Tuesday, May 31, 2016

LGBT Discrimination, Privacy, Article V of the Constitution, Alzheimer's

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY, 18th) amendment to prevent federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 223-195. The Maloney amendment was introduced to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2017, and would specifically prevent contractors paid by funds allocated for energy and water projects from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Maloney is accusing House Republican Leadership of violating their own rules to strong-arm seven republicans into switching their votes to vote against Maloney’s amendment, yet the Maloney amendment passed with 43 Republican votes.


11 states, including Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s directive for more inclusive bathrooms for transgender students.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI, 4th) calls the lawsuit "yet another frivolous and politically motivated lawsuit against the Obama administration."


Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA) and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (D-WA) introduced the bipartisan and bicameral International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA). Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chris Coons (D- DE) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced identical legislation in the Senate. Reps. Marino and DelBene introduced similar legislation last year, H.R. 1174, the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS Act), which also focused on addressing the conflict between cross border data flows and law enforcement requests for electronic communications.

The International Communications Privacy Act provides a common sense solution to the complicated questions surrounding international data storage and lawful government access to that data. ICPA will modernize the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), based on the recognition that today’s technology is global and our laws must reflect that reality. This bill will modernize our laws to establish a rule of law on lawful access to data in the global environment.


On Wednesday evening, Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC, 11th) bill, H.R. 5233, the Clarifying Congressional Intent in Providing for D.C. Home Rule Act of 2016, passed the House of Representatives.

The bill would repeal the District of Columbia’s "Local Budget Autonomy Amendment Act," passed in 2012 by the D.C. city council, and reaffirm Congress’ authority in D.C. budgetary matters as established under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.


Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Article V Records Transparency Act (H.R. 5306), to ensure states are able to exercise their authority under Article V of the Constitution by restructuring the recordkeeping process of Article V applications.

Article V of the Constitution provides two methods to amend our founding document. The first method allows Congress to propose amendments to the states for ratification if two-thirds of both Chambers agree upon a proposed amendment. The second method, known as the convention method, requires Congress to call a convention to consider amendments if two-thirds of the states submit applications requesting such a convention.

Since the founding of our country, states have submitted hundreds of convention applications on a variety of topics. Unfortunately, the federal government has never kept track of these applications. And subsequently, not even the National Archives—the chief record keeping agency of the federal government—knows how many applications actually exist.

H.R. 5306 requires the National Archives to find every state application and rescission within two years and transmit them to Congress. The bill then requires the Chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to post these applications and rescissions on a public website, which would serve as the official database for all Article V records.

The Article V Records Transparency Act is being heralded as a vital piece of legislation by numerous stakeholders, including the Jeffersonian Project, the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 501(c)(4) affiliate, the Friends of the Article V Convention, Assembly of State Legislatures (ASL), the Compact for America, the Madison Coalition, the Compact for a Balanced Budget, and constitutional scholars Prof. Rob Natelson (University of Montana) and Prof. Larry Lessig (Harvard).

H.R. 5306 is also being supported by broad coalition of legislators, including democrat Members Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL); the House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA); the Judiciary Subcommittee Chair on the Constitution and Civil Justice Trent Franks (R-AZ); the Rules Subcommittee Chair on the Rules and Organization of the House Steve Stivers (R-OH); Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL); and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX).


U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18), a member of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease and the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus, introduced the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Sunshine Act. The bill promotes the development of a much-needed breakthrough in treatment of Alzheimer's disease by providing a tax exclusion on the sale of new FDA-approved therapies.

Monday, May 30, 2016

TSA, Abused Children, Guns, Mental Health, Energy, Healthcare

Following two House Homeland Security inquiries this week into the growing TSA wait lines at airports around the country, Representative John Katco (R-NY, 24th) introduced the bipartisan Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act of 2016, to overhaul TSA bureaucracy and help relieve congestion at airports as peak travel season approaches. The legislation directly addresses the efficiency of the TSA, as well as the current, flawed staffing model used by this agency.

