Legislative Update

DOL Overtime Rule

In response to this week’s final Overtime Rule, lawmakers have introduced the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act (S. 2707/ H.R. 4773), legislation that seeks to ensure DOL pursues a balanced and responsible approach to updating federal overtime rules. Both bills are currently pending in their committees of jurisdiction – the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP).

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) said he would introduce a resolution to block the final overtime rule under the Congressional Review Act. In a statement, Sen. Alexander said the final rule “will hurt Tennessee families paying for college, increasing annual tuition at one Tennessee independent college by an estimated $850 per student.” It is also possible that lawmakers opposed to the rule may include language to combat it in upcoming FY 2017 appropriation bills.

Effective Apprenticeships Rebuild National Skills (EARNS) Act

On Wednesday, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Effective Apprenticeships Rebuild National Skills (EARNS) Act in the United States Senate. The EARNS Act aims to strengthen the nation’s workforce development system through registered apprenticeship programs. Specifically, the bill provides up to $100 million in federal funding for employers to develop apprenticeship programs. Of the total amount, $75 million would go to the Office of Apprenticeship, $5 million would help students earn credit for participating in apprenticeship programs, and $20 million would offset start-up costs for new programs. In addition, the legislation would place the Office of Apprenticeship under the Labor Department’s jurisdiction, allowing for Congressional oversight and budgetary regular authority.

Perkins CTE Act

Tuesday morning, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairmen of the House and Senate education committees, met to discuss rewriting the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act. The Perkins Act, which hasn’t been updated since 2006, sets policy on career and technical education. The chairmen said they plan to move ahead with a bipartisan overhaul of career and technical education, and hope they can pass such an overhaul by the end of this year.

Rep. Kline, who held a committee hearing this week on reauthorizing the law, said he wanted to take the “same approach” to rewriting the Perkins Act as Congress did with overhauling K-12 education in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (P.L. 114-95), which was signed into law last December. For more information on this House Education and Workforce Committee hearing titled “Helping Students Succeed by Strengthening the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

This Week’s Hearings:

On Tuesday, May 24, at 10:00 am EST, the House Education and the Workforce Committee Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold a hearing titled “Demanding Accountability at the Corporation for National and Community Service.” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will chair the hearing.

Regulatory Update

DOL Overtime Rule

This week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued the final version of the overtime exemption rule, which raises the minimum salary threshold required to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) “white collar” exemption to $47,476 per year. These rules follow a memorandum issued by President Barack Obama in March 2014, instructing DOL to reexamine the regulations. The final rule will take effect on December 1, 2016, giving employers more than six months to prepare. It is expected to extend overtime protections to 4.2 million Americans who are not currently eligible under federal law, and is expected to boost wages for workers by $12 billion over the next 10 years, according to a White House face sheet released late Tuesday.

Following the announcement, DOL issued technical guidance to help with implementation of the rule. DOL includes a fact sheet and technical guidance tailored specifically for institutions for higher education. Higher education groups including the American Council on Education, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities have all expressed concern with the sweeping implications of the rule for employees at colleges and universities. Lawmakers in Congress are taking steps to try and combat the rule, as mentioned above.