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The Government Should Stop Using ‘Operation Choke Point’ to Bully Banks into Cutting Ties with Legitimate Businesses

WLF Legal Pulse - Wed, 01/18/2017 - 4:31pm
On the eve of the inauguration, many industries and businesses await the changes a new administration will bring.  In particular, payday lenders are hoping that they will once again be able to enjoy unrestricted banking access, as for the past several years their banking relationships have slowly been severed as a result of a government […]
Categories: Latest News

Commerce Sets First Markup of 115th Congress

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Tuesday, January 24th at 10:00 a.m. to formally adopt the rules and budget resolution for the 115th Congress and consider 17 legislative measures.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Mr. Ross, as a fellow Floridian, I’d like to welcome you here and congratulate you on your nomination.  

I can’t promise you today’s hearing will be a piece of cake, but I’m looking forward to having a comprehensive and cordial discussion about your qualifications and how, if confirmed, you might handle many of the pressing issues you could face.

I’d like to start by acknowledging that it’s no secret you have some of the most extensive financial holdings of any past or present nominee before this committee.  After reviewing your financial disclosure and ethics agreement, I want to note that it’s my understanding that you have agreed to divest the vast majority of your personal holdings and resign from nearly 50 boards and organizations.  I believe that was the right thing to do and tells me you’re committed to doing the job the right way by placing the public’s interests ahead of your own.

It’s my hope President Trump will follow your lead to eliminate any business dealings that could pose potential conflicts of interest.

Mr. Ross, in recent years the Commerce Secretary post has not been one of the most sought after or appreciated positions in Washington.   But I have a feeling that’s about to change in a big way. 

As the President-elect has indicated, he is going to look to you and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson to lead the administration’s trade agenda.   That’s a departure from the recent past when previous commerce secretaries played much smaller roles in setting U.S. trade policy. 

Given that expanded role and the incoming president’s desire to make job creation and overhauling trade deals top priorities, I hope we’ll hear more from you on the administration’s trade plans and how they will create jobs and benefit all Americans. 

Additionally, I’d like for you to tell us more about how your trade duties might expand and how this could impact the role of the U.S. Trade Representative, who traditionally has taken the lead on trade negotiations.  

And while we’re on the topic of protecting American workers, Mr. Ross, there’s been some who have suggested that you built your business empire on the backs of workers who lost their jobs after buying and then ultimately profiting from the sale of troubled companies.  Others have lauded you for saving companies and thousands of jobs.  

I think it would be most helpful to all of us on the committee if we could get an assessment from you on your record of job creation and what, if any, lessons you’ve learned that will help grow and protect American workers.

While I expect a good portion of today will be spent talking about trade, jobs and Mr. Ross’ experience, there’s lots more to the Department of Commerce.

This little department of some 47,000 employees impacts our daily lives by: 

  • Providing vital weather forecasts to millions of Americans though NOAA and the National Weather Service;
  • Playing a huge role in building out our nation’s digital infrastructure;
  • Helping grow and expand minority owned businesses; and,
  • Collecting all sorts of data – including data critical to jobs and the economy, as well as monitoring environmental conditions and climate change.

That brings me to my last topic and one especially important to Florida – sea level rise and global warming. 

Of Florida’s 20 million people, over 75 percent live in coastal counties, including Mr. Ross.  The state’s highest point is only 345 feet above sea level. 

Because of the work NOAA and other agencies are doing, we have measurements and forecasts that can tell us when a monster storm is coming. 

We also have the science to know that coastal communities face peril even on sunny days because of longer-term atmospheric trends.

I know some people think climate change is a hoax.

But the data – scientifically accurate data – from weather satellites shows that it is happening.

The problem is that some folks will go to any length to deny this truth, including gaging climate scientists.   That should be very troubling to us all.

So, Mr. Ross, given your personal experience of living in Florida, I hope you agree with me on the need to continue vital scientific research to inform the public about extreme weather events and trends over time.  Additionally, it’s my hope we’ll get a commitment from you to not allow intimidation and censorship of climate scientists under your jurisdiction. 

