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May 16, 2024

The Riso Report

July 11, 2019
A look at federal and state legislative issues effecting contracting businesses.

(Editor's note: For over 30 years, Mark Riso has worked in legislative, regulatory and political processes at national, state and local levels. We welcome Mark as a new contributor to Contracting Business.)

Trump Administration Issues Climate Change Guidance for Federal Agencies:  The White House Council on Environmental Quality issued its draft National Environmental Policy Act guidance on greenhouse gas emissions.  The draft guidance directs agencies on how they should weigh climate change impact before considering (and ultimately approving) major energy and infrastructure projects – which would relax climate change criteria established by the Obama Administration – the intention of which is to allow for faster permitting. Stay tuned…

 What’s Happening with the Overtime Rule:  To breakdown the issue in simple terms.  Contractors may not see a direct relationship between the debate on the new overtime rule – and how they go about their business…but the current rule (and its future) does impact those who work in a contractor’s office.  The bottom line…the future rule will increase the cost of doing business for a contractor.  The current rule has been in place for some-time…and carries an established threshold of $23,660 (those under that level can receive overtime pay).  For years, lawmakers have made the argument that the level is too low - and the Obama Administration pushed for a higher threshold ($47,476) which is thought to be too high.  The Trump Administration set a new threshold ($35,308) – and is where we stand.  At the heart of the debate is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees must be paid 1 1/2 times their regular rate of pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek and meet certain duties tests.  Those above $23,660 are exempt.  If the threshold is increased…it would throw many workers into a new category of non-exempt employee.  Forget about the details as to how we got to where we are.  Hundreds of trade and industry groups and associations have weighed in on the issue in the comment period.  Request a copy of the comments your association(s) filed in order to understand how your industry is weighing in on the issue.

Supreme Court Decides it will not Hear Case Against Trump Tariffs:  Earlier this week, the Supreme Court decided not to consider (as of now) a challenge to the Administration’s tariffs on steel imports into the US - in March, the US Court of International Trade decided to allow the tariffs.  Challenges to the tariffs are not uncommon, and those who argue against, make the case that the tariffs have been harmful (25% tariffs on steel imports).  It’s been reported that $4.5 billion has been collected as a result of the tariff.  Not much more to report on – just keeping people up-to-date.

Supreme Court Decides to Hear Insurer Case:  The Supreme Court has decided to consider whether insurers can pursue $12 billion from the federal government under an Affordable Care Act (ACA) program geared to encouraging them (the insurers) to offer medical coverage to those previously uninsured.  The case is based on insurers’ agreement that the government was supposed to help them recover from early losses they suffered – as a result of ACA when it was first enacted.  More to come…

Issues stirring in the states…

New York state passes tougher sexual harassment legislation:  In June, New York lawmakers passed legislation that helps workers filing discrimination cases.  By relaxing language in the current law (misconduct must be “severe or pervasive”) to qualify as harassment – and by eliminating a requirement that a worker must first complain internally, establishing harassment should be easier.  This legislation will be visible in many more states in the near future.