House Education & Workforce Committee

Kline Statement: Hearing on "Reviewing the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 07/28/2015 - 12:00am
As is often the case when an agency secretary appears before the committee, we have a lot of ground to cover in a short period of time. That is especially true for an agency as big, powerful, and costly as the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

By the end of the current fiscal year, HHS is expected to spend approximately $1 trillion administering numerous programs affecting millions of Americans, including child care, welfare, health care, and early childhood development. At a time when families are being squeezed by a weak economy and record debt, we have an urgent responsibility to make sure the federal government is operating efficiently and effectively. It is a responsibility we take seriously, which is why this hearing is important and why we intend to raise a number of key issues.

For example, we are interested to learn about the department’s progress implementing recent changes to the Child Care and Development Block Grant program. Last year, the committee helped champion bipartisan reforms of the program to strengthen health and safety protections, empower parents, and improve the quality of care. This vital program has helped countless moms and dads provide for their families, and we hope the department is on track to implement these changes quickly and in line with congressional intent.

Another vital program for many low-income families is Head Start. Earlier this year, the committee outlined a number of key principles for strengthening the program, such as reducing regulatory burdens, as well as encouraging local innovation and better engagement with parents. The committee then solicited public feedback that would help turn these principles into a legislative proposal. 

It was in the midst of this effort to reform the law that the department decided to launch a regulatory restructuring of the program. Some of the department’s proposed changes will help improve the program; however, the sheer scope and cost of the rulemaking raises concerns and has led to some uncertainty among providers who serve these vulnerable children. Strengthening the law is a better approach than transforming a program through regulatory fiat, and we urge the administration to join us in that effort.

These two areas alone could fill up most of our time this morning, and I haven’t even mentioned services provided under the 1996 welfare reform law and the Older Americans Act. Of course, as you might expect, Secretary Burwell, on the minds of most members are the challenges the country continues to face because of the president’s health care law. Families, workers, and employers are learning more and more about the harmful consequences of this flawed law. For example:

  • Patients have access to fewer doctors. To control costs, it is estimated that insurance plans on the health care exchanges have 34 percent fewer providers than non-exchange plans, including 32 percent fewer primary care doctors and 42 percent fewer oncologists and cardiologists.

  • The law is plagued by waste and abuse. In 2014, investigators with the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office used fake identities to enroll 12 individuals into subsidized coverage on a health care exchange. Just this month, GAO announced 11 of the 12 fake individuals are still enrolled and receiving taxpayer subsidies.

  • More than seven million individuals paid a penalty for failing to purchase government-approved health insurance, roughly 25 percent more than the administration expected under the worst case scenario.

  • According to the Associated Press, at least 4.7 million individuals were notified that their insurance plans were cancelled because they did not abide by the rigid mandates established under the health care law.

  • The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the law will result in 2.5 million fewer full-time jobs. This reflects what we’ve heard over and over again from employers who have no choice but to cut hours or delay hiring because of the law’s burdensome mandates.

  • Health care costs continue to skyrocket. According to the New York Times, health insurance companies are seeking rate increases of “20 percent to 40 percent or more,” suggesting markets are still adjusting to the “shock waves set off by the Affordable Care Act.”

Finally, after all the mandates, fraud, loss of coverage, fewer jobs, higher costs, and nearly $2 trillion in new government spending, it’s estimated more than 25 million individuals will still lack basic health care coverage. And yet, just last month, President Obama said the law “worked out better than some of us anticipated.” Of course, for those who opposed this government takeover of health care, this is precisely what we anticipated and it is precisely why the American people deserve a better approach.

 

Walberg Statement: Hearing on "Examining the Costs and Consequences of the Administration's Overtime Proposal"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 07/23/2015 - 12:00am
Just over a month ago, this subcommittee convened to discuss the need to modernize the confusing and outdated regulations implementing federal wage and hour standards. At the time, the administration had not yet released its overtime proposal, but several of our witnesses were already worried about what the proposal would look like and the consequences for workers and job creators.

 

Recognizing this administration’s propensity for executive overreach, I shared many of those concerns. But I was still hopeful that somehow, this time might be different – that somehow the administration would listen to all of the concerns, consider all of the data, and put forward a proposal that would help do some good without doing any harm. As it turns out, that optimism was misguided, much like the rule the administration eventually proposed.

