"In the News"

Goodlatte & Capuano: College ratings plan is not the answer
February 26, 2015 | Hyperlink

Do engineers matter more than the science teachers who fired their imaginations? Are accounting majors more valuable to our society than someone studying theology? Should a university receive less financial aid because their students choose humanitarian service instead of high paying jobs? How can these incomparables be measured – and should we try?  The Obama administration raises these important questions with its Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS) for colleges and universities. In December, the Administration unveiled its proposed framework, but many questions remain.

We, a Republican from Virginia and a Democrat from Massachusetts, have been skeptical of these efforts since they were first announced more than a year ago. We’ve heard concerns from many in the higher education community. Last summer, in response to these concerns, we introduced a resolution, H. Res 614, expressing support for the quality, value and diversity of our nation’s higher education institutions and strong disagreement with the Administration’s plans to implement a college ratings system.

Now that the Department of Education has released its draft framework for rating post-secondary education, we are renewing efforts to build support for our resolution, introducing it in the 114th Congress as H. Res 26.

The criteria that federal education officials would use to create a ratings system – “access, affordability and outcomes” – illustrate the problems they will face. All of these benchmarks are certainly important considerations, but there will be enormous and unavoidable difficulties in comparing institutions based on these criteria. Perhaps more importantly, where are the benchmarks that consider an individual’s personal determinations of value? One size certainly will not fit all.

An Ivy League university cannot be compared with a small rural college on the basis of alumni income. Nor should one compare completion rates for a selective private college with a large state university that admits, and in some cases may be required to admit, many local high school graduates with widely varying levels of academic preparation. Unless the criteria are developed in a way that accurately accounts for the academic diversity of America’s colleges, the data will be misleading and ineffective.

Moreover, and even more troubling, earned income should be no measure of the contributions that individuals make to society. This will easily incentivize colleges and universities to encourage students to choose majors such as pre-med or computer science over social work and education.  A perfect example of how this rating could negatively impact a university can be found in President Obama himself. He chose to work as a community organizer after graduating from Columbia, a position for which he would have been modestly compensated. His lower income could have negatively impacted Columbia’s rating, if such a rating system existed in 1983. Surely we would not value anyone’s work solely based on their salary. We do not want federal policy to discourage public service.

Another concerning aspect of the proposal is the linking of ratings to eligibility for financial aid. Schools with a mission to serve low-income or first-generation college students may, for reasons quite apart from the excellence of their teaching, show lower rates of completion and lower alumni earnings. These schools, however, provide crucial opportunities for many young people. If the financial aid available to them were limited by poor ratings, their essential mission would be jeopardized.   Higher education would become unattainable for many underserved students.

Our nation boasts a rich history of student-choice in higher education. For some individuals, a city school is preferred over a rural school, for others extracurricular offerings such as music or sports may be important. The Department of Education in its own proposed framework does not claim “at this time” to have “metrics” for those aspects of education they admit are “intangible.” If a characteristic is intangible it is by definition abstract and impossible to quantify.  No one can place an arbitrary value on an individual’s experience at an institution, tie federal funding to that value, and expect to have accomplished some measure of accountability.

Everyone agrees we must address issues of college affordability and student debt. We agree that taxpayer dollars should be spent responsibly and effectively.  We also agree that prospective students should have data available to help them make informed decisions and provide as much objective information as possible towards that end. Federally rating our colleges and universities is not the way to do this. Such a divisive and subjective ratings system, with too many unintended consequences, will threaten the special characteristics and diversity that make our postsecondary system the best in the world today.

We stand ready to work with those interested in protecting that diversity while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are wisely spent and anyone who wishes to go to college has the opportunity to do so.

Goodlatte has represented Virginia’s 6th Congressional District since 1993. He is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and also sits on the Agriculture Committee. Capuano has represented congressional districts in Massachusetts’ Boston area since 1999. He sits on the Ethics; the Financial Services; and the Transportation committees.

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Goodlatte & Grassley: Ensuring Trust in Internet Governance
February 12, 2015 | Hyperlink

This week in Singapore, important decisions are being made about the future of the Internet at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) 52 conference. At stake are fundamental questions: Should the American people surrender stewardship over core technical functions that have preserved the open and neutral operation of the Internet since its inception? Should the Obama Administration cede this authority to an organization many consider to be non-transparent, unaccountable and insular? If the administration insists on a transfer, what guarantees, capabilities and conditions first should be demanded and stress-tested by the global multi-stakeholder community?

This discussion began with the surprise announcement by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency within the Department of Commerce, which asked ICANN to develop a proposal to transition NTIA's role as "the historic steward of the Domain Name System (DNS)." The announcement came as a shock to many who follow Internet governance issues and others who depend upon the Internet to communicate freely or conduct commerce around the world.

Indeed, NTIA's announcement appeared to directly contravene long-standing positions of both the legislative and executive branches that the United States should retain its stewardship in overseeing the management of the Internet for the benefit of users worldwide.

Since this announcement, the administration's process and the factors it weighed preceding this decision have not been fully disclosed. However, evidence suggests that the proposal to transition the responsibility for administering changes to all top-level domains, as well as serving as the historic guarantor of the DNS, was dictated not by technical considerations but rather in response to political motives. Moreover, questions persist as to whether the Obama Administration had the authority to commence such a transition without congressional oversight and approval in the first place.

