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Federal Court “Shall” Hear Challenge on EPA’s Failure to Assess Job-Loss Impact of its Rules

WLF Legal Pulse - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 12:57pm
Section 321(a) of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA), titled “Continuous Evaluation of Potential Loss or Shifts of Employment,” states plainly: The Administrator shall conduct continuing evaluations of potential loss or shifts of employment which may result from the administration or enforcement of the provisions of this chapter and applicable implementation plans, including where appropriate, […]
Categories: Latest News

In FDA’s Revised Animal Food Safety Proposal, Common Sense Prevails on Brewers’ Spent Grains

WLF Legal Pulse - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 12:31pm
This past spring, we highlighted a provision in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed implementation of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) that would effectively stop brewers, distillers, and wine makers from sharing the byproducts of their production with farmers for use as animal feed.  Such a practice has deep roots in the […]
Categories: Latest News

Cool Apps: Sending Gifts Has Never Been Easier

InteroMojo - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 12:14pm

So your sister’s turning 40 this year. It’s quite the milestone and you’d really like to get her something you know she’ll love but it’s hard when she lives across the country. I’m sure you could find something great on amazon, but having something shipped can get so costly. Not to mention your recent conviction to shop local as much as possible so why should this purchase be any different? Well, with Yiftee your conscience can hold strong.

Yiftee lets you send a real gift via your phone for any occasion. The recipient can then pick up their gift wherever you bought it from.

In literally 5 minutes you can send a gift without leaving your house. All you have to do is select the recipient, pick out a gift from their favorite local shop (that’s right, their local shop – you can choose from thousands), write a quick note and you’re done! Your recipient will receive a message via email, Facebook or text. You can even schedule a gift delivery for a future date so when you remember a birthday, you can set up your Yiftee to be sent on a specific date and forget about it.

It’s so easy you’ll be surprising everyone with little gifts for every occasion; the dinner they hosted last night, the favor they did for you, the successful meeting you had, anything!

To see how easy Yiftee really is, check out the below video.

Click here to play video

 

Categories: Latest News

Thursday’s Thoughts on Leadership: Inspired by Hawaiian Legends

InteroMojo - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:57pm

Just this week, on a business trip to Hawaii to meet with my friend, Bill Chee, local legend and CEO of Prudential Locations LLC, I learned the amazing story of another local legend, Duke Kahanamoku. A gold-medal-winning Olympic swimmer and champion surfer, Kahanamoku may have been best known for his aquatic accomplishments but as I read more about this champion athlete, I was struck by his selflessness, strength of character, kindness of spirit and humility; all qualities every great leader should possess.

“The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun,” he famously said, and whether commanding the waves of the Pacific or a team of real estate agents, Kahanamoku is right. Always remember why you chose to lead, what you enjoy so much about the real estate business and why you want to inspire your team to succeed. Have fun. If you’re having fun, others will, too.

We can also take a lesson from Kahanamoku’s humble nature. When he became a household name in Hawaii, many people thought he was royalty, (his name, after all, was Duke). However, he was the first to remind his fans that he was one of them, a citizen of Hawaii and a man who worked hard for every award and accolade he received.

When Duke passed in 1968 at the age of 77, he left a lasting legacy behind him. Today, restaurants and statues bear his likeness and name, as symbols of a local hero who prospered through a powerful combination of talent, diligence and perseverance. We can learn so much from such a great man and as I left the Aloha state this week, I couldn’t help but think how we should all feel similarly inspired to apply the lessons of Kahanamoku’s success to our own careers.

Categories: Latest News

Bloomberg BNA: CMS Needs to Provide Congress SHOP Data On Enrollments, Rep. Collins Says at Hearing

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:00am

Bloomberg BNA: CMS Needs to Provide Congress SHOP Data On Enrollments, Rep. Collins Says at Hearing
By Sean Forbes
 September 18, 2014

 

Republican members of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Small Business insisted at a hearing on Affordable Care Act small business exchanges that the administration must provide hard data to Congress in order to have an unbiased discussion about the effectiveness of the exchanges.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health and Technology, said that the Small Business Committee sent letters in January and June to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requesting enrollment figures for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), but the HHS hasn't supplied any data yet.

