Current Legislative Update:

  • October 2014

    October 2014 Prior to adjourning to head home for the November election season, Congress approved a $1…
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Legislative Updates

Keeping you up to date on policy action from the presidential administration and the U.S. Congress.

August 2014

Download PDF: August 2014

» Emergency Preparedness/Homeland Security

“Thousands of Children Arrive on America’s Doorstep”
Thousands of unaccompanied young children from Central America have been entering the United States, without documentation, in an attempt to flee violence and poverty, and to reunite with family in the States. Congress is expected to vote on budget measures to provide for officials at the border after President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion to help with the swelling numbers of children showing up at the border.

President Obama has stated that children entering the U.S. without valid claims will be deported. House Republicans recently submitted a measure providing $659 million for officials at the border, calling for an increase in National Guard, and altering anti-trafficking laws to allow for a faster deportation process. In the meantime, cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Syracuse, NY have opened refugee centers to help children with food, shelter, clothing, and legal representation. Immigration reform advocates have cited the child migrant crisis as the latest example of the urgent need for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Additional information

“Congress Debates Terrorism Insurance Extension”
The Senate voted to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, a federal terrorism insurance program scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The program was instituted following the September 11th attacks to provide relief for large buildings such as skyscrapers, stadiums, and tourist attractions in high risk areas, whose insurance premiums dramatically increased following the attacks. The bill faces an uphill climb in the House of Representatives, where GOP members are split on whether TRIA constitutes inappropriate corporate welfare.

Additional Information

» Health and Human Services

“Conflicting Rules in HHS Case Could Impact Obamacare”
Two different U.S. appeals courts ruled against and in favor of parties challenging the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)’s ability to provide subsidies to individuals living in states with federally-facilitated health exchanges. The U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit ruled in Halbig v. Burwell that the IRS lacked the ability to offer subsidies to states with federal exchanges, holding the language of the statute was meant to apply to states with their own exchanges. The appeals court for the Fourth Circuit in Virginia ruled in King v. Burwell, that the IRS was empowered to give subsidies because it was Congress’ intent to allow for their use regardless of the form of exchange. The rulings will not have an immediate impact on current subsidies and the Obama administration plans to appeal the decision in Halbig.

Additional Information
 

» Transportation, Science, and Technology

“Congress passes Temp Fix to Highway Trust Fund”
Congress passed an $11 billion stop-gap extension for the Highway Trust fund through the end of 2014, with hopes that lawmakers can develop a long-term solution following November mid-term elections. Without this fix, the fund was expected to run out of money in August. The Highway Trust Fund provides aid to states and local communities for transportation infrastructure projects. The fund is maintained through a federal 18.4 cent gasoline tax, but the fund has been running out of money as cars have become more fuel efficient. The federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993.

Additional Information
 

» Labor, Military, and Veterans Affairs

“Congressional Leaders Reach Veterans Health Compromise”
On July 28, House and Senate Veterans Committee Chairs Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced a bipartisan deal to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to meet “both the short-term and long-term needs of the VA.” The bill is a compromise of VA reforms that passed each chamber in June following the healthcare failures that led to the resignation of then VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

The compromise increases funding for VA health services by $17 billion, but also calls for the VA to make separate cuts and reductions totaling $5 billion. The proposal would allow certain veterans to be reimbursed for health care provided by non-VA doctors if they live far away from VA hospitals, or have other extenuation circumstances. The bill also expands services for veterans who experienced sexual trauma in the military and traumatic brain injuries, and improves the new G.I. Bill. Congress is expected to vote on the bill before they leave for August recess.

Additional Information
 

» Administration News

“Obama Administration Shuffles in New Cabinet Officials”
In July, the Senate confirmed three new cabinet members and top White House administrators. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan was appointed to be the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. To replace Donovan, President Obama appointed San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead HUD. In addition, the President appointed former Proctor & Gamble chief Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, to replace former head Eric Shinseki. McDonald was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.

Additional Information

» Law, Justice, and Ethics

“House Panel Okays Obama Lawsuit”
The House Rules Committee voted in favor of a resolution that would allow a lawsuit to be filed against President Obama, requiring him to enforce provisions of the Affordable Care Act that have been delayed, namely the employer mandate. There is no precedent that allows for one branch of government to sue another. House Rules Committee members, however, will be working on drafting rules and a procedure for carrying out the lawsuit.

Additional Information

Additional Notable July Congressional Hearings

Finance & Job Creation

Education

Health and Seniors

Campaign Finance

Public Safety


What’s Happening This Month?

  1. National Black Business Month, championed by Black business owners, is a time to encourage local governments and others to create a welcoming environment where Black-owned businesses can grow, and to encourage consumers to visit at least one Black-owned business.
  2. Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26th and is in recognition of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment which gave women the right to vote.
  3. The National Conference of State Legislatures is holding its Annual Legislative Summit in Minneapolis, MN. Legislators and their staff from across the country will able to connect and attend professional development workshops.