Weekly Legislative Update - December 16, 2019

Happy Holidays!
TIA would like to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year! We will resume the weekly newsletter on January 6th.

House Will Vote On SALT Bill Today, No Word Yet On Extenders
Today, the House Rules Committee will take up H.R. 5377, Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act. This bill suspends the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction (SALT) for two years.
 
Text of H.R. 5377 is at www.congress.gov, insert H.R. 5377 and click. Text at the Rules Committee has not yet been tabled.
 
Today, the Rules Committee will issue a rule for debate on the bill, then it will go to the House floor for passage.
 
We're checking to see whether Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal has made a decision to add tax extenders to the SALT bill when it's considered in Rules. 
 
Should H.R. 5377 pass the House without extenders, we'll work in the Senate to attach extenders to the Omnibus Appropriations bill that must be passed by both Houses by December 20th.

House And Senate Appropriators Announce Agreement To Fund Government For FY 2020
Late last week, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, chairwoman of House Appropriations Committee, announced that House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement "in principle" on government funding for the remainder of FY 2020.
 
Senator Richard Shelby, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, agrees, saying staffs are writing the final bill.
 
If the President is willing to sign an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2020, and if there are no snags in the Senate, it's good news for the country and for WOTC because tax extenders can be enacted on this bill.
 
We still have a great deal of work from now to December 20th to get Congress to agree to temporary extensions through the end of 2025 for WOTC, VOW To Hire Heroes Act, Empowerment Zones Employment Tax Credit, Indian Employment Tax Credit, and our recommended WOTC improvements for disabled workers, military families, and armed forces reserve members.
 
But with today's news, we are given a full week to get the job done.

Agreement Reached on USMCA
President Trump and U.S. House of Representatives Democrats reached agreement on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which will replace the NAFTA accord. 
 
The three countries had already agreed to the USMCA's major provisions, but the fine points of the trade deal were still subject to discussion. 
 
The legislatures of each country must approve the USMCA before it replaces the NAFTA accord. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the trade pact in December, but the U.S. Senate may not schedule a vote until early 2020.

U.S. Department of Labor Announces Final Rule to Update the FLSA's Regular Rate Regulations
The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a Final Rule that will allow employers to more easily offer perks and benefits to their employees.
 
The rule announced today marks the first significant update to the regulations governing regular rate requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in over 50 years. Those requirements define what forms of payment employers include and exclude in the FLSA's "time and one-half" calculation when determining overtime rates.
 
The previous regulatory landscape left employers uncertain about the role that perks and benefits play when calculating the regular rate of pay. The new rule clarifies which perks and benefits must be included in the regular rate of pay, as well as which perks and benefits an employer may provide without including them in the regular rate of pay.
 
Specifically, the final rule clarifies that employers may offer the following perks and benefits to employees without risk of additional overtime liability:
  • the cost of providing certain parking benefits, wellness programs, onsite specialist treatment, gym access and fitness classes, employee discounts on retail goods and services, certain tuition benefits (whether paid to an employee, an education provider, or a student-loan program), and adoption assistance;
  • payments for unused paid leave, including paid sick leave or paid time off;
  • payments of certain penalties required under state and local scheduling laws;
  • reimbursed expenses including cellphone plans, credentialing exam fees, organization membership dues, and travel, even if not incurred "solely" for the employer's benefit; and clarifies that reimbursements that do not exceed the maximum travel reimbursement under the Federal Travel Regulation System or the optional IRS substantiation amounts for travel expenses are per se "reasonable payments";
  • certain sign-on bonuses and certain longevity bonuses;
  • the cost of office coffee and snacks to employees as gifts;
  • discretionary bonuses, by clarifying that the label given a bonus does not determine whether it is discretionary and providing additional examples and;
  • contributions to benefit plans for accident, unemployment, legal services, or other events that could cause future financial hardship or expense.
The final rule also includes additional clarification about other forms of compensation, including payment for meal periods and "call back" pay. It can be viewed here and will take effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
 
More information about the final rule, including FAQs and a Fact Sheet, is available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/overtime/2019-regular-rate.