National Association of Counties
Washington, D.C.

Workforce legislation

Senate gives big OK to workforce legislation​​

In victory for counties, measure maintains local authority ​

By ​Daria Daniel

On June 25, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed workforce reauthorization legislation, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (H.R. 803, as amended) by a 95 to 3 vote.  Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) were the only three votes against passage.  Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) did not vote. 

The Senate also rejected Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) Amendment 3379 that would have given governors the authority to sanction local workforce boards after one year of poor performance.  ​​​​

Bullet NACo Webinar on local government implications of WOIA​

Bullet NACo's letter in support of WOIA 

"I am pleased to see the amendment fail, which I know NACo members worked to oppose, and appreciate all the calls and letters sent to U.S. congressional members in support of the workforce reauthorization legislation,” said  Commissioner Welton Cadwell, Lake County, Fla anNACo Community, Economic and Workforce Development Steering Committee chair.

H.R. 803 as amended reauthorizes federal employment and training programs and funding to states and localities.  The bill represents a bipartisan, bicameral compromise between the SKILLS Act, (H.R. 803), which was passed by the House in March 2013, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which was passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in July 2013.

Despite repeated proposals to reduce the local role in the reauthorization bill, H.R. 803, as amended, maintains local governance authority while adding needed flexibility for training opportunities to meet the needs of business and jobseekers. The House is expected to take up the bill after the July 4 recess. House leadership supports the agreement and expects members to pass the legislation quickly. After House passage, the workforce reauthorization bill will be sent to President Obama to sign into law.

Why Workforce Reauthorization Legislation Matters to Counties

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is 11 years overdue for reauthorization. It expired in 2003. A strong workforce system will increase investments and resources for quality training and help to ensure that localities and states can continue to meet the needs of jobseekers and employers.

The workforce compromise bill would provide the needed funding and framework for a modernized workforce development system by maintaining a local role in the system with added flexibility. It recognizes that local elected officials and boards play a critical role in workforce development and the overall economic health of local communities.

Maintains Local Role in Workforce Development with Added Flexibility

An essential component of WIA’s success is maintaining local governance. The compromise bill would protect local authority in workforce investment boards and workforce investment areas, which has been a key priority for NACo. It also would provide local boards with greater flexibility to address their workforce challenges, such as allowing them to use up to 20 percent of adult workforce funding for incumbent worker and on-the-job training for in-demand occupations. This welcomed flexibility will allow local boards to tailor plans and services to meet the needs of their jobseekers and employers.

Reduces Size of Local Workforce Boards

The new measure would reduce the number of required members (from 51 to 19) for the local workforce boards and still maintain a business-led majority to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of local boards, and will reinforce focus to meet the needs of jobseekers and businesses. NACo welcomes this change because some local boards were so large that it was difficult to participate and to maintain good relationships with businesses.

Simplifies Performance Accountability Measures

The legislation would standardize performance accountability with the creation of six core indicators for adults and youths to determine workforce program success across all federal programs.  NACo supported simplification from the current varied and complex measures.