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Opening Statement by Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) | Markup of H.R. 4508, the PROSPER Act

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 12:00am
We are here today to consider H.R. 4508, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act—the PROSPER Act.

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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Opening Statement by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) | Markup of H.R. 4508, the PROSPER Act

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 12:00am

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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Opening Statement of Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) | Hearing on Workplace Leave Policies

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 12:00am

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.

Rep. Walberg Opening Statement (R-MI) | Subcommittee Hearing on “Financial Challenges Facing the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: Implications for Pension Plans, Workers, and Retirees"

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 12:00am

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.

Opening Statement by Rep. Virginia Fox (R-NC) | Hearing on “Examining the Policies and the Priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor”

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 12:00am

The Department of Labor is on the frontline of the issues facing workers and job creators, and it sets policies that have a widespread impact on our nation’s economy, employment growth, retirement security, and more.

Whether they relate to health care, worker protections, retirement planning, workforce development, or employee wages and benefits — it is the responsibility of this committee to ensure those policies are in the best interest of workers, employers, and taxpayers.

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: No matter what party controls the administration – this committee is dedicated to robust oversight. We take our oversight responsibilities very seriously.  Today’s hearing is the latest step in our effort to hold federal government officials accountable.

The American people are counting on that accountability, especially at a time when the economy is still improving. We are all encouraged by the economic growth we have seen this year. In the third quarter of 2017, real GDP increased at an annual rate of 3 percent. That is a remarkable improvement, considering it’s twice as much as the mere 1.5 percent growth rate we saw during the final year of the Obama administration.

It’s also great to see more and more Americans getting back to work. Nearly 1.5 million jobs have been added since February. Meaningful progress has been made, but there’s no question we have more work to do after eight years of lost opportunity.

However, even though the unemployment rate is down, we still have 6.5 million workers out of work, including 1.6 million on a long-term basis. 4.8 million workers are working part-time because their hours have been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

At the same time, we have 6.1 million jobs unfilled, due in part to our nation’s skills gap. Expanding pathways to career success is a critical component to closing this gap and helping more Americans find good-paying jobs. That’s why Congress and the administration have made workforce development and skills-based education a leading priority.

This week happens to be National Apprenticeship Week, and so we are eager to hear from you, Mr. Secretary, on the steps the department plans to take to promote apprenticeships and other skills-based education programs.

This is something our committee has been focused on for quite some time now, and it is encouraging to have a partner in the White House and the Department of Labor. We look forward to further discussion of how we can work together to expand educational opportunities and empower more Americans to realize their God-given potential.

In addition, I hope that you will be able to provide committee members and the public with your views about the department’s efforts to advance economic opportunities for workers by strengthening workplace democracy, ensuring safe and healthy workplaces, enhancing retirement security, and providing workers and employers with more affordable health care options.

We are also very interested in hearing more about the department’s regulatory and enforcement agenda. This committee spent the early part of this year advancing resolutions under the Congressional Review Act to clean up the mess from the Obama administration and deliver regulatory relief for hardworking men and women.

In fact, five out of fourteen of the CRA resolutions that were signed into law originated from this committee. And just last week, the House passed the Save Local Business Act to roll back the Obama-era joint employer scheme that threatens 1.7 million jobs, according to the American Action Forum.

We know the department has its work cut out after eight years of an unprecedented regulatory rampage. But we look forward to building on the progress we’ve made together so we can get government out of the way and unleash prosperity and opportunity.

There are also a number of issues impacting retirement security that deserve our attention. This includes the need to protect access to affordable retirement advice and empower more Americans to plan for the future.

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Rep. Rokita Opening Statement (R-IN) | Subcommittee Hearing on "Close to Home: How Opioids are Impacting Communities”

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 12:00am

Good morning, and welcome to today’s joint subcommittee hearing with our colleagues from the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. I’d like to thank our panel of witnesses and our members for joining today’s important discussion on opioid abuse and addiction that is taking a toll on the nation.

