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Fact Sheet: Senate Action on TSA Screening Delays and Making Travel Safer

On April 19, 2016, the U.S. Senate voted 95-3 to approve a security-focused, passenger-friendly bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal air travel programs. The bill included several bipartisan provisions authored by both members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to improve the safety and efficiency of airport security. The bill’s comprehensive security improvement initiatives include:

  • Reducing wait times through PreCheck – Senate passed security provisions awaiting House action include the TSA PreCheck Enhancement which would help enroll more Americans in expedited security screening to reduce waits by vetting more passengers before they arrive to get them through checkpoints quickly.
  • Using K-9s and personnel to increase safety and efficiency – The Senate bill includes provisions to enhance the security presence of K-9 units and other personnel in pre-screening airport areas and increases preparedness for active shooter incidents.
  • Securing international flights bound for the U.S. – Because some international airports abroad operating non-stop flights to U.S. airports lack the security equipment and expertise of U.S. and other state-of-the-art airports, the Senate FAA bill awaiting House action authorizes TSA to donate unneeded security equipment to foreign airports with direct flights to the U.S., permits increased cooperation between U.S. officials and partner nations, and requires a new assessment of foreign cargo security programs.
  • Addressing the insider threat of terrorism – The Senate passed bill also enhances requirements and vetting for airport employees with access to secure areas. It expands the use of random and physical inspections of airport employees in secure areas and requires a review of perimeter security.

The Sharing Economy: A Taxing Experience for New Entrepreneurs, Part II

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 10:00am
Chairman Steve Chabot has scheduled a hearing of the Committee on Small Business titled, “The Sharing Economy:  A Taxing Experience for New Entrepreneurs, Part II.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Thursday, May 26, 2016 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

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

Witness List

"Beyond unacceptable, it is absurd”

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 12:00am

National Taxpayer Advocate: IRS Not Helping Entrepreneurs in the Sharing Economy


WASHINGTON
– The National Taxpayer Advocate told members of the House Small Business Committee today that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not been helping Americans navigate tax rules and regulations in the new sharing economy. Today’s hearing was the second in a two-part series held by the Committee examining tax compliance challenges for entrepreneurs in the sharing economy.

“When the IRS is behind the times, it puts small businesses behind the eight ball,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “This failure has left on-demand platform companies and their workers confused and frustrated as they try to do the right thing and pay the taxes they owe.”

“Here’s the real kicker: many on-demand companies say they would gladly provide tax compliance training but they don’t because they are afraid the IRS will reclassify their relationship and subject them to whole new host of regulations and obligations,” Chairman Chabot observed. 

“Congressional committees like ours have a duty to provide robust oversight of the IRS and ensure they are providing small businesses with clarity and treating them fairly,” Chabot added.

THE NATIONAL TAXPAYER ADVOCATE’S VIEW

“If a person working in the sharing economy called the IRS toll free line today, he or she would hear a recording saying the IRS is not answering any tax law questions after April 15th, so please check IRS dot gov,” testified Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate at the IRS. “The same message is given to people asking questions at IRS walk-in sites. For a tax agency to not answer questions from taxpayers trying to learn what they need to do to comply is beyond unacceptable, it’s absurd.” 

Under current IRS rules, Olson explained, “An Airbnb host would have to sift through a 24 page publication 527 residential rental property and an Uber driver would have to navigate through the 50 page publication 463 travel, entertainment, gift and car expenses and they still might not understand how these rules apply to themselves as service providers in the sharing economy.”

You can read full testimony from today’s hearing here and watch full video of the hearing here

Overdue: Chabot, Chaffetz Press OMB on Paperwork Reduction Requirements

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 05/26/2016 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON—House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), joined by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) today asked the Office and Management and Budget for a long overdue status update on the federal paperwork burden.

Chairmen Chabot and Chaffetz, whose Committees have jurisdiction over the Paperwork Reduction Act, pointed out to OMB Director Shaun Donovan that “the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is required to annually submit a report to Congress on the paperwork burden imposed on individuals, small businesses and others by federal agencies and efforts to reduce those burdens.”

