By: Chris Jones
NGA Vice President of Government Relations & Counsel
The mixed election results mean a mixed bag of opportunities and challenges for NGA in the days and months ahead. Before we look to the 116th Congress, there are a number of outstanding items on the to-do list that this Congress must address during the Lame Duck session. The term “Lame Duck” refers to the time between the election and the beginning of a new Congress. Typically, the party in power uses it as an opportunity to muscle through major agenda items while facing limited political risk.
The biggest agenda item that NGA is working on right now is the Farm Bill. We anticipate that Republicans will move to finalize the 2018 Farm Bill in the Lame Duck session of Congress. Right now, President Trump and House Republicans are insisting that the Farm Bill include stricter work requirements for SNAP recipients, and this priority is the single biggest sticking point in negotiations. The House Farm Bill, which included work requirements, passed the House with no Democratic support, while nearly every Democrat in the Senate has vowed to oppose stricter SNAP eligibility requirements. Whether or not Republicans will back away from work requirements reform to pass a Farm Bill remains to be the big question.
Another important issue NGA has been involved with since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) went into effect is finding a solution for what has been dubbed “the retail glitch,” or the drafting error that prevents retailers from being able to fully and immediately expense interior remodels to stores, such as ceiling tiles, shelving units, freezer doors, or electrical wiring. The issue has received a lot of attention throughout the past several months, thanks to efforts by NGA and other business and retail organizations, but it remains unresolved. It is probable that the retail glitch will be fixed during the Lame Duck session before Democrats take the gavel to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee where they will try to pick apart the new tax law. Republican leadership has asserted that they may introduce a technical corrections bill during the Lame Duck session, and the highest priority item is the retail glitch. NGA continues to urge Congress to act on the retail glitch as soon as possible to ensure that independent grocers can plan for their futures and invest in their stores.
While we know who will control each chamber, NGA will need to hit the ground running as we can expect more than 80 new members will be sworn in the 116th Congress. The House and Senate will look much different next year, but we are excited that dozens of champions for the independent supermarket industry will be seated in Congress this coming January. Many of these candidates will be taking up important Committee Chairmanships and are ascending the ranks in Congressional leadership.
The House and Senate will look much different next year, but we are excited that dozens of champions for the independent supermarket industry will be seated in Congress this coming January.
There’s no doubt that we will see gridlock given the future divided government, but NGA’s Government Relations team has worked hard to build strong relationships with key House Democrats who will be in power in the 116th Congress. We will also look to our members to help us forge new relationships with members of Congress in your districts. You are an important stakeholder in your communities and the independent supermarket industry. Thanks to the efforts of our members, we have seen the power of grassroots to shift legislative debates to more favorable outcomes for main street grocers—let’s continue to carry that momentum into the 116th Congress! On behalf of the government relations team at NGA, we look forward to working with you and your Members of Congress to advance policies that ensure that independent supermarkets can continue to invest in your stores, employees, and communities.