WASHINGTON - Last week, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a 134-page report detailing new concerns about leadership and management at the Small Business Administration (SBA). Upon reviewing the report, Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) said the following:
“The members of the Small Business Committee take our oversight responsibilities seriously because this government is supposed to serve the people—never the other way around. The findings of this most recent GAO report on the SBA are incredibly concerning to us. For the sake of small businesses across the country who view the SBA as a resource and for the taxpayers who keep the SBA’s doors open, we’ll be taking a closer look at the issues and recommendations offered by the GAO and what the SBA can do to improve.”
U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke on the passage of a bicameral, bipartisan measure to keep America’s railroads open. The House passed the measure contained in H.R. 3819 on October 27, 2015, by voice vote, and the Senate passed the legislation by voice vote.
The measure extends the positive train control implementation deadline from the end of this year to December 31, 2018, to reflect the reality noted in studies that the current deadline is unrealistic that no freight or passenger railroad has yet to achieve the legal requirements of full implementation.A fact sheet on the legislation is available here.
Mr. President, I rise today on an issue of great urgency and importance to our nation’s economy.
As many know by now, nearly every railroad in the country, including every major freight railroad, will not meet the unrealistic December 31, 2015, deadline for implementing positive train control.
Positive train control or PTC, when working as intended, is a critical safety technology that will prevent certain types of rail accidents and save lives.
We have the ability to make rail transportation even safer by ensuring full implementation of PTC.
As the Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, I can assure my colleagues that these disruptions would have caused cascading and devastating effects for nearly every sector of the economy and every region of the country.
Railroads have already started notifying customers that they will stop accepting certain chemical shipments in late November and early December to ensure such cargoes are off their system when the existing deadline hits at the end of the year.
As rail-dependent businesses and their customers prepare for this shutdown, they have already started to feel the negative supply chain effects on logistics and inventory management.
The House-passed short-term highway extension provided an option to avert this completely avoidable and unnecessary harm.
This is not just about the railroads—
• it’s about the farmers that depend on rail for fertilizer;
• it’s about the manufacturers and other businesses that depend on rail for critical inputs; and
• it’s about water treatment facilities that depend on rail for chemicals to purify drinking water.
It’s about all of the workers and households that benefit from this safe mode of transportation.
Rail-dependent commuters and customers cannot afford a Congressionally-caused railroad shutdown.
Each day, well over one million riders in the United States board commuter railroads to get to and from their places of work.
Over two million people work in industries that use hazardous chemicals hauled by rail, and the gross economic output of these industries alone is over $2 trillion.
In fact, the effects of a looming railroad shutdown would have occurred well in advance of the year-end deadline.
Over 130 farmers, manufacturers, and retailers wrote to Congress last week, stating that:
“(R)ail customers are already starting to feel the impact… [w]ith a shutdown just around the corner rail customers must start putting contingency plans into motion, including adjusting production schedules and workforce levels.”
This is not only an economic issue—it has major implications for public health and safety.
Water treatment facilities across this country have urged a deadline extension and wrote a joint letter to me, reiterating that:
“[e]ven a temporary interruption of water disinfection chemical deliveries could risk a public health disaster for communities across the country.”
The U.S. Conference of Mayors also urged a deadline extension and wrote that switching from rail to other modes of transportation could lead to additional accidents in our nation’s communities and greater exposure to the risks of hazardous materials.
The Acting Federal Railroad Administrator, who conducts oversight of our nation’s rail network, expressed concern at a September Commerce Committee hearing.
She said that a rail shutdown would:
“lead to significant congestion and it does lead to safety impacts.”
Keep in mind, total train accidents per year have decreased by nearly 50 percent since 2005, and rail is often the safest available way to haul many types of products – especially hazardous chemicals.
It would take more than 600,000 trucks on our nation’s roads to replace freight rail, let alone the additional cars and buses needed to replace commuter rail.
When Congress passed legislation in 2008 mandating the implementation of PTC, it never intended to punish rail customers or harm the economy.
But this law failed to properly consider the complexity and time involved in developing, mass-producing, installing, and testing a new technology involving a complex network of new computers and communications equipment deployed on more than 20,000 locomotives and 60,000 miles of track.
