Senate Considers Child Protection Bill; House Takes Up TSCA, Energy Bills

Senate Legislative Activity

The Senate will convene on Monday, May 23, at 3:00pm.  Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will be in a period of morning business until 4:30pm with Senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each.  At 4:30pm, the Senate will proceed to the consideration of Calendar #422, S.2613 – Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016 – with one hour of debate equally divided. By consent, the Grassley amendment will be agreed to, the Committee-reported substitute amendment, as amended, will be agreed to, and the Senate will vote on the bill, as amended.

House Legislative Activity

On Monday, May 23, the House will meet at 12:00pm for morning hour and at 2:00pm for legislative business, with votes postponed until 6:30pm. The following legislation will be considered under suspension of the rules:

  1. H.R. 4889 – Kelsey Smith Act;
  2. H.R. 4167 – Kari’s Law Act of 2015, as amended;
  3. H.R. 3998 – Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act, as amended;
  4. H.R. 2589 – To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require the Federal Communications Commission to publish on its Internet website changes to the rules of the Commission not later than 24 hours after adoption;
  5. H.R. 496 – Alabama Hills National Scenic Area Establishment Act, as amended;
  6. S. 184 – Native American Children’s Safety Act;
  7. H.R. 5077 – The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, as amended;
  8. H.R. 2121 – SAFE Transitional Licensing Act of 2015;
  9. H.R. 4139 – Fostering Innovation Act of 2015;
  10. H.R. 1762 – To name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in The Dalles, Oregon, as the Loren R. Kaufman Memorial Veterans’ Clinic, as amended;
  11. H.R. 960 – To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs community based outpatient clinic in Newark, Ohio, as the Daniel L. Kinnard Department of Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic, as amended;
  12. H.R. 2460 – To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the provision of adult day health care services for veterans;
  13. H.R. 3715 – Final Farewell Act of 2015, as amended;
  14. H.R. 3989 – Support Our Military Caregivers Act;
  15. H.R. 5229 – Improving Transition Programs for All Veterans Act, as amended;
  16. H.R. 5286 – VA Construction and Lease Authorization, Health, and Benefits Enhancement Act, as amended;
  17. H.R. 3956 – VA Health Center Management Stability and Improvement Act, as amended;
  18. H.R. 433 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 523 East Railroad Street in Knox, Pennsylvania, as the Specialist Ross A. McGinnis Memorial Post Office;
  19. H.R. 3931 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 620 Central Avenue Suite 1A in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, as the Chief Petty Officer Adam Brown United States Post Office;
  20. H.R. 3953 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4122 Madison Street, Elfers, Florida, as the Private First Class Felton Roger Fussell Memorial Post Office;
  21. H.R. 4747 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 6691 Church Street in Riverdale, Georgia, as the Major Gregory E. Barney Post Office Building;
  22. H.R. 4877 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3130 Grants Lake Boulevard in Sugar Land, Texas, as the LCpl Garrett W. Gamble, USMC Post Office Building;
  23. H.R. 4975 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 5720 South 142nd Street in Omaha, Nebraska, as the Petty Officer 1st Class Caleb A. Nelson Post Office Building;
  24. H.R. 4987 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3957 2nd Avenue in Laurel Hill, Florida, as the Sergeant First Class William Kelly Lacey Post Office;
  25. H.R. 4761 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 61 South Baldwin Avenue in Sierra Madre, California, as the Louis Van Iersel Post Office;
  26. H.R. 3218 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 836 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, California as the Special Warfare Operator Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Louis Lou J. Langlais Post Office Building;
  27. H.R. 4425 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 110 East Powerhouse Road in Collegeville, Minnesota, as the Eugene J. McCarthy Post Office;
  28. H.R. 3969 – To designate the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Laughlin, Nevada, as the Master Chief Petty Officer Jesse Dean Department of Veterans Affairs Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, as amended;
  29. H.R. 4465 – Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act of 2016, as amended; and
  30. H.R. 4487 – Public Buildings Reform and Savings Act of 2016, as amended

On Tuesday and Wednesday, May 24 and 25, the House will meet at 10:00am for morning hour and at 12:00 pm for legislative business. On Thursday, May 26, the House will meet at 9:00am for legislative business, with last votes expected by 3:00pm. The House will consider:

  1. H.R. 897 – Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule);
  2. House Amendment to Senate Amendment to H.R. 2576 – To modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act, and for other purposes. (Subject to a Rule);
  3. H.R. 5233 – Clarifying Congressional Intent in Providing for DC Home Rule Act of 2016 (Subject to a Rule);
  4. H.R. 5055 – Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017 (Subject to a Rule);
  5. House Amendment to S. 2012 – Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 (Subject to a Rule); and
  6. Motion to Go to Conference on S. 2012, and Possible Democrat Motion to Instruct Conferees

On Friday, May 27, no votes are expected in the House.

House and Senate to Continue Appropriations Bills Markups, Floor Consideration; Appropriations Issues Highlight: Zika Funding and Amendments on Confederate Flags and LGBT Protections

Legislative Activity

House and Senate to Continue Appropriations Bills Markups, Floor Consideration

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will continue to markup appropriations bills this week, while the House is expected to consider its FY 2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill on the floor. It is unclear which appropriations bill the Senate will consider on the floor next, though the FY 2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS); Agriculture; and the Legislative Branch appropriations bills have all been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and are ready for floor consideration.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has subcommittee and full committee markups scheduled for the FY 2017 Defense Appropriations Act and the FY 2017 Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The House Appropriations Committee has subcommittee markups scheduled for the FY 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations Act and the FY 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, and the full committee will mark up its FY 2017 CJS Appropriations Act and FY 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Act this week.

