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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. I thank the ranking member, and I thank the chairman of the full committee, of the subcommittee, both chair and ranking member.

I do too want to take a moment to thank the ranking member for his long service to this Nation. As he has been a member of the Appropriations Committee, we can count his work inside this House. But I really think the American people, Mr. Olver, owe you a moment of gratitude for the work and commitments that you've shown in making sure that those who need help can get help, and I want to pay tribute to you this evening.

I also want to indicate that we understand that we are living in difficult times. But I raise concerns about funding, living in the fourth largest city in the Nation, where we see enormous congestion, and the importance of transit dollars; $900 million, fortunately, came to Houston after a long, long wait to build a light-rail system. Those dollars need to continue.

Housing plays a very important role. In the city of Galveston, for example, they have been the recipient of $700 million after Hurricane Ike to use for the restoration of private housing, infrastructure and, of course, public housing. To cut those lines of funding will, in essence, impact communities around the Nation that are impacted by disaster. Losing the full funding of the TIGER grant--and I support the gentlelady from California, Ms. Waters' amendment to restore those dollars--they create jobs.

So it is important, as we look at this bill, that we look at it from the perspective of solving the hurt of Americans who've been impacted by disaster, of improving mobility, ensuring that we put Americans back to work with funding for transportation and the infrastructure. I cite Galveston in particular because there is a conflict going on with respect to the importance of public and private housing.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. The situation in Galveston resulted from a unique impact of Hurricane Ike. Mr. Chairman, most think that the surge would come from the larger body of water, but the surge came from the bay and really impacted low-income individuals who didn't have any flood insurance or had already paid for their house, it had been in their families for years. And through the largesse of the Congress and HUD, a $700 million package was presented to restore that area and those houses and those families, many of whom I visited in tents.

We have a situation where there's a misunderstanding of the value of those Federal funds, but we do have those Federal funds; and it is in tribute to this Congress, and I want to see funds for public housing, for affordable housing continue.

With that, I would hope that we have an opportunity in the conference or have an opportunity to restore the funds that have had to be cut, because they create jobs, they provide a lifeline for those impacted by disaster, and they create the mobility and infrastructure rebuild that America needs.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Mr. Chairman, again, as I rise to my feet, I do want to acknowledge both the staffs of the chairman of the subcommittee and the ranking member of the subcommittee for working with my office. And I again want to acknowledge the ranking member, Mr. Olver, again for his service to the Nation, but also for the times that he has worked with Members over the years and for his commitment, again, to the most vulnerable.

This is a bill that really addresses the needs of Americans in their most deepening and expanded need, as I said earlier, mobility, housing, so crucial, infrastructure, and the ability to create jobs and to do good in our municipalities and rural areas. But it is also an opportunity to build capacity, to grow jobs and to build small businesses. And I know that firsthand, working consistently throughout a number of appropriations bills and authorization bills and as a ranking member on the Subcommittee on Transportation Security. In addition to our main task is to look to the needs and help build capacity in America's small businesses.

My amendment will ensure the necessary funds that are appropriated specifically for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and the Minority Business Resource Center cannot be used by the Secretary for any other purpose.

Small businesses, women-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses represent more than the American Dream. They represent the American economy. Small businesses account for 95 percent of all employers, create half of our gross domestic product, provide three out of four new jobs in this country; and allocation reduction directly undermines the importance of small businesses, including women-owned businesses and minority-owned businesses to the success of our economy.

Mr. Chairman, many of our utilization, or the utilization of Federal funds, going to our local transit agency, for example, in the instance of Houston Metro, the structure of receiving the funds is something called ``design build.'' Many around the country are using that format, which means that the corporation or the retained contractor has overriding control over the distribution of those funds in the construction of that light rail.

I celebrate light rail. I celebrate the importance of light rail and have done so for the time that I've had the privilege of serving Houston and the 18th Congressional District. But in this instance, it's important to note that in the course of the design build for Houston Metro and HRT, they have dropped their commitment to small minority- and women-owned businesses.

What did I say?

Dropped the commitment--dropped it poorly, dropped it with a negative impact, dropped it impacting women-owned businesses and minority-owned businesses. We've got to get back in order to be able to show that the utilization of those businesses creates jobs. Small businesses have lost an estimated $13.8 billion in business opportunity because they cannot fairly compete for Federal contracts because larger companies are allowed to bundle contracts. In essence, HRT has self-performed instead of sharing those dollars.

The Department of Transportation created the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, OSDBU, as part of the Small Business Act because it recognizes the threat big businesses pose to small business success. Since the OSDBU's creation, it has been a voice for small business and disadvantaged business, ensuring these businesses are provided with the maximum ability to participate in the agency's contracting selection process for contract and subcontract jobs.

These office divisions are numerous. Each of the offices impacts America's entrepreneurs and business ventures in several key ways. For instance, the Women's Procurement Assistance Committee provides women-owned businesses with best practices of business growth and increases awareness of opportunities.

