Last week, the Senate passed and President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – sweeping education legislation that replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Most notably, this legislation sends significant power back to the states and local districts, while still maintaining some limited federal oversight over policies.
NCLB created a national system that judged schools based on math and reading scores, and had significant requirements to raise test scores every year or face significant penalties. ESSA, on the other hand, shifts power to the states and locals while providing flexibility. This legislation seeks to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education and close student achievement gaps.
Still, this legislation is not perfect by any means. We wish stronger accountability measures were included, but in the spirit of compromise and collaboration, it is a strong step forward in ensuring a balance between federal, state and local governments. It has an emphasis on challenging academic standards and accompanying assessments and accountability plans; it also institutes changes to funding for innovative programs – including Preschool Development Grants, a competitive one-year grant program to develop, update or implement a strategic plan that facilitates and improves coordination, quality and access for early childhood education, which will now be administered jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and U.S. Department of Education.
A special thank you to Congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer for their tireless work on ESSA while sitting on the House Education and Workforce Committee.
More than twice as many union members now work for the U.S. Postal Service than in the domestic auto industry. Given that and other facts of declining union membership, the Heritage Foundation notes that labor laws need to be updated. Indiana Congressman Todd Rokita's efforts are mentioned.
Unions Resist Recognizing Achievement
Such sharp drops in union membership indicate that U.S. labor laws are out of step with the modern economy. Traditional unions no longer appeal to workers the way they did two generations ago. Outdated restrictions in labor laws are now seen as holding back both employers and employees.
For example, union wage rates are legally both minimum and maximum wages: A unionized employer may not pay employees more than the union rate without the union’s permission. While unions happily accept group raises, they often resist individual performance pay. They typically insist that employers base promotions and raises on seniority instead of individual recognition.
In 2011, Giant Eagle gave individual raises to two dozen employees at its Edinboro, Pennsylvania, grocery store. These raises were in addition to the union wages. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23 nonetheless argued that the pay increases violated their collective bargaining agreement. They objected to the fact that some entry-level employees made more than senior union members. The union filed charges. Last November, the Federal District Court for Western Pennsylvania ordered Giant Eagle to rescind the pay increases. Nationwide, union members are less than half as likely to receive performance pay as non-union employees.
This holds back union members. A one-size-fits-all approach was workable when all employees brought essentially the same skills to the bargaining table. But the nature of work is changing. Employers have automated many rote repetitive tasks. At the same time, employers are also flattening the job hierarchy. The line between management and workers is blurring. Employers increasingly expect workers to exercise independent judgment and take initiative on the job. Employers want to reward—and employees want to be rewarded for—individual contributions that no collective contract can reflect.
Any time eight members of a nine-person Congressional delegation can agree on something these days, it must be a good thing. That is the case with the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011.
H.R. 4 is expected to be considered on the House floor today and the subject of a vote on Thursday. The 273 co-sponsors include all six Indiana Republicans (Larry Buschon, Dan Burton, Mike Pence, Todd Rokita, Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young) as well as Democrats Andre Carson and Joe Donnelly. Only Pete Visclosky is missing from the co-sponsor list, which, of course, doesn’t disqualify him from supporting the bill.
For those who don’t recall the provision or prefer to block it out in order to try and get a good night’s sleep, a section of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates that small business owners file a 1099-MISC with the IRS for all payments of $600 or more to a vendor in a tax year. In other words, just about everything. In a regulatory world gone awry, this might be the biggest nightmare of all if allowed to proceed.
UPDATED: Thankfully, the U.S. House has voted to repeal this ridiculous measure. Surprisingly, despite being listed as a co-sponsor, Indiana Rep. Andre Carson voted against the measure. All eight other Hoosiers representatives sided with the majority in a 314-112 vote. The Senate has passed a slightly different version, so a compromise will need to be reached. Journal of Accountancy has the story.
As is standard practice, Indiana’s congressmen and senators released their thoughts on last night’s State of the Union speech. Here are a few samples, courtesy of Inside INdiana Business:
Sen. Richard Lugar
“More jobs, now, in private industry are essential to strengthen our country. The President spoke of his strong interest in job creation, but his State of the Union address needs immediate follow-up with very specific proposals and personal negotiation to bring bi-partisan legislation and encouragement for all businesses that are prepared to hire more people. This is job number one for President Obama and the U.S. Congress.”
Rep. Andre Carson “I hope my colleagues on the Republican side recognize that leadership is more than just slashing spending. It’s also recognizing the importance of making investments in areas that are crucial to keeping the United States at the forefront. The President has committed to cutting the deficit as well as improving resources for infrastructure, education and research. This approach is bold, necessary and one that I support.”
Rep. Todd Rokita: The President’s proposals to freeze discretionary spending does not go far enough. Rokita told WIBC the federal government should follow Indiana’s lead. He says the state reverted to 2008 spending levels and then cut another 15 percent across the board.
Rep. Pete Visclosky “President Obama made clear tonight, and I agree, that our nation’s economic security is a critical component of ensuring our broader national security. As we rebuild our nation’s economy, we must defend our existing industries, invest in our public infrastructure, and address the problem of our massive federal debt. Meeting these worthy goals can help ensure access to solid employment, expanded economic opportunities, and a good quality of life for residents of Northwest Indiana.”
I am writing to alert you of a continuing scam being perpetrated on Indiana businesses. Several businesses have reported receiving a deceptive letter that would appear to come from an official government source. The letter solicits an annual fee of $125 or $150 and claims it will be used for record keeping and processing of a company’s annual minutes. It gives the appearance of coming from a legitimate government agency and cites fictitious state law.
Specifically, copies of the letter that have been forwarded to my office appear to come from the "Indiana Corporate Compliance Business Division." They include a return by date to give the false impression that action is necessary on your part.
This letter is NOT an official correspondence from my Business Services Division or any other Indiana state agency. Investigators from my office are working with federal law enforcement to determine who is responsible for these letters and ensure they are stopped. If you received one of these solicitations, ignore it! If you have already responded to such a letters and believe you are a victim of this scam, please call the Business Services Division at (317) 232-6576.
Please also remember you can securely comply with your legitimate business entity reporting requirements to the state securely online through the INBiz portal found on my Web page at www.sos.in.gov/business. As always, my office will provide you with a courtesy reminder when your report is due to be filed. Legitimate notices from my office include the state seal of Indiana and my name.