All of this appropriations action comes on the heels of the Senate passing its FY 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) and THUD Appropriations bills last week, the Senate’s second and third, without too much controversy.

Meanwhile, the House just began floor consideration of appropriations bills last week due to its failure to pass a budget for FY 2017, which meant the House had to wait until May 15 before it could consider appropriations bills on the floor. This is the first time since the 1974 budget law that the House is moving forward with the appropriations process without passing a budget or a deeming resolution. While House Republican leadership wanted to pass a budget that tracked the spending caps agreed to in last year’s bipartisan budget deal, the more conservative members of the Republican caucus refused to support the $30 billion in spending above the caps established by the Budget Control Act (also known as sequestration).

Appropriations Issues Highlight: Zika Funding and Amendments on Confederate Flags and LGBT Protections

As the House and Senate continue the appropriations process, a number of issues may impact the progress Congress can make. These issues include the need to approve emergency funding to combat the Zika virus and controversial amendments offered in the House last week on confederate flags, the issue that stalled the House appropriations process last year, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) discrimination protections.

Amid recent news reports highlighting the rising number of Zika infections in the United States, the House and Senate have taken different approaches to approving emergency funding to combat the disease. The House passed a standalone measure last week that would provide $622 million in funding for Zika efforts, offsetting the funding with $352 million in unspent Ebola funding and $270 million from the Department of Health and Human Services budget. The White House issued a veto threat on the bill, calling it a “woefully inadequate” response to the threat. Meanwhile, the Senate approved a $1.1 billion amendment to an appropriations package that combined the Senate’s THUD appropriations bill and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill. However, it’s unclear how Congress will proceed, given the differing approaches between using a standalone bill and an appropriations bill.

The House also voted on two controversial amendments last week that may come up again during the appropriations process: an amendment prohibiting the Confederate flag from being used at federal cemeteries and an amendment that would bar federal contractors from receiving government contracts if they discriminated against LGBT individuals. The Confederate flag amendment passed 265 to 159, with all members of Republican leadership backing the measure. The LGBT amendment caused a dramatic shouting match on the House floor, and narrowly failed as votes that began in favor of the amendment were switched before the vote was closed. It originally looked like the amendment would pass with 217 votes, however the vote was held open for about ten additional minutes and the approval vote count dropped one by one to a final tally of 212 for and 213 against. Some Republicans have said the provision would have effectively killed Republican support for the overall bill. Looking forward, the LGBT amendment may come up again, and could potentially end the appropriations process just as it is getting started.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, May 24: The Senate Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee will hold a markup of the FY 2017 Department of Defense Appropriations Act.
  • Tuesday, May 24: The Senate Appropriations Committee Homeland Security Subcommittee will hold a markup of the FY 2017 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act.
  • Tuesday, May 24: The House Appropriations Committee will hold a markup of the FY 2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Act, the FY 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, and the report on the Revised Interim Suballocation of Budget Allocations for FY 2017.
  • Wednesday, May 25: The House Appropriations Committee Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee will hold a markup of the FY 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.
  • Wednesday, May 25: The House Appropriations Committee Interior and Environment Subcommittee will hold a markup of the FY 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations Act.
  • Wednesday, May 25: The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing titled “Reclaiming Congressional Authority Through the Power of the Purse.”
  • Thursday, May 26: The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a markup of the FY 2017 Department of Defense Appropriations Act and the FY 2017 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act.

Department of Labor Final Rule for Overtime Exemption Released

Legislative Update

DOL Overtime Rule

In response to this week’s final Overtime Rule, lawmakers have introduced the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act (S. 2707/ H.R. 4773), legislation that seeks to ensure DOL pursues a balanced and responsible approach to updating federal overtime rules. Both bills are currently pending in their committees of jurisdiction – the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP).

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) said he would introduce a resolution to block the final overtime rule under the Congressional Review Act. In a statement, Sen. Alexander said the final rule “will hurt Tennessee families paying for college, increasing annual tuition at one Tennessee independent college by an estimated $850 per student.” It is also possible that lawmakers opposed to the rule may include language to combat it in upcoming FY 2017 appropriation bills.

Effective Apprenticeships Rebuild National Skills (EARNS) Act

On Wednesday, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Effective Apprenticeships Rebuild National Skills (EARNS) Act in the United States Senate. The EARNS Act aims to strengthen the nation’s workforce development system through registered apprenticeship programs. Specifically, the bill provides up to $100 million in federal funding for employers to develop apprenticeship programs. Of the total amount, $75 million would go to the Office of Apprenticeship, $5 million would help students earn credit for participating in apprenticeship programs, and $20 million would offset start-up costs for new programs. In addition, the legislation would place the Office of Apprenticeship under the Labor Department’s jurisdiction, allowing for Congressional oversight and budgetary regular authority.

Perkins CTE Act

Tuesday morning, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairmen of the House and Senate education committees, met to discuss rewriting the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act. The Perkins Act, which hasn’t been updated since 2006, sets policy on career and technical education. The chairmen said they plan to move ahead with a bipartisan overhaul of career and technical education, and hope they can pass such an overhaul by the end of this year.

Rep. Kline, who held a committee hearing this week on reauthorizing the law, said he wanted to take the “same approach” to rewriting the Perkins Act as Congress did with overhauling K-12 education in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (P.L. 114-95), which was signed into law last December. For more information on this House Education and Workforce Committee hearing titled “Helping Students Succeed by Strengthening the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, May 24, at 10:00 am EST, the House Education and the Workforce Committee Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold a hearing titled “Demanding Accountability at the Corporation for National and Community Service.” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will chair the hearing.

