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Examining the FY 2016 Budget Requests for the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Transportation

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing on Tuesday, March 3, 2015, entitled “Examining the FY 2016 Budget Requests for the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Transportation.”

Two Cabinet-level officials, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Transportation, will testify about the President’s FY 2016 budget request for their respective agencies. The budget request seeks $9.8 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Commerc...

Next Week at Small Business

House Small Business Committee News - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 12:00am

MEDIA ADVISORY:
Next Week at Small Business

WASHINGTON -The Small Business Committee will hold the following hearings next week:

​Full Committee Hearing
Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 11:00 A.M.
2360 Rayburn House Office Building

Building an Opportunity Economy: State of Small Business and Entrepreneurship
On Wednesday,March 4, 2015 at 11:00 A.M., the Committee on Small Businesswill hold a hearing titled, ​​​Building an Opportunity Economy: The State of Small Business and Entrepreneurship."The hearingwill beheld in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will be webstreamed liveHERE.

The hearing will examine the health and vibrancy of the American economy, particularly as it pertains to the creation, sustainability, and future growth of small businesses.

Witnesses

  • Mr. Jon Clifton, Partner, Managing Director, Government Division, Gallup, Washington, DC
  • Ms. Cynthia Kay, Owner and President, Cynthia Kay and Company, Grand Rapids, MI
    (Testifying on behalf of National SmallBusiness Association)
  • Mr. David Burton, Senior Fellow in Economy Policy, The Heritage Foundation, Washington, DC


Subcommittee Hearing

Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access

Chairman Tom Rice (R-SC)
Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 10:00 A.M.
2360 Rayburn House Office Building

Improving Capital Access Programs within the SBA
On Thursday, March 5, 2015, at 10:00 A.M., the Committee on Small BusinessSubcommittee onEconomic Growth, Tax and Capital Access willholda hearing titled, "Improving Capital Access Programs within the SBA." The hearingwill be heldin Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will be webstreamed liveHERE.

The purpose of the hearingis to examine capital access programs within the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Witnesses

· Ms. Barbara Vohryzek, President and CEO, National Association of Development Companies (NADCO), Washington, DC

· Mr. Brett Palmer, President, Small Business Investor Alliance, Washington, DC

· Mr. Richard Bradshaw, President, Specialized Lending, United Community Bank, Greenville, SC
(Testifying on behalf of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders(NAGGL))

· Dr. Scott Shane, A. Malachi Mixon III Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies and Professor of Economics, Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management, Cleveland, OH

Members of the press interested in covering any of these hearings should reply to this e-mail.

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Kline, Rokita Statements on Student Success Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 12:00am
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) issued the following statements regarding House consideration of the Student Success Act:

“Providing the Department of Homeland Security the resources it needs to defend our country has been a Republican priority for weeks,” said Chairman Kline. “I am disappointed we are unable to complete consideration of the Student Success Act this week, but national security must always come first. I look forward to continuing to discuss with my colleagues the conservative reforms in this legislation, and I expect we will have an opportunity to finish this important work soon.”

“The Student Success Act is a strong, conservative bill that will get Washington out of our nation’s classrooms,” said Rep. Rokita. I had hoped we could advance the legislation today and move one step closer to a new law that empowers parents and education leaders. However, funding the Department of Homeland Security had to be the priority. I am confident we will continue this effort in the coming weeks.”

To learn more about the Student Success Act, click here.

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Redundant, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Executive Order Creates Bureaucratic Nightmare

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 6:30pm

The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), and the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) today held a hearing to examine the effects of Executive Order 13673, which may deny employers federal contracts if they or their subcontractors violated or allegedly violated various federal labor laws. Witnesses and members discussed how the administration’s executive overreach is not only redundant, but how it will create a bureaucratic nightmare that impedes the operation of the federal government and results in less efficient services for taxpayers.

“We can all agree bad actors who deny workers basic protections, including wage and overtime protections, should not be awarded federal contracts funded with taxpayer dollars," noted Rep. Walberg. "The federal government has had a system in place for decades which, if used effectively, would deny federal contracts to bad actors. Rather than dealing with these contractors directly under the existing system, on July 31, 2014, President Obama signed an executive order adding a burdensome, redundant, and unnecessarily punitive layer onto the federal procurement system.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) addressed the administrative nightmare unleashed by the order, arguing “the result of this new process will be a significantly delayed contracting process that limits both healthy competition and the efficient delivery of goods to the U.S. government at a reasonable price to taxpayers … Rather than impose additional layers of bureaucracy the administration would be better served working with Congress and stakeholders to ensure the rules and regulations implementing our laws are modernized and streamlined."

