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Chabot, Connolly Introduce Bill to Help More Small Businesses Export

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 06/02/2016 - 12:00am

Chabot, Connolly Introduce Bill to Help More Small Businesses Export

WASHINGTON – Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) have introduced H.R. 2586, the Export Coordination Act of 2015, a bill to improve the coordination of federal export promotion resources and to streamline the export process so that more small businesses can sell goods overseas.

“When it comes to exporting, most small businesses don’t know where to start,” said Chabot. “The process can be incredibly complex and the federal resources that are supposed to help them navigate the process are just as intimidating. The Export Coordination Act would streamline these resources and take steps to make the process easier for businesses.

Chabot added, “It is my hope that this bill – and other solutions that the Small Business Committee is currently working on – will open the door for more small businesses to sell their goods overseas, which ultimately provides more opportunities for working families.”

Congressman Connolly said, “The federal government stands ready to help small businesses access foreign markets and create jobs through exports. This bill will ensure that federal trade promotion agencies are reaching out to state and local partners and making access to these resources as straightforward as possible.

U.S. exports support more than 38 million American jobs – including 1 in 3 manufacturing jobs.  Despite the fact that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States, only 2 percent of all small businesses export their goods.

H.R. 2586 would require the United States Department of Commerce’s Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) to clearly define each federal agency’s role in the export process, establish a central listing of all trade events, give state trade agencies a voice in setting our national export strategy, and reduce overlap of current export resources. 


What's the future of wireless broadband?

Without wireless broadband infrastructure, smartphones are nothing more than an expensive paperweight. That’s why it is important that the Commerce Committee continues its path forward to foster wireless broadband deployment across America

<p>"This hearing is the

"This hearing is the Subcommittee’s second of this Congress as it relates to oversight of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and I am pleased to welcome back both CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye and Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle for our first panel today. Later on, we will be joined by a second panel of experts who are intimately involved in the consumer protection community and particularly the issues before us today.    "Product safety is not a Republican or Democrat issue – it something we all care about.  This hearing will focus on CPSC recalls, the Commission’s efforts to spot emerging hazards and remove potentially dangerous products from the marketplace quickly.  Specifically, I look forward to discussing the Retailer Reporting Program, a voluntary program through which participating retailers submit weekly and product-specific incident reports to the Commission.  We will also discuss the Commission’s proposed rule on Voluntary Remedial Actions and Guidelines for Voluntary Recall Notices – commonly known as the “Voluntary Recall Rule.”  We will also discuss how that proposed rule may impact the longstanding Fast Track Product Recall Program.   "CPSC has a long history of success in its mission to keep Americans safe.  The Commission’s track record, specifically on consumer product recalls has been marked by innovative thought and engagement with the relevant stakeholders.  A prime example of this “out-of-the box” thinking was the creation of the Commission’s Fast Track program in the 1990s, where it instituted alternative recall procedures to work closely with companies to expedite the recall process.  The result of this program was to allow for an open exchange of critical information between the Commission and the recalling company and to create needed flexibility to remove potentially-harmful products from shelves more quickly.  Ultimately, it was American consumers and their families who benefited. The Ford Foundation and Harvard University named CPSC the winner of the Innovations in American Government Award for its work on this program, and it has received high marks from consumer groups and industry stakeholders alike.    "CPSC adopted a similarly innovative approach to its market surveillance and emerging hazards identification activities when it instituted the Retailer Reporting Program more than a decade ago.  This program created incentives for participating retailers to hand over detailed and product-specific incident reports to the Commission in exchange for recognition by the Commission that participation in this program satisfied statutory reporting obligations.  This recognition was a true benefit to participating companies, as it provided a measure of certainty on how to meet these obligations.  In exchange, the Commission gained access to a trove of near real-time data about consumer product trends in the marketplace.