Regulatory Update

DOL Overtime Rule

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued the final version of the overtime exemption rule, which raises the minimum salary threshold required to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) “white collar” exemption to $47,476 per year. These rules follow a memorandum issued by President Barack Obama in March 2014, instructing DOL to reexamine the regulations. The final rule will take effect on December 1, 2016, giving employers more than six months to prepare. It is expected to extend overtime protections to 4.2 million Americans who are not currently eligible under federal law, and is expected to boost wages for workers by $12 billion over the next 10 years, according to a White House face sheet released late Tuesday.

Following the announcement, DOL issued technical guidance to help with implementation of the rule. DOL includes a fact sheet and technical guidance tailored specifically for institutions for higher education. Higher education groups including the American Council on Education, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities have all expressed concern with the sweeping implications of the rule for employees at colleges and universities. Lawmakers in Congress are taking steps to try and combat the rule, as mentioned above.

Possible Conferees for Energy Bill; House to Vote on Energy and Water Appropriations; Senate To Examine WOTUS; House to Review Clean Power Plan

Legislative Action

Energy Bill

Last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee released a 50-page section-by-section of the recently passed S. 2012 Energy Modernization Policy Act of 2016. Looking forward to a potential conference of the Senate and House energy bills, Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently met with both Chairman Fred Upton (R-M) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) of the House Natural Resources Committee to discuss possibilities. Timing will prove a challenge approaching the summer months, as both House and Senate calendars need to allow for their respective members to be in Washington, D.C. at the same time. In addition, conferees have yet to be named, but that could happen as early as this week.

FY 2017 Energy & Water and Interior and Environment Appropriations

Also this week, the House is expected to bring its $37.4 billion Energy and Water Appropriations bill to the floor for a vote. In addition, the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, will mark up its FY 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill on Wednesday.

This Week’s Hearings:

Clean Power Plan

On Wednesday, May 26 the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Environment, will hold a hearing to examine the “Impact of EPA’s Clean Power Plan on States.”

WOTUS

On Tuesday, May 24 the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Water, and Wildlife, will hold an oversight hearing titled, “Erosion of Exemptions and Expansion of Federal Control – Implementation of the Definition of Waters of the United States.”

Minerals

On Wednesday, May 25 the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, will hold an oversight hearing concerning “Mining Safety and Innovation in the 21st Century.”

Weather

On Wednesday, May 25 the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will hold a hearing to examine hurricane forecasting. Dr. Rick Knabb, Director of the National Hurricane Center, will testify.

Regulatory Action

NPDES

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is recommending changes to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The proposed rule covers 15 areas including: permit applications, process and objections; water quality-based permitting; the vessels exclusion; and the Clean Water Act (CWA) section 401 certification process. Comments are due July 18.

Wetlands

The EPA has released its “National Wetland Condition Assessment 2011 Final Report,” which provides the results of a nationwide survey of the condition of U.S. wetlands. The report finds that “less than half of wetland area nationally (48%) is in good condition; 32% is in poor condition and the remaining 20% is in fair condition.” The report can be obtained here.

International Issues Take Center Stage; CFPB Soon Expected to Release Rulemaking on Short-Term, Small Dollar Loans as SEC Sets Timeline for Fiduciary Rule

Legislative Activity

House and Senate Remain Focused on International Issues

This week, the House Financial Services Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing will hold a hearing titled “Stopping Terror Finance:  A Coordinated Government Effort” to specifically focus on: 1) how the Treasury Department works with relevant agency and law enforcement officials as part of a coordinated U.S. government effort to combat all forms of illicit finance; and 2) federal efforts to combat the financing of terrorism. Following the conclusion of its hearings on the matter, the Task Force this fall is expected to release a report and recommendations to “examine what, if any, changes are needed to upgrade and improve [the U.S.’s] ability to starve terrorists of the money they need to carry out their attacks.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Banking Committee is set to hold two hearings this week focusing on the role and impact of sanctions under the Iran nuclear deal framework. The witnesses include officials from the State Department and Treasury Department.

Lawmakers Set to Move on Puerto Rico

Last week, following weeks of delay, the House Natural Resources Committee released an updated draft of legislation to address the fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico. Though there appears to be an agreement between Republican leadership and the White House on the framework for the bill, there still appears to be opposition by some over accusations that the legislation is effectively a “bailout” of the Commonwealth. With the updated draft in hand, this week the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a markup of the bill, which is expected to be taken up by the full House shortly thereafter. While exactly how the bill will be handled in the Senate appears uncertain at present, given that timing is of the essence (July 1 is the Commonwealth’s next large bond payment), lawmakers will need to work through any remaining obstacles expeditiously in order to a meet this critical deadline. 

Senate Banking Committee Able to Move Nominations

After the Senate Banking Committee last month unsuccessfully sought to advance several pending financial services-relate  nominees, last week, the Committee was able to put together sufficient support to a block of five nominees: Lisa Fairfax and Hester Peirce to be Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioners; Amias Gerety to be Assistant Treasury Secretary; Jay Lerner to be Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; and Rhett Jeppson to be Director of the United States Mint. Some of these nominations – the two nominees SEC Commissioner, in particular – may face a tough confirmation road ahead in the Senate, as leadership may seek to move these nominations through unanimous consent, and several Senators have already indicated their opposition to confirmation.

