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UPDATE: The list of witnesses for Thursday's hearing is now available on the HELP website.
The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a full committee hearing on Thursday, June 20, to kick off Senate reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
Senators Murray (D-WA) and Isakson (R-GA) – who is ranking member of the Employment and Workplace Safety subcommittee – are currently working to draft bipartisan WIA legislation. National Skills Coalition (NSC) expects that the committee will produce draft legislation within the next month, and could mark-up a bill before the August recess.
The HELP committee attempted to produce a WIA reauthorization bill in the last Congress, even releasing discussion drafts of each Title of the bill in June 2011. The discussion drafts the committee released were a product of a two-year bipartisan effort to renew and improve the nation’s primary workforce system. Although a markup of the bill was scheduled, the committee was ultimately unable to reach a bipartisan agreement on how to proceed and the process stalled.
Although current Senate bill language has not yet been shared publicly, it is our understanding that Senate negotiations started from this 2011 staff draft. However, we have also heard that changes will be made to the draft, including some effort to address the issue of consolidation. The exact details of the bill are not yet known, though, and changes within the committee—especially Senator Alexander’s (R-TN) interests as the new ranking member on the full committee—mean that it is not entirely clear how this debate will play out. Next week’s hearing could be instructive as to what committee members’ priorities are for WIA reauthorization.
Earlier this year, the House passed the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), WIA reauthorization legislation which would consolidate 35 existing programs into a single Workforce Investment fund. NSC opposed the House bill because it fails to enact real reforms to improve the quality of our nation’s federal workforce development programs, and in many instances, will make it more difficult for jobseekers to connect to the labor market and for employers to access the skilled workers they need. NSC believes any WIA reauthorization legislation should meet three goals: enhancing the effectiveness of our workforce system to meet the skill needs of all U.S. workers and businesses; strengthening accountability; and promoting innovation by building on the lessons learned and best practices developed over the past 15 years by the workforce field. Unfortunately, the SKILLS Act fails to meet these standards.
Last authorized in 1998, WIA is now 10 years overdue for reauthorization. NSC will continue to provide updates on the Senate hearing as well as other developments regarding the overhaul of the nation’s workforce system.