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Keep It Simple: Small Business Tax Simplification and Reform, Main Street Speaks

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 04/13/2016 - 11:00am
Chairman Tim Huelskamp has scheduled a hearing of the Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access titled, "Keep It Simple:  Small Business Tax Simplification and Reform, Main Street Speaks." The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11:00 A.M. on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  

Witnesses

Mr. Troy K. Lewis
Managing Member
Lewis & Associates, CPAs, LLC
Draper, UT
*Testifying on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs and the Mobile Workforce Coalition
Testimony

Mr. Mel Schwarz
Partner and Director of Tax Legislative Affairs
Grant Thornton LLP
Washington, DC
Testimony 


Hearing Materials

1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List
3. Hearing Memo

Supreme Court Observations: Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo

WLF Legal Pulse - Wed, 04/13/2016 - 9:00am
Featured Expert Contributor – Civil Justice/Class Actions By Frank Cruz-Alvarez, Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. (co-authored with Rachel A. Canfield, an associate with the firm) The U.S. Supreme Court recently deviated from its historically stringent view on class certification and affirmed an Eight Circuit decision to uphold certification of a class of Tyson Foods, Inc. employees […]
Categories: Latest News

Lawmakers Press IRS Commissioner on Small Biz Tax Woes

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 04/13/2016 - 12:00am

Chabot: Complex Tax Laws “Steal Time and Money” from Small Biz

Koskinen: We Have 1 Million Cyberattacks per day on IRS Systems

VIDEO: Chabot Questions IRS Commissioner on Lax Cybersecurity, Risks to Small Biz

 

WASHINGTON – As the federal income tax filing deadline approaches, members of the House Committee on Small Business pressed IRS Commissioner John Koskinen about the challenges facing small businesses as they try to navigate the complex, burdensome tax code. Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) questioned Koskinen as to what steps the IRS was taking to beef up cybersecurity and protect the personal information of taxpayers and small businesses. Koskinen also responded to concerns raised by an earlier panel of small business stakeholders about the need for a simpler tax code.

“The complexity of our tax laws steals valuable resources – both time and money – from these businesses. It hinders their ability to grow, succeed, and create the jobs we need,” said House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “Our country’s small businesses can’t keep up. We need to get our tax code working for small businesses instead of against them.”

IRS CYBERSECURITY

“Last May, the IRS discovered a data breach that exposed the data from approximately 700,000 accounts. What has the IRS done since that time to secure taxpayer data and how can small businesses be assured going forward that their data is safe with the IRS?” asked Chabot.

“We have 1 million attacks a day on our system trying to probe and get into it… It is a much more sophisticated enemy than we’ve ever had to deal with before.” responded Koskinen noting that foreign criminal syndicates had breached a key IRS application last year.

TAX SIMPLIFICATION

“We do, however, have a responsibility to make it as easy as possible for taxpayers to fulfill their tax obligations, and in that way, we can contribute to tax simplification,” responded IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Against that backdrop, the IRS recognizes the critical role played by small businesses and self-employed taxpayers in our country as engines of economic growth, and we understand the need for the IRS to do its part to ensure these businesses can flourish."

MAIN STREET SPEAKS

“We should be encouraging our small businesses and helping them to succeed, not erecting barriers to block the way, said Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access Chairman Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) at this morning’s subcommittee hearing. “Every dollar that a small employer spends on tax compliance is a dollar that could have been used to invest back in the business or to hire another employee. Every hour that a small employer spends on tax compliance is an hour wasted that could have been spent on their actual business.”

“It is, at this point, a truism that the US international tax system is broken and in need of reform,” testified Robert M. Russell, an Attorney for International Tax Controversy, Planning and Policy with alliantgroup. “Far too often, small and mid-size business concerns take a back seat in the tax reform discussion and even more so in the international context.”

MOBILE WORKFORCE

In their testimony, small business stakeholders called on Congress to pass H.R. 2315, the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2015, bipartisan legislation led by Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) and co-sponsored by Chairman Chabot, which simplifies state income tax requirements for employees who work multiple days outside of their state of residence.

“The Mobile Workforce legislation makes it significantly easier for the employer and the employee from a compliance perspective. The taxpayer files one state income tax return… and it is a more straightforward return (without calculations and credits for nonresident state taxes paid),” said Troy Lewis who testified on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs and the Mobile Workforce Coalition.

You can read the full testimony from today’s two-hearing series here and here and watch video of the hearings here and here.

BACKGROUND:

According to the most recent National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Problems and Priorities survey, 5 out of 10 of the top issues identified by small businesses are tax-related. Also, according to NFIB, 85 percent of all small businesses file as individuals.

###

Thune Urges Colleagues to Support Strong Aviation Security and Passenger-Friendly Reforms in Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill

“In the wake of the Brussels attacks, travelers are understandably nervous about the threats they face when flying, especially given terrorists’ preference for targeting transportation. Here in the Senate, we’re doing everything we can to address that threat.”...

