May 2019 Government Affairs Update

IPMA-HR Recommends Basing FLSA Overtime Salary Basis Threshold on Local Cost of Living

The Association on May 20, 2019, joined ICMA and the Government Finance Officers Association in submitting comments on proposed changes to overtime eligibility rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Based partly on survey responses from IPMA-HR members, the groups informed the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) of their

  • Support for increasing the salary basis threshold from $23,660/year to $35,308/year.
  • Support for reviewing the salary basis threshold every four years.
  • Recommendation to allow the salary basis threshold to vary based on the cost of living, as does federal employee pay.
  • Recommendation to consider allowing employers to pro-rate salaries for exempt part-time employees on a weekly basis.
  • Recommendation for posting notice and inviting public comments before making future changes to overtime eligibility rules since Congress has not authorized DOL to index the salary basis test.
  • Recommendation that future adjustments to the salary basis threshold take effect 180 days after adoption in order to allow employers to determine how to deal with impacted employees and to make it possible for employers to budget for any increased compensation costs.
  • Recommendation to reconsider increasing the salary threshold for highly compensated employees from $100,000/year to $147,414/year and to set a new threshold below the one currently proposed.

More than 59,000 comments on the new FLSA overtime rule have been submitted. You can read our full letter to the DOL here.


Comment Periods for Regular Rate, Joint Employment Rule Changes Extended

DOL will now accept comments until June 12, 2019, on its update to rules for calculating employees’ regular rate of pay. The agency has also decided to leave its clarifications of joint employment rules open to comments until June 25, 2019.

 

Equality Act Passed in U.S. House

H.R. 5 amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. IPMA-HR supports the legislation, but it is unclear if the Senate will pass it or if the president will sign it.

 

Bill to Strengthen Affordable Care Act Sent to U.S. Senate

Every U.S. House Democrat voted yes on the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 5) on May 16, 2019. The bill received no Republican support, indicating it has little chance of becoming law as currently written.

The bill combines seven legislative proposals to

  • Restore funding for ACA marketplace marketing and outreach, as well as the navigator program that assists people with finding suitable health care plans. The Trump administration has reduced ACA’s advertising budget by 90 percent and cut funding for navigators by 84 percent.
  • Provide $200 million in federal grants to establish state-based marketplaces. The funds could be used for up to 2 years.
  • Prohibit federal agencies from enforcing or implementing the Trump administration’s final rule on short-term plans and bar agencies from issuing substantially similar rules in the future. The short-term plan rule allows limited-duration insurance coverage to be sold for up to 12 months and extended or renewed for up to 36 months. Those plans do not have to comply with ACA rules for covering essential health benefits or preexisting conditions, and they can charge higher premiums based on a person’s health status, age or gender.
  • Ban arrangements in which brand-name drug manufacturers pay makers of generic pharmaceuticals to delay bringing lower-priced therapeutically equivalent products to market.
  • Require brand-name drug manufacturers to provide samples to generic manufacturers so the products can be copied.
  • Loosen the rules for granting six month of competition-free sales to the generic drug maker who receives the first FDA approval for a copy of a brand-name drug.

While this legislative package focuses on limiting methods companies use to keep prescription drug prices high by protecting their monopolies and market share, the Trump administration recently announced a plan to require the inclusion of pricing information in drug ads shown on television. That rule, which applies to medications with wholesale prices of $35 or higher for a 30-day supply, is set to take effect by the end of this summer.

Congress and the administration are also developing proposals to protect people from surprise medical bills. NPR published this summary of bipartisan efforts through mid-May.

 

Bills Would Grant Mandatory Collective Bargaining Rights to Public Safety Workers

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) have introduced companion bills that share the title of Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (S. 1394/H.R. 1154). The Senate version has 11 co-sponsors.

IPMA-HR opposes the bills, which would supersede state laws and local ordinances in giving police, firefighters and other first responders federal protections for forming or joining a union and bargaining over wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment. If the law is enacted, the rules to implement it would be administered by the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

 

Urging Federal Lawmakers to Allow Advance Refunding of Tax-Exempt Municipal Bonds

IPMA-HR and other members of the Public Finance Network (PFN) on May 20, 2019, officially thanked the more than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives who signed a letter expressing strong support for the Investing in Our Communities Act (H.R. 2772). The bill would undo a provision of the 2017 federal tax overhaul that made it impossible for municipalities to pay off tax-exempt bonds at times when doing so would save taxpayers’ money without disadvantaging bondholders.

PFN circulated its letter for signatures on May 13. It is now being forwarded to the leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee.

As explained to lawmakers, before 2018, municipal bonds were permitted a single advance refunding. This allowed public issuers to take advantage of reductions in interest rates to realize billions of dollars in savings. The Government Finance Officers Association estimates that during the 5-year period from 2013-2017, the advance refunding of municipal securities saved taxpayers at least $12 billion.

 

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