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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NOW is THE Time!

We’re in danger of losing our health care. The Senate is inching closer to passing a devastating health care bill. If they do, then millions of people will see their health care coverage disappear. But you can do something about it.

Nevada is particularly important in the fight to save our health care. Why? Because our senator, Dean Heller, is a deciding vote on the Senate bill.

You have a critical part to play, and there is no time to waste. As a constituent, you have the power to influence Senator Heller’s vote on health care.

The over 600,000 Nevadans who rely on Medicaid would be most adversely affected as Nevada is poised to lose approximately $5 billion in federal Medicaid funds by 2028 if the Senate health care bill passes. This would harm 300,000 children, 13,000 seniors, and 42,000 people with disabilities in Nevada.

But that’s only what we actually know today.  Are you insured through an employer plan?  You do know that employers shop insurers country-wide for the best policy prices they can find, right?  Have you heard this bill allows States to seek waivers of  EHBs (Essential Health Benefits, like maternity coverage, ER visits, Xrays,  cancer screenings, etc.)?  What do you think will happen to the healthcare insurance coverage you now have once your employer, like everyone else’s employer starts shopping “EHB-waivered” states for their insurance policies to save money, while holding what you pay constant or even charging you a larger percentage of the cost, all to pad their bottom line?

  • Read the over-glorious summary from the Senate Budget Committee glossing over the dreadful impacts.
  • Browse the actual bill text.
  • View a section by section summary by the Congressional Research Service here.

TrumpedUpCare harms us all and we can’t let that happen!  The clock is ticking with an expected vote no later than next  Thursday.  Call Senator Heller’s offices today and often (call all of them).  Let him know that if he takes a meat cleaver to our healthcare, he might as well take a meat cleaver to his 2018 campaign, because he’s done!

202-224-6244 (DC)
702-388-6605 (LV)
775-686-5770 (Reno)
775-738-2001 (Elko)

Term: 2013-2018

Heller’s High (or should I say Low) Water on Healthcare

In case you haven’t heard, Senator Dean Heller supports MASSIVE cuts to Medicaid.  In fact, Senator Heller has drug the proverbial tea and has expressed his support for PHASING OUT the Medicaid expansion over the next 7 years.

After weeks of denying, fudging and wriggling, Heller is finally admitting he’s ready to end the Medicaid expansion covering more than 138,000 Nevadans—including children—since Obamacare became law.  THAT is unacceptable. Senator Heller was elected to look out for Nevadans, but he’s instead ripping the rug out from those who count on Medicaid.

“I support seven, I support seven,” Heller told reporters on his way into a healthcare working group meeting in the Capitol. “So do a number of us, including [Sen. Rob] Portman [R-Ohio] and others who have been working on this.”

Full story here.

Apparently Heller figures blame won’t fall back on him if they just “slowly” take Medicaid away from over 130,000 Nevadans and millions across the U.S.  … over a 7 year time frame. What folks need to understand is, that without Federal “matching funds” which enable States to open up the Medicaid insurance program to those whose incomes are below or just above the poverty line, it will be detrimentally consequential. Thirty-one states chose to expand Medicaid, and, as a result, 11 million to 12 million newly eligible people were finally able to obtain health insurance.  If federal matching funds are withdrawn, most states will likely return to the more restrictive eligibility rules for Medicaid eligibility ― effectively wiping out the coverage gains, leaving millions of low-income Americans with worse access to health care and more exposure to crushing medical bills.  In other words, it’s the equivalent of legislating a “death panel” where access is denied or expensive procedures/surgeries are denied as funding will not be available and people WILL die.

At a time when the Nevada Legislature is seriously considering a “Medicaid for All” healthcare delivery model that would let Nevadans buy into a “public” delivery system to assure Nevadans can more effectively access healthcare coverage, it appears that Senator Heller has chosen to throw his constituents under the first bus he can find.  Even Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican who doesn’t support blocking healthcare coverage access for so many Nevadans, has shared his concern about rolling back the Medicaid expansion.

We can’t let Heller and his spokespeople get away with playing loose with the truth, calling this “fake news,” and blaming it on Democrats.  He made the comment and it’s on tape!

We must defeat Senator Heller in 2018. Nevadans can’t afford to lose the Medicaid expansion.

