Saturday, November 4, 2017

Hirono, Daines Bill Signed into Law to Make APEC Travel Card Permanent

Source: Senator Mazie K. Hirono - (D - HI)

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Steve Daines’ (R-Mont.) bill to make permanent the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card program was signed into to law by the President.

The law, which grants Americans and citizens from APEC nations access to fast-track processing lanes at Daniel K. Inouye Honolulu International Airport and airports across the U.S. and Asia-Pacific, was passed by Congress last month.

“The APEC Business Travel Card program has benefited hundreds of Hawaii residents by making it easier to travel and conduct business across a region critical to our local economy and jobs,” said Senator Hirono. “This newly signed law reaffirms the importance of travel to our country’s engagement with the nations of the Asia-Pacific.”

“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the United States – we must make every effort to expand markets to create new good-paying jobs,” said Senator Daines. “I’m thrilled to see President Trump sign this bill into law to open new opportunities for businesses.”

Over 200 Hawaii residents are active holders of the APEC Business Travel Card, which saves 43 minutes on average in airport wait times. Without Congressional action, U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot issue cards to U.S. citizens after September 30, 2018.

The enactment of S.504, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act, comes in advance the annual APEC Leaders’ Meeting next week.

S. 504 is supported by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce, U.S. Council for International Business, National Foreign Trade Council, U.S. Travel Association, Global Business Travel Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, U.S.-China Business Council, U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, American Chamber of Commerce in the People's Republic of China, and the National Center for APEC.

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Heller-Backed Bill to Protect Children from Online Predators Signed Into Law

Source: Senator Dean Heller - (R - NV)

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The President signed into law the PROTECT Our Children Act, a bipartisan bill cosponsored by U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and introduced by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

This legislation will reauthorize the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program, a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing 3,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies that combat online child exploitation across the country.

“I applaud the President for signing our bill to help protect children from predators,” said Sen. Heller. “This bipartisan legislation will empower local law enforcement – like police departments across Nevada – with the tools they need to more effectively pursue criminals who abuse and exploit children. I thank Senators Cornyn and Blumenthal for their leadership on this proposal, and I’m honored to have been part of the team to push it over the finish line.”

“Equipping law enforcement with the tools they need is vital to protecting our most vulnerable online,” Sen. Cornyn said. “I’m grateful to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and to the President for supporting victims and the law enforcement agencies that combat and prevent these crimes.”

“The PROTECT Act reauthorizes critical task force programs – empowering state and local law enforcement to combat child abuse, protect survivors, and prosecute perpetrators who prey on the vulnerable. This significant bipartisan bill is a solid step forward in the fight against predators and the horrific crime of child exploitation – and a warning against any criminal who would exploit our children online. I am proud to see this critical measure become law,” said Sen. Blumenthal.

“As a former prosecutor, I know the importance of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program for our law enforcement officials,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “This law will help us continue this critical collaborative effort to protect children from predators on the internet.”

The PROTECT Our Children Act, originally passed in 2008, authorized the ICAC Task Force Program, a coordinated group of task forces representing 3,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies engaged in reactive and proactive investigations across the country. This legislation built upon work Senator Cornyn began as Texas Attorney General, when he created the Texas Internet Bureau to fight internet crimes like child pornography.

The ICAC Task Force Program helps local and state law enforcement respond to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and internet crimes against children, and offers guidance on victim support, forensic investigative components, training and technical assistance, and prevention and community education.

Organizations who supported the PROTECT Our Children Act include the National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT), the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the National Children’s Alliance, Rights4Girls, Shared Hope, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, the National Sheriffs Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Criminal Justice Association, and the Major City Chiefs Police Association.

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Heitkamp & Bipartisan Group Urge Supreme Court to Revisit Case Preventing States from Collecting Sales & Use Tax from Out-of-State Businesses like Online Vendors

Source: Senator Heidi Heitkamp - (D - ND)

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging the Court to reconsider and overturn a 25 year-old case determining whether states can require out-of-state businesses like online vendors to collect and remit state sales and use taxes.

In 1991, when Heitkamp was North Dakota’s Tax Commissioner, the state of North Dakota attempted to make catalog retailers collect the sales and use tax the state and municipalities were already owed on sales. Heitkamp brought the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which in 1992 found in Quill Corp v. North Dakota that a business must have a physical presence in a state before it can be required to collect and remit state sales and use taxes. The Court also said that the U.S. Congress had the ultimate power to resolve the issue.

