Mid-Term Senate Races Matter: Heller’s High Water

U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) released the below statement after a right-leaning federal judge in Texas nullified the Obama Administration’s Department of Labor overtime rule.

“The former Obama Administration’s expansion of the federal overtime rule would have devastated Nevada’s business owners and job creators. Since the rule was issued last year, I have been strongly concerned about its impact because it would fundamentally change how employers compensate their workers, reducing Nevadans’ work hours and benefits. I’m pleased to see that a federal judge acknowledged the regulation’s harmful consequences and ruled it invalid today,” Heller said. “Today’s news is a relief for countless Nevada businesses and employers, and I commend Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt for his leadership in this fight.”

Heller has worked tirelessly at undermining the Obama-era overtime rule aimed at leveling the playing field for workers. Instead, he’s worked to bolster the bottom line of his corporate benefactors. Don’t believe me?  As evidence —

  • In February 2016 he wrote to Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez about this rule and what he claimed would be its negative impacts on corporations in the state of Nevada.
  • In March 2016, he followed up with yet another letter highlighting his concerns over the new policy change.
  • In the Senate, Heller expressed concerns with his Senate colleagues by writing to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related Agencies Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Patty Murray.

Heller also cosponsored S. 2707, the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, in the 114th Congress, legislation that would have cancelled the proposed DOL regulation to increase the salary threshold for workers eligible to receive overtime pay and require impact studies for future proposals of related rules.

Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act

S.2707 declared that the proposed or the final rule of the Department of Labor entitled “Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees” shall cease to have any force or effect. The rule revises the “white collar” exemption of executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer employees from minimum wage and maximum hour, or overtime, requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA).

If the proposed rule is a final rule on the date of enactment of S.2707:

  • the Dept of Labor would have been prohibited from enforcing it based on conduct occurring before that enactment date,
  • an employee would not have any right of action against an employer for the employer’s failure to comply with the final rule at any time before that enactment date,
  • any regulations that were amended by the final rule would have been restored and revived as if the final rule had never taken effect, and
  • nothing in S.2707 would have been construed to create a right of action for an employer against an employee for the recoupment of any payments made to the employee before the enactment of this bill that were in compliance with that final rule.

It also specified that the Dept of Labor could promulgate any substantially similar rule only if it had completed certain required actions; but any new rule could not contain any automatic updates to the salary threshold for purposes of exemptions to minimum wage and maximum hour requirements under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act).

The requirement that definitions applicable for such exemptions be defined and delimited from time to time by Labor regulations would have been construed to:

  • require Labor to issue a new rule through notice and comment rule-making for each change in any salary threshold it has proposed (creating more expensive and elongated rule-making processes); and
  • exclude any rule that would result in changes to any salary threshold for multiple time periods, including through any automatic updating procedure.

The Dept of Labor was also prohibited from promulgating any final rule that included any revision to duties tests for exemption from minimum wage and maximum hours requirements unless specific regulatory text for the provision was proposed in the proposed rule.

For clarity, here is the background on that “Final Rule” and what it did for WORKERS:

In 2014, President Obama directed the Department of Labor to update and modernize the regulations governing the exemption of executive, administrative, and professional (“EAP”) employees from the minimum wage and overtime pay protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA” or “Act”). The Department published a notice of proposed rulemaking on July 6, 2015, and received more than 270,000 comments. On May 18, 2016, the Department announced that it will publish a Final Rule to update the regulations. The full text of the Final Rule will be available at the Federal Register Site.

Although the FLSA ensures minimum wage and overtime pay protections for most employees covered by the Act, some workers, including bona fide EAP employees, are exempt from those protections. Since 1940, the Department’s regulations have generally required each of three tests to be met for the FLSA’s EAP exemption to apply:

  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 (“salary basis test”);
  2. the amount of salary paid must meet a minimum specified amount (“salary level test”); and
  3. the employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the regulations (“duties test”).