Beyond these nominees, there still appears to be no progress in the Senate Banking Committee in terms of holding a nomination hearing on nominees to the Federal Reserve and Export-Import Bank.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, May 24: The House Financial Services Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing will hold a hearing titled “Stopping Terror Finance: A Coordinated Government Effort.”
  • Tuesday, May 24: The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Understanding the Role of Sanctions Under the Iran Deal.”
  • Tuesday and Wednesday, May 24-25: The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a markup of H.R. 5278, Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA).
  • Wednesday, May 25: The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Understanding the Role of Sanctions Under the Iran Deal: Administration Perspectives.”

Regulatory Activity

CFPB Prepares to Propose Rule on Short-Term, Small Dollar Credit Products

Last Wednesday, May 18, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report titled “Single-Payment Vehicle Title Lending,” which examines consumer usage and default patterns for single-payment vehicle title loans. This report, which follows previous reports by the Bureau on payday lending, sets the stage for the Bureau to release its long-awaited rulemaking on payday, vehicle title, and other similar loans. In conjunction with release of this report, the CFPB announced that it plans to hold a public hearing in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 2 to discuss short-term, small-dollar lending, which will feature remarks from CFPB Director Richard Cordray, as well as testimony from consumer groups, industry representatives, and the public. It is widely expected that the Bureau will use this opportunity to formally propose its short-term, small dollar credit rulemaking. If the CFPB’s proposal reflects the approach the Bureau took in its outline of the rulemaking released last year, lenders would generally be required to either verify a borrower’s ability to repay, or comply with restrictions on how often a short-term loan can be rolled over during a certain time period.

SEC Prepared to Move Forward with Fiduciary Rule

Following heavy criticism for failing to take the lead and ceding initial work on the Fiduciary Rule to the Department of Labor, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has indicated that it plans to issue in April 2017 a rule that requires both investment advisers and brokers to meet a fiduciary standard for advice to retail customers. Currently, advisers are already required to act in their clients’ best interests, while brokers adhere to a less stringent suitability standard.

From a legislative perspective, although unclear when it may be put on the Senate calendar, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) indicated the Senate likely will vote on a resolution to disapprove the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rrule. Senator Isakson believes that after the Senate vote, the resolution may be sent back to the House in an attempt to garner the necessary two-thirds majority support required for it to overcome a promised veto by President Barack Obama. For its part, the Department of Labor has indicated that it will “be responsive as problems emerge” and consider adjustments to the rule if problems arise during implementation.

Treasury Department’s Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance to Meet

On Thursday, May 26, the Treasury Department will hold a meeting of its Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance to discuss: 1) affordability in the National Flood Insurance Program; 2)the globalization of the insurance marketplace; 3) insights of behavioral economists for the insurance industry; and 4) updates from its subcommittees.

Ways and Means Committee to Consider Proposals to Advance Hospital Reforms and Improve TANF; HRSA Delays the Release of 340B Rules

Legislative Activity

Ways and Means Committee to Consider Proposals to Advance Hospital Reforms and Improve TANF

On Tuesday, May 24, the House Committee on Ways and Means will continue their bipartisan work by marking up three pieces of legislation, including two bills to reform the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program and the much anticipated Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act of 2016.   The markup, titled “Commonsense Proposals to Advance Hospital Reforms and Improve TANF,” is part of the Committee’s continued effort to promote greater access, increase choice, and improve health care quality. It follows a Full Committee markup held on Wednesday, May 11, where four pieces of legislation to reform the TANF program were passed unanimously.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Monday, May 23: The House Committee on Rules will hold a meeting on three bills including H.R. 897, Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015, cited as the Zika Vector Control Act.
  • Tuesday, May 24: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will hold a hearing on 17 FTC Bill including H.R. 4460, Youth Sport Concussion Act.
  • Tuesday, May 24: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing titled “Medicare and Medicaid Program Integrity: Combatting Improper Payments and Ineligible Providers.”
  • Tuesday, May 24: The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Legislative Hearing on Draft Legislation to Establish a Permanent Veterans Choice Program and H.R. 5083, the VA Appeals Modernization Act of 2016.”
  • Tuesday, May 24: The House Committee on Ways and Means will hold a markup titled “Commonsense Proposals to Advance Hospital Reforms and Improve TANF.” The bills being considered include H.R. 5273, Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act of 2016, to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for regulatory relief under the Medicare program for certain providers of services and suppliers and increased transparency in hospital coding and enrollment data, and for other purposes; H.R. 2952, Improving Employment Outcomes of TANF Recipients Act, to provide payments to States for increasing the employment, job retention, and earnings of former TANF recipients; and H.R. 5169, What Works to Move Welfare Recipients into Jobs Act, to strengthen welfare research and evaluation, and for other purposes.
  • Tuesday, May 24: The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing on several bills including S. 2896, Care Veterans Deserve Act of 2016; S. 2888, Janey Ensminger Act of 2016; S. 2883, Appropriate Care for Disabled Veterans Act of 2016; S. 2679, Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act; S. 2520, Newborn Care Improvement Act; S. 2487, Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act; S. 2049, To establish in the Department of Veterans Affairs a continuing medical education program for non-Department medical professionals who treat veterans and family members of veterans to increase knowledge and recognition of medical conditions common to veterans and family members of veterans; S.___, To reform the rights and processes relating to appeals of decisions regarding claims for benefits under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs; S.___, Veterans Mobility Safety Act of 2016; S.___, To expand eligibility for hospital care and medical services under section 101 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 to include veterans in receipt of health services under the pilot program of the Department of Veterans Affairs for rural veterans; a Discussion Draft including provisions from the Construction Reform Act of 2016, a bill to make certain improvements in the administration of Department medical facility construction projects; and a Discussion Draft including a Department of Veterans Affairs proposal to modify requirements under which the Department is required to provide compensation and pension examinations to veterans seeking disability benefits.
  • Wednesday, May 25: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “Examining Cybersecurity Responsibilities at HHS.”
  • Wednesday, May 25: The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing titled “Science of Zika: The DNA of an Epidemic.”
  • Thursday, May 26: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing titled “Social Security Administration: Information Systems Review.”
  • Thursday, May 26: The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues will hold a hearing titled “Cartels and the U.S. Heroin Epidemic: Combating Drug Violence and Public Health Crisis.”

