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.
Though still seven months away, it is never too early to start thinking about the 2014 elections. Election Day will be Tuesday, November 4. On the state and local levels, voters will choose thousands of state and local officials and decide hundreds of ballot initiatives, including business issues like minimum wage. On the federal level, this year’s midterm Congressional elections will be highly contested as majority control of the US Senate is decided.To keep you informed about the upcoming elections and make sure you have everything you need, CMAA’s Club Industry Votes website now features brand new 2014 Voter Resources, including:• A full listing of state and federal elected officials and candidates broken down by state • Localized voting information that matches your address to your federal and state district elected officials and candidates• Voter registration links • Important dates, including primary and general election dates as well as absentee ballot and early voting information and deadlinesIt is a great time to make sure your voter registration is up to date, especially if you have recently moved. Most states require at least 30 days’ notice for changes to your registration.
On April 3, the House of Representatives passed HR 2575, the Save American Workers Act by a 248-179 vote. Introduced by Representative Todd Young (R-IN), HR 2575 redefines the hours requirements of a full-time employee under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under ACA, a full-time employee is anyone who works 30 hours or more per week. Under this new measure, the threshold is increased to 40 hours per week. This would be advantageous for clubs and all employers, specific to the employer mandate requirements of the provision of health insurance. However, it is unlikely that this bill will advance in the Senate. The Forty Hours is Full Time Act, S1188, was introduced in June 2013 by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). It was referred to the Finance Committee upon its introduction and remains unmoved. Prior to the vote, the White House indicated that if the bill made it to the President’s desk that he would veto it. The White House argued that the measure would result in fewer individuals qualifying for employer-sponsored health care and increase the uninsured population.
In January’s State of the Union, President Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Following that announcement, the Department of Labor created a campaign to get out this message and is now conducting rallies across the county as well as via Twitter using the hashtag #raisethewage.House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) held a rally on Capitol Hill to call on Congress to act on the President’s message and enact HR 1010, The Fair Minimum Wage Act. In March 2014, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced a similar measure in the Senate, S.460. First introduced in 2013, HR1010 would institute the minimum wage increase in three steps, from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. The rate will then be indexed to inflation each year thereafter. In addition, the legislation will increase the required cash wage for tipped workers in annual 85 cent increases, from the current $2.13 per hour until the tip credit reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. At the end of February, a motion was filed to discharge HR1010 from the Committee on Education and the Workforce, but has yet to garner the required 218 signatures. Increasing the minimum wage is not just a federal initiative but is now also a state trend. It is expected that as many as seven states could put the issue before the voters in statewide referendums in November. Alaska and South Dakota voters will definitely have the opportunity to vote on increases in their states. Meanwhile, supporters for increases in Arkansas, Idaho, Massachusetts, Michigan and Missouri are working to get these measures added to their state ballots. It is important to note that 21 states and the District of Columbia already have minimum wage rates which exceed the federal standard.
The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced plans to issue a new proposed H-2B wage rule for public comment. In the Federal Register, the DOL indicated that it would be using the 2011 wage rule as "a starting point." Originally announced in January 2011, the 2011 wage rule requires employers to pay a "wage that meets or exceeds the highest of the following: the prevailing wage, the federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage or the local minimum wage." This wage rule was effective for wages paid to H-2B workers and US workers recruited in connection with an H-2B labor certification. It was estimated at the time that this would increase hour wages by approximately $4.38.
Currently, employee wages are being calculated under the existing 2013 interim final rule which will be in effect until a new wage rule is finalized. This announcement is just the beginning of the process. The new proposed rule will need to be announced, time must be given for public comment and then the DOL will need time to digest all of the public comments. Given that, its effects will not be immediate.
In the meantime, legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to mitigate the effects of any changes to the wage rule and reinstate the H-2B visa returning worker exemption. Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) introduced HR 4238. The bill proposes to:
HR 4238 was introduced on March 13, 2014, and has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary for further consideration and discussion.
On March 14, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the H-2B visa cap for the first half of the 2014 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 as of March 14 or any employees with a start date of April 1, 2014, 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.
This week, President Obama issued a memorandum instructing the Secretary of the Department of Labor (DOL) to begin the process of examining overtime pay protections and create a more simplified system. In the memo, the President highlighted the eroding value of the salary exemption and the number of managerial workers who are not eligible for overtime under existing regulations. The last updates to the Department of Labor’s overtime regulations occurred in 2004. These changes created exemptions from both minimum wage and overtime pay for employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). To qualify for exemption, employees must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week. The DOL must now examine the existing rules before issuing new proposed regulations, which will be submitted for public comment and review before becoming law. CMAA will be keeping a close eye on this issue as it develops.
On March 5, the US Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released final rules to implement the information reporting provisions for insurers and certain employers under the employer mandate provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), effective in 2015.
The rule announces a single, combined form for information reporting which will be filed with the IRS. This form will include two sections, section 6055 and 6056.
In section 6055, qualifying clubs will need to provide information about the entity providing coverage, including contact information and which individual employees are enrolled in coverage, with identifying information and the months for which they were covered.
In section 6056, qualifying clubs will need to provide about the employer offering coverage (including contact information and the number of full-time employees). For each full-time employee, information about the coverage (if any) offered to the employee, by month, including the lowest employee cost of self-only coverage offered will be required.
Further, the rule allows for simplified reporting on employees if a club makes a "qualifying offer." A qualifying offer is defined as "an offer of minimum value coverage that provides employee-only coverage at a cost to the employee of no more than about $1,100 in 2015 (9.5 percent of the Federal Poverty Level), combined with an offer of coverage for the employee’s family."
The final regulations also give clubs the option to avoid identifying in the report which of its employees are full-time, and instead only include in the report those employees who may be full-time. To take advantage of this option, the club must certify that it offered affordable, minimum value coverage to at least 98 percent of the employees on whom it is reporting.