Every Spring, college students head for Cancún and lawmakers head home to their districts and states. In the meantime, many issues critical to HR professionals remain unresolved. Here’s a quick “roundup” of what’s still pending when Congress returns next week.
Federal Minimum Wage
Both the House and Senate have passed bills calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, but remain at odds over tax offsets designed to ease the wage increase’s pain on small business.
Senate and House leaders will reach a compromise and President Bush is likely to sign the increase into law. Employee Free Choice Act
Debate will continue over whether to allow unions to bypass the private ballot election system during union organizing drives in favor of a process called “card-check.” The House approved the Employee Free Choice Act
on March 1 by a vote of 241 to 185, but Senate action is uncertain because most Republicans and a few Democrats oppose the legislation. SHRM and its members have sent more than 7,000 letters to Capitol Hill in opposition to this bill.
Outlook: Look for more delays in the Senate. If a bill does reach President Bush, he has promised to veto it.
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act
This legislation, which would prohibit health insurers and employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their predisposition to certain genetic disorders, is awaiting a vote in both the House and Senate. SHRM supports efforts to prohibit genetic discrimination and has been working with members of Congress to help strengthen the bill and avoid unintended consequences for HR professionals.
Start planning the Rose Garden signing ceremony. A version of this legislation is almost certain to become law before the end of this year. Health Care
The SHRM-backed mental health parity bill (S. 558)
is gaining momentum in the Senate. This bipartisan legislation would require employers who offer mental health coverage under their health plans to provide parity between mental and physical health coverage. The full Senate is expected to consider this bill shortly after they return to work next week. Outlook:
Democrats, Republicans, health care professionals and many employee and employer groups support the legislation. Another signing ceremony is a good bet.
To keep track of the latest developments in these and other HR public policy issues pending on Capitol Hill, access SHRM’s Congressional Monitor