Collins several times asked Mayra E. Alvarez, director of the state exchange group in the CMS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, about whether the information is available and when the Congress can expect to receive the data. Alvarez didn't have a precise date, but promised that, after the CMS collected the data from the state SHOPs, it would give the information to Congress and the public “as soon as it's available.”

“As soon as it's available,” Collins repeated.

The CMS data will take the bias out of the debate over the SHOPs, but until then people “are just talking past each other,” Collins said.

After the Sept. 18 hearing, Collins told Bloomberg BNA that, “I'm not holding my breath” for the data to arrive soon.

The 90-minute hearing was titled Update on the Small Business Health Options Program: Is It Working for Small Businesses?

Fixing the SHOPs

All the members of the subcommittee, Republicans and Democrats, agreed that the SHOPs aren't perfect and are in need of repair, but differed as to their effectiveness.

Ranking Member Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) said that Medicare, enacted in 1965, also wasn't perfect and is still being improved today, “but that doesn't mean it was bad.” The same can be said for the ACA, she said.

Other witnesses differed on how to fix the SHOPs.

Roger Stark, health care policy analyst for the Seattle-based Washington Policy Center, an independent, nonprofit think tank, said that insurance rates and benefit levels should be set by the insurance market and not by government regulations, and that the state marketplaces should be able to offer an array of insurance plans without having to include the essential health benefits required under the ACA in order to make the market more competitive.

Alvarez disputed that claim, and said that the “biggest problem” with Stark's solution is that it would lead to adverse selection, which would in turn lead to higher costs for employers and plan participants.

Jon Gabel, senior fellow at the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, agreed with Alvarez and said that plans in the exchanges must at least provide a minimum benefits package. Prior to the ACA, many offered plans had very low actuarial value, he said.

Rather than setting limits on copays, coinsurance and deductibles, the ACA established four actuarial value levels of coverage on plans—bronze, silver, gold and platinum—which represent the share of health-care expenses the plan covers for a typical group of enrollees. Most plans prior to the ACA provided less than 80 percent of actuarial value, the level of a gold plan, Gabel said.

Temporary Subsidies

The ACA allows employers with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees to apply for a temporary subsidy, called the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, under which they will only have to pay up to half of the premium for their full-time employees.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) asked Alvarez for the basis upon which the CMS made its decisions on whether an employer could get the temporary subsidy.

Alvarez said the decisions are based on flexibility and responsiveness to the needs of the market.

“But what's the basis?” Luetkemeyer asked.

“I can definitely get back to you with that information,” Alvarez said.

 

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Obamacare SHOPs Fall Short Of Intended Goals, CMS Still Can’t Provide Enrollment Data

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:00am

The Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology, under the chairmanship of Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), today conducted a hearing to examine the ongoing problems with the Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) exchanges, exchanges and to seek answers on behalf of America’s small businesses. During the hearing, Chairman Collins specifically asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) witness, Director of State Exchange Group, Mayra Alvarez, about the SHOP enrollment data, however, the administration was again unable to provide the information, despite repeated claims of transparency.
 
From the very beginning, the SHOPs program has created more uncertainty and confusion for small businesses by delaying rules at least five separate times. A June 2013 GAO report requested by House Small Business Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) confirmed the administration was ill-equipped for the implementation of the SHOPs, and the program’s record has since confirmed that prediction. SHOPs were meant to simplify the process of purchasing health insurance, expand employee choice and reduce the cost of health coverage for small businesses, but those goals have come nowhere close to being met. Chairman Graves has repeatedly pressed the administration to provide data on the enrollment and updated compliance timeline of federal or state SHOPs, but the requests have gone unanswered.

All of these challenges regarding SHOPs have occurred while small businesses are grappling with rising health insurance costs that are increasing for nearly two-thirds of small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees. And the National Federation of Independent Business found that 64 percent of small business owners paid more per employee for health insurance in 2013 than in 2012.

“Uncertainty and confusion are a recipe for disaster for small businesses,” said Chairman Collins. “The ability to plan ahead is key for small companies, especially since they don’t have large staffs to deal with tax, regulation, employee benefits and government mandate compliance. So, for the Small Business Health Options Program to be implemented so poorly is a major headache for the nation’s small business community. I’m pleased that CMS sent an official to testify today, but questions still remain about the viability and data collection for this program moving forward. It’s shocking that, after the billions of taxpayer money that has been spent on Obamacare, there was no process created for recording and measuring the SHOP enrollment data on a regular basis. HHS and CMS need to do a better job of operating and tracking the exchanges and communicating what lies ahead for the program.”

