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The Legislative Report blog provides timely information on federal and state legislation and regulations and state trends as well as the myriad issues affecting the private club industry. A companion to CMAA's Legislative website, this resource should be your first stop for any information regarding legal, tax or legislative club-specific issues.

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American Health Care Act Withdrawn From Consideration

(Health Care Reform, Congress) Permanent link

ACHA Vote

Following turmoil in the House of Representatives, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) has been withdrawn from further consideration. This bill was designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). HR 1628 would have eliminated several of the unpopular provisions of the ACA including the individual mandate penalties to have insurance, and the employer mandate for qualifying large employers to provide affordable health insurance to all employees. 

The House of Representatives was slated to vote on the measure on Friday, March 24, but dissension within the majority party prompted the bill to be withdrawn from further consideration at this time. 

Speaker Paul Ryan has indicated that the House of Representatives will not immediately reconsider the AHCA but remains committed to the goal of repealing and replacing the ACA. 


H-2B Visa Cap Met for FY2017

(Congress, Immigration) Permanent link
hb2 out of stock


US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the H-2B visa cap for the 2017 fiscal year had been reached. The final receipt date was March 13, 2017. Currently, the H-2B visa cap set by Congress is 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 - March 31) and 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 - September 30). 

Earlier this month, US Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and a bipartisan group of 29 senators requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly conduct an audit to determine the number of unused visas during the first half of FY2017. They requested that any unused visas be made available immediately. Previous audits of this nature have discovered unused visas. 

With the cap met, no additional H-2B visas will be available until October 1, 2017. 

Senators Ask for Audit as H-2B Cap Looms

(Congress, Immigration) Permanent link

 HB2 Audit


US Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and a bipartisan group of 29 senators have requested an audit to determine the number of unused visas during the first half of FY2017. The Senators sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, outlining concerns that the second half of FY2017 H-2B visa statutory cap will be reached soon. They requested that any unused visas be made available immediately. Previous audits of this nature have discovered unused visas. 

In the letter, the Senators cited input from small businesses that “will likely be locked out of a necessary program that they rely on during their busiest seasons. Failure to access these critical workers will harm small businesses, American workers, and the economy.”

Currently, the H-2B visa cap set by Congress is 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 - March 31) and 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 - September 30). On January 10, the H-2B visa cap for the first half of the 2017 fiscal year was reached.

With the cap looming, it is evident that small businesses and clubs could be shut out of this program for the remainder of FY2017. CMAA supports the congressional extension of the expired returning worker provision, which exempts workers who previously used the program to be exempt from the cap. Congress opted not to extend this provision for FY2017. 

A Break Down of the American Health Care Act

(Health Care Reform, Congress) Permanent link

AHCA - Doctor

As expected, the House of Representatives is now tackling the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The jurisdiction for the American Health Care Act (AHCA) falls under two different House Committees, Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce. This week, each committee began their respective consideration. As the measure stands today, here is a high-level summary of the highlights:

What’s In?
Most of the popular provisions of the ACA will be retained under the AHCA. This includes:

  • Prohibiting the denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
  • The allowance of dependents to remain on their parent’s insurance until age 26.
  • Prohibiting lifetime limits.
  • Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in the issuance of insurance.

What’s Out?
Most of the unpopular provisions of the ACA will be repealed and replaced under the AHCA. It will exclude the:
  • Individual mandate penalties to have insurance. 
  • Employer mandate for qualifying large employers to provide affordable health insurance to all employees. 


What’s New?
The AHCA includes:

  • An increase in the amounts individuals can elect for pre-tax health savings accounts. It would increase from $3,400 individual/$6,750 family to $6,550 individual/$13,100 family. 
  • A penalty for individuals who allow their coverage to lapse. Insurers would be able to impose a 30 percent surcharge on new plans for individuals who had not maintained continuous insurance coverage. 
  • Tax credits, indexed by age, for the purchase of coverage. These credits phase out for individuals making $75,000 or families with combined income of $150,000. 


What’s Next?

Early on the morning of March 9, the House Ways and Means Committee approved their section by a vote of 23 to 16, while the Energy and Commerce Committee continues a simultaneous marathon session. This repeal and replace process will continue, and changes are expected once the legislation moves to the Senate for its consideration.

Stay tuned for the latest information!

President Issues Executive Order on WOTUS

(Congress, Regulation) Permanent link

White House Executive Orders

On Tuesday, February 28, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) directing the Environmental Protection Agency to proceed with rescinding or revising the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule through the regulatory process. In the EO, the President directs that the new rule should respect the roles of Congress and the states, and cites the previous 2006 legal opinion of Justice Antonin Scalia in Rapanos v. United States as a starting point.

