The Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA) which DDIFO is a member of has also been active.
A number of high priority CFA issues have been reintroduced prior to the Summer Recess including the Employee Free Choice Act (“Card Check”), the Arbitration Fairness Act and the Credit Card Fair Fee Act.
The 111th US Congress will resume after Labor Day on September 8th, 2009.
As issues important to you as a business owner move on the Hill, be sure to stay tuned for Action Alerts and updates from DDIFO.
Congress continues working on a comprehensive health care reform package. While both the Senate and House have introduced their own versions of the bill, employer-mandated health care will most likely be included in all versions.
Specifically, one house suggestion requires employers to offer health insurance to their employees (both full and part-time) or pay a fee of 8% of payroll. To avoid the fee, employers would need to contribute a minimum of 72.5% of premiums for individual employees, and 65% for family plans. Another suggestion includes a “free rider” penalty for employers failing to offer “affordable” health care (possibly <12.5% of income). The employer would pay a penalty of ½ of the average Medicaid costs, which currently are $6,500 per person.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (“HELP”) Committee issued its suggestions last month, which included a provision that employers with more than $500,000 in total payroll must offer full-time employees health insurance or pay an excise tax based on the employers’ annual payroll. It noted fines for not paying both full and part-time employees’ health care. The Senate Finance Committee has yet to issue its version.
CFA sent an Action Alert to all members regarding this issue last week. If you haven’t already done so, please log onto www.cfavotes.com and click “Take Action” to voice your opposition to employer-mandated health care.
In July, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) included biometric-based employee verification as a key element in an immigration bill which he plans to introduce in the fall.
Senator Schumer, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, presented his principles for immigration reform in remarks before the Immigration Law and Policy Conference at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. “Many occupations already require biometric identification for employees, and consumers are regularly given the option of securing their identity through use of a biometric identifier. It only makes sense to use the best technologies that are available to guarantee a legal workforce,” said Mike Aitken, Director of Government Affairs, Society for Human Resource Management and member of HRI.
On July 8, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the Department’s intention to rescind the Social Security No-Match Rule. DHS will be proposing a new regulation rescinding the 2007 No-Match Rule, which was blocked by court order shortly after issuance and has never taken effect.
That rule established procedures that employers could follow if they received SSA No-Match letters or notices from DHS that call into question work eligibility information provided by employees. These notices most often inform an employer many months or even a year later that an employee’s name and Social Security Number provided for a W-2 earnings report do not match SSA records—often due to typographical errors or unreported name changes. The Department believes that E-Verify addresses data inaccuracies that can result in No-Match letters in a more timely manner and provides a more robust tool for identifying unauthorized individuals and combating illegal employment.
Shortly after the DHS announcement, the Senate passed an amendment to the DHS appropriations bill prohibiting funds in the bill from being used to rescind the no-match rule. However, it is unlikely the Senate move would reverse DHS’ decision. The amendment, which was sponsored by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., only states that DHS cannot use the appropriation funds to rescind the rule. It does not block DHS’s decision.
The House had previously passed its own DHS appropriations bill; the two will now have to be reconciled.
In a press release issued earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it is launching a new I-9 inspection program in order to increase employment eligibility compliance. As part of this new initiative, ICE issued Notices of Inspection to 652 employers nationwide – more than they issued throughout all of last fiscal year. According to the press release, these employers were chosen for an audit based on investigative leads and other information. The new Assistant Secretary for ICE has stated that employers should be held accountable for their hiring practices and procedures, which ultimately begin with the Form I-9.
Senate Political Shift
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of Democrat Al Franken in July, allowing for him to be declared the winner of November’s Senate election. Franken was sworn into office on July 7, giving Democrats a key 60th vote in the Senate.
The court ruled 5-0 to reject former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman’s contention that a lower court should rehear the case because it erred by not requiring rejected absentee ballots to be counted. Barring a federal court injunction, GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to sign a certificate of election declaring Franken the winner by 312 votes.
While the ruling officially gives Democrats 60 seats – enough to block GOP filibuster efforts – Senate Majority Whip Durbin noted that seating Franken will not have a dramatic impact in the short run because of the illnesses of democratic senators Edward Kennedy (MA) and Robert Byrd (WV).
The Employee Free Choice Act (“Card Check”)
In July, Card Check was dealt a serious blow as a handful of senators dropped their support of the private ballot provision in the Employee Free Choice Act.
While this seems like a step forward in the battle to defeat this bill, legislators seem to be more willing to compromise in order to obtain the 60 votes needed to obtain cloture, or a filibuster-free vote. Specifically, provisions have been offered to speed up union elections and give employers less time to campaign against unionization. The business community, including CFA, continues to oppose the bill, which still includes several unacceptable provisions, including a binding mandatory arbitration clause which would empower government-appointed officials to make decisions about your businesses.
If you haven’t yet done so, please contact your Members of Congress and tell them to OPPOSE the current compromises to the Employee Free Choice Act and OPPOSE employer mandates in the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act.” You can do so by going to CFA Votes! At the CFA Votes Site there are ACTION Steps yopu can take in regards to: Health Care Reform , The Employee Free Choice Act, Credit Card Fair Fee Act, Health Famlies Act, Labeling and Education and Nutrition (LEAN) Act of 2009.
Paid Sick Leave
New Jersey – The New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits law went into effect this month, providing up to six (6) weeks of Family Leave Insurance benefits to covered individuals to bond with newborn or newly adopted children and to care for sick family members. As an employer, if you are covered under the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law, your employees are now covered for Family Leave Insurance.
For more information on the Family Leave Insurance Program, please go to the NJ Department of Labor’s website at http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/fli/fliindex.html
Massachusetts – As part of the state budget for the new fiscal year that began earlier this month, Gov. Deval L. Patrick and state legislators have approved a 0.75 percent local tax on restaurant meals, with proceeds going to communities that decide to approve the local tax. The tax can go into effect Oct. 1. The Springfield Finance Control Board approved the local tax on restaurant meals, and other communities may soon follow.
Newton, Massachusetts – Newton Mayor David Cohen wants the city to support new taxes on restaurant meals that could eventually raise nearly $2 million a year in new revenue. In a letter to the Board of Aldermen, Cohen announced that he will schedule a request to the Board this week for the tax hikes. City spokesman Jeremy Solomon said the item would be referred to the board’s finance committee, and the full board could vote on it in August. If that happens, Solomon said, the city could implement the new taxes on Oct. 1. The new taxes are allowed under legislation signed by Governor Deval Patrick.
New Jersey – On July 1, New Jersey employers began paying a higher payroll tax to replenish the unemployment trust fund. The increase, which for some employers could top 20 percent, will ensure benefits continue to a wave of jobless workers. But it also is another expense for employers who themselves are struggling through the recession. The increase was automatically triggered in March after the state’s trust fund dropped below what was considered an adequate capital level. New Jersey has paid about $3.2 billion in unemployment benefits during fiscal 2009 — a period that has seen the jobless rate rise from 5.5 percent to close to 9 percent.