The U.S. Department of Labor is preparing to release a rule, likely in the next 90 days, that would more than double the salary threshold at which workers are exempt from overtime requirements. In addition, the salary level would increase or decrease automatically over time. This would qualify an estimated additional 20 million workers nationwide for overtime pay. On the surface it’s hard to see why this proposed rule could be a bad thing.
As longtime advocates for human rights here in Minnesota, we applaud the intention of this rule. We also have serious concerns about its potential impact on already underfunded nonprofit and publicly funded agencies and organizations. Contrary to popular misconception, many nonprofits will not be exempt from this rule, and instead will be held to the same standard as large for-profit corporations. Unlike most businesses, we cannot adjust our pricing in order to cover these new expenses.
While we support raising wages for workers, it is important that the government recognizes the devastating impact that implementing this rule will have on nonprofits like Living Well Disability Services and all Minnesota providers of community-based services for people with disabilities. Living Well Disability Services provides essential services in people’s own home, their family’s home, or in group homes to allow people to live as independently as possible. These services by definition are to be less costly than institutional alternatives and are funded almost entirely by state and federal Medicaid dollars.
This public funding is essential and it creates unique constraints. Unlike many businesses, complying with this rule will not be as simple as adjusting the price of goods sold to cover increased staffing costs. The state establishes the rate that is paid for each unit of Home and Community Based Services and, with the county, determines how many hours of care will be provided. In Minnesota these service reimbursement rates have failed to keep up with inflation and there is no plan to increase funding commensurate with the costs created by this new rule.
If the salary threshold of this rule is implemented as proposed, Living Well Disability Services’ salary expense would increase by approximately 10 percent. This investment in wages would not address our priority to maximize the compensation of our lowest wage workers who provide exceptional direct services. These employees currently struggle to meet their basic needs on the wage supported by the reimbursement rate. In order to comply with the new rule and with no additional reimbursements, providers will be forced to make significant changes that would negatively impact our ability to effectively manage our workforce and provide quality services to the people we serve.
We urge Congress and the Department of Labor to balance the equally important priorities of ensuring adequate compensation for all workers with adequate funding necessary to comply with any revision to the overtime rule. If they do not, the rule will have significant unintended consequences and it will be the most vulnerable populations who may pay the price.
If Companies Cave on GMO Labeling, Supply-Chain Concerns Could Be the Next Mandatory Labeling Gambit
“The legislation we added to the FAA bill before the Senate is critical to addressing holes in our nation'sairport security. I hope my colleagues will pass the FAA bill this week, and I will continue to work to address the weaknesses in our nation's transportation security and counter current and future threats.”
As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote today on the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016, CNN.com published an op-ed by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, on bipartisan airport security enhancement proposals included in the legislation following recent attacks by ISIS.
(CNN) - Last month, 35 innocent people, including four Americans, lost their lives when ISIS attacked a subway station and airport terminal in Brussels. This was just the latest in a string of attacks ISIS has orchestrated or inspired against Western targets over the past two years -- attacks that have killed more than 650 people.
If the Brussels attacks reminded us of anything, it was that ISIS must be confronted.
More specifically, the attacks reminded us that we need to confront the threat ISIS poses to our nation's transportation system. Terrorists have made a habit of targeting airports, subways and other transit hubs, as they did in Belgium, because of the opportunity these locations offer for mass casualties.
I'm proud that legislation I developed to address holes in our nation's airport security was recently added to the Federal Aviation Administration bill being considered by the Senate.
When people think about airport security, the first thing that usually comes to mind is passenger screening. But airport security involves a lot more than that.
One key element of airport security that doesn't get as much news coverage is the need to make sure that individuals who work behind the scenes at airports don't pose a security risk. For example, many experts believe that ISIS' attack on a Russian flight from Egypt in October, an attack that killed 224 people, was facilitated in part by an airport worker.
Before they can take up their jobs feeding travelers, maintaining airplanes, transporting baggage and running other necessary operations, airport workers must obtain what is known as a Secure Identification Display Area badge, which is issued by an individual airport according to requirements established by the Transportation Security Administration. Too often, however, these badges have been issued to individuals who have no business holding them.
