Chabot, Connolly Introduce Bill to Help More Small Businesses Export
WASHINGTON – Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) have introduced H.R. 2586, the Export Coordination Act of 2015, a bill to improve the coordination of federal export promotion resources and to streamline the export process so that more small businesses can sell goods overseas.
“When it comes to exporting, most small businesses don’t know where to start,” said Chabot. “The process can be incredibly complex and the federal resources that are supposed to help them navigate the process are just as intimidating. The Export Coordination Act would streamline these resources and take steps to make the process easier for businesses.
Chabot added, “It is my hope that this bill – and other solutions that the Small Business Committee is currently working on – will open the door for more small businesses to sell their goods overseas, which ultimately provides more opportunities for working families.”
Congressman Connolly said, “The federal government stands ready to help small businesses access foreign markets and create jobs through exports. This bill will ensure that federal trade promotion agencies are reaching out to state and local partners and making access to these resources as straightforward as possible.”
U.S. exports support more than 38 million American jobs – including 1 in 3 manufacturing jobs. Despite the fact that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States, only 2 percent of all small businesses export their goods.
H.R. 2586 would require the United States Department of Commerce’s Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) to clearly define each federal agency’s role in the export process, establish a central listing of all trade events, give state trade agencies a voice in setting our national export strategy, and reduce overlap of current export resources.
U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 10:00 a.m., entitled, “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission.” As part of the Committee’s oversight responsibilities, the hearing will have a broad scope covering every aspect of the agency and major policy issues before the Commission.
“From video policy to spectrum, the FCC’s decisions have an enormous effect on the future of our technology economy,” said Thune. “This hearing presents an opportunity for committee members to raise issues with the agency’s top decision makers and evaluate the need for legislative initiatives.”
- The Honorable Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
- The Honorable Michael O’Rielly, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
- The Honorable Ajit Pai, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
- The Honorable Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Full Committee Hearing
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Full Committee hearing entitled “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission”
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 at 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.
A Victory for the Internet, Entrepreneurs and Consumers: Senate Passes Bill to Ban Internet Access Taxes
The NTSB announced today that it will be sending a team of investigators back to the site of the cargo ship El Faro to search again for the ship’s missing data recorder. The decision comes less than a month after U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee which oversees the NTSB, sent a letter to the head of the agency asking that it consider another search.
Sen. Nelson spoke about the agency’s decision on the Senate floor this afternoon. Here’s a link to watch video of his remarks: https://youtu.be/MkDhcfeOX-g
A copy of Nelson’s letter to the NTSB is available here.
Below is a transcript of Nelson’s remarks on the Senate floor, followed by a copy of the NTSB’s announcement:
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor
February 11, 2016
Sen. Nelson: Late last year, a cargo ship carrying 33 men and women left Florida, the Port of Jacksonville, en route to Puerto Rico. It was a cargo container ship. It typically sailed back and forth carrying cargo to and from San Juan, Puerto Rico. But this time it sailed directly into the path of a hurricane.
Two days later, the crew sent what would be its final communication, reporting that the ship's engines were disabled and the vessel was left drifted and tilting, with no power, and it was straight in the path of the storm.
Subsequent to that, despite an exhaustive search-and-rescue attempt by the Coast Guard in the days that followed, the El Faro and her crew were never heard from again. Only in one case, in desperately trying to do a search-and-rescue mission, did they find one decomposed body in a bodysuit, but could not find anybody else.
Since then, the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency charged with investigating the incident, has been working tirelessly to understand what happened. Why would the ship leave port when they knew that there was a storm brewing and it was going to cross the path of where the ship was supposed to go?
So, working with U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard, the investigators eventually found the ship's wreckage scattered at the bottom of the ocean east of the Bahama Islands in waters 15,000 feet deep. But what they didn't find that day was the ship’s voyage data recorder, or what we typically refer to as the ship’s black box, not unlike the black box that we look for in the case of an aircraft incident that records all of the data.
This voyage data recorder, it's a key piece to understanding since we have no survivors, it's a key piece to getting the information to understand this puzzle of why that ship would sail right into the hurricane. It records and it stores all of the ship's communications. And so finding it would shed light on what really happened onboard in those final hours.
