Fiscal year 2017 starts on October 1 but Congress will not likely finish annual appropriations legislation before that date. As in past years, Congress is expected to pass a short-term bill, or continuing resolution, to provide funding to federal agencies at fiscal 2016 levels through about mid-December or longer. It is essential that Congress includes all of the H-2B provisions that were included in the FY '16 spending bill in the FY '17 appropriations package.
As you may recall, last year the Omnibus passed and signed by the President on December 18 of 2016 included a returning worker exemption. The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies section also included language that would:
- Address H-2B wages and allow the use of private wage surveys, which are not allowed under the new final H-2B wage rule;
- Clearly define seasonal as ten months, as opposed to the nine months in the new interim final H-2B comprehensive rule;
- Prevent DOL from implementing the provisions of the interim final rule related to corresponding employment and the ¾ guarantee;
- Prevent DOL from implementing the new and burdensome DOL enforcement scheme in the IFR related to audit and the Certifying Officer (CO) assisted recruitment; and
- Allow for the staggered crossing of seafood H-2B employees.
In addition to the appropriations bills, Congress is negotiating a bill to reauthorize some expiring visa programs, which could provide another opportunity to move an H-2B returning worker exemption or other H-2B relief.
There are several longer-term reform H-2B efforts in the works. Three authorizing bills have been introduced. Rep. Boustany (R-LA) introduced HR 2758, which would create an H-2B permanent returning worker exemption. Also in the House, Chairmen Chabot (R-OH) and Goodlatte (R-VA) have introduced H.R. 3918, the Strengthen Employment and Seasonal Opportunities Act. That bill is also co-sponosred by Boustany (R-LA) and Harris (R-MD).Co-sponosrs include Guinta (R-NH), Newhouse (R-WA), and Abraham (R-LA). In the Senate, Senators Tillis (R-NC), Cassidy (R-LA), Mikulski (D-MD), Collins (R-ME) Warner (D-VA), and Cornyn (R-TX) have introduced introduced S. 2225, the “Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2015.”