Regulatory Activity

HRSA Delays the Release of 340B Rules

On Friday, May 20, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) delayed the release of outstanding rules and guidance for the 340B program. HRSA has been working on 340B guidance for a number of years and announced the program guidance is not expected until the end of 2016. Stakeholders are waiting for HRSA to finalize the 340B “mega-guidance” which was released in August and consolidates and updates the previous guidance while implementing a number of program integrity mandates added to the 340B statute when the Affordable Care Act became law. HRSA was also set to release the final rule on 340B civil monetary penalties in May. Because the rule was re-opened for additional comment in April, many believe it could change course and estimate it will be released in November.

Debate Over Growing TSA Lines Continues

Legislative Activity

Debate Over Growing TSA Lines Continues

Lawmakers maintained their focus on growing airport security lines, as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) continues to grapple with the growing number of summer travelers.  Congressman Mike McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and several colleagues are preparing legislation aimed at easing the bottlenecks, including language that would temporarily allow airports to pay TSA officers overtime.  After a meeting with airport officials, Chairman McCaul suggested there is a significant lack of communication between local airports and TSA and that increased cooperation could help ease the burden.  His committee will continue oversight over the matter with two hearings this week, including one that will include local perspectives.

Across the Capitol, several Senators are now pressuring airlines to halt fees for checked luggage in an effort to cut back on the number of bags that go through TSA screening.  Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced legislation (S. 2656) in March targeting these fees. The FAIR Fees Act would require the Secretary of Transportation to establish regulations that would prohibit airlines from imposing fees that are unreasonable or disproportional to the costs incurred for, among other things, checked baggage.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, May 24: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security will meet to mark up its FY 2017 spending measure.
  • Tuesday, May 24: The House Homeland Security Subcommittees on Cybersecurity, Communications will hold a joint hearing titled “Enhancing Preparedness and Response Capabilities to Address Cyber Threats.”
  • Tuesday, May 24: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security will hold a hearing titled “Border Security Gadgets, Gizmos, and Information: Using Technology to Increase Situational Awareness and Operational Control.”
  • Wednesday, May 25: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will meet to consider pending legislation.
  • Wednesday, May 25: The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing titled “Long Lines, Short Patience: The TSA Airport Screening Experience.”
  • Thursday, May 26: The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security will hold a hearing titled “Long Lines, Short Patience: Local Perspectives.”
  • Thursday, May 26: The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet to mark up its FY 2017 spending measure.
  • Thursday, May 26: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Protecting America from the Threat of ISIS.”
  • Thursday, May 26: The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet to consider pending legislation.

President Obama Travels to the Asia Pacific Region; Senate Expected to Debate its NDAA Measure; House Committee to Mark-Up the Senate-Passed FY 2016 State Department Reauthorization Bill; Some Congressional Committees to Focus on the Iran Nuclear Deal

President Barack Obama departed on Sunday for what will be his 10th trip to Asia, with scheduled stops in Vietnam and Japan.  The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) released its much-anticipated report reviewing the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) implications to the U.S. economy last Wednesday.  The Administration immediately pointed to the report and called for Congress to ratify the TPP deal, while others, such as unions, touted the report as validating their claims the TPP deal is not good for the United States.  President Obama signed the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) reform process measure (H.R. 4923) into law on Friday; released a new Executive Order on atrocities last Wednesday.  The White House also announced last week that President Obama will host Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India on 7 June.

Congress was in session last week and will be in session this week, before recessing for the Memorial Day holiday (30 May).  The House of Representatives debated the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last week, passing the measure late on Wednesday.  The Senate Armed Services Committee’s FY 2017 NDAA markup measure was released on Thursday, ahead of this week’s expected floor debate.  Congress also debated and acted on Zika-related legislative proposals.

President’s Asia Trip

President Obama’s latest trip to the Asia-Pacific continues to demonstrate the Administration’s focus on the region.  The Asia rebalance has been a central objective of the President’s broader foreign policy and economic policy, rooted in the belief that this largest-emerging market in the world is critical to U.S. future prosperity and is also host to some critical U.S. national security interests.

His stop in Vietnam is intended to highlight the U.S. partnership with the country.  President Obama will give a speech to the Vietnamese people on Tuesday, describing the advancing U.S. Vietnamese bilateral relations, as well as addressing areas of difference.

In Japan later in the week to attend the G-7 Summit, the President will emphasize the important U.S.-Japan alliance, which is considered a cornerstone of the U.S. approach to stability and security in Asia.  The G-7 Summit is expected to also discuss the excess steel capacity issue.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will travel with President Obama to Vietnam.  At a press briefing on the President’s trip last week, Ambassador Froman said that he expects the President will discuss the TPP ratification process and outstanding Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) concerns at the G-7 Summit in Japan.

