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The Latest on ALI’s Liability Insurance Restatement: Same as it Ever Was

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 3:21pm
When last we addressed the American Law Institute’s (ALI) proposed Restatement, Law of Liability Insurance, we reported that the organization decided at its May annual meeting to table final consideration of the document until 2018. One of the proposal’s chief Reporters, Professor Tom Baker, indicated that he and co-Reporter Kyle Logue would embark on a […]
Categories: Latest News

Thune and Peters Introduce S. 1885, The AV START Act

Self-driving vehicle technologies will save lives, improve mobility for people with disabilities, and create new jobs...

VIDEO: Thune and Wicker Commend Chairman Pai on Senate Floor

“Mr. Pai’s stellar career in communications policy, his integrity, and the tireless work ethic he displays will continue to serve the FCC well, and guide the agency back to being a more collaborative and productive institution.”...

TSA Modernization: Improvements to Aviation Security

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-M.O.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, will convene a legislative hearing titled “TSA Modernization: Improvements to Aviation Security” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 28, 2017. The hearing will examine key reform proposals in upcoming legislation to reform and improve aviation security policy and programs at the TSA. This hearing builds on Committee oversight efforts following a February 2017 subcommittee hearing that explored stakeholder perspectives on how TSA can better serve the traveling public.

Witnesses:

-  Mr. Brian Weiler, Director of Aviation, Springfield-Branson National Airport
-  Mr. Stephen Alterman, President, Cargo Airline Association; Chairman, Aviation Security Advisory Committee
-  Ms. Sissy Pressnell, Vice President of Government Relations, Smiths Group; Vice Chair, Security Manufacturers Coalition
-  Mr. Michael White, Vice President, Government & Industry Relations, Cargo Networks Services Corp, International Air Transport Association (IATA) 

Hearing Details:

Thursday, September 28, 2017
10:00 a.m.
Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and 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.

Small Business Committee Examines Benefits of 10,000 Small Businesses Program

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 09/28/2017 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – Today, House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Vice-Ranking Member Alma Adams (D-NY) held a roundtable to discuss private sector entrepreneurial development programs, and, specifically, the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative. Participants included Goldman Sachs executives, Community Development Financial Institution lenders, and small business owners who have utilized the entrepreneurial development program.

The 10,000 Small Businesses program helps entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to education, capital, and mentorship. To date, the program has served over 7,700 small business owners across all 50 states.

Today’s roundtable gave the Committee Members a chance to hear from small businesses that have benefitted from their participation in the 10,000 Small Businesses program. This successful private sector initiative is an intensive education and mentorship program that matches educators, business leaders, and lenders to grow small businesses in our communities,” said Chairman Chabot.

While the program itself is helping so many small firms from across our country, we also heard that a confusing tax code and burdensome regulations continue to hold small businesses back. Here on the Committee, we will continue to address these barriers to growth so small firms can continue to do what they do best – innovate and create jobs,” Chairman Chabot added.

Chairman Chabot has introduced legislation, H.R. 3717, the Small Business Owners’ Tax Simplification Act, to create more clarity within the tax code, as well as H.R. 33, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, which passed the House as part of H.R. 5, the Regulatory Accountability Act, earlier this Congress. 

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Commerce Announces Markup on October 4

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Wednesday, October 4 at 10:00 a.m. in Hart 216 to consider legislative measures and nominations.

Thune and Peters Announce Agreement on Self-Driving Vehicle Legislation

Senators will introduce and release legislative text Thursday...

Thune, Nelson, Blunt and Cantwell Introduce Bill to Reform TSA Aviation Security

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, today introduced S. 1872, the TSA Modernization Act.

Nelson and Carper to EPA, CPSC Heads: Stop Trying to Derail Life-Saving Portable Generator Safety Rule

WASHINGTON – The ranking Democrats on the Senate’s Commerce and Environment and Public Works Committees – Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) – today urged the nation’s top environmental and consumer protection officials to stop attempts to derail a key generator safety rule.

