On Wednesday, March 22, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. the Committee on Small Business will conduct a hearing titled, “Making Washington Work For America’s Small Businesses.” The purpose of the hearing is for small business owners to outline their priorities and provide the Committee with ideas about federal policies that will help them most grow their businesses. A priority setting hearing, the hearing will help inform future committee hearings, advocacy efforts, and legislative priorities for the Committee on Small Business for the 115th Congress.Documents
Ms. Maxine Turner
Salt Lake City, UT
* Testifying on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Ms. Ann Chambers
Co-Founder and CEO
* Testifying on behalf of Women Impacting Public Policy
Mr. Rutledge “Skip” Paal
Rutland Beard Floral Group
Baltimore, MD 21228
* Testifying on behalf of the Society of American Florists
Good morning. As Chairman, I have made it a priority for this Committee to focus on emerging technologies. We have held some of the first hearings in Congress on artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, the internet of things, and augmented reality. Today we will continue this practice, but this time we will be focusing on the potential benefits, and sometimes risks, that certain emerging technologies have on cybersecurity.
As my fellow Committee members know well, cybersecurity is a topic that comes up at almost every hearing we hold. The cutting edge technologies we are exploring today are fundamentally transforming how people and businesses connect, as well as the creation and transmission of information. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and quantum computing, as well as the flourishing internet of things, offer innovative approaches for combating future cyber threats, but also present new risks. As threats continually evolve, flexible and innovative approaches will be required to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, and individual citizens.
This hearing will explore the enormous potential of these fields to revolutionize the cybersecurity arena and grow our economy. For example, by 2020, the estimated number of connected devices making up the internet of things may exceed 50 billion. Furthermore, a World Economic Forum report predicts that 10 percent of global gross domestic product will be stored on blockchain technology by 2027. Artificial intelligence, or AI, will increasingly allow computers to mimic cognitive functions associated with humans. And, as described in a recent cover story in The Economist, quantum computing’s “untapped potential” will be capable of handling complex problems that today’s computers cannot solve.
Even with all of their promise, these technologies also have the potential to create new security risks. For example, nefarious hackers can use AI to identify cyber vulnerabilities and victims faster. Future quantum computers could break our current encryption standards with ease.
Federal agencies under the Committee’s jurisdiction, such as the Department of Commerce, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and NASA, in partnership with academia and industry, are focused on research and the development of standards to ensure the U.S. remains the leader in these fields. Our Committee has been supportive of prioritizing such work due its national and economic security benefits.
The recently-enacted, bipartisan American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, sponsored by Senators Gardner, Peters, Nelson and myself, charged our science agencies to research future cybersecurity needs. In particular, the law directed the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to work with stakeholders to identify cryptography standards that future computers will not be able to break, and directed NSF to focus research on cybersecurity and human-computer interactions. In addition, the bipartisan Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2014, which I cosponsored with then-Chairman Rockefeller, included important provisions for cybersecurity research, workforce development, and standards. It authorized NIST’s continued efforts to develop the voluntary Framework for Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity and the National Initiative on Cybersecurity Education (NICE), as well as the NSF’s successful Cybercorps scholarship program. In fact, Dakota State University, which is located in my home state of South Dakota, is an active participant in this program.
Our nation faces an array of evolving cyber threats to our personal data, access to online services, and critical infrastructure. To be clear, cybersecurity is not solely a technology issue. Also, while there is no silver-bullet solution to cybersecurity risks, I believe promoting public-private partnerships on risk management, foundational research, and a robust cyber workforce are essential to combating these challenges. That is why I am excited to continue our Committee’s discussion on cybersecurity by looking toward the future.
The companies represented at today’s hearing are driving innovation. They have employed machine learning to identify new threats, conducted research that may soon unlock the commercial potential of private blockchains and quantum computing, and launched new tech startups that create jobs and grow the economy. And Mr. Rosenbach, thank you for your dedicated service at the Defense Department.
