Weekly Legislative Update October 5, 2020

Senate Passes One-Year Extension of Highway Bill  

On September 30, the U.S. Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) funding the federal government through December 11, 2020 with a bipartisan 84 to 10 vote.

The CR included a one-year extension of the current surface transportation authorization with flat funding.

The House passed the continuing resolution prior to Senate consideration allowing the bill to head to the President for his signature and averting a government shutdown.

The continuing resolution authorizes the transfer of $10.4 billion to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) from the general fund for highways and another $3.2 billion for transit to keep the HTF solvent. 

While TIA would have preferred having a bipartisan long-term highway bill enacted this year, a one-year extension that includes funds to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent is better than multiple extensions that create uncertainty for roadway projects and planning.

TIA looks forward to continuing to work with Congress on a long-term highway bill. 

President Trump Issues Health Care Executive Order

On September 24, 2020, President Trump issued an executive order titled "An America First Healthcare Plan."

The order directs federal agencies to continue implementing many existing Trump Administration priorities and projects.

These include: (1) ensuring healthcare access, (2) increasing price transparency, and (3) providing protections for people with preexisting conditions. 

The order also articulates several other health care goals.

These include:

• Expanding Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs.

 The Administration plans to accelerate new generic and biosimilar drug approvals and facilitate the safe importation of affordable prescription drugs from abroad. 

• Surprise Medical Billing. 

 

The order directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with Congress to pass a law to protect American consumers from surprise medical bills by December 31, 2020. Failing that, the President asks HHS to address this issue through regulatory action.

 Medicare.gov Website. 

Finally, the order requires HHS to update the Medicare.gov Hospital Compare website within 180 days. The update must inform beneficiaries of hospital billing quality matters. The website will have to note if a hospital complies with price transparency rules and if a hospital provides patients with a receipt that includes a list of itemized services received during a hospital stay. It will also indicate how often a hospital pursues legal action against patients.

It is important to note that NONE of the changes contemplated by this Executive Order are immediately effective.

Instead, the Executive Order can be looked at as more of a roadmap of the health care policy changes the President will work to implement through the remainder of 2020 and if he secures a second term.

DOL Proposes Rule To Clarify Employee And Independent Contractor Status Under The Fair Labor Standards Act

On September 25, 2020, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule that would clarify whether workers are employees or are independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Independent contractors are not entitled to the federal minimum wage and overtime pay that covered employees receive under the FLSA.

The rule adopts an “economic reality test” to determine a worker’s status: the test considers whether a worker is in business for himself or herself (independent contractor) or is economically dependent on a putative employer for work (employee). 

The rule identifies and explains two “core factors” that determine whether someone is in business for himself or herself: specifically the nature and degree of the worker’s control over the work, and the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on initiative and/or investment. The rule identifies three other factors that may serve as guideposts in the analysis: the amount of skill required for the work, the degree of permanence of the working relationship between the worker and the potential employer, and whether the work is part of an integrated unit of production.

Comments on this rule are due on October 26, 2020. 

Read the rule and submit comments to DOL:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/25/2020-21018/independent-contractor-status-under-the-fair-labor-standards-act

New Tennessee Pregnancy Accommodation Law Effective October 1

The “Tennessee Pregnant Workers Fairness Act” requires every employer with at least 15 employees to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s or prospective employee’s medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless such accommodation would impose an undue hardship on business operations.

The new law goes into effect on October 1, 2020.

No covered employee can be required to take leave because of medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions if another reasonable accommodation would be possible. Further, an employer may not take any adverse action against the employee for requesting or using a reasonable accommodation under these circumstances, including, but not limited to, counting an absence related to pregnancy.

If medical certifications are required of other employees needing an accommodation, then the employer may require an employee with a pregnancy- or childbirth-related medical condition also to provide certification from a healthcare professional to support any request for temporary transfer, job restructuring, light duty, or absence from work.

The law specifically states that it does not provide protections greater than those afforded to other employees who might require reasonable accommodation.

- If the employer would not otherwise hire or promote the employee due to lack of qualification, for instance, it is not required to hire or promote the employee because the employee is pregnant or affected by any other condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

- If a light duty position would not be provided to another, non-pregnant “equivalent” employee, a new position does not have to be created for the pregnant employee.

- Additional or extended breaks taken as part of an accommodation do not have to be paid if other employees are not entitled to similar paid breaks.

- No employer is required to construct a permanent space dedicated to the sole purpose of expressing breast milk.

Employers should review their policies, practices, and communications as they relate to hiring, discrimination, accommodation, and leave so that appropriate notices are provided at hire and upon learning of an employee’s pregnancy or need for accommodation. 

Vote for Right to Repair!

Right to Repair will be one of two questions before Massachusetts voters.

Remember, 86% of MA voted in favor of the Right To Repair Question in 2012, but by this year, 2020, advancements in vehicle technology and increasing restrictions by automakers will result in more than 90% of new cars being equipped to transmit real-time diagnostic and repair information wirelessly to vehicle manufacturers, threatening the rights that we enjoy today to choose to get our car fixed at trusted independent repair shops or do the work ourselves.  

Without an update to this law our trusted independent repair shops will be unable to fix their loyal customers cars and thus consumers will have less choice and pay more for their car repairs. The spirit of the Right to Repair Law was to ensure a consumer’s right to get their car repaired where they choose - technology advancements should not impair that choice!

There are over 3,000+ independent repair shops and auto part stores in Massachusetts who rely on access to repair and diagnostic information to properly repair vehicles. It’s critical that this question passes at the ballot so that we can protect mostly importantly the rights of consumers, but also the 30,000 jobs in our independent repair and auto parts industry.

You may have seen ads on both sides of Question 1 as car manufacturers are using egregious scare tactics to continue to hold a monopoly on wireless repair information. Both cyber security experts and law enforcement concur that giving the owner of the car their own car repair information can be done safely and securely - This legislation and ballot initiative do NOT cover GPS or personal information!

We’re almost there! If you live in Massachusetts, come out (or mail in) and vote YES ON QUESTION 1 to protect your car repair choice this November! If you do not live in Massachusetts but have outlets in the state, let us know and we can help get information to those locations to share with their customers.