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US LEGISLATIVE REPORT May 4, 2007 [View All]

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Below are the top stories of the week from Capitol Hill.

May 4, 2007

In this issue:

* House Fails to Override Veto of War Bill
* Head Start Bill Renewed Without Faith-Based Hiring Provision
* "Say On Pay" Bill Introduced in Senate
* Lessening the Burden of the GPO on Retired Public Workers
* Senate Introduces FAA Authorization Bill with Personnel Reform
* Hate Crimes Measure Approved in the House
* Native Hawaiian Bill Approved by House Committee

House Fails to Override Veto of War Bill
The House failed to override President Bush's veto of the $124 billion emergency spending bill funding the troops in Iraq but also containing a timetable for pulling U.S. troops from Iraq. The House vote of 222-203 was far short of the two-thirds needed to override the veto. White House officials immediately indicated a willingness to negotiate over the provisions of a new spending bill for the troops, but insisted the President would not support any troop withdrawal language. Hill leaders said the negotiations will include discussion of benchmarks to hold the Iraqi government accountable. Another victim of the veto at least for now may be any new funding for domestic spending emergencies, including money for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), homeland security and disaster relief. At a White House meeting, the two sides talked about removing billions of dollars in domestic spending for children's health insurance and other domestic emergencies from the bill until they work out their disagreements on Iraq.
(Ed Jayne- )

Head Start Bill Renewed Without Faith-Based Hiring Provision
The House voted to reauthorize the Head Start program, 365-48, after rejecting a proposal, 195-222, that would have allowed providers to hire employees based on religious preferences. The bill boosted the authorized funding for Head Start to $7.4 billion for FY 2008, an increase of one-half billion over the current year. The House also approved important amendments that will benefit AFSCME Head Start workers. By a vote of 312-107, the House approved a proposal that would forgive student loans for Head Start and Early Head Start teachers who earn bachelor's degrees in a related field and commit to teach in the program for at least three years. Another amendment would ensure that training and technical assistance are provided by entities with specific expertise in infant and toddler development. It would direct 50 percent of training and technical assistance funds directly to the grantees for the purposes of program improvement. Another would require that Head Start grantees to perform criminal background checks before hiring employees and finally, another would make Head Start classrooms more inclusive for children with disabilities.

Next, the legislation moves to the Senate where Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) has worked out a bipartisan agreement (S. 556) that also does not include a hiring preference based on religious affiliation. Senate action is likely to occur in the next two months.
(Marge Allen- )

"Say On Pay" Bill Introduced in Senate
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) introduced legislation (S. 1181) which is identical to the bill passed recently by the House of Representatives providing shareholders with an advisory vote on executive compensation. The House approved the "say on pay" bill by a 269-134 vote to give shareholders the right to cast nonbinding votes on the pay of top company executives, handing investor advocates a win over the business community and defying the Bush Administration. The original legislation was drafted by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Chair of the Financial Services Committee.
(Ed Jayne- )

Lessening the Burden of the GPO on Retired Public Workers
Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and George Voinovich (R-OH) introduced the Government Pension Offset (GPO) Reform Act (S. 1254), bipartisan legislation that would amend the Social Security Act by reducing the cut in Social Security benefits that certain retired public workers experience. Currently, the GPO prevents local, state and federal government retirees from collecting both a government pension and a Social Security benefit that is based on their spouse's work, unlike workers in the private sector. The Social Security survivor benefit is reduced by an amount equal to two-thirds of the government pension payable. S. 1254 would lessen the Social Security reduction according to income and there would be no reduction for a retiree drawing less than $1,200 per month from their government pension and Social Security benefit combined.
(Jayne Clancy- )

Senate Introduces FAA Authorization Bill with Personnel Reform
On May 2, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced legislation that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill contains a provision to reform the FAA labor-management bargaining process that is tilted heavily in favor of management. AFSCME and other FAA unions have been caught up in a maelstrom of negotiations that produced neither mutually agreed upon contracts nor timely implementation of settlements. The AFSCME-FAA agreement was concluded in 2001 but never implemented due to opposition by the Bush Administration. The bill would require binding arbitration to settle negotiation impasses rather than the system now that allows FAA to unilaterally impose its own terms on employees after advising Congress of an impasse and waiting 60 days. The House will be introducing its version of the FAA reauthorization bill soon and will also include language to reform the FAA personnel system.
(Jayne Clancy- )

Hate Crimes Measure Approved in the House
On May 3, the House voted 237-180 to approve the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R 1592). The legislation, which has the endorsement of 230 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations, was introduced by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), along with more than 100 other members of Congress.

H.R. 1592 would expand federal hate crimes law and make it easier for federal law enforcement agencies to assist state and local governments in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. The bill would strengthen existing hate crimes laws by including crimes committed against individuals because of their gender, disability, or sexual orientation. In addition, the legislation removes existing provisions that restrict federal assistance except under limited circumstances, such as requirements that the victim be engaged in federally protected activities or that the crime be committed on federal property. H.R. 1592 would empower federal prosecutors to work with local police while providing funding to assist in investigations. The Senate will soon consider an identical bill, the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (S. 1105), named in honor of a young man killed because he was gay.
(Cynthia Bradley- )

Native Hawaiian Bill Approved by House Committee
On May 2, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a bill (H.R. 505) that would give Native Hawaiians legal status similar to that of mainland indigenous tribes like the American Indians. Under the bill, Native Hawaiians would be able to reorganize into a single government for the purpose of negotiating with the federal government in an effort to improve the lives of Native Hawaiians. The bill was approved by voice vote.
(Cynthia Bradley )

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