The opioid crisis is having a profound impact on families, jobs, communities, and the economy, and that is why we’re here today.

The issue of drug overdoses due to opioids is only getting worse as deaths related to opioids have quadrupled since 1999. In 2016 alone, there were approximately 64,000 drug overdoses. This means that the opioid crisis is claiming the lives of 175 Americans per day.

These figures are horrifying and sad not only for the country’s future, but for communities who are losing parents, husbands, wives, teachers, and students.

Additionally, the opioid epidemic knows no age, gender, educational credential, or class distinction. This crisis is touching all Americans.

Some of the most unfortunate stories have to do with the children whose lives have been forever changed by this public health emergency.

Between 2000 and 2014, the number of babies born drug-dependent increased by 500 percent. In my home state of Indiana, a recent pilot program from the state Department of Health found that about 1 in 5 infants assessed at hospitals around the state tested positive for opiates.

More and more children are being placed into foster care or are cared for by another relative due to parental drug abuse. According to a recent analysis, nearly a third of the children who entered foster care in the U.S. in 2015 did so at least partially because of parental drug abuse.

It is one thing to read the statistics and accounts in the news about communities in the midst of the opioid crisis, but these accounts do not compare to the real voices we need to hear from in order to understand this crisis.

I had the opportunity to host a school safety summit last week in my district. One of the two big topics was the opioid crisis. I heard from Dustin Noonkester, one of the founders of “Brady’s Hope.” Dustin lost his son to opioid overdose. This organization is a resource to members of the community on how to spot abuse, how to address opioid misuse, and how families can help one another treat opioid addiction.

These are the stories that give me hope that this crisis can be overcome.

This epidemic can no longer be ignored, and it is important that we hear from those who are on the ground and facing the tragic truths of the opioid crisis every day.

The witnesses we have gathered here today understand the opioid problem better than any of us here in Washington, because they see it, and fight it, in their communities.

I am pleased this committee can come together to understand this true public health emergency and its impact on communities across the United States.

To read PDF version, click here.


Rep. Guthrie Opening Statement (R-KY) | Subcommittee Hearing on "Close to Home: How Opioids are Impacting Communities”

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 12:00am
Thank you Subcommittee Chairman Rokita, and I want to echo the Chairman’s appreciation for the witnesses joining us at today’s hearing. The opioid crisis is having a profound impact on my constituents as well, and I’m sure the stories we will hear from the witnesses today will resonate with many of the stories I have heard in Kentucky.

The opioid crisis is a public health emergency and Congress must continue working to face the epidemic that has had an impact on all aspects of our society.

Unfortunately, a problem as widespread as the opioid epidemic, which has already had an impact on over 11.5 million Americans, also has taken a devastating toll on local economies and the national economy as a whole, as we’re only beginning to see more clearly.

As the opioid public health emergency continues to worsen, the economy will continue to suffer.

Data from the CDC analyzing opioid overdose deaths by age groups in 1999 and 2015 showed that the people most likely to die of an opioid overdose are between the ages of 25 and 39 years old.

These are people who had entire lives, careers, and untold contributions to make to their communities and our country ahead of them.

Numbers are important, but people with their own stories are at the heart of this crisis.

To Americans who live in some of the areas hardest hit by the opioid crisis, including my home state of Kentucky, they are seeing their coworkers, bosses, friends, and family members suffer from this horrible affliction.

The administration and Congress are coming together to identify community-based solutions to combat this crisis, but the day-to-day hard work fighting this outbreak is already being done on the ground by the people that face this issue every day.

The witnesses we have gathered here today have seen the impact the opioid crisis is having on their communities every day, and it’s important we hear their stories of how it has specifically impacted them as individuals, as well as their friends, families, and coworkers.

When it comes to finding solutions for workforce development needs, and creating more good-paying jobs, we look to state and local entities who are leading by example, and the opioid crisis is no different.

