Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nunes Introduces FY 2017 Intelligence Authorization Bill

Washington, D.C. - November 29, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes has introduced the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (H.R. 6393) in the House of Representatives.

This bipartisan legislation provides the Intelligence Community authorization needed to protect and defend the United States. It is similar to H.R. 5077, which passed the House in May 2016 by a 371-35 margin, and also reflects negotiations with the Senate. The bill supports critical national security programs such as those protecting Americans against terrorism and cyberattacks. Among other things, the legislation:

  • Sustains critical capabilities to fight terrorism and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Shines a light on Guantanamo transfers by requiring declassification reviews of intelligence on past terrorist activities of individuals transferred out of Guantanamo Bay.
  • Strengthens Congressional oversight of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) by setting authorization requirements for the PCLOB and directing PCLOB to keep Congress fully informed of its activities in a timely way.
  • Caps fees for mandatory declassification reviews to match costs of similar Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • Updates Intelligence Community whistleblowing procedures.
  • Clarifies eligibility for death benefits for Central Intelligence Agency personnel.
  • Improves Intelligence Community reporting to Congress.

  • For more information on H.R. 6393 click here.

    Censorship in Social Media Leaves Users in Frustration

    San Francisco, CA - November 29, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- User reports of censorship of social media posts show a deep frustration with companies’ content moderation policies, according to an analysis by Onlinecensorship.org, a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Visualizing Impact.

    In “Censorship in Context: Insights from Crowdsourced Data on Social Media Censorship,” researchers analyzed reports of content takedowns received from users of Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube from April to November of 2016. At a time when many are asking for more content moderation—like calls for Facebook to crack down on “fake news”—election-related censorship complaints focused on the desire of users to speak their minds and share information about a tight election without worrying that their posts will disappear.

    “Social media is where we receive news, debate, and organize. These companies have enormous impact on the public sphere, yet they are still private entities with the ability to curate the information we see and the information we don’t see at their sole discretion,” said Jillian C. York, EFF Director for International Freedom of Expression and co-founder of Onlinecensorship.org. “The user base is what powers these social media tools, yet users are feeling like they don’t have any control or understanding of the system.”

    “Censorship in Context” recommends best practices for social media content moderation, including transparency in how company policies are enforced and any available remedies. The researchers also urge strengthening systems of redress when content is removed in error, and doing a better job of educating users about what is acceptable on a given platform and what isn’t.

    “Many people depend on Facebook to talk to friends, family, clients, and fans, and to debate the issues of the day,” said Project Strategist Sarah Myers West. “While these companies have the right to set their own rules, the least they can do is to tell everyone how they’re enforced.”

    Onlinecensorship.org was launched in November of 2015 to spot trends in content removals and learn how these takedowns impact different communities. The site also includes a guide to appealing a content takedown and hosts a collection of news reports on content moderation practices.

    For more information, visit: https://www.eff.org/press/releases/censorship-social-media-leaves-users-frustration

    On Nomination of Seema Verma for CMS Administrator

    Washington, D.C. - November 29, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Senator Daniel Coats - (R - IN), issued the following statement regarding the nomination of Seema Verma to serve as the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in the new Trump Administration:

    “Ms. Verma’s leadership and success with health care reform in Indiana makes her a highly-qualified appointment to the Trump Administration. There is much work to be done to undo the harm caused by President Obama’s disastrous health care law, and in Indiana we’ve been able to make progress through HIP and HIP 2.0 that ensures Hoosiers have access to the health care they need at an affordable price. Her knowledge of the intricacies of our health care system will be an invaluable asset. I applaud her past accomplishments and wish her future success as she undertakes an enormous and important role in the new Administration.”

    Overtime Rules Blocked by Texas Court

    The Overtime Rule would have made it mandatory to pay overtime to certain salaried employees. The case was brought by 21 states that argued the administration exceeded its statutory authority in raising the salary limit. There is not a clear timetable yet for the judge to rule on whether this rule may take effect at a later time.

    The Department of Labor website posted their reaction to the Texas Ruling, saying:
    cvertime Final Rule on December 1, 2016. The case was heard in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division (State of Nevada ET AL v. United States Department of Labor ET AL No: 4:16-CV-00731). The rule updated the standard salary level and provided a method to keep the salary level current to better effectuate Congress’s intent to exempt bona fide white collar workers from overtime protections.