In its original press release and subsequent communications, NTIA referred to two congressional resolutions, S.Con.Res.50 and H.Con.Res.127, which were passed by the 112th Congress. These resolutions affirmed House and Senate opposition to attempts by foreign governments and inter-governmental organizations to assume control over the Internet and generally endorsed the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. These resolutions were specifically intended to signal U.S. opposition to efforts by other nations to enlist the United Nations and empower the International Telecommunications Union as the global regulator of the Internet.

However, neither resolution mentioned ICANN, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions that NTIA now proposes to transfer oversight over, or contained a suggestion, explicit or otherwise, that the United States should contemplate surrendering stewardship over the administration of these critical functions to ICANN or any other entity. In fact, two other resolutions passed in 2005, H.Con.Res.268 and S.Res.323, affirmed that operation and management of the Internet's domain name and addressing system should remain under the oversight of the United States. The administration's practice of playing fast and loose with clear statements of Congressional intent is not the way to inspire confidence, build support or work towards achieving consensus.

Serious questions remain about the wisdom of ceding this authority, as well as the specifics of any transition. Our committees have been conducting oversight of ICANN and we will continue to closely examine the processes of the United States government and ICANN as these transition discussions continue.

We welcome NTIA Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Larry Strickling's recent acknowledgements that there are no hard and fast deadlines for completing this process. If the administration is determined to give up oversight of ICANN and the IANA contract, permanent improvements to ICANN's accountability and transparency are critical to building public and congressional trust for any proposed transition. Any consideration of such a transition must be done carefully and in close coordination with Congress, rather than in a unilateral way. Further, we encourage members of the public and the many constituencies with interests in this process to make their voices and concerns heard. We also encourage ICANN to ensure that whatever results from this process shows that the outcome emanated from a true bottom-up multi-stakeholder process and was neither imposed on nor unduly influenced by ICANN's leaders, staff, or members of its board.

The U.S. has served as a critical and responsible backstop against censorship and threats to openness and free speech on the Internet. As a result, the Internet has thrived. We must ensure that these principles remain intact for all Internet users across the globe. The future of the Internet as a medium for free speech, the flow of ideas and global commerce is at stake, and must be protected.

 

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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News Virginian: Goodlatte to chair Judiciary Committee for another two years
By Bob Stuart
November 20, 2014 | Hyperlink

Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte will serve another two years as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Goodlatte's chairmanship selection for the 114th Congress was announced on Wednesday after the House Republican Conference confirmed the GOP Steering Committee's recommendation.

Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, who will begin his 12th term in Congress in January, said he was pleased with the progress of the committee during the past two years.

"I am proud of the numerous legislative accomplishments we had in the 113th Congress, including the House passage of the bipartisan USA Freedom Act, ending bulk collection of data by the government and reforming our nation's intelligence-gathering programs, the bipartisan Innovation Act, which combats the problem of abusive patient litigation, numerous bills aimed at reducing burdensome regulations that are stifling economic growth and legislation to reduce mandatory sanctions for attorneys who file frivioulous lawsuits,'' Goodlatte said in a press release.

The congressman said he is focused on a continued pursuit of a pro-growth agenda that would create jobs and make America more competitive.

Over the past year, Goodlatte has convened Judiciary Committee hearings on executive power use by President Obama. Numerous constitutional experts have testified about the overreach of executive power by the president.

On Wednesday, Goodlatte and Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote the president and asked him to not execute an executive order on immigration.

"Something as important as changing our immigration laws cannot be forced by unilateral action by the president,'' the letter said. "That's not the way our system of government works."

The letter further states that unilateral action by Obama will "perpetuate and exacerbate'' a cycle of unlawful entry into the United States. The two congressmen ask Obama to work with Congress on legislation to "address our broken immigration system."

They also ask the president "secure the border, enforce our immigration laws in the interior of the United States and build a broad consensus for immigration reform." Otherwise, the lawmakers say "we will be forced to use the tools afforded to Congress by the Constitution to stop your administration from successfully carrying out your plan."

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Wall Street Journal: Congress Will Fight Obama's Power Grab
By Bob Goodlatte
November 19, 2014 | Hyperlink

President Obama seems poised to announce one of the biggest executive power grabs in American history. He is expected to declare unilaterally that millions of unlawful immigrants can stay in the U.S. without facing the consequences of violating immigration laws. Congress has not agreed on how to reform the immigration system, but the president has decided to ignore the Constitution and alter the law without new statutes. This is a slap in the face of the American people, who voted on Nov. 4 to change the way Washington operates.

The Constitution is clear: It is Congress’s duty to write the nation’s laws and, once they are enacted, it is the president’s responsibility to enforce them. Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution requires the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This clause compels the president to enforce all constitutionally valid acts of Congress, regardless of his administration’s view of their wisdom. That is a duty, not an option.

Law-enforcement agencies have the power to exercise prosecutorial discretion—deciding whether to enforce the law against particular individuals—but this power must be used judiciously. As Doris Meissner, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service during the Clinton administration, told her agency in a 2000 memo, such discretion is not “an invitation to violate or ignore the law.”

Mr. Obama’s threatened action amounts to ignoring the law, as an estimated four million to five million unlawful immigrants—close to half of the illegal population—stand to benefit from the decree. That does not constitute faithful execution of the law.

