Last week the House passed H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. This legislation allows private sector employers and employees to establish agreements that provide compensatory time off rather than monetary compensation in return for overtime hours worked. The bill maintains that employees have the choice between receiving overtime pay as they always have, or exchanging it for time off. Congressman Simpson is a cosponsor of the bill and supported its passage. The House also passed H.R. 807, the Full Faith and Credit Act. This bill instructs the Treasury to prioritize debt payments in the event that the United States exceeds it debt limit. It would require that all interest payments on the national debt occur on time to avoid default and ensure the Social Security Administration can access its own trust fund to pay social security benefits on time. Congressman Simpson also supported this bill.
Simpson Questions EPA Budget Priorities
Focuses on infrastructure, need to reduce spending in oversight hearing with Acting EPA Administrator
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson last week questioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator regarding the President's FY14 budget proposal for the EPA. As Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, Simpson oversees the EPA's budget. During the hearing, Simpson focused on water infrastructure and the need to reduce federal spending.
Over the past two years that Simpson has chaired the subcommittee, he has cut the EPA's budget by over 20 percent. In his opening statement, he responded to criticism of these cuts. "Let's not lose sight of the bigger picture," Simpson cautioned. "Between 2009 and 2010 the Interior bill increased by $4.6 billion and EPA's budget increased by $2.65 billion. This was an unprecedented 35 percent increase in EPA's budget in one year alone. With that in mind, the FY14 budget would still provide EPA with a half a billion dollar cushion."
"I highlight this point to provide context for the ongoing discussion about the continued need to reduce Federal spending," he continued. "It also exemplifies the degree to which unchecked spending was the norm in Washington just a few short years ago. And even with the targeted reductions to the Agency's budget over the past three years, we still have yet to break even."
Chairman Simpson also raised the issue of funding for water infrastructure. Earlier this year, he hosted an oversight hearing on this issue, looking at funds appropriated to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds and the infrastructure needs throughout the country. The State Revolving Funds start with federal seed money provided to state and local communities as loans with matching requirements.
"As I understand it, these funds were eventually supposed to be self-sustaining. Is there a point at which that happens so that these communities have access to the funds they need for their water systems? In the hearing we had on this issue, it was said that there was a $700 billion backlog, and doing this at $2 or $3 billion a year it'll take us almost 250 years to address all the needs out there," said Simpson. "Unfortunately, the $2 billion we put into this each year puts huge pressure on the rest of our budget, but it doesn't address the problem. This is a huge problem and we need to come up with a solution. How do we get from point A to point B?"
In light of these concerns, Simpson criticized the agency's budget priorities, particularly the choice to eliminate funding for the rural water technical assistance grants. "It's a tough budget year, so I assume that you reduced lower priority things and funded the higher priority things," Simpson said. "So it seems like what you're saying is that [a new EPA building in Las Vegas] and a new public outreach program are more important than the rural water technical assistance. I guess I'm questioning your priorities At some point we need to ask ourselves whether we prefer to cut everything just a little bit in order to get the deficit under control -- and in doing so we fund all programs at a reduced rate which may help no one -- or do we decide to eliminate a few programs that have run their course."
Simpson to BLM: Efforts to Prevent Sage-Grouse Listing Must Work
Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman holds hearing on FY14 budget proposal for BLM
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson examined the President's budget proposal for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) during an appropriations subcommittee hearing last week. Simpson chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the budget for the BLM and other land management agencies. During the hearing, Simpson questioned BLM Principle Deputy Director Neil Kornze on grazing, sage-grouse, and the impact of frivolous litigation on the agency.
In his opening statement, Simpson commended BLM, which is working to meet a court-imposed listing deadline, for its efforts on sage-grouse conservation. "That being said," he continued, "I want to make sure this investment will actually improve sage-grouse habitat and prevent the species from being listed in 2015, which would be devastating across the west. Now more than ever we need to see a return on this investment, not just wasting this funding on planning exercises that don't help us reach our goal."
