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Federal Court in NY Cites Obstacle Preemption in Dismissing State-Law Fraud Suit Against Organic Producer

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 12:50pm
Featured Expert Contributor — Civil Justice/Class Actions Frank Cruz-Alvarez, a Partner in the Miami, FL office of  Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. with Ravika Rameshwar, an Associate with the firm. On August 23. 2016, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed a class-action suit that alleged the makers of Similac® […]
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House Passes Committee-Led Small Business Cybersecurity Bill

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 12:00am

Bipartisan Measure Helps Protects Small Biz from Online Hackers

WASHINGTON – House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) today applauded House passage of H.R. 5064, the Improving Small Business Cyber Security Act of 2016, bipartisan legislation which gives small businesses access to additional tools, resources and expertise to help protect their sensitive electronic data from cyber-threats.

“American small businesses are under cyberattack like never before,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “Small businesses employ about half of the private sector workforce and generate 54% of annual sales in our economy. We need to be doing all we can to help protect these job creators and their customers against the great and growing array of cyber-threats they face on a daily basis. This bipartisan, common sense legislation will help small businesses access the tools they need to protect themselves from cyberattacks in this dangerous new digital landscape.”

Improving cybersecurity for America’s 28 million small businesses has been a top priority for the House Small Business Committee throughout the 114th Congress. Over the past year, small business owners who have been the victims of cyberattacks have shared their harrowing personal stories with Committee members.

“I logged into our bank accounts, and to my utter horror, I found that my balance was zero,” said Rick Snow, a small business owner from Maine who testified before the Committee earlier this year. “This was a pay day, and I was terrified that the paychecks that were issued that day would not clear. We were supporting a number of families, many of which live paycheck-to-paycheck and could not have made it without the paycheck we issued them that day.”

“I was also very worried about our business’ reputation since a restaurant nearby had just bounced their paychecks and the company never recovered from the bad publicity they received from not making their payroll,” Snow added.

The legislation was introduced by Subcommittee on Contracting and the Workforce Chairman Richard Hanna (R-NY). Full Committee Chairman Chabot and Ranking Member Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) were original co-sponsors of the legislation, which now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

BACKGROUND

  • According to a report from Verizon Enterprises, 71 percent of cyber-attacks occurred in businesses with fewer than 100 employees in 2012.
  • As The Hartford Courant reported last week: “The National Small Business Association, in its year-end 2015 report, found that 42 percent of small businesses surveyed reported they were victims of a cyber attack, costing them on average $7,115. For firms whose bank accounts were hacked, that number was higher at $32,020, up from $19,948 in 2014. Sixteen percent of respondents said it took longer than two weeks to restore their data.”
  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are non-federal resource partners that operate in a cooperative agreement with the Small Business Administration (SBA).
  • The SBDC program is the largest small businesses assistance program in terms of facilities and outreach with nearly 1,000 SBDCs around the country. The assistance offered by SBDCs is provided at no or low cost to small businesses and enables aspiring entrepreneurs and existing businesses to take advantage of skills and expertise from partner agencies and institutions.
  • The House Small Business Committee hearings in April 2016 and July 2016 featured testimony from cybersecurity experts and small business owners about the threat

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Roe Statement: Hearing on “Discussion Draft to Modernize Multiemployer Pensions”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 09/22/2016 - 12:00am
We are here to discuss an issue that is vitally important to Americans from all walks of life: retirement security. This is a leading priority for millions of hardworking men and women, and that is why it’s a leading priority for Republicans and Democrats alike.

Strengthening retirement security has always been a difficult challenge with no easy answers. It’s one that demands thoughtful dialogue, bipartisan cooperation, and meaningful reforms. That’s exactly what our committee has been engaged in for several years now.

Since 2012, the committee has focused on examining and advancing bipartisan reforms to the multiemployer pension system. Over 10 million Americans rely on multiemployer pension plans. Unfortunately, many plans are severely underfunded due to an aging population, a weak economy, and fewer participating employers. To make matters worse, the federal agency insuring those plans—the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or PBGC—is also headed for insolvency. As a result, workers, retirees, businesses, and taxpayers are at risk.

Fortunately, Congress has already taken action to help address this crisis. With the support of employers and labor leaders, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law important reforms to improve PBGC’s long-term stability, provide trustees with the tools they need to rescue failing plans, and prevent retirees from losing everything. These reforms represent significant progress, but there’s more work to be done.