Florida Court Allows State Attorney General to Dismiss Frivolous False Claims Act Actions

WLF Legal Pulse - Tue, 04/12/2016 - 12:05pm
A Florida court of appeals recently held that the state’s attorney general could unilaterally dismiss a qui tam action filed under the Florida False Claims Act (FCA) at any time even though the office originally declined to intervene.  Though mostly based on Florida law, Barati v. State of Florida merits the attention of companies doing […]
Categories: Latest News

Chabot on FoxNews.com: Getting Government off the backs of America's 28 million small businesses

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 04/12/2016 - 12:00am
 

Note: The House Committee on Small Business will hear from a panel of experts about the cost of regulatory burdens at a hearing this Thursday, April 14, 2016, titled Regulation: The Hidden Small Business Tax.

My plan to get government off the backs of our 28 million small businesses

By Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)

President Ronald Reagan once remarked, “Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”

Too often, Washington tries to tell America’s entrepreneurs how to run their lives and their businesses.

As Chairman of the House Small Business Committee, I am committed to getting government off the backs of America’s 28 million small businesses so they can do what they do best: create jobs and help grow the economy. It’s been an uphill battle, to say the least.

But with half the private sector workforce going to work every day at a small business and 7 out of every 10 new jobs coming from a small business, I firmly believe it is a battle worth fighting and winning.

Over the last seven years, President Obama has unleashed an avalanche of new regulationson American small businesses. Estimates put the number of new Obama regulations at over 25,000 and the overall cost of this “regulation nation” at over $2 trillion.

There has been a chilling pattern of regulatory overreach by the Obama administration. As part of this pattern, small businesses routinely get hit worst and first as unelected DC bureaucrats dream up new ways to make their lives more difficult.

With the April 18th tax filing deadline right around the corner, it is important to remember that overregulation is itself a form of stealth taxation. Ultimately, employees and customers of small businesses pay the price for every new rule that comes out of Washington.

Fortunately, House Republicans have been fighting back by putting forward meaningful solutions to empower entrepreneurs and lift the regulatory weight off their shoulders.

We understand that this isn’t something that can be achieved in one piece of legislation. That’s why we’re taking a look toward how we address this not only today, but in the future, with Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to give the American people a real reform agenda for a “Confident America,” built from the bottom up.

As part of that effort, I’m helping lead a task force to reduce the regulatory burden on America’s small businesses.

Our mission is to “make it easier to invest, produce and build in America with a modern and transparent regulatory system that relieves the burden on small businesses and other job creators and encourages financial independence, while balancing environmental stewardship, public safety, and consumer interests.”

It’s one of several task forces the Speaker has set up to do something that, I’ve seen, really works: invite everyone to come forward and share their ideas on how best to grow the economy and empower small businesses.

In addition to the work of the task force, we’re continuing our focus on regulations and their impact on small business with hearings and legislation we can move now to help small businesses get off the ground, stay off the ground and propel our economy forward.

So far this Congress, the House has already passed the “Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2015” (H.R. 527). Our bill ensures that federal agencies assess the impact of the new regulations on small businesses and consider alternatives to reduce burdens before they act.

We must change Washington’s culture of regulation and get the federal government to work for small businesses, not against them. Small business owners should not be forced to go hat-in-hand to federal regulators and ask permission every time they want to start, grow or expand their business.

We must always remember that it is America’s entrepreneurs who move our economy and our country forward, not Beltway bureaucrats.

Republican Steve Chabot represents Ohio's 1st congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives where he serves as chairman of the Small Business Committee.

DC Circuit’s “Fokker” Decision Preserves the Separation of Powers, but Raises a Concern about DPAs

WLF Legal Pulse - Mon, 04/11/2016 - 1:16pm
Deferred-prosecution agreements (DPAs) pose thorny questions from an overcriminalization perspective.  But DPA skeptics should welcome—at least for now—a decision issued last Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.  In a case entitled United States v. Fokker Services B.V., the DC Circuit held that federal district courts may not second-guess the charging […]
Categories: Latest News

Senate Adds Bipartisan Airport Security Enhancements to FAA Legislation

The Senate voted 85-10 to bolster airport security for passengers by adding an amendment to pending Senate legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration through the end of fiscal year 2017.

Nelson Speaks on FAA Reauthorization on the Senate Floor

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor on FAA reauthorization
April 6, 2016

Sen. Nelson: Mr. President, I think the Chairman, Senator Thune, has pointed out that what we have tried to exhibit, is the way the Senate is supposed to work in a bipartisan way to forge consensus in order to be able to govern. And the subject matter, the FAA aviation, is one that we shouldn't dillydally around. And indeed some of the very serious consequences that are facing the National Aviation System, we take them head-on.
 
And I want the chairman to know how much I appreciate the spirit with which we have worked not only on this issue, but the many issues in the Commerce Committee. And I think we're seeing the proof in the pudding, and I think we will see an amendatory process that runs fairly smooth as a result of the example and the spirit that we have tried to set with regard to this legislation.
 
