California Capitol Hill Bulletin
To expand communications between Washington and California, the California Institute provides periodic bulletins regarding current activity on Capitol Hill that affects our state. Bulletins are published weekly during sessions of Congress, and occasionally during other periods. To subscribe to the Bulletin or other California Institute announcements, visit this link.
CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE:
Immigration: Institute Releases Report Compiling Immigration Research Resources
The California Institute has prepared a Compilation of Resources for Immigration Research, which contains a bipartisan sampling of recent research reports and papers that congressional staff and other interested parties may find helpful as Congress considers immigration reform issues. To the extent possible, the sources were selected in the context of current research from a California perspective. The list is divided into five sub-sections – the economy, taxes, and general reform; employment, H1-B workers, agriculture, and wages; previous efforts, background checks and E-Verify; public opinion; and population studies – and organized chronologically by date of publication. The document does not contain an exhaustive list of research materials. The Institute will continue to monitor ongoing immigration reform research and update this resource, as appropriate. Individuals are welcome to contact the California Institute with any follow-up inquiries or requests for additional information.
The report can be found at: http://www.calinst.org/pubs/ImmResRes2013.pdf
Trade: Senate Finance Examines Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership
On Wednesday, April 24, 2013, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing entitled “The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Opportunities and Challenges.” Witnesses were: The Honorable Karan Bhatia, Vice President and Senior Counsel, Global Government Affairs & Policy, General Electric Company; Mr. Bob Hanson, President, Montana Farm Bureau Federation, and Board Member, American Farm Bureau Federation, Bozeman, MT; Mr. David Hirschmann, President and CEO, Global Intellectual Property Center, U. S. Chamber of Commerce; and Mr. Tom Suber, President, U. S. Dairy Export Council.
The TPP, as it is known, is a multi-country trade agreement, and as a group, the TPP countries are the largest export market for U.S. goods and services. The United States has been engaged in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership since 2009. With the recent decision by Japan to join the negotiations, the agreement will represent 30 percent of global trade and 40 percent of global GDP. Negotiators hope to finalize the agreement by the end of this year.
Many of the countries involved in the TPP negotiations are major trading partners of California. Mexico, California’s largest export market and a TPP member country, accounted for $26.32 billion in exports in 2012. Exports to Japan, California’s fourth largest export market, was $13.06 billion in 2012.
All of the witnesses supported the TPP, with Mr. Hirschmann also calling for the inclusion of a “robust” Intellectual Property chapter in the agreement. He cited the U.S. Chamber’s IP Creates Jobs for America study. “According to this study, IP-intensive industries directly and indirectly support more than 55 million American jobs – jobs that pay 30% higher wages than those in other industries – and account for 74% of U.S. exports,” he testified.
Mr. Hanson called the addition of Japan to the talks a significant development that will “make the agreement much more encompassing of U.S. goals for agricultural trade.” He also noted that the inclusion of non-tariff barriers, such as Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) is “an essential part of the agricultural negotiations as these measures have impeded market access for many U.S. agricultural products for years. By agreeing to join the negotiations under the same conditions as other participants, Japan will demonstrate, as it has by its decision to modify restrictive policies against U.S. beef imports, a strong willingness to move quickly to resolve these long-standing tariff and non-tariff barrier issues.”
For more information on the hearing, go to: http://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=03508528-5056-a032-526a-67ec511d1ced
Trade: House Foreign Affairs Examines Export Controls
The House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Ed Royce (Fullerton), held a hearing on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 entitled “Export Control Reform: The Agenda Ahead.”
Witnesses were: Mr. Thomas Kelly, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, U.S. Department of State; The Honorable Kevin J. Wolf, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration, Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce; and Mr. James A. Hursch, Director, Defense Technology Security Administration, U.S. Department of Defense.
In his opening statement, Chairman Royce pointed out that “the GAO and many others have observed that the complexities of the system had begun to erode its effectiveness. In particular, the nature of our controls became out of step with changes in defense acquisition policy, global manufacturing trends and technology development. The world economy left our bureaucracy behind.” He generally complimented the Administration for the comprehensive restructuring of export controls that it has recently initiated. However, he stated that “ore effort should be placed on enhancing licensed defense trade with friends and allies. Implementation of multilateral regime changes should be accelerated. The increasingly elaborate Export Administration Regulations need to be simplified. Some of these goals can be accomplished by the Executive Branch, but Congress also has an important role to play. In this regard, I look forward to working with the Ranking Member on bipartisan legislation to advance common sense reforms.”
