New to the art form? This Wall Street Journal article will get you orientated. Also, for more information on how some of these titles mislead lawmakers and the citizenry, find some academic commentary from Brian Christopher Jones here: https://works.bepress.com/brian_jones/.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

FAMILY Matters

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., NY) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., CT) have introduced the FAMILY (Family and Medical Insurance Leave) Act. According to a press release, the law "would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, ensuring that American workers would no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or a family member."

(Interesting note: although the acronym spells FAMILY, there does not appear to be a "Y" included in the bill's short title.) 

Partial press release below the jump. 

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FAMILY Act Would Establish National Paid Family and Medical Leave

December 12, 2013
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) today introduced new legislation that would create paid family and medical leave. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, ensuring that American workers would no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or a family member. They will be joined by business leaders and advocates, who will talk about why the bill makes sense for businesses, as well as employees.
“When a young parent needs time to care for a newborn child – it should never come down to an outdated policy that lets her boss decide how long it will take – and decide the fate of her career and her future along with it. When any one of us – man or woman – needs time to care for a dying parent – we should not have to sacrifice our job and risk our future to do the right thing for our family. Choosing between your loved ones and your career and your future is a choice no one should have to make,” saidSenator Gillibrand.
“In 1986, when I was Chief of Staff to Senator Chris Dodd, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” saidCongresswoman DeLauro. “My doctors caught it early, but I still needed time for radiation treatment, recuperation and recovery. Senator Dodd told me to focus on getting well, and to take the time I needed. I could get better without worrying if I was out of a job or paycheck. All workers should have this opportunity when they need it. No one should have to choose between their job and taking care of themself and their family. With the FAMILY Act, they would not have to.” ...


Thursday, December 12, 2013

416D65726963612043616E20436F646520! Act of 2013

Yes, the title of this post is actually the name of a congressional bill. Rep. Tony Cardenas (D., CA) introduced the 416D65726963612043616E20436F646520! Act of 2013, which is also known as the America Can Code Act of 2013. In his press release, Cardenas notes that:
“The very name of this law demonstrates that programming is simply another language,” said Cárdenas. “Learning and communicating in a foreign language can have a tremendous impact on a student, both culturally and educationally. Computer programming creates a similar impact, while also providing a critical skill in today’s global economy.”
It will be interesting to see which name the press uses. So far, it looks as if they're using both

The full press release is below the jump. 

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CÁRDENAS: “416D65726963612043616E20436F646520!”

Dec 12, 2013 
Press Release
Today, U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) introduced the 416d65726963612043616e20436f646520 Act of 2013, also known as the America Can Code Act. This legislation would designate computer programming languages as “critical foreign languages” and provide incentives for state and local schools to teach more computer science beginning as early as Kindergarten.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
CÁRDENAS: “416d65726963612043616e20436f646520!”
(Washington, DC) -- Today, U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) introduced the 416d65726963612043616e20436f646520 Act of 2013, also known as the America Can Code Act. This legislation would designate computer programming languages as “critical foreign languages” and provide incentives for state and local schools to teach more computer science beginning as early as Kindergarten.
The official short title of the name is believed to be unique among Congressional legislation. “416d65726963612043616e20436f646520” is the hexadecimal code translation of “America Can Code.”
“The very name of this law demonstrates that programming is simply another language,” said Cárdenas. “Learning and communicating in a foreign language can have a tremendous impact on a student, both culturally and educationally. Computer programming creates a similar impact, while also providing a critical skill in today’s global economy.”
Cárdenas was joined in introducing the bill by original co-sponsor Rep. Mike Honda, also of California.
Cárdenas introduced the America Can Code Act after noting that the growth of computer programming jobs at nearly twice the national average rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage in 2010 for computer programmers was $71,380, while the median annual wage for all workers was $33,840.
By 2020, there will be an estimated 1.4 million computer programming jobs, with only 400,000 American computer science students to fill those jobs. Nine out of 10 schools in the United States do not even offer computer programming classes and in 36 states, computer coding classes do not count towards high school STEM graduation requirements.
“American students should continue to receive the understanding of other cultures that foreign language learning creates, but we should also be preparing American kids to compete in the world marketplace,” continued Cárdenas. “Millions of jobs are being created in America, and all over the globe, requiring some level of coding knowledge. Let’s get American kids ready to compete for American jobs.”
Along with redefining computer programming as a critical foreign language, the 416d65726963612043616e20436f646520 Act would create a competitive matching grant program for schools, particularly those in low-income areas, to create new ways to teach computer science and engineering, in tandem with universities and non-profits.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fracturing Federal Rights for Energy Security