Since then, the sharp increase in internet sales has sparked renewed interest from state and local governments in leveling the playing field for brick-and-mortar businesses and closing a gaping loophole in our tax system. While the members have put forward a legislative solution in the Marketplace Fairness Act, Congress has not come to an agreement to fix the loophole.

Joining Heitkamp in filing the amicus brief are U.S. Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), along with U.S. Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and John Conyers (D-MI),

“Small businesses in our states – and the workers who rely on them for jobs – have long been disadvantaged by out-of-state retailers and online vendors who aren’t required to collect sales and use taxes,” the members said. “When these retailers can charge lower prices, our small businesses and jobs are at risk. The Supreme Court should re-visit and reverse its decision in Quill that tipped the scales in favor of online retailers and against brick and mortar businesses around the country, which lose close to $26 billion every year because of a misguided decision over two decades ago. It’s past time to level the playing field for local shops across our communities.”

Retailers without a physical presence have a price advantage over brick and mortar businesses of up to 8.5 percent in North Dakota, 9.75 percent in Tennessee, 11 percent in Illinois, and 6 percent in Wyoming simply because they cannot be required to collect those state taxes.

Click here to read the full text of the amicus brief.

The amicus brief – also called a “friend of the court” brief that is filed by outside parties and is used to share additional information and arguments for the Court to consider – urges the Supreme Court to grant South Dakota’s request for the Court to consider South Dakota v Wayfair, Inc. This case seeks to overturn Quill, which prevents South Dakota and 44 other states from enforcing their own state sales and use tax laws.

On April 27, Enzi, Durbin, Alexander, and Heitkamp introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2017 – legislation that would give states the right to require out-of-state businesses or online retailers to collect and remit the sales and use taxes that are already owed under current law. In 2013, the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act by a bipartisan vote of 69-27, but the legislation did not become law.

Noem and Conyers introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives on April 27 — the Remote Transactions Parity Act – which has 49 bipartisan cosponsors and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

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Gillibrand’s Bill Would Increase Accountability and Transparency in Sexual Harassment Reporting Process

Source: Senator Kirsten E.Gillibrand - (D - NY)

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- As victims of sexual harassment in Congress come forward to tell their stories in an AP report, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has announced that she will introduce comprehensive legislation to combat sexual harassment in Congressional offices. This bill would create more transparency in Congressional offices and give sexual harassment victims the resources and protections they need to report incidents.

“Congress should never be above the law or play by their own set of rules. The current process has little accountability and even less sensitivity to victims of sexual harassment,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “What we are seeing from the powerful #MeToo campaign is that sexual assault and sexual harassment are pervasive across our entire society. What you see time and again in institutions all around the country is a culture where power and fear keep sexual assault and sexual harassment in the shadows. Congress is no different. The women and men coming forward are an inspiration because they are changing our society in a way that is making it unacceptable for people to turn a blind eye to sexual violence. They are showing we can build a more just society for ourselves, our families and future generations by shining a light on injustice and saying we will not accept it anymore. I will be introducing legislation in the Senate to reform the current inadequate process by creating mandatory annual training for Members and staff, requiring climate surveys to show the true scope of this problem, giving interns the access to the same resources and protections as full-time staff, ending forced mediation, and overhauling the process that Congressional staffers have to report sexual harassment. We must ensure that this institution handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers.”

Gillibrand’s legislation would do the following:

Modernize and streamline the process for sexual harassment victims to report within the Office of Compliance
Create a designated person within the Office of Compliance to serve as a confidential advisor for victims of harassment
Require mandatory annual sexual harassment training for both Members and staff
Remove the current requirement that victims go through mediation before filing a complaint against an assailant
Require a climate survey to give a comprehensive analysis of the scope of this problem in Congress
Give interns access to the same resources as full-time staff
Require that each office post notices that detail the rights and protections of employees
Gillibrand has been a leading voice in the Senate in combatting sexual assault, and her bills to address the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses and in the military have broad, bipartisan support.

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Source: Senator Cathrine Cortez Masto - (D - NV)

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) along with U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced their support of the bipartisan Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), a bill to crack down on sex trafficking and ensure justice for victims.