Labor attorney Willis Goldsmith echoed these concerns: "the Alice in Wonderland-like structure of the Executive Order makes it completely unworkable in the real world … [it] is so Byzantine and riddled with uncertainties that it will be impossible to predict how it will be applied in the contracting universe, leading to gross uncertainties among the regulated community as to who will qualify for a contract or not."

"I have little doubt that if the Executive Order is implemented as written, purchases by the federal government will grind to a halt,” warned Angela Styles, former Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget. “Whether it is the purchase of equipment necessary for our warfighter, getting checks out the door to our senior citizens, or ensuring the safety of our food, none of it gets done without federal contractors ... Simply put, there are not enough hours in the day or employees in the federal government to implement this Executive Order.”

Summing up the sentiments of the panel, Stan Soloway, President and CEO of the Professional Services Council said, “[the Executive Order] poses a number of implementation challenges that renders it unworkable. It would also create a number of unintended consequences, and most notably, is completely unnecessary … this E.O. has too many undefined terms, too few objective standards, and too much potential for adversely affecting the federal procurement process.”

“We all share the same goal,” concluded Chairman Walberg, “however, rather than implement another layer of bureaucracy, the administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to use the existing system to crack down on bad actors and ensure the rights of America’s workers are protected.”

To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.

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On Appeal from the Food Court: Must Consumer Class Action Plaintiffs be “Ascertainable”?

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 2:25pm
Over the past several years, WLF has advocated that trial court judges should deny certification of consumer class actions if the lead plaintiffs cannot offer an administratively feasible method for the court to determine who is a “member” of the class. This “ascertainability” issue has arisen in many food-labeling class actions in the Food Court […]
Categories: Latest News

Bill Aimed at Liquid Nicotine Clears Major Congressional Hurdle

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The first legislation aimed at regulating the sale of liquid nicotine came one step closer to becoming law today as a major Senate committee gave it bipartisan, unanimous approval.

The Senate Commerce Committee approved the legislation authored by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the panel’s top Democrat. The legislation would require child-resistant packaging on any liquid nicotine available for purchase....

Thune Speech at National Journal: Five FCC Commissioners to Testify on March 18

U.S. Sen. John Thune announced an oversight hearing on March 18, 2015, with all five FCC Commissioners, including Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Executive Session

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Thursday, February 26, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. to consider legislation and nominations.

Agenda:

1. H.R. 23, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization of 2015, Sponsor: Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)
2. H.R. 34, Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2015, Sponsor: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.)
3. H.R. 719, TSA Office of Inspection Accountability Act of 2015, Sponsor: Re...

Nelson Statement on FCC’s Approval of Net Neutrality Rules

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) issued the following statement on the FCC’s adoption of net neutrality rules.

“The expert agency – after thorough review and voluminous public input – has now acted.  I look forward to reviewing the details of the FC...

Chabot Requests Answers from HHS Secretary on Latest Obamacare Glitch Impact on Small Business

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:00am

Chabot Requests Answers from HHS Secretary on Latest Obamacare Glitch Impact on Small Business

WASHINGTON—Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) yesterday sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell requesting answers about how small businesses have been impacted by the agency’s misleading of more than 800,000 Americans with faulty tax information.

This misinformation has created yet more uncertainty in an already difficult tax season for many Americans,” Chairman Chabot wrote in the letter which may be viewed in its entirety here.

Chairman Chabot asked Secretary Burwell five specific questions related to the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchanges in this, the latest in the succession of Obamacare glitches. Chairman Chabot specifically asked:

  1. What is the number of small business owners who purchased insurance on the SHOP exchange and were affected?
  2. When did you learn of any errors in SHOP forms?
  3. What recourse will be available to individuals who have already filed their taxes with the incorrect information provided by your agency? Will they be forced to refile or offered some other less burdensome option?
  4. How long will it take to get the correct information out to affected individuals?
  5. What are your immediate plans to ensure something of this magnitude does not happen again?

The Administration touted the Small Business Health Options Programs (SHOPs) as a competitive and convenient location for small businesses to compare prices and purchase affordable and effective health insurance coverage for their employees and families,” Chairman Chabot wrote. “However, I am concerned that this most recent error may have compounded the problems small business owners have faced when utilizing the SHOPs, such as cancelled plans, higher premiums, and less comprehensive coverage options.” 

