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Warning issued over proposed ‘Green Chemistry’ regs in California

BY Brae Canlen

A proposed set of regulations that would force manufacturers to substitute alternative chemicals if they want to sell their products in California has been released for public comments, which will be accepted until Sept. 11, 2012. But according to Retail Law Observer, a newsletter published by a Los Angeles law firm, the “Green Chemistry Initiative” is a far-reaching set of rules that could have a profound effect on retailers, importers, distributors and manufacturers of a number of products. Many of them are in the home improvement or building channel.

The California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which will oversee the new regulations, will collaborate with product manufacturers to assess whether consumer products containing certain "chemicals of concern" can be made with safer ingredients. If the companies refuse to comply, sale of the products can be banned from California. 

Once implemented, the regulations will empower DTSC to order companies to use substitute chemicals when manufacturing certain consumer products or face a ban on the sale of those products in California. 

While the DTSC does not have a list of “unsafe” products, the “chemicals of concern” number 1,200. Examples are particulates (wood dust) and certain chemicals found in adhesives, sealants, some paints and coatings, and spray foam insulation.

“Manufacturers that currently sell products only outside of California will have to be increasingly vigilant about whether their products end up being sold in California, and are subject to these regulations,” warned the Retail Law Observer.

While the manufacturers have the primary responsibility to disclose ingredients, no one in the supply chain is off the hook, according to the lawyers:

“The importer will have responsibility if the manufacturer fails to comply, and retailers will be required to comply only if the manufacturer and importer (if any) fail to comply. Retailers will be responsible for tracking information posted on a "Failure to Comply" list on DTSC’s website, and ensuring compliance for listed products.”

The proposed regulations are presently undergoing a 45-day public comment period. The DTSC intends to issue final regulations by the end of this year or early 2013. DTSC will hold a hearing on the proposed regulations on Sept. 10, 2012. The written comments period closes the next day.

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Annual adoption of cash balance plans nearly doubled

BY SHRM online staff

A new report shows a 21% annual increase in cash balance "hybrid" retirement plans in the United States between 2009 and 2010 (the most recent year for which IRS reporting data is available), almost double the previous year’s 11 percent growth rate. Cash balance plans continued to outpace all other sectors of the retirement plan market, according to the 2012 Cash Balance Research Report from Kravitz, a provider of retirement plan management services.

There were 7,064 active cash balance plans in 2010, up from 1,337 in 2001, representing 810% growth in less than a decade. Moreover, there were 11.1 million participants in cash balance plans nationally, with $713 billion in total plan assets, according to the report.

Cash balance plans seek to combine the high employer contribution limits of traditional defined benefit plans with the flexibility and portability of 401(k) defined contribution plans. “Business owners are increasingly choosing cash balance plans as a strategy to accelerate retirement savings, enhance employee benefits and gain a buffer against market fluctuations,” said Kravitz President Dan Kravitz. “IRS regulations released in October 2010 added flexibility for plan sponsors, so we expect this growth rate to continue accelerating.”

Fastest growth at small companies

Other key findings from the report include:

Small businesses are driving cash balance plan growth. Of all cash balance plans, 84 percent were at firms with fewer than 100 employees, with the fastest growth in companies with fewer than 50 employees.

Few employers provide a stand-alone cash balance plan. Of those that offered cash balance plans, 97 percent did so in combination with one or more defined contribution plans. The most common combination was a cash balance plan with a 401(k) or profit sharing plan.

The largest plans (those with 10,000 or more participants) typically represent traditional defined benefit plans that were converted to cash balance plans. These conversions are expected to increase as an alternative to terminating financially troubled defined benefit plans.

California and New York had the highest number of plans. California and New York together accounted for 23% of all cash balance plans nationally, but the fastest growth in new plans has been in Florida, Texas and Michigan. 

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

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Fifty winning retailers, state by state

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Home Channel News selected 50 hardware stores — one from each state — for inclusion in the second annual Hardware Store All-Star list. The stores distinguish themselves with strong customer service, innovative approaches to retail, and a connection to community and customers.

The alphabetical listing of All-Star stores, one from each of the 50 U.S. states, continues here with Virginia and Washington:

West Virginia
Hardman Supply Co.
Spencer, W.Va.
All-Star patriotism is on display at this six-unit Do it Best dealer. When callers are on hold, owner Tom Hardman introduces himself with a taped message that promotes a retail crusade in support of U.S.-manufactured products. “At Hardman’s, we want to help put America back to work,” he says. “Not all the products we stock are made in the USA, but there are a lot that are.” Made-in-USA signage and stickers helps customers find them.

Wisconsin
Prairie Side True Value
Kenosha, Wis.
After 25 years as a manufacturing engineer, Gary Dickes “retired” to Kenosha, Wis., in 2009 and opened a hardware store not far from Menards. “We have ways to compete,” he said, knowingly. Being located next to a busy Walgreens helps. And the entire storefront is glass. “At night, with the lights on, you can see all the way through the store,” Dickes said.

Wyoming
Ace Hardware Buffalo
Buffalo, Wyo.
Owner Bob Zimmerschied said Ace Hardware Buffalo is just as interested in locating the correct “20-cent screw” for a customer as it is in making the big-ticket sale. “We concentrate on our core competencies, of matching the right product to the right application,” he said. “We’re the link between manufacturer, distributor and customer. We seek ‘absolute-zero connectivity,’ meaning no resistance from the customer.”

In the past two years, 100 hardware stores across the country have been selected as Hardware Store All-Stars by Home Channel News. For the 2011 list, click here.

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