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Commerce Announces Markup on May 22

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Tuesday, May 22 at 10:00 a.m. to consider the following legislative measures and nominations.

Click here for additional information on nominees.


1.    S. 2848, Fighting Opioid Abuse in Transportation Act, Sponsor: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)

2.    S. 2842, Opioid Addiction Recovery Fraud Prevention Act of 2018, Sponsors: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)

3.    S. 2844, STB Information Security Improvement Act, Sponsor: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)

4.    S. 2764, Sustainable Shark Fisheries and Trade Act of 2018, Sponsors: Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

5.    S. 1092, Interstate Transport Act of 2017, Sponsor: Sen. Mike Enzie (R-Wyo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

6.    S. 2418, Rural Reasonable and Comparable Wireless Access Act of 2018, Sponsors: Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.)

7.    Nomination of Heidi R. King, of California, to be Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

8.    Nomination of Joseph Ryan Gruters, of Florida, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors

9.    Nomination of Jennifer L. Homendy, of Virginia, to be a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board

10.  Coast Guard Promotions

*Agenda subject to change

Executive Session Details:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Full Committee Markup
Senate Dirksen Building, Room 106
A live video of the markup and additional information will be available at www.commerce.senate.gov

U.S. Supreme Court to Settle Circuit Split on “Bare Metal Rule” Frequently Invoked in Asbestos Suits

WLF Legal Pulse - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 11:37am
Featured Expert Contributor, Mass Torts—Asbestos Robert H. Wright, a Partner with Horvitz & Levy LLP in Los Angeles, CA On May 14, 2018 the United States Supreme Court agreed to decide a recurring issue in asbestos actions, the “bare-metal” rule.  The Supreme Court granted the petition for writ of certiorari of four businesses that often …

Continue reading U.S. Supreme Court to Settle Circuit Split on “Bare Metal Rule” Frequently Invoked in Asbestos Suits

Categories: Latest News

Nominations Hearing

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, to consider three presidential nominees. 

Completed nomination questionnaires are available at www.commerce.senate.gov/nominations


  • Mr. Joseph Gruters, of Florida, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors
  • Ms. Jennifer Homendy, of Virginia, to be a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
  • Ms. Heidi King, of California, to be Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

*Witness list subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
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.

Intellectual Property 101: How Small Business Owners Can Utilize Intellectual Property Protections in Their Businesses

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 11:00am

The Committee on Small Business will meet for a hearing titled, “Intellectual Property 101: How Small Business Owners Can Utilize Intellectual Property Protections in Their Businesses.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 11:00 A.M. on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Intellectual property plays a vital role in protecting creative and innovative products and ideas. There are four main types of intellectual property: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Each type of intellectual property has different attributes and criteria that must be met in order to be protected. Unfortunately, many small business owners are not aware that they should protect their innovative products and ideas through intellectual property protections. Those small business owners that are aware of intellectual property rights do not always know how to navigate the intellectual property process, and it can be very expensive. This hearing will examine how small business owners have used intellectual property protections to help their businesses and identify issues they have faced when navigating the intellectual property processes.

1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List

Ms. Michal Rosenn
General Counsel
New York, NY

Mr. David Graham
Code Ninjas LLC
Pearland, TX
* Testifying on behalf of the International Franchise Association

Mr. Rick Carnes
Songwriters Guild of America, Inc.
Brentwood, TN

Ms. Joan Fallon, DC
Founder and CEO
Rye, NY

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

The three nominees before the committee today have been nominated for positions critical to safety, on the roads, the rails and in the sky.

Ms. Heidi King has been nominated to serve as the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NHTSA needs to be on the front lines of detecting serious vehicle safety defects and issuing recalls.

And this, quite frankly, is an area where NHTSA has failed.

For years, NHTSA has struggled with the Takata airbag inflator recalls.

Recall completion rates have lagged, and the death and injury toll continues to rise – particularly in my home state of Florida.

During today’s hearing, I hope Ms. King will provide a detailed plan on how she will demand accountability from those involved in the Takata fiasco and finally implement a real strategy to help drivers get safe airbags in their vehicles as soon as possible.

