Saturday, October 28, 2017

Congress Moves Budget in Wrong Direction With Deficit-Financed Tax Cuts

Source: Concord Coalition

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Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The Concord Coalition said that fiscal policy has taken a very negative turn with adoption of the 2018 congressional budget resolution explicitly calling for deficit-financed tax cuts.

“In the face of a debt burden higher than at any time since the end of World War II and with annual deficits already projected to rise in the coming decades as retirement and health care spending steadily mounts with the long-foreseen aging of the population, President Trump and Republican congressional leaders are placing a huge bet that we can borrow our way to prosperity,” said Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. “Their enthusiastic embrace of a $1.5 trillion deficit-financed tax cut is risky business and deeply disappointing.”

The main purpose of any budget should be to set priorities and make the necessary trade-offs. This budget, which the House approved today, fails that test. Its main purpose is to cut taxes, not to make hard choices and cut the deficit.

If Republican leaders had wanted to cut the deficit while cutting taxes in a more responsible way they could have adopted the approach taken earlier by the House, which called for deficit-neutral tax reform and $200 billion of enforceable spending cuts. The Senate, however, removed these two provisions. What’s left is a combination of enforceable tax cuts, phantom spending cuts and an unrealistically rosy economic scenario.

“While justified by some as a way to grow the economy, the long-term effect of deficit-financed tax cuts would likely be to slow economic growth and make a bad long-term fiscal outlook even worse,” Bixby said.

There is still time, however, for elected officials to chart a more responsible path. The budget resolution is simply a blueprint. It is not legislation. As Congress and President Trump now begin to write a tax reform bill, The Concord Coalition urges them not to base their plan on the unlikely proposition that large tax cuts will pay for themselves.

Don Todd: The Dossier Is Not Opposition Research

Source: Americans for Limited Government

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Americans for Limited Government Foundation President Don Todd today issued the following statement blasting the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC-funded Fusion GPS-Christopher Steele dossier:

“I have been doing opposition research since 1978. My resume includes four Presidential campaigns, nearly one hundred Senate campaigns and a few Governor races. I was the oppo team leader in all of them. I can say with absolute certainty the so-called dossier is not opposition research it is raw political sewage for which the idiot Democrats may have paid over one hundred sixty thousand dollars a page. To call it oppo research is an insult to me and the many I have worked with over the years.

“Real political research is about issues that people care about not made up stories about bed peeing. Had I ever come up with such a document I am sure I would have summarily and rightfully fired.”

Read more:

“Hillary Clinton and the DNC funded the fake Trump-Russia collusion dossier, turned it into an FBI inquisition, surveillance and then attempted coup,” By Robert Romano, Oct. 26, 2017

ALL Praises GlaxoSmithKline for Manufacture of Ethical Shingles Vaccine

Source: American Life League


Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- American Life League joined with Children of God for Life in praising GlaxoSmithKline for producing an ethically sourced shingles vaccine that was just recently approved by the FDA for licensing in the US. Shingrix is produced using a yeast cell line. Previously, the only available shingles vaccine, Zostavax, used aborted fetal cells.

ALL president Judie Brown stated:

America's leading authority on ethical vaccines, Children of God for Life, issued a statement this morning that sounds a clarion call to one and all that there are such things as ethical vaccines and companies working to improve vaccines. The newest shingles vaccine, Shingrix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical company, does not employ the use of human embryonic cells and does—according to its own studies—maintain 90 percent efficacy in those 70 years of age and older who were involved in the clinical trials.

GSK's efforts to create an ethical vaccine for adults comes with a challenge to all other big pharma companies that have not met the call to manufacture similarly manufactured ethical vaccines not tainted with fetal cells from aborted babies. It can be done! We await the advent of additional vaccines that meet this standard.

Related News:

Moral Shingles Vaccine FDA Approved


Source: American Civil Liberties Union

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Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The Senate Intelligence Committee released the text of the bill that was voted on in a closed session to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the government to surveil Americans’ communications without a warrant and is set to expire at the end of the year.

The bill would reauthorize Section 702 for eight years, and it would authorize for the first time several of the government’s illegal practices — such as searching for information about people in the U.S., collecting domestic communications, and collecting communications that are neither to nor from a surveillance target. The bill lacks much-needed reforms to ensure that the government gets a warrant to search for information of people in the U.S., to end illegal practices that the NSA has used to collect domestic communications, and to ensure appropriate transparency.

Neema Singh Guliani, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel, had the following reaction:

“It's unacceptable that an issue of this magnitude was debated behind closed doors. We now know what mischief they were up to in secret. Not only did they fail to curb the litany abuses that have occurred in recent years, in many respects, the bill would expand existing surveillance authorities. Now that this language has seen the light of day, it is clear that this bill would further strip Americans of their constitutional rights.

“No president — including our current one — should have the authority to conduct large-scale warrantless surveillance of Americans. Such power leaves Americans vulnerable to illegal spying that improperly targets government critics, activists, journalists, and communities of color.”

American Bar Association Responds to AG Sessions comments criticizing judges

Source: American Bar Association


Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The American Bar Association is alarmed by the remarks made Thursday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions about federal judges, accusing those he disagrees with of ruling on policy preference and not the law.

Ironically, Sessions complains that judges are not respecting the separation of powers and the concept of co-equal branches of government while at the same time himself disregarding the constitutional independence of the judicial branch.

Sessions said that “some judges have failed to respect our representatives in Congress and failed to appropriately respect the prerogatives and perspectives of the executive branch.” The judiciary rules on matters based on the laws and the Constitution. Their oath is “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” and not to protect “the prerogatives and perspectives” of the executive branch.

