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Committee Advances Legislation to Ensure Workforce Democracy, Protect Employee Privacy

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 1:00pm

The House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), today approved two pieces of legislation to roll back an attempt by the National Labor Relations Board to weaken workforce democracy and employee privacy. The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (H.R. 4320) and the Employee Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 4321) will ensure access to a fair union election process and empower workers to safeguard their personal privacy.

“I am pleased the committee has advanced legislation to defend the rights workers and employers have enjoyed for decades,” said Chairman Kline. “The Obama board is determined to advance a radical rule that will stifle employer free speech, cripple employee free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families. It’s unconscionable for Congress to sit on the sidelines and do nothing. The steps we’ve taken will ensure a fair union election process, one that allows employers to speak with employees, protects a worker’s right to make an informed decision, and safeguards the privacy of working families.”

“Today the committee acted not only to push back broadly against the NLRB’s ambush election rule,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, “but also to protect the privacy of American workers. Employees have the right to form a union, but the unionization process must be open, transparent, and fair. Every worker deserves to make his or her own decision about whether to join a union, free from intimidation or coercion—by the union or the employer.”

During the markup, Democrats offered several non-germane amendments in an attempt to distract from the NLRB’s ambush election proposal and the president’s failed policies. “Working families are hurting in the Obama economy,” said Chairman Kline. “Rather than work with us to change direction, Democrats are trying frantically to change the subject. Today’s antics are further proof that Democrats have different priorities than working families. More rules, mandates, and regulations will not provide the jobs and opportunity struggling families desperately need.”

BACKGROUND: In February the NLRB proposed sweeping changes to long-standing labor policies in an attempt to speed up union elections. Under the board’s proposal, union elections could occur in as few as 10 days, providing employers no time to communicate with their employees and undermining the ability of workers to make an informed decision, and worker privacy will be compromised. The legislation approved by the committee will:

•  Guarantee workers have time to gather all the facts to make a fully-informed decision in a union election. No union election will be held in less than 35 days.

•  Ensure employers are able to participate in a fair union election process. The bill provides employers at least 14 days to prepare their case to present before a NLRB election officer.

•  Reassert the board’s responsibility to address critical issues before a union is allowed to represent workers, such as questions concerning voter eligibility or allegations of misconduct during the election.

•  Empower workers to control the disclosure of their personal information. Employers would have seven days to provide a list of employee names and one additional piece of contact information chosen by each individual employee.

•  Rein in union red tape and protect employee freedom in the workplace. Offered by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as a response to the board’s Specialty Healthcare decision, an amendment to H.R. 4320 was passed that would restore the traditional standard for determining the unit of workers to be included in the union.

To learn more about the Workforce Democracy Fairness Act, click here. To learn more about the Employee Privacy Protection Act, click here. To access markup materials or view an archived webcast, click here.

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The Small Business Advocate - April 2014

Office of Advocacy - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 11:17am

The April 2014 issue of The Small Business Advocate features a visit by Chief Counsel for Advocacy Dr.

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Categories: Latest News, SBA Advocate

From Here to Mars

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today announced the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Science and Space will hold a hearing on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. titled, “From Here to Mars.” The hearing will feature experts on NASA exploration strategy, international cooperation in space, and commercial space efforts.

Commerce Committee Passes Manufacturing Bill to Create Jobs and Boost Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-WV) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today released the following statements after the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed S. 1468, the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013, which seeks to strengthen collaborations between the government and the manufacturing sector. The legislation now awaits action by the full Senate.

Executive Session

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 2:30 p.m. to consider legislation and nominations.

Committee Examines Burden of Tax Compliance for Small Businesses

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:00am
As we approach the Tax Day filing deadline, the Small Business Committee, under the chairmanship of Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), today examined the challenges small businesses face complying with the tax code.

In addition, a new National Small Business Association (NSBA) tax survey was released in conjunction with the testimony of NSBA member Tim Reynolds, a small business executive. The survey shows that a majority of small businesses spend 40 hours preparing to file their taxes, while 40 percent spend a costly two full workweeks on the process. These small businesses say tax complexity and compliance are factors in their day-to-day operation all year long.

The growing number of tax provisions means that small business owners must spend significant resources on compliance that could otherwise be spent growing their companies. Tax complexity is a big problem for small businesses: according to the Internal Revenue Service’s own National Taxpayer Advocate, there were over 500 changes to the tax code in 2010 alone, an average of more than one per day. And high tax rates mean small firms have less capital to invest back into hiring or expanding.