The witnesses detailed the reform measures that the Administration has undertaken, which are intended to significantly enhance the national security, foreign policy, and economic interests of the United States. The reforms fall into four broad categories: licensing policies and procedures; control lists; information technology; and export enforcement. After full implementation, the restructuring is expected to achieve a more transparent, flexible, efficient, and enforceable system based on a single licensing agency, working with a single control list, on a unified (IT) information technology system, and supported by coordinated enforcement activities.
For more information, go to: http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/hearing-export-control-reform-agenda-ahead
Energy: House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Examines Natural Gas Export Issues
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade met on Thursday, April 25, 2013 to examine the impact of expanding natural gas exports from the United States and the potential geopolitical effects.
Witnesses included: Mr. Rob Bryngelson, Chief Executive Officer, Excelerate Energy; W. David Montgomery, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, National Economic Research Associates; Michael A. Levi, Ph.D., Director, Program on Energy Security and Climate Change, Council on Foreign Relations; Mr. David Mallino Jr., Legislative Director, Laborers International Union of North America; and Mr. Michael Ratner, Specialist in Energy Policy, Congressional Research Service.
Panelists generally called for increased natural gas exports from the U.S. as a means to boost the economy and decrease dependence on foreign oil. However, Mr. Ratner of the Congressional Research Service noted several potential issues with increased exports, particularly to non-free trade agreement (FTA) countries.
Mr. Bryngelson testified regarding his company’s belief that exporting domestically produced liquid natural gas (LNG) represents a market-driven path that would create more jobs, greater tax revenues, and increased economic activity; promote greater national security through a larger role in international energy markets; increase production capacity that will better adjust to varying domestic demand scenarios; and create less volatility in natural gas prices. Furthermore, he expressed a desire to export LNG to FTA and non-FTA countries.
Mr. Ratner noted the concerns of some large industrial consumers of natural gas that allowing exports will raise domestic prices and stifle the economic benefits of having a low cost input. He discussed potential trade issues, such as the possibility that export restrictions would put the U.S. in a contradictory position vis-à-vis cases it has brought +to the World Trade Organization. Also, while shale gas reduces emissions, it is unclear whether hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” causes significant environmental harm. Finally, he mentioned the current controversy surrounding DOE’s statutory requirement to determine if LNG exports to countries with which the United States does not have a FTA are “not” in the public interest.
Dr. Levi stated that approving LNG export permits to non-FTA countries would benefit U.S. economic and security relationships regardless of whether (or how much) LNG is ultimately exported. Indeed, if exports are approved, the volumes shipped are likely to be relatively small, with limited, but again positive, geopolitical and geoeconomic consequences for the United States.
Dr. Montgomery summarized the findings of a study by his consulting firm which found net economic benefits to the U.S. from allowing LNG exports. Moreover, for every one of the market scenarios examined, net economic benefits increased as the level of LNG exports increased. He also explained certain geopolitical benefits that would result from exporting U.S. natural gas. For example, a policy of unlimited U.S. LNG exports would limit Russia’s ability to raise natural gas prices to Europe by creating a credible alternative supply that would defeat any attempt by Russia to raise prices above the landed cost of LNG. In contrast, if the U.S. limits exports it will send a signal to Russia that it can raise prices without fear of effective competition from the exporter most favorable located to undercut its prices to Europe.
Transportation: House Highways Subcommittee Examines Implementing MAP-21
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit met on Thursday, April 25, 2013 to receive testimony on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) implementation of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). MAP-21 authorizes the Federal highway, transit and highway safety programs through September 30, 2014. These programs are administered by DOT in partnership with states, localities, and public transit agencies. While DOT provides financial and technical assistance, the local partners are responsible for carrying out these programs on a day-to-day basis. This hearing focused on the local perspective on DOT’s implementation efforts.
Witnesses included: Mr. Michael Lewis, Director, Rhode Island Department of Transportation; on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO); The Honorable Bruce Starr, Senator, State of Oregon; on behalf of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL); Mr. Peter Varga, Chief Operating Officer, Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) on behalf of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA); Mr. Richard Perrin, AICP, Executive Director, Genesee Transportation Council; on behalf of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO); Mr. Terry Bobrowski, Executive Director, East Tennessee Development District on behalf of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO); and Mr. Edward Reiskin, Director of Transportation, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
Mr. Reiskin testified that MAP-21, while relatively brief in its existence, has improved and evolved over time. He applauded MAP-21 for bringing emphasis to San Francisco’s $10.2 billion in asset replacement and repair; however, he emphasized the need to increase capital investment in order to adequately maintain these projects.
