Issues

U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee holds Hearing on Automobile Loans and Insurance Industries

On May 1, 2019 Chairman Al Green (D-TX), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, convened a hearing entitled, “Examining Discrimination in the Automobile Loan and Insurance Industries.” In a memorandum to the subcommittee, the Financial Services Committee Majority Staff provided background information on the issue, stating, “auto loan debt is the third largest category of household debt, after mortgages and student loans. Nearly all American households own at least one vehicle, and most Americans must borrow money in order to purchase a car. Auto borrowing varies by income, age, and state.” As vehicles are becoming increasingly sophisticated, it makes sense that their price tag would reflect those technological advancements. A monetary increase of any product has the propensity to impact any American family; research unveiled in the memorandum highlights that non-white borrowers were charged significantly more than white consumers. The memorandum also noted that due to a lack of data collection of discriminatory practices in auto finance, it is difficult to make any significant progress in abetting the issue. Opening statements from Committee Members highlight that it is unacceptable that there is discrimination in this industry.

Witnesses:

  • John W. Van Alst, Attorney, National Consumer Law Center; Director, Working Cars for Working Families, and NCLC project
  • Rachel J. Cross, Policy Analyst, Frontier Group
  • Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Joshua Rivera, Policy Advisor, University of Michigan, Poverty Solutions
  • James Lynch, Chief Actuary, Vice President of Research and Education, Insurance Information Institute

To view the hearing in its entirety, click here.

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U.S. Senate Holds Hearing on Consumer Perspectives and Data Privacy

On May 1, 2019 at 10:00 am, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation will hold a hearing titled, “Consumer Perspectives: Policy Principles for a Federal Data Privacy Framework.” The hearing will examine “consumers’ expectation for data privacy in the Digital Age and how those expectations may vary based on the type of information collected and processed by businesses.” This hearing follows numerous hearings, that have been held in both chambers over the last few years, covering data access, consumer privacy, and the consideration of a federal data privacy policy. Members of Congress have questioned high profile tech companies in an effort to learn how data is currently being used and collected, and how to best form a comprehensive policy that protects the interests and privacy of their constituents.

Witnesses:

  • Helen Dixon, Data Protection Commissioner, Republic of Ireland
  • Neema Sign Guliani, Senior Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Jules Polonetsky, Chief Executive Officer, Future of Privacy Forum
  • Jim Steyer, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Common Sense Media

To view the hearing, click here.

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Federal Trade Commission Hosts Workshop on Repair Restrictions

Shops Have Opportunity to Submit Related Comments to FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a federal agency that aims to protect consumers and “competition by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices through law enforcement, advocacy, and education without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.” On July 16, 2019 at 9:00 am, the FTC will be hosting a workshop titled “Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions,” specifically examining how manufacturers may limit third-party repairs and if those limitations impact consumer protection.

The FTC has reached out to industry groups and requested that repairers assist their efforts to determine issues relative to manufacturer restrictions on repair shops.

Currently, FTC staff is asking for empirical research and data in response to the following questions:

  • The prevalence of the certain types of repair restrictions
  • The effect of repair restrictions on the repair market in the United States, and the impact that manufacturers’ repair restrictions have on small and local businesses
  • The effect repair restrictions have on prices for repairing goods, accessibility and timeliness of repairs, and the quality of repairs
  • The effect of repair restrictions on consumers’ ability to repair warrantied products or to have the products repaired by independent repair shops
  • The relationship between repair restrictions and the sale of extended warranties by manufacturers
  • Manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions and the factual basis for such justifications
  • The risks posed by repairs made by consumers or independent repair shops
  • The liability faced by manufacturers when consumers or independent repair workers are injured while repairing a product
  • The liability faced by manufacturers when consumers are injured after using or coming into contact with a product that has been repaired improperly by a consumer or independent repair shop
  • Whether consumers understand the existence and the effects of repair restrictions

The deadline to submit information is April 30, 2019. Information on how to submit research and a presentation can be found here.