As Simpson continued, he criticized BLM's focus on limiting existing uses of BLM land, like grazing and recreation, in order to protect sage-grouse, rather than focusing on the primary threats to the species. "As we all know after the last fire season, the greatest threat to sage grouse is wildfire," Simpson continued. "Two million acres of priority sage grouse habitat burned in wildfires. But as BLM focuses on sage grouse, it seems that the agency is looking mostly at limiting existing uses rather than controlling invasives like cheat grass and preventing wildfires. In fact, your budget decreases funding for hazardous fuels removal. Last year's fire season shows us that no matter how much we limit existing uses of public lands, wildfires could easily be the nail in the coffin for sage grouse listing. This is a top priority for me--and we need to work together on a real solution. "
Simpson also raised his concerns about the cost of frivolous litigation to the taxpayer and the impact it has on the ability of the BLM to carry out its mission. "When I raised this issue with outgoing Interior Secretary Salazar a couple of months ago," he said, "he responded that he was, at the time, the defendant in 3,000 lawsuits. Three thousand! That number alone tells you that we have a problem with frivolous lawsuits."
The hearing also covered issues including renewable energy production on public lands, proposals to increase grazing fees, and invasive species.
Simpson Cosponsors Recreational Fishing & Hunting Bill
Legislation Protects Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting on Federal Land
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson is an original cosponsor of H.R. 1825, the Recreational Fishing & Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act of 2013. This legislation would ensure that public land managers facilitate access for fishing, sport hunting, and recreational shooting on federal land managed by the BLM and Forest Service.
"Access to hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreational activities is one of the reasons Idahoans love where they live," said Simpson. "Hunters and anglers have a long heritage of enjoying these activities on public lands, and this bill ensures that they continue to have access to traditional recreational activities, even as land management plans change."
As Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, Simpson oversees funding for public lands agencies like the BLM and the Forest Service. Simpson strongly supports appropriate recreational activities, including hunting and fishing, on public lands.
House Passes Working Families Flexibility Act
Congressman Simpson Supports Measure and Praises Passage
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson joined his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives in passing legislation that allows private sector employers and employees to establish agreements that provide for compensatory time off in lieu of monetary overtime compensation. H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 passes the House with a final vote of 223-204.
"It can be very difficult to balance the needs of family and work," said Simpson. "H.R. 1406 offers individuals an opportunity to meet family obligations by choosing paid time off as compensation rather than overtime hours. This is a decision that should be made between employers and employees; the federal government should not be an impediment to those who seek flexibility."
Specifically H.R. 1406:
Allows employers to offer employees a choice between cash wages and comp time for overtime hours worked. Employees who want to receive cash wages would continue to do so. No employee can be forced to take comp time instead of receiving overtime pay.
Protects employees by requiring the employer and the employee to complete a written agreement to use comp time, entered into knowingly and voluntarily by the employee. Where the employee is represented by a union, the agreement to take comp time must be part of the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the union and the employer.
Retains all existing employee protections in current law, including the 40 hour work week and how overtime compensation is accrued - at 1.5 hours earned for each hour worked. The bill adds additional safeguards for workers to ensure the choice and use of comp time are truly voluntary.
Allows employees to accrue up to 160 hours of comp time each year. An employer would be required to pay cash wages for any unused time at the end of the year. Workers are free to "cash out' their accrued comp time whenever they choose to do so.
"The bottom line is I cosponsored and voted for this bill because it provides more flexibility for workers to use their earned overtime however they choose without losing the option to continue receiving it as the always have," added Simpson. "It also protects employers, many of whom want to offer this to their employees but currently cannot because it is not allowed by law. Employers know that providing options to their employees who are working parents, pregnant, or who are seeking a college or advanced degree, is good for moral and good for business."
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 15TH
On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
1) H.R. 701 - To amend a provision of the Securities Act of 1933 directing the Securities and Exchange Commission to add a particular class of securities to those exempted under such Act to provide a deadline for such action (Sponsored by Rep. Patrick McHenry / Financial Services Committee)
2) H.R. 384 - Homes for Heroes Act of 2013, as amended
(Sponsored by Rep. Al Green / Financial Services Committee)
3) H.R. 356 - Hill Creek Cultural Preservation and Energy Development Act
(Sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop / Natural Resources Committee)
4) H.R. 767 - To amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to modify the Pilot Project offices of the Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project (Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Cramer / Natural Resources Committee)
5) H.R. 573 - To amend Public Law 93-435 with respect to the Northern Mariana Islands, providing parity with Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa
(Sponsored by Del. Gregorio Sablan / Natural Resources Committee)
THURSDAY, MAY 16TH
On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
H.R. 45 - To repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann / Energy and Commerce Committee / Education and the Workforce Committee / Ways and Means Committee)
FRIDAY, MAY 17TH
On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business.
H.R. 1062 - SEC Regulatory Accountability Act, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Scott Garrett / Financial Services Committee)