Opening Statement of Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Chairman, Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions
Good morning, and welcome to today’s subcommittee hearing. I would like to thank members of the subcommittee and our witnesses for being here today as we examine important and timely topics – current trends in the U.S. labor market, their benefits for American workers, and a review of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) labor market economic information and methodologies.
On the first of June, BLS released its May 2018 Employment Situation Report, which detailed the most recent data on U.S. employment. The report found numerous encouraging developments in the American economy and workforce, including improvements to rates of unemployment, job growth, and wage growth.
According to the report, unemployment is down to 3.8 percent — the lowest rate of unemployment in nearly two decades. Since May 2017, the total number of unemployed workers has dropped by 772,000 to 6.1 million people, and there has been a 28.6 percent drop in individuals experiencing long-term unemployment.
As unemployment has fallen, the number of new jobs available across the country has risen. Since February 2017, the month after President Trump was sworn into office, the U.S. economy has added nearly 3 million jobs nationwide. In particular, health care, construction, manufacturing, retail trade, and mining having all experienced particularly robust job growth.
This job upsurge has contributed to one of the most astounding developments yet: for the very first time in BLS reporting history, the number of job seekers – 6.3 million Americans – has been eclipsed by the number of available jobs – 6.7 million job openings nationwide.
We know that in addition to a strong job market, wage growth can help families achieve financial independence and security. According to the report, the workforce has experienced a rise in wages, with average hourly earnings increasing by 71 cents over the last 12-month period. Much of this growth can be attributed to tax reform, as well as efforts by Congress and President Trump to rein in regulatory burdens.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which House Republicans delivered last year and President Trump signed into law in December 2017, has lowered taxes for millions of Americans. Ninety percent of workers are seeing more of their take-home pay thanks to tax reform, and the law has helped to spur powerful economic growth across the country. Strengthening the workforce and adding more jobs to the U.S. economy have been top priorities for House Republicans and the Trump administration, and tax reform has delivered bigger paychecks and greater opportunities to more Americans.
Today’s hearing presents an opportunity to delve into BLS’s most recent information on the U.S. labor market, its recently published data on workers engaging in contingent and alternative forms of work, and to gain a better a understanding of BLS products and data to ensure we, as policymakers, and the public at-large can best utilize this information.
I look forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses and from other members of the subcommittee today as we talk about these developments and ways to promote even greater growth for more American employers and workers.
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Good morning, and welcome to today’s subcommittee hearing on occupational licensing. I would like to thank members of the subcommittee and our witnesses for being here today as we discuss licensing and ways that we can encourage states to lift barriers to economic mobility and growth.
Occupational licensing plays an important role in protecting consumers and ensuring high-quality service. In many cases, it makes sense that a professional would be credentialed to operate, like in the case of a doctor performing surgery or a pilot flying a commercial plane. But in other instances, the need for a license is more of a stretch. For instance, if you aspire to be a barber or an interior decorator, there seems to be less of an urgent need for the government to play a role in regulating your career, and yet some government entities have disagreed.
The number of jobs requiring a license has grown dramatically over the last several decades. In the 1950s, only 5 percent of workers were licensed. Since then, an economic shift to the service industry and concerns for consumer protection have led to a steady increase in professions requiring a license to operate. As a result, licensed workers today comprise about quarter of the entire workforce – a five-fold increase.
Because states are responsible for imposing most licensing requirements, the burden of obtaining a license varies widely from state to state. For example, it requires 233 days in New York to obtain a cosmetology license, while it requires 490 days in Iowa. These kinds of delays and inconsistencies have resulted in a confusing and anticompetitive patchwork of regulations, which present a challenge to credentialed workers considering a move across state lines.
Studies show that worker mobility is critical for economic stimulation and wage growth, yet licensed workers are less likely to pursue an opportunity in a different state than their unlicensed counterparts. After factoring in the need to complete new education, undergo state-sanctioned testing, and pay new licensing fees despite their presently-held credentials, many licensed workers ultimately forgo opportunities in different states because the entire regulatory process is just too complicated.