Specifically, the legislation introduced by Representative Katko would:

  • Grant TSA the flexibility to utilize all personnel present to compensate for long wait lines, including reallocating Behavior Detection Officers to speed up passenger screening efforts and granting greater authority to Federal Security Directors, who know the individual airport best, to make staffing resource decisions.
  • Ensure that private stakeholders, airports, and government regulators are coordinating response through a staffing advisory committee.
  • Require TSA to assess its current staffing allocation model and share this model with both air carriers and airports.
    Reallocate canine team assets to high volume airports and checkpoints.
  • Require TSA to establish a service level agreement and minimum staffing numbers with air carriers and airports.


    Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI, 2nd), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth has introduced the bipartisan All Kids Matter Act, which that would allow states to use federal foster care dollars for preventative services to improve the safety, permanency, and well-being of children who are at-risk of suffering abuse, neglect, or any other traumatic childhood experience.


    At least fifteen U.S. Senators and 10 U.S. Representatives joined together to introduce a resolution in the House & Senate establishing June 2nd as “National Gun Violence Awareness Day” and designating June as “National Gun Violence Awareness Month.” Every day in America, an average of 297 men, women and children are shot, 91 of them fatally.

    Establishing a day to bring attention to the issue of gun violence honors the thousands of Americans who are victims of gun violence every year, including Hadiya Pendleton who was shot and killed in Chicago, Illinois on January 29, 2013. The resolution also urges citizens and community leaders to concentrate heightened attention on gun violence during June, when gun violence typically spikes at the start of the summer months, and to work together to make our communities safer from this violence.

    I am supportive of keeping the 2nd Amendment alive. I believe if enough of the right people owned guns, there would be a lot less gun violence, and while I believe that victims of violent crimes should be heard, I don't believe taking guns out of the hands of law abiding people, or making it harder for them to own one, is the answer. I do, however, believe that gun safety education (as opposed to gun safety regulation) is.


    With millions of Americans struggling to access and afford basic mental health services, Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy, 3rd (D-MA, 4th) introduced a bill to increase the federal Medicaid reimbursement rate for mental and behavioral health care services. Dubbed the “Medicaid Bump,” Kennedy’s bill would enhance the federal match for new, state-based mental health spending.

    Medicaid is currently the single largest payer of mental health services in the United States. However, stubbornly low reimbursement rates have impeded gains made under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, making it difficult for providers to accept patients. The impact on access to care has been profound: Nearly half of all counties in the United states have no practicing psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers.


    Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA, 25th) introduced a bill Thursday that would expand opportunities for companies to contract with the federal government for energy production and improve the process for evaluating new energy projects.

    H.R. 5349, the Energy Contracting Opportunities Act, would change an outdated rule for federal agencies that limits their ability to enter into long-term contracts with energy companies, bringing them in line with contracting options currently only available to the Department of Defense. This change would give smaller and newer energy companies, including those that work with renewable sources like solar and wind, more opportunities to compete for government contracts to reduce the government’s taxpayer-funded energy bill. This flexible approach has already been a huge success for the Defense Department.

    H.R. 5349 would also provide clarity on an issue that has caused major delays in developing new energy projects by requiring a study on impacts that different energy sectors have on bird populations around the country. Not having this information has been a major roadblock for approving new projects. The side-by-side comparison would allow those deciding whether or not to approve or zone for projects to have accurate, up-to-date information on the effects of various energy projects, taking into account the significant industry-driven improvements recently made to energy technology.


    The Rural Health Care Connectivity Act, passed the House of Representatives last week. The bipartisan legislation was included as part of a larger bill, H.R. 2576, the TSCA Modernization Act. Specifically, Loebsack’s bill makes skilled nursing facilities eligible to receive funds through the Universal Service Fund’s Rural Healthcare Program. This is a $400 million program that provides discounts for telecommunications services so that rural healthcare providers pay comparable rates to their urban counterparts, and helps expand healthcare provider access to broadband services.


    Happy Memorial Day. On this day I would like to thank all of those who serve, who have served, and especially all of those who gave all they have to the cause of keeping America free!
  • Saturday, May 28, 2016

    Welcome to The Ponder News

    The Ponder is now news and commentary on a daily basis from Shonda Ponder (Or, as often as she finds the time to do it).

    It is a project of Shonda Ponder Enterprises: Living the American Dream through Faith.

    I hope you like the new format.

    You will be getting news from Washington and around the country on what matters to Shonda, and, hopefully, yourself.

    I am looking forward to seeing you here at The Ponder!