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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. 


“A Major Transfer of Power and Authority over Public Schools”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 11/23/2015 - 12:00am
Last week, a House-Senate conference committee reached agreement on a proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, bringing Congress one step closer to replacing No Child Left Behind. As news reports highlight, the framework approved by the joint committee reduces the federal footprint in the nation’s classrooms and provides parents and state and school leaders with the certainty and flexibility they need to deliver a quality education:
  • The final agreement … would mark a major transfer of power and authority over public schools from the federal government to states and local school districts. It would also mean a significant reduction in the legal authority of the U.S. education secretary. The deal would largely dismantle the federal accountability system created in 2002 by No Child Left Behind … It would also extinguish the system of waivers given by the Obama administration, in which states that wanted to escape the demands of No Child Left Behind agreed to embrace the preferred policies of the administration. — Washington Post

  • The compromise sharply reduces the federal role in education, giving the states the authority to determine a school's performance … The Education Department also would be barred from mandating or giving states incentives to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, such as the college and career-ready curriculum guidelines known as Common Core. — Associated Press

  • Notably, the new legislation will go to great lengths to tie the hands of the secretary of the Department of Education by putting strict language where NCLB had left discretion to the department.Desert News

  • This will turn decisions about accountability back to the local level, [school district officials] say. "Some people might try to portray this as a free-for-all, or the wild, wild west, but that's not the case," said David Schuler, the superintendent of High School District 214 in the Chicago suburbs, and the president of the AASA, the School Administrators Association. "This would allow those conversations to move from D.C., in most cases, to our state capitol, and that's where they should be.Education Week   

  • There would be less federally mandated testing in schools, and the remaining tests would not be tied to any federal consequences. The bill also prohibits the Department of Education from giving states special positive or negative incentives to adopt specific academic standards, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been doing with Common Core using waivers from No Child Left Behind. Washington Examiner

  • This new ESEA gives power back to the states, which would now be in charge of fixing their most embattled schools, evaluating their teachers, deciding which tests to administer, determining how to use those tests to rank schools, how to educate dual-language learners, and on and on and on. In other words, we might finally be turning the corner on the era of federal micromanagement of K–12 education and leaving No Child Left Behind behind. Slate

  • It cuts down on the number of education programs in what they see as a bloated department and prevents a future secretary from overstepping his or her bounds the way they say Duncan did. States and districts, they say, will do a better job than Washington responding to the needs of poor and minority kids.Politico

  • Under the new K-12 law, school districts identified by their states as under-performing would be eligible for federal grants to make improvements, but the federal government wouldn't prescribe which reforms are necessary. The deal also would bar the U.S. Education Department from requiring states to adopt Common Core academic standards in exchange for federal grants. USA Today

  • The greatest change in the proposed law is a dismantling of the federal accountability system that defined whether K-12 schools were successful, prescribed actions to improve struggling schools, and imposed penalties on states and schools that failed to make progress. It also prevents the federal government from requiring states to evaluate teachers and principals and adopt specific academic standards. Washington Post

Conservatives are also recognizing the stark difference between NCLB and the House-Senate proposal. Frederick Hess, director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, recently wrote in The Hill,

The new bill contains unprecedented language restricting the secretary of Education's discretion and eliminating his or her ability to use the law to shape state policy. It ends the invasive and problematic Race to the Top and School Improvement Grant programs. It contains strong language prohibiting federal officials from seeking to influence state academic standards (think of this as the "no more federal support for the Common Core" provision). It puts an end to the federal government telling states how to improve teacher quality or evaluate teachers. 

This AEI scholar has also described the bicameral framework as striking a “ringing blow for the principle of limited government” and “a notable conservative victory.” Congress is expected to review and consider a final bill in the coming weeks. Before the end of the year, the American people should have a new K-12 education law that will help ensure every child receives an excellent education.

