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Ian Lind • Online daily from Kaaawa, Hawaii

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Safeway’s “duty to warn,” federal campaign contribution limits raised, and more

February 4th, 2011 · 4 Comments

Safeway is the target of a legal test case over whether supermarkets should be required to use their customer tracking systems to notify people who have purchased recalled items. The lawsuit was filed this week in a California court with backing from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Safeway should have known that Dee Hensley-Maclean purchased peanut butter crackers and Nutter Butter sandwich cookies that were part of a nationwide recall of products tainted with Salmonella.

That’s because Hensley-Maclean used her Safeway Club card when she purchased those products. Safeway’s computers should have had her Ravalli County, MT, mailing address, phone number, and email address. And even though those cookies and crackers could have put Dee or one of her two teenage kids in the hospital with a life-threatening case of salmonellosis, Safeway made no attempt to warn her.

Today, along with a San Francisco woman who bought contaminated eggs at her local Safeway, and with the backing of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, Hensley-Maclean filed a lawsuit against the California-based grocery giant. In a complaint filed today in California Superior Court, the women ask that they and others who bought recalled food be refunded the price of those purchases, and that Safeway commit to using its Club card data to contact consumers in the event of future recalls.

The lawsuit alleges Safeway has a duty to notify customers of product recalls, including use of data from its club card program to identify and notify customers who purchased the recalled products.

The lawsuit also argues that cost of recalls has to be paid by the wholesaler or supplier that sold the recalled items to Safeway, so the company can’t claim that it is a matter of cost.

This is definitely a case to watch.

Let’s see. You may not have noticed, but money just started speaking a little louder in federal elections.

The Federal Election Commission has quietly raised several contribution limits for the 2012 election. The individual contribution limit went up to $2,500 to each candidate per election, up from the prior $2,400. Some other limits went up as well. It’s a move to keep up with inflation that is required by the current election law, but in the long run, not a good thing.

From the Tax Foundation (the national organization, not the one here in Hawaii), a new report comparing the combined state and local sales tax “burden” in the 50 states.

Among states that have a state sales tax, Hawaii’s is the lowest, according to the Tax Foundation.

Among states with a state-level general sales tax, the five with the lowest combined rates are Hawaii (4.35 percent), Maine (5 percent), Virginia (5 percent), South Dakota (5.22 percent), and Wyoming (5.3 percent). The five states with the highest combined state-local rates are Tennessee (9.44 percent), California (9.08 percent), Arizona (9.01 percent), Louisiana (8.69 percent) and Washington (8.64 percent).

Very interesting, although I expect we’ll hear a lot of arguments from the local Tax Foundation folks about why we should ignore the findings of this study.

And the Pew Center has released a new study of city councils in 15 cities, comparing “council budgets, staffing, salaries, certain electoral conditions, tenure and the representation of historically underrepresented groups.”

There’s a good project…plug Honolulu’s city council numbers in to see how we compare. No, I haven’t done it yet.

And so it goes on a sunny Friday morning.

Tags: Campaigns · Food · Politics

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 stagnant // Feb 4, 2011 at 10:41 am

    hawaii doesn’t have a sales tax, though. it has a general excise tax, which does actually place a larger burden on its citizens than a regular sales tax. and the general excise tax applies to everything!

    safeway case is very interesting. i’d like to know what happens. thanks for bringing to our attention.

  • 2 Kolea // Feb 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I am hoping we can have a broad discussion over differing tax proposals for raising income in response to the incredible budget crisis facing the state. Unfortunately, this “study” is pretty useless and likely to mislead the casual reader I think anything published by the Tax Foundation needs to be scrutinized carefully, but I am more than a bit surprised by the sloppiness of this particular report.

    As stagnant says, the Hawaii GET tax is quite different than a straight sales tax. Because it is applied at each step in the wholesale to retail sales chain, it actually “pyramids” in such a way as to add up to considerably higher than final price than the sales tax in most other states.

    Folks interested in reviewing how Hawaii’s tax burden falls upon our people at different income levels, and how our taxes compare with other states, might find another report more helpful. It is titled, “Who Pays?: A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States” It comes from the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy and can be downloaded here:

    http://www.itepnet.org/whopays3.pdf

    The Hawaii specific info can be found on pages 38 & 39.

    Just as I cautioned people to review Tax Foundation materials closely, I recommend the same for this report. Check the methodology, the definitions, the assumptions. But I think the data is presented in a fashion which makes that easy.

  • 3 Kimo in Kailua // Feb 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Stagnant is right. The incidence of the general excise tax falls on the business or service provider but they pass along the tax to consumers and gross it up because they also have to pay GET on the tax collected. It is because the GET taxes everything imaginable, that our rate is rather low compared to other states.

  • 4 Censored // Feb 6, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Here’s something Safeway should have a duty to warn about:

    KTA, Safeway, Walgreens: Excessive Amounts of Lead Found in Reusable Grocery Bags
    http://www.hawaiifreepress.com/main/ArticlesMain/tabid/56/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/3681/KTA-Safeway-Walgreens-Excessive-Amounts-of-Lead-Found-in-Reusable-Grocery-Bags.aspx

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