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18 Days Left to Apply for the 2019 HIRE Vets Medallion Award Program

In 2017 President Trump enacted the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act (HIRE Vets Act). The act requires the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary to create a program that “recognizes employers of all sizes for their efforts to recruit, employ, and retain our nation’s veterans.” The program is called the HIRE Vets Medallion Award program, and employers who have met the criteria can apply to receive an award for their efforts of supporting veterans in long-lasting, meaningful careers. The award is based off a number of criteria, including veteran hiring and retention, providing veteran-specific resources, leadership programming, dedicated human resources, and compensation and tuition assistance programs. The award indicates to veterans and communities which organizations are committed to and support veteran careers.

 

To learn more about the program, click here.

 

To apply for the program, click here.

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Electric Vehicle Tax Credit Causes Quarrel in Congress

The Internal Revenue Code Section 30D establishes an electric vehicle (EV) tax credit as an incentive for consumers to buy and own qualified electric vehicles. The claimed credit can be up to $7,500 and is based on the EV’s car battery size. However, these EV tax credits will eventually run out. The federal government is looking at phasing out these tax credits and while there is no set expiration date, that process has already started. Once a manufacturer sells 200,000 qualified EV’s in the United States, the amount a consumer is eligible for receiving decreases. Tesla was the first automaker to hit the 200,000 threshold in July 2018. Due to hitting the mark, consumers that buy Tesla EV’s after December 31, 2019 will not be eligible for a federal EV tax credit.

The debate surrounding this EV tax credit has found itself on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress. In the U.S. Senate, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peter (D-MI), Susan Collins (R-ME), and U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI), introduced S. 1094, the Driving America Forward Act. This bipartisan legislation seeks to raise the 200,000 vehicles’ cap to 400,000 vehicles per manufacturer. The legislation also extends the hydrogen fuel cell credit for ten years. Sponsors of the bill argue that this will be a step forward in cleaner transportation, combatting climate change, and support American job growth. In the U.S. House of Representatives, democrats are urging for increasing the 200,000-vehicle cap as well. Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA), introduced H.R. 2096, with the purpose of amending “the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax credits for energy storage technologies, and for other purposes.” While this bill addresses numerous clean energy pushes, the bill also encourages revision and continuation of the EV federal tax credit.

Opposition to the bill in both chambers can be seen from Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and, in the House, Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO). These two Members have introduced similar versions of the same bill that seeks to eliminate the EV federal tax credit and impose a federal highway user fee on alternative fuel vehicles. Senator Barrasso believes that with the termination of this tax credit, there will be billions in taxpayers funds saved and will “strengthen the Highway Trust Fund by ensuring that alternative fuel vehicle drivers pay into it.” Similarly, Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) believes that “the EV federal tax credit has benefited the wealthy… [and that it’s] time to end this wasteful subsidy.”

As of now, numerous organizations and automakers support the Driving America Forward Act and believe that this legislation and the continuation of the federal EV tax credit will not only benefit the environment in an effort to reduce the total output of CO2 emissions, but also remain an incentive for consumers to purchase EV’s in the future.

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California Bureau of Automotive Repair Hosts Workshop

The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) will be hosting a workshop on April 18, 2019 to discuss proposed amendments and regulations regarding auto body repair. A few of the topics included in the discussion will be revised definitions and updated equipment requirements. The California BAR encourages members of the public to attend and engage in the conversation surrounding the newly proposed amendments and regulations.

Information about the location and time can be seen below:

 

Thursday April 18, 2019

Department of Consumer Affairs, HQ1

Hearing Room 102

1625 North Market Blvd.

Sacramento, CA 95834

 

For any questions or concerns, contact Zach Richardson by email at, zachary.richardson@dca.ca.gov.

To learn more about the California Bureau of Automotive Repairs, click here.

To learn more about this workshop, click here.

