Affordable Care Act Employer Mandate Delayed (in part) Again.

On February 10, 2014, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service gave businesses an extra year to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.  Click for U.S. Treasury Press Release.

Effective immediately, businesses with 50-99 employees will not face penalties for failing to provide health care coverage until 2016. However, these businesses will have to provide the government with information regarding their employees’ health insurance plans.

Previously, businesses with 100+ employees needed to provide health care coverage by January 1, 2015 for at least 95% of full-time workers or face a penalty of $2,000 per full-time employee (minus the first 30 employees). Now, the administration has amended this requirement so that on January 1, 2015, businesses with 100+ employees must offer health care coverage to at least 70% of their full-time workers, or face a penalty. This percentage jumps back up to 95% on January 1, 2016.


Ohio Legislature Considers Flurry of Bills in an Attempt to Ease Burden of Harsh Winter on Schools

The Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate are both considering bills to ease the burden on Ohio school districts that have taken an unusual number of calamity days this school year due to harsh winter conditions.

One of the pending bills, House Bill 416, was proposed on January 28th. It would grant four additional calamity days to schools for the 2013-2014 school year. Districts would therefore be excused for a total of nine calamity days. HB 416 passed the House Education Committee on January 30th, and currently awaits a vote in the full House before it heads to the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 269 was also proposed on January 28th. The senate bill would likewise grant districts three additional calamity days, for a total of eight excused days. The bill currently remains in the Senate Education Committee. Governor Kasich has encouraged the Senate and House to pass legislation to extend calamity days for this school year, and is expected to sign whichever bill is voted through the legislature.

In addition to possible extension of calamity days under HB 416 and SB 269, Senator Randy Gardner recently introduced Senate Bill 273 on February 6th. If passed, the bill would excuse graduating seniors from any calamity make-up days that a district would schedule to take place after graduation. Seniors would still be required to make up days that occur prior to graduation, however.

All the proposed bills are considered emergency measures, and will take effect immediately if passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor.

UPDATE: On February 19th, 2014 the Ohio House passed a revised version of HB 416. If the bill passes in the Senate and is signed by the governor, it would grant schools two additional calamity days for this school year. In addition, the bill would permit schools to schedule two additional staff in-service days for both teachers and nonteaching employees. Finally, HB 416 would re-codify a school district’s ability to make up missed time by increasing the length of one or more school days by half hour increments. Districts used to have the authority to make up time under certain circumstances by extending the school day pursuant to ORC 3313.482, but that statute was repealed effective September 29th, 2013 along with the requirement that schools adopt a yearly contingency plan.

A new bill was also introduced in the Senate on February 19th that would grant additional calamity waivers under certain conditions. Specifically SB 284 provides four additional calamity days to schools, but only after each district satisfies both of the following:

  1.  The reason the school was not open for the required number of days was, pursuant to ORC 3317.01 (version in effect prior to July 1, 2014), due to “disease epidemic, hazardous weather conditions, law enforcement emergencies, inoperability of school buses or other equipment necessary to the school’s operation, damage to a school building, or other temporary circumstances due to utility failure rendering the school building unfit for school use”; and
  2. The district has first completed make-up days or hours specified in the district’s contingency plan.

Under prior law, a district’s contingency plan accounted for make-up of at least five additional calamity days. Boards were required to approve this year’s contingency plan before the statute was repealed. Because of the inconsistency with current law, SB 284 also includes a provision that recognizes a board’s authority to modify the district contingency plan. In addition, SB 284 again grants schools the authority to make up days by half hour increments. Finally, the bill would excuse graduating seniors from make-up days scheduled to take place after graduation.