For more information on the framework, click here

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New Jersey High Court Should Do Away with Plaintiffs’ Lawyers’ “Want-Ad” Closing Arguments

WLF Legal Pulse - Fri, 11/20/2015 - 10:00am
The Schindler Elevator Corporation recently petitioned the Supreme Court of New Jersey to rebuke the plaintiffs’ bar’s most recent attempt to circumvent the longstanding prohibition on “Golden Rule” arguments. During closing arguments in Tufaro v. Headquarters Plaza, et al., a personal-injury trial, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jurors to think of awarding compensation “in terms of […]
Categories: Latest News

WLF Overcriminalization Timeline: EPA Criminal Enforcement Policies

WLF Legal Pulse - Fri, 11/20/2015 - 9:00am
Guest Commentary Barry M. Hartman, K&L Gates LLP* Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of guest commentary posts that address the six distinct topic areas covered in Washington Legal Foundation’s recently released Timeline: Federal Erosion of Business Civil Liberties. To read the other posts in this series, click here. The WLF Timeline […]
Categories: Latest News

Chabot & SBC Republicans to FCC: Leave Small Business Alone!

House Small Business Committee News - Fri, 11/20/2015 - 12:00am

Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and all twelve Republican Committee Members have sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler urging him to permanently exempt small businesses from the FCC’s burdensome Open Internet Order regulations.  

The letter was co-signed by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and every Republican member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

 You can read the full text of the letter HERE.

“During the Open Internet proceeding, the FCC heard from small businesses regarding the impact of the FCC’s enhanced transparency requirements. In its Order, the Commission rightly recognized that small businesses are uniquely situated and granted small businesses a temporary exemption from the requirements. We applaud the Commission’s action in granting this temporary exemption and urge you to make it permanent,” wrote the lawmakers.

“Small businesses serve as the backbone of the United States economy. In fact, small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employers in the United States, create 63 percent of net new private-sector jobs, and create more than half of private, non-farm gross domestic product,” they noted. “These companies are the true ‘job creators,’ consistently responsible for 60% to 80% of net new jobs in each of the past 10 years. … Given the stakes for America’s small businesses, the FCC was right to exercise caution and grant the temporary exemption.  Now is the time to recognize the disproportionate impact that the requirements would have on these ISPs and their customers and make the exemption permanent. Additionally, the commission should grant the exemption to all small businesses that meet the definitions previously set by the [Small Business Administration].”

Advocacy Study Analyzes Veteran Business Owner Recovery from 2007-2013

Office of Advocacy - Thu, 11/19/2015 - 2:27pm

For Release: November 9, 2015                                                                                                                  

SBA Number: 15-06 ADV                                                                               


Contact: Elle Patout



Advocacy Study Analyzes Veteran Business Owner Recovery from 2007-2013


Categories: Latest News, SBA Advocate

SBA Environmental Roundtable Meeting

Office of Advocacy - Thu, 11/19/2015 - 1:49pm

***SBA Environmental Roundtable Meeting***

FRIDAY, December 4, 2015 10 a.m. – noon


TO:                         Interested Persons


FROM:                  Kevin Bromberg, Assistant Chief Counsel

David Rostker, Assistant Chief Counsel

Tabby Waqar, Assistant Chief Counsel


Categories: Latest News, SBA Advocate

Improving Size Standards for Small Farmers and Ranchers

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 11/19/2015 - 10:00am

The Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade will meet for a hearing titled, “Improving Size Standards for Small Farmers and Ranchers.”  The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Thursday, November 19, 2015 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building

The Subcommittee will examine H.R. 3714, the “Small Agriculture Producer Size Standards Improvements Act of 2015.”  The bill would amend the Small Business Act and require the Small Business Administration (SBA) to establish small business size standards for agricultural producers through the notice and comment rulemaking process.  In contrast to the size standards established for all other industries by the SBA, the size standard for agriculture enterprises is established by statute and has not been updated in 15 years.


