Berg marks milestone as unemployment provisions signed into law

North Dakota’s representative among few in freshmen class to pass legislation

Rick Berg

FARGO – North Dakota’s Rep. Rick Berg marked a rare milestone as a freshman congressman late Wednesday, when President Obama signed into law a bill containing provisions that Berg introduced on Capitol Hill six months ago.

It’s the first time in Berg’s short tenure in Congress when he’s had legislation not only passed but enacted.

The provisions Berg authored – which provide states with more flexibility in using unemployment benefits – were approved by Congress last week as part of the compromise bill to extend payroll tax cuts.

Berg introduced his HIRES – or Helping Innovation of Re-Employment Services in States – Act as a standalone bill last August, but as is common in congressional lawmaking, the bill’s provisions were ultimately included in a more comprehensive package that the full House and Senate voted on.

“The HIRES provisions will empower states to address their unique needs and adopt innovative reemployment solutions that will best help their residents get back to work,” Berg said in a statement.

Berg brought North Dakota Job Service Director Maren Daley to Washington in October to testify about unemployment benefits in a hearing before a Ways and Means subcommittee.

The HIRES Act provision permits up to 10 states to apply for cost-neutral and voluntary waivers to join a pilot program designed to expedite re-employment of unemployment insurance recipients, Berg’s office said.

Under the previous law, a one-size-fits-all approach to the unemployment insurance program prevented states from trying to innovate and improve the way they operate, his office said.

The HIRES Act was the first piece of legislation Berg introduced in the U.S. House, since he took office in January 2011. He’s also introduced a bill to limit the EPA’s regulatory reach and a bill to limit regulation of haze from coal plants and utility companies. Both of those are still in committee.

Having legislation enacted isn’t easy, especially in comparison to introducing it.

Since 1999, statistics compiled by show Congress has passed only about 3-5 percent of the bills that are introduced in each two-year session.

In the 112th Congress, Berg is among at least 13 freshmen members of the Congress – or 12 percent of the entire freshmen class – who’ve successfully passed legislation so far, according to raw statistics compiled by

However, the data might not account for some members, like Berg, since the statistics don’t clarify whether they include standalone bills and/or provisions passed as part of larger pieces of legislation.

Last year, 13 new senators and 93 new House members were sworn in, including Berg and North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven.

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