U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx sat down with the Jefferson Post during her annual pilgrimage to West Jefferson for the Christmas in July festival, Saturday, July 5.
Among the items the congresswoman discussed was the state of the national and state economy, jobs and the N.C. General Assembly.
“I’m very optimistic I’m going to get a major bill passed this week,” Foxx said. “It passed the House in March a year ago.”
Foxx’s legislation was originally called the SKILLS (Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills) Act, but became the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) once it advanced to and passed the Senate.
“We called it the SKILLS Act and it’s actually a rewrite of the Workforce Investment Act (1998), and it’s a program that deals with workforce development,” Foxx said.
The SKILLS Act, which would have streamlined 35 duplicate federally run workforce development programs, passed the House with bipartisan support on March 15, 2013.
“The Senate changed the name to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and it doesn’t go as far as the bill I got passed out of the House went,” Foxx said. “Getting any legislation passed these days is a major accomplishment.”
The WIOA passed the Senate 95-3. The three who voted against the measure were Republicans who believed the bill didn’t go far enough, according to Foxx.
“It (SKILLS and WIOA) consolidates some workforce development programs and gives more leeway to local workforce development boards,” Foxx said. “The focus would be on programs for jobs that are currently available.”
The WIOA would eliminate 15 existing federal workforce development programs and streamline others, creating the ability for local workforce development boards to dictate their affairs with less intrusion from Washington, D.C.
“I know the folks in Ashe County are very concerned about the job losses that have occurred here and I tell everybody my story,” Foxx said. “Several years ago I worked the polls here and talked to a woman who’d gotten laid off from three different plants.”
Foxx, who served as president of Mayland Community College from 1987-1994, believes the bill will help provide more resources to the Ashe Campus of Wilkes Community College and other community colleges statewide.
“I realize there are people here who want to work and its been tragic that we’ve had so many job losses here,” Foxx said. “This will help communitycolleges have more resources to help people get ready for the jobs that are going to be there.”
Foxx also believes the bill will bring accountability to federal programs.
“We spend $18 billion in workforce development across the country,” Foxx said. “We cant prove that any of them (programs) have done any good.”
The House is currently considering debate on the WIOA.
N.C. General Assembly
Closer to home, Foxx, who served in the State Senate from 1994-2004, is pleased with what’s been happening in Raleigh during the last few years.
“Yes, I’m satisfied with what they’re doing in the legislature,” Foxx said.
“Their focus is on how to make the economy in North Carolina better so that we’re more attractive,” Foxx said. “Lowering taxes at the state level and doing everything they can to create jobs in North Carolina.”
Foxx is particularly proud of the county’s delegation in the General Assembly.
“I think we have great representation in this area,” Foxx said.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.