Panel I
The Honorable Mike Bost, (IL-12)
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC

Panel II
Nicholas D. Paulson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Agricultural and Consumer Economics
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, IL

Mr. Jeff Beasley
Beasley & Sons Livestock
Creal Springs, IL
*Testifying on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

Mr. Larry Burgin
Mushkoday Farm
Delhi, NY
*Testifying on behalf of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Hearing Materials:
Witness List

In the Ninth Circuit, Not All Litigants Are Created Equal

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 11/19/2015 - 9:40am
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this week denied Uber Technologies’s petition for Rule 23(f) interlocutory review of an order granting class certification in a major challenge to the manner in which Uber operates its ride-sharing business. The four named plaintiffs assert that every Uber driver should be classified as an employee, […]
Categories: Latest News

WLF Overcriminalization Timeline: Attorney-Client Privilege and Work-Product Doctrine

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 11/19/2015 - 9:00am
Guest Commentary by Larson Frisby, American Bar Association* Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of six guest commentary posts that will address the six distinct topic areas covered in Washington Legal Foundation’s recently released Timeline: Federal Erosion of Business Civil Liberties. To read the other posts in this series, click here. For more […]
Categories: Latest News

Fairness for American Farmers and Ranchers This Thanksgiving

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 11/19/2015 - 12:00am

Today, the Small Business Committee’s Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade heard testimony on the need to reform the Small Business Administration (SBA) small business size standards for agriculture.

A panel of stakeholders described to lawmakers how the SBA’s standards for determining which businesses qualify as small businesses put American farmers and ranchers at a serious disadvantage when competing for federal contracts and applying for SBA loans. 

The SBA’s current size standard for agricultural enterprises, which is set in statute, has not been updated in 15 years – failing to account for changes in industry structure, commodity prices, costs of production, and other economic conditions.

The single size standard applies to 46 diverse subsectors of the agriculture industry including soybeans, citrus, beef cattle and poultry. 

“It seems to me that small farmers and ranchers have been neglected for too long,” said Subcommittee Chairman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). “The size standard setting process for agricultural enterprises needs to be modernized.  The existing statutory size standard does not account for changes in industry structure, costs of production, economic conditions, or other factors.” 

Last month, Small Business Committee Member Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL), introduced H.R. 3714, the Small Agriculture Producer Size Standards Improvements Act of 2015

This bipartisan legislation, which is cosponsored by Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH), Subcommittee Chairman Curbelo, and Subcommittee Ranking Member Grace Meng (D-NY), would modernize the process of establishing small business size standards for small farmers and ranchers and ensure that they are reviewed every five years.

“(L)ow relative commodity prices, thin margins and increased costs for land and other inputs has resulted in the consolidation of many individual family-owned operations into larger, single family-owned business units. However, these operations very much remain small businesses,” noted Rep. Bost during today’s hearing. “An appropriate size standard for agriculture producers will help create new opportunities for small agriculture producers and help ensure government agencies are meeting Congressionally-established small business contracting goals.”

Key quotes from other witnesses on today’s panel:  

“The cattle operation my family owns today looks very different from how it started when you consider the market conditions and cost of production have changed significantly over time,” said Mr. Jeff Beasley, the co-owner of Beasley & Sons Livestock in Creal Springs, IL. “The outdated size standards of the Small Business Act clearly do not reflect the needs of modern agriculture.”

“A farm’s receipts are not necessarily indicative of their relative success, status or size. Through the years, my farm has grown in size. It has grown to allow me to spread out expenses, to allow for more family member involvement, and to ensure my wife and I were able to provide for our family responsibly,” said Larry Burgin, the owner of Mushkoday Farm in Delhi, NY. “But the growth in size was not directly commensurate with growth in income. Like in other businesses, input costs are volatile and seemingly always on the rise and margins are always shrinking. SBA programs should acknowledge these unique aspects of agriculture in order to be a partner in our success.”

“With higher commodity price levels, a significant number of crop farms may have shifted out of the small business category, as currently defined by statute, with no real change to the scale of their operations,” said Dr. Nicholas D. Paulson, Associate Professor Agricultural and Consumer Economics University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, IL. “The farms most likely to be impacted by the SBA definition are those which currently contribute the majority of the value of production to US agriculture. Thus, it is even more critical to have an appropriate definition in place for small agricultural businesses to ensure continued access to and eligibility for SBA programs.”

You can view the video of today’s hearing HERE.


In July 2014, John Shoraka, SBA’s Associate Administrator for Government Contracting and Business Development, testified before the subcommittee, “If SBA were mandated to review agricultural size standards, adjustments for inflation and other economic conditions could be made.”