Our witnesses before us have learned a lot in their communities about how to spot opioid abuse and implement successful forms of treatment. It is important we hear about these experiences in order to inform the Congressional response to the crisis.

At this Committee, we talk a lot about how we are addressing the shortage of skilled workers across the country, and how we want to empower people to build the lives they want for themselves. For many workers ensnared in this epidemic, it is critical that they receive the treatment they need to help them return to the workforce, and find a good job once they are drug-free. We also have to acknowledge that the opioid crisis is resulting in too many lives ending far too soon, and we have to look at ways to stop it.

I’d like to welcome Tim Robinson from my home state of Kentucky who is testifying here today. Tim is the founder and CEO of Addiction Recovery Care in Louisa, Kentucky, which is a network of 13 addiction treatment centers. Thank you for the work you are doing to serve your community and the Commonwealth. I look forward to hearing your testimony today.

I appreciate the witnesses for appearing before this committee, and look forward to hearing how they have responded in their own communities to combat this crisis.

To  read PDF version, click here.

ICYMI: Restore common sense to the workplace

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 12:00am
By Randy Johnson and Glenn Spencer

In Missouri and beyond, businesses stand eager to expand job growth, seek out new opportunities, and in the process, create better prospects for American workers. However, after eight years of Washington, D.C., policies that worked against employers, there’s a lot of regulatory red tape to clear out of the way.

The previous administration meddled with one cornerstone of the economy in particular: the workplace. And the National Labor Relations Board — the agency that oversees union elections and investigates alleged unfair labor practices — was one of the most aggressive regulators of all. Rather than act as an impartial enforcer of the law, the President Obama-era board carried out a one-sided agenda aimed at growing labor unions at any cost.

For starters, the NLRB drastically shortened the time frame for a workplace unionization vote to as few as 10 days. This “ambush election” rule denies workers the opportunity to get complete information about the pros and cons of joining a union and makes it harder for employers, particularly small businesses, to respond to a union organizing campaign. Worse still, the rule requires employers to turn over to union organizers personal information about their workers, including their schedules, phone numbers, and email and home addresses.

Next, the agency rewrote the rulebook on what groups of workers can form a union. In fact, the NLRB allowed unions to organize tiny pockets of workers — known as “micro unions” — even in workplaces where the majority of employees opposed union representation. As just one example, the NLRB permitted a union consisting of just the cosmetic and fragrance salespeople at a Macy’s department store, even though most of the store’s 150 employees didn’t want a union in their workplace.

Pushing its authority further still, the board even aggressively claimed jurisdiction over labor practices on Indian tribal lands, undermining tribal sovereignty and depriving the tribes of the ability to run their own economies.

Perhaps worst of all, the NLRB blurred the definition of what the word “employer” even means. By rewriting the so-called “joint employer” standard, the NLRB tried to hold businesses involved in franchising or subcontracting liable for workplaces they don’t control and workers they don’t employ. This liability-expanding policy might create more jobs — but only for trial lawyers and government enforcers.

These are just a few examples of the opportunity-killing policy shifts pursued by the Obama-era NLRB. Small businesses in Missouri and elsewhere paid the price. But Congress and the board now have an opportunity to restore balance and common sense to the workplace. 

First, there is a new majority on the NLRB that can begin unwinding the harmful policies of the past eight years.

Second, Congress can vote on legislation that has already been introduced in the House of Representatives to ensure that actions by the new NLRB are enshrined into law. The “Save Local Business Act” would re-establish the common-sense notion that two businesses are only “joint employers” if both exercise direct control over the same workers — meaning that both take actions like hiring, paying and disciplining them.

Another bill, the “Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act,” would provide additional time for workers to learn all the facts about unionization before an election takes place. The bill states that no election shall take place earlier than 35 days after an election petition is filed. The legislation would also toss out the NLRB’s “micro union” decision, and return to the long-held standard for collective bargaining units that actually represent the majority of employees at a workplace.