As Chabot and Chaffetz noted, “OMB’s report, which it calls the Information Collection Budget, is long overdue. Congress did not receive a report in 2015.” 

Read full text of the letter here.

May 26, 2016

The Honorable Shaun Donovan
Director
Office of Management and Budget
Washington, D.C. 20503

Dear Director Donovan:

            As Chairmen of the Committees with jurisdiction over the Paperwork Reduction Act,

5 U.S.C. §§ 3501-21 (PRA), we write to inquire about the Office of Management and Budget’s annual report on the federal paperwork burden.  Pursuant to the PRA, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is required to annually submit a report to Congress on the paperwork burden imposed on individuals, small businesses, and others by federal agencies and efforts to reduce those burdens. OMB’s report, which it calls the Information Collection Budget, is long overdue. 

Congress did not receive a report in 2015.  The last report that OMB issued was in 2014 and covered the paperwork burden imposed on the public in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. We are concerned that OMB is not fulfilling its obligations under the PRA.  Congress needs the Information Collection Budget to evaluate the overall federal paperwork burden and determine whether legislative changes are necessary to ensure the PRA operates as Congress intended.  Therefore, we request that OMB provide the following information:

1.      Why did OMB fail to issue a report to Congress on the federal paperwork burden in 2015?

2.      On what date will OMB publish the Information Collection Budget that covers the federal paperwork burdens for FY 2014?

3.      On what date will OMB publish the Information Collection Budget that covers the federal paperwork burdens for FY 2015?

4.      Please explain how OMB will ensure that it provides Congress with an annual report on the federal paperwork burden as required by 5 U.S.C. § 3514 from now on. 

5.      Please provide all policies and guidance documents explaining how OMB approves information collection requests.

Please provide your responses no later than June 23, 2016


Sincerely,

Steve Chabot                                                                          
Chairman                                                                                
Committee on Small Business

Jason Chaffetz
Chairman
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform                                              

cc:  The Honorable Howard Shelanski, Administrator
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget

Walberg Statement: Hearing on "Promoting Safe Workplaces Through Effective and Responsible Recordkeeping Standards"

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 10:00am
There are many issues under our jurisdiction that touch workplaces across the country. One of the more important issues is employee health and safety. This is a challenging issue that directly impacts the lives of America’s workers and their families, and one that demands thoughtful and meaningful solutions.

As I said at a hearing last month, we all agree that hardworking men and women should be able to earn a paycheck without risking a serious injury or being exposed to a deadly disease, and every family deserves the peace of mind that their loved ones are safe on the job. There is no one in this room who doubts the need for strong health and safety protections, or that OSHA has a role to play in promoting safe workplaces. Reducing occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities is a priority that crosses party lines, and stretches from the White House to the halls of Congress.

However, there are times when we share a difference of opinion in how to reach that goal. One illness, one injury, or one fatality in the workplace is one too many. That’s why, as a committee, we believe bad actors who cut corners and put workers in harm’s way must be held accountable. At the same time, the administration should work with employers to address gaps in safety in order to prevent injuries and illnesses before they occur.

We also believe health and safety policies should be created with input from the public. Employers and their employees know better than most the unique safety challenges facing their workplaces. If rules coming out of Washington fail to account for those unique challenges, or if they’re too complex and confusing to understand, they won’t deliver the protections workers need. That’s why the rulemaking process should be transparent and allow for public feedback.

Unfortunately, time and again, the Obama administration has pursued a different, more punitive approach. The majority of employers want to do the right thing. But instead of working with those employers to develop proactive safety measures, the agency is focused more on punishing everyone for the actions of a few.

As I said, employers who jeopardize the safety of workers must be held accountable. But the agency’s reactive approach does nothing to help employers understand complicated regulations, and it does nothing to achieve our common goal of preventing tragedies from occurring in the first place.

Several recent changes to OSHA’s injury and illness reporting standards are the latest example of this flawed approach, and the focus of our hearing. These new requirements significantly change who the standards apply to, what needs to be reported, and how and when OSHA must be notified. As is often the case, these changes will create additional layers of red tape—especially for small businesses with limited resources to fully understand complex safety standards. And to make matters worse, the administration has advanced these expansive changes despite broad, public concerns.

