ANCOR's Government Relations staff distributes stories in the Washington Insiders Club (WICS) – a weekly round-up of top stories and headlines – to ANCOR Members to keep them up to date on policy and political developments of note to the disability community. The following entries highlight the most significant reports of the last two months.
August 4, 2017 – On August 1, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee announced that they will hold hearings after the August recess on legislation to "stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance market". Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) issued a statement that pointedly included that he was consulting with ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) in order to "make these hearing bipartisan and to involve as many members of the committee as possible, all who want to can be involved." He also said that he will consult with the Republican and Democratic leaders or the Senate Finance committee on the work, signaling that he is committed to a bipartisan, productive process.
August 4, 2017 – In remarks given at a National Federation of the Blind (NFB) event on July 15, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta strongly expressed the value to the labor market that people with disabilities bring. He said that "workplace accessibility provides a business advantage", making businesses stronger and more competitive. He praised Americans with disabilities for the "valuable perspective" and "incredible work ethic" they bring to their jobs. He talked about President Trump's commitment to helping Americans pursue their chosen careers by making workplaces more accessible and workforce education more inclusive to those with disabilities. Acosta mentioned several resources and initiatives, including TalentWorks, the Job Accommodation Network, and the proposed Stay and Work and Return to Work initiatives. He also discussed the importance of technology that has "revolutionized the workplace" by making it possible for people with visual impairments to connect in new ways and making the workplace increasingly accessible. Finally, Acosta spoke on the importance of expanding apprenticeships for people with disabilities and the workforce in general. "Apprenticeships open up opportunities for workers of all abilities," Acosta said. He said that apprenticeships are an example of an education and employment model that has proven successful and that should be expanded to more industries.
August 4, 2017 – On August 1, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. sought a contempt order against the employees and their lawyer that are suing the company over the Department of Labor Overtime Exemption rule. The case is a class action that was brought by Chipotle employees alleging that that DOL Overtime Exemption rule did go into effect on December 1, 2016, despite the injunction issued against the rule by a federal court in Texas in November 2016. (See WICs article, "Employees Claim Overtime Rule is in Effect," June 12, 2017.) Chipotle is seeking a contempt finding against the plaintiffs in the case, saying that the plaintiffs "intentionally disregarded" the injunction order that prohibits the DOL from implementing the rule. The plaintiffs argued that the injunction order did not affect the ability of people outside of Texas from bringing private causes of action against employers. Chipotle countered by saying that "The order’s purpose in enforcing a nationwide injunction was to protect both employees and employers from being subject to differing standards determinative of FLSA exemptions." Chipotle further argued that a finding of contempt is appropriate because the plaintiff's lawyer actively assisted her client in violating a court order. The law firm representing the plaintiffs said that Chipotle chose to mount a "frivolous attack" by seeking the contempt order rather than defending itself on the merits of the case.
July 31, 2017 – On July 27, Representative Bradley Byrne (R-AL) introduced the Save Local Business Act (H.R. 3441). The bill would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to clarify that businesses may only be deemed a joint employer if they exercise "significant control" over essential working conditions of workers in a way that direct, actual, and immediate. The bill is in direct response to a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which set a more expansive definition for joint employment. In the Browning-Ferris decision, the NLRB ruled that a business would be deemed a joint employer if it exerts "indirect control" over a contractor or reserves for itself the ability to exert such control. (For more background on the Browning-Ferris case, click here. The decision is currently under appeal.)
July 24, 2017 – On July 18, the House Budget Committee unveiled its FY2018 Budget, featuring deep cuts to entitlement programs including Medicaid and Medicare. It assumes the passage of health care reform by congress, instituting per capita caps or block grants in Medicaid. The budget plan does not include a detailed breakdown on how specific programs within Medicaid would be impacted, there would be $4.4 trillion cut over ten years from Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, and other income and education assistance programs. Overall, it would cut approximately $1.5 trillion from Medicaid programs, $487 billion from Medicare, and $4 billion from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
July 17, 2017 – On June 30, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an information bulletin to states regarding compliance with the Medicaid managed care final rule. The bulletin says that CMS believes some of the new rules are potentially burdensome to states, and so intends to use its enforcement discretion to work with states to implement state-specific compliance solutions, based on state needs and circumstances. If a state is interested in taking advantage of CMS' enforcement flexibility, the state will need to identify to their regional office the particular regulation(s) that they will be unable to implement by the mandated compliance date.
June 18, 2017 – On June 15, President Trump announced plans to "expand apprenticeships and vocational training, close the skills gap and reduce regulatory burdens on workforce development programs in the United States". The President signed an executive order that seeks to remove federal restrictions and expand access to apprenticeships across all industries, in order to help more Americans have access to an affordable education and good-paying jobs. The order directs the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the secretaries of education and commerce, to propose regulations that promote the development of apprenticeship programs by industry and trade groups, nonprofit organizations, unions and joint labor-management organizations. It also directs the departments of Commerce and Labor to promote apprenticeships to business leaders in critical industry sectors, including manufacturing, infrastructure, cybersecurity and health care.