Cybersecurity will continue to be a priority for this Committee. Cybersecurity will continue to be a priority for this Committee. In fact, Senator Gardner and I will be sending letters to newly confirmed Commerce Secretary Ross and Transportation Secretary Chao urging them to prioritize the cybersecurity of federal systems. As the heads of the respective departments, they have an opportunity to improve the effectiveness of cybersecurity programs. In addition, I look forward to working with Senators Schatz, Risch, and Cantwell on potential legislation to ensure that small businesses fully benefit from the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.
I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today. I look forward to hearing your testimony. I will now turn it over to Senator Nelson for his opening remarks.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing. Enhancing America’s cybersecurity remains a top priority for many of us on this committee and I look forward to our continued work to address cyber threats, whether they are in the commercial aviation industry or in driverless cars. It is imperative that this committee and Congress is doing everything we can to protect our nation from cyberattacks.
Cyberattacks keep coming and we must remain vigilant in protecting against them. Combating these attacks is like playing a game of whack-a-mole where the bad guys keep popping up with new tools to exploit any weakness. Therefore, we must constantly look down the road and anticipate the impact of new technologies.
The rapid commercialization of the so-called Internet of Things, which provides consumers with potential benefits, also provides hackers with a multitude of new targets to attack. Artificial intelligence and quantum computing could greatly enhance our cyber defense capabilities, but in the wrong hands, could make detecting threats more difficult, risking our economic and physical well-being. Blockchain technology, which has proven successful in securing financial transactions, could be used to secure all kinds of sensitive data and information. At today’s hearing, I hope to learn more about all of these emerging technologies and their cybersecurity applications—good or bad.
Americans are rightly concerned about cybersecurity, including the privacy of their own information and hacks of banks, insurance companies, and critical infrastructure like the power grid. According to the intelligence community’s January 6th assessment, we know that Russian hackers—at Vladimir Putin’s direction—used a series of relatively simple cyberattacks to try to influence the 2016 election, striking at the very core of our cherished democracy. Imagine what Russian or Chinese hackers or cyber criminals might do with advanced technologies.
Because the technologies we discuss today could be used as weapons against us in a cyberattack, I want to know how Russia, China, and other adversaries might use these technologies to disrupt our economy and civil society. How might Russian hackers use the Internet of Things to hack our most vulnerable systems? How might blockchain technology be used to secure sensitive data or disguise illicit activity? How might quantum computing and artificial intelligence improve or undermine the cybersecurity of everyday Americans, our private sector, and our government?
These are all questions I hope our distinguished panel will shed some light on today.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.
Save Small Business from Obamacare
By Reps. Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Tim Walberg (R-MI)
Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini warned last month that the Affordable Care Act is in a “death spiral.” Because ObamaCare is failing, we are debating how best to repeal and replace it. But amid this debate, it’s important to remember the people ObamaCare is hurting.
Here is what Kathy, who owns a company in Missouri, told the House Ways and Means Committee: “As a small business owner, I recall the days before the ACA when we would receive a 2-inch notebook that contained multiple quotes from different health insurance companies. Now, our options are listed on a single legal sized sheet of paper. We only received three quotes for 2017, and just two of them were adequate for our region. In 2013, our insurance cost $180,000 for 92 lives with a $2,000 deductible. In 2016, we paid $252,000 for just 61 lives who face a $5,000 deductible.”
Her story, unfortunately, is not unique. Under ObamaCare’s costly regulations, many business owners must make hard choices between cutting back employees’ hours, laying off staff, or dropping health-care coverage (and then paying a penalty for doing so if the firm has more than 50 workers). Among businesses with fewer than 10 employees, 35.6% offered health insurance in 2008. That figure had fallen by 2015 to 22.7%, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Even worse, a January report from the American Action Forum found that since ObamaCare became law, “among small businesses, the rise in premiums has been associated with $19 billion in lost wages, 10,130 fewer business establishments, and nearly 300,000 lost jobs.” That’s a big problem for American families, particularly since small businesses are responsible for 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs.