One of the most concerning requirements calls for public posting of injury and illness records online without corresponding context. This regulatory scheme designed to shame employers will do little—if anything—to advance the cause of worker safety. What it will do is make it easier for Big Labor to organize, and for trial lawyers to bring frivolous lawsuits. The agency will need to spend millions of dollars on this special interest tool, which will shift scarce resources away from proactive policies to improve safety, such as inspections and compliance assistance programs. And in the process, the agency is jeopardizing the privacy of workers’ personal information. This rule isn’t about serving the best interests of workers—it’s about serving powerful special interests at the expense of workers.

We owe it to working families to hold the administration accountable for its misguided policies and to call on OSHA to take a more responsible, effective, and collaborative approach. This oversight hearing is an important part of that effort and our commitment to protecting the health and safety of America’s workers.

# # #

 

Sen. Bill Nelson Opening Statement

At 6:30 on the morning of September 26, 1955, the Jacksonville, Florida-based crew of the Snowcloud Five departed Guantanamo, Cuba for Category Four Hurricane Janet.

The aircraft and eleven brave lives were lost to the storm. Hurricane Janet then went on to hit the Yucatan peninsula, with a death toll numbering over five hundred.

As a current NOAA Corps hurricane hunter pilot tells it, when folks ask him if he’s crazy, he just answers, “You’re worth it.” The dedicated officers of the NOAA Corps and the scientists their planes carry are passionate.

And even after the tragedy of the Snowcloud Five, NOAA employees continue to brave the elements to provide severe weather warnings.

So as a senator from the state with the most hurricane strikes in the U.S. mainland, I am deeply appreciative of the work of our witness, the National Hurricane Center, the NOAA Corps hurricane hunters, and the Hurricane Research Division. And I’m proud that each of these entities call Florida home.

Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure to get my hands on technology that can extend the impressive reach of the NOAA hurricane hunters.

Did you know that the hunters fly as low as 1500 feet in these storms?

They do that because the lowest levels of a hurricane—called the boundary layer where the storm meets the ocean—provide critical information about what the storm is going to do. Hurricanes are fueled by warm ocean water. And yesterday, we got to see the hunter’s new partner: a hurricane drone called “The Coyote.”  NOAA will deploy eight of these drones—made by Raytheon—during the upcoming hurricane season, which officially starts next week. The Coyote can fly as far as 50 miles away from the hurricane hunter airplane gathering important data about the storm, and especially, about the boundary layer.

Dr. Knabb, I hope you won’t take offense when I say that I hope your job is very boring this year. We’ve been spared from “the big one” for several years now.

Though I hope that trend continues, I also realize that it’s only a matter of time. And we have to be ready.

After the horrific series of storms in 2005—Katrina, Rita, and Wilma—it became clear that our ability to forecast the intensity of a hurricane was not up to par. So several expert reports recommended that we invest $85 million a year for the next 10 years to improve the forecasts.

Seven years ago this month, NOAA formally established the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project.

The five-year goal of the project to reduce average track and intensity errors by 20% has been met. And that’s no small feat. Research within NOAA and at places like the University of Miami has significantly improved our ability to predict where a hurricane will go and how strong it will be.

But proposed budget cuts by the administration threaten the ten-year goal of the program. This is unacceptable.

That’s why Senator Rubio and I filed legislation to codify the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project. This program is about saving lives and property from one of the most fatal natural disasters.

And we simply cannot afford to be penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to hurricanes.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew claimed 26 lives—15 in Florida alone—and left more than 160,000 Dade County residents homeless. Its economic cost to the United States was over $25 billion dollars.

Hurricane Katrina was responsible for 1833 deaths and $108 billion in damages.

And as Ranking Member Booker knows too well, Superstorm Sandy took 147 lives, damaged at least 650,000 houses, and left 8.5 million customers without power.

So I appreciate Senator Rubio for calling this hearing today. We can’t afford to look in the rearview mirror and wish we had invested more in the science.

Thanks Dr. Knabb for all you do to help us prepare for and avoid the devastation that comes with hurricanes.