There is plenty of finger-pointing to go around, but the bottom line is this: after seven years of work, over $6 billion of mostly private funds spent, and with about two months to go before the legal deadline, not one railroad – commuter or freight –– has fully implemented PTC.
For years, study after study, including those from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, found that the 2015 deadline for full implementation of PTC was unrealistic.
The independent experts at the GAO concluded that the vast majority of railroads, including all freight railroads, would not meet the deadline by the end of year.
I'm pleased the Senate came together and acted on a solution.
The bipartisan, bicameral proposal I helped craft does not just extend the deadline for implementing PTC, it significantly increases accountability and transparency.
Our proposal gives the Secretary of Transportation the authority to fine railroads if they fall behind metrics and milestones on their way to completing installation and full implementation.
It requires detailed and publicly available reporting to ensure progress each step of the way.
Under our bipartisan proposal, railroads must implement PTC by December 31, 2018.
To ensure PTC works as intended, the Secretary has very limited case-by-case discretion to allow railroads additional time for testing and certification, but only if railroads complete all installation, spectrum acquisition, and employee training.
To qualify for this additional time, freight railroads must have started using PTC on the majority of their territories or track.
These accountability-focused changes, with objective criteria and rigorous oversight, are designed to ensure we never need another extension.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Representatives Schuster, DeFazio, Denham, and Capuano for their strong bipartisan leadership and collaboration to address this major transportation issue.
This issue has been extensively debated in the Senate, and this proposal incorporates principles and text that have twice been reported out of the Commerce Committee and that passed the full Senate in July by a vote of 65-34.
I’m grateful to Senators Blunt and McCaskill for their partnership and leadership to bring Congress together to ensure that PTC is made safely available as soon as possible.
Now, some suggested different ways of approaching this issue.
At a time when we are making progress to finally end the “kick-the-can” mentality through the enactment of a multi-year transportation reauthorization bill, this proposal will ensure we are not injecting the same type of uncertainty into another transportation mode—our nation’s rail system.
Attaching the bipartisan agreement on extending the PTC deadline as part of the short-term highway extension solves this problem while keeping pressure on the House to pass a multi-year transportation bill that we can then reconcile with the Senate-passed DRIVE Act.
I want to applaud Leader McConnell, Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member Boxer, and Ranking Member Nelson for their continued efforts to push for the completion of a multi-year transportation reauthorization bill.
Due to constant pressure from the Senate – as was noticed with last week’s mark-up by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee – we can see the path to getting a bill done with our House colleagues.
The fact that the short term extension before the Senate sets a November 20th deadline – along with the House planning to take up a multi-year transportation bill next week – indicates that it is in fact possible to soon get a multi-year transportation bill across the finish line.
Nobody should misinterpret my efforts to work with my colleagues in addressing the harms associated with failing to address the looming PTC deadline.
A major part of the overall DRIVE Act legislative text originated from the Senate Commerce Committee, and I will not be backing down in my efforts to see a host of transportation safety, freight, and rail provisions signed into law in the coming weeks.
Together we have averted the potential harm of a Congressionally-caused rail shutdown, set a realistic PTC deadline, held railroads accountable, and ensured the job is done swiftly and safely.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel will provide testimony at a U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation confirmation hearing on Wednesday, October 28 at 10:00 a.m. On May 22, 2015, President Obama nominated Ms. Rosenworcel for a second five-year term as commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission. Ms. Rosenworcel’s first term was from May 2012-June 2015. She may remain in her current role as commissioner until December 31, 2016 while awaiting Senate confirmation for a second term.
Ms. Rosenworcel’s nomination questionnaire is available here.
The Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Full Committee hearing
This hearing will take place in Senate Russell Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
For reporters interested in reserving a seat, please contact the press gallery:
• Periodical Press Gallery – 202-224-0265
• Radio/Television Gallery – 202-224-6421
• Press Photographers Gallery – 202-224-6548
• Daily Press Gallery – 202-224-0241
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for the webcast hearing, should contact Stephanie Gamache at 202-224-5511 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Thank you to Chairman Thune for holding this hearing to consider this important re-nomination.
Commissioner Rosenworcel, congratulations on your re-nomination. You have served with distinction and not surprisingly, have established yourself as a reasoned, thoughtful, and bipartisan leader on the commission since your confirmation.