Mr. Lewis recommended a series of core principles to guide implementation of MAP-21, including: (1) maximizing collaboration between state DOTs, local government, and transit operators in the implementation process; (2) issuing guidance and regulations in accordance with the statutory language in MAP-21; (3) providing maximum administrative program flexibility; and (4) utilizing existing processes, practices, data sets, and programs to the extent practicable.
For more information, go to: http://transportation.house.gov/hearing/implementing-map-21-state-and-local-perspective
Agriculture: House Agriculture Subcommittee Reviews Horticulture Priorities for 2013 Farm Bill
The House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture met on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 to review horticulture priorities for the 2013 farm bill. Witnesses included: Ms. Sarah M. Frey-Talley, President and CEO, Frey Farms, Keenes, Illinois; Mr. William L. Brim, President and Owner, Lewis & Taylor Farms, Inc., Tifton, Georgia; and Mr. Barry Bushue, Vice President, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), President, Oregon Farm Bureau Federation, Boring, Oregon.
Mr. Bushue highlighted several aspects of the AFBF’s comprehensive farm bill proposal and discussed the importance of the farm bill to fruit and vegetable producers. He put forth the following high-level recommendations for the farm bill: (1) support the lower Senate budget reduction number of $23 billion; (2) structure the farm bill proposal to achieve this level of cost reduction and, if funding is further reduced, proportionately reduce the safety net programs as necessary (rather than require a total rewrite); (3) allow program crop producers to choose either a Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) or a target price program, on top of participation in crop insurance and marketing loans, as the three legs of a safety net; (4) establish a STAX program for all program commodities, as well as for apples, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes and sweet corn; and (5) provide a target price program for all program commodities, with the exception of cotton.
Other panelists, who included farmers from Illinois and Georgia, expressed support for Specialty Crop Block Grants, which provide assistance to producers who are seeking enhanced competition, and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which addresses issues such as production efficiency and pest and plant disease.
For more information, go to: http://agriculture.house.gov/hearing/review-horticulture-priorities-2013-farm-bill .
Taxes: House Ways and Means Examines Tax Reform On Residential Real Estate
The House Committee on Ways and Means met on Thursday, April 25, 2013 to consider how certain Federal tax provisions affect the housing sector and homeownership, as well as the benefits of such investment. The hearing further explored how tax policy affects the relative level of investment between residential real estate and other parts of the economy, such as business investment.
Witnesses included: Mr. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist, CoreLogic; Mr. Eric Toder, Co-Director, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center; Ms. Jane Gravelle, Senior Specialist in Economic Policy, Congressional Research Service; Mr. Mark Calabria, Director of Financial Regulation Studies, Cato Institute; Mr. Phillip Swagel, Professor of International Economic Policy, University of Maryland School of Public Policy; Mr. Gary Thomas, President, National Association of Realtors; Mr. Robert Dietz, Assistant Vice President for Tax and Policy Issues, National Association of Home Builders; Mr. Thomas Moran, Chairman, Moran & Company, Chicago, IL, appearing on behalf of the National Multi Housing Council and the National Apartment Association; and Mr. Robert Moss, Senior Vice President, Boston Capital, Boston, MA, appearing on behalf of the Housing Advisory Group.
Dr. Fleming discussed the mixed results of recent measures to spur home buying. He noted that, while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created a first-time homebuyer tax credit that stimulated the real estate sales market in the short-term, it did not have a permanent impact on the market. In addition, he explained that the capital gains tax exclusion did not materially change the structure of the industry.
Mr. Toder put forth the following points: (1) the mortgage interest deduction is a subsidy that favors investment in home ownership over investment in rental housing and most other business assets; (2) the main beneficiaries of the deduction are upper-middle-income households, and use of the deduction varies greatly among states; (3) the issue of whether home ownership should be subsidized is debatable, with points to be made on both sides of the issue; (4) if the goal is to promote home ownership, the mortgage interest deduction should be restructured, with more of the subsidy directed to low- and middle-income taxpayers who are more likely to be deciding whether to own or rent.
Mr. Calabria urged the Committee to entirely eliminate the mortgage interest deduction and the deduction for local property taxes. He suggested that the Committee implement these changes in a budget-neutral manner, lowering overall tax rates, and be phased in over a period of no more than seven years.