The Sharing Economy: A Taxing Experience for New Entrepreneurs, Part I

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 11:00am
Chairman Steve Chabot has scheduled a hearing of the Committee on Small Business titled, “The Sharing Economy:  A Taxing Experience for New Entrepreneurs, Part I.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11:00 A.M. on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

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

Witness List

Ms. Caroline Bruckner
Executive-in-Residence, Accounting and Taxation
Managing Director, Kogod Tax Policy Center
Washington, DC
Testimony

Mr. Rob Willey
VP Marketing
TaskRabbit
San Francisco, CA
Testimony

Mr. Morgan Reed
Executive Director
ACT  The App Association
Washington, DC
Testimony

Mr. Joe Kennedy
Senior Fellow
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
Washington, DC
Testimony

<p>"Two years ago, the Commerce

"Two years ago, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intention to transition the functions of the Internet Assigned Number Authority (IANA) to the global multistakeholder community. 

"Since that time, the multistakeholder community—made up of businesses, technical experts, academics and civil society—has spent more than 26,000 working hours on the IANA (pronounced eye-ANNE-uh) transition proposal, and held more than 600 related meetings and calls. 

"At the outset of this hearing, I would like to acknowledge the hard work undertaken by many stakeholders, some of whom are here today as witnesses, in taking on the daunting task of developing the transition proposal. 

"Regardless of where one stands on the transition, we should recognize the difficult work that has been done, and the ongoing commitment that will be needed if the transition is to be completed in a way that addresses the important concerns that have been raised about the future governance of the Internet.

"On March 10th, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) forwarded to NTIA for review the transition proposal developed by the global community of Internet stakeholders. 

"NTIA set a target of 90 days to complete its review, which is expected to be completed on June 10th, whereupon NTIA will issue a report stating its determination as to whether the proposal meets the criteria NTIA outlined when it first announced the transition, such as the requirement that the proposal maintain the openness and global interoperability of the Internet. 

"If NTIA approves the transition, ICANN expects to produce an implementation report by August 15th. 

"The existing IANA contract is set to expire on September 30, 2016, unless NTIA acts to extend it or Congress acts to delay the transition. 

"These dates are rapidly approaching, which is why I called this hearing today to examine the stakeholders’ transition proposal.

"Our Committee held an earlier hearing on the proposed IANA transition in February of 2015. 

"At that hearing, I said I would review any IANA transition plan to make sure it both meets the requirements laid out by NTIA, and that it adopts meaningful accountability reforms, such as curtailing government involvement in apolitical governance matters; providing additional oversight tools to the multistakeholder community; and adopting an independent dispute resolution process. 

"Last year, I also introduced the DOTCOM Act along with Senators Schatz, Wicker, and Rubio, which our committee approved on a bipartisan basis. 

"With that bill, which also passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 378 to 25, we all made it clear that any transition plan must not “replace the role of the NTIA with a government-led or intergovernmental organization.” 

"Further, the DOTCOM Act would require any transition plan to maintain “the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet domain name system.”

"I hope to hear from each of our witnesses whether they believe the proposed IANA transition plan developed by the multistakeholder community meets these requirements, as well as whether it satisfies NTIA’s criteria. 

"In particular, I am interested to learn whether the stakeholder community has delivered a proposal with accountability reforms strong enough to give Congress and the American people confidence that the time has come to privatize the IANA functions.

"At last year’s IANA hearing, I said that the goal of everyone here is the same: we want one, global Internet that is not fragmented nor hijacked by authoritarian regimes. 

"Whether the IANA transition goes forward or not, I know that everyone wants to ensure all Internet users can continue to have complete faith that the IANA functions will be carried out effectively and seamlessly long into the future. 

"We have a distinguished panel here today, representing a diverse variety of perspectives, professional experiences, and personal views. 

"I’m looking forward to hearing from each of you.

"With that, I turn to the ranking member for any comments he would like to make."

Foxx Statement: Hearing on “Demanding Accountability at the Corporation for National and Community Service”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 10:00am
The Corporation for National and Community Service, or CNCS, is in charge of overseeing the community service activities of more than eight different federal programs and initiatives. For the current fiscal year, CNCS received more than $1 billion to carry out these programs, one of which is the AmeriCorps program.

As the head of the corporation, Ms. Spencer, you have a responsibility to ensure the federal funds you receive—which is no small sum—are being spent in full compliance with federal law. That includes policies that prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortion activities. We’re here today because the office of your Inspector General has reported one AmeriCorps grantee, the National Association of Community Health Centers, violated the law. As of today, this organization is still receiving taxpayer funds.

More specifically, this organization—one of the largest to participate in the AmeriCorps program—allowed AmeriCorps members to engage in illegal activity by providing support services during abortion procedures. Regardless of your position on the issue of abortion, the law is the law, and it must be followed. The most recent law reauthorizing CNCS programs explicitly prohibits the use of AmeriCorps resources to “provide abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services.”

For two years, these illegal activities were allowed to continue, completely undetected by the very agency meant to oversee these programs. The investigation that began when you finally did become aware of what had happened confirmed that taxpayer funds were used to support unlawful activities, but it also revealed much more.

The Inspector General also found that several AmeriCorps members were regularly tasked with conducting work performed by employees of the centers they supported. This activity is also against the law, but the grantee failed to stop or even report it. AmeriCorps members are to serve strictly in volunteer roles and should never preform the same tasks as employees. But, again, that’s not the end of it.

It was also discovered that the grantee’s senior management chose not to inform the corporation of instances of waste, fraud, and abuse, choosing instead to undermine transparency and avoid reporting information that would make them look bad.

This disturbing list of unlawful and dishonest practices really makes you wonder: How on earth was this allowed to happen? How were these activities allowed to go on for so long? And, why is the National Association of Community Health Centers still a grantee?

When the committee learned about this unlawful activity last month, Chairman Kline immediately called on the corporation to cease all future funding of this organization. On behalf of the committee, I am renewing that call today, Ms. Spencer. I sincerely hope that you will be able to provide us with a plan of action and describe steps you are taking to address this situation.

Revoking this grant would be a good start, but it’s also important to recognize that this is not an isolated incident. In fact, I chaired a hearing back in 2011 examining reports that AmeriCorps members had engaged in other unlawful activity. In response to questioning, the head of CNCS assured us the corporation would be diligent in educating grantees, “helping them to understand the rules,” and would require “all AmeriCorps grantees to annually assure compliance with regulations on prohibited activities.” It seems that neither strategy has solved the problem.

That’s why today I am also calling on the corporation to conduct a comprehensive review to ensure all other grantees in the program are complying with the law. Enough is enough. The corporation needs to be held accountable for the way it spends taxpayer dollars, and that’s why we are here today.

An Uber-Taxing Experience for New Entrepreneurs

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 12:00am

TaskRabbit, Experts Describe Challenges of the Sharing Economy to Congress

WASHINGTON – A representative for the on-demand platform company TaskRabbit told the House Small Business Committee today that the current tax, regulatory and legal climate threatens the success of entrepreneurs in the new sharing economy. The panel of experts described to lawmakers the bevy of new tax compliance challenges faced by small employers, employees and their customers as they navigate the online, app-driven sharing economy.

“No matter what you call it, the sharing economy is changing the face of American entrepreneurship and small businesses before our very eyes,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “The dizzying pace of this change has presented many new opportunities and new challenges for the millions of Americans who participate in it.”

“These new platforms have dramatically changed the way companies provide goods and services, giving their workers unprecedented freedom and independence. However, in their enthusiasm, these entrepreneurs are running smack-dab into the buzz-saw of an outmoded tax code that is not designed to accommodate them,” observed Chabot.

“Unfortunately, the IRS has not been part of the solution for entrepreneurs in navigating this new sharing economy. Too often, it has been part of the problem. Our current tax system isn’t working for these new small businesses. In many ways, it is working against them. We can do better, we must do better,” Chabot added.

