Week Ending February 13, 2015
National Labor Relations Board Rule Attacked
On February 9, House and Senate GOP leaders introduced a “joint resolution of disapproval” under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block a major National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule. Under the rarely used CRA, Congress can review “major” rules before they take effect and overturn certain actions by government agencies. The NLRB rule scheduled to take effect in April 2015, would allow for quicker private sector union elections by shortening the time period between a formal call for a union-organizing election vote, and the election itself. Under the new rule, the waiting period could be as few as 11 to 14 days versus the current rule which requires a 25-day waiting period. The rule also allows for petitions and other documents to be filed electronically instead of by mail and generally delays legal challenges from employers until after a union vote occurs.
In order to successfully block the rule, both the House and the Senate would need to pass the resolution of disapproval. The President would retain his right to veto the legislation and two thirds of the House and Senate would need to vote to override the President’s veto. It is unlikely that the House and Senate would achieve the votes needed to override the President’s veto.
House Approves Bills to Extend Costly Tax Breaks for Business and Wealthy
The House voted largely along party lines to approve both the so-called America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2015 (H.R. 636) and Fighting Hunger Incentive Act of 2015 (H.R. 644). These bills cost a combined $93 billion over ten years and lack offsets to pay for them. H.R. 636 costs $77 billion and would modify and make permanent the deductions for certain business expenses. H.R. 644 combines four permanent tax extender bills that affect charitable contributions and provide tax breaks to businesses, private foundations, and wealthy individuals. House Democrats argued these types of tax breaks should be paid for by closing business and corporate tax loopholes and not adding to the deficit. Others also argued that it is inappropriate to vote on these tax extenders before the House considers other permanent tax extenders benefitting low-income and working families such as improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). President Obama’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto both of the House-passed bills.
House Education Committee Passes Partisan “No Child Left Behind” Bill
The House Education and the Workforce Committee voted 21-16 along party lines to approve a bill (H.R. 5) that revises current elementary and secondary education policy, known as “No Child Left Behind.” While both Republicans and Democrats agree that significant changes are needed, the Committee held no hearings to explore options in advance of this week’s vote. Instead, the bill that passed throws education policy largely back to states, with the funding essentially becoming a block grant. The bill would allow states to set their own accountability standards and interventions in failing schools. In particular, AFSCME strongly opposes the provision to allow Title I funds for disadvantaged students to follow those students as they move out of public schools, diluting those funds and further marginalizing schools and students in poor areas.
The Committee rejected all Democratic amendments, including the Democratic alternative offered by the Ranking Democrat, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). His substitute calls for states to establish accountability systems with academic performance targets, including targets for minority children and children with special needs. The lowest performing schools would be required to develop improvement plans. The proposal also creates a new funding stream to expand state-supported preschool for 4-year olds. In addition, the alternative includes a substitute background check provision to protect student safety, but which includes important worker protections.
H.R. 5 is expected to reach the House floor the last week of February. AFSCME strongly opposes the bill and encourages AFSCME activists to let Congress know that every child deserves a quality education. Sign the petition: http://educationvotes.nea.org/eseapetition/ to urge Congress to improve public education for all children.
Paid Sick Days Bill Reintroduced
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) reintroduced the Healthy Families Act requiring that all employers with 15 or more employees provide 7 days of earned, paid sick days for personal illness or to care for a sick family member. Nearly 40% of private sector workers have no paid sick days. AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders noted, “Today, in both married and single households, parents are working harder than ever to make ends meet. They need flexibility to care for their families without having to take time off and lose much-needed income.” Paid sick day policies have been implemented at the state and local levels and the evidence shows that they are working well without adverse business or economic effects.
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