The FCC has the critical responsibility for overseeing and supporting our nation’s dynamic communications networks and marketplace. Given the blistering pace at which these networks are evolving, we must have an expert oversight agency with flexible, forward-looking authority to protect consumers and competition.
And as we look to what’s ahead, we need regulators who are not afraid to use that authority when necessary, but also know when to exercise authority with humility and a regulatory light touch. Your tenure on the FCC has proven you to be just such a public servant.
The future may be uncertain, but I agree with you that, as the commission tackles its important work, it must be guided by the fundamental principles that have helped U.S. communications networks thrive and lead the world for so many decades. Consumer protection, public safety, universal access, and competition must continue to be at the forefront of the FCC’s actions.
Thank you again, Commissioner Rosenworcel, for your commitment to public service and your willingness to serve. This committee should advance your nomination expeditiously, and I hope for and expect speedy action on the Senate floor in favor of your nomination.
"Today we welcome Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to testify before the committee as we consider her nomination to serve a second term at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
"Today’s appearance by Commissioner Rosenworcel marks the third time she has testified before the Committee this year, and I know the Committee appreciates her willingness to come up to the Hill to answer questions on a variety of issues before the Commission.
"Commissioner Rosenworcel has been serving as a Commissioner at the FCC since May of 2012, and before that, she served as a senior staffer on this Committee for both Chairman Rockefeller and Chairman Inouye. So she is a well-known individual to many of us on this Committee.
"Every single American relies in some part on the nation’s vast communications system, and this system binds together our 21st century society.
"Congress has charged the FCC with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. Moreover, the mandate of the FCC under the Communications Act is to make available to all Americans a rapid, efficient, nationwide, and worldwide wire and radio communications service.
"Our communications system is absolutely vital to the nation’s economy, so it is critically important that those who lead the FCC do so by exercising regulatory humility, promoting economic growth, trusting technological innovation, and working within the framework provided by Congress to make world-class communications available to all Americans in both rural and urban areas.
"Commissioner Rosenworcel has served during an eventful period at the Commission. Perhaps most significantly, the FCC voted along party lines to burden the Internet with Title II common carrier regulation in February of this year, one of the most polarizing and partisan decisions in the agency’s history.
"As I said at the time, the tech and telecom industries agree on few regulatory matters, but there was one idea that unified them for two decades—the Internet is not the telephone network, and one cannot apply the old rules of telecom to the new world of the Internet.
"I believe there should be clear rules for the digital road with clear authority for the FCC to enforce them. That is why I sought, and am still seeking, to work with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to find consensus on a legislative solution to preserve the Open Internet. I will be asking Commissioner Rosenworcel about this path forward.
"Another important issue I want to bring up today is about an anomaly in the Universal Service Fund (USF) rules that Commissioner Rosenworcel, and her four colleagues on the Commission, made a commitment to me in March to fix by the end of this year.
"This anomaly requires a rural consumer to buy voice service from a small rural telephone company in order for that carrier to be eligible for USF support.
"I led a letter earlier this year, along with Sen. Klobuchar and 65 additional Senators, calling on the FCC to make this fix. It is now October 28th, and I hope that Commissioner Rosenworcel can provide an update on the progress of the FCC in satisfying the commitment she and her colleagues made back in March.
"Having said all of this, I would like to thank Commissioner Rosenworcel for her regular engagement with the Committee and her willingness to serve another term at the FCC, and I look forward to her testimony today.
"With that, I turn now to the distinguished ranking member for any remarks he would like to make."
The White House recently hosted a summit on amplifying the voice of workers in our nation’s workplaces. We noted it was an interesting idea for an administration that has been tone deaf to the challenges facing workers and their families. Anyone who has been listening knows the president’s failed policies are wreaking havoc on the country.
An anemic economy, sluggish job growth, higher health care costs, and stagnant wages are the price working families continue to pay for the administration’s misguided priorities. The president has shown he would rather grow the size and power of the federal government than grow the economy and middle-class. That’s why so many families are struggling to make ends meet and are worried about the future.
It’s also why the bill before the committee is so important. The National Labor Relations Board has played a leading role in advancing the president’s flawed, top-down approach to the economy, and its effort to redefine what it means to be an employer is just the latest example.