The courts are an important part of the justice system. While criticism of judicial decisions is a constitutionally protected right of every American and embedded in our tradition of free and open discussion about government, judges should not be attacked or diminished by another branch of government just because they do not rule in its favor. Judicial independence is critical to maintaining the rule of law in our nation.

Go to for the ABA’s new feature that cites case and statutory law and other legal precedents to distinguish legal fact from fiction.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

Related News:

AG Sessions on Hawaii District Judge Remarks: ‘I Wasn’t Criticizing the Judge or the Island’

President Trump’s Declaration of Opioid Public Health Emergency Ignores Reality, Condemning More People to Death and Imprisonment in Name of the Drug War

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

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Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- President Trump declared a public health emergency on the opioid overdose crisis. In a speech at the White House, Trump characterized the crisis as a “war” and outlined his administration’s plans to “defeat” it, including Reagan-era style “just say no” prevention campaigns and restrictions on opioid prescribing. He also touted drug courts, building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, and other punitive approaches as solutions.

Advocates expressed concern that Trump’s approach to drugs ignores the facts about the causes of the opioid overdose crisis, stigmatizes immigrants, and doubles down on policies that have already proven not only ineffective, but devastating for people across the United States, particularly among communities of color.

The following is a statement by Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance:

“In the face of a devastating overdose crisis, President Donald Trump today made clear his strategy: to stick his head in the sand and point the finger at immigrants. While a couple of his proposals might help mitigate overdose, his speech today revealed a profound and reckless disregard for the realities about drugs and drug use in the United States. Trump seemed to be saying that prevention boils down to ads encouraging young people to "just say no" to drugs, ignoring the utter failure of that strategy when the Reagan administration started it in the 1980s. He made a big deal about completely taking a certain opioid off the market, even though the opioids involved in overdoses are mostly coming from the illicit market. He blamed immigrants for bringing drugs across the border, ignoring that immigrants are overwhelmingly more law-abiding than U.S. citizens, and that the illicit drug trade has always found ways to get around the walls and barriers the U.S. has put up to block it. He held up drug courts as a solution, ignoring all the evidence showing they do more harm than good. And he continued talking about criminal justice answers to a public health problem, even though the war on drugs is itself a major factor contributing to the overdose crisis. Trump had a chance to do something meaningful to help stem the tide of overdose deaths in the country; instead, he is condemning even more people to death, imprisonment, and deportation in the name of his war on drugs.”

ASAM Applauds President Trump For Taking Historic Step

Source: American Society of Addiction Medicine

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Rockville, MD - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- President Donald J. Trump directed the declaration of a Nationwide Public Health Emergency to address the country’s opioid crisis. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) applauds President Trump for taking this historic step. However, it’s critical for our nation to understand that opioid addiction is a chronic disease that leads to characteristic biological, psychological, and social manifestations, often requiring long-term treatment and support to address these components. As a result, this historic step must remain part of a longer march toward a day when all communities have been empowered to build a healthcare delivery infrastructure that can consistently deliver affordable, evidence-based addiction treatment to those in need. Corey Waller, MD, MS, FACEP, DFASAM, Chair of ASAM’s Legislative Advocacy Committee, had this to say about the President’s announcement:

“We hope the public health emergency declaration will lay the groundwork for long-term, systemic changes to our prevention and treatment delivery systems, as well as to our training programs for physicians and other health professionals. If we are truly going to turn the tide and prevent future crises related to substance misuse and addiction, then we must come together to make the investments required. ASAM will continue to work closely with the President, his administration, and Congress to broaden access to evidence-based addiction treatment and prevention programs that will profoundly improve the health and safety of all people.”

Executive Order Sets Path for Opioid Crisis Response

Source: American Association of Family Physicians

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Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- This statement was released by the AAFP in response to Trump's Speech on the Opioid Crisis:

“The American Academy of Family Physicians welcomes the additional focus on the opioid crisis that has afflicted millions of Americans. By declaring a public health emergency, the Trump Administration has further drawn the nation’s attention toward this crisis and the need for a comprehensive and coordinated response. While we applaud this designation, we are concerned that the nation still lacks the necessary financial resources to truly combat this epidemic.

“A key mission of the AAFP is to protect the health of the public, and we are deeply aware of the critical and devastating problem of prescription drug misuse and the resulting deaths. Opioid misuse is destroying the fabric of the lives of too many of our patients, their families and their communities. At the same time, we must provide patients with adequate pain management. Chronic pain is a serious health issue with tremendous economic, social and medical costs.

“The dual goals of providing individualized and appropriate pain treatment while preventing opioid misuse underpin AAFP advocacy activities. We have called for policies that support preventive tactics such as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs that inform physicians about opioid prescriptions written by all health providers and alert them to potential prescription drug misuse.

“Family physicians also recognize the need to medically intervene when patients develop addiction disorders. The AAFP also has long been committed to expanding access to Medication Assisted Treatment by increasing the number of patients a physician can treat with buprenorphine hydrochloride and naloxone hydrochloride. Medication Assisted Treatment has been shown to be highly effective in treating opioid addiction.

“We appreciate the President’s commitment to the nation’s opioid crisis and we look forward to working with the Trump Administration to identify the funding necessary to support a comprehensive and meaningful response that ensures appropriate pain treatment, prevents misuse and responds effectively to addiction disorders.”

