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Kline Statement: Hearing on “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 03/22/2016 - 12:00am

Education research has long played an important role in our nation’s classrooms. States and school districts use research to identify teaching and learning strategies that improve classroom instruction and those that don’t. Education research also provides parents, teachers, school leaders, and policymakers with the information they need to determine if federal programs are delivering real results for students and taxpayers.
 
For more than 40 years, the federal government has partnered with the private sector and state and local leaders to help facilitate this research. The partnership was reaffirmed in 2002 when Congress passed the Education Sciences Reform Act. The law established the Institute of Education Sciences to take the lead on gathering information about educational progress, conducting research on teaching practices, and evaluating the quality of federal programs. The institute has helped provide greater transparency and accountability and has helped implement successful education practices in countless schools.
 
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas for improvement. In fact, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has cited several weaknesses Congress needs to address, including duplicative research and a failure to disseminate key information in a timely manner. Fortunately, because of the work of this committee, we are well on our way to reforming the law. In the spring of 2014, the committee passed – and the House later adopted by voice vote – the bipartisan Strengthening Education through Research Act.
 
The legislation included a number of important reforms, such as streamlining the federal education research system, requiring regular evaluations of research programs, and strengthening the autonomy of federal researchers to ensure they are not subject to political bias and interference. Many of us were disappointed the Senate was unable to push the bill across the finish line in the last Congress. However, we’re pleased the Senate has taken action on nearly identical legislation this Congress, and it’s my hope we can complete this work this year.
 
Now, any effort to improve education research should also strengthen student privacy protections. New technology has made it easier to analyze student information and develop new ways to improve learning, but it has also left parents and students more vulnerable to the misuse of student information. To make matters worse, student privacy protections are woefully outdated.
 
Long before online learning tools and cloud-based computing systems were the norm, Congress passed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. The intent of the law was to safeguard student privacy and give parents the peace of mind that their children’s academic records and personal information were safe and secure. But that was 1974, and a lot has changed since then. More student information is being collected and shared than ever before, often without the knowledge of parents and school officials.
 
A proposal introduced by Republicans and Democrats will bring the law into the twenty-first century. Among other reforms, the Student Privacy Protection Act will provide greater clarity and transparency over what information schools can use, collect, and share for educational purposes. The legislation will also strengthen the right of parents to prevent the sharing of their children’s information and enhance communication between parents and school leaders.
 
Both proposals – the Strengthening Education through Research Act and the Student Privacy Protection Act – reflect the hard work of members from both sides of the aisle, particularly the ranking member of the K-12 subcommittee, Congresswoman Fudge, our former colleague from New York, Carolyn McCarthy, and last but certainly not least, Congressman Todd Rokita, the chairman of the K-12 subcommittee, who remains a strong leader on these vital issues.
 
Improving education remains a leading priority for our committee, and it’s my hope we can take additional steps to improve education by enhancing education research and strengthening student privacy protections.

Risky Business: Effects of New Joint Employer Standards for Small Firms

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 03/17/2016 - 2:00pm
Chairman Crescent Hardy has scheduled a hearing of the Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations titled, “Risky Business: Effects of New Joint Employer Standards for Small Firms.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  

Witnesses

Mr. Vinay Patel
President and CEO
Fairbrook Hotels
Chantilly, VA
*Testifying on behalf of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association

Mr. Danny Farrar
CEO and Founder
SoldierFit
Frederick, MD
*Testifying on behalf of the Coalition to Save Local Businesses

Mr. Harris Freeman
Professor of Legal Research & Writing
Western New England School of Law
Springfield, MA

Mr. Kurt Larkin
Partner
Hunton & Williams LLP
Richmond, VA

Witnesses

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

Chairman Chabot: Reauthorize Key Small Business Programs

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 03/17/2016 - 12:00am

Note: House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) today introduced legislation to reauthorize two key programs to help America's small companies before they are set to expire next year. In an op-ed for The Hill, Chairman Chabot explained how early reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs will provide certainty and stability to American entrepreneurs.

Reauthorize Key Small Business Programs

By Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)

What do Sonicare toothbrushes, Roomba iRobots and 70 percent of the computer chips in today’s iPhones have in common?

As a few of our witnesses told the House Small Business Committee earlier this month, they all began with small companies using the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

These two initiatives have a proven track record of success in helping America’s small businesses compete and succeed in the global technology marketplace.
That is why our committee has begun the process of renewing SBIR and STTR before they are slated to expire next year.

Unless they are reauthorized by Congress, both programs will expire, putting America’s small businesses at a serious competitive disadvantage. That’s why we’re going to work together to make sure that doesn’t happen, and get these programs reauthorized sooner rather than later. SBIR is a rare example of a federal program that is more relevant today than when it was created. Unlike many such programs, taxpayers consistently get their money’s worth from the SBIR -- and then some. Congress has been able to modernize the program through reauthorizations over the last three decades, ensuring its success and providing a sharp contrast with bloated programs that have failed to deliver for small businesses.

We have been committed to advancing policies that will help American innovators as they develop the latest cutting-edge technology and get their products to market.

In this era of globalization, making it easier for small businesses to develop and commercialize new, innovative products is essential for both our economic security and our national security.

SBIR and STTR investments are an important part of this effort because their awards go to small innovators at the forefront of today’s scientific and technological revolution. Deservedly, the programs have long enjoyed bipartisan support, both on our Committee and throughout the halls of Congress.

There are more than 28 million small businesses in the United States which create about 7 out of every 10 new jobs and employ half the private sector workforce.Small businesses tend to be more nimble and better able to respond to market changes than their bigger counterparts, particularly when it comes to science and technology. This advantage has allowed small business to drive the innovation sector and make the United States more agile and competitive in the global economy.

Washington has always been criticized for lurching from crisis to crisis and striking last-minute, 11th-hour deals to pass important legislation, and that criticism is often deserved. By getting a jump start on reauthorizing these two key programs, we can start to break this bad habit while giving stability and predictability to thousands of entrepreneurs.

Our work on SBIR/STTR is already underway. This month, our Committee held a series of hearings where we heard from innovators from all walks of life about how valuable these awards have been to them and how much they would be helped by early reauthorization and the certainty it brings. Our Committee is set to approve a bipartisan reauthorization measure later this month.

Entrepreneurs constantly tell us that they need more certainty from Washington so they can better plan for the future. For many of them, a big part of that future is their innovation outlook and their research and development schedules. Congress and President Obama recognized this fundamental truth at the end of last year when we made permanent the Research and Development tax credit for small businesses.

Early reauthorization of SBIR and STTR would give similar certainty and predictability to our tech entrepreneurs so they can focus on getting their products to market, creating jobs and spurring economic growth.

Certainty and predictability breed confidence. As Speaker Ryan recognized when he announced the House GOP’s “Confident America” focus, restoring confidence in the American economy is key. Nowhere is confidence a bigger factor than with entrepreneurship.

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers and an accomplished inventor once famously said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

We won’t put off until tomorrow what our small businesses are asking that we do today.

Chabot has represented Ohio’s 1st Congressional District since 2011, and from 1995 to 2009. He is chairman of the Small Business Committee and also sits on the Foreign Affairs and the Judiciary committees.

The Obama Administration’s “Coordinated Assault on Small Business”

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 03/17/2016 - 12:00am

Entrepreneurs Tell Congress New Joint Employer Standards Will Harm Them

WASHINGTON - Today, small business owners urged a Congressional subcommittee to help them fight new standards from the Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which they say will do tremendous damage to their businesses as they seek to grow and hire more workers. The recent decision and guidance from some of the Obama administration’s top labor officials changed long-standing standards that defined when a business could be classified as a ‘joint employer.’ The vague standards the Administration has imposed are creating confusion and challenges for small businesses that want to work with other small and large firms as they expand their businesses.

House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH), Subcommittee Chairman Cresent Hardy (R-NV) and Republican Committee Members have pushed back against this ill-considered new standard and guidance with strong support from the small business community.

Being deemed a joint employer has huge ramifications. If two businesses are determined to be joint employers, one could be held liable for the other’s compliance with federal labor laws,” said Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight, and Regulations Chairman Cresent Hardy (R-NV). “These ambiguous standards are injecting more uncertainty into a variety of business relationships. Because of the increased liability, larger companies may try to reduce risks by asserting more control over small businesses they contract with or ending business relationships. Business models that have provided entrepreneurs with the opportunity to live the American dream may no longer be viable. These misguided policy changes are a threat to small businesses and need to be reconsidered before significant damage is done to this vital sector of the American economy.”

KEY TESTIMONY

“In an apparent effort to expedite this process, the DOL and other agencies have created a new standard of joint employment based on manufactured jargon, artificial business models and guidelines that lack any semblance of consistency or certainty,” testified Vinay Patel, a first generation American who is the President and CEO of Fairbrooks Hotels, and who testified on behalf of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association. “These actions undermine the ability for entrepreneurs like me to grow our businesses, create sustainable, local jobs and invest in our communities.”

“I urge this committee to investigate the motivations behind this coordinated assault on small business and to pass legislation that will reestablish the traditional joint employer standard that has allowed my family and me to realize the American Dream of small business ownership,” Patel added.

“I am a small business owner and an entrepreneur. By working extremely hard and expending immeasurable time and energy, I founded a successful company that has three locations and we are opening a fourth very soon,” said Danny Farrar, CEO and Founder of SoldierFit, who testified on behalf of the Coalition to Save Local Businesses. “But Mr. Chairman, I also am a franchisor; we recently awarded our first two franchises to further grow our concept. And the threat of unlimited, unpredictable joint employer liability is very scary. It threatens everything my partners and colleagues have worked to build in our community. So while some people may hear the term ‘franchise’ or ‘franchisor’ and think only of major corporations, they can also think of me, my small business, and my story, and the story of hundreds of thousands of both franchisors and franchisees who are small business owners.”

“Ultimately, the uncertainty over how to deal with the [NLRB]’s new standard poses a grave risk to small business owners,” testified Kurt Larkin, a partner with Hunton & Williams LLP. “Perhaps the biggest problem with the course on which the Board and other executive agencies appear to be headed is that it is fundamentally disconnected from, and tone-deaf to, the realities of American business.”

The Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America, National Federation of Independent Business, American Hotel and Lodging Association, National Restaurant Association, and Independent Electrical Contractors, all submitted letters for the hearing record detailing how the small businesses they represent will be harmed by the new joint employer policies.

###

Commerce Approves FAA Reauthorization Bill

“Passage of this bipartisan legislation is a win for airline passenger rights, advancing responsible drone usage, boosting the competitiveness of the aerospace industry, and making our skies safer,” said Chairman John Thune.

<p>"Good morning. Thanks to everyone

"Good morning. Thanks to everyone for being here today. While we await our quorum, I’d like to say a few words about today’s agenda. 

"Our focus today will be Senator Nelson and my “Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016.”  This bill benefits Americans who fly and even those who don’t.  

"This bipartisan legislation will reauthorize the FAA through fiscal year 2017, address safety and privacy concerns of unmanned aircraft systems – also known as UAS or drones – improve the aircraft certification process, increase consumer protections and aviation access, make critical safety improvements, and address general aviation safety and pilot protection issues.  

"While some might be disappointed that this bill did not go further when it comes to air traffic control reforms or increased airport infrastructure funding, I believe this bill is a significant step forward and provides this Committee and the U.S. Senate with an opportunity to make important changes that should not have to wait.  These include making our skies safer, promoting responsible drone usage, making economically significant aerospace manufacturing reforms, and adopting beneficial new protections for the flying public.  

"I appreciate the efforts of Senator Nelson in reaching agreement to advance this bill and I look forward to working with members of the Committee today as we process amendments.  It is my hope that the full Senate will be able to turn to this bill in early April and I then look forward to working with Chairman Shuster of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to find common ground with his innovative proposal.  

"The other item for today is a Coast Guard promotion:  Rear Admiral Karl Schultz, who has been nominated for promotion to be Vice Admiral.  If confirmed he will serve as Atlantic Area Commander for the U.S Coast Guard.  Admiral Schultz currently serves as the Director of Operations for U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Florida.  This is a non-controversial promotion and we expect it to move by voice vote today.

"Before I turn to Senator Nelson, I’d like to say a word about an item we have postponed until our next markup, the FCC Reauthorization Act of 2016.  As many of you know, the FCC has not been reauthorized in over 25 years, and during that time the technology and communication landscape has changed dramatically.  To begin the process of reinstating regular FCC authorizations, I have introduced a bill designed to avoid issues that could lead to partisan fights.  This modest bill authorizes the FCC for fiscal years 2017 and 2018, examines the agency’s regulatory fee structure, and avoids disruption in Universal Service funding.

"Due to the substantial debate we are expecting on the FAA Reauthorization today, Senator Nelson and I have agreed to delay consideration of this measure until our next markup in April.  During the next few weeks, we are committed to working together with all of you to try to build bipartisan consensus for a package that will hopefully enable the FCC reauthorization to pass the Senate by unanimous consent.    "Finally, and not to steal Senator Udall’s thunder on this point, but I would note that today is Brain Injury Awareness Day.  Senator Udall has been a tireless advocate on the issue of traumatic brain injury and concussions, and I look forward to working with him on his Youth Sports Concussion Act to make some modest improvements with an eye towards processing this legislation in the coming months."

"Today’s markup might be a little longer than normal, so I again want to thank everyone for their patience and their help in maintaining a quorum as we process amendments.  Ranking Member Nelson, would you like to make any opening remarks?"

SBA Management and Performance Challenges: The Inspector General’s Perspective

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 03/16/2016 - 11:00am

The Committee on Small Business hearing titled, “SBA Management and Performance Challenges: The Inspector General’s Perspective,”  originally scheduled for Wednesday, February 24, 2016, is rescheduled for 11 A.M. on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  

Witness
The Honorable Peggy E. Gustafson
Inspector General
United States Small Business Administration
Washington, DC

Hearing Materials

1. Hearing Notice

2. Witness List

Ranking Member Bill Nelso Opening Remarks

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today's markup.  I'll try to keep my comments somewhat brief.

I want to thank you for working with me to reach a general consensus on the FAA Reauthorization Act that's been months in the works.  

In drafting this legislation, we started with the premise that we would work in a bipartisan fashion and focus on areas of agreement while refraining from controversial proposals such as the plan to privatize air traffic control that has stalled the House FAA bill.  

Mr. Chairman, while I believe we have a good bill before us – I recognize that this is a robust process and I welcome the amendments we’re going to consider today.  

That said, I want to make one thing clear – there’s been continuing chatter coming from the House that there somehow will be “a change of hearts and minds” when it comes to this side of the aisle supporting ATC reform.  That’s not happening. 

While the bill is far from perfect, it includes many new consumer protections for airline passengers, critical improvements in drone safety, and reforms to boost U.S. aircraft manufacturing and exports.

When it comes to the growing list of airline fees and charges, consumers who feel “nickeled and dimed” deserve greater transparency and some relief.  This bill makes some progress on that front. 

Last summer, I released a report that found airlines failed to adequately disclose extra fees and add-on costs charged to the flying public.   This legislation builds on recommendations from that report. 

Among other things, it requires fee refunds for lost or delayed baggage, new standardized disclosure of fees for consumers, and increased protections for disabled passengers. 

This legislation will also bolster efforts to keep drones away from airports and other sensitive areas.  This was especially important to me given several incidents involving drones near Florida airports.  

Last year alone, the FAA recorded over 1,000 drone sightings near airports and aircraft.  The bottom line is that we need to do everything we can to protect the flying public from the threat posed by drones. 

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

Last, but certainly not least, this legislation also provides reforms in the FAA certification process that will boost U.S. manufacturing and exports and – most importantly – create good jobs for Americans.

To conclude my remarks, I want to briefly mention the nomination of Karl Shultz to be Vice Admiral of U.S. Coast Guard. 

If confirmed, he is slated to serve as Commander of the Atlantic Area, replacing Vice Admiral Lee, who is retiring.   Rear Admiral Shultz has provided excellent service in his current assignment as the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Director of Operations and is most deserving of this critical position.   I thank him for his service to the American people.

With that Mr. Chairman, let's get on with the markup.

Kline Statement: Hearing on the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 03/16/2016 - 10:00am
It is always a pleasure to discuss with you the policies of the Department of Labor, which impact countless workplaces and millions of workers across the country. As I’ve said before, it’s the responsibility of this committee to ensure those policies are being administered in a way that best protects the interests of workers and employers, and American taxpayers as well.

This is a responsibility we take seriously, especially at a time when many working families and small businesses are still struggling to get by. There is no question the economy has shown signs of modest improvement, and we certainly welcome every new job that’s created. But there’s also no question many Americans feel they are slipping further behind in an economy that isn’t meeting its full potential.

At an event in Raleigh, North Carolina, former President Bill Clinton referred to the president’s recent State of the Union address and said, “Millions … of people look at that pretty picture of America he painted, and they cannot find themselves in it to save their lives.” We don’t agree on a lot of things, but President Clinton has rightly summed up the frustration many Americans feel.

Month after month, we exceed low expectations, and that simply isn’t good enough. It’s not good enough for the tens of millions of workers still sitting on the sidelines; it’s not good enough for the nearly six million Americans who need full-time jobs but can only find part-time work; and it’s not good enough for those families whose incomes remain flat. We need to do better, and there are opportunities to do better. However, those opportunities will be lost if the department continues to push an extreme regulatory agenda.

For example, we both agree federal overtime rules need to be changed. The committee has held numerous hearings with witnesses who testified that these rules are so convoluted that well-meaning, law-abiding employers often get tied up in red tape and run afoul of the law. The overtime rules are also outdated, denying men and women the ability to balance work with their personal or family needs.

We have said repeatedly we want to partner with the department in a serious effort to streamline and modernize overtime protections. Unfortunately, the department is pursuing an approach that will do nothing to provide employers more clarity and certainty. To make matters worse, the department’s proposal will actually stifle workplace flexibility and make it harder for lower-income Americans to move up the economic ladder. These and other consequences will unfold in communities across the country, in local retail stores, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and community colleges. The very places that can least afford it will be hit the hardest.

In addition to overtime, there is also broad, bipartisan agreement we need to strengthen policies governing retirement advice. Of course, there are also strong, bipartisan concerns with the department’s fiduciary proposal. As Dr. Roe suggested at a hearing last year, if we applied the same regulatory regime on the medical profession, patients would have less access to trusted physicians, and the same will be true for those seeking retirement advice.

Because of the rule, many low- and middle-income families will have less access to affordable retirement advice and fewer small businesses will offer retirement plans. Thanks to the hard work of Dr. Roe and others, there is a bipartisan alternative that would protect access to affordable retirement advice and ensure advisors serve their clients’ best interests. This legislation is a strong foundation to address a shared priority if the department will abandon its flawed, partisan proposal.

Mr. Secretary, I strongly encourage you to take a step back and build bipartisan consensus in these and other important areas. The department’s my-way-or-the-highway approach will not deliver the lasting, positive change working families and job creators need to move this country forward. The only way to do that is for the administration to work with members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans. I would also encourage the department to renew its focus where bipartisan consensus has already delivered results, such as workforce development and multiemployer pensions.

The president noted recently the importance of providing new skills to those searching for work, yet the department has failed to implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in a timely manner. A new report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office confirms the consequences of the department’s inaction, and we hope the implementation process will conclude without further delay. Finally, Mr. Secretary, you played an integral role in our efforts to reform the multiemployer pension system. Your continued leadership is needed to solidify the gains we’ve made and to modernize the system for future generations of workers and retirees.

Our success in these areas demonstrates what’s possible when extreme policies are set aside and we work together in good faith toward a common goal. In the coming months, I hope we seize the opportunities we have in order to make a real difference in the lives of America’s workers and employers.

NO MORE EXCUSES: IG Chides SBA on Mismanagement, Lax IT Security

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 03/16/2016 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – Today, the Inspector General for the Small Business Administration (SBA) told members of the House Small Business Committee that the agency is failing to address long-standing management problems identified by her office, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the U.S. Congress.  SBA Inspector General Peggy Gustafson warned lawmakers that these failures could be impacting the agency’s ability to serve America’s small businesses in a timely, effective and digitally secure manner. You can watch video of the hearing here and read highlights below:

IT SECURITY

“They have a lot of sensitive information from small businesses all across the country,” said Chairman Chabot (R-OH). “Your reports have identified weaknesses in the SBA’s incident reporting. Yet in their most recent budget justification, the SBA claims to have had a 100% success rate in timely reporting incidents during that time. If the SBA is going to claim success in the face of failure then how can we be sure they will actually address and resolve their management challenges?”

“One of the most concerning things about that report is there were 31 recommendations that had been carried over from previous years, which is an exceptionally large number,” responded Inspector General Peggy Gustafson. “We’re talking about IT vulnerabilities, IT system issues. There were definite concerns about instances not being reported timely and happening again.”

“They even mentioned the idea of there’s been a lot turnover in the IT area, there’s a lot of things that happened where they almost dropped the ball, that’s, of course, unacceptable,” added Gustafson. “It goes to show a perfect area where the agency needs to show leadership from the very top saying this is not going to be acceptable, we are going to dedicate whatever resources it requires and address these issues.” 

“We owe small businesses all across the country the best that we can provide and the best that the SBA can provide. You indicated their record is mixed and mixed isn’t good enough so they need to do better. Last week, your office released a report in which you identified a number of weakness in the SBA’s management information security. Specifically, you found the SBA is not sufficiently tracking security incidents nor is it properly reporting them to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team,” Chabot added.

MISMANAGEMENT

“In fact, reports and audits compiled by the Inspector General reveal that some of the most serious management challenges affecting the SBA were first highlighted over a decade ago. As these issues have gone unresolved, SBA programs have remained vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse, which undermines the agency’s mission to support America’s small businesses,” noted Chairman Chabot.

“It would be irresponsible for me to not be concerned about the fact that SBA has not resolved many of these longstanding management challenges. And that part of this reason may be due to a lack of sustained priority attention given to these challenges over time,” said Gustafson. 

CONTRACTING

“Your testimony is not the first time we have heard of the problem of large businesses receiving contracts supposed to be reserved for small businesses, and as you know, this Committee has taken steps to address this concern,” said Committee Member Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS). “We have increased penalties, including liquidated damages, imposed on companies perpetrating fraud.  We have required companies to re-certify their status as small upon a merger or novation of a contract.  We have met with GSA to require the new version of the government’s procurement data system accurately classifies small and large business.  Just this past January we marked up legislation requiring the SBA to report separately on companies who have outgrown their size status.”  

“This Committee is giving the SBA tools to ensure that large businesses are not receiving small business contracts.  Why is the SBA not using them?” asked Kelly.

In her response, Gustafson said these reforms were “tremendously helpful,” and “positive steps” in reducing fraud and adhering to the statutory goal of awarding 23 percent of federal prime contracts to small businesses. 

BACKGROUND:

  • Today’s hearing was the latest in a series of oversight hearings examining widespread mismanagement and performance problems at the SBA. During these hearings, the Committee has heard from seven SBA officials, including SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.

Ninth Circuit Continues its “Judicial Hostility” to Arbitration in Trio of Rulings

WLF Legal Pulse - Tue, 03/15/2016 - 4:13pm
Despite its past losses in the U.S. Supreme Court, the plaintiffs’ bar’s crusade against individualized arbitration marches on. In the past year, powerful allies in federal agencies, such as the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as friendly media outlets like the New York Times, have helped to advance […]
Categories: Latest News

Hands Off: The Future of Self-Driving Cars

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled “Hands Off: The Future of Self-Driving Cars” on Tuesday, March 15, at 2:30 p.m.

The hearing will explore advancements in autonomous vehicle technology and its anticipated benefits for Americans. Witnesses have been asked to testify on their continued efforts to develop automated vehicles, their views on the appropriate role of government in promoting innovation including removing unnecessary hurdles, and their strategy to grow consumer adoption of this new technology.
 
Witnesses:
 
•    Dr. Chris Urmson, Director of Self-Driving Cars, Google X
•    Mr. Mike Ableson, Vice President for Program Management, General Motors
•    Mr. Glen DeVos, Vice President, Global Engineering and Services, Electronics and Safety, Delphi Automotive
•    Mr. Joseph Okpaku, Vice President of Government Relations, Lyft
•    Dr. Mary (Missy) Louise Cummings, Director, Humans and Autonomy Lab and Duke Robotics, Duke University
 
* Witness list subject to change

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016
2:30 p.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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. 

I also want to thank you and the committee staff for arranging the autonomous technology demonstrations this morning for members of the committee. 

I know it was not easy to set this up – particularly with all of the security that we have around the Capitol – and I really appreciate your efforts.

From the outset, I want to say that I share everyone’s enthusiasm and excitement about the prospect of self-driving cars. 

If truly autonomous vehicles become a reality, it’s not an exaggeration to say that our overall sense of mobility would be revolutionized.

Many lives could be saved by reducing preventable accidents.

Our environment could be significantly greener through reduced emissions. 

Efficiency and productivity could sky rocket, and underserved communities without reliable means of transportation could finally be integrated into the global economy. 

And in Florida and many other states, this technology could be particularly beneficial for seniors and people with disabilities.

But we have to get the technology right so that self-driving cars live up to their full promise. 

Congress and the federal government must play a critical role, and that means, yes, we must foster a regulatory and legal environment in which American businesses are able to develop and manufacture these vehicles. 

But it also means that we must exercise responsible oversight by asking the tough questions today to make sure these cars of tomorrow are safe for the public.

As we have seen with both the Takata airbag crisis and the GM ignition switch recall, individual components of vehicles with defects can snowball into big problems.

With autonomous cars, the stakes are even higher.

For example, can you imagine what would happen if little cybersecurity flaw allowed thousands – or even millions – of autonomous vehicles to get hacked while they are out on the road?

One small defect could lead to a massive safety crisis – and we have to get this right.

Safety has to be built into these vehicles.

And if a problem comes up, manufacturers and regulators have to get together and quickly find solutions.

No more cover-ups or head in the sand approaches to safety.

If we are to avoid similar tragedies in the future, we must ask difficult policy questions and have frank discussions on what can go wrong and what can be done to prevent it. 

I hope we can do that today.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

<p>"Good afternoon.&nbsp; I would like

"Good afternoon.  I would like to thank everyone for coming today as we discuss automated vehicles and the boundless opportunities these technologies offer. 

"Americans love their cars.  Since the automobile first rolled off an assembly line in River Rouge, Michigan, cars in America have offered independence, mobility and adventure. 

"Now, profound changes are coming to our roads.  Technological advancements are progressing at a rapid pace and fully self-driving cars will be here sooner than we think. 

"We are facing an opportunity to expand the options for transportation by car while also making it smarter and safer.

"Yet, technological challenges remain, and people will need to become comfortable with the idea of being passengers in their own cars – we all like that feeling of control when we hold the steering wheel.

"But perhaps the greatest hurdle to the deployment of these vehicles may be a regulatory environment with a patchwork of state and federal laws unable to keep pace with these evolving technologies.

"Everything from driver assist functions like lane departure warnings to completely autonomous vehicles will transform transportation and mobility, profoundly affecting safety issues that have confronted society since the invention of the car.

"In 2014, 32,675 Americans lost their lives due to car accidents.  More than ninety percent of these tragedies are linked to human error – driver choices, intoxication, and distraction.

"Automated vehicles have the potential to reduce that number dramatically. Unlike human drivers, automated vehicles don’t get tired, drunk, or distracted.

"Combatting drunk driving has been a particular priority for me.  South Dakota’s 24/7 sobriety program, which works to change behavior though round-the-clock monitoring, is one successful program, but I’m eager to hear how autonomous vehicles could further reduce accidents due to drunk driving.

"In addition to helping reduce accidents on American roads, autonomous vehicles promise to improve the quality of life for older Americans and members of the disabled community. 

"No longer will a lack of accessible transportation hinder opportunities for employment or community involvement.  As America’s population ages, families may no longer have to struggle with the difficult decision of when to take the keys away from mom or dad.

"Automated vehicles could also end one of the most frustrating parts of modern urban life – the traffic jam. This alone would improve the quality of life for many commuters with more time for families as commutes shorten. 

"And, if the car does all the driving, time spent in a car could be productive, such as reading work emails, checking the box score from last night’s game, or catching up on the highlights on Sports Center.   

"With no more gridlock, traffic will flow more smoothly and efficiently.  Even fuel economy is likely to improve, since automated vehicles will be more efficient than human drivers.  

"These advancements also have the potential to reshape communities.  Currently, parking garages and surface lots take up one-third of the land in cities. 

"Imagine a technology that will revolutionize parking as we know it, allowing that land to be reclaimed and repurposed.   

"To implement this future, we need to challenge ourselves to overcome the 20th century conception of what a car must have – side and rearview mirrors, a brake pedal, a steering wheel, and even the concept of a licensed human driver.

"Because so much is possible, we must be careful not to stymie innovation because of a lack of imagination. 

"Federal and state governments may need to rethink how they regulate and license vehicles for the future.

"We must ensure that the United States remains the cradle of innovation and that we continue to lead the way in the development and deployment of automated vehicles.

"In addition, questions regarding liability, insurance, privacy, security, and infrastructure need answers.  These aren’t small things, but none of them is insurmountable. 

"And if Congress, the Department of Transportation, industry, and stakeholders work together, we will see all the benefits promised. 

"This morning, the Committee had the great opportunity to see some of this technology in action, when we brought self-drive to Capitol Hill.  Continental, Volkswagen, BMW, and Tesla provided vehicles that gave us first-hand experience to see what the future may hold and a preview to the discussions at this hearing.

"I want to thank them for making their vehicles available.

"This afternoon we are joined by witnesses representing Google X, General Motors, Delphi, and Lyft, companies with direct stakes in automated technology.  We are also joined by Dr. Cummings from Duke University, who is also a distinguished naval aviator and a returning witness before our Committee.  Dr. Cummings, thank you for your service to our country.

"I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses to learn more about what they’re doing in this space and their vision for the future.

"Before we hear from our witnesses, some will also play a short video. But up first, Senator Nelson."

Small Business Committee Holds Roundtable on Executive Orders

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 03/15/2016 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON - Today, Members of the House Committee on Small Business heard from representatives of the small business community about the crushing impact of President Obama’s executive orders on America’s small businesses at a roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill.

The discussion was led by full Committee Steve Chabot (R-OH), Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce Chairman Richard Hanna (R-NY) and Committee Member Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA).  

“It is clear from this morning’s discussions that the Obama administration’s executive orders are having a devastating effect on America’s small businesses, especially our small contractors,” said Chairman Chabot (R-OH). “Hearing directly from small businesses is essential to our efforts to fight back against this pattern of executive overreach that is harming our job creators.” 

Participating in the roundtable were representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Society for Human Resource Management, IT Alliance for Public Sector, National Association of Manufacturers, HR Policy Association, Professional Services Council, Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors, National Electrical Contractors Association and the American Council of Engineering Companies. 

Chairman Chabot, Subcommittee Chairman Richard Hanna, Rep. Steve Knight and representatives of the small business community discuss the impact of President Obama’s executive orders on small businesses.


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