A little more than 10 years ago, the National Labor Relations Board overturned long-standing precedent with the landmark San Manuel Bingo & Casino decision and began using a subjective test to determine when and where to exert its jurisdiction over Indian tribes.
This action was met with significant opposition from the Native American community and considered by many to be an attack on tribal sovereignty. In fact, at a hearing of this subcommittee in 2012, Robert Odawi Porter, president of the Seneca Nation of Indians, called the move “unfounded” and a violation of treaty rights. During the same hearing, I myself expressed concern with the board’s policy and its flawed interpretation of the law. Unfortunately, the board has ignored these and similar concerns and continues to exert its authority over Indian tribes.
To make matters worse, the NLRB’s actions have had ramifications that extend beyond threatening tribal sovereignty. The subjective nature of the board’s process for determining jurisdiction has also produced a mess of legal confusion. Years of litigation have produced inconsistent and misguided board decisions, compounding the uncertainty felt by Native American tribes and their businesses.
To help address these concerns and preserve tribal sovereignty over labor policies, our colleague Todd Rokita introduced H.R. 511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. The bill would prevent the NLRB from asserting its jurisdiction over businesses owned by Native Americans on tribal lands, codifying a board standard that existed long before the San Manuel decision. In doing so, it would protect Native Americans from NLRB interference and provide legal certainty to the nation’s Indian tribes. It’s a commonsense proposal that has attracted bipartisan support.
Today, we will hear from tribal leaders who will share their experiences and discuss the importance of protecting their cherished sovereignty. I look forward to hearing their views on the reforms outlined in the bill.
# # #
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) today introduced S. 1573, the National Weather Service Improvement Act. The bill modernizes the National Weather Service (NWS) in three critical areas: it reinvests some resources from the NWS's 122 local weather forecast offices to six regional centers, emphasizes improving clear communication of weather forecast warnings, and mandates disclosures following concerns about personnel contracting&nbs...
Kline Statement: Hearing on "Child Nutrition Assistance: Are Federal Rules and Regulations Serving the Best Interests of Schools and Families?"
Ensuring children have access to healthy food is a goal we all share and lies at the heart of our effort to reform federal child nutrition programs, many of which are set to expire later this year. We have conducted several hearings and briefings to learn more about these programs, as well as the rules and regulations that dictate their implementation at the state and local levels.
What we have learned from students, parents, school nutrition professionals, government watchdogs, other key stakeholders, and yes, even the Department of Agriculture, is that the latest reauthorization of federal child nutrition laws is the most far-reaching and costliest in a generation. Current law requires the department to prescribe how much money schools charge for meals, what food can and cannot be served in schools, and how much of it can be served.
In other words, Washington is responsible for deciding what and how much our children eat. These regulations have created an environment where students are not getting the nourishment they need, and food and taxpayer dollars wind up in the trashcan.
Julia Bauscher, president of the School Nutrition Association, conveyed to the committee the concerns she is hearing from school nutrition professionals across the country. Julia described how regulations are resulting in harmful consequences that threaten the ability of schools to best serve students. She went on to decry the “sharp increase in costs and waste and the historic decline in student lunch participation under the new requirements.”
We are often told that more than 90 percent of participating schools are complying with the law. First, as we learned from the Government Accountability Office, it is highly likely this number is overly optimistic. But let’s not forget that schools that choose to participate must comply with the law. The question isn’t how many schools are in in compliance, the question is: At what cost?
The department estimates that participating school districts will be forced to absorb $3.2 billion in additional compliance costs over a five-year period. To make matters worse, fewer students are being served. Since the regulations were put in place, participation in the school meals programs has declined more rapidly than any other period over the last three decades, with 1.4 million fewer children being served each day.
I saw these challenges firsthand during my visit to the Prior Lake School District in Savage, Minnesota. Students described smaller portion sizes and limited options that left students hungry and more likely to buy junk food. After students petitioned the school board, Prior Lake has decided to drop out of the school meals program next school year. It is the only way the school can meet the needs of its students.
And the problems with the law do not stop there. The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Agriculture and the GAO identified examples of programs misusing taxpayer dollars, raising serious concerns about whether or not we are actually assisting those in need.
As we work to reauthorize federal child nutrition programs, we must find solutions that will ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent and children are well served. We know developing a one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer. More mandates and more money aren’t the answer either. Instead, we should look to improve these programs by giving states and school districts the flexibility they need to fulfill the promise of child nutrition assistance.
