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Robyn Boerstling

Senate Passes Key Infrastructure Legislation; NAM Urges for Timely House Passage

By | Infrastructure, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Today, the Senate voted 95 to 3 to approve essential  infrastructure legislation, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA) (S. 2848). The bill includes authorizations for key civil works missions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including inland waterway navigation and port dredging—infrastructure investments that are vital to manufacturers and our competitiveness. The NAM sent a key-vote letter to the Senate on this measure.

The nations deepwater ports and inland waterways help keep transportation costs competitive and are an important means of transport for manufacturers and other industrial shippers. The waterways in particular move products and commodities now valued at $232 billion annually, but unfortunately, more than half of the inland waterways lock chambers have exceeded their 50-year design life. Our nation needs a modern infrastructure that manufacturers can depend on to remain competitive.

Too frequently, Congress has failed to pass water infrastructure legislation for periods as long as seven years, leaving critical projects waiting for a green light from Congress. Manufacturers are encouraged by the bipartisan, bicameral support in Congress to return to a regular two-year WRDA process and to get WRDA done this year. On September 13, 141 members of the House sent a letter urging House leadership take up and pass the House version of WRDA (H.R. 5303) this September, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on potential water infrastructure projects that could be included in the bill. Manufacturers urge the House to immediately take up H.R. 5303.

Manufacturers are optimistic that Congress will continue to build on recent infrastructure accomplishments, such as the FAST Act and WRRDA 2014, to address the national backlog of infrastructure projects that threaten American competitiveness.

Key Workforce Development Bill Passes House; Now Time for Senate Vote

By | Human Resources, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Today the House approved H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (aka Perkins Act), sponsored by Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA). The Perkins Act aims to increase the quality of technical education through promotions of Career and Technical Education programs at the high school and college levels.

The NAM sent a key-vote letter to support this reauthorization, which updated past efforts to match the needs of employers and focus on in-demand occupations. It strengthens the use of industry-recognized credentials in educational programs to align with employers’ needs, putting it in harmony with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. It also promotes work-based learning and allows funds to be used toward the purchase of needed manufacturing equipment as well as certification exams upon completion of training.

The NAM led a significant push by manufacturers to see this legislation move forward. A support letter was signed by nearly 500 member companies, affiliate organizations and other supporters showing the strong base of approval for this important legislation. In addition, many manufacturers and friends of manufacturing reached out directly to their members urging support.

The ability of manufacturers to succeed in the highly competitive global marketplace depends on access to an educated, diverse, inclusive, flexible and knowledge-based workforce. American employees, in turn, need the education and skills to participate in a high-performance workforce for the robust and dynamic U.S. manufacturing economy. Skills gap surveys conducted by the NAM consistently underscore how a vast majority of American manufacturers are facing a serious shortage of qualified employees, which is taking an increasingly negative toll on American manufacturers’ ability to be innovative and productive. Reauthorization of the Perkins Act is a strong step toward addressing that gap.

The NAM looks forward to working with the Senate in the coming weeks to ensure that the Perkins Act is reauthorized before the end of the year.

California’s Manufacturers Deserve Strong IP Protections

By | Innovation, intellectual property, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

From cutting-edge advances in information technology, energy-efficiency and lifesaving medical devices and medicines, California’s manufacturers are global leaders in innovation.

At the forefront of innovation is research and development (R&D). The manufacturing industry in California spent $81.7 billion on R&D in 2012—ranking it first nationally. From years of R&D stems manufacturers’ trade secrets and proprietary intellectual property (IP), which is the lifeblood of the industry and the key to creating new consumer goods and generating more effective and efficient technologies. Therefore, there is nothing more critical to California’s manufacturers than the guarantee that their IP will be protected.

Unfortunately, recently introduced legislation would require manufacturers in the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and biotech-related industries to disclose proprietary operational information and data. The bill’s sponsors likely had the best intentions in mind, as it is important that we work to reduce our nation’s health care costs and access. However, this legislation would have the opposite effect. Mandating manufacturers of medical devices and medicines to turn over sensitive data, such as the cost of R&D, would have no impact on controlling costs, but would severely hamper their ability to compete.