“Tax season is tough on small businesses,” said Chairman Graves. “Taxes are getting more complicated every year, and compliance is a huge drain on their resources. Jobs remain scarce, and the heavy burden of tax compliance is another obstacle to growth. This new NSBA survey of small businesses emphasizes that the complex tax code is not just a problem for Tax Day, but throughout the year. I appreciated the testimony of experienced small business representatives at today’s hearing, and their insights on the concerns of America’s 28 million small business owners.”

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

Notable Quotes:

David Kautter, Managing Director, Kogod Tax Center, Kogod School of Business, American University, Washington, DC, said, “The National Taxpayer Advocate has found that the single most pressing problem encountered by taxpayers, including small businesses, is the complexity of the Internal Revenue Code. The National Taxpayer Advocate estimates that each year small businesses spend approximately 2.5 billion hours complying with tax filing requirements, the equivalent of 1.25 million full-time jobs. According to the National Taxpayer Advocate, more than 70% of all unincorporated businesses (which tend to be small businesses) use paid tax return preparers and spend more than $16 billion for professional advice and compliance assistance from attorneys, accountants and enrolled agents.”

Tim Reynolds, President, Tribute, Inc., Hudson, OH, said, “Approximately 42 percent of NSBA members have fewer than five employees—few, if any of whom is a tax specialist—leaving business owners with no other choice but to hire outside help to keep track of all their additional reporting and filing requirements. In fact, according to the NSBA Small Business Taxation Survey, only 12 percent of small-business owners handle their taxes internally—meaning 86 percent are forced to pay an external accountant or practitioner—this data should send a strong message to the IRS and Congress that the tax code is far too complex.”

Rick Endres, President, The Washington Network, Inc., Alexandria, VA, said, “While I would consider my company to be a true example of a successful small business entrepreneur, I also consider myself to be the prototypical victim of an uneven tax code that is filled with uncertainty, vagueness and unintended consequences for me and other small IT companies. The complexity of the tax code has had a negative impact on both my business growth and my hiring capabilities.”

Donald Marron, Institute Fellow and Director of Economic Policy Initiatives, The Urban Institute, Washington, DC, said, “America’s tax system is needlessly complex, economically harmful, and often unfair. Despite recent revenue gains, it likely will not raise enough money to pay the government’s future bills. The time is thus ripe for wholesale tax reform. Such reform could have far-reaching effects in the economy, including on small businesses.”


Committee Members Request Small Business Legislation Be Included In NDAA

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:00am
Today, House Small Business Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) and Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce Chairman Richard Hanna (R-NY) testified before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to request that the Committee’s bipartisan small business contracting reform legislation be included in this year’s NDAA. Small Business Committee Member and Armed Services Committee Member Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) also expressed support for the legislation during the hearing. The bills were approved by the Committee on March 5th. 

During the hearing, Graves testified, “Recognizing that this is a crucial area for small businesses, over the past three years, the Armed Services Committee and the Small Business Committee have worked together to reduce barriers to entry, create guidance that allows small businesses to compete and facilitates the Department of Defense (DoD) meeting the needs of the warfighter, and ensure that we have a strong small business industrial base.

“…I am here today to support the inclusion of six small business contracting bills in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.”

Hanna testified, “…there are a few areas where the federal government’s policy on construction contracting hurts small businesses, taxpayers, and the agencies themselves. This is particularly important given the scope of federal construction contracting. Construction and architect & engineering (or, A&E) contracting represent about 1 in every 6 prime contract dollars awarded to small businesses. That was over $17 billion in prime contracts in fiscal year 2012. Therefore, as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Contracting and the Workforce of the Small Business Committee, I’ve introduced two bills this Congress, and cosponsored a third bill, intended to bring some commonsense reform to this arena.”

