On January 3, 2017, the 115th Congress of the United States was sworn in. This House of Representatives, led by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), is currently comprised of 240 Republicans and 193 Democrats, along with 2 vacancies due to Members of Congress resigning their seat for another office. The Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is currently comprised of 52 Republicans, and 46 Democrats, along with 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats. With President Trump's swearing in on January 20th, the Republican party now controls both the legislative and executive branches of the government.
Having a single party in charge of the legislative and executive branches can have the effect of reducing gridlock and expediting the legislative process. However, the Senate requires the affirmative vote of 60 Senators to move legislation forward. While Republicans maintained their majority in the Senate, they lack the 60 necessary votes to push legislation through and will need to rely on at least 9 Democratic votes to advance legislation. The House is solidly Republican and does not have the same issue as the Senate. This will force some legislation to become more moderate than it would otherwise be at a time when one party controls the legislative and executive branches.
Since this Congress has taken office, they have been focused on two main activities. In the House, legislators are using the authority of the Congressional Review Act to repeal Obama administration regulations which were put in place over the final 6 months of his Presidency. The Senate has been focused on confirming President Trump's nominees for his Cabinet. At the same time, President Trump has been issuing Executive Orders to implement many of the promises he made on the campaign trail. This combination of contentious Cabinet confirmations, new Executive Orders, and Congress' CRA actions, has helped to sharply increase the political divide on Capitol Hill since the election, and has all but eliminated any "honeymoon" period for the new administration. Adding to the logjam on Capitol Hill is a backlog of must pass bills from the previous Congress, which were not voted on before the election.
Following the elections, efforts to pass the FY 2017 appropriations bills, which fund all federal government activity, stalled as Congress began to re-evaluate funding priorities. One tool to do so, is the reconciliation process by which Congress can adjust funding levels in the annual appropriations bills. This process is currently underway and will include two parts: the first will be to change current law to begin to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, with a second to implement many changes in tax law. Because the instructions for the reconciliation process are part of the 2017 Budget Act, Congress cannot move forward to the FY 2018 Budget Act and the FY 2018 appropriations season until these efforts are completed. This uncertain process is expected to take several weeks or more and the FY 2018 appropriations process will be delayed accordingly.
Patrick Cavanagh joined Lobbyit, as our newest Vice President, on January 26th, taking over for Brandon Farris' who has left the firm.
Conducted initial orientation call on February 10th between WFCA and Lobbyit, to learn about WFCA priorities for Congress as well as how Lobbyit can be responsive to their needs. The call also shed light on WFCA data and information that will be helpful for future hill meetings.
Became familiarized with issues important to WFCA including the Marketplace Fairness Act, independent contractors, the Silica rule, tax reform, and immigration as well as state-based issues to watch for.
Identified key Hill and Administration offices and officials, and tracked whether new Administration personnel had been nominated/confirmed.
Spoke with relevant committees of jurisdiction to determine if leadership appointments were made, and to discuss the development of committee's legislative agenda for the 115th Congress.
Reviewed advocacy materials and updated them where necessary.
Began planning congressional outreach and agendas for February and going forward with an eye towards a possible trip in March to speak with Congressional offices.
Tracked new and reintroduced legislation that is of relevance to WFCA.
S. 56 - RED (Regulations Endanger Democracy) Tape Act of 2017
Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced the RED Tape Act of 2017 in the Senate on January 5, 2017, and it was referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on the same day.
This bill forbids any government agency to create a new rule or regulation unless it first, or in the process of creating the new rule, eliminates two already existing rules. The RED Tape Act would also require agencies to report semiannually to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs on their new rules created and repealed as well as the subsequent cost of those actions.
S. 44 - End Pay Discrimination Through Information Act
Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced the End Pay Discrimination Through Information Act on January 5, 2017 and the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. The bill does not yet have any cosponsors.
This bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to improve nonretaliation provisions relating to equal pay requirements. The bill specifically protects workers who disclose salary information of other workers.
H.R. 156 - Labor Relations First Contract Negotiations Act of 2017
Representative Gene Green (D-TX) introduced the Labor Relations First Contract Negotiations Act of 2017 on January 3, 2017. That day, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. This bill currently has no cosponsors.
This bill amends the National Labor Relations Act to require the arbitration of initial contract negotiation disputes. It mandates the selection of a mediator after 60 days in a collective bargaining agreement. If after 30 days there is no agreement reached, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will provide binding arbitration.
