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Thune and Nelson Demand Answers from Facebook Amid New Reports of Privacy Concerns

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) pressed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today for answers following a report that Facebook offered numerous mobile device manufacturers special access to private user information.

A Decade of the Digital Coast Partnership Program: Successes and Opportunities

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene a hearing entitled “A Decade of the Digital Coast Partnership Program: Successes and Opportunities,” at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. The hearing will examine how partners and stakeholders contribute to and use the Digital Coast, a NOAA-sponsored partnership focused on helping communities address coastal management issues through data, tools, and training.  

Witnesses:

  • Ms. Nicole LeBoeuf, Deputy Assistant Administrator for National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Mr. Paul Barnes, Geographic Information Systems Director, Harrison County, Miss.
  • Mr. Tyson Fettes, Register of Deeds, Racine County, Wis.
  • Mr. David Millar, Government Accounts Director Americas, Fugro

*Witness list subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard 

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Thank you, Ranking Member Baldwin. 

What’s so great about the tool that we are talking about this morning is that it allows folks to visualize sea level rise and what it means for coastal communities. 

In 2014, this committee held a field hearing in Miami Beach. One of our witnesses was Dr. Piers Sellers, a prestigious NASA scientist and former astronaut. 

He said: “By the end of the century, the intensity of hurricanes, including rainfall near the centers of hurricanes, may increase… but even if hurricane frequency and intensity do not change, rising sea levels and coastal development will likely increase the impact of hurricanes and other coastal storms on those coastal communities and infrastructure.”

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, here it is folks: sunny day king tide flooding in Miami Beach.

And we held another field hearing in West Palm Beach last year. The Broward County resilience officer showed video of a man biking along a city of Fort Lauderdale sidewalk submerged in sea water.

Then we took the committee to St. Petersburg, Florida—where the city has designed its new pier out of floating docks to accommodate the rising seas.

And we could go to see tidal flooding and sea level rise in Sarasota. The vice mayor brought me these pictures last month.

Or St. Augustine, Florida, where the Public Works Department is seeing nuisance flooding from high tides that overwhelms their storm water system.

But these are all examples of how sea level rise affects coastal Florida on sunny days. The NASA scientist at our hearing was talking about how climate could exacerbate the damage from hurricanes. Warmer ocean water fuels hurricanes—making them more intense. And sea level rise compounds storm surge and rain-induced flooding.

So here are some more pictures we should enter into the tool.

Here’s flooding in Jacksonville during Hurricane Irma. 

And how about Puerto Rico? Hurricane Maria absolutely ravaged the island.

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that climate change and sea level rise are putting people’s lives and their property at risk: it is the reality. 

So, the real question is, what are we going to do about it? And there are two pieces to a solution.

One, we’re going to have to stop putting so many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere so fast. This part of the solution is called climate mitigation. 

And it means we must invest in new technology—in the economy of the future. Things like wind, solar, electric vehicles and more efficient buildings.

And two, we’re going to have to make our communities more resilient to the greenhouse gases and the warming that we’ve already got in the system. 

This is called climate change adaptation, and you don’t have to agree with climate science to know that it makes sense—and it makes dollars and cents—to do this. 

We’re talking about strengthening our building codes to withstand wind events. Restoring the function of floodplains so that when two to three feet of rainwater gets dumped in one place, it can absorb and recede. Rebuilding natural flood protection, like sand dunes and beaches.

I’m committed to doing both because I’m committed to the safety of our coastal communities. Failure to act on that information is not an option.

Given all the information this committee has on record, it’s my hope we’ll do that this month and report out the Coastal Communities Adaptation Act—legislation I filed to provide financial assistance to communities like those in Florida that are working to become more resilient. In support of that, Mr. Chairman, I’d like to enter these letters in support of my bill into the record.

Thank you and Ranking Member Baldwin for holding this timely hearing. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.

Preventing Abuse in Olympic and Amateur Athletics: Ensuring a Safe and Secure Environment for Our Athletes

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, will convene a hearing entitled “Preventing Abuse in Olympic and Amateur Athletics: Ensuring a Safe and Secure Environment for Our Athletes,” at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. The hearing will focus on how past processes to protect our Olympic athletes from abuse have failed to keep athletes safe and explore current efforts to provide a safe environment for amateur athletes.