Members Requested The Following Legislation Be Included:

1. Greater Opportunities for Small Business Act of 2014 (H.R. 4093) Sponsor: Graves

2. Design Build Efficiency and Jobs Act of 2013 (H.R. 2750) Sponsor: Graves

3. Commonsense Construction Contracting Act of 2013 (H.R. 2751) Sponsor: Hanna

4. Security in Bonding Act (H.R. 776) Sponsor: Hanna

5. Contracting Data and Bundling Accountability Act (H.R. 4094) Sponsor: Graves

6. Improving Opportunities for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Act of 2013 (H.R. 2882) Sponsor: Coffman

During the112th Congress and 113th Congress, the Committee has been successful in including its small business legislation in the final NDAAs that were signed into law. The NDAA of 2013 and 2014 incorporated several Committee-sponsored contracting provisions, including making small business procurement goals part of senior agency employee reviews and bonus discussions, preventing contracting fraud by penalizing companies that front for large businesses, and changing limitations on subcontracting to make it easier for small companies to team on larger contracts.

CLICK HERE to watch the video of Graves, Coffman and Hanna during the hearing.


Kline Statement: Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute for H.R. 4320

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:00am

Before I highlight the technical change included in the amendment, I’d like to help set the record straight and review briefly the specific policies embodied in the legislation. Despite what our Democratic colleagues may suggest, the legislation largely codifies a union election process that has worked well for decades.

Not too long ago, former acting general counsel Lafe Solomon described the NLRB’s ability to process elections as “outstanding” and an example of “excellent casehandling performance.”  Our goal is to take the regulatory framework that helped create this outstanding record and make it part of the law, which is the best way to prevent an activist board from upending effective policies through bureaucratic fiat.

For example, H.R. 4320 ensures employers can participate in a fair election process. The legislation stipulates that no election hearing can begin in fewer than 14 days from the time an election petition is filed, providing all parties the opportunity to identify their concerns and prepare their case. The legislation also allows parties – employers and unions – to raise relevant and material issues throughout the pre-election hearing.

I would like to note this 14-day period is merely a minimum amount of time. A regional director could provide more time if he or she thinks it is helpful or necessary. A key aspect of the current process is the discretion afforded regional offices in handling election cases, which helps provide time to foster comprise and agreement. Witnesses at previous hearings testified that the board’s proposed rule would encourage the exact opposite. By setting arbitrary deadlines, limiting concerns that can be raised during the pre-election hearing, and restricting regional office discretion, the board will actually invite more confrontation and prolong the process – something I am confident no one wants to see.

The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act also reasserts the board’s responsibility to address outstanding issues before a union can begin representing workers. While many of us have broader concerns with the priorities of the Obama board, it still has a job to do. In their haste to rush union elections, the board would take itself out of the process almost entirely by refusing to review issues left unresolved before and after the election. Yet many of the issues it should address can alter the outcome of the election, such as questions surrounding voter eligibility or misconduct that may take place while workers are voting. H.R. 4320 requires the board to fulfill its responsibilities once the ballots are cast and before the union bargains on behalf of workers.

Finally, the legislation ensures workers have the time necessary to make a fully-informed decision. No election can be held in fewer than 35 days from the date an election is ordered. According to the most recent data, the median amount of time is now 38 days, placing the bill well in line with current practice. President John F. Kennedy once argued for a waiting period to “safeguard against rushing employees into an election where they are unfamiliar with the issues.” Republicans whole-heartedly agree, and believe 35 days is ample time for employees to learn the facts and make an informed decision.

Aside from these broader provisions, the amendment in the nature of a substitute contains a technical change to clarify that the legislation applies to all petitions for an election, regardless of the petitioner. By incorporating these changes into the amendment, we’ve ensured the underlying bill will effectively safeguard employer free speech and worker free choice. I urge my colleagues to support the amendment and the underlying bill.

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Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 4321, the Employment Privacy Protection Act, and H.R. 4320, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:00am

Today the committee will consider H.R. 4321, the Employee Privacy Protection Act and H.R. 4320, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act. Together these proposals provide an appropriate congressional response to the National Labor Relations Board’s proposed ambush election rule.
I had hoped today’s meeting would not be necessary. Over the last several weeks this committee has tried to engage in a good faith effort to address concerns about the board’s proposed ambush election rule, specifically the rule’s effect on the rights of workers and job creators.

Under the board’s proposal, the right of employers to communicate with their employees will be severely restricted. Congress decided long ago it was in workers’ best interest to hear the views of both unions and employers during an organizing campaign, yet the board’s proposal takes a fundamentally different approach. An election could be held in as few as 10 days, providing employers little time to respond to a host of complicated legal questions and practically no time to speak to their employees.  As a result, employers will be silenced and debate will be stifled.