The [“Employee Privacy Protection Act”] would allow workers, not the NLRB, to choose the means by which they wish to be contacted by a union during an organizing campaign.

Finally, the “Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act” would affirm the rights of Indian tribal employers to govern their own labor practices on their own lands.

So Missouri’s elected officials have a chance to help small businesses, and create a better climate for job growth. They should seize the opportunity and stand with employers by paring back the regulatory agenda of the Obama-era NLRB.

Randy Johnson is senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits, and Glenn Spencer is vice president of the Workforce Freedom Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

To read online, click here.

To learn more about the Save Local Business Act, visit edworkforce.house.gov/jointemployer.

Rep. Guthrie Opening Statement (R-KY) | Hearing on “Public-Private Solutions to Educating a Cyber Workforce”

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 12:00am

When Americans think of data breaches and cyber-attacks, names like Equifax come to mind. This and other recent high profile data breaches have made private and sensitive information vulnerable to identity theft as well as other cyber-crimes.

Cyber-crimes are constantly appearing in the news, and Americans want to know what is being done to protect their data, as well as other vulnerable targets that comprise our national infrastructure.

Organizations in the public and private sectors are actively seeking skilled professionals to fill the numerous jobs available in the growing cybersecurity field, and are coming up short in the number of Americans able to fill these essential positions that ensure our American cyber-infrastructure is safe.

A recent study by Intel Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) examined the global cybersecurity workforce shortage and confirmed that the talent shortage was real and widespread. Eighty-two percent of participants report a shortage of cybersecurity skills.

The same report found that more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and job postings are up 74 percent over the past five years. Additionally, the demand for cybersecurity professionals is expected to continue to grow to over 1.8 million by 2022.

This skills gap is not unique to the cybersecurity sector. Many other industries such as manufacturing and transportation are facing a shortage of skilled workers to fill good-paying jobs. However, when dealing with cybersecurity, the stakes are even higher because we are dealing with national security.

Fortunately, the discussions we have today will not be the beginning of the conversation in Congress on closing the skills gap.

The House unanimously passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which allows states to dedicate additional resources towards high-demand fields such as cybersecurity based on changing economic, educational, or national security needs.

Additionally, the Committee on Education and the Workforce has been carefully observing the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that was signed into law in 2014.

This law streamlined the confusing maze of workforce development programs, and increased the amount of funding available to the states to meet specific workforce demands based on conversations with public and private stakeholders in each state.

Today’s hearing will examine solutions to filling the skills gap that currently exists in the cybersecurity field, and how coalitions across government, academic institutions, and private industries can pave the way to successfully close this skills gap and keep our country’s cybersecurity infrastructure  safe.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about how Congress can assist in the conversations already taking place between institutions of higher education and public and private entities in the cybersecurity field.

To read PDF version, click here.

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX) | Hearing on “Public-Private Solutions to Educating a Cyber Workforce”

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 12:00am

Let me begin by welcoming our witness panel and our guests today. Thank you for taking the time away from your important work to testify and help Congress better understand these workforce issues. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the Members of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee to hold this joint hearing on developing our nation’s cyber workforce. I would like to thank Chairwoman Foxx and Chairman Guthrie for their work on this critical issue. It is an important time for cooperation here on Capitol Hill and it is my sincere hope that the public will be encouraged that Members on both sides of the aisle are focused on important issues that really matter.

Cybersecurity is an issue that affects every sector of our economy and our society. The risks are broadly shared and this joint hearing shows the need for an integrated approach to address the challenge of the cyber skills gap. Cyberattacks are growing in frequency and sophistication, but the availability of qualified cybersecurity professionals to deal with these challenges is not keeping pace. We cannot speak to the shortage of workers without recognizing the importance of the academic pipeline that produces today’s workforce as well our next generation of experts who will need to keep pace with technology and the ever evolving threats.