The Committee’s first hearing on this topic took place in December 2013. Materials from this hearing are available on the Committee’s website HERE.

Notable Quotes:
Dr. Roger Stark, Health Care Policy Analyst at the Washington Policy Center in Seattle, WA said, “Although the employer mandate is a critical part of the ACA, the SHOP marketplace for small businesses seems to be almost an afterthought in the law. There is no clear evidence of interest on the part of small companies to provide health insurance through a marketplace with tax credits.

The paperwork and regulatory burden in the SHOP exchange are definite hurdles for a small business employer. There is no real free market in the individual exchanges or in SHOP. Proponents will claim that competition exists, yet all insurance plans offered in the exchanges must contain the ten government-mandated essential benefits. Insurance premium prices must be approved by the government. Consequently, individuals and employers only have government-approved plans and not meaningful choices or real competition.”


Adam Beck, Assistant Professor of Health Insurance at The American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, PA said, “The Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP Marketplace, was designed by the 111th Congress to lower health costs for small business, increase competition and therefore choice for business owners, and simplify the process of offering health coverage. These are laudable goals, however it is my opinion that the SHOP Marketplace as it is currently structured and presented falls short of these goals. I believe the SHOP Marketplace will remain inadequate and continue to enroll relatively few companies so long as three factors remain: the existing tax incentives, the lack of engagement of agents and brokers, and shortcomings in information technology infrastructure.”

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POLITICO Pro: CMS: No enrollment numbers for SHOP

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:00am

POLITICO Pro: CMS: No enrollment numbers for SHOP
September 18, 2014
By Brett Norman

A CMS official told a House panel this afternoon that she could not provide enrollment numbers in Obmacare’s small business exchanges.
 
Mayra Alvarez, director of the state exchange group at CCIIO, said that the agency “is not the source of SHOP enrollment," because businesses did not have online access in the first year, requiring them to apply by paper, through an agent or broker or directly through insurers.
 
But CMS is “working to get that information from issuers, and as soon as we have it, we will share it with you,” Alvarez told Rep. Chris Collins, chairman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology.
CMS has been forthcoming about individual exchange enrollment. This morning, Administrator Marilyn Tavenner told the House Oversight Committee that 7.3 million people were paying Obamacare customers through mid-August — the first update since the administration reported more than 8 million sign-ups after the end of open enrollment in April.

SHOP enrollment in many states this year was minimal. In Washington state, for instance, 11 companies with about 40 employees total enrolled, despite more than 2,000 businesses setting up accounts, according to testimony at the hearing.

Washington was not typical, however. Jon Gabel, a senior fellow of NORC at the University of Chicago, told the hearing that it was the only state with just one insurance company offering coverage through SHOP. He also said “SHOP plans cost less than the plans” outside of the exchange.

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Graves-Sponsored Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act Included in Major Jobs Legislation

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:00am
House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) today applauded the Jobs for America Act (H.R. 4). The legislation includes the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, which would ensure that federal agencies fully consider the consequences of rulemaking on small business.

“Washington’s mounting regulatory burden is destructive to America’s 28 million small businesses and harmful to the economy,” said Chairman Graves. “A recent study found that federal regulations cost $2 trillion in 2012 and that small businesses annually spend $11,724 per employee to comply with federal mandates. The provisions of the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, now part of the Jobs for America Act, ensure that federal agencies fully consider the impact of new red tape on small businesses, and get valuable input from small businesses before a rule is completed. Too often, federal agencies ignore the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (RFA) and implement regulations that impose unnecessary burdens on small businesses. Under this legislation, federal agencies can no longer exploit statutory loopholes to avoid meeting their obligations to America’s job creators. Not all regulations are bad, but many impose heavy costs on small businesses, and unnecessary barriers to growth and job creation should be reduced.”

