Human Resources
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2011 Legislative and Regulatory Year in Review and the Outlook for 2012

Legislatively, 2011 was remarkable mainly for the great difficulty in reaching consensus between the House of Representatives, with a Republican majority, and the U.S. Senate, with a narrow Democratic majority. On the health care front, the year began with several Republican efforts to repeal and/or defund implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act). Most of those efforts, however, did not advance beyond the House of Representatives, as the economy, continued high unemployment rates, and greater economic turmoil in the world markets all commanded attention.

The end of the year was notable for two events. First, the so-called Super Committee failed to reach an agreement on a legislative proposal to reduce the federal budget deficit, setting the stage for certain automatic reductions in defense and non-defense spending in 2013. Second, differences between the House and the Senate led to a showdown over an extension of the expiring payroll tax reductions, which had been set to expire December 31. The Senate, with additional support from President Obama, pushed for a temporary, two-month extension through the end of February 2012. Despite strong initial objections from the House, as year-end approached, the House voted on December 23 to accept the Senate-approved agreement, though many expiring tax credits, such as the commuter tax credit and the research and development tax credit, were not extended before they expired on December 31. It is possible that certain expired tax credits will be extended retroactively in 2012.

Technical corrections to pension funding relief continue to stall, and on labor issues, the shift in power in 2011 made it much more difficult for Democrats to push through legislation, such as the Employee Free Choice Act and an immigration proposal that would have created a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Despite the partisan disagreements and continued economic turmoil, Congress was able to approve some legislation in 2011. Aon Hewitt is pleased to offer two reports, available below. The first, the “2011 Legislative Year in Review and the Outlook for 2012” summarizes key legislative activity at the federal level in 2011, highlights some significant federal court cases, and discusses the legislative outlook for 2012, all generally from the perspective of employer-sponsored employee benefit and human resources (HR) programs. The second report, the “2011 Regulatory Year in Review” summarizes significant regulatory guidance issued in 2011.

2011 Legislative Year in Review and 2012 Outlook

2011 Regulatory Year in Review