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Catherine Treadwell, J.D., Director of Government Relations
|Overtime Rule Changes are Coming!
We all are familiar with The Fair Labor Standards Act which requires employers to pay employees overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Just like any rule, there are exceptions. The exceptions that the Department of Labor are reviewing to change are the so called “white collar jobs.” These are considered that are executive, administrative, or professional in nature and the job must satisfy two tests: (1) the duties test, and (2) the salary test.
The DOL uses the duties test to specify certain types of tasks an employee must perform to pass the test and fit under the exemption. If the employees job tasks do not match up to what the DOL specifies, then the employee must be paid overtime.
The second test, the salary test, determines if the employee will be exempt from the overtime rules based on the amount of their salary. Currently, the DOL salary threshold is $23,600 per a year. Anyone that makes less and fits the duties test will be exempt from overtime requirements.
In 2016, the Obama Administration under the DOL, issued a new rule that increased the salary threshold for the exemption from $23,600 to $47,474 per a year.
There was a lawsuit filed over the issue in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas and the court ultimately enjoined the rule from moving forward until after a new proposed rulemaking period.
In July 2017 the DOL issued a Request for Information. An RFI is one among many possible tools used by an agency to help it develop a proposed rule. Agencies generally use RFIs when they want public input on whether a new rule or changes to an existing rule are needed, and comments on what course the agency should take should it decide to move forward. The DOL is specifically seeking feedback from companies related to the salary level test, the duties test, inclusion of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments to satisfy a portion of the salary level, the salary test for highly compensated employees, and automatic updating of the salary level tests.
The DOL is now holding listening sessions where companies can come and comment publically. Catherine Treadwell, ASA’s Director of Government Relations attended the listening session on October 17, 2018 in D.C. If you or your company would like to let the DOL know how these changes could affect you, please email Catherine at email@example.com.
As the DOL is gathering more information and comments, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will most likely be put out in 2019. However, it is said that the salary threshold will most likely be raised between $34,000 - $36,000.
In other news, The ASA Advocacy Team attended a policy meeting with the National Association of Manufactures. This meeting discussed the Affordable Clean Engery (ACE) Rule and the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Under the ACE Rule, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking comments through October 31, 2018 on a proposed rule that replaces the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. The rule would set a framework for states to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing power plants. It is also a precedent-setting exercise for future rules on other sectors for their GHG emissions.
This rule takes a very narrow approach in scope. Under the new rule the EPA will give performance standards and it will be up to the states to implement them. This is a good start to the EPA changing the Obama-ere Clean Power Plan without doing away with it completely. However, there is still discussion on the need for more guidance from the EPA on implementation and compliance.
On September 30, the United States announced the conclusion of trade talks with Canada and Mexico to create a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that is intended to replace and modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA 1994).. The USMCA is expected to be signed on November 30, 2018 and then must undergo domestic ratification procedures in all three countries before it enters into force three months after all three countries have ratified.
There are many highlights of the agreement which range from higher standards, duty free trade between all parties, transparency, positive outcomes for technical barriers to trade, better protection for patents, regulatory data, and intellectual property, and new rules on customs which ease up on the Certificate of Origin requirements every year and move towards the use of regular business documents for the parties. However, the most surprising is that U.S. and Canada are no longer going to have a Governmental Procurement Agreement governed under NAFTA.
On October 24, 2018, WaterSense released a concept paper outlining possible updates that may be included in Version 2.0. The concept paper describes proposed changes to requirements for homes to earn the WaterSense label and for organizations to be eligible to oversee the certification and labeling of homes to earn the WaterSense label. The concept paper considered comments received in response to the Notice of Intent (NOI) to revise the WaterSense Specification for Homes and serves as an update to and serves as an update to interested parties as WaterSense prepares a draft specification and certification system for release in 2019. Click here to read the concept paper.
On November 13, 2018, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Eastern, EPA will host a teleconference and webinar with stakeholders to discuss the concept paper. Call-in and other meeting information will be emailed upon registering for the webinar. Click here to register.
- The United States will not negotiate with China over trade until Beijing produces a proposal for measures that address forced technology transfers and other economic issues, according to officials from both countries, but such a proposal could undermine China's negotiating position. The stall might threaten the success of a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires next month. (The Wall Street Journal)
- The trade war is beginning to sting corporate America, with companies such as construction equipment maker Caterpillar and Ford Motor Co. noting that pressure from tariffs dragged results in the latest round of earnings. While the $1.5 trillion tax cut passed by Congress in 2017 boosted corporate earnings earlier this year, impacts from the tariffs are slowing earnings growth and consequently affecting investor sentiment. (Reuters)
- U.S. steel producers had the highest success rate in lobbying for tariff exemptions, primarily for raw materials and chemicals used in the steelmaking process. The steel industry successfully requested nearly half of the 132 steel-related tariff items off the U.S. Trade Representative's tariff list, compared to the National Retail Federation and National Restaurant Association, which were granted less than 5 percent of their requests, or the National Association of Home Builders, which got only two of its nearly 500 requested exemptions. (The Wall Street Journal)
- House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said Tuesday that the House would work with President Trump on a new round of tax cuts if Republicans keep control of both chambers in the midterm elections next month. "We will continue to work with the White House and Treasury over the coming weeks to develop an additional 10 percent tax cut focused specifically on middle-class families and workers, to be advanced as Republicans retain the House and Senate," Brady said in a statement. Read more here.