H.R. 155 - Worksite Reporting Act
Representative Gene Green (D-TX) introduced the Worksite Reporting Act on January 3, 2017, and the bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bill does not yet have any cosponsors.
The bill directs the Secretary of Labor to revise regulations concerning the recording and reporting of occupational illnesses and injuries under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
H.R. 106 - Help Hire Our Heroes Act
Representative Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced the Help Hire Our Heroes Act on January 3, 2017, and the bill was referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. On January 19, 2017, the bill was subsequently referred by the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs to the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. There are currently no cosponsors to this bill.
The bill amends the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 to make permanent the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program.
H.R. 74 - REVIEW (Require Evaluation before Implementing Executive Wishlists) Act of 2017
Representative Tom Marino (R-PA) introduced the REVIEW Act of 2017 on January 3, 2017, and it was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. On January 5, 2017, the bill was subsequently referred to the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. The bill currently has thirty cosponsors.
This bill prohibits a final agency rule from being published or taking effect until the agency submits the rule to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), and the OIRA makes a determination as to whether the rule is a high-impact rule. The bill defines a "high-impact rule" as a rule that may impose an annual cost on the economy of at least $1 billion. An agency shall postpone the effective date of a high-impact rule until the final disposition of all actions seeking judicial review of the rule. Related Bills: H.R. 5 - Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017
H.R.63 - HERO Transition from Battlespace to Workplace Act of 2017
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) introduced the HERO Transition from Battlespace to Workplace Act of 2017 on January 3, 2017 and it was referred to both the Committee on Ways and Means, and the Committee on Veterans' Affairs. On January 19, 2017, the bill was subsequently referred by the Committee on Veterans' Affairs to the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. The bill currently has no cosponsors.
This bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow employers a business-related tax credit for $1,000 times the number of veterans (not more than 25 in a taxable year) who begin work resulting from the efforts of a military relations manager. The bill: (1) deems as a reasonable effort of an employer to employ veterans, for purposes of veteran employment and reemployment programs, the designation of an employee as a military relations manager and the use of the military skills translator database (database for assisting veterans in relating military skills, experience, and training to civilian skills, experience, and training); and (2) defines a "military relations manager" as an expert in the process of transitioning from being a member of the Armed Forces to being a civilian and in translating the skills, experience, and training gained in the Armed Forces to skills, experience, and training needed in the private sector. The Department of Veterans Affairs shall: (1) ensure that the military skills translator database may be used by civilian employers, and (2) conduct outreach to inform civilian employers of such database.
H.R.340 - Next Generation American Manufacturing Act of 2017
Representative Jose E. Serrano (D-NY) introduced the Next Generation American Manufacturing Act of 2017 on January 5, 2017 and the bill was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. This bill currently has no cosponsors.
This bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow a tax credit for the purchase of new products certified as assembled in the United States and consisting of at least 60% of components assembled or otherwise arising in the United States. The bill also establishes the 21st Century American Manufacturing Commission to conduct research to designate products eligible for such tax credit. The bill allows certain start-up companies, that are headquartered in the United States, a tax credit for up to 25% of their costs for the construction of a manufacturing facility and for the purchase of specialized equipment for use at such facility.
S.18 - Fair Tax Act of 2017
Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the Fair Tax Act of 2017 on January 3, 2017, and it was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. The bill currently has four cosponsors.
This bill is a tax reform proposal that imposes a national sales tax on the use or consumption in the United States of taxable property or services in lieu of the current income and corporate income tax, employment and self-employment taxes, and estate and gift taxes. The rate of the sales tax will be 23% in 2019, with adjustments to the rate in subsequent years. There are exemptions from the tax for used and intangible property, for property or services purchased for business, export, or investment purposes, and for state government functions. Under the bill, family members who are lawful U.S. residents receive a monthly sales tax rebate (Family Consumption Allowance) based upon criteria related to family size and poverty guidelines. Finally, the bill terminates the national sales tax if the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution (authorizing an income tax) is not repealed within seven years after the enactment of this bill. Related Bills: H.R. 25 - Fair Tax Act of 2017
H.R. 25 - Fair Tax Act of 2017
Representative Bob Woodall (R-GA) introduced the Fair Tax Act of 2017 on January 3, 2017 and it was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. The bill currently has 35 cosponsors.
