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Government at a Glance

1. Colorado pols pass ‘anti-business’ bills

Denver — Colorado Restaurant Association chief executive and president Pete Meersman said restaurateurs in that state were glad to end “the most partisan legislative session I’ve seen in my 28 years.”

The Democrat-controlled state house, senate and governor’s office teamed up during the 120-day session ended May 12 to consider or turn out some decidedly “anti-business” bills, he said. Among them: the repeal of a 55-percent reduction in the sales tax applied to the energy used by restaurants to prepare food. To help reduce a budget shortfall, Colorado lawmakers also eliminated a long-standing sales-tax exemption for the wrapping paper, boxes and bags used by restaurants for take-out foods, Meersman said.

“The overall impact on the to-go packaging was estimated at $17 million,” Meersman said of the additional money Colorado operators believe they will be forced to shell out for packaging following the elimination of the sales tax exemption. 

He said he did not yet have estimates for how much more operators will be forced to pay for gas or electricity with the elimination of the partial sales-tax exemption for those resources, but noted that the increase may be significant because “restaurants are one of the highest users of energy.”

Along with the end of the sales tax exemptions, restaurateurs and other employers also felt threatened by proposed workers’ compensation system modifications and paid sick-leave measures considered during the session, Meersman noted. Though some of the measures worrying operators were ultimately set aside or watered down, he said the recent legislative agenda nevertheless “really has activated our membership as far as the upcoming elections are concerned.”

2. Senate amendment would ease card fees

Washington — Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., introduced an amendment to the pending financial service reform legislation that would limit the fees that financial companies can charge on debit transactions. The provision would authorize the Federal Reserve to determine “reasonable and proportional” interchange or “swipe” fees on debit cards imposed on restaurants and other businesses. The amendment also would allow operators to establish a set of minimum and maximum transaction levels for credit cards, and offer discounts to patrons if they pay their bill with cash, check or debit card. The National Restaurant Association and the National Retail Federation both voiced support for the amendment.

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