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Local Policy Digest

By Matt Crawley and John Lunde | December 11, 2018
Topics: Local

City of Boston

Boston business community takes on proposed predictive scheduling ordinance.

Earlier this month, the Boston City Council discussed an ordinance that would require city contractors to give their employees increased notice of schedule changes and compensate them for changes made at the last minute. The measure is an effort to provide additional stability for hourly wage workers with fluctuating schedules working with the city.  

The ordinance would require employers to provide employees with their work schedules at least two weeks in advance. If an employer failed to provide sufficient notice, they would have to compensate each employee with $75 for each day that the notice was late. Employers would also be required to pay an employee “predictability pay” whenever they made changes within the two-week window. Employers could also be fined up to $300 per employee for each day they were out of compliance with the ordinance.

At-Large Councilor Michelle Wu, the ordinance’s sponsor, said that the proposal is necessary to bring stability to industries where last-minute schedule changes are the norm. “They're changed at the last second after everyone's already arranged for child care, appointments for health care — often these workers are balancing multiple jobs, or work and school — and it just makes stability really hard to hold onto,” said Wu.

But where Wu sees stability, some business community members are seeing restriction. Leading the charge against the ordinance is the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, which argues that the ordinance would “restrict the flexibility of both employees and employers, impose limits on normal business operations, and add to the administrative burden for those businesses operating only in the city.”

After last week’s discussion, the ordinance remains in the City Council on Government Operations. If passed as written, the ordinance could affect the operations of nearly 400 local businesses.


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Los Angeles approves drafting of straws-on-request ordinance and explores a 2021 phase-out goal. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously in favor of a proposal to draft a straws-on-request ordinance, which would ban restaurants from including straws with drinks unless asked. In addition to the straws-on-request ordinance, the council directed the Bureau of Sanitation (BOS) to draft a report exploring legislation for phasing out plastic straws by 2021, which would include a plan for mitigating the potential impact on disabled residents. The measure is part of a trend of local legislation aimed at reducing plastic straw use and comes on the heels of a similar state-level policy set to take effect in January.

The proposal outlined in the BOS report would specifically prohibit restaurants from automatically including straws with drinks. Instead, restaurants would only provide straws to patrons if requested specifically. The ordinance would exempt medical and health facilities from its scope. Establishments that refuse to comply would be issued warnings for first and second violations and fined $25 for each subsequent day spent in violation, up to $300.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the proposal sponsor, said he hopes that the ordinance will help dissuade people from using plastic products, which he said have wreaked havoc on the local marine environments. “We can make different choices as a society,” said O’Farrell. “The evidence is in, and it’s overwhelming. The aftereffects — the consequences — of widespread plastic use is choking the planet.”

However, the restaurant industry has raised a number of concerns, which are detailed in the BOS report. One outstanding question is how the ordinance would apply to self-service stations and drive-thru operations. In examining the latter, the report noted that “many drive-through employees now ask if customers want condiments, rather than routinely supplying them, as was customary in the past.”

Although the report does not specify when the ordinance draft will be presented to the council, it does set a potential enactment date for restaurants with 26 or more employees on April 22, 2019, which is Earth Day. Smaller food and beverage establishments would be given until October 2019 to comply.


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Woodbury County, Iowa, considers banning compression brakes on trucks over noise complaints.

Lawmakers, residents, and law enforcement officials in Woodbury County, which includes Sioux City, have been at odds over a pending ordinance that would ban the use of certain truck compression brakes, or “Jake brakes,” within the city. Annoyed residents have complained to the city council that semi-truckers’ use of Jake brakes on major highways have caused a nuisance in their communities due to the loud noises they make. The ordinance (pg.18) would make it unlawful to use a means of breaking that “results in excessive, loud, unusual, or explosive noise.”

Earlier this month, the County Board of Supervisors held its first public hearing of the ordinance. County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor argued that the ordinance could be used as a pre-emptive measure rather than a means for punishment. “Maybe it is a deterrent, just having the awareness,” said Taylor, who also recommended that signs be placed in areas where braking would be prohibited.

Since then, the Woodbury County Sheriff, Dave Drew took to social media to criticize the board’s actions. “Oh please! Who is enforcing an unenforceable ordinance?” said Sheriff Drew in a tweet.

Several towns within Woodbury County already have similar braking ordinances on the books, but the pending ordinance would update an existing 2006 ordinance and impose a penalty. The County Board of Supervisors held a second reading of the ordinance on December 4 and a third reading has yet to be scheduled.

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In Severance, Colorado, local 9-year-old challenges anti-snowball ordinance. On December 3rd, in Severance, Colorado, a local 9-year-old boy successfully lobbied the town board to overturn an outdated ordinance (pg.56) banning snowball fights. Dane Best, a local third grader, made history as the first one in town to throw a legal snowball in the town. Until then, a century-old law outlawed throwing any stone or missile, which included snowballs, at any person, tree, animal, building, or vehicle in town.

Dane Best argued that kids in the town should be able to have snowball fights without the fear of legal repercussions. “Kids want to have snowball fights without breaking the law,” said Best. “Kids want to have a voice in our town.”

Kyle Rietkerk, assistant to the Severance town administrator, said that the town board has encouraged members of the town youth community to change the law for the past four years. “What ends up happening is they always encourage the kids with, ‘You have the power you can change the law,’” said Rietkerk.

Members of the town board staff celebrated Best’s community activism and his perseverance to change the old law. Following Best’s presentation, the town board voted unanimously to amend the ordinance to permit snowball fights immediately.

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