By Caroline Fuller
States Playing Down EPA Fuel Report
A report released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June revealed that state fuel programs contribute to fuel shortages and higher gasoline prices.
However, state officials are playing down the report. In April, the Bush administration said it had urged the EPA to convene a task force of state governors to discuss how "to find ways to reduce the number of boutique fuels and to increase cooperation between states on gasoline supply decisions." The Bush administration has been urging the task force of governors to consider means to cut the number of fuels and legislative proposals on Capitol Hill.
This version of the EPA's report defends states' authority to require "boutique fuels" to lower air pollution, stating that efforts to reduce the number of fuels should avoid "unnecessarily restricting state authority." A boutique fuels program is where states require special fuel blends to limit air pollution. However, refiners and some lawmakers expressed concern that these boutique fuel programs actually hamper fuel supply and increase costs.
The EPA has recognized 15 state boutique fuel programs in Clean Air Act state implementation plans. Seven "distinct types of boutique fuels" are included within the 15 programs.
According to a source, states participating in the discussions have been "challenging the premise" that the number of fuels needs to be reduced. States are reporting to the administration that they are not the cause of any problems. The new EPA draft does mention that state officials do not favor restrictions on their ability to execute fuel, biofuel or renewable fuel programs.
The newer draft also says any new limitations on clean fuels should be imposed in a way that "avoids unnecessarily restricting state authority."
Senate Rejects Proposals to Up Minimum Wage
Both Democratic and Republican proposals to raise the minimum wage were rejected in the U.S. Senate. The Democrats offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2007 defense authorization bill that would have raised the minimum wage by $2.10 an hour over two years. This fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to limit debate and allow the bill to move forward, with only eight Republicans voting in favor of the raise.
In November 2005, Republicans offered a similar amendment that would have raised the minimum wage by $1.10 an hour. This amendment failed by only seven votes.
The minimum wage has not been increased in nine years. Currently the minimum wage rate is set at $5.15 per hour.
SBA Reauthorization Bill Changes Franchises' Rule
The Small Business Administration reauthorization bill changed a rule that could allow franchises of larger corporations to qualify for government contracts. This change was highly criticized by industry representatives who claimed it would "divert money from legitimate small businesses."
This rule change was sponsored by Donald Manzullo, R-Ill., chairman of the House of Representatives Small Business Committee. The change would create size standards that franchises would have to comply with to qualify for government small business contracts. Currently, small business contracts amount to $119 billion annually and make up 23 percent of government contracts.
Under the new rule, a franchisee will have to maintain 51 percent of its previous profits and make up for its financial losses, have control of day-to-day business operations and employ a paid separate staff from the larger corporation.
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