Mr. Diaz put forth several recommendations regarding reforming the tax code and the real estate market, including: (1) support for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit; and (2) support for the mortgage interest deduction and the capital gains exclusion to protect that investment in order to prevent further income polarization.
For more information, go to: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=330283
Transportation: House Budget Committee Assesses Highway Trust Fund Solvency
The House Committee on the Budget met on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 to hold a hearing entitled “State of the Highway Trust Fund: Long-term Solutions for Solvency.” The hearing focused on the projected deficit and potential long-term solution for solvency of the HTF.
Witnesses included: Robert Poole, Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow and Director of Transportation Policy, Reason Foundation; R. Richard Geddes, Director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure, Policy and Associate Professor, Cornell University; and Janet F. Kavinoky, Executive Director, Transportation and Infrastructure, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Vice President, Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition.
Panelists concurred that quick and dramatic changes in financing will be needed to sustain the HTF ahead of a new surface transportation reauthorization next year. Mr. Poole identified five problems with the HTF: (1) Congress is reluctant to increase user taxes, despite the need for increased investment; (2) the HTF utilizes unfair distribution of funds across the country; (3) federal involvement and regulations increase project costs; (4) program emphasis is on expensive capital-intensive projects instead of maintenance; (5) the federal programs encourage cash-based projects rather than financing. In the near-term, Mr. Poole further suggested returning the HTF to highways only and refocusing the HTF on interstate commerce.
Professor Geddes made four main points in his testimony: (1) the HTF is not sustainable and a new system should be adopted; (2) variable per-mile user fees (a.k.a. Mileage-Based User Fees) should be implemented; (3) public appeal of MBUFs should be enhanced; and (4) utilization of public-private partnerships should be increased in order to release value embedded in transportation infrastructure assets.
Ms. Kavinoky relayed three Chamber-supported HTF reforms: (1) further encouraging the federal government to prioritize transportation projects and not divert money to unrelated activities; (2) promoting public-private investment and partnerships, but they should not be revenue sourced in and of themselves; and (4) significantly increasing more government funding.
Rep. James Lankford (OK) expressed reservations about seeking more federal funds, instead saying he would like to look at getting more transportation projects funded at the state level.
For more information, go to: http://budget.house.gov/hearingschedule2013/hearing4242013.htm
Immigration: Senate Judiciary Committee Takes Up Immigration Reform Proposal
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary met on Monday, April 22, 2013 and Tuesday, April 23, 2013 for hearings on the comprehensive immigration reform bill, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S.744. Specifically, the Committee received testimony on how the bill will impact the farming, construction, service, and technology industries.
Witnesses included: Panel I – Arturo Rodriguez, President, United Farm Workers, Keene, CA; Charles Conner, President & CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Washington, DC; Alyson Eastman, President, Book-Ends Associates, Orwell, VT; Panel II – Megan Smith, Commissioner, Vermont Dept. of Tourism & Marketing, Montpelier, VT; The Honorable Jim Kolbe, Former United States Representative (R-AZ-5), Washington, DC; Tamar Jacoby, President & CEO, Immigration Works USA, Washington, DC; Rick Judson, Chairman of the Board, National Association of Home Builders, Washington, DC; Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft, Seattle, WA; Professor Ron Hira, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY; Neeraj Gupta, Chief Executive Officer, Systems In Motion, Newark, CA; Fred Benjamin, Chief Operating Officer, Medicalodges, Inc., Coffeyville, KS; Panel III – Gaby Pacheco, Immigrant Rights Leader, Director, Bridge Project, Miami, FL; Janet Murguía, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza, Washington, DC; Dr. David Fleming, Senior Pastor, Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston, TX; Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies, Washington, DC; Laura L. Lichter, Esq., President, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Denver, CO; The Honorable Kris Kobach, Secretary of State, State of Kansas, Topeka, KS; Panel IV – Mark Shurtleff, Partner, Troutman Sanders LLP, Former Utah Attorney General, Washington, DC; The Honorable Bill Vidal, Former Mayor of Denver, President and CEO, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver, Denver, CO; Janice L. Kephart, Former Counsel, September 11 Commission, Principal, 911 Security Solutions, Washington, DC; Chris Crane, President, National Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Council 118 Of the American Federation of Government Employees, Washington, DC; Dr. Steven Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies, Washington, DC; and Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform, Washington, DC.
