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JUDGING THE 2015 - 2016 LEGISLATIVE SESSION - AN INCOMPLETE GRADE

AUG. 2, 2016 • BY JON HURST
As is often the case, the recently concluded formal session of the Legislature featured some wins—mostly in the defeat of costly employer measures—but some losses, primarily the continuation of existing discriminatory policies, which either result in lower sales, or higher costs for local sellers.

One important win was the passage of a measure to keep the state’s innovative Small Business Health Insurance Cooperatives operating and serving employers of 50 and under. RAM operates one of the existing three co-ops in the state, and thanks the Legislature--in particular the House of Representatives--for recognizing the costly, discriminatory and unfair application of health insurance rates under federal ACA rules. In the Economic Development bill passed Sunday, an important section sponsored by Representative Kate Hogan (D-Stow) allows for new financial incentives to use wellness and provider transparency tools through small business cooperatives. In reaction to double digit premium increases for small employers following the passage of “RomneyCare,” the Legislature in 2010 authorized group purchasing through non-profit cooperatives with upfront premium discounts. Yet, those savings are evaporating under preemptive ACA requirements on state rate setting. The ACA required phase out of state rating factors, means no upfront premium flexibility remains to award employees for using wellness programs, or to shop around for the low cost, high quality healthcare providers—common practices for large employers. The new state legislation moves upfront premium incentives to the end of the insurance contract period in the form of rebates, which remains legal under federal rules. The section also encourages the Baker Administration to seek an Innovation Waiver from the federal government under the ACA to seek more flexibility and fairness for Massachusetts small businesses and their employees. Without rate flexibility and consumer financial incentives, small business health insurance premiums are more accurately labeled healthcare taxes.

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NO SALES TAX HOLIDAY THIS SUMMER

JUL. 19, 2016 • BY JON HURST

Statement of Jon Hurst, President, RAM, on the loss of the Sales Tax Holiday:

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REAL ECONOMIC SOLUTIONS FOR REAL SMALL BUSINESSES

JUL. 7, 2016 • BY JON HURST

Ask any small business owner what they need to be successful, to compete with big companies, to thrive alongside the new “innovation economy,” and to compete with smartphone sellers and they will likely tell you two things – higher sales and lower costs. And that is what RAM is pushing for in order to really help Main Street under the Economic Development bill making its way through the Legislature.

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PROPOSED INCREASE TO FELONY LARCENY THRESHOLD

 

MAY. 24, 2016 • BY RYAN KEARNEY

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PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE: THE PLASTIC BAG?

MAY. 9, 2016 • BY BILL RENNIE

Over the past few years, an increasing number of Massachusetts cities and towns, roughly twenty or so at this point, have taken steps to regulate plastic bags. Early on, some communities adopted measures requiring plastic carry out bags to be of a certain thickness (mils), banning anything thinner than the standard they set in their ordinance or by-law.

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10 YEARS OF ROMNEYCARE HAS LED TO RIGGED SYSTEM FOR SMALL BUSINESS

MAR. 31, 2016 • BY JON HURST

They said it would get rid of the free riders, require personal responsibility, and therefore prevent unfair cost shifts. They said it would mean lower costs as the newly insured would stop using high cost and unnecessary emergency rooms and instead go to the proper setting for the proper care. They said it would help our local hospitals by better managing federal Medicaid money, which in turn would help stop unfair cross subsidies from commercial payers to providers covering government funded patients. They said it would create more competition, choices, defined contribution options and lower costs for small businesses and their employees through a state exchange.

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SENATE INCREASES FELONY LARCENY THRESHOLD

 

MAR. 14, 2016 • BY JON HURST

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A DISAPPOINTING MESSAGE TO MAIN STREET MASSACHUSETTS

JAN. 28, 2016 • BY JON HURST

For many years now, RAM has asked our state leaders to reform costly and anti-competitive laws which hurt our local employers and benefit out of state and new technology competitors. The antiquated Massachusetts Blue Laws prevent higher sales, and make it far more costly to serve your customers, meaning less operating hours, slimmer margins, and higher prices. We asked the prior Governor to fix the discriminatory Sunday premium pay requirement, and didn’t get it. Last year, I served on the Baker Administration’s Economic Development Planning Council and specifically asked for this reform.

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$15 MANDATE GOES TOO FAR

JAN. 22, 2016 • BY RYAN KEARNEY

The following letter to the editor appeared in the Boston Herald's January 22nd print edition. It was prepared in response to a previously published Herald Op-Ed discussing the inherent flaws of the "Fight for $15" campaign. In addition to the general concerns identified in the Op-Ed, the LTE shines a light on two major outliers in Massachusetts wage law which would result in additional costs to the reatil industry in the event a $15 minimum wage proposal proved successful.

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CAN THE PAINT TAX!

