The amended Toxic Substance Control Act requires EPA to take expedited regulatory action under section 6(a) for certain persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals; the chemicals subject to this expedited action must meet the statutory criteria in section 6(h) and must be drawn from the 2014 update of the TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments. Specifically, EPA is directed to move forward without completing a risk evaluation.
We have a lot of work ahead of us today, so in the hopes of leading by example, I will keep my remarks brief.
It is my belief that lifelong learning is what enables Americans to pursue the lives they want for themselves. The desire for lifelong learning is not always developed in a semester-by-semester or a 2, 4, or 6 year degree program. It is an individual and deeply personal calling that drives people to learn more about the world around them, and in turn, learn more about themselves.
Lifelong learning is the root of all innovation, which, in this country, has always been the foundation for real prosperity.
It was the desire to be a lifelong learner that helped me persevere through the seven long years it took for me to become the first member of my family to earn a baccalaureate degree.
I saw that same desire for lifelong learning in the students I worked with for many years as a college instructor, academic advisor, and administrator.
The conversations I had with those students over the years have stayed with me as we have worked toward this markup today. Those students came from different backgrounds, different communities, all kinds of family structures, and were all ages. But they asked the same questions—the same questions I asked:
“Can I finish this program on time?”
“Can I finish this program at all?”
“How am I ever going to pay for this?”
“Will I get a job when I graduate?”
“Is all of this work even worth it?”
The times have changed, but for any student in any sector of higher education, the questions have not. That is why we’re here today.
Today, there are six million unfilled jobs in this country. Those jobs are unfilled because many employers have found that applicants lack the needed skills for those jobs.
Today, Americans carry more than a trillion dollars in student debt. Somehow, despite the six types of federal student loans, nine repayment plans, eight forgiveness programs, and 32 deferment and forbearance options out there, college costs continue to surge, leaving millions of families paying the price for well-intentioned but poorly executed federal involvement.
That is why this bill is before us today. No Americans—no matter their walk of life—can afford for us to simply reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). They need us to reform it.
The members of this committee have much to be proud of, not just in this bill, but over the course of this year. This spring, when we worked together to introduce, mark up, and see the House pass the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, we sent a clear message to the overwhelming majority of Americans who do not have a baccalaureate degree.
We affirmed the simple fact that all education is career education, and that their options and their choices mattered to us. We showed them that we agreed with them that there is real dignity and value in pursuing a technical skills-based education that allows them to be the best they could be in the careers they really wanted to pursue.
The PROSPER Act sends that same message to those who believe that a postsecondary education is the key to their future success. It reforms federal education policies to allow, not hinder, the pursuit of lifelong learning, wherever that may lead.
It promotes innovation, access, and completion—for students. It simplifies and improves student aid—for students. It empowers students and families to make informed decisions, and it ensures strong accountability and a limited federal role so institutions spend less time complying with outdated federal requirements and spend more time and resources on what’s really important—the students.
No bill is perfect when it begins its course through the legislative process, and we can all agree that no bill is perfect when it reaches the end of the legislative process. But we are here today because we cannot allow the status quo to continue. High school students, stay-at-home moms, single parents working multiple jobs to make ends meet, older Americans who still have so much to offer—these are just a few examples of those looking to postsecondary options to help them live a successful life.
I thank the members of this committee who have worked together so diligently with these Americans, our constituents, in mind. The PROSPER Act is for them.
To read the PDF version, click here.
To learn more about the PROSPER Act, click here.
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I am proud to be a cosponsor of the PROSPER Act, and truly believe the measures within this bill are essential to improve access, completion, and accountability across the higher education system. Most importantly, it will provide students with the opportunity to complete an education that will put them one step closer to achieving the American Dream.
I will echo what Chairwoman Foxx has said in the past to members of this committee as we crafted the PROSPER Act: we are in the business of reforming higher education, not just reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.
A simple reauthorization of the 1965 law will not address the needs of our current workforce that is over 6 million skilled workers short, nor will it reverse the $1.4 trillion of outstanding student loan debt that is placing a drag on the economy.
These facts have stayed with me as the full committee and my subcommittee held twenty-six hearings in the 113th, 114th, and 115th Congresses on issues within higher education. Four of those hearings were held during this Congress alone.