The Waters of the US (WOTUS) final rule dramatically expand federal jurisdiction over waters and wet areas in the US, including most water bodies on golf courses. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on June 29, 2015, and was slated to become enforceable 60 days later.

The rule has been legally challenged by 32 states, numerous industry groups and environmentalist groups on both procedural and substantive grounds. In October 2015, a nationwide injunction was issued by the Sixth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals which stayed the rule from enforcement. That injunction is ongoing.

The expansion of the WOTUS rule would have significantly impacted club operations and budgets as clubs will be required to obtain costly, federal permits for any land management activities or land use decisions in, over or near these additional regulated waters.

Today’s action is significant for landowners. Now, the EPA will restart the rulemaking process with this directive in mind and it is imperative that any new rule must be clear, well founded in law and science, and strike a necessary balance between protecting the environment and allowing businesses to thrive.

H-2B Visa Cap Met for First Half of FY2017

(Dept of Labor, Immigration) Permanent link

H-2B Visa Cap Met

On January 10, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the H-2B visa cap for the first half of the 2017 fiscal year had been reached. Currently, the H-2B visa cap set by Congress is 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 - March 31) and 33,000 to be allocated for employment beginning in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 - September 30). Any unused visas from the first half of the fiscal year will be made available for use by employers seeking to hire H-2B workers during the second half of the fiscal year. However, there is no carry over to the next fiscal year.

This announcement does not impact any H-2B worker petitions received by the USCIS prior to January 10 or any employees with a start date of April 1, 2017, or later. As well, USCIS will continue to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap including current H-2B workers who are petitioning to extend their stays and, if applicable, change the terms of their employment or change their employers.

In FY2016, Congress had enacted the returning worker provision which exempted H-2B visa workers who had previously used the program to be exempt from the cap. However, Congress opted not to extend this provision for FY2017.

Regulations Under the Microscope

(Regulation) Permanent link

Microscope

It is a new session of Congress and a new Presidential administration. What does that mean for the major issues affecting the club industry? Here’s a brief overview of what we might expect to see during the transition on three of the industry’s top federal issues.

The Affordable Care Act – Both Congressional leadership and the President have indicated plans to repeal this legislation through Congress. Work has already begun to pass the repeal through budget reconciliation, which is a method that allows fast-track consideration without the threat of filibuster. The good news is that some of the popular provisions, like elimination of lifetime limits, pre-existing conditions and keeping minors on parental insurance until age 26, may be spared. Many of the least popular provisions and those most troublesome for small businesses and individuals, the individual penalties and employer mandate, are definitely on the chopping block.

The wildcard to this issue is that Congressional leadership has been unable to agree on what the replacement will be. Expect this process to be lengthy and complicated. While Congressional leadership has indicated their goal is to have legislation on the President’s desk for his signature by February, the reconciliation process could be longer.

Overtime Rule Changes and DOL Regulations
– A temporary nationwide injunction remains in effect based on the November action of the US District Court. The nomination of Andrew Puzder, a restaurant industry executive, has illustrated the Trump Administration’s interest in a more business-friendly era of regulation from the Department of Labor. Apart from the overtime rules, it is expected that the Administration will thoroughly review much of the recently enacted DOL and OSHA regulations recordkeeping, the Fiduciary Rule and others.

Congress can vote to repeal regulations, which would have immediate effect. Without that action, the Administration is bound by the rulemaking process which takes time so it is not an immediate end to a regulation. However, cabinet secretaries, like Puzder, can lessen the effect through diminished enforcement.

The wildcard here is the continuing battle in the courts on overtime. While the Trump Administration may choose to withdraw defense of the rule, other groups have already petitioned to take over defense if that happens. It remains unlikely that these efforts will be successful but does create uncertainty for small businesses.

Waters of the US
– This is another measure which remains on a nationwide injunction, enacted by the US Circuit of Appeals Sixth Circuit in October 2015. Congress has already begun working on this repeal. On January 12, Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced S.Res.12 which calls for the withdrawal of the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule.

The Trump Administration has nominated Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, as Attorney General of Oklahoma, was involved in litigation against the EPA and WOTUS, citing its executive overreach.

Like overtime, the wildcard here is the continuing battle in the courts. The Administration may choose to withdraw legal defense of the rule as well.

In summary, it is going to be a busy 115th Session of Congress and for the 15 cabinet agencies as they review many of the regulatory actions of the previous administration.

Stay tuned for the latest information.