Regulation & Legislation

Law & Ordinance: The Promise of Trump

The new president promised to clear away red tape. Here's a more likely reality.

Part 1 of a 7-part report

WASHINGTON -- As local battles boil over, a different kind of message is coming out of the White House. A presidential executive order from Jan. 30 stated, “It is important that for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination, and that the cost of planned regulations be prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process.” This, 10 days after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, helped reinforce the new administration’s aims to cut red tape.

While the machinations of this initiative are still working themselves out, it sends a probusiness message to c-stores and other retailers. Experts on federal protocol believe Trump’s team may encounter bureaucratic roadblocks along the way. For example, moves at press time by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on nicotine levels have thrown a monkey wrench into new-product innovation, and yet the promise lingers.

“There appears to be an opportunity with the new administration to work on regulations and proposed regulations from previous administrations that seem overreaching, like menu labeling,” says Beckwith of NACS. Long opposed by the c-store industry, compliance with the nationwide menu-labeling regulations—part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act—was delayed by another year just days before the original enforcement date.

“A lot of agencies, once fully staffed, may allow us to get sensible changes made,” says Beckwith.

Of course, this regulatory slowdown at the federal level is riding parallel to the rise in localized actions. “While we have an opportunity at the federal level, the real challenge is at the state and local level,” Beckwith says. “A lot of these things are going to happen in politically progressive areas,” leading to a “patchwork of laws [and] death by a thousand paper cuts. That’s the playbook for activists.”

On the other hand, one benefit of local regulation for retailers is accessibility.

“We do feel it is much more difficult to have our concerns addressed at the federal level,” says Bart Fletcher, president of the Petroleum and Convenience Marketers of Alabama, Montgomery, Ala. “State regulators are ‘just around the corner,’ and we can sit with them in their office and discuss rational solutions to problems. Overall, the folks at the state level are more willing to listen to our concerns. The layers and levels that any federal regulatory changes must pass through are overwhelming.”

That accessibility also goes the other way—with groups that don’t have retailers’ best interest in mind spending their own time with local lawmakers.

* Actions taken within the first five months of the Trump presidency | Source: Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions, published in July by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

Next: Attacking Tobacco

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