Each of those hearings touched on how the current higher education system is in need of reforms to meet the needs of students, families, future workers, and the employers of tomorrow.
I’m also happy to say that many of the issues discussed in those hearings are addressed in the PROSPER Act.
While the conversations we have had in this committee have been essential to the PROSPER Act in its current form, there are conversations that we have conducted that are even more important: those with our constituents.
Many people have expressed their concerns about the lack of flexibility in grant and loan programs for potential students seeking advanced studies, and others have shared the difficulties associated with earning a traditional degree and finding a good-paying job.
Those who share these concerns are not alone. A September Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 49% of Americans believe a four-year degree will actually lead to a good job and pay and only 47% of Americans aren’t sure college is worth it anymore.
These numbers emphasize that the status quo in higher education is not enough to serve students, families, or institutions, so it is time we change the status quo with meaningful reforms.
The stories I have heard from students and families in Kentucky have been a constant reminder for the need to stop simply talking about reforming higher education; it’s time to actually put forward a bill that achieves needed reforms.
As chairman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, it has been a privilege of mine to work with Chairwoman Foxx and members of this committee to introduce a bill with real reforms to address the needs of today’s students, as well as the needs of the institutions they attend.
Within the PROSPER Act, we are promoting completion, helping institutions evolve to meet the changing needs of students and the workforce, improving the complex and costly student financial aid system, and promoting accountability for institutions. Additionally, we are giving students a pipeline to the workforce, which is something never before addressed in higher education legislation.
To read the PDF version, click here.
To learn more about the PROSPER Act, click here.
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This century has a vastly different business landscape than the last. From the advent of the gig economy to the demand for telework and other work-life policies that address employees’ needs, “business as usual” just doesn’t work for working families anymore. In response, many employers have implemented and continue to implement innovative paid leave policies.
In fact, today’s workers are starting to consider these paid leave policies alongside other traditional, tangible benefits like pay raises. A 2015 study conducted by Harris Poll and Glassdoor found that nearly four in five employees would prefer new or additional benefits or perks over a pay increase.
Additional studies have validated this employment trend even more in recent years. This year, the HR Policy Association released a study that noted “nearly 70 percent of [its] members find that millennials expect greater flexibility with regard to scheduling and time off.”
Innovative paid leave policies are not only an important tool for businesses to attract and retain the best employees, but they also give workers across all business sectors the ability to create a better work-life balance. Time off is increasingly important to employees, whether it’s used to go back to school, care for a child or loved one, or just to spend more time with family.
Employers are responding to these changing expectations by offering employees a wider variety of benefits. In addition to providing traditional paid time off and sick leave, an increasing number of companies have added flexible work arrangement options to their employment leave policies. These arrangements may allow employees to take advantage of cutting-edge offerings like flexible hours, telecommuting, compressed work weeks, and job sharing. Importantly, these arrangements are tailored to the needs of the employer’s workforce.
As employers continue to develop and deploy these leave policies, there has been a significant increase in new and oftentimes conflicting state and local paid leave mandates. This growing patchwork of mandates across multiple jurisdictions creates a real administrative and implementation burden, particularly on small businesses, while also increasing compliance costs for employers.
For example, currently there are eight states and over 30 localities with paid leave laws on the books. By contrast, 20 states have bans against local paid sick leave laws.
As you might imagine, all these state and local laws are far from consistent. The current patchwork of paid leave laws at the state and local level can pose challenges to employers of all sizes trying to navigate them. And the mandatory nature of these laws deprives businesses of the freedom to craft individualized policies to best address the needs of their employees. That doesn’t help employers, and it doesn’t help their workers. Today’s hearing should give all of us valuable, firsthand insight into the evolving topic of workplace leave policies, and I look forward to the discussion.
On December 5, 2017, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a rule to rescind the parts of its tip regulation that bars tip-sharing arrangements in establishments where the employers pay full Federal minimum wage and do not take a tip credit against their minimum wage obligations. This rule reverses a 2011 DOL regulation that created this restriction.
Army Corps of Engineers and EPA Seek Comments on Proposed Rule to Add Applicability Date to Clean Water Rule
On November 22, 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule to apply an applicability date to the 2015 Final Rule defining Waters of the United States (WOTUS). The rule would establish an effective date of two years after the date of the final rule.