Georgetown derecognition of pro-family student club would be hypocrisy

Source: Alliance Defending Freedom

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Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer regarding calls for Georgetown University, “the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institute of higher learning in the United States,” to derecognize student organization Love Saxa, represented by the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, because the student group holds to Catholic and Jesuit views of marriage:

“To call for the derecognition of a student organization at a Catholic university because it holds to Catholic views on marriage is preposterous. Love Saxa’s opponents haven’t called for the dissolution of the LGBTQ Resource Center, for example, even though it holds to views that conflict with Georgetown’s prohibition on groups whose purpose or activities are ‘inconsistent with acceptable conduct at an American university committed to the Roman Catholic moral tradition,’ yet they have targeted Love Saxa for views wholly consistent with the Catholic faith. It’s not enough that many of those who don’t hold to conservative religious or political views are seeking to silence those with whom they disagree on public university campuses and elsewhere in the public square. Now they are even seeking to silence them at private, religious universities, which are unquestionably free to recognize student clubs that adhere to the universities’ own founding values. Georgetown should act consistently with its own Catholic identity and reject any request for Love Saxa to be derecognized.”

Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

More on Approved Budget Resolution

Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- American Action Network’s Middle-Class Growth Initiative (MCGI), was launched in August to advocate for the passage of meaningful tax reform legislation. The multi-pronged effort, now totaling $14 million, includes advertising on television, radio, direct mail, and mobile billboards in over 50 congressional districts nationwide.

American Action Network (@AAN) Executive Director Corry Bliss released the following statement following the passage of the FY 2018 Budget Resolution:

“There is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make meaningful pro-growth tax reform a reality for hardworking Americans across the country. Thanks to the leadership in Congress, the vote to approve the budget resolution today was a vote to move tax reform forward. Now, it’s time for Congress to get to work, advance tax reform legislation, and give middle-class families the pay raise they deserve.”

Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) President Tom Schatz released the following statement:

“We applaud the House for clearing the way for tax reform by passing the Senate’s budget resolution. This action, as advocated by CCAGW and other taxpayer watchdogs, saves critical legislative time that will now be devoted to achieving the most groundbreaking tax reform in a generation.

“Taxpayers have toiled under a broken tax system for more than three decades. They should not have to wait one more day for Congress to act. The time has come to make the tax code pro-growth, pro-taxpayer, and pro-American.”

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste is the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste, the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

National education groups representing superintendents, school boards, school business professionals, rural schools and communities, and educational service agencies issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s proposed elimination of the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT).

“We believe any comprehensive tax reform must preserve the state and local tax (SALT) deduction as a matter of national priority. The SALT revenue is invested in local communities to fund vital needs including infrastructure, public safety, homeownership and public schools, which educate almost 90 percent of students in our country. Representing public education leaders entrusted with the important responsibility for educating students, we are deeply committed to ensuring students get the best possible education and support. Eliminating the SALT deduction endangers public education and our students’ future.

“State and local tax deductions ensure a stable local tax base that public schools rely on to educate students and provide needed services, such as health care and related needs. The current proposal to eliminate the SALT deduction as part of broader tax reform would cripple this ability and damage state and local economies.

Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 4144) Introduced in the House

Source: Grace Napolitano (D-CA, 32nd)

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Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA-32), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47), and Nanette Díaz Barragán (D-CA-44) held a press conference with port truck drivers as well as representatives from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to announce the introduction of the Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act (H.R. 4144) and the Clean Ports Act of 2017 (H.R. 4147).

“Hundreds of port truck drivers are being forced into working as independent operators as a way for their employer to pay them below minimum wage and deny them benefits, creating an unlivable wage for them and their families,” said Congresswoman Napolitano. “These drivers are compelled to lease trucks at prices they cannot afford. It is unthinkable that companies can continue to get away with this scheme to underpay hard working truck drivers. My Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act and Congressman Nadler’s Clean Ports Act are important measures that we hope will restore justice and dignity to truck drivers and their families. I thank him and all of our colleagues for fighting to protect the wages, rights, and working conditions of truckers at ports across the country.”

“An active port is imperative for the economic vitality of our cities and regions, and to maintain a diverse middle class. But we must ensure that all those who work at the port are treated fairly and earn a decent wage, and that those who live near ports do not bear the brunt of pollution and inefficient goods movement,” said Congressman Nadler. “I am hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can come together on these important issues. President Trump regularly touts his affinity and sympathy for hard working Americans who have been treated unfairly, and there should be no mistaking the hardships faced by port truck drivers and those living near port areas. It is long past time we did something about it.”

“In my community, we hear story after story of drivers who work two shifts only to go home with pennies. Drivers who are intimidated, threatened, and forced by trucking companies to violate hours of service rules over and over again,” said Congressman Lowenthal. “I’m proud to support legislation that will ensure that port drivers have basic rights, and at the same time make it clear—once and for all—that port authorities can regulate truck operations as part of their environmental efforts. This is a common-sense solution that is good for the truckers and good for the ports.”

“What’s happening to these truck drivers amounts to indentured servitude. It goes beyond wage theft. Some workers—many are immigrants who speak little English—end up owing money at the end of the week. My cousin is a truck driver, and I remember him looking at his paycheck to figure out why he got so little money. Sometimes these truck driver are earning less than the minimum wage,” said Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán.

The members of Congress stood proudly with over a dozen drivers and advocates from the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York, and New Jersey, who traveled to Washington to bear witness to the injustice they and their families have endured as a result of a broken employment system.

“I believe every worker has a right to earn a living wage, but after months and months of working without earning a salary, I wind up owing the company money. You can imagine the pain when I come home, and my kids ask “let’s go to the movies” and I don’t have a cent to take my children,” said Rene Flores, Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, misclassified independent contractor fired after telling his story to USA Today. “This Christmas people will go to big companies -- Walmart, Target, Costco – to buy gifts for their children. I wonder if they think about the sacrifice that goes into those gifts. I don’t have a cent to buy my own children presents. What is a day of joy for most, is a day of sadness for me. This is supposedly a country of free speech, but we are still slaves to these companies.”

