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Alexander, Corker, Blackburn File Legislation to Allow Songwriters to Receive Fair Market Compensation

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; March 4, 2015:

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2015 – U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), along with U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and others, today introduced legislation that would allow songwriters to receive compensation based on the fair market value of their songs.

The Songwriter Equity Act would amend federal law to allow songwriters to receive market-based compensation and would remove government price controls. Hatch is a songwriter himself and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee that would consider the legislation. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is also a cosponsor in the Senate. Collins serves as the Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. In addition to Blackburn and Collins, U.S. Reps.Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) are also cosponsors in the House.

Alexander said: “Italy has its art, Egypt has its pyramids, Napa Valley has its wines and Nashville has its songwriters. Songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City, and their paychecks ought to be based on the fair market value of their songs – so that when they write a hit heard around the world, you can see it in their billfolds. My hope is that in this new Congress, we will pass this legislation to help give our nation’s songwriters the fair pay they have earned.”

Corker said: “Music showcases the incredible talent and vision of Tennesseans – its songwriters, musicians, and small and large businesses – across the country and around the world. Unfortunately, it’s easy for some to forget the countless people who bring to life the music we enjoy each day. We turn the knob, hit the button, click the mouse, and our favorite songs are there. As technology advances, it’s important that we remember where the music begins and modernize the way songwriters are compensated for their work.”

Hatch said: “The music business is among the toughest and most competitive industries, and our songwriters and composers should not have to accept below-market rates for their work. Ensuring that they are able to receive the fair market value for their songs is the right thing to do.”

Blackburn said: “Behind every great song is a great songwriter who deserves to be fairly compensated for their creative works. I am happy to once again join my House and Senate colleagues in this bipartisan effort to ensure fairness for our songwriters.”

Collins said: “In my home state of Georgia alone, there are close to 50,000 songwriters who have dedicated their lives to a talent and a calling that, in my view, God gave them. It is critical to ensure that songwriters – the engines that drive the music industry – are compensated fairly for their work. Copyright laws were never intended to create barriers to creativity that forces songwriters to sell their intellectual property at below-market rates. Congress should write laws that not only promote creation and pay creators, but also remain relevant even in times of rapid technological change. The Songwriter Equity Act is a vital step toward a music licensing system built on free market principles and fair compensation to creators. ”

The legislation would allow songwriters to receive market-based compensation and remove government price controls in two ways:

  • First, it would direct the Copyright Royalty Board to set compensation according to the fair market value when songs are sold, such as through music downloads and CD purchases, replacing the current below-market standard.
  • Second, it would remove a provision of law that narrows the scope of evidence the federal rate court may examine when asked to set songwriter compensation for when their song is played, such as in a restaurant or at a concert.

Songwriter compensation is dictated by the federal government. The rate of compensation that is set by the Copyright Royalty Board has increased only 7 cents over 100 years, and is currently 9.1 cents per song. The so-called “federal rate court” determines compensation rates for public performances, occasionally requiring songwriters to engage in complex litigation to be paid reasonable fees for their work.

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Press Releases

Alexander, Hatch File Bill to Repeal Employer Mandate

Press release from the US. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; January 29, 2015:

WASHINGTON – Today, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced the American Job Protection Act, S. 305, a bill to repeal Obamacare’s job-killing employer mandate.  Under the President’s health law, businesses with 50 or more equivalent employees are required to offer health insurance of minimum value or pay a penalty between $2,000 and $3,000 for each employee working 30 hours or more a week.  The Chairmen were joined by 26 senators in cosponsoring the bill.

“Obamacare’s burdensome employer mandate continues to hinder job-creation and growth, and the best action Washington can take is to repeal it entirely,” said Hatch.  “By doing away with the mandate, job-creators will be able to grow their businesses without the added concern of reaching an arbitrary and punitive threshold.  Repealing this job-killing mandate will put American small businesses back in a position to hire again. That means more jobs for the American people and more growth for the American economy.”

“The havoc Obamacare’s misguided employer mandate is wreaking in American workplaces was every bit as predictable as it was preventable, as Republicans warned over and over that an employer mandate would do exactly what it’s doing: businesses that employ many of our lowest-income workers are cutting jobs and many other businesses are reducing the number of hours their employees work to avoid the mandate’s high cost,” said Alexander. Until we have a Republican president and can repeal Obamacare, the responsible thing to do is repeal the employer mandate—one of several steps we can take to repair the damage Obamacare has done.”