The dearth of cybersecurity talent is a major resource constraint that impacts our ability to protect information and assets. More than 200,000 cybersecurity jobs in the US are unfilled and the demand for positions, like information security professionals, is expected to grow by 53 percent through 2018. This slow moving crisis is very likely to only get worse.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection subcommittee recently heard testimony that indicated that the struggle to find qualified personnel to fill cybersecurity roles in government and business is not only a short term problem, but is expected to grow and become even more acute in the future. Technology innovation and criminal tactics move very fast,, and with each new wirelessly-connected baby monitor or interconnected energy-efficient pipeline that comes online, new threats and vulnerabilities emerge to exploit those technologies. Just as the connected world expands and new products improve our quality of life, simplifying many tasks, our vulnerabilities move in parallel and demand a skilled workforce who can protect the functionality and preserve confidential data.

Public and private hiring systems must likewise shift and adapt to a new way of thinking about hiring and recruiting; we need intellectual capital that better reflects the qualifications and skills of a new type of cyber worker.. For their entire lives,younger Americans just enter ing the workforce have possessed more technology in a single smartphone than some ever imagined. Consider that the iPhone 7 operates at 1.4 gigahertz and can process instructions at a rate of approximately 1.2 instructions every cycle in each of its 2 cores. Put simply, the iPhone 7’s clock is 32,600 times faster than the best Apollo-era computers and could perform instructions 120,000,000 times faster. You wouldn’t be wrong in saying an iPhone could be used to guide 120,000,000 Apollo era spacecraft to t e moon, all at the same time. The rate of innovation in the information technology sector is simply astonishing.

I believe the Federal Government and our cybersecurity leaders can create more alliances with community groups, universities and career and technical schools to better develop our talent pipeline. The Department of Homeland Security supports a number of efforts to strengthen its workforce, from programs to recruit new cyber talent to those that allow private sector experts the opportunity to share their knowledge working at DHS. We need to encourage government-university-employer collaborations that are meaningful and robust. Demonstrating cyber know-how no longer comes in discrete forms such as having a bachelor’s degree or not, or obtainin g a cyber certification. Cyber competitions, bug bounty programs, and coding camps are all new forms of workforce development.

I am looking forward to discussing with our witnesses today some of the best practices in building public-private partnerships to expand the cyber workforce pipeline.

The cyber capabilities of our workforce help support economic strength and sustain our technological advantage. It is my firm belief that America will only remain the world’s preeminent superpower so long as it remains the world’s cybersecurity leader. Leadership matters, and if we don’t encourage and develop the talented men and women who lead this work, we will be both poorer and less safe.   

To view the PDF version, click here.

ICYMI: How Congress Can Help Your Favorite Local Restaurants

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 12:00am

How Congress can help your favorite local restaurants

By Chris Duggan

San Diego is transforming into more than America’s Finest City. It’s becoming a culinary hot spot. Previously known for its fish tacos and oceanside cuisine, creative chefs from across the United States and even Mexico are filling the city with everything from exotic flavors to good old American barbecue. Foodies from all over are packing into our local eateries to check out the hype.

Unfortunately for our booming food industry, a decision out of Washington, D.C., is threatening the livelihood of the country’s restaurant and hospitality industry. The National Labor Relations Board in 2015 redefined what it means to be a joint employer, or when two companies share supervision of an employee.

It’s no longer clear whether outsourcing the laundry makes a bed-and-breakfast owner liable for workplace safety at the neighboring dry cleaner or if contracting out some renovations puts an authentic Mexican restaurant owner on the hook for construction workers’ unpaid overtime.

The wide-ranging uncertainty that is infecting entrepreneurs could have widespread economic impact, too. Despite chefs and restaurant owners flocking to San Diego from all over, our fine city is experiencing a flat unemployment rate and a year-over-year decline in hiring.

How can that be so? No doubt, much can be attributed to an unstable employer environment.