Repealing ObamaCare is necessary and would certainly help small businesses grow and hire new workers. But Congress should also help these job-creators provide affordable health-care options to their employees. That’s why we introduced the Small Business Health Fairness Act, which the House is scheduled to vote on this week.
The legislation is built on a basic rule of insurance: The bigger the risk pool, the lower the premium. That’s why large corporations and unions have an advantage in providing health insurance to their employees and members. Our bill would allow small businesses to band together through association health plans, or AHPs, to provide good policies for workers and their families at a lower cost.
AHPs could function in one of two ways: They could work directly with an insurer to negotiate better rates. Or they could self-fund, just as many large corporations and unions already do. Self-funded plans would also be exempted from many costly state and federal requirements, just as many corporate and union plans are.
To ensure the success and fairness of AHPs, our bill includes requirements that would provide accountability, stability, and consistency across the country. Any active marketing by an AHP sponsor would have to be directed at all its members, regardless of their claims history or health status. AHPs would be restricted from setting premiums in a way that might raise costs for higher-claims companies compared with similarly situated employers in the plan.
As House Republicans work to repeal ObamaCare and alleviate the burden it places on Americans across the country, we hope that AHPs can be a central part of the effort. Passing our bill is a common-sense way to give small-businesses the same economies of scale in health insurance that Fortune 500 companies enjoy—with the result being more affordable coverage for workers and their families.
To read online, click here.
The Subcommittee is meeting today to review the state of current Coast Guard missions, manpower, resources, acquisitions, and budgetary needs.
This is my first hearing as chairman of the subcommittee, and Senator Peters’ first hearing as the subcommittee’s ranking member. I look forward to working with him, the Coast Guard, and the 115th Congress. I am very honored to chair the subcommittee, as I have a great appreciation for the work that the Coast Guard does for this nation and my state of Alaska.
Thank you, Admiral Zukunft, for being here this afternoon, and for your dedicated service to our nation for so many years.
Maritime security and safety are issues of national security, and are essential to economic prosperity. Global stability is dependent on safe and unfettered access to the maritime domain.
Congress has given the Coast Guard a wide range of missions, from search and rescue, icebreaking, and marine environmental protection, to port security, drug interdiction, international crisis response, and readiness to support Department of Defense operations.
With such an integral role in national security and global stability, it should not be overlooked by members of this committee that the Coast Guard is the fifth branch of the Armed Services. By securing our maritime border, the Coast Guard acts as the front line of defense for our homeland.
The Coast Guard combats transnational criminal organizations at the points of origin by pushing cutters and resources to intercept drugs and human smugglers off of foreign shores, prior to threats even getting close to our shores. The Coast Guard operates on all seven continents including Antarctica and supports U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And, that is why today I would like the members of this committee to take off their Commerce hats, and put on their Armed Service hats.
As the Coast Guard balances the wide range of public safety, stewardship and national security missions, the missions do not remain static. New threats are constantly emerging.
Increasing human activity in the Arctic; violence, terrorism, and drug trafficking in the Caribbean Basin, Central America, and Mexico; and overseas contingency operations demand an increased Coast Guard presence at home and increasingly around the globe.
The mission requirements are also expanding in my home state of Alaska. The area of responsibility assigned to Coast Guard units within Alaskan waters is the largest in the nation and encompasses an area of over three and a half million square miles. This is an area with over half the coastline of the United States. With the thawing of the Arctic there is heightened interest in the region’s future, with consequences for increased demands for search and rescue, vessel traffic safety and security, law enforcement, and fisheries resource management.
Giving us a view of vessel traffic to come, the Panamanian-flagged shipping vessel “Nordic Barents” sailed through Northern Sea Route in 2010 from Norway to China. It saved 17.5 days vs. Suez Canal route. That’s $300,000 in just fuel savings. Since then, there has been continuous activity. In August 2016, the passenger cruise ship Crystal Serenity, with more than 1700 passengers onboard, became the largest commercial cruise ship to navigate the Northwest Passage.
