Current National Legislative Update

RIFDA National Legislative Update

PRO Act:
Over the last several weeks, pressure has been mounting in the Senate for action on the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 842/S. 420). The bill would be the largest expansion of organized labor rights in over 50 years if it were to pass, which is why unions have been extremely vocal in their outreach to Senate offices (the bill has already passed in the House). Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was the latest addition to the 47 cosponsors for the bill. Although he has recently expressed his unwillingness to change the filibuster, which would require 60 votes, we cannot rule out a potential change in his support for the filibuster either later this Congress or in the next.

While preventing new cosponsors is a high priority, we know that several current supporters have expressed concern with several portions of the bill. Sens. Warner (D-WV), Sinema (D-AZ), and Kelly (D-AZ) are the three remaining Democratic holdouts at this time. We encourage members to reach out to your Senators especially if you have operations in any of those three states.

White House Directs Pharmacies to Offer Walk-In COVID Vaccinations with Vaccine for Adolescents on Deck:
President Biden made several announcements about the nationwide vaccination effort, including a new goal to administer at least one shot to 70% of the U.S. adult population by July 4th. Importantly, the Administration is also directing federal pharmacy partners to offer walk-in vaccinations while encouraging states to do the same. Here is a link to the White House Fact Sheet.

Separately, given all of the news coverage about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine potentially being authorized for use among adolescents 12-15 years old, we wanted to share that CDC’s vaccine advisory committee has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, May 12, and although the agenda has not been released, we have confirmed with CDC that the meeting will include discussions on whether to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for 12-15 years olds. Subject to change, that means FDA will announce it has amended the Pfizer vaccine’s existing emergency use authorization prior to Wednesday’s meeting.

If the CDC vaccine advisory committee holds a vote and recommends the vaccine for 12-15 year olds, then it is likely that CDC would formalize the recommendation, perhaps as soon as Wednesday evening. If that is the case, then Thursday, May 13 could be the first day that 12-15 year olds are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. Again, this is simply conjecture based on next week’s meeting of the CDC committee, and we will follow up with additional information as we have it.

State Emergency Declarations and SNAP EA:
On April 1, USDA issued guidance on SNAP Emergency Allotments (EA) and State Emergency Declarations. In the guidance, enclosed is a memo that was issued to all state SNAP agencies, describing the EA phase-out process states may avail themselves of when their state-level emergency declaration expiration date is imminent. Specifically, the guidance allows for a state that has lost or will lose its declaration in the current month to provide one additional issuance month of SNAP EA.

Even if a state ends their emergency declaration mid-month, SNAP EA benefits are kept and the following month is considered their phase-out month. (USDA told FMI that P-SNAP is not affected when state emergency declarations expire). Alaska, North Dakota and Oklahoma ended their emergency declarations this week; Gov. Kay Ivey has announced she will end Alabama’s in July. Some two dozen states have emergency declarations that are set to expire in May.

Sesame Becomes the Ninth Major Food Allergen as the FASTER Act is Signed into Law:
The Faster Act, S. 578, was signed into law by President Biden Friday night last week. As a result, sesame is the ninth major allergen that must be labeled on food packaging beginning January 1, 2023, as opposed to the previous House-passed version of the legislation that had an effective date of January 1, 2022. The legislation does not give FDA the authority to add other food ingredients to the list of major allergens through regulation. Instead, the bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to provide recommendations for the development of such a regulatory process.

Wage and Hour Division Launches Initiative to Promote Education of Existing Protections for Essential Workers:
Last week, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new initiative aimed at educating essential workers on their rights and protections as they relate to the pandemic. We have previously shared some of the various FAQ’s and guidance issued by WHD and sister agencies over the course of the last year, but this is particularly focused on workers they believe are more at risk to “wage theft” and other problematic situations. The initiative covers everything from wage/leave questions to protections provided for nursing mothers during working hours.

White House Forms Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment:
On Monday, the White House announced their plans for a task force aimed at promoting workers’ collective bargaining rights within the federal workforce. Headed up by Vice President Harris, the task force is planning to provide a litany of suggested actions and policies after a 180-day period of meetings and review—much of which will include soliciting feedback from organized labor groups, academic institutions, and other organizations.

Although their more immediate proposals will be aimed at federal workers, there will no doubt be pressure on involved agencies to find ways to act in a similar fashion as it relates to private businesses and their workers. We will update you as developments from this task force become more clear.

Arkansas and West Virginia Preempt Local Plastics Regulation:
On April 19, two additional states joined the 18 that currently prohibit cities and counties from enacting plastic bag bans and other regulations of plastic packaging, without an accompanying statewide regulatory framework. Both Arkansas’ H.B. 1704 and West Virginia’s H.B. 2500 apply to “auxiliary containers,” defined – similarly to legislation in other states – as “a bag, cup, bottle, or other packaging” that is “made of cloth, paper, plastic, cardboard, corrugated material, aluminum, glass, postconsumer recycled material, or similar material or substrates” and is “designed for transporting, consuming, or protecting merchandise, food, or beverages from or at a food service or retail facility.”

Both measures prohibit local governments from any regulation, restriction or imposition of a fee or tax on auxiliary containers. The bills do contain exceptions for certain regulations for municipal recycling programs, restrictions on littering, and regulations on the use of auxiliary containers on property owned by the local government.