- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2000

ROYAL OAK, Mich. Texas Gov. George W. Bush yesterday called for new laws that would allow businesses to grant workers compensatory time off and would keep the federal government off the backs of people who work at home, two ideas that he said would allow parents to spend more time with their children.
The Republican nominee, who trails Vice President Al Gore among female voters, said employees should have the option of taking so-called "comp time" instead of overtime pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits employees in the private sector from taking compensatory time.
"If one of the things we want to do in society is to encourage moms and dads to spend more time with their children, it seems to me we ought to have a common-sense change in the law," Mr. Bush said while visiting a middle school in the heart of independent-voter territory in this swing state.
The Republican nominee also said he would use the bully pulpit of the White House to encourage the entertainment industry to tone down violence in movies and video games, to create a better TV-ratings system and to revive the early-evening family-viewing hour on TV.
In a reference to Mr. Gore's "good cop-bad cop" relationship with Hollywood, Mr. Bush said, "I'm not the kind of person during the day to scold Hollywood and at night to go out there and say, 'I really didn't mean it. I'd like your contributions.' "
Mr. Bush's theme this week is to help parents ultimately focus more on their children's schooling by addressing what he calls "the culture that is sometimes the enemy" of public education.
As part of that, the Texas governor also proposed several ideas to encourage employees to work at home. One of those plans is to bar the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from spreading its regulatory reach into offices in private homes.
In January, OSHA issued an advisory that it was planning to create regulations for safety standards in home offices. In the storm of protest that ensued, OSHA rescinded those plans.
But Mr. Bush and his top advisers say the issue could arise again in a new administration unless a law is enacted to prevent it.
"The administration has not come out and closed the door on it," said Josh Bolten, Mr. Bush's domestic-policy adviser. "OSHA has not closed the door on it. And we are."
He said Mr. Bush "does not want to have employers discouraged from permitting their employees to work at home."
"If I'm an employer and I'm told OSHA regulations will apply to my employees' home, over which I don't have any control, I'm not going to let my employee work at home, because I'm going to be liable for any OSHA violations in her home," Mr. Bolten said.
Mr. Bolten said the comp time proposal is not aimed at female voters necessarily. "It's aimed at parents, and many women are parents," he said.
President Clinton proposed a similar flextime bill in 1996, but abandoned it, Mr. Bolten said, due to opposition from labor unions.
Oakland County, where Mr. Bush announced his proposals, is a suburb of Detroit and home to 12 percent of the state's swing voters, according to campaign aides. The Detroit media market covers 42 percent of swing voters in Michigan, which has 18 electoral votes.
Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush were tied in the most recent poll in the state, which Mr. Bush lost in the Republican primary to Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Mr. Bush was introduced to the crowd by Republican Gov. John Engler. He promptly teased Mr. Engler, telling the audience, "As I told him earlier, maybe one of these days, I'll win this state."
Aides to Mr. Bush said that to ensure the comp time plan is truly voluntary, Mr. Bush would require such agreements to be put in writing by employers and, if applicable, in collective-bargaining agreements. Employees would not be allowed to accrue more than a certain number of hours per year in comp time (the campaign suggests 160), and the employer would be required to reimburse the employee in cash for any unused comp time at the end of a 12-month period.
Mr. Bush also wants to encourage employees to work at home on computers provided by their companies by making such equipment a tax-free benefit.
Mr. Bush's performance in the first presidential debate, held Tuesday night in Boston, obviously was still on his mind yesterday. He still sought to counter Mr. Gore's contention that the Republican's $1.3 trillion tax-cut plan benefits primarily the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers.
Saying that the top 1 percent of taxpayers would receive $233 billion of the total, Mr. Bush told a town-hall meeting in Appleton, Wis., that "the biggest percentage of the tax relief goes to the people at the bottom of the economic ladder."
"I structured it that way. I knew exactly what was going to come [from Democrats] during the campaign," Mr. Bush said. "Maybe I need to do a better job of hollerin' at the next debate, but I'm not backing down. Of course, people who are wealthy are going to get tax relief. They pay taxes."

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