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Press Releases from NV Dems

Getting straight — A rough week for Dean Heller
Dean Heller Still Wants to Repeal the ACA
Heller getting a bit bipolar about Planned Parenthood funding
Heller Cheerleading Trump Attacks on Nevada’s National Monuments
How Does the Senator Explain That?
A complete and total disaster

Senate passed bill reversing FCC privacy rules for internet service providers

Senator Dean Heller voted to take the side of corporate communication giants like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T over the side of privacy for his Nevada constituents.  “This resolution is a direct attack on consumer rights, on privacy, on rules that afford basic protection against intrusive and illegal interference with consumers’ use of social media sites and websites that often they talk for granted,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said ahead ofthe Senate vote.  Clearly Senator Dean Heller didn’t listen to those words.

Reputlican “corporatists” are using the Congressional Review Act to pretty much gut any regulation put in place during the Obama administration that gets in their way to making profits hand over fist.  So, this last week, corporatists in the Senate took the lead on CRA resolutions, passing a resolution (S.J. Res. 34 ) which disapproves of  an FCC rule concerning privacy rules for internet service providers, gutting those rules on a pure partisan party line vote (50 Republican Yeas, 48 Democrat Nays).

Republican corporatists in the Senate voted to undo FCC’s broadband privacy rules. If also passed in the House and signed by the president, S.J. Res. 34 will make sure the FCC can not interfere with internet service providers (ISPs) being able to sell user data, including browsing history and location data, without user consent. The bill promoting the communications giants’ agenda now heads to the House.

So How is Heller NOT Representing Nevadans w/DT at the Helm?

The answer?  Not very well I’m afraid.  Regardless of the number of phone calls and the fact that his line is full and that they’ve turned on the answering machines instead of taking calls, he’s taking his marching orders from elsewhere.  Here, see what I mean?

Heller Announced He’ll Run to Retain His Senate Seat in 2018

Today, on his Facebook page, Senator Dean Heller announced:

“My family and I have put much thought and prayer in considering the best way to serve the state that we love. I believe serving and running for re-election as Nevada’s senior Senator is where I can do the most good and have the biggest impact for Nevada. Serving as governor would be an enormous honor, but I am looking forward to being Nevada’s strongest voice on Capitol Hill.”

Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange released the following statement on Republican Senator Dean Heller’s announcement that he will attempt to win re-election in 2018:

“Dean Heller has no core, and he’s shown over and over again that he will always say whatever’s politically expedient and change positions to suit his audience. He may have been too chicken to run for governor, but he’ll be coming home either way after he loses re-election in 2018. The reality is that as Senator, Dean Heller has skated by as a sub-par and lazy Washington politician with the lack of work product to show for it. He toes the Republican line of gridlock and obstruction at the expense of Nevada, and his approach to the incoming Administration has been no different. Senator Heller has been cravenly silent on Donald Trump’s rigged Cabinet picks and the disturbing conflicts of interest to make Trump and his family rich. Nevada families deserve a champion who will fight for them in the U.S. Senate, not a coward.”

“Dean Heller is the only Republican Senator up for re-election in a state where Democrats won decisively this year.  Nevadans just elected a new Democratic Senator in 2016, and we’re going to do it again next cycle.”

So, that takes Heller out of consideration for Nevada’s 2017 Gubernatorial race, leaving it open for a rumored run by Rep. Mark Amodei for Governor, if he’s able to make through the primary where Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison are also rumored to have an eye on winning that seat.

#NRA Class of 2016 with Scholarship Donations

Have you ever wondered why the GOP Senate continually sides with the NRA on all gun-related proposed legislation, and against well over a majority of their constituents, Democrat, Republican and Independents? They’ve been bought, including Nevada’s own Sen. Dean Heller (to the tune of a $122,000 scholarship from the NRA)!

NRA-Class-of-2016

Veto Message from the President to the Republiban re: HR3762 ACA Repeal

— by Vickie Rock, Humboldt Democrats

After the 62nd vote to repeal “Obamacare” (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) which has now been upheld by the Supreme Court TWICE, the Republiban members of Congress finally managed to pass HR 3762. Inaptly named, the bill that would have done the exact opposite of its title: “Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015.”  Restoring “Americans'” freedom?  Nope!  More like restoring the freedom for Insurance Corporations to give Americans the short shrift related to any hope of accessing healthcare insurance and thus health care itself.

And just so you know, each and every Nevada Republican in the House of Representatives, Rep. Mark Amodei (CD2), Rep. Joe Heck (CD3), and Rep. Cresant Hardy (CD4) voted FOR passage of HR 3762 (as well as a large number of previous bills) which would not just repeal the Affordable Care Act for millions of Americans who can barely afford health insurance as it is, but would have also revoked any and all funding received by Planned Parenthood by folks who not only can’t afford health insurance, but can’t afford health care either.  Senator Dean Heller also voted FOR passage (repeal) in the Senate in December preceding the vote in the House.

