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AFS Supports Congressional Infrastructure Working Group Letter

AFS joined with 150 national organizations in a letter to the U.S. Senate’s leadership calling for a long-term, robustly-funded transportation infrastructure bill completed ahead of the September 30, 2020 deadline.

In just one year, Congress faces a deadline to pass a surface transportation bill.  Without such legislation, highway, bridge and transit project will construction timelines and drive up costs.

In September, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee marked up the America’s Transportation Investment Act (S. 2302) to reauthorize the committee’s portion of the expiring surface transportation bill. The legislation includes $287 billion over five years for highway and bridge projects. This is a 27.7% increase over current authorization levels. The bill would authorize new programs to incentivize key priorities including bridges, resilience, safety and emission reductions. It allocates funds to develop alternative fuels corridors, includes a new bridge construction grant program and maintains support for federal freight corridors among other provisions.

September 2020 may sound like a long time, but passage of a surface transportation bill has historically taken longer than a year. 

New Executive Orders to Protect Against Regulation Shortcuts  

On Oct. 9, President Donald Trump signed two executive orders (EO) aimed at reigning in agency regulatory powers by making it more difficult for federal agencies to  regulate through guidance and policy documents that are not otherwise subject to public comment or notice requirements under law. Oftentimes, agencies issue memorandums, circulars, bulletins, and letters which aren’t legally binding, but often can serve as the basis for enforcement. Critics view such guidance as an improper shortcut around formal rulemaking.

The first EO would require: (1) federal agencies to establish procedures for the public to petition for withdrawal or modification of guidance documents; (2) a public and comment period for significant guidance documents (having an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more in costs); and (3) agencies establish a public, searchable website with their guidance documents, with those not appearing on the site effectively being rescinded. The second EO would help protect against secret or unlawful agency interpretations of regulations or unfair or unexpected penalties.

AFS has long supported efforts to bring more transparency and opportunity for stakeholder input on guidance documents that can have the practical impact of regulation on the metalcasting industry. The orders are set to take effect immediately. AFS will continue to monitor the implementation of these executive orders and the practical implications and provide updates where appropriate.   

U.S. Department of Labor Finalizes Overtime Rule
On September 27, 2019, the Labor Department published its final overtime rule.  The new rule sets the salary threshold for administrative, executive, and professional employees at $35,568 per year ($684 per week). The rule also increases the highly compensated employee threshold from $100,000 to $107,432 annually. Employers may count non-discretionary bonuses, incentives, and commissions toward up to 10 percent of the standard salary level required as long as the employer pays those amounts at least annually. In addition to meeting the salary threshold, the exempt worker must satisfy certain job duties’ criteria depending on the exemption sought.

The new final rule makes no changes to the duties test, nor does it contain any automatic update mechanism. The new overtime rule will take effect on January 1, 2020.

Metalcasters employers should use this publication of the Final Rule as an opportunity to review their current pay and employee classification practices. Penalties for non-compliance with the overtime rules can be severe, including back pay and liquidated damages. Non-compliant employers may face a DOL audit, a lawsuit in court, or an administrative charge. 

Click here to see this story as it appears in the November 2019 issue of Modern Casting.