July 16, 2018

Washington Wire: Congress Returns Sept. 8 After Month-Long Break


Congress Returns Sept. 8 After Month-Long Break  

Upon their return from their August recess next week, Congress faces many challenges in the months ahead. A long list of unfinished business awaits from funding for the federal government to an expiring highway bill to a debt limit increase and lapsed tax provisions such as R&D, Section 179 Expensing, and Bonus Depreciation. 
When Congress returns, they will only have 12 legislative days until government funding expires at the end of the fiscal year. The House has currently passed half of 12 annual appropriations bills, with the other half having been approved by the committee. In the Senate, for the first time in six years, the Committee on Appropriations approved all 12 funding bills by the August recess. However, Senate Democrats are currently blocking appropriations bills from coming to the floor in order to force Republicans to negotiate a budget deal on defense and domestic spending and sequestration in general. 
By the end of October, Congress will also have to deal with transportation funding, as the Highway Trust Fund expires. Both chambers passed a short-term extension before adjourning for the August recess and have yet to come to any sort of agreement on a long-term deal. Reauthorization of the Ex-Im bank is also a priority for some members, as they failed to see it reauthorized this summer in the Senate's multi-year road and mass transit bill.  
Following that, the U.S. is set to hit the debt ceiling sometime in the late fall. While the suspension of the debt limit expired July 30, Treasury Secretary Lew said he will extend the period until Oct. 30 with the possibility that the “extraordinary measures” being used to prevent a default may last into November or December. 
Congress must also one again pass a tax extender bill. As you know, Congress allowed to expire a number of critical tax provisions used by One Voice members. This includes the R&D Credit, Section 179 Equipment Expensing, and Bonus Depreciation. The Senate Finance Committee on July 21st passed the Tax Extenders bill which includes a two year extension, retroactive to January 1, 2015 and through 2016, of Bonus Depreciation, Section 179 Equipment Expensing, R&D Tax Credit, and others. The bill enhances the R&D and Bonus by allowing businesses to claim AMT in lieu of both, helping thousands of businesses still trapped under the AMT. The House is still trying to make some of these provisions permanent, which we strongly support, but time is running short for a more sweeping solution. As of now, most expect Congress to pass an extension of the expired provisions between early October and the first week of December.



Labor Board issues Joint Employer Decision
On the final day of Republican National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) member Harry Johnson’s tenure, the Democratic-run Board handed down a ruling on August 27, redefining what constitutes an “employer” in the United States. In Browning-Ferris, the NLRB ruled that Browning-Ferris Industries, a Houston-based waste-disposal company, is a joint employer of workers provided to the firm by a staffing agency and therefore is responsible for any labor violations at the plant and would require the company to bargain collectively with those workers.  
The new "joint employer" standard promulgated by the Board in the ruling will make it easier to hold companies liable for the labor practices of their subcontractors and franchisees by no longer requiring that one business "directly and immediately" control a workforce nominally employed by another business before it's named a joint employer. This ruling affects thousands of companies that hire temporary workers or independent contractors, including those through a staffing agency or janitorial service.  
One Voice is joining with coalition partners to challenge the decision in both the courts and on Capitol Hill. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander has already indicated that he will introduce legislation to reverse the decision.



WOTUS Rule Partially Blocked
On August 27, 2015 a day before the rule was set to take effect, a federal court judge in North Dakota approved an injunction blocking the EPA from enforcing its Waters of the United States rule in 13 states. The injunction applies to the states subject to the suit: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The new rule took effect everywhere else.  
Under the “Waters of the U.S.” rule, the EPA may consider industrial ditches as “tributaries,” leading to costly maintenance activities, and expensive and time-consuming dredge and fill permits. The change also affects stormwater retention ponds, fire ponds, and on-site impoundments, leading to point source discharge and other permit requirements. The proposal will open up thousands of manufacturers, farmers, and other businesses to citizen group lawsuits and lengthy environmental reviews – the median cost for some of these permits is $155,000. One Voice is fighting along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to stop the rule both on Capitol Hill and in the courts.  



Administration Sends EPA Ozone Rule for Final Review
The Administration, on August 31, sent the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of ground level ozone, the main component of smog, to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for final review. The move puts the Administration on track to finalize the rule by a court ordered October 1 deadline.  
One Voice is strongly opposed to this new initiative, which experts say will cost the U.S. economy $1.7 trillion by 2040 while increasing compliance costs by $1.1 trillion. The White House twice ordered the EPA to delay the proposal – ahead of the 2012 Presidential and 2014 Congressional midterm elections. The proposal will reduce ground level ozone levels from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to as low as 65ppb. Some environmental groups are calling for a reduction to 60ppb, which would classify the entire U.S. as a non-attainment zone, potentially limiting manufacturing production, expansion of facilities, hiring new employees, and infrastructure projects.