The Road Ahead: Small Businesses and the Need for a Long-Term Surface Transportation Reauthorization
On Wednesday, June 3, 2015 at 11:00 A.M. the Committee on Small Business held a hearing titled, The Road Ahead: Small Businesses and the Need for a Long-Term Surface Transportation Reauthorization. The hearing will be held in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will be webstreamed live HERE.
The purpose of the hearing is examine small firm participation in the surface transportation construction industry.
- Opening Statement
Witnesses and Testimony:
- Testifying on behalf of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association
- Testifying on behalf of the National Equipment Distributors
Private employers who do business with the federal government provide important services to America’s taxpayers and are overwhelmingly responsible and law-abiding. Bad actors who choose to operate outside of the law and deny employees basic protections should not be rewarded with taxpayer dollars.That is why we already have a system in place to deny federal contracts to these bad actors. Instead of promoting more government overreach and more regulations, the administration has a responsibility to ensure the current system is enforced and used effectively.
The committee held a hearing on the president’s executive order in February and found that its proposed structure would be redundant, unworkable, and unnecessary. We also learned that it would inflict harm on small businesses, workers, and taxpayers. We plan to carefully review the administration’s proposed regulation and guidance, but based on what we know so far, this regulatory scheme will not serve the nation’s best interests.
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Kline Leads Congressional Delegation to Discuss Education and Workforce Policies with Transatlantic Allies
Among other events in Norway and Sweden, the delegation:
- Met with members of the Labor and Social Affairs committee of the Norwegian parliament. Members of the delegation discussed with their Norwegian counterparts challenges regarding the country’s rising unemployment, immigration, and regulatory climate, as well as the importance of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). The meeting also discussed the need to raise the stature of vocational education and ensure students are obtaining skills for industry-demand jobs.
- Joined a working lunch with the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) and Norwegian Educators. A representative from NHO discussed the need to deliver educational resources that are relevant to the demands of area businesses. The representative also described the country’s “two plus two” initiative, which provides students two years of educational instruction followed by two years of apprenticeship training. A representative for Norwegian Educators provided a brief overview of the Norwegian education system and the challenges it faces.
- Visited the Fryshuset youth center and gymnasium in Stockholm, Sweden. Founded in 1984, Fryshuset provides creative and constructive activities to help youth develop into productive members of society. The center offers a number of sports and music-related activities and innovative educational programs. Members of the delegation discussed with Fryshuset leaders and participating youth the successes and struggles confronting the center.
- Participated in a roundtable discussion with members of the Swedish parliament’s education and labor committees. Members of the delegation and their parliamentary counterparts addressed Sweden’s recent decline in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the difficulties Sweden faces reversing the decline. The discussion touched on a broad range of education issues, including teacher quality, school choice, and STEM education.
- Held separate meetings with members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Sweden and representatives from Sweden’s government, business, and labor sectors. These meetings focused on the importance of the proposed T-TIP as a way to boost economic growth and job creation by providing greater access to free and fair trade.
The congressional delegation also participated in a number of meetings with senior leaders in the Norwegian and Swedish ministries of foreign affairs and defense, and joined a working dinner hosted by the speaker of the Swedish parliament. These discussions focused on the threat posed by Islamic extremism, as well as the significant challenges stemming from Russian aggression and provocation in the region.
“Our nations are wrestling with many of the same challenges,” said Chairman Kline, “and it was a pleasure to speak directly with our transatlantic allies about important issues facing our schools and workplaces. Our bipartisan delegation is grateful for the frank discussions and a robust exchange of ideas, and we hope this visit will strengthen our relationship with these vital friends and allies in Northern Europe.”
Members attend a working dinner hosted by the speaker of the Swedish parliament, Urban Ahlin, and other members of parliament and the Swedish foreign service.
Congressional delegation meet with members of the Labor & Social Affairs committee of the Norwegian parliament.
- Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and member of the House Armed Services Committee;
- Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), chairman of the House Committee on the Budget and member of the House Committee on Ways and Means;
- Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Secretary of the Republican Conference, member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chairwoman of the Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee, and member of the House Committee on Rules;
- Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, and member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform;
- Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), member of the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology;
- Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Environment; and
- Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA), member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and House Committee on Agriculture.
To see more photos from Norway and Sweden, click here.
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Chabot Statement on WOTUS and EPA Overreach
WASHINGTON - Today, the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is acting against bipartisan, bicameral concerns by moving ahead with a sweeping new rule to redefine what are considered to be “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The new rule gives the EPA power to regulate everything from ponds and streams to even backyard puddles.
