Regulatory Wrap-Up: ADA reform, trade back in the spotlight
Arizona: On a party line vote, a senate committee advanced legislation that would alter a 2016 voter-approved initiative which increased the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour and mandated employers provide paid leave. Should the new legislation pass, which is an uphill climb, it would then be placed on the November ballot. If approved by the voters, it would cap the scheduled minimum wage increases at $10 per hour and repeal the paid leave mandate.
Delaware: After failing to advance legislation over the past few sessions, minimum wage proponents revised their legislation this year to a more modest increase, $9.25 per hour (up from the current $8.25 per hour) with no cost-of-living adjustments. The bill may have a decent chance of passage in the senate but may face resistance in the house.
New Hampshire: Legislation to increase the minimum wage to $12 per hour was defeated in the state senate.
Vermont: By a veto-proof majority, the full senate passed legislation that would increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024. The bill now moves to the house. However, Gov. Phil Scott has publicly stated his opposition to the bill, citing the negative impact on small businesses. As a result, the legislation likely needs to pass the house by a similar veto-proof majority to become law.
Virginia: A bill allowing localities to set minimum wages higher than the state level, currently $7.25 per hour, was defeated in the house and is dead for the year. The state constitution has an implied preemption, but it has yet to be tested.
West Virginia: A bill preempting local governments from enacting a variety of ordinances including those related to wages, leave benefits, and scheduling passed the senate and moves to the house. A similar bill passed the senate last year but died in the house due to a singular focus on a medical marijuana bill. Proponents are optimistic that without a similar distraction this cycle, the bill will be passed on to the governor for signature.
Flagstaff, Ariz.: The city’s chamber of commerce was successful in getting an initiative approved for the Nov. ballot that would bring the city’s scheduled wage increase in line with the statewide level. The state’s minimum wage is currently $10 per hour and scheduled to increase to $12 per hour in 2020, with further increases linked to cost of living adjustments. The local initiative would reverse a city law passed last year which set the city increases fifty cents ahead of the state’s.
Federal: For the second year in a row, President Trump’s budget included a call for six weeks of paid family leave funded through state unemployment insurance programs. The funding mechanism is different from a recent proposal by first daughter Ivanka Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio calling for early withdrawals from social security funds. While that concept has gained some traction in Republican circles, it along with the budget proposal are not likely to be implemented in the near future.
Maryland: Legislative efforts to delay implementation of the state’s new paid leave law have failed. The law went into effect Feb. 11. While the state’s labor department stated that enforcement is unlikely until the spring, employers should comply with the new law now.
Vermont: House leaders are pressuring the senate to take up a paid leave bill that passed the lower chamber last year. The bill would create an insurance program funded by a payroll tax paid by participating employees. It would provide up to six weeks off to care for a newborn or ill family members and would apply to businesses with more than ten employees. Last year Gov. Phil Scott vowed to veto any paid leave bill that required a tax increase.
Austin, Texas: The city council passed an ordinance mandating employers provide up to eight days of paid leave to their employees. The ordinance is effective Oct. 2018 and applies to all businesses with operations in the city. Smaller businesses with 15 or fewer employees will be required to provide only six days of paid leave. State Rep. Paul Workman (R-Austin) has vowed to file a statewide preemption bill when the state assembly convenes in 2019 setting up a potential overturn of the city law, but not before it goes into effect this October.
Hawaii: Scheduling legislation that would mandate employers provide ten days advance notice to employees of work schedules passed a senate committee. For context, the legislature has taken action on other progressive issues such as salary history and equal pay leading most to believe that the scheduling legislation has a strong chance of passage.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Labor advocates, led by the organization OnePA, held a rally in front of city hall and announced a campaign in support of a Fair Work Week law for city employees. Councilwoman Helen Gym has called for hearings on the issue but has not yet introduced legislation.
California: The attorney general’s office released a guidance document advising how employers should handle privacy issues that result from the new state law preventing employers from voluntarily allowing federal immigration officials access to employment records. The guidance document specifies the meaning of “voluntary consent,” and outlines what specific records they are able to share with law enforcement in the absence of a warrant.
U.S. House: Legislation passed the full House to protect businesses from excessive litigation for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bill has advanced further than in previous sessions but has a long path to enactment.
McDonald’s: The company faces a class action Americans with Disabilities Act claim in Illinois Federal Court stemming from allegations that visually-impaired customers are prevented access to the restaurant when only its drive thru is open late at night.
Federal: The Commerce Department released a report recommending that the President take action to protect domestic steel and aluminum producers in the form of high import taxes on foreign-made material. The President has 90 days to act, and while the administration has taken similar action on washing machines and solar panels, tariffs on steel and aluminum imports would have a vastly wider effect on the general economy and global supply chain. Trading partners including Canada have noted the need for robust exemptions to be considered, while countries such as China have threatened trade retaliation if steep tariffs are implemented.
- Recent ICE raids in California included audits of nearly 200 employers that were located in “sanctuary cities” and demonstrate that brands may continue to be collateral damage in immigration-related feuds between federal and state lawmakers. ICE announced that “uncooperative jurisdictions” will continue to be target areas for the agency and employers can expect to be caught up in enforcement actions. Companies with operations in large “blue” metropolitan areas in “blue” states should be particularly vigilant.
