CINCINNATI—Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) kicked off National Small Business Week today with a full slate of visits to Cincinnati-area small businesses.
“Small business week is a great time to pay closer attention not only to the issues that face small businesses, but to the inspiration that keeps them going,” Chabot said as he toured businesses ranging from a heating and air company to a veterinarian’s office. Chabot told employees at JBM Packaging in Lebanon, Ohio: "As Chairman of the Small Business Committee, I’m working every day to find out how I can make life easier for you. Typically, it’s just getting Washington out of the way.”
Chabot, members of the Small Business Committee, and other members of Congress highlighting Small Business Week can be followed on the Small Business Committee’s Storify blog and on social media using the hashtag #SBW2015.
By Presidential Proclamation, Small Business Week is May 4-8, 2015.
The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), today held a hearing to learn about efforts to improve higher education access and completion for low-income and first-generation students. Members discussed possible reforms to existing federal programs and how efforts at the institutional level can positively affect educational outcomes for disadvantaged students.
“This is a very personal issue for me. As someone who grew up in extreme poverty, I know firsthand what it takes to earn a degree in difficult circumstances as well as what that degree means for one’s opportunity for advancement,” Chairwoman Foxx said. “For many students, however, the idea of graduating feels like a distant dream. Higher costs, a confusing financial aid system, and insufficient academic preparation disproportionately deter low-income and first-generation students from accessing and completing a higher education.”
Addressing the challenges facing these disadvantaged students “requires a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach and commitment from multiple players,” advised Laura Perna, Director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Annually, the federal government invests more than one billion dollars in access and completion programs for low-income and first-generation students. Perna continued, “to maximize the return on investment in [these] programs, we need to know more about what components and services work, for which groups of students, in which context.”
Associate Vice Provost for Student Diversity at the University of California, Los Angeles, Charles Alexander, who oversees the university’s Academic Advancement Program (AAP), discussed his efforts to improve educational outcomes, urging institutions to build community partnerships and share best practices. Largely because of AAP’s ongoing efforts, Alexander testified, “African Americans and Latinos graduate at the highest rate ever … many AAP graduates continue their education by going into Ph.D. programs or professional degree programs … and a large number of AAP graduates focus their work on serving the poor and under-served.”
Chancellor of the Dallas County Community Colleges District (DCCCD) Joe May agreed with witnesses. Institutions should pursue “partnerships with other community organizations that are supporting the needs of similar populations,” he said. For example, the DCCCD’s efforts to share best practices within a state-wide organization, Texas Completes, “have led to an increase of 42 percent in certificates and an increase of 33 percent in associate degrees” since 2010.
“We have a responsibility to students, families, and taxpayers to ensure all of our investments in higher education deliver the intended results,” Chairwoman Foxx concluded. “As we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, we want to … study the effectiveness of existing strategies so that more disadvantaged students can achieve the dream of a higher education.”
To learn more about the Education and the Workforce Committee’s efforts to strengthen higher education, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/highered/.
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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Foxx Statement: Hearing on “Improving College Access and Completion for Low-Income and First-Generation Students”
I’d like to thank our witnesses for joining us to discuss strategies for improving postsecondary access and completion for low-income and first-generation students. We appreciate the opportunity to learn from you as Congress works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
This is a very personal issue for me. As someone who grew up in extreme poverty, I know firsthand what it takes to earn a degree in difficult circumstances as well as what that degree means for one’s opportunity for advancement. Some of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an educator involved helping disadvantaged students overcome obstacles to reach their goals and achieve success.
The Education and the Workforce Committee has held more than a dozen hearings about how to strengthen America’s higher education system for all those who choose to pursue a degree or credential – regardless of age, background, or circumstances.
Research shows students who attain advanced levels of education are more likely to succeed in today’s economy. For example, students who earn an associate’s degree are expected to earn 27 percent more than their peers with a high school diploma over the course of a lifetime.
For many students, however, the idea of graduating feels like a distant dream. Higher costs, a confusing financial aid system, and insufficient academic preparation disproportionately deter low-income and first-generation students from accessing and completing a higher education.