Our focus now turns toward modernizing the multiemployer pension system for today’s workers and tomorrow’s retirees. A lot has changed since multiemployer pensions were developed decades ago. As union leaders, employers, and retiree and taxpayer advocates have expressed for years—it’s long past time to bring the system into the 21st century.

So, what does a modern multiemployer pension system look like? I hope we can dive deeper into this important question today. Before we begin, I’d like to explain a few guiding principles.

First and foremost, our goal is to strengthen retirement security. America’s workers deserve better than retirement plans based on empty promises and designed for yesterday’s workforce. In the 21st century, workers should have more retirement plan options that meet their needs.

While we take steps to modernize the system for the future, we must also protect workers and retirees in traditional multiemployer pension plans. We will continue to do everything possible to ensure those who have spent their lifetimes working hard and providing for their families can spend their retirement years with security and peace of mind. That means employers—even those who transition to modern retirement plans—should be required to sufficiently fund existing multiemployer pension commitments.

Second, a modern multiemployer pension system will improve the competitiveness of America’s businesses. In the 21st century, employers shouldn’t have to choose between growing their businesses or offering their employees secure and stable benefits. More flexibility through alternative plan options will empower employers to expand their businesses and create good-paying jobs—all while contributing toward their employees’ retirement.

Finally, we need to deliver greater protection for taxpayers. Unlike traditional defined benefit plans, these new multiemployer pension plans should not be covered by the PBGC. The last thing we need to do is to add more financial strain on an agency projected to go bankrupt in less than 10 years. And the last thing taxpayers need is to foot the bill for a multi-billion dollar bailout.

These are the overarching principles behind the discussion draft Chairman Kline recently released. His proposal would provide workers and employers a new retirement plan option known as “composite plans,” which combine the flexibility of 401(k)-style defined contribution plans with the lifetime income provided by defined benefit pension plans.

The draft proposal reflects input from employers, labor leaders, and retiree and taxpayer advocates. Still, we need more feedback. As its title suggests, this is a draft meant to spur a conversation. So, we want to hear from all of you and the broader public. How can we make this proposal best serve the interests of workers and employers?

We also welcome your views and ideas on reforms to improve PBGC’s fiscal health. Although we took steps to address PBGC’s shortfalls in 2014, more work is desperately needed, including further premium increases. The stakes couldn’t be higher: people’s retirement benefits—their livelihoods, their futures—are in jeopardy, and kicking the can down the road will only make the problem worse and unfairly threaten taxpayers with a bill they can’t afford.

We don’t always agree on everything. But I appreciate the bipartisan work this committee has done over the years to strengthen retirement security and tackle the challenges facing the multiemployer pension system. I hope we can continue what we started by advancing further reforms and modernizing the system for today’s workers and future generations. 

Federal Court Deems “Identifiable Trifle” to Be Sufficient Harm for Environmental Citizen-Suit Standing

WLF Legal Pulse - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 4:29pm
Featured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy By Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP with Katharine Falahee Newman, Sidley Austin LLP In late August, the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois held that the owner and operator of a coal-fired power plant was liable for violations of the Clean Air […]
Categories: Latest News

Ranking Member Bill Nelson

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. While we will consider a number of bipartisan bills today, I want to take a few moments to talk about the NASA authorization bill that's now before us.

Last week marked the 55th anniversary of President Kennedy’s challenge to send a man to the Moon by the end of the decade. The NASA bill we will be marking up today keeps us moving toward a new, and perhaps even more ambitious goal: to send humans to Mars.

NASA has made tremendous progress since Senator Hutchison and I joined with others on this committee to pass the bi-partisan NASA authorization in 2010.

We’ve seen successful engine and booster test firings and now full on construction of the Space Launch System (SLS), which will be the most powerful rocket ever made.

Orion, the next generation deep space capsule, had a successful test flight in 2014 and is now at Kennedy Space Center where workers are testing it for a launch on the SLS in 2018.

And, thanks to NASA’s collaboration with Boeing and SpaceX, we will soon once again have American rockets carrying our American astronauts to the International Space Station from American soil. 

This bill keeps those missions moving forward, and authorizes all of NASA’s important endeavors in science, aeronautics, exploration, space technology, and education to continue through 2017.

I am pleased that this bill reaffirms that NASA is a multi-mission agency. But I certainly share the desire of many of the members on this committee to see more funding for science, aeronautics, and space technology.

Despite all of the progress NASA has made over the last several years, there is no denying the fact that we are still far short of the funding trajectory that was approved by this chamber all the way back in the 2010 authorization. 

