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Layoffs, price increases planned to offset new healthcare expenses

In a long contentious issue, new healthcare laws are adding expenses to businesses, many of whom are reacting by planning layoffs, creative surcharges to consumers, and reducing employees from full time to part time.

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Businesses reacting to impending healthcare costs

Dozens of businesses are reacting to impending healthcare costs by cutting employees’ hours, laying off employees, and getting creative with surcharges passed along to consumers, citing they must offset the costs in one way or another that are associated with the new laws.

According to CNBC, John Metz, owner of roughly 40 Denny’s franchises in the Florida area, will be adding a 5.0 percent surcharge on all consumer tabs to offset the cost, stating that the new law would cost $175,000 per location, an amount Metz says isn’t even made by one location in a given year.

“That is what I foresee and that is the easier, least painful way to deal with these added costs,” he said. “In a true playing field, everybody will impose this, from McDonald’s to Denny’s to even maybe the fine dining restaurants in order to have the funds to be able to pay for either insurance or the penalty for not providing insurance to their employees.” He is also urging staff to contact their local elected officials to seek an alternative solution to what he says are unaffordable new costs.

Additionally, sources say that Darden Restaurants (Chili’s, Eddie V’s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and others) plans to cut back hours for employees, as the healthcare law requires extended healthcare to full time employees, but not part time employees. Papa John’s says they will also be cutting back full time employee numbers.

Wal-Mart reports its employees will see a 36 percent increase in premiums, so many employees say they’ll skip coverage altogether. Abbot Labs, Aetna, Applebee’s, Smith & Nephew, Medtronic, and Stryker have all confirmed they will be laying off employees in the next years in response to the new healthcare laws.

One Fox News contributor today asked why Papa John’s seeks to punish employees rather than slashing marketing budgets, but fails to understand that there are also employees attached to those marketing budgets.

The Huffington Post reports that competitors to the large chains cutting back are enthusiastic. Small business owner, Nick Martin owns four pizza shops in Wisconsin, and says that it has offered full heath care coverage to its 50 full-time employees for years, making it all the more difficult to compete with national chains like Papa John’s that pay workers low wages without health benefits.

“This may level the playing field for us,” Martin said of the Papa John’s price hike. “If they have to pay for benefits, and that pushes their prices up closer to ours, it will justify what we’ve been paying for and what we’ve been fighting to do the past few years.”

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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Business News

Former Budweiser exec says marijuana is the new craft beer

(BUSINESS NEWS) In light of a growing consumer demand and more states decriminalizing and legalizing, “Big Booze” casts sights on burgeoning marijuana market.

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Imagine all the Instagram photos. Imagine all those new hashtags (no pun intended).

A carefully placed pre-rolled joint next to a latte with a heart drawn in the foam, an iridescent glass pipe freshly filled held out at arm’s length with a mountain and a sunset at the horizon, and different strains or arrays of edibles displayed next to their branded packaging.

Weed: “It’s the new craft beer,” according to former marketing exec for Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser beer, Chris Burggraeve.

Since leaving his position as Chief Marketing Officer, Burggraeve has begun investing in the marijuana industry, recently joining the advisory board of greenRush Group, the San Francisco-based startup that aims to be the “Amazon of weed” as the largest technology platform in the cannabis industry.

In addition to greenRush, Burggraeve also co-founded Toast, a company that makes luxury pre-rolled joints.

Research firm Cowen and Company released their findings last year that in legalized states such as Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, people have begun laying off the sauce as beer sales took a noticeable dip below the national average. According to a Gallup poll released last month, 64 percent of the U.S. population now wants to lift the federal ban on marijuana.

It was only a matter of time before those in the alcohol industry began to take notice. Just last month, Constellation Brands, the beer distributor who owns Corona and Svedka vodka, bought a 9.9 percent stake in Canopy Growth Corporation, an acquisition in anticipation of nationwide legalization of marijuana in the U.S.

Big companies like Amazon, however, have shied away from taking such leaps in the industry due to the current federal ban.

“This is one of the fastest-growing categories globally,” Burggraeve told Bloomberg. “When consumers want something, you ignore it at your peril,” also noting that in order for booze companies to stay relevant in some fashion, they will have to conform to cannabis, whether they want to or not.

“The same way that craft beer started and, for the longest time, was ignored and then exploded, there’s no reason why the same thing wouldn’t happen in this space,” Burggraeve added, also noting that his colleagues should follow suit lest be left in the dust. “There will be part supplementing and part complementing. The jury is out on how and where that will happen.”

