A relentless grievance on the right is that House and Senate Republicans do zilch to rein in the Obama Administration, so it’s ironic that almost no one notices when they try. Congress recently moved to block a billion-dollar Labor Department rule, which was one of the GOP’s promises during the 2014 election campaign.
Last week the Senate voted 56-41 to prevent Labor’s fiduciary rule, which will run up the cost of financial planning by requiring brokers to act in a client’s “best interest.” Millions of low- and middle-earners with IRAs will be priced out of services except automated advice, and bad robot counsel could cost American savers $80 billion in a downturn, according to economists Hal Singer and Robert Litan.
Three Democratic Senators voted with Republicans to defend your 401(k): Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and Montana’s Jon Tester. Companion legislation breezed through the House last month.
The measure now goes to President Obama’s desk thanks to the Congressional Review Act, which allows the legislature 60 days to block a final rule with simple majorities in the House and Senate. The law has been getting a workout: The 114th Congress has disapproved of the Clean Power Plan; a Clean Water Act diktat; a union rule at the National Labor Relations Board; and now Labor’s fiduciary regulation. These efforts hold Democrats politically accountable for a rule’s consequences.
But President Obama promises to veto the fiduciary repeal bill, as he’s rejected every such measure. Senate Republicans won’t be able to muster a two-thirds super majority to override the President, and the fiduciary rule will likely hit this summer. Conservative muscle groups could educate their networks about this—though that would interfere with their fund-raising line that Republicans are sellouts to Mr. Obama.
To read online, click here.
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Chabot, Connolly Introduce Bill to Help More Small Businesses Export
WASHINGTON – Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) have introduced H.R. 2586, the Export Coordination Act of 2015, a bill to improve the coordination of federal export promotion resources and to streamline the export process so that more small businesses can sell goods overseas.
“When it comes to exporting, most small businesses don’t know where to start,” said Chabot. “The process can be incredibly complex and the federal resources that are supposed to help them navigate the process are just as intimidating. The Export Coordination Act would streamline these resources and take steps to make the process easier for businesses.
Chabot added, “It is my hope that this bill – and other solutions that the Small Business Committee is currently working on – will open the door for more small businesses to sell their goods overseas, which ultimately provides more opportunities for working families.”
Congressman Connolly said, “The federal government stands ready to help small businesses access foreign markets and create jobs through exports. This bill will ensure that federal trade promotion agencies are reaching out to state and local partners and making access to these resources as straightforward as possible.”
U.S. exports support more than 38 million American jobs – including 1 in 3 manufacturing jobs. Despite the fact that 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States, only 2 percent of all small businesses export their goods.
H.R. 2586 would require the United States Department of Commerce’s Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) to clearly define each federal agency’s role in the export process, establish a central listing of all trade events, give state trade agencies a voice in setting our national export strategy, and reduce overlap of current export resources.
Federal Lawsuit Challenges Water-Resource Commission’s Authority over Natural Gas Exploration in Pennsylvania
Thune: New GAO Aviation Security Report Underscores Need for House Action on Senate’s Security Focused Aviation Bill
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.
1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List
3. Hearing Memo
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.”
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
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
Committee on Small Business
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"
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.
# # #
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.
1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List
3. Hearing Memo
Ms. Caroline Bruckner
Executive-in-Residence, Accounting and Taxation
Managing Director, Kogod Tax Policy Center
Mr. Rob Willey
San Francisco, CA
Mr. Morgan Reed
ACT The App Association
Mr. Joe Kennedy
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
"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."