‘King of Pop’ dies, but the rest of us muddle on

A few relevant links today that have nothing to do with Michael Jackson:

The U.S. Supreme Court says school officials can’t strip search students who pose no clear threat of danger to others; seems like a gimme, but Justice Clarence Thomas dissents.

Senate Democrats keep cutting health-care reform costs, while Republicans insist any public option is a dealbreaker.

The Assembly tries to buy some time before California must start issuing IOUs, but the state Senate smacks it down.

The GOP continues to claim climate-change legislation will cost each American family up to $3,100 per year. But, no.

Heh, heh. [chortle] BwahAHAHAHA!


So’s you can see the ax falling sooner

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, is an author and Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, is among cosponsors of a bipartisan bill introduced today to strengthen a law requiring employers to notify workers and their communities of mass layoffs or plant closings.

“Workers deserve more than just a pink slip when they lose their job because of our nation’s economic difficulties,” Miller said in a news release. “Current protections for workers being laid off are both confusing and rarely enforced. While an early warning may not save their job, a meaningful early notice will help them prepare to find a new job or upgrade their skills for new employment.”

In recent months, laid-off workers have filed lawsuits over violations of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act against companies such as Lehman Brothers, retailers like Sam’s Club and Goody’s, the electronics chain Tweeter, ABX Air, USA Jet Airlines, and major law firms, say Miller et al.

Congress passed the WARN Act in 1988 to give workers and communities 60 days notice to adjust to an impending plant closing or mass layoff, because evidence shows retraining and other readjustment efforts have the most success when such notice is given.

But the new bill’s sponsors say the law has been undermined by loopholes and weak enforcement. The Government Accountability Office found a few years ago that the WARN Act covers only 24 percent of all layoffs, and of those, employers only provided notice approximately one-third of the time. The WARN Act has several exceptions that employers can invoke such as unforeseen business circumstances and whether a company is trying to attract capital to avoid a shutdown. And the WARN Act is only invoked at companies with at least 100 employees that are laying off 33 percent or more of their workforce.

The GAO found employers failed to provide notice to employees in two-thirds of layoffs and closures where the WARN Act applied, yet the law requires violating employers only to pay an employee a day’s pay for every day of notice not provided and does not give the federal government authority to enforce workers’ rights.

H.R. 3042, the new FOREWARN Act, would give the U.S. Department of Labor authority to enforce the WARN Act, and would increase penalties for violation to double back pay. It also would reduce the mass layoff figure from 50 to 25; reduce the employer size from 100 to 75 employees; lower the mass layoff trigger; lengthen the notification period from 60 to 90 days; and require employers to give the Labor Department written notification including the reason for the plant closing or mass layoff, whether the employer has jobs elsewhere, and a statement of each employee’s right to wages and benefits. And the bill would expand notification recipients to include the Secretary of Labor, elected officials including the governor, members of Congress, and state representatives, and labor unions.


Your voices on Capitol Hill, speaking

Here’s Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, urging the House today to adopt an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 that would call for the Defense Secretary to report to Congress by Dec. 31 a comprehensive exit strategy from the war in Afghanistan:

The amendment later failed on a 138-278 vote: Lee, Pete Stark, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda and Lynn Woolsey voted for it; Ellen Tauscher and Jerry McNerney opposed it; and Zoe Lofgren and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t vote.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, spent some quality time today grilling Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing:


Hold on Tauscher’s nomination lifted

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo

Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl has reportedly relented and released late this afternoon the hold he had on Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher’s nomination as undersecretary for Arms Control and National Security. (Click here for my story set for publication on Thursday.)

It’s unclear why Kyl changed his mind. His press secretary hasn’t returned my calls.

I did hear that several of Tauscher’s biggest supporters, the powerful California sens.  Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, lent their considerable clout to the negotiations with the junior Arizona senator.

In theory, Kyl could have held up Tauscher’s nomination indefinitely although that was unlikely. The hold is a common procedural tactic deployed by the minority party intended to make a political point or get the administration’s attention on a particular issue. The Cable, a Washington Post-owned foreign policy news site, reported on Monday evening that Kyl is concerned about the administration’s decision to pursue arms reduction treaty talks with Russia prior to the final release of the national Nuclear Posture Review.

The Senate is scheduled to recess Thursday night prior to July 4 recess and Tauscher’s nomination is one of many still in the hopper.

But if Tauscher can secure the nomination to her new job before the Senate recesss, it will be one heck of a wedding present.

She is set to marry on Saturday retired airline pilot retired Delta Airlines pilot Jim Cieslak.


California’s richest person supports Jerry Brown

Your campaign finance tidbit du jour: Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison – with an estimated net worth of $22.5 billion, placing fourth on Forbes’ most recent list of the richest people in the world – gave California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s nascent 2010 gubernatorial campaign $13,000 Saturday, according to the Secretary of State’s database as updated today.

I think $13,000 is about 5.8 millionths of $22.5 billion. Or, as Larry Ellison might say, a generous tip.