NHTSA also needs to do more to increase highway safety, including truck safety. 

One way to do this is to have more use of underride guards on trucks so that cars don’t slide underneath during collisions. 

The addition of this safety shield could have helped saved the lives of many, including Lois Durso’s daughter Roya. Lois is here today, along with other tireless advocates.

And I hope Ms. King has some answers for the Durso family on that issue.  They certainly deserve it.  

The National Transportation Safety Board is another very important independent agency that investigates transportation accidents and promotes safety. 

Unfortunately, tragic accidents happen.  We know this all too well in my home state of Florida. 

Whether it was the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship, the collapse of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge or the recent Tesla crash, families of victims rely on the board to thoroughly investigate these accidents. 

Ms. Homendy, if you are confirmed, and I certainly hope you are, we will rely on you.  

Finally, Representative Gruters, I hope you agree with that it is critically important to Florida that Amtrak continues to be a strong and safe agency. 

For example, Florida relies on having reliable, on-time long-distance service to the state. Currently, many towns along the Gulf Coast are working to restore Amtrak service that was stopped after Hurricane Katrina.  

Following several deadly accidents over the last few years, safety must also be a top priority at Amtrak.  

Mr. Chairman, thank you again for holding this hearing. I now look forward to hearing from the witnesses.

<p>The International Space Station is

The International Space Station is the largest and most complex habitable space-based research facility ever constructed by humanity. It’s a marvel of engineering, and it’s critically important to our national space program. 

For over 17 years, the ISS has provided the United States with continuous access to low Earth orbit which has been paramount to the success of NASA, our commercial partners, scientific research, and to human space exploration.

It’s due to the significance of the ISS as a key component of our national space program that this subcommittee led the effort that extended the operation of ISS to 2024 by enacting the bipartisan U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act in 2015, which Senator Nelson and I worked on hand in hand, and which was signed into law by President Obama. 

We then followed up on that effort by once again working in a bipartisan manner, me working closely once again with Senator Nelson, in enacting the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 which was signed into law by President Trump and established the ISS Transition Principles. The purpose of the ISS Transition Principles was to create a step-wise approach to eventually transition from ISS once there is the emergence of a proven and reliable commercial alternative. 

Congress decided to take a step-wise approach due to the long history at NASA in which major programs like Constellation and the Space Shuttle have been eliminated prematurely. These decisions have had long-term repercussions at NASA, its workforce, the local communities surrounding NASA Centers, and American taxpayers who face increased replacement costs for lost capabilities. Not only was it concerning when NASA failed to deliver the ISS Transition Report to Congress before December 1, 2017 as required by federal law, but it was deeply troubling when reports leaked that some were pushing a proposal to end all federal funding of ISS in 2025.

Congress was explicitly clear in making its long-term interest in ISS known in the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017. Federal statute required the transition plan to include cost estimates for extending operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030.

It also required an evaluation of the feasible and preferred service life of the ISS through at least 2028 as a unique scientific, commercial, and space exploration related facility.

Nowhere in federal statue is there a request from Congress seeking a hard deadline to end federal support for ISS, to cross our fingers and hope for the best. We’ve seen that act play out too many times in our national space program and it’s time we learn the lessons of history.

Prematurely canceling a program for political reasons costs jobs and wastes billions of dollars. We cannot afford to continue to pursue policies that have the consequence of creating gaps in capability, that send $3.5 billion in taxpayer money to the Russian government or create a leadership vacuum in low Earth orbit that provides a window of opportunity for the Chinese to capitalize upon. 

Let me be clear, as long as I am the chairman of the Space subcommittee, the ISS will continue to have strong support and strong bipartisan support in the United States Congress.

And as long as Article I of the Constitution remains intact, it will be Congress that is the final arbiter of how long the ISS receives federal funding. 

Commerce Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 Last year this subcommittee held a series of hearings on reopening the American frontier. We heard about the incredible new technologies and businesses that will extend human existence beyond Earth to Mars and into the solar system. Our toehold to that frontier is the International Space Station. Abandoning this incredible orbiting laboratory right when we are on the cusp of a new era of space exploration would be irresponsible at best, and possibly disastrous.

