Connect with us

Guest Columnists

More options for working families

Bradley Byrne

Published

on

Bradley Byrne

Congressman Bradley Byrne (Al-1)

In the early part of 2017, much of the focus in Congress has been on rolling back damaging policies of the Obama Administration. We have had real success in these efforts, stopping flawed regulations covering everything from education to the Second Amendment to Planned Parenthood.

I think it is critically important we continue looking to reverse regulations and policies that do not work. At the same time, it is also important that we advance our own solutions that will make life better for hard working families.

Advertisement

As Chairman of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, I led a hearing regarding one such solution last week. Our Committee held a hearing on HR1180, the Working Families Flexibility Act. This bill, which was introduced by my Alabama colleague Martha Roby, would go a long way toward giving working families greater options when it comes to time off.

The workforce of today is very different from the workforce of forty or fifty years ago. Millennials now represent the majority of the workforce. In nearly half of two-parent households, both parents work full time. That’s up from roughly 30 percent in 1970. Meanwhile, technological advances continue to rapidly change the very nature of how we work and stay connected to work.

This means that working families today face a different set of challenges when it comes to balancing their work and family lives. We often hear the phrase that “there just aren’t enough hours in the day.” Well, the Working Families Flexibility Act would help address this issue and improve the quality of life for hardworking men and women.

For decades, public-sector employers have been able to offer workers the choice between paid time off and cash wages for working overtime. That’s because in 1985, Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to give public-sector employees greater flexibility.
But under federal law, it is still illegal to extend the same benefits to private-sector employees who are eligible for overtime pay. This isn’t right, and it isn’t fair.

Private-sector workers should be afforded the same freedom to do what’s best for themselves and their families. For many Americans working paycheck to paycheck, earning some additional income is the choice that is best for them, but the federal government shouldn’t assume that’s the best choice for everyone.

Unfortunately, union leaders and special interest groups have tried desperately over the years to deny workers the freedom to make that choice. They’ve been incredibly false and misleading in the process, so let me be clear.

This bill preserves the 40-hour work-week and existing overtime protections. For workers who elect to receive paid time off, their leave would accrue at the same rate—time-and-a-half—as wages.

The bill includes strong protections to ensure the use of comp time is completely voluntary. No worker can be forced to take comp time instead of overtime pay. Workers can switch back to receiving cash wages whenever they choose, and they are allowed to cash out their comp time for any reason at any time.

This bill also includes important protections to prevent employers from intimidating or coercing employees into receiving paid leave in lieu of cash wages, and the Department of Labor would have full authority to enforce those protections.

Ultimately, this is about freedom, choice, and fairness. Democrats and Republicans came together more than 30 years ago to amend the law to provide more choices for public-sector workers, and it’s time we did the same for workers in the private sector.

The Working Families Flexibility Act is exactly the kind of forward-looking and conservative policy we should be championing as we help support the workforce of the 21st Century.

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | A tax code that works

Bradley Byrne

Published

on

Each April, Americans across the country face great frustration and inconvenience in filing their taxes.

Fortunately, this Tax Day marked the last time Americans would file their taxes under the old tax code.  Thanks to passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Americans will now have a simpler and fairer tax code. I was proud to work with President Trump to reform our tax code and make the process easier for taxpayers.

Starting next year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will bring Americans relief when filing their taxes under a more streamlined, straightforward tax code.  However, making the overall filing process simpler and more convenient was just one of the many ways we worked to create a tax code that benefits and works for the American people.

Advertisement

One of the most important reforms under the new tax code is the doubling of the standard deduction.  This provision increases the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples.  Combined with new lower tax rates, almost every Alabamian should see a tax decrease.

Also important, the new tax code prioritizes American families by doubling the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child.  It is no secret that raising a family is not cheap; so, this increase provides additional support for families struggling to pay for childcare and other necessary expenses associated with parenting.

To provide even more support for families, the bill preserves the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, as well as the Adoption Tax Credit.  Even more, the bill makes improvements to saving options for education by allowing parents to use 529 accounts to save for elementary, secondary, and higher education.

Most people will not have to wait until the next tax season to see the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  Already, many hardworking Alabamians are seeing more money in their paychecks each month.  That means your hard-earned money is ending up back in your pockets, rather than the coffers of the federal government.

Tax reform has also helped spur overall economic growth. Our bill helps to level the playing field for American businesses, creating new job opportunities and finally causing wages to rise after years of stagnation.

Many businesses have also handed out bonuses and improved benefits to their workforce. Since passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, I have had the pleasure of personally handing out bonus checks at multiple businesses in Southwest Alabama. Trust me, these workers were thrilled with the extra money.

 We aren’t stopping now either. The House passed a package of bills last week to help cut down on identity theft and to hold criminals accountable for IRS scams. It is important that these crooks be punished for trying to defraud hardworking Americans, including our nation’s senior citizens.

