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Thune Statement on DOT Working Group Support for Proposal to Enhance Copilot Training Opportunities

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, issued the following statement on a new report by the U.S. Department of Transportation Working Group on Improving Air Service to Small Communities recommending, “Congress should affirm that qualifying ‘academic’ training [for necessary flight hours to become a commercial copilot] should not be limited to military and aviation degree programs.”

Supreme Court’s Presumption-of-Innocence Decision Should Inspire Asset-Forfeiture Reformers

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 3:54pm
In a US Supreme Court term filled with cases that “only a lawyer could love,” the justices did issue at least one decision in October Term 2016—Nelson v. Colorado—that any TV crime-drama viewer can understand. The decision turned on the bedrock principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. While Justice Ginsburg’s opinion applies […]
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Forum-Shopping Plaintiffs Take a Major Hit in US Supreme Court

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 1:10pm
Forum-shopping plaintiffs’ attorneys have long sought to file their claims against large businesses in jurisdictions with reputations for favoring plaintiffs—without regard to whether the claims actually arose in those jurisdictions.  They justify their assertions of personal jurisdiction in such cases by arguing that a company that does business nationwide should be amenable to suit in […]
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Thune Statement on GAO Findings of Massive Fraud and Waste in FCC’s ‘Lifeline’ Phone Program

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today issued the following statement on a new report by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) on massive fraud and waste in the Federal Communication Commission’s “Lifeline” phone program subsidizing telephone and broadband service for low-income households.

Committee Approves FAA Reauthorization Through 2021

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization, three other bills, and three nominees subject to Senate confirmation.

Walberg Statement: Markup of H.R. 2776, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:45am
House Republicans have been working hard to remove barriers to job creation, deliver regulatory relief, and help working families and small businesses succeed.

Rolling back the National Labor Relations Board’s activist agenda is an important part of that effort. During the Obama administration, the board advanced policies designed to empower special interests at the expense of the men and women who keep our economy moving. These policies not only hampered our economic recovery and limited opportunity, they stripped away rights and protections for workers and employers.

As a former union member, I respect the right of workers to join a union. I also respect the right of workers to have a real choice and make an informed decision in the matter. That’s why the NLRB’s ambush election rule is so concerning. Simply put, this rule was designed to rush employees into union elections before they have an opportunity to consider all the consequences.

Workers now have as little as 11 days to understand the pros and cons of joining a union before casting their vote. And while unions can prepare their entire campaign before a business even knows about it, employers have as few as seven days to find legal counsel and appear before a NLRB hearing officer.

This short time period is completely unreasonable. Eleven days isn’t enough time for workers to hear from both sides of the debate and make a personal decision that impacts their job and paycheck. And seven days certainly isn’t enough time for employers to respond and communicate with their employees. This is especially true for a small business owner who lacks HR staff or in-house counsel.

Before this rule took effect, the union election process took a median of 38 days. This is a more sensible time frame that gives workers a chance to gather information and get the facts. We need to get back to the way things were before the NLRB overstepped. And in no way would union leaders stand at a disadvantage. In fact, before this unnecessary rule was implemented, unions won 67 percent of workplace elections.

H.R. 2776 will restore long-standing NLRB election procedures that served workers well and provided a level playing field between unions and employers. The bill ensures no union election is held less than 35 calendar days from when the petition for the election was filed.

But there’s more that must be done to restore fairness to union elections, which is why this bill also addresses the NLRB’s micro-union scheme. The board’s decision in the 2011 Specialty Healthcare case was perhaps one of the most reckless of the past eight years. It empowered union leaders to handpick individual employees and form micro-unions as an incremental step toward organizing an entire business. As a result, employees face fragmented workplaces and employers are forced to confront union red tape that drives up the cost of doing business and hiring workers.

At a recent hearing, a Michigan Health and Hospital Association official from my home state said, “This sub-divided situation is terrible for any employer, but it is a matter of life or death in a health care setting. The success of any hospital is dependent on the ability of its staff members to work as a cohesive unit. The Specialty decision threatens this vital component.”

Her comments serve as a painful reminder of how misguided federal policies can have harmful, real-world consequences. Congress must take action. The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act will roll back the NLRB’s micro-union scheme and reinstate important protections workers and employers received for decades.