JAN. 19, 2016 • BY JON HURST, PRESIDENT

Last summer I paid a considerable sum to have my house painted by a local, North Shore painting contractor. But the money was worth it, and I was pleased not only with the quality of the work, and but also with the fact that the contractor bought all the paint from our local RAM member, mom & pop hardware store. The local economy benefited, as did the taxman because the contractor didn’t take the trip to NH or go online to buy that large quantity of paint in order to avoid the 6.25% sales tax. But it got me thinking, where is the tipping point that pushes a contractor or a do-it-yourselfer to decide to take that ride north of the border to avoid higher, government imposed costs?

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IT’S TIME TO REPEAL THE DISCRIMINATORY SUNDAY PREMIUM PAY LAW

JAN. 6, 2016 • BY BILL RENNIE

On December 22, 1982, Governor Ed King signed a bill into law to allow retail stores to open on Sunday. The law required that most retail employees also be paid time and a half wages for voluntary work on Sunday. The minimum wage in 1982 was $3.35. Music fans were shopping in record stores for Michael Jackson’s newly released album, Thriller, on cassette tape.

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NEW CREDIT CARD SECURITY DOESN’T GO FAR ENOUGH

SEP. 29, 2015 • BY JON HURST & MARTHA COAKLEY

Hardly a week goes by without a news report of a new cyberattack. As any consumer affected by fraud knows, the harm is real. The impact on businesses, government, and other targets is also real, and includes monetary harm and reputational damage that can devastate those so reliant on the trust of their customers.

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EMPLOYEE SCHEDULING: ANOTHER COSTLY EMPLOYER MANDATE BY BALLOT?

 

AUG. 18, 2015 • BY RYAN KEARNEY

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GUEST BLOG: TIPS FOR SALES TAX HOLIDAY WEEKEND

AUG. 12, 2015 • BY EDGAR DWOARSKY

TOP 10 TIPS TO TACKLE TAX-FREE WEEKEND

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WHY THE SALES TAX HOLIDAY MATTERS

AUG. 12, 2015 • BY JON HURST

During the last week of July, the Massachusetts Legislature overwhelmingly passed the 11th sales tax holiday held over the past 12 years. For that action, countless mom and pop retailers are very grateful. The holiday represents a state version of Small Business Saturday, in which our public policy leaders create real consumer incentives, and send a very strong message to our residents that it matters where they spend their dollars. And in these days of unlimited shopping options—including countless tax free sites right on our smartphones combined with price comparison applications--the state incentive is far more important today than it was in the first year, 2004.

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RAM BLOG: THE SALES TAX HOLIDAY -- GOOD POLITICS, BETTER ECONOMIC POLICY

JUL. 7, 2015 • BY JON HURST

As the calendar moves past Independence Day weekend and the state budget gets finalized, the question is now being asked by stores and consumers alike on whether Massachusetts will enjoy a weekend of tax-free shopping this August. If authorized, a 2015 Sales Tax Holiday would be the eleventh in the last twelve years. Stores and Main Streets would be packed with consumers enjoying both the 6.25% tax savings on items up to $2,500, along with the sale prices many stores would be offering.

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PAID SICK LEAVE FAQ'S

JUN. 26, 2015 • BY RYAN KEARNEY

The following frequently asked questions have been prepared by Morgan, Brown & Joy partner Tracy Boland to provide employers guidance as to how to comply with the new Paid Sick Leave law. Members are advised to refer to these materials when creating their new sick leave policy. Members are also reminded that RAM is working on an updated model employee handbook which will include language pertaining to the requirements of the Paid Sick Leave Law. We hope to have the handbook available early next week. In the meantime please feel fre to contact the RAM office directly with any questions ro concerns.

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RAM BLOG: SALES TAX HOLIDAY

JUN. 5, 2015 • BY BILL RENNIE

A top priority for RAM early in this legislative session is a return of the Sales Tax Holiday (STH) in 2015. Legislation was filed on our behalf at the beginning of this session to establish August 15-16, 2015, as a Sales Tax Holiday weekend. RAM staff has been laying the groundwork, discussing the issue with legislators over the past few months, and recently contracted with a consultant to study the overall economic impacts of the Sales Tax Holiday. It is our belief that this study will show the positive added economic benefits to the Commonwealth that result from a tax free weekend and this will further support our lobbying efforts. We are requesting that all RAM members, particularly those who have benefited from past holidays, click here to take this brief confidential survey to assist in the data collection for the study.

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RAM BLOG: RAMHIC OFFERS MORE SAVINGS

MAY. 27, 2015 • BY RYAN KEARNEY

RAM is pleased with the announcement by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) that it will be increasing the financial incentives offered as part of its wellness program—Healthy Actions. The incentive program now provides businesses the opportunity to receive a reward amount of up to 7.5% of paid premium (up from 5%) based on the wellness participation of their covered employees. The program also provides a financial incentive of up to $300 a year to covered employees that successfully complete the program.

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RAM BLOG: MA PAID SICK TIME LAW UPDATE

MAY. 19, 2015 • BY RYAN KEARNEY

Yesterday Attorney General Maura Healey announced her decision to issue safe harbor from the Massachusetts Paid Sick Leave Law for employers with existing paid time off policies. The safe harbor provides qualifying employers a six-month transition period before they must bring their policies into compliance with the requirements specified in the law. A copy of the announcement can be found here.

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