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Throughout the Year and the Country − Franchising Continues Health Care Advocacy Efforts

Amplifying the voice of the franchise industry means educating lawmakers and engaging fellow constituents on the issues most important to franchise small-business owners.

During last month’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., hundreds of International Franchise Association members arrived on Capitol Hill to meet with their elected officials and advocate for policies that will help franchising grow and prosper nationwide. The conference is IFA’s largest advocacy event of the year, but it is far from being the only advocacy event in what has been a busy year for lobbying lawmakers.

Easing ACA’s Burden

Although the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate has been delayed for one year, IFA has been hard at work to pass technical changes to the law to ease the burden on franchise small- business owners. The one-year delay is welcome relief for business owners struggling to comply with the law’s complex requirements, but with the economic viability of many franchise businesses at stake, more changes are necessary to prevent disrupting the fragile economic recovery.

“We applaud the administration for responding to our repeated requests to provide relief from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” said IFA Pres. & CEO Steve Caldeira, CFE, in a statement released in July. “This will relieve the onerous and costly burdens of the ACA for one year, and allow the administration to re-examine its implications for small businesses. We look forward to continuing our work with the administration to ensure that the Affordable Care Act is implemented with minimal negative impact on franchise small-business owners.”

IFA Updates U.S. Cabinet Officials

In recent months, IFA’s Government Relations & Public Policy team has met with officials from several major federal government departments including Treasury, Health and Human Services and the Small Business Administration. Our goal was to advocate for additional transition relief for small-business owners, include delaying penalties and coverage requirements.

IFA has also asked for changes to burdensome reporting and auto-enrollment requirements, and has submitted comments on proposed regulations on those requirements through the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care Coalition. E-Flex is a group of associations and businesses with many part-time, low-wage and high-turnover workers.

The one-year delay of the employer mandate is evidence of the industry’s recent success.

Two high-ranking officials from these agencies spoke during the Public Affairs Conference last month to address the progress of ACA implementation, including J. Mark Iwry, senior advisor to the secretary and deputy assistant secretary for retirement and health policy at Treasury and Meredith Olafson, senior policy advisor to the administrator at SBA.

Maintaining an open dialogue with the administration and members of Congress has been an effective way for the franchise industry to communicate its concerns with top policymakers in Washington, and the one-year delay of the employer mandate is evidence of the industry’s recent success.

Seeking Statuary Changes

In addition to advocating on regulatory matters, IFA has continued to press lawmakers for statutory changes to the ACA that would provide franchise small-business owners with more flexibility and certainty when implementing the employer mandate.

Legislation is currently being considered in Congress to redefine “full-time employee” in the law as one who works 40 hours per week, an increase from the current definition of 30 hours per week. H.R. 2889/S. 1188, the Forty Hours Is Full Time Act, is sponsored by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) in the House and by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in the Senate; H.R. 2575, the Save American Workers Act, is sponsored by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ill.).

Local, organic and candid events have a unique and lasting impact on lawmakers that is impossible to replicate in Washington.

Caldeira recently met with all four original sponsors to express the industry’s appreciation for their efforts to pass the legislation. In addition, he represented IFA during a meeting of the Senate Democratic Leadership to share IFA’s views on job creation, economic development and American competitiveness. At the meeting with other top association leaders were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), as well as Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Even before the Public Affairs Conference sent hundreds of IFA members to meet with their elected officials, IFA staff laid a significant foundation by meeting with 30 senators and their staffs to discuss the 40-hour issue. During the conference, IFA and its member companies have had 142 House office appointments and 66 Senate office appointments sharing information on the economic impact of franchising and stressing the need for meaningful changes to the ACA.

During the August recess, members of Franchise Congress, IFA’s grassroots network, attended town hall meetings and franchise-specific roundtables with elected officials in their home states to amplify the voice of the franchise industry by educating lawmakers and engaging fellow constituents on the issues most important to franchise small-business owners. These types of local, organic and candid events have a unique and lasting impact on lawmakers that is impossible to replicate in Washington. This type of advocacy, throughout the country and throughout the year, is critical to the success of the industry’s legislative initiatives.

Meet with your representative at his or her district office. Invite your representative to visit your business and meet your employees. Write letters and e-mails to express your concerns.

We encourage all IFA members to join Franchise Congress to receive updates on ways to get engaged and to attend events in your area. You can sign up at no charge at www.franchisingvotes.com.

Thanks to all our Franchise Congress advocates who volunteer their time and resources to better the franchise industry, and we hope to see you all at the 2014 Public Affairs Conference or a local event in the near future.

Jay Perron is the vice president of government relations & public policy for the International Franchise Association. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.

 

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