Business owners are now using their limited resources to buy extra liability insurance and invest in legal counsel to protect the businesses they built. This is money that could be used to expand and hire more employees. The consequences of the joint employer ambiguities on the hospitality industry are a big deal in an area where nearly 35 million visitors spent $10.4 billion locally on tourism last year — supporting 184,000 leisure and hospitality jobs. To help invigorate economic momentum and job growth in San Diego, lawmakers must consider a fix to this standard.

Recently, there has been a welcome flurry of activity in our nation’s capital to try and provide restaurant owners and small businesses with some much-needed clarity. In fact, the Department of Labor moved in June to roll back the controversial decision with an executive order. Both developments prove that policymakers on both sides of the aisle hear the restaurant and small business community’s concerns. But in order to sustain a clear understanding that small business owners can rely upon, Congress must act.

Fortunately, there is already a piece of bipartisan legislation in Congress that would immediately fix this two-year old problem. The Save Local Business Act (House Resolution 3441) would return us to the common-sense definition where a business owner is accountable for his or her own employees, not those of other companies. Additionally, workers would be employed by the companies that hired them, not every other entity they consult for, contract with or provide services to.

Bringing back straightforward employer-employee relationships will make the workplace a less confusing place, where both sides can be confident in the lines of communication and responsibility. This will, in turn, have a positive impact on restaurateurs that are eager to return their focus to making great food.

H.R. 3441 is exactly what San Diego restaurants need. Hopefully, the California congressional delegation will sign onto this bill and continue leading the way for our bustling hospitality community. Our innovative chefs, restaurateurs and best-in-class workers who make this America’s Finest City are counting on it.

Duggan is the director of local government affairs of San Diego, Imperial, Riverside and San Bernadino counties for the California Restaurant Association.

To read the full editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune, click here.

To learn more about the Save Local Business Act, visit edworkforce.house.gov/jointemployer.

ICYMI: Foxx, Roe Fiduciary Op-Ed

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 12:00am


Obama's fiduciary rule is already hurting small savers. Here's how to roll it back


By Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)

Saving for retirement is a difficult challenge for Americans across the country. By one estimate, there are nearly 40 million working families who haven't saved a dime for retirement. It's clear the last thing Washington should do is create new barriers to the financial security Americans need when they retire.

That's why it's so mind-boggling that the Obama administration put in place a so-called fiduciary rule that makes it harder for people to build a secure retirement.

We've always agreed that retirement advisers should act in good faith; we've been saying that from the start. But a rule requiring retirement advisers to serve their clients' best interests is completely pointless if it means many Americans won't have access to retirement advice at all.

For years, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has led the fight against this fundamentally flawed rule. We weren't the only ones who raised concerns. In fact, nearly 100 House Democrats cautioned the Obama administration against finalizing a rule that would "have a disproportionate impact on lower- and middle-income communities."

Sadly, that's precisely what the previous administration settled on. And you don't have to just take our word for it. Even former President Barack Obama's own secretary of treasury, Jack Lew, recently acknowledged the rule will lead to harmful consequences, including "pricing smaller investors out of the financial advice market."

Indeed, according to the American Action Forum, the rule could increase costs on retirement savers by $46.6 billion. Those who can least afford it will be hit the hardest. Many working families will soon find they can no longer afford personal retirement advice, and small businesses will face new obstacles as they try to set up retirement plans for their employees.

We're seeing these predictions come to fruition. Several firms have already dropped the very types of services those with limited savings are more likely to rely on, and it's only a matter of time before things get worse.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report notes that 71 percent of advisors surveyed will stop providing advice to some of their clients with small account balances. Perhaps most concerning, the report found that up to 7 million retirement savers may lose access to retirement advice altogether.

For these very reasons, we wish the rule had been scrapped altogether. But from Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta's perspective, his hands were tied. That makes it even more compelling to develop a legislative solution.

To his credit, the secretary also noted that "America was founded on the belief that people should be trusted to govern themselves … Voters elect their representatives to Washington." We agree. As the People's representatives, we have a duty to fix the fiduciary mess.

