Friday, September 15, 2017

Pondering: Price Gouging,Terrorism, Nursing Home, Single Payer Health Care, Equifax, DACA, Retirement, Transportation, Education, Human Trafficking, Automatic Knives, Health Insurance

  • After airline ticket fares skyrocketed before and following Hurricane Irma, legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to cap airfares when a disaster has been declared. Under the proposed bill, the “AirFAIR Act”, when a state, territory or U.S. possession makes a disaster declaration, airlines would be prohibited from making price hikes exceeding 30%. Furthermore, the Department of Transportation would have authority to further reduce the maximum allowed price increase during catastrophes.

    As the nation contends with the aftermaths of Harvey and Irma and prepares for Hurricane Jose, there have been multiple reports of airlines drastically increasing prices. Some consumers noted price increases from $547 to over $3200. Other travelers posted on social media fares of $1,738 for flights between Miami and Indianapolis and a $2,370 flight between Miami and Los Angeles. Airlines have contended that they did not change their pricing structure and that price changes are dictated by computer algorithms on the companies’ booking websites.

  • Another bill has been introduced to fight terrorism and force the United Nations to define "international terrorism."

    The Define It To Fight would withhold ten percent of United States funding to the United Nations (U.N.) until the intergovernmental organization adopts a definition for "international terrorism." Instead, those funds would be directed to the U.S. Treasury for the purpose of reducing the national debt – which now stands at more than $20 trillion.

    The U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1373 on September 28, 2001, which created the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) to become the lead U.N. agent in the war on terror. Since then, the CTC has failed to name a single terrorist, terrorist organization or state-sponsor of terrorism. The three U.S.-identified state sponsors of terror – Iran, Syria and Sudan – have submitted reports to the CTC about their compliance with Resolution 1373. In the absence of any U.N. definition of terrorism, all three states have readily proclaimed that they are engaged in a vigorous campaign to combat terrorism despite clear and irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

    The United States is the largest contributor to the U.N., providing about $3.3 billion a year to finance U.N. activities and financing 22 percent of their budget.

  • Eight patients at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills tragically lost their lives because of a ‘prolonged power failure’ that shut down the facility’s air conditioning system. After the first three patients died, more than 100 others were evacuated to various medical facilities, one of which is just across the street from the nursing home.

  • John Barrasso (R - WY) believes Senator Bernard Sanders' (I - VT) single-payer health care bill, S. 1804, is not only a government takeover of health care, but would also put financial burdens on the American people. He has requested the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to provide a full cost estimate of the bill.

  • In the wake of the Equifax breach, legislation has been introduced to require accountability and transparency for data brokers like Equifax who are collecting and selling personal and sensitive information about consumers. The Data Broker Accountability and Transparency Act allows consumers to access and correct their information to help ensure maximum accuracy. The legislation also provides consumers with the right to stop data brokers from using, sharing, or selling their personal information for marketing purposes. The bill additionally requires data brokers to develop comprehensive privacy and data security programs and to provide reasonable notice in the case of breaches. The legislation empowers the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce the law and promulgate rules within one year, including rules necessary to establish a centralized website for consumers to view a list of covered data brokers and information regarding consumer rights.

  • President Trump has rescinded Obama's DACA program, causing much outcry from those who supported it. However, rumors have been abounding lately that Trump is making a deal with the Democrats to keep it. When confronted with the news, Trump said that no deal had been reached, and the only way he would even consider making the deal would be if the Democrats agreed to fully fund the Wall.

  • More than 30 states – including Arkansas and Connecticut – have established Century or Centennial Farms designations and awards. However, no federal recognition for 100-year-old farms currently exists. The Century Farms Act that has been introduced in the Senate will direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a program honoring and recognizing the invaluable contributions of century-old farms.

  • Because of reports that Washington Republicans are looking at cuts to Social Security and Medicare as well as place new taxes on retirement savings accounts that would reduce workers’ take home pay in order to pay for massive tax cuts for Wall Street, Senator Sherrod Brown (D - OH) has promised in front of the Senate Finance Committee to put up "One hell of a fight". He was not the only one who warned the White House and Senate and House leaders against funding corporate tax breaks by slapping new taxes on retirement savings for workers.

    Their reasoning is that ‘rothification,’ would take away the freedom Americans currently have to choose the retirement savings plan that works best for them. Instead, it would force everyone into a Roth account. Unlike 401ks, IRAs or other retirement savings plans many Americans currently use, Roth savings are taxed up front, reducing workers’ take home pay and making it more expensive for Americans to save for retirement.

    Roth plans are also more expensive for employers to offer and would make it harder for small businesses to provide retirement plans for their employees.

    Further, the Senators also pointed out that rothification is fiscally irresponsible and would add to the federal deficit.

  • The Moving and Fostering Innovation to Revolutionize Smarter Transportation or the Moving FIRST Act, a bill that will enhance the transportation systems of American communities through the use of innovative technology, has been introduced in the Senate. This legislation will establish and build on the successes of the 2015 Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Cities Challenge administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) by expanding the opportunity for more communities – both urban and rural – to compete for resources that will fund efficient, creative and innovative transportation projects.

  • The Middle School Technical Education Program (Middle STEP) Act, legislation that would expose middle school students to career and technical education (CTE) programs focused on career exploration, has been introduced in the Senate. The Middle STEP Act would establish a pilot program that allows middle schools to partner with colleges, other postsecondary institutions, and local businesses to develop and implement CTE exploration programs that give students access to apprenticeships or project-based learning opportunities, which are traditionally not available to students until high school or higher education.

  • The Senate has unanimously passed the Abolish Human Trafficking Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017. The measures will strengthen and reauthorize key programs that support survivors of human trafficking and provide important resources to law enforcement agencies in the fight to end modern slavery. The bills will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

  • The Freedom of Commerce Act, S. 1779, which would allow consumers to purchase an automatic knife legal in their state, regardless of where it was manufactured in the U.S has been introduced in the Senate.

    Enacted in 1958, the Federal Switchblade Act (FSA) leverages the federal government’s power over interstate commerce to prohibit the purchase, sale and trade of automatic knives between any of the 50 states or U.S. territories. Current federal law prohibits the interstate sale and importation of switchblades, curtailing states’ rights to legislate the legality of certain tools within their borders.

    This legislation would repeal certain provisions of the FSA and allow domestic manufacturers to ship and sell their products to buyers in other states, as well as permit the importation certain knife parts. Moreover, the bill would not replace or alter any existing state laws regarding switchblades and other automatic knives. Buck Knives, Inc., a knife manufacturer based in Post Falls, Idaho, supports the legislation.

    Currently legal in 27 states, automatic knives are defined based on their opening mechanism and are used primarily by professional trades and outdoor recreationalists

  • The Small Business Health Plans bill, introduced in the Senate, would allow multiple small businesses to pool their employees, across multiple states, for the purpose of purchasing health insurance coverage for their employees in a large group market. By banding groups of small businesses together, it would provide them with greater negotiating power for better prices and greater benefits for their employees.