It's a comprehensive bill. It's been months in the making, and in working together in the fashion that I indicated, the bill reflects the broad agreement on aviation. We at the same time have refrained from the controversial proposals, such as the plan in the House bill that's come out of the House committee has not gone to the floor, that being a plan to privatize air traffic control that has stopped the House FAA bill dead in its tracks.
 
We have a good bill in front of us here in the Senate, and in this robust process, we'll consider many amendments and improvements as we continue on down the legislative process. There is no basis, Mr. President, for the chatter coming from some in the House that hearts and minds down here are going to change on air traffic control privatization.
 
Air traffic control privatization is just not going to happen. I've made myself very, very clear: such a privatization scheme would seriously impact the overall success of our aviation system. It would dismantle the long-standing partnership between the FAA and the Department of Defense, and needlessly disrupt the progress FAA is making in its modernization efforts.
 
And let me underscore that. The Defense Department operates in about 20 percent of our airspace. They cannot afford to have a private company handling that airspace.
 
And of course this privatization could also lead to increased costs for the traveling public and users of the National Airspace System. The measured approach that we're taking in this bill, we think is the better path, and we are not alone in this view.
 
This bipartisan bill enjoys the support of a huge number of organizations. Now, nothing is perfect. And so it was my hope that we could find a way to help our busiest airports by increasing the resources they need to improve and maintain vital facilities. We couldn't reach that agreement. And that is one reason why the term of this bill is somewhat limited through fiscal year 2017, so that we have an additional opportunity to revisit this and other issues in the not-too-distant future.
 
But it is a consensus bill, and it contains, as the chairman has just mentioned, many new consumer protections for airline passengers, critical improvements in drone safety, and reforms to boost US aircraft manufacturing and exports. And it will do all of this without disrupting the safest and most efficient air transportation system in the world.
 
Let me highlight some of these consumer protections.
 
How irritating is it to passengers that they don't know about this and that fee, this and that charge; consumers who at the end of the day feel nickeled and dimed. They deserve to know, and they need some relief. Well, this bill makes progress on that.
 
Last summer, this senator released a report that found that airlines failed to adequately disclose the extra fees and the add-on costs charged to the flying public. In many cases, passengers didn't know that they could get a seat without having to request a special seat with a fee. In many cases, passengers didn't know about the fees that they had to pay for airline baggage. Well, that report had a number of comprehensive recommendations, and this legislation builds on that report to protect the flying public.
 
Many, many things in the bill. But for example, it requires fee refunds for lost or delayed baggage. It requires new standardized disclosure of fees for consumers. It requires increased protections for disabled passengers.
 
As the chairman mentioned, drone safety is a very important bill. Remember Captain Sully Sullenberger, who became a national hero when upon takeoff and ascending out of LaGuardia, encountered a flock of seagulls which were sucked into his jet engines?
 
Now, that's flesh and blood and feathers and webbed feet. You can imagine what would happen if a drone on assent or on descent of a passenger airliner sucks in the plastic and metal of a drone. There are lives at risk and there might not be a Hudson River that Captain Sullenberger could belly it in in the Hudson River and save all the lives of his passengers.

Last year alone, the FAA recorded over a thousand drone sightings near airports and aircraft. Well, that's unacceptable, and we must do everything that we can to protect the flying public from these dangers posed by drones.

And so this bill creates a pilot program to test various technologies to keep drones away from airports and it requires the FAA to work with NASA to test and develop a drone traffic management system.

We have seen the technology already available that can suddenly capture a drone as it goes into a prohibited area and land that drone or take over that drone and take it someplace else. The identification of drones that go in and out of prohibited areas is also important.

And we're going to have to face this because sooner or later it won't be what happened at the Miami international airport with a drone within hundreds of feet of an inbound American Airlines airliner into Miami International. So we want to avoid that catastrophic outcome.

This legislation also provides reforms in the FAA certification process that will boost U.S. manufacturing and exports and most importantly create really good jobs for hardworking Americans.

Now, those are just some of the key features in the bill when it comes to reauthorizing the FAA and that's what brings here today with the bill on the floor.

We know that we're in a new context of world terrorism, having just been reminded in Brussels. The dual attacks on a Brussels metro station and the airport are a grim reminder of both aviation and surface transportation networks remain attractive targets for terrorists.

And it's now almost 15 years after September the 11th. The terrorists are still out there seeking these vulnerabilities.

In November of last year, we saw the ability to penetrate airport perimeter security in Egypt, caused an employee to get an explosive device on a Russian passenger jet, and that killed 224 civilians.

And so we have amendments to address these. We think these amendments are noncontroversial. We think they are bipartisan. And they certainly are timely.

And so as our debate unfolds over the next few days, aviation security will be an important factor in the discussion. The chairman and I have talked at length and we have some of the ideas that we are going to present for consideration on security.

One such proposal as the chairman has mentioned in his opening remarks. We already passed it in the Commerce Committee. It's right there. The Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act. And that legislation, bipartisan, sponsored by a number of us on the committee would improve background checks for airport workers and increased employee screenings, and obviously a reminder of the Russian jetliner this is important, a reminder of the gunrunning scheme in the Atlanta airport over 100 guns over a three-month period put on airliners transporting them from the Atlanta airport to New York.