In the weeks since the administration unveiled its overtime proposal, even more concerns have been raised about the impact it would have on both employees and employers. Various studies and analyses have shown the administration’s plan would result in billions of new costs for employers annually – a reality that is tough for many employers in this economy, but even tougher on small businesses and nonprofits. Unfortunately, the proposal’s anticipated consequences extend far beyond added costs and could have much more serious implications for many Americans.

Of all the concerns we’ve heard about this proposal, the ones I find most alarming are those that it will limit flexibility and opportunity in the workplace. As employers struggle to cope with the added costs of these new overtime rules, many salaried employees will be demoted to hourly workers with lower pay and stricter schedules. With that shift comes fewer opportunities for on-the-job training, talent development, and managerial experience. All of which leads to fewer opportunities to advance up the economic ladder.

One of the most inspiring things about the American workforce is that a crew member at a fast-food restaurant can work hard, earn a spot in management, and eventually go on to become a leader at a major U.S. business. That’s the American Dream, one that all policymakers should work to encourage, not stifle. I’m sure Mr. Williams will have more to say on that topic. Unfortunately, if the administration’s proposal has the effect many anticipate it will, stories like that of Mr. Williams will become harder to come by.

In as much as the administration’s proposal is flawed for what it would do, it’s equally disappointing in what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t address the complexity of current regulations, and it doesn’t reduce unnecessary litigation. As Chairman Kline and I said when the proposal was first unveiled, it’s a missed opportunity. What we need instead – and what the American people deserve – is a balanced approach that will strengthen employee safeguards, eliminate employer confusion and uncertainty, and encourage growth and prosperity for those working hard to make a living. From what we’ve heard so far, the administration’s proposal is not that approach.

This committee has held numerous hearings and explored various efforts over the years to improve the rules and regulations guiding federal wage and hour standards. We’ve heard from employees and employers alike that the current system is too complex, burdensome, and outdated. And we’ve seen studies that show related litigation is on the rise. For all these reasons, we will continue to urge the administration to improve these rules and regulations responsibly and in a way that doesn’t destroy opportunities for hardworking Americans.

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Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 12:00am

Today the committee will consider H.R. 511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015. This important legislation will prevent the National Labor Relations Board from exerting jurisdiction over Native American businesses operating on tribal lands.

As we all know, policies governing labor-management relations are extremely complex and controversial. More than 80 years after its enactment, the National Labor Relations Act continues to be a source of heated debate in the United States Congress and in workplaces across the country. No doubt that debate will continue to take place in this committee as we work to ensure the law is implemented fairly and objectively.

But that’s a debate for another time. The bill before us is not about union workers versus nonunion workers; it’s not about big business versus big labor; and it’s not about Republican versus Democrat. The bill we are considering today is about whether Native Americans should be free to govern employee-employer relations in a way they determine is best for their workplaces.

Over the last 10 years, the National Labor Relations Board has taken an approach contrary to the rights of Native Americans and long-standing labor policies. In a 2004 decision, the board broke from more than 30 years of precedent and decided it has jurisdiction over tribal activities. Since that time, the board has determined on a case-by-case basis whether a business on tribal land is for commercial purposes, and if it is, the board will assert its jurisdiction over that business.

At a subcommittee hearing held in June, Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut, criticized the board’s decision as an “affront to Indian Country.” He went on to say that the board’s flawed logic “suggests that Indian tribes are incapable of developing laws and institutions to protect the rights of employees who work on our reservations.” Jefferson Keel, Lieutenant Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, described the board’s approach as “incompatible with the very nature of sovereignty and self-government.”

Imagine the public outcry we would hear across the country if the board began imposing its will on enterprises owned and operated by state and local governments, such as schools, parks, and recreation centers. Are we supposed to believe that state leaders in California and Connecticut are more capable of managing their affairs than the leaders of the Shakopee and Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribes? Yet for more than a decade, that’s precisely the message the board has sent to Native Americans.

It is time for Congress to right this wrong, and the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act will help us do just that. The bill amends the National Labor Relations Act to reaffirm that the National Labor Relations Board cannot assert its authority over Indian tribes and enterprises or institutions owned and operated by an Indian tribe on tribal land. This is the same standard that was in place before the board abruptly changed course and it must be the standard that governs the board’s actions moving forward.

