Week ahead: Labor's silica, overtime regs under scrutiny

Republicans are targeting a slew of controversial Labor Department regulations in the coming week, with a series of hearings to highlight their concerns.

The House Education and Workforce Committee starts off the week with a hearing on Tuesday to examine the department's new restrictions on silica dust at construction and manufacturing sites. http://1.usa.gov/265Nbq3

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the long-delayed protections last month. They cut the silica exposure rate in half to no more than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air at workplaces. http://bit.ly/1Ro1puA

Previously, the silica exposure standard was no more than 100 micrograms for manufacturers, and up to 250 micrograms in the construction industry.

The rules will mostly impact construction and manufacturing sites, where silica exposure is the greatest.

The Labor Department has taken criticism from both sides over the silica rule. Business groups say it will be too expensive to comply with. But public health and labor advocates have long bemoaned the agency's delay in finalizing the rule, and said they were pleased with the regulation.

Across Capitol Hill, the Senate will put another Labor Department rule under the spotlight.

The Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will hold a hearing Thursday to examine the department's overtime rule, which supporters say will raise pay for millions of low-wage workers. http://1.usa.gov/1V6Uxpt

The Labor Department last month sent the overtime rule to the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for final approval, which is expected in the coming months. http://bit.ly/22ivYqv

The details of the final rule have not yet been made public, but the department previously proposed raising the threshold for overtime pay to $50,440 a year.

Currently, the federal government does not require companies to pay time and a half to workers who make more than $23,660 in a year. The proposed rules would expand those who qualify for overtime by nearly 5 million workers, according to the Obama administration.

A spokesman for the Labor Department told The Hill they were not invited to attend either hearing.

Also on the Capitol, on Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to look at new innovative technologies to improve the water supply. http://1.usa.gov/1XzPBHz

That same day, the House Select Committee investigating Planned Parenthood will hold a hearing on fetal tissue. http://1.usa.gov/1Nbi2Lx

The Senate could also pass a major energy reform bill in the coming week that was stalled over a fight for Flint, Mich., aid money.

It's also a critical week for President Obama's executive actions on immigration. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Monday in a legal challenge to the actions.

 

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