H.R. 5682, the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed 5 Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, or the First Step Act was introduced to the House of Representatives by Rep. Doug Collins [R-GA] on May 7, 2018 and was passed on May 23. This legislation mirrors Sen. Cornyn’s CORRECTIONS Act which was modeled after successful state-level reforms like those in Texas. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) cosponsored the FIRST STEP Act in the Senate, and Congressmen Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
This legislation includes an expansion of markets for Federal Prison Industries. The bill authorizes Federal Prison Industries to sell products to new markets such as the District of Columbia government and nonprofit organizations.
FPI ranges in multiple different products such as furniture, including office furniture and furniture for college dormitories; clothing and textiles, such as military uniforms; electronics equipment; and plastic and metal goods, including eyewear and traffic signs and more. Due to the restrictions placed on government agencies by the FPI, government agencies are required to buy from the FPI for any of these products even if there are competitors with lower prices or better quality.
This piece of legislation affects many members of SGIA as well as many other businesses. SGIA will continue to follow the progress of the First Step Act through the U.S. Senate.
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On June 5th, the House of Representatives were presented the White House Conference on Small Businesses Bill. Representatives Rod Blum (R-IA), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Al Lawson (D-FL), all members of the House Committee of Small Business are signed to introduce the bill to the House of Representatives. This bipartisan bill stands to reinvigorate the relationships between small businesses and the legislation of the United States. These representatives recognize the need for the communication between small businesses and the government if the American economy is to continue to prosper. Small businesses are the backbone of the American dream and are essential to the continuing success of the American economy.
The White House Conference on Small Business were three conferences previously held in 1980, 1986 and 1995 under Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. The purpose of these conferences was to nurture a better relationship between the government and American small businesses, and to tackle economic hardships and develop policy solutions. These conferences made many suggestions to the legislature on current situations and future policies that were taken into effect. For example, these conferences led to the installment of state conferences and regional teams being elected to implement the new policies from the 1995 conference. These officials worked with the United States Small Business Association (SBA) who stated that much of the success from these policies were due to these state conferences and regional teams.
These plans support the need for direct communication between small businesses, the state legislation and the federal legislation. The state conferences will implement an improved representation of the small business agenda nationwide. There has not been a White House Conference on Small Business in over twenty years. There has been a lot of change in the American economy and in the business world over the past two decades. Reinstating the Conferences will bridge the gap between the government and American small businesses that has developed. It will regain the trust of small businesses and their owners that their representation has access to all the information that is required to make informed decisions on issues involving them. It will also give underrepresented minorities that have not had the previous ability to voice their opinions on problems revolving around their livelihood.
America’s small businesses make up 99% of the private sector and 64% of the net new private sector jobs. Small businesses are essential to the American economy and is an integral lifestyle of the everyday American. These conferences would provide support to American small businesses and give proper representation to the small business class. It will provide Congress the opportunity to hear the perspective of small business owners and other associations and educate representatives of the current issues and solutions that plague this sector of the American economy. This bill would increase the public awareness of small business contributions, create more jobs, provide an opportunity to review past Conferences, provide a platform for women and minority business owners, and develop and prevent solutions to the legislative and executive branches of the American government.
These conferences are the step in the direction that the United States must take to support its small businesses. It will revive the trust that was once between the government and American small businesses. SGIA stands besides the small businesses that support our economy and advocate for the bill’s implementation.
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UPDATE: On June 26, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved its long-awaited draft bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. The new bill does not have a number yet, but is titled the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The bipartisan bill was approved unanimously by voice vote, and will now move forward in the legislative process to the full Senate.
SGIA, along with over 400 Associations, urged the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to take swift, bipartisan action on the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. SGIA strongly supports passage of this important legislative as it is crucial to helping students acquire the skills needed to be successful in today’s workplace.
In a recent survey conducted by SGIA, the department with the greatest challenges is manufacturing. As SGIA members indicate that there is a shortage of skilled workers to fill in-demand positions, ensuring that secondary and postsecondary institutions offer modern, quality and relevant career and technical education (CTE) programs remains a leading priority so that we can develop and grow our nation’s workforce.
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The US House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee held its third hearing focusing on the US jobs gap. Chairman Adrian Smith (R-NE), in his opening statement, indicated that the purpose of this series of hearings is to demonstrate how, as the US economy continues to strengthen following the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the demand for workers by US companies is growing and human services programs can play an important role in supporting the next wave of workers needed to continue this economic growth.
On April 17th, the Subcommittee heard testimony from the Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta. Secretary Acosta shared the federal government’s perspective on this issue. Secretary Acosta told the Committee in his opening remarks how the Department of Labor has been working to keep our economy moving forward because as it fires on all cylinders with the help of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Department of Labor is working to expand apprenticeships across all industries through the streamlining of traditional workforce education. Secretary Acosta, in his remarks, also emphasized the demand from governors for more flexibility to focus funds on where they can best serve the needs of communities. He indicated that “it’s not just cooperation between the agencies, but also flexibility to allow the governors to focus workforce education funds where they best serve the needs of their states.”
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On December 12, 2017 the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing titled, “The Future of the North American Trade Agreement.” The North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trade agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States to remove barriers and eliminate tariffs between the countries.
The Trump Administration is looking to withdraw from the agreement, a key campaign promise from President Trump. The President views NAFTA as an unfair agreement that has led to a loss of jobs, and has promised to withdraw unless provisions favoring the United States are added. On January 23, 2017 the President signed an executive order to renegotiate NAFTA to make it more favorable to the United States.
Several stakeholders discussed the impact that such a renegotiation might have on the American economy in the House hearing. Daniel Allford, President of ARC Specialties, discussed the massive impact of tariffs on businesses ability to be competitive in the global market. “I can beat the competition, but I can’t beat the tariff,” said Allford, who supported maintaining a U.S. presence in the NAFTA agreement. Celeste Drake, Trade and Globalization Policy Specialist at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, stated that while we shouldn’t necessarily back out of NAFTA completely, we should look at replacing NAFTA’s labor and environmental rules which Mrs. Drake says are not currently being monitored and enforced.
The general consensus in the room was that NAFTA is beneficial to the U.S. economy and increases both jobs and competition for businesses, but that it could use some modernization. The President has been a part of several talks throughout 2017, and negotiations have now been pushed into 2018 with an unclear path ahead.
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