Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up — January 12, 2015

A quick look at the news from last week, compiled by Penn Hill Group:


Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was elected to a third term as Speaker of the House, by a vote of 216-192.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced recommendations for committee assignments – Democrats will vote on the nominations this week. New members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee include Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Katherine Clark (D-NY), Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA).

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 30, the Save American Workers Act, by a vote of 252-172. The bill repeals the 30-hour definition of full-time employment under the Affordable Care Act, and replaces it with a 40-hour definition. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, and while the bill passed, the vote was short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a Presidential veto.


Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was elected by Republicans to serve as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Sen. Alexander served as Ranking Member in the previous Congress.

Education Week reported that the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) testing issues on January 20.

HELP Committee Chairman Alexander, along with HELP Committee members Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), introduced the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency (FAST) Act. The bill seeks to simplify the federal student aid process by eliminating the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and replacing it with two questions to determine eligibility. The bill also allows for year-round Pell Grants, increases communications to borrowers on what to expect during repayment of their loans, and simplifies repayment options.

Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced Ranking Members for the subcommittees. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will be the Ranking Member on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

The Senate selected Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to serve as Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Chairman Thune also announced the subcommittee chairs for the committee and Sen. Ted Cruz will chair the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness.


President Obama announced a proposal to offer students tuition-free community college. The America’s College Promise proposal would offer eligible students (those attending at least half time and maintaining a 2.5 GPA) two free years of tuition. Federal funds would cover three quarters of the cost, and states would need to cover the rest of the cost of tuition. He stated that his announcement is a preview of his State of the Union address. The President also announced a proposal to fund 100 technical training centers through partnerships between employers and community colleges or other training organizations.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice released joint guidance for states and school districts on ensuring that English learners have equal access to high-quality education.

The Government Accountability Office released a report in late December that looked at states that are receiving federal funds to develop Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, and the challenges states are facing in reliably matching data between education sectors and workforce sectors.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published a notice that outlines its plan to regulate around implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that was enacted last summer. The notice states that DOL and ED will publish five notices of proposed rulemaking (NPRMs) in Spring 2015 (despite WIOA requiring DOL and ED to publish these rules later this month), with the intention of publishing final regulations in early 2016. The five NPRMs will address: jointly administered activities including state plans, performance, and the one-stop system; Title I and Title III issues; Title II Adult Education and Literacy; and two on Title IV amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 made by WIOA. The Employment and Training Administration will also publish operating guidance in Spring 2015 to support implementation for certain provisions that go into effect July 1, 2015.

President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20 at 9:00 p.m. Follow Penn Hill Group on Twitter for live updates from the address.