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Monthly Legislative Wrap Up from D.C.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Welcome to AJFCA's new Monthly Legislative Wrap Up Newsletter! While AJFCA will continue to send out time-sensitive action alerts, we want to provide interested agencies with a monthly, in-depth update of the most important issues percolating in Washington, D.C. This month, you will have the opportunity to learn more about recent action related to the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act, an appropriations explainer and review, and a memo on the Department of Labor's proposed overtime regulations. 

As this newsletter evolves, we hope you will share your feedback. If there is a particular topic or question you'd like addressed, please email AJFCA's Director of Government Affairs, Elizabeth Leibowitz.
Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act Update
AJFCA and JFNA applauded the passage of the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act, S.192, in the House of Representatives on Monday, March 21. The House passed version of S. 192, the Senate's version of the bill that passed in July 2015, included language related to Holocaust survivors that both organizations have long advocated on behalf of. In advance of the vote, AJFCA and JFNA sent a joint letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce voicing strong support for the legislation.

Because of changes in the House's version of the bill, S.192 will now return to the Senate for a vote. Should it pass there, it will head to the President's desk. We will continue to follow this bill and provide updates. 
Appropriations Explainer and Overview
In late October 2015, Congress reached a bipartisan budget deal that increased the discretionary spending caps by $50 billion in FY 2016 and $30 billion in FY 2017. This agreement enabled Congress to reach a subsequent deal in mid-December that included a $1.15 trillion catch-all spending bill for FY 2016 and a $650 billion tax extenders package. The year-end deal avoided a number of "poison pill" policy riders that had been pursued by the Republican majorities in both chambers, such as defunding Planned Parenthood. With respect to the priorities of JFNA and AJFCA, the package included new funding for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program (Survivor Assistance Program), increased funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), and prevented a $10 million cut to the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP). It also retroactively reinstated the IRA charitable rollover for 2015 and made it a permanent part of the tax law.

At that time, leaders in both parties said they were optimistic that in the New Year, Congress could handle its basic responsibilities, such as funding the government (for FY 2017), without the drama and tension that had defined Congress in recent years. Unfortunately, this sense quickly dissipated. In the beginning of this session of Congress, conservatives in the House proposed legislation to recoup $30 billion in mandatory spending programs over the next two years and a total of $140 billion over a decade. Meanwhile, in the Senate, Republican appropriators recently indicated that they would again pursue the kinds of contentious policy riders that stymied progress on the fiscal year 2016 appropriations process.

In the midst of this quick return to brinkmanship, the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees are proceeding in drafting their respective spending bills, which include holding hearings with Federal departments and agencies and receiving input from authorizing committees and rank-and-file members on spending priorities and recommendations. This process and the draft bills that will result from it create important spending markers and precedence no matter how the appropriations process eventually plays out. The bills could be adopted individually through the regular order of committee and floor consideration and final compromise between the chambers (a highly unlikely scenario), or they could be cobbled together into a catch-all spending bill at year's end (a more typical result). In either case, it is easier to defend  the programs and spending levels included in the draft bills than to fight for their inclusion in later deliberations.

As such, JFNA and AJFCA have been and remain very active in mustering congressional support for a number of spending priorities, including the NSGP, EFSP, VAWA, VOCA, and the Survivor programs. Our primary goals are to increase the NSGP allocation to $25 million (from $20 million), increase the Holocaust Assistance Program to $5 million (from $2.5 million), and safeguard the EFSP Program from attempts to cut its current appropriations level of $120 million by up to $20 million. We are also joining coalition partners in advocating for VAWA programs that need increased funding and for the need to maintain and raise the VOCA Cap. Current efforts have included direct advocacy to gain as many cosigners as possible on Dear Colleague letters to relevant appropriation subcommittees and grassroots advocacy and education. 
Ongoing advocacy efforts will remain critical this spring and into the summer for these and other spending priorities, including programs that fall under the Older Americans Act, the Social Services Block Grant, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and more. We look forward to continuing to work with you towards that end.
DOL Overtime Proposed Regulation Update
As many of you know, the Department of Labor (DOL) released proposed regulations last summer that would significantly increase the minimum salary required to be earned by an employee for that employee to be exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime requirements. At present, DOL rules require covered employers to pay their employees overtime premium pay of one and one-half times the employee's regular rate for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. 
However, there are a number of exemptions for "any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity." In order to qualify for exemption, three tests must be met: (1) the employee must be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed (the "salary basis test"); (2) the amount of salary paid must meet a minimum specified amount (the "salary level test"); and (3) the employee's job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the current regulations (the "duties test").

Steven Woolf, JFNA's Senior Tax Policy Counsel, has prepared an in-depth analysis of the proposed regulations, as well as the Administration and Congress' reactions to them. To view this memo, please click here