“This injustice affects all of us. It affects our nation. Our port drivers--our family--have taken on the burden for far too long,” said Daniel “Seko” Uaina, truck driver, Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, misclassified independent contractor. “Drivers even have to pay for a spot to keep the truck at the company – the truck that we lease FROM the company. Our forefathers made sure that we wanted tomorrow to be better. So let’s make tomorrow better, for all the generations coming behind us. We need to stop this now.”

Fred Potter, Vice President-at-Large of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Director of the Teamsters Port Division, voiced continued support of all truck drivers and their families, thanking them for persevering despite a system that has failed them, as recently exposed by USA Today’s “Rigged” series by Brett Murphy.

“For years, port truck drivers across the country have been forced to work long hours, often exceeding maximum hours of service set by the U.S. to keep America safe, in order to pay the company to lease and maintain their truck,” said Fred Potter. “The Teamsters are proud to support both the Port Drivers’ Bill of Rights Act to create a Task Force to review the broken system and crack down on bad actors, and the Clean Ports Act to modernize Federal trucking rules to empower ports across America to clean the air, improve cargo efficiency, and mitigate community impacts without forcing drivers to bear the cost. We thank our champions in Congress for introducing them on behalf of our truck drivers and their families.”

An estimated 87 million Americans live in port adjacent communities which fail to meet federal air quality standards. Ports around the country are working toward improving these local conditions by creating environmental quality standards for the ships, terminal operators, railroads, and trucking companies that use their ports. The problem is that current federal law (the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994) limits the extent of what Ports can do to improve their local environment. This same federal law also allows trucking companies to avoid state and local wage laws in order to underpay and overwork their drivers. H.R. 4144 and H.R. 4147 aim to stop the exploitation of drivers and empower local ports to reduce environmental pollution, mitigate traffic congestion, and improve highway safety and efficiency, without putting the burden on the backs of the truck drivers.

Click here to watch the press conference

Spectrum Auction Deposits Act (H.R. 4109) Introduced in the House

Source: Doris O. Matsui (D-CA, 6th)


Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Brett Guthrie (KY-02) and Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-06), co-chairs of the Congressional Spectrum Caucus, introduced the Spectrum Auction Deposits Act (H.R. 4109), a bill that will make it easier for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction off spectrum frequencies.

Spectrum makes up the radio frequencies that power smartphones, Wi-Fi, and all other wireless technologies. Commercial demand for spectrum has exploded as our society has rapidly digitized, but the federal government still holds licenses for many spectrum frequencies, and the FCC also continues to study other bands that could be commercialized to meet demand.

In recent years, the FCC has held very successful spectrum frequency auctions, raising billions of dollars for deficit reduction and various other accounts. Going forward, however, the Commission has indicated they are having trouble partnering with private financial institutions to hold the large sums of money from bidders that make up auction deposits. The Spectrum Auction Deposits Act fixes this problem by allowing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to partner with the U.S. Treasury Department to hold the deposits of auction bidders in escrow.

“Whether you know it or not, if you use a smartphone or listen to the radio, you utilize spectrum,” said Congressman Guthrie. “As our economy and society as a whole become more and more digitized, freeing up spectrum waves is crucial for innovation and new technology. I was proud to join Congresswoman Doris Matsui to introduce the Spectrum Auction Deposits Act. By making it easier for the FCC to schedule future spectrum auctions, we can raise money for deficit reduction and increase technological innovation – a win-win.”

“In order to remain a global leader in 5G and expand broadband access throughout the country, we must accelerate our work to free up spectrum for commercial use,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “In today’s digital economy, reliable, affordable mobile broadband is critical for Americans’ access to everything from telehealth services to public safety communications. This legislation will allow the FCC to continue to conduct auctions so we can unlock the spectrum necessary to deploy current and next-generation broadband networks across rural America and beyond. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to advance this important legislation.”

Cyber Shield Act of 2017 Introduced in the House

Source: Ted Lieu (D-CA, 33rd)

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Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the bicameral Cyber Shield Act of 2017 to create a voluntary program that would independently identify, verify, and label compliant Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices with strong cybersecurity standards. The program would help consumers make well-informed decisions related to cyber and data security. The bill establishes an advisory committee that will create cybersecurity benchmarks for IoT devices such as baby monitors, cameras, cellphones, laptops, and tablets. Companies manufacturing devices that meet the voluntary standards can then display their certification for consumers.

Upon introduction of the bill, Mr. Lieu said:

“Innovation in the Internet-of-Things space has provided us with revolutionary technology that improves lives and enhances business practices. As one of only four Computer Science majors in Congress, I recognize that we must continue to push for advancements in the tech industry. At the same time, it is critical that we prioritize developing products with the security of consumers’ information in mind. The government and tech companies share an obligation to develop more transparency around the security of our favorite devices.

I am proud to introduce this bill alongside Sen. Markey because it will help encourage industries to seek inventive solutions to cyber intrusions while empowering consumers to make smart purchases. This is a necessary step in my ongoing effort to protect privacy and safeguard data for consumers and businesses.”

Upon introduction of the bill, Mr. Markey said:

“The IoT will also stand for the Internet of Threats unless we put in place appropriate cybersecurity safeguards. With as many as 50 billion IoT devices projected to be in our pockets and homes by 2020, cybersecurity will continue to pose a direct threat to economic prosperity, privacy, and our nation’s security. By creating a cybersecurity certification program, the Cyber Shield Act will help ensure consumers can reliably identify more secure products and rewards manufacturers that adopt the best cybersecurity practices. I thank Congressman Lieu for his partnership on this timely legislation.”