I want to thank Congressman Todd Rokita for his leadership on this important issue. Over the years, a number of men and women in Congress have helped lead the fight on behalf of tribal sovereignty. Thanks to their hard work, we are here considering a proposal that will restore to Indian tribes the ability to regulate labor relations in their businesses and ensure they are afforded the same rights and protections enjoyed by state and local government leaders.

Two years ago, President Obama signed an executive order establishing a White House Council on Native American Affairs. Now, I am not usually one to cite favorably an executive order by the president, but I do believe this one is pertinent to today’s meeting. The executive order says:

“The United States recognizes a government-to-government relationship, as well as a unique legal and political relationship, with federally recognized tribes … Honoring these relationships and respecting the sovereignty of tribal nations is critical to advancing tribal self-determination and prosperity.”

That is the essence of why we are here today – to honor and respect the sovereignty of tribal nations. Native Americans have spoken loud and clear: They do not want an unelected and unaccountable federal labor board dictating policies in their workplaces. I urge my colleagues to stand with the Native American community by supporting the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act.

Rokita Statement: Markup of H.R. 511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 12:00am

Before I explain the technical changes included in the substitute amendment, I’d like to take a minute to discuss the importance of the broader legislation.

As the chairman said, the purpose of this bill is simple: to protect the sovereignty and promote governmental parity, of Native Americans by making it very clear that tribal businesses on tribal lands are free to operate with the same autonomy provided to any other sovereign body.

Since the early 1830s, our courts have held that “tribes possess a nationhood status and retain inherent powers of self-government.” Over the years, there has been widespread agreement on both sides of the aisle that these rights should be protected and that tribes should remain sovereign – free to govern and develop policies that best meet the needs of their members. Unfortunately, in recent years, the National Labor Relations Board has threatened that sovereignty by exerting control over tribal businesses.

For nearly 70 years, the NLRB respected Native American sovereignty, holding that tribes should be free from outside intervention. But in 2004, the board reversed course and overturned long-standing precedent with its San Manuel Bingo & Casino decision. Since then, the board has used a subjective test to determine when and where to exert its jurisdiction over Native American tribes. There shouldn’t be a test, as was said at the hearing.  

Not surprisingly, the Native American community strongly opposed the board’s move, and today, we continue to hear strong concerns with what many consider an attack on tribal sovereignty. Unfortunately, these concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears at the NLRB as the board continues to exert its authority over Native American tribes, and the problem is only getting worse and is creating uncertainty for tribal governments and tribally owned businesses, often in regions that can least afford it.

At a subcommittee hearing just last month, tribal leaders said they’ve seen “an increasingly aggressive approach to enforcement by the board, which creates unacceptable risks and uncertainties for all tribal nation rights under federal law and to their dignity as sovereigns.” If enacted, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act will put an end to the board’s overreach and give authority over labor relations back to tribal governments.

As Dr. Roe said at last month’s hearing, “We should never stand idly by while the sovereignty of Native Americans is threatened.” And that’s why we are here today. The legislation we’re considering will prevent the NLRB from asserting its jurisdiction over businesses owned by Native American tribes on tribal lands. It’s a bipartisan, commonsense proposal that will provide legal certainty to the Native American community and restore a standard that was in place for years before the misguided NLRB San Manuel decision.

I appreciate all that my colleagues have done over the years to move this issue forward, and I am very pleased that we’re taking this next step today. The technical change in the proposed substitute amendment clarifies that the National Labor Relations Act does not apply to tribal enterprises and institutions, as well as the tribal governments themselves. I urge my colleagues to support the substitute, as well as the underlying bill, to help provide Native American tribes the legal clarity and labor sovereignty they deserve.

Rep. Bishop: Student Success Act Builds a Better Path Forward for Students

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 07/15/2015 - 12:30pm

http://edworkforce.house.gov/studentsuccessact/ 

The nation’s one-size-fits-all mandates dictating K-12 education have been letting students down for years. Federal involvement in classrooms is at an all-time high. Yet far too many schools are ill-equipped to make the grade. The Obama Administration has only made a broken system worse by imposing a backdoor education agenda on states and school districts through pet projects and temporary, conditional waivers.