So it's an area that requires attention, so I look forward to collaborating with our colleagues as we move these important issues.

Mr. President, I yield the floor and I yield it just in time before my voice gives out.

Nelson Statement on Report That Basic Safety Measures May Have Prevented Amtrak Crash

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, issued the following the statement in response to a Wall Street Journal report today that Amtrak crews may not have followed basic safety procedures that could have prevented Sunday’s deadly train accident in Pennsylvania. 

“It’s disturbing that this tragic accident may have been prevented by following basic safety measures, “ said Nelson.  “There needs to be redundant protections, such as shunts, in place to prevent these kinds worker-related accidents.  Federal regulators should also take a look at whether there is a larger pattern of safety lapses at Amtrak.”    

The FAST Act, which was signed into law in December, includes a Commerce Committee provision that requires the Department of Transportation to come up with a rule on redundant signal protections needed to prevent such accidents.

Below is the text of the Wall Street Journal story.

 

Wall Street Journal

Safety Step Not Taken Before Crash

By Andrew Tangel, Scott Calvert and Ted Mann

April 6, 2016

An investigation into this week's Amtrak crash in Chester, Pa., indicates track workers didn't deploy a basic, decades-old safety measure that experts say could have prevented a collision that killed two workers and injured more than 30 passengers, people familiar with the matter said.

Crews performing track work on a stretch of Amtrak's heavily traveled Northeast Corridor on Sunday apparently didn't put in place what is known as a supplemental shunting device, in apparent violation of Amtrak's own worker-protection rules, these people said. The device, which is clamped to the track, completes an electrical circuit to alert the signaling system that the track is occupied.

Had a shunt been used, Amtrak's computerized collision-avoidance system known as positive train control, or PTC, could have prevented the accident, said Steven Ditmeyer, a former federal railroad official and Virginia-based consultant who has advised the U.S. government and transportation industry groups but not Amtrak.

"It would have triggered the signal system, which would have triggered PTC," Mr. Ditmeyer said of the shunting device. "I can think of no reason that there would not be a shunt in place" when maintenance is under way.

An Amtrak spokesman declined to comment, citing a continuing investigation led by the National Transportation Safety Board. An NTSB spokesman declined to comment.

Amtrak rules don't require the devices in every case, but they are generally required as backup protection when maintenance equipment obstructs active track. Human error -- and whether Amtrak employees skirted safety procedures -- appears to be one focus for investigators, people familiar with the matter said.

Some railroads have added new safety procedures after worker fatalities. In 2013, a Metro-North Railroad employee was killed in West Haven, Conn., when a dispatcher allowed a train to proceed through a work zone. The New York City-area commuter railroad now requires crews to transmit a special code before train traffic can resume.

In Chester, maintenance work on a track that was out of service required the adjacent track to be "fouled," or temporarily put out of service, to avoid collisions with equipment and workers, according to one of the people familiarwith the investigation.

In such cases, a maintenance foreman typically alerts the Amtrak dispatcher to activate a primary safety measure, a computerized "blocking device" that prevents the dispatcher from allowing a train to travel down that stretch of track, this person said. It couldn't be learned why the train apparently was cleared to proceed Sunday.

As for the shunting devices, Amtrak work crews don't always use them, this person said. "The attitude is, 'Ah, we're only going to be here for a little bit -- we're going to get in and get out of here.' The more responsible people use them all the time."

Federal Railroad Administration rules don't specifically require shunting, as regulations require other protective measures viewed as stronger defense against accidents.

Investigators have in part been focusing on potential miscommunication over a shift change between crews performing track work between Wilmington, Del., and Philadelphia, people familiar with the matter have said.

On Monday, Amtrak official Gary Noto asked colleagues to procure supplemental shunting devices, or SSDs, for crews to use when they perform track work in short windows known as "foul time."

"Please get supply of SSD's for all crews, we must use them whenever getting foul time, the only exception I can think of is the track inspector who is walking miles of track and when signal system cannot support this action," Mr. Noto said in an email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The email also urged colleagues to supply more crews with portable radios, and to install radios in all equipment that "occupies or can foul."

The Amtrak spokesman said Mr. Noto wasn't available for comment.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson Responds to 10th U.S. Death Caused by Faulty Takata Airbag

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) issued the following statement in response to a report today that Honda confirmed a 10th U.S. death was caused by a defective Takata airbag.

“Sadly, this is yet another tragic death caused by a product that Takata knew was defective,” said Nelson.  “And it shows that the current recall efforts are just not getting the job done.  Takata and the automakers have to step up their efforts to locate, notify and fix every impacted car as soon as possible — before anyone else dies."

Nelson Floor Statement on FAA Reauthorization

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke on the floor today on legislation to reauthorize the FAA. 

The bill, which passed the Commerce Committee last month, contains a number of pro-consumer and drone safety measures.   The lawmaker also said today he intends to offer amendments to the bill that would bolster security at airports and tighten screening for airport employees. 

