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Monday Morning Mojo: You Have Got To Be Kidding Me

InteroMojo - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 6:30am

“I’m not a morning person” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that over the years.

So often people talk about how they just can’t squeeze in the most important activities in their life because “I’m not a morning person”. When we are young and with little or no responsibility except for ourselves…or retired and our kids are out of the house, it is easier to slip in those important activities after that first cup of Joe in the morning, at lunch, in the afternoon, in the early evening. For me, that is not an option…and my guess is for most of you reading this that is not an option either. We have kids, a house, lunches to make, work, kids homework, baseball, soccer games, dinner to make, grocery shopping, wash…the list goes on and on.

Trust me, when my alarm goes off in the morning at 5am, I am not all fired up to jump out of bed and “hit it”. Candidly, many mornings I am telling myself “you have got to be kidding me…it feels like I just closed my eyes”. But I know the short term pain and discipline of putting my feet on the floor and getting started with my day is easier than the long term pain of regret, disappointment and not accomplishing my goals.

Let’s face it…for many of us we have tried for years and years to squeeze in those most important activities sometime during the day, but then life gets in the way and the most important activities end up taking second fiddle to the chaos. I am not saying you have to wake up at 5am, but if you really want to get those most important activities done, unless you are an anomaly, you probably need to make it the first thing you do each day before the chaos begins, while most of the rest of the world is still sleeping.

Remember, we are our biggest asset and if we don’t make a commitment to take care of our body, mind and soul no one else will. You can’t delegate it, you can’t run down to the store and buy it…you have to have the discipline to JUST DO IT!!!!!

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Rockefeller Statement on FCC E-Rate Announcement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today issued the following statement on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to raise the E-Rate program’s funding cap.

“The E-Rate program is one of the most successful and consequential technology and education initiatives ever created. Today, the E-Rate program gives almost every classroom in America access to the Internet fundamentally transforming the educational experience for a generation of...

Kline, Miller Praise Senate Passage of Bill to Update Child Care Program

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:00am
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the committee, praised the Senate’s passage of a bill to improve and reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant today.
 

House and Senate leaders negotiated the bipartisan agreement in September, and the House approved the legislation shortly thereafter. The bill will now head to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

“Today we move one step closer to strengthening child care support for millions of families,” said Kline. “The Child Care and Development Block Grant has helped make it possible for countless moms and dads to provide for their families. This bipartisan legislation includes commonsense reforms that will strengthen health and safety protections and improve quality of care. I want to thank my Republican and Democrat colleagues in the House and Senate for their work on this important issue, and urge the president to sign the bill without delay.”

“This is a victory for America’s children and the millions of American families who rely on the Child Care and Development Block Grant,” said Miller. “CCDBG is an indispensable program that benefits both kids and their working parents, but it has long been in need of critical new commitments to improve quality and safety. With approval of this bipartisan bill by the House and now the Senate, we have taken a major step down the path toward increasing access to safe, high-quality child care. That means that more children nationwide will be in environments that foster their healthy growth and development, which will, in turn, grant parents peace of mind while they work to support their families. This legislation will make our nation’s future brighter by helping children succeed and strengthening working families."

Kline Statement on Latest Pension Report

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:00am
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) released its FY 2014 Annual Report, which shows the deficit in the agency's multiemployer insurance program has increased from $8.3 billion to $42.4 billion:
 

The multiemployer pension system is a ticking time bomb that will inflict a lot of pain on workers, employers, taxpayers, and retirees if Congress fails to act. Today’s report is a sober reminder that time is running out and should serve as a wakeup call for those few naysayers who believe this is too hard to get done. For months we have tried to reach consensus on a package of reforms that would give trustees new tools to avoid insolvency and protect retirees. The time to enact responsible reforms is now, before the bomb goes off.

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Weekend Wellness: Gratitude

InteroMojo - Sat, 11/15/2014 - 8:00am

November is thought of as the beginning of the Holiday Seasons. It’s thought of as the marker for the changing of the weather and it’s recognized for bringing gratitude to the table, so to speak.

Whether you use November as your month of gratitude, or you profess your gratitude daily all year long, it’s wonderful to recognize who and what in your life there is to be thankful for.

Think about all the circumstances and people in your life that are easy to love. They just float in and out with a lightness which helps make your day and your life easier. These people and situations are what makes it all worth it. There’s no real work involved in having them in your life. It feels good.

Now think about the people and circumstances which are a bit distant, a bit unfamiliar but still there isn’t any real “work” involved one way or the other to create a happier life. Like the person you see at the gym who gives you a smile, or the neighbor who has an immaculate lawn you can enjoy or the fact that you are just one of those lucky people who has a great smile…it’s easy, but not earth shattering.

