Improving border security is an essential part of immigration reform for the United States. Our current system incentivizes illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. while providing few opportunities for them to engage in the legal immigration system. As a matter of national security we need to know who is coming into our country and if they pose a threat. Creating a truly functional immigration program for lesser-skilled workers is the most effective way to achieve this important goal. We need to take away the incentive to come to and stay in the United States illegally and the best way to do that is to create a legal framework to manage it. By creating a legal system, we can be assured we know exactly who is here as well as allow temporary workers to return to their native country instead of being forced to live in the shadows for years on end. Under the current system, or lack of one, workers are incentivized to obtain false documents and unable to return home for fear that they will not be able to get back to in the US. (continue reading…)
Unless or until it’s stopped, the National Labor Relations Board regulation that denies employees time to consider whether to join a union by putting union elections on an inappropriately fast track will go into effect on April 14th. This is troubling to manufacturers because there is scant evidence anywhere that the union election process needs to be sped up at all and the regulation would force employers to turn over closely guarded personal information such as an employee’s cell phone number and work schedule. (continue reading…)
For those of us in the healthcare policy field in Washington it has become as ritualistic as the changing of the seasons, the anticipation of the Masters Tournament in April or opening day in Major League Baseball – it’s known as “The Doc Fix.” For over a decade now, Congress has gone through the process of staving off reductions in payments to physicians under the Medicare program. Unfortunately, each year it does so, it gets more expensive to fix it permanently. It’s officially known as the sustainable growth rate (SGR) and the only thing sustainable about the growth rate in this instance is the frustration level most Members of Congress feel about having to go through this rite of passage every year or two. So, it is with great expectation and hope among many in Washington that we find ourselves nearing an agreement on a permanent solution to the madness we put ourselves through with too much regularity. (continue reading…)
The NAM is pleased that the Administration finally moved forward with allowing spouses of certain H-1B visa-holders to have employment authorization. The wait for a green card can be more than a decade for some visa-holders, and during that time their spouses, who many times are highly-educated and skilled themselves, were not permitted to work. This creates frustration and instability for many manufacturing families. Today the Administration officially announced they are finalizing new regulations that allow certain spouses to have work authorization. Under the new rule, only the spouses of individuals in the final stages of the H-1B process and waiting in-line to clear the excessive green-card backlog, will be permitted to work. (continue reading…)
Today Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) along with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) , Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chris Coons (R-DE), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) re-introduced the Immigration Innovation Act of 2015, also known as I-Squared. As it was last Congress, this bill is a strong push for high-skilled immigration reforms. (continue reading…)
Today, the National Labor Relations Board thumbed its nose at businesses and individuals who expressed serious concerns with their proposed rule to shorten the election period for union representation cases and short-circuited employer rights to ensure a fair election. (continue reading…)
The Affordable Care Act has a provision in it that is commonly referred to as the “Cadillac Tax.” Well, it’s not a tax on the storied line of cars manufactured by GM, it’s a tax on employee benefits – a 40 percent tax on the benefits employees receive over a certain value – it should be called the Employee Benefits Tax (EBT). (continue reading…)
Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. A day we set aside to honor and celebrate the men and women who have given service to our nation in the Armed Forces. This one day is rightfully dedicated to them in gratitude, but manufacturers believe our nation’s veterans deserve our support the other 364 days of the year as well. The challenge for members of the armed services transitioning out of service and into the private sector is often translating how those skills are valuable to the private sector. (continue reading…)
Two important reports about Medicare Part D came out this week and reaffirmed once again that the program is a success. Each year, Medicare Today and KRC Research conduct a survey of Medicare Part D beneficiaries every year and this year’s results showed it continues to be extremely popular with 86 percent of seniors saying they are satisfied with the program. The Congressional Budget Office also issued a report titled “Competition and the Cost of Medicare’s Prescription Drug Program.”
The CBO report showed that competition within the Medicare Part D program is an important part of how the program has held down spending and remains successful overall. In fact, the program continues to operate at a cost significantly lower than initial projections – nearly 50 percent below what CBO projected when the program was created. The report also pointed out flaws in proposals to import Medicaid-style rebates for medicines purchased by low-income Part D beneficiaries that have been pushed by President Obama and others. The CBO acknowledged that implementing Medicaid rebates in the Part D program may decrease the cost of some drugs in the short-term, but it is not a permanent solution to lowering costs of prescription drugs and may reduce choices for seniors, reduce incentives for innovation and increase premiums.
As I’ve said before, Medicare Part D should be looked at as a model for reform and the results of these two reports confirm that to be the case. Real competition and real choices lead to real solutions for affordable and accessible healthcare.
This afternoon, President Obama is expected to sign yet another executive order and this one will create significant problems for businesses who wish to provide goods and or services to the federal government. According to reports, the order will require federal procurement officers to effectively act as enforcers of labor laws that even the Department of Labor itself has difficulty understanding, which is a dangerous game for our President to be playing with federal contracts. Effectively, the President is sanctioning a practice known as “blacklisting” companies from federal contracts due to even minor infractions of complex labor laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act. While true bad actors deserve consequences, there are already procedures in place to address those cases.
The Fair Labor Standards Act is a labyrinth of federal statute, regulations, guidance and case law that ensnares even the most cautious employers. It encompasses things like how employees are classified, overtime pay and recordkeeping requirements. All of these issues are fraught with landmines that even sophisticated employers can run into without knowing it. In fact, even the Department of Labor itself ran afoul of employee classification regulations recently and were forced to issue back-pay to a number of the nearly 2,000 of its employees who filed a grievance under the FLSA in 2010. Ironically, the very federal agency charged with enforcing the requirements would be blacklisted or put on a “contract avoidance list” under this new executive order.
Further complicating matters is the fact that the administration is in the process of regulatory rulemaking to change various aspects of the FLSA, which is certain to create violations out of what were once legal practices and bog employers down with additional litigation on matters that have already been largely ironed out in current law. In the end, there is already a process federal procurement officers can go through if there are contractors having trouble complying with the FLSA. Creating a “contract avoidance list” and dispatching a member of the Politburo to each agency to police the list seems unnecessary.
The President seems to be using the federal procurement process as his own little “laboratory” for bad ideas in labor policy and this one is bound to have some unintended consequences. We may not be there yet, but at some point businesses with federal contracts, or those thinking about bidding for them, may decide the additional hoops, hurdles and hassles just aren’t worth it anymore – particularly if they are a small to medium-sized business. There’s likely quite a bit to be concerned with in this executive order and we’ll be going through it very carefully. More to come on this one, I’m sure.