Sen. Johnny Isakson Picked to Chair OSHA Oversight Committee

Feb. 3, 2005
The Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee formally ratified the new chairman of its Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee: Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). At its organizational meeting on Feb. 2, HELP Committee members also ratified three other senators to lead the panel's four newly organized subcommittees.

"It is a pleasure to have four capable and industrious senators willing to take charge of these important panels, which I expect will play key roles in developing the legislation that moves through the HELP Committee," said HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) in a statement.

Enzi is the former chair of the subcommittee Isakson will now lead, a panel that is responsible for OSHA oversight and reform.

Isakson, who served two terms in the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2004, is a freshman senator who was elected to the seat vacated by retired Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) last year. Isakson has some experience with congressional oversight of OSHA, as he was a member of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) currently chairs this House subcommittee, so the selection of Isakson means that legislators from Georgia now lead both the House and Senate OSHA oversight panels.

In the previous Congress, Enzi and Norwood each introduced OSHA reform legislation that had little in common. Norwood's proposals sought generally to strengthen employers faced with OSHA enforcement actions. Enzi's bill, the SAFE Act, focused on encouraging third-party inspections of worksites and also would have made it a felony when a worker is killed because of a willful OSHA violation. Under current law, willful-fatality cases are treated as misdemeanors.

Congress did not approve either bill last session. It is not clear whether the two chairmen from Georgia will work together more closely to push through OSHA reform in the new Congress.

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