Rounds Op-Ed: Policies that Support Working Families

Posted 8.19.14

A lot has changed since Jean and I were married in 1978 and started our small business in 1982.  Like a lot of young families, it was difficult.  When our kids were young – Jean worked part-time so she could be home when the kids were done with school.  We sacrificed to make it all work. 

Over the years, one of the biggest changes we’ve seen is in our workforce.  Today, nearly half of the U.S. workforce is made up of women – more than half of those are the primary income earners in their households.  Dual income families have sky-rocketed – out of preference and necessity. Women start 2 out of 3 new businesses and women manage 83% of household incomes.

In my own business, 70% of my team is women.  While serving as governor, 50% of my senior staff and cabinet were women.  I understand first-hand how our diversity in the workplace calls for greater flexibility. Our workforce has changed – for the better.  Our laws need to change as well.

My daughter, Carrie is a working-mom.  She has two small children – both in daycare.  For her, her most precious commodity is time.  I see the challenge of balancing between her career and having time for my grandkids.  If she could squeeze just one or two more hours out of her day – I know she’d dedicate it to her family.  

There are a host of pro-jobs, pro-family proposals being held up in the dysfunctional senate.   It’s time to end the dysfunction in Washington, D.C. and pass meaningful legislation for South Dakota families.

“Working Families Flexibility Act”

Representative Kristi Noem is a co-sponsor. Today, federal labor laws restrict the way moms (and dads) balance their time between work and family.  For decades, the Congress has given special exemptions from these laws to federal employees – but they don’t apply to the private sector.  That’s wrong and needs to be fixed. We need to end the disparity between federal government and private sector employees.  Allow private employers to offer a choice between cash wages and comp time.  If an employee wants to receive cash wages they could continue to do so. 

“Forty Hours Is Full Time Act”

Senator Susan Collins’ proposal would repeal ObamaCare’s 30-hour workweek rule that is causing lower wages and lost hours for American workers. This legislation, too, passed the House in a 248-179 vote and is hung up in the Harry Reid senate.  The increased number of South Dakotans that will work less than 40 hours, due to the ObamaCare mandate will increase.  The ObamaCare Employer Mandate, and specifically the 30 hour workweek rule, is a job killer that must be repealed before it kicks in next year.

“Working Parents Home Office Act”

This legislation would fix a tax flaw that penalizes parents who work from home.  This legislation would fix the tax code so that men or women who work from home aren’t prevented from claiming a deduction for a home office if that office includes a baby crib so they can care for their child while working.

“Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees Act, or the RAISE Act”

This legislation would reward hard-working employees by amending the National Labor Relations Act to allow employers to give merit-based compensation increases to individual employees, even if those increases are not part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Senator Deb Fischer’s “Strong Families, Strong Communities” Agenda is supported by a number of proposals that focus on flexibility in the workplace, more take-home pay, and options to meet family obligations.  Senator Fischer’s ideas deserve to be heard.

There are multiple proposals hung up in the senate because of the partisanship and the bickering – created by Harry Reid.  We need to end the dysfunction in the U.S. Senate and work to create a business climate that promotes jobs and the economy.  One of the ways we do that is through policy that better reflects the current workforce.  And, that’s good, common sense policy that everyone should agree on.

It’s time to act.