Recognizing the challenges facing these students, the federal government invests in numerous programs geared toward identifying and supporting disadvantaged students and the institutions that serve them. In addition to providing students need-based financial assistance, such as Pell Grants, the federal government also provides early outreach and support services to help students progress from middle school through college.
Programs such as GEAR UP and Upward Bound receive more than one billion of taxpayer dollars to support tutoring, family financial counseling, internships, research opportunities, and other preparatory and motivational services – all with the goal of improving access for low-income and first-generation students.
And our efforts don’t stop there. Because improving the educational outcomes for disadvantaged students is an important priority, the federal government directly supports institutions that focus on serving underrepresented students in an effort to help them complete a higher education.
While these efforts are well intentioned, there is a growing concern they are not reaching their goals. For example, according to a study published earlier this year by one of our witnesses, Dr. Laura Perna, the percentage of low-income students who have attained a bachelor’s degree has increased by just 3 percent since 1970. By comparison, the percentage of the wealthiest students who attained a bachelor’s degree has increased by 40 percent.
In other words, despite the federal government’s growing investment in access and completion programs over the last five decades, graduation rates for the most disadvantaged students have barely budged.
We have a responsibility to students, families, and taxpayers to ensure all of our investments in higher education deliver the intended results. Understanding how to strengthen these efforts for low-income and first-generation students is why our witnesses are here today. As we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, we want to learn about your efforts to pioneer new strategies and study the effectiveness of existing strategies so that more disadvantaged students can achieve the dream of a higher education.
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WASHINGTON -- A U.S. senator who has been out front on the issue of shadowy money in politics today said he’s moving forward with legislation to prod a federal regulator to act.
In a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees the agency, said he would introdu...
Small Business Contracting Reforms Included in NDAA
WASHINGTON, DC – Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) today applauded the House Armed Services Committee for incorporating small business contracting reforms into H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 (NDAA).
Last month Chairman Chabot, along with several other Small Business Committee Members including Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-NV), testified before the Armed Services Committee in support of a number of contracting reforms aimed at increasing small business participation rates.
“I want to thank Chairman Thornberry for his tireless effort in assembling this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, and for including commonsense small business contracting reforms into the bill,” said Chairman Chabot. “We have a great working relationship with the Chairman and his staff, and I look forward to continue working with him to ensure our small business have the opportunity to compete for federal contracts, because when they do, it improves quality, reduces costs, and ensures we have a robust industrial base supporting our military.”
Versions of the following bills were included in the H.R. 1735:
The Armed Services Committee passed H.R. 1735 by a vote of 60-2. Further details of the bill can be found here.
Small Business Roundtable on Potential Joint Employer Standard
WASHINGTON - Today, Small Business Committee Members hosted industry representatives for a roundtable discussion on the impact that the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) potential new Joint Employer Standard would have on American workers and small businesses.
For the last 30 years, the NLRB has determined two businesses to be a joint employer if they share “direct and immediate control over employment matters.” But just last year, the NLRB General Counsel filed a brief in a pending case urging the Board to abandon this standard for a radically different approach.
“It is clear from the discussion this morning that a broader joint employer standard will have a chilling effect on small businesses,” said Chairman Hardy. “The NLRB’s actions could have devastating impacts on business-to-business relationships, which for many small firms are critical to their operation. It is already affecting decisions about whether to hire a new employee or open a new business, and if a new standard is adopted it will hit small businesses, particularly franchisees and contractors, the hardest. For a large firm, this new standard will impact how they do business. For a small guy, it will determine if they do business.”
“All small businesses are under attack with this rule,” said Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot. “In typical Washington fashion, the NLRB is creating a bureaucratic solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. I commend Chairman Hardy for his leadership on this issue and for his relentless energy in representing the workers and small businesses in Nevada and throughout our country.”
The Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), today held a hearing to discuss ways to further strengthen the multiemployer pension system. The hearing, entitled, “Examining Reforms to Modernize the Multiemployer Pension System," follows a bipartisan proposal enacted into law last year that includes policies to shore up the federal backstop for multiemployer plans and provide the trustees of these plans new tools to avoid insolvency.
