October Public Policy Update: Opportunities to Comment on Overtime Pay and Public Charge Criteria

October 16, 2018

With the election just weeks away, there is plenty of action on the public policy front for your organization to consider. Read on to learn more.

Index (Scroll Down for the Items)

  • November 14 Public Policy Advisory Call
  • Washington State Overtime Pay Rule Making
  • Federal Public Charge Rule Making
  • Election 2018 Resources
  • Advocacy Tip: Why and How to Comment on Proposed Federal Regulations
  • 2018 Re-Wire Public Policy Conference Registration Discount

November 14 Public Policy Advisory Call

Washington Nonprofits will be hosting its next Public Policy Advisory Call on November 14, 2018. During the call, we will be discussing key issues impacting the nonprofit sector. Click here to register.

Overtime Pay Draft Rules Released: Comment By October 26th

Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries is engaged in rulemaking intended to expand overtime pay to workers in our state. There are two important items for consideration in the current draft rules:

  • The current draft lists a salary range pegged at 1.5x-3x Washington State’s minimum wage ($37,440 per year-$74,880 per year) as the salary exemption threshold. The Department wants input from employers as to what the salary exemption threshold should be, so be sure to analyze what the different salary levels would mean for your organization.
  • The Department is proposing changes to the duty criteria for exempting an employee from overtime pay. The Department wants input from employers regarding these criteria, so be sure to analyze what the proposed changes would mean for your organization.

Written comments on the pre-draft rules can be submitted on the Department’s engagement website by October 26, 2018. Click here to submit comments.

Trump Administration Posts Public Charge Proposal: Comment Before Dec. 10

The Trump Administration officially posted its proposed “public charge” rule for public comments. If your nonprofit serves immigrants and/or their families, then this policy issue matters to you.

Under current laws, certain immigrants are deemed a “public charge” only if they meet a very narrow set of criteria. This allows many non-citizen individuals — and their citizen children and/or relatives — to use support services without jeopardizing their immigration status.  However, the Trump Administration is proposing to expand the “public charge” criteria to include key programs that touch many facets of nonprofit work. The programs include:

  • Non-emergency Medicaid
  • Medicare Part D
  • Housing Assistance (public housing and Section 8)
  • SNAP (food stamps)

The likely result will be clients withdrawing from these services, which harms individuals, families, and communities. But even if your organization does not provide or connect clients to the impacted services, you may still have clients or client family members who use them. In conversations with partners, we’ve learned that if one service is disrupted for individuals, participation in other services will likely be disrupted for them and their families.

Click here to learn about actions you can take to oppose this policy change.

Washington Nonprofits will be preparing its own comments to submit on the public charge proposal. If your organization has stories, data, or other information that can help inform our comments, please contact us.

Election 2018 Resources

Election Day is right around the corner. Is your nonprofit ready?

Nonprofit clients are often among the groups least likely to vote, and often feel disconnected from government for many reasons. Engaging them, along with your board and staff, in the election can help bridge that disconnect by helping them understand and feel that they have a voice in our democracy. And don’t make assumptions about who is already set to vote – folks sometimes need a nudge to fill out their ballots. While you are at it, encourage your staff and board members to vote and send another reminder on Election Day (November 6th).

The easiest item for your nonprofit to do is remind people to vote. Ballots will be mailed out on October 19th, but it’s not too early to start encouraging folks to commit to voting and make a plan for completing their ballot. But for those looking to do more, here are some additional items:

* Nonprofit organizations can help get out the vote.Check out the Nonprofit Vote resource library, which has everything you need to get started with engaging your clients, staff, and board in the 2018 election. You can also download the audio of our latest member call, which featured staff from Nonprofit Vote and Asian Counseling and Referral Service sharing ideas for voter engagement.

* Watch or attend an upcoming debate. Washington Nonprofits is pleased to be a part of the Washington State Debate Coalition, which was founded in 2016 to increase the frequency and quality of publicly accessible nonpartisan debates in Washington. The Coalition has released the dates for its free, public debates for this fall’s U.S. Senate and WA-8th District elections**. If your organization is located near where the debates are taking place, please circulate the information throughout your network. You can also use this toolkit from the Coalition as a starting point for planning a debate watch party or other activities to engage your organization. Debate dates are:

** Invitations to participate in the debates were extended to Maria Cantwell, Susan Hutchison, Dino Rossi, and Kim Schrier following the primary results. The Coalition has confirmed the participation of Susan Hutchison, Dino Rossi, and Kim Schrier. Read the full press release to learn more about the debate dates and hosts. For more information the Coalition process, please read the FAQs sheet.

Advocacy Tip: Why and How to Comment on Proposed Federal Regulations

Why Comment

Commenting on proposed federal regulations is a great way for nonprofits to influence public policy. Preparing comments provides your organization with the opportunity to share its expertise and opinions on the proposed policies, which helps inform the actions taken by government agencies. Anyone can comment, whether they are an individual or an organization, which means that your organization could use commenting as an opportunity to engage clients, staff, and board members in the policy process. It is especially important to engage clients and staff, since they are the ones who can share the best insight as to what a particular policy proposal means to them. Further, you are free to comment as much as you want — commenting on regulations does not count toward 501(c)(3)’s lobbying limits because the IRS does not consider commenting on regulations to be lobbying.

How to Comment

As part of the rule making process, all federal agencies are required to post their proposed rules to the Federal Register with an opportunity for the public to comment that typically lasts 30-60 days. To find regulations open for comment, use the search box on the website. Once you find the proposed regulation that interests you, carefully review the post and look for any specific questions that the federal agency wants answers to. After you read the regulations, start drafting a response in a word document. There is no set template for commenting, so the content of your comments will shape the format. Some people will write letters addressed to the contact person named in the Federal Register post. Others will write brief policy memos. Some will even do as little as typing a few sentences into the online comment box. In short, how you choose to comment ultimately depends on your organization’s style. In addition, you are able to comment by uploading a document, which means you can format your comments on organizational letterhead or stationary and simply upload the document.

The major thing to keep in mind is that when you comment, it is important for you to make the comments as unique as possible using your own words and voice. This will ensure that you beat the algorithm used by the government to review comments. Comments that are too similar will be counted as one comment, regardless if there are multiple comments submitted, which limits their effectiveness. Other than that, there are no other specific guidelines for commenting. Just prepare your comments and upload them using the instructions that come up on the Federal Register website.

Once you comment, you can share the comments with your network and even share them with elected officials, if appropriate. If you are ever working on comments and need some advice or assistance, feel free to contact us.

Nonprofit Discount for 2018 Re-Wire Public Policy Conference

As the state association for all nonprofits in Washington State, Washington Nonprofits is pleased to partner with Washington State Wire in support of the 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference. We are looking forward to the upcoming Re-Wire conference. The conference provides an excellent opportunity to connect with policymakers and to learn about the legislature’s plans for the upcoming legislative session. In 2018, the members of Washington Nonprofits team were new to Washington State’s public policy community. When we attended the conference, we truly felt “at the table” and “in the know” because of the briefings, connections we made, and the opportunities to share information about the key policy issues facing by nonprofit organizations. We found the Re-Wire Conference to be a valuable opportunity for learning, networking, and raising the nonprofit sector’s visibility. We strongly encourage nonprofit organizations to attend this year’s conference so that we can “be at the table” and collectively work to raise our sector’s profile among our state’s policymakers. Download the flyer here for details.

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