    Since 1940, the Department’s regulations have generally required each of three tests to be met for the FLSA’s executive, administrative, and professional (EAP) exemption to apply: (1) the employee must be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed (“salary basis test”); (2) the amount of salary paid must meet a minimum specified amount (“salary level test”); and (3) the employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the regulations (“duties test”). The Department has always recognized that the salary level test works in tandem with the duties tests to identify bona fide EAP employees. The Department has updated the salary level requirements seven times since 1938.

    The Department strongly disagrees with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day’s pay for a long day’s work for millions of hardworking Americans. The Department’s Overtime Final Rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rule-making process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule. We are currently considering all of our legal options.

    U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown- (D - OH) released the following statement in response to a ruling by a federal judge in Texas that blocks new Department of Labor overtime rules for workers making less than $47,476 annually. More than 130,000 hardworking Ohioans would have been eligible for overtime pay under the new rules, which were set to take effect Dec. 1.

    "Using taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit to take hard-earned money out of the pockets of American workers is shameful,” said Brown. “But, the fight is far from over and we will continue fighting to make sure American workers are paid for the hours they work."

    The Economic Policy Institute (who is currently fighting for a $15 minimum wage) had this to say:

    "A United States District Court in Texas issued an injunction against the Obama administration’s changes to the overtime rule, arguing the Labor Department does not have the authority it has exercised since 1938, under 10 presidents, including FDR and George W. Bush, to set a minimum salary requirement for overtime exemption.

    This is an extreme and unsupportable decision and is a clear overreach by the Court. For 78 years the Department of Labor has used salary as well as duties to determine overtime eligibility. Congress has amended the Fair Labor Standards Act many times and has never objected to the salary test.

    The law is clear on this. The District Court’s ruling is wrong. It is also a disappointment to millions of workers who are forced to work long hours with no extra compensation, and is a blow to those Americans who care deeply about raising wages and lessening inequality."

    Ohio U Terror Attack

    Washington, D.C. - November 29, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael T. McCaul (R-TX, 10th) issued the following statement in response to the attack at The Ohio State University yesterday morning:

    Chairman McCaul: “Our thoughts go out to the victims, their families, and the community at Ohio State University. I commend the first responders, whose swift action today undoubtedly saved lives. We owe these patriots for their courage and willingness to run into harm's way. Today’s attack has the hallmarks of terror. And while we do not yet have confirmation of terrorist connections, this is the type of indiscriminate violence our enemies are urging their followers to use against us. Whatever the case, we will continue to monitor the investigation to ensure any potential accomplices or instigators are found and brought to justice.”


    Washington, D.C. - November 29, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Thomas R. Carper - (D - DE), top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and a graduate of The Ohio State University, reacted to the incident at Ohio State earlier today in which eight individuals were injured, and one assailant killed, in an attack on the Columbus, Ohio campus.

    “The victims of the attack at Ohio State today, along with their families, are in my thoughts and prayers. I am heartened by reports that none of the victims appear to have sustained life-threatening injuries. The quick reaction by school officials and campus police and their preparedness for these kinds of emergencies helped to keep students away from the scene and mitigate this threat before more people could be harmed. I encourage university officials and state and local police to continue working together to gather information and fully investigate this attack. I will continue to monitor this situation as the investigation moves forward and I stand with my fellow Buckeyes as they come together as a community in this difficult time.”

    On Price Nomination to HHS Secretary

    Washington, D.C. - November 29, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Congressman Kenny Marchant (R-TX, 24th) issued the following statement regarding President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Budget Chairman Tom Price, M.D. (R-GA, 6th) as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    “Congratulations to Dr. Tom Price on being selected as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services,” said Marchant. “Tom Price is the most qualified member of Congress I know to fill this position. I’ve had the honor of calling Tom a close personal friend and classmate, as well as a fellow Ways and Means member. Dr. Price has fought as hard as anyone to repeal and replace Obamacare with patient-centered solutions. With his ideology of putting patients first, Congress could not ask for a better partner in addressing our nation’s health care challenges. I commend President-elect Trump for his selection and look forward to working with Dr. Price in his new role.”