Opioid Epidemic (Page 2)

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Sander Levin (D-MI, 9th)

“With the President’s declaration of the opioid epidemic as a public health emergency, we now wait to see if this declaration represents a real plan of action, or just words on a piece of paper. To date, the President and Republicans have moved in the wrong direction, proposing $1.2 billion in cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and cutting $1.4 trillion from Medicaid. And a preliminary proposal from his Administration even called for cutting the Office on National Drug Control Policy by 95 percent.”

“The emergency here in Michigan has seen drug overdose deaths quadruple since 1999, and far too many other states have similar numbers. I call on the President and Congress to back up his declaration with meaningful investments in the public health of the American people – and stop their misguided efforts to roll back the Medicaid expansion – which provides lifesaving treatment to so many.

“This country desperately needs action and resources – not just words and empty or changed promises.”

Tom Marino (R-PA, 10th)

“The abuse of opioids has descended well beyond a crisis. It is a sustained epidemic. This is a true emergency and the President’s decision to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency is a powerful step in the right direction. Decisive action like this will further enable all the available resources at the federal government’s disposal to be mobilized and optimized to best serve each community’s unique needs. That means allowing more flexibility in allocating prevention efforts, law enforcement, addiction treatments and recovery programs.

“The president’s actions not only strengthen legislation like the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act, a measure I supported and which was signed into law last year, but also forces a greater sense of urgency to more aggressively work to reverse this epidemic.

“There is still much more work to be done in terms of implementing solutions, but this declaration paves the way for expanded coordination, at all levels, and ensures that we are able to effectively manage all the complexities and nuances that come with addressing this issue.”

Patrick T. McHenry (R-NC, 10th)

"The opioid epidemic has devastated communities throughout the United States, including here in western North Carolina. Congress has already taken important steps to address this crisis but more must be done. This afternoon, President Trump took another important step by declaring the opioid epidemic a Nationwide Public Health Emergency. I applaud the President for his leadership in combatting this epidemic. In the months ahead, I look forward to working with President Trump to curb the spread and use of these dangerous drugs."

Martha McSally (R-AZ, 2nd)

“Opioid addiction is a nationwide epidemic that’s tearing our communities apart. Prescription painkillers, the very ones sitting in home medicine cabinets and on home bathroom counters, are killing thousands of Americans each year. Although their use often starts out harmless, these powerfully addictive substances are abused by 6.5 millions of Americans each year and cause more deaths than car accidents. We have felt this acutely in my district in Southern Arizona—Pima County had an overdose rate almost twice as high as any other county in Arizona. When the prescriptions run out or can’t be found, these addicts then turn to illegal drugs. Over 80% of heroin users started out on prescription opioids.

I applaud the Administration for calling our nationwide opioid epidemic what it really is: a public health emergency. Today’s announcement is a necessary step—but it cannot be the final one. Congress and the President must work together to combat this emergency from all sides. I have and will continue to find legislative solutions to interrupt this deadly cycle and halt its spread.”

On June 5, 2017 Governor Doug Ducey declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency in Arizona following the release of data showing an alarming increase of 74 percent of overdose deaths in the state over the past four years.

Congresswoman McSally spearheaded legislation included in the 21st Century Cures Act, which, paired with the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act she supported, will provide grants, gives treatment and prevention, and supports law enforcement in communities around the nation to combat this crisis. In May 2017, she voted for an increase of $781 million for fighting the opioid epidemic.

Markwayne Mullin (R-OK, 2nd)

“Our country has seen the opioid crisis reach an all-time high. Over the past few years in Oklahoma, our state and local governments have been successful at bringing down the rate of opioid overdoses. Still, it is abundantly clear that more has to be done to combat this deadly epidemic. Across our country, more than two million Americans struggle with opioid addiction and we lose nearly 100 of those lives each day to an opioid overdose. I applaud President Trump for making the opioid epidemic a priority and ensuring that the states have the tools and resources they need in order to continue to combat the opioid epidemic. I’m looking forward to being in Oklahoma tomorrow to meet with community and tribal leaders to continue discussing solutions to this harrowing crisis.”

Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota)

“FBI reports indicate the rate of violent crime in South Dakota nearly doubled between 2005 and 2015,” said Noem. “While there are a number of conditions that can contribute to a surge that severe, many agree drugs have played a big role. No community – no family – is immune to addiction. Particularly with opioids, it can often start with a simple prescription for pain medication to deal with a headache. But that same medicine you took to heal can be the drug that leads to a life-altering addiction. I’m encouraged by President Trump’s commitment to addressing this crisis, and I look forward to working closely with him and his administration to keep our communities safer and drug free.”

Last Congress, Noem helped pass two major bills to fight the opioid crisis: the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act, both of which were signed into law. Among other things, the legislation puts private- and public-sector experts on the case to identify best practices for pain management.

To follow up on those new laws, Noem has thrown her support behind a series of bills in this Congress to combat the growing drug crisis, including:

  • H.R.2857, Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act, (Introduced by Noem; Passed House June 20, 2017), which aims to strengthen a state or tribe’s ability to keep families together through the parent’s drug addiction treatment, if that’s what’s right for the child and for the parent’s treatment.
  • H.R.2834, the Partnership Grants to Strengthen Families Affected by Parental Substance Abuse Act (Cosponsored by Noem; Passed House June 20, 2017), which strengthens the Regional Partnership Grant program, a program that provides funding to state and regional grantees to provide evidence-based services to prevent child abuse and neglect related to substance abuse.
  • H.R.1741, Transnational Criminal Organization Illicit Spotter Prevention and Elimination Act (Cosponsored by Noem), which makes it illegal to “spot” for drug traffickers at the border. Without this change, helping drug traffickers avoid law enforcement when crossing the U.S.-Mexico border (known as “spotting”) is not an enforceable offense.
  • H.R.22, Support More Assets, Resources, and Technology on the Border Act (Cosponsored by Noem), which authorizes the deployment of additional personnel and new technologies to secure the border. This includes an authorization for as many as 10,000 additional members of the National Guard to be deployed to the border.
  • H.R.1057, Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act (Cosponsored by Noem), which is designed to help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders to drug traffickers in the U.S.
  • House Passes Senate Budget Resolution (page 2)

    This is continued from page 1


    On October 5, 2017, the House passed the Building A Better America Budget.

