Job Killing Obama-Era Overtime Rule Struck Down

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

In good news for employers across the country, a Texas federal judge last week struck down a U.S. Department of Labor rule that likely would have forced millions of workers to be converted from salary to hourly employees. In the ruling, the judge – Obama-appointee Amos Mazzant, who originally put the rule on hold last November – wrote that the agency improperly looked at salaries instead of job descriptions when determining whether a worker should be eligible for overtime pay.

The overtime rule, which was set to go into effect on Dec. 1, 2016, would have required employers to pay overtime to most workers who earn less than $47,476 annually – a much higher threshold than the current salary limit of $23,660. The rule drew the ire of the U.S. Chamber, PA Chamber and business advocates nationwide and led several of these groups to file suit against the administration. Employer advocates cited the impact the rule would have on many employers who would be forced to cut hours and hire fewer workers in order to absorb significantly higher operating costs, as well as the impact on employees, many of whom could be converted to hourly workers with less flexibility and fewer benefits.

Following the ruling, U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue released the following statement: “Today’s decision is another victory for the effort to free our economy from the regulatory stranglehold of the last eight years. We have consistently said that the last administration went too far in its 2016 ­overtime rule, and we are pleased that Judge Mazzant granted a final judgment that makes permanent his previous ruling against the overtime rule.

“This means that small businesses, nonprofits, and other employers throughout the economy can be certain that the 2016 salary threshold will not result in significant new labor costs and cause many disruptions in how work gets done. The Obama administration’s rule would have resulted in salaried professional employees being converted to hourly wages, reduced workplace flexibility and remote electronic access to work, and halted opportunities for career advancement. 

“We look forward to working with the Department of Labor on a new rule to develop a more appropriate update to the salary threshold.”

Montour County Readdressing Completed

The third and final wave of change-of-address letters for Montour County, Riverside Borough, and Rush Township was sent in mid-August. The readdressing, which was part of the 911 consolidation with Columbia County, was prolonged due to conflicts found in the Danville zip code. Businesses and residents that have not received a change-of-address letter should call the GIS office at 570-387-4930.

The post office will recognize old addresses for a period of one year from the initial notification. Additional information, including links to forms to update drivers’ licenses with PennDOT and business addresses with the PA Department of Revenue, is available at the Montour County website.

Chamber to Co-Host Candidate Forums for Bloomsburg and Danville Local Elections

Candidates for Bloomsburg Town Council and Danville Borough Council will share their thoughts on the issues facing these communities at public events this fall. Community members will also be invited to submit questions. The candidate forums are being presented by the Joint Governmental Affairs Committee of the Chamber and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau.

The Candidate Forum for the Danville Borough Council candidates will he held Tuesday, Sept. 19, from 6-8 p.m. at the Danville Ballroom in Borough Hall on Mill Street.

The Forum for Bloomsburg Town Council candidates will be held Wednesday, Oct. 4 at the Alvina Krause Theatre, 226 Center Street in downtown Bloomsburg. The forum for general Council will begin at 6 p.m., followed by a second session for the registered Mayoral candidates beginning at 7:35 p.m.

All registered candidates have been invited to participate. A series of questions developed by the Committee will be presented to each candidate in rotating order. Written questions submitted by audience members will be presented, time permitting.

Revenue Debates Continue as State Exhausts Short-Term Loan

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Another week has gone by without the enactment of legislation that would finalize the 2017-18 state budget. As legislative leaders continue to negotiate behind the scenes on a plan that would warrant bringing the entire General Assembly back into session for a vote this month, the state has officially exhausted the funds on a $750 million loan that the Treasury Department issued earlier this month to keep the General Fund above a zero balance.

“While this short-term borrowing will be repaid by August 23rd, we forecast that without some action, the General Fund balance will again fall below zero by August 29th,” Treasurer Joe Torsella said in a statement. He further noted that the balance will fall to -$1.6 billion around Sept. 15; warned about a potential credit rating downgrade as a result of the ongoing impasse; and strongly indicated that future loans are no guarantee in these types of situations. “Treasury’s Short Term Investment Pool is not a Rainy Day Fund … an overly concentrated loan by the Pool to the General Fund – at a time when the underlying budget is $2.2 billion out of balance, revenues are declining, and we are still without an enacted revenue package – would represent a substantial investment risk,” Torsella added.

This being the case, lawmakers and the administration are certainly feeling more pressure to finalize budget negotiations. The Wolf administration – which has generally been optimistic about the status of the ongoing debate – are now saying that the House needs to come back to session and vote on the series of budget-related bills the Senate sent them late last month. The House hasn’t returned to Harrisburg since that time, due in large part because of what House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, recently told reporters – his caucus has concerns about some of the taxes included in the Senate bills.

The House’s next session day is Sept. 11, though members technically remain “on call” and could be asked to return to Harrisburg before then. The Senate is also on call, but isn’t scheduled to reconvene until Sept. 18.

Working to Build a Stronger Workforce

Quality employees are important to any size and type of employer. The most successful businesses in our area, particularly those in manufacturing, often cite a skilled and dedicated workforce a key component of that success. The Chamber and its Foundation work to strengthen the area’s current and future workforce in supporting members. The Chamber’s Board of Directors recently approved a policy statement in support of workforce development efforts.

These efforts include:

  • Increasing the emphasis on and funding for internships, apprenticeships, and mentoring programs
  • Collaboration among high schools, technical schools, universities, and educators to meet the needs and concerns of the Commonwealth’s employers
  • Promoting vocational career pathways and earning potential to students at a young age
  • Training employers on workforce development best practices

While some of these efforts focus on skilled trades, others attempt to address issues cited by all types of employers, such as work ethic, lack of interpersonal skills, and an inability to communicate confidently and maturely. The Chamber and its Foundation are finalizing a workforce development plan in line with this policy.