Rep. Bill Flores (R., TX) has introduced H.R. 2728, Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act. According to the official summary, the bill: 
Amends the Mineral Leasing Act to prohibit the Department of the Interior from enforcing any federal regulation, guidance, or permit requirement regarding hydraulic fracturing (including any component of that process), relating to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities on or under any land in any state that has regulations, guidance, or permit requirements for that activity. 
Requires the Department to recognize and defer to state regulations, permitting, and guidance, for all activities related to hydraulic fracturing relating to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities on federal land regardless of whether those rules are duplicative, more or less restrictive, have different requirements, or do not meet federal guidelines.
The White House has come out against the measure, however, noting that it does not give due consideration to federal lands, including Indian lands, and does not take into consideration the comprehensive (or lack thereof) of state regulations regarding hydraulic fracturing. Their official statement notes that: 
The bill, as reported, would undermine these efforts and instead require BLM [Bureau of Land Management] to defer to existing State regulations on hydraulic fracturing on Federal lands, regardless of the quality or comprehensiveness of the State regulations – thereby preventing consistent environmental protections.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Immigration Startup 3.0

The Hill noted that the first big fight in the immigration debate revolved around the name of the bill. Shortly thereafter, the name was revealed: Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. While it had a lot of attractive features, it wasn't all that catchy, and wasn't an effective slogan. Some people thought that was a good thing

Momentum may indeed be building for such a name. The Startup Act 3.0 was released earlier this year by Rep. Michael Grimm (R., NY), and Senators Moran (R., KS), Warner (D., VA), Coons (D., DE) and Blunt (R., MO). At the time, it was said that the legislation could create 500,000 to 1.6 new jobs. Senator Chris Coons was recently on Morning Joe to discuss the legislation. 

Among other things, the Startup Act 3.0: "Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) to adjust to conditional permanent resident status up to 50,000 aliens who have earned a master's or doctorate degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field (STEM field) and permit such an alien to remain in the United States: (1) for up to one year after the expiration of the alien's student visa, if the alien is searching for STEM field employment; and (2) indefinitely if the alien remains actively engaged in a STEM field."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

FACT or Fiction?

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R., TX) has introduced H.R.982, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act of 2013. The measure amends federal bankruptcy law in order to provide more transparency regarding payment to trusts in asbestos claims. The White House, however, believes that the bill threatens victims' privacy, and that such sensitive personal information should not be made public. The Administration statement on the bill details the following: 
The Administration opposes House passage of H.R. 982, which would require trusts set up through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization caused by asbestos liabilities to: (1) file a publicly available quarterly report with the bankruptcy court that would include personal information about individuals who have filed claims asserting asbestos-related injuries, including their names, exposure history, and basis for any payment made to them; and (2) provide any information related to payment from and demands for payment from such trust to any party to any action in law or equity concerning liability for asbestos exposure. The legislation is based on the false assertion that there is endemic fraud in the asbestos trust system.
The bill’s mandatory reporting and disclosure requirements would threaten asbestos victims’ privacy when they seek payment for injuries from an asbestos bankruptcy trust. Claimants’ sensitive personal information – including their names and exposure histories – would be irretrievably released into the public domain and thus available to parties unrelated to the claims (including insurance companies, prospective employers, lenders, and data collectors). These parties could then use this personal information for purposes entirely unrelated to compensation for asbestos exposure, potentially to the detriment of asbestos victims. The information on this public registry could be used to deny employment, credit, and insurance. Victims would be more vulnerable to identity thieves and other types of predators. These requirements could be particularly harmful to veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States, who have been disproportionately affected by asbestos.

Potential Litigation Increase or Decrease?

Rep. Lamar Smith (R., TX) has introduced the H.R. 2655, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, which "[a]mends the sanctions provisions in Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to require the court to impose an appropriate sanction on any attorney, law firm, or party that has violated, or is responsible for the violation of, the rule with regard to representations to the court."

