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The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

2016 Comes to a Close

After an exciting and, for many, surprising November election, Congress returned to the Capitol to finish up their business for the 114th Congress. The major piece of business that had to get done before Congress could go on recess was finding a way to fund the government. On the night of December 9, the Senate voted to pass a short-term spending bill in order to fund the government through April 2017, and Congress immediately broke for recess, ensuring the next spending battle will take place under a new presidential administration and the 115th Congress.

When the new year is ushered in, congressional Republicans and President Trump will have a huge amount of work to do in order to be successful delivering on campaign promises. The Trump administration has been very vocal that they want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), make changes to corporate tax reform — which will include small business — and individual tax reform, and make significant changes to our immigration laws. In general, we anticipate the new Republican administration and Republican majorities in Congress to be more willing to engage the employer community on issues that impact their employees. While the Trump transition team still has not made any major announcements on workforce, employment or labor policy priorities, regulatory reform, job creation and strengthening the economy were featured prominently in the president-elect’s platform and are also major tenets of the House Republicans’ “Better Way” agenda.

There are, of course, significant issues that will carry over into the next administration, such as Obama’s changes to FLSA overtime rules, the blacklisting rule and the joint employer standard. Although there is an indication that a Trump administration would look to reform these rules, we expect specific policy announcements to be delayed until after the Trump transition team has filled out the remainder of appointees. Recently, Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc. (parent company of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast food chains), was nominated to lead the U.S. Department of Labor. Puzder has written extensively about labor markets and job creation, advocated for regulatory reform, and served as an advisor to the Trump campaign. He has been a vocal critic of the joint employer standard as well as the overtime rule; if he is tasked with issuing a new overtime rulemaking, we would expect a much more reasonable approach.

Much of what the new administration accomplishes will depend on help from Congress. We expect Congress will step in to tackle some of the aforementioned issues and try to mold the approach on overtime, joint employer standard, the ACA, tax reform and immigration. The House is expected to focus on regulatory rollback in the early days of the 115th Congress. The Senate will tackle nominations to fill the posts in the Trump administration and a nomination to the Supreme Court. They will also have a large focus on budget reconciliation, which will include ACA changes starting in January and a second round that is expected to include taxes starting in April.

With healthcare reform shaping up to be a prominent goal of the administration and Congress in the first 100 days, CUPA-HR has signed onto a letter being sent to Congress urging repeal of the Cadillac tax and requesting no additional action be taken to cap the individual tax exclusion for employer-provided healthcare benefits, or to limit employers’ deductibility of healthcare expenses. Additionally, as colleges and universities grapple with the NLRB’s recent Columbia decision, CUPA-HR has signed onto an amicus brief in George Washington University urging the NLRB to find that resident advisors at the institution are not statutory employees.

A new administration and Congress mean 2017 promises to be a busy year. CUPA-HR will continue to monitor all developments to gather as much information as possible and provide regular updates to our membership.

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