Below is the text of Nelson’s floor remarks. 

Sen. Nelson: Mr. President, I think the Chairman, Senator Thune, has pointed out that what we have tried to exhibit, is the way the Senate is supposed to work in a bipartisan way to forge consensus in order to be able to govern. And the subject matter, the FAA aviation, is one that we shouldn't dillydally around. And indeed some of the very serious consequences that are facing the National Aviation System, we take them head-on.

And I want the chairman to know how much I appreciate the spirit with which we have worked not only on this issue, but the many issues in the Commerce Committee. And I think we're seeing the proof in the pudding, and I think we will see an amendatory process that runs fairly smooth as a result of the example and the spirit that we have tried to set with regard to this legislation.

It's a comprehensive bill. It's been months in the making, and in working together in the fashion that I indicated, the bill reflects the broad agreement on aviation. We at the same time have refrained from the controversial proposals, such as the plan in the House bill that's come out of the House committee has not gone to the floor, that being a plan to privatize air traffic control that has stopped the House FAA bill dead in its tracks.

We have a good bill in front of us here in the Senate, and in this robust process, we'll consider many amendments and improvements as we continue on down the legislative process. There is no basis, Mr. President, for the chatter coming from some in the House that hearts and minds down here are going to change on air traffic control privatization.

Air traffic control privatization is just not going to happen. I've made myself very, very clear: such a privatization scheme would seriously impact the overall success of our aviation system. It would dismantle the long-standing partnership between the FAA and the Department of Defense, and needlessly disrupt the progress FAA is making in its modernization efforts.

And let me underscore that. The Defense Department operates in about 20 percent of our airspace. They cannot afford to have a private company handling that airspace.

And of course this privatization could also lead to increased costs for the traveling public and users of the National Airspace System. The measured approach that we're taking in this bill, we think is the better path, and we are not alone in this view.

This bipartisan bill enjoys the support of a huge number of organizations. Now, nothing is perfect. And so it was my hope that we could find a way to help our busiest airports by increasing the resources they need to improve and maintain vital facilities. We couldn't reach that agreement. And that is one reason why the term of this bill is somewhat limited through fiscal year 2017, so that we have an additional opportunity to revisit this and other issues in the not-too-distant future.

But it is a consensus bill, and it contains, as the chairman has just mentioned, many new consumer protections for airline passengers, critical improvements in drone safety, and reforms to boost US aircraft manufacturing and exports. And it will do all of this without disrupting the safest and most efficient air transportation system in the world.

Let me highlight some of these consumer protections.

How irritating is it to passengers that they don't know about this and that fee, this and that charge; consumers who at the end of the day feel nickeled and dimed. They deserve to know, and they need some relief. Well, this bill makes progress on that.

Last summer, this senator released a report that found that airlines failed to adequately disclose the extra fees and the add-on costs charged to the flying public. In many cases, passengers didn't know that they could get a seat without having to request a special seat with a fee. In many cases, passengers didn't know about the fees that they had to pay for airline baggage. Well, that report had a number of comprehensive recommendations, and this legislation builds on that report to protect the flying public.

Many, many things in the bill. But for example, it requires fee refunds for lost or delayed baggage. It requires new standardized disclosure of fees for consumers. It requires increased protections for disabled passengers.

As the chairman mentioned, drone safety is a very important bill. Remember Captain Sully Sullenberger, who became a national hero when upon takeoff and ascending out of LaGuardia, encountered a flock of seagulls which were sucked into his jet engines?

Now, that's flesh and blood and feathers and webbed feet. You can imagine what would happen if a drone on assent or on descent of a passenger airliner sucks in the plastic and metal of a drone. There are lives at risk and there might not be a Hudson River that Captain Sullenberger could belly it in in the Hudson River and save all the lives of his passengers.

Last year alone, the FAA recorded over a thousand drone sightings near airports and aircraft. Well, that's unacceptable, and we must do everything that we can to protect the flying public from these dangers posed by drones.

And so this bill creates a pilot program to test various technologies to keep drones away from airports and it requires the FAA to work with NASA to test and develop a drone traffic management system.

We have seen the technology already available that can suddenly capture a drone as it goes into a prohibited area and land that drone or take over that drone and take it someplace else. The identification of drones that go in and out of prohibited areas is also important.

And we're going to have to face this because sooner or later it won't be what happened at the Miami international airport with a drone within hundreds of feet of an inbound American Airlines airliner into Miami International. So we want to avoid that catastrophic outcome.

This legislation also provides reforms in the FAA certification process that will boost U.S. manufacturing and exports and most importantly create really good jobs for hardworking Americans.

Now, those are just some of the key features in the bill when it comes to reauthorizing the FAA and that's what brings here today with the bill on the floor.

We know that we're in a new context of world terrorism, having just been reminded in Brussels. The dual attacks on a Brussels metro station and the airport are a grim reminder of both aviation and surface transportation networks remain attractive targets for terrorists.