Despite the search team’s exhaustive efforts to locate the data recorder amongst the scattered wreckage, they couldn't find it and eventually they had to call the search off.
Well, earlier this year, this senator wrote to the chairman of the NTSB and urged him to go back again, search again because finding the ship's data recorder is just too important for us to understand how these 33 human beings that have families back at home, how they were lost.
Well, Mr. President, I’m here to record that at this very minute, the NTSB is announcing that they're going back to do the search again. The NTSB is saying at this moment that it will resume the ship's search for the ship's black box, this time with the help of even more sophisticated equipment to help investigators pinpoint the approximate location of the recorder and hopefully if it's not among the wreckage of the ship, to pinpoint its location and pick it up off the ocean floor.
Mr. President, the NTSB ‘s decision today, which I commend and I thank the chairman for continuing to keep after this, their decision today to search again for the data recorder, it's a critical step in our understanding of what went so tragically wrong that day. We owe it not only to the families of the lost mariners aboard the El Faro but to the future safety of all those who travel on the high seas.
And, Mr. President, it's up to us to not only understand what happened but to do what we can to ensure that it doesn't happen in the future.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
NTSB to Launch Second Search Mission to El Faro
February 11, 2016
WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board announced Thursday that it would launch a second expedition to search for evidence in its investigation of the loss of the cargo ship El Faro, which sank in the Atlantic during a hurricane on October 1, 2015.
A key objective of the upcoming mission, which is expected to begin in April and last about two weeks, is to locate the voyage data recorder (VDR) and to provide investigators with a more extensive and detailed survey of the shipwreck. The exact launch date will be announced later.
“The voyage data recorder may hold vital information about the challenges encountered by the crew in trying to save the ship,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “Getting that information could be very helpful to our investigation.”
The 790-foot ship was located in about 15,000 feet of water near the Bahamas on October 31. Over the next few weeks the ship and the debris field were documented with a video camera mounted on a remotely operated vehicle.
Video revealed that the navigation bridge structure and the deck below it had separated from the ship. The missing structure included the mast and its base where the VDR was mounted. Neither the mast nor the VDR was found in the vicinity of the navigation bridge structure. The initial search mission was completed on November 15.
After reviewing the data and video from the initial search, investigators shared findings with NTSB senior leadership who determined that a return mission to El Faro was warranted.
A search area of approximately 35 square kilometers (13.5 square miles) will be photo- and video-documented by Sentry, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that will be launched from the research vessel Atlantis, which is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Sentry can work at depths of nearly 20,000 feet and can be equipped with a wide array of sonar, camera and other sensors.
A VDR of the type that was mounted on El Faro is capable of recording conversations and sounds on the navigation bridge, which could provide investigators with important evidence as they seek to understand the sequence of events that led to the sinking. In addition, investigators hope to obtain high quality images of the bridge, debris field, and hull.
If the VDR is located, another mission using a remotely operated vehicle capable of recovering the recorder will be initiated.
Sentry was developed with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and designed and built at WHOI. It is operated through the National Deep Submergence Facility (NDSF), a center funded by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and managed by WHOI. The NDSF operates, maintains, and coordinates the use of deep ocean research vehicles in coordination with the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), an organization of academic institutions and national laboratories involved in marine research.
The NTSB Office of Public Affairs (202-314-6100) will release all information about the search for the VDR and its investigation into the loss of El Faro.
Information about the research vessel Atlantis is available at http://www.whoi.edu/main/ships/atlantis. Information about the AUV Sentry is available at http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=38095. Questions about the search equipment specifications and capabilities can be directed to WHOI Media Relations, (508-289-3340).
Committee on Small Business “Export Control Reform: Challenges for Small Business? (Part II)” Thursday, February 11, 2016 10:00 A.M. 2360 Rayburn House Office Building
The Honorable Kevin J. Wolf
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration
Bureau of Industry and Security
United States Department of Commerce
The Honorable Brian Nilsson
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Trade Controls
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
United States Department of State
|98 percent of U.S. Goods-Exporting Firms are Small Businesses
WASHINGTON – Members of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business pressed officials from the Departments of State and Commerce today about the challenges small firms are facing in navigating the Obama Administration’s Export Control Reform Initiative (ECRI). Today’s hearing was the second in a two-part series where Administration officials were asked to respond to problems identified by small business owners on yesterday’s panel.