The lawmakers’ demand comes in the wake of at least 12 Hurricane Irma-related deaths caused by accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from portable generators.   

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Scott Pruitt and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairwoman Anne Marie Buerkle, the lawmakers pressed the agency heads to explain a previously unreported exchange of letters that sought to undermine the CPSC’s authority to regulate generator safety.  The senators also called for the release of documents related to the regulation of portable generators obtained or sent by the agencies’ political appointees.

“Your joint assertion that the commission may lack the authority to address this risk - if heeded by the agency - would likely result in a regulatory black hole that may well yield no added protections but could instead lead to additional avoidable deaths and injuries,” the senators wrote.  “The CPSC clearly has the statutory authority to regulate to ‘prevent or reduce an unreasonable risk of injury associated’ with any aspect of a consumer product, including portable generators.”

Last November, the CPSC, by a 4-to-1 vote, issued a proposed rule that would require portable generator manufacturers to adopt existing technology that would reduce CO emissions in many models by up to 90 percent.  The rule would substantially reduce the risk of CO poisoning and give occupants of a dwelling with hazardous levels of the deadly and odorless gas more time to escape.  The commission has yet to render its final approval for the new generator standards.

In a May 10 letter to CPSC Chairwoman Buerkle, Administrator Pruitt intervened in the matter by asserting that it was the EPA, not the commission, that had the authority to regulate portable generators under the Clean Air Act.   In an August response to Pruitt, Buerkle agreed and gave her backing to a voluntary generator standard being developed by the industry, while signaling her desire for the commission to avoid regulating on the issue.

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Mr. Chairman, over the past few weeks we have seen the devastation hurricanes can cause. Irma, Harvey, and Maria have been the most powerful storms we have seen in decades.

These storms have caused numerous deaths and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and the rest of the Caribbean, who have lost so much.

Now it’s time to start picking up the pieces. I have been down in Florida surveying the damage and hearing from local communities and I can tell you, we have a long recovery ahead of us.

But I am encouraged.

The strength and resilience of the Floridians I have met with never ceases to amaze me. I have seen neighbors and communities coming together to help each other while less affected areas in Florida are giving to those in dire need.

I am fully committed to doing everything that I can to aid my fellow Floridians and all others who have lost life and property in these storms.

This is why this hearing today is so important. The four agencies represented here play an integral role in protecting life and property around this country.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, for example, plays a key role in ensuring the safety of consumer products.  And one product that is often in high demand after hurricanes and severe storms is portable generators.  They can be a very important source of emergency power after storms.  But when used incorrectly, they can also be deadly.

For over ten years, I have been pushing the CPSC to enact a robust safety standard to either reduce the amount of carbon monoxide emitted by portable generators or to cause generators to automatically shut off when carbon monoxide concentrations in the area where they are being used reach toxic levels.

I was heartened when the CPSC voted four to one last year to publish a draft standard to significantly reduce the amount of deadly carbon monoxide these machines emit.

Sadly, it appears that this rule is being held up because of behind-the-scenes industry lobbying at both the CPSC and the EPA.

And this delay, quite frankly, is deadly.

As of last Friday, there have been at least eleven deaths and numerous injuries in Florida related to carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators used in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

And I suspect we will see more in the coming weeks in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other Caribbean countries decimated by Hurricane Maria.

Ms. Buerkle, while I appreciate your generator safety outreach messages prior to Hurricane Irma, I am deeply disappointed in your efforts to delay this potentially lifesaving rule.

Admiral Gallaudet, for years, I have been working to make sure that NOAA has reliable tools to forecast hurricanes and to better understand and predict weather patterns. 

Extreme events in 2017 alone include unprecedented wildfires and back-to-back-to-back record Atlantic hurricanes and only underscore the growing impact of climate change.

Global temperatures are rising— and so are the seas. 2016 and 2017 have had the two highest global temperatures ever recorded since we began measuring in 1880.

Oceans are warming and fueling the dizzyingly fast intensification of hurricanes we saw in Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria. 

