Washington Watch - 10/28/19
Last week, the House passed four bills to support small businesses across the nation. In the federal government, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the agency tasked with bringing the voice of small businesses to the table and is also responsible for ensuring they have access to counseling resources, capital, and contracting expertise. You may not know this, but there are more than 20,000 small businesses within the boundaries of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, and these businesses provide more than 178,000 good paying jobs to our friends and neighbors. It is critical that our small businesses and entrepreneurs have resources to turn to when they want to expand their footprint, reinvest in their employees, build strategic relationships, and create training programs, and the SBA through Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), the SCORE program, and more resource partners offers just that. As such, I was pleased to see my Democrat and Republican colleagues come together in supporting the following bills, and I’d encourage you to join me in urging the Senate to follow suit.
- H.R. 4405, the “Women’s Business Centers Improvements Act” reauthorizes the SBA’s Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) program for four years. The program was established to provide resources and assistance to small, women owned businesses and entrepreneurs, many of whom are socially or economically disadvantaged. Among other provisions, the bill would facilitate accreditation and standardization of WBCs.
- H.R. 4406, the “Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act” reauthorizes the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and entrepreneurial development services. The SBDC network is the SBA’s largest resources partner for small businesses and entrepreneurs. To maximize services SBDCs provide, the bill includes provisions to modernize the SBDC network and increase the awareness of services small businesses can utilize.
- H.R. 4407, the “SCORE for Small Business Act of 2019” reauthorizes the SCORE Program, a small business mentorship and networking program, for three years. Moreover, the bill codifies the SCORE Association’s authority to carry out the operations of the SCORE Program. Additionally, the bill would allow the SBA director to conduct an annual financial examination of the SCORE Association for oversight purposes to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being properly spent.
- H.R. 4387, establishes the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition within the Small Business Administration, authorizes funds for four years to provide early-stage small business the opportunity to compete for monetary prizes that in turn spur economic development and job creation.
H.R. 2513, the “Corporate Transparency Act,” was considered on the House floor last week. Advocates describe this bill as aimed at exposing shell companies that are used by criminals and terrorists for money laundering—a goal every Member of the House can agree on. However, instead of narrowly focusing on that goal, the bill creates a brand new government database by forcing millions of law abiding small business owners to turn over personally identifiable information, down to the passport numbers and driver’s licenses, for each of its vaguely defined “beneficial owners” to the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). This bill requires corporations or LLCs with fewer than 20 employees or $5 million or less in revenue to comply, includes substantial penalties for owners who miss any of the reporting requirements, but provides virtually no protections for the privacy of the small business owners.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) estimates the bill would cost small businesses $5.7 billion over the next decade and would waste more than 130 million hours of small-business owners’ time on compliance. If a small business does not or cannot comply with this, there are penalties of up to $10,000, three years in prison, or both. What’s more, access to the new FinCEN database would not require a subpoena or warrant, raising serious civil liberty and privacy concerns. While I applaud the effort to root out criminals with shell companies, I do not think this is the best way of achieving that, especially with its significant burden on our small businesses.
Rep. Woodall urges colleagues to pursue a bipartisan solution
We had a chance to improve this bill, address its flaws, and send it to the Senate with a big bipartisan vote because, as I said earlier, literally everyone wants to expose criminal shell companies. But the Democratic leadership rejected every effort at addressing civil liberty concerns, overreach concerns, and cost of compliance concerns. As has been the case so often this year, the House leadership seemed committed to passing a partisan solution that will not be taken up in its current form in the Senate rather than crafting a bipartisan solution that could move quickly to the President’s desk.
Ultimately, the bill passed by a vote of 249 to 173, without my support. Echoing my desires, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has said he would like to find a way to disclose shell companies, but I know he will pursue a path forward that does not unnecessarily burden the millions of small businesses across the country or put Americans’ Constitutional rights in jeopardy.
- WSJ: House Passes Bill to Expose Owners of Shell Companies
- Market Watch: Washington moves closer to raising the curtain on anonymous shell companies
From the war in Syria to civil upheaval in Venezuela, to political and religious oppression in China, many around the world have been forced to flee their homes to save themselves and their families. Our nation has a long history of generosity towards refugees as we continue to be the largest donor of assistance for humanitarian crises and accept high rates of refugees and asylees from around the world. In fact, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties are home to many of these same folks who have sought freedom from oppression and terror, from Axis countries in World War II, to war-torn countries like Korea and Vietnam, to places where freedoms were stolen like China and former Soviet-bloc countries. Our nation is made stronger by these families’ presence and their partnership. We must have a comprehensive and effective system in place so that we may continue our tradition as a refuge, which is why I joined Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, Ken Buck (R-CO), and my colleagues in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointing out the importance of our refugee program and urging him to maintain our commitment to the oppressed. America is known around the world as a beacon of freedom, democracy, and human rights, and I believe we must have a comprehensive and effective system in place so that we may continue our tradition as a refuge for the oppressed around the world.
