US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Update to America’s Workforce Development System Is 14th Bipartisan HELP Committee Bill to Become Law in 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by a bipartisan vote of 415-6.  When the bill is signed by the President, as he has indicated he will do, fourteen bills in the HELP Committee’s jurisdiction—under the leadership of Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA)—will have become law in the 113th Congress. In a Congress dominated by partisan gridlock and Republican obstructionism, the bipartisan successes of the HELP Committee stand out. 

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act modernizes and improves existing federal workforce development programs, helps workers attain skills for 21st-century jobs, and fosters the modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete. It contains provisions championed by Chairman Harkin—the Senate author of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act— that will support people with disabilities as they seek to enter and remain in competitive, integrated job settings.

“As Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, it has been an exciting year to see this important piece of legislation move from committee, to a Senate vote of 95-3, and finally to House passage. Over the last 40 years, America’s backbone – the middle class – has found it harder and harder to make ends meet as wages have stagnated and costs have risen. This bill is part of the solution to this challenge facing our middle class.  Access to education, training, and employment services is critical to helping our workers secure good jobs, gain access to the middle class, and become economically self-sufficient.  This bill will help us achieve these goals,” Harkin said.

“Most importantly to me, this bill includes long-overdue and much-needed provision that will help persons with disabilities to enter the workforce. I am proud that this bill addresses the disproportionate burden of unemployment and underemployment experienced by people with disabilities. Despite the enormous progress we have made in ensuring that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as those without disabilities, the sad fact is that they experience unemployment at twice the rate and a workforce participation rate less than half that of the general population. This bill takes major steps to correct this injustice, and will help to prepare a new generation of young people with disabilities to prepare for, obtain, and succeed in competitive integrated employment. Finally, we are giving persons with disabilities the same supports and experiences that everyone else expects and receives.

“This bill represents the best of what Congress can accomplish when we work together.  Again, I want to thank my colleagues for their hard work and dedication in helping us reach this historical moment.”

In addition to winning strong bipartisan support in both chambers, the bill is supported by a broad array of labor, business, workforce development leaders, and disability advocates, as well as governors and mayors from around the country. A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here.

The HELP Committee bills that are law or will soon become law in the 113th Congress are as follows:

1. H.R. 307, Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 (PAHPA) (Senators Burr, Harkin, Alexander, and Casey)

  • Strengthens our nation’s preparedness for and ability to respond to medical and public health emergencies, optimizes state and local all-hazards preparedness and response efforts and collaboration, enhances medical countermeasure activities, and reauthorizes key medical and public health programs, including the BioShield Special Reserve Fund
  • S.242 in the Senate; approved by the HELP Committee in February 2013; signed into law in March 2013.

2. S. 622, Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Reauthorization Act of 2013 (ADUFA/AGDUFA) (Senators Harkin and Alexander)

  • Allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collect user fees from sponsors of animal drug and animal generic drug applications, and the agency uses those fees to help fund the review of animal drug applications.
  • Approved by the HELP Committee in March 2013; signed into law in June 2013.

3. H.R. 1911, Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 (Senators Alexander, Blunt, Burr, Carper, Coburn, Durbin, Enzi, Harkin, Heller, Hoeven, Isakson, King and McCaskill)

  • Amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 to establish interest rates for new loans made on or after July 1, 2013.
  • Signed into law in August 2013.

4. H.R. 2094, School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (Senators Durbin, Kirk, and Harkin)

  • Addresses the rise in diagnoses of food allergies in children by encouraging schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine injectors and to allow trained school personnel to administer an epinephrine injection if a student is experiencing an anaphylactic reaction.
  • S.1503 in the Senate; approved by the HELP Committee in October 2013; signed into law in November 2013.

5. S. 330, HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE Act) (Senators Boxer, Coburn, Baldwin, Paul, and Harkin)

  • Amends the Public Health Service Act to end the federal ban on research into organ donations from HIV-positive donors to HIV-positive recipients 
  • Approved by the HELP Committee in March 2013; signed into law in November 2013.