For more than 30 years, federal labor policy held that two or more employers were “joint employers” if they shared direct and immediate control over essential terms and conditions of employment, such as hiring, wages, and work schedules. This commonsense policy protected workers and allowed countless individuals – including women, minorities, and first generation Americans – to realize the dream of owning a small business.
Their small businesses are located in neighborhoods across the country, employing millions of workers and providing invaluable support to local communities. Now the NLRB is threatening everything these men and women worked so hard to achieve. In its Browning Ferris decision, the board vastly expanded joint employer liability to include those who have indirect control – or even the potential to control – employment conditions. The consequences of this will be far reaching.
Larger businesses will begin exerting greater control over small businesses. If they are legally liable for the decisions of their smaller partners, they will have no choice but to demand a greater role in how those small businesses operate. Or they might stop doing business with local employers altogether. For many, the legal liability won’t be worth the trouble of franchising a business or working with a local subcontractor.
This is what we’ve learned in recent months from those directly affected by this unprecedented decision. They have shared how it will lead to higher costs for consumers and fewer jobs for workers, as well as threaten their livelihoods and the livelihoods of other small business owners. Ed Braddy, who owns a Burger King restaurant in Baltimore, warned this decision “will very likely cause me to go out of business.” He went on to say:
“I became a franchisee so that I could run my own business and help those in my community. The new joint employer standard will not only destroy that dream, but the dreams of other young men and women who hope to create a better future for themselves.”
I know there are some who would rather heed the advice of academics and so-called experts. But I think we should listen to Ed Braddy and others like him, because they are the ones who must face the costly consequences. And make no mistake, these men and women are urging us to stop the NLRB’s attack on their businesses and pass the Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act.
The bill simply says that a joint employer relationship exists only when multiple employers share actual, direct, and immediate control over employment decisions. This is the same standard that served workers and employers well for decades. If a franchisor or contractor has significant control over a small business, this bill allows the NLRB to hold them responsible. What the bill does not allow is for three partisan bureaucrats to disrupt the lives of countless small business owners and the millions of workers they employ.
We have spent years trying a top-down approach to the economy, and it isn’t working. Policies that place more faith and control in politicians and bureaucrats will not deliver the growth and prosperity our nation desperately needs. It’s likely we will discuss a number of those policies today, including ideas that would allow Washington to micromanage work shifts or make it easier for trial lawyers to harass employers. These are just new twists on the same flawed approach that continues to fail working families.
A better approach is getting Washington out of the way and letting small businesses do what they do best: creating jobs and opportunity for workers and their families. Let’s ensure policies are in place to protect workers, but do so in a way that allows America’s job creators to succeed. That is why I urge my colleagues to help roll back the NLRB’s misguided joint employer decision by supporting the Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act.
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The Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and the Workforce will meet for a hearing titled, “Maximizing Mentoring: How are the SBA and DoD Mentor-Protégé Programs Serving Small Businesses?” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Tuesday, October 27, 2015, in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
Mentor-Protégé programs are intended to partner small businesses with established mentors in order to improve the protégé’s ability to win and successfully perform on contracts and subcontracts. The hearing will examine: (1) how the Small Business Administration (SBA) is implementing changes made to its mentor-protégé and the mentor-protégé programs of civilian agencies by section 1347 of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, (Pub. Law No.111-240), and section 1641 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (Pub. Law No.112-239); (2) how the SBA and the Department of Defense (DoD) measure the effectiveness of mentor-protégé relationships; and (3) whether there are opportunities for increased collaboration between the SBA and DoD programs. The hearing will also review prior findings of the Government Accountability Office that encouraged post agreement tracking of mentor-protégé relationships.
Mr. Kenyatta Wesley
Acting Director, Office of Small Business Programs
United States Department of Defense
Mr. A. John Shoraka
Associate Administrator of Government Contracting and Business Development
Small Business Administration
View supporting documentation for performance indicators.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an off-the-floor markup on Tuesday, October 27, 2015, at 4:20 p.m. in the U.S. Capitol. The committee will consider Sarah Feinberg's nomination to be administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.