Written comments are due by December 13, 2017.
Rep. Walberg Opening Statement (R-MI) | Subcommittee Hearing on “Financial Challenges Facing the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: Implications for Pension Plans, Workers, and Retirees"
Good morning, and welcome to today’s subcommittee hearing on the financial challenges facing the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and the impact to workers and retirees.
George Miller was a liberal lion of this Committee. While we very often disagreed, I admired his commitment to ensuring Americans have the ability to retire with dignity.
In 2014, he worked with John Kline, then our Chairman, to try to solve a real problem: a retirement system on the brink of collapse. They put politics aside, worked with employers and labor unions, and negotiated a set of reforms to the multiemployer pension system in order to preserve benefits for millions of workers. President Obama signed this bipartisan approach into law in 2014.
The law was based on the premise that the plan trustees who have a legal and moral obligation to pensioners and workers should have the ability to take early action in order to avoid disaster.
While the 2014 statute was an important step, regulations written by President Obama’s Treasury Department implementing the law made it difficult if not impossible for trustees to use the tools the law contains. And so, the problems continue. We know they persist because the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the backstop for private defined benefit plans, released its annual report two weeks ago. According to PBGC, more than 100 multiemployer plans are expected to fail, in addition to the 72 that already have.
This kind of widespread collapse will directly impact the millions of workers, retirees, and their families who spent their careers planning their retirement with these promised pension benefits in mind. And who promised these benefits? Unions and employers who established and administered these plans. The federal government and non-union workers had no role in negotiating the contracts that made the promises that will be broken. Mr. Miller, when he chaired this Committee, recognized this. That’s why this Committee, under his leadership in 2009, refused to advance a legislative proposal to put taxpayers on the hook for these promises.
Implementation of the 2014 law has been ineffective, and the workers and retirees in these plans are worse off because of it. When their plans fail, their benefits will be cut, in many cases significantly. And when these retirement systems fail, the PBGC will collapse as well.
The agency’s multiemployer insurance program currently has about $2 billion in assets, receives less than $300 million in premium revenue annually, and has a long term deficit of $65.1 billion. Again, that’s $65 billion. When the money runs out, likely sometime in 2025, pensioners will receive pennies on the dollar of what they were promised. Employers will close their doors, and previously healthy plans may go bankrupt.
Congress took bipartisan action just three years ago to prevent this looming disaster. We believe the Trump administration will work hard to ensure the law’s tools are utilized more appropriately. But if Congress is to consider further reforms, it’s critical that the Committee fully understand the scope of the financial challenges facing PBGC.
Today’s witness, Tom Reeder, is the PBGC’s director. He administers not just the multiemployer insurance program, but also the agency’s very large insurance program for single-employer defined benefit plans. While the finances of that program are trending upward, it is still underfunded by nearly $11 billion. That program insures more than 27 million Americans in more than 22,000 pension plans. We look forward to examining that program in today’s hearing as well.
There are no easy answers to these problems. We owe it to workers, retirees, employers and taxpayers to put politics aside and work toward finding a fiscally responsible, bipartisan solution. Millions of Americans are counting on us.
To read PDF version, click here.
On November 28, 2017, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) of the Department of Labor (DOL) issued an 18-month extension transition period and delay of applicability date related to the Prohibited Transaction Exemptions (PTEs) under the Fiduciary Rule. The 18-month extension transition period applies to the Best Interest Contract Exemption and the Class Exemp
New First Amendment Challenge Takes Aim at California’s Listing of Glyphosate as a Potential Carcinogen Under Prop 65
On November 22, 2017, FDA issued guidance entitled “Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food: What You Need to Know About the FDA Regulation—Small Entity Compliance Guide.” The purpose of the guidance is to assist small entity compliance with the rule concerning Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food pursuant to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FMSA).
On November 9, 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published draft guidance entitled “Menu Labeling: Supplement Guidance for Industry” to address the implementation of nutrition labelling required for foods sold in covered establishments, including restaurants or similar retail food establishments. FDA seeks comments on the draft guidance and will consider submitted comments when drafting the final guidance.