The Obama Administration believes that the law will limit the discretion of courts and not reduce litigation, but increase it, and declares that the President would veto the legislation should he be presented with it. The statement goes on to detail their reasons for opposition: 
While H.R. 2655 is intended to curb a perceived increase in frivolous litigation, the bill would actually increase litigation. By creating an automatic financial incentive, and by removing the safe-harbor period, the proposed changes to Rule 11 could dramatically increase the number of sanctions motions, including those filed against Federal government attorneys, and correspondingly increase the risk of financial exposure for any conduct that might be considered a Rule 11 violation. In short, H.R. 2655 would raise the amount and cost of civil litigation and provide more opportunity for unnecessary delay and harassment.
The Administration is particularly concerned that the new requirements could be used to target consumer and civil rights plaintiffs. Consumer abuse and civil rights cases rely heavily on the discovery process to prove the merits of their claims. In addition, civil rights cases often seek to challenge the law or to extend existing precedents. The threat of mandatory sanctions for failure to withstand a Rule 11 challenge could chill meritorious claims by deterring worthy plaintiffs from challenging existing laws or seeking novel interpretations of them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Opposite of the USA PATRIOT Act: the USA FREEDOM Act

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., VT) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R., WI) have introduced the USA FREEDOM (Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and On-line Monitoring) Act, which according to their press release, appears to be a direct response to how the USA PATRIOT Act was interpreted by the courts. The release notes that
Following 9/11, the USA PATRIOT Act passed the judiciary committees with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill has helped keep Americans safe by ensuring information is shared among those responsible for defending our country and by enhancing the tools the intelligence community needs to identify and track terrorists,” Sensenbrenner said. “But somewhere along the way, the balance between security and privacy was lost. It’s now time for the judiciary committees to again come together in a bipartisan fashion to ensure the law is properly interpreted, past abuses are not repeated and American liberties are protected. Washington must regain Americans’ trust in their government. The USA FREEDOM Act is an essential first step. I would like to thank Congressmen Conyers and Amash, Congresswoman Lofgren, Chairman Issa and others for working with us to draft this important legislation and encourage all my colleagues to support it.” 
The USA FREEDOM Act would end the dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and ensure that other authorities cannot be used to justify similar dragnet collection. The bill also provides more safeguards for warrantless surveillance under the FISA Amendments Act.

The bill includes other significant privacy and oversight provisions, provides for the creation of a Special Advocate to focus on the protection of privacy rights and civil liberties before the FISA Court, and requires more detailed public reporting about the numbers and types of FISA orders that are issued.

The bill currently has 16 co-sponsors in the Senate, and over 70 co-sponsors in the House, both of which consist of Republicans and Democrats. The authors penned an op-ed in Politico, and a further outline of the legislation can be found here

Monday, October 28, 2013

The American RIP Act

In 2000, the Westminster Parliament passed the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act (also known as RIPA). Now, with Halloween looming, Congress is putting their own version of the RIP Act forward, the Retail Investor Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R, MO). The major difficulty, however, is that the White House opposes the measure, noting that the measure would "derail important rulemakings underway at the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Labor that are critical to protecting Americans’ hard-earned savings and preserving their retirement security." 

The complete release is located below. 
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EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503
                                                                                      October 28, 2013
                                                                                      (House Rules)
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 2374 – Retail Investor Protection Act
(Rep. Wagner, R-MO, and Rep. Murphy, D-FL)

The Administration strongly opposes passage of H.R. 2374 because it would derail important rulemakings underway at the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Labor that are critical to protecting Americans’ hard-earned savings and preserving their retirement security.  

H.R. 2374 prohibits Labor from issuing a rule to protect investors until the SEC engages in and completes further study of the effect of a rulemaking on retail investors.  The bill ignores the fact that significant work has already been conducted in both agencies and that the agencies have included and continue to include the public, industry, and numerous stakeholders in their rulemaking processes.  Moreover, the two agencies are already working closely to avoid conflicting requirements for the regulated community, and this legislation would hamper effective coordination between the two agencies.  The bill would hinder efforts to protect consumers from conflicts of interest among brokers, dealers, financial advisors, and others whose incentives may be misaligned with investors, potentially leading to deceptive and abusive practices.  

The Administration is committed to ensuring that American workers and retirees are able to receive advice about how to invest their money in safe, secure, and transparent financial products that is free from harmful conflicts of interest.  These ongoing rulemakings are designed to protect trillions of dollars in retirement savings of millions of workers and retirees by ensuring that paid advisors and other entities do not place their own financial interests over those of their customers.  This legislation would place an unnecessary obstacle in the way of these efforts to prevent such harmful conflicts of interest, which hurt businesses, consumers, and retirees and their families.