The president justifies his action by saying that he is simply prioritizing immigration enforcement. But there is a difference between setting priorities—say, focusing more resources on special cases—and setting enforcement-free zones for millions of unlawful immigrants. This proclamation will entice countless people around the world to come to the U.S. illegally, just like the government’s Deferred Action for the Childhood Arrivals program that President Obama signed two years ago encouraged tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America to make the dangerous trek to the U.S.

President Obama also claims that these actions are nothing new. Previous presidents from both parties have provided immigration relief to groups of aliens, sometimes abusing prosecutorial discretion and stretching presidential authority. However, far fewer people were affected in those cases. And the actions usually were a response to an emergency in a foreign country—thus they were in keeping with the executive branch’s broad constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs.

Chinese nationals, for example, were protected from deportation after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Haitian orphans who were in the process of being adopted by U.S. citizens when the devastating earthquake of 2010 struck were granted humanitarian parole to come to the U.S. Circumstances matter, and without any crisis in a foreign country to justify his actions, President Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers.

The president’s vow to override U.S. immigration laws by executive fiat is not without cost. By acting lawlessly and assuming legislative power, the president is driving full speed toward a constitutional crisis, threatening to unravel the nation’s system of checks and balances.

Mr. Obama’s planned action also undermines the American people’s trust that the president is committed to enforcing the country’s immigration laws. Americans are deeply concerned about the country’s direction—their statement on Nov. 4 was a firm rejection of the Obama administration’s policies. Rather than listen and change course, the president is doubling down on his failed policies and sending an unmistakable message to the nation: He will do what he wants, when he wants, without regard for the Constitution or what the American people desire.

A unilateral presidential edict awarding amnesty to millions of unlawful immigrants will also severely damage chances of enacting legislation to reform the immigration system. Rather than work constructively with the new Congress in January, the president is poisoning his relationship with lawmakers by acting on his own.

Mr. Obama’s plan to violate the Constitution must be stopped. The Framers wisely gave Congress many tools to guard against the executive branch accumulating too much power. My colleagues in both the House and the Senate will take inventory of the tools afforded to Congress by the Constitution, such as the power of the purse and the authority to write legislation, to stop the president’s unconstitutional actions from being implemented.

The debate in Congress over the past two years has shown that there is a willingness and need to reform our nation’s immigration system. While opinions differ on exactly how to amend the laws, one thing is certain: The president has no authority to make this decision on his own.

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The Hill: Make Internet access tax ban permanent
By Bob Goodlatte
July 15, 2014 | Hyperlink

At the tender age of 16, a young man and his family emigrated from the Soviet Union with only $300 dollars to their name.

During their first few weeks in the United States, this young man’s family purchased a computer for him under the impression that “access to a personal computer would do something good for [him].”

During the next 10 years, this young man – Max Levchin – founded, developed and sold PayPal for $1.5 billion.

Levchin’s story exemplifies our new digital economy where computer and internet access serve as a gateway – if not a necessity – for the American Dream. Millions of Americans now rely on the internet to run their businesses, to educate themselves, to seek new opportunities, to research and write, and to communicate with family and friends.

The beauty of this new medium of opportunity is that it does not matter what you look like or where you come from to access the tools to succeed.

However, one topic of debate on Capitol Hill has been whether to let states increase barriers to entry by taxing access to the internet.

Over the past 14 years, Congress has extended ban after ban on states taxing internet access. The measures have been met with enormous bipartisan support – only five “no” votes were cast in the history of these renewals in the House and Senate.

But now some argue that the time is up for an internet tax break and that states need the money more than American consumers.

On the House Judiciary Committee where I serve as chairman, we have been examining the issue of internet access tax and recently approved a bill, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (H.R. 3086), that would make the ban on internet access taxes permanent.

Time is short, the ban expires on November 1. Today the House is scheduled to vote on the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act to make the ban permanent.

If the ban on internet access taxes is not renewed, the tax burden on Americans will be substantial. It is estimated that internet access tax rates will be more than twice the average rate of all other goods and services. Additionally, low-income households will pay 10 times as much as high-income households as a share of income.

The last thing that we need is another bill on the doorsteps of the American people. A tax on internet access would burden the millions of Americans who rely on the internet to conduct business, communicate, educate, and live.

We should strive to increase access, to increase growth and to increase opportunity. Now is the time: a permanent ban on taxation of internet access is crucial for fostering the potential of the next Max Levchin and protecting the future of our digital economy. 

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News Virginian: Goodlatte to lead congressional delegation to U.S. border
By Bob Stuart
June 30, 2014 | Hyperlink

Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte will receive a close up look later this week at the flow of illegal immigration at the southern border he and the House Judiciary Committee have been investigating.

The congressman was interviewed during a stop Monday at Blue Ridge Beverage in Waynesboro.

Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, will lead a congressional delegation Wednesday and Thursday to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to witness the entry of illegal immigrants into the country.

Goodlatte, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, held a hearing on border conditions and the rapid flow of children and adults from Central America into the U.S. last week.

After receiving testimony from representatives of the Border Patrol Union and U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement, Goodlatte said the testimony “showed the magnitude of the problem.”

