Issues & AdvOcacy
At its core, advocacy seeks to help people have their voices heard on issues that are important to them.
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association advocates for food, beverage and hospitality establishments and the people that are part of this great industry. We work at the State Capitol on behalf of all restaurants in Wisconsin to advance laws and regulations for the industry, ensure food safety protections and promote legislation that improves operations.
WRA’s goal is to create a better environment for restaurants to concentrate on what they do best and provide an engaging place for employees and guests to thrive. WRA has your back.
For more information, contact:
Susan Quam | Executive Vice President
WRA is the one trade association in Wisconsin that identifies threats to restaurants and taverns and lobbies to address industry problems of all kinds, not just legislation on alcohol, taxes or local issues.
You can help make sure that the restaurant industry is heard on key issues by contacting government leaders. WRA is currently lobbying on these issues. In addition to WRA’s lobbying efforts, an email or call from a constituent
makes all the difference to lawmakers.
Businesses that Used Round 1 of PPP Are Being Unfairly Taxed
Unlike the IRS, the State of Wisconsin just announced it considers expenses paid by Round 1 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds as non-deductable for Wisconsin income tax purposes. This places an unprecedented tax increase on businesses that are barely hanging on.
What this means: If you used PPP funds to pay employees, mortgages and utilities, you are not able to deduct those expenses on your 2020 state income taxes - punishing you for getting federal aid. These same expenses are allowed to be deducted for federal taxes.
The WRA and many other Wisconsin business groups believed that this issue was addressed in the COVID-19 relief package - Wisconsin Act 185 - in April of 2020. It was not until January 15, 2021 when a guidance document was issued, was the interpretation was made public.
Tell legislators and Governor Evers how this unfair taxation will further devastate businesses in Wisconsin that are already on the brink of going out of business.
It’s Time to Allow Cocktails-to-Go and Alcohol Delivery
Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that does not allow alcohol to be delivered or allow mixed cocktails to leave the restaurant.
Consumers can have a Friday night fish fry delivered from their favorite restaurant and they can have groceries delivered by their favorite local grocer, but neither can include alcohol with that delivery. It is also not legal to carry out a house-made cocktail when customers pick up their dinner orders, but they can take home a growler of tap beer.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers were demanding the ability to have alcohol delivered. Now with consumers staying home and avoiding dining in restaurants or going to the grocery store, customers are demanding the safe delivery of alcohol with their restaurant and grocery deliveries. WRA's recent survey shows there is overwhelming demand by Wisconsin consumers. Over 76 percent of Wisconsin consumers support both cocktails-to-go and the ability for alcohol to be delivered to their homes.
Now more than ever restaurants need these kinds of tools to keep their restaurants afloat and to keep their team employed. Passing legislation to allow both cocktails-to-go and alcohol delivery makes sense - it helps restaurants stay in business, keep their employees and provides the safety measures that consumers want. This is one of WRA's biggest legislative priorities for the 2021-2022 session.
Let our state leaders know that it’s time to allow cocktails to go and alcohol delivery.
WRA is working to deliver these messages and help make comprehensive immigration reform possible. WRA recognizes importance of immigrants to the food, beverage and service industry and is lobbying for a better system.
- A guest worker program is necessary to allow undocumented workers that are stateside to identify themselves and legally stay here.
- It is important to create a temporary worker visa program to match legal foreign-born workers with employers.
- A legal work status for Dreamers currently in limbo under the DACA program will help these individuals continue to contribute to the economy.
- Our industry needs a codified national verification system that is reliable and protects owners from liability for unknowingly hiring someone who is illegal.
- Protection for the J1 student exchange and H-2B work visa programs is vital to tourism.
REDUCE & REPEAL PPT
PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX
WRA has lobbied for reduction or elimination of personal property tax (PPT) for restaurants for many years.
In 2018, WRA was part of the successful efforts to reduce PPT by $75 million in the state budget. However, PPT is still unfair and confusing—WRA continues to push for full repeal of the tax.
- By allowing so many exemptions, the Legislature has created an uneven playing field.
- Repeal of PPT would result in significant tax relief for businesses.
- A PPT repeal would provide businesses with extra capital to hire new employees and purchase new equipment.
LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
WRA believes that laws relating to employment should be enacted at the state level, not at the local level.
When different municipalities enact their own employment requirements, it creates an un-level playing field for businesses in those municipalities.
A potential disadvantage is then realized, compared to those operating in a neighboring community. Restaurant businesses who operate in more than one municipality can also face difficulty complying with laws that are different depending on the municipality.
View WRA's activity and support for issues and bills during the legislative session on the Lobbying Interests tab of the Government Accountability Board website.
WRA's vigilance on key issues in the past few years has already saved your business plenty of money. Imagine how changes to any one of these laws would cost your business and employees:
- Loss of your alcohol license?