As Education and the Workforce Committee member Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) writes in a recent op-ed:

For too long, the Department of Education has disregarded the 10th Amendment and our state’s ability to effectively lead the people it knows best – including our students. It doesn’t make sense to treat Brighton or Rochester, Michigan’s school districts like Brooklyn, New York’s or Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s. There cannot be just one, broad-stroke approach to achieving student success.

Fortunately, the Student Success Act places the country on a new course. Rep. Bishop continues:

While serving as the Senate Majority Leader of Michigan, I saw firsthand how much more effective we could be when control over education decisions was kept at the state versus the federal level. I’ve taken that experience with me to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where my colleagues and I have focused on reducing the federal footprint in the classroom.

That’s one of the goals behind the
Student Success Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed last week. Its improvements to our K-12 system would give states the freedom to choose what works best for them without the strings attached, including additional protection for states that choose to opt-out of Common Core. Best of all, it empowers parents and educators with greater flexibility by eliminating regulations that monopolize how and where students are taught.

This Congress has a duty to build a better path forward for our children. The
Student Success Act does just that.

Americans deserve a better law, one that will help ensure every child in every school has access to an excellent education. By passing the Student Success Act, Congress has moved one step closer to that goal.

To read the op-ed in Detroit News, click here.

To learn more about the Student Success Act, click here.

 

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Rokita Statement: Hearing on “Child Nutrition Assistance: Looking at the Cost of Compliance for States and Schools”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 06/24/2015 - 10:00am
We all know the important role healthy food plays in a child’s education. We cannot expect children to learn or excel in the classroom if they are hungry or are not properly nourished.

That’s why we on the Education and the Workforce Committee have been examining child nutrition programs to ensure they are effectively and efficiently providing children access to nutritious meals. It goes without saying your commitment to serving students is vital to achieving that goal.

The question we want to answer today is: are federal policies giving you the tools and flexibility you need to succeed in implementing child nutrition programs so that your students can succeed in the classroom? Based on what we have heard from other stakeholders, the federal role in these programs may be doing more to hinder your success than help it.

Following the 2010 reauthorization of the national school lunch and breakfast programs, the Department of Agriculture issued a number regulations that expanded Washington’s influence over K-12 cafeterias. The department has narrowly defined what types of food can be served in schools and how often, the maximum number of calories students are allowed to eat per meal, and the price a student must pay per meal.

While these regulations are well intended, states and schools are struggling to comply with them, and the very children we aim to serve are paying the price. While program costs, administrative burdens, and food waste are piling up, portion sizes, food offerings, and the number of students participating in the program are on the decline. In my home state of Indiana, for example, the number of lunches served each year has declined by more than six million since the regulations went into effect in 2012.

I’ve heard these concerns from my colleagues and constituents, and I’ve read the reports from government watchdogs, but – as the saying goes – I needed to see it to believe it. Earlier this year, I joined students and staff for lunch at Cloverdale Middle School in Indiana, where food service director Billy Boyette described the challenges he and his staff face to provide meals that both comply with federal regulations and appeal to students.

From firsthand experience, I can verify that despite the increased federal involvement in the school meals programs, many students are still going to class hungry. Furthermore, reports from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office raise concerns about whether or not the resources for these programs are going to the students who need it most.

If our shared goal is to increase student success in the classroom, and if we know that nutritious meals play an important role in that success, wasting limited taxpayer dollars hardly seems like a favorable outcome.

That’s why we are here today. As education leaders who have committed themselves to serving students, you provide critical insight into what’s working and what isn’t and what types of policies Congress should consider as we move forward with reauthorization.

It’s time to provide those responsible for implementing child nutrition programs with the flexibility they need to ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent and students are well served. I am confident learning from your experiences, observations, and recommendations will inform our efforts to accomplish just that.

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Roe Statement: Hearing on “Restricting Access to Financial Advice: Evaluating the Costs and Consequences for Working Families and Retirees”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 10:00am
I wish we were here to discuss a proposal that enjoyed broad bipartisan support, one that would help strengthen our economy and improve the lives of hardworking men and women. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Instead, we are here to address a regulatory scheme that will hurt a lot of families, retirees, and small business owners, and it could not come at a worse possible time.

