On February 14, the House and Senate passed the final spending bill for fiscal year 2019, which included funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Although a permanent fix for the H-2B visa cap was not included in the legislation, discretionary language which addresses the H-2B visa shortage for FY2019 was included. This language allows the DHS, in consultation with the Department of Labor, to raise the H-2B cap from 66,000 to 135,320 for FY2019. FRA hoped for more, but given the current political climate getting this language in the bill is a significant achievement. Without the advocacy efforts of FRA members and many other organizations, an H-2B visa cap increase would not have been included.
On a related H-2B note, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has initiated a study on the H-2B program. This study is a bipartisan request from Congress to examine the impact of the H-2B visa cap on US businesses and local and state economies. GAO representatives interviewed FRA staff last week, and plan to complete the study in the fall of 2019.
Also on February 14, the proposed rule defining the “Waters of the US” (WOTUS) was published in the Federal Register. The rule defines the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act. Publication of the rule initiates a 60-day public comment period. FRA will be working with allied associations in preparing comments.