Then there are those people and situations which just pull the rug out from under you. They can aggravate, irritate, provoke and instigate. These moments, these people can take that wonderful feeling of appreciation and turn your life into a chaotic tornado of frustration.

What if when you were provoked you were able to take a step back and consider if there’s something in that lesson which can help you appreciate something else…something bigger something which can help you be a better “you”?

Looking at these dark emotions takes a lot of patience and sometimes takes days even months to embrace. But occasionally if we are able to take just an itty bitty part of the pain, the anger, the emotion which causes negativity and find the hidden pearl inside, we can find a way to be grateful for the new perspective. That is gratitude.

Thank you November for helping us remember what we are grateful for.

Categories: Latest News

Copyright and Patent Holders Advance Separate Market-Based, Self-Help Initiatives

WLF Legal Pulse - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 1:06pm
Intellectual property (IP) rights and innovation are inextricably intertwined. It’s not surprising, then, that in the spirit of innovation, some IP owners have taken proactive steps to advance and defend their own property rights. They understand that reliance on current or future government action is no panacea. In separate developments this past week, some of […]
Categories: Latest News

Cool Apps: So Much More Than A Doorbell

InteroMojo - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 11:42am

Last month we brought you Piper, the smart and elegant security and home automation system that connects your phone to the inside of your home but what about the space around your home? Specifically right outside your front door. You’ll never miss a welcomed or unwelcomed visitor because today’s app is a doorbell that acts as a security camera…or is it a security camera that acts like a doorbell?

Ring, formally Doorbot, is a doorbell and camera in one. It allows you to view anyone coming to your front door via wi-fi. The goal with this little device is to be a pre-alarm system. You get an alert sent right to your phone every time someone rings your doorbell. The camera allows you to see exactly who it is and with the two-way microphone, you can even speak to them making it look like you’re home even when you’re thousands of miles away. That way it will always look like someone’s home.

The device itself comes in multiple colors to match the esthetic of your home and it’s super easy to install. You can connect it to your existing doorbell wiring or run it off the built-in battery. It’s even weather proof. Connect it to your home’s wi-fi and you’ll have guest notifications coming to your smart phone and tablet before you know it.

Beyond the doorbell, the device is also outfitted with infrared sensors that give it night vision and has motion detection software that can alert you to any activity happening in front of your house. You can sleep soundly and go on vacation knowing your house is being watched over.

Check out this great video that explains even more about this great little addition to your home security system.

Click here to play

Categories: Latest News

Graves Again Calls on EPA and Corps to Withdraw Flawed 'Waters of the United States' Rule

House Small Business Committee News - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 12:00am

House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) today urgedthe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to withdraw the “Waters of the United States” proposed rule to expand the reach of the Clean Water Act (CWA), due to the agencies’ failure to examine the impacts of the proposal on small entities as required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA).  The agencies certified the proposed rule as one that will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.

In a comment letter, Graves wrote, “Based on the testimony from the hearings and the Committee staff’s analysis, the Committee disagrees with the agencies’ certification of the Proposed Rule. Contrary to the agencies’ assertions, the Proposed Rule will increase the geographic scope of CWA jurisdiction and small entities will be directly affected. The EPA should have conducted a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) panel to get input from small entities and performed an initial regulatory flexibility analysis (IRFA) assessing the impacts of the Proposed Rule on small entities as required by the RFA.  Unfortunately, the agencies did not do so and instead engaged in arbitrary and capricious rulemaking.”

A particular concern is the rule’s failure to clarify what specifically are “Waters of the United States,” which is one reason the regulation was deemed necessary.

“For a large business with access to lawyers and civil engineers deciphering these terms would be very problematic.  For small entities such as a rural town government, a farmer or a home builder, the determination of whether a water body is an adjacent water under the Proposed Rule will be well nigh impossible due to the inherent vagueness.  This inherent vagueness portends significant civil liability if the small entity is incapable of ascertaining whether it needs a permit under §§ 402 or 404 of the CWA,” Graves continues.

“The agencies failed to comply with the requirements of the RFA and their rationales appear to be nothing more than pretexts to avoid consideration of impacts on small businesses, small governmental jurisdictions and small not-for-profits as directed by Congress.”

Graves concludes, “As it now stands, the Proposed Rule will clarify little, lead to significant litigation (including challenges that might prohibit enforcement against small entities), and ultimately undermine the agencies’ mission of protecting the waters of the United States from degradation.  The only logical course for the agencies is to rescind the proposal and reissue it after fully complying with the RFA so the end result will be a logical, non-arbitrary rule that actually clarifies definitions and protects the waters of the United States.”