"Recent Commission activity, however, indicates a potential shift with respect to CPSC’s tact on these matters.  With respect to Fast Track, recent attempts to advance the proposed voluntary recall rule have drawn overwhelming bipartisan concern that the proposal would unnecessarily delay the recall process. Last year, Senators Casey and Toomey sent a letter to then-Acting Chairman Adler stating that the proposed changes, “seem to jeopardize the efficacy of the existing process, which could increase the risk of harm to consumers.”   "In a letter dated May 30, 2014, former CPSC Chairwoman Ann Brown – a Democrat – voiced similar concerns. Chairwoman Brown described the Fast Track program as “hugely successful” resulting in recalls being “announced faster [and] better protecting consumers from injury.” She believed this proposed rule would undermine the Fast Track program, removing incentives for firms to participate in the first place. I ask unanimous consent that these letter be entered into the record.

"Despite these concerns, the voluntary recall rule is explicitly included in the Commission’s FY 2016 Rulemaking agenda and Operating Plan, released just a few weeks ago. This rule would require that the terms of a corrective action plan, once entered into, be legally binding upon the manufacturer and would prohibit them from disclaiming the presence of a product hazard. Previously, the Chairman has indicated that this rule is not a priority for the agency, so I am anxious to hear from the Commissioners what prompted its inclusion on the FY 2016 Rulemaking agenda and discuss the merits of the rule as it pertains to the fundamental objective of the Commission and this Subcommittee: ensuring consumer safety.   "The Commission’s current Retailer Reporting Program allows participant firms to report, on a voluntary basis, timely, detailed and product-specific information. The Chairman has often said that he believes the Commission to be a “data-driven agency.”  At the same time, some on the Commission have expressed concerns about CPSC’s ability to handle large volumes of product safety data and to make sophisticated safety inferences from this reporting. This summer, CPSC staff went so far as to inform RRP participants that the Commission would no longer consider RRP submissions to satisfy the Commission’s statutory reporting requirements, and that it would no longer accord confidentiality to these reports.  The program remains a pilot program, despite having been initiated nearly a decade ago, and there is growing consternation among program participants who want clear guidance from the Commission on its intentions with respect to the RRP. 

"It is intuitive that this data could be used to identify trends on emerging product safety hazards and thus the program clearly has the potential to improve consumer safety and save lives.  But if the program is not functioning properly and generating positive results – if there is not a clear benefit to the Commission and to program participants – then we ought to have a serious discussion on how to improve it because it’s the Consumers who will ultimately benefit. 

"As the Commission weighs its decision, it will be useful to hear directly from Commissioners and other stakeholders today about the CPSC’s data analytics capabilities, and how it can best leverage existing resources, including cooperative partnerships with the private sector, to make critical safety inferences from retailer data.

"Before I turn this over to Ranking Member Senator Blumenthal, I want to reiterate that we all share the common goal of protecting consumers, and on these issues I have mentioned there is a clear and reasonable oversight role for this Subcommittee to provide toward that end. Thank you to all of our witnesses for being here today, I look forward to your testimony and having another productive conversation about protecting the safety of Americans."

Consumer Product Safety and the Recall Process

The hearing marks the subcommittee's second oversight hearing focused on the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Update: Major Media Management Company Signs on to Voluntary Effort to Deter Online Copyright Piracy

WLF Legal Pulse - 7 hours 54 min ago
In a February 17, 2015 post, we applauded a new voluntary program developed by advertising trade associations, the Brand Integrity Program Against Piracy. The program’s goal is to deter the placement of advertisements for legitimate products on websites that help disseminate illegally-copied entertainment content or knockoffs of trademarked products. This voluntary property-rights protection effort received a […]
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The Consequences of DOL’s One-Size-Fits-All Overtime Rule for Small Businesses and their Employees

The Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations will meet for a hearing titled, “The Consequences of DOL’s One-Size-Fits-All Overtime Rule for Small Businesses and their Employees.”  The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Thursday, October 8, 2015 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building. 

On July 6, 2015, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule to revise and update the existing Fair Labor Standards Act regulations that implement the exemption from overtime pay for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales or computer employees.  The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to conduct outreach to and examine the economic impacts of proposed rules on small businesses.  This hearing will examine the Department of Labor’s assessment of the impacts and the potential effects of this proposed rule on small firms and their employees.    