In 2013, the meat cleaver of sequestration slashed all the agency programs, taking around $1 billion from the agency’s top line and we have never fully recovered.

This senator’s intention is to work with our appropriators to get the best possible outcome we can for NASA in 2017, and to work next year on a comprehensive, multi-year NASA authorization bill. 

I would like to thank committee members for all their hard work in getting this bill to this point. I urge you to support this important legislation.

Commerce Announces Second FTC Oversight Hearing on September 27

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance & Data Security, will convene a hearing on Tuesday, September 27, 2016,* at 2:00 p.m. entitled, “Oversight of the Federal Trade Commission: Perspectives From Beyond the Commission.”

Commerce Approves NASA Transition Act, BOTS Act, and 3 Other Bills

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved five bills, including the NASA Transition Authorization Act which advances deep space exploration, the journey to Mars and the International Space Station for fiscal year 2017.

<p>"Good morning. Thanks to everyone

"Good morning. Thanks to everyone for being here today.

"While we await our quorum, I would note that we will be considering five measures today on a variety of subjects from NASA to ticket BOTS. This agenda is another great example of this Committee working together, in a bipartisan manner, to move important legislation forward.


"I am proud of the work this Committee has done this Congress and I want to thank each Member and their staff for their contributions.


"Our Committee should be proud of the work we have done. From enactment of the FAST Act, the first long term surface transportation reauthorization in over a decade, last year or the FAA reauthorization this year, which not only included numerous passenger friendly provisions, but advanced a number of important aviation security measures.


"The Committee also should be proud of enacting not one, but two, Coast Guard reauthorizations; a Commerical Space bill; the Child Nictonine Posining Prevention Act; and dozens of other important measures too numerous to list today.


"Even with this Committee’s great efforts, I know there are a number of items that still need to get to the President’s desk this year, including the MOBILE NOW Act, the Seasonal Forecasting Improvement Act, the American Innovation and Comptetitiveness Act, and possibly even some of the items we have on the agenda today, including our first item, the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016.


"The bill addresses concerns related to potential instability at NASA during a presidential transition and provides direction to continue to pursue current national commitments and investments for NASA’s space program.


"I applaud the bipartisan effort of the bill’s sponsors, and I am please to be a cosponor.


"We will also be considering the Better Online Ticket Sales Act of 2016 – or BOTS Act, sponsored by Senators Moran, Blumenthal, Fischer, Schumer, Nelson, and Klobuchar.


"The BOTS Act will ensure that all consumers have a fair shot at seeing their favorite act or team live without having to pay exorbitant prices to do so.


"As I mentioned at last week’s subcommittee hearing on this bill, as an avid live music and sports fan, I certainly appreciate the frustration many Americans face with limited ticket availability and high ticket prices when their favorite artists come to town.


"We will also be considering S. 3097, a bill introduced by Senators Schatz and Heller that would authorize the SelectUSA program at the Department of Commerce.


"I will be offering an amendment to this bill that responds to the luxury travel improprieties and questionable office renovation expenditures at taxpayer expense of the recently resigned Under Secretary for International Trade, Stefan Selig.


"The Inspector General at the Department of Commerce recently uncovered the outrageous expenditure of taxpayer dollars by Mr. Selig, which prompted a report in the Washington Post headlined “Globetrotting Obama official traveled in luxury. Taxpayers footed the bill.”


"My amendment simply takes the recommendations made in the Inspector General’s report and requires the Secretary of Commerce to implement these recommendations quickly in order to deter future abuses of taxpayer dollars by politically appointed officials at the Department of Commerce.


"The final two items on today’s agenda are bills that were both recently approved by the House to promote women in science.


"H.R. 4755, the INSPIRE Act, would direct NASA to leverage and improve programs that encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to pursue careers in aerospace.


"H.R. 4742, the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, authorizes the National Science Foundation to pursue programs that better support women who are commercializing ideas, starting small businesses, and creating jobs.


"Both bipartisan bills saw near-unanimous approval in the House and I look forward to their speedy consideration here in the Senate.


"Before I turn to Senator Nelson for any opening remarks he has, I wanted to say a word about a measure that is not on the agenda today, the Safeguarding American Families from Exposure by Keeping Information and Data Secure Act – or SAFE KIDS Act.


"This measure, championed by Senators Daines and Blumenthal, seeks to protect the privacy and security of information pertaining to students and their families.