America is lagging behind other countries when it comes to our ability to compete in the Arctic. Over the last two years, Russia has continued its massive military build-up of the Arctic.
The National Security Cutter (NSC) will be an asset in the Arctic region, as it has proven in its operations in other theatres. The expanded capabilities of the NSC have had dramatic results in our fight against transnational criminal organizations in the drug transit zones of the Caribbean and the eastern Pacific. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton secured 26 metric tons of cocaine worth over $760 million on its maiden voyage. I look forward to continued success, and continued delivery of all nine of this high performance vessel.
As has been reported, the pre-decisional funding guidance proposed from OMB during formation of the President’s Budget recommendation contained a proposed 14% cut. Ultimately, the proposed budget provides discretion to the Department of Homeland Security to allocate its department-wide budget in a manner of its choosing.
This Subcommittee has a great deal of work to do to ensure that the Coast Guard is properly resourced to fund its priorities, modernize its assets, and successfully execute its missions. Admiral Zukunft, I look forward to your testimony. I hope this hearing is able to focus attention on the mission demands placed upon the Coast Guard, and the value the service provides to national security, national defense and prosperity of this nation.
State of the Coast Guard: Ensuring Military, National Security, and Enforcement Capability and Readiness
WASHINGTON - House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) took to the House floor today in strong support of H.R. 1101, the Small Business Health Fairness Act. The measure was approved by a vote of 236 to 175 in the House and now advances to the U.S. Senate.
“For virtually any one of us in this Chamber, it can be said that hundreds of thousands of our constituents depend on small businesses for their livelihoods. They’ve been looking to those same small businesses for options as Obamacare has done the opposite of what it was supposed to do, and diminished choices for workers. By allowing small businesses to join together through association health plans, the Small Business Health Fairness Act would give small business employees at least as many choices as those who happen to work for larger companies. Association health plans have long been a solution suggested by small businesses who share their views with me and other members of the Small Business Committee, and this bill puts that idea into action.”
Making Washington Work for
Small Business Owners Sound Off on Obamacare, Regulations, Taxes
WASHINGTON – Today small business owners told the House Small Business Committee that Obamacare’s mandates, as well as overregulation and the current tax code, are having a devastating effect on their businesses, employees and customers.
“These issues are important because too often, small businesses get the short end of the stick which is counterproductive to the economic health of our nation,” explained House Small Business Committee Chairman Chabot (R-Ohio). “This hearing is a little bit different than others we do. Instead of focusing on one topic, we simply asked the witnesses to give us advice on the policies and initiatives that we can do to help them the most. By getting input now, we can focus our efforts throughout the 115th Congress to serve our constituency as responsibly and effectively as possible.”
“Take for instance, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare,” said Chairman Chabot. “Small business witness after small business witness has come before us (and constituent after constituent back home) and stated how unworkable the whole thing is.”
“We hear stories of astronomical premium increases, severely limited choices, and little to no assistance for small businesses trying to help insure themselves and their employees. Yet, there are folks out there who think that Obamacare is working just fine. Well, it’s not, and small businesses are the ones left holding the bag,” added Chabot.
“Uncertainty and Lack of Clarity”
“I ask Congress to fix the broken ACA system,” said Skip Paal, the owner of Rutland Beard Floral Group, a small floral business based in Baltimore, Maryland. “It is detrimental to me and countless other main street businesses. If something is not done quickly, I fear that when I receive next year’s health insurance quote it will simply be unaffordable to the point where we would no longer be able to offer that benefit to our employees.”
“I applaud the recognition by Congress and the Administration that the Tax Code, which seems to be so large that not even my accountant can fully understand it, needs to be drastically simplified,” observed Paal, who testified on behalf of the Society of American Florists.“Tax relief to small business is incredibly important. The complexity of the Tax Code and its associated case law is not something that I can even begin to understand. Payroll taxes are simple, straightforward to calculate, and easy to plan for – we need something just as uncomplicated for corporate and pass-through taxes.”