“Currently, SBA does not adjust the statutory agricultural size standards for inflation,” Shoraka testified. “As a result, the agricultural size standard has remained at the $750,000 receipts level since 2000, while SBA has reviewed and adjusted monetary based size standards for inflation four times in that time period.” 

Small Business Committee Introduces Bipartisan Resolution to Mark Small Business Saturday

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 11/19/2015 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – Members of the Small Business Committee joined together to lead the introduction of a bipartisan House resolution recognizing the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 28th, as “Small Business Saturday.”

“America’s small businesses need to know we are committed to doing everything we can to help them thrive so they can create jobs and boost economic growth,” Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) said. “Support for America’s small businesses transcends partisan politics. I thank Ranking Member Velázquez for her support for this bipartisan resolution to encourage all Americans to ‘shop small’ next Saturday.”

“Small Business Saturday allows Americans to demonstrate support for entrepreneurs not just with words, but with their shopping dollars,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), the Ranking Democrat of the House Small Business Committee. “Standing by small businesses isn’t a partisan issue and I’m proud to join Chairman Chabot in this effort to officially recognize Small Business Saturday.”

The resolution notes that there are over 28 million small businesses in the United States which:

-         Represent 99.7 percent of all businesses with employees

-         Employ over 48 percent of  private sector employees

-         Pay over 42 percent of the total private sector payroll

-         Constitute 98 percent of firms exporting goods

-         Created 63 percent of net new jobs between 1993 and 2013

You can read the full text of the resolution HERE.

Joining Chairman Chabot and Ranking Member Velázquez, as original bipartisan cosponsors of the resolution are: Reps. Adams (NC), Ashford, Beatty, Benishek, Blum (IA), Bonamici, Bost, Brooks (IN), Brown (FL), Bustos, Capuano, Cárdenas, Carson (IN), Chu (CA), Cicilline, Clarke (NY),  Collins (NY), Curbelo, DelBene, Ellmers, Fattah, Gibson (NY), Graves (MO), Grijalva, Hahn, Hanna, Hardy, Huelskamp, Kelly (MS), King (IA), Knight (CA), Lawrence (MI), Luetkemeyer, Marino, Meng, Moulton (MA), Norton, Payne (NJ), Pingree, Pocan, Schakowsky, Radewagen, Ryan (OH), Takai, Tipton, Titus, Valadao , Vargas, Sensenbrenner, Brat, Rice, Kind, Kirkpatrick (AZ) and McCaul.

Kline Statement: Conference Committee Meeting on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 11/18/2015 - 2:30pm

I want to thank our colleagues for being here today. It’s not every day that the House and Senate come together in a formal conference committee to address an important issue facing our country. The fact that we are here reflects a commitment to follow regular order where members on both sides of the aisle – and on both sides of the Capitol – can participate in an open legislative process and help make a difference in the lives of the American people.

This week, we have an opportunity to take the next step in a long process to improve K-12 education. We are continuing an effort to replace the old, failed approach to education with a new approach that will help more children receive the excellent education they deserve.

Addressing the problems with federal education policies is something we have neglected for far too long. No Child Left Behind has been the law of the land for nearly 14 years, and it expired eight years ago. The law was based on good intentions, but it was also based on the flawed premise that Washington should decide what students need to excel in school.

Parents, teachers, and superintendents have been telling us for years that this approach isn’t working. Everyone here knows it isn’t working. Children from across the country are trapped in failing schools. The nation’s report card recently revealed achievement in reading and math declined for the first time in 25 years. And in many neighborhoods, students are more likely to drop out than to earn a diploma.

Rather than step up and change the law, Congress stepped back and let the administration set national policy through conditional waivers. Instead of providing states and schools relief from the law, these controversial waivers have led to greater confusion and uncertainty. Parents and state and local leaders are more frustrated than ever with the federal government trying to micromanage schools in their communities.

The American people have waited long enough for Congress to do its job and replace No Child Left Behind.  Fortunately, both the House and Senate have finally passed proposals intended to do just that. Now it is up to us to resolve the differences between those two proposals and work to send a final bill to the president’s desk.

Toward that end, staff and members have discussed where we might find areas of common ground and developed a framework I believe will result in a successful conference. I am very pleased that the framework advances the three basic principles House Republicans have long championed.