The Committee held a hearing on this proposed rule on May 29, 2014. Small business leaders have overwhelmingly maintained that the rule creates more confusion, would be economically detrimental on many levels, and wouldn’t improve water quality. Also in May, Graves and Members of the Committee wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy, who oversees the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to urge withdrawal of the pending rule. 

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Examining Takata Airbag Defects and the Vehicle Recall Process

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a full committee hearing on Thursday, November 20, 2014, at 10 a.m. titled, “Examining Takata Airbag Defects and the Vehicle Recall Process.” Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) will chair the hearing.

This hearing will examine the circumstances of a series of recalls beginning in 2008 for defective airbags manufactured by Takata. The most recent recalls for Takata airbags now encompass 10 automobile manufacturers and affect 7.8 million vehicles in the United States. The hearing ...

Kline Statement on Education Department's New Waiver Guidance

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:00am

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after the Department of Education released new waiver guidance:

Last week, the American people sent a message to Washington: End the gridlock and begin addressing the challenges facing our country. It’s looking more and more like the Obama administration has not gotten the message. Our K-12 education system is broken and we’ve learned over the last several years the president’s controversial waiver scheme is not the answer. Instead of changing course, the administration is delivering more arbitrary rules, more regulatory burdens, and more confusion.
 
What we need is for policymakers and stakeholders to work together in crafting a new law. We have an opportunity to enact bold reforms that will help all students access the quality education they need to succeed. The president must decide whether he is willing to seize that opportunity. The House has demonstrated time and again we are ready to get this done, and I am pleased we finally have partners in the Senate willing to join us. It’s time for the president to join us as well.

 
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Congressional Quarterly: Small Business Exchanges Find Few Customers So Far, Study Shows

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:00am

Congressional Quarterly: Small Business Exchanges Find Few Customers So Far, Study Shows
November 13, 2014
By John Reichard

Only 76,000 people working for 12,000 small employers were covered through plans offered by the health law’s small business exchanges as of June, the Government Accountability Office reported Thursday.

That figure – reflecting 18 state-based small business exchanges – is vastly lower than Congressional Budget Office projections, said House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 2 million employees would enroll in so-called SHOP coverage this year, Graves said in a press release. The health law requires each state to have a Small Business Health Options Program that is administered either by the state or through the federal government.

The Obama administration still hasn’t released enrollment numbers for the “federally facilitated” SHOP exchanges it runs in 33 states. It says, however, that they are comparable to the numbers for SHOPs created on their own by 17 states and the District of Columbia.

The low enrollment figure gives Republicans another opening to attack the health law as they prepare for the next session of Congress and a new series of attacks on the overhaul.

“Obamacare’s SHOPs have been fraught with errors and high costs from the beginning,” Graves said.

GAO detailed the slower-than-scheduled startup of the SHOPs and the features they offer.

The exchanges were supposed to open in all states by Oct. 1, 2013. In all but four states, SHOPs were accepting enrollment applications by that date but important promised features were typically not ready, including online enrollment, and “employee choice” features.

Though insurer competition in the SHOPs was supposed to drive down premiums, the GAO found prices comparable to coverage outside of the exchanges.

The typical small business owner that provides coverage also picks the plan. The idea of SHOPs, in part, is to give their employees a menu of coverage options to choose from. Many state-created SHOPs offer this feature, but none of the federally facilitititated ones do, GAO found.

The same is true of online enrollment, which exists in most of the state-run SHOPs but not at all in the exchanges operated by the federal government, the report said.

What small business owners have gained, however, is the ability to see plan information such as premiums and benefits online on web sites in all of the states.

And federal officials are preparing to implement online enrollment for federally run SHOPs for 2015, GAO said. Employee choice will be available next year in 14 states with SHOPs operated by the federal government, though 18 states took up a government offer to delay that feature until 2016.

Enrollment figures for the federally run SHOPs will be made public early next year.

Most bosses are offering their workers a menu of coverage options in states where the option is available, the study found. “Exchange officials in Kentucky and Rhode Island said that approximately 65 and 61 percent of enrolled employers, respectively, decided to offer their employees a choice of plans,” GAO said.

The added features will bring many more customers to the SHOPs, exchange backers say. So too will more aggressive marketing, closer coordination with insurance agents and the fact that employers after 2016 won’t be able to renew coverage that doesn’t comply with the health law, which will make them more likely to start shopping at the small business exchanges.

Others predict the SHOPs won’t be a big draw because the tax credits they offer small businesses end after this year. The exchanges may not be able to charge lower premiums.

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GAO: Obamacare Small Business Exchange Enrollment ‘Significantly Lower’ Than Expected

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 11/13/2014 - 12:00am

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released a report, requested by House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), showing that enrollment for the state-operated Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), created by the Affordable Care Act, was significantly lower than expected. No data was released for the federally-operated SHOP, but CMS told GAO it anticipates similarly low enrollment numbers. This report’s release comes just days after the Obama administration predicted that overall enrollment for next year is expected to be 30% lower than expected.