We heard a great deal during a recent oversight hearing about the influence outside voices can have on union elections. Our Democratic colleagues showed us a number of headlines from Tennessee. Here is one headline they didn’t discuss: “VW labor leader links SUV with works council.” Citing Volkswagen’s German labor chief, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that a “works council labor board at the Chattanooga factory is important if the plant wants to produce other VW vehicles.” Reuters reports the same union boss has “threatened” to block additional investments in the southern United States if “workers there are not unionized.”

Are these comments an attempt by a union leader to “ambush” workers? Well, that’s not for us to decide today. But these comments illustrate that the debate over unionization is often spirited if not divisive. A vigorous debate can often get messy, but it still provides workers an opportunity to gather all the facts and make a fully-informed decision before casting their ballots.

That is why workers will be most harmed by the board’s proposed rule. Deciding whether to join a union is not a simple decision. The outcome of an election can affect workers’ future wages, health care, retirement benefits, work hours, and other employment conditions. Voters in federal elections have months to hear from all the candidates before deciding who will represent them in Washington. Don’t American workers deserve more than 10 days to decide whether they want a union negotiating over matters critical to their families’ well being?

Several weeks ago Representative Roe and I met with Chairman Pearce to raise these concerns and seek answers to some straightforward questions. For example, did the board consider soliciting public input before releasing its proposed rule?

Does the board seek to diminish employers’ due process rights by ignoring legal concerns that are not identified during an arbitrary seven-day window?

Is the board worried that providing personal information to union organizers will jeopardize the privacy of employees and their families?

And does the board honestly believe 10 days is enough time for workers to gather the facts, speak with friends, coworkers, and loved ones, and make an informed decision?

Unfortunately, Chairman Pearce failed to provide adequate responses to these and other important questions. We also asked the board to provide the public 30 additional days to comment on the proposed rule, yet even this reasonable, routine request was rejected.

We are left with only one conclusion: The board is utterly determined to jam through the regulatory process a flawed scheme that will stifle employer free speech and cripple worker free choice. Congress cannot sit idly by and let that happen. As lawmakers and the people’s elected representatives, we have a responsibility to act.

The Employee Privacy Protection Act and the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act provide a responsible, commonsense response to the board’s radical ambush election rule. The legislation codifies, and in some ways strengthens, labor policies enjoyed for decades by workers, employers, and unions. The proposals will help ensure employers can continue to participate in a fair election process and workers have the time necessary to make an informed decision, as well as empower workers to protect their personal privacy. I urge my colleagues to support the legislation.

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Roe Statement: Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute for H.R. 4321

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:00am

Thank you, Chairman Kline, and thank you for convening today’s markup of H.R. 4321, the Employee Privacy Protection Act. In just a few moments I will address the technical change included in the substitute amendment. Before I do, I think it’s important to outline why this commonsense legislation is necessary.

I understand some are so wedded to the board’s destructive ambush election rule that they refuse to consider any alternative. That’s unfortunate, because H.R. 4321 will help modernize the union election process in a way that doesn’t pose additional privacy risks to workers and their families.

Under current election procedures, employers have seven days from the date an election is ordered to provide the National Labor Relations Board a list of names and home addresses for all employees eligible to vote in the election. This process has been around for decades, long before email and smartphones were available in virtually every household. It is woefully outdated and should be brought into the 21st century.

But more importantly, the current process is dangerous. The safety and well-being of our families is one of our greatest concerns. No doubt many of us have been shocked and annoyed to hear a knock at the door during dinner time or after the kids have gone to bed. Standing on the other side of the door could be a campaign worker trying to get out the vote or a local home improvement company trying to drum up business. Regardless of who it is, we all want to ensure our families are safe.

Unfortunately, some workers have lost that sense of security. Press reports continue to highlight cases where labor leaders have taken extreme measures to enforce solidarity with the union. In 2012, SEIU tried to organize human service workers at a nonprofit operating group homes in the northeast. According to the Cape Cod Times, the union was accused of “intimidating and misleading employees on the job and tracking them down at home.” A union in Missouri was accused of using aggressive tactics against employees of a local construction company. The company’s owner said the union “started making threats of bodily harm, started following me and my wife to our home, started following my employees to their homes.”

