Berman & Company


News Brief January 31, 2017

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No Closure on the Overtime Rule, but Implementation Still Looks Unlikely. The Trump Administration has still not taken a form stance on the Obama Administration's regulation that would more than double the salary threshold for employees to be considered exempt. In early January, Obama's Department of Labor announced the intention to file an appeal against the legal injunction that prohibited the rule from going into effect on December 1, and the DOL also asked for an expedited hearing. Last week, Trump's DOL actually slowed down that process and asked for a one-month extension on filing its appeal. Trump's nominee for Labor Secretary, former restaurant CEO Andy Puzder, was a vocal opponent of the overtime rule, so all indications are that the administration will not move forward with the regulation.

Another .05 Bill Introduced. After a Utah legislator made news with his plan to introduce a bill to lower the drunk driving arrest threshold to .05percent blood alcohol content, a similar bill popped up on Hawaii. State Sen. Josh Green, a doctor, has introduced this legislation in an effort to increase public safety. (In fact, the majority of alcohol-related traffic fatalities occur at BAC levels 0.16 and above.)

Utah Editorial Shows the Threat of .05 percent BAC Bills: For those who might easily dismiss the threat of a national .05 percent BAC arrest threshold, the editorial board of the Deseret News published an editorial in support of the lower level because it "aligns" with international standards. The American Beverage Institute (managed by Berman and Company) appeared on KNRS radio in Salt Lake City to talk about Rep. Thurston's bill and how it will not improve traffic safety.

The Washington Post Opposed Montgomery County $15 Minimum Wage. As we reported last week, the County Executive in Montgomery County Maryland (a suburb of Washington, DC) vetoed a bill that would implement a $15 minimum wage by 2020. Last week, the Washington Post agreed the County Executive courageously acted on "well founded concerns, including the 'significant financial impact' on county government." (The Employment Policies Institute – managed by Berman and Company – had placed an opinion editorial in the Post opposing the wage hike.)

Soda Tax Debate Come to Santa Fe. The city council of Santa Fe, New Mexico, has introduced a controversial two-cent-per-ounce tax on sodas and sugary beverages sold in the city. Despite hearing from local businesses who do not believe they could absorb the tax, the Mayor and other supporters believe the tax is necessary to fund early childhood development. According to one local distributor, Philadelphia area distributors have seen sales decline by 40 percent.

Debates over Higher Starting Wage Rates Continue at the State Level. This week, legislators in Pennsylvania held a hearing on Monday about an idea to raise the starting wage in the state to $15 an hour. (The bill has not yet been introduced.) In New Mexico, a House committee approved a bill that would raise the starting wage to $10.10 an hour, including an increase for employees who receive tips. Some Connecticut legislators want to increase the state's $10.10 starting wage to $15 an hour, but they are being met with opposition in the Senate. (Connecticut was previously a one-party state, with Democrats controlling both houses of the state legislature as well as the Governor's mansion, but the state Senate is now evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.)

Faces of $15 – the Impact of High Minimum Wage Hikes. As the wage rates proposed in many cities and states has crept up to $15 (and more) per hour, we have been working to track stories of the impact of those increased wages. In the last week, businesses in North Spokane and Port Orchard, Washington were featured in the local media explaining how they have reduced hours, laid off employees, or even closed. For more examples of these stories, go to, managed by EPI.

Turning Soda into Big Tobacco. A Maryland-based nonprofit, The Horizon Foundation, has launched a campaign against soda and sugary drink advertising. Modeled after the anti-tobacco "Truth" campaign, the foundation will spend $40,000 airing ads in Baltimore area markets. Baltimore is on the list of cities where activists would like to implement a soda tax.

Illinois Soda Tax/Minimum Wage Proposal Turns into Tax on Bowling Centers and Other Recreations. We reported last week that Illinois legislators would consider a penny-per-ounce soda tax to address the state's massive budget deficit. However, the soda tax was taken off the table in favor of a more complex set of different business taxes. In what's been called "The Grand Bargain," legislators included a 5percent tax on "amusements" (like bowling centers and sporting events, etc.), an increase in the corporate tax from 4.99 percent to 7 percent, a "Business Opportunity Tax" based on payroll size, and a tax on cable TV/direct broadcast satellite services. Center owners in Illinois are already active and members are encouraged to contact their state legislators to oppose these taxes. The Illinois State BPA is gearing up for what could be a long fight in a state where the Republican Governor and Democratic-controlled House are at odds over spending priorities.

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