    Washington, D.C. - November 29, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN, 4th) released the following statement on President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) to be Secretary of Health and Human Services:

    “The nomination of Republican Chairman Tom Price to be Secretary of Health and Human Services is clear proof that the guarantee of Medicare for seniors will be a top target for the Trump administration.

    “Chairman Price has repeatedly supported budgets that would turn Medicare into a voucher program, raising costs for seniors and potentially leaving some uninsured. On the campaign trail, President-elect Trump claimed to oppose these proposals, but the Price appointment shows he is now embracing the Republican Party’s radical Medicare privatization agenda.

    “In addition to his work to dismantle the promises we have made to seniors with Medicare, Chairman Price has sought to undermine the Affordable Care Act and slash funding for Medicaid. He has also attacked women’s health care, including misguided and dangerous attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and limit millions of women’s access to preventive health care.

    “In the coming months, I will strongly oppose the Trump-Republican health care proposals in Congress. At the same time, seniors — and all Americans who care about quality, affordable health care — will need to rally together and fight to protect Medicare and all of our vital health care programs.”


    Washington, D.C. - November 29, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- US Senator Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) released the following statement on President-Elect Trump’s nomination of Representative Tom Price (R-GA) as Secretary of Health and Human Services

    “As a fellow physician, Dr. Price understands the problems of Obamacare and is committed to fulfilling the promise of repealing it. I look forward to working with Tom on what comes next for health care."

    During his time in the House of Representatives, Dr. Cassidy worked closely with Dr. Price and plans to continue this relationship in future health care reform initiatives.


    Washington, D.C. - November 29, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- Family Research Council President Tony Perkins released the following statement:

    “I offer my congratulations to U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) on his selection as HHS Secretary. We have worked closely with him throughout his 11 years in Congress and have found him to be a committed conservative who has led the way in the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. He has been a strong advocate for legislation that would ensure Americans are not forced to subsidize elective abortion, and has worked to halt overbearing HHS mandates.

    “I applaud President-Elect Trump for selecting a HHS secretary who is well-suited to implement an alternative to Obamacare and reverse the damage done by President Obama’s worst policy failure. As a doctor who worked in private practice for two decades, Dr. Price will pursue a health care system that is market-focused and patient-driven,” concluded Perkins.


    Washington, D.C. - November 29, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) issued the following statement in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services:

    Tom Price is an excellent choice to serve at the helm of the Department of Health and Human Services. He is a principled, conservative reformer who knows better than most the difficult challenges facing our nation’s important entitlement programs and health care system. He also understands that work is the best tool to fight poverty. He will play an invaluable role in delivering patient-centered health care, strengthening our social safety net, and helping more families achieve a lifetime of success. Tom is a close friend, and I congratulate him on this nomination.

    Rep. Meadows Introduces the ALLOW Act

    Washington, D.C. - November 15, 2016 (The Ponder News) -- On Monday, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC, 11th) introduced the Alternatives to Licensing that Lower Obstacles to Work (ALLOW) Act—a bill that will make targeted changes to federal licensure policy by reducing unnecessary licensing requirements.

    Some of the most significant burdens on innovation in the job market are heavy licensing barriers placed on small business owners, entrepreneurs, and young Americans entering the workforce. Since 1950, the number of Americans working in jobs that require a license has increased by 500%, with government officials often citing health and safety concerns as the reason for the increased requirements. Acquiring a license can be a both lengthy and costly process, while studies show that most of the health and safety concerns can be address through much less burdensome means, such as certification, registration, and others.

    The ALLOW Act will limit the creation of occupational license requirements on federal installments, including areas on army bases and those in the District of Columbia, to those circumstances where licensure is the least restrictive means of protecting public health, safety, or welfare.

    “Anytime we look at regulations like licensing requirements, we should have a goal to be as efficient as possible while avoiding unnecessary restrictions on hard-working Americans,” Rep. Meadows said. “And I think when we look at licensing regulations, it’s very clear that many of the rules and requirements go beyond protecting health and safety standards and instead serve as a barrier to jobs for otherwise qualified people. My hope is that this bill can refocus our licensing requirements on only the most pertinent situations.”

    Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA, 7th) is an original cosponsor of the bill.

    “Too many hardworking Americans are barred from work due to unnecessary and duplicative rules and regulations,” said Rep. Brat. “I co-sponsored this legislation because it cuts through some of that red tape and will help small business owners, entrepreneurs, and young people to secure jobs.”