One of the most difficult challenges we face as a country is a lack of real retirement security for America’s families. The defined benefit pension system continues to experience a decades-long decline, while many workers are still rebuilding the savings they lost in the recent recession. Due to these and other challenges – including a persistently weak economy – too many workers are retiring without the means necessary to ensure their financial security.

Our goal as policymakers should be to advance bold, bipartisan solutions that will help more Americans plan, invest, and save for retirement. Regrettably, the department’s fiduciary regulation would move our country in the opposite direction. It would cut off a vital source of support many low- and middle-income families and small business owners rely on, and that is the help of a trusted financial advisor.

Four years ago, the subcommittee examined a similar proposal that was later withdrawn under intense bipartisan opposition. I said at the time that anyone who provides investment assistance should be well trained, committed to high ethical and professional standards, and devoted to the best interests of those they are serving.

That is why financial advisors have long been subject to a host of securities, tax, and disclosure requirements. It is a complex system of rules and regulations, but it is an important one that has worked well for decades. That does not mean we shouldn’t look for opportunities to improve current standards. But we cannot – in any way – make it harder for workers, retirees, and small business owners to receive the financial advice they may need.

Yet that is precisely what this regulatory proposal would do. Offering some of the most basic assistance would be prohibited, such as advice on rolling over funds from a 401(k) to an IRA. Financial advisors would no longer be able to assist individuals in how to manage their funds upon retirement. And small business owners would be denied help in selecting the right investment options for their workforce, which will lead to fewer employees enrolled in a retirement plan.

It has been suggested on numerous occasions that this proposal will simply apply to financial advisors the same standard recognized in the medical profession. Mr. Secretary, I believe you have drawn that comparison from time to time. It is a clever talking point, but one that couldn’t be more flawed.

As a physician with more than 30 years of experience treating patients, let me just say that the approach reflected in this proposal would destroy what’s left of our health care system. Imagine what would happen if doctors were prohibited from receiving compensation, or were required to sign a contract with each patient before delivering services, or were forced to publish online each and every treatment that had been prescribed the following year. No doctor could run a successful practice under this type of regulatory regime, and no responsible financial advisor will be able to either.

Make no mistake, if this rule goes into effect, a lot of people will quickly learn that their financial adviser – someone they may have known and trusted for years – will no longer be able to take their call. And it is important to note that low- and middle-income families are the ones who will bear the brunt of this misguided proposal. They will lose access to the personal service they rely on and be forced to find suitable advice online or simply fend for themselves.

As is often the case with big government schemes, the wealthiest Americans will do just fine and those we want to help will be hurt the most. Mr. Secretary, this latest fiduciary proposal will lead to the same harmful consequences as the first and should suffer the same fate: Please withdraw this proposal and work with this committee on a responsible, bipartisan approach that will strengthen protections for investors and preserve robust access to financial advice. Our nation’s workers and retirees deserve nothing less.

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Roe Statement: Hearing on H.R. 511, Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 06/16/2015 - 2:00pm
Upholding Native American rights of self-determination has long been a priority. As far back as the 1830s, when the governmental authority of tribes was first challenged, our courts have held that “tribes possess a nationhood status and retain inherent powers of self-government.” For decades, policymakers have agreed on the importance of protecting these fundamental rights. We should never stand idly by while the sovereignty of Native Americans is threatened, and that is exactly why we’re here today.
             
A little more than 10 years ago, the National Labor Relations Board overturned long-standing precedent with the landmark San Manuel Bingo & Casino decision and began using a subjective test to determine when and where to exert its jurisdiction over Indian tribes.
         
This action was met with significant opposition from the Native American community and considered by many to be an attack on tribal sovereignty. In fact, at a hearing of this subcommittee in 2012, Robert Odawi Porter, president of the Seneca Nation of Indians, called the move “unfounded” and a violation of treaty rights. During the same hearing, I myself expressed concern with the board’s policy and its flawed interpretation of the law. Unfortunately, the board has ignored these and similar concerns and continues to exert its authority over Indian tribes.
                  
To make matters worse, the NLRB’s actions have had ramifications that extend beyond threatening tribal sovereignty. The subjective nature of the board’s process for determining jurisdiction has also produced a mess of legal confusion. Years of litigation have produced inconsistent and misguided board decisions, compounding the uncertainty felt by Native American tribes and their businesses.
             
