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:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

DATA Transparency for Federal Agencies

The Senate has unanimously passed Sen. Mark Warner's (D., VA) DATA (Digital Accountability and Transparency Act) of 2014, and the bill now travels to the House for consideration. The measure is landmark data transparency bill that would allow citizens to track money spent by federal agencies on

A partial press release by Senator Warner is provided below the jump. 


Senate Unanimously Passes Warner-Portman Transparency Legislation

~ Bipartisan DATA Act allows taxpayers to track every dollar spent by federal agencies ~ ~ ‘Most significant transparency legislation since Freedom of Information Act' ~

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate today passed Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) bipartisan Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA). This landmark transparency legislation will allow taxpayers to track every dollar spent by federal agencies on a common website, and help lawmakers more easily identify fraud, waste and abuse to create a more efficient government. The DATA Act expands the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) to standardize and fully disclose federal agency expenditures, and it incorporates steps to simplify financial reporting and improve the quality of spending data. Passage of a House version of the DATA Act is expected shortly after the upcoming two-week congressional recess. 
“Our taxpayers deserve to know how their federal funds are spent – dollar for dollar – and it is our obligation to share that information in a clear and direct way. Today, the Senate passed this important bipartisan legislation to make sure taxpayers get the transparency they are entitled to,” Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee’s Government Performance Task Force said. “The DATA Act will improve the way the federal government does business and it’s a true example of how Washington is supposed to work – across the aisle and on both sides of the Capitol.”
“During a time of record $17 trillion debt, our bipartisan bill will help identify and eliminate wasteful spending by better tracking federal spending. I am pleased that our bill to improve federal financial transparency and empower taxpayers to see how their money is spent has passed the Senate, and I urge swift passage in the House of Representatives,”  Sen. Portman said.
coalition of more than 25 nonpartisan government accountability organizations have endorsed the DATA Act, and it is regarded by some as the most significant open-government legislation since the Freedom of Information Act in 1966. ...

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Rep. Rick Crawford (R, AR) has introduced the Sexual Assault Reporting on Aircraft (SARA) Act of 2014, which would require the attorney general to collect data every calendar year about sexual offenses that occur on aircraft. The cheeky catch with the title, however, is that the SARA portion doesn't appear to be in reference to anybody that has been assaulted on a plane, or have any connection to sexual assault in general (besides being a very common female name). It seems that Congressman Crawford humanized the title without having a story to back up the acronym motive, which is an innovative (but questionable) move in regard to statutory titles. 

Personalized titles are quite common in regard to legislation (e.g. Megan's Law, Laci and Connor's Law, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, etc.). Yet all of those laws are in relation to actual persons that, unfortunately, have a tragic story attached to them. To my knowledge, the SARA Act of 2014 does not have a personal story attached to it, and is attempting to mask itself as a humanized title in order to gain political traction. 

I've written about personalized and humanized titles in the Connecticut Law Review and also in Legisprudence

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Google Gets Bipartisan Bill Title Nod

Senators Tom Coburn (R., OK) and Claire McCaskill (D., MO) have introduced the Let Me Google That For You Act, which would eliminate the  National Technical Information Service. The NTIS was established in 1950 and attempts to archive and sell governmental reports, most of which are available free from other agencies should one wish to make a bit of effort (see bill title). According to a GAO report, the agency may have outlived its usefulness, considering it has lost money  ten out of the past eleven fiscal years. 

A partial press release is provided below. 


(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and U.S. Representatives Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) today introduced the Let Me Google That For You Act, a bill to eliminate an outdated agency that has lost more than $1 million trying to sell government reports that are available for free online. With a money-losing profit model only the government could design, the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) sells free government reports to other federal agencies and the public – at a loss.
“This is the ‘let me google that for you’ office of the federal government,” said Dr. Coburn.  “Nearly all of the reports being sold are already available for free on other government websites, including my own.  NTIS is selling at least six of the oversight reports issued by my office, such as the annual Wastebook which details outrageous Washington spending and mismanagement.  Ironically, the latest edition of Wastebook—which lists NTIS as one of the most wasteful government offices—is not available for sale yet by NTIS.  I have sent a letter to the Department of Commerce today requesting the office stop charging for the reports that I issue to taxpayers at no cost that highlight government waste, like the NTIS.”
“This agency has clearly outlived its usefulness,” said McCaskill, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. “I find it staggering that the agency is selling government reports both to the public and to other federal agencies that are widely available for free and easy to find with a simple Google search—and the agency is still losing money. I think Americans would gain a little more confidence that their tax dollars are being spent wisely if we ended this display of waste and inefficiency. This is a government office performing a function that the advent of the Internet has made outdated, and it’s past time we eliminate it.” ...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Restoring Democracy...One Vote at a Time

Sen. Ben Cardin (D., MD) has introduced S. 2235, the Democracy Restoration Act, which seeks to enfranchise felons once they have served their time and have been released back into society. Sen. Cardin sponsored a similar bill in the 112th Congress, but it never got out of committee. 

A partial press release is provided below the jump. 


