Lawmakers and restaurant leaders gathered today at the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss pressing legislative issues affecting the industry.
Leading the day’s agenda was a focus on health care repeal.
“We want them [employees] to have access to health care, but we cannot afford the legislation as it’s written now,” Roz Mallet, CEO of PhaseNext Hospitality and vice chair of the NRA Board of Directors, told attendees.
“We cannot wait two to four years for change. We need them [politicians] to work on change sooner rather than later,” she continued, urging colleagues to “tell their stories” to politicians on Capitol Hill to help them understand the negative impact the health care bill has on restaurateurs.
U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.) assured attendees in his address that republican legislators are “trying to take this [health care reform] apart piece by piece.”
“Only now are we finding out fully the effects of this mandate,” he said.
In addition to calls for health care reform, industry leaders are lobbying politicians to support debit card swipe fee reform. According to recent statistics, about 70 percent of all payments processed come from debit cards. The Durbin Amendment, aimed at capping interchange fees, could save merchants as much as $450 million in its first year.
“When your margins are as tight as they are in the restaurant business, every dollar saved is a dollar for more jobs,” said Bob Carr, CEO of Heartland Payment Systems, which was a sponsor of the conference.
While restaurateurs focused on industry-specific issues, keynote speakers Walden and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) emphasized the need to cap the federal debt and cut spending.
“We need to look at the next generation, not the next election,” Manchin said of the effects of the growing debt.
Walden, who calculated the debt growing at a rate of $58,000 per second, called for tough budget cuts across all sectors. “This is not sustainable,” he said. “That’s why we have to pull the money back.”
Other issues on the conference agenda include, immigration reform, gainful employment regulation, and curbing childhood obesity.
The NRA’s annual Public Affairs Conference continues today, with individual visits to Capitol Hill filling out the remainder of yesterday’s agenda.