President Trump Signs Workforce Development Law
President Donald Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Public Law No. 115-224) on July 31. Before leaving for the August Recess, both the House of Representatives and Senate passed the legislation, which reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act that provides federal support to state and local career and technical education (CTE) programs. The law provides close to $1.3 billion annually for CTE programs across the country.
Earlier this year, the number of job openings in the U.S. exceeded the number of job seekers for the first time since the federal government began tracking the data in 2000. As the gap between the number of jobs posted and the number of available workers has grown, policymakers have looked for ways to help individuals gain the knowledge and skills needed to compete for in-demand jobs.
The Perkins Act has provided a useful policy framework for CTE programs, but it had not been updated since 2006 and no longer reflected the realities and challenges of today’s workforce. Under the new law, the U.S. Department of Education’s role in setting standards for CTE programs is reduced, and state agencies will be allowed to establish performance criteria for CTE programs without federal consultation.
Attracting and retaining quality workers remains a top concern for employers, and reauthorizing the Perkins Act should provide additional postsecondary pathways to individuals just entering the workforce, and give experienced workers new skills needed to meet the needs of employers.
IRS Releases Proposal on Enhanced Depreciating Deduction
The Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced a proposal regulation on increasing and expanding the first year depreciation deduction for qualified property. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed into law in December 2017, increased the first year depreciation deduction from 50 to 100 percent for qualified property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017.
The deduction applies retroactively to qualified property acquired and placed in service after September 27, 2017. The first year allowance is 100 percent, and is then decreased by 20 percent annually for qualified property placed in service after December 31, 2022. If taxpayers have already filed their 2017 return and either did not claim the mandatory deduction on qualifying property, or did not elect out but still wish to do so, must file an amended return.
Click here to view the guidance.
DOL Rescinds 20016 Persuader Rule
The Department of Labor (DOL) announced on July 17 that it is rescinding the persuader rule, which required employers and any outside labor attorney or consultant they hire to provide greater disclosure regarding anti-union activities. Last year, DOL issued a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing a rescission of the rule in its entirety. The final rule will take effect on August 17.
Historically, lawyers have been exempt from the rule’s reporting requirements when they merely provide advice or other legal services directly to their employer clients on these unionization issues, but have no direct contact with the employees.
House Democrats have introduced two bills this year that would codify the persuader rule — the Workplace Democracy Act (H.R. 5728) and the Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act (H.R. 6080).
House Readies Second Tax Cut Bill
Republicans in the House of Representatives are moving forward with “Tax Reform 2.0,” which would extend many of the individual income tax cuts passed last year but are set to expire at the end of 2025. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), House Ways & Means Committee Chairman, has suggested voting on three different bills focusing on 1) making permanent the tax cuts enacted last year, 2) expanding incentives for savings and retirement, and 3) encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.
President Trump has stated his support for a second round of tax cuts. However, Senate Republicans seem cool to the idea where they have a 51-49 majority but would need 60 votes to pass it. Should the House vote on additional tax cuts in September, it would almost certainly make the tax reform package passed last year a central issue in the midterm elections.
Missouri Voters Reject Right-to-Work Law
On August 7, voters in Missouri rejected a right-to-work law passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. In a bit of a surprise, 67 percent voted no on Missouri’s Proposition A. At present, 27 states have laws allowing employees in private-sector labor unions workplaces to opt-out of union membership and fees.
Last year, the Missouri legislature voted passed a right-to-work law. However, labor unions gathered enough signatures to prevent the law from taking effect pending a statewide referendum. Labor unions spent millions of dollars to defeat the measure, and comes amid a continued decline in union membership nationwide.
OSHA Proposes Injury and Illness Reporting Changes for Large Employers
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a proposed rule on July 31 to eliminate many of the existing electronic reporting requirements for employers with 250 or more workers. As proposed, OSHA would remove the requirement for employers with 250 or more workers to electronically submit injury or illness data (OSHA Form 300) or incident reports (OSHA Form 301).
OSHA enacted the current electronic reporting rule (ERR) during the Obama administration. In its current form, the rule requires establishments with 250 or more employees to submit information about work-related injuries and illnesses (OSHA Form 300); a summary of work-related injuries and illnesses (OSHA Form 300A); and injury and illness incident reports (OSHA Form 301) each calendar year. In certain covered industries, establishments with 20 to 250 employees are only required to submit the summary of work-related injuries and illness each calendar year (OSHA Form 300A).
The new proposal would no longer require large establishments to electronically submit data for each workplace injury or illness contained in the OSHA Form 300 and OSHA Form 301—only a general summary of workplace illness and injuries through the OSHA Form 300A. Also, the new rule would require covered employers to submit their Employer Identification Number electronically with their injury and illness data submission.
Covered employers must continue to maintain OSHA Forms 300, 301, and 300A, as required by existing OSHA recordkeeping regulations, and to report OSHA summaries of workplace injuries and illnesses (OSHA Form 300A), which is required under both the existing and proposed revised versions of the ERR. Of course, OSHA still requires employers to produce these forms to OSHA as part of an inspection.