Washington / Federal Affairs

April 11, 2008

Family and Medical Leave Act Extension Gets Congressional Scrutiny

Fifteen years after Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) became law, Congress is seeking to extend the protections to more families and to those who cannot afford to be out of work for 12 weeks without pay. Meanwhile, draft regulations issued earlier this year from the US Department of Labor seek to clarify existing provisions of the act and to make its application more uniform.

United States Department of Labor (USDOL), testifying before the House Education and Labor Workforce Protections Subcommittee, indicated the draft regulations seek to clarify issues such as “intermittent leave” and medical documentation requirements for those with chronic illnesses.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) has introduced a bill to make the FMLA leave paid and, along with other members, praised the USDOL’s expansion of FMLA to include military families who need up to six months of leave to care for wounded veterans or 12 weeks of leave following the deployment of a family member.

Office of Management & Budget:  FY 10 Budget Will Not Offer New Proposals

In a memo sent to federal agency heads, Office of Management & Budget (OMB) Director Nussle advised that federal agencies this year need not submit budget requests and supporting document in September, as they normally do. Rather, OMB will prepare a budget database that includes a current services baseline or an estimate based on current spending that does not include proposed increases and new policy proposals.

Although a departure from past practices during a transition from one administration to another, many believe that any new proposal submitted as part of an FY 10 budget would likely be ignored by the next White House and Congress. Budget experts are divided on whether this approach is sound. Most agree that the soundness of the approach will rely on the collection of the baseline spending information and the quality of that data.

Democratic Leaders Continue to Shape Another Stimulus Bill

Leaders in both houses are shaping a second economic stimulus package, with an eye toward bringing it to a vote prior to the Memorial Day recess. Under active discussion for including within the package are extended unemployment benefits, additional funds for state and local construction projects, a temporary boost in federal Medicaid dollars, and a foot stamp increase. It’s not clear whether the second stimulus package will move as a stand-alone measure or be attached to a must pass bill such as a supplemental defense spending bill.

FCC Adopts Rules for Delivery of Commercial Mobile Alerts to the Public During Emergencies

The FCC adopted rules earlier this week that will support the ability of the nation’s wireless carriers to transmit timely and accurate alerts, warnings and critical information to the cell phones and other mobile devices of consumers during disasters or other emergencies. The FCC’s Order adopts relevant technical requirements based on the recommendations of an advisory committee. Wireless carriers that choose to participate in the Commercial Mobile Service Alert System  will be required to comply with the rules adopted in the Order within ten months from the date of announcement that a federal agency has been designated to collect and transmit the alerts to the wireless carriers. The text of the Order can be found here.