Panelists generally praised the comprehensive immigration reform bill for its balanced approach to addressing noncitizen status, border enforcement, expanding worker and workplace protections, and increasing visas for foreign high-tech workers. However, most panelists also critiqued the inclusion and/or omission of certain provisions and offered suggested modifications. Some of these comments included the following: (1) an enforcement-only immigration strategy would result in a severe labor shortage that would negatively impact the economy; (2) the bill should be more inclusive of family members, particularly in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) communities; (3) the visa quotas mandated in the legislation – 20,000 to 200,000 registered slots a year – appear inadequate to accommodate future needs; and (4) immigrant households create a net fiscal burden on all levels of government and would be impossible to fully support through social programs.
Mr. Rodriguez testified about the hardships faced by millions of farm workers across the United States. He noted the lack of adequate wages and labor protections for agricultural workers. He further expressed support for the immigration bill, particularly the section on granting temporary legal status to farm workers and allowing them the opportunity to earn permanent legal residence as well as the agricultural worker visa program. Finally, he praised the relaxed agricultural employer provisions regarding paperwork and labor regulations and the stronger workers protections and enforcement mechanisms.
Mr. Gupta shared his perspective on the significant unintended consequences of H1-B and L1 visas in the technology services industry. He advocated removal of economic incentives for businesses to hire H1-B employees by (1) tying wage rate requirements to national averages, and (2) limiting the use of visas for an organization’s direct use and eliminating the use of these visas for outsourcing or sub-contract work. By instituting these proposals, Mr. Gupta believes this will (1) enable innovative start-ups and technology companies, rather than feeding the “offshoring machine,” (2) encourage the offshore industry to adapt and invest more heavily in developing, training, and building resources in the US, and (3) significantly reduce visa abuse.
On Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised the bipartisan immigration bill and said its border security provisions are realistic and achievable. Specifically, she said that the measure would make the country safer by beefing up the background checks that prospective immigrants would have to go through, by making the border more impermeable, and by ensuring that employers no longer hire undocumented immigrants. However, Napolitano said she would prefer some flexibility in allocating some of the funding provided for in the bill – e.g., the $1.5 billion allocated to reinforce the U.S.-Mexico border fence.
Committee Republicans expressed skepticism about the border security provisions, noting that the bill contained insufficient congressional oversight, metric standards, and attention to lower-priority border sectors.
For more information, go to: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=4ae0f157daabd58f7f272bb3dd306743
Immigration: House Small Business Looks At “STEM Workforce and Immigration Reform”
The House Committee on Small Business’s Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce met on Thursday, April 25, 2013 to examine how the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce shortage is affecting the current and future economic health and visibility of small businesses. Additionally, the Subcommittee heard testimony on whether changes to existing employment-based immigration laws for temporary or permanent legal resident aliens are necessary to help small businesses meet their STEM workforce needs.
Witnesses included: Mr. John Tyler, General Counsel and Secretary, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Kansas City, MO; Mr. Nagappa Ravindra, President, Ravi Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C., Rochester, NY; Mr. Ryan Costella, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Click Bond, Carson, City, NV; and Mr. Morgan Reed, Executive Director, Association for Competitive Technology, Washington, DC.
Panelists expressed a desire to increase the number of high-skilled foreign workers in the U.S. workforce. Specifically, the witnesses requested an increase in the cap on H1-B visas in order to attract high-skilled workers for specific skillsets that are utilized in small businesses through the country.
Mr. Reed put forth several recommendations to fix the current issues surrounding the lack of a sufficient STEM workforce, including: (1) institute a higher, more rational cap on H-1B visas; (2) recapture unused employment-based green cards; (3) create an exemption from the annual limits for U.S. advanced STEM degree holders; and (4) increase funding for STEM programs in primary and secondary education, not just post-secondary education as is currently written into the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill.
Mr. Tyler also specifically called for a path to permanent residency for STEM graduates of U.S. universities, which would assist U.S. employers in readily accessing talent to meet their employment needs. He also noted that these visas would presumably permit broad portability, which will help protect against below market wages and working conditions as well as permit professional advancement and enhanced contributions through promotions and job moves. Finally, he recommended streamlining the visa application process, which he claimed was particularly cumbersome for small businesses.
For more information, go to: http://smallbusiness.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=325620 .
Social Services: Senate Finance Reviews Child Welfare System
The Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing Tuesday, April 23, 2013 entitled “The Antwone Fisher Story as a Case Study for Child Welfare.” The Senate utilized Atwone Fisher’s troubling story growing up in Ohio’s foster care system as a lens through which to examine possible solutions to child welfare issues.
