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Overtime rules, lower Chinese tariffs and more: 6 new regulations taking effect Jan. 1

Ben Werschkul
·DC Producer

Policymakers around the country are home for the holidays but the impact of their decisions are about to be felt in a range of areas.

A number of rule changes – some in the works for years – are set to go into effect on Jan. 1 and will have an impacts on workplaces and financial markets in 2020.

Here’s six of the changes worth watching.

China lowers import tariffs on over 850 goods

China will lower some tariffs in the new year. Products from frozen pork to avocados to some types of semiconductors will be allowed into China for less starting on Jan. 1.

Beijing is instituting these “temporary rates” to lower the duties it collects and boost imports as its economy slows during the ongoing trade tensions with the United States.

China's President Xi Jinping speaks with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (not pictured) during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, December 23, 2019. Noel Celis/Pool via REUTERS
China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing on December 23. Noel Celis/Pool via REUTERS

China has also reportedly agreed to buy $200 billion worth of additional U.S. goods as part of phase one of the U.S.-China trade deal.

That deal will reportedly be signed in the coming days in Washington and is expected to further lower tariffs from the U.S. side as two countries begin negotiations for a second phase agreement.

New overtime rules for salaried workers

Earlier this year, the Department of Labor announced a “final rule” to make more workers eligible for overtime pay. The Labor Department estimates that 1.3 million American workers will be newly eligible for overtime in the new year.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Deputy Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella called it the “first successful update to the overtime regulations since 2004.”

The rule means that non-exempt employees who earn less than $35,568 a year in base salary “will be entitled to time-and-a-half overtime pay, regardless of their duties.” The previous rule set the annual level at $23,660 for a full-year worker.

The new rules institute a variety of other changes, including allowing employers to count other forms of payment – like certain bonuses or commissions – toward meeting the standard salary level that would make an employee not eligible for overtime.

These rule changes have long been a contentious issue: the Obama administration tried to change overtime eligibility but that effort was struck down in court.

Nearly half of states will raise their minimum wage in 2020

A slew of states are set to raise their minimum wages in the new year.

New York state will raise its wage on Dec. 31, and 13 more states have wage increases set to go into effect on Jan. 1. Seven more states — Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, South Dakota, and Vermont — have automatic cost-of-living adjustments that will also take effect Jan. 1.

Three more states and the District of Columbia have wage increases scheduled to take effect over the course of 2020.

Credit: David Foster/Yahoo Finance
Credit: David Foster/Yahoo Finance

The federal minimum wage has been fixed at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Workers in 21 states remain at that minimum. Democrats passed a bill this summer in the House of Representatives to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. As expected, the bill has not been taken up in the Senate.

Annual pay raises for military and civilian employees of the Department of Defense will also take effect. President Trump signed the raises as part of the Defense spending bill in December and touted the increases.

Revisions to the Volcker rule come into effect

In October, five federal financial regulatory agencies announced “finalized revisions to simplify compliance requirements relating to the ‘Volcker rule.’”

The rule, named after the late Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, is intended to limit the amount of proprietary trading that banking entities can do with their clients’ money, and was a centerpiece of the post-crisis Dodd-Frank financial regulatory framework.

Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker addresses the Bretton Woods Committee annual meeting at World Bank headquarters in Washington May 21, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)
Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker - shown in 2014 - died in December at the age of 92. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The revised rule creates simpler compliance requirements for companies that do not have significant trading activities. By contrast, firms with significant trading activity will have more stringent requirements.

The new rules, according to the announcement, “continue to prohibit proprietary trading, while providing greater clarity and certainty for activities allowed under the law.”

The California Consumer Privacy Act becomes law

California’s new law is being called one of the most significant regulations overseeing data collection practices in the country.

The California Consumer Privacy Act takes effect in January and is supposed to allow shoppers to opt out of allowing companies to sell their personal data.

It will likely impact consumers nationwide, as many retailers will allow customers not just in California to access such information online.

Companies will still be able to collect users’ data, including what they buy and where, their photos, etc. But companies must now tell you what they're collecting when you ask, and delete it all if you ask for that. And they can’t legally sell your data if you tell them not to.

The fate of the new law could also impact Washington as Congress wrestles with whether to tackle broader privacy legislation in 2020.

The US takes its turn in the one-year rotating G7 presidency

Finally, the United States formally takes the G7 presidency for 2020. The new position has already been an issue as President Trump announced, and then abruptly changed course two days later, his plan to hold the annual G7 meeting at one of his resorts.

In December, Trump confirmed that the G7 would be held at Camp David after all.

Since taking office, Trump has said Russia should be re-admitted to G7, which consists of the seven largest advanced economies in the world. Russia was kicked out after the country’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Trump’s call was largely ignored at the 2019 G7 meeting, hosted by France, but it could be different this year with the U.S. hosting.

Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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