It’s pretty clear that the proposal to end funding for the ISS by 2025 was not a NASA decision - it was a political decision. As far as this committee is concerned, that proposal is dead on arrival. Democrats, Republicans, industry, academia and even NASA – everyone except the White House has agreed that focusing on a random date is the wrong way to approach a transition from the ISS. 

I look forward to the day when low Earth orbit is filled with commercial space stations and other platforms used by NASA, but also by non-government customers. And I think we will get there. 

But it’s not fair to NASA or to industry to force a transition based on an arbitrary date. That decision should be based on factors like NASA’s research requirements and the readiness of industry to take the lead. We need to listen to our scientists and the experts at NASA. They have made it clear that NASA will continue to need access to low Earth orbit for astronaut training, technology development and research.

Today we have skilled people at Kennedy Space Center, and at Johnson Space Center in Texas, Mr. Chairman, working on the ISS and on commercial crew and cargo. These are some of the only people in the world who know how to keep people alive in space. If this plan to prematurely end the current ISS program moves forward, I fear that NASA’s expertise in these critical areas – expertise that we’ll need to get to Mars – will be lost.

The good news is that NASA’s ISS transition report indicates that the space station has plenty of operational life left – through the end of 2028 and probably even beyond. We have time to continue the critical research taking place on station. We have time to keep training astronauts to live and work in space as they prepare for long duration missions. And we have time to develop a robust commercial market in low Earth orbit. 

NASA should be focused like a laser on getting commercial crew up and running so that American astronauts are once again launching to station from Cape Canaveral. 

Once Boeing and SpaceX are regularly transporting crew, the ISS will enter a golden era and we will see just how valuable this research platform is.  

It makes good business sense to take full advantage of our investment in the ISS, just as it’s commonsense to maintain our nation’s leadership in ambitious space endeavors. The ISS is an unprecedented accomplishment that continues to serve humanity and maintain the United States’ global leadership in space. I appreciate your commitment to this issue Mr. Chairman and I look forward to this discussion. Thank you.   

<p>Good afternoon.&nbsp; And welcome to

Good afternoon.  And welcome to all of you.  Today the Subcommittee meets to examine the state of the app economy and trends in mobile technologies.  I am glad to convene this hearing with my good friend and colleague Ranking Member Schatz.

Over the past several weeks, consumer interactions with mobile apps and the information these apps collect about Americans has dominated news reports. This hearing is an opportunity to take the broader look at the app industry and to understand its contributions to our economy in creating jobs, driving investment, and fostering innovation.  It is also an opportunity to discuss emerging trends within apps, such as virtual reality and AI apps.  In addition, I hope we will examine policy issues related to broadband infrastructure, data privacy, workforce development, and other considerations important to the continued growth of the app economy.

Proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices has created an exciting market of mobile applications.  Mobile apps allow consumers to access virtually anything at their fingertips. Consumers can watch TV, deposit checks at the bank, control the lighting and security within their homes, start their cars, or connect with a loved one face-to-face all through the touch of an app. 

In a short period of time, a large economy has developed around the app industry.  It has become a robust platform for job creation, investment, innovation, competition, and new opportunities for American enterprise.  Increasingly, consumers and businesses are turning to apps not just for entertainment, but also for efficiency, convenience, productivity, and cost savings. Mississippi farmers, for example, are using apps for precision agriculture technologies. Apps allow them to monitor the health of their crops and the welfare of their livestock remotely.  This helps farmers accurately predict agricultural yields, cutting down costs and increasing productivity. Mississippians are also using apps to access telemedicine services. Apps can provide patients with immediate access to medical professionals or other health-related services that are not readily available in their neighborhoods or communities. This technology helps improve patient outcomes and saves lives.

At the foundation of the app industry’s success is a reliable broadband network.  Significant investments in broadband networks have enabled many of the innovative apps consumers enjoy today. Next-generation communication networks, such as 5G, promise even greater app capabilities.  We need to ensure that reliable, broadband networks are available to all Americans, whether that is through private investment or dedicated government programs, like Phase II of the Mobility Fund.  Broadband offers immediate access to economic opportunities and other resources that have been shifting to the online marketplace.

