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Column: Balancing work and family is all about time

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More and more Minnesotans are telling me, "It's about time."

A South St. Paul mom and dad are having a difficult time balancing work and family. They feel time spent with their children -- something we all dearly covet and our kids direly need -- is harder to come by.

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A member of the Minnesota National Guard deployed overseas can't stop worrying about a spouse juggling work and parenting responsibilities halfway across the world.

A Shakopee college student struggles to work full-time while pursuing an undergraduate degree.

An Eagan couple joins more than 50 million workers who spend time each week caring for an aging relative while meeting the demands of a job.

For many Minnesotans, supporting a family is about more than providing an income. It's about spending time with loved ones, cherishing good moments, and caring for each other during difficult times.

For nearly 30 years, public-sector workers have been able to choose and accrue paid time off or "comp time" instead of cash wages for working overtime hours. As a result, state and local employees have more opportunities to spend time with their families and attend to their needs.

Unfortunately, the Fair Labor Standards Act denies many private-sector workers this fundamental choice. The 75-year-old law assumes everyone would choose more money in the bank over time with family.

No doubt some workers would seize an opportunity to earn a few extra dollars, perhaps to cover an unexpected home repair or purchase a student's school supplies. But others may welcome the chance for additional paid time off to see a child hit a home run, visit with an elderly parent, or be with a loved one about to deploy overseas.

Although comp time has been available in the public-sector since 1985, private-sector employers can be sued or fined by the federal government for extending the same benefit.

That's not fair to millions of hardworking Americans.

A West St. Paul dad shouldn't miss his daughter's soccer game because of outdated federal policy.

An Apple Valley mom shouldn't miss her son's little league ballgame because of a law written during the Great Depression.

A Red Wing family shouldn't have to confront unnecessary barriers to care for their grandmother.

When it comes to overtime compensation, workers should decide what's best for their families.

Legislation moving through Congress, known as the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013, will help bring an antiquated law into the 21st century. The legislation would allow private-sector employers to offer employees working overtime hours a choice between comp time and cash wages - helping to level the playing field with their counterparts in the public sector.

Some mistakenly think this effort will lead to more intrusion by the federal government. I appreciate the perspective of Americans who critically view lawmakers through that lens and I share their skepticism. I also believe hardworking Americans, not the government, are what make our country great. This commonsense legislation will reduce the role of the federal government in the nation's workplaces, not increase it.

Under the proposal, the use of comp time would be completely voluntary for both workers and their employers. If a worker decides some additional income is what's most important, then that's what he or she will receive. If an employer believes administering comp time would interfere with his or her business, then that is a decision Washington will not second-guess. The bill simply removes an unnecessary barrier that prevents employers and workers from making these choices for themselves.

Make no mistake: I will continue to advocate for a more efficient and effective government. The Working Families Flexibility Act is an important part of that effort. As chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, I am proud to help move this bill to the floor of the House of Representatives.

Minnesotans sacrifice a great deal to provide for their families. As a father of two and grandfather of four, I know well the challenges that come with juggling home and work. I understand the difficult choices hardworking American families make every day.

We can make life a little bit easier by removing barriers that deny workers the choice and flexibility they need to thrive at home and work. I look forward to leading the charge in Congress for this legislation on behalf of the Minnesotans I represent and all Americans.

Washington must come together on this worthwhile effort to eliminate this federal barrier in our workplaces and help provide more freedom for our workers. As I tell my colleagues in Washington, it's about time.

Republican John Kline can be reached at 952-808-1213 or http://kline.house.gov

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