ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) –
Definition of Waters of the U.S. Under the Clean Water Act
Final Rule Issued in May 2015
The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expanded the definition of U.S. waters that are “navigable” – in some cases, to even small depressions or farm ponds that do not impair the flow of rivers. Despite state jurisdiction, this rule will impose federal mandates for water quality levels in these local waters or land uses. What’s most troublesome is that the EPA issued the rule without doing required Regulatory Flexibility Act processes. EPA claims that the rule will have no significant impact on small businesses even though the rule will clearly restrict the ability of small businesses to expand or develop their land and decrease land value. For more information on this rule, please visit nfib.com/waters
Lead: Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule for Public and Commercial Buildings
Proposed Rule Expected in 2016
Following on its problematic Lead: RRP rule covering residential housing, the EPA is poised to expand the rule to cover commercial buildings. While the goal of the rule – protecting people from exposure to lead dust – is laudable, EPA has not yet issued a study or identified data that shows if lead dust from these buildings impact surrounding neighborhoods. In addition, EPA appears intent on adapting its residential rule for commercial buildings. NFIB is concerned about his approach because the residential rule is punitive mostly to companies that try to comply. About 35 percent of small employers, who operate their business outside of their house, own all or part of the building or land on which their business is located. These small businesses face higher costs as well.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions; New and Existing Power Plants
Final Rules Issued August 2015
EPA has finalized new rules that impose on states harsh carbon limits for electricity production that will force them to close down the coal-powered generators that now provide the vast bulk of America’s power. EPA will require the states to increase the percentage of power they generate from alternative sources, like wind and solar, which are far weaker and more expensive. NFIB is concerned about the rules’ impact on affordable electricity, one of the most important costs a small business owner faces. NFIB submitted Comments
to the EPA regarding standards of performance for greenhouse gas emissions from new plants. NFIB also submitted Comments
to the EPA regarding their proposed rule to limit emissions of greenhouse gases from existing coal and natural gas-fired power plants.
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR (DOL) –
Wage and Hour Division – Expansion of Overtime Eligibility
Final Rule Expected in 2016
President Obama directed the DOL to revise regulations relating to overtime eligibility, specifically to find ways to expand time-and-a-half pay to more workers. Unfortunately, this will come at the expense of small business owners. Like most government mandates on business, increasing the number of workers eligible for overtime will have a deep and disproportionate impact on the small business sector. The proposed rule would more than double the current salary threshold, to $50,440. While touted as a way to give more wages to workers, in reality business owners will likely limit workers to 40 hours a week and scale back managerial staff, so workers will not realize higher pay. To learn more about this issue, visit nfib.com/overtimerule
. Download NFIB's Comments on Overtime
OFFICE OF LABOR-MANAGEMENT STANDARDS (OLMS) –
Interpretation of the “Advice Exemption”
Final Rule Issued March 2016
Also known as the “persuader rule,” the DOL’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) issued a rule that would greatly inhibit the ability of small businesses to rely on labor experts. For nearly 50 years the DOL has recognized that legal advice is excluded from reporting under federal labor law. The new rule would force lawyers and law firms that counsel a small business on most labor relations matters, and whether the business has a union or not, to disclose not only their work with that client, but also all fees and arrangements for all clients for all labor-relations services. The net result could well be that many lawyers will no longer take on clients seeking labor-relations counsel.
OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION (OSHA) –
Final Rule Issued in March 2016
OSHA halved the permissible exposure limit for silica, the second most common mineral in the earth’s crust. The rule will have serious impact on industries like construction and manufacturing. In addition to lowering the limit, OSHA mandated other expensive requirements on small businesses like engineering controls, medical monitoring of employees, and a vast recordkeeping burden. This is despite the fact that OSHA is unable to ensure compliance with the previous PEL for about 30 percent of businesses nationwide. NFIB believes if OSHA ensured compliance, it could largely solve the workplace silica issue. NFIB has conducted a study on the economic impact of crystalline silica
and submitted comments to the Department of Labor
on this proposed rule.
Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses
Final Rule Expected in 2016
OSHA is proposing changes to its reporting system for occupational injuries and illnesses that would require employers to submit data from its injury logs electronically to the agency. OSHA will then take the data and create a database – with establishment-specific information – that is available to the public. Our concerns range from the public misinterpreting the safety of businesses to unions using the information to target certain businesses for unionization. Read NFIB's comments on the proposed rule
EMPLOYEE BENEFITS SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (EBSA) –
Definition of the Term “Fiduciary”; Conflict of Interest Rule
Final Rule Expected in 2016
The Employee Benefits Security Administration has proposed to broaden the definition of what types of duties performed by financial advisors are fiduciary in nature – and thus subject to strict prohibitions. This includes offering a business a curated list of potential investments for a company’s retirement plan. NFIB is concerned the rule will prevent access to retirement plans to many small businesses and their employees. According to NFIB’s Research Foundation, 38 percent of small businesses offer retirement benefits to employees – up from 27 percent a decade ago.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD (NLRB) –
Representation: Case Procedures
Final Rule Published in December 2014
Commonly referred to as its “quickie elections rule,” the NLRB has finalized a regulation that would streamline the union-election process. The Board’s goal is to reduce the median length of a union election substantially from the current 35 days. NFIB believes that an employee’s informed choice will be compromised because the shortened timeframe means owners will have to scramble to obtain legal counsel and will have little time to talk to their employees. This shortened timeframe would hit small businesses particularly hard, since small employers usually lack labor-relations expertise and in-house legal departments.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (DOJ) –
Accessibility of Web Information and Services
Proposed Rule Expected in 2016
DOJ will propose regulations requiring websites to be accessible to the disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act. NFIB is concerned that the agency will propose that businesses must retrofit their current websites with accessible technologies, which would be painstaking and expensive.
FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY ADMINISTRATION –
Financial Responsibility for Motor Carriers
Proposed Rule Stage
FMCSA is considering a rulemaking that would increase the minimum levels of financial responsibility for motor carriers, perhaps by more than 500 percent. NFIB believes that it is unnecessary for FMCSA to raise the minimum financial responsibility requirements given a lack of data indicating higher minimums yield fewer accidents. In addition, attempts to raise the minimums in Congress have not been successful, indicating a lack of need for increases.
A recent report, “The Fourth Branch & Underground Regulations
,” from the NFIB Legal Center found seven agencies have subverted the formal rule-making process and never underwent the formal process to allow public comment or economic analysis before issuing a final rule.