Today, at the stroke of his pen, President Obama showed us exactly HOW important it is that we have a Democratic President in the oval office as he promptly and unceremoniously vetoed their wasted efforts.  Here’s his message back to Congress:

TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 3762, which provides for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016, herein referred to as the Reconciliation Act.  This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.  The Affordable Care Act includes a set of fairer rules and stronger consumer protections that have made health care coverage more affordable, more attainable, and more patient centered.  And it is working.  About 17.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage as the law’s coverage provisions have taken effect.  The Nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever, and demand for Marketplace coverage during December 2015 was at an all-time high.  Health care costs are lower than expected when the law was passed, and health care quality is higher — with improvements in patient safety saving an estimated 87,000 lives.  Health care has changed for the better, setting this country on a smarter, stronger course. 

The Reconciliation Act would reverse that course.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million after 2017.  The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this reduction in health care coverage could mean, each year, more than 900,000 fewer people getting all their needed care, more than 1.2 million additional people having trouble paying other bills due to higher medical costs, and potentially more than 10,000 additional deaths.  This legislation would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage they deserve.  Reliable health care coverage  would no longer be a right for everyone:  it would return to being a privilege for a few.

The legislation’s implications extend far beyond those who would become uninsured.  For example, about 150 million Americans with employer-based insurance would be at risk of higher premiums and lower wages.  And it would cause the cost of health coverage for people buying it on their own to skyrocket.  

The Reconciliation Act would also effectively defund Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood uses both Federal and non-federal funds to provide a range of important preventive care and health services, including health screenings, vaccinations, and check-ups to millions of men and women who visit their health centers annually.  Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.  By eliminating Federal Medicaid funding for a major provider of health care, H.R. 3762 would limit access to health care for men, women, and families across the Nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals.

Republicans in the Congress have attempted to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act over 50 times.  Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs.  Because of the harm this bill would cause to the health and financial security of millions of Americans, it has earned my veto.

The Republiban may have used procedural shenanigans to enable them to pass HR 3762, but to override President Obama’s veto, the Republiban would need a two-thirds affirmative vote on repeal bill.  The don’t have that.  This was all for show for the rabid GOP base heading into the November election.  But more than that, it’s a serious red-flag warning to Democrats that if we don’t overwhelm the polls this November to begin taking back Congress, and instead all the Republiban to hold onto Congress plus, take the White House, you can kiss the American Dream goodbye and buy the coffin as it will truly be dead.

522

A is for August and Advocacy … in support of the #IranDeal

August is when members of Congress are supposed to be meeting with their constituents to discuss issues before them.  If you get a chance to attend such a meeting, please express your support for the Iran Deal and ask for your Senator’s and Congressman’s support.

As of the date of this post, there are 32 days remaining before Congress must take action on the Iran Deal before them.  Even if you don’t get a chance to attend a meeting, you can always pick up your phone and call their offices:

Senator Harry ReidTwitter
202-224-3542 (DC) / 702-388-5020 (LV) /
775-686-5750 (Reno) / 775-882-7343 (Carson)

Senator Dean HellerTwitter
202-224-6244 (DC) / 702-388-6605 (LV) /
775-686-5770 (Reno) / 775-738-2001 (Elko)

Representative Dina Titus (CD1) … Twitter
202-225-5965 (DC) / 702-220-9823 (LV)

Representative Mark Amodei (CD2) … Twitter
202-225-6155 (DC) / 775-686-5760 (Reno)

Representative Joe Heck (CD3) … Twitter
202-225-3252 (DC) / 702-387-4941 (LV)

Representative Cresent Hardy (CD4) … Twitter
(202) 225-9894 (DC)

The U.S. + Five world powers have reached a deal with Iran to stop its potential path to a nuclear weapon. The deal is supported by over 60 nuclear security experts, more than 100 American ambassadors, 75% of Democrats, and 54% of all Americans.But the architects of the Iraq War are fighting to kill the deal. John Bolton says, 'Preemptive military action is now inescapable' and Bill Kristol says, 'Airstrikes to set back the Iranian nuclear weapons program are preferable to this deal.'Opponents are pressuring Congress by spending over $40 million to put the U.S. on a path to war with Iran. But millions of dollars can't drown out millions of voices.Americans have added more than 700,000 petition signatures and more than 100,000 calls to Congress to defend the deal. Members of Congress have less than 60 days to decide whether or not to veto the deal. Now is the time to flood their offices and town hall meetings.

Visit 60daystostopawar.com to find events near you or to call your member of Congress. Tell them: A vote against the Iran deal is a vote for war.

Resources: