Supreme Court Will Address Two Key Patent “Inter Partes” Review Standards in “Cuozzo Speed Technologies” Case
Ms. Judy Miller
Director of Retirement Policy
American Retirement Association
Ms. Paula A. Calimafde
Small Business Council of America
* Testifying on behalf of the Small Business Council of America and the Small Business Legislative Council
1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List
We also agree that federal policies play a role in meeting that shared goal. This hearing is timely, because next week marks 45 years that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has helped keep America’s workers safe. As part of this committee’s oversight efforts, we were pleased to have Assistant Secretary Michaels join us last October to discuss what more can be done to promote safe and healthy working conditions.
The question before the committee then and today is whether the workplace rules and regulations coming out of Washington serve the best interests of employees and their employers. Are they practical, responsible, and fair? Are they created with transparency and enforced effectively?
These are important questions, because the strongest health and safety rules will do little to protect America’s workers if the rules are not followed and enforced—or if they’re too confusing and complex to even implement in the first place. I hope we can have a thoughtful discussion today that addresses these points, particularly as they relate to OSHA’s new silica standard.
In March, OSHA issued a final rule that significantly reduces the permissible exposure limit to crystalline silica. Silica is the second most common element found in the Earth’s crust, and a key component of manufactured products and construction materials. But exposure to high concentrations of silica dust can lead to a dangerous, debilitating—and even life-threatening—disease. We have witnessed important progress in recent years, but we know there’s more that can be done to keep workers out of harm’s way.
That is why this committee has pressed OSHA to use the tools at its disposal to enforce existing standards. Unfortunately, the agency has failed to do so.
OSHA itself admits that 30 percent of tested jobsites have not complied with the existing exposure limit for silica. This is an alarmingly high figure. But instead of enforcing the rules already on the books, the department spent significant time and resources crafting an entirely new regulatory regime.
The department’s first priority should have been enforcing existing standards. If OSHA is unable—or unwilling—to enforce the current limit for silica exposure, why should we expect the results under these new standards to be any different?
Related to enforcement, some have raised concerns about whether the new standards can be responsibly enforced. It has been suggested that silica cannot be accurately measured at the reduced limit prescribed in the new rule, because many labs don’t have the technology necessary to provide reliable results. Will employers—acting in good faith and trying to do the right thing—be held accountable for an enforcement regime that isn’t feasible or practical?
These are important questions about enforcement, but there are also serious questions concerning implementation. Can these new rules be effectively implemented on the ground and under the timeframe prescribed by OSHA? Employers may lack the time and resources necessary to adjust their workplaces to the requirements of the new rule. Others may find new controls simply unworkable.
This is especially true for small businesses. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, this rule will cost workplaces more than $7 billion each year. These costs will be borne by consumers and taxpayers in the form of higher prices for homes, bridges, and roads. And these costs will be borne by workers in the form of fewer jobs. These are significant consequences for a rule that may do little to enhance worker health and safety.
We are fortunate to have a second-generation home builder and owner of a small family business with us who can speak more to this today. They will also speak to the fear of unintended safety consequences stemming from these new rules. In trying to address significant health and safety concerns, we must ensure federal policies do not in any way create new hazards in America’s workplaces.
Hundreds of thousands of workplaces nationwide will be impacted by these new rules. We owe it to our nation’s job creators to provide the clarity and certainty they need to expand, hire, and succeed. And, just as importantly, we owe it to workers and their families to promote smart, responsible regulatory policies that are implemented and enforced in a way that serves their best interests. The workers with us today—and those working on countless jobsites across the country—deserve more than our good intentions, they deserve good policies that lead to good results.
I know that we can work together to protect the health and well-being of the hardworking men and women of this country. I look forward to today’s discussion, and will now yield to Ranking Member Wilson for her opening remarks.
# # #
WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives today approved five bipartisan bills to protect and provide opportunities for small businesses, save taxpayers money and promote greater accountability from the federal government. All five measures were spearheaded by the House Committee on Small Business and now move to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
“Small businesses give us the majority of our new jobs,” said House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “These are just five of the many common sense ways we can help give our small businesses the opportunities and confidence they need to thrive. I appreciate the hard work and dedicated cooperation of all of our Members—as well as the leadership of Mr. Curbelo, Mr. Kelly, Mr. Bost, Ms. Velázquez, and Ms. Adams—in offering these solutions today.”
“Unlike larger companies, when small businesses win federal projects, they often bring on new workers, creating badly needed jobs in our local communities,” said Ranking Member Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “By reforming federal contracting rules, these measures will help more entrepreneurs break into the federal marketplace, strengthening our small business sector and bolstering our overall economy.”
Below are brief summaries of the five bills passed by the House today:
·H.R. 4284, Service Provider Opportunity Clarification Act of 2015, Offered by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL): Since 1978, the Small Business Act has required that large prime contractors awarded contracts exceeding $700,000 ($1.5 million for construction) negotiate subcontracting plans detailing the opportunity for small business participation. These plans are often considered in the award of the contract. Failure to make a good faith effort to comply with a subcontracting plan can lead to the assessment of liquidated damages, but the Small Business Administration (SBA) has never explained what a failure to make a good faith effort means. This bill instructs SBA to provide clarification so that companies trying to comply know what is expected of them while making it easier to identify bad actors.
·H.R. 3714, Small Agriculture Producer Size Standards Improvements of 2015, Offered by Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL): The SBA creates industry based size standards to determine which companies are small and which are large for the purposes of SBA assistance. However, the agricultural producer size standard is not regularly reevaluated and adjusted, to the detriment of small farmers and agricultural producers. This legislation amends the Small Business Act to give SBA the authority to appropriately set size standards for the various types of farms and agricultural producers.
·H.R. 4332, Maximizing Small Business Competition Act of 2016, Offered by Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS): Procurement Center Representatives (PCRs) of the SBA review federal solicitations to ensure that they don’t unnecessarily impede the ability of small businesses to compete for contracts. However, in 2012, the SBA issued a regulation that said those PCRs would not review certain bundled and consolidated contracts, disregarding complaints of many small contractors that these contracts were structured to minimize small business participation. This bill states that the SBA may not restrict PCR review of these contracts.
·H.R. 4325, Unifying Small Business Terminology Act of 2016, Offered by Ranking Member Nydia Velázquez (D-NY): Many of the contracting provisions in the Small Business Act use outdated terminology for federal contracting. As a result, the SBA has adopted terms in its regulations that differ from the Small Business Act so that the SBA’s regulations will make sense when read with the Federal Acquisition Regulations. This bill amends the Small Business Act to use the standard terms already found in titles 10, 38, and 41 of the United States Code and in SBA’s own regulations. This will reduce confusion for small businesses and contracting officers.
·H.R. 4326, Small and Disadvantaged Business Enhancement Act of 2016, Offered by Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC): Since 1978, there have been Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization in federal agencies with the goal of helping small businesses compete for federal contracts. This provision clarifies that these offices should also provide assistance to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and small businesses located in historically underutilized business zones (HUBZones). Additionally, the bill allows these offices with access to data that will allow them to better detect abuse of government credit cards.
New Federal Court Facilities Coming to Nashville (Tenn.), Charlotte (N.C.), Greenville (S.C.), Anniston (Ala.) and Savannah (Ga.)
The U.S. Department of Labor is preparing to release a rule, likely in the next 90 days, that would more than double the salary threshold at which workers are exempt from overtime requirements. In addition, the salary level would increase or decrease automatically over time. This would qualify an estimated additional 20 million workers nationwide for overtime pay. On the surface it’s hard to see why this proposed rule could be a bad thing.
As longtime advocates for human rights here in Minnesota, we applaud the intention of this rule. We also have serious concerns about its potential impact on already underfunded nonprofit and publicly funded agencies and organizations. Contrary to popular misconception, many nonprofits will not be exempt from this rule, and instead will be held to the same standard as large for-profit corporations. Unlike most businesses, we cannot adjust our pricing in order to cover these new expenses.
While we support raising wages for workers, it is important that the government recognizes the devastating impact that implementing this rule will have on nonprofits like Living Well Disability Services and all Minnesota providers of community-based services for people with disabilities. Living Well Disability Services provides essential services in people’s own home, their family’s home, or in group homes to allow people to live as independently as possible. These services by definition are to be less costly than institutional alternatives and are funded almost entirely by state and federal Medicaid dollars.
This public funding is essential and it creates unique constraints. Unlike many businesses, complying with this rule will not be as simple as adjusting the price of goods sold to cover increased staffing costs. The state establishes the rate that is paid for each unit of Home and Community Based Services and, with the county, determines how many hours of care will be provided. In Minnesota these service reimbursement rates have failed to keep up with inflation and there is no plan to increase funding commensurate with the costs created by this new rule.
If the salary threshold of this rule is implemented as proposed, Living Well Disability Services’ salary expense would increase by approximately 10 percent. This investment in wages would not address our priority to maximize the compensation of our lowest wage workers who provide exceptional direct services. These employees currently struggle to meet their basic needs on the wage supported by the reimbursement rate. In order to comply with the new rule and with no additional reimbursements, providers will be forced to make significant changes that would negatively impact our ability to effectively manage our workforce and provide quality services to the people we serve.
We urge Congress and the Department of Labor to balance the equally important priorities of ensuring adequate compensation for all workers with adequate funding necessary to comply with any revision to the overtime rule. If they do not, the rule will have significant unintended consequences and it will be the most vulnerable populations who may pay the price.
If Companies Cave on GMO Labeling, Supply-Chain Concerns Could Be the Next Mandatory Labeling Gambit
“The legislation we added to the FAA bill before the Senate is critical to addressing holes in our nation'sairport security. I hope my colleagues will pass the FAA bill this week, and I will continue to work to address the weaknesses in our nation's transportation security and counter current and future threats.”
As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote today on the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016, CNN.com published an op-ed by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, on bipartisan airport security enhancement proposals included in the legislation following recent attacks by ISIS.
(CNN) - Last month, 35 innocent people, including four Americans, lost their lives when ISIS attacked a subway station and airport terminal in Brussels. This was just the latest in a string of attacks ISIS has orchestrated or inspired against Western targets over the past two years -- attacks that have killed more than 650 people.
If the Brussels attacks reminded us of anything, it was that ISIS must be confronted.
More specifically, the attacks reminded us that we need to confront the threat ISIS poses to our nation's transportation system. Terrorists have made a habit of targeting airports, subways and other transit hubs, as they did in Belgium, because of the opportunity these locations offer for mass casualties.
I'm proud that legislation I developed to address holes in our nation's airport security was recently added to the Federal Aviation Administration bill being considered by the Senate.
When people think about airport security, the first thing that usually comes to mind is passenger screening. But airport security involves a lot more than that.
One key element of airport security that doesn't get as much news coverage is the need to make sure that individuals who work behind the scenes at airports don't pose a security risk. For example, many experts believe that ISIS' attack on a Russian flight from Egypt in October, an attack that killed 224 people, was facilitated in part by an airport worker.
Before they can take up their jobs feeding travelers, maintaining airplanes, transporting baggage and running other necessary operations, airport workers must obtain what is known as a Secure Identification Display Area badge, which is issued by an individual airport according to requirements established by the Transportation Security Administration. Too often, however, these badges have been issued to individuals who have no business holding them.
Over the past few weeks alone, a number of vetted aviation sector employees have been caught in alleged criminal activity.
On March 18, a flight attendant was accused of abandoning a suitcase with 68 pounds of cocaine after she was confronted by airport security officials in California.
In Florida, an airline gate agent was arrested on March 26 with a backpack containing $282,400 in cash that he allegedly intended to hand off to an associate. According to news reports, the agent told authorities he was aware that the money was connected to illegal activity but knew few other details. In other words, the money could have belonged to terrorists, and this individual would have been none the wiser.
Criminals with behind-the-scenes access at airports can pose a real security threat.
For the right price, too many criminals would be happy to expand their illegal activity -- even if it involved assisting terrorists. And while very few criminals are terrorists themselves, it's not at all uncommon for terrorists to get their start as criminals. The Brussels attackers were known to the police as criminals long before they carried out terrorist attacks.
Ensuring that dangerous individuals can be barred from working in secure areas of an airport should be a no-brainer. Yet right now in the United States, applicants convicted of embezzlement, racketeering, robbery, sabotage, immigration law violations and assault with a deadly weapon can all obtain a security badge granting access to restricted areas.
The airport security amendment I offered in the Senate -- an amendment approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority -- includes legislation developed with my Democrat co-sponsor, Sen. Bill Nelson, to address the weaknesses in airport security that have led to dangerous individuals being given security badges.
Our legislation, the Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act, would tighten vetting procedures for workers who are trying to get a SIDA badge and expand the list of criminal convictions that could disqualify an applicant from obtaining one.
Our bill also increases accountability and fines for airports that violate security rules, and it expands random inspections of airport workers. While some employees with SIDA badges are subject to regular or intermittent security checkpoint screenings similar to the screenings passengers face, most are not.
A badge issued to an airline ramp agent at the Atlanta airport, for example, allegedly allowed him to bypass security screening, facilitating his side business of smuggling guns onto commercial aircraft, a scheme that officials believe went on for months before he was caught.
Keeping our nation safe from another terrorist attack like those that have rocked Paris, Brussels and San Bernardino means staying alert and continuously addressing vulnerabilities.
The legislation we added to the FAA bill before the Senate is critical to addressing holes in our nation's airport security. I hope my colleagues will pass the FAA bill this week, and I will continue to work to address the weaknesses in our nation's transportation security and counter current and future threats.
Roe Statement: Hearing on “Innovations in Health Care: Exploring Free-Market Solutions for a Healthy Workforce”
Our vision is clear: It’s time to modernize our health care system so we can empower every American with affordable coverage, provide more choice, promote quality care for all patients, and strengthen health care security for retirees. Finally, as we will discuss today, we want to encourage innovation and harness the power of new technologies in order to foster lower prices and better treatment for patients.
As a physician with more than 30 years of experience, I’ve personally seen the need for commonsense reforms to strengthen our health care system, a system that is too costly and bureaucratic. As an elected official, I constantly hear from families who are struggling to access the care they need or keep up with premiums that rise year after year.
Unfortunately, the president’s government takeover of health care is making these problems worse. Health care costs are going up, not down. Americans are seeing higher premiums and a lower quality of care. Families are losing access to the coverage they like and the doctors they trust. Small business owners are being forced to choose between providing costly, government-approved health insurance and hiring new workers, and they’re struggling to navigate a web of burdensome mandates and regulatory requirements.
The American people cannot afford this fundamentally flawed law, and that’s why House Republicans are determined to deliver meaningful reform. We have a responsibility to put our health care system on a better course—one that is patient-centered, not government-driven. As part of that effort, we need to understand the vital importance of employer-sponsored coverage—which insures roughly 155 million Americans—and take a closer look at what’s being done in the private sector to improve care.
Employers have played a critical role in driving health care innovation. Despite unprecedented uncertainty in the health insurance market and drastic changes in employer-sponsored coverage, employers of all sizes are still developing creative strategies to help control costs and meet the changing needs of the workforce.
These strategies include employee wellness programs, which are now an essential tool to help control costs and encourage healthy lifestyles. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in 2015 that 50 percent of employers offering health benefits also offer wellness programs. That same year, I joined Chairmen Kline and Walberg and introduced legislation that would eliminate regulatory hurdles to implementing these programs, and I look forward to hearing from experts today on how we can make that goal a reality.
