By Ronnie Miles, NGCOA Director of Advocacy
As Congress returns to Washington following its summer break, this is an excellent time to review the 118th Congress and what we might expect during the last month of its 2023 session.
As we know, the first quarter of the year the new Congress was slow getting out of the gate. The House seat assignments were not completed until late January. Since then, only thirteen bills have been passed and made into law. None of them significantly impacted the golf industry. As we get closer to the 30 September deadline of the 2023 operating year, Congress looks to push negotiations for a 2024 operating budget into the last quarter of this year, using a continuing resolution.
What bills are we watching that could pass before this session ends or be included in the final appropriations package?
Farm Bill, a 5-year, $1.5T appropriation. Includes the National Turf Research Initiative (NTRI) request of $20M annually. This bill is separate from the regular appropriations process.
Main Street Tax Certainty Act - This would make permanent the 20% income reduction for small businesses. The bill now has 106 cosponsors (104 Republicans, 2 Democrats).
21st Century Workers Act - Bill would provide a congressional definition of an employee and independent contractor. This bill now has 107 cosponsors, all Republicans
Credit Card Competition Act - Bill would require major banks to provide merchants with up to three choices for processing credit card interchange transactions. Competition would result in lower credit card fees for merchants. Senate bill has four cosponsors (two Republicans and two Democrats)
Sunshine Protection Act of 2023 - Bill would make Daylight Savings Time permanent. The House version has 30 cosponsors (28 Republicans and two Democrats). The Senate version has 25 cosponsors (18 Republicans and seven Democrats).
The PHIT Act of 2023 - Bill would permit using Health Savings Accounts to pay for recreational activities, including golf. The House version has 48 cosponsors (31 Republicans and 17 Democrats). The Senate version has 17 cosponsors (11 Republicans, five Democrats, and one Independent).
While there is much uncertainty about what legislation will get passed this year, the Administration is expected to issue a few policy updates in the form of Rules. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently issued one good policy change. On August 1, 2023, DHS released the new I-9 form. They now permit I-9 verification to be administered remotely. This will benefit our golf operators with remote HR offices.
After the US Supreme Court denied the implementation of the Administration’s Waters of the US (WOTUS) Rule, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are expected to release a revised rule before the end of the year. Whether it will fully conform to the finding in the Supreme Court’s decision is unknown. Either way, we can expect more lawsuits following its release.
In October, the Department of Labor released its proposed Independent Contractor Rule. As we reported then, the proposed rule will negatively impact our industry. DOL will apply a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis of the economic reality test that has a refined focus on whether each factor shows the worker is economically dependent upon the employer for work versus being in business for themself, does not use a predetermined weighting of factors and that considers the factors comprehensively instead of as discrete and unrelated. NGCOA believes the planned use of a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis will result in a subjective analysis by the labor auditors. Thus business owners are susceptible to increased fines and legal fees due to the subjectivity of the proposed rule's language. Following the release of the proposed rule, DOL received so many comments that they delayed the release of their final rule, which we hope will result in a re-write that will better reflect today’s workforce.
Year-end is shaping up to be an interesting finish to what has been a very unproductive year for Congress!