This bill is a tax reform proposal that imposes a national sales tax on the use or consumption in the United States of taxable property or services in lieu of the current income and corporate income tax, employment and self-employment taxes, and estate and gift taxes. The rate of the sales tax will be 23% in 2019, with adjustments to the rate in subsequent years. There are exemptions from the tax for used and intangible property, for property or services purchased for business, export, or investment purposes, and for state government functions. Under the bill, family members who are lawful U.S. residents receive a monthly sales tax rebate (Family Consumption Allowance) based upon criteria related to family size and poverty guidelines. Finally, the bill terminates the national sales tax if the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution (authorizing an income tax) is not repealed within seven years after the enactment of this bill. Related Bills: S.18 - Fair Tax Act of 2017
S. 179 - Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act on January 20, 2017 and the bill was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. The bill currently has ten cosponsors.
S. 179 amends the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to make the E-Verify program permanent. The bill requires: (1) federal agencies, contractors, and critical employers to participate in E-Verify; (2) all U.S. employers to participate in E-Verify within one year of enactment of this Act; and (3) employers using a contract, subcontract, or exchange to obtain labor to certify that they utilize E-Verify. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) shall require the E-Verify participation of an employer or class of employers if DHS has reasonable cause to believe that the employer is or has been in material violation of the employment eligibility verification process under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). An employer's failure to use E-Verify shall be treated as a violation of the INA requirement to verify employment eligibility and creates a rebuttable presumption that the employer knowingly hired, recruited, or referred an illegal alien. The bill: (1) increases civil and criminal penalties for specified hiring-related violations, and (2) establishes a good faith civil penalty exemption/reduction for certain hiring-related violations. Employers who are convicted of specified hiring related crimes or who have repeatedly committed specified hiring-related violations may be disbarred from federal contract, grant, or cooperative agreement participation. State and local governments may not prohibit employers from using E-Verify to determine the employment eligibility of new hires or current employees. The bill authorizes the verification of individuals before they are hired, recruited, or referred if the individual so consents. Employers are required to: (1) use E-Verify to verify the identity and employment eligibility of any individual who has not been previously verified through E-Verify not later than three years after enactment of this Act, (2) reverify the work authorization of individuals not later than three days after their employment authorization is due to expire, and (3) terminate an employee following receipt of a final E-Verify non-confirmation and submit information DHS determines would assist it in enforcing or administering U.S. immigration laws. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must report weekly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding each person receiving a final E-Verify non-confirmation. The Social Security Administration, DHS, and the Department of the Treasury shall establish an information sharing program. The bill: (1) provides for elimination of the Form I-9 process, and (2) sets forth E-Verify design and operation requirements. The federal criminal code is amended to: (1) provide that illegal aliens possessing or otherwise using false identification information not their own can be punished for identity fraud, and (2) subject a person who uses false identity information in furtherance of harboring or hiring illegal aliens to a fine and/or penalty of up to 20 years in prison. USCIS is required to establish a demonstration program to assist small businesses in rural areas or areas without Internet capabilities in verifying employment eligibility using publicly accessible Internet terminals.
During the month of May, Lobbyit presented at WFCA's board of directors meeting, updating WFCA's leadership regarding legislative and regulatory updates.
S. 30 - Forty Hours is Full Time Act of 2015
Introduced by Sen. Collins (R-ME), this bill would address employer mandates in regards to health care coverage. The bill seeks to establish 40 hours a week as a full time position within the IRS, which currently stands at 30 hours a week. The bill would also modify the agency's formula to calculate the number of full-time employees employed by an applicable large employer subject to the current 30-hour a week mandate.
H.R. 2483 - Independent Contractor Tax Fairness and Simplification Act of 2015
Introduced by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), HR 2483 would eliminate prospectively the "safe harbor" that businesses use to misclassify employees as independent contractors (ICs). Businesses who have treated a worker as an IC would qualify for a retroactive safe harbor for purposes of past employment tax liability. It would prohibit the issuance of new regulations or "revenue rulings" by the Department of the Treasury with respect to the employment status of any individual for employment tax purposes. Would codify a new form of "safe harbor" if the worker:
Incurs significant financial responsibility for providing and maintaining equipment and facilities; Incurs unreimbursed expenses or risks income fluctuations because remuneration is "directly related to sales or other output rather than solely to the number of hours actually worked or expenses incurred";
Is compensated on such factors as percentage of revenue or scheduled rates and not solely on the basis of hours or time expended; and
"Substantially controls the means and manner of performing the services" in conformity with regulatory requirements, or "the specifications of the service recipient or payor and any additional requirements" in the parties' written IC agreement
The new safe harbor appears limited to a defined segment of ICs who bill for services based on scheduled rates, like truckers and messenger couriers. By focusing on this industry segment, the bill would exclude from its safe harbor many legitimate ICs that are traditionally compensated on an hourly rate, such as professionals (including sole practitioner lawyers, accountants, architects, and designers) as well as sole proprietors in the skilled trades (including electricians and plumbers).