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U.S. House Transportation Committee Holds Hearing on Highway Safety

This morning the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held a hearing titled, “Every Life Counts: Improving the Safety of our Nation’s Roadways.” In a press release, Chairwoman Holmes-Norton (D-DC) states the purpose of the hearing is to “look to modernize traffic flows and infrastructure, [as] we must confront the chronic federal underinvestment that has left our roads more dangerous to pedestrians and drivers alike.” In 2017, it was recorded that there were over 37,000 deaths on roadways. Witness testimonies touch on numerous ways to improve road safety such as increasing funding, decreasing the BAC limit, developing complete streets policies and practices, and updating the Highway Safety Improvement Program.

Witnesses:

  • The Honorable Jennifer Homendy, Member, National Transportation Safety Board
  • The Honorable Fred Jones, Vice Mayor, City of Neptune Beach, Florida on behalf of Transportation for America
  • Michael L. Brown, Chief of Police, City of Alexandria
  • Jay Bruemmer, Vice President, K & G Striping, Inc. on behalf of the American Traffic Safety Services Association
  • Mike Sewell, Active Transportation Service Line Leader, Gresham Smith on behalf of The League of American Bicyclists
  • Nicholas Smith, Interim President and Chief Executive Officer, The National Safety Council

To view the subcommittee hearing in its entirety, click here.

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DOL Association Health Plan Rule Deemed Unlawful

In June 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) responded to an Executive Order that called on the DOL Secretary “to consider expanding health care coverage by allowing more employers to form Association Health Plans (AHPs).” Under the DOL rule, AHPs are group health plans that employer groups and associations offer to provide health coverage for employees. The final rule proposed by the DOL seeks to broaden the definition of “employer” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to allow self-employed individuals and groups without a commonality of interest to enroll in AHP’s. The purpose of the rule was to increase access to health care for small businesses. However, in March 2019, Judge John D. Bates of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the DOL’s final rule was unlawful due to misinterpreting ERISA and undermining the Affordable Care Act.

To see the full press release from the Department of Labor, click here.

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U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship holds First Mark up of 116th Congress

On March 27, 2019, the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held its first markup of the 116thCongress approving three bills. Two of these bills address the need for better cybersecurity for small businesses; S. 771, the Small Business Cyber Training Act, and S. 772, the SBA Cyber Awareness Act.

S. 771 would create a program that trains counselors at the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) across the country in cyber strategy assistance by establishing a cyber counseling program, requiring 10 percent of total employees at lead SBDCs to become certified in cyber counseling and requiring the SBA to reimburse SBDCs for costs of the program.

S. 772 would ensure that the information technology systems at the Small Business Administration are protected from cyber criminals by assessing its internal cybersecurity, developing an agency cyber strategy and to report that strategy to the Senate and House Small Business Committees after enactment, and requiring the SBA to report to the Senate and House Small Business Committees on the specific actions taken to secure agency data and threats.

To view a one pager from Chairman Rubio on S. 771, click here.

To view a one pager from Chairman Rubio on S. 772, click here.

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U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Approve Nomination of David Tryon to SBA Office of Advocacy

On March 27, 2019, the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a Business Meeting to consider the nomination of David Tryon to be Chief Counsel for the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), as well as a manager’s package of three bills. The SBA’s Office of Advocacy has been operating without a Chief Counsel since 2017. In his opening statement, Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) explains the Office of Advocacy ensures “that regulators consider small businesses as they craft new regulations. Advocacy does not ask agencies to avoid regulating…what advocacy does is to ask for agencies to pause and consider unintended consequences for small businesses, when one size fits all regulations do not give the little guys a chance to get up to speed with new requirements.” Mr. Tryon was reportedly favorably last Congress by committee, however, his nomination to the position stalled on the Senate floor. In this committee hearing, Mr. Tryon was, again, voted on favorably for the position with 11 Ayes and 6 Nays, and will continue to the Senate floor.

The SBA Office of Advocacy has worked closely with ASA in the past and participated in numerous ASA member meetings.

To watch the Senate Committee hearing on his nomination, click here.

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