ENTREPRENEURS TASK WASHINGTON WITH TAX & REGULATORY REFORM

“Tax compliance is just one area of many where our Taskers could benefit from better training. Our Taskers also are looking for direction on how to better market themselves and their services, access health care, and plan for retirement,” testified Rob Willey, the Vice President of Marketing for TaskRabbit.“We at TaskRabbit would like to be a resource, a partner, and a collaborator for that training – it is one of our main areas of focus in determining what types of services we can provide for our Taskers. We hesitate to pursue the kinds of training services we want to provide simply because the threat of litigation and the risks tied to worker classification laws and regulations at the federal and state level are real.”

Pointing to a proposal by economist Joseph V. Kennedy, who also testified at today’s hearing, Willey called for a legal and regulatory “time-out” for new sharing economy companies.

“In the early years of the Internet, Congress imposed a moratorium on federal and state taxation of Internet transactions. Doing so helped a young, nascent sector of the economy develop and provide real benefits for consumers,” explained Willey. “A limited period of legal and regulatory relief would enable platform economy companies to pursue innovative ways to develop and provide services and benefits to those small business owners and entrepreneurs who utilize platform services.”

“What we want to avoid is a situation in which the burdens of tax compliance become so great that it forces Taskers to scale back on their tasks, if not compel them to leave the network altogether,” added Willey.

NEW STUDY: SMALL BIZ GETTING “SHORT-CHANGED” IN SHARING ECONOMY

“The current tax administration system isn’t working for a significant percentage of on-demand platform small business operators or Treasury or IRS,” noted Caroline Bruckner, the Managing Director of the Kogod Tax Policy Center at American University. “At the root of this problem is a lack of information and understanding of tax filing obligations, which is compounded by an information reporting regime that results in widespread confusion. And these tax compliance challenges are only going to continue to grow and impact more and more self-employed small business owners.”

“Everyone is losing under the current rules. Both on-demand economy players and the IRS deserve greater efficiency and less hassle. We can do better,” said Bruckner.

Bruckner is the author of a brand new study released this week titled“Shortchanged: The Tax Compliance Challenges of Small Business Operators Driving the On-Demand Platform Economy.”

“Although millions of Americans are engaging in the on-demand platform economy every day as sellers and service providers, the tax compliance challenges this new frontier presents have gone relatively unnoticed,” Bruckner’s study found. “At the same time, these challenges will grow with this fastest growing segment of the labor economy—creating unnecessary and ongoing burdens for the small business operators who power the on-demand economy.”

“At best, these small business owners are short-changed when filing their taxes; at worst, they fail to file altogether. In addition, these taxpayers face potential audit and penalty exposure for failure to comply with filing rules that are triggered by relatively low amounts of earned income and inconsistent reporting rule adoption,” the study concluded.

IS THERE AN APP FOR THAT?

“Congress and the IRS should take great care to make sure that the federal tax code enables—rather than stifles—the sharing economy,” testified Morgan Reed, the Executive Director of ACT/The App Association. “Specifically, the treatment of all sharing economy workers as 'employees' under the federal tax code would be detrimental to the sharing economy, especially small businesses.”

“Congress should work to advance legislation that would provide taxpayers with certainty and transparency in the tax resolution process and would provide the ability to settle disputes with the IRS in an effective and efficient manner,” Reed suggested.

STAY TUNED

*Today’s hearing was the first in a two-part series on tax compliance for small businesses in the sharing economy. On Thursday, the Committee will hear from the IRS’ National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson.

###

Déjà Vu All Over Again: Federal Court Blocks Staples/Office Depot Merger

WLF Legal Pulse - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 1:09pm
Featured Expert Column – Antitrust/Federal Trade Commission Andrea Agathoklis Murino, Goodwin Proctor LLP Introduction Staples, Inc. (SPLS) and Office Depot, Inc. (ODP) would be forgiven for thinking of the late Yogi Berra and wondering if this was what he meant by déjà vu all over again.  In 1997, following an investigation by the Federal Trade […]
Categories: Latest News

Thune Statement on Facebook Response to Questions About “Trending Topics” Bias Allegations

U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) released a statement regarding Facebook Inc.’s response to his letter sent following a report of Facebook employees excluding news stories on conservative political topics from its highly visible “Trending Topics” section while favoring liberal topics.

