While the legislation would open the door for planners, it would also give a green light to representatives of mutual funds, insurers, banks and national brokerages, many of which are exempted from having to register as investment advisors.

That irks the FPA and the CFP Board of Standards, which believe the Boehner bill in particular gives the financial services industry too much leeway to develop its own standards and restraints. "Who will do enforcement?" asks Michael Herndon, director of Public and Government Affairs in the CFP Board's Washington office. Herndon also expresses concern that if nonadvisors are allowed to offer advice in the workplace, they may also be allowed to offer advice on employees' outside investments. "Where will the line be drawn?" he asks.

LTC Tax Incentives

In other action designed to benefit and shore up retirees and their families, Senator Susan Collins (R-Me.) intro-duced a sprawling health-care bill that includes a tax break and other changes to encourage the purchase of long-term care insurance. Among the benefits, the bill calls for individuals to get an above-the-line federal income tax deduction for long-term care insurance premiums. The legislation would also permit LTC policies to be offered for the first time under employee-sponsored cafeteria plans and flexible spending accounts. It also gives individuals with long-term care needs a $3,000 tax credit phased in over four years. The Bush budget is proposing similar LTC insurance tax breaks. The President advanced these changes last year, as well.

"We'd really like to see a stand-alone bill, and we're working with the LTC Coalition to try to find a sponsor for it," says Suzanne Morgan, who specializes in insurance issues as the FPA's assistant director of government relations. The belief is that a streamlined bill will have a better shot at passage. Last summer, a bill that limited the break to lower- and middle-income households passed the House, but was never taken up by the Senate. While the Republican-controlled Congress may look seriously at passing a broader LTC tax credit, it remains a pricey measure that is expected to cost more than $10 billion over a decade.

Collins' bill also provides tax credits for buying health-care insurance, including one to small employers who offer workers coverage. The health-care hot button for this Congress, however, appears to be expanding Medicare to include prescription coverage for seniors.

With the slumping economy, the volatile stock market and the potential cost of war with Iraq looking pricey (military experts expect the assault to cost as much as $200 billion), domestic spending problems may find it tough going in the 108th Congress.

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