Capitol News By Meghan Boyer

As of press time, the immigration debate has no end in sight. Recently introduced legislation is likely to remain in the Senate for a while, stated leading Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) feels the debate will last “at least a couple of weeks” so everyone in the Senate has an opportunity to offer amendments they feel may improve the bill. The latest immigration legislation is a compromise that will affect the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants while also increasing border protection and targeting employers of undocumented workers.

“The Senate deal would grant temporary legal status to virtually all illegal immigrants in the country, while allowing them to apply for residence visas and eventual citizenship. A temporary-worker program would allow as many as 400,000 migrants into the country each year, but they would have to leave after two years. And the current visa system, which stresses family ties, would be augmented by a complex point system that would favor skilled, educated workers. Most of those changes would take effect only after the implementation of tough new border controls and a crackdown on the employment of undocumented workers,” stated the Washington Post.

Many of the amendments being introduced in the Senate would drastically change the legislation that was originally introduced. For example, Sen. Byron Dorgan’s (D-N.D.) amendment would remove the guest worker program from the bill entirely and Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D-N.M.) amendment would cut the program in half, reported CNN. Republicans had yet to offer an amendment as of press time.

Overall, the bill will have to survive attacks from both the left and the right: Many opponents of the bill categorize it as amnesty to illegal immigrants, while bill supporters appear to agree on the issue of border control but find less common ground on the other topics it includes. Those who feel strongly about the immigration issue are encouraged to share their feelings with their state representatives.

2007 Legislative Conference Slated For July

The 2007 Legislative Conference will take place July 23-25, 2007, at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The three days of advocacy and education are intended to continue the industry’s growth in the political landscape.

Attendees can expect to learn the ins and outs of Congress, hear from political minds on issues facing the industry, participate in in-depth briefings on hot agriculture issues, communicate important messages to members of Congress and more.

For more information, visit

Paid Sick Leave Bill Introduced

Both chambers of Congress are considering legislation that would expand the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and require employers with 15 or more employees to provide paid sick leave to employees. Introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the Healthy Families Act would mandate that all employees working 20 hours or more per week receive seven paid sick days.

The national movement has been bolstered by state and local governments: San Francisco, Calf., passed a proposition last year requiring businesses to pay for sick leave. Under the proposition, large companies must provide 72 hours of paid sick leave; smaller businesses with 10 or fewer workers must provide 40 hours. Employees can use the paid sick time for themselves or the care of ailing designated relatives.

Additional legislation has been introduced in Congress that would lower the current FMLA employee threshold from 50 to 25. The FMLA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide them with specified amounts of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for the care of a spouse, child or parent with a serious condition or for a serious condition that prevents an employee from working.

Congress Questions Oil Companies

With gasoline prices reaching record highs in May, the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust task force recently started the first of a series of hearings on oil industry concentration. The goal of the hearings is to ascertain how and why prices are soaring, and while oil companies point toward refinery problems as the answer, Congress is questioning whether the companies themselves are to blame.

The Baltimore Sun reported that committee chairman, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), said, “Oil companies today are enjoying record profits, and while they could use those profits to invest in more production capacity, instead they use the money to buy back shares in the markets.”

Exxon Mobil Corporation and Chevron Corporation earned a combined $14 billion in the first quarter of 2007, while gasoline prices at the pump have been averaging above $3 per gallon recently. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has reported that gasoline inventories were still well below the average during May.

Bush Seeks To Reduce Gas Emissions

President Bush is working with his cabinet members to decide how to regulate pollution from new vehicles. The move is in compliance with a recent Supreme Court decision to combat greenhouse gases.

“Bush signed an executive order directing federal agencies to craft regulations that will ‘cut gasoline consumptions and greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.’ He ordered the agencies — the departments of Transportation, Agriculture and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency — to have the rules in place by the end of 2008,” stated CBS News.

It is not yet known what the regulations will look like. Tony Snow, White House press secretary, has indicated the president still opposes a mandatory emissions cap. Bush prefers a more innovation-based system of addressing emissions, he stated.

The Supreme Court decided that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases qualify as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and can be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, a ruling the administration fought against. The Court also stated the administration’s reasons for not regulating greenhouse gases are insufficient. Bush has advocated a voluntary approach to reducing emissions and said putting regulations in place could undercut economic activity.

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