Congress reconvened in Washington, D.C., this week. Lawmakers now face a myriad of pending legislative issues and an unexpected debate over whether to authorize the use of military force in Syria. Against this backdrop, Congress will immediately turn its attention to a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund federal agencies in the 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Keeping the fiscal drumbeat going, Congress will also need to address raising the U.S. Debt limit by mid-Oct. Thereafter, lawmakers will likely turn their attention to immigration and tax reform, which will have implications for the HR sector.
Before the five-week August recess, the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S.744). House Republican leaders have said they will pursue a step-by-step approach to immigration, rather than consider the Senate bill. It is expected that House lawmakers will continue to consider various immigration proposals through the end of this year. Specifically, SHRM and its affiliate, the American Council on International Personnel (ACIP), will be working to champion the inclusion of an Identity Authentication Amendment to a House proposal, The Legal Workforce Act (H.R. 1772). Specifically, the Identity Authentication Amendment we are pursuing would:
- Create a fully electronic verification system that integrates the paper-based Form I-9 into the E-Verify system and moves toward a more secure system that authenticates identity and verifies employment eligibility, providing better certainty that the person being hired is authorized to work in the U.S.
- Provide employers with a voluntary option to use a knowledge-based authentication (KBA) system if they used it for 100 percent of their new-hire verifications, to assure the highest level of certainty, thereby significantly improving the prevention of identity theft in the employment verification process.
- Strengthen the safe harbor for employers for decisions they make based on information from the E-Verify system.
Read more about the Senate-passed immigration reform bill and what it means for HR, click HERE. For background on SHRM’s E-Verify efforts in the Senate, click HERE.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate agree that revamping the tax code is a top priority and that Congress should work toward simplifying the tax code for both individuals and corporations. Staff on the House Ways and Means Committee spent the August recess crafting a tax-code-overhaul proposal, drawing on the work of 13 bipartisan working groups of lawmakers. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., says he intends to move legislation through the committee this fall. Similarly, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has promised to consider a tax-code overhaul in 2013 or 2014. Specific to the HR sector, employee benefits such as retirement plans, education assistance and health care benefits may come under congressional scrutiny because of their tax-deferred status. SHRM, along with the SHRM-led Coalition to Protect Retirement, has submitted comments to the House Retirement and Pension Working Group. Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., have introduced
Concurrent Resolution 12, a bipartisan resolution that emphasizes the importance of retirement savings plans. SHRM will continue working with lawmakers in the House and Senate to ensure that employee benefits are included in a comprehensive tax reform package.
It is likely that the two tax-writing committees, House Ways and Means and Senate Finance, will produce comprehensive tax reform proposals before the end of the year, since those proposals are likely to address temporary tax credits and other incentives known as “extenders,” many of which are set to expire at the end of 2013.
SHRM’s Government Affairs department will continue to advocate on immigration and tax reform on these issues on behalf of the HR community and will provide an update on developments to members.