I met on the job, Mr. Chairman, a woman who had taken over the business of her husband, who had died of cancer. She had a household to lead, and she was trying to do this kind of construction work. At the time, she had been given by HRT safety work, just holding up a sign. I'm glad because of the encouragement, the utilization of this particular office, our office pushing, that she now is more advanced in the contract that she is securing. But it has to be encouraged.

This amendment is to ensure that we don't leave out small disadvantaged, women-owned and minority-owned businesses. The office's short-term lending program is able to give qualifying small businesses loans with competitive interest rates for DOT contracts and subcontracts.

In conjunction with the OSDBU, the Minority Business Resource Center is responsible for promoting the use of small businesses. My home State of Texas was chosen as the headquarters for the OSDBU gulf region. In my home city of Houston, Texas, there are more than 60,000 women-owned businesses and more than 60,000 African American-owned businesses and thousands of other businesses--Asian and Latino.

I am asking my colleagues to support this amendment because it is an amendment that ensures that we put minority-, women-owned and disadvantaged small businesses to work under this legislation.

Mr. Chair, I rise today to offer my amendments to ``the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013.'' My amendments will assure the necessary funds that are appropriated specifically for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and the Minority Business Resource Center cannot be used by the Secretary for another purpose, thereby protecting the funds for their intended use.

Small businesses represent more than the American dream--they represent the American economy. Small businesses account for 95 percent of all employers, create half of our gross domestic product, and provide three out of four new jobs in this country. An allocation reduction directly undermines the importance of small businesses including women-owned business and minority-owned business to the success of our economy.

Small businesses have lost an estimated $13.8 billion in business opportunity because they could not fairly compete for federal contracts because larger companies are allowed to bundle contracts.

The Department of Transportation created the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) as part of the Small Business Act because it recognizes the threat big businesses pose to small business success.

Since the OSDBU's creation, it has been a voice for small and disadvantaged business, ensuring these businesses are provided with the maximum ability to participate in the agency's contracting selection process for contract and subcontract jobs.

These office divisions are numerous; each of the offices impacts America's entrepreneurs and business ventures in several key ways. For instance, its Women's Procurement Assistance Committee (WPAC) provides women-owned businesses with best practices for business growth and increases awareness of the opportunities these businesses have to participate in transportation-related contracts and subcontracts.

The office's short term lending program is able to give qualifying small business loans with competitive interest rates for DOT contracts and subcontracts.

In conjunction with the OSDBU, the Minority Business Resource Center is responsible for promoting the use of small businesses in prime and subcontracting opportunities in accordance with Federal laws, regulations and policy.

Through its funding, the Center is able to offer several professional development services, including: market research, business training, counseling, technical assistance, and access to capital for transportation related projects.

My home state of Texas was chosen as the headquarters for the OSDBU gulf region program.

In my home city of Houston, Texas there are more than 60,000 women owned businesses, and more than 60,000 African American owned businesses.

The OSDBU supports qualifying businesses who attempt to secure contracts and subcontracts with the DOT. In addition, its women internship program sponsors 12 schools in the gulf region women's internship program.

Shifting funds for the OSDBU and the Minority Business Resource Center will hinder its ability to continue fair hiring practices, which will in turn affect small businesses' ability to secure top contracts, provide employment opportunities in their community and ultimately survive in the business world.

This will send the message that Congress is more concerned with the strength of big business, than assisting the DOT in partnering with everyday American business men and women who take pride in their companies, and only aspire to positively empower their communities and create economic stability in the nation. For these reasons and more I urge my colleagues to protect funds for the DOT's budget for the Minority Business Resource Center and the OSDBU.

Moreover, 99 percent of all independent companies and businesses in the United States are considered small businesses. They are the engine of our economy, creating two-thirds of the new jobs over the last 15 years. America's 27 million small businesses continue to face a lack of credit and tight lending standards, with the number of small businesses loans down nearly 5 million since the financial crisis in 2008.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, these small businesses account for 52 percent of all U.S. workers. These small businesses also provide a continuing source of vitality for the American economy. Small businesses in the U.S. produced three-fourths of the economy's new jobs between 1990 and 1995, and represent an entry point into the economy for new groups. Women, for instance, participate heavily in small businesses.

The number of female-owned businesses climbed by 89 percent, to an estimated 8.1 million, between 1987 and 1997, and women-owned sole proprietorships were expected to reach 35 percent of all such ventures by the year 2000. Small firms also tend to hire a greater number of older workers and people who prefer to work part-time.

A major strength of small businesses is their ability to respond quickly to changing economic conditions. They often know their customers personally and are especially suited to meet local needs.

There are tons of stories of start-up companies catching national attention and growing into large corporations. Just a few examples of these types of start-up businesses making big include the computer software company Microsoft; the package delivery service Federal Express; sports clothing manufacturer Nike; the computer networking firm America OnLine; and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's.

We must always ensure that we place a high level of priority on small businesses.

It is equally important that we work towards ensuring that ALL small businesses receive the tools and resources necessary for their continued growth and development.