If the President were presented with H.R. 2374, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

DREG(s) of a Working Group

Today the Obama Administration came out against two House measures, the Deficit Reduction and Economic Growth (DREG) Working Group Act of 2013 (H.R. 3273) and the Federal Worker Pay Fairness Act (H.J.Res. 89). The official statement notes that: 
The Administration strongly opposes House joint passage of H.J. Res. 89 and H.R. 3273, which does nothing to solve the immediate, pressing obligations the Congress has to open the Government and pay its bills. The House should allow a straight up or down vote on Senate-passed H.J. Res. 59 to reopen the Government, bring all the Nation's dedicated civil servants back to work, and provide the services middle class Americans deserve. In addition, the House should pass a clean debt ceiling bill without drama or delay so that the United States can continue to pay its bills and fulfill the Nation's obligations. The President has been clear that he is open to discussing a broad range of measures to support the Nation's economy, create jobs and further reduce the deficit, once the Congress meets its responsibility to open the Government and pay its bills.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

More Shutdown Proposals

H.J. Res. 75: Nutrition Assistance for Low-Income Women and Children Act

H.J. Res. 76: Nuclear Weapon Security & Non-Proliferation Act

H.J. Res. 77: Food and Drug Safety Act

H.J. Res. 78: Preserving Our Intelligence Capabilities Act

H.J. Res. 79: Border Safety & Security Act

H.J. Res 80: American Indian and Alaska Native, Health, Education, and Safety Act

H.J. Res. 82: National Weather Monitoring Act

H.J. Res. 83: Impact Aid for Local Schools Act

H.J. Res. 84: Head Start for Low-Income Children Act

H.J. Res 85: National Emergency and Disaster Recovery Act

H.R. 3223: Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Still Gettin' Paid

In the face of a government shutdown on Monday President Barack Obama signed H.R. 3210, the Pay Our Military Act, which guarantees that military members will remain paid throughout the government shutdown. According to the White House press release, the law:
"provides continuing appropriations for pay and allowances during any period for which interim or full-year appropriations for FY 2014 are not in effect as follows: for members of the Armed Forces, including Reserve Component personnel who perform active service during such period, and for civilian personnel and contractors of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security (in the case of the Coast Guard) whom the respective Secretaries determine are providing support to members of the Armed Forces."

Monday, September 30, 2013

Increasing Hunger in America Act

We've previously posted on how bill names can garner opposition pseudonyms, and how recently these have been coming from Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D., MD). Thus, it came as no surprise when Rep. Frank Lucas' (R., OK) Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013 came up for a vote in the House and was unofficially renamed the "Increasing Hunger in America Act" by Rep. Hoyer.

This remains an interesting phenomenon that we'll keep our eyes on.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kids Now, Campaigns Later

Rep. Greg Harper (R., MS) and Rep. Tom Cole (R., OK) have introduced the Kids First Research Act, which would strip funding for presidential campaigns and party conventions, and prioritize research for pediatrics. The measure was announced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on World Autism Day. 

Partial press release by Rep. Cantor located below. 
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tue, 04/02/2013 - 9:52am
CONTACT: Megan Whittemore
(202) 225-7440

Congressman Cantor Announces Kids First Research Proposal


WASHINGTON, D.C. – On World Autism Day, Congressman Eric Cantor (VA-07) unveiled theKids First Research Act, a proposal which will be introduced in the House in the coming weeks to prioritize pediatric research to assist children with autism and other diseases. Sponsored by Representative Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), this legislation will eliminate taxpayer financing of presidential campaigns and party conventions and instead expand pediatric research at the National Institutes of Health.
Congressman Cantor said, “An astounding 1 in 50 school kids has autism. House Republicans are focused on smart policy solutions that will help parents meet the needs of their families and help children live a life full of opportunity. The Kids First Research Act will prioritize federal funding to support and expand pediatric research at the National Institutes of Health. Instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars for presidential campaigns, these funds will be better spent helping find cures and treatments for pediatric diseases and disorders like autism.”
Representative Harper said, “Recent scientific research breakthroughs linking Fragile X Syndrome and autism have given hope to individuals and their families. In order for clinical trials – and other advancements – to meet their full potential, adequate federal resources must be directed to pediatric research.” ...