TIMELINE: In September 2013, the Small Business Committee favorably reported out the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2013 (HR 2542). In February 2014, HR 2542 was included as Title III of the ALERRT Act, which passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 236-179. To date, the Senate has failed to act. The transcript and video of Graves’ floor speech on the ALERRT Act can be viewed here. Last Congress, the similar Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2011 (H.R. 527) passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 263-159, but died in the Senate.

SMALL BUSINESS QUOTE: “Unfortunately, all too often federal agencies view RFA compliance as either a technicality of the federal rulemaking process or, worse yet, as unnecessary. In an effort to ensure that regulations are crafted in accordance with the Congressional intent of the RFA, I urge Congress to seek out ways to improve agency compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act.” – Carl Harris, Homebuilder from Wichita, Kansas. (3/14/2013 hearing)

View more quotes HERE.

Reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens for small business has been a priority of Chairman Graves’ tenure at the Committee. In January 2013, the Small Business Committee launched the "Small Biz Reg Watch" initiative, which encourages small businesses to participate in the federal rulemaking process by regularly highlighting new agency proposed rules that may have a significant effect on small firms and encouraging business owners to submit comments to agencies.  

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Bloomberg BNA: Bill Calls for SBA to Use Electronic Signatures in Loan Process

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:00am

Bloomberg BNA: Bill Calls for SBA to Use Electronic Signatures in Loan Process
September 18, 2014

Sept. 18 (BNA) - A legislative proposal unveiled Sept. 18 would require the Small Business Administration to accept e-signatures in its financing programs.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) says a long, complicated loan application process “is often a great impediment for many small businesses to secure the capital they need to get their products or services to market.” 

“The majority of the time spent during the SBA loan application process consists of lenders collecting required documentation and having to seek out the ink signatures of borrowers,” said Graves, who chairs the House Small Business Committee. “The Small Business Loan Simplification Act of 2014 will employ widely used and proven e-signature and records technology to reform the SBA loan process. This will likely cut the application process by an average of 2 to 3 days.”

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Graves Introduces Bill To Modernize SBA Loan Process

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 09/18/2014 - 12:00am

House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) today introduced legislation that will streamline and simplify the loan application process at the Small Business Administration (SBA) by requiring the agency to permit the use of e-signature and electronic records. The Small Business Loan Simplification Act of 2014 would statutorily bring the SBA up-to-speed with technology already being used by private lenders and other federal agencies. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ), Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), and Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) are original co-sponsors.
 
“Access to capital continues to be a major issue for many small businesses and people trying to start new companies,” said Chairman Graves. “A lengthy and complicated loan application process is often a great impediment for many small businesses to secure the capital they need to get their products or services to market. The majority of the time spent during the SBA loan application process consists of lenders collecting required documentation and having to seek out the ink signatures of borrowers. The Small Business Loan Simplification Act of 2014 will employ widely used and proven e-signature and records technology to reform the SBA loan process. This will likely cut the application process by an average of 2 to 3 days.”

The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) of 2000 made valid the use of e-signatures on binding documents, but the SBA has not yet permitted their use during the application process for its array of financing programs.

General bank lending to small businesses still has not returned to pre-recession levels. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, at the end of the first quarter, banks held $585 billion in loans to small businesses, which is 18% lower than in 2008. And the number of loans for $1 million or less held by banks is down about 14% from 2008.
 
The bill is widely supported by industry, including the leading providers of electronic signature and record technology, the banking community, and a number of organizations representing various types of SBA lenders.
 
Small Business Loan Simplification Act of 2014:
• Permits participants in SBA financing programs, both borrowers and lenders, to use electronic signatures and records in the certification and transmission of documents.
• Requires the SBA to accept electronic signatures and records associated with the management of its financing programs.

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Kline, Rokita Praise Senate Action on Bill to Strengthen Education Research

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 10:30am

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) today released the following joint statement commending the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee for approving H.R. 4366, the Strengthening Education through Research Act:

Education research is a vital tool for parents, teachers, and school leaders trying to build the best education possible for their students. It also informs policymakers and taxpayers about whether or not federal efforts are helping to raise student achievement. The Education Sciences Reform Act is long overdue for reform and we are pleased the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved a House proposal to update the law. The bill includes fiscally responsible reforms to streamline the research system, promote accountability, protect student privacy, and ensure unbiased education research. We commend Senators Harkin and Alexander for their leadership on this important issue and we hope the Senate approves the bill without delay.