And it's now almost 15 years after September the 11th. The terrorists are still out there seeking these vulnerabilities.

In November of last year, we saw the ability to penetrate airport perimeter security in Egypt, caused an employee to get an explosive device on a Russian passenger jet, and that killed 224 civilians.

And so we have amendments to address these. We think these amendments are noncontroversial. We think they are bipartisan. And they certainly are timely.

And so as our debate unfolds over the next few days, aviation security will be an important factor in the discussion. The chairman and I have talked at length and we have some of the ideas that we are going to present for consideration on security.

One such proposal as the chairman has mentioned in his opening remarks. We already passed it in the Commerce Committee. It's right there. The Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act. And that legislation, bipartisan, sponsored by a number of us on the committee would improve background checks for airport workers and increased employee screenings, and obviously a reminder of the Russian jetliner this is important, a reminder of the gunrunning scheme in the Atlanta airport over 100 guns over a three-month period put on airliners transporting them from the Atlanta airport to New York.

So it's an area that requires attention, so I look forward to collaborating with our colleagues as we move these important issues

Thune Speaks on FAA Bill to Support U.S. Jobs, Increase Safety, Improve Drone Operations, and Make Travel Easier for Airline Passengers

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke on the Senate floor on the bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration through fiscal year 2017 under consideration in the Senate. The bill was approved by the committee in March 2016.

Nelson Speaks on FAA Reauthorization on the Senate Floor

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor on FAA reauthorization
April 6, 2016

Sen. Nelson: Mr. President, I think the Chairman, Senator Thune, has pointed out that what we have tried to exhibit, is the way the Senate is supposed to work in a bipartisan way to forge consensus in order to be able to govern. And the subject matter, the FAA aviation, is one that we shouldn't dillydally around. And indeed some of the very serious consequences that are facing the National Aviation System, we take them head-on.
 
And I want the chairman to know how much I appreciate the spirit with which we have worked not only on this issue, but the many issues in the Commerce Committee. And I think we're seeing the proof in the pudding, and I think we will see an amendatory process that runs fairly smooth as a result of the example and the spirit that we have tried to set with regard to this legislation.
 
It's a comprehensive bill. It's been months in the making, and in working together in the fashion that I indicated, the bill reflects the broad agreement on aviation. We at the same time have refrained from the controversial proposals, such as the plan in the House bill that's come out of the House committee has not gone to the floor, that being a plan to privatize air traffic control that has stopped the House FAA bill dead in its tracks.
 
We have a good bill in front of us here in the Senate, and in this robust process, we'll consider many amendments and improvements as we continue on down the legislative process. There is no basis, Mr. President, for the chatter coming from some in the House that hearts and minds down here are going to change on air traffic control privatization.
 
Air traffic control privatization is just not going to happen. I've made myself very, very clear: such a privatization scheme would seriously impact the overall success of our aviation system. It would dismantle the long-standing partnership between the FAA and the Department of Defense, and needlessly disrupt the progress FAA is making in its modernization efforts.
 
And let me underscore that. The Defense Department operates in about 20 percent of our airspace. They cannot afford to have a private company handling that airspace.
 
And of course this privatization could also lead to increased costs for the traveling public and users of the National Airspace System. The measured approach that we're taking in this bill, we think is the better path, and we are not alone in this view.
 
This bipartisan bill enjoys the support of a huge number of organizations. Now, nothing is perfect. And so it was my hope that we could find a way to help our busiest airports by increasing the resources they need to improve and maintain vital facilities. We couldn't reach that agreement. And that is one reason why the term of this bill is somewhat limited through fiscal year 2017, so that we have an additional opportunity to revisit this and other issues in the not-too-distant future.
 
But it is a consensus bill, and it contains, as the chairman has just mentioned, many new consumer protections for airline passengers, critical improvements in drone safety, and reforms to boost US aircraft manufacturing and exports. And it will do all of this without disrupting the safest and most efficient air transportation system in the world.
 
Let me highlight some of these consumer protections.
 
How irritating is it to passengers that they don't know about this and that fee, this and that charge; consumers who at the end of the day feel nickeled and dimed. They deserve to know, and they need some relief. Well, this bill makes progress on that.
 
Last summer, this senator released a report that found that airlines failed to adequately disclose the extra fees and the add-on costs charged to the flying public. In many cases, passengers didn't know that they could get a seat without having to request a special seat with a fee. In many cases, passengers didn't know about the fees that they had to pay for airline baggage. Well, that report had a number of comprehensive recommendations, and this legislation builds on that report to protect the flying public.
 
Many, many things in the bill. But for example, it requires fee refunds for lost or delayed baggage. It requires new standardized disclosure of fees for consumers. It requires increased protections for disabled passengers.
 
As the chairman mentioned, drone safety is a very important bill. Remember Captain Sully Sullenberger, who became a national hero when upon takeoff and ascending out of LaGuardia, encountered a flock of seagulls which were sucked into his jet engines?
 