“We cannot have people illegally entering the country,’’ said Goodlatte, who said both children and adults are coming into the U.S. illegally and at rising rates from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Goodlatte said the ongoing problem is the failure of the Obama administration to adequately enforce immigration laws.

On Monday, the president issued a statement on border security and immigration reform.

He criticized the House for failing to hold a vote on immigration legislation passed a year ago by the Senate, and also asked congressional leaders to work with him to address the crisis at the border.

Obama also said he was directing the secretary of Homeland Security and Attorney General Eric Holder to immediately direct additional resources to the U.S. border. “Protecting public safety and deporting dangerous criminals has been and will remain the top priority,’’ the president said.

On a separate subject, the congressman said President Obama has been guilty of executive overreach. He said the president has exceeded his authority on immigration, the Environmental Protection Agency and other matters.

The congressman said the alternative is for Congress to look at ways to limit the president’s power. That includes the filing of lawsuits against the president and last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the president had exceeded his constitutional powers with 2012 appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

Goodlatte spent about an hour Monday touring Blue Ridge Beverage, a local business that distributes beer, Red Bull and water to a 12-county area, said Tom Parker, the Blue Ridge general manager.

Parker said the company employs 88 at its South Oak Lane facility.

Goodlatte said he has “a longstanding tradition’’ of visiting businesses in his congressional district. He said he is eager to see how government regulations are impacting the businesses.

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Roanoke Times: Should the feds rank colleges, too?
By Roanoke Times Editorial Board

July 1, 2014 | Hyperlink

The Princeton Review.

U.S. News & World-Report.

The Fiske Guide to Colleges.

If you’re a high school student shopping for a college (or a tuition-paying parent, for that matter), there’s a sometimes bewildering array of ratings and rankings for colleges.

By class size.

By tuition.

By reputation as a party school.

Wait, that’s Playboy. Nix that one.

But there is the Forbes’ Top Colleges list.

The Wall Street Journal Recruiter Rankings.

The Washington Monthly Rankings.

Now, the U.S. Department of Education wants to add one more set of rankings – its own.

The department is in the process of putting together a Postsecondary Institution Ratings System in time for the start of the 2015-16 school year. The details of just how colleges would be ranked – and the devil is always in the details – haven’t been released. However, the original proposal from the Obama administration would tie a student’s financial aid to the school’s ratings.

Let’s repeat that just so everyone is clear: Financial aid might be tied to how the school is ranked.

But ranked how?

This is where we trot out the old phrase about “lies, damned lies and statistics.” (Attributed sometimes to Mark Twain, sometimes to 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli; feel free to turn in a term paper researching the source for extra credit.)

Earlier this year, The Atlantic magazine published a piece headlined: “These U.S. Colleges and Majors Are the Biggest Waste of Money.” Among those on the list: Bluefield College, a private, Baptist-affiliated school on the Virginia side of the line in Tazewell County.

The article, using data from payscale.com, purported to show that Bluefield graduates made so little money that its students would be better off not going to college at all.

Before the day was out, Bluefield (along with other colleges that achieved that dubious distinction) responded by pointing out that the payscale.com data was incomplete and the findings contradicted those issued by the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia. That body had found that Bluefield grads made more than the state average – and more than graduates from the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Radford University, James Madison University. The list went on and on.

Who should you believe?

We’d be churlish to point out that the Obama administration’s experience with creating websites hasn’t exactly earned it an “A” in computer science.

But the more serious point is this: With all the ranking systems that the free market has devised, do we really need one from the federal government? And while tying financial aid to an institution’s performance may sound like a good idea, is it really? Just what measure of performance is the right one? See that Twain/Disraeli quote above, if you need clarification. Or maybe the old Bowl Championship Series rankings for college football, if you want to start a real debate.

Now, two congressmen – one Democrat, one Republican – have introduced a resolution calling on the administration to abandon its attempt to rank colleges and tie financial aid to the results. The Democrat is Michael Capuano of Massachusetts; the Republican is our own Bob Goodlatte.

“It is not the place of the federal government, through a ratings system, to attempt to measure the value of an individual’s education,” Goodlatte says.

 

The rating we give that statement is A plus.

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The Hill: Obama Administration has failed the economy
By Bob Goodlatte 
June 26, 2014 | Hyperlink

The Department of Commerce yesterday announced its sharpest setback in the economy since the recession.

Not only is our economy shrinking, it is shrinking fast. The Commerce Department’s revised estimates show a 2.9% decline for the first three months of the year, the “fastest rate of decline since the first quarter of 2009” according to the breaking report in the Wall Street Journal.

Despite promises from the Obama Administration, 5 years after the Great Recession our economy has yet to grow strong enough to bounce back after setbacks.

The administration attributes this to “volatile GDP data” in their statement that exemplifies their signature style of politics and excuses. In the eyes of the administration, the winter weather was even to blame for the contracting economy.

Instead of solving the problem of a contracting economy that hit the lowest point since the Great Recession, the administration continues to push their failed policies in the faces of the American people: their answers are more spending that drives up our federal deficit and more regulation that weighs down job creators.

Clearly, the administration’s course of action has not sparked economic growth or even stability in our country.

While the administration has increased costs on Americans and fed us lines of hope and change, we can see the facts.

Every year, federal regulations impose a hefty, estimated $1.86 trillion burden on the economy yet the administration continues to flood American households and businesses with costly, new regulations.