“One of the greatest concerns that I and other members of my industry have is the sense of uncertainty and lack of clarity in legislation and regulations” said Paal. “It is impossible for small businesses to make decisions and plan when legislation and rules are constantly changing. I have discussed the challenges I face with several of my peers in different segments of the floral industry. Every single person told me their greatest concern was either uncertainty or lack of clarity.”
Red Tape Holding Back Women Entrepreneurs
“Federal regulations cost businesses just under $10,000 per employee annually, with the annual total cost burden on the typical U.S. business coming in at a $233,182,” said Anne Chambers, an entrepreneur from Cincinnati, Ohio who is the Co-Founder and CEO of Red212. “This problem is exacerbated by the government’s inability to provide long-term policies on which businesses can rely.”
In her testimony, Chambers praised H.J. Res 37, which nullifies the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) contractor blacklisting rule. She also expressed her strong support for The Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. 5), which would strengthen the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy and allow for the issuance of smarter, less burdensome regulations that consider the direct economic effects on small businesses.
View from the Chamber’s Small Business Members
“The Chamber has heard loudly from its small business members about the problems with the torrent of federal regulations emanating from Washington, DC,” testified Maxine Turner, the Founder of Cuisine Unlimited, a small catering business based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Research conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation probes into the costs of red tape on small business and spells out how the $1.9 trillion annual cost of federal mandates is a drag on the American economy. The Foundation study includes a survey of leaders from local chambers of commerce who are alarmed by the slump in new business startups and insist that federal regulations are largely to blame,” stated Turner, who testified on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“New opportunities for entrepreneurs, beginning with tax reform, regulatory reform, and other priorities, would result in an economic vigor that would benefit every family across this country. A health care program that meets the needs of our citizens with reasonable costs would spark new optimism,” she concluded.
Good afternoon, and welcome to the first hearing of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security in this new Congress. I am pleased that Ranking Member Blumenthal is here today, and I look forward to working with him again this Congress on the pressing issues facing consumers, and overseeing the work of the federal consumer protection agencies that fall within the subcommittee’s jurisdiction.
I am convening this important hearing to discuss scams affecting American consumers. In the Commerce Committee, we often debate – and sometimes differ on – the proper role of government, the appropriate level of regulation, and the best ways to protect the public without imposing unnecessary burdens on the private sector that would stifle their contributions to the economy.
Today, however, the issue before the committee is one of which there is broad consensus. Consumers need protection from those who seek to defraud them through scams, and the federal government must do everything it can to protect consumers from the truly bad actors. American citizens are scammed out of billions upon billions of dollars every year, with zero corresponding benefits to our nation’s economy.
With technology becoming more sophisticated over time, so also has the complexity of scams continued to progress. From fake charity donation solicitation calls to “phishing” email scams that lead to identity theft, a wide variety of scams that unduly harm Americans continue to bypass consumer protection enforcement measures at the federal, state and local levels.
To that end, this committee oversees the Federal Trade Commission, and I am pleased we are joined today by Acting Chairman Ohlhausen and Commissioner McSweeny, who together constitute the current FTC in its entirety. However, with all due respect to Chairman Ohlhausen and Commissioner McSweeny, I believe it is important that the president act swiftly to restore the Commission to full strength. The FTC’s work in support of consumers and competition is too important for the agency to continue operating shorthanded in the weeks and months ahead.
I would also like to extend a welcome to our former colleague Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Mr. Frank Abagnale, and Mr. Mike Schwanke. All three will provide unique perspectives today reflecting the ways government protects citizens through fraud prevention, the perspectives of scam victims, and the mentality and common tactics of scammers themselves. This is an exciting witness panel for today’s hearing, which I hope will have a meaningful impact to raise awareness about this important issue, educate consumers about particular scams to watch out for, and prevent future scams from continuing to harm consumers and acting as a significant drag on our economy. Thank you all for being here.