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Here’s the Right Way for Conservatives to Start Fixing No Child Left Behind

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:00am

On Friday, the U.S. House will vote on the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). The bill would revamp the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act (formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act). It’s a promising bill and one that deserves the enthusiastic support of conservatives.
 
The Student Success Act (SSA) jettisons NCLB’s invasive system of federally mandated accountability and gives states the freedom to gauge school performance and decide what to do about poor-performing schools. It also puts an end to NCLB’s remarkable requirement that, as of 2014, 100 percent (!) of the nation’s students would be “proficient” in reading and math.

The SSA repeals the “highly qualified teacher” mandate, a bureaucratic paper chase whose most significant accomplishment was lending fuel to lawsuits attacking Teach For America (litigants had some success in California’s courts by arguing that TFA teachers failed to meet the “highly qualified” standard). It eliminates or consolidates 65 programs. It includes expansive new language intended to finally stop federal officials from pushing states to adopt Common Core (or any other particular set of academic standards).
 
The SSA is school-choice-friendly. It boosts funding for charter schools. In a significant win, it allows Title I funds to follow low-income children to the district school or charter school of a parent’s choice. This is a big deal. It doesn’t allow private-school choice — which would be even better — but the votes simply aren’t there in the House (much less the Senate) to let Title I funds flow to private schools. Meanwhile, allowing those funds to follow children to charter schools would be an important precedent.

The Student Success Act requires that states continue to regularly assess students in reading, math, and science and publicly report the disaggregated results, to the chagrin of some conservatives — but that’s misguided. It’s not inconsistent for conservatives to want Washington out of the nation’s schools while still keeping an eye on what taxpayers are getting for their federal education dollar. Moreover, competitive federalism and educational choice benefit when parents, voters, and taxpayers have comparable data on school outcomes that can inform their decisions. Finally, shorn of NCLB’s pie-in-the-sky accountability mandates, once-a-year tests will no longer distort schooling and infuriate parents in the way they have in recent years. Conservatives should be the party of transparency and citizen-fueled accountability, not of unaccountable federal largesse.

The SSA also features a few improvements over a similar bill that House Republicans passed in 2013. It does away with a provision that would have extended a bill of Obama overreach and gotten Uncle Sam further involved in telling states how to evaluate teachers. Instead, the SSA does away with troubled federal efforts to dictate teacher training, giving states much more flexibility in determining how to use those funds to recruit, prepare, and support teachers.

The Student Success Act won’t get Uncle Sam “out” of education. But that’s okay. After all, there’s no alternative proposal that will truly get him out either. Even those who’ve called for abolishing the Department of Education have been unwilling to eliminate (or even seriously cut) federal funds for low-income students, students with special needs, Pell Grants, or student loans. And those programs combine to make up the lion’s share of what the federal government does in education. That disconnect means the calls for getting the feds “out” mostly amount to hollow rhetoric.
Moreover, there is a legitimate, limited federal role in schooling. From Lincoln’s Morrill Act in 1862, to Eisenhower’s 1958 post-Sputnik push, to Reagan’s 1983 call to arms in A Nation at Risk, we’ve recognized a national interest in schooling. But Washington should limit its involvement to those things that are appropriate to its appropriate role in our federal system. In this case, that particularly entails unwinding intrusive mandates, eliminating duplicative programs and red tape, and insisting on transparency when it comes to academic results and how federal tax dollars are spent.

The SSA would end Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s unprecedented and troubling use of waivers. While the secretary of education has the authority to “waive” various provisions of NCLB, Duncan has taken this routine discretion and abused it — herding states into adopting an Obama education agenda. States have felt intense pressure to comply, given their yearning for relief from NCLB’s astonishing mandate that, as of 2014, federally prescribed remedies would be imposed at any school where 100 percent of students aren’t “proficient” in reading and math. Duncan’s wish list has included race-based performance targets and a clear message that states will fare best if they stand by the Common Core. The Student Success Act would end the ability of Duncan, and of his successor, to engage in such shenanigans.

Finally, the SSA allows D.C. Republicans to say what they’re for when it comes to education and not just what they’re against. When conservatives simply insist that they want “to get Washington out of schools,” they tend to get outmaneuvered by reform-minded liberals who talk about equal opportunity and then roll out laundry lists of new educational programs to promote it. The Student Success Act reflects a principled, limited federal role. It calls for states to regularly assess students, be transparent about their performance, and abide by sensible restrictions on the use of federal funds. At the same time, it rolls back federal regulations that have stymied schools and makes it easier for states to promote charter schools and public school choice. It deserves conservative support.