In response to these actions, Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) issued the following statement:
“Our Committee focuses a lot of energy on reducing unnecessary burdens faced by small businesses, but few rules are as far-reaching and as threatening as this latest EPA power grab. The impact of this rule will be felt most by family businesses and farmers that will have to sort through a bureaucratic mess and deal with its new costs and liabilities. What is just as troubling is the top down, Washington-knows-best approach that the Administration used to force this on the American people. We will fight this overreach and continue working to reduce the burdens faced by America’s families and small businesses.”
Over the past year, the Committee has previously examined the negative impact that this rule would have on small businesses and identified significant problems with rule and the rulemaking process. Most recently, Chairman Chabot sent a letter urging the Office of Management and Budget to return the rule the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers for reconsideration. A previous letter to the EPA Administrator and Assistant Secretary of the Army outlined the Committee’s findings and urged withdrawal of the rule last year, and in May of 2014, the Committee held a hearing with small businesses to highlight these concerns. In July, the Committee hosted the EPA Deputy Administrator for another hearing on the matter, and in November of 2014, the Committee filed formal comments on the proposed rule, to again voice the concerns of America’s small business community.
Chabot, Small Business Committee Members Introduce Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015
WASHINGTON – Today, House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) joined Reps. Hanna (R-NY), Bost (R-IL), Knight (R-CA), Curbelo (R-FL), Gibson (R-NY), and Rice (R-SC) to introduce the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (H.R. 2499), a bill to encourage and equip veterans in starting their own small businesses by removing barriers to capital.
“Our veterans are as entrepreneurial minded as anyone else in the world,” said Chabot. “Think about all that’s required to launch a new business: strategic planning, tactical expertise, dogged perseverance, and the ability to adjust plans to overcome new challenges at a moment’s notice. This is the American warfighter. Making sure they can access the resources needed to start their own business and build up the communities they’ve protected will do more than just create jobs – it will help them successfully transition into civilian life.”
There are over 21 million veterans living in the United States. Sadly, the unemployment rate among those that have served in active duty since September 2001 is substantially higher than the national average.
The Veteran Entrepreneurship Act seeks to address this reality by making it easier for a veteran or spouse of a veteran to obtain the private capital needed to start a business. The legislation does this by waiving the upfront guarantee fee for a Small Business Administration 7(a) express loan – all at no cost to the taxpayer.
The bill has received praise from lenders and veterans alike:
"As a lender, a veteran, and an Air Force Academy graduate, helping veterans make a life for themselves and their families once they return home from service is very personal to me. With more veterans returning to American soil, it is essential we do everything we can to bring down barriers to obtaining access to capital as they come back from doing everything they can to protect our country. Waiving fees for veteran 7(a) borrowers encourages them to open small businesses, create jobs, and boost the economy.”
-Rich Bradshaw, President of Specialized Lending at United Community Bank
"The 7(a) lending industry feels compelled to be part of the answer to help the SBA loan programs become more accessible to our veterans. NAGGL applauds Chairman Chabot and members of the Small Business Committee for introducing H.R. 2499 to help improve the lives of our nation's heroes."
-Tony Wilkinson, President & CEO of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders
“When you’re talking about a program of this size and cost, making sure that it is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible is imperative,” Chairman Walbergnoted. “Concerns have been raised that FECA benefits are too generous and can discourage an employee’s return to work. So we are here today to explore how Congress can modernize the FECA program, to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used in a smart and responsible way, and to make certain this program is serving federal employees as intended.”
Witnesses agreed on the need to reform the FECA program, which has not been meaningfully updated in 40 years. They discussed a specific proposal included in the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2016 budget blueprint for the Department of Labor. The administration’s proposed reforms are intended to, among other changes, improve return-to-work procedures, streamline claims processing, and update benefits levels.
“The federal workforce comprises dedicated, hard-working women and men who are committed to serving the public,” said Leonard Howie III, director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). Howie noted his office is “fully committed to seeing that all injured workers receive the medical care and compensation they deserve, as well as the assistance needed to return to work when able to do so. FECA reform will enable OWCP to achieve those goals more effectively.”
Scott Dahl, Inspector General of the Department of Labor, echoed these concerns, stating, “The department must ensure that FECA benefits are provided in a timely manner to eligible workers, but it must also strive to ensure that compensation benefits are only paid to those who are truly injured and unable to work, and medical benefits are paid for necessary services that were actually provided. We believe that the legislative recommendations we have proposed … would contribute to greater program integrity.”