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Rokita Statement: Markup of H.R. 986, the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:40am
The purpose of H.R. 986 is simple: to protect the sovereignty of tribal governments.

This shouldn’t be a Republican versus Democrat issue. The enduring principle of tribal sovereignty is respected and well-established. It has been reaffirmed time and again by Congress.

Tribal sovereignty means tribes have an inherent right to self-government. Just like state and local governments, tribes are free to develop their own policies that promote jobs, the freedom of work, and economic opportunity.

As the Chairwoman said, the NLRB respected tribal sovereignty for more than 70 years. For decades, the board treated tribal governments the same as state and local governments, which are exempt from the National Labor Relations Act

But that all changed with the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino decision, when the board began imposing its jurisdiction over tribes. Suddenly, tribes became the only form of government subject to the NLRA — a private-sector labor law.

Since then, we’ve heard from tribal leaders who have urged Congress to provide much-needed legal clarity and restore their sovereignty over employer-employee relations. Just like every other governmental employer.

At a subcommittee hearing earlier this year, we heard from the chair of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and president of the National Congress of American Indians. He told members, “This is not merely a legal issue but a moral imperative of protecting and defending the sovereignty of America’s Indian tribes, and guarding against any discrimination against those tribes.” I couldn’t agree more.

We also heard from the Chickasaw Nation. The tribe’s lieutenant governor testified that this is a “profound issue of national importance that cannot be left in the hands of an admittedly inexpert federal agency.” The Navajo Nation said, “We simply want parity. If [states] are able to self-govern and be self-determined with regards to the NLRA, so should we.”

Colleagues, more than 150 tribes have urged Congress to pass H.R. 986, and I’m proud it has bipartisan support with three Democrat co-sponsors. And as a quick reminder, last Congress this very same bill enjoyed bipartisan support on House passage.

We also have the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a letter from the Chamber and many supporting tribes they wrote, “When tribal sovereignty is respected and acknowledged, economic success follows.” I completely agree. Madam Chairwoman, I request to have a letter submitted to the record.

The Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2017 is a commonsense bill that will prevent unelected bureaucrats at the NLRB from infringing on the sovereignty of tribes. It will restore a standard that was respected for nearly the entirety of the board’s existence: tribes should control their own labor relations in the same way state and local governments do.

We need to ensure the NLRA recognizes this standard — that being governmental parity. We are here today to amend the law to clarify once and for all that it does not apply to any enterprise or institution owned and operated by an Indian tribe and located on their tribal land. This is the fair and right thing to do.

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Foxx Statement: Markup of H.R. 986, H.R. 2776, and H.R. 2775

Education & the Workforce Committee - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:30am

Today, the committee meets to consider the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2017, the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, and the Employee Privacy Protection Act.

Together, these proposals will help restore fairness and balance to federal labor policies by reforming the National Labor Relations Act.

The NLRA was signed into law more than 80 years ago to protect the rights of workers and employers. Congress wanted to ensure workers had the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union. Congress also recognized the need for a level playing field between employers and union leaders. That’s why a neutral arbiter — the National Labor Relations Board — was created to maintain appropriate balance.

However, faced with dwindling union membership, liberals in Washington have spent years trying to tilt the playing field in favor of Big Labor. 

Unable to move their partisan agenda through Congress, liberals turned to the NLRB, where they found a willing partner. Over the years, the board has abandoned its role as an impartial referee and launched a concerted effort to boost organized labor. Decision after decision by the board sought to rewrite long-standing policies to pander to powerful special interests.

Unfortunately, the rights of workers — and even Native Americans — were trampled on in the process. We are here today to defend those rights and ensure the law makes it crystal clear that they must be protected.

With the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino decision, the NLRB sparked outrage among Native American tribes. After respecting Native American sovereignty for more than 70 years, the board reversed course. It began using a subjective test to decide when and where to exert its jurisdiction over tribal governments under the National Labor Relations Act.

This decision was incredibly misguided. First of all, the NLRA was designed for the private sector, and the law specifically excludes government employers and employees. Secondly, the federal government has long recognized tribes as "domestic dependent nations" with an inherent right to self-government. 

For years, Native Americans have urged Congress to correct this wrong and stand up for tribal sovereignty. That’s why Representative Rokita introduced the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act of 2017. This important legislation will ensure tribal governments are treated the same as state and local governments when it comes to policies impacting their workplaces.

