Dear NCCA Member,

During the month of January, LobbyIt sat down with Leslie Ford from Senator Lee's office to discuss S185, a bill to reform the Head Start program.
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Stakeholder Meetings
Though the new Administration has started off with a bang, Congress has, so far, mostly made promises, released their legislative agenda, and focused on confirming President Trump's nominees. GOP leaders in Congress have set an ambitious schedule for the first few months, which may prove difficult due to the number of nominees the Senate will need to confirm before any heavy-hitting legislative action can take place. However, in the meantime, the GOP has set the following timeline:
  • Repeal & replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by early April
  • A defense and border funding bill by April
  • An infrastructure bill by early summer
  • A tax overhaul and revamp of the IRS by August
This timeline was released in late January and already there have been indications that it is getting tweaked, specifically the ACA may not be repealed and replaced until next year. To complicate things further, there are troves of competing plans to replace the law. In recent weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan convened a working group of key senators and House members to get down to brass tacks. And rank-and-file members are finally getting serious about sorting through the complex details needed to rework the ACA. While top House Republicans are preparing to introduce new legislation next week that would start the repeal-and-replace process, President Trump is also expected to release a blueprint plan now that Secretary Price has been confirmed to run the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Congressional Republicans are hoping Price's arrival at HHS will bring some direction to their efforts, as well as clarity about what's coming out of the White House.
 
At the same time, there's no agreement on how much of Obamacare can be replaced through the budget reconciliation process in the Senate. Several Senators believe they will have to pass a series of piecemeal measures, starting with rolling as much replacement language as possible into a repeal bill passed with all GOP votes. At the same time, they'll look to Price to make changes to the legislation before they try to work with Democrats to pass more health care laws with a 60-vote threshold in the Senate.
 
Those bills will have to fix the reeling insurance market exchanges, preserve health care coverage for millions of Americans under Medicaid expansion and provide better health-care plans to people for lower costs, all without blowing a hole in the budget. At the moment, executing it is proving just as complicated as it sounds.

Meeting with Senator Lee's office:
 
During the month of January, LobbyIt sat down with Leslie Ford from Senator Mike Lee's office to discuss the future outlook for the Head Start program. LobbyIt targeted Senator Lee's office specifically, as he has recently introduced S185, the Head Start Improvement Act of 2017. Launched in 1965 and greatly expanded through its 2007 reauthorization, Head Start is one of the longest-running programs designed to help underprivileged children. According to a study released by HHS in 2012, advantages gained through Head Start are short-term and undetectable by the time a Head Start participant reaches the 3rd grade.

Senator Lee's bill will accomplish this by block granting $8.6 billion budget to the states, giving them full flexibility to spend on pre-K education for underprivileged children as they see fit, including as vouchers to defray the costs of private pre-school tuition. Below, an overview of the bill is provided.

The Head Start Improvement Act of 2017:
  • Block grants the Head Start funds directly to "eligible grantees".
  • "Eligible Grantees" include the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, and federally recognized Indian Tribes.
  • Eligible grantees receive an allotment of the Head Start funds, less the funds reserved above, in proportion to the number of children aged 5 and younger from families with incomes below 100% of the poverty line residing within their State.
  • Eligible grantees must provide a 20% match to all Federal Head Start funds granted, consistent with current law.
  • All funds must be used for prekindergarten education, administration of the programs, and to provide direct technical assistance, oversight, monitoring, research and training.
  • Restores the responsibility to each recipient grantee to
    • oDefine what entities within their state are eligible to receive sub-grants and award sub-grants to those eligible entities
    • oEstablish rules and standards for the entities awarded sub-grants; and
    • oMonitor compliance with state rules and standards
    • Grant recipients must create self-assessments, reports, and ongoing monitoring procedures that must be published online to demonstrate how they are serving the target population, the low-income children.
    • The bill directs the Comptroller General to submit a report to Congress comparing the different approaches used by the grant recipients.
 
While this bill will grant a significant amount of authority to the states, should it gain any momentum, LobbyIt believes it will be important for NCCA members to reach out and to be in close contact with key State players, such as the Governor's office and relevant agencies. In the meantime, Senator Lee's office indicated that the House Budget Committee is also considering Head Start legislation. LobbyIt will be reaching out to the committee to set up a time to discuss any plans for its companion bill and what the language will entail.

 
Legislative/Regulatory Outlook and Activity
Sponsor:Green, A. (D-Texas)
Introduced:1/3/2017
A bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide for the calculation of the minimum wage based on the Federal poverty threshold for a family of 4, as determined by the Bureau of the Census.

Sponsor:Green, G. (D-Texas)
Introduced:1/3/2017
A bill to direct the Secretary of Labor to revise regulations concerning the recording and reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.