First, the framework reduces the federal role in K-12 education. One-size-fits-all federal policies dictating accountability and school improvement are eliminated. Dozens of ineffective and duplicative programs are repealed. New and unprecedented restrictions are placed on the secretary’s authority. This proposal will significantly reduce the size of the federal footprint in our nation’s schools.

Second, the framework restores local control by returning to state and local leaders the primary responsibility for accountability and school improvement. The framework protects the right of states to opt out of federal education programs, as well as provides new funding flexibility so federal resources are better spent on priorities set at the local level.

Third and finally, the framework empowers parents. We continue to promote transparency about school performance, so parents have the information they need to do what’s best for their children. We also strengthen the charter school program and magnet school program to offer parents greater school choice.

These are just a few ways the framework advances the principles House Republicans have long supported, and no doubt additional details will be discussed during today’s meeting. We compromised on the details, but we did not compromise our principles.

That is why I urge my colleagues to support this agreement and help us move one step closer to replacing a flawed law. It is time to end the Washington-knows-best-approach to K-12 education. It is time to give parents and state and local leaders the authority and flexibility they need to deliver an excellent education to every student in every school. This agreement will help do just that.

I’d like to end my remarks where they began. We are here because we are committed to regular order where members on both sides of the aisle can share their views and offer ideas. I look forward to hearing from all of our colleagues today and to moving this important process forward.

# # #

Commerce Committee Advances Bill to Protect Consumers, Online Reviews

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved an amended version of S. 2044, the Consumer Review Freedom Act, introduced by Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). The bipartisan bill is also co-sponsored by the full committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

The Commerce Committee held a hearing on the issue on November 4, 2015, with testimony from Ms. Jen Palmer, a plaintiff in Palmer v. KlearGear, where a company demanded the removal of a negative online review or payment of $3,500 in fines because the online merchant’s terms of service included a non-disparagement clause. When the review was not taken down, the company reported the unpaid $3,500 to a credit reporting agency as an outstanding debt, which negatively impacted the Palmers’ credit. 

“Reviews offering blunt and honest criticism play an increasingly important role in helping customers select the best products and services,” said Thune. “The Consumer Review Freedom Act is needed so consumers can benefit from the experiences of others through the open exchange of information.”

“Honest reviews on websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor encourage better business practices, promote competition, and give consumers a place to share their experiences and offer feedback,” said Schatz. “These consumer reviews help so many of us decide what to buy and where to eat or stay, and no business should have the right to intimidate or stop consumers from sharing their opinions.  We’re making some good progress on our bill, and I will continue to work with Senators Thune and Moran to get the Consumer Review Freedom Act through Congress and onto the President’s desk.”

“Advancement of this legislation through the Commerce Committee puts us one step closer to making certain Americans are able to express their opinions online without the threat of lawsuits that stifle honest feedback and unfairly punish consumers,” said Moran. “Word of mouth has long been at the center of how we learn about new products and services or determine the strengths and weaknesses of existing ones, and its role is no less important in the online marketplace. I hope to soon see this commonsense legislation passed by the full United States Senate.”

Gag clauses now appear in a large number of non-negotiable form contracts. A form contract is when a party leverages its outsized bargaining power to impose standardized terms without a meaningful opportunity for the other party to modify the contract. Some businesses have sought to use these clauses to penalize or pursue fines from customers for negative but honest reviews of their services on websites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. The Consumer Review Freedom Act bans this practice.
Similar bipartisan legislation, H.R. 2110, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).

Click here for a copy of the legislation as amended in today’s markup.

Senate Commerce Approves Six Bills, Multiple Nominations

WASHINGTON - Today, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved six bills and approved nominations for two agencies.  

Bills and nominations considered are as follows (all passed by voice vote unless otherwise noted):

1. Vote on final passage deferred/postponed: S. 571, Pilot Bill of Rights 2, Sponsors: Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), and 67 bipartisan cosponsors

a. Approved Manchin substitute amendment
b. Nelson 1 amendment not agreed to, 11-13 vote
c. Nelson 4 amendment not agreed to, 11-13 vote

2. S.1143, West Coast Dungeness Crab Management Act, Sponsors: Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

3. S.1518, Reinforcing American-Made Products Act of 2015, Sponsors: Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Angus King, Jr. (I-Maine), Susan Collins (R-Maine)

4. S.1685, Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015, Sponsors: Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.)