Mr. Kevin Settles
President and CEO
Bardenay Restaurants & Distilleries
Boise, ID
*Testifying on behalf of the National Restaurant Association

Mr. Ed Brady
Brady Homes Illinois
Bloomington, IL
*Testifying on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders

Ms. Terry Shea
Wrapsody, Inc.
Bessemer, AL
*Testifying on behalf of the National Retail Federation


Witness list

Committee Examines Impact of Flawed DOL Regulation

Today, the Small Business Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Regulations examined the consequences of the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule.

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy has criticized the Department of Labor for vastly underestimating the “small business compliance costs” and for not considering numerous “key small entities affected by the rule.”

“This rule does not recognize the geographic diversity of the American economy,” said Subcommittee Chairman Cresent Hardy (R-NV). “It will particularly hurt rural small businesses that are still recovering from the Great Recession. Simply put, a $50,440 per year salary threshold might be fine for an employer in San Francisco or Mid-Town Manhattan, not so much in Ely, Nevada.”

“Despite what Washington bureaucrats may think, one size does not fit all, and the Department of Labor’s overtime rule is case and point,” said Small Business Committee Steve Chabot (R-OH). “This is another regulatory action from the imperial presidency that is going to hurt small business employees most of all, who will see fewer hours and smaller paychecks."


“Converting salaried positions to an hourly wage adds pressure to get the job done in a 40-hour work week. An increase in overtime eligibility will not necessarily mean an increase in overtime pay for the workforce, but having to contain my managers to work a 40-hour week will take away their flexibility, both personally and operationally… Every dollar spent on compliance burdens is one less that we could have used to grow our business and invest further in our employees and community.”
-Ms. Terry Shea, Wrapsody Inc., Bessemer, AL

“[I]n the restaurant industry salaried employees enjoy a number of benefits not available to hourly employees…Thus, in addition to getting paid a salary regardless of the fact that they may not be working over 40 hours a week, these newly overtime-protected employees could lose flexibility as well as benefits, including substantive bonuses, paid vacation, flex time, paid holidays, and health insurance."
-Mr. Kevin Settles, Bardenay Restaurants & Distilleries, Boise, ID

"The DOL overtime proposal is a “one-size-fits-all” standard. Given the potential broad impact of the proposed rule, an obvious issue is that wage amounts vary greatly from location to location, as well as among business sectors… What one construction supervisor makes in Tennessee is different than what one earns in California—sometimes significantly."
- Mr. Ed Brady, Brady Homes, Bloomington, IL

Kline Statement: Hearing on “Reviewing the Juvenile Justice System and How It Serves At-Risk Youth"

Some may be wondering why the Education and the Workforce Committee is holding a hearing on an issue that might otherwise fall under the Judiciary Committee’s purview. After all, the words “crime,” “court,” “judge,” and “jail” are not terms we frequently hear in this committee. So why are we here today? Because keeping our communities safe and supporting at-risk youth requires more than an adjudication system and a detention facility. It requires education, rehabilitation, and family participation—a joint effort by parents, teachers, community members, and civic leaders to prevent criminal behavior and support children who have engaged in illegal activity.

The stakes are high for these youth and the communities they live in. Research shows children who have been incarcerated are up to 26 percent more likely to return to jail as adults. They are also 26 percent less likely to graduate high school. These are hardly the outcomes vulnerable children and their families deserve. They also have detrimental short- and long-term effects on our society, imposing costs onto taxpayers and jeopardizing the safety of others.

This is an issue that directly impacts our families and our neighborhoods, and we all have a role to play in addressing it. Recognizing the value of a collaborative approach to juvenile justice, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in 1974. The goal of the law is to educate at-risk youth and rehabilitate juvenile offenders so they can become productive members of society.

The law is based on the premise that the juvenile justice system can create positive opportunities for children who would otherwise go without. As we will hear from our witnesses, many juvenile justice programs have helped children develop the life skills they need to hold themselves accountable and earn their own success. Of course, not all programs have experienced the same results. That’s why states and communities are constantly looking for new ways to better serve at-risk youth.                                                                         

For example, many states are investing in alternatives to juvenile detention facilities—such as community- and family- based support services—to help children get back on track. It appears these efforts are making a difference. Between 2001 and 2011, crime and incarceration declined dramatically across the country. The rate of incarceration fell by 46 percent, and the rate of juvenile offenses fell by 31 percent.

