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    New Democratic Congress Means Changes for C-Stores

    Reforms on immigration, energy and federal minimum wage all possible with election results.

    Republicans took a backseat to a wave of incoming Democrats Tuesday, as voters across the nation decided to oust incumbents and seat Democrats in their place on Capitol Hill. While the Democrats made promises for change in their campaigns, it is still unknown how the new Democrat majority in the House of Representatives will impact business in the upcoming years, BusinessWeek reported.

    Democrats took 33 seats from the GOP as of midnight on Tuesday, far more than the 15 they needed to take control of the House, the report stated. By press time yesterday, the Senate majority was still undecided, with one seat, Virginia, left unclaimed.

    With the new Democratic House, numerous pro-business Representatives-elect were chosen, including Brad Ellsworth and Baron Hill for Indiana; Heath Shuler, businessman for North Carolina; and Gabrielle Giffords, business executive with corporate support for Arizona.

    For c-stores and other businesses, the election offers the hope of bipartisan compromise on some top corporate issues, BusinessWeek reported. However, there is a concern that aggressive hearings through Democratic committees could target some Republican-leaning companies.

    In addition, Democratic control could mean that Congress will likely approve comprehensive immigration reform including a guest-worker program, as well as an attempt to reduce the federal deficit and the adoption of a pay-as-you-go budgeting system. BusinessWeek also reported that companies can look toward reinstatement of the R&D tax credit, which expired last year due to partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill.

    Some industries, including energy, may face difficult hearings held by new committee chairmen. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed to roll back tax incentives given to energy companies under the Bush-Cheney energy plans. Look for Democrats to push for more money to be spent on alternative energy sources and green technology, BusinessWeek reported.

    Small businesses might have to compensate workers accordingly with the first federal minimum wage increase in nine years, the report stated. Democratic leaders have not yet decided to increase the current minimum wage of $5.15 to $7.25 per hour at once or phase it over two years.

    Also affecting small businesses is the repeal of the estate tax. The Democratic House Ways & Means Committee is not likely to extend any Republican tax cuts initiated from 2001 to 2003. Instead, expanding tax credits for college tuition costs and repairing the Alternative Minimum Tax will be issues to focus on, Democratic staff told BusinessWeek.

    Even with a Democratic House, President Bush's veto can stop any overly Democratic legislation, the report stated.

    Convenience retailers will not face these issues alone, however, as NACS' stance on issues will not change. "Whatever comes up we'll defend and fight for the industry, the issues addressed may change based on the priorities coming with our new leaders … but it's too early to say what those issues will be," Jeff Lenard, spokesman for NACS told CSNews Online.

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