As we head into Convention season for the Republican and Democratic parties, it is likely that we will see increased partisan rhetoric coming from both of our major political parties. In fact, given the high negatives of both presumptive nominees and heated political battles across the globe, the finger pointing is likely to be at a (recent) all-time high.
Having said that, Congress has moved the ball forward on a few items which I believe are worthy of your attention. Recently, two pieces of legislation have progressed in the House of Representatives which would have a positive impact on our industry and possibly could reach the President for his signature. In this climate, that’s both an accomplishment and good news.
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce unanimously approved H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. Introduced by Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA), the legislation reauthorizes and reforms the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to help more Americans enter the workforce with the skills they need to compete for high-skilled, in-demand jobs. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 37 to 0.
“I deeply appreciate the support of my colleagues on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce for this thoughtful legislation, which will bring our nation’s career and technical education system into the 21st century,” Rep. Thompson said. “We have witnessed the increased growth in career and technical education since the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act was passed unanimously by Congress in 2006. As co-chair of the House Career and Technical Education Caucus, I consider the Committee’s approval of this bipartisan bill to be a landmark step towards closing our nation’s skills gap and empowering students pursuing careers in vital technical fields.”
HARDI has supported this legislation and tips its hat to industry stalwart Warren Lupson for leading the HVACR industries involvement in helping to guide this legislation. Simply put, everyone in our industry acknowledges that we have a workforce sustainability problem and this legislation does SOMETHING to address this matter and is a fantastic first-step.
More bipartisan legislation passed the House in late June as the Small Business Healthcare Relief Act (H.R. 5477), passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday. This was a key component of the HARDI Congressional Fly-In in May.
This legislation allows small employers to continue to offer Health Reimbursement Arrangements, or HRAs, to their employees so that they can choose a quality, affordable health insurance plan that fits their individual budget and health care needs.
Existing Treasury Department guidance under the Affordable Care Act limits the use of HRA’s for small businesses.
“The passage of the Small Business Healthcare Relief Act is a prime example of what we should be doing in Congress – working across party lines to make health coverage available to our constituents,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA). “This legislation will help small business owners, workers and their families. By ensuring that small business owners can continue to offer HRAs to their employees, we not only arm our small business owners with a competitive advantage to recruit and retain employees, but we also help ensure that hard-working Americans can receive quality, affordable coverage.”
“The Small Business Healthcare Relief Act is a common-sense, bipartisan solution ensuring our small businesses aren’t penalized for trying to do the right thing. HRAs are an affordable solution for both employees and employers to combat the escalating cost of health insurance. I thank my colleague, Congressman Mike Thompson, for continuing to work with me to find ways to increase access to high-quality health care for all Americans,” said Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA).
So, yes it is likely to be a pretty hyper-partisan election season, but do know that on Capitol Hill, there are folks working to move important bills in this environment and it’s important to stay engaged and make progress when possible.