Administrator Roth Delivers Keynote Address at ACT-IAC Management of Change 2016 Conference

GSA news releases - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 12:00am
Administrator Roth Delivers Keynote Address at ACT-IAC Management of Change Conference 2016

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN): We Need School Lunch Reforms

Education & the Workforce Committee - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 12:00am

As a country, we have long worked to ensure all individuals have an equal opportunity to achieve success. A quality education is one of the best paths to a brighter future, but students cannot learn and succeed in class if they are hungry or lack proper nutrition. That’s why ensuring all kids have access to nutritious meals has long been a national priority, and why I am leading an effort in Congress to help do just that.

For years, a number of programs have helped states, schools and other institutions serve children and families in need. These programs and the services they offer play an important role in the lives of millions of low-income Americans, helping to deliver healthy meals to kids who might not have them otherwise. Then, in 2010, Washington got in the way — as it constantly does in so many areas of our lives.

Rather than heed calls to continue and improve these services, a Democrat-led Congress significantly expanded the federal role in child nutrition. The result? A wave of federal rules and mandates that made it harder for schools to meet the nutritional needs of children.

These heavy-handed reforms are expected to increase school costs by more than $3 billion — an enormous amount of money that schools simply cannot afford. At the same time, overall student participation has declined more rapidly than any other time in the past 30 years. Equally troubling are concerns from nonpartisan government watchdogs regarding the waste, fraud and abuse in these programs.

As chairman of the congressional subcommittee that oversees these programs, I’ve seen firsthand the effects of these consequences in our schools, and I’ve heard from school food directors and administrators who say federal rules prevent them from providing the assistance their students need.

I’ve also worked to develop a solution that will strengthen nutrition assistance for children, families and taxpayers. This proposal—the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act—will reform federal policies to give states, schools and local providers the flexibility they need to provide children access to healthy meals.

The bill will ensure nutrition standards reflect the input of school leaders, meet the needs of all students, and do not add new costs for schools. It will enhance the verification process to increase accountability and rein in waste, fraud and abuse. The proposal will provide states more flexibility to serve nutritious meals during the summer, especially to children in rural and low-income areas.

These are just some of the bill’s positive reforms, aimed at improving support for kids and families in need. Another example is a change to the Community Eligibility Provision. This provision allows schools to provide free meals to all students if 40percent or more of students are, among other factors, homeless, in foster care or in a family eligible for welfare assistance.

Created in 2010, this provision has provided some help to schools administering these programs, but it has also allowed taxpayer dollars to subsidize students who are not eligible for free school meals. That’s something Congress has tried to avoid since these programs were first created.

That is why my proposal would increase the threshold to 60 percent, making this provision of the law consistent with other policies affecting the school lunch program.

By improving community eligibility, we can increase the reimbursement schools receive for providing low-income children breakfast. This is the first time in more than 20 years schools would get additional assistance for serving students breakfast, and we do this at no additional cost to taxpayers.

While there is always room for disagreement, this should not be a partisan issue. Unfortunately, as is often the case when you try to change the status quo, partisan attacks are underway.

To be clear: Every child who is eligible to receive assistance today will still be eligible for assistance under our child nutrition bill. The legislation simply enables us to more effectively use taxpayer dollars and provide more help to those who need it most.

We, as Americans, have a responsibility to promote policies that spend taxpayer dollars wisely and a moral responsibility to look out for our most vulnerable children and families. The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act helps us do both.

To read online, click here.

# # #

Friday Finger on the Pulse: “Spokeo v. Robins” Edition

WLF Legal Pulse - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 9:06am
On May 16, the U.S. Supreme Court released its highly anticipated decision in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins. The Court sent the case back down to the Ninth Circuit, which had ruled that the Fair Credit Reporting Act accorded the unemployed, single Mr. Robins standing to sue Spokeo—a “people search engine”—for inaccurately reporting that he was […]
Categories: Latest News

Former SEC Commissioner Brings Shareholder-Proposal Reform Ideas Advanced in WLF Working Paper to Capitol Hill

