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:

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. 


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.