“I believe there is a certain level of responsibility on the government to ensure that this transition doesn’t overburden small businesses and I am concerned with their lackluster outreach efforts,” said Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “Additionally, we have heard that the export control lists aren’t completely synchronized and that’s creating some confusion. There are also valid concerns about the long delays in the agencies’ licensing approval processes and the cumbersome paperwork requirements. So, clearly, much work still remains to be done.”
Small businesses represent 98 percent of U.S. goods-exporting firms, making them an essential part of trade policy.
The Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations hearing titled, “Oversight of the Office of Advocacy and the Office of the National Ombudsman at the SBA,” originally scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 is rescheduled for 1:00 P.M. on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The Hon. Darryl L. DePriest
Chief Counsel for Advocacy
United States Small Business Administration
Rear Admiral Earl L. Gay, USN (Ret.)
Small Business and Agriculture Regulatory Enforcement Ombudsman
United States Small Business Administration
WASHINGTON - In a letter sent today to the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, is asking the agency to immediately halt the continued manufacture and sale of defective Takata ammonium nitrate airbag inflators, while also prodding it to look into the feasibility of recalling all vehicles with Takata ammonium nitrate-based inflators.
Nelson’s request comes on the heel of additional recall announcements in the last week by Honda, Ford, BMW, Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG due to defective Takata airbag inflators. Many of these recent recalls have involved late model vehicles that have not been subject to high humidity or aging, and calls into question the safety of any Takata ammonium nitrate-based inflators. All told, some 28 million inflators in 24 million vehicles have now been recalled in the U.S. because of the problem.
In addition to requesting an accelerated phase out of non-desiccated ammonium nitrate inflators, Nelson called on NHTSA to begin a phase out of desiccated ammonium nitrate inflators. The lawmaker also urged the agency to do more to maximize the production and distribution of additional non-ammonium nitrate-based replacement inflators, especially in areas with high heat and humidity like Florida.
“The countless incidents of rupturing inflators, as well as recent piecemeal recalls involving relatively new vehicles with these types of inflators, raise serious questions as to whether Takata’s ammonium nitrate propellant is inherently dangerous,” Nelson wrote. “This is especially concerning because at least some of the replacement inflators used in current recalls still contain Takata’s ammonium nitrate propellant.”
Under an order NHTSA has with Takata, the company can continue to supply inflators containing non-desiccated ammonium nitrate under existing contracts until December 31, 2018. Takata can also continue to supply inflators containing desiccated ammonium nitrate, which absorbs moisture, under existing contracts indefinitely.
Below is the text of Nelson’s letter. To view a pdf of the letter click here.
The Honorable Mark Rosekind
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Administrator Rosekind:
I write to follow-up on our phone conversation of February 4, 2016, regarding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) decision to allow the continued production and use of Takata airbag inflators containing ammonium nitrate, as well as the role of NHTSA in managing the overall Takata recall crisis.
As you know, I have been deeply involved in the oversight of your agency with regard to the massive recall of Takata airbags, which now affects approximately 24 million vehicles in the U.S. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, not only have I directly inquired on the status and efficacy of the ongoing recall, but my Committee staff produced a report titled “Danger Behind the Wheel: The Takata Airbag Crisis and How to Fix Our Broken Auto Recall Process,” which highlighted a number of serious safety and quality lapses within Takata that occurred years before vehicles were first recalled.
Based on that report, as well as a number of recent media stories questioning the safety of all Takata ammonium nitrate-based airbag inflators, I am very concerned about the continued production and use of Takata airbags that contain ammonium nitrate-based inflators. The countless incidents of rupturing inflators, including recent events and recalls involving relatively new vehicles with these types of inflators, raise serious questions as to whether Takata’s ammonium nitrate propellant is inherently dangerous. In fact, your own Consent Order tacitly acknowledges this fundamental danger by prohibiting Takata from entering into any new supply contracts for airbags that contain ammonium nitrate-based inflators.