5. S.1916, Rural Health Care Connectivity Act of 2015, Sponsor: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)

6. S.2044, Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015, Sponsors: Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

a. Passed with Thune substitute amendment

7. S.2206, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Act, Sponsors: Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), John Thune (R-S.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

a. Passed with Sullivan substitute amendment

8. Derek Tai-Ching Kan, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors

9. Anthony Coscia, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors (reappointment; current chairman)

10. Nominations for Promotion in the United States Coast Guard

Click here for additional information on nominees.


Executive Session

Click to watch the livestream.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) Opening Statement

U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation

Executive Session #9

November 18, 2015


Thank you, Chairman Thune, for calling this markup.  I would like to briefly address a few of the bills that we will be considering today.

I’d like to first talk about the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2.  I hope that we can make a number of common sense changes today to address some serious safety concerns I have with this bill. 

I have filed a number of amendments to improve this legislation, and to make reasonable, common sense changes to ensure the safety of our national airspace.

We have the safest aviation system in the world, and it’s our responsibility to uphold that standard.

S. 571 would eliminate the existing medical requirements for the vast majority of general aviation pilots, regardless of their physical and mental health.

Senator Manchin’s substitute amendment would add a requirement that pilots see their private physician every four years, and I will offer an amendment to require an independent medical panel to develop a checklist for pilots and their physicians to use. 

This checklist is aimed at identifying medical conditions that could interfere with a pilot’s ability to fly.

Medical experts know which conditions could be dangerous, so there is no sense in ignoring the science on this. 

We should continue working to improve this bill, and protect the safety of our aviation system.

I expect that we will be working on a comprehensive FAA reauthorization bill in the coming months, as the current authorization expires in March.   Any changes to FAA regulations contemplated by this bill should be thoroughly debated on the Senate floor as part of that process.

I would also like to take moment to mention the bipartisan NOAA Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Act on our agenda today.  This bill will require NOAA to develop a policy to prevent and respond to sexual assault and harassment. 

I would also like to mention the Amateur Radio Parity Act.

While I have great respect for Senators Blumenthal and Wicker, I must oppose this bill today.

Amateur radio plays an important role in enhancing public safety communication, and I encourage communities to work with amateur radio operators to find ways to further these services.  

This bill before us, though, would effectively repeal parts of millions of private contracts and agreements relied upon by homeowners around the country.

This committee would be overriding guidelines that were established – and agreed to – by residents of a community when they voluntarily choose to live in that community.  This is a step too far.

Finally, with respect to spectrum, I am glad that the Chairman has decided to pull his draft bill from today’s markup. This will give us much needed time to consult with stakeholders to try to find consensus. 

The question this committee always faces with respect to spectrum policy is how to strike the right balance between the needs of federal and non-federal spectrum users. 

As a senior member of both the Commerce and Armed Services Committees, I have seen a lot of progress made on freeing up additional spectrum in recent years through the productive collaboration between the private sector and federal agencies such as the Department of Defense. 

As a result, we must tread carefully and make sure that nothing we do inadvertently compromises those important steps or jeopardizes national security.

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your willingness to continue to work with my staff and our members to find common ground.

Chairman John Thune

"Good morning. While we await our quorum, I’d like to highlight some of the items on today’s agenda.

"First, however, I would note that Senator Nelson and I have just come from the initial meeting of the conference committee on the Surface Transportation bill.  I am encouraged by the progress we have already made during preliminary discussions with our House counterparts, and I anticipate that the Senate will be in a position to approve a consensus, multi-year bill very soon.

"Before we turn to the agenda items, I would also note that the Committee was originally scheduled to take up the MOBILE NOW Act today, a bill that will help secure our nation’s wireless future.  But Ranking Member Nelson and I both thought it best to take a little more time to work through the constructive feedback we have received, including from the Administration. 

"We hope to mark up MOBILE NOW after Thanksgiving, so we ask everyone to work with our staffs on any additions or amendments you would like to see included in the bill.