To help address these concerns and preserve tribal sovereignty over labor policies, our colleague Todd Rokita introduced H.R. 511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. The bill would prevent the NLRB from asserting its jurisdiction over businesses owned by Native Americans on tribal lands, codifying a board standard that existed long before the San Manuel decision. In doing so, it would protect Native Americans from NLRB interference and provide legal certainty to the nation’s Indian tribes. It’s a commonsense proposal that has attracted bipartisan support.
                   
Today, we will hear from tribal leaders who will share their experiences and discuss the importance of protecting their cherished sovereignty. I look forward to hearing their views on the reforms outlined in the bill.

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Kline Statement: Hearing on "Child Nutrition Assistance: Are Federal Rules and Regulations Serving the Best Interests of Schools and Families?"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 06/16/2015 - 10:00am
We all know the important role nutrition plays in a child’s development and education. As I’ve said before, it’s just commonsense that if children are hungry or malnourished, then they are less likely to succeed in the classroom. That’s why the federal government has long invested in programs that aim to provide America’s most vulnerable students the nutrition assistance they need.
 
Ensuring children have access to healthy food is a goal we all share and lies at the heart of our effort to reform federal child nutrition programs, many of which are set to expire later this year. We have conducted several hearings and briefings to learn more about these programs, as well as the rules and regulations that dictate their implementation at the state and local levels.
 
What we have learned from students, parents, school nutrition professionals, government watchdogs, other key stakeholders, and yes, even the Department of Agriculture, is that the latest reauthorization of federal child nutrition laws is the most far-reaching and costliest in a generation. Current law requires the department to prescribe how much money schools charge for meals, what food can and cannot be served in schools, and how much of it can be served.
 
In other words, Washington is responsible for deciding what and how much our children eat. These regulations have created an environment where students are not getting the nourishment they need, and food and taxpayer dollars wind up in the trashcan.
 
Julia Bauscher, president of the School Nutrition Association, conveyed to the committee the concerns she is hearing from school nutrition professionals across the country. Julia described how regulations are resulting in harmful consequences that threaten the ability of schools to best serve students. She went on to decry the “sharp increase in costs and waste and the historic decline in student lunch participation under the new requirements.”
 
We are often told that more than 90 percent of participating schools are complying with the law. First, as we learned from the Government Accountability Office, it is highly likely this number is overly optimistic. But let’s not forget that schools that choose to participate must comply with the law. The question isn’t how many schools are in in compliance, the question is: At what cost?
 
The department estimates that participating school districts will be forced to absorb $3.2 billion in additional compliance costs over a five-year period. To make matters worse, fewer students are being served. Since the regulations were put in place, participation in the school meals programs has declined more rapidly than any other period over the last three decades, with 1.4 million fewer children being served each day.

I saw these challenges firsthand during my visit to the Prior Lake School District in Savage, Minnesota. Students described smaller portion sizes and limited options that left students hungry and more likely to buy junk food. After students petitioned the school board, Prior Lake has decided to drop out of the school meals program next school year. It is the only way the school can meet the needs of its students.
 
And the problems with the law do not stop there. The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Agriculture and the GAO identified examples of programs misusing taxpayer dollars, raising serious concerns about whether or not we are actually assisting those in need.
 
As we work to reauthorize federal child nutrition programs, we must find solutions that will ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent and children are well served. We know developing a one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer. More mandates and more money aren’t the answer either. Instead, we should look to improve these programs by giving states and school districts the flexibility they need to fulfill the promise of child nutrition assistance.
 
Duke Storen from the not-for-profit organization Share Our Strength advised at a recent hearing, “It’s critical … to remove bureaucratic barriers and create efficiencies that will allow us to reach those kids who currently go without.” I look forward to discussing how we can achieve just that without imposing more burdens on our schools.

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Next Week: Hearings to Examine Child Nutrition, Tribal Sovereignty, and Fiduciary Regulation

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 06/12/2015 - 1:00pm
The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a number of hearings during the week of June 15, 2015, to discuss important issues facing classrooms and workplaces. Hearings will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
        
On Tuesday, June 16 at 10:00 a.m., the full committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Child Nutrition Assistance: Are Federal Rules and Regulations Serving the Best Interests of Schools and Families?” The hearing will provide members an opportunity to examine rules and regulations governing child nutrition policies, as well as discuss possible reforms to improve federal child nutrition programs. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is scheduled to testify.
           
