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Lansing State Journal: Allow for opportunity in 21st century workplace

April 26, 2016
Opinion Editorial
By Rep. Tim Walberg and Rep. Mike Bishop

For too many Americans, an underperforming economy has diminished opportunities to pursue their dreams and leave behind a better future for the next generation.

Millions of men and women are struggling to find full-time, good paying jobs. Wages across the country remain stagnant. Working families face one challenge after another to get ahead. As policymakers, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to help.

Recently we held a House Education and the Workforce subcommittee field hearing at Lansing Community College to hear from those affected by federal regulations coming out of Washington, DC. The panel took a close look at the maze of rules produced by entrenched and unelected bureaucrats who often forget how their top-down rulemaking personally affects Americans across the country.

A millennial from the Manhattan Institute stated that heavy-handed regulations inhibit young people from entering the workforce, limit workers from using 21st century technology like smartphones, and make it more difficult for innovative companies like Uber and AirBnB to exist. Another witness from the Michigan Health & Hospital Association noted that non-profits, like hospitals, would incur significant cost increases due to burdensome regulations, leaving fewer resources to devote to a non-profit's main mission.

For almost 80 years, the Fair Labor Standards Act has been the foundation of our wage and hour standards and the law plays an important role in the lives of millions of hardworking Americans. A lot has changed in our workplaces over the last 80 years, however, and these outdated federal rules have not kept up. The law's flawed and rigid regulatory structure creates confusion and uncertainty, raising more questions than it provides answers.

Of particular concern to the panelists was the Department of Labor's proposed overtime rule, which the agency is in the process of finalizing. Instead of making changes to address the complexity of current regulations, the proposal will impose significant burdens on small businesses, limit workplace flexibility, and make it harder for workers to advance in their careers—ultimately hurting the very people who need help.

For example, the associate vice president for Human Resources at the University of Michigan answered, "it is inconceivable that it would not," when asked whether the proposed overtime rule would negatively affect tuition. According to her testimony, the rule could cost the University of Michigan as much as $34 million to implement. Many other institutions of higher education have expressed similar concerns.

In order for a healthy economy, there are better ways to responsibly update current rules and regulations. We must take into account advances in technology and better reflect the innovations we have today. We also must do so in a way that does not place additional burdensome requirements on small business owners, does not stifle job creation, and does not limit opportunity and workplace flexibility.

As our economy changes, so should our policies to meet the needs of the 21st century workplace. Instead of giving more power to unelected bureaucrats, we should expand personal opportunity, empower hardworking men and women, and grow a healthy economy where more dreams, ingenuity, and freedom can become a reality.

Congressman Tim Walberg represents Michigan's 7th District and serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee as Chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee. Congressman Mike Bishop represents Michigan's 8th District and serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. This op-ed originally appeared in the April 25 edition of the Lansing State Journal.