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February 08, 2006
Retail Group Challenges 'Wal-Mart' Bills

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has filed lawsuits challenging two laws that require large companies to spend a certain amount toward healthcare benefits.

The group alleges that the laws unfairly single out the retail industry and discourage job creation. The group filed the lawsuits in U.S. District Courts in Baltimore and Brooklyn .

Maryland and Suffolk County, New York, have approved healthcare mandates for large companies. In Maryland, lawmakers were able to override a governor's veto in January to pass legislation that requires for-profit employers with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of payroll on healthcare benefits for employees or pay the difference into the state's health program for low-income families.

"We all agree that access to health care is vital, but these spending mandates will drive away business and discourage job creation," says Brad Anderson, RILA chairman and vice chairman & CEO of Best Buy Co., Inc.

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In the lawsuits, RILA claims that the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act invalidates state and local laws regulating employee health-benefit plans. "Over the past three decades, the Supreme Court of the United States has held repeatedly that ERISA, not state and local laws, regulates employer health plans," says Steve Cannon of the law firm of Constantine Cannon, outside General Counsel to RILA. "Now that the legislative process has played out in Maryland and Suffolk County , it is time to challenge these newly enacted health plan mandates in the courts." RILA also asserts that the statutes violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, arguing that lawmakers wrote the healthcare legislation to single out specific companies for arbitrary treatment.
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