- Many states are continuing to react to the recently-passed federal tax law to recoup expected losses in revenue. This week, New York Governor Cuomo released a plan that as expected, called for some potential adjustments to the payroll tax and employment-related tax credits. Companies need to be vigilant as many large states will be looking for additional monies.
Legislature Status for Week of 2/20/18
- The United States Senate is on recess this week
- The United States House is on recess this week
- Forty-four state legislatures are meeting actively this week: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Check out our Working Lunch podcast each week that includes further analysis into these legislative issues, policy, politics and much more. You can find Working Lunch on the Nation’s Restaurant News website, or by clicking here, and when you download the podcast and subscribe on iTunes here.
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Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Feb. 16, 2018.
Western: regional species perimeter foundation
Southern: regional species slab construction
Crow's Market Recap: A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow's Weekly Market Report.
SPF sales continued at an overall steady pace, maintaining upward pressure on prices. Although slower than sales activity in January, producers continue to keep order files extended, this week selling at least through February, with several lead times extending into the weeks of March 12 to 26.
- Southern Pine lumber buyers saw more availability on mill lists early. Mill offerings for shipment within a week grew, and discounts in 2×6 and 2×10 appeared as producers tried to move off excesses. Meanwhile, 2×4 and 2×8 supplies remained tighter than other widths, propelling those prices higher.
- Coastal species lumber pricing continued to gain, as mills managed to again sell strong volumes to buyers awaiting a correction in the market. Mill order files remained strong.
- It was “a more moderate week” in Inland lumber activity. Even so, Fir-Larch #2&Btr lumber showed solid price gains. Mill order files pulled back slightly from recent lengthy delivery dates. Hem-Fir lumber was much less aggressive but showed a couple of $5 gains.
- Pricing across stud markets continued to climb, but momentum eased a bit from prior weeks. Western species prices continued to gain overall, but a few spotty discounts were evident. Canadian mills owed their extended order files in some part to railcar shortages.
- Radiata Pine was stable as to price, but log prices in New Zealand have set new records regarding exports; China was noted as the driver of this phenomenon.
- Ponderosa Pine Mldg&Btr and Shop continued to show reasonable demand, enough to maintain firm prices. The strength that developed in Ponderosa Pine Selects and Commons remains, although the pace of activity is moderate. Some producers have begun new runs of Ponderosa, which will come to market shortly.
- Market drivers in the Western Red Cedar market again led to firm pricing. Sales activity continued at a solid pace for February. Mills sold out into April in some instances while others maintained order files into early March.
OSB markets slowed a bit this week at the mill level. Buyers are exceedingly nervous about late loads and worsening transportation issues. Mills are running out of storage space and reloads are packed waiting on trucks and railcars.
- Southern Pine plywood sales activity eased, but producers continued to sell decent volumes. High prices generated some hesitancy among buyers, prompting a more measured approach to the market. This kept prices from increasing as sharply as in prior weeks.
- Western Fir plywood demand remained strong, with buyers coming back into the market to cover needs more fervently in the latter half of the week. Good sales volumes enabled mills to extend order files out into the weeks of March 12 and 19.
- Canadian plywood activity at the mill level continued taking a breather this week. Lengthy order files triggered reluctance. With shipments three to seven weeks late, buyers frantically checked and rechecked delivery status this week, fraying nerves.
- Changes were generally minor in both particleboard and MDF markets. Appreciable gains in activity across any sector of the marketplace were nonexistent. Instead, increases in demand expected over the next several weeks continue to come in small increments.
For more on RISI, click here.
Sales are up, again, at Home Depot
The world’s largest home improvement retailer continued to ring up big numbers for the quarter and the full year. Atlanta-based The Home Depot showed reported fourth quarter net sales of $23.9 billion, up 7.5% from the same quarter last year.
Comp-store sales in the U.S. were positive 7.2%, as the company pointed to a commitment to the interconnected retail experience.
Net earnings in the fourth quarter were $1.8 billion, up slightly from $1.7 billion in the same quarter last year. Earnings were impacted by a combination of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and a one-time bonus payment to hourly associates, the company said.
“Our ongoing commitment to enhance the interconnected retail experience for our customers, provide localized and innovative product and deliver best-in-class productivity resulted in record sales and net earnings for 2017,” said Craig Menear, chairman, CEO and president.
Among the digital initiatives were the implementation of a new e-commerce platform, enhanced search and mobile functionality, increased checkout speed and expanded chat functionality to improve the customer experience with online contact centers, the company said.
Menear said online sales grew 21% in the fourth quarter and 21.5% in fiscal 2017. Online sales now make up 6.7% of total sales.
Senior VP of merchandising Ted Decker reported strength across the store in the fourth quarter, with the pro customer leading the charge. Lumber, electrical, and tools had double-digit comps in the quarter.
At the end of the fourth quarter, the Company operated a total of 2,284 retail stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, 10 Canadian provinces and Mexico.
For the full year, the company reported big numbers: total sales of $100.9 billion marked an increase of 6.7% from the prior year. Comps for U.S. stores were positive 6.9%.
Looking ahead, the company expects to open a mere three new stores in 2018, maintaining its approach to grow the business through its existing footprint. Fiscal 2018 guidance also includes comparable-store sales growth of about 5.0%.