On Tuesday, June 16 at 2:00 p.m., the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), will hold a legislative hearing on H.R. 511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015. Members will examine legislation introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), which would prevent the National Labor Relations Board from exerting jurisdiction over Native American businesses operated on tribal lands. Witness information will be available here.

On Wednesday, June 17 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing entitled, “Restricting Access to Financial Advice: Evaluating the Costs and Consequences for Working Families and Retirees.” Members and witnesses will examine a proposal by the Department of Labor that would vastly expand the definition of “fiduciary” and how the proposed rule will impact workers, small businesses, and retirees. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez is scheduled to testify. Information on other witnesses will be available here.
         
For more information about hearings scheduled for next week, visit edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
  

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Witnesses Describe Challenges Caused by Complex, Outdated Wage and Hour Regulatory System

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 5:00pm
The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), today held a hearing to explore concerns with regulations implementing federal wage and hour standards. Members discussed how the complex, burdensome, and outdated regulatory structure of the Fair Labor Standards Act is impacting workplaces and creating uncertainty for both employees and employers.

“For more than 75 years, the Fair Labor Standards Act has been the foundation of our nation’s wage and hour protections. It establishes important rights for American workers and continues to guide employers in protecting those rights,” Chairman Walberg said. “However, the workplace looks very different today than it did in 1938 when the law was enacted, and the rules and regulations defining the law are failing to meet the needs of a 21st century workforce.”

Employees who are covered by the law’s requirements are referred to as “non-exempt” employees, and those who are not covered are considered “exempt” employees. Most professional, administrative, or managerial employees qualify as exempt as defined in regulations written and enforced by the Department of Labor. Concerns have been raised that the current regulatory structure is extremely complicated and was written before the advent of smartphones and telecommuting.

“The FLSA is a cornerstone among America’s workplace statutes,” stated Nicole Berberich, director of Human Resources at the Cincinnati Animal Referral and Emergency Center. “But the [law] was crafted for a different time, and should be evaluated to ensure it still encourages employers to hire, grow, and better meet the needs of their employees.” Berberich described the difficult process employers face trying to properly classify employees, noting, “An employer acting in good faith can easily mistakenly misclassify employees” and warned that “the stakes in improperly classifying employees are high.”

Leonard Court, an attorney with more than 40 years of experience dealing with wage and hour policies, echoed these concerns, explaining there is “ample opportunity for differing interpretations and misunderstandings of the law’s requirements in the contemporary setting.” Unfortunately, the enforcement policies of the current administration have only made these challenges worse, Court added, by shifting from an approach built on “cooperation and education to one of confrontation and coerced settlement.”

Expressing similar views, Jamie Richardson, vice president at White Castle System, Inc., explained his company’s concerns “in light of a regulatory regime that is increasingly proscriptive” and “seems increasingly disconnected from the needs and desires of the modern worker and contemporary business owners.” He noted, “Today, with many of our urban centers continuing to suffer record high levels of unemployment … regulatory actions go beyond providing protections for those employed and make it harder for employers everywhere to create more jobs.”

Witnesses also discussed a pending Department of Labor proposal that is expected to significantly alter existing overtime regulations. Berberich expressed concern that upcoming changes may “further exacerbate an already complicated set of regulations” and “further limit workplace flexibility.” Richardson agreed, stating, “Rather than providing more opportunities for individuals to earn overtime pay, it appears that the new regulations will only result in a more complicated law … and more litigation.”

Acknowledging concerns related to the department’s pending proposal, Chairman Walberg said, “Thanks to an administration notorious for overreaching and governing through executive fiat, I share many of those same concerns … it is my hope the department will heed these concerns and ultimately put forward a proposal that encourages – rather than stifles – productivity, personal opportunity, and economic growth.”

 

 

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Walberg Statement: Hearing on “Reviewing the Rules and Regulations Implementing Federal Wage and Hour Standards”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 12:00am
For more than 75 years, the Fair Labor Standards Act has been the foundation of our nation’s wage and hour protections. It establishes important rights for American workers and continues to guide employers in protecting those rights. However, the workplace looks very different today than it did in 1938 when the law was enacted, and the rules and regulations defining the law are failing to meet the needs of a 21st century workforce. Regulations that made sense long before the advent of smartphones and telecommuting simply don’t work in the modern economy.
 