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Reduce the Federal Footprint in America's Classrooms

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:00am

The current K-12 education system is failing our students, and state and local attempts to make it better have been hampered by an enormous federal footprint. Parents and education leaders have lost much of their decision-making authority to Washington bureaucrats, and the Secretary of Education has bullied states into adopting the Obama administration’s pet projects.

Unsurprisingly, student achievement levels remain worrisome – just 36 percent of eighth grade students read at grade level and only 35 percent are proficient in math.

For far too long, our schools have been governed by a top-down approach that stymies state and local efforts to meet the unique needs of their student populations. We can’t continue to make the same mistakes and expect better results; America’s students deserve change.

Fortunately, this week, the House of Representatives has an opportunity to chart a new course with the Student Success Act, legislation that reduces the federal footprint in the nation’s classrooms and restores control to the people who know their students best: parents, teachers and local leaders.

The Student Success Act gets Washington out of the business of running schools. It protects state and local autonomy by prohibiting the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core or any other common standards or assessments, and by preventing the Secretary from creating additional burdens on states and school districts.

The bill reduces the size of the federal education bureaucracy. Currently, the Department of Education oversees more than 80 programs geared towards primary and secondary education, most of which are duplicative and fail to deliver adequate results for students. The bill eliminates over 65 of these programs and requires the Secretary of Education to reduce the department’s workforce accordingly.

The Student Success Act repeals onerous, one-size-fits-all mandates that dictate accountability, teacher quality, and local spending that have done more to tie up states and school districts in red tape than to support education efforts. It returns responsibility for classroom decisions to parents, teachers, administrators, and education officials.

The bill also provides states and school districts the funding flexibility to efficiently and effectively invest limited taxpayer dollars to boost student achievement by creating a Local Academic Flexible Grant.

Finally, the Student Success Act reforms the regulatory process to keep the Secretary of Education from exercising authority he does not have and provide the public with greater transparency and accountability over the development of new rules affecting K-12 schools.

Education is a deeply personal issue. After years of the Secretary of Education running schools through executive fiat, we understand that people are concerned about what a new K-12 education law will do. That is why a number of key principles have guided our efforts to replace the law since we began the process more than four years ago: reducing the federal footprint, restoring local control, and empowering parents and education leaders.

Those principles are reflected throughout the legislation, including specific safeguards that protect the right of states to opt-out of the law, as well as the autonomy of home schools, religious schools, and private schools. Organizations such as the Council for American Private Education, the Home School Legal Defense Association, and Committee on Catholic Education of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have expressed support for policies in the Student Success Act because they know it will keep the federal government out of their business and preserve their cherished rights.

A host of administration bureaucrats is attempting to defeat these much-needed changes. They know each reform that returns flexibility and choice to parents and school boards represents a loss of power in D.C. It’s time we put the interests of America’s students above the desires of Washington politicians.

By reversing the top-down policies of recent decades, the Student Success Act offers conservative solutions to repair a broken education system. It would finally get Washington out of the way and allow parents, teachers, and state and local education leaders the flexibility to provide every child in every school a high quality education.

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Walberg Statement: Hearing on "The Blacklisting Executive Order: Rewriting Federal Labor Policies Through Executive Fiat"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:00am

Federal contractors are essential to government operations. Most employers provide quality, cost effective services while complying with labor and employment law. Unfortunately, there are a few bad actors. We can all agree bad actors who deny workers basic protections, including wage and overtime protections, should not be awarded federal contracts funded with taxpayer dollars.

For that very reason, the federal government has had a system in place for decades which, if used effectively, would deny federal contracts to bad actors. In the event that a contractor fails to maintain a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics, the contracting agency can suspend or debar the contractor, disqualifying the employer from contracts government wide.

Rather than dealing with these contractors directly under the existing system, on July 31, 2014, President Obama signed an executive order adding a burdensome, redundant, and unnecessarily punitive layer onto the federal procurement system.

The executive order will require employers to report instances in which they, or their subcontractors, have violated or allegedly violated various federal labor laws and equivalent state laws during a proceeding three year period. Prior to awarding a contract, each agency’s contracting officer and a newly created Labor Compliance Advisor will review this information and decide whether the employer’s actions demonstrate a lack of integrity or business ethics.

While the new reporting requirements are significantly burdensome, particularly for small employers, the subjectivity of the decision making process and deprivation of due process are deeply troubling. The Labor Compliance Advisor will advise the contracting officer as to whether an employer’s record amounts to a lack of business integrity.