“Sex trafficking is a despicable crime that is too often facilitated by nefarious websites like Backpage,” said the senators. “These companies knowingly profit off the pain of others and must be held accountable. This legislation ensures victims receive their day in court and empowers state attorneys general to seek justice. We applaud the hard work of the bill’s authors and are proud to join in support.”

SESTA was written in response to a two-year Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) inquiry which found that knowingly facilitated criminal sex trafficking of vulnerable women and young girls and then covered up evidence of these crimes in order to increase its own profits. The report from the subcommittee can be found here.

The bill would allow victims of sex trafficking to seek justice against websites that knowingly facilitated the crimes against them and eliminate federal liability protections for websites that assist, support, or facilitate a violation of federal sex trafficking laws. In addition, the law would enable state law enforcement officials, not just the federal Department of Justice, to take action against individuals or businesses that violate federal sex trafficking laws.

More news about the issues concerning Human Trafficking can be found at The Ponder News by clicking HERE


Source: Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) - (R - TN)

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) released the following statement on the importance of an independent justice system after reports that President Donald J. Trump refused to rule out firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions if the Department of Justice does not investigate what the president wishes.

“Like me, most Americans hope that our justice system is independent and free of political interference,” said Corker. “President Trump's pressuring of the Justice Department and FBI to pursue cases against his adversaries and calling for punishment before trials take place are totally inappropriate and not only undermine our justice system but erode the American people’s confidence in our institutions.”

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Sen. Coons, Colleagues Call for ACTION to Expand Opportunities for National Service

Source: Senator Christopher A .Coons - (D - DE)

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- In an effort to tackle national priorities and help young Americans strengthen their communities and our nation while reducing the burden of student debt, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the America’s Call To Improve Opportunities Now (ACTION) for National Service Act. The bill would increase opportunities for service across the country and provide young Americans with the chance to select a service program in a variety of fields. In exchange for their national service, students would get help paying for college.

The ACTION for National Service Act calls for elevating the Corporation for National and Community Service to a cabinet-level agency and providing resources to help support up to one million national service positions annually, enhancing participation in notable national service programs such as AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.

Currently, about one percent of Americans serve in either the military or a national service program. Retired General Stanley A. McChrystal, who serves as Chairman of the Board for the nonprofit Service Year Alliance, has stated that expanding national service options could go a long way toward uniting Americans and bridging the military-civilian divide by fostering a better understanding of shared sacrifice. General McChrystal noted: “Right now, less than one percent of our population serves in the military and, in my view, we need to rethink and create a system where young Americans have an opportunity to serve their nation in other ways. We need to create a culture of service where we are all invested in our nation's future and feel a shared sense of responsibility to our nation and to each other.”

Since 1994, over 1 million individuals have served through the AmeriCorps program, and roughly 245,000 seniors over the age of 55 volunteer annually through the Senior Corps programs. These individuals have addressed critical community needs in education, economic development, health, and many other areas, coming to their fellow citizens’ aid in times of national disaster, including thousands who have been deployed in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The bill seeks to enhance the nation’s capacity to support all those who want to serve their communities and the nation.

“Expanding national service opportunities for young Americans strengthens our communities, broadens the worldview of our next generation of American leaders, and instills in our young men and women a sense of pride in themselves and their country that can only be gained through giving back,” said Senator Coons. “As we work to make college more accessible and give our young people the opportunities they deserve to succeed, national service has to be part of the equation. I’m excited to introduce this bill and expand the impact of national service in the United States.”

“As Americans, we take inspiration from those who have answered the call to serve, whether in defense of our nation abroad or to strengthen our communities at home. This bill will grow our capacity to enlist, equip, and empower young people to address pressing challenges and give back to our nation while they earn money toward their education. It will increase volunteerism and strengthen our nation,” said Senator Reed. “Today, young people are eager to find ways to serve, and we need to do a better job of providing them with opportunities to give back. This willingness to make common cause with our fellow citizens and serve a purpose greater than ourselves is a hallmark of our nation. It’s also crucial that we invest in the education and professional development of those who have sacrificed and given so much to our nation. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce this legislation with my colleagues to help ensure that every American who wants to serve has the opportunity to do so, as well as future opportunities to get an education and build a better life. I commend Congressmen Larson, Lewis, and Kennedy for their leadership on this issue and longstanding commitment to expanding national service opportunities for all.”