What is more, lower-income workers and consumers bear a disproportionate share of this regulatory burden. Because occupational licenses cost a substantial amount of money up front, many cash-strapped workers may be prevented from entering a field, contributing to the estimated 2.85 million fewer jobs due to these requirements. Licensing can also lead to higher prices for consumers. It’s believed that $203 billion in licensing costs are passed on to consumers each year, which especially impacts lower-income individuals.
When House Republicans delivered on tax reform late last year, it was to give American workers and families more jobs, bigger paychecks, fairer taxes, and greater opportunities. So far, 90 percent of Americans have seen more take-home pay and the U.S. economy is experiencing strong gains as a direct result of tax reform. But some overly burdensome licensing requirements are putting a drag on these outcomes and slowing forward economic momentum.
States should work to strike the right balance of placing licensing safeguards where they are needed, and removing barriers and restrictions wherever appropriate. This has been a bipartisan issue in the past, with the Obama administration issuing best practices to states to minimize the burden of these regulations back in 2015. Hopefully we can continue this bipartisan cooperation to ease the regulatory burden for more working Americans.
I look forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses and from other members of the subcommittee today as we discuss ways to reform our occupational licensing systems to spur economic mobility and growth.
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Opening Statement of Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chairwoman, Committee on Education and the Workforce Hearing on “The Power of Charter Schools: Promoting Opportunity for America’s Students”
All students, regardless of zip code, deserve access to a high-quality education. That means giving students the opportunity to thrive in the learning environment that best suits their unique educational needs.
Every student is different, and families should be empowered to choose whatever school best suits their child’s strengths, rather than being forced into a one-size-fits-all approach. For many, charter schools are the best option for their student to hone his or her individual abilities and build a successful life.
Though they are still relatively new on the scene, with the first having opened just over 25 years ago, charter schools have proven an immensely popular option. These institutions currently serve over three million students nationwide, while surveys show another five million students would enroll in a charter school if given the chance.
In an effort to meet this growing demand, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) maintained and improved the important charter school program. The new law included reforms not only to support the development of high-quality new schools, but also to allow for the expansion and replication of high-quality charter schools already found around the country. These reforms included requirements to help these schools improve recruitment and retention of students, as well as to support better authorizing practices, and reforms to help charter schools access facilities financing.
Charter schools also face rigorous accountability. These schools not only have to comply with the same accountability requirements as all other public schools, including the accountability requirements under ESSA, but they also face a rigorous approval process just to open their doors, and have to meet the expectations of the parents sending their children to the school.
Too often, students in underserved areas suffer from a lack of access to educational opportunities, and by default remain trapped in the failing status quo. When there is a community need for high-quality primary and secondary education, and the traditional public schools in the area are struggling to produce strong student outcomes, charter schools can offer students a lifeline.
In fact, charter schools can be the difference between a student dropping out of high school, and going on to pursue postsecondary education. Data reported by The 74 Million shows that charter school students from high-performing charter school networks graduate from college at three to five times the national average for children from low-income families.
I have had the immense privilege of hearing from countless charter school students and their parents, and they consistently tell me the same thing: that their local charter school provided them with new hope and opportunity when the traditional public schools in their area failed to pass muster.
Over the weekend, I saw that positive impact firsthand. I had the honor of speaking at the commencement ceremony for Millennium Charter Academy in my district – a school I’ve seen grow from the ground up into a thriving, exciting, and inspiring place. It is because of schools like Millennium Charter that more students in my district have a shot at building a prosperous life.
Today’s hearing presents an opportunity to examine the myriad ways that charter schools are changing lives. It also presents an opportunity to recommit to what matters most – giving more students the opportunity to receive an excellent education that inspires a lifelong love of learning.
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Opening Statement by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chairwoman, Committee on Education and the Workforce Hearing on “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services”
Good morning, and welcome to today’s hearing. We’re pleased to welcome the Honorable Alex Azar, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, to his first hearing with the Committee on Education and the Workforce.
I’m especially pleased to note that this hearing comes just after Secretary Azar has celebrated his three month anniversary in his new position. Mr. Secretary, we can’t find another cabinet secretary in recent memory that has made an oversight hearing with this committee such an early priority. Thank you.
