It's a small change, but one that could greatly increase the influence of businesses with their local governments when it comes to job creation. A job-training bill that passed the Senate on Wednesday, 95-3, significantly bolsters employers' voices on local committees that determine what types of job-training programs receive federal dollars. It does that primarily by shrinking these committees to less than half their current size.
Gone are the currently required slots for labor officials, state legislature members, and representatives of "economic agencies." In their place, the legislation designates spots for community-based organizations, joint labor-management programs, and employment agencies. It also allows for a lot of flexibility. One board might have a community-center leader as a member, and another might have a local union official in the same spot. Even the governor's membership is optional.
The most important thing about these Workforce Investment Boards is that they must be made up of a majority of business leaders. That's no different from the current law, but the trimmed-down boards mean that the employer representatives might actually get to use their membership for something other than community service. Right now, some board members complain that they do nothing but attend meetings. The boards are so bloated that they are "unwieldy and can't work," according to Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., a chief sponsor of the bill.