    On October 19, 2017, the Senate approved their version of the FY 2018 Budget Resolution.

    This concurrence by the House with Senate amendments to H.Con.Res. 71 unlocked the reconciliation process that allows Congress to enact tax reform legislation without threat of the filibuster in the Senate. For more on the FY 2018 Budget, click HERE.

    Barbara Lee (D-CA 13th)

    Once again, Republicans proved they have no concern for everyday Americans and families struggling to make ends meet. At its heart, the federal budget is a moral document that spells out the principles and priorities of a nation. The Republican budget is nothing more than a morally bankrupt Trojan horse that steals healthcare from children and rips food from the hungry just to fast track massive-tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.

    In nearly two decades of service, I have never witnessed such an un-American budget pass through the House of Representatives. Their budget cuts $1.3 trillion from Medicaid and $500 billion from Medicare. It takes an ax to education, research, and job training programs while increasing the national deficit by more than $1 trillion. What’s worse is that this cruel budget is Robin Hood in reverse. As it devastates families across the country, it showers tax cuts on the rich and powerful.

    Any changes to our nation’s tax code will impact millions of Americans – Republicans are using this sham of a budget to try and rush massive tax giveaways past the American people. Today’s vote was simply disgraceful. I reject this sinister budget and remain committed to fighting for a federal budget that lifts Americans out of poverty and invests in job creation and healthcare. A budget that empowers the American people and moves our country forward.

    Jason Lewis (R-MN, 2nd)

    “I’m committed to delivering a tax cut for families in Minnesota’s 2nd District.

    “As a member of the House Budget Committee, I’ve been working hard to get us to the point where the formal tax reform process can start for the first time in over 30 years. Hardworking Minnesota families can’t wait any longer for relief from the broken tax code.

    “Today’s passage of the Budget puts us on a path to lower taxes on middle-class families and small businesses, a simplified filing system where you can complete your return on a postcard, and a more competitive business rate to encourage American companies to create jobs in our communities here at home. I’m proud to have supported tax reform by voting for the Budget today.”

    Tom McClintock (R-CA, 4th)

    The budget resolution sets the spending architecture for the fiscal year. The House version provided for $200 billion of enforceable mandatory spending reductions over ten years and balanced within the decade.

    The Senate amendments gut these provisions, squandering the one opportunity Congress has each year to bring mandatory spending under control -- taking us another year closer to a sovereign debt crisis. This is tragic and I condemn it in the strongest terms.

    Betty McCollum (D-MN, 4th)

    “House Republicans’ budget reflects their priorities: it fast tracks lavish tax breaks for billionaires and big corporations, slashes health care for families, guts investments in America’s future, and forces working families to pay for it all.

    “Minnesotans should understand exactly what this budget vote means: it will allow expedited action on the Trump-Ryan-McConnell tax plan, which gives the top 1 percent of wealthy Americans 80 percent of the benefits. By eliminating the state and local tax deduction that helps middle class Minnesotans, it actually raises taxes on working families in our state.

    “Make no mistake: every Republican who voted for the budget today voted to raise taxes on working Minnesotans to fund a giveaway to the wealthiest Americans.”

    A. Donald McEachin (D VA, 4th)

    “Today, I reiterate my firm belief that legislative budgets are moral documents outlining our principles, values and goals. Congressional Republicans put forward a budget that slashes billions of dollars from the services that hardworking Americans depend on most. The budget heading to the President’s desk is one that values the wealthiest Americans over meeting the basic needs of hardworking families.

    “Republicans will follow this disgraceful bill with their so-called ‘tax reform’ plan that will once again demonstrate their priority of protecting and enhancing the already wealthy. This billionaires-first tax plan will be rammed through precipitously, adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit. Apparently, deficits don't matter anymore.

    “Rather, we should be prioritizing bills that will support children and working families such as CHIP reauthorization, or my Pollution Transparency Act. I urge my colleagues to take the time needed and to carefully consider legislation that gives the American people what they really want – better jobs, better wages, high-quality education, and affordable healthcare.”

    Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, 5th)

    “We are unlocking our historic opportunity to unleash everyone’s potential through comprehensive tax reform,” said McMorris Rodgers. “A fair, simple tax code is how we help lift up those who are left behind. America was built on freedom, opportunity, and hard work, and it’s time our tax code reflected those principles.”

    Grace Meng (D-NY, 6th)

    “Today I voted no on the immoral GOP budget resolution that serves to advance a crushing tax plan particularly harmful to New Yorkers because it includes elimination of the State & Local Tax Deduction. Thirty percent of the households in my district rely on this critical deduction to get back an average of $11,000 per year.

    The budget resolution would jeopardize the health care of seniors, children, the disabled, and veterans. It disinvests in our future by slashing funding for education, infrastructure, and medical research. It cuts Medicare by $473 billion, Medicaid by $1 trillion, infrastructure spending by almost $200 billion, and Pell Grants by more than $100 billion, all while increasing the deficit by $1.5 trillion through tax cut proposals to provide a break to the wealthiest on the backs of hardworking American families.

    My constituents, and indeed all Americans, deserve a better deal.”

