Chamber Board Opposes Proposed Overtime Rule Changes; Public Comment Period Extended

The Chamber’s Board of Directors has submitted comments to a state agency opposing proposed changes to overtime eligibility for employees. A statement to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) calls the proposed new rules “excessive and burdensome”. Following a recent extension, employers now have until Wednesday, Aug. 22 to submit their own comments.

To recap, the changes unveiled recently by the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry include a wage threshold for “exempt status” that is more than double the current rate set by the federal government.  There would also be significant revisions to so-called “duties tests,” which are also used to determine eligibility.  Finally, the rule would establish an automatic update to the salary threshold every three years beginning in 2023.  Similar changes were proposed at the federal level a few years ago and decried by many employers, nonprofit organizations, human service agencies and others as financially nonviable and likely to cause unwelcome changes to workplace culture and morale as employees are forced to be shifted from salaried to hourly status.  Following the outcry, the proposal was ultimately struck down by a federal court.

The Columbia Montour Chamber and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau Joint Governmental Affairs Committee recommended the following statement to the Chamber’s Board of Directors:

“The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce represents nearly 400 employers from the Columbia and Montour County area. The Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce opposes the proposed changes to the Commonwealth’s overtime eligibility rules for employers as they are excessive and burdensome.

As proposed, the salary threshold for overtime eligibility would more than double in approximately three years. Many employers, particularly small businesses and non-profit organizations, simply do not have the resources to adjust in that period of time. These rules are likely to result in disruptions in business services, and perhaps the number of positions available.

While the intent of this proposal is to benefit employees, market conditions are driving up wages and benefits for employees in many sectors. The government should allow the free market to provide all but the most basic health and safety conditions for employees. These proposed rule changes would be an excessive intrusion into that free market system.”

A 30-day extension has been granted to submit comments to the IRRC regarding the proposed changes. The PA Chamber of Business & Industry had coordinated a coalition letter requesting the extension. Comments can be sent via email: reference IRRC Number 3202.

Additionally, a free webinar is being offered on Thursday, July 19. Want to learn more about how the proposed new rules could impact your employees and your business’ bottom line?  Sign up today for a free webinar that will explore the consequences of the overtime changes.  At 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 19, employment defense attorney Joshua C. Vaughn will cover the breadth of these changes; how employers can start planning for compliance; which employees will be eligible for overtime under the new standards; how to convert their status from salaried to hourly; and more.

Welcome Curves

More than 400 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. The Chamber welcomes its newest member, Curves, to help us fulfill our mission.

Curves is a specialty gym and health club designed specifically for women. Over 25 years ago, Curves changed women’s fitness by delivering studio fitness at an affordable price. Its workouts are only 30 minutes but provide a total body workout, are fun, fast and safe. A Curves membership gives members the tools and support needed to reach their goals and set the stage for a healthier, more active future. This includes a coach present at every workout and a variety of classes. The Curves in Bloomsburg, located at 50 West 6th St., has been in operation for more than 20 years, but is under new ownership as Leigh Ann Hoffman Hunter recently became the new owner in early June. Curves is open Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m., and on Saturday from 8:30-11 a.m. For more information, visit Curves website or Facebook page, or call 570-784-5080.

34th Annual Benton Rodeo Begins This Week

One of the best of over 65 rodeos held east of the Mississippi River (according to the American Professional Rodeo Association) will come to Columbia County once again beginning this week, as the 34th annual Benton Rodeo takes place July 17-22 at the Benton Rodeo Grounds. 

The Rodeo brochure has all of the information, including ticket, schedule, vendors, sponsors and more. All shows are presented rain or shine. The shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 17 and 18, are free admissions, while the championship rodeo is scheduled for July 19-21 and the Bull-A-Rama on July 22. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or by calling 570-437-0081. 

On Saturday, July 21, there will be a leukemia/lymphoma cure walk/run at 8 a.m., followed by the special kids roundup at 10 a.m. These events raise money for their respective causes, and the special kids roundup has in the past benefited Chamber members such as the Danville Child Development Center and Camp Victory

Sponsors of the Benton Rodeo include Chamber members Mill Race Golf & Camping Resort, Ken Pollock Ford Lincoln, Seven Mountains Media, Steve Shannon Tire & Auto, WVIA, Williams, First Columbia Bank & Trust, Alexander Family Dealerships, Mahindra of Bloomsburg, Sokol Quarries, Atlantic Broadband and WYOU/WBRE.

Penn National Declares 10 Percent Dividend This Year for Business Insurance Program

Chamber members that utilize the ChamberChoice business insurance program through Penn National Insurance will receive a 10% dividend delivered back to them for policies written and retained during the program’s sixth year (May 1, 2016 – April 30, 2017), as Penn National recently announced a 10% dividend for this year. Members enrolled in the program that remained chamber members and policyholders through the end of the program year should expect to receive their checks in July if they haven’t already. 

Since the program’s inception in 2011, over $9 million has been returned to member businesses in dividends out of over $31.5 million in paid premiums. The average annual dividend return in the six years of the program has been 7.8%. Columbia Montour Chamber members enrolled in the program have now received over $231,000 in dividends over the last six years. This year alone, Columbia Montour Chamber members received $58,041.49 in dividends in aggregate. 

“This program is not only a great benefit to our members, but has made a significant economic impact by putting dollars back into our local community and member businesses,” said Columbia Montour Chamber president Fred Gaffney.

An important aspect of this group insurance program is preventing loss and controlling claims costs. Because dividends are based on the group’s collective loss experience, a business that may have had a significant loss may still be eligible to receive a dividend.

The program is sold exclusively through local, independent agents who can offer chamber members a variety of coverages and pricing on property and casualty insurance, including business owners, commercial auto, general liability, inland marine and workers’ compensation. Dividends are paid on all of these coverages. In addition, through safety consulting, Penn National Insurance and local independent insurance agencies encourage member businesses to develop safety practices to substantially reduce or eliminate workplace injuries.

To see if this program could be a good fit for your business, contact Chamber members Associated Insurance Management at 570-275-0100 or Hutchison Insurance Agency at 570-784-5550, for a no-obligation quote. 

Chamber Helps Welcome Traditional Home Care With Ribbon Cutting

The Chamber was on hand in Berwick on Thursday morning, July 12, to help welcome a new business and one of its newest members to the area as Traditional Home Care conducted a ribbon cutting and all day open house. Several neighbors and fellow businesses, Chamber board and committee members, and a few local elected officials were on hand for the event in downtown Berwick at 139 West Front St. Following the ribbon cutting, attendees had an opportunity to meet the staff, ownership and management teams from Traditional as well as enjoy some tasty refreshments from local vendors.

Traditional moved into this location just a few doors down from both Walker’s Jewelers and M&T Bank and catty-cornered across the street from Bodnar Sales & Service in February. This marked the first satellite location for Traditional, which is headquartered outside of Scranton. It provides both medical and non-medical in-home care for seniors and other adults requiring in-home assistance. For more information on Traditional and its Berwick location, call 570-507-9425 or visit its website