Friday, February 6, 2015

Congressman Cuellar Discusses Border Safety and Immigration Reform

When it comes to Bexar County and San Antonio, our delegation works together, Congressman Henry Cuellar told the attendees of SA to DC. He first said he felt that an appropriations bill will be passed by Congress in time to pay for Homeland Security before the deadline passes. He also saw potential for more funding for Housing and Urban Development, transportation initiatives and for education/workforce programs.

Cuellar said that his focus is on the border. He describes how the border provides trade for San Antonio and South Texas and Washington needs to continue building on what is good about the border. He said there is a need for the right technology to bring the legitimate trade and tourism moves efficiently while also focusing on the security piece that is talked about more regarding border discussions.

He told the group he supports the designation of the missions to be designated a World Heritage Site. He has been working with Congressman Hurd on that issue. He also supports funding for a new federal court house.

Cuellar said he supports expanding trade agreements, especially the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to expand trade with the east.

Hear his presentation here.

Watch the SA to DC presentation from Senator John Cornyn

US Senator John Cornyn addressed some of his priorities for the SA to DC attendees.

Bipartisan Policy Leader Talks about Washington Challenges

The founder and CEO of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington DC addressed the SA to DC attendees and talked about how there is a sense of optimism as they enter 2015, with the possibility of bipartisan solutions to some old problems. The challenge will be to take that final step.
Hear his presentation on our YouTube Channel.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Congressman Castro Says Congress Has Chance to Get Things Done in Bipartisan Way

Things don't tend to happen quickly in Washington, Congressman Joaquin Castro says, so he would like citizens to push their representatives to spend more time in Washington so they can get more done. He said he is focused on the many priorities that San Antonio brings to him including water, transportation, cyber issues, the UN designation for the missions, education, labor and workforce challenges and of course our focus on keeping the military in San Antonio and building on their presence.

Castro is now on the Armed Services Committee and is proud to be able to represent San Antonio's issues on the committee. He is the only Bexar County representative on the Committee. He said he has had a conversation with the committee chairman to come tour Joint Base Lackland. 

He said a question he gets asked again and again is if Congress will get anything done this time? Castro told the group that the last two years of Congress have been the least productive in our history. He was optimistic that if things work a little better, you will see some progress, similar to what happened during the Clinton Administration when the Republicans controlled Congress, but the White House had a Democrat.

He first noted that he saw hope on criminal justice reform. When we think of sentencing, we could potentially see some new legislation such as using body cameras on police forms has potential. He also said that we would see some helpful legislation on trade. Japan is one of the countries that is a part of the TPP agreement, and we should be able to see the possibility of the administration being able to negotiate trade more openly. While he said he hasn't made a decision, he is keeping his mind open for the possibility of good legislation being written now.

The third is immigration reform. He said it would be a tough issue. Castro said he supports comprehensive immigration reform and does not know what pieces can be passed, and hopes that adding additional work visas is possible. He said he would be open to piece meal legislation. He especially hopes for Visa expansion for high tech jobs.

Listen to his presentation here.

Advocating on behalf of San Antonio Small Businesses in Washington, D.C.

The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is, once again, honored to partner up with the San Antonio Chamber and Free Trade Alliance to provide an impactful SA to DC trip to more than 130 delegates from our great city of San Antonio.

SA to DC morning reception

In just three days delegates, on behalf of more than 40,000 small businesses in the San Antonio metropolitan area, have spoken to a number of Members of Congress, Senators, and administration officials to advocate on issues impacting the success of their companies.  San Antonio small businesses employ more than 80 percent of our community’s workforce, which is why it is vital that we send a clear message to politicians who have a seat at the decision-making table.

Omar Garcia, President and CEO of the South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable (STEER), along with Rudy Garza, Hispanic Chamber Board Member, led the Energy Issue team in meetings throughout the SA to DC event.  A meeting with Congressman Gene Green of Houston focused on the importance of Energy Preservation, the fluctuation of oil prices, and how these are affecting the economy. In addition, they explored how oil, gas, and natural resources are impacting the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas. 

Omar Garcia, STEER

Furthermore, the Hispanic Chamber, along with its partner Brooks City Base led the Immigration team across the Hill to advocate for the EB-5 worker visa program to extend more economic development opportunities and jobs for military bases across the country.

As part of its international trade efforts, the Hispanic Chamber had the honor of meeting with Ambassador Ramon Gil-Casares at the Embassy of Spain to follow up with a recent trade mission taken by the Chamber last September.