While these trends are heading in the right direction, we still face the stark reality that there are more than two million children involved in the juvenile justice system. Meanwhile, many more are at-risk of entering the system because of difficult circumstances that too often lead to juvenile delinquency, such as poverty, broken families, and homelessness.

As we discuss ways to better serve at-risk youth and juvenile offenders through education and rehabilitation, we have the privilege today of hearing from Sloane Baxter, someone who faced many of these challenges as a juvenile offender and who knows firsthand how community-based programs can set youth on a better path. Mr. Baxter, thank you for the example you’re setting. By sharing your story with us today, you’re helping make a difference in the lives of others. We look forward to hearing from you and the rest of our distinguished witnesses.

Before I conclude my opening remarks, I want to commend our colleague, Ranking Member Scott, for his long-standing leadership on this important issue. I look forward to hearing from him today and to working with him in the future.

Railroads, Shippers, Labor, and Retailers Agree that the Positive Train Control Deadline Needs an Extension. Here's Why.

Positive Train Control is advanced technology designed to stop or slow a train before accidents occur. As of September 2015, no railroad has yet met the legal requirements for complying with the PTC mandate. If railroads do not meet the current deadline, current law forces them to decide between stopping service and operating in violation of the law.

Senators Demand Answers from T-Mobile and Experian Following Security Breach of 15 Million Customers’ Personal Data, Including Social Security Numbers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet, demanded answers from T-Mobile and Experian on actions the companies are taking to address the recent security breach that exposed the personal data, including social security numbers, of up to 15 million T-Mobile customers.

In letters to T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Experian CEO Brian Cassin, the senators stated that the breach is “is extremely troubling to us given the sensitive nature of the compromised personal data, and its particular value to identity thieves,” especially with the exposure of social security numbers. “Unlike bank account numbers, which can be deleted as soon as a bank identifies fraud, Social Security numbers are hard to change and are tied to tax forms, credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts, health insurance, and medical records…According to the Department of Justice, 64 percent of the 17.6 million victims of identity theft in 2014 experienced a direct financial loss resulting from personal information fraud. This is particularly distressing based on your companies’ reported breach, because victims of personal information fraud lost an average of $7,761 compared to victims of bank or credit card fraud who lost an average of $780.”

“We have been advocates for data security and breach notification legislation that would better protect consumers and improve corporate responsibility,” the senators continued. “Experian and T-Mobile’s recent incident demonstrates the need for legislation that addresses both consumer notification and sets minimum security requirements for companies that collect and store such sensitive consumer data.”

Full text of the letters is below.

Dear Mr. Legere / Mr. Cassin:

We write with regard to the recent reported data security breach at Experian, which may have exposed the names, address, birth dates and Social Security numbers of fifteen million T-Mobile customers.  This news is extremely troubling to us given the sensitive nature of the compromised personal data, and its particular value to identity thieves.  

Unlike bank account numbers, which can be deleted as soon as a bank identifies fraud, Social Security numbers are hard to change and are tied to tax forms, credit cards, mortgages, bank accounts, health insurance, and medical records. By learning someone’s Social Security number, a criminal can obtain credit cards in a victim’s name, wire money from a victim’s bank account, or even access tax and medical records. According to the Department of Justice, 64 percent of the 17.6 million victims of identity theft in 2014 experienced a direct financial loss resulting from personal information fraud. This is particularly distressing based on your companies’ reported breach, because victims of personal information fraud lost an average of $7,761 compared to victims of bank or credit card fraud who lost an average of $780.  

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has jurisdiction over commercial online practices and data security, and, as Ranking Members of the full Committee, the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security, and the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet, we have been advocates for data security and breach notification legislation that would better protect consumers and improve corporate responsibility. Experian and T-Mobile’s recent incident demonstrates the need for legislation that addresses both consumer notification and sets minimum security requirements for companies that collect and store such sensitive consumer data.  

We request that Experian’s information-security executives provide a detailed accounting to the Committee regarding your investigations and latest findings on the circumstances that permitted unauthorized access to the personal information of so many Americans. We expect that your security experts have had enough time to thoroughly examine the cause and impact of the breach and will be able to provide the Committee with detailed information.