Equally important, the House also passed bills to make the IRS more efficient, effective, and accountable. The IRS should be a customer-friendly organization that responds to the questions and concerns of the American people.

In the past four months, we have seen tremendous growth right here in Southwest Alabama because of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.  From our small business owners handing out bonus checks to our single-income families taking home extra money in their paychecks, evidence shows that allowing Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money is a huge boom for our economy.

As we bid farewell to an old, outdated tax code, Americans can rest easy knowing they have a simpler, fairer tax code to work with in the future.

 

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Preserving our history to protect our future

Gerald Allen

Published

on

Doing the right thing isn’t always politically expedient, but a strong leader does what’s necessary regardless of her critics. Governor Kay Ivey exemplifies this kind of no-nonsense leadership.

Last year, our state faced a difficult decision: should we listen to the politically-correct, out-of-state pundits or do what’s best for the future of Alabama?

All across Alabama, we have monuments and statues that tell our storied past. Many of these moments have affected our entire nation and shaped us to be who we are today. History doesn’t just tell us where we’ve been, it often provides signals and warnings for how to avoid repeating past errors. As George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Advertisement

Nearly one year ago, I sponsored the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a law that protects historic monuments and memorials in Alabama from thoughtless destruction.

More specifically, the Memorial Preservation Act prohibits the destruction or alteration of public monuments older than forty years, and established a standing committee to hear waiver requests from cities and counties, while historic artifacts under the control of museums, archives, libraries, and universities were specifically exempted from the prohibition against removal or alteration.

This law is the result of countless discussions with other legislators, historians, and interested citizens, and the intent is to preserve memorials to all of Alabama’s history – including the Civil War, the World Wars, and the Civil Rights movement – for generations to come.

We’ve seen a wave of political correctness sweep the nation, and too often, these attempts have resulted in re-writing of the American story. This politically-correct movement to strike whole periods of the past from our collective memory is divisive and unnecessary. In order to understand our complete history and where we are today, we have to tell it as it happened.

As a lawmaker, I believe it is incumbent upon us to preserve our state’s history, and I am grateful that Governor Ivey, in the face of criticism, stood up for the thoughtful preservation of Alabama’s history – the good and the bad. As father and grandfather, I am especially grateful she understood the importance of our children and grandchildren learning from the past, so they can create a better future.

Sen. Gerald Allen serves Senate District 21 which includes: Lamar County, Pickens County,and Tuscaloosa County.

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | The push for a balanced budget

Bradley Byrne

Published

on

When the 115th Congress kicked off last January, I immediately introduced a bill that I believe is fundamental to the future of our country: a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The premise of a Balanced Budget Amendment is pretty straightforward. The federal government should not be allowed to spend more than we take in, except in extraordinary circumstances like a time of war.

This isn’t some sort of far flung idea. When I served in the Alabama State Legislature, we were required to pass a balanced budget each year. It was not always easy, but it was the law. The vast majority of states have the same requirement.

Advertisement

Balancing a budget is also a common occurrence for families in Alabama and across the United States. Every month, people sit around their kitchen table to figure out how to make ends meet and live within their means. Small businesses must do the same.

The federal government should have to play by the same rules.

To truly enact a Balanced Budget Amendment, we would need to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As a reminder, in order to amend the Constitution, the Balanced Budget Amendment must pass both the House and the Senate by a two-thirds majority and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states, which is 38 out of the 50 states. The only other way to amend the Constitution would be through a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the states.

Recently, the House voted on House Joint Resolution 2, proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Despite receiving the support of a majority of us in the House, the bill did not receive the two-thirds majority necessary under the Constitution.

I was deeply disappointed that most Democrats in the House opposed the Balanced Budget Amendment. Despite talking a lot about our debt, they rejected one of the best opportunities to actually restore fiscal sanity in Washington.

Throughout the course of the debate, two important topics were raised, and I wanted to briefly address each of them.

First, despite what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle believe, the answer to our debt issues is not to tax the American people more. We do not have a tax problem; we have a spending problem.

To be clear, the recently passed tax cuts are not to blame for our nation’s debt issues. As the Heritage Foundation recently pointed out, “tax revenue is expected to fall by only 0.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and spending is expected to climb by 3 percent of GDP.” Again, we have a spending problem, not a taxing problem.

Second, the most serious drivers of the national debt are on autopilot. For example, if you eliminated every penny Congress appropriated for defense spending next year, the federal government would still be projected to operate in a deficit.   So-called mandatory spending programs must be reined in, and a balanced budget amendment would finally require Congress to tackle those programs head on.

Now, I know passing a balanced budget would be hard, but I did not run for Congress because I thought the job would be easy. We were elected by our neighbors to make difficult choices and decisions.

So, while our recent effort to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment came up short, I will not let it stop me from continuing to push for a balanced budget that requires the federal government to live within our means, just like the American people.

Continue Reading

Authors

Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending

More options for working families

by Bradley Byrne Read Time: 3 min
0