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Congress passes bill to help retrain workers

Updated Thursday, June 26, 2014 | 8:45 a.m.

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Dean Heller

Dean Heller

Congress approved a bill today to modernize workforce development programs, which in Nevada help train job-seekers for new industries and provide educational opportunities for workers.

Congress last addressed workforce programs 16 years ago, so lawmakers praised the new legislation for giving state and local job-training boards new tools and more flexible funding to address a 21st-century workforce.

“This legislation is an example, Mr. President, of how the Senate can and should function,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said before the Senate passed the bill, 95-3.

Part of the flexibility comes from an idea generated by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev.,

The bill allows more flexibility in who can serve on local boards that determine where federal money for job-training programs should go, an idea generated by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev. Heck's proposal calls for more employers and fewer government officials to serve on the boards than under the current law.

The House of Representatives approved the legislation in March but has to vote one more time on the Senate version. It's expected to pass and go on to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Reid said he hopes this small piece of good news can motivate senators to move past procedural debates that have gummed up any progress in the Senate on other issues, such as extending tax cuts and promoting energy efficiency.

“It’s time we sink a couple baskets,” Reid said, using one of his many sports analogies.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., praised the workforce legislation as necessary to help unemployed Nevadans get back to work, although he lamented the fact his colleagues didn’t add into the bill a provision to extend federal unemployment benefits for five months. Heller introduced separate legislation with Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. on Tuesday to do just that.

“This compromise proves that Congress is capable of working together on legislation to help our economy,” Heller said on the Senate floor today. “And I’m hopeful that this experience will encourage all of us to continue working together to pass more bills to grow our economy and create new jobs.”

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