These are two examples, but even one example is too many. Republicans agree the current process can be modernized. However, the board’s approach would move our country in the wrong direction, exposing workers to more acts of intimidation, coercion, and even violence. And remarkably, the board would force employers to be complicit in this type of extreme and unlawful behavior.

Under the board’s ambush election rule, employers would have just two days to provide union organizers with employees’ names, home addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and work schedules. This would ensure unions can contact employees not just at home, but at work, on the way to the store, leaving church, or picking up the kids from soccer practice.

Working families deserve better than this. Are all unions out to threaten workers? Of course not. Is protecting workers from union intimidation a valid concern? Absolutely. The Employee Privacy Protection Act doesn’t stop unions from reaching out to workers; it simply says it’s up to each individual worker to decide how the union contacts him or her. Under the legislation, employers would have seven days to provide a list of employee names and one additional piece of contact information chosen by the employee. The amendment in the nature of a substitute includes a technical change to clarify only one piece of information is required.

Let’s empower workers to control their personal privacy during union organizing campaigns by supporting the amendment and the underlying bill. I yield back the balance of my time.

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The Tax Burden For Small Business Is Getting Worse

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 12:00am


The Tax Burden For Small Business Is Getting Worse
​By Chairman Sam Graves

This time of year is dreaded by small businesses – a time when many companies and individuals are finalizing their tax returns. Today, the Small Business Committee will hold a hearing that will examine the many tax challenges for small businesses. The Committee will explore tax complexity and the high tax burden on small companies, and how they are dealing with these concerns in a tough economy.

Today’s tax code drains precious resources that could be used to grow these companies and create jobs. Unfortunately, the burden on small businesses has actually grown over the last few years.

Because of the “fiscal cliff” deal in January of 2013, when President Obama called for higher taxes, rates are higher for individuals at higher income levels. This translates to higher taxes for many small companies, because a majority of them file their taxes as individuals. The deal also raised taxes on capital gains and the estate tax.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business, 75 percent of businesses are pass-through entities subject to individual income tax rates. These businesses aren’t subject to corporate tax rates but they are subject to individual rates, and the 2013 tax increases created new hardships. The burden of higher rates is compounded by Obamacare, as many small businesses are paying and preparing for new taxes, such as the health insurance tax, the employer mandate tax, the medical device tax, the Medicare tax on investment income, and many others.

One Indiana small business owner, Juanita Melton, commented through Small Business Committee’s interactive website, Small Biz Open Mic, that “…the new ACA will place an undue burden on us as the 3 new "taxes", [Patient-Centered Outcomes Research] ($1 per life), Reinsurance ($65 per life), and HITS (a share of $8 billion dollars in the first year), are levied against us by the insurance carriers. We cannot continue to absorb the increased costs and therefore, will be forced to pass these additional taxes through to our employees increasing the amount they must pay for insurance. What happened to ‘there will be no new taxes and no additional cost’ to implementing the ACA?’”

This growing burden for small companies is a big deal, because it increases the challenges of compliance and reduces the capital needed to grow a business. Small companies create the majority of new jobs in America, so as these businesses face increasing challenges, the economy continues to lag.

Complexity is a burden that shouldn’t be overlooked. According to a new National Small Business Association (NSBA) survey, being released today, tax code complexity remains a significant challenge to small business, with the majority saying they spend more than 40 hours per year dealing with federal taxes. Forty percent report spending in excess of 80 hours – two full work weeks – per year on federal taxes.

Austin, Texas small business owner Ron Gates told us last month through Small Biz Open Mic, “Too many laws and regulations for a small business to manage, particularly the insane federal tax code, causes a small business to spend an inordinate amount of time and money on lawyers and CPAs just to comply with the tax code and prepare annual tax returns -- whether the business is making any money or not.”

The growing number of tax provisions means that small business owners must spend more resources on compliance rather than growing and creating jobs. Over time, our tax code has become more complex and truly temporary, with tax changes being made just one year ahead, for months at a time or even retroactively.

The cost for this compliance headache is nearly three times greater for small firms than big businesses. According to the Internal Revenue Service’s own National Taxpayer Advocate, there were over 500 changes to the tax code in 2010 alone. That’s an average of more than one change per day that small firms are forced to try to manage.