Cardin Leads Reintroduction Of Bill To Create Nationwide Standard For Restoring Voting Rights For Americans Released From Prison

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has introduced a bill, S. 2235, theDemocracy Restoration Act that would reduce recidivism rates by restoring voting rights to individuals after they have served their time and have been released from incarceration. Studies indicate that former prisoners who have voting rights restored are less likely to reoffend, and that disenfranchisement hinders their rehabilitation and reintegration into their community. Original cosponsors of S. 2235 include Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Companion legislation also was introduced today in the House of Representatives by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.
An estimated 5.85 million citizens of the United States – about 1 in 40 adults in the United States – currently cannot vote as a result of a felony conviction. Of the estimated 5.85 million citizens barred from voting, only 25% are in prison. By contrast, 75% of the disenfranchised reside in their communities while on probation or parole or after having completed their sentences.  Approximately 2.6 million citizens who have completed their sentences remain disenfranchised due to restrictive state laws.
“When prisoners are released, they are expected to obey the law, get a job, and pay taxes as they seek a fair shot at being rehabilitated and reintegrated into their community. Along with these responsibilities and obligations of citizenship should be the right to vote,” said Senator Ben Cardin. “The patchwork of state laws leads to an unfair disparity and unequal participation in Federal elections based solely on where an individual lives, in addition to the racial disparities inherent in our judicial system. Congress has a responsibility to remedy these problems and enact a nationwide standard for restoration of voting rights.”
In 35 States, convicted individuals may not vote while they are on parole. In 11 States, a conviction can result in lifetime disenfranchisement. Several States require prisoners to seek discretionary pardons from Governors, or action by the parole or pardon board, in order to regain their right to vote. Several States deny the right to vote to individuals convicted of certain misdemeanors. States are slowly moving or repeal or loosen many of these barriers to voting for ex-prisoners. ...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Post-Ledbetter Paycheck Fairness

The first law that President Obama signed in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which reversed a Supreme Court judgment and, among other things, extended filing periods for employees making wage discrimination claims. However, the Obama Administration believes more work needs to be done in this area, and in addition to supporting Sen. Mikulski's (D., MD) Paycheck Fairness Act, took two more executive actions today. The first executive order "prevent[s] federal contractors from 'retaliating' against workers who discuss their compensation." The second executive order "require[s] federal contractors to submit to the government summary data on employee compensation including details on sex and race."

In regard to the Administration's support for Sen. Mikulski's bill, they note that: 
The Paycheck Fairness Act represents a significant step forward to address pay disparities and other obstacles that continue to harm the advancement of women in our economy. For example, the legislation would enhance the enforcement of equal pay laws by prohibiting retaliation against employees who ask about or discuss wage information, and by providing more effective remedies for women subjected to discriminatory pay practices. S. 2199 would strengthen the Equal Pay Act by closing judicially-created loopholes for employer defenses and by bringing its class action rules into conformity with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. S. 2199 would also strengthen the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's enforcement of laws prohibiting pay discrimination, and facilitate voluntary employer compliance, by requiring the collection of pay data.
Yet not everyone agrees with the Administration's "77 cents on the dollar" talking point, which Mr. Obama quoted in January's State of the Union speech. Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute recently penned an op-ed in the WSJ arguing that if certain environmental aspects are controlled for, women actually make similar money to men. He notes that, 
While the BLS reports that full-time female workers earned 81% of full-time males, that is very different than saying that women earned 81% of what men earned for doing the same jobs, while working the same hours, with the same level of risk, with the same educational background and the same years of continuous, uninterrupted work experience, and assuming no gender differences in family roles like child care. ...  
These gender-disparity claims are also economically illogical. If women were paid 77 cents on the dollar, a profit-oriented firm could dramatically cut labor costs by replacing male employees with females. Progressives assume that businesses nickel-and-dime suppliers, customers, consultants, anyone with whom they come into contact—yet ignore a great opportunity to reduce wages costs by 23%. They don't ignore the opportunity because it doesn't exist. Women are not in fact paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.

Monday, April 7, 2014

In Wisconsin, There's HOPE on Heroin

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has signed a package of seven bills (Assembly Bills 445, 446, 447, 448, 701, 702 and 668) known as HOPE (Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education) legislation put forward by State Rep. John Nygren. The legislation is a comprehensive package to fight heroin addition, and are supposed to be "smart on crime" measures to "help expand accessibility to treatment." Some general goals of the HOPE program are:

  • Grant immunity to drug users who call 911 about overdoses
  • Allow all emergency responders to give Narcan (not just medical technicians)
  • Allow communities to start drug disposal programs
  • Create treatment programs in rural areas
  • Require identification to pick up high-risk prescriptions
  • Add funding for treatment
  • Punish those who violate probation

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen was also pleased to see the HOPE package signed into law, noting: 
I commend Representative Nygren for his leadership, and I thank fellow lawmakers and the Governor for their support of these critical, life-saving pieces of legislation.  The spiral of opiate and Heroin abuse is unrelenting but so is our will to defeat it, and today marks an important step in ridding our great state of this evil.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Save American Workers by Striking Obamacare Provisions?

The House is set to debate Rep. Todd Young's (R., IN) Save American Workers Act of 2014, which "repeals the 30-hour threshold for classification as a full-time employee for purposes of the employer mandate in ObamaCare and replaces it with 40 hours."

The White House has released a statement against the measure, noting: 
This legislation would weaken a provision of the Affordable Care Act that keeps employers from dropping health insurance coverage and shifting the costs to taxpayers. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it would increase the budget deficit by $73.7 billion over the 2015 to 2024 period. Moreover, the proposed change would reduce the number of people receiving employer-based coverage by about one million, while increasing the number of uninsured.