With that Mr. Chairman, I’d like to welcome my colleague and fellow Floridian, Senator Marco Rubio, back to the committee to introduce Mr. Ross.

 

Report: 300,000 Small Business Jobs Lost Due to Obamacare

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 01/18/2017 - 12:00am

Report: 300,000 Small Business Jobs Lost Due to Obamacare
By Elizabeth Harrington

Obamacare has cost roughly 300,000 small business jobs due to higher health care costs, according to a new report.

The American Action Forum, a center-right policy institute, released findings Wednesday that rising premiums and regulations under the Affordable Care Act have had “dire” consequences for the labor market.

The report found the law has cost $19 billion in lost wages per year and forced 10,000 small businesses establishments to close their doors. The study covered employers with 20 to 99 employees.

“Research from the American Action Forum (AAF) finds regulations from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are driving up health care premiums and are costing small business employees at least $19 billion in lost wages annually,” the report said. “These figures varied by state, but in 2015 the ACA cost year-round workers $2,095, $2,134, and $2,260 in Ohio, New York, and North Dakota, respectively.”

“Premium increases, a prospect regulators predicted when issuing the first ACA regulations, also significantly diminished the number of business establishments and jobs nationwide,” the report said. “Across the country, small businesses (20-99 workers) lost 295,030 jobs, 10,130 business establishments, and $4.7 billion in total wage earnings. Florida lost 17,950 jobs; Ohio lost 19,000; Pennsylvania lost 15,680; and Texas lost 28,010 jobs due to higher sensitivity to rising health care premiums and the ACA.”

Ben Gitis and Sam Batkins, the authors of the report, used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics for their findings.

The report used different data sets for small businesses with less than 50 employees, which were exempt from the law’s employer mandate. However, this group also suffered job losses and lower wages after Obamacare went into effect. The paper compared data from up to six years before the law was passed to show a clearer picture of Obamacare’s impact on small business.

Before Obamacare became law, workers still saw an increase in their average weekly pay when health insurance premiums went up.

“After the ACA became law, however, a one percent increase in total premiums was associated with a 0.012 percent decrease in average weekly pay,” the report said.

The numbers add up to roughly $3.9 billion in lost wages for small businesses with between 20 and 49 workers, which account for 20 million workers in the United States. The average worker for those businesses has lost $1,202 in annual pay.

Aside from wage losses and job cuts, Obamacare has cost the economy $51 billion and added 172 million hours of paperwork through regulations, the American Action Forum said.

“To put that in perspective, it would take more than 86,200 employees working full-time (2,000 hours annually) to complete a year of new ACA paperwork, roughly the population of Miami Beach, Fla.,” the report said.

The incoming Donald Trump administration has vowed to repeal and replace Obamacare, and congressional Republicans have already begun the process to repeal the health care law through the budget reconciliation process.

“There are many reasons policymakers have called for significant amendments to the ACA,” the American Action Forum said. “Higher premiums are typically cited as a top concern. However, these higher premiums have broader consequences for the labor market. As AAF’s research has shown, ACA regulations have contributed to at least $19 billion in lost wages, 10,000 fewer establishments, and nearly 300,000 lost jobs.

 To read the article online, click here.  

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WCOE Turning Point for 1/17

Turning Point RSS - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 1:17pm

Former Secretaries of Commerce Urge Senate Confirmation of Nominee Wilbur Ross

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released letters of support from four former Secretaries of Commerce endorsing Wilbur Ross for the position.

<p>Good morning, we are meeting today

Good morning, we are meeting today to consider the nomination of Mr. Wilbur Ross to be the next Secretary of Commerce.   If confirmed, Mr. Ross would bring decades of business, entrepreneurial, and civic experience to this important position. 

 

Mr. Ross is perhaps best known for his expertise in revitalizing distressed businesses, such as those in the U.S. steel industry.  At a time when most investors had abandoned the industry, he organized International Steel Group in 2002 and, through acquisitions, made it the largest integrated steel company in North America.  Later, it merged with Mittal Steel to form the largest steel company in the world.