The legislation singles out one industry, but devalues the work of all innovators and would send a chilling effect across the manufacturing industry. R&D is risky and expensive, but the rewards are tremendous and should not be desensitized. In California alone, total output from manufacturing was $255.53 billion in 2014, employing 1,271,000 Californians. Manufacturers are the lead drivers of innovation, creating economic growth and jobs. Legislators in California must understand how critical strong IP protections are to protecting the industry and the state’s economy.

President’s Special JAMA Article Defends Continued Health Care Overreach

By | Health Care, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

The thesis is more of the same from President Obama and his administration: A public option and continued federal interference in health care markets will strengthen and improve the legacy of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The president’s recent submission to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is a personal policy defense of his hallmark health care initiative before the medical community. The president even took the opportunity to go beyond ACA and attacked pharmaceutical manufacturers to relinquish hard-earned intellectual property in the name of pricing transparency, a flawed policy approach that will fail to lower prescription drug prices and only stifle medical innovation and future discovery.

Unfortunately, many of the president’s arguments in the special JAMA article fail to recognize the negative impacts of the law on the already-insured and the employer community, which robustly provides health insurance for nearly half of the nation’s population.

Ninety-eight percent of manufacturers offer health insurance to employees and anxieties continue concerning the possible implementation of the employee benefits taxa 40 percent surcharge paid by employers on benefits that exceed a certain cost for a family or individual. Furthermore, manufacturers continue to report significant concerns with rising health care costs.

While Congress has granted a delay of the so-called “Cadillac” tax until 2020, the president defended the tax as an incentive to improve private-sector health plans. For employers, the continued uncertainty surrounding the ACA and new bureaucratic entanglements set in motion six years ago have created a headache that has yet to subside.

As the election approaches with a new president and new Congress set to take office in 2017, manufacturers will continue to fight senseless red tape that obstructs the ability to offer quality health care. A permanent repeal of the Cadillac tax and the punitive medical device tax are top priorities post-November, as both provisions of the ACA have come to represent balance transfers from productive profit centers to a Rube Goldberg machine that is our health care system. Manufacturers will continue to lead by providing health benefits to employees and will support efforts that make it easier, not harder, to provide these important benefits.

WRDA Progress Continues Ahead of Deadline: Manufacturers Support the Momentum

By | Infrastructure, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee recently released H.R. 5303, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. The House legislation includes authorizations for key civil works missions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including inland waterway navigation and port dredginginfrastructure investments that are vital to manufacturers and our competitiveness. The bill also aims to ensure continued investment in harbors and includes a provision that ensures the ad valorem duties collected on imports going into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) would be fully utilized for maintenance of ports and harbors beginning in 2027, essentially creating a firewall to protect funds.

Most importantly, this bipartisan legislation shows support in Congress to return to a regular two-year WRDA process. Holding a hearing just last week to discuss the bipartisan support for the authorization of 28 Army Corps projects, the committee is anticipated to move swiftly and hold a markup for the legislation this Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. Senate counterparts in the Environment and Public Works Committee already introduced legislation in April, S. 2848, which has passed out of committee and is awaiting floor time. Though there are significant differences between the House and Senate bills, there is wide agreement on the need to accomplish WRDA legislation this year.

Unlike the House proposal, the Senate WRDA bill authorizes additional drinking water and wastewater resources and provides a vehicle to address the Flint crisis. Senators also included a new program to increase grant funds for drinking water infrastructure through the offering of an optional 3 cent label for manufactured products that in turn generates income for a strictly voluntary Water Infrastructure Investment Trust Fund, a provision manufacturers are concerned will be taken out of context in time and evolve to a mandatory tax.

Manufacturers praise this early authorization effort, well in advance of the September 30 legislative deadline. Too frequently, Congress has leaned on short-term authorizations and extensions for infrastructure, creating a stop-start dynamic that makes it difficult to pursue large projects of regional and national significance. Manufacturers are optimistic that Congress will continue to work in a bipartisan way to advance key infrastructure priorities.