Today’s hearing is part of our committee’s broader effort to strengthen higher education. We all know and have seen the significant opportunities provided by a postsecondary education. Unfortunately, as we have also seen, realizing the dream of a higher education is becoming increasingly difficult for many individuals across the country.
As Chairwoman Foxx pointed out at a hearing earlier this year, college costs are rising at a rapid rate. In fact, since 2006, average tuition and fees have increased by more than 40 percent at four-year public institutions and by almost 27 percent at four-year private nonprofit institutions. Meanwhile, for a variety of reasons, students aren’t completing their education. It is estimated that among students who started college in the fall of 2010, only 55 percent had earned a degree or certificate by 2016. That’s not even four years. It’s six years — with nothing to show for it at the end.
These are just two statistics that help illustrate the challenges individuals face when they consider whether or not they should or can pursue a higher education. They’re also two of the reasons we are working to make higher education more accessible and affordable. One of the ways we can accomplish that goal is by simplifying and improving federal student aid.
Over the years, the federal student aid system has become too complex. Students and their families are forced to navigate six different types of federal student loans, nine different repayment plans, eight different forgiveness programs, and 32 deferment and forbearance options — each with its own rules and requirements. Sounds complicated, right?
Now, imagine you are a student with no background or experience in navigating such financial options and responsibilities. Faced with all of these choices and decisions, some individuals don’t even know where to begin. Others simply give up.
We need to get rid of the complexity. We need to eliminate the confusion students face. And there a number of ways we can do both.
Just yesterday, I introduced a bill — the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act — that would improve the timing, frequency, and content of financial aid counseling. These changes to current policy would help students and their families better understand their options and responsibilities when it comes to paying for college. It’s an idea that has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the past, and I’m hopeful it will be part of the discussion as we move forward with efforts to strengthen higher education.
Another idea is streamlining federal aid into one grant program, one loan program, and one work study program — “streamlining” being the operative word there. It’s not about cutting. It’s about cleaning things up — making it easier for individuals to explore their options, find the right school, figure out how to pay for their education, and determine the best way to repay their loans.
These ideas are just two of many solutions that have been proposed. Each makes different reforms, but they all have the same goal: Make the system more efficient and more responsive to the needs of students.
Simplifying federal student aid is one principle in a comprehensive framework that will guide our work to strengthen higher education, but it’s a critical one. Doing so will provide students and their families with a more timely and a clearer picture of the financial assistance they are eligible to receive. It will ensure taxpayer dollars are supporting those students who need help the most. And, perhaps most importantly, it will help more Americans realize that the dream of a higher education is within reach.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today and learning more about their ideas for simplifying and improving student aid. I know this discussion will help guide the work ahead as we continue our efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
# # #
Rick Keegan, President of Travelers Construction, and Caryn Boisen, President of Women Construction Owners & Executives, USA (WCOE), have announced that Travelers Insurance has joined WCOE as a Corporate Alliance Partner.
“Travelers Construction is proud to sponsor the Women Construction Owners & Executives organization. Our mission is to provide a cornerstone for contractors to realize their vision as they build America’s communities by delivering construction expertise and offering insurance solutions that help transform hard work into success. Our alignment with WCOE supports and strengthens our mutual goal of success within this complex and demanding industry,” said Mr. Keegan.
“We are very excited to be partnering with Travelers Insurance, a company that closely aligns with WCOE’s mission and vision,” said Ms. Boisen. “This partnership is beneficial for WCOE and all of our members throughout the country.”
Since 1983, WCOE’s primary goal has been to help their members’ businesses grow and prosper. Dedicated to creating a level playing field for women-owned firms in the construction industry, WCOE is proud to represent large and small woman-owned firms as well as executive women in policy-making positions with some of the largest corporations in the country.
WCOE enjoys a prestigious reputation on Capitol Hill and uses that clout to advocate for issues that are important to women who have entered the construction industry. Whether it is equal access to federal contracting opportunities, opposition to onerous federal regulatory challenges, support for expanding access to business financing, or participation in Congressional hearings, WCOE represents its members’ business interests.