New Employment Bills Address Health Care, Prevailing Wage Rates

A few new labor and employment-related bills focusing on health care and wage requirements for highway construction projects were introduced this week.

Health Care

Bills extending COBRA coverage seem very popular this session. In addition to the recent House Stimulus Bill (H.R. 1)  and the Coverage Continuity Act of 2009 (S. 29) which included provisions extending such health care coverage, the COBRA Coverage Extension Act of 2009 (H.R. 694) introduced by Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) would temporarily extend the basic 18-month period of COBRA continuation coverage to 24 months. This bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The second health care-related bill was a much more extensive reform proposal. The United States National Health Care Act or the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act (H.R. 676), introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and co-sponsored by 30 others, seeks to provide comprehensive health insurance coverage for all United States residents, among other things. This bill will not likely see much action in the near future, as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has indicated that although he favors a health care overhaul, the current economic situation will likely push off serious consideration of any major health care legislation until next year.

Prevailing Wage Rates for Highway Construction

Perhaps in anticipation of stimulus bill-funded construction projects, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced H.R. 687, a bill that would amend section 113 of title 23 and section 5333(a) of title 49 of the United States Code to repeal the prevailing wage rate requirements applicable to laborers and mechanics employed by contractors or subcontractors to work on Federal-aid highway and public transportation construction projects. The Highway Trust Fund Reform Act of 2009 would take effect on the 31st day following the date of enactment, yet would not affect any contract already in existence on that date or made pursuant to an invitation for bids outstanding at that time.

This bill was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and to the Committee on Education and Labor.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.