To learn more about H.R. 4366, click here.

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Committee Seeks Information from NLRB General Counsel on Joint-Employer Standard

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 9:30am

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe have asked National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Richard Griffin to provide documents and information concerning his effort to rewrite the joint-employer standard under the National Labor Relations Act.

In a letter to Griffin, they wrote:

Your office recently filed an amicus brief indicating the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) should adopt a broader standard to determine joint-employer status under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). A month later, your office authorized complaints against McDonald’s USA, LLC and McDonald’s franchisees as joint-employers … It is our understanding such complaints are unprecedented.

To better understand the reason behind these actions, the committee is requesting the following information by September 30, 2014:

  • A list of all open complaints in which joint-employer status is an issue;
  • Any documents and communications related to closed complaints in which joint-employer status was an issue; and
  • A thorough description of the current joint-employer test the general counsel’s office is applying, particularly its application to franchises.

BACKGROUND: Since 1984, the NLRB has determined joint-employer status by analyzing whether the alleged employers share control over essential terms and conditions of employment, such as hiring, firing, and supervision. In recent months, the NLRB’s general counsel has engaged in an effort to discard this long held standard. At a committee oversight hearing held on September 9, small business owners and labor experts recently testified, this decision threatens to harm family businesses and destroy jobs. News reports highlight the havoc this unprecedented policy will wreak on employers and employees alike:

Business owners, both franchisers and franchisees, told the House Education and the Workforce Committee that the NLRB's move could undermine the franchising model, one of the main ways people get into business for themselves … "Individual entrepreneurs would be deprived of the opportunity to own their own businesses, franchisers would be denied the ability to expand their businesses, and millions of jobs would be lost" [said Catherine Monson, chief executive officer, FASTSIGNS International Inc.]. – Washington Examiner, Business owners: NLRB's McDonald's decision will ruin franchise model 

"I am extremely alarmed by the radical decision of the NLRB's general counsel to attempt to create joint employer status for franchisors” … [Jagruti] Panwala [hotel franchisee] said … This may establish a dangerous precedent that could ultimately eliminate one of the most successful paths of small business ownership in the United States. – Digital Journal, AAHOA Board Member Jagruti Panwala Testifies Before Congress

Catherine Monson, the CEO of signage and banner company FastSigns International Inc. — which operates on a franchise model — said the general counsel's position marks a “drastic change” from how the board's joint employer status has been interpreted since 1984…“It will completely change, and I think, destroy the franchise model.– Law 360, NLRB Joint Employer Stance Risky For Franchises, Reps. Told

A recent effort by the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel to “expand” joint employer liability under federal labor law could change the way franchise businesses operate, witnesses said …“In recent months, it's become clear the Obama National Labor Relations Board is determined to rewrite a franchise model that has served workers, employers, and consumers well for decades,” chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said. – Bloomberg BNA, House Panel Considers Impact on Franchises Of Broadening NLRA Joint Employer Liability

The NLRB is going off the rails again. They have decided to destroy business franchise/franchisee agreements by allowing the corporations that spin out thousands of small businesses using their name, business model and products to be sued over the alleged actions of a few of the small, independent business….This strikes at the heart of the independence of almost 1 million locally owned franchise businesses. – The Hill, Op-Ed, by Rick Manning, NLRB Goes Rogue Against Small Business

To read the members' letter, click here

To learn more about the September 9 oversight hearing, click here.

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Rockefeller, Thune Issue Joint Statement on Committee Passage of the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and John Thune (R-SD), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today issued the following statement following the Committee passage of the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA): 

“We are pleased that the committee today advanced the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA) that would ensure 1.5 million satellite pay TV subscribers maintain access to distant broadcast network television signals and would ma...

Executive Session

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Wednesday, September 17, 2014, at 2:30 p.m.

GSA Helps Army Attain Net Zero Energy

GSA news releases - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 1:00am
GSA releases report designed to help the Army attain net zero energy through employing high-impact energy efficiency strategies

Committee Examines Small Business Impact of FCC Agenda

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 12:00am
The House Small Business Committee, led by Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), today examined the response of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the needs of small businesses and rural America, and conducted oversight of the agency’s regulatory role.