"While this Committee strongly supports the goal of protecting student safety and privacy, and Senators Daines and Blumenthal have worked diligently to address concerns of stakeholders and others, at this point a handful of concerns still remain.


"I appreciate the sponsors’ willingness to continue to work to address these remaining issues as we move forward, and once addressed, I am hopeful that the Committee can consider the measure at a future markup.


"With that, I will turn to Senator Nelson for any opening remarks he would like to make."

Rokita Statement: Hearing on “Supplanting the Law and Local Education Authority Through Regulatory Fiat"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 09/21/2016 - 10:00am
When the committee last met to discuss the Every Student Succeeds Act, we heard concerns from state and local education leaders that the administration is not implementing the law in a way that respects its letter and intent. Since that time, the Department of Education has released a regulatory proposal so unprecedented—and so unlawful—that it demands its own examination.

The proposal I’m referring to is the department’s proposed “supplement, not supplant” regulation. This proposal changes the long-standing policy that federal funds supplement—rather than supplant—state and local resources. For years, the rule was applied differently depending on how many low-income students a school served. As a result, schools faced different requirements—some more onerous than others. That changed with the Every Student Succeeds Act—legislation that was passed with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Now, according to the law, the rule should be enforced equally across all schools. Districts only have to show that funds are distributed in a way that doesn’t take into account federal resources, and Congress deliberately chose not to prescribe a specific approach or outcome. The law also clearly prohibits the secretary of education from interfering in the process. However, that is exactly what this proposed rule would do, and the consequences will be significant.

As Chairman Kline explained when the regulation was proposed, it threatens to impose a multi-billion dollar regulatory tax on schools across the country. To comply with the policy, many school districts will have no choice but to change their hiring practices and relocate their teachers. Other communities may have to raise taxes because they simply don’t have the resources to meet this new burden. Some districts may have to do both.

Regardless of how a district must cope with the new regulation, the bottom line is that schools will be forced to make decisions based on getting the numbers to work—not on what’s best for their students—and the federal government will have unprecedented control over local education funding.

The department has said that its proposal will provide schools “flexibility,” but it really just dictates a short list of bad options. And, at the end of the day, it will be America’s poorest neighborhoods that are impacted most. That is the last thing Congress intended when it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act.

In fact, Congress considered similar reforms during debate of the legislation that focused on a separate provision, comparability. Instead, Congress specifically chose not to touch that provision and flat out rejected adopting a policy like the one the department is now trying to impose.

The department insists their “supplement, not supplant” proposal is not related to comparability, but even the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has explained how this proposal is essentially an indirect way to amend the comparability provision. In short, this regulatory scheme is an attempt to accomplish something Congress specifically chose not to do. And anyone who was involved in passing the Every Student Succeeds Act knows that—whether they are willing to say so or not.

Still, even if the department were confused about the intent of the law, nothing excuses the fact that what it is proposing is simply unlawful. Again—as you can see in this language taken directly from the law—the Every Student Succeeds Act specifically prohibits the secretary from “prescribing the specific methodology a local education agency uses to allocate state and local funds to each school receiving assistance.” The department claims that is not what they’re doing, but with its limited list of options, it’s clear that is exactly what is happening. That’s why we have called on the department to throw this punitive policy out and to implement the law as it was written and intended.

For too long, our schools were forced to contend with a failed, top-down approach to education. That all changed with the Every Student Succeeds Act, but it seems the department hasn’t learned its lesson and is intent on undermining those important, bipartisan reforms. We will do everything in our power to ensure that doesn’t happen.

This hearing is part of our efforts to protect students, families, and taxpayers from this unprecedented and unlawful regulatory scheme—and just as importantly, to help every child receive an excellent education. The best chance we have to accomplish that critical goal is to ensure the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented according to the letter and intent of the law.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today and how they see this proposal impacting their local communities and schools across the country.

 

# # #

Curbelo Statement: Debate on H.R. 5963, the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 2:30pm
Helping kids succeed in life is a priority we all share. That’s why we work to make sure all children have access to the education and the opportunities necessary to achieve their goals and build fulfilling futures for themselves.

Unfortunately, too many children don’t realize that success is even an option for them. Too many others believe their chance has passed or don’t know how to seize it. As a result, they make decisions that put them on the wrong path and—in some cases—in the juvenile justice system. These are the children this legislation will help.

H.R. 5963 includes a number of positive reforms, all aimed at improving services to keep at-risk youth out of the juvenile justice system and help juvenile offenders turn their lives around.

