By Neil Bomberg
According to Senate staff, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) are drafting legislation that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). The law, which was originally passed during the Clinton presidency, has been in need of some reform and modernization for some time, and previous efforts to reauthorize the law have failed. NLC has been actively urging the Congress to reauthorize WIA so that it reflects the changing American workplace and the skills needs of employers and employees alike.
According to sources, Sens. Murray and Isakson are committed to work in a bipartisan way and to craft a bipartisan bill that would be adopted overwhelmingly by the Senate.
NLC has learned that the Senators are using last year's Senate draft bill as the starting point for this year's bill. This could mean that some of NLC's major concerns with the House legislation will be rectified by the Senate.
The House bill - H.R. 803 or the SKILLS Act - would transfer programmatic authority for workforce development programs from local elected officials and local business leaders to governors, consolidate programs in a way that would reduce spending but not address the larger concern of making the program more efficient and effective by eliminating program overlap, and eliminate youth training and employment programs.
In contrast, last year's Senate draft bill retained the current governance structure which includes strong involvement by local elected officials and local business leaders; it would keep many of the targeted programs that currently exist, and would maintain the youth employment program.
At this point, no timeline for introduction and consideration of the Senate's version of WIA reauthorization has been announced, though it is likely that no bill will be introduced before June 2013.