In stark contrast to the administration’s approach, in the House Judiciary Committee where I serve as chairman, we have passed bill after bill to jumpstart the economy, provide jobs for Americans and protect job creators from extortion.

This legislation includes powerful regulatory reform bills to expedite approval for federal energy and construction projects to create jobs across the country, lower the costs of new regulations, prevent secret deals in litigation that require new regulations, and mandate the Administration to provide real-time transparency on plans to impose new regulatory costs.

It also includes patent reform legislation to defend America’s job creators and innovators against abusive patent trolls that extort their money and steal their inventions.

While these bills sit in the Senate waiting for action, the committee continues to work on solutions.

Last week, we approved a bill to establish an independent commission to assess and clear the clutter of outdated, unnecessarily burdensome federal regulations that too often keep growth and job creation down.

We also approved a bill to keep Internet access free of tax. Permanently.

Americans carrying the burden of this failing economy deserve better than to foot the growing bill that the administration piles on them. They deserve a real economic recovery, jobs and competition.

And the bills passed through the Judiciary Committee are an important step toward increasing fiscal responsibility in our country, challenging the current strategy of the Obama administration and laying the foundation for a robust economy.

WSLS: Poff Federal Building cost part of hearing in Washington
By Jenna Zibton
June 18, 2014 | Hyperlink

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSLS) - Cost overruns from the Poff Federal Building renovations will be part of a discussion in Washington D.C. Thursday morning in a house subcommittee.

The hearing is part of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. 

The building located in downtown Roanoke has been under construction for years after more than $51 million was set aside for energy improvements and renovations. It was supposed to save taxpayers millions because a new building wouldn't have to be built, but instead it's gone over budget costing more than $80 million. 

Congressman Bob Goodlatte has been outspoken about what he says is a problem around the country and will be part of the hearing. 

"A classic case of government boondoggle. This is a gross waste of the taxpayers money. It's been mishandled in every respect from following the law in terms of how you put out a bid for a project like this to providing for the needs for the tenants in that building," said Rep. Goodlatte.

The Honorable Glen Conrad, who works out of the building as the Western District of Virginia U.S. District Court Chief Judge will also testify.

"Security in the Poff Federal Building has not been enhanced. In one critical respect, our security is diminished as a result of the renovations," reads Judge Conrad's statement to the subcommittee that was released Wednesday. "For me, the most bothersome and disturbing reality is that five years from [the] announcement of the Poff Stimulus Project, and after expenditure of millions of dollars, the user functionality in the court portion of the building has not been enhanced whatsoever, in any way, shape or form." 

Also on the witness list for the hearing is a district judge from New Mexico, the architect and project manager for the Western District of Virginia U.S. District Court and the GSA deputy commissioner for public buildings service. 

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FoxNews.com: Why USA Freedom Act is Good for America
By Bob Goodlatte
May 21, 2014
Hyperlink

Our Founding Fathers understood there could be no national security without personal security. As such, they carefully crafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights in such a way as to accomplish these two different, yet complimentary, goals. 

Nearly 225 years later, some think these goals are in conflict with one another following last year’s unauthorized disclosure of the National Security Agency’s data collection programs operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. However, we don’t have to sacrifice one for the other as we seek to reform our intelligence-gathering programs. We, like the Founding Fathers, can protect our cherished individual liberties while simultaneously preserving our ability to protect against attacks on our nation and citizens.  

Today’s debate is similar to the debate surrounding the adoption of the Constitution. While we enjoy a Bill of Rights in our Constitution today, our framers publicly and privately debated for years whether or not the Constitution needed to include a list of rights. 

Some advocated for the maintenance of a strong central government in the wake of the weak Articles of Confederation, while others’ primary desire was to protect the individual freedoms of citizens. 

In the end, both parties were able to accommodate their goals by adding the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, which enumerates liberties to be protected and enjoyed by all while preserving the federal government’s fundamental power to protect our country and citizens.

As Congress seeks to reform our intelligence-gathering programs, both Americans’ civil liberties and our national security are at stake and both can be protected. 

For the past year, the House Judiciary Committee has studied this issue in detail and has worked across party lines, and with the Obama administration, to produce bipartisan legislation to ensure these programs protect our national security and individual freedom. 

This bill, the USA FREEDOM Act, was unanimously approved by both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and will be voted on by the House of Representatives this week.

To protect Americans’ freedoms, the USA FREEDOM Act ends all bulk collection of Americans’ records, such as telephone and electronic communications records. 

The USA FREEDOM Act makes clear that the government cannot indiscriminately acquire Americans’ records and creates a new process for the collection of transactional call detail records. Specifically, the bill requires that these transactional call detail records can only be collected on a case-by-case basis and only after the individual request is approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

At the same time, the USA FREEDOM Act ensures that the federal government continues to have the tools it needs to identify and intercept attacks.  

The bill provides needed emergency authority to national security officials if there is an immediate national security threat but still requires the government to run the request by the court within seven days.

The USA FREEDOM Act increases the transparency of our intelligence-gathering programs by creating a panel of legal experts to help ensure the court adequately considers privacy concerns and constitutional rights of Americans when reviewing the government’s request for records. 