- Loss of the "tip credit" that allows a "server wage?"
- A ban or a tax on take-out containers?
- Confiscation of profits from unredeemed gift cards?
- Public school start dates prior to September 1st?
Combined with the participation and support of our members, WRA has accomplished the following:
Passed Employment Law Standardization Act
WRA pushed to pass this law that pre-empts municipalities from enacting local employment laws such as “fair Scheduling” or mandating specific employment benefits – this ensures that employment laws are set at the state level allowing businesses to develop scheduling and benefit packages that work best for their employees.
Repeal of Personal Property Tax
WRA succeeded in partially repealing the onerous personal property tax on restaurant equipment that unfairly singled out restaurants – this will mean reduced taxes for some restaurant businesses
2016There is a wave of major cities around the nation banning plastic bags, polystyrene, coated papers and other specific types of containers used by restaurants. WRA and other business-sector groups banded together and pass a law preventing local governments from banning or taxing containers, bags, bottles or cans used by retail businesses.
2015A secret budget provision would have eliminated the liquor licenses of hundreds of restaurant operators around the state, putting many of them out of business without compensation. WRA uncovered this secret maneuver and convinced Governor Walker to veto the provision from the budget bill.
2001 – 2013
2013: New York City bans soft drinks larger than 16 ounces. The City of Madison discusses similar legislation. WRA gets a state law passed preventing local governments from regulating serving sizes, nutritional values, nutritional labeling or types of foods that may be served in restaurants.
2011: WRA helps to pass a state ban on local regulation of sick leave benefits and Family and Medical Leave, killing the Milwaukee sick leave mandate.
2010: City of Superior debates a plan to ban toys and other prizes in kids’ meals offered by restaurants. WRA staff and members serve up the facts to Council members, and defeat the proposal.
2009: Bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader to create automatic, annual minimum wage hikes and allow local minimum wage ordinances. WRA rallied members and got the measure pulled from the state budget, then defeated the bill in the Assembly Labor Committee.
2008: Milwaukee voters approve a ballot initiative requiring a paid sick leave benefit for all employees. WRA joins a business-sector lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee and delays implementation of the sick leave ordinance until 2011.
2006: WRA championed a state law banning obesity-related lawsuits against restaurants.
2005 & 2006: An executive order raises Wisconsin’s minimum wage, but WRA blocks a commensurate increase in the server wage. In fact, there has not been a significant increase in the server wage since 1981. WRA knows that wage increases are needed more in the back of the house. Forcing higher wages in the front of the house is counterproductive.
2005: WRA gets a new state law passed that nullifies Madison’s minimum wage and prevents all local governments from setting their own minimum wages.
2001: State of Wisconsin claims that all unredeemed gift certificates and gift cards are “unclaimed property” and tells retail businesses to turn over the proceeds of unused gift obligations to the state treasurer. WRA pushed through legislation clarifying that unused gift cards are not “unclaimed property.”
WRA-POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE
WRA’s Political Action Committee (WRA-PAC) helps elect state and local candidates that aim to benefit our industry. WRA-PAC combines contributions from individuals to distribute funds to candidates for greater effect (business donations are allocated to Wisconsin RAF).
Contributions must be personal contributions, not from a business.
DONATE TO PAC
The WRA Conduit program helps you distribute your personal funds to any candidate for local or state office, at any time. As an individual, you have full control over your political contributions -or- contributions may also be pooled for larger impact.
DONATE TO Conduit fund
The Restaurant Advocacy Fund
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association Advocacy Fund (RAF) educates members and the public on legislative issues that impact Wisconsin restaurants. Through RAF, members receive the Capitol Report newsletter and are updated on important legislative issues. Get involved with our community of passionate restaurant industry advocates.
The RAF helps to:
- Keep restaurateurs on top of changes in laws and regulations
- Fight for legislation that’s positive for restaurants and challenge legislation that can harm our industry
- Get restaurateurs involved in political decisions
- Ultimately, help protect Wisconsin’s restaurants
When the Wisconsin Legislature is in session, WRA lobbies to shape public policy. But when campaign season comes around, WRA works to shape the legislature by supporting candidates we can expect to support our key issues during their term. WRA’s candidate endorsement process gives all candidates the opportunity to inform us where they stand on key issues that impact our industry and the state’s economy as a whole. WRA meets with, interviews and educates candidates on issues that may be coming up in the Capitol in the near future. Help pick candidates worthy of WRA’s support or share information with WRA about candidates that support our industry and small business.Contact WRA
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does WRA lobby on the issues it does?
- Looking out for restaurants and their best interest. We only lobby on things that relate to business. Small business —
- Want restaurants to thrive - concentrate on what on they do best, being hospitable, and providing an engaging place.