Our committee recently advanced the Affordable Retirement Advice for Savers Act, which will repeal the fiduciary rule and preserve access to affordable retirement advice. It also amends federal law to require retirement advisers to act in the best interests of their clients. Legislation — not 1,000 pages of red tape — is the right way to address an issue with such a widespread impact.

This legislation proves we can hold financial advisers accountable without causing millions of Americans to lose access to affordable retirement advice. It's our hope that members of both parties will do the right thing by joining together and sending H.R. 2823 to President Trump's desk. The American people are depending on us to do just that.


Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.
(@virginiafoxx), is chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. (@DrPhilRoe), a member of that same committee, also chairs the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

To read the full op-ed in the Washington Examiner, click here.


Opening Statement by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL): Markup of H.R. 3441, the Save Local Business Act

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 12:00am

I was proud to introduce the Save Local Business Act because it’s good for workers and it’s good for job creators. I appreciate the opportunity to speak in support of this commonsense proposal today.

As a former labor attorney, I can tell you it used to be pretty clear who an employer was. But now, two completely separate employers can be considered joint employers if they make a business agreement that “indirectly” or even “potentially” impacts their employees.

Those are certainly vague terms. So vague that many lawyers may not even agree on what exactly they mean. But we know the real-world impact has been confusion, uncertainty, and growing legal jeopardy.

Here’s what those terms mean to the owner of Wintzell’s Oyster House in my district in Mobile, Alabama. The owner, Bob Omainsky, wrote recently in Alabama Today:

“If we hire an outside landscaping company to keep our lawns lush, I could be considered a joint employer if I show the landscapers where to mow. Or, if I contract a food supplier for certain ingredients, I could become part of a lawsuit if one of their workers complains about overtime pay. The uncertainty is nothing more than governmental overreach that is crippling eateries like Wintzell’s and discouraging growth throughout the restaurant industry.”

There are small business owners in all of our districts who are working hard each and every day to create jobs and contribute to our local economies, and they deserve better than this. They deserve clarity.

Workers deserve better, too. They deserve better than an extreme and unworkable rule that threatens 1.7 million jobs. And they deserve better than unelected bureaucrats interfering with their relationship with their employer for the sole purpose of empowering union and trial lawyer interests.

That’s right. This joint employer scheme was really intended to make it easier for Big Labor to organize small businesses. It’s no surprise that some of the nation’s largest labor unions have been peddling scare tactics and spreading false information about H.R. 3441.

So let me be clear on what this bill does. H.R. 3441 maintains existing worker protections under the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

We are amending the NLRA to roll back the Browning-Ferris decision and prevent future NLRB overreach. And we are amending the FLSA because aggressive trial lawyers and activist judges have made matters even worse by creating a confusing patchwork of joint employer standards across the country.

Again, this bill does not take away a single protection from a single worker. Instead, it ensures the actual employer is legally responsible for providing those protections. If everyone is responsible, no one is.

Some have wrongly claimed that the joint employer standard reflected in H.R. 3441 is somehow a dramatic departure from long-standing policy prior to the NLRB’s 2015 ruling. That claim is quite frankly absurd.

I’d like to remind the members of this committee that it was the Browning-Ferris decision, and actions by Obama-era bureaucrats, that completely disrupted what was once a stable legal environment and threatened countless local businesses as a result.

H.R. 3441 simply restores the commonsense joint employer standard that workers and employers relied on for decades. It clarifies that two or more employers must have “actual, direct, and immediate” control over essential terms and conditions of employment to be considered joint employers.

The bill as introduced is consistent with case law prior to BFI, and today’s markup presents an opportunity to make the bill even clearer.

That’s why the substitute amendment I am offering makes clarifying and technical changes to the underlying bill. I urge all members to support the substitute, as well as H.R. 3441.

To read PDF version, click here.

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