National Defense Authorization Act – House Passes Measure; Senate Floor Debate Ahead

The House approved its FY 2017 NDAA (H.R. 4909) late last Wednesday.  The Senate is expected to consider its version of the NDAA (S. 2943) this week, under a process spearheaded by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona).  As the measures advanced by both chambers have differences, we can expect they will negotiate over the coming months to reconcile these differences.  The White House has issued a veto threat on H.R. 4909.

  • On Tuesday, 24 May, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense is scheduled to markup its FY 2017 Defense appropriations measure.
  • On Thursday, 26 May, the Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to markup the FY 2017 Defense spending bill.

FY 2016 State Department Authorization Measure – House Committee Markup Ahead

The Department of State Authorization for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 (S. 1635) was passed, as amended, by the Senate on 28 April.  The measure is scheduled to be marked-up by the Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) on Thursday, May 26.  Any changes to the Senate-passed version will eventually have to be reconciled between the two chambers.

Global Magnitsky Act Advances

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the Senate-passed Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (“Global Magnitsky Act,” S. 284) last Wednesday with a manager’s amendment.  Notably, the amended House measure adds a sunset provision, ensuring congressional review of the sanctions three years after enactment, as well as a requirement that any sanctions recommendations made to the President have the support from both the Chairman and Ranking Member of six congressional committees.

The Global Magnitsky Act, if enacted, would expand upon the Sergei Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2012, which became law and is more narrowly targeted to those Russians determined to be complicit in gross human rights violations.  The Global Magnitsky Act goes further and would broaden this authority globally, as well as authorize the imposition of sanctions on government officials, or senior associates of such officials, for corruption-related activities as well.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland) and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona) are the original co-sponsors of S. 284. Last week there were some attempts to attach S. 284 as an amendment to broader bills moving in the Senate, such as the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs/transportation spending measure, which failed; the Senate NDAA, which is on the Senate floor this week for debate.

Cyber Attacks on the SWIFT System

Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) sent letters last Thursday to Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley and Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) Managing Director Patrick Antonacci asking what steps are being taken to better protect banks around the world against cybersecurity threats in light of multiple recent attacks on the SWIFT system.  Senator Carper requested that both entities answer questions and brief staff on how the Federal Reserve and SWIFT are addressing these recent attacks as well as safeguarding against other potential threats by June 17.

  • On Wednesday, 25 May, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Cyber Security is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “International Cybersecurity Strategy: Deterring Foreign Threats and Building Global Cyber Norms.”

Zika Funding – U.S. Prepares; Both Chambers Acted

The Senate approved a $1.1 bipartisan deal early last week to partially fund the Obama Administration’s request for emergency funding to fight Zika.  The House took a different direction, with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky) introducing a $622 million bill at the beginning of the week and approving it, despite opposition from the Democrats in that chamber.

President Obama spoke of the Zika situation on Friday, detailing some of the Administration’s efforts to prevent the spread of Zika to the homeland and also calling on Congress to fully fund the Administration’s request of $1.9 billion.  He said the Administration has a plan that includes developing a vaccine, improving diagnostic tests, and developing new tools for vector control.  The President said there have been a little over 500 travel-related cases of Zika in the continental United States.  Over 800 mosquito-caused cases have been diagnosed in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

TPP – ITC Report Released

Late last Wednesday afternoon, the ITC released its report on the effects of the proposed TPP on the U.S. economy.  The nearly 800-page report examines specific industry sectors in the United States and seeks to ascertain which would benefit or suffer from the deal.  U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman immediately issued a statement welcoming the report and saying:

“The ITC report provides another strong argument for why TPP should be passed this year. It is part of a growing body of evidence that shows that TPP will benefit our economy at home and allow the U.S. to help set the rules of the road for trade in the Asia Pacific.”

Others have noted the ITC report reflects the United States will only marginally benefit from the deal, particularly in comparison to other TPP member states.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said of the ITC report in a statement:

“One of many shockers is just how meager the purported benefits of the TPP are.  A mere 0.15 percent of GDP growth over 15 years is laughably small.”

Ambassador Froman sought to counter anti-TPP critics by observing the ITC report focused heavily on tariffs and did not reflect the economic benefits of other major parts of the agreement, such as rules on state-owned enterprises, labor and the environment.

The report notes that the U.S. agricultural sector is expected to benefit from the agreement, highlighting that overall agricultural exports would rise by $7.2 billion, while imports would increase by $2.7 billion.  The report reflects that U.S. rice exports would be worse off under TPP, dropping 0.3 percent.  The TPP deal is also reported as increasing the trade deficit in chemicals, a category that includes pharmaceuticals.

White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said last week that the Administration is working with Democratic and Republican supporters of the TPP to “develop a legislative strategy for moving forward.”  There is, however, a general belief in Washington that if the 114th Congress is unable to advance the TPP deal before it concludes later this year, there will be little momentum in the next Congress or new Administration.

Meanwhile, Ministers from the TPP countries met early this week on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting to review progress on their respective internal processes to approve the TPP agreement.  The other TPP countries are on track to ratify the agreement before the end of the year.  At the end of the meeting, the TPP country Ministers released a joint statement, available here.

New Executive Order – Atrocities Defined

On 18 May, President Obama issued an Executive Order (EO) that details a definition for “mass atrocities” and “atrocities” (which is not defined under international law) and essentially establishes a comprehensive U.S. policy for preventing and responding to atrocities.  It defines “mass atrocities” or “atrocities” as “large scale and deliberate attacks on civilians, and includes acts falling within the definition ‘genocide’ as defined in international law and under U.S. domestic statute.”  The EO further delineates the Atrocities Prevention Board (established in 2012) and its responsibilities.

Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Monday, 23 May, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a closed hearing titled, “The Open Skies Treaty: Managing Russia’s Request to Upgrade Sensors.”
  • On Tuesday, 24 May, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “U.S. -India Relations: Balancing Progress and Managing Expectations.”
  • On Tuesday, 24 May, the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Understanding the Role of Sanctions Under the Iran Deal.”
  • On Tuesday, 24 May, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “The U.S.-Saudi Arabia Counterterrorism Relationship.”
  • On Wednesday, 25 May, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold another Iran Nuclear Deal oversight hearing titled, “Implementation and its Consequences.”
  • On Wednesday, 25 May, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Tunisia’s Struggle for Stability, Security, and Democracy.”
  • On Wednesday, 25 May, the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Understanding the Role of Sanctions Under the Iran Deal: Administration Perspectives.”
  • On Wednesday, 25 May, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a closed hearing titled, “Trafficking in Persons: Preparing the 2016 Annual Report.”
  • On Thursday, 26 May, the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “Navy Force Structure and Readiness: Perspectives from the Fleet.”
  • On Thursday, 26 May, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights is scheduled to hold a hearing titled, “The ISIS Genocide Declaration: What Next?”

Looking Ahead

Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:

  • 21-25 May: President Obama travels to Vietnam
  • 26-27 May: G-7 Summit in Ise-Shima, Japan
  • 7 June: President Obama hosts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
  • 29 June: North American Leaders Summit in Ottawa, Canada
  • 8-9 July: NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland

Tax-Writers Press on with Tax Reform Proposals; Treasury to Have “Intense” Comment Period on Section 385 Regulations

Legislative Activity

As June Nears, Tax-Writers Press Forward with Tax Reform Proposals

Following last week’s Senate Finance Committee hearing to discuss Chairman Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) “corporate integration” proposal as relates to the pros and cons of a dividends paid deduction regime, this week, on Tuesday, May 24, the Committee will hold its second in a series of hearings, and will examine how corporate integration could be used to neutralize the tax Code’s treatment of a corporation’s decision to raise capital with debt versus equity. It is still expected that Chairman Hatch will release his corporate integration proposal at some point in June, though as has been seen in the debate thus far, there remain various issues with the proposal (e.g., its potential impact on retirement plans and tax exempts, etc.) that still need to be resolved.

For its part, the House Ways and Means Committee will also hold a hearing this week to continue its ongoing discussions regarding tax reform. Specifically, the House Ways and Means Tax Policy Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, May 25, to take “another step in advancing [the Tax Policy Subcommittee’s] pro-growth ideas” which center around “reforming the broken tax code.”  Note that last week, following many months of work on his international tax reform baseline (i.e., territorial system of taxation, preferential tax treatment for certain intellectual property, and lower corporate tax rates), Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) announced that he may drop the “Innovation Box” portion of his proposal if the Committee ultimately decides they prefer to move forward without such a regime. As with Chairman Hatch’s integration proposal, the House Task Force on Tax Reform is expected to release its tax reform “blueprint” in June as well.

Wyden, Levin Roll Out Messaging Pieces

Last Tuesday, May 17, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) released draft legislation that revises the tax treatment of various financial products – a bill which took much of its inspiration from former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-MI) proposal, which aimed to treat most derivatives as mark-to-market assets and provided a hedging exception. The legislation aims to “prevent sophisticated taxpayers from using derivative contracts to avoid paying taxes on their underlying investments.”

On the very same day, House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) introduced legislation further targeting corporate tax inversions, this time taking aim at “hopscotch” loans (a maneuver whereby U.S. companies avoid taxes on dividends by making a loan to a foreign parent instead of the former U.S. parent) and “de-controlling” (a tactic corporations use to lower the U.S. ownership of a foreign entity below the level that triggers U.S. tax).

While neither piece of legislation is expected to move, Democratic tax-writers are taking cues from their Republican tax-writers and released these “messaging pieces” as Democrats aim to spotlight their own, near-term approach to tax reform. Note, however, as Democrats focus their efforts to do away with corporate tax “loopholes,” Republicans stand by the belief that inversions are a symptom of a broken tax code and continue to call for comprehensive tax reform.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • May 24: The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing titled “Moving America’s Families Forward: Setting Priorities for Reducing Poverty and Expanding Opportunity.”
  • May 24: The Senate Committee on Finance will hold a hearing titled “Debt versus Equity: Corporate Integration Considerations.”
  • May 24: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Examining the Allegations of Misconduct Against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Part I.” witnesses will be
  • May 25: The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing titled “Protecting Small Business from IRS Abuse (Part II).”
  • May 25: The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy will hold a hearing titled “Perspectives on the Need for Tax Reform.” 

Regulatory Activity

Treasury to Take a Closer Look at Earnings Stripping Rules

On April 4, 2016, the Department of the Treasury proposed regulations that would authorize the Commissioner to treat certain related-party interests in a corporation as indebtedness in part and stock in part for federal tax purposes, and establish threshold documentation requirements that must be satisfied in order for certain related-party interests in a corporation to be treated as indebtedness for federal tax purposes. The proposed regulations also would treat as stock certain related-party interests that otherwise would be treated as indebtedness for federal tax purposes..