- President Donald Trump said his administration will produce a resolution within the next two weeks asking for a 10 percent tax cut for middle-income workers. Over the weekend, Trump promised a middle-income tax cut plan that he said could be rolled out days before midterms, although Congress is in recess until after the election. (Reuters)
- Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said that it's "highly unlikely" the Senate would vote by the end of the year on a new tax cut proposal teased by Trump. Pressed on if he thought there could be a vote during the lame-duck session, Hatch added: "You can't count out the Congress. ...[But] it would be highly unlikely."
- President Donald Trump said that acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler is "doing well, so maybe he won't be so acting so long," suggesting that Trump may choose to nominate him as EPA administrator, at which point Wheeler would again need Senate confirmation for the higher post. Wheeler has worked in an acting capacity at the EPA for over 100 days and is limited to 210 days as acting administrator, but a law regarding the EPA may allow him to stay on as acting administrator for longer if needed. (The Hill)
- President Donald Trump is expected to announce a new drug-pricing proposal during his first-ever speech at the Department of Health and Human Services, according to three sources with information on the matter. The proposal, which applies to drugs administered in physicians' offices and outpatient hospital departments, suggests "foreign freeloaders" have caused prescription drug prices in the United States to rise and aims to overhaul how Medicare pays for drugs. (Politico)
- New guidance issued by the Trump administration will allow states to offer a wider variety of lower-cost health plans outside of those offered through the Affordable Care Act exchanges, such as short-term limited duration plans, via State Relief and Empowerment Waivers. States can expand access to plans as long as they do not increase the federal deficit or cause more people to become uninsured, and the plans can exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. (Washington Examiner)
- On October 24, 2018, WaterSense released a concept paper outlining possible updates that may be included in Version 2.0. The concept paper describes proposed changes to requirements for homes to earn the WaterSense label and for organizations to be eligible to oversee the certification and labeling of homes to earn the WaterSense label. The concept paper considered comments received in response to the Notice of Intent (NOI) to revise the WaterSense Specification for Homes and serves as an update to and serves as an update to interested parties as WaterSense prepares a draft specification and certification system for release in 2019. Click here to read the concept paper.
- On Wednesday the ASA Network Annual Meeting will kick off in Scottsdale, AZ.
- On Tuesday, November 13, 2018, WaterSense will hold a webinar from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern to review the concept paper and possible updates to the specification. EPA encourages interested stakeholders to register for the webinar to learn more about the potential changes. Webinar access information will be emailed to participants prior to the meeting date.
The Washington Post
U.S. stock markets fell sharply Wednesday, erasing all gains for the year and muddying one of President Trump’s favorite talking points two weeks before the midterm elections.
The technology-heavy Nasdaq fell 4.4 percent Wednesday, its worst one-day drop since the financial crisis. The index has slid more than 12 percent since the end of August.
President Trump on Wednesday signed sweeping legislation meant to curb the nation's opioid epidemic. The bipartisan bill, which passed Congress earlier this month, includes dozens of treatment, prevention and enforcement provisions authored by hundreds of lawmakers representing states ravaged by the epidemic.
Democratic candidates are no longer afraid of embracing the war on coal and oil. At least six Democrats running for governor this year have embraced a goal of moving the U.S. completely to clean energy in coming decades, as have potential presidential contenders like Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren. It’s a sweeping shift in energy policy, going well beyond the Obama administration’s regulations of fossil fuels — and yet another sign of the growing power of liberal ideas in the Democratic Party even as President Donald Trump tries to push the nation to the right.
Newly filed comments in FERC's PURPA review docket could help shape how the commission reforms its implementation of the 1970s law, the first to open up power generation to competition. PURPA was meant to reduce oil dependence and increase electric reliability by forcing utilities to buy renewable electricity from independent providers at or below their avoided cost for other generation.
The first batch of interstate natural gas pipeline filings to comply with the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's altered tax policies is also attracting an early round of protests from shippers who say returns would still be too high. The shippers want FERC to begin Natural Gas Act Section 5 probes to rein in rates for some of the pipelines.
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