Commerce Committee Launches New Website to Increase Usability and Transparency

“The Internet is a powerful tool and one that the Commerce Committee uses regularly to stream hearings and to engage with the public,” said U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman. “Changes to the committee website will make our work more accessible to the people we serve through features like the nominations matrix to help track the status and disclosures of nominees pending before the panel. I encourage the public to check out our new website and share feedback."

Removing Barriers to Wireless Broadband Deployment

The Committee will hold a second full committee hearing on wireless broadband.

Removing Barriers to Wireless Broadband Deployment

The Committee will hold a second full committee hearing on wireless broadband.

The EMV Deadline and What it Means for Small Businesses

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 11:00am

The Committee on Small Business will meet for a hearing titled, The EMV Deadline and What it Means for Small Businesses. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11:00 A.M. on October 7, 2015 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The Europay, Mastercard, Visa (EMV) chip payment system will be implemented nationwide this October. The upgraded technology is designed to protect against cybercrime and fraud. However, many small businesses are unprepared for the new payment structure. These businesses will not only be more vulnerable to cyber threats, but they will also be held liable for certain incidents of fraud. According to a recent study, less than forty-nine percent of small businesses are aware of the looming deadline and liability shift. This hearing will examine the implications of the EMV chip deadline for small businesses and the efforts that are being made to ensure America’s small businesses are in compliance with their financial service providers.

For press interested in covering this event, please contact Kelley McNabb or Adam Scheidler.

Chairman John Thune

"This morning, our Committee meets again to examine policies related to spectrum and wireless broadband.  As I mentioned at our July hearing on “Wireless Broadband and the Future of Spectrum Policy,” we have an opportunity to develop meaningful legislation to further promote economic development and the many benefits fueled by increased mobile connectivity.  Similar to the feedback from our last hearing, I look forward to hearing from my colleagues and our witnesses about ideas they may have for such legislation.  I also invite stakeholders not here today to share their ideas with the Committee in the coming days and weeks.

"Opening more spectrum for commercial use can bring in revenue to pay down our national debt and fund other priorities.  But, the more lasting economic benefits spurred by spectrum availability – new jobs, technological innovation, and increased consumer welfare – depend on spectrum actually being used by individuals across the country.  That requires the design, construction, deployment, and maintenance of physical facilities, including towers, antennas, fiber optic cables, and servers.

"The benefits of increased wireless deployment go well beyond the value of improving mobile connectivity for individuals where they live.  There is also tremendous potential in bringing connectivity to unserved areas where people may not reside, but where they do work and play, like farmland and park lands.  Facilitating personal mobile devices and machine-to-machine communications in these areas holds great promise to improve public health and safety, increase agricultural productivity, and better manage natural resources.

"Telecommunication and broadband connectivity in rural America not only opens doors for individuals and families but also enables new opportunities for farmers and ranchers when it comes to the millions of acres land that they actively manage.  Machine-to-machine and machine-to-farm communication is already delivering new productivity gains – and promises much more benefit for American farmers, environmental stewardship, and the economic future of rural communities.  I look forward to hearing testimony today about some of these innovative solutions and how public policy can facilitate their ongoing development.

"Improving broadband infrastructure deployment has received increasing legislative, administrative, and regulatory attention in recent years.  Most recently, the Broadband Opportunity Council concluded a months-long review among 25 federal agencies, led by the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, to produce recommendations to increase broadband deployment through existing agency programs, missions, and budgets.  We are pleased to have NTIA before us today to explain the recent report and discuss its role as a facilitator of inter-agency activities related to broadband.

"Universal broadband connectivity is a national objective, but its pursuit ultimately involves thousands of decisions made at the local level.  These decisions are made by private enterprises determining where to deploy facilities and where to risk capital.  They are also made by local and federal government authorities who are charged with protecting their constituents’ interests – authorities like city planning officials, military base personnel, and forestry managers.  Today, we will hear more detail about what goes into these decision processes, how they operate in practice, and how Congress can help to improve their efficiency.     