“Today’s hearing represents the next step in a long process to strengthen the retirement security of America’s workers,” remarked Chairman Roe. “This effort began more than three years ago for a simple reason: A pension crisis threatened the well-being of countless workers, employers, and retirees, as well as American taxpayers ... Through our continued oversight, it has become abundantly clear that workers need new options to help plan for their retirement.”
“We need new tools in our toolbox to address the challenges which were not contemplated when multiemployer pension rules were initially put in place,” said Andrew Scoggin, Vice President of Albertson’s LLC. “Congress needs to equip employers and employees with the regulatory flexibility necessary to make changes to benefits programs that do not run afoul of beneficiaries, their employers, or the system as a whole.”
To help accomplish this goal, in 2013, the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP) released a proposal that would allow for the creation of so-called “composite” plans. These innovative plans would combine aspects of both defined benefit and defined contribution plans to deliver annuitized, lifetime income without the drawbacks associated with traditional multiemployer plans.
Randy DeFrehn, Executive Director of the NCCMP, described the composite plan model as the “next logical step in the evolution” of multiemployer plans. DeFrehn added, “The composite plan provides the best of both worlds. If enacted, the structure and safeguards will provide greater long-term retirement security by creating a path for contributing employers to remain in and new employers to enter the multiemployer system without presenting existential risks, while providing the greatest possible benefit for covered participants.”
Speaking in support of NCCMP’s proposal, Steve Sandherr of the Associated General Contractors of America testified, “We think Congress should allow collective bargaining parties or plan trustees the option to decide whether to adopt the composite plan model, which more equally distributes some of the risks associated with retirement plans so employers don’t have to shoulder the entire burden … the new plan design is essential to the shared goal of protecting both those who earn benefits and those employers that contribute retirement benefits to them.”
Mark McManus, General Secretary-Treasurer of United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, echoed this sentiment: “From the perspective of the United Association, the most important feature is that these plans provide for the accumulation of benefits and provide a life time benefit in a manner similar to traditional defined benefit plans.” McManus continued, “The opportunity for creative solutions to our retirement income dilemma is within our grasp. We strongly encourage Congress to take advantage of it …”
Chairman Roe and other members noted their intention to do just that. “It is easy to find areas of disagreement on this subcommittee,” concluded Chairman Roe, “especially as we address policies so central to the well-being of the American people. But I have always appreciated the bipartisan approach the committee has taken on this important issue, and I pledge to do my part to continue that tradition in the work that lies ahead.”
To learn more about today’s hearing, read witness testimony, or to watch an archived webcast, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov/hearings.
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The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene on April 29, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. for a hearing entitled, “Five Years After Deepwater Horizon: Improvements and Challenges in Prevention and Response.”
On April 20, 2010, an explosion occurred on the mobile offshore drilling unit Deepwater Horizon. Eleven men perished in the explosion. Two days later, the Deepwater Horizon collapsed and sank in approximately 5,000 feet of water, located 42 miles from shore. On April 29, 2010, the resulting oil spill was officially designated a “Spill of N...
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) today requested documents and other information from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), DISH Network and two affiliated companies related to bidding in the FCC’s recent Auction 97 for Advanced Wireless Services.
“The Committee has significant questions about whether conduct surrounding the bidding strategies employed by DISH Network and two affiliates adhered to both the letter and intent of the law, since it may ultimately cost th...
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will kick off Hack4Congress, a hackathon that brings together coders, designers, and innovators to develop platforms to better Congress through technology. Sen. Thune submitted three challenges that hackathon participants could tackle at the event, including an information-sharing platform for congressional hearings. Sen. Thune’s remarks will be webcast live t...
Patent Trolls: A Big Problem for Small Business
WASHINGTON, DC -- Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) today hosted entrepreneurs and industry representatives for a discussion on the impact that patent trolls and frivolous patent litigation have on small businesses and the American workforce.
Following the discussion, Chairman Chabot issued the following statement:
“Today, the message was loud and clear: patent trolls are a big issue for small business.
Patent trolls are increasingly targeting small business because they know small firms don’t have large legal departments to defend themselves. And it’s not just technology companies that are being targeted, it is any business that wants to operate in the modern economy. Retailers that want to conduct sales online, restaurants that want to offer their customers wi-fi, or any enterprise that sends an email with a hyperlink are potential targets.