L to R: Michael Vela, C. Leroy Cavazos, Ramon Gil-Casares, Ramiro Cavazos, Wes Baerga

A very important high-level meeting for the Small Business Issue Team, chaired by Wes Baerga of Vuepoint Creative Digital Marketing Agency and Hispanic Chamber Executive Board Member, was with the United States Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet.  Contreras-Sweet sat down with delegates to discuss her focus on the development of smarter and more efficient systems to simplify the process of acquiring an SBA Loan, including the development of a completely bilingual website. She invited the heads of each of the SBA departments to explore partnership opportunities, which would benefit the San Antonio Small Business community, between her office and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

L to R: C. Leroy Cavazos, Michael Vela, Brianna Dimas, Wes Baerga, Councilman Alan Warrick, Maria Contreras-Sweet, Ramiro Cavazos, Jackie Gorman (SAGE)

On Tuesday morning, the Education Issue Team, chaired by Dr. Rudy Reyna of UTSA and Hispanic Chamber Executive Board Member and Romanita Matta-Barrera, spent half the day at the Department of Education.  Here, they attended a series of four meetings to discuss challenges and the possibility of improvements to Financial Aid, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), Early Childhood Education, STEM Education, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and much more. The Hispanic Chamber was pleased to meet the Director of STEM for the Department of Education, Russell Shilling, who introduced them to new partnerships for our STEM initiatives including new funding opportunities.

On Wednesday, the Education Issue Team met with the staff of the Department of Labor to discuss the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, who Mayor Ivy Taylor recently supported. They also discussed the recent $100 million investment in new Apprenticeship Grants to aid skilled workers in re-entering the job market and helping strengthen our 21st century workforce.  Lastly, they also met with Congressman Joaquin Castro who personally committed to once again be our Champion for the Hispanic Chamber's Annual CORE4 STEM Expo this November. His support is detrimental to helping grow the CORE4 STEM initiative and impact even more low-income, minority students.

For more information about the Hispanic Chamber's Legislative Priorities, visit

Speaker of the House John Boehner addresses the San Antonio delegation at a reception Wednesday night in the Cannon Building.

#SAtoDC2015        #ItsOurTimeSA

Public television has benefited from change in the media landscape

PBS is now the fifth most watched network, moved up over the years from 11th, surpassing ESPN, San Antonio native Juan Sepulveda and Senior Vice President of PBS told the SA to DC delegation on February 5. The popularity of new shows like Downton Abbey and the quality of others have raised the profile of the stations, that previously were considered programming for older viewers. He also noted that significant changes in how generations view television has dramatically changed how they think.

"Generations now watch TV differently, everything is on demand and online, on mobile devices," he said. "Now, we have places of honor in our homes for our video collections."

On the other hand, another way things are changing is how technology interacts with television programming. He told the attendees that things like SnapChat make video disposable, and people aren't holding on to video. And then you have YouTube, which is changing the landscape of how the public consumes TV, because today there is now something like 300 hours of video is added every minute to YouTube. This is up from 6-8 hours about 5 years ago, he said.

This is not just cats doing weird things, there are really good videos now going up on this media. Hollywood is putting up YouTube channels, and there is a lot of good content, he said. All of this changes how we need to creatively think about public programming.

"I talked recently with the CEO of Instagram and he told me that his competition is not other technology or apps, but television and news," Sepulveda said. "This is because they are competing for eyeball time, and the amount of time people spend doing anything."

Other important trends they are watching have to do with Amazon and Netflix, who are creating their own shows now, and we are seeing people 'binge watch' whole series. PBS experienced this and tried to see how it would work on one of their own productions with Ken Burns.

"We were shocked how many people watched the new Burns series on the Roosevelts on entire Saturday and Sunday programming," Sepulveda noted. "We are learning from all of these trends."

Local stations are doing a great job, he said. He complimented the new leadership at San Antonio's station, former Chamber Chairman Arthur Emerson. Our local station depends on the community to support their programs, he noted.

"We are a public entity, but get less than 10 percent of our budget from the federal government," he said and he encouraged the Chamber to continue to be supportive and providing opportunity to work together like producing the upcoming Mayoral debate.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hurd: U.S. Must Address Intelligence Challenges of the Digital Age

As a young CIA officer new to Washington, D.C., Rep. Will Hurd enjoyed visiting the National Archives.  Recenly, after Hurd won election to Congress in November and assembled his staff, he held a team retreat at his old haunt.

During their visit, a historian brought out a radar plot from the Opana Radar Site in Hawaii.  The plot was from Dec. 7, 1941.  At the time, radar was a new technology.  The plot showed -- unknowingly to the personnel who made it -- the approaching Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

This, Hurd said, was an example of an intelligence failure.  Another was the failure to share and piece together information before 9-11.  Now, the congressman, who serves on the Homeland Security Committee, said he is in a position to try to make sure nothing like this happens again.
One example Hurd cited was border security, where agencies within the Department of Homeland Security don't share information.   Another is a jurisdictional turf battle that has hampered the ability of Congress to formulate adequate polices for cybertechnology and cybersecurity.