Following the proposal’s publication in the Federal Register, there has been significant concern from industry about the newest round of anti-inversion regulations being overly-broad (e.g., the potential impact on “cash pooling” practices). In fact, Brett York, an attorney-adviser in the Office of Tax Legislative Counsel, recently suggested that Treasury is examining the documentation requirements under the rules (which would require taxpayers to prove their loans involve genuine debt, including being able to show they have a reasonable expectation that a loan will be repaid) in the context of cash pooling. Beyond concerns over the impact of the rules on cash pooling specifically, recently, nearly two dozen business groups sent a letter to Treasury, urging the Department to slow down its “arbitrarily rapid timeline” for both finalizing and implementing the regulations. The groups have also asked that Treasury “at a minimum” delay the comment period end date from July 7, 2016, to October 5, 2016, as well as reconsider setting April 4, 2016, as the effective date.

In light of this intense scrutiny and pushback from industry, Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary Bob Stack acknowledged that Treasury “may have missed things” in its latest rulemaking targeting corporate inversions and the ability of multinational corporations to engage in so-called “earnings-stripping” practices. Looking ahead, Mr. Stack has promised that Treasury “will have an intense comment period, [and] be listening to taxpayers.” He also suggested that Treasury “want[s] to do things that are both right from a policy point of view and also minimize burdens on companies…[but] [t]he answer to inversions is not to join the race to the bottom so that we have ultimately a zero tax rate.” Notably, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen has indicated that the IRS does not intend to put out any “significant” regulations past Labor Day, which creates a rather tight timeframe for Treasury to digest the responses to its proposed regulations and still finalize the regulations this year.

FCC Releases Final Agenda for May 25 Open Meeting

Legislative Activity

Senators Press FCC for Extension of Broadband Privacy Comment Period

On May 19, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) wrote a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler requesting that the FCC extend the comment period for the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on a proposed framework for the application of the privacy requirements of the Communications Act to broadband Internet access service providers (previously discussed here and here). The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau recently denied multiple requests for extensions of time to file comments and reply comments. In the letter, the senators argued that there is broad public support for extending the deadline for comments and noted that the NPRM took over a year to put together and seeks input on more than 500 questions. The senators requested an extension of not less than 45 days. In the alternative, they asked the FCC to provide a written explanation as to why the comment period cannot be extended before May 27, the deadline for comments.

911 Location Accuracy Bill Introduced in House

On May 13, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced H.R.5236, the Requesting Emergency Services and Providing Origination Notification Systems Everywhere (RESPONSE) Act. The legislation would require the FCC to conclude a 2012 proceeding regarding the ability of Multi-Line Telephone Systems (MLTSs) to provide the precise location of a 911 caller. When the FCC initiated the proceeding, it noted that “MLTSs serve multiple telephone stations at a single customer site . . . [such as] an office building or a university campus,” but that when an emergency call is placed from a station within an MLTS the party receiving the call may not always be able to identify the precise location of the caller. Rep. Eshoo’s bill would require the FCC to adopt rules in the pending MLTS proceeding within 18 months of the enactment of the bill. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, May 24: The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation will hold a hearing titled “Examining the Multistakeholder Plan for Transitioning the Internet Assigned Number Authority.”

Regulatory Activity

FCC Releases Final Agenda for May 25 Open Meeting

The FCC has announced that it will consider the following items at its May 25 Open Meeting:

  • Revisions to Public Inspection File Requirements – Broadcaster Correspondence File and Cable Principal Headend Location. The FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that “seeks comment on proposals to eliminate the requirement that commercial broadcast stations retain copies of letters and emails from the public in their public inspection file and the requirement that cable operators reveal the location of the cable system’s principal headend.”
  • Amendments to Part 4 of the Commission’s Rules Concerning Disruptions to Communications et al. The FCC will consider a Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Order on Reconsideration to “update its Part 4 communications network outage reporting requirements.”
  • Connect America Fund, ETC Annual Reports and Certifications, and Rural Broadband Experiments. The FCC will consider a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking “regarding a competitive bidding process for high-cost universal service support from Phase II of the Connect America Fund.”

Chairman Wheeler posted to the FCC Blog discussing the items above on May 4. The FCC’s Open Meeting is scheduled to commence on May 25 at 10:30 a.m. in the Commission Meeting Room of the FCC’s headquarters at 445 12th Street S.W., Washington, D.C., and will be streamed live at fcc.gov/live.

FCC Releases Guidance on Open Internet Transparency Rule Requirements

The FCC’s Chief Technologist, Office of General Counsel, and Enforcement Bureau released a Public Notice (PN) on May 19 offering “guidance regarding acceptable methodologies for disclosure of network performance to satisfy the enhanced transparency requirements in the 2015 Open Internet Order.” The “Transparency Rule” adopted in the 2010 Open Internet Order requires providers of broadband Internet access service (BIAS) to make certain disclosures of “network management practices, performance, and commercial terms” of its BIAS offerings. In the 2015 Open Internet Order, the FCC “enhanced” the Transparency Rule, specifying that BIAS providers are required to disclose “expected and actual download and upload speeds, latency, and packet loss, but are no longer required to disclose the typical frequency of congestion.” The PN in principal part clarifies the specific disclosures that BIAS providers must make pursuant to the Transparency Rule.

FCC Launches Consumer Complaint Data Center

On May 18, the FCC announced that it had launched a “new online Consumer Complaint Data Center to provide greater transparency into consumer complaints” received by the FCC, according to a News Release. The News Release states that “[c]onsumer complaints are an essential resource for the [FCC’s] work,” and can be used, for example, to “inform policy decisions” and “enforce the [FCC’s] rules.” The Consumer Complaint Data Center will serve as a “comprehensive database of individual complaints” that will “allow[] users to easily track, search, sort, and download information” and “build their own visualizations, charts and graphs,” according to the FCC.

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