 

Mr. Ross’s strong record of achievement in business led Bloomberg Business Week to name him one of the 50 Most Influential People in Global Finance in 2011.  It is also why he is the only person elected to both the Turnaround Management Hall of Fame and the Private Equity Hall of Fame.

 

Mr. Ross’s business experience is complemented by his service to the community.  Mr. Ross served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and he is currently a Member of the Dean’s Advisory Board of Harvard Business School.  He is also an Advisory Board Member of the Yale University School of Management, which has presented him with its Legend of Leadership Award. 

 

Mr. Ross’s nomination comes at an important time in our nation’s economic recovery.  And I believe his extensive management experience in the private sector, and his understanding of the challenges faced by workers and businesses alike, will equip him well for the job of leading the Department of Commerce. 

 

This large department, which has 12 different bureaus and nearly 47,000 employees located in all 50 states and around the world, oversees a diverse array of issues from trade to fishery management, and from weather forecasting to the Census Bureau.   

 

I will be asking Mr. Ross about many of the challenges facing the department and our economy.  First and foremost, I will be asking how he plans to deal with trade matters as the Secretary of Commerce. 

 

I also want to explore how, if confirmed, he would continue to play a lead role in advocating for policies that promote American innovation, like freeing up government spectrum for private use and facilitating the growing Internet of Things. 

 

Mr. Ross’s experience turning around businesses should help him anticipate and mitigate the risks of major programs like FirstNet, the independent authority charged with creating a nationwide broadband network for first responders, and the acquisition of critical weather satellites by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

 

Finally, I would note that collaboration between the public and private sectors is one of the hallmarks of the department’s work, as exemplified by the ongoing development of cybersecurity best practices and standards, which this Committee has strongly endorsed.  Mr. Ross, should you be confirmed, we will be depending on you to continue this collaboration and strengthen it where necessary. 

 

Mr. Ross, I believe your business know-how and intelligence make you an excellent candidate to serve as the next Secretary of Commerce, and I look forward to supporting your nomination.  I will now turn to Ranking Member Nelson for any opening remarks he’d like to make. 

Chabot Announces Committee Leadership for 115th Congress

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON—House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) today announced the Committee’s leadership team for the 115th Congress.

All of our Small Business Committee Members are bringing invaluable experience and unmatched enthusiasm to our work already,” said Chairman Chabot. “I know that these individuals who have stepped up to lead our subcommittees will lead by example in turning ideas into solutions for America’s 28 million small businesses.”

115th Congress Small Business Committee Leadership

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Chairman

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)
Vice Chairman

Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA)
Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade

Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS)
Chairwoman, Subcommittee on Health and Technology

Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA)
Chairman, Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access

Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS)
Chairman, Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations

Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA)
Chairman, Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce

Last week, the Small Business Committee announced its Republican Members for the 115th Congress. See the full roster here.

State Department Proposes Changes to the Exchange Visitor Program for Summer Work Travel

Office of Advocacy - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 1:00pm

The U.S. Department of State proposes to amend existing regulations to provide new program requirements for the Summer Work Travel category of the Exchange Visitor Program.  With this proposed rulemaking, the Department proposes to: specify and add to the program requirements for sponsors, their third parties and hosts; enhance transparency in the recruitment of exchange visitors; limit exchange visitor repeat participation to a total of three visits; and require all exchange visitors to be placed in advance of their arrival.

Categories: Latest News, SBA Advocate

USCIS Proposes Rule Increasing Minimum Investment Thresholds for the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

Office of Advocacy - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 12:57pm

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proposing changes to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program which allows individuals to be eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence in the United States if they make the necessary investments in a commercial enterprise in the United States and create 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.  
 

Categories: Latest News, SBA Advocate

Senator Seeks FTC Examination of Fiat Chrysler “EcoDiesel” Marketing

WASHINGTON – In the wake of accusations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that Fiat Chrysler (FCA) illegally installed software that increases harmful tailpipe emissions, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) today called on the Federal Trade Commission to explore whether the company deceptively marketed its “EcoDiesel” vehicles. 

