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112th Congress

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With the State of the Union address behind them, legislators on Capitol Hill are preparing for a busy year. Look for it to be marked by efforts to repeal or amend the recently-enacted health care reform law, and some serious belt-tightening on federal spending.

In addition, the new Republican majority in the House has launched an aggressive schedule of oversight hearings on many activities of the Obama administration.

On Feb. 2, the Senate failed to muster the 60 votes needed to take up H.R 2, the Republican-led effort to repeal the health care reform law. The repeal measure had already been passed by the House in mid-January on a near party-line vote.

Despite blocking that broader repeal measure, the Senate did vote 81-17 for an amendment that would repeal the law’s IRS 1099 reporting requirement for transactions of more than $600. With that show of bipartisan opposition to the requirement, the 1099 issue will likely be addressed by Congress in the coming weeks.

Both the Education and Workforce and Ways and Means Committees in the House have now turned their attention to the reform law’s impact on jobs and the economy. Their hearings are likely to continue for the near future.

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On other HR-related issues, the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions has begun scrutinizing recent actions of the National Labor Relations Board

Last December, the NLRB announced plans to require employers covered by the Board to inform employees of their rights by posting both an 11-by-17-inch notice and an electronic message (see related article). 

In addition, the Board has threatened litigation against four states—Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah. In November, voters there approved initiatives to guarantee a secret ballot in union representation elections.

Finally, several high-profile workplace cases are also pending at the Board. They include ones dealing with union access to employer property (Roundy’s) and how bargaining units are established (Specialty Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center).  SHRM has submitted and amicus brief in the Roundy’s case (see related article).

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On Feb. 10, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held an oversight hearing on the federal government’s employment verification program, E-Verify.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who chairs the full Judiciary Committee, said executive-branch worksite enforcement agencies have not been tough enough on employers who hire unauthorized workers. He indicated his committee is likely to consider further action in this area soon.

Throughout the debate over employment verification, SHRM has maintained that the E-Verify system remains vulnerable to identity theft. What SHRM supports is a viable electronic verification system that replaces the current I-9 paperwork system. Such a solution would help prevent identity theft and provide more legal certainy for employers and employees alike.

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