    Paul Mitchell (R MI, 10th)

    “Today, we passed a budget that is the next step toward enacting pro-growth, pro-worker tax reform. Our tax plan focuses on families living paycheck to paycheck; it’s projected to increase wages by $4,000 on average, create new jobs, and allow workers to keep more of their own money. We are now well on the way to realizing tax reform that will bring bigger paychecks, growing businesses, and a stronger economy.”

    Gwen Moore (D-WI, 4th)

    “Much like their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Republican budget resolution was drafted in secrecy, denounced by both sides of the aisle, and rife with massive tax cuts for powerful corporations. Despite condemnation by those in their own party, Republicans narrowly passed what can only be described as a reckless and dangerous bill that will reshape our economy and deal an immense blow to critical services like Medicaid and Medicare.

    “In passing this spiteful resolution, the GOP once again turned its back on a group of Americans too often overlooked in the halls of Congress: the single, working-class mother. With her in mind, I forcefully voted against this bill as the trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy will come at the expense of the very programs that help her escape poverty. Threatening essential health programs for the most vulnerable as a means to satisfy President Trump’s wild campaign promises reflects nothing but contempt for women who are simply trying to provide for their families.

    “Our shared failure to invest in these women with robust contributions to health services, child care, and vocational training cannot be understated. Such indifference and neglect while simultaneously burdening them with soaring taxes demands nothing less than our collective indignation. If single, working-class mothers are truly the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to the well-being of our country, all of us have cause for concern.”

    Jason Lewis (R-MN, 2nd)

    “I’m committed to delivering a tax cut for families in Minnesota’s 2nd District.

    “As a member of the House Budget Committee, I’ve been working hard to get us to the point where the formal tax reform process can start for the first time in over 30 years. Hardworking Minnesota families can’t wait any longer for relief from the broken tax code.

    “Today’s passage of the Budget puts us on a path to lower taxes on middle-class families and small businesses, a simplified filing system where you can complete your return on a postcard, and a more competitive business rate to encourage American companies to create jobs in our communities here at home. I’m proud to have supported tax reform by voting for the Budget today.”

    Congresswoman Lawrence Introduces the Congressional Sexual Harassment Training Act

    Source: Brenda Lawrence (D-MI, 14th)

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    Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) has introduced the Congressional Sexual Harassment Training Act, which would require every congressional office to enroll employees in training to prevent sexual harassment. The Office of Compliance (OOC), which enforces workplace protection laws for the legislative branch, already offers sexual harassment training about employees’ rights and recourses, but it is not mandatory. At the present time, executive branch employees must complete anti-harassment training every two years, while only ethics and cybersecurity trainings are mandatory for congressional offices.

    “As a former human resources manager and certified Equal Employment Opportunity investigator for a federal agency, I care deeply about preventing and responding to sexual harassment in federal workplaces, and I believe it is unconscionable that every congressional office is not required to participate in this simple training solution that is already available,” said Rep. Lawrence. “We must take this small, first step to support our employees’ rights and serve as an example to the nation.”

    “Sexual harassment is deplorable and unacceptable in any workplace. Recent reports of high-profile and widespread sexual harassment and assault –including the cases of Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Uber, and many others– emphasize that this is a pervasive problem across our country. This must stop. The first step is to use the tools we already have on hand by mandating that every office participate in existing sexual harassment training.”

    Since 2011, the OOC has recommended that Congress make anti-harassment training mandatory, but it has not yet done so. This bill would ensure that all offices covered by the OOC, including congressional and support offices, enroll their employees in an existing sexual harassment training, which informs them of their rights and avenues for recourse and educates them on unacceptable behavior in the workplace. The bill requires offices to enroll all employees in the training once every two years and enroll new employees within 60 days. Offices could also offer additional trainings, but every office must complete this minimum requirement. This bill will align the congressional offices with the standards of our federal agencies.

    “We must all work together to protect women and all our employees. This is not a divisive or partisan issue, this is something we can do today. More can be done, and more should be done in tackling this important issue; but this is an important first step. It requires every single member of Congress to stand up and be held accountable for preventing sexual harassment. I call on my colleagues to support this legislation and protections for employees, as I intend to stand strong with those who would do the same.”

  • In a July 2017 Roll Call survey of congressional staff, one in six women said they had personally been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, while four in 10 women said they believe sexual harassment is a problem on Capitol Hill. Only 10% of women are aware of structures in place for reporting harassment in Congress.
  • The Office of Compliance, which enforces legislative branch workplace protections, has Recommended for years, in its annual reports to Congress, that anti-harassment training be mandatory for each office. Mandatory training is a best practice to help prevent incidents and protect employees.
  • Congress has not acted to simply make the existing training mandatory. Previous legislative attempts have tried to fund OOC’s harassment training and require House offices to include harassment training in ethics training. This bill requires all covered legislative offices to participate in the training already offered by the OOC. The OOC provides a 23-minute online sexual harassment training.
  • The bill requires employing offices to ensure that current employees enroll in training every two years, and new employees enroll no more than 60 days after they are hired.

    Source: Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd)


    Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Congressmembers John Larson (CT-1) Brian Higgins (NY-26), Joe Courtney (CT-2), Bobby Scott (VA-3), Beto O’Rourke (TX-16) and Jared Polis (CO-2) announce introduction of the House companion to the Senate Medicare-X Choice Act of 2017. The Medicare-X Choice Act (H.R. 4094) builds upon the successful framework of the Medicare program by providing a public plan as an option on the individual and small business health exchanges.

    Congressman Larson said, “Medicare X is a practical approach that uses the successful framework of the Medicare system to provide Americans with an additional, affordable coverage option. In addition, by encouraging the use of innovative models and approaches for individuals with chronic conditions, this bill will help drive down costs and improve quality within our health care system. It’s a sensible step towards a healthier future.”