However, this subjective determination will include alleged violations, creating a new, dangerous precedent that employers are guilty until proven innocent. Ultimately, the employer could be blacklisted based on alleged violations that are later found to have no merit, putting some good employers on the brink of going out of business.
 
We all share the same goal, however, rather than implement another layer of bureaucracy, the administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to use the existing system to crack down on bad actors and ensure the rights of America’s workers are protected.

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Byrne Statement: Hearing on "The Blacklisting Executive Order: Rewriting Federal Labor Policies Through Executive Fiat"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:00am

The vast majority of federal contractors are responsible employers who obey the law and do right by their employees. 

There will always be, as the Chairman noted, bad actors who deny workers basic protections and we can all agree they should not receive taxpayer dollars for work on federal contracts.

However, even the most responsible employer can occasionally run afoul of labor and employment laws, or simply be accused of doing so.

The Executive Order we’re examining today unfairly shifts the regulatory burden to employers while removing the burden of proof from labor violation claims, resulting in a much less efficient system of government acquisition for both taxpayers and those seeking government contracts.

Furthermore, the Executive Order’s ban on pre-dispute arbitration clauses is a direct violation of the Federal Arbitration Act, which ensures the validity and enforcement of arbitration agreements - a practice that the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed.

The President has exceeded his authority to make such a change and is in direct violation of the law.

What’s worse – through its new reporting requirements, this Executive Order shifts an incredible regulatory burden to contractors themselves by requiring prime contractors, some of which have thousands of subcontractors, to collect information on their subcontractors related to 14 different federal labor and employment laws and over 500 different state laws.

For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act is the cornerstone of worker wage and hour protection. However, the regulations implementing that law are flawed and outdated.

Even the Department of Labor, which enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act, has run afoul of the law’s requirements from time to time.

This will have a major effect on these sub-contractors, many of them small businesses with limited resources to handle such an undertaking.

Many will be forced to divert resources to handle this new administrative task that will not have to be completed just once, but every six months.

These aggressive new regulations are going to unreasonably block responsible parties from participating in federal government contracts while seriously affecting the willingness of new employers to even seek federal contracts in the first place.

The result of this new process will be a significantly delayed contracting process that limits both healthy competition and the efficient delivery of goods to the U.S. government at a reasonable price to taxpayers.

Instead of helping employers comply with complicated regulatory requirements, the administration has added yet more red tape to the federal procurement system that has the potential of blacklisting responsible employers when there is already a system in place for weeding out truly bad actors.

To make matters worse, contracts will be put in jeopardy by alleged violations.

This could be particularly devastating for employers that are the target of union corporate campaigns or competitors who simply want a competitive edge against their competition.

This highly elevates the risk of frivolous complaints and the loss of business.

This executive order represents an overstep of authority by the President at the expense of employers and workers.

Rather than impose additional layers of bureaucracy the administration would be better served working with Congress and stakeholders to ensure the rules and regulations implementing our laws are modernized and streamlined.

Then the administration can work with good employers to ensure compliance rather than punishing them after the damage is done.

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CHABOT CONVENES ROUNDTABLE ON SMALL BUSINESS TRADE

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 12:00am

CHABOT CONVENES ROUNDTABLE ON SMALL BUSINESS TRADE 

WASHINGTON – Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) convened a roundtable today to discuss small businesses’ stake in trade. The participants included Members of the House Small Business Committee, Committee on Ways and Means, and small businesses from throughout the country who currently export their products overseas.

“You’re actively involved in trade,” Chabot said. “We want to find out how you did it and what we can change so other small businesses can trade.”

The discussion highlighted the importance of trade to future small businesses growth, the challenges faced by small exporters, and the need to reform ineffective federal export resources that are intended to facilitate trade, but often add confusion to an already complex process.

One business owner said, “If a small company can compete in the U.S., it can compete anywhere in the world. We just need to demystify the export process.”

Chairman Chabot concluded the conversation with specific questions about federal programs intended to support small businesses and potential trade agreements that could open new markets, emphasizing that small businesses require and can depend on the Small Business Committee to be their voice as the 114th Congress proceeds on the issue of international trade. 

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Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance


U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene a hearing on Wednesday, February 25, 2015, entitled “Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance.”

As the U.S. government considers relinquishing control over certain aspects of Internet governance to the private sector, concerns remain that the loss of U.S. involvement over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) could empower foreign powers – acting through intergovernmental institutions or other surrogates – t...

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