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NCA’s Washington Weekly Update 11-1-21

Situational Awareness
The House and Senate are in session this week. The Senate will be processing nominees while the House will consider eight bills reported out of the House Natural Resources Committee related to tribal lands. The House may also consider the Senate-passed infrastructure package and a reconciliation bill if an agreement is reached and the legislation is ready.

Reconciliation Agreement Close

House Democratic leaders worked over the weekend to negotiate the final details of the now $1.75 trillion reconciliation package with the hope of voting on the measure by the end of this week. While the topline figure of $1.75 trillion has been agreed to, the main sticking points now are plans to add provisions aimed at reducing the cost of prescription drugs, addressing the state and local tax deduction and immigration changes, though other issues also need to be finalized. A summary of the bill was released last week that stretched to 137 pages and the final legislation is expected to cover roughly 2,000 pages by the time it is completely written. With the goal of passing the bill by the end of this week, it leaves precious little time for legislators and the public to read and digest prior to passage.

The Rules Committee stands ready to draft a rule for consideration by the full House. The bill has been subject to intense negotiations over past months in order to meet the demands of key moderates in the Senate, namely Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). The results of those negotiations has led to leadership dropping provisions to increase tax rates on the highest earners in favor of imposing a surtax on the wealthy, a corporate minimum tax of 15% and a tax on corporate stock buybacks.

OSHA Vaccine Mandate This Week?

The much-anticipated final rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposing a requirement for employers with more than 100 employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccination or testing requirements is expected to be published this week. OSHA will publish the requirement as a final rule and some period of time for employers to implement its requirements is expected. There has been some speculation recently that the rule will allow employers to pass the cost of testing onto employees who do not take the vaccine, but details about implementation will have to wait until the rule is published. Once the rule is issued and goes into effect, it is expected to be challenged on multiple fronts. A group of 24 states attorneys general have already signaled they are ready to challenge the rule, as have some business groups.

DOL Tip Rule Finalized

Last week, the Department of Labor (DOL) released a final rule that places limits on the amount of time tipped employees can work on non-tipped activities when the employer receives a tip credit. Employers can take a tip credit only when tipped employees perform tip-producing work or when performing work that directly supports tip-producing work provided it is not a substantial amount of time. The rule defines substantial as more than 20% of the hours worked in a workweek or a continuous time that exceeds 30 minutes. The DOL’s notice can be found here.

OSHA Announces Rulemaking on Heat Illness

Last week, OSHA provided advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) with respect to preventing heat-related illness in the workplace. The announcement is something NCA has been anticipating and have asked members to provide information on the types of measures they take to prevent workers from falling ill due to high temperatures. The rule would not only affect workers performing duties outside and inside. Some states, such as California, already have measures in place, but this would be the first time federal OSHA has promulgated a rule on the issue. Since 1992 there have been 907 deaths attributed to heat in the workplace and the issue has been seen as rising in importance due to climate change. You can see the Department’s notice here.

New Jersey and Virginia in Spotlight

The off-year elections for governor in New Jersey and Virginia are in the spotlight this week as election day is Tuesday, November 2. The race in New Jersey pitting incumbent Phil Murphy (D) against challenger Jack Ciattarelli (R) has been edging closer in recent weeks and is within striking distance for the challenger. While New Jersey has typically been a deep blue state, history shows Democrats have had difficulty being reelected to lead the state. No Democrat has been reelected governor in New Jersey since 1977. The incumbent, Governor Phil Murphy, has been under fire for some time due to concerns about COVID-19 policies.

Virginia’s race is neck and neck between former Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) who is trying to reclaim the seat after a four-year hiatus, and businessman Glenn Youngkin (R). Virginia has been trending toward Democrats in recent elections, but Democrats have been facing headwinds due to growing dissatisfaction about education, crime and COVID-19 policies. McAuliffe has done his best to paint Youngkin as a Trumpian candidate, but has largely failed to get the argument to stick with independents. Polls show a close race, but Youngkin leads with independents, which could alter the landscape in the heavily Democratic northern part of the commonwealth. If Youngkin can limit his losses in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudon Counties, he has a relatively decent chance of claiming the Governor’s Mansion on Jan. 1, 2022.

My predictions: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy prevails in a race decided by 3-4 percentage points. Republican Glenn Youngkin wins in a race decided by less than 2 percentage points.