4:20 p.m. in the U.S. Capitol
Today, the House Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce met to examine the Mentor-Protégé programs administered by the Small Business Administration and the Department of Defense. Mentor-Protégé programs are designed to partner small businesses with established mentors in order to improve the protégé’s ability to win and successfully perform on contracts and subcontracts.
The President’s veto of the FY 16 National Defense Authorization Act has left the future of these small business programs in question. At the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Richard Hanna said:
“Given the President’s veto of the FY16 NDAA, the future of the DoD Mentor-Protégé is in limbo. Congress must act to reauthorize the program, and as we do so, I hope we’ll consider making the appropriate reforms. Likewise, as SBA moves to finalize its rules on the government wide and civilian agency specific mentor-protégé agreements, I hope it will do so thoughtfully. I hope we are all agreed that a mentor protégé program must successfully and demonstrably benefit protégé companies and taxpayers by ensuring that these small companies are better able to compete for contracts when they exit the program."
Rokita Statement: Hearing on “Improving Career and Technical Education to Help Students Succeed in the Workforce”
This new reality has been painfully evident in the wake of the recent recession. We are more than six years into the so-called recovery, yet millions of Americans continue to struggle with finding a good-paying job. Meanwhile, industries critical to our economy – health care, engineering, and manufacturing, for example – have jobs to fill and not enough qualified applicants to fill them; a problem we have come to know as “the skills gap.”
Recognizing the urgent need to close the gap and put Americans back to work, Republicans and Democrats came together last Congress to fix a broken and outdated job training system. The bipartisan, bicameral effort resulted in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a commonsense solution to modernize and improve the federal workforce development system. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will help workers attain skills for 21st century jobs and cultivate the modern workforce that evolving American businesses need.
But we still have more work to do. By reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, we have an opportunity to help more Americans – especially younger Americans – enter the workforce with the tools and knowledge necessary to compete for the high-skilled, in-demand jobs in our economy. Last reauthorized in 2006, the law provides federal support for state and local programs focused on preparing high school and community college students for technical careers.
Unfortunately, many of these career and technical education programs have not kept pace with the changing workforce. In a report released by the Council for Chief State School
Officers, education leaders explained, “Career education in too many of our secondary schools reflects an outdated model that tolerates low expectations and is often misaligned with the evolving needs of the current labor market.”
With more than 14 percent of young adults unemployed and the highest level of unfilled jobs since 2001, it’s no wonder states have started to take action. My home state of Indiana, for example, is partnering with local businesses to develop a new high school curriculum that better meets the needs of local communities and ensures students are prepared to enter high-skilled jobs right after earning their diploma. As Governor Mike Pence testified at a hearing earlier this year, “For those students who are not bound for the traditional four-year college, we must still ensure that they can thrive in future careers, and one way to do this is to again make career and technical education a priority.”
By working with the private sector to develop resources for successful career and technical education programs, Indiana has made incredible gains over the last two years: The state has helped thousands of hardworking Hoosiers join the workforce and attracted more good-paying jobs for people in our communities. It is our hope the success we’ve experienced in Indiana can be replicated across the country.
The goal at the federal level, and what we are here to discuss today, is to ensure our investment in these state and local efforts is paying off for the students we aim to serve. To help reach that goal, we should consider reforms that encourage states to align high school and postsecondary coursework with the needs of the workforce. This will require a look at existing federal requirements, many of which are duplicative and can hinder state and local efforts to develop and implement successful programs.
Helping Americans compete and succeed in today’s workforce remains one of the committee’s leading priorities, and today’s discussion is an important part of that effort. I look forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses as we work to improve the Perkins Act and strengthen support for young Americans as they enter the workforce.
Before I recognize Ranking Member Fudge, I would like to note that one of our witnesses today, Dr. Douglas Major, is a resident of Stillwater, Oklahoma. On Saturday, the people of Stillwater and the surrounding communities were celebrating Oklahoma State University’s homecoming, when a driver crashed into the homecoming parade. This terrible tragedy injured more than 40 individuals and killed four others.
Dr. Major, on behalf of the committee, I want to extend my deepest sympathies to you, the people of Stillwater, and the entire Oklahoma State University community. We pray for the recovery of those who remain hospitalized and in critical condition, and we lift up in our thoughts and prayers the victims and their families. Thank you for being with us today.