House Passes H.R. 511, Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act

House Passes H.R. 511, Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to treat Indian tribes as governments for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). H.R. 511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (TLSA), would amend the NLRA to include Indian tribes and tribally owned enterprises located on Indian lands within the Act’s governmental exemption.

The NLRA’s current government exemption covers all governments except for Indian tribes. The exemption applies to commercial enterprises owned and operated by the United States, state governments, political subdivisions of states (counties, cities, etc.), the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories and possessions.

The 249 – 177 vote was strongly bipartisan. Twenty-four (24) Democrats joined 225 Republicans, voting in favor the measure, while 159 Democrats and 18 Republicans voted against the bill.

If enacted, the TLSA will reverse a 2004 ruling of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that itself reversed decades of its own precedent. In a 1976 labor dispute involving the White Mountain Apache Timber Company, the Board found that Indian tribes and tribally owned enterprises do fall within the NLRA’s government exemption.

The bill now moves to the Senate. The Obama Administration issued a Statement of Administrative Policy (SAP), stating that it “cannot support H.R. 511 … as currently drafted.” While the SAP did not issue a veto threat, it does give Senators cover to vote against the bill, making Indian Country’s climb to passage steeper.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization Update

Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization Update

On July 8, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The following week, on July 16, 2015, the U.S. Senate passed, S. 1177, which also reauthorizes ESEA. Both bills thankfully retain Title VII, the chapter pertaining to Native American education, which is a success in and of itself given previous versions of ESEA reauthorization in previous Congresses deleted this important chapter of ESEA. Both bills also contain new provisions to address needs in Native American education.

Now, the House and the Senate are working to convene a conference committee comprised of Members from both chambers of the U.S. Congress to reconcile the differences between the bills to develop a final bill. Leadership in the House announced conferees this afternoon, and it is anticipated that the Senate will name its conferees imminently. House and Senate leadership have indicated that they will work toward the goal of finalizing ESEA reauthorization by this Thursday. Any final bill that emerges from conference will have to be passed by both chambers and then signed into law by President Obama.

Late last Friday, Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) of the House Education and the Workforce Committee joined with their counterparts in the Senate, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, in releasing the following joint statement on efforts to reauthorize ESEA:

“We believe we have a path forward that can lead to a successful conference, and that is why we are recommending to our leadership to appoint conferees to take the next step in replacing No Child Left Behind. This is a law that everyone wants fixed, and teachers, parents, and students are counting on us to succeed. Our efforts to improve K-12 education will continue to reflect regular order, providing conference members an opportunity to share their views and offer their ideas. Because of the framework we’ve developed, we are optimistic that the members of the conference committee can reach agreement on a final bill that Congress will approve and the President will sign.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued the following statement on this positive congressional development on ESEA reauthorization:

“It is good news for our nation’s schools that Congress is taking the next step forward toward a serious bipartisan plan to revamp the outdated No Child Left Behind law. America’s students deserve a bill that increases educational opportunity for all and lives up to the civil rights legacy of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We are encouraged that Congressional negotiators appear to be moving toward a framework that accomplishes those goals. We urge members on both sides of the aisle to continue working together to produce and pass a good piece of legislation.”

If helpful, the following is a link to information on H.R. 5: http://edworkforce.house.gov/studentsuccessact/

Also, the following is a link to information on S. 1177: http://www.help.senate.gov

House and Senate Move to Conference Transportation Bill

House and Senate Move to Conference Transportation Bill

On November 5, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan, multi-year surface transportation bill to reauthorize and reform federal highway, transit, and highway safety programs. The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 (the STRR Act) was approved by a vote of 363 to 64.

“I am very pleased, that after ten years of short-term band-aids and extensions, the House finally passed a bipartisan, six-year transportation bill,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

Passage of the STRR Act sets the stage for the creation of a Congressional Conference Committee to resolve the differences between the House legislation and the Senate transportation bill (H.R. 22, the vehicle for the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act (DRIVE Act)), which passed in July.

Conference committees are created after the House and the Senate pass different versions of a piece of legislation. The committee must negotiate a compromise bill that will be voted upon by both Chambers of Congress. A conference committee is usually composed of the senior Members of the respective House and Senate committees that originally considered the legislation. Each Congressional chamber determines its number of conferees; there is no requirement that the number of conferees from the two chambers be equal.

Leaders in the House have appointed 16 Republicans and 12 Democrats to sit in on the forthcoming negotiations with the Senate, including Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio. Senate leadership has not yet announced Committee appointments.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) released a joint statement commending the passage of the STRR Act and noting that they hoped a consensus bill can get to the President’s desk by Thanksgiving.