30 Nov 2018
November 30, 2018

Legislative Update: November 2018

A message from the Executive Director

On the night of November 6th, the so-called “blue wave” started slow, but as the final votes were tallied (and in some cases re-tallied) a week later, the Democrats’ pick-up of nearly 40 seats in the House proved to be a tsunami. And the new freshmen class is more diverse than ever: more women and more languages spoken among members. Representative-elect, speaker of Spanish, German, and French, and former CIA operative, Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7), is one example. Two Native Americans were also elected to the House: Ms. Sharice Davids (D-KS-3), a registered member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Ms. Deb Haaland (D-NM-1) of the Pueblo of Laguna. JNCL-NCLIS is making connections in these offices and many others, as they are natural advocates for language education in Congress.

With the shift in political power in the House comes the shake of committee leadership. Our sources indicate that Democrats are far more focused on the next Speaker than who chairs the, say, Education and Workforce Committee. The committee’s ranking member, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA-3), is expected to take over the chairmanship from Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC-5), who had been hostile toward any additional funding for education initiatives, including our flagship bill, the World Language Advancement and Readiness Act.

The lame duck session (from now until January) is expected to be filled with political maneuvers over appropriating funds for the President’s “border wall” in exchange for a deal on DACA. This will dominate news in Washington up until, and after, the December 7th funding deadline to keep the government. Of note on the education front, Education Committee Chairman, Sen. Alexander (R-TN), and ranking member Murray (D-WA) are rumored to be working on allowing the IRS to share tax records to the Department of Education in order to “streamline FAFSA filings.”

In the industry, as expected, Dynamex has made news when litigants decide to file class-action lawsuits, often retroactive, against former employers, like Lyft and Uber. We continue to work with the California Language Company Task Force on this issue, and to engage the language industry with national partners, such as the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and others. But as it pertains to the new House leadership, implications for the new Congress point to a more complex situation.

You’ll remember in the last Congress that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) proposed to make Dynamex the law of the land via the Workplace Democracy Act. (S. 2810), which would codify the ABC test on a national level. In the House, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI-2) has proposed an identical bill in the House (H.R. 5728). The co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, Pocan is often asked if the all-Democratic caucus is a counterweight to the Freedom Caucus (Hint: it most definitely is as evinced by Pocan’s charismatic, no-nonsense speaking style which has earned him the respect of liberals and national labor leaders, like AFL-CIO). We expect that both of these bill will be reintroduced in the 116th, and it also seems highly likely that the issue may become a cornerstone of the Democrat’s messaging of “an economy that works for all Americans.” Our position is that the government shouldn’t impose a business model on an industry which has historically seen 80% of its workforce as independent contractors, who earn a professional living through their language work. We will monitor this closely.

Finally, nationwide, more than 180 teachers, including language teachers, ran for elected office, and at least 43 won. Some examples: Jahana Hayes, a history teacher from Waterbury, Connecticut, and the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, was elected to the Congress; Howie Morales, a dual language teacher and teacher educator from Albuquerque, was elected as the Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico, and our own Natalie Figueroa, ACTFL Board member and Spanish teacher from Albuquerque, was elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives. We celebrate their successes and look forwards to working with all of these educators in office.

With Best Wishes,

Bill Rivers