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National Restaurant Association - 'This is our chance to share our story'

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'This is our chance to share our story'

When Stephen Palmer goes to Capitol Hill next month, he’ll be talking about the same issue that brought him to his first National Restaurant Association Public Affairs Conference 20 years ago: health care.

"It was my first time in D.C., and I haven’t missed one since," says Palmer, who owns Palmer Place Restaurant with his brother Bill. The La Grange, Ill., deli, which their parents bought in 1976, employs 126 people, including 77 full-time workers.

In December, the Palmer brothers sat down with their payroll manager, health insurance company rep and staff from the office of Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) They opened their books to show Lipinksi’s staff that they estimated the new health care law would cost them $244,000 a year in insurance premiums, plus the cost of increased bookkeeping and related regulatory requirements. If they opt to be penalized instead of offering insurance to all full-time employees, the Palmers say they could face a $130,000 fine.

"We specialize in hamburgers, turkey clubs and corned beef sandwiches," Palmer says. "We don’t have high margins. We’re trying to figure out what to do. That’s why I’m coming to the Public Affairs Conference."

The National Restaurant Association Public Affairs Conference is set for April 17 and 18 in Washington, D.C. The two-day event features addresses by political analysts Paul Begala and Alex Castellanos, education sessions and lobbying visits to Capitol Hill.

The theme of this year’s Public Affairs Conference is "Carry the Message – America Works Here." It is related to the NRA’s ongoing campaign to promote the restaurant industry as a leading job creator. The America Works Here slogan references the industry’s workforce, diversity and opportunity, as well as an integral part of Americans’ daily lives.

The conference also includes a Restaurant Industry Awards gala, where winners of the Faces of Diversity and Restaurant Neighbor awards will be honored.

"Everybody should come experience the process and become educated on our issues," Palmer says. "This is our chance to share our story and make a difference."

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