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Rockefeller: Takata, Automakers Must Take Responsibility and Action for Deadly Airbag Defect

Statement for the Record

Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV

“Examining Takata Airbag Defects and the Vehicle Recall Process”

I want to thank Senator Nelson for chairing this important and timely hearing on yet another safety crisis in the automobile industry that has killed and maimed Americans for reasons we must uncover. He and Senators McCaskill, Blumenthal, and Markey have been on top of this developing situati...

Rockefeller, Thune Issue Joint Statement on Passage of STELA Reauthorization

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV) and John Thune (R-SD), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today issued the following statement following Senate passage of the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014:

“Today’s unanimous passage of the bipartisan, bicameral STELA Reauthorization Act guarantees that 1.5 million satellite pay TV subscribers maintain access to distant broadcast network television signals.  At the same time, the bill also makes important, common-sense and pro-consumer ...

Thune, Nelson Introduce Legislation to Help Prevent Auto Injuries, Deaths From Faulty Parts by Incentivizing Whistleblowers

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) today introduced legislation (S. 2949) that would incentivize employees from the automotive sector to voluntarily provide information on faulty products to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to prevent serious physical injuries and death. In the 114th Congress, Thune is in line to become the Commerce Committee chairman, and Nelson is in line to become the ranking member. U.S. Senator...

Kline Statement on President’s Immigration Announcement

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:00am

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after President Obama announced his plans to unilaterally change federal immigration laws:

The president's brazen disregard for the rule of law and the constitutional limits of his office continues to divide our nation. To quote the president, this is not how our democracy functions. He has once again put his own political interests before the best interests of the country. The American people made it clear that they want us to end the gridlock and work together. However, this decision will make it even harder to address the challenges facing our classrooms and workplaces. Unless the president changes course, we will lose an opportunity to advance reforms that would make a difference in the lives of students and working families. The president is determined to let that opportunity slip away.

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Concurrence in Federal Circuit’s “Ultramercial” Ruling Sends Pointed Message to Patent Litigants

WLF Legal Pulse - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 3:45pm
Featured Expert Contributor – Intellectual Property (Patents) Jeffri A. Kaminski, Venable LLP The recent Federal Circuit decision in Ultramercial v. Wild Tangent continues the trend of courts invalidating software and business method patents made vulnerable by the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International. The Ultramercial decision also continues the wave of […]
Categories: Latest News

CQ: Graves: SBA Rule Change Would Hurt Small Businesses

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 12:00am

Congressional Quarterly: Graves: SBA Rule Change Would Hurt Small Businesses
November 19, 2014
By Shawn Zeller

House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves and the Small Business Administration are quarreling again over a new administration move to increase the size of firms eligible for government contracts set aside for small companies.
 
Graves, R-Mo., wrote this month to Khem R. Sharma, the chief of the SBA’s size standards division, to protest the agency’s proposal in September to allow larger companies in 30 industries to apply for the set-asides.
It would, for instance, set the bar for book publishers seeking small business contracts at up to 1,000 employees, twice the current 500. Companies that extract natural gas or oil could employ 1,250 workers, up from 500.

Graves’ concern is over the agency’s plan to eliminate a special exemption that allows information technology firms with up to 150 workers to win large contracts to advise agencies on their hardware and software needs and to then buy and install the equipment. The SBA would do away with the 150-worker rule and limit eligible firms to $25.5 million in revenue.

SBA says it is changing the rules to adjust to changes in the business world. The IT rule change might help agencies better coordinate IT procurement to ensure government computer systems work well together, a common problem now, by ensuring better-equipped firms get the deals.

But Graves, as well as some advocates for small businesses and the IT firms themselves, say this would hurt many small companies because the cost of computer equipment would be counted against the $25.5 million. For firms with 150 employees and a $25.5 million government contract, “simply paying for supplies and the salaries of employees will cause the company to run a deficit,” Graves wrote, arguing SBA should keep the head-count standard.

The American Small Business League, a California-based group that’s long criticized the SBA for not helping more small companies win government deals, is threatening to sue the agency if the rule is finalized. Lloyd Chapman, the league’s president, says the proposal is “absurd and laughable” and that it would “devastate thousands of small businesses.”

But Sharma notes the agency is merely carrying out the mandate it received in a 2010 law (PL 111-240) to review all of its size standards for small business contracts every five years. The bill was enacted by a Democratic Congress over Republican objections. Sharma notes many of the size standards haven’t been adjusted since the 1970s and are out of step with the current contracting market.
 
When the SBA moved to increase some of the size standards in 2011, Graves – who’d become chairman of the Small Business Committee that year – objected on the grounds that they would hurt some small firms, and the agency scaled back its plans.

