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|The Advocate - June 2017|
The Advocate - June 2017
The Advocate is tailored for NWPCA members and affiliates, and provides the latest information on what’s happening with the public policy issues and meetings that have the potential to impact you -- or are impacting the day-to-day tasks and operations of the pallet industry. These government affairs updates strive to "Give you a heads-up, while you're putting the hammer down.”
Another record set when over 40 NWPCA registrants signed-up to storm Capitol Hill and interact with federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Labor. From June 20-21, 2017, NWPCA members contacted nearly 9% of the United States Congress in one day and met with Congressional offices from their state or even home district.
NWPCA also awarded its “Champion of the Wooden Pallet and Wood Packaging Industry” plaques to Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (Pennsylvania 5th District) and Congressman Bradley Byrne (Alabama 1st District). Congressman Thompson has been a great supporter of the industry and recently toured Penn Pallet in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania. He is a supporter of the USDA BioPreferred program and sits on the House Agriculture Committee and House Education and the Workforce committee. Presenting the award to the Congressman was Ben Remmey of Remmey – The Pallet Company of Lehighton, Pennsylvania. Congressman Bradley Byrne received his award for being a champion of the industry through his visits to Bay Wood Products of Robertsdale, Alabama, and letters to the administration which resulted in positive outcomes for the industry. Presenting the award for Bay Wood was Morris Neeb of Bay Wood, Robertsville, Alabama.
On Day 2, pallet owners went to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Jamie L. Whitten Executive Office building located on the National Mall to visit with senior USDA staff and officers. The keynote speaker was Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy of the USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) division. Also in attendance was Associate Administrator of PPQ, Michael “Mike” Gregoire. During the visit, NWPCA and USDA committed to working together on pest management issues, specifically, strengthening the ISPM15 program. The last federal meeting of the day was at the Department of Labor, where NWPCA members met with senior management and staff at the agency headquarters. The Department of Labor committed to work with NWPCA, and we will be pursuing a safety alliance with the Administration.
The NWPCA Congressional Fly-in was a great success. Members achieved commitments from Members of Congress to visit their facilities, the industry strengthened its position on Capitol Hill against groups lobbying against industry interests (groups wanting to ban the use of solid wood packaging), and two Federal agencies gave their promise to work with the wooden pallet and container industry on safety and pest management. Also, our members were able to catch Senators and Representatives in the halls of Congress (ergo ‘lobby’ing) and educate them on our issues – and some of our members even bumped into Bono of U2 fame, it was a memorable and successful event.
The U.S. Department of Commerce confirmed on Monday, June 26, that DOC has made a preliminary anti-dumping determination on imported Canadian softwood lumber, with a final determination slated for early September.
In describing the move, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that Washington will “vigorously apply” anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) legislation, while noting the agency’s decision to exclude softwood lumber products from Canada’s Atlantic provinces, namely Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
“The United States is committed to free and fair trade, as seen today with the preliminary decision to exclude softwood lumber from the Canadian Atlantic Provinces in the ongoing antidumping and countervailing duty cases,” he added.
The duties confirmed on Monday would range from 4.59 to 7.72 percent. Combined with preliminary countervailing duties determined in late April, this could total between 17.41 and 30.88 percent in duties on Canadian lumber producers.
Congress is in recess next week for the July 4th Holiday.
Senate leadership has announced that a vote on its bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, “the Better Care Reconciliation Act” will not take place until after the 4th of July recess. Trying to move the legislation forward that has stalled in the Senate, a proposal to remove a $172 billion tax cut in the Senate Republican Obamacare-repeal bill is picking up momentum, with some GOP members appearing willing to give up the provision in order to advance the stalled legislation.
Several Republicans said yesterday, Thursday, that they’re open to removing a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s 3.8 percent tax on investment income, which largely targets the wealthy, in order to provide more subsidies for low-income Americans who buy into the ACA’s insurance exchanges.
Eliminating the tax repeal could provide an avenue to attract more moderates to the health care repeal bill, such as Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Dean Heller of Nevada. Some moderate Senate Republicans have opposed the bill’s steep cuts to Medicaid and provisions that would take off as many as 22 million individuals from insurance rolls. That may help get Republicans to the 51 votes needed to pass the repeal bill using reconciliation, a parliamentary move meant to avoid a filibuster from Democrats, who are lined up en masse against the bill.
Senator Mike Rounds (South Dakota), who has questioned the repeal bill’s investment-tax cut, said that while the Senate bill is better than the current Obamacare system, some changes could be made to make it palatable to more senators. “We’re just trying to get to 50 votes, and when you try to get to 50 votes you try to do what you can to handle the other folks’ concerns about the changes that are there,” Rounds said.
The current version of the Senate bill would eliminate a 3.8 percent tax on net investment income, which is income received from assets such as stocks and bonds, for individuals earning more than $200,000 per year or $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. The tax, which went into effect in January 2013, also covers estates and trusts and is applied on top of capital-gains taxes.
The Congressional Budget Office’s score of the health care bill said eliminating the tax would cost the federal government $172 billion over 10 years.
McConnell was forced to delay a procedural vote on the health care bill Tuesday after several GOP senators said they would not vote for the measure in its current form. The move comes as public support for the bill remains low. An NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll released June 28 showed support for the bill at only 17 percent, with 55 percent disapproving. Senate Democrats have hammered their GOP colleagues over the bill’s provisions cutting insurance rolls, but also over what they say are tax breaks for America’s wealthiest citizens.
Complicating matters is the fact that using the health bill to repeal the Obamacare taxes will make it easier for Republicans to craft tax reform later on, by changing the baseline amount of federal revenue that would be used to calculate a reform package’s effects on the deficit. Keeping the Obamacare taxes in place now could mean a smaller tax-reform effort later this year.
House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, whose committee is responsible for writing tax-reform legislation, said Thursday he hopes all the Obamacare tax cuts remain in the bill if it heads to his chamber. “I’m looking forward to the Senate removing all of those taxes from our economy,” Brady said.
On Tuesday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a federal register notice to extend the deadline for employers to report their OSHA Form 300A for 2016 records from July 1 to December 1.
In May 2016, OSHA published a final rule entitled “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” that required establishments with 20-249 employees that are classified in certain industries to electronically submit the OSHA Form 300A annually.
Starting in 2018, establishments with 250 or more employees will be required to submit OSHA Forms 300A, 300 and 301 by July 1, 2018. OSHA stated that “the delay provides the new administration an opportunity to review the new electronic reporting requirements prior to their implementation and allow affected entities sufficient time to familiarize themselves with the electronic reporting system, which will not be available until August 1, 2017.”
Additionally, OSHA announced that it intends to issue a separate proposal to reconsider, revise, or remove other provisions of the May 2016 final rule.
The Trump administration began enforcing its temporary ban on refugees and on visitors from six Muslim-majority nations on Thursday evening, exempting only those people with close family or business ties in the Unites States. The guidelines are a narrow reading of Monday’s Supreme Court ruling, which required the U.S. to continue admitting travelers who have “bona fide” relationships with people or institutions in the country. Under the new rules, for instance, a sister or husband of an American citizen wouldn’t fall under the ban, but an aunt or grandparent would. A senior administration official said the line designating close family ties was drawn to ensure the exceptions aren’t so broad as to swallow the rules altogether and allow in virtually anyone. In emergency court filings in Hawaii, challengers in one of the principal legal cases involving the ban asked a federal judge to “clarify” what the Trump administration can and can’t do with its partial ban.