This Committee’s dedication to oversight and building working relationships with the various administrative departments are well-known and well documented. So far in this Congress, we’ve been pleased to hear from Secretary Acosta and Secretary DeVos about their priorities for the management of those departments. The members of this Committee are responsible for a wide legislative jurisdiction that means that the work we do can impact Americans in all stages and walks of life. In many cases, the Department of Health and Human Services is tasked with carrying out some of the laws that have their origins right here in this room, and that is why it’s important we hear from Secretary Azar.
Programs such as Head Start, the Child Care Development Block Grant, and Preschool Development Grants, laws like the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the Older Americans Act, and many antipoverty initiatives require a productive and accountable relationship between this Committee and the Department of Health and Human Services.
In recent years, that relationship has become even more crucial as millions of Americans have suffered under the mounting failures of Obamacare. Dwindling coverage options and soaring health care costs have left American employers and the families that rely on them with few choices and hard decisions. It’s estimated that Obamacare’s costs and mandates have resulted in roughly $19 billion in lost wages for small business employees.
That’s why this committee made H.R. 1101, the Small Business Health Fairness Act, one of our first orders of business in this Congress. This bill, offered by our own Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions subcommittee chair Tim Walberg and Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas, allows small businesses greater freedom in banding together to offer association health plans.
In October, President Trump issued an executive order directing the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury to use their regulatory authority to expand access to affordable health care options. Those options include association health plans, short-term limited duration plans, and health reimbursement arrangements.
As the Small Business Health Fairness Act continues to await long-overdue action by the Senate, we hope Secretary Azar can provide some update today on the status of his Department’s efforts to reverse the damage of Obamacare and improve access to healthcare for millions of working families.
Just before and again shortly after Secretary Azar assumed leadership of the Department, this Committee held hearings about how the opioid epidemic is affecting communities and workplaces. To date, more than 11 million Americans have been impacted by the opioid epidemic, which has justifiably been classified as a public health emergency. While we know we didn’t arrive at this problem overnight and we can’t solve it all overnight, members of this Committee have worked together to find bipartisan legislative solutions that we all hope can bring some stability, health, and healing to our communities.
Secretary Azar, we know you are on the front lines of this fight, and we hope you have some positive developments to share with us.
I want to say at the outset that I’ve heard from some members, especially our Ranking Member, Mr. Scott, that some congressional inquiries to your office have gone unanswered. I hope if you see any of those members who have written to you here today, you can acknowledge those inquiries and provide some forecast as to when members can expect a response. We all know what a high volume of mail looks like. Responding to constituent letters has kept me here many, many late nights over the years, but it’s one of the most important parts of this job. I’m sure you would agree the same is true for you.
Secretary Azar, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to the Education and Workforce Committee. Thank you, again, for making this hearing a priority. I understand that after this hearing was scheduled, President Trump let you know that he had plans for you today as well. Every Member of Congress knows how it feels to have to be in two, sometimes three places at once, so we’re going to try to make the most of our time together.
I’ll now yield to Ranking Member Scott for his opening remarks.
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On May 30, 2018, EPA published proposed changes to its Risk Management Program (RMP) rule that was issued on January 13, 2017. The proposed rule rescinds requirements related to safer technology and alternative analyses, third-party audits, incident investigations, and information availability. In addition, the agency proposes modifications to the requirements for the local emergency coordination and emergency exercises that provide flexibility in complying with the provisions.
The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, has decided to increase the numerical limitation on H-2B nonimmigrant visas to authorize the issuance of up to an additional 15,000 through the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. This increase is based on a time-limited statutory authority and does not affect the H-2B program in future fiscal years. The Departments are promulgating regulations to implement this determination.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing to remove its regulations pertaining to the international entrepreneur program, which would have allowed start-up entities to use an immigration program called parole to gain temporary entry in the United States. Pursuant to Executive Order 13767 which sought review of all DHS parole programs, the agency determined that this program is not the appropriate vehicle for attracting and retaining international entrepreneurs and does not adequately protect U.S. investors and U.S.