If you would like to read my letter to Secretary Pompeo, CLICK HERE.
If you live anywhere close to Lilburn, you know yesterday was the celebration of Diwali at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. If you live close by, you saw the traffic and heard the music. If you live further away, you still saw and heard the spectacular fireworks display. Diwali is one of the foremost Hindu festivals of the year and symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. The Seventh District is so fortunate to have a wonderfully vibrant and diverse community. We set a remarkable example of what it means to celebrate those things that make us unique and those that bring us together. Thank you to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir for inviting me to be a part of your celebration, and congratulations on your twelve years as servant leaders in our community!
You will also be proud to know that at the festival our Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department was recognized for its service and dedication to our community. BAPS Charities raises money for worthy causes all around the state and the globe. Last night, in front of a crowd of thousands, young children presented a substantial contribution—and an equally large cardboard check—the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Benevolent Fund. Thank you, BAPS, for recognizing and serving those who serve us all so well!
In these divided times, it seems harder and harder to find issues that unite us instead of separate us. However, there are several bills that have been introduced to Congress regarding the prevention of animal abuse and cruelty. As someone that supports this campaign, I join alongside my fellow Members who believe in the protection and preservation of animal rights. Here is what a few of you back home have said about this issue.
Linda from Norcross
Please support and vote YES on H.R. 724, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. The PACT Act will strengthen the existing animal crush video law by prohibiting extreme acts of animal cruelty that take place on federal property or involve interstate commerce. I ask that you please join the almost 300 other members of Congress who have cosponsored this bill.
Dana from Cumming:
Please vote “Yes” on the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act (H.R. 724) when it comes up for a vote on the floor this week. Numerous studies indicate that animal cruelty precedes violence against people, but under current law, federal law enforcement has limited options in pursuing some of the most violent and senseless cases of animal cruelty. The PACT Act would give federal officials the authority they need to address extreme animal cruelty on federal properties. This bipartisan bill has been endorsed by the National Sheriffs Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, National Children’s Center, Domestic Violence Intervention Services, Inc., and over 100 law enforcement agencies across the country. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Like Linda and Dana, I am totally opposed to all forms of animal cruelty. As a general rule, I normally support the rights of the states to determine their own animal welfare laws. However, I believe there is a compelling federal interest to ensure that the most egregious acts of animal cruelty and torture—cruelty and torture for the purpose of entertainment and profit—are eliminated. From voting to increase funding of the Endangered Species Act to supporting the “Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act” last week, throughout my years with your voting card, I hope that we have made and will continue to make a difference in this area.
- CBS News. House passes bill that would make animal cruelty a federal felony
- New York Times. House Unanimously Approves Bill to Make Animal Cruelty a Federal Offense
- Washington Post. Most animal cruelty isn’t a federal crime. The House just passed a bill to change that.
Residents across our community and our state joined the Gwinnett County Police Department and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office this past week to remember and pay tribute to the sacrifice of Gwinnett Officer Antwan Toney one year after he was killed responding to a call. Though the loss still profound, the sting all too fresh, I know we are all proud of the way our community has responded following this tragedy. That support will ensure Officer Toney’s legacy and his dream of serving his great country lives on through all of those who were fortunate enough to know him and work alongside him. May his sacrifice always be remembered.
- AJC. Remembering slain Gwinnett police officer Antwan Toney, one year later
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Officer Antwan Toney continues to be remembered one year after his death
A hallmark of the Fall is the holiday season, and this Thursday and throughout this weekend, children and families across the country will be taking part in a time-honored tradition of trick-or-treating. As you prepare for Halloween festivities, the National Safety Council, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a number of precautions you can follow to ensure your kids remain safe during the holiday. Encouraging children to be accompanied by an adult, traveling in well-lit areas, being aware of all road and traffic signs, and visiting safe, familiar locations are things I’m sure we are all aware, but I encourage you to take this time to review those tips below with your families as we all look to follow safe practices this Halloween.
This week, the House is going to be very busy wrapping-up a three week stretch in Washington before returning home for the November district work period. We have five bills to consider in the Rules Committee:
- H.R. 2181, the “Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act”
- H.R. 1373, the “Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act”
- H.R. 823, the “Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act”
- H.R. 4695, the “Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act”
- H.Res. 296, “Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide”
While I’d like to say that all five bills this week are bipartisan, enjoy broad support across the country, and would bring Americans together, that’s unfortunately not the case. The first three bills come from the Natural Resources Committee, and while their titles sound appealing, I’m concerned that the “protection” they seek will harm local economies and take opportunities away from local Native American tribes. The last two bills -- H.R. 4695 and H.Res. 296 – are both controversial bills that will certainly have a significant effect on the United States’ relationship with Turkey. Our diplomatic and military relationship with Turkey is complicated, as it has been for many years, which is why I had hoped that the House would move slowly and deliberately when considering bills that impact that relationship; but as with so many bills this year, the House is moving with great speed, but not necessarily with great care. I hope that we can change that dynamic soon.
Member of Congress