MRA puts out legislative fires

By AMY DRUMM, MRA Vice President, Government Affairs

On the heels of attending a conference of state retail associations in Montana, I was able to spend some time in Glacier National Park and learned about the many forest fires that happen each year in our national parks. It’s quite shocking to see thousands of acres of blackened trees and how long it takes for the forest to regrow. All from a quick strike of lightning or a careless campsite fire.

It got me thinking: A forest fire is a good analogy for legislation and what happens at the Michigan Capitol. You never know when or where the next spark might occur or how many acres of forest it will burn down.

This all ties in with one of my favorite phrases when it comes to legislation, “well-intended bad ideas.” I could use this column to list all the bills and ideas that fall into that category but I don’t want to make enemies with our friends at the Capitol and our editor tells me I only get about 500 words (and that simply wouldn’t be enough). So instead I want to stress how much time we spend monitoring, tracking and discussing legislation that DOESN’T become law. It’s our act of putting out the legislative fires that have the potential to destroy retail businesses.

It would be exaggerating to say that every spark of a well-intentioned bad idea has the potential to put retailers out of business, but collective small fires can cause an immense amount of damage. Sometimes members ask why we weigh in on these issues and it’s because we know that not every retail business runs the same way. One-size fits-all type legislation doesn’t work for every business in every corner of the state. And we don’t advocate for just one business, but all of our retail members.

Through the end of September, 1,850 bills and resolutions have been introduced. That’s an average of 6.7 bills and resolutions for every single day this calendar year. How many of those do you think are great ideas?

Let’s take a look at a bill introduced just last week that would mandate employers provide employees with a set schedule at least 14 days in advance. It might sound like a good idea to an employee who never gets sick, has no kids, has no ailing parents, isn’t in school, doesn’t play school sports, doesn’t have a second job, never wants to pick up extra hours and never has any last-minute changes. Do you have those employees? Are they the only ones working for you?

In states where similar laws have been debated seriously, employees spoke up loud and clear that these rigid requirements simply don’t work for them. They don’t know their schedule that far in advance and they want the flexibility to pick up extra shifts, call in sick, trade shifts with a coworker, and just live their lives. As the employer, imagine trying to prefill those schedules weeks in advance, being forced to pay time and a half if you need to change them for any reason and then being required to keep scheduling shift records for seven years that must be produced on demand to a state agency. Welcome to a prime example of a well-intentioned bad idea.

MRA’s job is to act as the shield for retailers in Michigan. We’ll go out on the limb, in the lightning storm and try to put out the fires that pop up while keeping an eye on the sky for the next strike.

You can help us prepare for the next fire by contributing to MRA PAC. MRA PAC helps support lawmakers and candidates who understand the unique challenges retailers face every day. They’re the ones who are willing to listen and work with us when we identify these “well-intentioned bad ideas.” If we don’t have enough water to help put out the fires that start, retailers are the ones who will ultimately get burned.