Thursday, June 12, 2014

Six Months on Capitol Hill – Three Potential Laws You Need to Know

The first half of 2014 is almost in the books!  In this two part series, Astronology will examine eight current hot topics from our federal government that directly affect Human Resources.  In part 1, we will cover three federal bills and regulations currently being considered.

As in 2013, we’ve noticed a political impasse due to a predominately Republican U.S. House of Representatives and a predominately Democratic U.S. Senate.   However, that political division does not mean a complete lack of legislative activity.  Of what laws and bills should Human Resources practitioners be aware?

1. Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency Act (ALERRT)
The House passed this collection of four previous bills in March 2014. The compilation includes the following:

The All Economic Regulations are Transparent Act (ALERT)
This bill promotes transparency by requiring the Office of Information Affairs to publish details about pending rules & regulations and related cost benefit information online.  According to the bill’s introducer, George Holding, “When faced with new regulations, small business owners must consider how it will affect every aspect of their business, such as workers’ wages and hours, hours of operation, and daily costs and processes. In order for our economy to grow and businesses to prosper, we should take steps to ensure that they are given sufficient notices of regulation, and have time to adjust their business practices in anticipation of regulatory changes. This bill increases government transparency by requiring the administration to fully detail the effects of regulations and make things easier on small business owners.”

The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act
This bill enhances the Regulatory Flexibility Act by eliminating possible loopholes that agencies have used to avoid compliancy, requiring initial and final regulatory analyses to consider the costs new rules would impose on business indirectly.

The Regulatory Accountability Act
This bill promotes transparency with early engagement by stakeholders in the rulemaking process, including businesses and nonprofits.  This will result in increasing public input.

The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act
This bill would prevent secret settlement deals by making it law for an agency seeking to enter a consent decree or settlement agreement to publish it in the Federal Register and online 60 days after it is filed in court. Details in the publishing would have to include the basis for the decree or settlement agreement, description of the terms, and whether it includes attorney fees.

2. Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act
A bill that failed to pass in the last session of Congress, the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act would extend to employees unpaid leave to care for a(n): 

  •   Same sex spouse or partner
  •   Parent in law
  •   Adult child        
  •   Sibling
  •   Grandchild
  •   Grandparent
As of July 8, 2013, this bill had been referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. At some point in 2014, we may hear more.  Stay tuned, as passage of this law could have great impacts on your organization.

3. Department of Commerce and the Workforce Consolidation Act
Introduced in December 2013, we look forward to hearing more on this bill designed to combine the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, and the Small Business Administration. The hybrid departments would be named the Department of Commerce and Workforce. Proposed by Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), and co-sponsored by Senator Daniel Coats (R-Indiana), the Department of Commerce and Workforce would still have its independent functions of the departments but also effectively combine their administrative offices. Burr says, “Duplicative programs cost the federal government staggering amounts of money every year; The president has proposed merging and consolidating federal agencies several times over his two terms, and this bill advances that proposal. Combining offices with similar functions within these two agencies is a common-sense approach that reduces wasteful spending and would streamline our approach to comprehensive economic policy."

In the next issue of Astronology, we will discuss five legislative hot topics in Human Resources, including the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Social Networking Online Protection Act, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

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