AHFA follows several additional legislative and regulatory issues that impact its member companies. However, due to the broader scope of these issues, AHFA joins with other, larger industries and stakeholders to more effectively communicate its positions on Capitol Hill.
In February 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) released a proposed rule on “Representation-Case Procedures” – otherwise known as the “ambush election rule.” The rule was struck down in U.S. District Court in 2011 because of the absence of the required quorum at NLRB when it was originally passed. The NLRB now has a full membership of five members and is reconsidering the measure. Comments were due in April 2014. The nation’s largest retail and manufacturing trade associations – namely the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Retail Federation (NRF) – have pledged to fight the measure into court, if necessary.
The search warrant executed in September 2013 by U.S. Customs, Fish and Wildlife Service agents on the Virginia-based Lumber Liquidators flooring wholesaler was a reminder that the federal government has not lost interest in enforcing the 2008 amendments to the Lacey Act – despite the stalemate in Congress over proposed reforms to implementation and enforcement.
In addition, unlike other high profile investigations that focused on exotic and potentially threatened wood species (like the Gibson Guitar case), the Virginia raid was for common hardwoods used in everyday flooring materials that were allegedly sourced from a protected forest in Eastern Russia. Companies that believe they are insulated from Lacey Act issues because they only deal with abundant wood species should take note.
AHFA is part of a business coalition that has argued for changes to the Lacey Act amendments in hopes of simplifying and facilitating compliance. In particular, the coalition proposes that Congress:
- Preclude retroactive application of the amendments prior to their May 2008 effective date;
- Replace the requirement to file a “declaration upon importation” of each shipment with a “declaration on demand;”
- Specifiy that the amendments apply only to foreign laws directed at the protection, conservation or management of plants or the ecosystems of which they are a part, and provide for a publicly-available database of those laws; and,
- Clarify that strict liability for seizure of contraband under the civil asset forfeiture statute does not apply to plants under the amendments and provide a legal means to return seized goods to those who can demonstrate to a federal judge that they exercised due care in compliance with the law.
AHFA maintains that the cost of being subject to a Lacey Act investigation or enforcement action would greatly exceed the cost of compliance with the law. Helpful tools are provided in the Compliance Toolbox accessed from the AHFA home page. (June 2014)