On top of the board’s actions undermining tribal sovereignty, workers have faced new policies limiting their voice in union elections and even invading their privacy.

In 2015, the NLRB implemented the ambush election rule. We all know what this rule was about. It was designed to rush employees into union elections and make it nearly impossible for employers to respond. Workers now have as few as 11 days to make an important decision on whether or not to join a union. And employers have just seven days to find legal counsel and prepare their case before an NLRB hearing officer.

To make matters worse, the rule jeopardizes the privacy of workers and makes them vulnerable to intimidation. Employers are required to hand over the private information of their employees to union bosses, including home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, work locations, and work schedules. This simply isn’t right.

And that’s not all. A radical micro-union scheme empowered union leaders to organize a small minority of employees within a business — as few as two individuals. The result is a divided workplace, fewer opportunities for advancement, and a maze of union red tape. For example, unions can now organize employees by individual departments of department stores. This is, quite frankly, absurd.

Representatives Walberg and Wilson are leading the effort to overturn these harmful policies and protect worker freedom. The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, introduced by Mr. Walberg, would empower workers to make an informed decision in union elections and level the playing field between employers and union leaders. The Employee Privacy Protection Act, introduced by Mr. Wilson, safeguards the privacy of workers and gives them greater control over the disclosure of their personal information.

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A Review of SBA’s 504/CDC Loan Program

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 10:00am



The Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access will meet for a hearing titled, “A Review of SBA’s 504/CDC Loan Program.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Thursday, June 29, 2017 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn
House Office Building.


Witnesses 

Mr. Wayne Williams
Senior Vice President
Business Finance Group
Fairfax, VA
Testimony
Disclosure

Ms. Barbara A. Vohryzek
President and CEO
National Association of Development Companies (NADCO)
Washington, DC
Testimony
Disclosure

Mr. Sherwood Robbins
Managing Director
Seedcopa
Exton, PA 
Testimony
Disclosure

Good morning and welcome.  Today

Good morning and welcome.  Today we are going to be considering a number of well-qualified nominations and important legislative measures, including the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2017, which I introduced with Senators Nelson, Blunt, and Cantwell.

This bipartisan, four-year bill would authorize funding for the FAA and take many steps to enhance safety and improve the flying experience for American travelers.

While most of this proposal is based on last year’s Commerce Committee bill, which ultimately passed the Senate by a vote of 95 to three, we have not been resting on last year’s laurels.  The bill we will consider today contains many improvements to the 2016 bill and new provisions that respond to issues that have arisen in the last year.

This legislation would address safety and privacy concerns related to drones, improve the aircraft certification process, increase consumer protections and aviation access, make critical safety improvements, and address general aviation safety and pilot protection issues.

This bill also would significantly increase funding under the Airport Improvement Program without raising taxes.

Some have noted that this legislation does not include major reforms to the air traffic control system, as have been proposed by Chairman Shuster of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and, more recently, the President.  

To be clear, I remain open-minded about the idea of moving the FAA’s ATC function into a not-for-profit, non-governmental body, but I also appreciate that sincerely-held concerns exist.  So, I hope – and expect – that we will consider this proposal more fully as the bill advances beyond the Committee.

In addition to the FAA Reauthorization, we are also considering a handful of other important measures and nominations.  For example, the bipartisan Jobs for Our Heroes Act will build upon the good work of the FAST Act, by making it easier for both current and former members of the armed services to move into civilian driving careers.

I am also proud to say that we are considering Senators Nelson, Moran, and my U.S. Center for SafeSport Authorization Act of 2017, which would address the issue of sexual abuse within the United States Olympic movement.

This legislation includes unambiguous language clarifying that it is the responsibility of our Olympic leaders to provide an environment that is free from abuse.

It is my hope that we will be able to combine this legislation with the good work Senators Feinstein and Grassley have also been doing on this topic in the Judiciary Committee when both bills move to the floor.

Finally, I’d like to say just a word about the three nominees on today’s agenda.  I am particularly pleased that we will be approving the nomination of Admiral David Pekoske to lead the Transportation Security Administration.  We are fortunate that a leader of his caliber is willing to continue his public service to our nation.

I also look forward to supporting the nominations of Derek Kan, an alum of the Senate family slated to fill the number three spot at DOT, and Robert Sumwalt, an experienced member of the NTSB.