“From the corners of Connecticut to disaster relief zones in Puerto Rico, I have seen the invaluable impact of individuals who have answered the call for their country with fundamentally American acts of service,” said Senator Blumenthal. “National volunteer service programs improve the lives of all Americans by protecting the environment, strengthening education, responding to disasters, supporting public health and safety, and providing assistance to at-risk communities. I am proud to support the ACTION for National Service Act, which would elevate and protect the spirit of service embodied in AmeriCorps and other federal service programs to inspire a new class of young leaders nationwide.”

Specifically, the ACTION for National Service Act:

• Gives all those who wish to serve the opportunity to do so by providing the necessary federal funding to support at least one million service positions nationwide.

• Significantly reduces student loan debt burdens by ensuring that individuals who serve two full terms of service are rewarded with an education benefit equivalent to four years of the average in-state tuition at a public, four-year college. Current law limits the award's value to the maximum amount of a Federal Pell Grant at the time of the individual’s service.

• Makes the education benefit free from federal taxation. Currently, education benefits count as income for tax purposes.

• Elevates the existing Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS) to a Cabinet-level federal agency, and appoints a Director of National Service with the same rank as Cabinet Secretaries. Existing CNCS programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps would be preserved and strengthened.

• Maintains the authority and programmatic responsibilities of state and local boards to direct federal resources to best meet community needs and be responsive to local priorities.

• Allows participants in programs outside of existing CNCS programs to be evaluated for eligibility for enhanced education benefits.

• Establishes a National Service Foundation to encourage private sector and philanthropic investment in expanding national service opportunities.

U.S. Representatives John B. Larson (D-CT), John Lewis (D-GA), and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) have introduced similar legislation, the ACTION for National Service Act (H.R. 3140), in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Brown on House Chip Bill: Don’t Pit Ohio Kids Against Seniors

Source: Senator Sherrod Brown (D - OH)

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged the House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and work toward a bipartisan solution for CHIP funding. Last month, the Senate Finance Committee – of which Brown is a member – voted nearly unanimously to pass a bipartisan deal that would lock in a five-year funding extension of CHIP. Rather than work in a bipartisan manner, the House today passed a partisan CHIP extension that while similar to the Senate bill, creates winners and losers by funding CHIP by raising costs for Ohio seniors and cutting critical public health funds. Brown is a sponsor of the Senate bill to extend funding for CHIP, which covers more than 209,000 Ohio children.

“We shouldn’t be pitting Ohio seniors against Ohio children,” said Brown. “That’s why Senator Portman and I, and our colleagues on the Finance Committee, voted for and continue to work on a bipartisan bill that takes care of children and their families without hurting seniors.”

Unlike the Senate CHIP extension – which passed with strong bipartisan support in the Senate Finance Committee – the House bill passed on a near party-line vote today. The House CHIP extension would increase costs for many seniors in Medicare, and would slash funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provided Ohio with $22.9 million last year to help prevent disease.

To read more news about the CHIP program at the Ponder News, Click HERE

Blumenthal Introduces Two Bicameral Bills to Protect Domestic Abuse Survivors from Gun Violence

Source: Senator Richard Blumenthal - (D - CT)

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led the introduction of two bills designed to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence. The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act and the Domestic Violence Gun Homicide Prevention Act are narrowly crafted measures that will, respectively, close loopholes that allow domestic abusers to legally obtain weapons, and incentivize states to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for a domestic violence victim, and adding the threat or use of firearms heightens the risk of fatality for a victim. According to a report published by the CDC in July 2017, more than 55% of female homicide victims were killed in connection to violence committed by intimate partners. More than half of all homicides of women involved firearms.

“The link between domestic violence and guns is well-documented, and deadly. Lori Jackson’s tragic death is one of thousands that occur each year following domestic disputes,” said Blumenthal. “The narrowly-crafted legislation I introduced in Lori’s name would close the loophole that allows domestic abusers under temporary restraining orders to legally obtain weapons. Together with the Domestic Violence Gun Homicide Prevention Act – which would strengthen protections for domestic violence survivors – we can act decisively to prevent gun deaths at the hands of domestic abusers. Continued congressional complicity in this matter is unacceptable.”

The Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act would close dangerous loopholes in federal law, thereby protecting millions of women and men nationwide. Current federal law protects domestic violence survivors from gun violence by preventing their abusers from purchasing or possessing a firearm – but only once the court has issued a permanent restraining order. This leaves survivors unprotected exactly when they are in the most danger: when a domestic abuser first learns his or her victim has left and only a temporary restraining order is in place. Further, the current definition of ‘intimate partner’ used to prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm includes spouses, former spouses, people with a child in common, and cohabitants. However, there are many survivors of dating violence who were never married, do not live with their abuser, and have no children.

This bill would restrict those under temporary restraining order from purchasing or possessing a firearm, and would extend protections to domestic violence survivors who have been abused by their dating partners. The bill is named in memory of Lori Jackson, an Oxford, Connecticut mother of two who was tragically shot and killed by her estranged husband, who had legally obtained a handgun under a temporary restraining order. U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) are cosponsoring the bill in the Senate. A companion measure was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Jim Himes (D-CT).

“The threat of domestic and intimate-partner violence constantly looms over our country,” said Himes. “As situations spiral downward and the cycle of violence repeats, victims are at much greater risk if their abuser has access to a firearm. Dangerous encounters can turn deadly in the blink of an eye. If we can take real steps to keep firearms out of the hands of abusive individuals, mark my words, there is no doubt we will be saving lives and preventing children from growing up without parents.”

The Domestic Violence Gun Homicide Prevention Act will incentivize states to continue to strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence and abuse who are at risk of gun violence. The act authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to make grants to states under the existing Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Grants) mechanism. States may use funds they are awarded to assist law enforcement agencies or courts that seek to keep firearms out of the hands of people who are legally prohibited from having them, or, in adjudicating or responding to domestic violence situations, to remove guns from situations in which there is probable cause to believe they will be used for domestic violence, harassment, or threats. U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) are cosponsoring the bill in the Senate. A companion measure was introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI).

“When a victim makes the courageous decision to leave an abusive situation, her life is at the greatest risk. If she is Black, her risk is even higher,” said Moore. “At this critical juncture, the safety of the victim all too often depends on state enforcement authorities that lack the resources needed to swiftly disarm abusers. This bill, the Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Act, would reverse this alarming reality by incentivizing the implementation of stricter state-level firearm enforcement protections, giving law enforcement and judicial authorities the tools they need to save the lives of survivors and their families.”

The bills are supported by a number of advocacy and support groups, including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and Jewish Women International.

Ruth Glenn, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said, "While federal law protects some victims and survivors of intimate partner violence from abusers with firearms, 'some' is insufficient; the law needs to protect all victims and survivors. We know that about half of all intimate partner homicides are committed by dating partners, and women are at greatest risk of homicide when they take action to leave their abusers such as obtaining ex parte protective orders. Common sense dictates that these victims should receive the same protections as other victims and survivors of intimate partner violence and that judges and law enforcement have the tools they need to enforce existing law and keep their communities safe."

“Every day in the United States victims of domestic violence are killed or severely injured because abusers have access to firearms,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of National Network to End Domestic Violence. “Congress has already made it clear that abusers should not be allowed to have guns, but loopholes give them legal access. We applaud Senator Blumenthal for taking a stand to protect victims by closing these dangerous loopholes, and giving states additional resources to remove firearms from abusers.”

“In our 2014 survey on firearms and domestic violence, 67 percent of participants shared that they believed their abusive partner was capable of killing them, and 22 percent said their abusive partner had threatened to use a gun,” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “We can’t allow perpetrators of domestic violence to have access to firearms, and the Domestic Violence Gun Homicide Prevention Act will go a long way in closing blatant gaps in existing laws that put victims of domestic violence and dating abuse at serious risk.”

Jewish Women International CEO Lori Weinstein said, “No domestic abuser should have access to a gun. I commend Senator Blumenthal's tireless efforts to ensure the safety of women and children from gun violence and fully support the introduction of these two pieces of legislation that will protect women from gun violence in domestic violence situations. On behalf of JWI and our members across the country, I call on Congress to pass these bills immediately. The lives of countless women and children are threatened every day. The stakes could not be higher.”

You can read more news about 2nd Amendment issues at The Ponder News by clicking HERE

Colorado Lawmakers File Amicus Brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop Case

Source: Senator Michael F. Bennet - (D - CO)

Note from the editor: I hate it that I don't have more news in support of the Masterpiece Cake Shop. I can't post it if I don't have it. If anyone has press releases that support the cake shop, or would like to write an opinion editorial supported by facts about the case, I would love to post it at the Ponder as an exclusive Op-Ed. Send it to me using the email at the bottom of the web site.