    Rep. Higgins said, “For over 50 years Medicare has been an efficient and trusted healthcare option for older Americans. Building on a system that works to make it available to more people who want it, is simply common sense. Medicare-X adds choice and competition to the existing marketplace.”

    “It is time that we consider ways to build upon the ACA by improving competition in the health care exchanges,” said Rep. Courtney. “By harnessing the value of Medicare, we can infuse high quality, affordable insurance plans into state’s marketplaces, lowering costs and offering new options to consumers.”

    Congressman Scott said, “At a time when Congress and the administration should be working to improve our current health system, the administration’s actions have undermined the Affordable Care Act and created uncertainty and confusion for American families. I am proud to join my colleagues in putting forth a plan to build on the ACA’s progress, and ensure that all Americans have greater access and more options for affordable health coverage.”

    “We need a public option such as Medicare offered through the ACA to increase coverage and lower costs so every American can afford to see a doctor when they need one,” said Representative O’Rourke. “There are many paths to reach universal coverage, and our Medicare-X legislation is a step in the right direction.”

    “While President Trump sabotages the Affordable Care Act, creating instability in the market, I am proud to help introduce Medicare-X in the House of Representatives, alongside Rep. Higgins. Medicare X will improve upon the Affordable Care Act by giving people more choices, and bringing down costs. It builds on the successes of Medicare by allowing individuals and small businesses to choose among existing private insurance plans and a public one. In my home district, this is especially important, where the options for rural and mountain counties are limited,” said Polis.

    The Medicare-X Choice Act uses the existing health care system, and gradually reinforces it, by providing more options for the public of all ages. Medicare-X would be offered through individual and family coverage plans and the Medicare provider network would be expanded to include pediatricians, children’s hospitals and others. The Act will ensure Essential Health Benefits like maternity, newborn care, and pediatric services are covered. The bill also allows for prescription drug negotiation through Medicare Part D.

    Under the bill, premiums are put into a new, separate trust fund, holding the Medicare trust fund for individuals ages 65 and over harmless.

    Beginning in 2020, the Medicare-X plan will be available in rural areas of the country where there is only one or no health insurance providers on the exchange. The plan will also be available in counties where there is a shortage of health plan options, which have driven up costs and rendered prices simply unaffordable for the American below the age of 65. By 2023, the public option would be available on the individual market and in 2024, the plan would be an option on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchange.

    The Senate version of the Medicare-X Choice Act was introduced by Senator Michael Bennet (CO) and Senator Tim Kaine (VA). Additional Senate sponsors include Senators Harris, Cortez Masto, Leahy, Cardin and Feinstein.


    Source: Daniel Kildee (D-MA, 5th)

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    Washington, D.C. - October 28, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (­­D-IL), the top Democrat on the Fisheries, Wildlife and Water Subcommittee, today introduced the National Opportunity for Lead Exposure Accountability and Deterrence (NO LEAD) Act of 2017 to help ensure drinking water across our nation is clean and safe from lead and copper exposure. The legislation would create a lead-service-line inventory to help monitor contaminated service lines, ensure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops a universal testing protocol and make sure the entire lead service line is replaced if water contamination is detected because partial replacement does not eliminate the risk of contamination. The bill would also help guide the EPA review of the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) to make lead testing reports more comprehensive and ensure reports are easily available to the public, serving to make clean drinking water more accessible and strengthen education on lead contamination. Lastly, the bill would lower the lead action level from 15 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb by 2020 and 5 ppb by 2026 to match world health standards. Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    “When families send their children to school or turn on their faucet at home, they should not have to worry about their drinking water being contaminated with a dangerous neurotoxin like lead.” Duckworth said. “The threat of contaminated water is a national public health crisis in cities across the nation, including Chicago, Carbondale, Galesburg and East St. Louis, Illinois—and we have to do more to stop it. I will keep working to ensure every family in America – no matter where they live – has access to clean and safe drinking water, and I’m proud to introduce this bill to better protect our children from lead-contaminated water.”

    “The lead in water crisis that happened in my hometown of Flint cannot be allowed to happen elsewhere,” Kildee said. “We must learn from the failures of state government that lead to the Flint water crisis and prevent a similar man-made tragedy. Updating the outdated Lead and Copper Rule will not only protect public health, it will restore public confidence in their water systems. I am proud to work with Senator Duckworth to introduce this legislation and work toward the goal of ensuring that all Americans do not have to worry about high levels of lead in their drinking water.”

    Today, Senator Duckworth and Congressman Kildee also sent a joint letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt detailing their concerns about the revised LCR containing fewer protections than the current rule. The letter comes as part of Duckworth and Kildee’s efforts to ensure the EPA is being responsive to data gathered by their own scientists instead of capitulating to industry demands. The EPA is set to finalize the LCR at the end of next year.

    Duckworth and Kildee have both been outspoken about the need to address failures in our public water systems. In June, they called upon the EPA to strengthen protections against lead poisoning in our nation’s pipes, fittings and fixtures that supply drinking water. Duckworth has also introduced several pieces of legislation on lead in America’s drinking water. Duckworth recently reintroduced the Get the Lead Out of Schools Act of 2017 with U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to help ensure drinking water in schools across our nation is clean and safe from lead. She also introduced her new Recognizing the Environmental Gains in Overcoming Negligence (REGION) Act to prevent the closure of regional EPA offices, which would protect thousands of jobs while supporting efforts to ensure clean drinking water for children. Duckworth has also been critical of the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back drinking water protections and vocal about the need to strengthen initiatives to prevent lead contamination.

    The following stakeholders have endorsed the NO LEAD Act: American Association of Pediatrics, EarthJustice, Food and Water Watch, Green Latinos, Dr. Marc Edwards, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives and the Sierra Club.