WLF Legal Pulse - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 8:55am
Former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Daniel Gallagher, co-author of a 2015 WLF Working Paper, “Shareholder Proposals: An Exit Strategy for SEC,” testified before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Financial Services on May 17. The hearing was entitled, “Legislative Proposals to Enhance Capital Formation, Transparency, and Regulatory Accountability.” Mr. Gallagher’s written testimony […]
Categories: Latest News

Help Wanted: Small Business Providing Opportunities for All

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 10:00am
Chairman Steve Chabot has scheduled a hearing of the Committee on Small Business titled, “Help Wanted: Small Business Providing Opportunities for All.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Thursday, May 19, 2016 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Hearing Materials
1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List

Witness List
Mr. Joe Steffy
Owner
Poppin Joe’s Gourmet Kettle Korn
Louisburg, KS
Accompanied by: Mr. Ray Steffy

Ms. Lisa Goring
Executive Vice President
Programs and Services
Autism Speaks New York, NY

Ms. Terri Hogan
Owner
Contemporary Cabinetry East Cincinnati, OH

Mr. Rajesh Anandan
Co-founder
ULTRA Testing New York, NY

Small Businesses Providing Job Opportunities for All Americans

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – Today, entrepreneurs shared their personal stories with the House Small Business Committee about providing employment opportunities for adults with autism, Down syndrome and other intellectual or developmental disorders, syndromes, or disabilities. Witnesses told members of the Committee how these individuals boost morale and productivity in the workplace while raising awareness about the untapped talents and abilities of this often-overlooked community.   

“For adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities or disorders, finding sustaining employment can be a real challenge,” said House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “These individuals can be overlooked when employment opportunities arise, and too often they are shut out from the workplace all together.”

“Yet across the country we are seeing examples of how small businesses, with their ability to adapt and accommodate, are able to provide employment opportunities to those who might not otherwise get a chance,” Chabot added.

ONE CINCY SMALL BUSINESS OWNER’S STORY

“We need to educate others so they begin to take the “dis” out of disabilities and replace it with ‘abilities,’ said Terri Hogan, the owner of Contemporary Cabinetry East in Cincinnati, OH, who was accompanied today by Mike Ames, an employee who has Down syndrome. “We also need to make small businesses aware of the huge untapped resource that is people with diverse abilities. Hiring people who are physically, genetically or cognitively diverse is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.”

“Mike has raised morale, brought community awareness, caused others to have broader perspectives and has developed many friends at CCE. For the business, Mike has helped to develop a healthier ‘bottom line’; everyone works harder because of the example he sets. Mike has raised everyone’s standards at Contemporary Cabinetry East and hiring Mike was the best business decision I have ever made,” testified Hogan.

“POPPIN’ JOE” SHARES HIS STORY WITH CONGRESS

Joe Steffy, the owner of Poppin Joe’s Gourmet Kettle Korn in Louisburg, KS, shared his personal entrepreneurship story with the Committee.

“In high school, my IEP (Individualized Education Plan) team began to plan for my transition into adulthood. The team had very low expectations. The worst disability there is that of low expectations. They said I would never hold a job, that I had no attention span, could not focus, would need to live in a group home and go to a sheltered workshop. My parents disagreed. They knew I was capable of working and that I learned by watching. They also knew I would do exactly what I saw done, so teaching me the right way to do things would be important. I am happiest when I am busy and my parents knew this. I would work, they said,” recalled Steffy. 

“My business works for me. It creates new opportunities for me to grow as a person, and to be an engaged, valued member of my community. With the right support system, being a self-supporting entrepreneur can be, and is, a reality for me,” he added.

AUTISM SPEAKS: ADVOCATE’S VIEW

“Small businesses are in a position not only to develop new models that employ individuals with autism, but also to innovate in a way that directly responds to local labor market needs,” testified Lisa Goring, the Executive Vice President for Programs and Services at Autism Speaks. “The connection many small businesses have with their community is vital to creating the partnerships necessary to transition young adults into the local workforce, share best practices with other local businesses, and nurture a workforce comprised of people with varying abilities.”

You can read full testimony from today’s witnesses here and watch the full video of today’s hearing here.

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