Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up: June 30, 2014

A quick look at the news from last week:


The Senate passed H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by a vote of 95-3 on Thursday, with Senators Coburn (R-OK), Johnson (R-WI) and Lee (R-UT) voting against it. The bill represents a bipartisan compromise between House and Senate leaders on two pieces of legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act that were passed by the full House and the Senate HELP Committee earlier this Congress. There were three amendments offered during Senate floor consideration: a Sen. Flake (R-AZ) amendment on the makeup of local workforce boards which was defeated by a vote of 33-63, a Sen. Lee (R-UT) amendment relating to evaluation report requirements which was defeated by a vote of 40-58, and a manager’s technical amendment offered by Sen. Harkin (D-IA) which was agreed to by a voice vote. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to be considered as early as the week of July 7.

Senate education committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) released a draft proposal for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  The “The Higher Education Affordability Act” touches upon most areas of the Higher Education Act. Chairman Harkin has asked for feedback on the bill from interested stakeholders and submissions should be sent to by August 29, 2014.

Robert Gordon’s nomination to be Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on June 25. His nomination will now go to the Senate floor.

The Senate will be in recess this week.


House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and higher education subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) released a white paper outlining principles for strengthening the higher education system. Chairman Kline stated his intention of releasing a series of bills that address the principles in the white paper, and the first three of these bills were introduced on Thursday:

Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act (introduced by Reps. Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Mike Kelly (R-PA), John Tierney (D-MA), Tim Bishop (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Ed Royce (R-CA))

Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (introduced by Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Luke Messer (R-IN))

Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (introduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Richard Hudson (R-NC))

The House Education and the Workforce Committee made several subcommittee assignments: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) to the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions and the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) to the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions.

The House will be in recess this week.


Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell stated that the U.S. Department of Education will “pause” their efforts to develop a regulation requiring state authorization for distance education programs in each state in which they operate. The issue was recently part of a Negotiated Rulemaking session during which the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee failed to come to a consensus on the issue. The Department would have had to issue a final regulation by November 1 of this year in order for the regulation to go into effect for the 2015 fall semester, but Mitchell said the regulation will not be issued by that date.

The U.S. Department of Education will also delay implementation of the state authorization regulation for programs that are physically located in states other than the main campus of an institution. The rule was scheduled to go into effect on July 1 of this year, but the Department delayed it a year to July 1, 2015. This is the second delay in implementation of this regulation.

The U.S. Department of Education announced a new “Results-Driven Accountability” system for their monitoring of state special education programs. The system, which adds academic-related factors to the compliance monitoring historically used by the Department with states, will be in effect for this coming school year.

The U.S. Department of Education released a Notice of Proposed Priorities and Definitions for Discretionary Grant Programs. The purpose of the proposal is to provide the Department with a menu of priorities that it can use for individual grant competitions without having to take public comment on them each time. Comments on the NPP are due by July 24, 2014.