In addition to prioritizing the deployment of broadband infrastructure, workforce development is critical to growing the app economy.  Maintaining a trained and skilled workforce will help meet industry needs and ensure that the United States remains a leader in the global digital economy.  I am grateful to have Mr. Forster here today representing Innovate Mississippi and the Mississippi Coding Academies.  I look forward to hearing more about his work to train the next generation of workers in Mississippi and across the country.

In the last decade, the app economy has clearly brought value to consumers and businesses.  It promises to continue delivering this value as apps increase in personalization and utility for users while adequately safeguarding consumer data.  To that end, I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about how to preserve the many economic and societal benefits of mobile applications now and in the years to come.   

Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled “Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives,” at 2:30 p.m. on May 16, 2018. The first in a series of two hearings to examine the role of the International Space Station (ISS), this hearing will provide an opportunity to discuss the value of the ISS to our national space program and the future of human space exploration.  


  • Mr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • The Honorable Paul K. Martin, Inspector General, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

*Witness list subject to change.

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness

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.

How Small Business Owners Can Utilize Intellectual Property Protections

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON—Today, Members of the House Committee on Small Business heard from a panel of small business representatives on how small business owners can capitalize and safeguard their hard work and innovation through intellectual property protections.

“Our nation’s small business owners are essential to producing new, creative, and ground-breaking products and ideas that strengthen our nation’s economy,” said Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “However, the process for obtaining intellectual property protections can be daunting even for the most experienced small business owner.... As this Committee knows all too well, most small business owners cannot afford to hire an army of experts to guide them through many processes, leaving them vulnerable to their innovations being stolen both here in the United States and internationally.”

Intellectual Property 101

Intellectual property plays a vital role in protecting small business owners’ innovative ideas and products. The witnesses described their experiences with intellectual property and securing intellectual property rights to grow small businesses.

“Startups and small businesses…rely on the immense value that the patent system provides to entrepreneurs,” said Michal Rosenn, General Counsel at Expa, a startup studio helping the world’s best entrepreneurs build and grow their businesses located in San Francisco, CA. “It is a system that is meant to reward true innovation by allowing a patent holder to reap the benefits of her work while providing a service to the public in sharing her discoveries.”

“Because franchisees are individual owners, ensuring brand protection is key to ensuring the customer’s experience with the brand is of a consistent quality,” said David Graham, CEO of Code Ninjas LLC, in Pearland, TX, testifying on behalf of the International Franchise Association. “The only way to give legal effect to brand protection is through intellectual property protection, specifically trademarks, service marks, trade dress, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. Significantly, the use of these protections by franchises has had a net-positive effective on the U.S. economy, helping to fuel the economy and spur growth both at home and overseas.”

“Independent songwriters—just like grocery store owners, electricians and florists—are small business people who rely on the clear and effective enforcement of U.S. law in order to succeed,” stated Rick Carnes, President of the Songwriters Guild of America, in Brentwood, TN. “A strong copyright system is absolutely essential to the long-term health of the songwriting profession.”

“Curemark, like almost all other startups, has transitioned through a process of discovery, validation, and scale. We would not exist as a company, we would not have the opportunity to work on this drug treatment if it were not for our intellectual property protection,” said Dr. Joan Fallon, Founder and CEO of Curemark, in Rye, NY. “Our IP forms the basis of our company. It has allowed us to protect our findings, raise money, demonstrate efficacy, and put forth the novel science which hopefully will benefit millions of American children.”

Click HERE to read full testimony and HERE to watch video. 

Chairman Chabot Submits Statement on Behalf of America’s Veteran-Owned Small Businesses

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON—House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) submitted the following statement for the record today at the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Member Day:

“As this Committee is aware, our nation’s veterans make up a significant percentage of the American workforce. Many of our nation’s heroes exit military service and choose to begin a new undertaking: opening a business,” said Chairman Steve Chabot. “In fact, there are an estimated 2.5 million nonfarm firms in the United States owned by veterans, and 99 percent of these firms are categorized by the Small Business Administration as small businesses. These businesses employ approximately 5 million workers and account for more than $1 trillion in business receipts.”

