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Washington Update

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The annual congressional summer recess is now over; members of Congress returned to work on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Sept. 14. 

That leaves just three weeks of work before the mid-term elections on Nov. 2.  Here’s a snapshot look at issues of interest to HR professionals that may be considered before the end of the 111th Congress:

  • 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts – Many tax-relief provisions from the Bush administration will expire at midnight on Dec. 31.  Congress will probably extend most of them, including the Section 127 tax credit for employer-provided educational assistance.  SHRM supports that extension, which is proposed by Representatives Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Sam Johnson (R-TX).  But some provisions will spark heated partisan debate—particularly one that gives a tax rate reduction to high-income Americans (individuals earning more than $200,000; couples $250,000).
  • Paycheck Fairness Act – SHRM opposes this legislation (H.R. 12 / S. 182) introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and former-Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY).  It would restrict factors on which employers can base compensation decisions, limiting them to seniority, merit and production.  It would also subject employers to unlimited punitive and compensatory damage liability in pay discrimination cases.  The House version of the bill, H.R. 12, passed by a vote of 256 – 163 in January 2009.  Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced an identical bill (S.3772) and placed the bill on the Senate calendar - meaning it can be called up for debate on the Senate floor at any moment.
  • Equal Employment for All ActH.R. 3149, introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), would prohibit the use of consumer credit checks of prospective and current employees in making adverse employment decisions.  SHRM opposes this legislation because it would place blanket restrictions and prohibitions on the rights of most employers to consider credit information in making hiring decisions.

Given the limited time and partisan concerns, some divisive proposals probably won’t be considered before the 111th Congress comes to an end this year.  They include the Employee Free Choice Act (“card check”), Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the Healthy Families Act (paid sick leave).  But don’t count them out completely.  The Democratic majority is facing a strong headwind going into the November elections.  Democrats may bring up some of these issues in hopes of sparking greater voter turnout of their base at the polls.  Stay tuned to HR Issues Update.


 Next Issue

The next issue of HR Issues Update will be published on Thursday, September 30, 2010.
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