The Committee explored telecommunications issues that are important to small firms, including net neutrality, broadband deployment, Universal Service Fund reform efforts, and wireless spectrum availability. The Honorable Thomas Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, testified about efforts to promote wireless connectivity and ensure reliable systems. Members of the Committee repeatedly conveyed the importance of an FCC agenda that analyzed the intended and unintended consequences of their actions on innovation and rural access for small businesses.

“American small businesses depend more than ever on communications, and advances in technology have opened doors to distant marketplaces from rural America,” said Chairman Graves. “Access to these opportunities is indispensable for small businesses to grow and compete. The technology revolution in the telecommunications industry has fundamentally changed the way small firms do business not only nationally, but worldwide. Continued congressional oversight of the FCC is critical to ensure that burdensome or unnecessary regulation does not hamper innovation and growth for small firms, which are key to our economic recovery.”

Materials from the hearing are available on the Committee’s website HERE.

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Walberg Statement: Hearing on the EEOC Transparency and Accountability Act (H.R. 4959), the Litigation Oversight Act of 2014 (H.R 5422), and the Certainty in Enforcement Act of 2014 (H.R. 5423)

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 12:00am
Today we will discuss a number of legislative proposals that would bring greater transparency and accountability to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 
   
We are here because every member of the committee recognizes the EEOC is a vitally important agency. It has a responsibility to protect the right of all workers to a fair shot at employment opportunities and a workplace free of discrimination. This is a fundamental human right each and every one of us holds dear. No one should be denied a job, have their wages cut, or be passed over for a promotion because of their race, gender, religion, or disability.
  
We are here because we want the EEOC to do its job, and more importantly, to do its job effectively. That is why in recent months we have made oversight of EEOC a priority, because we know men and women are being discriminated against; we know bad actors would rather put their own hateful prejudice before the talent and experience of each individual worker. It isn’t right and it is EEOC’s mission to help stop it from happening.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the EEOC has shifted its focus away from that vital mission. Instead, it has spent a great deal of time and resources advancing a deeply flawed enforcement and regulatory agenda. Employers have fallen under EEOC’s intense scrutiny without any allegation of employment discrimination. Charges are being filed in federal court with little to no evidence of wrongdoing. Federal judges have harshly and appropriately criticized the agency for its shoddy legal work.

Each day the agency harasses employers without cause and every case tossed out of court for legal malpractice is another lost opportunity to help victims of employment discrimination. It means the veteran, injured and disabled while serving our country, will continue waiting forhis day in court. It means the single mom, who worked long and hard to earn a promotion, will continue waiting for her day in court.

More than 70,000 individual complaints are sitting in front of the commission. The backlog represents thousands of private-sector workers who believe their rights were violated and who are waiting anxiously for the commission to do its job. As the old saying goes, “justice delayed is justice denied.” It’s time to stop denying these men and women the justice they deserve.

Not only is the EEOC dropping the ball with its misguided enforcement priorities, it is also pursuing a regulatory scheme that is making it more difficult for employers to protect employees and consumers. In recent years, states and localities have adopted policies to protect Americans in vulnerable situations who come in contact with workers, such as at home and in the classroom. The EEOC has eviscerated these efforts. Quite simply, the agency’s edict restricting the use of criminal background checks is putting people in harm’s way, including women and children.

It’s time the agency changed course and that’s precisely what the legislation before us is intended to do. Among other provisions, the proposals will help shine more sunlight on EEOC activities, compel the agency to work with employers in good faith to resolve complaints, force the commissioners to do their jobs and oversee the agency’s enforcement actions, and provide a safe harbor to employers complying with federal, state, and local mandates, such as laws requiring criminal background checks during the hiring process.

These are commonsense reforms that should enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support. By supporting the legislation, you are supporting transparency at a vitally important federal agency. By supporting the legislation, you are supporting the ability of states to promote a safe and responsible workforce. By supporting the legislation, you are supporting an effort to get this agency back on track to better protect the rights of America’s workers.

I urge my colleagues to support a more effective, accountable Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by supporting the legislation. I would like to thank my colleague, Representative Hudson, for his leadership on this important issue. Again, we are grateful to our witnesses for joining us and I look forward to our discussion.

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