve's proposed rule reducing debit card swipe fees to between 7 cents and 12 cents per transaction. The current average is 44 cents. The final ruling is due out July 21, DeFife said.
According to DeFife, the NRA's work went a long way in helping to repeal the IRS Form 1099 reporting requirement passed in the health care reform bill. It would have forced businesses to file an IRS Form 1099 for all payments they make of more than $600 a year to providers of property and services.
Comments are due July 6 about the governement's proposed regulations requiring restaurant chains of 20 or more to provide calorie information on their menus, menu boards and drive-thru menus. Nutritional information such as protein and carb counts must be available to customers who request it. DeFife pointed out that although the law won't affect smaller restaurants, they may still opt in to follow Federal regulations to avoid having to follow any proposed laws on the state and city levels.
The proposed compliance time for restaurants to disclose calorie information in their stores is six months from the time the law is passed; however, the NRA is asking for an additional six-month extension, DeFife said. The NRA also is proposing a "reasonable basis standard" to recognize the inherent variability of hand-prepared restaurant food.
Some advocates have proposed imposing restraints on restaurant commercial activity in an effort to reduce childhood obesity. Some possibilities could include banning advertising to children about certain food products during television programs geared toward them and banning toys that often come with kids meals at restaurants. DeFife said the NRA is working with other food industries, including grocery stores and manufacturing companies, to make sure laws stay balanced and fair and don't end up going over the line by banning "crayons and dominoes."
Currently, there is no Federal law banning toys in children's meals, but San Francisco and New York have both proposed such regulations.
Click here to see a video interview with DeFife.