On March 6, the House Committee on Education & the Workforce marked-up its version of WIA reauthorization, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing Lifelong Learning (SKILLS) Act (HR 803), legislation introduced by Rep. Foxx (R-NC), Rep. McKeon (R-CA), and Rep. Heck (R-NV).
Following opening statements, Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Hinojosa (D-TX), announced that because committee Republicans had been unresponsive to Democrats’ requests to postpone the mark-up and hold bipartisan Member-to-Member negotiations, they would not participate in the mark-up. All Democratic members then exited the room and did not participate in the votes on the amendments offered or on the underlying bill. Following their exit, Committee Chairman Kline (R-MN) resumed the mark-up, with the remaining Members eventually voting 23-0 to report the bill out of committee.
As originally introduced, HR 803 consolidates 35 existing federal workforce programs – including WIA formula and national programs, Wagner-Peyser Employment Services, SNAP E&T, and others—into a single $6 billion Workforce Investment Fund. In addition, the bill:
- Eliminates all current membership requirements for state and local workforce boards, except for certain requirements relating to business and economic development representation, and locally elected officials;
- Eliminates provisions relating to automatic designation of local workforce areas, allowing state boards to designate local areas in consultation with the governor;
- Eliminates the requirement that local WIBs give priority for services to low-income individuals;
- Requires states to set aside up to 25 percent of Workforce Investment Fund dollars to maintain Job Corps as a national program;
- Authorizes states to develop unified state plans, and consolidate funding for other federal training and social services programs-including funding for TANF, Trade Adjustment Assistance, Community Service Block Grants, and programs under state unemployment compensation laws—into such state plans;
- Mandates a minimum percentage of local area allocations that must be used for training services; and
- Sets common performance measures for the Workforce Investment Fund, adult education programs under Title II, and Vocational Rehabilitation programs under Title IV.
Read NSC’s recently released in-depth analyses of HR 803 for further details on the bill.
During the mark-up, Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chair Rep. Foxx (R-NC) offered an amendment in the nature of a substitute that made changes to the bill, including:
- Expanding the hold-harmless provision for state and local allocations from 1 year to 3 years;
- Requiring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to determine the number of Department of Labor (DOL) employees who work on programs eliminated under the bill, and requiring OMB to reduce the size of its workforce by that number;
- Eliminating the 21st Century Workforce Commission;
- Requiring Job Corps Center operators to enact cost-efficiency measures during budget shortfalls and eliminating provision requiring DOL to immediately close low-performing centers and instead establishing a performance improvement system; and
- Requiring states and local areas to report how much they spend annually on administrative costs.
The amendment was accepted on a voice vote.
During the mark-up, committee members offered three amendments en banc for consideration, all of which were accepted on a voice vote:
- An amendment offered by Rep. Walberg (R-MI), to eliminate the requirement for Job Corps operators to reside in the state where its Job Corps center is located; reinstate the Job Corps operator management fee; change the program year start date for Title I programs to October 1; streamline the approval process for State unified plans; and reinstate the provision permitting the use of H-1B visa fees for job training.
- An amendment offered by Rep. Roby (R-AL), to prevent Workforce Investment Fund grantees from using funds for lobbying and political activities, including: employing a lobbyist or lobbying staff; participating in political or partisan activities; taking public positions on legislation, appropriations, or other measures; and conducting voter registration or providing voters with transportation to the polls.
- An amendment offered by Rep. Brooks (R-IN) regarding pay for-performance contracting strategies.
Prior to the mark-up, a number of organizations—including National Skills Coalition—weighed in expressing their concerns with HR 803. Unfortunately, the changes made to the bill during the markup did little to improve the bill. As a result, National Skills Coalition opposes the bill as it is currently written.
It is expected that the SKILLS Act will be considered by the full House as early as the week of March 11. NSC will provide updates as additional information becomes available.