Now, that's flesh and blood and feathers and webbed feet. You can imagine what would happen if a drone on assent or on descent of a passenger airliner sucks in the plastic and metal of a drone. There are lives at risk and there might not be a Hudson River that Captain Sullenberger could belly it in in the Hudson River and save all the lives of his passengers.

Last year alone, the FAA recorded over a thousand drone sightings near airports and aircraft. Well, that's unacceptable, and we must do everything that we can to protect the flying public from these dangers posed by drones.

And so this bill creates a pilot program to test various technologies to keep drones away from airports and it requires the FAA to work with NASA to test and develop a drone traffic management system.

We have seen the technology already available that can suddenly capture a drone as it goes into a prohibited area and land that drone or take over that drone and take it someplace else. The identification of drones that go in and out of prohibited areas is also important.

And we're going to have to face this because sooner or later it won't be what happened at the Miami international airport with a drone within hundreds of feet of an inbound American Airlines airliner into Miami International. So we want to avoid that catastrophic outcome.

This legislation also provides reforms in the FAA certification process that will boost U.S. manufacturing and exports and most importantly create really good jobs for hardworking Americans.

Now, those are just some of the key features in the bill when it comes to reauthorizing the FAA and that's what brings here today with the bill on the floor.

We know that we're in a new context of world terrorism, having just been reminded in Brussels. The dual attacks on a Brussels metro station and the airport are a grim reminder of both aviation and surface transportation networks remain attractive targets for terrorists.

And it's now almost 15 years after September the 11th. The terrorists are still out there seeking these vulnerabilities.

In November of last year, we saw the ability to penetrate airport perimeter security in Egypt, caused an employee to get an explosive device on a Russian passenger jet, and that killed 224 civilians.

And so we have amendments to address these. We think these amendments are noncontroversial. We think they are bipartisan. And they certainly are timely.

And so as our debate unfolds over the next few days, aviation security will be an important factor in the discussion. The chairman and I have talked at length and we have some of the ideas that we are going to present for consideration on security.

One such proposal as the chairman has mentioned in his opening remarks. We already passed it in the Commerce Committee. It's right there. The Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act. And that legislation, bipartisan, sponsored by a number of us on the committee would improve background checks for airport workers and increased employee screenings, and obviously a reminder of the Russian jetliner this is important, a reminder of the gunrunning scheme in the Atlanta airport over 100 guns over a three-month period put on airliners transporting them from the Atlanta airport to New York.

So it's an area that requires attention, so I look forward to collaborating with our colleagues as we move these important issues.

Mr. President, I yield the floor and I yield it just in time before my voice gives out.

Transportation Security: Protecting Passengers and Freight

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled “Transportation Security: Protecting Passengers and Freight” on Wednesday, April 6, at 10:00 a.m.

While airport security is a major and highly visible function of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), by law the agency is designated as responsible for all transportation security matters including trains, subways, buses, and ports. Recent attacks by ISIS, including those in Belgium on March 22, have underscored that terrorists can inflict significant casualties at transportation targets without attempting to board airplanes or subjecting themselves to security screenings. TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, who was in Brussels on March 22, will deliver testimony about TSA efforts to prevent attacks on passenger and freight targets that could lead to mass casualties.

Witness:

  • The Honorable Peter Neffenger, TSA Administrator and Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security

* Witness list subject to change


Hearing Details:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016
10:00 a.m.
 
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.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

I want to thank Chairman Thune for calling this hearing.

The coordinated attacks on a Brussels metro station and airport two weeks ago are a grim reminder that both aviation and surface transportation networks remain attractive targets for terrorists.

The list of terrorist attacks on transportation networks globally is long and distressing.

In the 10 years after 9/11, more than 1,900 attacks were carried out against transit systems around the world, resulting in close to 4,000 deaths and 14,000 injuries.

In aviation, almost 15 years after 9/11, terrorists are still finding vulnerabilities to exploit.

For example, in November 2015, ISIS attacked a Russian passenger jet over Egypt, killing 224 civilians.  

And we should all remember that in 2014, an airline worker in Atlanta used his access credentials to smuggle firearms around the passenger checkpoint and hand them off to a passenger bound for New York.

In total, the employee was charged with smuggling 153 firearms on 17 flights in 2014.

So last December, this committee took an important step to improve aviation security by moving the Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act of 2015. 

This bill takes common sense steps to prevent an insider threat to our aviation system by improving the background checks for aviation workers.

The bill also increases random physical screenings, and covert, red-team testing of airport worker security.

Additionally, the legislation creates a pilot program for airports to conduct 100 percent employee screening, as they have done for years in Miami and Orlando.

And while these steps are essential, I am concerned that our current strategy does not sufficiently address the vulnerabilities exposed in Brussels to surface transportation networks.

In 2016, less than 2 percent of the TSA’s total budget and full-time employees are dedicated to protecting surface transportation networks.  

And while we have yet to suffer a recent attack on a mass transit system in the U.S. on the same scale as the Brussels attack, we cannot wait for one to occur before we act.

TSA can take immediate action by completing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which were enacted into law in 2007.

