Businesses Encouraged to Weigh in on Impact of Tariffs

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Has President Trump’s decision to raise tariffs on goods from certain countries had an impact on your business, or do you foresee a future impact?   If so, we want to hear from you.

Per our international trade and exporting policy, our organization has traditionally advocated in support of public policy and initiatives that promote free and fair trade, open investment, and regulatory cooperation. Late last month, we signed on to a U.S. Chamber-led letter in support of legislation that would require the President to submit to Congress any proposal that seeks to raise tariffs under the auspices of defending national security. The letter raised concerns that unrestricted use of the laws regarding the levying of tariffs – as has been done with the recent steel and aluminum tariffs – could result in retaliatory tariffs from America’s largest trading partners and allies, which would have serious negative economic impacts on the United States.

Comments can be directed to PA Chamber Government Affairs Director Alex Halper via email or call 717 720-5471.

Chamber Board Opposes Proposed Overtime Rule Changes; Public Comment Period Extended

The Chamber’s Board of Directors has submitted comments to a state agency opposing proposed changes to overtime eligibility for employees. A statement to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) calls the proposed new rules “excessive and burdensome”. Following a recent extension, employers now have until Wednesday, Aug. 22 to submit their own comments.

To recap, the changes unveiled recently by the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry include a wage threshold for “exempt status” that is more than double the current rate set by the federal government.  There would also be significant revisions to so-called “duties tests,” which are also used to determine eligibility.  Finally, the rule would establish an automatic update to the salary threshold every three years beginning in 2023.  Similar changes were proposed at the federal level a few years ago and decried by many employers, nonprofit organizations, human service agencies and others as financially nonviable and likely to cause unwelcome changes to workplace culture and morale as employees are forced to be shifted from salaried to hourly status.  Following the outcry, the proposal was ultimately struck down by a federal court.

The Columbia Montour Chamber and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau Joint Governmental Affairs Committee recommended the following statement to the Chamber’s Board of Directors:

“The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce represents nearly 400 employers from the Columbia and Montour County area. The Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce opposes the proposed changes to the Commonwealth’s overtime eligibility rules for employers as they are excessive and burdensome.

As proposed, the salary threshold for overtime eligibility would more than double in approximately three years. Many employers, particularly small businesses and non-profit organizations, simply do not have the resources to adjust in that period of time. These rules are likely to result in disruptions in business services, and perhaps the number of positions available.

While the intent of this proposal is to benefit employees, market conditions are driving up wages and benefits for employees in many sectors. The government should allow the free market to provide all but the most basic health and safety conditions for employees. These proposed rule changes would be an excessive intrusion into that free market system.”

A 30-day extension has been granted to submit comments to the IRRC regarding the proposed changes. The PA Chamber of Business & Industry had coordinated a coalition letter requesting the extension. Comments can be sent via email: reference IRRC Number 3202.

Additionally, a free webinar is being offered on Thursday, July 19. Want to learn more about how the proposed new rules could impact your employees and your business’ bottom line?  Sign up today for a free webinar that will explore the consequences of the overtime changes.  At 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 19, employment defense attorney Joshua C. Vaughn will cover the breadth of these changes; how employers can start planning for compliance; which employees will be eligible for overtime under the new standards; how to convert their status from salaried to hourly; and more.

Chamber Joins Nuclear Power Coalition

The Chamber’s Board of Directors recently voted unanimously to join a statewide coalition whose mission is to educate Pennsylvania about the benefits of nuclear energy and the positive impacts of the industry. Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania members include other chambers of commerce and economic development organizations, labor unions, the Pennsylvania Association of Township Supervisors, and businesses involved in generation, including Talen Energy.

Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation for nuclear power generating capacity with nine nuclear reactors across five sites. In 1957, Beaver County became home to the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States. Located on the Ohio River, about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station was the world’s first atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses. Unit 1 of the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station outside of Berwick went online in 1983 . One of the largest nuclear power plants in the county, each of Susquehanna’s reactors generates enough electricity to power about one million homes. 

Nuclear is one of the greatest sources of Pennsylvania’s electricity, contributing thirty-eight percent of the mix, while also accounting for over ninety percent of Commonwealth’s clean power. Ninety-three percent of the nuclear energy in Pennsylvania is carbon-free.

There are more than 500 companies in Pennsylvania working in the nuclear industry, creating 16,000 jobs that depend on nuclear energy. More information about the economic contributions of the industry are available on this information sheet and at the Nuclear Powers PA website.

Reminder – CALL TO ACTION: Weigh in on How Overtime Changes Would Affect Your Business

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Business leaders have an opportunity to make their voice heard on a critical employment issue.  The public has until July 23 to provide feedback to state regulators regarding proposed changes to Pennsylvania’s overtime eligibility rules, which were unveiled by the Dept. of Labor and Industry a few weeks ago (UPDATE: the deadline to submit comments is now Aug. 22 following a 30-day extension being granted). The changes include a wage threshold for “exempt status” that is more than double the current rate set by the federal government.  There would also be significant revisions to so-called “duties tests,” which are also used to determine eligibility.  Finally, the rule would establish an automatic update to the salary threshold every three years beginning in 2023.

It was only a few years ago, during the Obama administration, that such changes were proposed at the federal level.  At that time, the reaction from employers was swift and deeply negative, particularly among small businesses, nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions and the health service industry, among others.  At that time, employers not only described significant increases to the cost of providing services or doing businesses, but also the reality that this dramatic change would damage workplace culture and morale, as employees would have to be shifted from earning a salary to being paid by the hour. This transition typically requires employees to start clocking in and out, along with more burdensome record-keeping, less flexibility, a rigid work schedule and fewer training opportunities and benefits.  Following this outcry, the proposal was ultimately struck down by a federal court.

The PA Chamber is encouraging employers to speak out against this flawed proposal now being pursued at the state level, which would further harm Pennsylvania’s competitiveness. Visit our website to learn more about this important issue and write an email to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which has the power to reject or require changes to the proposed rules.  The PA Chamber is also leading a coalition urging the commission to extend the public comment period deadline, to allow employers and the public in general enough time to analyze the full impact of the proposed rules on their company and submit comments. 

Want to learn more about how the proposed new rules could impact your employees and your business’ bottom line?   Sign up today for a free webinar that will explore the consequences of the overtime changes.  At 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 19, employment defense attorney Joshua C. Vaughn will cover the breadth of these changes; how employers can start planning for compliance; which employees will be eligible for overtime under the new standards; how to convert their status from salaried to hourly; and more.

Affordability Percentages For Employer-Sponsored Health Plans Will Increase in 2019

From ChamberChoice

On May 21, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Revenue Procedure 2018-34 to index the contribution percentages in 2019 for purposes of determining affordability of an employer’s plan under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For plan years beginning in 2019, employer-sponsored coverage will be considered affordable if the employee’s required contribution for self-only coverage does not exceed:

  • 9.86 percent of the employee’s household income for the year, for purposes of “pay or play rules,” and premium tax credit eligibility
  • 8.3 percent of the employee’s household income for the year, for purposes of an individual mandate exemption (adjusted under separate guidance)