We need leaders at NOAA who understand the importance of studying climate change, and I hope you, Admiral Gallaudet, will show the same diligence at NOAA in studying and preparing for climate change that you displayed in your role of oceanographer of the Navy.

Mr. Elliott, I want to welcome you to the committee as a fellow Floridian. As you know, the safe and reliable transportation of hazardous materials across the country and into densely populated regions is critical. 

I look forward to hearing from you about the work you did overseeing the safety of transporting hazardous materials within CSX, which is based in our home state of Florida.

And Dr. Copan, I’ve spent the last two weeks crisscrossing Florida after Hurricane Irma devastated many parts of the state. Luckily, the devastation wasn’t as bad as feared in some areas because of the improved building codes put in place after Hurricane Andrew.

In fact, the devastation to Florida’s infrastructure after hurricanes is one of the reasons I authored the original legislation creating the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act. Under that program, NIST leads the federal investigations after a hurricane. Those investigations and research is used to improve building codes – so that communities are more resilient and ready for the next storm.  

All of the agencies represented today base their work on one thing—scientific data. I look forward to hearing from each of you today on how we can protect scientific integrity and the many other issues I mentioned.

Thank you.

Nomination Hearing

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a nominations hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, for four presidential nominees subject to Senate confirmation.

Witnesses:

-  The Honorable Ann Marie Buerkle, of New York, to be Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission
-  Rear Admiral (Ret.) Timothy Gallaudet, of California, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
-  Mr. Howard R. Elliott, of Indiana, to be Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Department of Transportation
-  Dr. Walter G. Copan, of Colorado, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017
10:00 a.m.
Full Committee

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.

Small Business Tax Reform: Modernizing the Code for the Nation’s Job Creators.

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 09/27/2017 - 11:00am
The Committee on Small Business will meet for a hearing titled, “Small Business Tax Reform: Modernizing the Code for the Nation’s Job Creators.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11:00 A.M. on September 27, 2017 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The hearing will examine how the United States tax code affects small businesses and how changes proposed in H.R. 3717, the Small Business Owners’ Tax Simplification Act of 2017, could impact the nation’s job creators. 

Documents

1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List
3. Hearing Memo
4. Opening Statement

Witnesses

Ms. Kristie Arslan
Entrepreneur-In-Residence and Small Business Counsel
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council
Vienna, VA
Testimony
Disclosure

Mr. Thomas Gorczynski
Co-Founder
Hacksmith Labs Chicago, IL
Testimony
Disclosure

Mr. Miguel Centeno
Partner
Shared Economy CPA
Redondo Beach, CA
Testimony
Disclosure

Ms. Caroline Bruckner
Managing Director, Kogod Tax Policy Center
Executive-in-Residence, Accounting and Taxation
Kogod School of Business
American University
Washington, DC
Testimony
Disclosure


Chairman Chabot Responds to Unified Plan to Fix Broken Tax Code

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 09/27/2017 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – Today, House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) released the following statement after the Trump Administration, the House Committee on Ways and Means, and the Senate Committee on Finance released a unified framework to fix our broken tax code:

Today, we took a positive step toward fixing our broken tax code and helping provide relief to the tens of millions of small businesses across our country who continue to be held back by a broken system. Small businesses deserved a voice in the largest tax reform in 31 years and today they were heard. This unified plan will provide small business owners, their families, and their employees with a simpler and fairer tax code that will help their bottom lines, and also grow our economy,” said Chairman Chabot.

Earlier this month, Chairman Chabot introduced legislation H.R. 3717, the Small Business Owners’ Tax Simplification Act, to create more clarity within the tax code and allow small business owners to both offer and participate in cafeteria benefit plans. 