It also requires the Attorney General to conduct a declassification review of each decision, order, or opinion of the court that includes a significant construction or interpretation of the law and mandates that the government report the number of orders issued, modified, or denied by the court annually.

Last year’s national security leaks have also had a commercial and financial impact on American technology companies that have provided these records. They’ve experienced backlash from both American and foreign consumers and they’ve lost their competitive edge in the global marketplace. 

In January of this year, the Justice Department entered into a settlement with several companies to permit new ways to report data concerning requests for customer information under FISA. The USA FREEDOM Act builds upon this settlement, allowing tech companies to publicly report national security requests from the government to inform their American and foreign customers.

The terrorist threat is real and ongoing. We must always be cognizant of the threats we face and have the tools needed to prevent terrorist attacks. 

At the same time, Congress must ensure that the laws enacted protect our civil liberties. While circumstances have changed since the days of our Founding Fathers, the principles that guide us remain. 

Our government, elected by the people, must provide for the common defense and simultaneously secure the blessings of liberty now and for the generations to come.

Republican Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia's 6th congressional district in the House of Representatives. He is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over intelligence-gathering programs operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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WSET: Ethanol - Help or Harm?
By Heather Rosenbaum
May 20, 2014
Hyperlink

Danville, VA - He is on a mission against ethanol. Congressman Bob Goodlatte has been fighting against government requirements to put it in our gasoline But others say ethanol is our path to energy independence and it is here to stay.

Whether you like ethanol or not, you likely are using it. Almost everyone in Virginia has an ethanol blend inside their gas tank right now. But some say government mandates have simply gone too far.

Central Virginia's longest-serving representative is at war.

"That's just really out of control government interference in the marketplace," said Goodlatte.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte has been fighting almost tirelessly for years against ethanol mandates in gasoline. Goodlatte sat down with us to explain his side of the debate.

"The federal government is picking winners and losers," said Goodlatte.

Opponents of the Renewable Fuel Standard, like Goodlatte, say the more corn being used for ethanol production the higher the costs for corn to be used as feed for animals, which means ultimately higher costs for food that we eat.

"They're concerned about rising food prices and the effect that will have on people's buying habits," said Goodlatte.   

Goodlatte argues that the requirement to blend ethanol with gasoline can be blamed for the higher prices of meat at the grocery store. And for restaurants, he says those burgers could be costing more, too.

"They in a very very competitive industry, the restaurant industry and the grocery store industry don't often have the ability to pass along to consumers," said Goodlatte.

But Professor of Agriculture and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech Jim Pease says ethanol cannot be completely to blame for higher meat costs. Pease says the drought in the central part of the U-S has resulted in the supply of cattle being the lowest in decades. Meanwhile, CEO of the Renewable Fuel Association Bob Dinneen explains the price of corn has dropped substantially.

"The price of corn has fallen by more than 50% over the past 2 years and food prices haven't come down," said Dinneen.   

Still, Congressman Goodlatte is determined. He's so passionate, he's trying to change the government's hand in the ethanol debate.

"I've introduced the legislation which would eliminate corn from the Renewable Fuels Standard or even better eliminate the Renewable Fuels Standard altogether," said Goodlatte.        

Pease says that's not a good idea. He says ethanol reduces air pollution and is good for the environment, despite the amount of energy needed to produce corn.

"There doesn't seem to be much doubt anymore that...at least you get more energy out than you put in," said Pease.  

And Dinneen says ethanol has revived the corn industry.

"I see a community that has been revitalized by this industry," said Dinneen.    

Pease also points out government financial incentives to blend gasoline with ethanol ended in 2011.

"It was felt that the ethanol industry had received the stimulus that it needed to in order to build new ethanol plants," said Pease.    

But everywhere you look, headlines suggests ethanol may not be good for the environment. Within the last month, researchers published in Nature Geoscience a study that found ethanol can hurt ground-level ozone.

"Anybody who thinks that ethanol is the solution to urban air problems should think harder. And if anything, the only study...has actually suggested the opposite with respect to ozone," said Alberto Salvo, Associate Professor of Economics at National University of Singapore.    

That research was done in Brazil with a different concentration of ethanol in gasoline. Here in the US, another study published last month in the Nature Climate Change journal says bio-fuels made with corn residue release 7% more greenhouse gases in the early years compared to conventional gasoline. But according to the Des Moines Register, critics of that study say this study's authors used a 'worst case' scenario.

Goodlatte is not giving up anytime soon, however and neither is the government. Current legislation is requiring blenders to add bio-fuels to gasoline until 2022. 

"If ethanol is a good thing, and in some circumstances it may very well be, it should prove itself in the marketplace.  Let consumers buy it when they want to buy it," said Goodlatte.

Virginia didn't have any ethanol production until now. Vireol Bio Energy LLC a ethanol production company opened in Hopewell, Virginia. Governor Terry McAuliffe says that creates 70 jobs with more than a $26 million investment.

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Roanoke Times: Poff renovation costs climb to $80 million
By Jeff Sturgeon
April 2, 2014
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The Poff Federal Building in downtown Roanoke will require an additional $15 million of work to its garage and cosmetic facade as add-ons continue to plague the renovation project begun as a way to save energy.

What began as a $51 million job paid for with federal stimulus dollars is now on course to run about $80 million.

