The new and reinvigorated Republican majorities in the 114th Congress wasted no time getting started on Capitol Hill. Soon after swearing in ceremonies, they got down to business by introducing, considering and passing legislation to make good on campaign pledges to rein in regulations, weaken Obamacare and enact meaningful immigration reform. Below is a snapshot of January action on measures important to manufacturers.

House approves Regulatory Reform Bill

The House passed the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) by a vote of 250-175. H.R. 185, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), would make the regulatory process more transparent, agencies more accountable and regulations more cost effective. Specifically, the bill would increase public participation in shaping the most costly regulations before they are proposed; mandate that agencies choose the least costly option (unless they can demonstrate that public health, safety, or welfare requires a more costly requirement); give interested parties the opportunity to hold agencies accountable for their compliance with the Information Quality Act; provide for on-the-record administrative hearings for the most costly regulations to ensure that agency data is well tested and reviewed; restrict agencies’ use of interim final regulations where no comments are taken before a regulation takes effect; and provide for expedited judicial review of whether that approach is justified.

AMT supports this bipartisan approach as a step in the right direction toward addressing the problem of overreaching, ill-considered and excessively costly federal regulation. RAA would give those who will actually feel the impact of proposed regulations a larger voice in the process. Contact your Senators in support.

House defeats ACA 30-hour work week

The House also passed a bill that would change the definition of full-time work under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Beginning in 2015, the ACA requires businesses with 100 or more full-time equivalent (FTE) employees to offer affordable health insurance to full-time employees or potentially pay significant penalties. Businesses with 50 or more FTEs must offer affordable health insurance to full-time employees and their dependents or potentially pay penalties beginning in 2016. The ACA defines a full-time employee as one who averages 30 hours of service per week, or 130 hours of service per month. That’s counter to the traditional 40 hours of service threshold that most U.S. businesses use to define full time for benefits and other purposes. Implementing this new definition amounts to another costly regulation that will require businesses to change both their policies and their practices. 

The Save American Workers Act would define a full-time work week as 40 hours, up from the current 30 hours. Despite the bill passing the House by a 252 to 172 vote, President Obama has threatened a veto. Urge your Senators to support this bill.

Bipartisan group of Senators introduce H-1B Visa Bill

Not to be outdone by their House colleagues, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced legislation that would reform the nation’s immigration laws for high-skilled workers. The Immigration Innovation Act (I-Squared) would increase the quantity of employment-based nonimmigrant visas (H-1B visas) granted each year from 65,000 to 115,000 and allow the cap to go up depending on the demands of the economy. In addition, it increases access to green cards for high-skilled workers and reforms the fees on H-1B and green cards, so those fees can be used to promote American worker retraining and education. The bill was first introduced in the 113th Congress. AMT sent letters of support to the bill’s sponsors.

President Obama floats tax reform proposal

In the meantime on Pennsylvania Avenue, President Obama laid out a tax proposal that would raise $320 billion in new revenue over the next 10 years by increasing taxes on capital gains and dividends to pay for more than $200 billion in new government programs aimed at the middle class, including education and child care tax credits. This proposal is a non-starter in the current Congress, which is loath to raise new revenue at a time when receipts are high and the deficit is decreasing, especially in order to pay for additional government spending. Let your members of Congress know that manufacturers want and expect action on real tax reform in this Congress.