Duke Storen from the not-for-profit organization Share Our Strength advised at a recent hearing, “It’s critical … to remove bureaucratic barriers and create efficiencies that will allow us to reach those kids who currently go without.” I look forward to discussing how we can achieve just that without imposing more burdens on our schools.
# # #
On Tuesday, June 16 at 10:00 a.m., the full committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), will hold a hearing entitled, “Child Nutrition Assistance: Are Federal Rules and Regulations Serving the Best Interests of Schools and Families?” The hearing will provide members an opportunity to examine rules and regulations governing child nutrition policies, as well as discuss possible reforms to improve federal child nutrition programs. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is scheduled to testify.
On Tuesday, June 16 at 2:00 p.m., the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), will hold a legislative hearing on H.R. 511, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2015. Members will examine legislation introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), which would prevent the National Labor Relations Board from exerting jurisdiction over Native American businesses operated on tribal lands. Witness information will be available here.
On Wednesday, June 17 at 10:00 a.m., the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing entitled, “Restricting Access to Financial Advice: Evaluating the Costs and Consequences for Working Families and Retirees.” Members and witnesses will examine a proposal by the Department of Labor that would vastly expand the definition of “fiduciary” and how the proposed rule will impact workers, small businesses, and retirees. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez is scheduled to testify. Information on other witnesses will be available here.
For more information about hearings scheduled for next week, visit edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
# # #
On, June 11, 2015 at 10:00 a.m., the Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade will hold a hearing titled, Squeezed: Current Challenges for Small Citrus Operations in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The hearing will examine how these challenges are affecting small growers and other small businesses in the citrus industry.
Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)
- Testifying on behalf of the California Citrus Mutual
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) issued the following statement on the federal appeals court decision not to delay the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) controversial Title II Internet regulations while the lawsuit against them moves forward:
"This decision underscores the need for Congress to find a bipartisan legislative solution to protect, preserve, and promote the free and open Internet. I will continue my work w...
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, issued the following statement in response to the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to allow the FCC’s net neutrality rules to move forward.
“The rules are now poised to go into effect,” said Nelson. “While the court conducts its review, I remain committed to finding true bipartisan consensus to take the import...
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leading members of U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), subcommittee ranking member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and subcommittee chairmen Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today introduced S. 1551, the DOTCOM Act. The DOTCOM Act requires certifications, and an opportunity for congressional review to ensure that any transfer of U.S. involvement over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) does not empower foreign powers to gain increase...
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, will convene the subcommittee for a hearing entitled “Oversight of the Consumer Product Safety Commission” on Wednesday, June 17, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.
“Oversight of independent agencies is one of Congress’ primary responsibilities,” Sen. Moran said. “This hearing will give us an opportunity to examine the Consumer Product...
Small Business Subcommittee Examines Challenges Facing Citrus Industry
WASHINGTON -- On Thursday, the Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade examined the challenges affecting small growers and other small businesses in the citrus industry.
“Florida is one of the top producers of citrus in the world,” said Subcommittee Chairman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). “It has a significant impact on our economy and for many growers and their families, it is a way of life, passed down from one generation to the next. However, the U.S. citrus industry is facing significant challenges, such as HLB disease in Florida, the Mexican fruit fly in Texas, and a prolonged drought in California. All these factors have decreased acreage and production while increasing operating costs for small citrus growers which comprise 90% of citrus farms. I’d like to thank the Small Business Committee for the opportunity to highlight these challenges and the witnesses for sharing their perspectives.”
Full Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) praised Subcommittee Chairman Curbelo for calling attention to these threats:
“Today’s hearing revealed the challenges facing an industry that reaches every American family’s breakfast table: small citrus growers. I want to thank him for his leadership in bringing these issues into focus. Mr. Curbelo said it best: ‘This Committee cares about small business, which means we care about families and the people they employ.’ Our Committee will continue to work with the family businesses in this industry towards solutions that protect this economically and culturally significant crop.”