The Department last updated these regulations in 2004, when it set the weekly salary level at $455 ($23,660 annually) and made other changes to the regulations, including collapsing the short and long duties tests into a single standard duties test and introducing a new exemption for highly compensated employees.

This Final Rule updates the salary level required for exemption to ensure that the FLSA’s intended overtime protections are fully implemented, and to simplify the identification of overtime-protected employees, thus making the EAP exemption easier for employers and workers to understand and apply. Without intervening action by their employers, it extends the right to overtime pay to an estimated 4.2 million workers who are currently exempt. It also strengthens existing overtime protections for 5.7 million additional white collar salaried workers and 3.2 million salaried blue collar workers whose entitlement to overtime pay will no longer rely on the application of the duties test.

* Key Provisions of the Final Rule *
The Final Rule focused primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for EAP workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:

  1. Set the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South, which is $913 per week or $47,476 annually for a full-year worker;
  2. Set 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, which is $134,004; and
  3. Established 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 amended the salary basis test to allow employers to use non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level. The Final Rule made no changes to the duties tests.

Effective Date
The effective date of the Final Rule is December 1, 2016. The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) will be effective on that date. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.

Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Senator Heller espouse and promote a nationwide move such as that just made by the Missouri GOP-led legislature which lowered the minimum wage from $10/hr to $7.70/hr (or, from $20, 800/yr to $16,016/yr for Missouri citizens.

Afterall, Senator Heller has made it exceedingly clear that he represents only his corporate benefactors and is a firm believer and double-downer in a failed trickle-down philosophy.

“Congress is ready to address tax reform, and that’s why I’m encouraged by the President’s comments today about bringing tax relief to all Americans. Nevada’s hardworking families and small business owners have been waiting for a simpler, fairer tax code for years now, and Congress and the White House are poised to make that happen,” Heller said. “I was honored to host Secretary Mnuchin earlier this week in Las Vegas for a meeting with Nevada employers and the message we received from these business leaders was clear – lowering rates will help boost the economy, create jobs and increase wages. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I’m looking forward to working with the Administration on this issue and having a seat at the table to make sure that the final product is what’s best for Nevada.”

Mid-term elections matter and we cannot let Dean Heller get re-elected to the Senate, nor can we let AG Laxalt get elected to the Governorship of Nevada.

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Koch Bros Pursuing Election Domination

The Washington’s Post’s “The Fix” blog posted charts that show, clear as day, how the Koch brothers’ Americans For Prosperity is absolutely dominating the airwaves in states with competitive U.S. Senate races.

No wonder Nate Silver’s predictions are giving Republicans the edge!

AFP01

A companion chart for the most competitive House races tells a very similar story.

AFP02

The Koch brothers’ primary political organization is outspending both the Democratic Senate and House PACs by more than 2-to-1!  The Koch Brothers and their allies (Exxon Mobil, Monsanto, and others) spend their money to make America safe for corporate polluters, to let big banks run amok with the financial systems and to protect gains for the 1% at the expense of the rest of us.  This kind of spending by billionaire funded organizations on demonstrably negative ads should make it infinitely clear that we need to get the dark money out of our politics.

Those negative attack ads are just that.  They tell you absolutely zip-point-nothing about the candidate they’re supporting.  Instead, they tell half-truths and out-right lies to demean our Democratic candidates to influence how you’ll vote.  Do a bit of reading. Research a couple of topics.  Learn to spot the lies.  Read their platform, because that will tell you exactly what they intend to do once elected.

Until we can get that money out, it’s extremely important that you don’t just sit back on your couch and let this election pass by.  You need to make sure you understand the issues and what’s at stake.  You may not be able to contribute $$$ to any given campaign, but there is one thing you can do.  You can get up off your couch, head to the polls and vote, bot for selection of an effective Democratic candidate during the Primary election, and then again for a Democratic candidate for the Nevada House seats.