High tax rates also reduce the capital that small companies would invest back into their companies or create jobs. Higher taxes interrupt small business cash flow, especially since they operate with thin profit margins. Small firms need a functional cash flow for their day-to-day operations like wages, benefits, and utilities. The NSBA survey shows that the overwhelming majority of small businesses – 73 percent – say that federal taxes have a significant to moderate impact on the daily operation of their business.

Because of these challenges, the survey confirms overwhelming support – 67 percent – for tax reform that would reduce both corporate and individual tax rates, coupled with a reduction in business and individual deductions. I applaud efforts to advance the tax reform debate in Washington, and I remain hopeful that Washington can tackle this challenge in the future.

Tax complexity and high rates slow our economy. They unfairly punish success and create another time-consuming burden for small companies who would otherwise be devoting those resources to productive use. As the Committee will explore in today’s hearing, creating a tax code that is easier to navigate and promotes growth will benefit small businesses, create jobs and strengthen the economy.

Read the article online HERE.

EPA and the Army Corps’ “Waters of the U.S.” Proposal: Will it Initiate Regulatory Overflow?

WLF Legal Pulse - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:26pm
Featured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy by Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP with Lisa Jones, Sidley Austin LLP On March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) (“the Agencies”), released a long-awaited Proposed Rule defining the scope of “waters of the United States” […]
Categories: Latest News

Thune Statement on Commerce Committee Nomination Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, submitted for the record the following prepared remarks at today’s full committee hearing on the nominations of Vice Admiral Paul Zukunft to be Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and Elliot Kaye and Joseph Mohorovic to be Chairman and Commissioner at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing to consider the nomination of Vice Admiral Paul Zukunft to be the 25th Comm...

Nominations Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a nominations hearing on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 2:30 p.m.

Charter Schools: We Want to Break Through the Partisan Gridlock

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:00am

By Representatives Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO)

As strong advocates for parental school choice, we were pleased that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was open to learning about the tremendous opportunities that charter schools can offer students and families. His decision to allow continued access to high-quality charter school options will ensure that the best curriculum, programs and school performance guide where parents enroll their children in school, not their ZIP code.

Nationally, this debate is alive and well within and between our parties. However, for us, school choice is a place where we see the greatest potential and need for bipartisan agreement.

On Tuesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee, on which we both serve, will consider the Success and Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Act (HR 10). This bill, offered by Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., and ranking member George Miller, D-Calif., strengthens and improves the federal Charter Schools Program by offering common sense policies that both of our parties can get behind.

As the chairman and a member of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, we are in a position to bring together the best ideas from across the political spectrum to protect and enhance our education system to support individual choice and school improvement.

First, the bill strengthens the mechanism by which public charter schools are held accountable to students, families and taxpayers. The promise of public charter schools is that they are free to be innovative when it comes to instruction, scheduling, human capital policies and mission. Divorced from the public school system’s bureaucracy, they are able to experiment, but must be held accountable to parents, communities and the public. By providing incentives for states to adopt best practices for charter school oversight, the bill strengthens this system so that high-performing public charter schools are replicated and low-performing public charter schools are closed.

Second, this bill has a laser focus on quality. Under HR 10, states such as Indiana and Colorado would have the opportunity to apply for grants to build innovative public charter schools fulfilling diverse missions. This program rewards states with strong charter school laws concerning governance, facilities and funding to contribute to building a school choice ecosystem where students with a wide range of learning styles benefit. The bill creates additional incentives for schools to achieve and replicate academic excellence by providing substantial funding to a program that awards grants directly to the highest performing public charter schools. This program helps to seed the growth of high-performing public charter schools in states that have yet to fully embraced school choice and do not have state grants available.

Finally, the Kline-Miller bill supports equity. We are proud that public charter schools, which are funded by state and local tax dollars, do not charge tuition, do not have entrance requirements and do not discriminate against students on any basis. This bill clarifies this definition, and builds in stronger protections to ensure that students with disabilities and disadvantaged students have access to public charter schools. We hope these protections will help to convince our colleagues on both sides of the aisle that public charter schools are a valuable part of the education ecosystem.

For too many students and families, their neighborhood public school is not working for them. This is not a knock on traditional public schools; there are many excellent ones that serve their communities well. Maybe a student has a unique learning need that is not being met by their current public school. Perhaps a student would prefer the option to learn online through a state-funding online high school. In too many communities, a neighborhood public school that has been failing students and families for generations is the only option. This is unacceptable.

