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NCA’s Washington Weekly Update 3-14-22

Situational Awareness
The House and Senate are in session this week. The House will consider legislation to revoke the trade status of Russia, a bill that would prohibit enforcement of mandatory arbitration agreements, and a measure to prohibit discrimination based on natural hair texture or style. The House may also pass supplemental coronavirus funding that was dropped from the omnibus appropriations bill signed by President Biden last week. The Senate will consider a nomination to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

House to Vote on Bill Banning Discrimination Based on Hair
Before leaving Washington for a weeklong recess period, Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through March 11, buying time to work out funding bills for fiscal year 2022, which began on OA $The House is likely to vote on legislation this week that would prohibit the exclusion or discrimination of an individual based on their hair texture or style if it is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin. The ban would be applicable to federally funded programs, housing and employment practices. It would also apply to public accommodations, such as hotels. The House had attempted to pass the measure under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds vote, but failed to acquire the necessary votes. Under regular order, the bill can pass with a majority vote.

Mandatory Arbitration Agreements Under Fire
The use of agreements that require arbitration to settle disputes would be severely curtailed under legislation up for a vote in the House this week. The practice of mandatory arbitration is commonly used in employment and consumer contracts as a means of settling disputes out of court. Legislation limiting arbitration agreements would apply to consumer, employment, antitrust or civil rights matters.

Overtime Regulation Timing Slips
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is continuing to schedule stakeholder meetings through April to gather information on potentially increasing the overtime threshold for non-exempt workers. The Unified Regulatory Agenda for the federal government had indicated the Department of Labor (DoL) intended to issue a proposed rule to address the threshold in April. The threshold, along with certain job duties, is used to determine whether individuals can be classified as exempt or non-exempt. The current threshold of $35,568 per year was last increased under the Trump Administration in 2019 and went into effect in 2020. There is little information from the DoL on the level they intend to pursue; the Obama Administration attempted to increase the threshold to $47,500, but the rule was blocked by a federal court. NCA and allied organizations supported the overtime regulation adopted by the Trump Administration and provided comment. NCA is likely to provide comment to any proposed regulation on the issue when DoL more clearly states its intentions.

Inflation Unabated
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rose 7.9 percent the last 12 months, which is a 40-year high. Month over month, prices increased 0.8 percent for all urban consumers. Inflation levels have been elevated since increased demand from the emergence of the economy from COVID lockdowns and the lingering effect they had on supply chains around the world. While initially thought to be temporary, general inflation rates have been stubborn and there is growing concern they will continue to increase before easing due to growing impacts of economic sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine three weeks ago. Some economists are predicting inflation rates will increase to 10 percent before leveling off and declining later this year and into 2023. The Federal Reserve is will meet this week and is expected to announce the first of several increases in interest rates planned for 2022. While widely expected, the elevated inflation levels and persistence may cause the Federal Reserve to announce a more aggressive approach by increasing rates by as much as 50 basis points or 0.5 percent.

NCA Webcast on Inflation and Economy This Week
On Thursday at 2:00 p.m. EDT, NCA will hold a webcast featuring U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Economist Curtis Dubay, to discuss inflation and the overall state of the economy. Dubay has made several appearances for NCA members over the past several years and is expected to provide his insights on the effect of inflation, supply chain disruptions and Federal Reserve actions that will affect the economy in the coming months. Register for the webcast here.

National Club Conference
NCA’s National Club Conference is coming up May 15-17. Among the noted speakers, I am looking forward to providing attendees with an update on our government relations activities this year and a preview of the elections this fall. I am particularly looking forward to the ClubPAC reception that will be held the evening of Monday, May 16. House and Senate majorities are both in play this year and ClubPAC is fully engaged. If you would like to receive monthly updates on ClubPAC activity and select Senate races, sign up for the ClubPAC Insider by signing the prior authorization form here.