Thank you!
(If you don't, just remember: If your internet seems flooded with the leftist agenda, it is because the right are not contributing, and have chosen to sit down and be quiet. The pen IS mightier than the sword!

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with Colorado U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, and Jared Polis, are among 211 Members of Congress who this week filed an Amicus Brief in the case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court on December 5.

The brief is in support of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which enforces the state's anti-discrimination statute providing civil rights protections for historically marginalized groups, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. A ruling against the Commission could create a "license to discriminate," allowing businesses to deny service to Americans, including LGBTQ people.

"In signing this brief, we are sending a clear signal that every American - regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, or gender - should be guaranteed freedom from discrimination in all aspects of their lives," Bennet said. "We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will affirm this principle and set an important anti-discrimination precedent."

"I'm honored to join 210 of my House and Senate colleagues in signing this brief, which helps ensure that businesses in Colorado and across America are open to all," DeGette said. "LGBTQ Americans deserve the full protection of the law; this case is about that, and more. Our brief affirms freedom from discrimination for all people in our society. This case isn't about wedding cakes, just as it wasn't about water fountains half a century ago."

"If a business is open to the public, it should be open to everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or who they love," Perlmutter said. "Every American has the right to be treated fairly and equally, and should have the freedom to live the life they want. I'm proud to sign on to this amicus brief and support other legislation to ensure equal rights for all Americans."

"It's a basic principle: discrimination of any kind is wrong in a public accommodation," Polis said. "We must not chip away at anti-discrimination protections under law. The liberty of all Americans, not just LGBTQ Americans, is at stake."

In 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins were denied a wedding cake by Masterpiece Cakeshop because of their sexual orientation. The shop's owner, Jack Phillips, cited religious objections to same-sex marriage as a justification for his refusal. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission ruled that the shop could not lawfully deny services to individuals based on their sexual orientation under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and required the shop to provide staff training and issue reports on steps taken to come into compliance with the ruling. Masterpiece Cakeshop appealed the ruling, which was eventually upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court. The shop appealed the decision, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on December 5th. If the court finds that a business owner's religious conviction or expressive intent trumps civil rights laws, it could undermine local, state, and federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in accessing public accommodations.

In the friend-of-the-court brief, 36 Senators and 175 House members urged the Supreme Court to affirm the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's initial decision to require Masterpiece Cakeshop to comply with the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. The brief considers the history of federal nondiscrimination laws, such as Title II of the Civil Rights Act and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and how rulings regarding those statutes apply to the pending case. Signers warned that the outcome of the case could have broad implications for the civil rights of groups that already face discrimination and that creating exemptions to public accommodations laws - in this case based on a business' arguably expressive conduct or religious belief - would undermine the government's interest in prohibiting discrimination against minority groups.

The brief is supported by One Colorado, Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Employment Law Project, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Women's Law Center, People for the American Way Foundation, SAGE, Transgender Law Center, Equality California, Equality Delaware, Equality Florida, Equality New Mexico, Equality North Carolina, and Garden State Equality.

A full version of the brief is available HERE.

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Source: Senator Tammy Baldwin - (D - WI)

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has sent a letter to President Donald Trump with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Angus King (I-ME) and a group of 19 senators, calling on the President to support additional funding necessary to combat the opioid epidemic. Currently, the President’s emergency declaration only makes about $57,000 available which fails to adequately address this epidemic.

“We appreciate your formal declaration that the opioid epidemic is a National Public Health Emergency. While this is a positive step forward, more action must be taken in order to craft a timely and effective national strategy that will achieve long term solutions to this crisis. Specifically, we are concerned that your declaration does not yet include any additional funding resources for key programs and initiatives that will help our patients, providers, first responders and researchers who desperately need more assistance,” wrote the senators.

The senators continued, “Researchers, providers, patients, first responders, experts and policy makers agree that investing sufficient and timely resources are of paramount importance in order to allow our communities to effectively combat this epidemic. The President’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis agrees. The final Commission report released this week recommends that your Administration increase access to treatment and recovery programs, as well as expand the capacity for medication-assisted treatment and first responder access to overdose reversal drugs. As such, we encourage your Administration to work closely with Congress to swiftly provide the necessary additional and sustained funding to carry out a multi-faceted approach that supports activities related to research, education, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.”