Over the past few weeks alone, a number of vetted aviation sector employees have been caught in alleged criminal activity.
On March 18, a flight attendant was accused of abandoning a suitcase with 68 pounds of cocaine after she was confronted by airport security officials in California.
In Florida, an airline gate agent was arrested on March 26 with a backpack containing $282,400 in cash that he allegedly intended to hand off to an associate. According to news reports, the agent told authorities he was aware that the money was connected to illegal activity but knew few other details. In other words, the money could have belonged to terrorists, and this individual would have been none the wiser.
Criminals with behind-the-scenes access at airports can pose a real security threat.
For the right price, too many criminals would be happy to expand their illegal activity -- even if it involved assisting terrorists. And while very few criminals are terrorists themselves, it's not at all uncommon for terrorists to get their start as criminals. The Brussels attackers were known to the police as criminals long before they carried out terrorist attacks.
Ensuring that dangerous individuals can be barred from working in secure areas of an airport should be a no-brainer. Yet right now in the United States, applicants convicted of embezzlement, racketeering, robbery, sabotage, immigration law violations and assault with a deadly weapon can all obtain a security badge granting access to restricted areas.
The airport security amendment I offered in the Senate -- an amendment approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority -- includes legislation developed with my Democrat co-sponsor, Sen. Bill Nelson, to address the weaknesses in airport security that have led to dangerous individuals being given security badges.
Our legislation, the Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act, would tighten vetting procedures for workers who are trying to get a SIDA badge and expand the list of criminal convictions that could disqualify an applicant from obtaining one.
Our bill also increases accountability and fines for airports that violate security rules, and it expands random inspections of airport workers. While some employees with SIDA badges are subject to regular or intermittent security checkpoint screenings similar to the screenings passengers face, most are not.
A badge issued to an airline ramp agent at the Atlanta airport, for example, allegedly allowed him to bypass security screening, facilitating his side business of smuggling guns onto commercial aircraft, a scheme that officials believe went on for months before he was caught.
Keeping our nation safe from another terrorist attack like those that have rocked Paris, Brussels and San Bernardino means staying alert and continuously addressing vulnerabilities.
The legislation we added to the FAA bill before the Senate is critical to addressing holes in our nation's airport security. I hope my colleagues will pass the FAA bill this week, and I will continue to work to address the weaknesses in our nation's transportation security and counter current and future threats.
Roe Statement: Hearing on “Innovations in Health Care: Exploring Free-Market Solutions for a Healthy Workforce”
Our vision is clear: It’s time to modernize our health care system so we can empower every American with affordable coverage, provide more choice, promote quality care for all patients, and strengthen health care security for retirees. Finally, as we will discuss today, we want to encourage innovation and harness the power of new technologies in order to foster lower prices and better treatment for patients.
As a physician with more than 30 years of experience, I’ve personally seen the need for commonsense reforms to strengthen our health care system, a system that is too costly and bureaucratic. As an elected official, I constantly hear from families who are struggling to access the care they need or keep up with premiums that rise year after year.
Unfortunately, the president’s government takeover of health care is making these problems worse. Health care costs are going up, not down. Americans are seeing higher premiums and a lower quality of care. Families are losing access to the coverage they like and the doctors they trust. Small business owners are being forced to choose between providing costly, government-approved health insurance and hiring new workers, and they’re struggling to navigate a web of burdensome mandates and regulatory requirements.
The American people cannot afford this fundamentally flawed law, and that’s why House Republicans are determined to deliver meaningful reform. We have a responsibility to put our health care system on a better course—one that is patient-centered, not government-driven. As part of that effort, we need to understand the vital importance of employer-sponsored coverage—which insures roughly 155 million Americans—and take a closer look at what’s being done in the private sector to improve care.
Employers have played a critical role in driving health care innovation. Despite unprecedented uncertainty in the health insurance market and drastic changes in employer-sponsored coverage, employers of all sizes are still developing creative strategies to help control costs and meet the changing needs of the workforce.
