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Occupational Safety and Health Independent Review of OSHA Citations Act of 2004

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF OSHA CITATIONS ACT OF 2004

Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 645, I call up the bill (H.R. 2730) to amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to provide for an independent review of citations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and ask for its immediate consideration in the House.

The Clerk read the title of the bill.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 645, the bill is considered read for amendment.

The text of H.R. 2730 is as follows:

H.R. 2730

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the "Occupational Safety and Health Independent Review of OSHA Citations Act of 2003".

SEC. 2. INDEPENDENT REVIEW.

Section 11(a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 660) is amended by adding the following at the end thereof: "The conclusions of the Commission with respect to all questions of law shall be given deference if reasonable.".

The SPEAKER pro tempore: Pursuant to House Resolution 645, the amendment printed in the bill, modified by the amendment printed in part B of House Report 108-497, is adopted.

The text of H.R. 2730, as amended, as modified, is as follows:

H.R. 2730

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the "Occupational Safety and Health Independent Review of OSHA Citations Act of 2004".

SEC. 2. INDEPENDENT REVIEW.

Section 11(a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 660) is amended by adding the following at the end thereof: "The conclusions of the Commission with respect to all questions of law that are subject to agency deference under governing court precedent shall be given deference if reasonable.".

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Boehner) and the gentleman from New York (Mr. Owens) each will control 30 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Boehner).

GENERAL LEAVE

Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H.R. 2730.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Ohio?

There was no objection.

Mr. BOEHNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, the third bill that we will debate today in this series of four is another narrowly craft bill that addresses a specific problem that we found in the OSHA law. The Occupational Safety and Health Independent Review of OSHA Citations Act restores independent review of OSHA citations by clarifying that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission is an independent judicial entity given deference by courts that review OSHA issues.

In 1970 when they created OSHA, Congress also created this commission to independently review all OSHA citations. The commission was intended to hold OSHA in check and ensure that it did not abuse its authority. Congress passed the OSHA law only after being assured that judicial review would be conducted by "an autonomous independent commission which, without regard to the Secretary, can find for or against him on the basis of individual complaint."

Congress even separated the commission in the Department of Labor. It was truly meant to be independent. The bill before us restores the original system of checks and balances intended by Congress when it enacted the OSHA law and ensures that the commission, in other words, the court, and not OSHA or, in other words, the prosecutor, would be the party who interprets the law and provides an independent review of OSHA citations.

Now, let me put this in simpler terms for everybody. If you are stopped by a police officer and you are issued a citation for speeding, would you want the same officer who gave you the ticket to be your judge and jury and decide whether you are guilty or not? Well, of course you would not. And, unfortunately, for small businesses today the law is ambiguous and vague.

Since 1970 the separation of power between OSHA and the review commission has become increasingly clouded because of legal interpretations mostly argued by OSHA in an effort to expand its own authority. Congress intended there to be a truly independent review of the disputes between OSHA and employers; and when this dispute centers on OSHA's interpretations of its authority, Congress intended the independent review commission, not the prosecuting agency, OSHA, to be the final arbiter.

H.R. 2730 restores this commonsense system of checks and balances. Employers are facing enough competition in the workplace. They are facing high taxes, rising health care costs, burdensome government regulations. All of these bills that we have brought to the floor today are intended to help small businesses that are the engine of economic growth in America be all that they can be and to survive in this very difficult economic climate. I would encourage my colleagues today to support this measure.

It is another commonsense bill that would help increase the amount of worker safety and health safety that we see in the workplace each day.

Mr. Speaker, I include the following letters for the RECORD:

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,

COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY,

Washington, DC, May 17, 2004.
Hon. JOHN BOEHNER,
Chairman, Committee on Education and the Workforce, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.

DEAR CHAIRMAN BOEHNER: On May 13, 2004, the Committee on the Judiciary received a sequential referral of H.R. 2730, the "Occupational Safety and Health Independent Review of OSHA Citations Act of 2003" through May 17, 2004. In recognition of the desire to expedite floor consideration of H.R. 2730, the Committee on the Judiciary hereby waives further consideration of the bill with the following understanding.

I believe the bill as introduced might have been read to change the standard of appeals court review of Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission decisions, a matter that would fall with the Rule X jurisdiction of the Committee on the Judiciary. I understand, however, that the intent of the drafters was simply to make the policy choice that courts should, in exercising normal agency deference under established precedent, defer to the Commission rather than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration itself-not to change the standard of review. I understand that you are willing, during floor consideration of H.R. 2730, to add the following language to the bill: Insert after "all questions of law" the following: "that are subject to agency deference under governing court precedent" and that you will offer an amendment to do so. With that understanding, I will not seek to extend the sequential referral of the bill for a further period of time.

The Committee on the Judiciary takes this action with the understanding that the Committee's jurisdiction over these provisions is in no way diminished or altered. I would appreciate your including this letter and your response in the Congressional Record during its consideration on the House floor.

Sincerely,
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR.,

Chairman.

COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,

Washington, DC, May 17, 2004.

Hon. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr.,
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary, Rayburn HOB, Washington, DC.

DEAR CHAIRMAN SENSENBRENNER: Thank you for your letter regarding our mutual understanding of the intent and purpose of H.R. 2730, the Occupational Safety and Health Independent Review of OSHA Citations Act of 2004 and process for considering this bill. I agree that our intent was simply to make the policy choice that courts should, in exercising normal agency deference under established precedent, defer to the Commission rather than the Occupational Safety and Health Administration itself-not to change the standard of review. Had the language of the reported bill been clear on this point, the Committee on the Judiciary would have had no jurisdictional interest in the bill. I have submitted an amendment to the Committee on Rules that would make the change as outlined in your letter to me, which clarifies the bill and which I have requested be made part of the rule.

With this understanding, I agree that these actions in no way diminish or alter the jurisdictional interest of the Committee on the Judiciary. I will include our exchange of letters in the Congressional Record during the bill's consideration on the House floor.

Sincerely,
JOHN A. BOEHNER,

Chairman.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY,

Washington, DC, May 13, 2004.

Hon. J. DENNIS HASTERT,
Speaker, House of Representatives,
Washington, DC.

DEAR MR. SPEAKER: I am writing to request a sequential referral of H.R. 2730, the "Occupational Safety and Health Independent Review of OSHA Citations Act of 2003."

H.R. 2730 contains matters that fall within the Committee on the Judiciary's Rule X jurisdiction. The bill amends the judicial review provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The amendment as currently drafted would require the federal courts of appeals to defer to the decisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission on all questions of law if those decisions are reasonable. This is an explicit direction to the courts as to how to review cases and would change the standard of review for questions of law that are not subject to normal agency deference under governing court precedents. In short, these provisions fall within the judicial and administrative procedure jurisdiction of the Committee on the Judiciary under rule X(1)(k)(1)&(2) ("The judiciary and judicial proceedings, civil and criminal", "Administrative practice and procedure").

Because of this Committee's strong jurisdictional interest in this legislation, I respectfully request that you sequentially refer this legislation to the Committee on the Judiciary. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR.,

Chairman.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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