Hearing participants acknowledged the need to carefully consider the impacts of proposed changes on current and future beneficiaries. “FECA continues to play a vital role in providing compensation to federal employees who are unable to work because of injuries sustained while performing their federal duties,” argued Andrew Sherrill, director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at the Government Accountability Office. “As policymakers assess proposed changes to FECA benefit levels, they will implicitly be making decisions about what constitutes an adequate level of benefits for FECA beneficiaries before and after they reach retirement age.”
“Throughout this process,” Chairman Walberg concluded, “it’s important that we keep in mind both our responsibility to taxpayers and our commitment to the men and women who make up our federal workforce … I am hopeful that the insights and analysis of those here today will help us better understand the department’s proposal and continue to build on past bipartisan efforts to better meet the needs of a 21st century workforce and more effectively use taxpayer dollars.”
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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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed 13 bills and approved nominations for three agencies.
Bills and nominations passed are as follows:
1. S. 1331, Seasonal Forecasting Improvement Act, Sponsor: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
On Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 10:00 A.M. the Committee on Small Business will hold a hearing titled, Across Town, Across Oceans: Expanding the Role of Small Business in Global Commerce. The hearing will be held in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will be webstreamed live HERE.
The purpose of the hearing is to
Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Witnesses and Testimony:
Since 1916, the FECA program has acted as a critical resource for federal employees who have suffered an injury or illness because of a work-related activity. Today, the program covers approximately three million workers and, last year alone, paid out nearly $3 billion in benefits. Despite the significance of the FECA program, it has been nearly 40 years since the law was meaningfully updated.
When you’re talking about a program of this size and cost, making sure that it is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible is imperative. Concerns have been raised that FECA benefits are too generous and can discourage an employee’s return to work. So we are here today to explore how Congress can modernize the FECA program, to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used in a smart and responsible way, and to make certain this program is serving federal employees as intended.
Fortunately, we’re not starting from scratch. Reforming the FECA program is something members in Congress and those in the administration have been working on in recent years. During the 112th Congress, Chairman Kline and I, along with our former Democratic colleagues George Miller and Lynn Woolsey, introduced the Federal Workers’ Compensation Modernization and Improvement Act to begin addressing reforms proposed by the administration. That bill passed the House by a voice vote in 2011 and was accompanied by a request to GAO to examine the potential impacts of certain reforms.
Unfortunately, the bill was never considered in the Senate, but since then, we’ve continued to examine reforms the Department of Labor has put forward. Strengthening the law remains a priority for this committee, and today, we will hear from the department, GAO, and others to see what the path to reform looks like now and how the administration’s proposals would affect the program and its beneficiaries. By fully understanding the options and impacts related to reform, we will be better positioned to modernize the FECA program, improve its integrity, and enhance its efficiency.
As with any reform process, updating the FECA program will require some tough choices, but I think we can agree that something needs to be done. Our challenge will be reforming the program in a way that will use taxpayer dollars more wisely while ensuring the programs continues to support those it was set up to assist. Throughout this process, it’s important that we keep in mind both our responsibility to taxpayers and our commitment to the men and women who make up our federal workforce. Striking a balance between the two is not easy, but I believe it can be done.
I am hopeful that the insights and analysis of those here today will help us better understand the department’s proposal and continue to build on past bipartisan efforts to better meet the needs of a 21st century workforce and more effectively use taxpayer dollars. With that, I will now recognize the senior Democratic member of the subcommittee, Representative Frederica Wilson, for her opening remarks.
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Chabot: TPA about "more opportunity for all Americans"
WASHINGTON--Moments ago, Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) made the following opening statement in the Small Business Committee's hearing entitled, "Across Town, Across Oceans: Expanding the Role of Small Business in Global Commerce:
"This hearing will come to order. Thank you all for joining us today for this timely and important discussion on trade.
"Very often this Committee discusses ways to grow the economy; increase the number of jobs being created; and sell more goods stamped “Made in the U.S.A.” All of these goals would help the American workforce. And all of these goals are attainable with trade.
"Simply put, trade means opportunity for small business. After all, 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of our borders. Yet, of the 28 million small businesses in America only 1 percent sell their goods internationally.
"If we tear down trade barriers, we can make it easier for small business to participate in the global marketplace and unleash our nation’s most powerful economic force. One of the barriers facing small businesses looking to export is confusion about how to even do it, and a maze of federal resources only to add to the confusion. The Committee recognizes that challenge and is working on legislative solutions to better coordinate federal resources so they are more efficient, streamlined, and better able to help businesses navigate the export process.