"I am encouraged by the broad engagement of Members on this Committee in efforts to promote wireless broadband deployment.  Members on both sides of the aisle are working on a bipartisan basis to develop pragmatic concepts into actionable legislation, as well as trying to identify new bright ideas.  I invite all of our members to continue working with one another to understand these issues, to create a fulsome record, and to craft broadband deployment legislation for action in this Congress.  I am committed to this effort and believe it is among the most important work of this Committee." 

Thank you.     

Ranking Member Nelson.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

I want to thank Chairman Thune for holding this hearing on wireless infrastructure deployment.

I also want to welcome all of our witnesses and in particular, want to welcome Gary Resnick, mayor of the great city of Wilton Manors, Florida.  Mayor Resnick, we are so pleased that you could join us today.  You will be able to provide an important local government perspective to our discussion.

We are all here because Americans’ demand for – and reliance on – wireless broadband services seems to know no bounds.

As more and more Americans use their wireless devices as their primary means of accessing the Internet, the demand for wireless broadband services has begun to exhaust both the spectrum over which wireless communications ride and the underlying infrastructure that is the physical foundation for the nation’s wireless networks. 

The need for additional spectrum always seems to garner the most attention, but if we are serious about setting an effective forward-looking wireless policy for the nation, we also must look at the infrastructure side of the wireless coin.

We continue to hear concerns about delay and the processes required for getting additional wireless infrastructure deployed throughout the country.

That is because building these networks implicates a number of very important issues – from historic preservation and environmental concerns to state and local land use policies, tribal sovereignty, and national security.

My hope is that all stakeholders, including those represented before us today, can work together to help us find ways to effectively balance the competing concerns about siting and construction of wireless facilities and consumers’ increasing demand for fast and reliable wireless broadband services.  I look forward to hearing the thoughts of our witnesses on these challenges.

I also look forward to hearing from our NTIA witness about steps the administration already is taking to increase opportunities for deployment of wireless infrastructure on federal lands and buildings.

The recent Broadband Opportunity Council report includes a number of recommendations on ways to speed broadband deployment on federal lands.  And just last week, the General Services Administration, under guidance from Congress in our last major spectrum policy bill, took significant steps to improve the processes for seeking access to federal lands and buildings for the placement of wireless infrastructure.

Finally, as I said at our spectrum hearing in July, I stand ready and willing to work with Chairman Thune and all of the stakeholders to find areas of bipartisan consensus so we can address the future of U.S. wireless policy.


Walberg Statement: Hearing on "Protecting America's Workers: An Enforcement Update from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 12:00am
I’d like to extend a special welcome to you, Dr. Michaels, and thank you for being with us to discuss an issue that is incredibly important to every one of us: ensuring the health and safety of American workers.

We all agree that men and women working hard to make a living deserve workplaces that are safe and working conditions that protect their health and wellbeing. In the 21st century workplace, employees should be able to put in a day’s work without having to fear being injured on the job or having to worry whether they’ll be able to return home to their families at the end of a shift. That’s why we continue to demand every American have strong and effective health and safety protections.

We’re here today to take a closer look at these rules and the enforcement process to make sure they’re working well for both employees and employers. Providing for the health and safety of American workers is an important responsibility, but it’s important to be responsible in carrying it out. Otherwise, we will end up with inadequate protections and unnecessary regulatory burdens that stifle productivity and job creation while doing little to keep workers safe.

That’s why this committee has long urged Dr. Michaels, his colleagues at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and others to engage in responsible safety enforcement. By identifying gaps in safety and working with employers and other key stakeholders to develop positive solutions, we can ensure that federal policies are effective and workers are safe. And these are both goals that I believe stretch across party lines.

President Obama promised an “unprecedented level of openness in government” and vowed to establish a system of “transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” Unfortunately, that has not always been the case, and changing enforcement policies is one area in which we’ve seen a lack of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. In fact, on several occasions, the administration has used what it calls “enforcement guidance” to alter significant rules without public input. This one-sided approach is not the kind of responsible rulemaking and enforcement American workers deserve.

