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Job Training Bill Reauthorized by Committee

On March 27, in a 26-21 party-line vote, the House Education and Workforce Committee voted to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (H.R. 1261). Authored by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), the bill would renew the federal government’s major job training, vocational education and rehabilitation programs and make changes to the 1998 WIA. The measure was approved by the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness on March 20 (see The Source, 3/21/03).

“Strengthening and improving programs that help Americans get back on to work is essential in this time of war and economic recovery,” said Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH).

A Democratic substitute amendment offered by Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI) was defeated, 16-25. The Kildee amendment called for $3.6 billion in extended unemployment benefits and the reauthorization of $650 million in job training funds and eliminated block grants.

The Committee agreed to an amendment offered by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), assuring that no state would receive less money for job training than it did in FY2003. The amendment was approved by unanimous consent. The Committee also adopted, by voice vote, an amendment by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) to restore programs for displaced homemakers and single parents. The panel also adopted, by voice vote, an amendment by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) that would authorize grants for job-training programs for low-income individuals.

The most contentious debate in the two-day proceeding was over a provision in the bill that would permit faith-based organizations receiving WIA funds to make hiring decisions on religious grounds. The 1998 legislation prohibits factoring religion into hiring decisions.

Democrats opposed the provision; Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) offered an amendment aimed at retaining the existing language prohibiting religious discrimination. The amendment was defeated, 18-22.

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