Danville Council Hopefuls Share Thoughts on Business, Taxes and Traffic

Seven of the eight candidates for Danville Borough Council participated in a public forum on Tuesday, Sept. 19 to share their thoughts on a variety of issues. Topics addressed included job growth, taxes, and traffic concerns. The candidate forum, held at Danville Ballroom, was sponsored by the Joint Governmental Affairs Committee of the Chamber and Columbia Montour Visitors Bureau.

The registered candidates who participated in the Forum were:

1st Ward: Steven Finn and John S. Rodman

3rd Ward: Betty Ann Moyer and Byard Woodruff

4th Ward: Edward A’Zary, Kevin J. Herritt, and Joseph Stigerwalt, Jr.

The only registered running for the 3rd Ward seat is Jeremiah Walter, who could not participate due to a work commitment.

Audio from the forum is available here. Candidate responses begin with the following order: Herritt, Stigerwalt, Finn, Rodman, Moyer, Woodruff, A’Zary. Responses to the second question begin with Stigerwalt and following the same order.

October is Local Chamber of Commerce Month in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (left) has officially declared October 2017 as “Local Chamber of Commerce Month” in PA. The below proclamation was issued by Gov. Wolf in recognition of the efforts of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry and the many local Chambers around the state, such as the Columbia Montour Chamber, in supporting business and economic growth and development. A PDF of the proclamation can also be viewed here.

Greetings:

It is my pleasure to join with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry to support October 2017 as Local Chamber of Commerce Month in Pennsylvania.

Since its inception, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry has served and advocated for Pennsylvania businesses. By helping its members understand federal and state workplace regulations, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry helps to create a more prosperous future for the commonwealth and its citizens. Our local chambers of commerce play a critical role in supporting the needs of our vibrant business community, and are essential to the commonwealth’s continued economic growth and advancement. As my administration works hard to retain current and create new family sustaining jobs by supporting business and industry throughout the commonwealth, I am grateful for our local chambers of commerce for providing the invaluable role that they play in ensuring that businesses new and old can continue to prosper in Pennsylvania. I commend Pennsylvania’s local chamber of commerce for representing thousands of businesses, and I am certain their efforts to enhance our communities will serve as an inspiration across the commonwealth for years to come.

As Governor, and on behalf of all citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I am honored to support October 2017 as Local Chamber of Commerce Month. Please accept my best wishes for continued success.

Tom Wolf
Governor
October 2017

House Approves No Tax Increase Revenue Plan

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Budget negotiations took on a new dimension last week after the House approved a counter revenue proposal that would balance the 2017-18 spending plan through a series of special fund transfers, securitization of the Tobacco Settlement Fund and yet-to be enacted gaming and liquor expansions.

The proposal does not include any tax increases and limits borrowing. The specifics of the plan call for: a $20 million transfer from legislative reserve accounts; $630 million in Special Fund transfers; $400 million in multi-year agency lapsed funds; a $200 million transfer from the nonprofit Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association; a $15 million transfer from the Commonwealth Financing Authority’s New Venture Account; and borrowing $100 million from the Underground Storage Tank Indemnity Fund. The proposal would also sell a portion of the annual payments from the Tobacco Settlement Fund over a 10 year period – which is expected to bring in $1 billion. Finally, the plan banks on revenues from yet-to be enacted gaming expansion – which could include allowing for “mini casinos” and limited video gaming terminals – as well as additional reforms to the state’s alcohol laws.

The Wolf administration was quick to state its opposition to the plan late Wednesday night. In a written statement to Capitolwire, Gov. Wolf’s spokesman J.J. Abbott said: “Gov. Wolf and bipartisan members of the House and Senate understand that recurring revenue is necessary to solve the structural deficit and avoid a credit downgrade. The House Republican proposal does neither. After leaving bipartisan negotiations in July, House Republicans have demanded to go it alone. Hopefully, now, they can get serious about funding the spending they passed two months ago, fixing the structural deficit and avoiding further consequences.”

Meanwhile House Republican leaders viewed the vote as the next step in the negotiation process. Prior to the House vote, Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “We’re going to move forward with this with the expectation we get to 102 votes and then we’ll enter into the next round of negotiations and hopefully finish that in a very timely fashion.”

The House approved the proposal by a vote of 103-91. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

EEOC’s New Pay Data Reporting Requirement Stayed

From ChamberChoice

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) collects workforce data from all employers with 100 or more employees through an annual EEO-1 Report. The report, in its current form, collects data about gender, race, and ethnicity of employees by 10 different job groupings. In 2016, the EEOC revised the form in order to begin requiring employers to provide employee pay data.