Public school choice is both effective and empowering. Families know what is right for their children better than legislators do, and should have the opportunity to choose. HR 10 would strengthen an already effective program by focusing on accountability, quality and equity. This is a place where we are thrilled to work across the aisle for students and families, and we urge our colleagues to put partisan fights aside and do what is best for our children.

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What Are Small Businesses Saying About Their Tax Challenges?

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:00am

Tomorrow, the House Small Business Committee will conduct a hearing titled, The Biggest Tax Problems for Small Businesses. The hearing will examine some common tax challenges for small businesses. In addition, a new National Small Business Association survey on tax compliance will be released in conjunction with the testimony of one of its members, Tim Reynolds, President, Tribute, Inc., Hudson, OH.

Here is what small business owners have told the Committee through our interactive website “Small Biz Open Mic” about the impact taxes have had on their companies.

Tax reform for businesses and individuals is a critical issue for us. We are owners of a pass-through Subchapter S professional service business. With the top personal rates potentially increasing even more than they are now, our business will suffer. We already have frozen any hiring. The tax and accounting complexity and cost of a C corporation, make the S structure the right one for the business. When the President attacks and categorizes individuals who show a gross income over $250,000 as "rich" he fails to acknowledge that a significant portion of "individuals" actually are pass-through S corporations, partnerships and sole proprietors owning small businesses. To allow U.S. businesses small and large to regain competitive standing with other nations, both the individual and corporate the tax rates need to be lowered and the tax code simplified. 

Sara O'Neil-Manion (Bethesda, MD), October 22, 2013

We are struggling to survive and, with mounting taxes and charges, are seriously considering closing up. That would put more people out of work. The end result is that the Government is hurting the very people they think that they are helping.

H. Shomer (Brooklyn, NY), February 25, 2014

When you're a startup on a tight budget and struggling to survive, that's a big hitter. Too many laws and regulations for a small business to manage, particularly the insane federal tax code that causes a small business to spend an inordinate amount of time and money on lawyers and CPAs just to comply with the tax code and prepare annual tax returns -- whether the business is making any money or not. Totally agree with some of the other comments: reduce the federal red tape and get the government out of the way.

Ron Gates (Austin, TX), Spectral Inc., February 25, 2014

We are being taxed to death! I feel it's a bit unfair that we pay taxes on every penny deposited into the account when 90% of it is for equipment, supplies and employee salaries. It's almost impossible for a small business owner to stay afloat now days. It's almost not worth owning a small business. We'd like to hire more employees but are barely able to meet salaries now. Please stop taxing us to death and give us a break for being a small business. 

Cindy Myers (Bates City, MO), T&C Fire and Security Systems, February 25, 2014

Obamacare is a major drag on our growth and available working capital. Growing taxes are sucking our coffers dry. Regulation and paperwork are burying us. Not sure how much longer we can sustain the headwinds of government. 

Randy Mysliviec (Cincinnati, OH), January 14, 2014

We have chosen to continue offering insurance. But the new ACA will place an undue burden on us as the 3 new "taxes", PCOR ($1 per life), Reinsurance ($65 per life), and HITS (a share of $8 billion dollars in the first year), are levied against us by the insurance carriers. As a small employer, we are trying to do what is right for our employees by offering benefits. 

We cannot continue to absorb the increased costs and therefore, will be forced to pass these additional taxes through to our employees increasing the amount they must pay for insurance. What happened to "there will be no no new taxes and no additional cost" to implementing the ACA?

Juanita Melton (Floyds Knobs, IN), October 23, 2013

Companies spend an inordinate amount of money managing their taxes rather than investing in R&D. Maybe we should switch from supporting innovation to being tax accountants. So my advice: Simplify the tax code and craft a budget that removes spending on non-productive activities and provides incentives to invest in innovation, new product development and value creation.

Sheldon Broedel (Baltimore, MD), AthenaES, October 22, 2013

Unfortunately almost everything that government does subtracts from our ability to create more jobs. The ridiculous amount of regulations, the ever increasing tax burdens, the absolute catastrophe that is the obamacare plan, all of this hinders our ability to expand business and to create jobs. Back-off leave us alone, lower the taxes, the free market will insure that employees are not only paid well but also treated well.