When actions of the administration or other policymakers are in conflict with the best interests of the American people, it’s our responsibility to speak out. So that’s what we did with OSHA. We spoke out when they altered long-standing policies outside the public rulemaking process. We spoke out when they failed to conduct proper oversight of their own enforcement activities. We spoke out when they spent significant time and resources pursuing unsound and unnecessary regulatory schemes.

OSHA, on several occasions, has listened to some of our concerns. Not all of our concerns, but enough to say that we’ve made progress in a number of areas.

As a result of our oversight, OSHA is pursuing a responsible approach to protecting the men and women employed on family farms, more small businesses are able to participate in an important safety and health program, and employees in the telecommunications industry have more clarity and certainty. Workers are safer because we spoke up, the agency listened, and steps were taken to promote smart, responsible regulatory policies. However, while we have made gains, there is still work to be done. Which brings us back to the reason we’re here today.

Standing up for workers and ensuring safe workplaces remain leading priorities for this committee. We’ve seen what we can accomplish when we work together to improve the health and safety of American workers. This hearing is an important part of those efforts.

I look forward to hearing from Dr. Michaels on his agency’s regulatory and enforcement actions, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss ways in which we can better protect hardworking men and women and provide greater clarity to job creators.

Kline Statement: Hearing on "Strengthening Head Start for Current and Future Generations"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 10/07/2015 - 12:00am
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Head Start, a program that plays an important role in the lives of many children and families. Head Start was designed to offer comprehensive services to three- and four-year-old children from low-income families so they could start school on a level playing field with their peers. What began as a summer school program has grown into a multi-billion dollar effort serving roughly one million children at approximately 1,600 centers across the country.

Today Head Start is one of the largest, most significant investments in early childhood education and development, both in the number of children being served and taxpayer dollars being spent. We know a great education can be the great equalizer. But we also know some children have a tough time adapting to the pressures of school, and that can be especially true for children living in poverty. Without the proper support, these students are more likely to fall behind in school and to fall through the cracks later in life.

Helping these children succeed in the classroom is a priority that has stretched across party lines for decades, and that has been reflected in the long-standing, bipartisan support for Head Start. It’s an important program, but it’s also a program that faces a number of challenges.

The most glaring example is the continued concern that Head Start isn’t providing children with long-term results. A 2010 study by the Obama administration found that the gains children receive in Head Start are largely gone by the time they reach the first grade. A follow-up study tracked the same children through the third grade and concluded:

“By the end of third grade there were very few impacts … in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health, and parenting practices. The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children.”

As policymakers, we have to answer a number of important questions. How do we do better for both current and future generations? How do we ensure Head Start provides taxpayers a good return on their investment? How do we ensure Head Start delivers the long-term, positive impact these vulnerable children desperately need?

To help answer these questions, the committee earlier this year urged the public to submit ideas for reforming the program. At the same time, we outlined a number of key principles for reauthorizing the Head Start Act, such as reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens, encouraging local innovation, and enhancing parental engagement. We asked stakeholders and concerned citizens to tell us how we can turn these principles into a responsible legislative proposal.

Little did we know that as we were trying to strengthen Head Start through the legislative process, the administration was crafting a scheme to fundamentally transform Head Start through the regulatory process. No doubt we will discuss in greater detail the pros and cons of the administration’s regulatory proposal. However, we should all be deeply troubled by what are expected to be very harsh consequences if this proposal is implemented, including 126,000 fewer Head Start slots and 9,000 fewer instructors.

I am pleased the administration recognizes the need to improve Head Start, but I strongly urge Secretary Burwell to work with us on that effort through the reauthorization process. By working toward a legislative solution, I am confident we can provide low-income children the strong head start they deserve. I want to thank our witnesses for being a part of that effort as well, and I look forward to your testimony. 

FOX News: Amtrak Threatens Shutdown

Click to learn more about keeping railroads open and what will happen to our nation’s freight and passenger rail network if the deadline is not extended.

Thune Statement on Safe Harbor Invalidation

Sen. Thune: "I strongly encourage the U.S. Department of Commerce to conclude negotiations on a new agreement with the European Union that allows the free flow of data to continue. Until those negotiations are complete, it is imperative that businesses who relied upon the Safe Harbor have clear guidance on how to continue operations."


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