The EEOC’s goal in gathering this additional data is to identify businesses that may have pay gaps, and then target those employers who are discriminating on the account of gender — and possibly race or ethnicity —through enforcement actions. The EEOC plans to publish reports using aggregated data and to train its investigators to identify potential indicators of discrimination warranting additional investigation.

This new information was to be provided in the 2017 form, and to give employers time to collect that data, the deadline for 2017 was extended by six months from September 30, 2017 to March 31, 2018. The “workforce snapshot period” has also changed to any payroll period of the employer’s choice between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2017 (rather than, as previously, a payroll period between July 1 and Sept. 30).

Although the reporting deadline was extended to March 2018, there was indication that the new pay data reporting requirement may be further suspended or even canceled. As a reminder, President Trump signed an Executive Order in January addressing reducing regulation and controlling regulatory costs. Specifically the Order provided, “…it is important that for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination, and that the cost of planned regulations be prudently managed and controlled
through a budgeting process.”

To that end, on Aug. 29, the EEOC was informed that a review as to the new burdens that would be placed on employers under the pay data reporting regulations is being initiated. Furthermore, an immediate stay (suspension) was placed on the requirement for an employer to report pay information.

Therefore, the previously approved EEO-1 form which collects data on race, ethnicity and gender by occupational category remains in effect. However, employers may still plan on complying with the previously set filing date of March 2018.

Employers with 100 or more employees are required to file an annual EEO-1 report. A 2016 revision to the form would require an employer to report pay data information. However, this pay data reporting requirement has been suspended as of Aug. 29. However, employers should continue to monitor any further guidance from the EEOC.

Information About the Participant Request Form Under Mental Health Parity

From ChamberChoice

In June 2017, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services provided guidance under the Mental Health and Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). Released in the form of a Frequently Asked Question, the guidance also included a model form as assistance to participants for requesting a plan’s mental health or substance use disorder benefits, or to obtain documentation in support of an appeal. 

Background

The MHPAEA requires that financial requirements and treatment limitations for mental health and substance use disorder be in parity with the financial requirements and treatment limitations applicable to medical and surgical benefits. In plain language this means a plan’s coverage limits on mental health and substance use disorder benefits may not be more restrictive than medical and surgical benefits. Financial requirements include deductibles, copayments, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximums. Treatment limitations reference limits on the number of days or number of visits covered and/or limits on the scope or duration of treatment.

Group health plans are required to disclose certain information to plan participants regarding coverage of mental health/substance use disorder benefits under the MHPAEA. Under the disclosure requirements, plan and insurers must:

• Disclose the criteria for medical necessity determinations related to mental health/substance use disorder benefits to current participants, beneficiaries, or contracting providers on request; and
• Provide the reason for denials (often referred to as an “adverse benefit determination”) of reimbursement or payment of mental health/substance use disorder benefits.

Plans that are subject to ERISA (private employer plans) include further disclosure requirements to plan participants, upon request, about the processes, strategies, evidentiary standards, and other factors used
to make a determination under its claim denial procedures.

Model Participant Request Form

The Departments issued a model form in June that may be used by health plan participants and their representatives to request plan documents concerning a plan’s or insurer’s MHPAEA related compliance. Along with other general information, the request form reminds employers subject to ERISA that the plan must provide plan documents addressing benefits upon request from a plan participant within 30 days of receiving a written request. The form further allows for a participant to seek information on a specific condition or disorder by requesting:

• Specific plan language regarding limits;
• Identify the factors used in the development of the limitations and evidentiary standards used to evaluate the factors;
• The methods and analyses used to develop limits; and
• Provide evidence showing that the limit is applied no more stringently to mental health/substance use disorder benefits than medical/surgical benefits.

The draft form is not required to be used by a participant when requesting information and a plan/insurer must respond to information requests even if the form is not used. However, the Departments indicated that a model form is helpful to participants when asking for information, and is more uniform and streamlined.

Eating Disorders

The same FAQ issued by the Departments in June also provided that an eating disorder is a mental health condition. As such, the benefits for the treatment of an eating disorder must be in parity with a plan’s medical and surgical benefits.

Conclusion

The provision of benefits for mental health/substance use disorder treatments continues to be on the radar of the regulatory Departments. Employer plans that are subject to ERISA should know that the issue of parity under the MHPAEA is a major issue under a DOL investigation. Plans may want to review the draft model request form in order to be prepared for any requests. This would also be a good opportunity for an employer to review the plan document’s claims and appeals process and procedures, to ensure compliance with ERISA. The model form can be used until finalized.