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September 14, 2004
FLSA Vote Brings Out the Lobbyists

With the surprise success last week of a House vote on legislation aimed at derailing the new overtime-exemption rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), lobbyists on both sides of the issue are focusing on the Senate, where a committee is set to consider a similar measure, the Washington Post reports.

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Last week, House Democrats and some of the majority Republicans voted to deny the Labor Department funds for enforcing the OT regulations, which took effect Aug. 23.

The 223-to-193 vote prompted Alfred B. Robinson, Jr., acting administrator of the DOL's Wage and Hour Division, to issue a statement reminding employers and employees alike that the new rules--dubbed the Overtime Security Rules by the department--still remain in effect.

"We will continue to ensure that overtime protections remain in place so that workers know their rights and employers know their responsibilities," Robinson said.

In the meantime, business and labor lobbyists are talking tough.

"We will lobby because of the likelihood of additional votes," said Lee Culpepper, the top lobbyist for the National Restaurant Association, a leader among business groups that favor the new regulations, and therefore oppose the legislation.

"We too will continue to try to educate members of Congress," said Steven J. Pfister of the National Retail Federation, which also supports the new regulations.

The NFR, like other major business groups, intends to include votes cast on the issue in its rating system. The system determines which lawmakers will get financial assistance from the federation's political action committee.

Organized labor is hoping for a repeat of the success it had in the House. "In the Senate, we're focusing on the Appropriations Committee," said Bill Samuel, the legislative director for the AFL-CIO, which also has launched a Web site designed to provide information to workers who are worried about the new rules and to help them get in touch with their members of Congress and urge them to block the regulations.

But the Post reports that despite all this activity, neither business nor labor lobbyists are confident that the issue will be resolved this year. With less than two months before Election Day, and relatively few legislative days remaining in the current session of Congress, many obstacles stand in the way of any measure that would upend the rules. The largest of these roadblocks, both sides agree, is the threat by President Bush to veto the legislation.

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