The following year, at Graves’ urging, Congress included provisions in the fiscal 2013 defense authorization (PL 112-239) aimed at making it harder for the agency to raise size standards by requiring the SBA to conduct more comprehensive reviews of the affected industries. Graves contends that the September proposed rule violates that law.

The main trade group for government contractors, the Professional Services Council, says although Graves’ concerns about the change in IT contracting rules may be legitimate, it generally supports the SBA’s efforts. “We’ve felt for a long time that the size standards do not reflect the current market realities for federal procurement,” says Alan Chvotkin, the group’s executive vice president.

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Kline Selected to Serve as Education & Workforce Committee Chairman in 114th Congress

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 11/19/2014 - 12:00am
Rep. John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement after being selected by his colleagues to serve as chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee in the 114th Congress:
 

I am humbled by the opportunity to continue leading this great committee. Significant challenges face our classrooms and workplaces, challenges that have persisted for far too long. Fixing a broken K-12 education system, promoting certainty and flexibility in our nation’s workplaces, and strengthening higher education are all national priorities that will remain at the forefront of the committee’s agenda. The American people want us to end the gridlock and get to work. If the president is willing to engage and the Senate is willing to act, we can advance reforms that will make a difference in the lives of students and working families. I am eager to help lead that effort and look forward to the work that lies ahead.

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The Change Order Fairness Act – Maryland

WCOE News - Tue, 11/18/2014 - 10:52am

WCOE Feature

by Karen Barbour, The Barbour Group & WCOE, USA Corporate Alliance Chair

Women Contractors Owners and Executives (WCOE) promotes the inclusion of minorities, small business and women owned firms in the construction industry. WCOE embraces the minority business enterprise (MBE) and inclusion goals through the United States and beyond.  WCOE understands that many states have MBE goals, in addition to the Federal Government embracing small business goals on large jumbo projects.  But what we all need to explore is the treatment that this particular group, an economically disadvantaged group, is facing on the projects that “require” their participation.  Access to capital is often an oxymoron for economically disadvantaged contractors. Timely payment of their contract invoices and change orders are critical components of their survival. 

Underbillings, or costs in excess of billings and estimated earnings, along with profit fades on projects (especially bonded ones), are the main focus in evaluating the contractor for bonding credit. If the underbillings are the result of change orders, sureties know that collecting the basic costs, let alone the profit on change orders, is a pipe dream at best. Casting these line items to non-current assets in the underwriting process can obliterate any chance of bonding credit.

Maryland, for example, has a 29% MBE goal on state funded projects. Maryland, like most other states, provides contract drawings and specifications to contractors and awards the projects based on lowest bid. The consensus from many contractors is that they are bidding a “legal document” for the most part as the plans and specifications are lacking in project detail. Too often, the state will issue unilateral change orders, request additional work and mandate that the contractor proceed with the work without an agreed upon price. While the funds for this work are to be “available,” they are not appropriated and the determination of the price is negotiated at some later date.

The end result is that MBEs along with other small businesses are forced to perform the work, finance that work, and hope they will get paid for that work. Again, the MBE program is for economically disadvantaged contractors. Is any state with an MBE program unknowingly setting up the MBEs for failure via their current change order process? My guess is yes. As one prominent contractor stated to me, “the change order process in Maryland is broken.” I would assume that would be the case for many other states, too. Are we setting up the MBEs and small business to fail? Are they taking on work to their detriment?  Is the current change order process truly enabling their success? Yes, Yes and No would be my answers. For over a year, I’ve been pushing for a Change Order Fairness Act, and I am happy to say that “my bill” is through bill drafting and Associated General Contractors (Maryland Chapter) is providing input. Contractors (prime or generals) are often at odds with their subcontractors over the issue of change order work. The Change Order Fairness Act, if passed, will allow the contractor not to proceed with work until the change order work is approved and certified as fully funded by the State. Provision of the bill allows the subcontractors to receive certification, prior to start of work, as to the exact amount of funding applied to their change order work. 

Other provisions and modifications of the bill are under review. For example, I believe the cost of differing site conditions should not be a cost absorbed by the contractor. The land is not owned by the contractor. All costs associated with the correction of the site conditions and delays should be fully compensable by the state. If a project is delayed six months due to differing site conditions, for example, and the drywall contractor now must install drywall in the winter, his/her general conditions will increase. The lucky MBE or small business will have a bank line to tap into to fund the overruns, but many will not. If the MBE has no bank line, the MBE will be defaulted. If they are bonded, they could lose their home. 

The Change Order Fairness Act is a good first step to make sure our small and disadvantaged contractors continue to make money, spend money in our communities and hire local labor. Stay tuned for more updates.

Categories: Latest News

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!!!!!

Categories: Latest News

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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