Some employers have responded to costly mandates and rigid reporting requirements under current law by putting in place private exchanges. This tool helps rein in costs through competition, and unlike public exchanges, serves individuals and both large and small employers. Accountable Care Organizations are another concept employers have adopted in recent years to improve the health of their employees and make coverage more affordable. ACOs improve the patient experience by coordinating care between doctors and hospitals and focusing on prevention and management of chronic diseases. Employers are also incorporating telemedicine into their health insurance plans, providing patients more access to care at lower costs and greater convenience.
We are here today to examine how innovations in employer-provided coverage are improving health care for workers and their families and how federal policies can support—rather than discourage—free-market solutions. I hope our conversation will bring us one step closer to achieving the responsible reforms the American people desperately need.
Ms. Karen R. Harned
National Federation of Independent Business
Small Business Legal Center
Mr. Frank Earnest Knapp, Jr.
President and CEO
South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce
*Testifying on behalf of the American Sustainable Business Council
Mr. Rosario Palmieri
Vice President, Labor, Legal and Regulatory Policy
National Association of Manufacturers
Mr. Thomas M. Sullivan
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough
1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List
The proposed rule would have resulted in increased costs for small businesses providing retirement plans for their workers.
The announcement comes days after the Small Business Committee announced a hearing to examine the harmful impact of this proposal on small businesses.
“The withdrawal of this proposal is an important victory for both small business retirement plans, and the workers who benefit from them,” noted Brian Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association. “This proposal was unfair to small business. It would have made it much harder for small businesses to keep or form new retirement plans – changing rules that have been in place and working for more than a decade. We appreciate the Small Business Committee’s willingness to listen to our concerns, and to help prevent the hardship this proposed rule would have placed on thousands of small business retirement plan sponsors.”
Small Business Committee Calls for Cutting Red Tape on Small Biz
WASHINGTON – Days before the filing deadline for federal income taxes, members of the small business community told Congress that a new government regulations are making it harder and more costly for small companies to start, grow and expand their business. Witnesses at today’s hearing described how new rules from the Obama administration are a “hidden tax” on entrepreneurs as they struggle with high compliance costs and expensive new mandates.
“We need to lighten the massive regulatory burden and make it easier for small businesses to start, grow and thrive, said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “That’s why it is critical that federal agencies analyze the small business impacts of new regulations and reduce unnecessary and excessive burdens. Agencies have been required to do this for over 35 years but still avoid these requirements.”
“Small businesses are the engine of our economy. Unfortunately, they also bear a disproportionate weight of government regulation,” testified Karen Harned, Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Legal Center. “The effects of overregulation require an enormous expense of money and time to remain in compliance. The effort required to follow these and other regulations prevent small business owners from growing and creating new jobs.”
“Our regulatory system is broken, unnecessarily complex and inefficient, and the public supports efforts to streamline and simplify regulations by removing outdated and duplicative rules, said Rosario Palmieri, Vice President, Labor, Legal and Regulatory Policy, National Association of Manufacturers. “Through a thoughtful examination of existing regulations, we can improve the effectiveness of both existing and future regulations.”
In his testimony, Palmieri also reiterated the National Association of Manufacturers’ strong support for H.R. 527, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, Chairman Chabot’s legislation to ensure that all federal agencies assess the impact of the new regulations on small businesses and consider alternatives to reduce burdens before they act.
Chairman Chabot’s bill passed the U.S. House last year with bipartisan support and has been awaiting action in the Senate. At today’s hearing, Chabot challenged the Senate to act quickly on his legislation.
“So we need to understand the problems that small businesses are facing and develop bold solutions,” Chabot said. “The legislative window is closing so I hope the Senate will act quickly to move this important bill.”
Chairman Chabot also serves as co-chairman of Speaker Paul Ryan’s House task force on reducing regulatory burdens. He penned an op-ed for FoxNews.com this week describing the work of the task force and outlining steps Congress can take to reduce the regulatory burden on America’s small businesses.
- The National Small Business Association, the National Association of Chemical Distributors, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions and Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. all submitted letters for the record in support of today’s hearing.
- The House Committee on Small Business monitors federal regulations that impact small businesses on its website. You can keep track of upcoming rules and comment periods HERE.