The Consent Order, however, explicitly allows for the continued production and sale of airbags that contain ammonium nitrate-based inflators pursuant to existing contracts between Takata and automakers. Specifically, Takata may continue to supply inflators containing non-desiccated ammonium nitrate under existing contracts until December 31, 2018. Takata may also continue to supply inflators containing desiccated ammonium nitrate under existing contracts indefinitely.
Consequently, this grandfathering appears to essentially bless the ongoing production, distribution, and installation of ammonium nitrate-based inflators in countless new vehicles for years to come. Furthermore, because the length of these existing contracts is unclear, so too is the universe of new vehicles that will be sold with potentially lethal ammonium nitrate-based inflators.
Given the danger these products pose to the American driving public, I ask that you provide me with a detailed accounting of the universe of ammonium nitrate-based inflators that could be supplied under Takata’s existing contracts with automakers. Furthermore, I urge to you immediately consider exercising NHTSA’s authority under the Consent Order to accelerate the phase-out schedule for non-desiccated ammonium nitrate inflators and to create a phase-out schedule for desiccated ammonium nitrate inflators.
Additionally, NHTSA has yet to issue a recall for all vehicles with ammonium nitrate-based inflators. Given recent reports of a new batch of defective and dangerous Takata airbags in certain Volkswagen and Honda models, including rupturing airbags in relatively new vehicles, I am concerned that the current approach may be needlessly incremental and fail to adequately protect public safety. Thus, I urge you to look into the possibility of expanding the scope of the current recall to include all Takata ammonium nitrate-based airbag inflators. Please provide me with a detailed assessment of the feasibility of doing so, including an analysis of the effect such an expansion would have on the current prioritization recall schedule, including its impact on the availability of safe replacement parts for vehicles in high absolute humidity states such as Florida.
The overall piecemeal approach to the Takata recall appears to be confusing many consumers who are wondering whether their vehicles contain a potentially unsafe Takata ammonium nitrate-based inflator but have not yet been recalled. In addition, this approach has the potential to impair NHTSA’s ability under section 30120 (c)(3) of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards Act to coordinate and maximize production of additional non-ammonium nitrate-based replacement inflators. Accordingly, I urge you to redouble your efforts to do everything possible under your authorities to eliminate this confusion and take additional steps to ensure faster consumer notification and safe remedies.
Thank you for the steps your agency has taken to address this safety crisis and protect the American public. I look forward to your prompt response.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, filed legislation today giving the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the power to ban bulk shipments of potentially deadly lithium-ion batteries from passenger airliners.
Specifically, Nelson’s bill would repeal a ban Congress enacted in 2012 prohibiting the FAA from imposing restrictions on transporting lithium-ion batteries that exceed those recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The legislation also creates a task force comprised of the Department of Transportation, Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to promote research and new standards for the safe manufacture, use, or transportation of lithium-based batteries. Nelson said he hopes to include the measure in the FAA reauthorization bill.
Nelson filed the bill on the same day the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is holding a hearing on its proposal to authorize funding for the FAA. Banning cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries, along with taking air traffic control operations away from the FAA, are among several contentious issues facing lawmakers as deliberations begin in both chambers to reauthorize the agency. The current version of the House bill keeps intact the prohibition on any additional FAA lithium-ion battery regulations.
“If FAA testing has found that fires or explosions caused by lithium-ion batteries can lead to a catastrophic loss of an airplane, then why on earth would anyone want to prohibit safety regulators from banning large shipments of these batteries on passenger airliners,” said Nelson.
The lawmaker’s legislation also comes on the heels of new warnings about the potential risk of bulk lithium-ion battery shipments from key federal safety regulators. Yesterday, the FAA issued a safety alert urging U.S. and foreign passenger and cargo airlines to conduct a safety risk assessment of transporting lithium batteries. In December, Nelson sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta asking the agency to take additional steps to mitigate the risk posed by lithium-ion batteries carried on U.S. commercial aircraft. In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board separately issued two new urgent safety recommendations regarding the transport of certain bulk lithium-ion batteries.