HR 185 - Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015
Introduced by Congressman Goodlatte (R-VA), the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2015 would create transparency between regulating agencies and the impacted industries. The bill would require announcements regarding each regulating agency's agenda for the year, listings of what industries could be impacted and why, detailed, fact-based reports that justify each rule's inception, and data outlining trickle-down effects and third-party impacts. This bill recently passed the House and is expected to receive attention in the Senate. If WFCA leadership endorses this bill, Lobbyit will draft a new letter of support for the advocacy hub.
H.R. 2775 - Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2015 (RTPA)
Congressman Chaffetz introduced his bill, the Remote Transactions Parity Act, on 6/15/2015. RTPA was introduced with 16 original cosponsors and that list has continued to grow to 29. The bill is a revised version of last year's Marketplace Fairness Act and is designed to entice more Republican support within the House. Similar to MFA, this bill would not requre states to collect online sales taxes, however, if a state were to participate, it must follow certain guidelines, which closely mirror the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement (SSUTA). A couple of these requirements include:
establishing a single entity within the state to oversee its local tax policy and collection,
provide free access to any national sales tax software or certified software provider (CSP),
relieve CSPs and remote sellers from liability for incorrect collection if liability is caused by information provided by state.
The bill would also have a small business exemption clause, initially set at $10 million gross annual receipts, which would decrease to $5 million the second year, and in subsequent years, the threshold will decrease and remain at $1 million. The bill is still under review and should NSGA have any insights or concerns, Lobbyit can pass along those comments to the Congressman's staff for further review.
The following stakeholder meetings were taken by Lobbyit.com on behalf of WFCA:
Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT): Lobbyit revisited with Congressman Chaffetz's senior tax policy advisor, Amber Talley, regarding the Congressman's latest discussion draft. Amber said the draft is expected to be released in mid-June, and has asked for WFCA's support while the bill generates co-sponsors. Lobbyit will coordinate with Amber and meet with relevant offices in the coming weeks.
WFCA board meeting: Lobbyit presented during WFCA's Newport Beach, CA board meeting earlier this month. Lobbyit's presentation consisted of updates regarding online sales tax reform, Lacey Act reform, workforce development opportunities, and potential regulatory impacts. The presentation also summarized WFCA's winter 2014 Hill visit, and addressed possible action items for fall 2015. Lobbyit fielded questions from WFCA's board and sent all of the presentation material to WFCA staff for future reference.
In June, the following meetings were taken:
Rep. Duncan (R-SC): Lobbyit met with tax aide Joshua Gross, as well as Congressman Duncan, regarding their sponsorship of Rep. Chaffetz's bill, 2775. Rep. Duncan supported the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA) and is a very conservative member of Congress. Rep. Duncan was targeted for this support of PITFA and willingness to support online reforms, such as RTPA. The office was interested in WFCA's history and struggle competing with online flooring retailers. Congressman Duncan said he would talk to Congressman Chaffetz and support RTPA - he is now a co-sponsor.
Rep. Granger (R-TX): Lobbyit met with tax staffer Donald Savidson to see if the office would support RTPA. Congresswoman Granger also supported PITFA and has been targeted by the MFA coalition to secure her support. Lobbyit shared WFCA's experience with showrooms and the "halo" effect, and while the office seemed interested, did not show much knowledge regarding RTPA. Lobbyit supplied literature on the bill and will continue to target the office.
Rep. Simpson (R-ID): Lobbyit met with legislative aide Sarah Cannon and Congressman Simpson regarding RTPA and the office's willingness to support RTPA. The meeting, while brief, was very productive and the Congressman said he did not want to create any additional roadblocks for brick-and-mortar retailers. He said he would support the bill and is now officially a co-sponsor.