These strategies include employee wellness programs, which are now an essential tool to help control costs and encourage healthy lifestyles. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in 2015 that 50 percent of employers offering health benefits also offer wellness programs. That same year, I joined Chairmen Kline and Walberg and introduced legislation that would eliminate regulatory hurdles to implementing these programs, and I look forward to hearing from experts today on how we can make that goal a reality.
Some employers have responded to costly mandates and rigid reporting requirements under current law by putting in place private exchanges. This tool helps rein in costs through competition, and unlike public exchanges, serves individuals and both large and small employers. Accountable Care Organizations are another concept employers have adopted in recent years to improve the health of their employees and make coverage more affordable. ACOs improve the patient experience by coordinating care between doctors and hospitals and focusing on prevention and management of chronic diseases. Employers are also incorporating telemedicine into their health insurance plans, providing patients more access to care at lower costs and greater convenience.
We are here today to examine how innovations in employer-provided coverage are improving health care for workers and their families and how federal policies can support—rather than discourage—free-market solutions. I hope our conversation will bring us one step closer to achieving the responsible reforms the American people desperately need.
Ms. Karen R. Harned
National Federation of Independent Business
Small Business Legal Center
Mr. Frank Earnest Knapp, Jr.
President and CEO
South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce
*Testifying on behalf of the American Sustainable Business Council
Mr. Rosario Palmieri
Vice President, Labor, Legal and Regulatory Policy
National Association of Manufacturers
Mr. Thomas M. Sullivan
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough
1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List
The proposed rule would have resulted in increased costs for small businesses providing retirement plans for their workers.
The announcement comes days after the Small Business Committee announced a hearing to examine the harmful impact of this proposal on small businesses.
“The withdrawal of this proposal is an important victory for both small business retirement plans, and the workers who benefit from them,” noted Brian Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association. “This proposal was unfair to small business. It would have made it much harder for small businesses to keep or form new retirement plans – changing rules that have been in place and working for more than a decade. We appreciate the Small Business Committee’s willingness to listen to our concerns, and to help prevent the hardship this proposed rule would have placed on thousands of small business retirement plan sponsors.”
Small Business Committee Calls for Cutting Red Tape on Small Biz
WASHINGTON – Days before the filing deadline for federal income taxes, members of the small business community told Congress that a new government regulations are making it harder and more costly for small companies to start, grow and expand their business. Witnesses at today’s hearing described how new rules from the Obama administration are a “hidden tax” on entrepreneurs as they struggle with high compliance costs and expensive new mandates.
“We need to lighten the massive regulatory burden and make it easier for small businesses to start, grow and thrive, said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “That’s why it is critical that federal agencies analyze the small business impacts of new regulations and reduce unnecessary and excessive burdens. Agencies have been required to do this for over 35 years but still avoid these requirements.”
“Small businesses are the engine of our economy. Unfortunately, they also bear a disproportionate weight of government regulation,” testified Karen Harned, Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Legal Center. “The effects of overregulation require an enormous expense of money and time to remain in compliance. The effort required to follow these and other regulations prevent small business owners from growing and creating new jobs.”
“Our regulatory system is broken, unnecessarily complex and inefficient, and the public supports efforts to streamline and simplify regulations by removing outdated and duplicative rules, said Rosario Palmieri, Vice President, Labor, Legal and Regulatory Policy, National Association of Manufacturers. “Through a thoughtful examination of existing regulations, we can improve the effectiveness of both existing and future regulations.”
In his testimony, Palmieri also reiterated the National Association of Manufacturers’ strong support for H.R. 527, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, Chairman Chabot’s legislation to ensure that all federal agencies assess the impact of the new regulations on small businesses and consider alternatives to reduce burdens before they act.
Chairman Chabot’s bill passed the U.S. House last year with bipartisan support and has been awaiting action in the Senate. At today’s hearing, Chabot challenged the Senate to act quickly on his legislation.