Additionally, we have an opportunity to improve our transportation security through the FAA bill.

So it’s time to reexamine our transportation security strategy and refocus our efforts.  I want to thank Administrator Neffenger for coming today.

I look forward to hearing from you on these issues to ensure TSA has the resources and strategy it needs to address transportation security risks. 

<p>"On March 22nd, terrorists

"On March 22nd, terrorists associated with ISIS detonated three bombs in Brussels, two at an airport, and one in a busy metro car. Thirty-five people, including four Americans, were killed in this cowardly attack.  

"The victims of these attacks remain in our thoughts and prayers.  

"The threat from ISIS, al-Qaeda and their sympathizers is real, and we must ensure sound policies are in place to enhance security and prevent these deadly attacks.

"This hearing will focus on the efforts of the Transportation Security Administration to secure surface transportation modes.  In light of the attacks in Brussels, however, we will also address the related challenge of safeguarding the areas of airports outside passenger screening checkpoints.  

"Administrator Neffenger, I understand that you were, by chance, in the Brussels airport at the time of the attacks.  

"I hope you will share your thoughts on the horrific events there, and how we can prevent and prepare for similar threats.  I understand your written testimony focuses on rail, transit, and pipeline security, but I hope you will also share with us additional information on how we can improve airport security.   

"The TSA must learn from past attacks and also look forward to new and emerging threats.  Sadly, it is clear that terrorists associated with al-Qaeda and ISIS have identified passenger rail and transit systems as soft targets. 

"It is critical that we not neglect these vital parts of our transportation system as we look for ways to improve security.  

"Understandably, these open systems cannot be secured in the same way as our aviation network.  Nevertheless, some of the techniques we utilize in the aviation network apply to surface assets, as well areas of the airport on the street side of the checkpoint.   

"While our best tool in combating terrorist attacks continues to be good intelligence, TSA has adopted a multi-layer process to identify threats and mitigate security concerns.   

"Former Administrator John Pistole strongly promoted the risk-based allocation of TSA’s resources.  I look forward to hearing from the Administrator today about his views on the risk-based analysis of threats.  TSA cannot and should not be at every bus stop, or every train station. 

"The agency must leverage its relationships with state and local officials and address the most significant threats with its limited resources.  

"Visible security efforts can also make a difference.  Explosives Detection Canines and police presence can deter both terrorist threats and criminal activity.  TSA’s support of these programs is invaluable.  I’d like to hear more about how these teams are allocated among airports and other transportation systems.

"TSA is also charged with protecting freight transportation networks including ports, freight railroads, and pipeline infrastructure.  These critical infrastructure networks are crucial components of our nation’s economy.   

"TSA receives high marks from railroad and pipeline operators who work with the agency to identify and mitigate threats.  Public-private security partnerships between the agency and operators have been valuable in hardening these networks.

"On the aviation front, Ranking Member Nelson and I have been leading oversight at the Commerce Committee of problems some airports have had in successfully managing security credentials.  

"This oversight led the Committee to approve bipartisan legislation, S. 2361, the Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act, to tighten vetting of airport workers, so that those with ties to terrorists and histories of serious criminal behavior do not access sensitive airport areas.

"Unfortunately, in the current system, such individuals are not always captured.  

"Some of the perpetrators in the deadly attacks in Brussels were previously known to authorities as criminals, and U.S. terrorism experts believe that ISIS is recruiting criminals to join its ranks in Europe. 

"As we work to address the threat of an aviation insider helping terrorists, criminals who break laws for financial gain and those with histories of violence are a good place to start.  

"Ensuring that airport workers with security credentials are trustworthy is especially important considering that an ISIS affiliate is believed to have killed 224 people on a Russian passenger plane leaving Egypt with, experts suspect, the help of an airport employee.  

"The Committee has also approved legislation, H.R. 2843, the TSA PreCheck Expansion Act, which would help expand participation in the TSA PreCheck application program by developing private-sector partnerships and capabilities to vet and enroll more individuals. 

"As a result, more vetted passengers would receive expedited airport screening, which would get passengers through security checkpoints more quickly and ensure that they do not pose the kind of easy target that ISIS suicide bombers exploited at the Brussels airport.  

"I believe both of these important measures can and should advance in the full Senate this week.  

"Administrator Neffenger, thank you for being here today.  We need strong leadership and decisive action to address this terrorist threat.  You are faced with a great challenge of getting it right every time, when a terrorist just needs one opportunity.  I look forward to hearing from you about how TSA is working to meet that challenge.  

"I’d like to recognize Ranking Member Nelson for his opening statement."

Field Hearing Challenges for Small Defense Contractors

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 04/05/2016 - 2:00pm
Chairman Richard Hanna has scheduled a hearing of the Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and the Workforce titled, “Challenges for Small Defense Contractors.”  The hearing will be held at 2:00 P.M. on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at the Palmdale City Hall Chamber Room, 38300 Sierra Highway, Palmdale, CA 93550.

Hearing Materials
1. Hearing Notice

Copyright

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