NY Lawmakers Pass GENDA
On January 15, the New York legislature passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Not only does this new law make it illicit to take adverse employment action against someone due to their gender expression or identity, but it also expands the state’s current hate crime law to include offenses with victims who are intentionally chosen, in whole or in part, based on their gender identity or expression.
As defined by the bill, the term “gender identity or expression” means a person’s actual or perceived gender-related identity, appearance, behavior, expression, or other gender-related characteristic regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth, including, but not limited to, the status of being transgender.
Legislators in the State Assembly have been trying to enact this law or a similar version for 16 years, and seized the opportunity to bring it to the governor’s desk as Democrats are now in control of both the State Assembly and Senate for the first time under Governor Cuomo.
According to State Senator Brad Hoylman, once this bill is signed into law by the governor, “you can’t be fired from your job, denied a seat at a restaurant, or have your lease terminated for your apartment simply because you’re transgender.”
The issue of whether gender identity discrimination falls under the umbrella of sex discrimination as defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is still ambiguous under federal law, even though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken the position that it does.
The bill, which was passed in both the State Assembly and Senate and has been delivered to the governor for his signature, makes clear that this type of discrimination is prohibited under New York State law, regardless of the interpretation of the federal statute.
Cuomo Outlines Plan for Legalization of Recreational Marijuana
During his annual State of the State address in January, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a bold agenda for the upcoming year which included legalizing marijuana for recreational use throughout the state. This is a swift turn around for the Governor, who condemned cannabis as a “gateway drug” less than years ago, but his current thoughts on the matter seem to have aligned with public sentiment.
Nine states and the District of Columbia have already legalized recreational marijuana, and it is legal for medical use in all but three states. Seeking to add to that number, Cuomo voiced his support for legalization, but included some important restrictions.
Cannabis would be available to adults 21 and older and subject to local veto, with counties and large cities able to opt out. However, counties and municipalities that elect not to participate will also forfeit any share in the tax revenues generated from the sale of marijuana. The governor estimated that legalization would bring in $300 million each year in tax revenue by the time it was fully implemented, but that would not be until 2023.
News and anticipation of legalization have businesses scrambling to take advantage of a novel and prosperous opportunity. Flora California Prime Inc., a cannabis company based out of San Diego, has set its eyes on Buffalo to build a high tech cannabis company, which would be one of the largest of its kind in the country.
Flora has been approved to acquire 47 acres of land on the Buffalo waterfront for the $200 million project, and estimates that it will result in the hiring of 500-1000 workers. SUNY Erie Community College has agreed to develop a curriculum to train a local workforce in the industry.
IRS Publishes Tax Tips for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses
Last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act [TCJA] made significant changes to the tax law that affect small businesses. The IRS posted two new resources on IRS.gov to help taxpayers understand how these changes affect their bottom line.
The first publication is in the form of an interactive PDF and is entitled “What’s New for Your Business.” This concise and comprehensive document includes pointers and information on everything from the new, lower corporate tax rate to depreciation and business deductions.
Two specific changes have been made that could greatly affect small businesses. First of all, the corporate tax rate has been lowered from 35% to 21% for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017. Second, businesses can immediately deduct as business expenses more of their business assets under the TCJA. Under the old tax laws, businesses could deduct up to $500,000 of depreciable assets in the first year they were placed in service, instead of depreciating them over time. This limit has been doubled to $1 million under the new law, allowing new businesses the breathing room they need to flourish.
The other resource that the IRS has made available is a webpage entitled “Tax Reform for Small Business.” This one-stop shop highlights important tax reform topics for small businesses, and users can link to several resources which are grouped by topic.
One such topic is the new deduction for qualified businesses. Eligible taxpayers may now deduct up to 20 percent of certain business income from domestic businesses operated as sole proprietorships or through partnerships, S corporations, trusts, and estates.
For more information and easy access to the above-mentioned resources, please click this link. (https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/new-irs-resources-on-irsgov-help-businesses-understand-tax-reform).
Prepared by Benjamin M. Jackson