“So we need to understand the problems that small businesses are facing and develop bold solutions,” Chabot said. “The legislative window is closing so I hope the Senate will act quickly to move this important bill.”
Chairman Chabot also serves as co-chairman of Speaker Paul Ryan’s House task force on reducing regulatory burdens. He penned an op-ed for FoxNews.com this week describing the work of the task force and outlining steps Congress can take to reduce the regulatory burden on America’s small businesses.
- The National Small Business Association, the National Association of Chemical Distributors, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions and Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. all submitted letters for the record in support of today’s hearing.
- The House Committee on Small Business monitors federal regulations that impact small businesses on its website. You can keep track of upcoming rules and comment periods HERE.
The Honorable John Koskinen
Internal Revenue Service
1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List
3. Hearing Memo
Thune Urges Colleagues to Support Comprehensive Reforms in Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization
WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chair of the Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security Subcommittee, will hold a hearing titled “The State of the U.S. Maritime Industry: Stakeholder Perspectives” on Wednesday, April 20, at 10:00 a.m. The first hearing in this series on March 8 examined the federal role in the U.S. maritime industry.
The hearing will examine the state of the U.S. maritime industry from the perspective of ports, shippers, carriers, and labor to guide the reauthorization of the U.S. Maritime Administration. Witnesses have been asked to discuss current trends, opportunities and challenges in the U.S. maritime transportation system, and how federal policy and programs could enhance its performance.
· Mr. Mark McAndrews, Port Director, Port of Pascagoula and Chairman-Elect, American Association of Port Authorities
· Mr. Perry Bourne, Director of International Transportation and Rail Operations, Tyson Fresh Meats
· Mr. Michael Roberts, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Crowley Maritime Corporation
· Mr. Klaus Luhta, Chief of Staff, International Organization of Master, Mates, & Pilots
* Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security Subcommittee hearing
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Mr. Troy K. Lewis
Lewis & Associates, CPAs, LLC
*Testifying on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs and the Mobile Workforce Coalition
Mr. Mel Schwarz
Partner and Director of Tax Legislative Affairs
Grant Thornton LLP
1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List
3. Hearing Memo
Chabot: Complex Tax Laws “Steal Time and Money” from Small Biz
Koskinen: We Have 1 Million Cyberattacks per day on IRS Systems
WASHINGTON – As the federal income tax filing deadline approaches, members of the House Committee on Small Business pressed IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about the challenges facing small businesses as they try to navigate the complex, burdensome tax code. Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) questioned Koskinen as to what steps the IRS was taking to beef up cybersecurity and protect the personal information of taxpayers and small businesses. Koskinen also responded to concerns raised by an earlier panel of small business stakeholders about the need for a simpler tax code.
“The complexity of our tax laws steals valuable resources – both time and money – from these businesses. It hinders their ability to grow, succeed, and create the jobs we need,” said House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “Our country’s small businesses can’t keep up. We need to get our tax code working for small businesses instead of against them.”
“Last May, the IRS discovered a data breach that exposed the data from approximately 700,000 accounts. What has the IRS done since that time to secure taxpayer data and how can small businesses be assured going forward that their data is safe with the IRS?” asked Chabot.
“We have 1 million attacks a day on our system trying to probe and get into it… It is a much more sophisticated enemy than we’ve ever had to deal with before.” responded Koskinen noting that foreign criminal syndicates had breached a key IRS application last year.
“We do, however, have a responsibility to make it as easy as possible for taxpayers to fulfill their tax obligations, and in that way, we can contribute to tax simplification,” responded IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Against that backdrop, the IRS recognizes the critical role played by small businesses and self-employed taxpayers in our country as engines of economic growth, and we understand the need for the IRS to do its part to ensure these businesses can flourish."
MAIN STREET SPEAKS
“We should be encouraging our small businesses and helping them to succeed, not erecting barriers to block the way, said Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access Chairman Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) at this morning’s subcommittee hearing. “Every dollar that a small employer spends on tax compliance is a dollar that could have been used to invest back in the business or to hire another employee. Every hour that a small employer spends on tax compliance is an hour wasted that could have been spent on their actual business.”