The Committee has documented continued mismanagement with the SHOPs going back to the summer of 2013, when another GAO report requested by Graves, confirmed the administration was ill-equipped for its rollout, and cited potential for “implementation challenges going forward.” This year, Graves has repeatedly pressed the administration to provide data on the enrollment and updated compliance timeline of federal and state SHOPs, but the data has not been provided. During a September 18 Small Business Subcommittee hearing, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Director of State Exchange Group, Mayra Alvarez, was asked about SHOP enrollment data, yet the administration was still unable to provide the information. Today’s GAO report is the first federal government release of SHOP performance data.

“Obamacare’s SHOPs have been fraught with errors and high costs from the very beginning,” said Chairman Graves. “The administration touted the SHOP as a way for small companies and their employees to benefit from more health insurance competition and choice, and ultimately lower prices. Instead, we have seen that costs are increasing for nearly two-thirds of small businesses that provide health insurance to their employees and the majority of small business owners paid more per employee for health insurance in 2013 than in 2012.”

Graves continued, “The lack of specific federal SHOP enrollment data confirms that CMS initially created no mechanism to monitor or measure its performance after enrollment began. It is apparent that the Obama administration didn’t prioritize the SHOP exchange in the law. Small businesses and taxpayers deserve better.”

GAO Report Highlights:

• As of June 1, 2014, enrollment for the SHOPs was significantly lower than expected, and, at its current pace, is unlikely to reach expectations by the end of 2014.

  • State SHOPs – 76,000 individuals through 12,000 employers.
  • Federal SHOP – data will not be available from CMS until next year, but CMS does not expect major differences between federal and state SHOP numbers.
  • In April 2014, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 2 million employees would enroll in coverage through the SHOPs in 2014, with the number of enrollees rising to 3 million in 2015 and leveling off at 4 million enrollees by 2017.

• Most state SHOPs had multiple plans available, but some states had counties with no plans. For example, in Washington state, SHOP plans were only available in a few counties, and the state had only 8 employers enrolled.

• The average number of employees per business enrolled in SHOPs is 3.7 employees.

• Many state SHOP features were delayed and enrollment was low as of June 2014 and key SHOP features, such as online enrollment and employee choice, were delayed for all federal SHOPs and some state SHOPS.

• The primary incentive for many small businesses to enroll in SHOPS was to utilize the small business health care tax credit.  But the credit is so narrow, complex and temporary that it has been an insufficient incentive to enroll. Although the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and stakeholder groups initially estimated over 4 million small businesses would be eligible for the credit, a 2012 GAO report showed only a small fraction (170,300) actually claimed it. 

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Why “King v. Burwell” Obamacare Case Is Not “NFIB v. Sebelius” Redux

WLF Legal Pulse - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 4:52pm
The Supreme Court’s decision to hear King v. Burwell means that the Court, for the second time in three years, will be deciding an issue that will have a major impact on the Obama Administration’s ability to implement the Affordable Care Act. The ACA’s requirement that individuals purchase health insurance or else pay a penalty […]
Categories: Latest News

WLF Briefing: Private Ordering Solutions Advance Patent Non-Aggression

WLF Legal Pulse - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 2:58pm
This November 10, 2014 WLF Media Briefing, Toward Patent Non-Aggression: Market-Based Approaches to Deterring Legal Risks and Neutralizing Litigation, featured presentations by three innovators whose ideas are minimizing operating companies’ exposure to abusive patent lawsuits: Keith Bergelt, CEO of the Open Invention Network; Kevin Jakel, CEO of Unified Patents, Inc.; and Tim Kowalski, Senior Patent […]
Categories: Latest News

VIDEO RELEASE: Kline Outlines Education and Workforce Priorities

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:00am
Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, today outlined broad priorities to help strengthen the nation’s classrooms and workplaces. Chairman Kline discusses in a new video steps Washington must take to support students and working families, such as fixing a broken K-12 education system, improving higher education, and providing job creators more certainty: 

 

If there is one thing we learned last week, it’s that the American people know we need to do better. They know we need education reform that empowers parents and places more control in the hands of teachers and local decision-makers. They know we need to provide employers certainty and flexibility so they can grow their businesses, create new jobs, and give workers the raise they’ve earned. They know we need to work together to help students pursue the dream of an advanced degree without living a nightmare of debt and unemployment. They know we need to continue investing in our classrooms and workplaces, but demand a better return on our investment. These are the priorities most Americans share ...They must be the priorities of Washington starting now.

To watch the video, click here.

To learn more about House efforts to strengthen America’s classrooms and workplaces, click here

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