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Employers could get more time to challenge citations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and more companies could recoup lawyers’ fees under a set of House bills that would make employer-friendly changes to the regulatory agency. Another measure approved by the House on Tuesday would increase the board’s power. But the prospect for passage is slim in the Senate — also controlled by Republicans but by a narrower margin. That chamber does not have similar legislation pending. In fact, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., is pushing a bill that would expand OSHA worker protections and increase penalties for violations. That didn’t stop House Republicans from plowing ahead Tuesday on the four bills they said would enhance OSHA’s oversight of employers and improve the regulatory process. “Don’t hamstring small businesses’ ability to continue to hire new workers and compete in our economy,” said GOP Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee. “That’s why these bills are important.” Democrats said the legislation was an election-year gift to big business, intended to weaken regulation. They warned that such changes ultimately would hurt workers. Republicans argued the four bills improve oversight and remove unnecessary red tape for employers. The legislation “will go a long way towards bringing about the safest workplace possible by replacing the overly complex, arbitrary, and unintentional legal traps in current OSHA law with common sense and cooperation between OSHA and employers to deliver results for workers,” said Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., the bills’ sponsor. Democrats charged that Republicans are looking out only for their employer campaign contributors. “You never get any bills from them seeking to protect workers,” Rep. Major Owens, D-N.Y., said about the Republicans. THE BILLS

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