Witnesses included: Mr. Antwone Fisher, Author, Director and Film Producer, Los Angeles, CA; Mr. Gary Stangler, Executive Director, Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, St. Louis, MO; Mr. Eric Fenner, Managing Director, Casey Family Programs, Westerville, OH; and Mr. Kevin Campbell, Founder, Center for Family Finding and Youth Connectedness, Lakewood, WA
In 2002, more than 530,000 children lived in foster care across the nation. By 2011, that number dropped by more than 27 percent to just over 400,000. The Child Welfare League of America reports that one quarter of former foster kids become homeless after aging out of foster care.
Mr. Fisher told his life story growing up in the Ohio foster care system. His story involves rampant abuse and an extended period in which he was homeless. Later, he joined the U.S. Navy and was able to turn his life around. About 10 years ago, Fisher turned his life story into an autobiographical book and screenplay.
Other panelists emphasized the important role that federal legislation has and should continue to play with respect to promoting the health, well-being, and permanency of children in foster care.
For more information, go to: http://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=cf201271-5056-a032-52ff-4661e9aaeffa
Education: House Higher Education Subcommittee Examines Transparency Issues
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training met on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 to examine the current state of transparency in higher education, particularly with respect to financing tools available to prospective students. Additionally, the hearing addressed higher education leaders’ concerns about the large amount of federal data and reporting requirements, some of which are duplicative.
Witnesses included: Dr. Donald E. Heller, Dean, College of Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Mr. Alex Garrido, Student, Keiser University, Miami, FL; Dr. Nicole Farmer Hurd, Founder and Executive Director, National College Advising Corps, Carrboro, NC; and Mr. Travis Reindl, Program Director, Postsecondary Education, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Heller expressed his belief that there is no lack of information available about college; rather, people find it difficult to find the appropriate information to meet their needs. He put forth several recommendations for government and the private sector, including: (1) a federally funded college counselor program for schools that serve lower-income students; (2) more objective information to help students decide if a college is the right “fit” for them; and (3) local efforts to ensure high quality access to information about higher education.
Mr. Reindl offered several lessons learned from state focus on higher education, including: (1) the need to focus on student success and efficiency metrics in addition to enrollments and revenue; (2) the need for simpler and clearer performance funding formulas for schools; and (3) the need to craft long-term policies that do not become obsolete or inhibit creativity in problem-solving to help students.
Dr. Hurd testified about the need to better educate low-income students about the higher education funding opportunities available to them. Specifically, she suggested creating simpler materials to help students understand the often-complex financial aid jargon and additional financial aid counselors to answer questions.
For more information, go to: http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=330710
Resources: Senate Energy Committee Examines Hydropower Bills
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 to consider testimony on the following measures: S. 306, the Small Conduit and Rural Jobs Act (expands and simplifies jurisdiction of Bureau of Reclamation over hydropower on existing infrastructure); H.R. 678, the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act (similar to S. 306 and passed by the House 416-7); S. 545, the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2013 (streamlines licensing process); H.R. 267, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 (similar to S. 545 and passed by the House unanimously); and S. 761, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013 (covers building and agency energy efficiency and finance). Notably, four of five of these energy bills promote hydropower.
Witnesses included: Mr. Jeff Wright, Director, Office of Energy Projects, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (the “Commission”); Mr. Lowell Pimley, Deputy Commissioner, Operations, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of Interior; and Dr. Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.
Panelists generally expressed support for all of the hydropower and energy efficiency bills before the Committee. Mr. Wright discussed the current jurisdiction of the Commission over hydroelectricity, detailed current efforts regarding small, innovative projects, and offered comments of specific sections of the draft legislation before the Committee. Some of Mr. Wright’s comments include: (1) questioning whether S. 545 and H.R. 267’s requirement to investigate the feasibility of implementing a shorter, two-year licensing process is necessary in light of the Commission’s current alleged flexibility; (2) support for the respective sections of S. 545 and H.R. 267 that would establish various measures to promote conduit hydropower projects; and (3) amending the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 to increase installed capacity of a project to which the Commission could grant a small hydropower exemption from 5,000 to 10,000 kilowatts.
Dr. Hogan discussed ways in which the federal government can participate in improving energy efficiency in both the commercial and residential markets. She emphasized maintaining partnerships and collaboration through research and development and deployment to capitalize on energy efficiency opportunities in the private and public sectors.
For more information, go to: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2013/4/full-committee-hearing .