House Passes Permanent Repeal of Death Tax; House Committee Reports OSHA Reform Bills to the Floor
The House of Representatives yesterday passed legislation to permanently repeal the death tax by a wide margin with 42 Democrats joining 230 Republicans to send the measure to the Senate.
Unfortunately, it looks like anything but smooth sailing from here on out; apparently there are broad disagreements about the extent of the "repeal". While most Republicans prefer a full repeal, many have said that if they had to compromise they would accept legislation that exempts $10 million of an estate from the tax and lowers the rate to match the 15 percent tax on capital gains. But the Democrats, expressing concern about mounting deficits, prefer a higher rate and a lower exemption from the tax. The price tag attached to the House measure is pretty steep ? in the billions of dollars ? and so a few Democrats have gone so far as to say that they will filibuster the legislation unless the budget impact is reduced. All of this may get more interesting still as things continue to heat up over the Social Security debate and tax reform generally, particularly as we anticipate the report of the President?s Tax Panel on what they believe to be the most viable approaches to streamlining our tax code. The repeal of the death tax affects less than 2 percent of Americans who die each year, but it is a central part of the Administration?s tax reform agenda.
In other House action yesterday, the Education and Workforce Committee reported 4 OSHA reform bills to the full House which will help keep small businesses competitive in our global economy. These bills, introduced by Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-GA) passed the House last year, but eventually died in the Senate. Johnny Isakson, the newly elected Senator from Georgia, and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training, has expressed a willingness to move forward on the bills this year, so we are optimistic that these important reform measures will be carefully reviewed in the Senate. Here is a brief overview of the bills reported out of Committee:
H.R. 739 will provide the OSHA Review Commission some flexibility in the application of the 15-day period employers have to contest citations/proposed penalties. The exceptions would be tightly limited to legitimate excuses and are intended to give employers the opportunity to make their case on the merits rather than losing automatically by a technicality.
H.R. 740 will expand from three to five the number of members sitting on the OSHA Review Commission in order to address the common situation in which the commission does not have a quorum and as a result adjudication of cases is delayed.
H.R. 741 will ensure that courts defer to the Review Commission on matters of law; my only concern is that this language may need to be tightened so as to not ?trample? on the toes of the U.S. Supreme Court.
H.R. 742 will make it easier for small employers to recover attorneys? fees when they successfully defend against an OSHA citation.
All of these bills are common sense fixes that would help level the playing field with OSHA for small businesses. I encourage you to write your Senators and urge them to support the measures when they come before the Senate for a vote.
As always, if you have any questions about these issues, please let me know.
About the Author
Marian J. Marshall was the Director of Government Affairs for the Mason Contractors Association of America.