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Advocates Decry Delayed Release of Job-Training Rules

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WASHINGTON--Youth-training advocates last week criticized the Labor Department for releasing proposed rules for federal job-training programs behind schedule and then giving them the effect of law without a prior comment period.

The interim final regulations for the Job Training Reform Amendments of 1992 were published in the Dec. 29 Federal Register. Recipients of Job Training Partnership Act funds are expected to rely on them for guidance in planning their programs between now and June 1, when the department expects to issue final rules.

The law takes effect July 1. The department originally planned to make proposed regulations available for public comment in mid-October.

A Labor Department official blamed the delay on the late passage of the amendments in September.

"That didn't give us a great deal of time to go through a full comment period,'' said Hugh Davies, the director of the office of employment and training programs, "and do that in sufficient time for the system to have guidance on which they could legally depend to do their planning.''

Mr. Davies said an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking--which prompted 307 comments--combined with meetings with job-training groups had provided "ample opportunity for there to be significant comment on what we consider to be the key issues in rulemaking.''

Nonetheless, Alan Zuckerman, the executive director of the National Youth Employment Coalition, which represents organizations that provide services to unemployed young people, complained: "We now have interim regulations that will have the full force of law until June 1. There wasn't a comment process. So, in effect, we're going to have comments as this is going on.''

Association executives and others from the field said they would work with the incoming Administration to re-evaluate the regulations and, possibly, to extend the comment period.

But lobbyists have had few specific complaints about the content of the regulations to date.

"My preliminary analysis is that, in general, they've adhered to the statute,'' said Bret Lovejoy, the assistant executive director for government relations for the American Vocational Association.

In a victory for the A.V.A., the proposed rules state that funds for coordinating education services under federal job-training programs must go exclusively to state education agencies.

The proposed rules specify that to receive the 8 percent in J.T.P.A. funds reserved for coordinating education services, a state agency must have "education as a primary purpose.''

This would prevent states from allocating the funds to noneducational agencies that typically operate J.T.P.A. programs at the state level, such as state labor departments.

Creating 'Super Councils'

The interim final regulations also spell out the steps that states must take to replace existing state councils that oversee vocational-education programs with human-resource investment councils that oversee a number of state training programs. Commonly referred to as "super councils,'' they are intended to improve the coordination and delivery of job-training services.

The super councils would oversee vocational, adult-education, and job-training programs in a state. Shifting funds and oversight from existing vocational-education councils to these new councils would require the approval of the governor, the head of the state's education department, and the vocational-education council itself.

The super council would then carry out the responsibilities of all the councils that it replaced, and its staff would have to possess the expertise to do so.

Mr. Lovejoy said he hoped the final rules would specify that such super councils include a set number of vocational educators.

The A.V.A. would also like to limit the amount of federal vocational-education money that could be used to support such a council.

Comments on the proposed rules are being accepted until Feb. 12.

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