Joining the Chairmen in cosponsoring the bill were Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.),Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Deb Fischer(R-Neb.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.),Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), David Vitter(R-La.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

The employer mandate went into effect in 2014.  Employers are subsequently experiencing the full negative effects of the mandate and are basing decisions about their businesses going forward around the mandate’s impacts.   A recent Gallup survey of small employers found that 11 times as many small business owners believe that the PPACA will increase their health care costs as opposed to those who believe that it will reduce costs.  Overall, approximately half of small business owners believe that the PPACA will be bad for business, compared to only 9 percent who expect it to have a beneficial impact. These expectations are forcing action: employers are holding back on hiring new employees or have slowed plans to grow their business.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Outlook Survey released in April 2013 found that the requirements of the health care law are now the biggest concern for small businesses. Of small business respondents, 77 percent say the health care law will make coverage for their employees more expensive, and 71 percent say the law makes it harder for them to hire more employees. As a result of the employer mandate, one-third of small businesses plan to reduce hiring, and will cut back hours to reduce the number of full-time employees.

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Featured Health Care NewsTracker

Alexander Makes First Move to Repeal Individual Mandate

Lamar Alexander has filed a bill to repeal the portions of President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation that require all Americans purchase health insurance or pay a fine.

Tennessee’s senior U.S. senator, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, joined Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and 20 other Republican senators in filing the “American Liberty Restoration Act” on Wednesday.

In a press release, Alexander questioned how the federal government can “continue to enforce the individual mandate” when “the law doesn’t clearly ensure that millions of Americans are allowed to receive subsidies to help cover the cost.” He added that the ACA “outlaws plans that fit family budgets.”

“Millions more Americans are in for sticker shock when they see how much they owe the IRS in April because of Obamacare. We need to focus on making health care plans affordable to Americans,” Alexander said in the release.

For 2014, the first tax year affected by the individual mandate, individuals without health insurance will have to pay a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their income — whichever is more. In 2015, the fine will go up to $325 or 2 percent of their income.

In his State of the Union speech this week, Obama appeared to double-down on statements made in the wake of the Republican takeover of the Senate in November when he vowed to veto any attempt to undo key pillars of the Affordable Care Act.

“We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto,” Obama said Tuesday night.

Back in November, the president told reporters he would “draw some lines” when it came to future legislation dealing with Obamacare passed by the GOP-controlled Congress. He said he would not sign a repeal of the law or support any other “efforts that would take away health care from the 10 million people who now have it and the millions more who are eligible to get it.”

“In some cases there may be recommendations that Republicans have for changes that would undermine the structure of the law, and I’ll be very honest with them about that and say, look, the law doesn’t work if you pull out that piece or that piece,” he said.

One of the areas of the law Obama vowed to stand firm on was the mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance. While the president said he understood that even with provided federal subsidies some Americans may still not be able to afford their insurance, the mandate is “a central component of the law.”

“The individual mandate is a line I can’t cross because the concept, borrowed from Massachusetts, from a law instituted by a former opponent of mine, Mitt Romney, understood that if you’re providing health insurance to people through the private marketplace, then you’ve got to make sure that people can’t game the system and just wait until they get sick before they go try to buy health insurance,” Obama said in November.

The concept of the individual mandate was first discussed in the late 1980s by conservative economists and pushed by Republican-leaning groups — including the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. It was supported by GOP congressmen in the early 1990s as “a less dangerous future than what Hillary [Clinton] was trying to do [with ‘Hillarycare’],” said former U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich in December 2011.

The mandate was in part conceived of in response to the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which required any hospital accepting Medicare funding to provide emergency care for anyone in need, regardless of ability to pay. Thus were created concerns of a “free-rider” problem in which medical-industry experts and economists worried people would intentionally go without insurance, knowing that a hospital had to provide them free care.

But just as conservatives haven’t always opposed the individual-mandate concept, liberals haven’t always been on board with it.

As recently as 2008, Obama criticized Hillary Clinton over her support of the mandate. “If things were that easy, I could mandate everybody to buy a house, and that would solve the problem of homelessness. It doesn’t,” he said at the time.

In 2011, Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill passed by the Tennessee Legislature in response to the ACA which declared Tennesseans should “be free to choose or to decline to choose any mode of securing health care services without penalty or threat of penalty.”