Failing to keep up with the changing workplace, the law’s regulatory structure has become more complex and burdensome. Both employees and employers have difficulty understanding their rights and responsibilities and must constantly contend with conflicting legal interpretations of the law. Despite sincere efforts to act in the best interest of workers, many well-intentioned employers face costly legal battles because of a flawed regulatory system, and we have evidence to back that up.
 
A report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office revealed a surge in FLSA lawsuits during the past 20 years, with the number of lawsuits increasing by 514 percent since 1991. Let me repeat that – there has been a 514 percent increase in FLSA-related litigation over the last 25 years. That is a troubling increase and strong indication that something is not working.
 
To help address this significant problem, GAO urged the Department of Labor to “develop a systematic approach for identifying areas of confusion about the FLSA that contribute to possible violations and improving the guidance it provides to employers and workers in those areas.”
 
Simply stated, we need a system that holds bad actors accountable when they break the law, but that also helps law-abiding employers uphold their obligations. I hope some of our witnesses will shed light on whether the department is implementing GAO’s recommendations and what impact it may be having on our nation’s workplaces.
 
However, even the best administrative guidance cannot make up for other shortcomings that exist and are harming those working hardest to jumpstart the economy.
 
This isn’t the first time these concerns have been raised. In fact, this subcommittee has held a number of hearings in recent years looking at this very same issue. It has been a focus of our continued oversight for a simple reason: We want to ensure the regulations that underpin the Fair Labor Standards Act serve the best interests of both American workers and employers.
 
As Chairman Kline and I noted a year ago, we are ready and willing to be a partner in a responsible effort to modernize current regulations, but I would stress that it must be a responsible effort. The American people deserve a system that is simple, clear, and can meet the demands of the modern workplace. The last thing policymakers should do – including those in the administration – is to make a bad regulatory system worse.
 
In the coming days, the department is expected to release a proposal intended to “update” federal wage and hour regulations. Rumors are running rampant, and we know concerns are being raised about what the proposal may entail. Thanks to an administration notorious for overreaching and governing through executive fiat, I share many of those same concerns. I expect we will continue to hear about the consequences for workers and job creators if the administration goes too far in the regulatory proposal it is expected to release.
 
However, hope springs eternal, and it is my hope the department will heed these concerns and ultimately put forward a proposal that encourages – rather than stifles – productivity, personal opportunity, and economic growth. Any proposal that would inflict harm on the nation’s workplaces and move the country in the wrong direction will be opposed by this committee and, no doubt, the American people.
 
With that, I will now recognize the senior Democratic member of the subcommittee, Representative Frederica Wilson, for her opening remarks.

 

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***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Subcommittee to Examine Federal Wage and Hour Regulations

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 06/09/2015 - 10:00am
On Wednesday, June 10 at 10:30 a.m., the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), will hold a hearing entitled, “Reviewing the Rules and Regulations Implementing Federal Wage and Hour Standards.” The hearing will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
         
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets forth federal wage and hour protections for public- and private-sector employees. Employees who are covered by the law’s requirements are referred to as “non-exempt” employees, and those who are not covered are considered “exempt” employees. Most professional, administrative, or managerial employees qualify as exempt as defined in regulations written and enforced by the Department of Labor. The regulatory structure surrounding the law has grown increasingly complex, burdensome, and outdated, producing an environment of legal uncertainty for employers and employees. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) found a significant increase in FLSA-related litigation in recent years and recommended the department develop a systematic approach to identifying areas of confusion and to improve guidance in those areas.
   
Wednesday’s hearing will provide an overview of the regulations implementing the Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as examine concerns with how current rules and enforcement policies affect workplaces. To learn more about the hearing, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.                 

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WITNESS LIST

Ms. Nicole Berberich
Human Resources Director
Cincinnati Animal Referral and Emergency (CARE) Center
Cincinnati, OH

Mr. Leonard Court
Senior Partner
Crowe & Dunlevy
Oklahoma City, OK

The Honorable Seth Harris
Former Acting Secretary of Labor and Deputy Secretary of Labor
Ithaca, NY

Mr. Jamie Richardson
Vice President
White Castle System, Inc.
Columbus, OH

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