The PPAI Washington Report (and a Constitutional Quiz)

The United States Supreme Court will probably get the opportunity to take the quiz over an interesting “technical” issue – the meaning of the word “recess.”

Through our legislative contacts and lobbyists, PPAI has access to up-to-the-minute information, insight and analysis that you won’t see published anywhere else. The information in this month’s special Washington Report will help you understand how what happens in D.C. can affect your business and employees. It is timely information that will help you become more aware and better prepared to advocate for your business, profession and industry.

I hope you find this information beneficial to your business.

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CONSTITUTIONAL QUIZ

The United States Supreme Court will probably get the opportunity to take the quiz over an interesting “technical” issue.  Recently, an appeals court said that recess appointments made by the President to the National Labor Relations Board were not made during a recess.  The Administration had taken a generous interpretation of the term “recess” to make some appointments.

In recent years, members of the opposing party have gone to extreme measures to keep the Senate in session so that a President cannot make these temporary recess appointments, which are only good until the end of the next session of the Senate.

If you will recall, the Constitution says, “The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.”

COMMITTEE MUSICAL CHAIRS

Congress is slowly getting itself organized.  There are a fair number of committee and subcommittee chair and ranking member positions that are changing because of the election or internal term limits.  Most of the new folks want to hire their own staff even though the party control did not change.  It will take some time before we start seeing meaningful activity in some committees.

The debt ceiling can has been kicked down the road for a couple of months.  As a result, the automatic cuts known as sequestration are the next items on the agenda at the end of the month.  There is increasing talk about just letting the cuts take effect.  While the possibility has increased, a more probably compromise would be to give agencies the firm numbers but let them fill in the details.  The most probably is some sort of “replacement” strategy with a different mix.  The main source of the angst about sequestration is that it is applied to all programs, projects, and activities within a budget account.  There is no discretion.

As to the actual numbers, it depends on several variables, as they exist at the time the cuts take effect.  The last estimate, made when the fiscal cliff one was in front of us, indicated the sequestration would result in a 9.4 percent reduction in non-exempt defense discretionary funding and an 8.2 percent reduction in non-exempt nondefense discretionary funding.  The sequestration would also impose cuts of 2.0 percent to Medicare, 7.6 percent to other non-exempt nondefense mandatory programs, and 10.0 percent to non-exempt defense mandatory programs.

IMMIGRATION REFORM

A bipartisan group of Senators has released a set of principles for immigration reform.  The President has said he can go along with their concept.  The principles still have to be put into bill form and the committees must work their magic.  The House has said they will work on their own plan.  The bottom line is we are a long way from the enactment of reforms.

The core principle, which most employers will be interested in, is the employment verification requirements.  The plan is to “beef up” enforcement and penalties for hiring illegal immigrants after a more robust and reliable electronic verification system is put in place.  It has gotten nearly impossible for employers to detect false documentation.

All we know at this point about this new system is what the Senators included in their statement of principles.  Here is what they said:

** We recognize that undocumented immigrants come to the United States almost exclusively for jobs.  As such, dramatically reducing future illegal immigration can only be achieved by developing a tough, fair, effective, and mandatory employment verification system.  An employment verification system must hold employers accountable for knowingly hiring undocumented workers and make it more difficult for unauthorized immigrants to falsify documents to obtain employment.  Employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers must face stiff fines and criminal penalties for egregious offenses.

** We believe the federal government must provide U.S. employers with a fast and reliable method to confirm whether new hires are legally authorized to work in the United States.  This is essential to ensure the effective enforcement of immigration laws.

** Our proposal will create an effective employment verification system which prevents identity theft and ends the hiring of future unauthorized workers.  We believe requiring prospective workers to demonstrate both legal status and identity, through non-forgeable electronic means prior to obtaining employment, is essential to an employee verification system; and,

** The employee verification system in our proposal will be crafted with procedural safeguards to protect American workers, prevent identity theft, and provide due process protections.

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