Senate FAA Vote Signals Proactive Movement for Manufacturing Certainty

By | Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Modern, updated and well-funded infrastructure is critical to manufacturing success in the United States, and tonight the Senate took a proactive step on the Federal Aviation Act Reauthorization. In a bipartisan 95-3 vote, Senate leaders signaled to manufacturers that they are serious about addressing critical infrastructure needs. Manufacturers’ competitiveness hinges on their ability to access infrastructure, and uncertainty caused by the constant cycle of short-term reauthorizations on key issues like the FAA, our national highways system and our inland waterways disadvantage our jobs creators. The NAM key-voted the legislation.

“The NAM supports transportation policies that invest in infrastructure and related systems to ensure U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Manufacturers rely on the nation’s air transportation system to help support business competitiveness, efficiency and growth. Stable and reliable funding is critical to ensure continued investment in airports, runways and the health of the entire aviation system,” said NAM Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse in the letter.

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Minnesota “Transparency” Legislation Threatens Manufacturers’ Competitiveness

By | Innovation, intellectual property, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Protection of trade secrets and other forms of intellectual property are a fundamental necessity for manufacturers to succeed in today’s intensely competitive global marketplace. No industry should be forced to turn over to the government highly sensitive, proprietary information that tears down longstanding intellectual property protections and weakens their ability to innovate and grow their businesses.

Yet, there are proposals currently in the Minnesota state legislature that would require manufacturers in the pharmaceutical industry to disclose historically protected confidential information about their businesses, such as research and development costs, pricing strategies and production and marketing expenses. This information lies at the very heart of the operational strategy of any business in any industry and is a critical component for success, and the unintended consequences of transparency legislation would put Minnesota manufacturers at a serious disadvantage, undercutting their ability to innovate and compete. Read More

Sherrill Visits Detroit, Calls for Policies That Help Drive Manufacturing Innovation

By | Innovation, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Technology | No Comments

Technology is revolutionizing manufacturing—the Internet of Things, Big Data and the cloud. All of these innovative tools are changing what we make and how we make it. That was a topic of discussion at “Manufacturing in America,” an event hosted by Siemens and Electro-Matic Products this week at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. In his remarks Wednesday morning, Tenneco Inc. Chairman and CEO and NAM Board Chair Gregg Sherrill delved into the many ways technology is not only empowering manufacturers, transforming our products and changing lives but also creating new policy challenges. Lawmakers must approach these challenges with care or risk stunting this growth opportunity for manufacturers in the United States.

Products and processes connected online, also known as the Internet of Things, facilitate the seamless integration of supply chains, drive increased global collaboration and connect design with production. The data generated allow manufacturers to get real-time feedback to better serve their customers and deliver higher quality and safer products. The cloud is securely moving information at light speed across borders. Read More

“Transparency” Proposals Would Stifle Innovation

By | Innovation, intellectual property, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Recent proposals that would require manufacturers in the pharmaceutical industry to disclose sensitive and proprietary business information, such as pricing on specific products, marketing costs, planned research investments, anticipated profits and manufacturing production costs, would set a dangerous precedent that will deliver chilling impacts to our global competitiveness and further dampen prospects for more robust economic growth.

President Obama introduced the idea in his 2017 budget proposal, and the issue is occasionally amplified in the Halls of Congress and on the campaign trail.

Such a move would certainly be sweeping and dramatic, directly impacting the innovators who are leading research and developmentpharmaceutical, bio-pharmaceutical, bio-tech and related industries. Even thought these proposalssome at the state and others at the federal leveltarget one sector, manufacturers across all sectors don’t like the idea of hampering innovation. Read More

New Onerous Requirement for Shippers Coming Online This Summer

By | Shopfloor Policy, Trade, Transportation | No Comments

A new International Maritime Organization (IMO) rule requiring shippers to physically weigh containers and their contents before being loaded at the port of origin is expected to come into effect on July 1, 2016. This amendment to the long-standing International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty places an additional burden on shippers (both exporters and importers) to obtain and certify the Verified Gross Mass (VGM), or combined weight of cargo and the container. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is the responsible agency for overseeing and enforcing this new requirement, and it will be implemented around the world by the other 161 signatories to the treaty.

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