In addition, Senator Baldwin joined 14 of her Senate colleagues last week to introduce the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, which would invest an additional $45 billion in local prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.

The letter to President Trump can be read here.

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House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Passes the PREPARE Act

Source: R Street

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The R Street Institute welcomes today’s unanimous vote by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to pass legislation that would better coordinate federal agencies to respond to natural disasters.

Sponsored by Reps. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., and Leonard Lance, R-N.J., H.R. 4177, the PREPARE Act, would create an interagency council to help plan federal disaster responses and make recommendations on the best way to plan for extreme weather, while also importantly working with stakeholders at the state and local level to disseminate information about preparedness.

“This year’s massive hurricanes and wildfires serve as a reminder that the cost to respond to natural disasters continues to grow, and taxpayers are footing an ever larger part of the bill,” R Street Senior Fellow R.J. Lehmann said. “The PREPARE Act offers a plan to prepare for and coordinate response in ways that are both streamlined and efficient.”

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Ohio House overwhelmingly approves Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act

Source: Ohio Right to Life

Washington, D.C. - November 4, 2017 (The Ponder News) -- The Ohio House overwhelmingly approved Ohio Right to Life's Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act (H.B. 214), 63-30, legislation which would prohibit abortions from being performed for the sole reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis. The legislation is sponsored by Representatives Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland) and Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township).

“Ohio Right to Life commends the Ohio House for taking a stand against this devastating practice,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “Today's vote is a vote against modern-day eugenics, plain and simple. After seeing the horrors of eugenics play out in the 20th century, it is appalling that this legislation is even up for debate. While aborting a human child is always wrong, we should all agree that there is something particularly egregious about targeting babies with disabilities for destruction."

Since June, multiple Down syndrome advocates have testified before House and Senate committees in favor of the legislation. Around the world and here in America, unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are disproportionately aborted. Recent news reports have revealed these alarming trends in European countries like Denmark where 98 percent of babies with a positive diagnosis are aborted and in Iceland where 100 percent are aborted. Last week, advocate Frank Stephens, who has Down syndrome, testified before Congress, referencing such reports and saying, "I am a man with Down syndrome, and my life is worth living."

“These disturbing trends challenge us with the opportunity to be better,” said Gonidakis. “With this knowledge, we have an obligation to protect our friends with Down syndrome, not only because they can teach us to be a more loving and empathetic society, but because they, like all of us, are endowed with the fundamental right to life. With this legislation, Ohio is paving the way for a society that stands up to discrimination and defends the most vulnerable among us."

H.B. 214 has companion legislation (S.B. 164) in the Ohio Senate. The bill is sponsored by Senator Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) and has already received three hearings. Ohio Right to Life asks its members to sign its petition to pass the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act. Click here to take action now.

Founded in 1967, Ohio Right to Life, with more than 45 chapters and local affiliates, is Ohio's oldest and largest grassroots pro-life organization. Recognized as the flagship of the pro-life movement in Ohio, ORTL works through legislation and education to promote and defend innocent human life from conception to natural death.

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House Tax Bill Preserves Key Priorities for Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Source: National Venture Capital Association

The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) issued the following statement today after House Republicans unveiled their draft tax reform legislation.

“We view tax reform as a unique opportunity to encourage new company formation by modernizing the tax code to better reflect the realities of the entrepreneurial business model,” said Bobby Franklin, President and CEO of NVCA. “We are pleased the House Ways and Means Committee heard our message and is preserving several issues important to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including Qualified Small Business Stock Rules and the R&D credit payroll offset. We are also pleased to see the inclusion of an NVCA-backed proposal to allow startup employees to defer taxes on their exercised stock options without a liquid market to sell them. As the process unfolds, we look forward to engaging with lawmakers on other ways tax reform can encourage new company formation, as well as reinforce for them the importance of long-term patient investment when considering changes to the taxation of carried interest capital gains.”

Venture capitalists are committed to funding America’s most innovative entrepreneurs, working closely with them to transform breakthrough ideas into emerging growth companies that drive U.S. job creation and economic growth. As the voice of the U.S. venture capital community, the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) empowers its members and the entrepreneurs they fund by advocating for policies that encourage innovation and reward long-term investment. As the venture community’s preeminent trade association, the NVCA serves as the definitive resource for venture capital data and unites its member firms through a full range of professional services.

Read more about the "Cut Cut Cut" Act at The Ponder News by clicking HERE