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D.C. Circuit Once Again Reminds EPA Which Governmental Branch Enacts Laws

WLF Legal Pulse - Tue, 09/26/2017 - 10:13am
Featured Expert Column – Environmental Law and Policy By Samuel B. Boxerman, Sidley Austin LLP with Katharine Falahee Newman, Sidley Austin LLP In recent years, either when Congress has chosen not to act on certain matters—or arguably does so without sufficient clarity—the Executive Branch has asserted the power to address issues through regulation. These agency […]
Categories: Latest News

FTC Stakeholder Perspecitves: Reform Proposals to Improve Fairness, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare

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 titled “FTC Stakeholder Perspecitves: Reform Proposals to Improve Fairness, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 26, 2017. The subcommittee will explore recommendations by stakeholders and former Commission officials for improving the FTC’s handling of consumer protection cases and general process reforms.

Witnesses:

-  Mr. William MacLeod, Partner, Kelley Drye
-  Ms. Lydia Parnes, Partner, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
-  Ms. Jessica Rich, Vice President, Policy and Modernization, Consumers Union
-  Mr. Berin Szoka, President, TechFreedom

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
2:30 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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Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s hearing on “FTC Stakeholder Perspectives: Reform Proposals to Improve Fairness, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare.” 

Last September, the full Committee heard testimony from the FTC’s three sitting commissioners at the time: Chairman Ramirez, Commissioner Ohlhausen and Commissioner McSweeny. We had planned to convene a Subcommittee hearing on the same day, but had to cancel it due to scheduling conflicts. The cancelled hearing would have consisted of a panel of stakeholders offering their own perspectives about the Commission. 

Today we will hear from Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom, one of the witnesses who was scheduled to testify last September, as well as three former directors of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection: William MacLeod, Lydia Parnes and Jessica Rich. We thank these former FTC officials for their public service and all of the witnesses for appearing today to offer their insights on how to improve the commission.  

For over a century, the FTC has been protecting competition and consumers by enforcing the nation’s antitrust laws and combatting deception and unfairness in a wide variety of industries. Through its efforts, the FTC has often helped to prevent anticompetitive practices that stifle innovation, lower quality or raise prices. It has also helped ensure that consumers can make informed choices based on accurate advertising, and avoid injury from fraud and unfair trade practices, such as unauthorized credit card charges.

Although the FTC’s efforts have produced many benefits for consumers and the economy, this committee and others have questioned the way it sometimes exercises its authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which addresses unfair and deceptive acts in commerce. Others have argued that the FTC sometimes conducts investigations and issues orders that impose unnecessary costs, and that it does not always provide adequate guidance to businesses seeking to comply with the laws the FTC enforces.

These concerns have sparked numerous proposals regarding how to reform the FTC. For example, last December the House Energy and Commerce Committee favorably reported H.R. 5510, the FTC Process and Transparency Reform Act of 2016, legislation incorporating eight separate reform bills designed to clarify the FTC’s unfairness authority, improve the way the FTC operates, foster greater transparency and reduce unnecessary costs.

Similarly, in January 2017, the American Bar Association Antitrust Section issued its 60-page Presidential Transition Report. It makes a number of recommendations for improving the FTC’s handling of antitrust and consumer protection issues, including repeal of the common carrier exemption and better coordination on privacy between the FTC and other agencies, greater transparency and fairness in the enforcement process, more judicious use of civil investigative demands, better communication with investigation targets, less burdensome “boilerplate” order provisions and monetary relief proportional to the injury caused and the defendant’s culpability.

The report also urges the FTC to provide additional guidance on topics relating to unfair practices, data security, monetary remedies, advertising interpretation and “clear and conspicuous” disclosure requirements. Other private groups, such as TechFreedom, have also proposed various reforms designed to address concerns about the FTC.

The FTC has already taken steps to address some of the concerns addressed by the House bill, the ABA Report, and other stakeholders. Specifically, this year the commission adopted several initiatives to eliminate waste and unnecessary regulation, streamline agency information demands, improve transparency and promote economic liberty.

As we look ahead to the White House’s nominations of candidates to serve as FTC commissioners, it is especially important for this committee to provide a forum to address these issues.

We look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses this afternoon and to engaging in a dialog on the best ways to advance reforms at the commission. 

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

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