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Capitol Hill Update

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On December 22, 2010, the 111th Congress came to an official close.  While most lame-duck (post-election) congressional sessions live up to their name, this year’s was among one of the most active.

Beyond the high-profile reversal of the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy and the Senate’s ratification of the new START treaty with Russia, several HR-related bills were considered including the following:

  • Extension of many current tax rates (see related article).
  • Enactment of the Criminal History Background Checks Pilot Extension Act (S. 3998), a bill mandating the use of criminal background checks for certain organizations.  This new law extends the Child Safety Pilot Program, which allows certain volunteer organizations to obtain national and state criminal history background checks on their volunteers.

Congress also considered, but did NOT pass, several other HR-related bills, including the following: 

  • Compensation – In November 2010, the Senate failed by two votes to approve the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3772); a bill designed to afford plaintiffs additional remedies available under the Equal Pay Act.  The House had already passed the measure earlier in the 111th Congress.
  • Public Safety Officers’ Collective Bargaining – Proponents in the Senate fell five votes short of the 60 votes needed in support of an effort to consider the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (S. 3991) that would have extended bargaining rights to police and firefighters in states that do not allow such public safety workers to join unions.

As a result of the failure of these measures to advance during the 111th Congress, each will need to be reintroduced during the 112th Congress for any chance of becoming law. 

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