6. H.R.2747, Streamlining Claims Processing for Federal Contractor Employees Act (Senator Harkin)

  • Moves responsibility for wage claims adjustments for federally contracted workers from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to the Department of Labor.
  • Approved by the HELP Committee in October 2013; signed into law in November 2013.

7. S. 252, Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers Who Deliver Infants Early (PREEMIE) Reauthorization Act (Senators Alexander, Bennet, and Harkin)

  • Authorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration to conduct research and education activities relating to preterm labor and delivery and infant mortality.
  • Included modified versions of S. 1561, CHIMP Act Amendments and S. 424, National Pediatric Research Network Act
  • Approved by the HELP Committee in February 2013; signed into law in November 2013.

8. S. 1561, CHIMP Act Amendments of 2013 (Senators Harkin, Alexander, Burr, Landrieu, and Collins)

  • Ensures that chimpanzees owned or supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that are no longer used for medical research can continue to receive the care they need in quality settings. The new law will provide flexibility for the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to use already-appropriated funds to pay for care of chimpanzees housed in federal sanctuaries if doing so would be more efficient and economical for the NIH.
  • Attached to S. 252 in the House.
  • Approved by the HELP Committee in October 2013; signed into law in November 2013.

9. S. 424, National Pediatric Research Network Act of 2013 (Senators Brown, Wicker, Blumenthal, Collins, Portman, Whitehouse)

  • Amends title IV of the Public Health Service Act to provide for a National Pediatric Research Network, including with respect to pediatric rare diseases or conditions.
  • As attached to S. 252 in the House; signed into law in November 2013.

10. H.R. 3204, Drug Quality and Security Act (Senators Harkin, Alexander, Franken, Roberts, Bennet, and Burr)

  • Clarifies current federal law regarding pharmacy compounding and resolves the patchwork of current federal regulation by applying a uniform standard nationwide. Under Title I of the Drug Quality and Security Act, compounders who wish to practice outside the bounds of traditional pharmacy practice can register as outsourcing facilities, but those who choose to remain traditional pharmacies will continue to be regulated primarily by state boards of pharmacy, as they are in current law. Outsourcing facilities would be subject to oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in much the same way as traditional manufacturers are monitored. FDA will know who these outsourcers are and what they are making, receive adverse event reports about compounded drugs, and have the authority and resources to conduct risk-based inspections.
  • The second title of the Drug Quality and Security Act would replace today’s patchwork of state prescription-drug tracing laws by creating a new uniform framework for tracking drugs from the manufacturer to the pharmacy.
  • Compounding and track-and-trace bills were approved by the HELP Committee in May 2013. The Drug Quality and Security Act, encompassing both bills, was signed into law in November 2013.

11. HR. 3527, the Poison Center Network Act (Senators Murray, Burr, and Harkin)

  • Amends the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize the poison center national toll-free number, national media campaign, and grant program.
  • S. 1719 in the Senate; approved by the HELP Committee in December 2013; signed into law in January 2014.

12. S.1302, Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act (Senators Harkin and Roberts)

  • Addresses the challenges faced by many cooperative associations and charities in providing pension benefits to their workers by ensuring that their pension funding rules both protect workers’ benefits and ensure the organizations are able to provide vital services to local communities.
  • Approved by the HELP Committee in October 2013; signed into law in April 2014.

13. S. 1557, Children’s Hospital GME Reauthorization Act of 2013 (Senators Casey, Isakson, Whitehouse, Harkin, and Alexander)

  • Amends the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize support for graduate medical education programs in children’s hospitals.
  • Approved by the HELP Committee in October 2013; signed into law in April 2014.

14. H.R. 803, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) (Senators Murray, Isakson, Harkin, and Alexander)

  • Modernizes and improves existing federal workforce development programs, helps workers attain skills for 21st-century jobs, provides supports to people with disabilities to enter and remain in competitive, integrated job settings, and fosters the modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete. 
  • Approved by the Senate in June 2014; approved by the House in July 2014; pending signature from President Obama.

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