With that, I will turn to Senator Nelson for any opening remarks. 

Small Business Legislation Included in NDAA Bill

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – Today, the House Armed Services Committee passed H.R. 2810, the FYI18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes small business contracting reforms and entrepreneurial development provisions introduced by the House Small Business Committee. 

The two House Small Business Committee bills in the NDAA included are H.R. 1773, the Clarity for America’s Small Contractors Act of 2017, introduced by Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and H.R. 1774, the Developing the Next Generation of Small Business Act of 2017, introduced by Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY).

“I am proud that many of the bipartisan bills the House Small Business Committee has worked on were included in the bill.  I thank Chairman Thornberry for his hard work putting together this year’s National Defense Authorization Act and for recognizing the vital role small business reforms play in our nation’s security.  These provisions will ensure small businesses have a greater opportunity to compete for federal contracts, and bring entrepreneurial development programs up-to-date to better equip our small federal contractors,” said Chairman Chabot.

Versions of the following bills were included in HASC’s final NDAA bill:

  • H.R. 1597, the Commercial Market Representatives Clarification Act of 2017, sponsored by Rep. David Brat (R-VA), co-sponsored by Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)
  • H.R. 1640, the Unifying Small Business Terminology Act of 2017, sponsored by Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
  • H.R. 1693, the Improving Contract Procurement for Small Businesses through More Accurate Reporting Act of 2017, sponsored by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), co-sponsored by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
  • H.R. 1702, the Small Business Development Centers Improvements Act of 2017, sponsored by Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA), co-sponsored by Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS) and Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA)
  • H.R. 1680, the Women’s Business Centers Improvements Act of 2017, sponsored by Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA), co-sponsored by Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL)
  • H.R. 1700, the SCORE for Small Business Act of 2017, sponsored by Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), co-sponsored by Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE)

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The 411 on the 504: One of SBA’s Zero Taxpayer-Funded Loan Program

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 06/29/2017 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – Today, members of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Taxes, and Capital Access heard from key players in the 504/CDC Loan Program.

“Although we are working feverishly to roll back red tape, small businesses face an uncertain lending environment that is compounded due to their reliance on traditional bank borrowing to raise capital. One program to bridge the funding gap that too often acts as a roadblock for small businesses is the SBA’s 504/CDC Loan Program,” said Subcommittee Chairman Dave Brat (R-VA). “As we work to assist small businesses, it is important to hear from those who have on the ground experience with the program.”  

A Review of SBA’s 504/CDC Loan Program
Witness Testimony

“Under the program, a financial institution partners with a CDC, a specialized SBA-certified nonprofit corporation, to finance small businesses looking to expand,said Natasha Merz, Vice President of Commercial Lending at the Langley Federal Credit Union, Newport News, VA.The program helps financial institutions attract and serve small business borrowers that need financing for plant and major-equipment acquisition that may not meet conventional underwriting criteria.”

My role as a loan officer was to meet with borrowers and referral sources to educate them about the 504 loan program and to generate loans. Borrowers in turn would share with me their plans and dreams for growing their businesses and making a difference in their communities,” said Wayne Williams, Senior Vice President of the Business Finance Group Inc., Fairfax, VA. “And for me has become one of the best things about CDCs and 504 lending – the feeling that our lending can and does make a tangible difference in our communities.”

The fact that 504 requires no subsidy from the taxpayers is a point of pride, and we hope to work to ensure the loan portfolio continues to operate that way each year,” said Barbara Vohryzek, the President and CEO of the National Association of Development Companies. “Since 1991, 504 loans have created or sustained 2.1 million jobs through 128,000 loans, delivering $70 billion in financing to Main Street. The Otterbox was a 504 borrower…Chobani yogurt is a 504 product…and if you’re into music, SXSW is a 504 product.”

Sherwood Robbins, Managing Director of Seedcopa, a CDC in Exton, Pennsylvania said, “The true impact of 504 lending goes beyond the number of jobs created at a borrower site to include the inferred job creation that occurs throughout the surrounding community and the overall increase in consumer confidence that generates and maintains consumer spending across the economy.”

You can view the full video of today’s hearing HERE and read the full witness testimony HERE.

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Nomination Hearing

Click to view livestream.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this hearing to consider the nominations of Ms. Walsh and Mr. Bradbury.

The Department of Transportation’s most important job is the regulation and oversight of safety.

And the job never stops.