"We have also temporarily postponed consideration of S. 1886, the Coordinated Ocean Monitoring and Research Act, to allow for continued negotiations on some discrete issues.  This bill enjoys bipartisan support, and I expect it will be on our December markup agenda.

"Today we have a bipartisan slate of bills that reflect the breadth of our Committee’s jurisdiction – from Senator Cantwell’s bill on the management of the West Coast Dungeness crab fishery to legislation sponsored by Senators Wicker and Blumenthal to ensure regulatory parity for amateur radio operators. 

"I am especially glad that we’ll be considering the Rural Health Care Connectivity Act, S. 1916, a bill I introduced with Senators Klobuchar, Fischer, and Hoeven. 

"Throughout the country, skilled nursing facilities are providing critical care for elderly and convalescing Americans in rural communities.  These essential providers are an important part of the rural health care system, yet they are not currently eligible for support from the Universal Service Fund’s Rural Health Care Program. 

"Passing S. 1916 today is the first step toward ensuring rural skilled nursing facilities will have the communications connectivity they need to take care of our seniors.

"Today we will also consider the Consumer Review Freedom Act, S. 2044, which would ban so-called “gag clauses” that prevent consumers from providing truthful reviews to help other consumers. 

"Earlier this month, the Committee held a hearing on consumer gag clauses and received compelling testimony about how this practice decreases consumer power and negatively impacts the Internet ecosystem.  The record in that hearing clearly demonstrated the need for targeted legislation like S. 2044 to bring an end to clauses that stifle free and honest speech. 

"I thank Senators Schatz and Moran for introducing this important consumer protection legislation with me, and thank Ranking Member Nelson and Senators Daines, Blumenthal, McCaskill, and Booker for their co-sponsorship.  The legislation also has bipartisan backing in the House, where a similar bill has been introduced by Representative Issa. 

"I would also like to thank Senator Sullivan and Senator Schatz for their work on S. 2206, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Act. 

"Prompted by whistleblower complaints regarding NOAA’s lack of response to allegations of sexual harassment, this bill outlines clear and uniform procedures to help prevent the occurrence of – and improve the Administration’s response to – sexual assault and harassment.   

"As an agency with a unique workforce, often serving in remote areas and at sea, NOAA needs a tailored system that its employees can depend upon.   "This bill will also reauthorize the NOAA Corps, a uniformed service whose members operate NOAA’s fleet of ships and aircraft.  Their combination of scientific and operational expertise, as well as their flexibility and deploy-ability, allow them to support nearly all of NOAA’s programs and missions. 

"Our agenda today also includes S.1518, a bill introduced by Senator Lee to ensure consistency in the labeling of products as “Made in America.”  Senator Fischer is an original cosponsor of this measure, and she has asked that her statement on the bill be included in the record.  So, without objection, it will be.

"Last, but certainly not least, we will be taking up S. 571, Senator Inhofe’s Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2, which would make several reforms to the third-class medical certification process to benefit recreational general aviation pilots. 

"Senator Manchin is the lead cosponsor of this bill, which has attracted an impressive total of 68 bipartisan cosponsors, including all of the members on my side of the Committee dais.  Notwithstanding this support, however, some concerns have been expressed about the bill – as reflected in the nearly two dozen amendments filed by the Ranking Member. 

"An amendment in the nature of a substitute filed by Senator Manchin reflects months of negotiations between the prime sponsors of the bill and the Committee, and makes several improvements to the bill. 

"It is my hope that, following today’s markup, we will continue to work toward consensus on these issues, so the reforms can ultimately be included in the FAA reauthorization bill the Committee will produce early next year.

"With that, I will turn to the Ranking Member for any opening remarks he would like to make."

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Final rule

Office of Advocacy - Wed, 11/18/2015 - 10:21am

On November 18, 2015, the Departments of Treasury, Labor and Health and Human Services published a final regulations in the Federal Register (80 Fed Reg 72192) regarding grandfathered health plans, preexisting condition exclusions, lifetime and annual dollar limits on benefits, rescissions, coverage of dependent children to age 26, internal claims and appeal and external review processes, and patient protections

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