Witnesses:

  • Ms. Rhonda Faehn, former Women’s Program Director, USA Gymnastics
  • Mr. Steve Penny, former President, USA Gymnastics
  • Ms. Lou Anna Simon, former President, Michigan State University

*Witness list subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018
3:00 p.m.
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security 

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

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(As Prepared for Delivery)

Good afternoon, I call this hearing to order. Earlier this year, this subcommittee launched an investigation to examine cultural and systemic problems regarding abuse in the Olympic movement. This subcommittee, which exercises jurisdiction over the U.S. Olympic Committee and amateur sports, is fully committed to ensuring the health and safety of all American athletes, and today marks the second hearing in our ongoing investigation.

We began this process in January following disgusting revelations that former USA Gymnastics team Doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused hundreds of athletes over the span of two decades, even well after numerous survivors alerted authorities about his actions.

As we now know, many of our American Olympians who stood tall in representing our nation on the international stage were suffering behind the scenes. Their stories break our hearts and all of the athletes who have come forward to share them are to be commended for their courage.

I know I speak for both myself and Senator Blumenthal when I express my thanks to the many survivors who have personally met with us throughout this investigation. We were grateful to have four abuse survivors across different Olympic sports join our subcommittee hearing panel in April to share their experiences and recommendations on what Congress ought to do to make certain athletes are protected from predators. We are joined by several surviving athletes today, and I thank them for their continued interest and bravery demonstrated throughout our investigation.

Today’s hearing marks the next step in our investigation. In order to make recommendations that will be effective and meaningful in driving change in the Olympic movement so that athletes will be able to freely participate in their sports without fear of abuse, it is vital that we understand how this happened: Who knew about the abuse? When did they know? What did they do with that information? And, importantly, why?

To that end, this subcommittee has sought extensive documentation from the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, organizations represented on today’s panel. We have requested and received additional documentation from all National Governing Bodies on their policies and procedures in reporting, handling and combating abuse, as well as their use of athlete-organization nondisclosure agreements.

Unfortunately, now four years removed from the first Michigan State investigation into Nassar allegations and three years after a USA Gymnastics coach first heard of his abuse, there are a multitude of questions that remain unanswered. My hope is that the witnesses here today can help answer these outstanding questions, provide us their perspective on what went wrong and offer their advice on how it can be prevented from ever happening again.

Joining us today is Steve Penny, the former president of USA Gymnastics; Rhonda Faehn, USA Gymnastics’ former senior vice president and women’s program director; and Dr. Lou Anna Simon, the former president of Michigan State University. Two additional witnesses were invited to participate today but were unable to travel to Washington for medical reasons: Scott Blackmun, the former president of the U.S. Olympic Committee; and Martha Karolyi, the former national team coordinator for USA Gymnastics. Mr. Blackmun and Ms. Karolyi have each provided written testimony for today’s hearing and will respond to committee members’ written questions for the hearing record.

We are also honored today to welcome Senators Joni Ernst of Iowa and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire to the subcommittee to provide opening testimony. Senators Ernst and Shaheen have taken a sincere interest in preventing abuse in the Olympic movement, and their testimony today will be invaluable in helping this subcommittee further raise awareness and identify solutions that will make a difference. Thank you, senators, for the time you have taken to prepare and present your heartfelt testimony.

I will conclude my remarks by reminding my colleagues that in light of Mr. Penny and Dr. Simon declining the committee’s invitations to appear voluntarily, subpoenas were issued requiring their attendance today. Through their counsels, both Mr. Penny and Dr. Simon made clear that they would not appear voluntarily on June 5th or any other date going forward. I wish that were not the case, as issuing subpoenas is something this committee takes very seriously and pursues only as a last resort. Despite the circumstances, however, I appreciate their presence today and look forward to a productive hearing on this important matter.

With that, I will turn to the Ranking Member, Senator Blumenthal, for his opening statement.


Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As I have repeatedly said to the brave women who came forward – both to me and before this committee – to tell their stories about the unspeakable abuse they endured because of their assailant:  The system failed them.  Responsible adults who should have intervened failed them. 

The purpose of this hearing and this committee’s ongoing work on youth athletic safety is to find out what happened and who is accountable – with the ultimate goal of preventing such horrific crimes from occurring again. 