American small businesses are the heart beat of our nation. I believe that small businesses represent more than the American dream--they represent the American economy.

Small businesses account for 95 percent of all employers, create half of our gross domestic product, and provide three out of four new jobs in this country.

Small business growth means economic growth for the nation. But to keep this segment of our economy thriving, entrepreneurs need access to loans and programs.

Through loans, small business owners can expand their businesses, hire more workers and provide more goods and services.

I have worked hard to help small business owners to fully realize their potential. That is why I support my amendments which will ensure funding directed to entrepreneurial development offices and centers, such as the office of the Small Disadvantage Business Utilization and the Minority Business Resource Center are remained in tact. These initiatives provide counseling in a variety of critical areas, including business plan development, finance, and marketing. We must consider what impact changes in this appropriations bill will have on small businesses.

There are 5.8 million minority owned businesses in the United States, representing a significant aspect of our economy. In 2007, minority owned businesses employed nearly 6 million Americans and generated $1 trillion dollars in economic output.

Women owned businesses have increased 20% since 2002, and currently total close to 8 million. These organizations make up more than half of all businesses in health care and social assistance.

My home city of Houston, Texas is home to more than 6o,000 women owned businesses, and more than 60,000 African American owned businesses.

According to a 2009 report published by the Economic Policy Institute, ``Starting in 2004, the Small Business Administration (SBA) set goals for small business participation in federal contracts. It encouraged agencies to award contracts to companies owned by women, veterans, and minorities or those located in economically challenged areas and gave them benchmarks to work toward. The targets are specific: 23% of contracts to small business, 5% to woman-owned small businesses, and 3% to disabled veteran-owned and HUBZone small businesses.''

Women and minority owned businesses generate billions of dollars and employ millions of people. They are certainly qualified to receive these contracts. A mandatory DOD outreach program would make women and minority owned businesses aware of all of the contract opportunities available to them.

FACTS: SMALL BUSINESS ARE IMPORTANT BECAUSE THEY:

(1) Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms,

(2) Employ just over half of all private sector employees,

(3) Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll,

(4) Generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years,

(5) Create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domestic product (GDP),

(6) Hire 40 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer programmers),

(7) Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises,

(8) Made up 97.3 percent of all identified exporters and produced 30.2 percent of the known export value in FY 2007,

(9) Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms and twice as likely as large firm patents to be among the one percent most cited.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

My good friend from Georgia knows we've had a lot of opportunities to work together on many different issues. It seems as if he is raising an issue that would have a sense of agreement, but I have to reluctantly and vigorously oppose the gentleman's amendment.

The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Transportation losing the amount of money that he has suggested will deprive that office of viable and important staff and resources for compliance.

Frankly, this agency governs billions of dollars of Federal dollars. In addition, it governs actions that deal with accommodations, the utilization of dollars for small, minority, and disadvantaged businesses. The civil rights section has been a section that has ensured that the Federal dollars in transportation are used in a way that is not discriminatory.

I don't believe, in 2012, we need to be rising to eliminate opportunity. We need to expand opportunity. The civil rights section of the Department of Transportation has always been a consistent and efficient subsection of the agency that has been the guidepost of ensuring that our Federal dollars are used appropriately as it relates to Native Americans, used appropriately as it relates to Latinos, African Americans, Caucasians. It is a civil rights office that balances and ensures nondiscrimination, including nondiscrimination against the disabled.

And, frankly, I believe that because of the massiveness of that responsibility--particularly as we look at the needs of the disabled in transportation resources or transportation utilization--that it is crucial that we do not cut to the existing amount of dollars. This is not a lot.

So the impact is greater than what the gentleman believes he will have because he suggests that it is a small amount. It is a great impact. And I would ask the gentleman to consider this amendment as one that has a far-reaching impact and that at this point we do not want to make a statement that civil rights and the equal accommodations that are necessary and the utilization of Federal dollars is acceptable, meaning discrimination is acceptable. Nondiscrimination being, if you will, limited by the funding that has been cut through this amendment. I would ask that our colleagues oppose the amendment.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. First of all, I want to congratulate the gentlelady from California for an insightful amendment, and I understand the dilemma that the chairman of the subcommittee is in. But what I would suggest is that we are in such a crisis as relates to both jobs and the needs of urban America, rural America, that the point of order should be waived. And it can be waived. We have waived points of order on a number of occasions. In this instance, I think we have a moment when you have zeroed out for whatever the purposes or reasons for zeroing out, and there's not even minimal amounts of money in the TIGER funding. None at all.

Having just left my district on this past Friday, receiving $15 million in TIGER grants, the first that the city of Houston, the fourth-largest city in the Nation, has ever received, but in that granting there were urban and rural grantees that were able to create jobs.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And so my argument would be that because of the economic crisis, this is warranting a waiver of the point of order so the gentlelady's amendment can go forward: $500 million that will be utilized to create jobs to rebuild urban and rural America.

I would ask that the point of order be waived.

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