I work those polls each year.  I’ll look forward to seeing you show up to cast your ballot.

A Clear Warning in Nevada for Dark Money Groups

RossMillerToday, the Nevada Secretary of State’s office announced a landmark settlement with the Alliance for America’s Future (AAF), a Virginia-based 501(c)(4) organization that spent over $200,000 on political ads in 2010 but failed to comply with state disclosure laws.

This agreement is the latest success in Secretary of State Ross Miller’s ongoing efforts to clean up Nevada elections and stop the flood of illegal, anonymous campaign spending.

Under the agreement, AAF will pay a $40,000 fine – the largest penalty ever imposed for a Nevada campaign finance violation. But just as importantly, AAF will be forced to register as a Committee for Political Action and report their contributions and expenditures.

Today’s agreement sends a strong message to the State Government Leadership Foundation, and the donors who fund these dark money groups: it’s time to come out of the shadows, and start complying with the law. You can say what you want, but you can’t hide in our state.

Nevadans have a right to know who is trying to influence their elections and what they stand to gain.

If dark money groups – and the people who bankroll them – can’t stand the sunlight, they should stay out of Nevada.

Reblogged from the Blue Nevadan Newsletter—

From the Secretary of State’s office:

Candidate filing for non-judicial offices on the 2014 ballot begins at 8 a.m tomorrow, March 3 and closes at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 14. Candidates can still schedule appointments with the Elections Division at 775-684-5705 during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

Secretary of State Ross Miller released the appointment schedule of individuals who plan to file Declarations of Candidacy for non-judicial offices in the 2014 election.

To date, 15 individuals have scheduled appointments with Secretary of State Elections Division filing officers.

Date and Time Name Office Location
3/3 -8:30 AM Kim Wallin Treasurer Carson City
3/3 – 9 AM Don Gustavson Senate District 14 Carson City
3/3 – 9:30 AM Mark Hutchison Lt. Governor Carson City
3/3 – 10:30 AM Brian Dempsey U.S. Congress, District 2 Carson City
3/3 – 11:30 AM Adam Laxalt Attorney General Las Vegas
3/3 – 12 PM David Cook Assembly District 40 Carson City
3/3 – 1 PM Jim Wheeler Assembly District 39 Carson City
3/3 – 1 PM John Ellison Assembly District 33 Carson City
3/3 – 1:30 PM Barbara Cegavske Secretary of State Las Vegas
3/3 -2:30 PM Barry Herr Controller Las Vegas
3/3 – 4:30 PM John Rutledge Governor Carson City
3/4 – 9 AM Cort Arlint Controller Las Vegas
3/5 at 2 PM Vance Alm U.S. Congress, District 2 Carson City
3/6 – 10 AM Ross Miller Attorney General Carson City
3/7 – 4:30 PM Jared Townsend Assembly District 40 Carson City

 

In other news……

Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel – TBN’s Sponsor of the Week 
This week’s newsletter is brought to you by Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel who will be honored as the Emerge Nevada”Woman of the Year” this coming Saturday, March 8th in Las Vegas. Spiegel is a graduate of the 2007 (first) class of Emerge Nevada and is the first graduate to have been elected to public office. Clark County District Court Judge Nancy Allf will also receive the “Alumna of the Year” award. You don’t want to miss this celebration so get your tickets while you still can.  Tickets are available online here. Thank you Assemblywoman Spiegel for your generous support of TBN and all you do for Nevada!

Caucus Highlights
Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Paul Aizley and Assemblyman Dr. Andy Eisen were among the elected who participated at their caucus location in Southern Nevada last week, bringing the number of Democratic officials elected to state offices present at caucus to  nearly 50!

Rep. Titus Receives Endorsements from Key Latino Leaders
The Latin Chamber of Commerce and several Democratic members of the state Assembly and Senate endorsed Rep. Dina Titus for a second term over Republican challenger Jose Padilla. Endorsements came from Otto Merida, President of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, State Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, Senator Ruben Kihuen, and Assembly members Lucy Flores and Irene Bustamante Adams. Other Latino leaders include Eloiza Martinez, Luis Valera, Tony Sanchez and Nora Luna.

