It’s the first of the year; a fresh start, new goals, new resolutions. If one of your goals is to be more informed (and we hope, more involved) about the legislation and regulations that affect your business, the Home Furnishings Association is here to help.
Here’s a refresher of where we are with some of the issues heading into 2018:
Marketplace Fairness Act
While the Trump administration is generally supportive of a legislative fix for online sales tax collection, it wasn’t included in any tax reform proposals.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte will retire from Congress at the end of his term in 2018; this could be good for retailers as he’s refused to bring up a traditional Marketplace Fairness Act or anything related to it through his committee.
It’s still possible that a fix could be attached through the congressional process but we’re also watching the possibility of the Supreme Court hearing a related case from South Dakota that could lead to a reconsideration of the Court’s previous 1992 Quill decision, which established the current ‘physical nexus’ test. The HFA, in concert with seven other associations, submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on showrooming to encourage the court to hear the case.
Hours of Service
When Congress passed a Continuing Resolution that funded the federal government through April 2017, the bill contained a provision related to the Hours of Service (HOS) regulation. The language remains tied to the congressionally-mandated study on the HOS rule. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) mandated study didn’t meet the criteria required by Congress so the pre-July 2013 restart rule continues to be in effect indefinitely.
These regulations apply to commercial truck drivers regardless of whether they are carrying shipments within or across state lines. These rules limit the number of daily and weekly hours spent driving and working, and regulate the minimum time drivers must spend resting between driving shifts.
These rules prohibit driving a property-carrying truck for more than 11 hours or driving after having been on-duty for 14 hours. The 3-hour difference between the 11-hour driving limit and the 14-hour on-duty limit gives drivers the opportunity to take care of non-driving working duties such as loading and unloading cargo, fueling the vehicle, and required vehicle inspections, as well as non-working duties such as meal and rest breaks. After completing an 11- to 14-hour on-duty period, the driver must be allowed 10 hours off.
After a driver accumulates either 60 hours of drive time in seven days or 70 hours in eight days, they are allowed a 34-hour break so their driving clock resets. That 34-hour period must also include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
The Environmental Protection Agency published a final rule establishing new compliance timeline extensions for the formaldehyde rule on composite wood products for:
- Recordkeeping to December 12, 2018
- Import Certification to March 22, 2019
- Laminated products to March 22, 2024
Under the new EPA rule, retailers nationwide must maintain bills of lading, invoices, or comparable documents for three years with a statement of TSCA Section VI compliance. This chain-of-custody is critical for compliance purposes.
Flame retardants and tip-over standards
The Consumer Product Safety Commission made a ruling granting a petition to environmental groups that would ban organohalogen flame retardant chemicals from broad classes of consumer products, including furniture. The CPSC has issued initial guidance alerting manufacturers and retailers of this ruling and encouraging them not to use these FRs in these products as they develop rules and additional guidance.
CPSC Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle has said previously that her views on tip-over, specifically regarding the industry’s voluntary standard, are to rely on the data and science to determine if changes to the standards are required. However, the CPSC plans for 2018 are to use an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR)—the first step in any rule-making process—to further engage with the furniture industry to gather data and insight on this issue.
There are two Republican CPSC nominees awaiting Senate confirmation that would make the ratio of Republicans to Democrats 1:1. Currently, Democrats still hold a 3:1 voting majority which has led to the FR petition and furniture tip-over ANPR.
Deferred Interest Financing
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was created by Congress in 2010 by the Dodd-Frank financial legislation with very limited congressional oversight and a sole Director (rather than a commission). Since 2010, Republicans and various industries have been pushing for the CFPB to be significantly changed or abolished.
The most immediate Director, Richard Cordray (chosen by Sen Elizabeth Warren), resigned and named Leandra English, the agency’s chief of staff, as the interim director. President Trump appointed the Office of Management and Budget’s Mick Mulvaney as the interim director under his powers through the Vacancies Act.
This has set up a legal fight as both Mulvaney and Cordray’s appointee showed up to run the agency. Cordray is planning to run for Governor of Ohio. At press time, a federal judge ruled that Mulvaney could serve as acting director of the agency. U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee, said that the case required further review but that Mulvaney may serve while it makes its way through the courts.
The CFPB has been looking at deferred interest financing promotions, used by furniture retailers, and other incentive packages. With Mulvaney leading the agency, those investigations would be pulled back but a Cordray ally would lead to the status quo.