Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Legislation About the Federal Reserve

On May 19, 2016 the Congressional Research Service released a report entitled Federal Reserve: Legislation in the 114th Congress by Marc Labonte, Specialist in Macroeconomic Policy. Labonte breaks the bills about the Federal Reserve (Fed) into four categories:
  1. Changes to Fed governance -  "change the Fed's institutional structure."
  2. Changes to oversight and disclosure - increase "congressional oversight or require the Fed to disclose more information to Congress and the public."
  3. Changes involving the Taylor Rule - "require the Fed to compare its monetary policy decisions to those prescribed by a Taylor Rule and report those findings to Congress." According to the Federal Reserve, "Taylor rules are simple monetary policy rules that prescribe how a central bank should adjust its interest rate policy instrument in a systematic manner in response to developments in inflation and macroeconomic activity.
  4. Changes to the Fed's emergency lending powers - "reduce the Fed's discretion to make emergency loans under Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act."
The report covers bills that have seen committee or floor action. Labonte analyses the above provisions and the policy debate about them.

Friday, May 20, 2016

PFOA & PFOS Drinking Water Health Advisories

The EPA has published a health advisories fact sheet about PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. These fluorinated organic chemicals are used to make "carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food and other materials (e.g., cookware) that are resistant to water, grease or stains."   PFOA and PFOA related chemicals were phased out of production in the United States between 2000 and 2002, but drinking water in some communities has been contaminated by industrial facilities that used these chemicals in manufacturing or by airfields that used the chemicals for firefighting. The health advisories fact sheet provides recommendations about safe levels of these chemicals in the water and steps to remove them from drinking water systems.
The fact sheet is available at  https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-05/documents/drinkingwaterhealthadvisories_pfoa_pfos_5_19_16.final__0.pdf

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Labor Department's Final Rule on Overtime

According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, on May 18, 2016 President Obama and Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez announced a Federal Register final rule updating overtime regulations. The website lists the following key provisions of the Final Rule which goes into effect on December 1, 2016:
The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:
  1. Sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker);
  2. Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally ($134,004); and
  3. Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

Additionally, the Final Rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.
See more information including fact sheets at https://www.dol.gov/WHD/overtime/final2016/

See the final rule at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/05/23/2016-11754/defining-and-delimiting-the-exemptions-for-executive-administrative-professional-outside-sales-and
(Please note: until May 23, 2016 you can download only a pre-publication PDF version of the rule from this link.)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Guidance for Schools about Transgender Bathrooms

According to the U.S. Department of Education's blog, Homeroom, on May 13, 2016, "the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance to schools explaining how federal law prohibiting sex discrimination affects schools’ obligations toward transgender students." The Department of Education "also released a compilation of examples of ways that schools across the country are already successfully supporting transgender students."

The guidance letter "identifies the key requirements that schools need to keep in mind to comply with Title IX and other federal laws." A condition of receiving Federal funds is that schools comply with the requirements of Title IX.

Both documents are available from the Homeroom blog.