"Beyond that we need better trade agreements. Currently, we only have Free Trade Agreements with 20 countries and 47 percent of the goods exported from the United States went to those countries last year. Better trade agreements mean small businesses will be able to access new international customers and offer their products more easily and at a lower cost than ever before. It means that more products will be built and sold. When that happens, jobs care created, wages are lifted, and more opportunity is available to all.
"That’s really what’s on the table with this debate: more opportunity for all Americans. We cannot get stronger trade agreements like TPP and T-TIP, without Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Without TPA, American workers will be competing under the same unfair rules they do today. It will be the status quo. With TPA, we can create trade agreements that will level the playing field. We can remove barriers put up by foreign nations to make it more difficult for American business to sell their products.
"Put an American worker against anyone in the world and I’ll take that bet every day of the week and twice on Sunday. But we can’t get there without TPA.
"Trade is also an opportunity to spread American values of economic freedom and individual liberty—freedoms we understand as second nature. Without TPA—and subsequently, TPP—other nations will dictate the rules of the new economy – nations that do not respect the rule of law or the rights of the individual.
"Trade is not a choice or luxury in our modern world. It is a necessity. It is the cornerstone of a strong, 21st Century economy.
"Today, we will hear from small businesses who are directly impacted by whether we move forward on TPA and important trade agreements OR whether we bury our heads in the sand and wait, while China shapes the contours of the global marketplace.
"Thanks again to all of our witnesses, and I now yield to the Ranking Member for opening remarks."
“The federal government has long invested taxpayer dollars in programs that provide healthy meals and snacks to low-income students and families,” said Chairman Rokita. “Congress has a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are well-spent. That’s why we are here today. Recent reports from independent government watchdogs raise concerns about waste, fraud, and abuse in the administration of these programs. These concerns should be shared by every member of the committee.”
Witnesses identified examples of misused taxpayer dollars in three of the largest federal child nutrition programs: the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); the National School Lunch Program (NSLP); and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).
In WIC, for example, there have been incidents of recipients and vendors fraudulently selling federal benefits to other individuals. Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Kay Brown, stressed the negative consequences of this practice, noting, “Improper use of WIC benefits undermines the integrity of the program and its ability to provide key nutrition assistance and services to vulnerable populations.”
Ms. Brown recognized the lack of information about how much fraud occurs in WIC and recommended “[the Department of Agriculture] collect more information to assess the national extent of attempted online sales of WIC formula benefits and determine cost-effective techniques states can use to monitor them.”
Her colleague, Acting Director for the Forensic Audits and Investigative Service, Jessica Lucas-Judy, expressed similar concerns about the school lunch and breakfast programs, both of which have been designated as “high-error” programs by the Office of Management and Budget. In a survey conducted by GAO, nearly half “of the households that self-reported household income data and size information were not eligible for the free or reduced-price-meal benefits they were receiving because their income exceeded eligibility guidelines,” she stated.
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) under the Department of Agriculture has “taken several steps to implement or enhance controls to identify and prevent ineligible beneficiaries from receiving school-meals benefits,” she acknowledged.
However, each witness concluded more work must be done. Assistant Inspector General at the Department of Agriculture, Gil Harden, said, “Overall, our audit work has shown that FNS has many opportunities to improve how it oversees NSLP, SBP, and WIC. In some cases, it needs to strengthen its own controls directly. In other cases, it needs to improve how it communicates requirements to local authorities that operate the program.”
“We need to get limited funds to those children who need it the most,” Chairman Rokita concluded. “That’s our goal here, and that should be the goal of all of government. Please help us … so we can get these funds to the kids who desperately need them.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
Kline Praises Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Support for Victims of Youth Sex Trafficking
- Strengthen support provided specifically to runaway and homeless youth who are victims of trafficking, which was introduced in the Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act of 2015 by Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), along with Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI).
- Improve practices within state child welfare systems to identify, assess, and document sex trafficking victims, which was introduced in the Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act of 2015 by Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), along with Chairman Kline.
Chairman Kline praised the passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act:
Congress has responded to a national crisis with new tools to fight a heinous crime that affects millions of innocent individuals each year, including hundreds of thousands of youth. I applaud my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for recognizing the seriousness of this crime, reaffirming our commitment to the victims and their families, and sending this critical piece of legislation to the president’s desk.
To learn more about the committee’s efforts to support victims of youth sex trafficking, click here.
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