The General Assembly will convene an “extraordinary session” of the legislature on Feb. 2, to discuss Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” proposal to expand health insurance coverage for low-income Tennesseans.  Next Tuesday, Jan. 27, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on “the legal issues raised by the governor’s proposed Obamacare Medicaid expansion plan.”

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Germantown Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also filed legislation earlier this month to prevent the IRS from assessing any fines on Tennesseans who haven’t signed up for health insurance. The bill would also prevent the state from operating any healthcare exchange.

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Press Releases

Alexander Introduces Legislation to Repeal Individual Mandate

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; January 21, 2015:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 – Today, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), along with 20 other senators, introduced the American Liberty Restoration Act, S. 203, a bill that repeals Obamacare’s individual insurance mandate.

“Forcing Americans to purchase insurance goes against our nation’s history of individual liberty. This legislation strikes Obamacare’s individual mandate and restores the freedoms outlined in the Constitution.  Washington should continue to work towards finding a way to equip patients with the tools needed to obtain access to health insurance, but not in a way that attacks the spirit of the Constitution and our treasured history of limited government,” said Hatch.

“How can we continue to enforce the individual mandate when the law doesn’t clearly ensure that millions of Americans are allowed to receive subsidies to help cover the cost? How can we enforce it when Obamacare outlaws plans that fit family budgets?  Millions more Americans are in for sticker shock when they see how much they owe the IRS in April because of Obamacare. We need to focus on making health care plans affordable to Americans,” said Alexander.

The American Liberty Restoration Act would strike provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requiring individuals to purchase health insurance.  The individual insurance mandate in PPACA went into effect in 2014.

For the 2014 tax filing season, individuals who did not purchase health insurance will face a fine of $95 or 1% of their income, whichever is more.  For the 2015 tax filing season, that penalty will increase to $325 or 2% of their income, whichever is more.

Cosponsors of the bill include: Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

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Business and Economy NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Congress Puttering Forward with Federal Gas Tax Discussion

As the average national cost of gas descends to $2 per gallon, a congressional discussion has reignited over the possibility of raising the federal fuel tax to meet shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee’s junior Republican senator, announced a bipartisan proposal in June to increase the federal gas tax by 12 cents over two years, and index it to inflation so “it remains viable into the future.”

The legislation, co-sponsored by Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, “would provide enough funding to offset current MAP-21 spending levels over the next 10 years,” as well as replace “the buying power” the tax has lost since last raised to 18.4 cents per gallon in 1993.

Corker’s plan also calls for tax relief to offset the burden for Americans. Corker wasn’t specific about what the relief will look like, but a press release indicates it could include “permanently extending” tax breaks included in the “tax extenders” bill, or “another bipartisan proposal” to cut taxes over the next decade by “at least the amount of revenue” the fuel tax raises.

Over the past several years, Congress has approved several short-term fixes to the fund — transferring $54 billion from the Treasury Department’s general fund since 2008 — and the fund will face another shortfall in 2015.

“Growing up in Tennessee as a conservative,” Corker said in the release, he learned something important enough to have was important enough to pay for. “If Americans feel that having modern roads and bridges is important then Congress should have the courage to pay for it.”

However, the two-term senator also said whether or not Congress’s solution amounts to a tax increase, he’d like to see a permanent fix to the highway trust fund by May.

Although the proposal was met with lukewarm response last Summer when gas was around $3.50 a gallon, the recent sharp decline in fuel costs — influenced in part by the U.S. oil boom and OPEC’s refusal to cut production — has emboldened the former Chattanooga Mayor to again take up the issue.

Other senators — including Republicans John Thune of South Dakota and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairmen of the Senate committees on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Environment and Public Works, respectively — have recently said they won’t rule out a fuel tax hike. Similarly, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said last week “It’s a small price to pay for the best highway system in the world.”

However, the proposal has been met with more skepticism in the U.S. House.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, an Ohio Republican in his third term as speaker, said that while a new highway funding bill is a priority for this year, he isn’t hot on the idea of raising taxes.

And Marsha Blackburn, a Republican representing Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District, said on Fox Business this week that while raising taxes may be “a quick fix,” it’s “the wrong step to take.” Instead she suggested legislators look at the structure of the trust fund, and fix the root of the problem.