Our Government Affairs Committee monitors and educates interested parties from within the South Shore Chamber and the membership at large (as appropriate) on Federal, state and local government initiatives, regulation, mandates that impact the South Shore businesses, industries. When necessary, the committee takes the pulse of the organization with respect to such issues. As a matter of policy, neither the Government Affairs Committee nor the Chamber itself advocate in support of or against business issues that may evoke mixed feelings on behalf of our membership. However, in some cases and with the Board's permission (via vote) the Chamber may take a position for or against a policy.
Examples of ot topics include:
- Family Medical Leave Act
- Raising the Minimum Wage
- Heatlth Care Reform
- Affordable Care Act
The group also brings political speakers in to meet with the group and asks that interested parties sign up to receive emails on topics of interest though our Communications tab.
On May 3rd and 4th a small group from the Chamber travelled to Washington, D.C., to meet with some members of the Massachusetts delegation on issues important to many of our members – healthcare reform, employment law, and reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The group was fortunate in that it got to meet with Senator Warren and Senator Markey as well as Congressmen Keating and Lynch. Additionally, the group had a briefing with the US Chamber of Commerce on the above mentioned issues and also discussed tax reform and the possibility of an infrastructure spending bill. The group also received an update from the National Association of Home Builders on housing trends nationally.Below are some of the issues discussed with the delegation during our visit:Health Care Reform:Preservation of the Individual Mandate• Maintenance of the state’s individual mandate is necessary to avoid a collapse of the individual market and avoid higher premiums for small business.• An individual mandate provides a strong incentive for younger and healthier people to purchase coverage.• Without it, the young and/or healthy will not purchase coverage, leaving those who remain with higher premiums.• Allowing for association health plans in Massachusetts could skew the risk pool, taking young and/or healthy lives out of the merged market, causing premiums to increase for employers who remainContinuation of federal subsidies• Continuation of federal subsidies is necessary to ensure that consumers have access to affordable coverage.• The potential loss of $125m in cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments to MA health plans in CY18 will cause premiums to increase sharply for low and moderate income individuals and families.• These individuals may decide to drop coverage, leading to more uninsured, rising uncompensated care and increased bad debt for providers.• For health plans, the failure to fund CSRs would result in significant increases in premiums (30%+) or withdrawal from the merged marketHealth Insurance Tax• The Health Insurance Tax - or HIT - is a multi-billion dollar tax imposed on health insurance premiums to fund ACA.• Imposed in 2014, the tax is estimated to cost Massachusetts residents and businesses more than $3.8 billion.• Important to repeal the HIT to lower premiums.“Cadillac Tax”• Will begin in 2020 and is equal to 40% of the cost of benefits that an employer provides to employees above $10,200 for individual coverage, and $27,500 for family coverage.• Important to repeal the Cadillac Tax to prevent premiums from rising for employers (large companies, unions) with richer benefit packages.• Removes employer choice in benefit designHealthCare Cost Drivers• Need for effective cost transparency among medical and pharmacy providers. (This discussion will lead to additional dialogue addressing the potential for reinsurance pools and payment reform.)Employment Law:• FLSA/New Overtime rule (currently subject to Nationwide Injunction)Third extension of hearing – waiting for DOL to take positionExpecting decision soon about whether DOL will try and enforce the regulation.Concern with Regulations as passed = Too far - too fast• New EEO-1 Pay Data Reporting Requirement to EEOC – EEOC currently collects workforce statistics from certain employer’s with 100 or more employees (sometime 50 or more if federal contractors) breaking down work force by job categories and race or ethnicity. NEW report announced last year, with first report under new system due year 2018. The 2018 report will cover 2017 data year.The new report will require reporting employers to also provide pay information, broken down by job categories, gender and race to help EEOC address pay discrimination.Reasons to Oppose:o Cost/benefit to employers and to governmento Tremendous burden on employers given the level of breakdowno General unfairness in reporting that does not consider all factorso Cost at governmental level to create and enforce such a program, collect and analyze data• Immigration Reform – H1 and H2 – need smart reform. Many employers on the South Shore rely on workers who are in the country on a work visa.Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program:The Chamber, along with other chambers, bankers, insurance agents and realtors across the nation, has raised concerns about changes and premium rate increases to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) since its last reauthorization in 2012 (a/k/a Biggert-Waters Act). Drastic premium hikes and somewhat arbitrary expansion of who is covered risks devaluing of flood zone properties. In addition to the direct impact on small business commercial property owners the large impact on the region’s home values could have a devastating impact on our local economy.The 2012 NFIP legislation expires on September 30, 2017, and the Chamber is advocating for legislation that reauthorizes the NFIP for up to 10 years (vs the current 5 yr); ensures that insurance premiums remain affordable; puts the NFIP on more stable financial footing; modernizes the FEMA mapping process; enhances opportunities for mitigation; and eases private market insurance reentry in a responsible way. Although no legislation has been filed yet in the House or the Senate there have been discussion drafts that have been circulated.While in DC a few members of the team were fortunate to sit in on a Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hearing on reauthorizing the NFIP. Michael Hecht, CEO of Greater New Orleans on behalf of the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance (CSFI), was one of the witnesses speaking at the hearing and Senator Warren was one of the Committee members performing the questioning. NOTE: A week or two after we returning from the hearing Senator Warren’s staff reached out to set up a group meeting to discuss the NFIP and that meeting will take place at the Chamber on June 15th.Infrastructure Spending Bill:Infrastructure improvements are critical to the success of the Chamber’s regional development plan and the President has said that infrastructure upgrades are a priority of his. One of the benefits of the trip was the opportunity to educate the delegation on what the Chamber was up to and the South Shore2030: Choosing Our Future infrastructure report highlighted the Chamber’s long-term vision for the region. Copies of the report were given to both Senators and both Congressmen and the issue that seemed to resonate most with the delegation was the infrastructure needs of the region. All said they support the idea of an infrastructure spending bill but that the support hinged on how they would pay for it.Housing Trends – National Association of Home Builders:• Baby boomers and millennials prefer single family homes• However, home ownership rates for younger people are falling compared to other age groups• There is a mismatch in that the market is not providing the right type of housing – still building big houses when smaller is what folks are looking for• Also, there is a mismatch on costs for millennials – they expect to pay $220k and houses being built are $300k+• Regulations (e.g., local zoning, land costs, permits and fees, hook-up fees, etc) are driving up the cost of housing• 20% tariff on Canadian lumber will also drive up the price of housing