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March 7, 2013

Tierney, others protest GOP bill

Democrats walk out of workforce act debate, say Republicans won't negotiate

(Continued)

At a hearing last week, the Democrats called unsuccessfully for a bipartisan effort to rewrite the bill. On Monday, they sent a letter asking Republican leaders on the committee to cancel yesterday’s session and instead negotiate with Democratic members to come up with a compromise. When Republicans refused, they walked out.

“We didn’t want to be part of the charade,” Tierney said.

So, what is the difference between the Republican and Democratic bills?

Mary Sarris, executive director of the Salem-based North Shore Workforce Investment Board, said she provided input to Tierney to help craft his version of the Workforce Investment Act update.

Tierney’s bill, Sarris said, would provide opportunities for workforce investment boards to work with certain industries to train workers, such as, for example, offering a program for machinists at a community college. She said the current law does not allow the board to use federal money to provide for group training, which could be more cost-effective.

Wayne Burton, president of North Shore Community College, one of the North Shore Workforce Investment Board’s largest providers, said the Republican bill would have “major repercussions for us of the negative kind” by consolidating programs and making it uncertain where the worker training money might go. The legislation calls for business leaders to sit on workforce investment boards, eliminating community college representation.

Prior defended the Republican bill, saying it “allows people to get access to job training, and it allows job training to be done more effectively.” The GOP bill “streamlines 35 job-training programs,” he said.

“The funding goes to the people that need it, and it’s not hung up in the bureaucracy,” he said.

Tierney is not convinced. With block grants, he said, “everyone is going to fight for a piece of the pie, and you take your best shot.”

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

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