Richard Anderson (Auburn, CA), TGH Aviation, October 22, 2013

We need a simple, rational, and neutral federal income tax structure with no social or economic tinkering available to either side of the political spectrum. No more tax breaks, loopholes, incentives, rebates, or gimmicks. The entire federal tax code should be a maximum of two pages - double-spaced.

Mike Hagerty (Bellaire, TX), Cuna Supply LLC, April 4, 2014

Recognizing the importance of entrepreneurs’ feedback in the process of shaping the very policies that will help determine their business sustainability and growth, Chairman Graves launched Small Biz Open Mic in September of 2011.

Rokita Statement: Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute for H.R. 4366

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:00am

We talk a lot in this committee about helping people build better lives. Whether through more flexible work schedules, stronger job training programs, or smarter student loan terms, advancing commonsense policies that will make life work for more Americans is a top priority.

The Strengthening Education through Research Act is part of this effort. The committee has spent countless hours exploring the challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s K-12 education system. In classrooms nationwide, teachers and school leaders need quality research to identify the best ways to raise student achievement and encourage progress.

As the chairman explained in his opening remarks, H.R. 4366 will help ensure school leaders have access to more timely, relevant, and useful information on the most effective educational practices that will raise student achievement levels.

The amendment in the nature of a substitute makes a number of technical changes to strengthen the underlying legislation. First, the amendment clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences and the Evaluation and Regional Assistance Commissioner with respect to the operation of regional education laboratories. 

The amendment also defines an “eligible applicant” within each of the four research centers. The “eligible applicant” can then compete for funds to carry out each center’s research priorities. Both of these provisions will advance our central goal of streamlining and enhancing the Institute’s operations, while preventing duplication and overlap of research efforts.

Additionally, the amendment incorporates a proposal put forth by my colleague Representative Susan Brooks to encourage schools to support computer science and engineering instruction. The amendment will allow the Department of Education’s Comprehensive Centers to include these subjects when offering professional development and other technical assistance to states and school leaders on research-based teaching methods.

Finally, the amendment will clarify the responsibilities of the Institute and the secretary of education in evaluating the efficacy of programs operated under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and take steps to strengthen those evaluations.

The Supporting Education through Research Act will improve education research, protect taxpayers by enhancing program accountability, and help ensure more schools and students can benefit from effective education practices. I am pleased to offer this amendment in the nature of a substitute, and encourage my colleagues to support the underlying legislation.

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Messer Statement: Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute for H.R. 10

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 12:00am

I am pleased today to offer the amendment in the nature of a substitute for H.R. 10, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act.

As Chair of the House School Choice Caucus, one of my top priorities is ensuring more families have access to high-quality education options. Supporting the growth of successful charter schools is an important part of this effort. 

I had the good fortune last month to join Chairman Kline on his trip to visit Minnesota charter schools, where I was impressed by the energy, excitement, and progress happening in the classroom. Charter schools like Minnesota’s Global Academy and Aspen Academy – along with the many exceptional charters in my home state of Indiana – are encouraging creativity, promoting parental engagement, and giving kids a shot at a better future. I’m especially proud that Ball State University in my congressional district sponsors 32 charter schools, which makes them the largest authorizer in the state.

The Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act will help more students and their families gain access to high-performing charter schools by supporting state efforts to start, expand, and replicate successful charter schools.  The amendment in the nature of a substitute will strengthen the underlying legislation by making a number of technical changes. However, there are three larger provisions included in the amendment that I’d like to highlight.

First, the amendment will address concerns about so-called “faux” charter schools, or schools that are reportedly trying to operate as charter schools but lack the autonomy necessary to be truly successful. The amendment requires schools receiving charter school funding meet the definition of a charter school, and be free from rules that inhibit flexible operation and management.

Second, the amendment clarifies that schools working to replicate a high-quality charter school model can do so under a new charter, if the state so requires. This provision is designed to ensure the legislation won’t interfere with current state requirements for charter schools to operate under new charters, even if a school is a replication of a high-quality charter school model.

The third and final change in the amendment that I’d like to mention is a provision that directs states to assist students and their families in identifying other school options in their area, should their current charter school close. No child should be trapped in a failing school, and this language will help ensure families have the resources they need when choosing a better school for their children.

For parents across the country, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act could be the key to a brighter future for their children. I strongly encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting the amendment in the nature of a substitute and the underlying legislation.

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