Yesterday, the House Education and Workforce Committee marked-up (reported out of committee) H.R. 803, the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Life Long Skills (SKILLS) Act, on a 23-0 vote after the 18 Democrats serving on the committee walked out mid mark-up and did not vote on the legislation. This legislation would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, which has been up for reauthorization since 2003.
The American Library Association, Washington Office sent a letter to the committee thanking Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) for their leadership by ensuring libraries are included in this critical legislation. H.R. 803 includes the following provisions for libraries:
- Ensures the state plan includes a description of the actions that will be taken by the state to foster communication, coordination, and partnerships with non-profit organizations – including public libraries;
- Ensure the local plan includes a description of the strategies and services that will be used in the local area to better coordinate workforce development programs with employment, training, and literacy services carried out by non-profit organizations – including libraries; and
- Authorize public libraries that carry out employment, training, and literacy services as additional one-stop partners.
The Democrats on the committee released the following statement after they chose to walk out of the mark-up.
“We didn’t come to this decision lightly. Unfortunately, we viewed boycotting this proceeding as our only alternative after many months of repeatedly requesting bipartisan negotiations and being rebuffed by committee Republicans. The Republican bill has scant support and has garnered significant opposition. Democrats can only come to the conclusion that this bill is being advanced for political reasons, not to make the workforce investment system work better. It would have been a dereliction of duty to continue to participate.”
Because the Democrats chose not to participate in this mark-up, Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) was unable to introduce an amendment that would further help libraries in this legislation. Representative Holt’s amendment would have allowed states to also have the ability to support employment resource centers in public libraries. It is unclear at this point if Holt plans to introduce this amendment on the floor.
Thank you to all ALA members who called their representatives to support the Holt amendment. We will need your help again when this bill is on the House floor, which should occur sometime within the next few weeks.