Nelson’s call for investigation comes a day after the EPA accused the company of installing illegal software that may hide pollutants in some 104,000 U.S. trucks and SUVs sold since 2014.  The affected vehicles are 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0 liter diesel engines. 

The allegations made against FCA are similar to ones the EPA brought against Volkswagen in 2015 when it admitted to deliberately installing software to cheat emissions tests.  Nelson called on the FTC to investigate VW’s deceptive advertising claims of being green and environmentally friendly, eventually leading to a $10 billion settlement that required the company buy back, terminate leases, or modify affected vehicles, in addition to compensating all affected consumers.

In a letter sent today to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, Nelson wrote:  “If the EPA’s allegations against FCA are true, the company may be in violation of the federal law prohibiting ‘unfair or deceptive acts or practices.’  If so, the commission would be able to seek consumer redress similar to the Volkswagen settlement.”

Nelson submitted several examples to the commission of various claims FCA has recently made to market the affected vehicles:  

• “Love the planet along with great fuel economy? Then the Jeep® Brand’s Diesel engine will ring true. It lets you adhere to your principles and get extra points for embracing innovative technology.” (2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee)

• “Proudly, the EcoDiesel meets and even exceeds the low emissions requirements in all 50 states.” (2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee)

• “Clean by nature” and “Clean by design” (2015 Ram 1500)

Below is the text of Nelson’s letter.  A pdf of FCA “EcoDiesel” marketing materials is attached.

January 13, 2017

The Honorable Edith Ramirez Chairwoman

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Chairwoman Ramirez:

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) installed, but failed to disclose, eight types of Auxiliary Emission Control Devices (AECDs) in approximately 104,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-liter diesel engines. According to the EPA, FCA’s failure to disclose this software, which allegedly increase nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, is in violation of the Clean Air Act.  

The allegations against FCA have a similar ring to deceptive actions taken by Volkswagen, which intentionally installed “defeat devices” in millions of vehicles worldwide to reduce tailpipe pollutants during official emissions testing.  Unlike Volkswagen’s admission, FCA vociferously denies EPA’s allegations and asserts that the company has done nothing wrong.

In September 2015, I wrote a letter to you urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Volkswagen’s deceptive marketing practices of its diesel-engine vehicles. In that letter, I noted that while “the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are both exploring civil and criminal actions against Volkswagen, respectively, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has an appropriate role in investigating the company’s actions.” In June 2016, the FTC announced a settlement with Volkswagen in which the automaker agreed to spend over $10 billion to compensate affected consumers.  

Once again, I urge the commission to play an active role in the ongoing investigation of FCA and to act accordingly on behalf of American consumers.  

As I noted in my September 2015 letter and as reflected in your settlement with Volkswagen, “[t]he commission can seek consumer redress for Volkswagen’s deception, and it can also seek a full panoply of equitable remedies that would force Volkswagen to take actions to specifically address consumer harm.”  If the EPA’s allegations against FCA are true, the company may be in violation of the federal law prohibiting “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”  If so, the commission would be able to seek consumer redress similar to the Volkswagen settlement. Attached are examples of FCA’s marketing materials for certain “EcoDiesel” vehicles, which, among others, claim to be “clean by nature,” for consumers who “Love the planet,” and to have “low emissions.”  

As the nation’s premier and independent consumer protection agency, the FTC can once again be an additional cop on the beat that uniquely looks out for average Americans who may have been harmed by deceptive corporate practices. As it did in the Volkswagen scandal, I urge the commission to appropriately exercise all of its authority on behalf of American consumers.

Sincerely,

BILL NELSON

Ranking Member

Ranking Member Nelson Statement on Grand Jury Indictment of Takata Executives

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson issued the following statement in response to the indictments of three Takata executives for concealing defects in the companies airbag inflators:

“Companies have a responsibility to ensure the products they make are safe for consumers,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee.  “These indictments send a strong message that if company executives knowingly put deadly products on the market, they will held accountable for their actions.”    