First, the bill’s reforms will set these children up for long-term success. They will help them gain the skills they need to become productive members of society or a second chance to reach their full potential. These reforms will also give state and local leaders the flexibility to meet specific and unique needs of vulnerable kids in their communities.

The legislation also prioritizes what works, focusing on evidence-based strategies that will help reduce juvenile delinquency. It will also give policymakers, state and local leaders, and service providers a better understanding of the best ways to serve kids across the country.

Finally, the bill improves oversight and accountability to ensure juvenile justice programs are delivering positive results for children and to protect the taxpayers’ investment in these important programs.

These are all commonsense measures that will reform the juvenile justice system and improve public safety. But more than that, they will provide opportunities for kids to build successful, fulfilling lives—especially for young men and women who never thought that kind of life was possible.

I was happy to partner with our ranking member, Bobby Scott, on this important piece of legislation, and I am proud of the work we have done together. Mr. Scott has long been a champion of this effort, and with this bipartisan effort, we have put forward a good bill that will help more children in this country achieve success in life.

I would also like to thank our colleagues in the Senate—especially Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse—for their leadership and hard work, as well as Chairman John Kline, Amy Jones, Leslie Tatum, and the rest of the Education and the Workforce Committee staff. They have all helped pave the way for the reforms in the bill before us today, and I look forward to working with them to complete this important effort.

 

WCOE Turning Point for 9/20

Turning Point RSS - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 1:25pm

Federal Trade Commissioners to Testify September 27

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.

Thune Statement on the Release of Federal Automated Vehicles Guidelines

“As we move closer to a future of automated vehicles, regulators will need to oversee advancements in safety technology without hampering innovation,” said Thune.

Masonry Firm Builds On Tradition, Family

More news - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 12:58pm
Categories: Latest News

GSA Awards Contracts For Nashville’s New U.S. Courthouse Construction Project

GSA news releases - Tue, 09/20/2016 - 12:00am
GSA Awards Contracts For Nashville’s New U.S. Courthouse Construction Project

Extension of Comment Period – Horse Protection; Licensing of DQPs and Other Amendments

Office of Advocacy - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 12:25pm

On September 19, 2016, the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) extended the public comment period by 30 days for its proposed rule, “Horse Protection; Licensing of Designated Qualified Persons and Other Amendments.”  The proposed rule would transfer responsibility for training, licensing, and monitoring third-party, independent inspectors (known as “Designated Qualified Persons” or DQPs) to APHIS and would create additional licensing eligibility requirements for DQPs.

Categories: Latest News, SBA Advocate

NOAA Proposes Protective Regulations for Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins

Office of Advocacy - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 12:23pm

On August 24, 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed a regulation under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to prohibit swimming with and approaching Hawaiian spinner dolphins within 50 yards.  The proposed rule would apply to activities within 2 nautical miles (nm) of the Hawaiian Islands and in the waters between the islands of Lanai, Maui, and Kahoolawe.  In addition, the proposed rule would prohibit approach by interception.

Categories: Latest News, SBA Advocate

Chabot, Velázquez Ask for Explanation of 504 Loan Program Outages

House Small Business Committee News - Mon, 09/19/2016 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON—Upon learning that the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) CDC/504 Loan Program has experienced outages for roughly one third of all business days since June, House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Ranking Member Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) have written to SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet seeking answers.

The program, which is intended to promote local economic development by providing long-term fixed rate financing for small businesses, is handled through the Sacramento Loan Processing Center. The House Small Business Committee has learned that not only has the loan processing center experienced technical difficulties that stopped the processing of such documents as loan guarantees, environmental reviews, and appraisals, but that small businesses themselves had to notify the SBA of the outage.

Chairman Chabot and Ranking Member Velázquez said, “When significant problems arise that prevent SBA from effectively administering a statutorily created program, the agency has an obligation to inform the Committee and provide updates as to how these issues will be corrected.”

Delays in the administration of the 504 loan program can be costly to small businesses, making them vulnerable to changes in interest rates as well as putting a strain on third-party lending partners that often provide interim funding.

For more details, see full text of the letter here.

The Chairman and Ranking Member have asked the Administrator to respond to their inquiry by September 23. 

Commerce Committee Senators Introduce The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016

U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) announced the introduction of S. 3346, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2016. The legislation provides stability for NASA to sustain and build upon existing national space investments designed to advance space exploration and science with an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017.

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