He continued, “As Chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, it has been one of my main priorities to increase the opportunities available to veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. Our Committee has conducted oversight hearings and authored legislation to ensure that veteran entrepreneurs have the necessary tools for success.”

During the last Congress, the House and Senate passed, and the President signed, the Veteran’s Entrepreneurship Act. In the current Congress, Members of the Committee on Small Business have also introduced two veteran small business bills: H.R. 5044, the Service-Disabled Veterans Small Business Continuation Act, and H.R. 5494, the Projecting Business Opportunities for Veterans Adjustment Act.

Chairman Chabot's full testimony can be found HERE

Opening Statement of Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), Chairman, Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Hearing on “Enhancing Retirement Security: Examining Proposals to Simplify and Modernize Retirement Plan Administration”

Education & the Workforce Committee - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 12:00am

In 1974, Congress enacted the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which governs and sets minimum standards for employee benefit plans. This landmark law has helped millions of Americans to save for retirement and to retire from work with financial stability and peace of mind.

To date, there are nearly 700,000 private pension plans covering almost 135 million participants, with approximately 92.5 million American workers actively participating in and contributing to their plans.

Private retirement and pension plans are an important benefit that employers can offer to recruit and retain employees for good-paying jobs and help workers to successfully save for retirement, but the regulations that govern retirement plan administration are beginning to show their age.

Many ERISA provisions related to retirement plan administration are in desperate need of updating, with some having last been revised over two decades ago.

Red tape and unnecessary federal restrictions stand in the way of lower costs for small businesses and have contributed to compliance uncertainty, making it harder for employers to provide their employees with retirement savings programs.

These are not the most encouraging things to hear as more Americans are retiring, and studies show that Americans should be saving more for retirement.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 20 percent of U.S. residents are projected to be age 65 or older by 2030. As an entire generation moves closer to the cusp of retirement, and as the retirement needs of all workers continue to change, employers must be equipped with up-to-date rules and guidance that make it easier to offer their employees retirement plans, not more difficult.

At today’s hearing, we will examine four bipartisan proposals to address the need to update the administration of the nation’s retirement plans:

H.R. 4604, the Increasing Access to a Secure Retirement Act of 2017;

H.R. 4158, the Retirement Plan Modernization Act;

H.R. 854, the Retirement Security for American Workers Act; and

H.R. 4610, the Receiving Electronic Statements to Improve Retiree Earnings Act.

The first proposal we will examine today, H.R. 4604, will reduce the compliance uncertainty that companies face by amending ERISA to clarify existing rules that provide a fiduciary safe harbor when selecting an annuity provider.

The second, H.R. 4158, will increase the automatic cash-out limit for retirement plans from $5,000 to $7,600, and defray some of the costs of retirement plan administration for small employers.

The third piece of legislation we will look at, H.R. 854, will eliminate two burdensome requirements affecting multiple employer plans: the “common nexus” requirement that prevents adoption of open multiple-employer plans (MEPS), in which unrelated employers may collectively satisfy plan administration requirements, and the “one bad apple” rule that punishes all employers in a plan for the failure of one employer to meet the plan’s requirements.

The final bill, H.R. 4610, authorizes the electronic disclosure of retirement plan information so that plan participants may access their plan information online.

These are just a few of the bipartisan solutions that our members are working on to simplify and modernize retirement plan administration, and benefit both employees and businesses large and small.

I look forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses and from other members of the subcommittee today as we explore these proposals to make it easier for employers to give their employees the tools they need to save for retirement.

To view the PDF, click here.

# # #

“Monkey Selfie” Copyright Ruling Reflects Key Appeals Court’s Wayward Standing-to-Sue Jurisprudence

WLF Legal Pulse - Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:14pm
We’ve been on a bit of a standing-to-sue kick in this space lately (here, and here, for instance) and in Washington Legal Foundation’s publishing program (here and here). Article III’s standing requirement, the U.S. Supreme Court has explained, is “built on separation-of-powers principles” and “serves to prevent the judicial process from being used to usurp …

Continue reading “Monkey Selfie” Copyright Ruling Reflects Key Appeals Court’s Wayward Standing-to-Sue Jurisprudence

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