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FCC nixed a 40+ year old rule blocking broadcast media mergers

(BUSINESS NEWS) The FCC is on a tear this month, this time dismantling a decades-old rule that supporters and critics are butting heads over.

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In a 3-to-2 vote last week, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rolled back media merger rules that have been around since the 1970s. These 42-year-old regulations prevented a handful of companies from owning the majority of media outlets in a market.

One now defunct rule stipulated TV stations in the same market couldn’t merge if the combo would mean there were fewer than eight independently owned stations as a result. Another rule prohibited a single company in a market from simultaneously owning a TV station and a daily newspaper.

Additionally, the original stipulations restricted how many TV and radio stations a company could own in a single media market. The FCC also approved Next Gen TV, a new broadcast standard expected to improve targeted ads as well as higher quality video and audio for on-air television.

Further easing media creation, last month, the FCC voted to nix a rule that required broadcasters to have a physical studio in their licensed market.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says these long-standing rules have made it difficult for smaller outlets like websites, blogs, and podcasts to thrive in a media landscape vastly different from the one that originated the regulations.

“Few of the FCC’s rules are staler than our broadcast ownership regulations,” Pai said. By eliminating them, he said, “this agency finally drags its broadcast ownership rules to the digital age.”

The National Association of Broadcasters agreed with Pai, welcoming the changes. In a statement they noted the old rules “weakened the newspaper industry, cost journalism jobs and forced local broadcast stations onto unequal footing with our national pay-TV and radio competitors.”

However, opponents argue this change will lead to media monoliths, with even fewer companies controlling most media outlets. “Instead of engaging in thoughtful reform,” said Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, “this agency sets its most basic values on fire.”

Predictably, shortly after the vote, Comcast hit up 21st Century Fox all like, “Hey let us buy those parts of your company Disney wanted earlier this year but now we can have it because the FCC said so, I hope.” Previously Fox was talking about selling most of the company to Disney but keeping sports and news. Although the talks aren’t ongoing, apparently there may still be a Disney/Fox deal on the table. Verizon also noted interest in acquiring portions of Fox as well to provide mobile streaming content.

Senate Democrats called on the FCC inspector general to launch a probe regarding impartiality of the vote.

They cited concerns about how the deregulation may benefit conservative broadcasting company Sinclair, who expressed interest in buying Tribune Media for $3.9 billion dollars. This purchase could now be possible without Sinclair selling off their other stations to receive FCC approval.

“This merger would never have been possible without a series of actions to overturn decades-long, settled legal precedent by Chairman Pai,” wrote 14 lawmakers in a letter. Sinclair declined to comment, while Pai merely assured these changes “will open the door to pro-competitive combinations that will strengthen local voices.”

Guess we’ll just have to see how things go when Disney and like three other companies own everything.

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Apple under fire for alleged patent infringement

(BUSINESS NEWS) Apple is again under fire for patent infringement, this one appearing to be less patent-trolly than some other claims.

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Apple is once again being investigated by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) for a possible patent infringement.

The investigation is looking into a complaint from Aqua Connect Inc and its subsidiary, Strategic Technology Partners. They are Nevada-based companies with headquarters in Orange, California, filing their complaint with the US District Court for the Central District of California.

Apple is already being investigated by USITC because Qualcomm claims that the company is using in violation of its patent by using Qualcomm’s modems to power devices like iPhones.

Earlier this month, Apple was also sued by an Israeli company, Corephotonics, which claims that the tech giant has used its patented designs in the dual lens cameras on iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus.

Likewise, Aqua Connect and Strategic Technology Partners claim that the company is using their patented technology without consent for features like screen-sharing and remote desktop on some MAC computers, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs.

It appears that the USITC investigation will look into these claims, but may take a broader view and look into other possible patent infringements.

“Initially, our product had Apple’s full support. But years later, [they] built our technology into its macOS and iOS operating systems without our permission,” says Ronnie Exley, CEO of Aqua Connect.

Apparently, Aqua Connect created the first remote desktop for Mac computers in 2008, but later they incorporated that technology into new products without permission from Aqua Connect. “These lawsuits seek to stop Apple from continuing to use our technology in their macOS and iOS operating systems,” said Exley in a statement.

Because the USITC has the power to ban the sale of products in the U.S., most companies choose to settle out of court rather than risk such a ban. It remains to be seen how Apple will ultimately respond.

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