It's a new year and there's a new incoming administration. That means there are likely some big-time regulation changes in the pipeline, not to mention changes that were already on the agenda. Some proposals will fail, while others will pass, but all of them could significantly affect your business in 2017 and beyond.
Top of the list this year are the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the currently suspended change in Department of Labor overtime regulations, and minimum wage or paid sick leave efforts at local and state levels. However, there are a bevy of other potential changes on the horizon that the savvy entrepreneur should be aware of as well.
Here are some of the proposals we're keeping an eye on this year, and how they might affect small businesses.
1. The Affordable Care Act
A freshly sworn-in Senate took the first step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Jan. 4. The senators voted 58 to 41 in favor of a budget resolution instructing congressional committees to draft a reconciliation bill, which would include a provision to repeal the ACA either in part or in whole.
Jessica Jennings, regulatory compliance manager at PrimePay, said that while the bill will be limited to items that affect budget and revenue, the portions of the ACA that could be repealed under this process include:
- Insurance subsidies available on the health care marketplace
- Medicaid expansion
- The individual mandate and large employer shared responsibility payments
- ACA fees on health insurers
- The medical device tax
2. U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) overtime regulations
Last year, a U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction against a pending change to overtime regulations that would narrow exemptions and extend mandatory overtime pay to an estimated 4.2 million workers. Whether the overtime regulation change becomes final or not will determine if business owners need to reclassify employees, adjust wages and benefits accordingly, or budget for additional overtime. [See Related Story: Are You Ready for the Department of Labor's Overtime Rule Change?]
Prior to the injunction, many companies had already done their due diligence in assessing payroll costs, reclassifying workers, communicating the changes and seeking professional advice, said Bob Drainville, president of Timesheet Mobile.
"Most likely, if companies have already put the processes and technologies in place, then they will stick to this, as it's too difficult to reverse employee classifications and potentially have negative fallout due to worker frustration and possible disengagement," he said. "At the very least, the overtime rule has given companies the chance to review wage and hour obligations, which is one of the biggest sources of DOL fines and penalties."
3. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) arbitration rules
Proposed rules from the federal CFPB would prohibit what are known as mandatory arbitration clauses in financial products. Those clauses essentially prevent consumers from filing class-action lawsuits against the company in the event that something goes wrong. The rules would instead leave people to litigate on their own, a time-consuming, costly endeavor that often has very little payoff in the end.
"It is expected that the Obama administration will issue the final rule before President-elect Trump's inauguration," David Reiss, research director of the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at the Brooklyn Law School, said. "Entrepreneurs with consumer credit cards should expect that they could join class actions involving financial products. They should also expect that credit card companies will be more careful in setting the terms of their agreements, given this regulatory change."
Reiss added that the final adoption or rejection of these rules is also subject to the Congressional Review Act, which empowers Congress to invalidate new federal regulations. Even if the rules were adopted, Congress could ultimately reject them.
"Republicans have been very critical of the proposed rule, which they see as anti-business," Reiss said.
4. Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) revised standards
New federal regulations governing the way enterprise companies report assets, financial statements and leasing activity are also on the horizon in 2017 and 2018. Cameron Nokes, senior industry product manager at Accruent, said many larger companies have already prepared for the change, but small businesses should be aware that they could be subject to the rules in the near future.
"Smaller companies, startups and entrepreneurs can begin to prepare for FASB's implementation of these standards by following in the footsteps of enterprise companies and carefully reporting their financial assets and tracking their leasing activity so that it is FASB-compliant," Nokes said. "Since many of these companies do not have robust finance departments, it's important to be ready in advance."
5. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) amended Risk Management Program
At the end of December 2016, U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed off on amendments to the agency's Risk Management Plan. Those changes include additional accident-prevention measures, revised emergency-response requirements and additional reporting mandates.
"Over the past decade, facilities to be affected have reported more than 1,500 accidents," Steven Minsky, CEO of LogicManager, said. "These accidents resulted in nearly 60 deaths; 17,000 injuries; 500,000 people evacuated or told to shelter in place; and more than $2 billion in property damages. These risks are preventable, and accountability for negligence is greatly increased [under the new regulations]."
Minsky added that the new EPA regulations are more likely to affect large businesses than small businesses.
6. Paid sick leave and minimum wage policies at local and state levels
Measures raising the minimum wage or mandating paid sick leave have been gaining popularity throughout the country in municipalities and statehouses. More of the same should be expected in 2017, said Richard Alaniz, a labor and employment attorney for the Alaniz, Schraeder, Linker, Farris, Mayes law firm.
"At the state and local level, business owners should prepare for minimum wage increases and expanding paid-sick-leave requirements that will take place within 2017 and beyond," Alaniz said. "Moreover, cities and states are accelerating the pace at which they enact employment laws, and many employers are caught off guard by these laws each year. For example, California now prohibits most new employment contracts from requiring employees to litigate their case in another state or under the laws of another state."
As a result, keeping an eye on your local and state governments will be just as important to your business's well-being as watching for developments at the federal level this year.