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  • Tue, July 02, 2019 12:59 PM | Anonymous

    The Senate HELP Committee is expected to include some form of the so-called “workforce Pell” in its forthcoming draft of legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. One promising model for this provision is the Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act. Cosponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), the JOBS Act would make federal financial aid available to students seeking streamlined workforce education and training by allowing Pell funding for programs shorter than a semester that meet labor market needs and lead to credentials recognized by employers.

    Adding momentum, there’s now a House companion bill – H.R. 3497, the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act – is identical to the Senate bill extending Pell Grant funding to short, job-focused community college education and training. [Original cosponsors in the House include: Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA-02); Andy Levin (D-MI-09); Steven Horsford (D-NV-04); Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16); Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03); and John Katko (R-NY-24)].

    Member RESOURCE:

    As Congress considers new funding for short-term, job-focused community college education and training, the coalition CIRT is a member of, Opportunity America, is releasing a new report examining programs that could become eligible for federal financial aid – An Unknown Landscape: Short-Term Job-Focused College Programs. [The Report includes in part: What kinds of short, job-focused programs are being offered on college campuses? How do students currently cover costs? How are short-term programs held accountable? The analysis is amassed from visiting eight colleges in four states to answer these and other questions]. Its principal finding: there is strong demand for short job-focused programs among students and employers. Educators on all eight campuses said their offerings are meeting local labor market need but far from satisfying it, and if additional federal funding were available, more could be done to train workers for local jobs.

    Opportunity America is a Washington-based nonprofit promoting economic mobility – work, skills, careers, ownership and entrepreneurship for poor and working Americans. The organization’s principal activities are research, policy development, dissemination of policy ideas and working to build consensus around policy proposals.

  • Wed, April 10, 2019 7:57 AM | Anonymous

    Both the U.S. Senate and House Education Committees have started work on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which determines eligibility for some $122 billion a year in federal financial aid for college students – mostly student loans and grants, including Pell Grants. HEA reauthorization will be a sprawling, contentious debate, and workforce education will be only one issue among many. An important bi-partisan proposal in the discussion has been offered by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) – introduced as a stand-alone bill, the JOBS Act, but intended ultimately as an amendment to HEA – that would free-up significant support for short job training programs offered at community colleges.

    A bill introduced yesterday by Indiana Republicans Sen. Mike Braun and Rep. Jim Banks purports to serve the same purpose – funding for short community college job training programs. But that bill is considerably narrower than the JOBS Act – it would fund far fewer programs and only on a temporary basis. This could ultimately undermine or erode support for the broader more favorable expanse of the JOBS Act.  If you are interested in this legislation, please contact your members of the Senate, especially those on the Senate HELP Committee.

    [For a more detailed explanation of the two bills, see attached comparison].

  • Wed, April 10, 2019 7:50 AM | Anonymous

    Over 100 business groups came out in support today of new legislation to make permanent the 20-percent pass-through deduction.  Introduced by Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), the "Main Street Certainty Act of 2019" (S. 1149) -- is the companion bill to H.R. 216, bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Jason Smith (R-MO) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) in the House of Representatives. The new, 20-percent deduction was a key part of the big tax reform bill enacted back in 2017. The deduction was designed to balance out the tax treatment of pass-through businesses with the lower, 21-percent tax rate paid by C corporations. As an EY study from last year made clear, the deduction works to level the playing field, but only for those business that get the full deduction.

    The challenge is that the deduction is scheduled to expire in 2026, at which time taxes on pass-through businesses would go up. This tax hike is due to the fact that while most of the individual provisions in tax reform, including the Section 199A deduction, expire beginning 2026, many of the revenue raising provisions applied to the business community remain in place, including the new cap on interest deductibility and the repeal of the old manufacturing deduction.  The Daines/Smith-Cuellar bills would prevent this tax hike on Main Street businesses.

  • Tue, April 02, 2019 5:29 PM | Anonymous

    As part of the Opportunity America Jobs and Careers Coalition efforts to move forward talent/workforce issues at the federal policy level, members of the coalition met to map-out strategies to garner Administration support. Currently, debate on the Higher Education Act (HEA) is heating up, which will give the coalition a chance to weigh-in on issues most relevant to the design/construction community such as: workforce Pell, the College Transparency Act, and the White House’s workforce and legislative priorities. Also on the table is the White House interests, lead by Ivanka Trump, on industry-recognized apprenticeship.  Finally, the coalition has also voiced its interest in a potential workforce angle to the infrastructure debate. 

  • Thu, March 14, 2019 3:20 PM | Anonymous

    The multi-year PLO coalition of design and construction organizations has once again raised the banner to resist mandatory federal policy on project labor agreements, that endorses a one-size fits all approach to this complex matter.  The coalition, which CIRT is a member, has been active in the past few weeks signaling to the President its opposition to mandatory, or presumptive use of, PLOs on all federal projects (even potentially federally funded projects), consist with it long held views on the subject (see, letter to POTUS).  In addition, a coalition letter in support of the introduction of the “Fair and Open Competition Act” (bill numbers TBD) by Rep. Ted Budd (NC) and Sen. Todd Young (IN); is being drafted for distribution to key Congressional members. (Link to bill details here).