U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, opposed the decision to mend the 39-year-old complex and says the General Services Administration, which oversees nonmilitary federal offices and real estate, is to blame for the project’s escalating cost.

“I believe this project has been handled in a reckless manner,” Goodlatte said by email Tuesday. “Most of these issues and add-on projects could have been discovered before taxpayer dollars were wasted if a proper inspection and analysis had been completed.”

Goodlatte pledged to lend the project and the GSA what he called needed additional oversight.

Commencing the largest renovation ever for the Poff, the GSA in 2011 undertook a series of energy upfits funded by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Barack Obama’s initiative to goose the economy.

But before construction began, an investigation revealed that the GSA had awarded the primary construction contract without competitive bidding in violation of federal law. In addition, the investigation found the GSA never rigorously compared its choice to repair the deteriorating structure against new construction in a cost-benefit analysis.

The GSA’s office of the inspector general said it couldn’t gauge the reasonableness of the price to which the government committed or know whether taxpayers got a good deal. But the renovation of the Poff building went forward anyway in late summer 2011.

The first phase, now winding down, cost an estimated $54 million, the GSA has said. To temporarily relocate the Roanoke office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during the work, the GSA spent an additional $11.5 million, GSA spokeswoman Gina Gilliam said. Displaced personnel are scheduled to move back in this month. The structure has a new roof, climate control, lights, windows and public bathrooms.

While making the Poff energy efficient, crews discovered it is falling apart in places. A brick facade on each end of the building, which came loose in places and was removed from the west side, will be rehung. In addition, the GSA plans to renovate the staff parking garage because of severe deterioration due to improper drainage, water infiltration and the discovery of degraded concrete and steel elements. The two-level parking area is open but won’t last without improvements, according to an engineer’s assessment obtained by the GSA.

The GSA will have to bring back construction crews, probably in 2016, according to Jennifer Smith, project manager and architect for the Western District of Virginia federal courts.

The GSA has requested $15.1 million to complete those projects, according to a March 6 memorandum submitted to Congress and released by Goodlatte’s office Tuesday.

In yet another add-on, the GSA also plans to reconstruct a brick barrier that encircles its outdoor plaza, where an eye-level retaining wall is leaning slightly toward Franklin Road, Smith said. The GSA previously obtained the money for that work, estimated not to exceed $1.1 million, and intends to contract for services this month, Smith said.

All things included, the known costs associated with renovating the Poff come to about $80 million.

The GSA has yet to remount, or pay someone to remount, a sculpture that stood before the building. It’s unclear what that will cost, though the storage was furnished free by an art conservation organization at its facility in northern Ohio.

Could the bill to modernize the Poff go even higher? Maybe.

During the run-up to construction, Goodlatte said building personnel and others harbored “major security concerns with this building” given its location fronting on Franklin Road. Goodlatte believes those issues still have not been addressed, his spokeswoman Beth Breeding said.

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RollCall: Bipartisan Road Map for Protecting and Encouraging American Innovation
By Bob Goodlatte
March 13, 2014
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Throughout our nation’s history, great ideas have powered our economic prosperity and security, from the Industrial Revolution to the Internet age. Safeguarding those great ideas were so important to our Founding Fathers that they included patent protection in the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution charges Congress with overseeing a patent system to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.”

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of our patent system, I take the charge to uphold our Constitution seriously. In recent years, we have seen an exponential increase in the use of weak or poorly granted patents by “patent trolls” to file numerous patent infringement lawsuits against American businesses with the hopes of securing a quick payday. This abuse of the patent system is not what our Founding Fathers provided for in our Constitution.

At its core, abusive patent litigation is a drag on our economy and stifles innovation. Everyone from independent inventors to startups to mid- and large-sized businesses face this constant threat. The tens of billions of dollars spent on settlements and litigation expenses associated with abusive patent suits represent truly wasted capital — wasted capital that could have been used to create new jobs, fund research and development, and create new innovations and technologies. Bad actors who abuse the patent system devalue American intellectual property and are a direct threat to American innovation.

Abusive patent litigation is also a drain on consumers. We will never know what lifesaving invention or next-generation smartphone could have been created because a business went bankrupt after prolonged frivolous litigation or paying off a patent troll. When a firm spends more on patent litigation than on research, money is being diverted from real innovation. The patent system was designed to reward inventors and incentivize innovation, bringing new products and technologies to consumers.

Last year, I introduced the Innovation Act (HR 3309), legislation designed to eliminate the abuses of our patent system, discourage frivolous patent litigation and keep U.S. patent laws up to date. In December, the House of Representatives, with overwhelming bipartisan support and the support of the White House, passed the Innovation Act. This important bill will help fuel the engine of American innovation and creativity, creating new jobs and growing our economy. Effective patent reform legislation requires the careful balance that was achieved in the Innovation Act.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., ranking member Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa., and committee members John Cornyn, R-Texas, Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, among others, are leading efforts in the Senate to combat abusive practices within our patent system that inhibit innovation. I am optimistic that as the Senate moves toward consideration of legislation they will act just as the House did and pass comprehensive patent litigation reform that includes all of the necessary reforms made in the Innovation Act, including heightened pleading standards and fee shifting.

