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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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NLRB Ambush Election Rule Slated to Become Effective April 14

(Dept of Labor, Regulation) Permanent link


3_25_15_2Despite Congressional disapproval by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, it is likely that the National Labor Relation Board’s ambush election rule will go into effect on April 14.
 
The final rule was published on December 12, 2014, and will significantly change NLRB election procedures by decreasing the time between the filing of a petition and the occurrence of an election. It could be disadvantageous for both employers and employees by hampering an employees’ ability to obtain complete information about the costs of unionization and limiting the employer’s ability to effectively prepare for the process. An election could be scheduled in as few as 10 days. The current average is 30 days.
 
The Senate passed the resolution of disapproval of the NLRB’s rule on March 4, S.J. Resolution 8, in a 53-46 vote, and the House approved the same measure on March 19. However, the White House has already indicated its inclination to veto the measure.  
 
Further, two lawsuits have been filed against the rule. The US Chamber of Commerce filed a challenge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia and a second challenge was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas by the Associated Builders & Contractors of Texas, Inc. Unfortunately, neither district court has scheduled a hearing in this matter to date.

EPA Says Waters of the US Rule Will Be Finalized in 2015

(Regulation) Permanent link


3_15_15_1In a recent House Committee Hearing, Ken Kopocis, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) deputy assistant administrator for water, testified that the final Waters of the US Rule is slated to be released this spring and will become effective by October 1, 2015. Further, he shared that the rule – which the EPA is now calling the “Clean Water Rule” will include changes to the proposed definition of tributaries, floodplains and riparian areas.

It is estimated that more than 800,000 comments were submitted to the EPA on the proposed rule in November. To date, only 20,000 have been posted. Twenty-states submitted comments asking the EPA to withdraw the proposed rule entirely and 10 additional states submitted comments that opposed the rule in its current form and sought revisions. On Friday, November 14, CMAA and its allies in the Waters Advocacy Coalition submitted their official comments to the EPA in regards to the proposed expansion of the Clean Water Act and Waters of the US Rule.

Both houses of Congress have been engaged on this matter. Most recently, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) has proposed an amendment to S. Con. Resolution 11 which would specifically limit the reach of the rule.

CMAA and its allies continue to work to limit the effect of this proposed rule. Stay tuned!

DHS Announced H-2B Visa Program Relief

(Legal Issues, Dept of Labor, Immigration) Permanent link

After an announcement earlier this month suspending the H-2B visa program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that the adjudications have resumed as of March 17. However, the suspension on premium processing remains in effect.

The suspension followed the March 4 ruling by the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division. In Perez v. Perez, the Court ruled that the Department of Labor (DOL) lacked the statutory authority to issue rules and regulations for the H-2B visa program and specifically named the DHS as the governing body. Pursuant to this decision, the DOL has filed an unopposed motion to stay this order until April 15.  

This temporary relief is vital to the many industries, including the club industry, which relies on this program to maintain business operations during peak seasons.

The DOL and DHS have announced intentions to issue a joint interim final rule no later than April 30.

H-2B Visa Program Suspended, Relief Expected by April 30

(Dept of Labor, Immigration) Permanent link


 3_16_15US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced the temporary suspension of the H-2B visa program. This comes following the March 4 ruling by the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division. In Perez v. Perez, the Court has ruled that the Department of Labor (DOL) lacks the statutory authority to issue rules and regulations for the H-2B visa program and specifically named the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the governing body.

Due to this decision, the DOL is no longer accepting or processing requests for prevailing wage determinations or applications for temporary labor certifications in the H-2B program. Because H-2B petitions require temporary labor certifications issued by DOL, USCIS has also temporarily suspended adjudication of H-2B petitions. USCIS has also suspended premium processing for all H-2B petitions until further notice.

It is being widely reported that a joint DOL/DHS Interim Final Regulation (IFR) will be published by April 30 and will address the crisis stemming from the Perez decision. However, in the meantime, the impact of this suspension will be significant on the club industry as well as many other industries that rely on this program for seasonal employees.

CMAA is working together with our allies in the industry to resolve this effort. It is important that clubs who have been impacted by this action contact their Congressional representatives to register their concerns. Constituent voices are vital. Our industry ally, GCSAA, has created talking points for these discussions. Review these talking points and take action today!

Stay tuned for further developments!

OSHA Issues Snow Removal Hazard Alert

(OSHA, Regulation) Permanent link

3_4_15_175wIt is March and the official start of spring is only weeks away. But unfortunately Mother Nature did not receive that notice. With most of the country still suffering through the winter that will not end, OSHA has released a hazard alert for safety during snow removal, specifically from roofs and other elevated surfaces.
 
The alert addresses top areas for concern for employees as they remove snow including fall prevention, ladder safety, electrical hazards and cold exposure.
 
This is also great advice for all CMAA members as they address snowfall at their own homes.
 
Stay safe and warm and let’s all hope spring weather is just around the corner!

H-2B Visa Program Oversight Remains in Limbo

(Legal Issues, Dept of Labor, Immigration) Permanent link

3_3_2015Recent conflicting legal decisions have created confusion for the oversight of the H-2B visa program, specifically the program’s labor certification component. The question has come up as the courts debate the multitude of wage and program change rulings in recent years. So will it be the Department of Labor (DOL) or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)?
 
In December in the case of Bayou Lawn & Landscape Services, et al., v. Department of Labor, the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division ruled that the DOL lacked authority to regulate the H-2B program. In conflict, a February 2014 decision by the Third Circuit US Court of Appeals affirmed the jurisdiction of the DOL (Louisiana Forestry Association, et. Al. v. DOL).

The same US District Court in Florida will soon deliver a decision on another challenge (Perez v. Perez/DOL) to H-2B rules and will likely address the authority issue. Given that there have been no changes to the regulatory situation, it is likely that this ruling will mirror the outcome of the Bayou Lawn & Landscape case. In the meantime, the DOL filed an appeal to the Bayou decision earlier this month.

Stay tuned for developments!

House Passes Permanent Tax Incentives for Conservation Easements

(Congress, IRS) Permanent link

02_19_15_175wOn February 12, the House of Representatives passed HR 641 – the Conservation Easement Act of 2015 as part of the America Gives More Act of 2015 (HR 644). Introduced by Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), HR 641 would alter the 1986 tax code by making the tax incentive for qualified conservation easement permanent. HR 644 also included permanent restorations for other charitable giving incentives including contributions of food inventory.

Conservation easements allow a property owner to deduct the value (a partial interest) that is donated to a qualified charitable organization exclusively for conservation purposes.

In December, Congress acted retroactively to reinstatement multiple tax provisions for tax year 2014, including conservation easements (HR 5771). However, this extension is only applicable to tax year 2014 and expired as of December 31, 2014.

This measure will now move to the Senate for consideration. Stay tuned to the CMAA Watch List for more information!