Friday, September 20, 2013

States Rights and Energy Security

Rep. Bill Flores (R., TX) has introduced the Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act. According to a press release by the bill's sponsor: 
There are vast differences in geology that have to be addressed as we produce energy across America and H.R. 2728 will protect the state-driven, bottom up approach to oil and gas regulations. This legislation is about bolstering manufacturing jobs, reaching our nation’s goal of energy security and empowering local self-government while placing a check on the growth of out-of-control, top down federal government. I am proud that this bill passed through the Natural Resources Committee and will continue to work to bring it before the whole House.

SAFE in Our Schools?

Rep. Donald Payne (D., NJ) has introduced the Secure America for Education (SAFE) in Our Schools Act, which, according to a press release, would "require each State applying for State Homeland Security Grant Program funding to certify that it requires schools to have adequate emergency preparedness plans in place in case of disaster."

Partial press release available below. 

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Payne Introduces SAFE In Our Schools Act

Sep 20, 2013 Issues: National Security
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) authored and introduced the “Secure America for Education in Our Schools Act” or the “S.A.F.E. in Our Schools Act,” which would require each State applying for State Homeland Security Grant Program funding to certify that it requires schools to have adequate emergency preparedness plans in place in case of disaster.  At a Subcommittee Hearing entitled, “Assessing the Nation’s State of Preparedness: A Federal, State, and Local Perspective,” Kathy Spangler, Vice President of U.S. Programs at Save the Children commended Rep. Payne, Jr. on his efforts and fully endorsed the SAFE in Our Schools Act.
“Every day while more than 50 million children go to school, most Americans take for granted that their child will be safe once they walk through the school house doors,” said Rep. Payne, Jr., Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications and author of the bill.  “Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Most recently we have seen an increase in the number of natural and man-made disasters that put our children in danger, from Hurricane Sandy and the shootings at Newtown, to the Oklahoma tornadoes and the Colorado floods. We have a responsibility to protect our children, and I want to thank Save the Children for their support of my legislation and for all of their hard work in making sure that our children remain a priority in our disaster planning and preparedness efforts.”
“Past experience has shown us that children have unique needs when it comes to preparing for and responding to emergencies and potential disasters,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security and co-sponsor of the bill.  “Too often, these needs are not met when state and local governments craft homeland security preparedness policy.  I commend Ranking Member Payne, Jr. for introducing the ‘S.A.F.E. in Our Schools Act’ which will ensure that schools have the proper preparedness plans in place in case of emergency.” ...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Helium Substitute Amendment

In April we noted the House was considering the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act. Now, the Senate has passed a substitute amendment on the legislation, known as the High Technology Jobs Preservation Act. The White House supports the Senate Amendment, noting 
The substitute amendment would prevent theOctober 7, 2013, termination of the Federal program for crude helium sale, storage, and delivery.  The impending abrupt shutdown of this program would cause a spike in helium prices that would harm many U.S. industries and disrupt national security programs.  Instead, the substitute amendment would provide for an orderly transition of theFederal Government out of the helium market.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Doubly Healthy Forest Opposition

Rep. Doc Hastings (R., WA) has introduced the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, which the White House strongly opposes. In their official statement, the Obama administration noted that the measure: 
includes numerous harmful provisions that impair Federal management of federally-owned lands and undermine many important existing public land and environmental laws, rules, and processes.  The bill would significantly harm sound long-term management of these Federal lands for continued productivity and economic benefit as well as for the long-term health of the wildlife and ecological values sustained by these holdings. 

SNAP Reform Opposition

The Obama administration has officially noted its opposition to Rep. Frank Lucas' (R., OK) Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013. The administration believes the measure would:
would result in millions of Americans losing access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is one of our nation’s strongest defenses against hunger and poverty. These cuts would affect a broad array of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet, including working families with children, senior citizens, veterans, and adults who are still looking for work. Slashing SNAP also weakens our nation’s farm and rural economies.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Promise Keepers?

Rep. Trent Franks (R., AZ) has introduced the Keeping the Promise Act of 2013, which instills that the agreements made in Arizona Proposition 202, the Indian Gaming Preservation and Self-Reliance Act of 2002, will be kept. Essentially, this means that "no new casinos will be built in the Phoenix metropolitan area and only one in the Tucson area for at least 23 years." Mr. Franks' bill has already received support from many of the Arizona Indian tribes, and has bipartisan support in Congress. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

No Subsidies Without Verification - Another Attempted Obamacare Amendment

The House is set to consider H.R. 2775, the No Subsidies Without Verification Act, sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (R., TN). According to the Congressional Research Service, the bill "Declares that no premium tax credits or reductions in cost-sharing for the purchase of qualified health benefit plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) shall be allowed before the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) certifies to Congress that there is a program in place, consistent with PPACA requirements, that verifies the household income and coverage requirements of individuals applying for such credits and cost-sharing reduction."