“It is, at this point, a truism that the US international tax system is broken and in need of reform,” testified Robert M. Russell, an Attorney for International Tax Controversy, Planning and Policy with alliantgroup. “Far too often, small and mid-size business concerns take a back seat in the tax reform discussion and even more so in the international context.”
In their testimony, small business stakeholders called on Congress to pass H.R. 2315, the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2015, bipartisan legislation led by Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) and co-sponsored by Chairman Chabot, which simplifies state income tax requirements for employees who work multiple days outside of their state of residence.
“The Mobile Workforce legislation makes it significantly easier for the employer and the employee from a compliance perspective. The taxpayer files one state income tax return… and it is a more straightforward return (without calculations and credits for nonresident state taxes paid),” said Troy Lewis who testified on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs and the Mobile Workforce Coalition.
According to the most recent National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Problems and Priorities survey, 5 out of 10 of the top issues identified by small businesses are tax-related. Also, according to NFIB, 85 percent of all small businesses file as individuals.
Thune Urges Colleagues to Support Strong Aviation Security and Passenger-Friendly Reforms in Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill
Note: The House Committee on Small Business will hear from a panel of experts about the cost of regulatory burdens at a hearing this Thursday, April 14, 2016, titled Regulation: The Hidden Small Business Tax.
By Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)
President Ronald Reagan once remarked, “Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”
Too often, Washington tries to tell America’s entrepreneurs how to run their lives and their businesses.
As Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, I am committed to getting government off the backs of America’s 28 million small businesses so they can do what they do best: create jobs and help grow the economy. It’s been an uphill battle, to say the least.
But with half the private sector workforce going to work every day at a small business and 7 out of every 10 new jobs coming from a small business, I firmly believe it is a battle worth fighting and winning.
Over the last seven years, President Obama has unleashed an avalanche of new regulationson American small businesses. Estimates put the number of new Obama regulations at over 25,000 and the overall cost of this “regulation nation” at over $2 trillion.
There has been a chilling pattern of regulatory overreach by the Obama administration. As part of this pattern, small businesses routinely get hit worst and first as unelected DC bureaucrats dream up new ways to make their lives more difficult.
With the April 18th tax filing deadline right around the corner, it is important to remember that overregulation is itself a form of stealth taxation. Ultimately, employees and customers of small businesses pay the price for every new rule that comes out of Washington.
Fortunately, House Republicans have been fighting back by putting forward meaningful solutions to empower entrepreneurs and lift the regulatory weight off their shoulders.
We understand that this isn’t something that can be achieved in one piece of legislation. That’s why we’re taking a look toward how we address this not only today, but in the future, with Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to give the American people a real reform agenda for a “Confident America,” built from the bottom up.
As part of that effort, I’m helping lead a task force to reduce the regulatory burden on America’s small businesses.
Our mission is to “make it easier to invest, produce and build in America with a modern and transparent regulatory system that relieves the burden on small businesses and other job creators and encourages financial independence, while balancing environmental stewardship, public safety, and consumer interests.”
It’s one of several task forces the Speaker has set up to do something that, I’ve seen, really works: invite everyone to come forward and share their ideas on how best to grow the economy and empower small businesses.
In addition to the work of the task force, we’re continuing our focus on regulations and their impact on small business with hearings and legislation we can move now to help small businesses get off the ground, stay off the ground and propel our economy forward.
So far this Congress, the House has already passed the “Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015” (H.R. 527). Our bill ensures that federal agencies assess the impact of the new regulations on small businesses and consider alternatives to reduce burdens before they act.
We must change Washington’s culture of regulation and get the federal government to work for small businesses, not against them. Small business owners should not be forced to go hat-in-hand to federal regulators and ask permission every time they want to start, grow or expand their business.
We must always remember that it is America’s entrepreneurs who move our economy and our country forward, not Beltway bureaucrats.
Republican Steve Chabot represents Ohio's 1st congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives where he serves as chairman of the Small Business Committee.