- - Sunday, November 27, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s more good news in the coming new day in Washington. The Obama administration’s regulatory overreach, which has no basis in federal law, will die with the Obama presidency in January.

U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III has agreed with 21 states and more than 50 business organizations that filed federal lawsuits to block a job-killing Labor Department rule that would have unilaterally extended overtime pay to more than 4 million salaried workers.

Judge Mazzant’s injunction, issued last week, dooms the rule because, given the speed at which lawyers work, it probably can’t be successfully appealed by the Labor Department before Jan. 20, when the new day arrives. Such an appeal now would be merely face-saving bluster by the Labor Department, including its assurance that its lawyers are “confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule.” The department says it is weighing all of its legal options, and one of them includes closing its books and sending everyone home.

Judge Mazzant, who was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas by President Obama in 2014, agreed that the Labor Department doesn’t have the legal authority to require employers to pay time-and-a-half overtime to workers earning below a certain amount.

The proposed rule, which would have taken effect this week, would have made overtime pay available to full-time salaried employees earning up to $47,476 annually, more than double the current $23,660 maximum salary a worker is entitled to earn and retain eligibility for mandatory overtime pay.

The plaintiffs had argued the rule would likely have had the unintended consequence of raising the cost of doing business, and in the process requiring layoffs and curtailing hiring. At a minimum, it would have encouraged employers to ban or restrict overtime hours.

Business groups further argued that the proposal, however well-intentioned, would discourage innovation by making it more expensive for Americans to start companies and create products that would be price-competitive in the global marketplace. Technology startups, the plaintiffs contended, would be particularly hard-hit because start-up companies typically hire young employees who work long hours at lower pay to gain experience, often on the promise of getting a piece of the action if and when an innovative app or other product or service is taken successfully to market.

Judge Mazzant held that the Labor Department rule exceeded the authority granted to it by Congress, which he said gave the department the authority to define which workers are considered salaried, and to do so based only on the duties they perform, not by how much they earn.

“Congress defined the … exemption with regard to duties, which does not include a minimum salary level,” Judge Mazzant wrote. “The Department’s role is to carry out Congress’s intent. If Congress intended the salary requirement to supplant the duties test, then Congress, and not the Department, should make that change.”

The ruling strikes a blow for the rule of law, which the Obama administration has flouted when it has stood in the way of its leftist policy agenda. The enjoined overtime rule was reflective of the Obama dream of redistributing income by artificial means. Its pernicious notion that businesses are money trees to be harvested again and again, as with the Obamacare mandates and the minimum-wage increases, was summed up succinctly when Barack Obama in October 2008 told Joe Wurzelbacher (aka “Joe the Plumber”) that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” But the yield of a money tree is finite, after all.

The message at hand to Mr. Obama and the lawyers he has kept busy writing his suspect executive orders is plain and simple: Don’t mess with a judge who respects the Constitution.

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