We may not be able to douse the evil completely – there will always be sick people who will seek to harm our children.  However, we can hold sports organizations accountable so that they create environments with appropriate checks and safety protocols that prevent such predators from taking advantage of vulnerable targets. 

And we can hold accountable those individuals who do nothing; who do not prioritize the safety and wellbeing of our youth athletes. 

As we sit here today, I am reminded of some of the awful things that reportedly happened at the Karolyi Ranch where our Olympic gymnasts were trained and much of Larry Nassar’s abuse took place. 

Reports indicate that the environment there was anything but safe.  Terrible physical, emotional and sexual abuse took place.  

In addition to Nassar’s despicable crimes, the Karolyis would allegedly withhold food and made gymnasts train in terrible conditions that led to frequent injuries. 

Furthermore, parents of the athletes were reportedly not welcome at the monthly training camps at the ranch and couldn't even stay in the same hotels with their children.  

Let’s be clear here, we’re talking girls as young as ten years old being terribly abused. 

How could this have happened to our young American heroes and our role models? They gave their all to pursue the dream of winning Olympic gold.   For years, they placed their trust in the coaches, trainers, physicians and staff, and in return were forced to endure unspeakable abuse.

This is beyond tragic, as many of the victims’ emotional scars may never heal.  It’s also downright shameful and a stain on USA Olympic sports that will take some time to shed.

That’s why we’re here today.  We here to help the brave victims heal.

We’re here to change the culture of abuse that was widely accepted and supported by USA Gymnastics and other Olympic sports. 

And, we’re here to ensure that those currently pursuing their dream of being an Olympic athlete and those that will follow them will never have to endure the unspeakable abuse the victims experienced.  

Mr. Chairman, it is my hope that we will eventually hear open public testimony from the United States Olympic Committee. 

I want to hear what the U.S.O.C. knew and how their officials responded.  I would also like to hear how the U.S.O.C. is adopting reforms to protect current athletes and how the organization is conducting oversight over national governing bodies such as USA Gymnastics. 

The U.S.O.C. can no longer play a passive role on such matters and their officials should also answer questions before this committee.

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

Senate Passes Bill to Protect Critical Small Business Loan Program

House Small Business Committee News - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate passed H.R. 4743, the Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act, to increase the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) oversight authority over the 7(a) Loan Program. The bipartisan and bicameral legislation was introduced by House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH), and Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-ID), and Ranking Member Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

“Today’s Senate passage takes us one step closer to seeing a bill become law that will help small business owners get the capital they need to start and grow their companies. The 7(a) Loan Program has been one of the SBA’s most popular and critical programs in helping small businesses succeed. This legislation will also direct the SBA to keep a closer eye on the program to ensure it continues to run smoothly for small businesses, while also making sure taxpayer dollars are safeguarded,” said Chairman Chabot.

“For small businesses that have trouble securing credit elsewhere—the 7(a) program is a lifeline. This bill will enact needed reforms to increase transparency and ensure that the program fulfills its mission, to help small firms access capital and create new jobs. Importantly, we must be prepared for periods of high demand for these loans, and that is why I am proud to have secured a provision in this bill to raise the 7(a) lending cap and prevent an unintended shutdown of the program. I thank Chairman Chabot for his leadership and willingness to work in a bipartisan manner to advance this crucial legislation. Now that this bill has cleared the Senate, I look forward to it swiftly being signed into law,” said Ranking Member Velázquez.

Specifically, the Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight and Reform Act protects the program by:

  • Strengthening SBA’s Office of Credit Risk Management by outlining in statute the responsibilities of the office and the requirements of its director;
  • Enhancing SBA’s lender oversight review process, including increasing the office’s enforcement options;
  • Requiring SBA to detail its oversight budget and perform a full risk analysis of the program on an annual basis; and
  • Strengthening SBA’s Credit Elsewhere Test by clarifying the factors that must be considered.

Since its introduction, the House Small Business Committee has held several hearings reviewing the effectiveness and integrity of the program.

Statement on Nomination of Peter Feldman to the Consumer Product Safety Commission

“Peter has been part of the Commerce Committee team and an invaluable resource during my entire tenure as ranking member and chairman. While I will miss his steady hand in our committee’s bipartisan efforts to fight for consumer safety and fairness, the Consumer Product Safety Commission will benefit from his expertise and leadership."

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