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4/30 Torchbearer Weekly Policy Update

Thank you letting us be your trusted source for local, state, and federal policy updates. Let’s dig in …

  • The Fate of Noncompetes
  • FTC Bans Contracts That Keep Workers From Jumping to Rival Employers
  • Worker Rules
  • FCC Reinstates Net Neutrality, But It’s Not As Easy As It Once Was
  • Failed Tourism Improvement District Bill Promises to Reappear in 2025
  • Share the Torchbearer Newsletter with Your Network!
  • Important Dates

Let’s dive in.

The Fate of Noncompetes


The Federal Trade Commission has voted on a proposal to ban noncompete agreements, which prevents workers from taking positions at competitors for a period of time after they leave a job.

Why it matters: The ban could be a win for workers — particularly at the low end of the income scale.

  • Critics of these agreements say they stifle innovation and wage growth by restricting workers' ability to take new jobs that pay higher wages or offer some other opportunity. They also make it tougher for employers to hire strong talent, lessening competition.
  • Some states have laws limiting noncompetes to higher-income folks or banning them altogether — but most don't.

What we're hearing: Experts told Axios that the final rule will likely look similar to the draft proposal, which was a broad prohibition on all noncompetes, even for executives.

Reality check: Any final rule is unlikely to take effect for many years  if ever, as it will surely get tied up in court.

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the ban, has already said it's ready and willing to file a lawsuit.

The big picture: One in five workers is affected by noncompetes, according to the FTC.

  • Noncompetes were once used mainly to keep high-paid executives from jumping ship to rivals and taking insider knowledge with them.
  • But they have become more common, with even low-wage workers and doctors subject to these restrictions.

Zoom in: Just in the last year, several states introduced bills to prohibit their use for lower-income workers or those in certain sectors like health care (check out this handy tracker).

  • Minnesota recently became the first state in over 100 years to ban noncompetes. A bill in New York state was vetoed by the governor. (Axios)

Worker Rules


It's been a big week for U.S. workers, courtesy of regulators at the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Labor.

What happened: The FTC banned noncompete agreements AND the Labor Department expanded its rule on when employees are owed overtime.

Why it matters: Their actions, along with the recent flurry of union activity and a still-tight labor market, are helping swing the balance of power between capital and labor in the U.S. closer to workers

  • Yes, but: Big legal hurdles could keep these new rules from taking effect.

The big picture: There's an inherent imbalance of power between employers and the individual workers who serve at their discretion — and regulation is one way to adjust for that.

  • Along with its big support for unions, regulations like these are part of the White House's attempt to pull power to labor's side.

State of play: On Tuesday, the FTC banned noncompete agreements — which prevent employees from taking jobs with their employer's competitors for a certain period. It was the first time in a half-century the agency mandated an "economy-wide" change, as the WSJ pointed out.

  • The rule is meant to take effect in August — and if that happens, it would make it easier for workers to job-hop and, the agency says, could lead to higher wages.

Reality check: On Wednesday, as expected, business groups filed a lawsuit in Texas federal court to stop the noncompete rule from taking effect.

  • Observers think the suit is likely to succeed — the judge who will hear the case, J. Campbell Barker, has overturned other actions from Biden federal agencies, including the COVID-era eviction moratorium and banking regulations around race discrimination.
  • The Trump nominee is the "go-to judge for litigation against the power and reach of the administrative state," Bloomberg Law recently noted.
  • And any appeals will land at a conservative Supreme Court that's been fairly hostile to regulations.

Meanwhile: The Department of Labor's rule change about overtime pay could mean raises for millions of workers.

How it works: Right now employers must pay employees time-and-a-half if they work more than 40 hours a week.

  • But if a worker is paid a salary over a certain minimum threshold and primarily performs executive or professional duties, they don't qualify for overtime pay.
  • Currently, that minimum salary is $35,568 a year. The new rule would bump it up to $43,888 on July 1, and then to $58,656 in 2025.
  • The final rule would benefit 4.3 million workers, more than half of them women, per an estimate from the progressive Economic Policy Institute. It could result in a transfer of $1.5 billion in pay annually from employers to workers.

Between the lines: It's likely the overtime rule will also be challenged, but the chances that the first increase overcomes that challenge are pretty good, says Brett Coburn, an employment attorney at Alston & Bird.

  • Businesses have a few options for dealing with the new rule: Give managers raises to get them over the threshold, start paying overtime, or curb worker hours.
  • It's a win-win for employees, whatever they choose, says Heidi Shierholz, president of the Economic Policy Institute, who worked on the Obama administration's ultimately failed efforts to raise the overtime threshold. "Workers will either get higher pay or they'll get their time back." (Axios)

FCC Reinstates Net Neutrality, But It’s Not As Easy As It Once Was


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 to bring back net neutrality, prohibiting service providers from discriminating against websites.

Why it matters: Net neutrality is important for ensuring equal access to the internet for all users. This decision protects consumers from potential throttling or blocking of websites.

The big picture: The debate about defining the boundaries of the internet in the modern world has become more complex. The FCC is studying how to handle issues like 'fast lanes' and 'specialized services' on the consumer internet.

The bottom line: With net neutrality restored, consumers can expect fair and equal access to online content. The decision safeguards against potential loopholes that may prioritize certain services over others. (Washington Post)

Failed Tourism Improvement District Bill Promises to Reappear in 2025


A bill that aimed to create tourism improvement districts (TIDs) around Indiana failed in 2024 but is expected to reappear in the 2025 legislative session.

Why it matters: The bill's failure means missed opportunities for local businesses to receive grants and funding from state taxes. The targeted audience for this article is Indiana residents and businesses interested in tourism development, and it's crucial for them to understand the potential impact and benefits of these districts.

The big picture: Tourism improvement districts serve as supplemental funding mechanisms for tourism promotion and development. They have been successful in other states, but Indiana has faced financial limitations in implementing similar ideas.

The bottom line: The reintroduction of the bill in the 2025 legislative session offers a new opportunity for communities to establish tourism improvement districts, potentially boosting tourism, supporting local businesses, and enhancing the quality of place in Indiana. (Statehouse File)

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Important Dates:


Tuesday, May 14th - Technical Corrections Day

Tuesday, May 14th - Legislative Council