February 2019 Government Affairs Update

Federal Government Spared a Second Partial Shutdown

A compromise budget agreement to keep the entire federal government operating through Sept. 30, 2019, was signed and took effect on February 15. In addition to staving off another partial shutdown over Donald Trump’s demand for money to construct permanent barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, the package of continuing resolutions for the EPA, IRS, and the departments of State, Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Justice and Homeland Security, the legislative package includes authorization for a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal civilian employees

IPMA-HR Supports the Stop STUPIDITY Act

The Association has endorsed S. 198, the Stop the Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage in the Coming Years Act. Introduced by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the Stop STUPIDITY Act would prevent future government shutdowns by automatically authorizing continuing resolutions for federal agencies when a fiscal year ends without a new budget. At the same time, Congress and the Executive Office of the President would lose funding until a new budget bill was signed. You can read the Association’s letter of support here.

Democratic Congresswomen Introduce Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) have introduced matching bills aimed at providing U.S. workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave to address a serious personal or family health issue, to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, or to deal with circumstances arising from a family member’s military deployment or serious injury while serving in the military. H.R. 1185 has 167 House co-sponsors, and S. 463 has 34.

If enacted in its current form, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would ensure that workers who qualified received 66 percent of their present wage up to a monthly cap of $4,000. Funds for this benefit would come from a new 0.2 percent payroll contribution from employers and employees.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress favor providing paid family leave. Lawmakers on either side of the aisle have very different ideas, however, about the scope of such a guaranteed benefit and how to pay for it.

Proposed Paycheck Fairness Act Would Strengthen Employees’ Rights Under the Equal Pay Act

A second piece of legislation introduced by Representative DeLauro, H.R. 7, would prohibit employers from asking for or relying on a job applicant’s salary history while conducting an interview, making a hiring decision and setting starting pay. Other provisions of the bill call for making employers prove that wage differentials exist for reasons other than sex and for making it easier for employees to participate in systemic pay discrimination class action lawsuits.

The House Committee on Education & Labor has held a hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is sponsoring an identical bill designated S. 270. Both versions attracted large numbers of co-sponsors, with 239 House members and 45 senators signing on.

Significantly, the proposed PFA would shift the burden of proof in pay discrimination cases to employers. It would also, as summarized by the National Partnership for Women & Families, “Provide plaintiffs who file sex-based wage discrimination claims under the Equal Pay Act with the same remedies as are available to plaintiffs who file race- or ethnicity-based wage discrimination claims under the Civil Rights Act.”

Congress Considering $15 Federal Minimum Wage

The Raise the Wage Act of 2019 (H.R. 582/S. 150) calls for gradually increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $15/hour over a six-year period. After reaching $15/hour, the minimum wage would be indexed to median wage growth for the United States. Loss of value relative to inflation and rising housing costs has been cited as a problem for the minimum wage, which was last increased in 2009.

Introduced in identical versions by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the proposed legislation has 198 co-sponsors in the House and 30 in the Senate. The House Education and Labor Committee has held a hearing on the bill.

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is predicting that a minimum wage increase would result in job losses. Despite such critiques, 29 states, the District of Columbia and several cities require employers to pay hourly wages above $7.25. Illinois and New Jersey have committed to enforcing a $15 minimum wage by 2025.

For additional information, please contact IPMA-HR Executive Director Neil Reichenberg at nreichenberg@ipma-hr.org.