Nelson unveiled a report last February that found widespread manipulation of airbag inflator test data by Takata employees, with some occurring after the recalls began. 

Chabot Statement on Obamacare Repeal and Replacement

House Small Business Committee News - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 12:00am

 

WASHINGTON—Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) made the following statement after the House passed a crucial budget measure today that lays the foundation for the repeal of Obamacare and instructs lawmakers as the House begins the process of producing replacement legislation:

“The people who work at America’s 28 million small businesses cannot afford for us to wait another day to stop the damage of Obamacare from getting any worse,” said Chairman Chabot. “In the coming weeks and months, employers who have defied trends and managed to provide coverage to their workers are going to have to make hard decisions as premiums continue to rise and even more providers withdraw from the market. Today’s vote in the House is the essential first of many steps to rescue Americans from the crisis of Obamacare and begin a careful, caring, and intentional process that keeps their concerns at the forefront as we replace this devastating failure of a plan with one that will work.”

The House Small Business Committee has heard testimony from numerous small business employees and owners over the years about how Obamacare has cost jobs and opportunities in communities across the United States. See their stories HERE.

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Debate on Resolution to Provide Legislative Tools Needed to Repeal Obamacare, Transition to Patient-Centered System

Education & the Workforce Committee - Fri, 01/13/2017 - 12:00am

Today, we take the next step in the process of providing the American people a better way on health care.

We’ve all heard from constituents and families struggling to get by as they suffer the consequences of the fatally-flawed health care law.

In my home state of North Carolina, the average Obamacare premium has increased by a staggering 40 percent.

Terry from Advance, North Carolina, is a 70-year old retiree. But now he’s working part-time just to help pay his wife’s health care premiums, which jumped from $300 a month to more than $887 a month.

On top of higher premiums, deductibles have skyrocketed too. Patricia from Kernersville now has a whopping $6,550 deductible, and her premiums increased by 80 percent this year. Like so many Americans, Patricia is paying more for less coverage.

And despite being promised, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” millions of Americans have been kicked off their plans.

Scott from Hickory has had his health insurance canceled three times now—disrupting his continuity of care.

We’ve also heard from countless small business owners who can no longer afford coverage for their employees because of limited resources and soaring costs.

Facing similar challenges, school leaders and college administrators have spoken out about how Obamacare is exacerbating tight budgets — hurting teachers, faculty members, and ultimately, the students they serve. 

The current situation is not sustainable. So, Republicans are here on a rescue mission by providing the American people relief. It’s time to repeal President Obama’s government takeover of health care. It’s time to advance patient-centered reforms that lower costs, provide more choices, and put working families — not government bureaucrats — in control of their health care.

I urge my colleagues to support this budget resolution, because it will move us one step closer to the patient-centered health care the American people desperately want and need need.

Advocacy Report Explains High Entrepreneurship among Immigrants

Office of Advocacy - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 1:07pm

For Release: January 12, 2017

SBA Number: 17-01 ADV

 

Media Contacts:

Elizabeth Horowitz                                                            Victoria Carlborg

Elizabeth.Horowitz@sba.gov                                       Victoria.Carlborg@sba.gov        

Categories: Latest News, SBA Advocate

Chairman Chabot Announces Republican Members for 115th Congress

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 01/12/2017 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON -- Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) today announced the Republican Membership of the Small Business Committee for the 115th Congress.

“The Small Business Committee is fortunate to welcome these individuals who represent such a diverse array of communities, small businesses, and innovators from across the country,” said Chairman Chabot. “I know each of these Members will bring an entrepreneurial spirit to our work in the 115th Congress, and it’s going to be both a privilege and a pleasure to work with them.”

115th Congress Majority Committee Members

Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH)

Rep. Steve King (R-IA)

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)

Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA)

Del. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS)

Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA)

Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS)

Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA)*

Rep. James Comer (R-KY)*

Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE)*

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)*

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR)*

Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS)*


* Denotes Members new to the Committee

The Small Business Committee will meet for organizing purposes on February 1, 2017. A formal meeting announcement will be posted at smallbusiness.house.gov

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