In essence, this is another Republican attempt to undermine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the measure in its current form would be dead on arrival in the Senate. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Focusing on FORESTS

Rep. Sean Duffy (R., WI) has introduced the FORESTS (Fulfilling Our Responsibility for Efficient and Sustainable Timber Supply) Act of 2013. According to the long title, the bill would "reauthorize and expand authorities used by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for hazardous fuels reduction, forest health, forest restoration, and watershed restoration, and for other purposes."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Saving the SAP!

Rep. John Conyer's (D., MI) has introduced the Saving America's Pollinators Act of 2013. Although at this point it isn't officially being termed the SAP Act, the name certainly lends itself to such an acronym. Additionally, the use of "American" in the title, as if Rep. Conyer's could legislate for Canada's or Mexico's pollinators, certainly seems well-positioned the a more focused title. According to Rep. Conyer's press release (see below), the bill "requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend the use of certain insecticide, known as neonicotinoids, to prevent future mass die-offs of honey bees."

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(WASHINGTON) – Today, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Representative Earl Bluemenauer (D-OR) introduced the “Saving America’s Pollinators Act of 2013,” which requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend the use of certain insecticide, known as neonicotinoids, to prevent future mass die-offs of honey bees. Following the introduction of the legislation, Reps. Conyers and Blumenauer issued the following statement:
Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich): “One of every three bites of food we eat is from a crop pollinated by honey bees. These crops include apples, avocados, cranberries, cherries, broccoli, peaches, carrots, grapes, soybeans, sugar beets and onions. Unfortunately, unless swift action is taken, these crops, and numerous others, will soon disappear due to the dramatic decline of honey bee populations throughout the country. ...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

'FOR VETS' and 'Helping Heroes Fly' Become Law

Rep. Benishek's (R., MI) FOR VETS (Formerly Owned Resources for Veterans to Express Thanks for Service) Act of 2013 and Rep. Gabbard's (D., HI) Helping Heroes Fly Act have both been signed into law by President Obama.  

According to a press release by the White House the FOR VETS Act of 2013 "expands the ability of States to donate Federal surplus property to organizations that serve veterans,", while the Helping Heroes Fly Act "develop[s] and implement[s] a process for expedited air passenger screening for severely injured or disabled members of the Armed Forces and veterans."

Additionally, the President signed the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, which we reported on last week. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Whoa..."Bipartian" Student Loan Bill Passes!

Described as an "unusual feat" in this Congress, the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 has passed both the House and Senate and now seeks Mr. Obama's signature. The law will essentially set up a new rate structure for loans. According to the NYT
Under the new rate structure, which still drew opposition from nearly one-third of Senate Democrats when it passed last week, loans to undergraduates and graduate students, along with parents in the PLUS program, would be subject to a fixed rate plus the yield on the 10-year Treasury note.
Rates for loans taken out after July 1 of this year would be 3.9 percent for undergraduates, 5.4 percent for graduate students and 6.4 percent for those receiving PLUS loans. The rates are fixed over the life of the loan but would change for new borrowers each year.
In a compromise that pleased many Democrats who had initially been wary of using a rate that was subject to inflation and fluctuated with the markets, Congress set a cap on all loans: 8.25 percent for undergraduates, 9.5 for graduate students and 10.5 for PLUS recipients.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Titles Trashing the IRS

After revelations that the IRS was targeting tea party groups, a number of bills have been introduced that seek to curtail the Agency's functions. Here are a few:

  • H.R.2009 - Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013 - Introduced by Rep. Tom Price (R., GA), and "[p]rohibits the Secretary of the Treasury, or any delegate of the Secretary, from implementing or enforcing any provisions of or amendments made by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
  • H.R.2565 - STOP (Stop Targeting Our Politics) IRS Act or STOP IRS Act - Introduced by Rep. James Renacci (R., OH) and "[a]mends the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 to expand existing grounds for termination of the employment of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee to include performing, delaying, or failing to perform (or threatening to perform, delay, or fail to perform) any official action (including any audit) with respect to a taxpayer for purpose of extracting personal gain or benefit or for a political purpose."

Legislative REINS for the Executive

Rep. Todd Young's (R., IN) REINS (Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act of 2013 is currently being debated by the House. According to a press release, the bill "would require any major regulation—a rule or regulation with an economic impact of $100 million or more as scored by the Office of Management and Budget—from the executive branch to come before Congress for an up-or-down vote before it could be enacted."

Rep. Young has become somewhat of an acronym aficionado recently, as he has also recently introduced the SAW (Save American Workers) Act, which would change the definition of full-time employment under Obamacare, and also the BRIC (Base Redevelopment and Indemnification Correct) Act, which would "help redevelop former military installations such as the River Ridge Commerce Center in Clark County."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Consumer Relief" but Potential Administrative Burden

Rep. Cassidy (R., LA) has introduced the Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013, which would require EPA and DOE members to file additional reports on rules regarding various energy projects. The White House has objected to the bill, which will be debated soon in the House, noting: 

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1582. The bill would require the Department of Energy to undertake duplicative, costly, and time consuming reviews of energy-related EPA rules, thereby delaying or permanently preventing EPA from fulfilling its legal obligations to protect public health and the environment. 
Existing law already requires agencies to submit cost-benefit analysis to the Congress of any rule costing over $100 million annually. H.R. 1582 would require agencies to waste limited analytical resources on a duplicative analysis. Further, by indefinitely delaying the implementation of existing public health and environmental laws, the bill would harm communities affected by pollution. This delay would also create uncertainty for regulated businesses, inhibiting their decision-making and planning efforts. Finally, H.R. 1582 would likely result in unnecessary litigation, since it would prevent EPA from meeting its statutory obligations to finalize rules within specified timeframes. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Put a TIGER in Your Bank!

The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014 is set to be debated soon in the House. The Administration has already voiced their opposition to the measure, noting that the bill: 
severely undermines critical investments in economic and community development programs that drive local innovation, while also significantly reducing resources for public improvements, air traffic control infrastructure, affordable housing, as well as public services for low- to moderate-income families.
One example of investment cutting from the bill is the elimination of TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Grants. The Administration strongly opposes this move, noting that the grants are critical for local transportation projects. 

After all, those TIGER Grants are gr-r-r-r-r-eat!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

GI Bill Benefits for VETs

Rep. Larsen (D., WA) and Rep. Young (R., AK) have introduced the VET (Veterans Education Transparency) Act, which would make it easier for colleges to access veterans' educational benefits and therefore provide them with more sound educational advice. 

According to the press release by Mr. Larsen and Mr. Young, the measure would concentrate on four major things: 

  • Give colleges the ability to see each student-veteran’s amount of GI Bill or other educational benefits through eBenefits;
  • Facilitate college planning, so veterans’ counselors or academic counselors could help veterans register for classes to complete their degree in the time covered by their allocated educational benefit;
  • Allow veterans to opt out of sharing their educational benefit information with their college;
  • Enact strict privacy protections for veterans so that their educational benefit information could only be used for education counseling purposes by the educational institution where the veteran is enrolled.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Possible Success[or] to No Child Left Behind?

A potential successor to the No Child Left Behind Act, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) will be on the House floor the next couple days. While it may have Republication support, the While House has already released a statement noting that Mr. Obama will likely veto the legislation if presented with it. 

The White House stance is as follows:  
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. The Administration believes that the Congress must act to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), to support State efforts to adopt and implement State-developed standards that ensure every student graduates from high school prepared for college and a career; create a fairer, flexible, and focused accountability system; support effective teachers and leaders; and promote innovation in our public education system. These principles are reflected in the flexibility that the Administration has offered to States with respect to the Federally-mandated, one-size-fits-all standards of NCLB. States' overwhelming participation in ESEA flexibility indicates that they already are committed to moving toward this vision of comprehensive reform.
Instead, H.R. 5 would represent a significant step backwards in the effort to help our Nation's children and their families prepare for their futures. Among other things, the bill would not support State efforts to hold students to standards that will prepare them for college and careers; would not support our international economic competitiveness; would virtually eliminate accountability for the growth and achievement of historically underserved populations; would fail to support meaningful improvement and reforms at the Nation's lowest-performing schools; would eliminate maintenance-of-effort requirements, which could reduce overall investment in public education; and would not reauthorize key Administration priorities, including effective initiatives like Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and Promise Neighborhoods.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

OR Lawmaker Wants Names on Bills, Amendments

Oregon State Senator Alan Olsen has proposed a bill for the past three years ('11, '12, '13) that would put the names of lawmakers on proposal bills and amendments in the state legislature. Each time the bill has failed, but he plans on introducing the same bill in 2014. 

Olsen told the Oregonian
"It's called transparency," he said. "Bottom line: If you're willing to write an amendment, you should be willing to put your name on it." 
The article further notes that:  
Lawmakers and regular Oregonians interested in tracking an issue face a common conundrum: Who exactly introduced a bill and the amendments? 
It can be difficult, if not impossible, to discover which lawmaker was behind a despised or beloved bill when the sponsor is listed as a committee instead of a lawmaker. Amendments, which can be used to change legislation wholesale, do not list lawmakers' names either. 
The lack of transparency makes it difficult for voters to learn more about proposed legislation and to track the performance of lawmakers, some legislators and political observers say. The process can even result in a lawmaker being listed as the sponsor of a bill he or she does not support. 
Others say the anonymity afforded by committee-sponsored bills allows lawmakers to focus on policies rather than politics or personalities.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Living Wage" Bill Passes D.C. Council

Despite major opposition by Wal-Mart, the D.C. City Council today passed (8-5) the Larger Retailer Accountability Act, which is widely known throughout the press as the "Living Wage" Bill. According to the Washington Post, the measure "require[s] outlets of some major retailers to pay a 'living wage' of no less than $12.50 an hour, significantly more than the D.C. minimum wage of $8.25. The legislation has long been seen as targeting Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers."

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray still must approve the measure, and the law also has to pass a Congressional review period.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Protecting the Phrase "GI Bill"

Senator Barbara Boxer has introduced the GI Bill Protection Act of 2013, which according to the press release would "permanently prohibit the inappropriate and misleading use of the phrase 'GI Bill' in the marketing materials of for-profit colleges or universities."

As the Delaware Online explains
[S]ome for-profit schools and advertisers not affiliated with the government have used the phrase to create the false impression that they are endorsed by the government. Typically, the groups create websites with military-sounding names, claiming to offer unbiased advice on GI Bill benefits. The sites, however, are just a ruse to lure students to those schools.
A partial press release is located after the jump. 

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Boxer, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Permanently Protect the Phrase "GI Bill" from Abuse  


Legislation Would Ban Deceptive Marketing and Predatory Recruiting by For-Profit Schools Targeting Veterans

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), co-chair of the Senate Military Family Caucus, joined Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mark Begich (D-AK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) today to introduce the GI Bill Protection Act of 2013, legislation that would permanently prohibit the inappropriate and misleading use of the phrase “GI Bill” in the marketing materials of for-profit colleges or universities.

“Congress must take action to end—once and for all—the predatory practices that for-profit schools use to target our veterans,” Senator Boxer said. “The brave men and women who have served our country deserve to have the most accurate, comprehensive information about their education benefits so they can make informed decisions about their futures.”

Senator Boxer has been a leader in the effort to combat the problem of misleading advertisements and marketing practices aimed at veterans. In March 2012, she led a group of 14 Senators in asking Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki to file a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the phrase “GI Bill.” Last December, the VA announced that the phrase “GI Bill” is now a registered trademark under the sole ownership of the VA.

However, trademark protection is not permanently guaranteed and the VA must actively police the trademark and pursue those who are infringing on its trademark rights or the protection could expire. The GI Bill Protection Act of 2013 would ensure that this protection remains in place permanently under the law. Congress has taken similar action to permanently protect phrases such as “American Veterans,” and the names of federal benefit programs like “Medicare” and “Social Security” in order to prevent their misuse. ...

Monday, July 1, 2013

New Birth Certificates for Some DC Residents

The DC Council has approved the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, which allows transgender and intersex individuals to obtain new birth certificates with their correct gender. As noted in the Metro Weekly
The JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, named after transgender woman Deoni Jones, who was killed while waiting at a Northeast D.C. bus stop last year, seeks to modernize the District's laws to make it easier for transgender individuals to request new birth certificates reflecting their correct personal information. The bill was introduced by Council member David Catania (I-At large) and shepherded through the Committee on Health and the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety by Council Chairman Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), respectively.
The bill requires those seeking to obtain a new birth certificate to submit a written and signed request from the person in question and a signed statement from a licensed health care professional attesting that the applicant has received treatment appropriate for a gender transition. The bill also eliminates a requirement that individuals publish their names and gender change in a general publication newspaper for three consecutive weeks.