Notable quotes include:
“Nature has created the current crisis but neglect and unbalanced environmental policies have made it a true disaster. The way the Endangered Species Act is currently being implemented has, as many farmers would attest, put many a family farmer in the category of endangered. If we don’t find a more balanced approach to the ESA, not only will fish be endangered, but many smaller family citrus farms will become extinct.” - Mr. Kevin Severns, Owner, Severns Farm, Sanger, CA (testifying on behalf of California Citrus Mutual)
“The citrus industry is a core part of America’s agricultural heritage. 62,000 Floridians produce a nutritious product that is part of a healthy diet. The industry is comprised of small family farms and associated businesses. The industry also supports many associated businesses, ranging from vehicle and farm equipment dealers, banks, insurance companies, etc. Our industry has experienced challenges before, most weather related. I am confident our industry will manage through the current crisis and emerge as an even stronger industry.” -Mr. N. Larry Black, Jr., General Manager, Peace River Packing Company, Fort Meade, FL (testifying on behalf of Florida Citrus Mutual)
“In short, the United States citrus industry as you know it, is in extreme trouble. We are fighting to preserve our very way of life and are doing everything in our power to prevent total eradication of an essential U.S. industry. With agency collaboration and much needed support, it is our hope that we will soon be able to eradicate [Asian Citrus Psyllid] and [Huanglongbing] from our vocabulary entirely.” -Mr. Dale Murden, President, Texas Citrus Mutual, Mission, TX
More information on this hearing can be found HERE.
“For more than 75 years, the Fair Labor Standards Act has been the foundation of our nation’s wage and hour protections. It establishes important rights for American workers and continues to guide employers in protecting those rights,” Chairman Walberg said. “However, the workplace looks very different today than it did in 1938 when the law was enacted, and the rules and regulations defining the law are failing to meet the needs of a 21st century workforce.”
Employees who are covered by the law’s requirements are referred to as “non-exempt” employees, and those who are not covered are considered “exempt” employees. Most professional, administrative, or managerial employees qualify as exempt as defined in regulations written and enforced by the Department of Labor. Concerns have been raised that the current regulatory structure is extremely complicated and was written before the advent of smartphones and telecommuting.
“The FLSA is a cornerstone among America’s workplace statutes,” stated Nicole Berberich, director of Human Resources at the Cincinnati Animal Referral and Emergency Center. “But the [law] was crafted for a different time, and should be evaluated to ensure it still encourages employers to hire, grow, and better meet the needs of their employees.” Berberich described the difficult process employers face trying to properly classify employees, noting, “An employer acting in good faith can easily mistakenly misclassify employees” and warned that “the stakes in improperly classifying employees are high.”
Leonard Court, an attorney with more than 40 years of experience dealing with wage and hour policies, echoed these concerns, explaining there is “ample opportunity for differing interpretations and misunderstandings of the law’s requirements in the contemporary setting.” Unfortunately, the enforcement policies of the current administration have only made these challenges worse, Court added, by shifting from an approach built on “cooperation and education to one of confrontation and coerced settlement.”
Expressing similar views, Jamie Richardson, vice president at White Castle System, Inc., explained his company’s concerns “in light of a regulatory regime that is increasingly proscriptive” and “seems increasingly disconnected from the needs and desires of the modern worker and contemporary business owners.” He noted, “Today, with many of our urban centers continuing to suffer record high levels of unemployment … regulatory actions go beyond providing protections for those employed and make it harder for employers everywhere to create more jobs.”
Witnesses also discussed a pending Department of Labor proposal that is expected to significantly alter existing overtime regulations. Berberich expressed concern that upcoming changes may “further exacerbate an already complicated set of regulations” and “further limit workplace flexibility.” Richardson agreed, stating, “Rather than providing more opportunities for individuals to earn overtime pay, it appears that the new regulations will only result in a more complicated law … and more litigation.”
Acknowledging concerns related to the department’s pending proposal, Chairman Walberg said, “Thanks to an administration notorious for overreaching and governing through executive fiat, I share many of those same concerns … it is my hope the department will heed these concerns and ultimately put forward a proposal that encourages – rather than stifles – productivity, personal opportunity, and economic growth.”
# # #
Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Passenger Rail Safety: Accident Prevention and On-Going Efforts to Implement Train Control Technology
Small Business Committee Advances Four Bills in Bipartisan Markup
WASHINGTON—Today, the Small Business Committee passed four pieces of legislation on a bipartisan basis that now await action in the House of Representatives:
· H.R. 2499: "Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015" (Passed by voice vote)
· H.R. 208: "Superstorm Sandy Relief Act of 2015" (Passed by voice vote)
· H.R. 1023: "The Small Business Investment Company Capital Act of 2015" (Passed by voice vote)
· H.R. 2670: "Microloan Modernization Act of 2015" (Passed by voice vote)
At the start of today’s markup, Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) noted the connection between all four pieces of legislation considered by the committee. “I want to emphasize the importance of moving forward on these common sense reforms to Small Business Administration’s access to capital and disaster loan programs,” Chabot said. “When we improve these programs, we are stimulating the American economy by allowing our nation’s job creators, small businesses, greater access to a basic fundamental business need – capital.”
For more on the markup, amendments offered, and vote tallies, please click here.