Just last night, an Amtrak train fatally struck two CSX employees who were working on a nearby track.

This is tragic. This kind of accident happens far too often and we need to do more to prevent them.

The Department also has a critical safety role in an issue that is important to many of my constituents: the continuing Takata airbag mess.

Back in 2014, I chaired the first congressional hearing on the defective airbag failures.

At that hearing, we heard from a victim, Air Force Lieutenant Stephanie Erdman, who was seriously injured and almost lost an eye when a Takata airbag exploded after a minor accident in the Florida Panhandle.

And we also heard from a senior Takata executive who stonewalled and failed to acknowledge the severity of the problem.

And in a series of reports, we uncovered evidence that the company routinely manipulated data about the safety of its airbags. 

Takata’s actions were, quite frankly, shameful and showed a lack of regard for human safety.

And as a result, the Department of Justice charged Takata with criminal violations for wire fraud and conspiracy concerning the defective airbag inflators.

Because of all this, you would think that we would finally be making some serious progress on the Takata recalls.

Sadly, that is not the case.

Earlier this month, I released new statistics showing that two thirds of the over 46 million recalled Takata airbag inflators nationwide have not yet been repaired.

Even more troubling is that 16 people have died and more than 180 people worldwide have been injured because of these airbags.

This is a crisis – and we need leadership to get these recalls back on track.  This is especially true in light of Takata’s announcement that it will enter into bankruptcy – making it almost certain the company will not be able to pay for all the replacement airbags needed to fix this mess or adequately compensate all the victims that have been or will be injured.

So, this leads me to your nomination, Mr. Bradbury.

You obviously know a lot about this issue because you represented Takata in regulatory and congressional investigations for more than two years.

This fact deeply troubles me.  And, it’s why I believe, as the department’s general counsel, you must be free of any conflicts that could be perceived as the fox guarding the henhouse. 

As a result, I wrote to you last week and urged you, if confirmed, to recuse yourself from all matters involving Takata for your entire term as the department’s general counsel. 

Mr. Chairman, I’d like to ask that my letter to Mr. Bradbury and his response be entered in the record.

Mr. Bradbury, I want to thank you for your prompt response and your written commitment to recuse yourself from Takata recall related matters.  However, I plan to seek clarification from you during my questioning on whether you would seek or accept any waivers that would allow you to participate in any Takata related matters.

Meantime, Mr. Bradbury and Ms. Walsh, I look forward to hearing from both of you today.

 

Rokita Statement: Hearing on “Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen Education Research While Protecting Student Privacy”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 10:05am

There is no denying the fact we live in a data-driven society. Information sharing is connecting and changing almost every industry, and our education system is no exception.

In 2002, the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) was enacted to update and improve how we could leverage education research to better serve our nation’s schools.

While ESRA was necessary to reform education research to better inform what is working in schools, the law may not be working as well as Congress wanted or intended.

In fact, a 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found weaknesses in the law, specifically significant delays in the distribution of research available to educators.

States and local school districts rely on timely education research to identify best practices from across the country in order to build a better learning environment, and we need to ensure this research is delivering the results our schools need.

The data collected by schools is essential for understanding what is working, and it allows for a more open conversation between schools and parents about strategies that work for our students.

While technology has allowed information to be at our fingertips, and has made our lives more connected, such a change comes with significant privacy concerns.

Americans are apprehensive, with good reason, that personal information such as personal finances and medical records are susceptible to hacking.

Our students’ educational information covers all of these areas and more, and it is vital that we do all that we can to keep this information safe.

When we think of educational information, we may only think of grades, test scores, and course lists, but there is so much more that is associated with a student’s personal record.

As a father of two young boys, I understand first hand the importance of keeping our children's records safe and secure.

When Congress passed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in 1974 to protect student privacy, the Internet didn’t exist.

As we continue to see technology play a key role in how we conduct educational research, it is time for Congress to have a serious discussion on whether or not FERPA is keeping all student information safe.

Our hearing today will focus on how we can strike the right balance between leveraging education research for our students, while ensuring their information is private and secure.

We have gathered a diverse group of witnesses who will give us their own perspectives on the effectiveness of both ESRA and FERPA, and we look forward to hearing their stories.

Education research can a powerful tool to help our students, but that information should not come at the cost of a student’s private and personal information. I look forward to our discussion of these issues today.

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