The need to develop policies that address the cybersecurity threat is immediate and growing. "If North Korea launched a missile into San Francisco, we know how the United States would respond. What is the appropriate response to a digital attack? These are questions that no one knows the answers to and that I want to shine a light on."

Watch the entire presentation below.

Cornyn: Make the Federal Government More Like Texas

Some aspects of the agenda President Obama highlighted in his state of the union address last month are "dead on arrival,"  according to Sen. John Cornyn.  Among those are more spending and more taxes.

But Cornyn, the Senate majority whip and a member of the Senate Finance and Senate Judiciary committees, said Democrats and Republicans should follow the lead of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. Mike Enzi and follow the 80-20 rule:  ignore the 20 percent of issues about which there will be no agreement and instead focus on the 80 percent of issues where senators can accomplish something for the American people.

Cornyn cited trade as one example where bipartisanship can prevail, and where Republicans are inclined to grant trade promotion authority to President Obama.  Texans, he said, understand the value of enhancing trade opportunities for agriculture, manufacturing and other sectors. Another example is cybersecurity.

Cornyn also highlighted differences with the president, including with regard to the Keystone pipeline.  The United States already has 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines.  Why, he asked rhetorically, is Keystone an issue?

While the budget sequestration of 2013 has been successful in holding down spending levels, Cornyn said it also represented an abdication of responsibility for Congress to set spending priorities, especially with regard to national security.  He said Congress would this year prioritize and pass a budget for the first time since 2009.

On a related note, Cornyn cited entitlement reform as a priority. "If we're going to save Social Security and Medicare and for future generations, we're going to have to do something about them," he said.

Finally, Cornyn said that the federal government needs to be more like Texas in having rational tax and regulatory policies that are welcoming, rather than hostile, to business and job creators. "I want to make government part of the solution, not part of the problem, of growing the economy."

Smith Touts Texas Influence in New Congress

Six of 18 House committees in the 114th Congress now have chairmen from Texas.  Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, observed that no state may ever have had that kind of leadership in the House, and that it bodes well for Texas.

Smith is chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, which oversees budgets of $40 billion, 60 percent of which is spent on research and development.

The committee has oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Smith said he was committed to ensure that the EPA can scientifically justify new regulations that will cost $100 billion, and he will subpoena the relevant data from the EPA.  The public deserves to see that data, Smith said.

Smith still sits on the Judiciary Committee.  On the thorny issue of immigration, Smith has authored a bill to expand and make mandatory use of the E-Verify system, which verifies the eligibility of workers.  "Scarce jobs ought to go to Americans first," Smith said.

Smith identified two areas where Republicans and Democrats have a good opportunity to work together this session.  Republicans are willing to work with President Obama on tax reform, though there is strong disagreement over the president's proposal to increase the capital gains tax.  And with some information about trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Republicans would be willing to grant President Obama fast-track authority.

Watch his presentation below.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Expanding International Trade Critical for U.S. Economy

The Obama administration sees expanded exports as key to growing the U.S. economy. Beneficiaries of international trade can be found across the country.  San Antonio is no exception.  Elizabeth Kelly from the Office of the U.S. Trade Administration, cited Concord Supply Company as an example of a small business that has looked abroad to grow its business. 
To help other business follow Concord Supply's example, the Obama administration is seeking reauthorization of the president's trade promotion authority to conclude trade deals that open up markets for large and small U.S. businesses, deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Patrick Kirwan from the International Trade Administration at the Department of Commerce discussed the administration's reaction to the recession of 2008.  Government spending, he said, was recognized as only a temporary fix. The goal of doubling U.S. exports, however, would have long-term benefits on the U.S. economy.

To that, end, the Obama administration rolled out the National Export Initiative in 2010.  Key elements of the initiative include:
  • Providing U.S. businesses with more specific information about potential customers overseas
  • The Look South Initiative, focusing on free trade partners in Latin America
  • Focusing on the logistics of exporting.  Streamline, make it easier
  • Getting more private banks involved in lending to exporters
  • Reaching into more communities such as San Antonio to think about international markets
  • Making sure U.S. businesses are prepared to take advantage of growing global markets through reauthorization of trade promotion authority
According to the International Trade Administration, U.S. exports reached an all-time high of $2.3 trillion in 2013, supporting 11.3 million jobs.

Erin Gulick, senior vice president for congressional and intergovernmental affairs at the Export-Import Bank, emphasized the importance of reauthorizing the bank. Failure to do so will put U.S. businesses at a significant disadvantage.  China, in particular, is much more aggressive in supporting the export of Chinese goods and services than the United States. Gulick expressed confidence that Congress would indeed reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
Elizabeth Kelly, Erin Gulick and Patrick Kirwan speak about international trade.

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