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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Approximately 100 industry leaders converged on the nation's capital this week for the NACS 2012 Day on Capitol Hill. Their goal was to let elected officials know that, as an industry made up of more than 148,000 convenience stores, they will not be ignored on the issues that are important to them.
And with the employees in all those retail sites at the backbone of the officials' constituencies, the retailers are the very people Congress wants to -- and needs to -- hear from, said John Eichberger, NACS vice president, government relations.
Unlike the 2011 Day on Capitol Hill, which found itself in the thick of the swipe fee reform debate, retailers this year were focused on four key issues: fuel liability reform, PCI data security, menu labeling and roll-your-own tobacco when meeting with members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
After meeting for a round-up of the issues and getting some tips from the NACS team on how to lobby members of Congress, CSNews Online was invited to spend the day with E-Z Mart Stores CEO Sonja Hubbard as she met with several elected officials from three of the convenience store company's core states: Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Hubbard was the 2010 inductee to the Convenience Store Industry Hall of Fame, sponsored by Convenience Store News. She also holds the distinction of being the the first woman to enter the hall.
Crisscrossing the hill beginning at 9 a.m., Hubbard stressed the importance of leveling the playing field on all issues so the c-store industry can remain a competitive industry and key cog in the country's economic recovery. And generally, she found the members of Congress receptive to the industry's concerns.
The payoff may come very soon. There is a domestic fuels bill ready to be heard in the Senate that would address a lot of the retailers' concerns about alternative fuels and their liability. In addition, there is proposed legislation in the works in the House of Representatives to clarify menu label regulations that have -- unintentionally, according to some -- grouped convenience stores into those establishments that would be required to display calorie counts for all prepared and packaged food items for sale.
Currently the rules require any chain with 20 or more sites under the same name and whose primary business is selling food to display those postings. The rules apply to locations where 50 percent or more of the floor space is dedicated to selling food. Soon-to-be proposed legislation would change that standard to businesses where 50 percent or more of the revenue is derived from food – which would exclude most c-store locations that sell fuel.