In 2011, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the America Invents Act (PL 112-29), which brought the most comprehensive change to our nation’s patent laws since the 1836 Patent Act. We are continuing to work again in a collaborative, bipartisan way to end abusive patent litigation to help the American economy and American people. I am optimistic that these important reforms will be enacted to stop the abuse of our patent system and restore the central role patents play in our economy.

Half measures and inaction are not viable options. The time is now, and the Innovation Act has helped set a clear bipartisan road map toward eliminating the abuses of our patent system, discouraging frivolous patent litigation and keeping U.S. patent laws up to date.

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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FoxNews.com: Mr. Obama, our Constitution is clear -- your executive overreach must stop
By Bob Goodlatte
March 12, 2014
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The Constitution is clear: it is the role of Congress to make all laws, the Judiciary to interpret the laws, and the President to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

This system was wisely set into place by our country’s framers because they saw the effects of executive overreach by the crown in England and designed the Constitution to avoid concentrating power in one leader or one branch of government. 

The framers knew first hand that the concentration of power in the same hands was a threat to individual liberty and the rule of law.

Unfortunately, as prominent law professor Jonathan Turley – who stated in his testimony that he voted for President Obama – observed at a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing, there has been “a massive gravitational shift of authority to the Executive Branch that threatens the stability and functionality of our tripartite system.”

Although this trend has occurred over the past several decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations, some constitutional scholars note that executive overreach has accelerated at an alarming rate under President Obama.

In President Obama’s State of the Union address in front of Congress and the American people, the president vowed to act alone and that “where [Congress] won’t act, I will.”

He also boldly asserts that he has a “pen and a phone” to change our laws through executive decrees. These have not been empty proclamations and should be troubling to every American, regardless of political party.

Throughout the past five years, President Obama has routinely failed to enforce laws that he disagrees with for policy reasons and has stretched his authority to put policies in place that the American people, through their elected representatives, have rejected.

For example, President Obama has refused to enforce those parts of our nation’s immigration laws that are not to his political liking, has waived portions of our welfare laws, has stretched our environmental laws to accommodate his policy objectives, and has waived testing accountability provisions required under the “No Child Left Behind” education law.

Political appointees at the Justice Department have announced that rather than work with Congress to amend the federal criminal code, they will simply stop prosecuting low-level drug offenders under mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

And now that his signature health care law has not been working and revealed his empty promises, President Obama has changed that law unilaterally over 20 times.

While there are varying opinions on these important issues within Congress, the Constitution grants Congress, not the president, the power to make legislative decisions. The Constitution does not confer upon the president the executive power to circumvent Congress and write, or rewrite, laws through executive fiat.

We cannot allow President Obama, or any president, to ignore the constitutional limits on executive power.  The framers did not expect America’s elected representatives in Congress and the federal judiciary to sit on the sidelines and watch as one branch aggrandized its own powers and exceeded the authority granted it by the Constitution.

Without Congress and the courts stepping in, the constitutional requirement that the President “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” will become an unenforceable and meaningless check on presidential ambition.

The House Judiciary Committee has studied this growing problem, received input from constitutional scholars, and approved carefully-crafted legislation that reins in executive overreach. The House will vote on this legislation this week, taking us one step closer to restoring balance to the separation of powers.

These bills—the ENFORCE the Law Act and the Faithful Execution of the Law Act—allow Congress to challenge executive overreach in the courts, expedite judicial review of those challenges, and increase accountability and transparency when the Executive Branch decides not to enforce our nation’s laws.

With an unrestrained Executive Branch that knows no limits, it is ultimately up to the Congress and the courts to check the President’s overreach and restore balance to our system of government.

Preventing the president from overstepping the boundaries of his constitutional authority is not about partisan politics. It is about preserving the fundamental premise of our constitutional design: That a limited government, divided into three separate branches exercising enumerated powers, is necessary to protect individual liberty and the rule of law.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

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News Virginian: Goodlatte testifies about Renewable Fuel Standard
By Brian Carlton
December 12, 2013
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The Renewable Fuel Standard isn’t working and Virginia residents are suffering as a result. That was the testimony from Sixth District Congressman Bob Goodlatte last week, as he spoke before the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA held a hearing on proposed changes that would cut down the amount of ethanol required in gallons of gasoline.

“Every cattle producer who faces higher feed costs, every family who shops in a grocery store or dines at a restaurant, and every motorist who fills up their tank at the gas station pays the price of this unworkable policy,” Goodlatte testified to agency officials.

The policy Goodlatte referred to is the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires by 2022 that 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels be part of the country’s fuel supply. Last month, EPA officials announced they would consider waiving the rule for 2014, as the current supply of ethanol isn’t enough to meet those requirements. This hearing was part of the debate over whether to push forward with that idea or not. If approved, this would mark the first time since the bill’s creation in 2007 that the amount of ethanol supplied in this country has dropped.

In the past, Goodlatte argued that because corn is used to make ethanol, it depletes the supply of that food for farmers to feed their livestock and drives up the cost for producers and consumers. This past spring, he filed two bills to address that. One of those, the Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act, would cap ethanol use at 10 percent. The other bill, the Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Act, does just that, eliminating the standard. In testimony, Goodlatte said that the EPA’s proposal doesn’t solve the problem.

“We appreciate that EPA has proposed a slight reduction of the RFS for 2014,” Goodlatte said. &ldq

CONGRESSMAN BOB GOODLATTE
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