    The new legislative vehicle (only 7-pages) is the same as the coalition supported bill against government-mandated project labor agreements introduced in the last Congress (which had more than 100 cosponsors and was reported out favorably by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – when it was chaired by the Republicans at the time). 

  • Fri, March 08, 2019 3:32 PM | Anonymous

    While infrastructure remains a central bipartisan goal, with the House Democrats vowing to introduce legislation in the coming weeks; the long sort after illusive consensus on how to pay for the package is lacking at this time. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told Bloomberg BNA this week: “[W]hile everybody wants to invest in infrastructure, it is more problematic from many perspectives of how you pay for that.”

    The Democrat led effort wants a “traditional” funding plan that is likely to include more federal spending than the one put forth by President Trump; with groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Society of Civil Engineers endorsing a hike in the gas tax by 25 cents over the next five years. Whereas, the President and his Republican allies in Congress favor a variety of alternative funding approaches that include: states, localities, and the private sector supplying most of the $1.5 trillion cost for building new roads, bridges and other public works projects. This approach would include a more modest federal expenditure of some $200 billion over a decade in support of the alternative spending sources and levels.

    Aside from the funding mechanism, Democrats are likely to want an infrastructure bill to include other more controversial provisions that promote clean energy and combat climate change, which could also be a non-starter for President Trump and Republican lawmakers.

  • Mon, March 04, 2019 4:18 PM | Anonymous

    Next week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on (H.R. 1),  a piece of legislation that critics contend will likely “gut free speech and advocacy rights.”  CIRT has joined a coalition of organizations including the U.S. Chamber, to voice fundamental constitutional and election advocacy concerns regarding this piece of legislation.  (View a fact sheet on H.R. 1 by clicking here & the Coalition Letter here.)

    The disingenuously named “For the People Act of 2019 takes the worst ideas out of past discredited proposals like the DISCLOSE Act, and builds upon them, such as:

    • imposes new regulations on political speech by all Americans – especially by businesses and business organizations,
    • federalizes many aspects of election law currently under the jurisdiction of states, and
    • makes significant changes to the rules surrounding lobbying and advocacy.

    CIRT is opposed to the imposition of these unnecessary and highly corrosive effects on free speech, especially political speech, which is the most sacred under the constitution.

  • Fri, February 08, 2019 1:21 PM | Anonymous

    In an op-ed penned by Elaine L. Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, she reiterates the vital nature of a robust modern infrastructure in the United States, saying in part “infrastructure is an issue that has potential for bipartisan consensus in Washington. Leaders in both parties recognize that infrastructure needs to be a priority.”  With that the Secretary commits the President to this matter saying the “Trump administration stands ready to help get this job done, for Americans today and for the generations to come.”

    The scope of our infrastructure needs, (beyond the obvious roads, bridges, tunnels, and other modes of transport) includes such disperse challenges as “seaports and inland waterways essential for commerce,  . . . ” as well as electric grids, pipelines, and a myriad of other assets. The Secretary noting that: “President Trump also believes our country must invest in cutting-edge technologies that promise to shape our world for years to come, such as a secure 5G network, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and rural broadband.”  The failure to do “anything” is shark, insufficient or failing infrastructure can impede our economic growth, while impacting the quality of life enjoyed by all Americans.

    But, the challenge is not just finding sufficient funding, it also includes addressing : “Government red tape delays, and sometimes denies, needed infrastructure improvements. The Trump administration is committed to streamlining government permitting and approval processes so that infrastructure projects can be delivered more quickly.”

    Fortunately, there seems to be little doubt, that: “[t]here is considerable interest on both sides of the aisle in considering infrastructure legislation in the coming year.”

    For a full version of Secretary Chao’s op-ed go to: https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/transportation-secretary-chao-dems-and-gop-should-join-with-trump-to-fund-infrastructure-improvements

  • Wed, November 14, 2018 5:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With the results of the mid-terms mostly determined, one initiative that appears to have moved front and center is a national infrastructure effort.  Both likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Trump have highlighted this area as possible ground where the two political sides could find common cause. Obviously, any measure would have to maneuver through a mine-field of compromises; both as to price tag (between $500 to $200 billion), and policy issues such as providing incentives for state and local governments to identify additional revenue sources and methods.  Already discussed by the Department of Transportation during 2018 are such approaches as: incentive grants; reforms to make it easier to use long-term public private partnerships (P-3s); and even use of a fairly new concept called “asset recycling.” [A new Reason Foundation policy study provides an introduction to infrastructure asset recycling concept, and how it may serve as way to leverage value infrastructure assets for future needs].

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