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BPAA Federal Policy Updates - October 5

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TAX

  • House Passes Extension of Individual Tax Cuts: House passes GOP bill to make new tax cuts permanent: House Republicans passed a $631 billion extension of the tax cuts they enacted in 2017, reprising their biggest legislative success of the past two years as they try to avoid losing their majority in the Nov. 6 election. The legislation, which passed on a 220-191 vote, was part of a three-bill package that Republicans dubbed “Tax Reform 2.0.” On Thursday, they passed bills to expand retirement-savings incentives and tax breaks for startup businesses, picking up some Democratic support for those narrower measures. For now, the Senate has no plans to vote on any of the House bills, making this week’s votes more of a campaign plank and marker for future negotiations than the beginning of a legislative effort. House members aren’t expected to return to Washington until after the election. Three Democrats voted for the bill, including two of the party’s Senate candidates: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Rep. Jacky Rosen of Nevada. Ten Republicans voted no, all members from California, New York and New Jersey who opposed the cap on the deduction for state and local taxes. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.
  • Nearly 90 Percent of Taxpayers Are Projected to Take the TCJA’s Expanded Standard Deduction: As the House of Representatives this week considers a bill that would make the individual reforms of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) permanent, one important change to keep in mind is the increased standard deduction. The TCJA lowered individual income tax rates, and nearly doubled the standard deduction. Now, nearly 29 million more households will be better off taking the standard deduction instead of itemizing deductions, meaning they will have a much simpler tax filing process. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the standard deduction from $6,500 to $12,000 for single filers and $13,000 to $24,000 for taxpayers who are married filing jointly. Thus, millions of households will no longer need to go through the complex process of itemizing their deductions. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the number of filers who itemize will fall from 46.5 million in 2017 to just over 18 million in 2018, meaning that about 88 percent of the 150 million households that file taxes will take the increased standard deduction. Read more at The Tax Foundation.

LABOR

  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division will host a public listening session in Washington, D.C., to gather views on the Part 541 white-collar exemption regulations, often known as the "Overtime Rule," on October 17, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EDT. BPAA Government Affairs Committee will be monitoring.
  • Bloomberg Government reports, Trump Administration Weighs New Overtime Pay Requirements: The Labor Department is set to update private sector overtime pay requirements, but officials still won’t say exactly how the new approach will differ from a stalled Obama-era move designed to put more money in workers’ pockets. The department is eyeing January as a soft deadline to unveil a proposed regulation that would revise overtime eligibility under federal wage-and-hour law, a DOL spokesman told Bloomberg Law Sept. 24. A trio of department officials earlier the same day held the last of five scheduled listening sessions seeking feedback on when employers should be required to pay workers time-and-a-half wages for overtime. The DOL appears to be set to increase the annual salary threshold—currently $23,500—under which workers are automatically entitled to overtime pay for all hours beyond 40 in a week. The department isn’t expected to go to the controversial $47,500 level proposed by the Obama administration in a rule that a federal judge in Texas blocked last year. “We are not against salary increases,” but it would have been doubled under the Obama rule, Chamber of Commerce Senior Manager Stephen McAllister told Bloomberg Law after the listening session. “That’s too big to do overnight. The people we represent are operating with razor thin margins.” The new rule comes as the Trump administration has focused largely on freeing businesses from the yoke of regulation and taxes, including by scrapping various Labor Department rules. It will be one of the relatively few moves to increase regulatory responsibility for employers by likely expanding the pool of workers who must be paid overtime for all hours beyond 40 a week.
  • Next for Labor - Labor Secretary Eyes Gig Worker Policy: The Labor Department is looking at changing regulations governing gig workers and other independent contractors, issues that have embroiled companies including Amazon.com Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. in legal battles, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in an interview. “The workforce is changing. How we approach work is changing, and we need to start looking at our rules and recognize that what fit 20 or 30 years ago is not going to fit for the modern workplace,” Acosta told Bloomberg Law. That starts with two key issues: how workers are classified and who’s considered their boss. The DOL is expected to take a more business-friendly approach to both questions than it did during the Obama administration.

SPORTS BETTING

  • Clues To The Future Of Sports Betting Revealed In How Elected Officials Are Steering The Conversation: After mainly focusing on Thursday on what five speakers had to say at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on U.S. sports betting legalization in Washington, D.C., we are following up by looking closely at how the House members asking them questions addressed the topic. Some of them ranged a bit far afield, and there was no real consensus on how to approach this issue in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in May that wiped out a near-total ban on legal sports gambling that had been passed by Congress in 1992. But some clues were provided that could give us a better idea on what directions this committee might consider going in the future. Read more USBets.
  • Legal Sports Report: Thursday’s hearing looked at sports betting at the very surface level, at least. Members of Congress fielded testimony from two advocates of state-level regulation, two opponents of gambling expansion in general, and the NFL, more-or-less representing the stance of the professional sports leagues. It was a cursory discussion lasting less than 90 minutes. Opponent Les Bernal was easily the most entertaining character in the show. The veins in his forehead struggled mightily as he cited the dangers of gambling, calling states “laboratories of fraud.” It’s a truly beautiful phrase, but he didn’t provide any facts to support it. It was also amusing to see the NFL testify that it did not seek sweeping changes at the federal level … and then ask for a bunch of sweeping changes at the federal level. Frighteningly, Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner walked away feeling that everyone in the room agreed on the need for Congress to intervene. It’s a strange way to summarize the testimony we watched, but it wasn’t the worst take of the morning. Not by a long shot. Read more at Legal Sports Report.

MUSIC MODERNIZATION

  • DOJ Plans ‘Smooth Transition’ From ASCAP & BMI Decrees: The proposed Music Modernization Act, currently sitting on President Trump’s desk awaiting his signature, would require the Department of Justice to alert Capitol Hill of its plans at least 90 days before it takes any steps in federal court to terminate the decrees that govern how ASCAP and BMI license works in their repertoires. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who heads the Antitrust Division, said he has no problem with that. But during a Wednesday appearance on Capitol Hill, Delrahim also said his team is still moving forward with plans to rip up the documents. “I don’t think anybody has any intention to disrupt this industry but provide a smooth transition towards a market-based solution for how songwriters are compensated,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. The move comes just two years after the DOJ completed its last review of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. In July 2016 it determined no modifications were warranted. But Delrahim said his team’s fresh analysis will move away from a presumption that the consent decrees should remain in place indefinitely. “We should take a look at how they are being implemented in the marketplace,” he said. “Are these actually causing market divisions or are they preventing new innovation? That is the mission we are on.” Read more at InsiderRadio.
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