Last month, the ICAO’s air navigation commission recommended a ban on cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger aircraft. The full ICAO council is slated to take up the ban later this month. In contrast, the ICAO’s dangerous goods panel voted 11-7 last November to reject such a ban.
According to the FAA, there have been 171 recorded incidents involving smoke, fire, extreme heat or explosion from batteries carried as cargo or baggage that have been recorded since 1991. One incident not on the FAA’s list is the tragic 2010 fire and crash of UPS Flight 6 in Dubai. The jet reportedly was carrying a significant number of lithium batteries in its cargo hold, leading authorities to seek restrictions on bulk transport of lithium batteries capable of bringing down a plane.
Rokita Statement: Hearing on "Next Steps for K-12 Education: Implementing the Promise to Restore State and Local Control"
That’s why the Wall Street Journal editorial board described the legislation as “the largest devolution of power to the states in a quarter century” and why the National Governors Association lauded the new law as “an historic moment in ensuring children’s future success in the nation’s schools.”
There is no question that replacing No Child Left Behind was an important achievement, one that will improve K-12 education for students and families. But our work is far from finished. In fact, it is just beginning. Over the last several years, this administration has routinely taken a top-down approach to education, imposing on states and school districts a backdoor agenda that has sparked bipartisan opposition and harmed education reform efforts.
The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act puts states and school districts back in charge of education, and includes more than 50 pages of provisions to keep the Department of Education in check. For example, the law protects the right of state and local leaders to determine what standards, assessments, and curriculum are best for their students, and ensures state and local leaders are responsible for accountability and school improvement.
Moving forward, it’s our collective responsibility to hold the Department of Education accountable for how it implements the law. Congress promised to restore state and local control over K-12 education, and now it’s our job to ensure that promise is kept. Hearing from you – the very leaders we want to empower – is a critical part of that effort. What do you expect from the new law? What role do state and local leaders play in implementing the law? What challenges do you anticipate states and school districts may face? How can the department provide the increased flexibility and autonomy state and local leaders were promised?
Today’s conversation is one of many steps we plan to take to ensure the department upholds the letter and spirit of the law, and answers to these questions will inform our efforts moving forward. It is my firm belief that when the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented as Congress intended, parents, teachers, and state and local leaders will be empowered to deliver the excellent education every child deserves.
Ms. Andrea Appell
Director BPE Global
San Francisco, CA
Ms. Jennifer Robertson Ahrens
Robertson Forwarding Company
Greg Quarles, PhD
The Optical Society
Regulation Nation: Officials Talk Reducing Red Tape for Small Businesses at House Hearing
WASHINGTON – Today the Chief Counsel for Advocacy and the National Ombudsman from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) described to a panel of lawmakers the challenges posed by new federal regulations and enforcement actions reported to them by small firms. The hearing is the latest part of the Committee’s ongoing efforts to make the SBA work better for small businesses and reduce red tape for America’s entrepreneurs.
“Too often small businesses tell us that the federal government ignores their concerns about new regulations and treats them unfairly. At a hearing in my district this past November, I heard how red tape is making it more difficult for small firms, especially in rural areas, to operate,” said Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight, and Regulations Chairman Cresent Hardy (R-NV). “Small businesses are even more worried about a flood of new mandates gushing out of Washington, DC in the final year of the Obama Administration.”
“Last year, the Administration finalized rules totaling $99 billion in costs, and many of those rules – like EPA’s waters of the United States rule – inflict significant burdens on small businesses. This year could be even worse as federal agencies plan to finalize rules like the DOL’s overtime rule that impose major costs on small businesses and will hurt their employees.” Hardy added.
President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Proposes Major Investments Including the Purchase of IRS Annex Building in Austin, Texas
In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) proposes a revision to an employer form to include collecting pay data from employers. The current Employer Information Report (EEO-1) collects data about employees' ethnicity, race, and sex, by job category for employers with 100 or more employees, or federal contractors with 50 or more employees and a federal contract of $50,000 or more.