We need a strong patent system, but we must not let common sense be lost in this debate. When a company can be forced into bankruptcy because it chooses to defend its innocence rather than give into these bad actors, something needs to change.
I’m glad that the House Committees on Judiciary and Energy and Commerce are actively crafting solutions to address this issue and I look forwarding to working with those involved to ensure that any solutions strongly protect American small businesses.”
Roe Statement: Hearing on "Protecting America’s Workers: An Enforcement Update from the Mine Safety and Health Administration"
Today’s hearing represents the next step in a long process to strengthen the retirement security of America’s workers by reforming the multiemployer pension system. This effort began more than three years ago for a simple reason: A pension crisis threatened the well-being of countless workers, employers, and retirees, as well as American taxpayers.
Without congressional action, this crisis would have forced businesses to close their doors and lay off workers, retirees would have had their benefits cut, if not wiped out entirely, and taxpayers would have been on the hook for a multi-billion dollar bailout of a bankrupt pension system. As a nation, and more specifically, as elected policymakers, we had a responsibility to act.
That is why this subcommittee convened numerous hearings and called more than a dozen witnesses – including employers, union leaders, administration officials, and retiree advocates – in order to thoroughly examine the challenges facing the system and discuss possible solutions.
As part of this effort, in the spring of 2014, Chairman Kline discussed four key principles necessary for any serious, responsible reform of the system. Those principles included protecting taxpayers, encouraging greater employer participation, and providing trustees new tools to restore troubled plans back to financial health.
At the time of the chairman’s remarks, only one proposal embodied all four principles, and that was the proposal crafted by the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans or NCCMP. A coalition of management and labor representatives organized by NCCMP spent months crafting a consensus proposal that would give trustees the best shot they had to save dying pension plans without a taxpayer bailout. No one else came forward with a credible plan to responsibly reform the system.
The NCCMP proposal became the framework for a bipartisan legislative solution the president signed into law last December. This new law extended funding rules put in place almost a decade ago, raised premiums to improve the financial outlook of the federal backstop for multiemployer pension plans, and allowed trustees to adjust benefits as a last resort to rescue a plan from insolvency.
This was not an easy thing to do, but doing nothing would have been far worse. Regardless of whether we did or didn’t act, retirees in badly failing plans were going to have their benefits cut. That’s the harsh reality we were forced to confront, and the choice we faced was to either watch the federal government inflict maximum pain on the maximum number of individuals, or provide more flexibility to save these plans and ensure retirees are better off.
George Miller, former congressman from California and senior Democrat of our committee, described these bipartisan reforms this way: “The approach we have put forward, which is backed by business and labor leaders, will secure the multiemployer pension systems for millions of current and future retirees.”
Congressman Miller urged his colleagues to “trust these workers enough to give them this opportunity and this responsibility to make these decisions about their retirement.” That is precisely what we did, and as difficult as it was, it was the right thing to do.
Now, it is time to complete this important effort. One principle I neglected to mention earlier in is the subject of today’s hearing: Modernizing the multiemployer pension system. Through our continued oversight, it has become abundantly clear that workers need new options to help plan for their retirement.
As part of its work, NCCMP devised a new “composite” pension plan design, combining aspects of both defined benefit and defined contribution plans. The goal of the proposal was to deliver annuitized, lifetime income without the drawbacks associated with traditional multiemployer defined benefit plans.
For example, many plans face unfunded liabilities that threaten the retirement security of their participants. Current rules discourages employers from agreeing to participate in the system and poses a financial burden for those who do. Finally, despite improvements resulting from the new law, the federal backstop for these plans continues to face fiscal challenges in meeting its modest benefit guarantees.
Our witnesses today will describe these and other shortcomings. They will also explain how the composite plan design could address these concerns while providing robust, well-funded retirement benefits for America’s working families.
I look forward to our discussion, and more importantly, to finishing this important effort. It is easy to find areas of disagreement on this subcommittee, especially as we address policies so central to the well-being of the American people. But I have always appreciated the bipartisan approach the committee has taken on this important issue, and I pledge to do my part to continue that tradition in the work that lies ahead.
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