Kate Marshall Receives EMILY’s List Endorsement
Congratulations to State Treasurer Kate Marshall, who received the endorsement of EMILY’s List last Thursday. In announcing their endorsement, EMILY’s List President, Stephanie Schriock, stated about my candidacy, “Kate’s record as State Treasurer over the past seven years shows a commitment to empowering women and families through economic development, and EMILY’s List… is proud to help her become Nevada’s next Secretary of State.” Donate to Kate’s campaign here.

Lucy Flores Announces Candidacy for Lieutenant Governor
It was a packed house at the North Las Vegas campus of College of Southern Nevada yesterday when Assemblywoman Lucy Flores announced her candidacy for Lt. Governor. To get involved in Lucy’s campaign, visit her website at www.lucyflores.com.

National Women’s Lobby Day
March 8th is National Women’s Lobby Day. This is the day to check your congressional representative’s voting record on women’s issues and let him or her know how you feel about that. Click here for more information.

Apply Now for Nevada Youth Legislature             
Applications Now Being Accepted for the Nevada Youth Legislature. This is a great opportunity for teenagers to learn about our government by actually participating in it.  Applicants must be 9th to 11th grade students during the first school year in which they will serve on the Nevada Youth Legislature. The deadline to apply is April 12th. For more information, click here or download an application.

Nominations Now Being Accepted for Nevada Senior Citizen of the Year
Nominations for the Nevada Senior Citizen of the Year for 2013 will be accepted through March 31, 2014. The Nevada Delegation of the National Silver Haired Congress (NSHC) in partnership with the Aging Services Directors Organization (ASDO) established this award last year. Anyone knowing a Senior Citizen who has made significant contributions at the local, state, and/or national level may nominate that person. Click here for nomination forms and additional information.

Students can enter “Home Means Nevada” Essay Contest 
Students in grades six through 12 are invited to enter the Home Means Nevada Sesquicentennial Essay Contest, sponsored by the Nevada Department of Education, Nevada in the West Magazine, Nevada History Foundation and the Nevada 150 Commission. All entries must be submitted to the Nevada Department of Education by March 24, 2014. Click here for more information.

On the Flip Side
Less than 1/3 of Republican Party believes GOP Leadership Doing a Good Job in Congress
A new Pew Survey done last month shows that just 28% of Republicans and Republican leaners said the GOP was doing a good or excellent job in standing up for its traditional positions of smaller government, tax-cutting and conservative social values, while seven-in-ten (70%) rated their party’s job as “only fair” or “poor.” Read the entire report here.

Keep up-to-date on all things BLUE at the Blue Nevadan.   Better yet, get you own copy of the newsletter by subscribing to Blue Nevadan Newsletter.

A County-by-County Analysis of Election Administration in Swing States in the 2012 Election

By Anna Chu, Joshua Field, and Charles Posner

Every-Vote-CountsVoting is one of the critical ways for citizens to voice their opinions and desires to leaders and express their will for the direction of the country. But while voting is the crucial bedrock of a healthy democracy, citizens’ access to voting varies considerably within the states where elections are the most hotly contested.

With election administration delegated to officials and boards in more than 3,000 counties and localities in the United States, the ease with which one exercises his or her right to vote can depend on where he or she lives. Not only do state voting laws differ across the nation, even within a state, county-based election administration varies widely.

This report evaluates the election performance of counties in the 17 states that had the smallest margin of victory between the two presidential candidates in 2012. This analysis allows us to better understand how well the election process is working within a state, and will hopefully encourage state and local officials to consider how they can improve the voting experience for their citizens.

Read more and download the full report here.

Also see: Explore the Data: Unequal Access State by State