House Floor votes last week consisted of bills to increase the vulnerability of low-income home buyers and a bill that would increase the deficit by extending large tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, each of which I opposed.
The Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing on the Administration’s Clean Power Plan designed to reduce carbon emissions of the United States by 15% below the 2005 level by 2030. The Republicans believe this rule will destroy the economy, much as they believed the highly successful cap and trade rule on sulfur dioxide would destroy the economy in the 1990’s. There is no end to their attacks on the EPA and President Obama for his “War on Coal.” Credible studies show the Clean Power Plan will improve the economy in the long run. My simple point to the Republicans was that they need to embrace carbon capture and sequestration if they want the coal industry to remain viable – after all, climate change is in progress and the impacts will only get more severe over time. Coal produces more carbon emissions than any other fossil fuel, and we need to continue producing more energy more cleanly.
The Subcommittee on Environment and Economy hearing was on reforming TOSCA, the Toxic Substances Control Act. This hearing showed significant bipartisan effort by Chairman Shimkus. He had proposed an unacceptable bill in the previous Congress, but the newest proposal incorporated many reforms important to Democrats. Quite a few good remarks emerged from both sides. I’m optimistic that a reasonable compromise bill can be achieved.
Data breach notification bill
On Wednesday, I had an early appearance at the Edison Electric Institute with my co-chair of the Grid Innovation Caucus, Representative Renee Ellmers of North Carolina. This was followed by a full committee markup in the Energy and Commerce Committee on a data breach notification bill. The bill creates a relatively weak national standard that specifies when organizations are required to inform customers when their personal data has been hacked. This is an improvement over existing practices in the sense that each state currently has its own set of standards so businesses are confounded with 50 or more standards. The proposed bill would give businesses uniformity and provide the public with a minimum standard of protection. The downside is that many states, including California, have much stronger standards that provide the public with much more protection. This bill preempts state law – reducing protection in these states. I argued strenuously to raise the standards in the bill, or exempt states that already have stronger standards from not being able to enforce their own standards. These ideas were voted down. However, Chairman Upton acknowledged my concerns and pledged to work on addressing the bill’s standards regarding medical data before this legislation receives a vote on the House Floor.
On Wednesday afternoon, I participated in a conference call to assess the potential future of the planned Youth ChalleNGe facility at the Sharp Depot in Lathrop. The Department of the Army is declining to meet our requirements, so the likely outcome is a revision of the plans, resulting in more expense and delays. I will continue to work with the National Guard and Representative Grace Napolitano to find a solution for the youth in our region.
On Wednesday evening, I joined Representative Phil Roe of Tennessee as a panelist at a forum on veterans’ homelessness at American University. About 50 enthusiastic students participated.
On Thursday morning, I participated in a markup of several bills in the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee including my bill: H.R. 1313, which would allow service-connected disabled owned small businesses to retain that status for three years after the death of the veteran. All the bills under consideration passed the Subcommittee.