Just a reminder that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will mark up legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) today at 10:00am. The National Skills Coalition has published a nice summary that provides some good background on this bill.
The National Coalition for Literacy has sent the committee a letter of support for the bill.
There is still apparently some disagreement in the disability community about the title on vocational rehabilitation negotiated separately from the rest of the bill by HELP committee Chairman Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Alexander (R-TN). Their plan establishes new requirements that must be met before individuals with disabilities could be allowed to work for less than the federal minimum wage, but some advocates are concerned it does not go far enough.
UPDATE 11:05 AM: Well, that was quick. The Committee passed the bill quickly and uneventfully about 20 minutes into the session, by a vote of 18-3. Voting no were Sens. Burr, Scott, and Roberts. Sen. Paul not voting.
UPDATE 2:30 PM: In a piece published in The Hill this morning, Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, former commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration under President Clinton and a vice president at the National Federation of the Blind, explains his concerns about the vocational rehabilitation changes proposed by Sens. Harkin and Alexander:
Section 511 purports to permit placement in subminimum wage work only as part of training for later competitive employment, with a review of the worker’s status required every six months. But this approach would merely write subminimum wages into the Rehabilitation Act—where there has never before been any language authorizing subminimum wages. Sheltered workshops often claim that they are training their workers, but we know from sad experience and extensive study that 95 percent of the workers who enter sheltered workshops never leave them. Section 511 does nothing but require a rehabilitation counselor to certify that a worker is in “training” every six months. This proposal will simply make the rehabilitation system complicit in the exploitation of disabled workers from the time they are old enough to leave school—or possibly earlier—until they die.