Thursday, January 11, 2018


By Pete Aguilar (D-CA, 31st)

Washington, D.C. - January 11, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- House Representative Pete Aguilar (D-CA, 31st) announced that the ADVANCE Act, his bipartisan bill to help connect military service members with high-demand jobs in the Inland Empire, has been signed into law by President Trump. The bill was included in a larger package of legislation, known as the Jobs for Our Heroes Act, and signed into law by the president on January 8, 2018.

“Members of our military dedicate their lives to the service of our nation, and we need to make sure that their service is rewarded with opportunities to succeed when they finish their military careers,” said Rep. Aguilar. He continued, “These men and women represent the best among us, and integrating them into the civilian workforce will benefit communities like the Inland Empire. This new law will ensure that happens.”

The ADVANCE Act changes requirements to make it easier for active duty military personnel, reservists and National Guardsmen to obtain commercial driver’s licenses, allowing them to transition more easily into the civilian workforce. The Jobs for Our Heroes Act was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives in December, 2017.

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Federal judges rule North Carolina congressional map unconstitutional

A panel of federal judges threw out North Carolina's congressional map on Tuesday, ruling the Republican-drawn map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and ordering the General Assembly to redraw the districts before the U.S. House elections.

Read more about this from The Washington Examiner

Alma Adams (D-NC, 12th)

“This ruling is a victory for democracy. The Republican-controlled General Assembly has deprived North Carolina voters of constitutional districts for nearly a decade in order to maintain their control in state and federal government. I urge the General Assembly to swiftly comply with the Court’s order and I will continue to closely monitor this case for additional updates.”

President Trump Signs Young, Donnelly Bill to Improve Mental Health Services for Law Enforcement

By Senator Todd Young (R - IN)

Washington, D.C. - January 11, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- President Trump signed into law U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Joe Donnelly’s (D-Ind.) Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act. Donnelly and Young introduced the bill in the Senate in early April and it passed unanimously in May. U.S. Representatives Susan Brooks (IN-05) and Val Demings (FL-10) introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives in late April, and it passed the House in November and cleared the Senate on December 21.

Senator Young said, “Our law enforcement officers put their lives at risk every day in order to keep us safe, and they can face significant stress and trauma. The President signing our bipartisan bill into law means that these brave men and women will have greater access to mental health services when they need them.”

Senator Donnelly said, “Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to serve and protect our communities, and it’s important we ensure they have access to mental health services. I’m proud President Trump has signed our bipartisan legislation into law because it will provide tools for law enforcement agencies to help support the mental health and wellness of these brave men and women.”

Representative Brooks said, “I’m grateful that the President signed into law an important bill I led in the House to support law enforcement. Our hardworking men and women in law enforcement deserve better access to mental health services that will allow them to safely cope with the stress and trauma they experience on the job. We place so much emphasis and attention on our police officers’ physical fitness, but we need to do more to ensure they are mentally healthy as well. This law makes grants available to initiate peer mentoring pilot programs, develops training for mental health providers specific to law enforcement mental health needs, and supports law enforcement officers by studying the effectiveness of crisis hotlines and annual mental health checks. It directs the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to share best practices used by the military to help soldiers with PTSD and other mental health challenges with local law enforcement agencies to better address mental health challenges faced by officers. Ensuring the safety of the law enforcement community in Indiana and across the country is critically important. I am proud to have led this bipartisan effort to support our nation’s police officers with my colleagues in the House, specifically Representatives Demings, Collins, Pascrell and Reichert as well as fellow Hoosiers in the Senate, Senators Donnelly and Young.”

Bryan Roach, Chief of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, said, “The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) is excited that legislation to assist and support Law Enforcement Wellness and Mental Health has passed the necessary review and rigor to be incorporated into law. The value of our officers’ mental health and wellness to the individual officer, the Department and the citizens they serve is meaningful. We strive to provide the best opportunities to succeed in our noble profession, and appreciate efforts of everyone involved with the creation and advocacy of this bill.”

Marion County Sheriff John Layton said, “With each passing year, law enforcement agencies across the country are strengthening their embrace and understanding of the role that mental health care plays in the communities that they serve. Critical Intervention Training - special training that helps law enforcement officers recognize and respond to individuals with mental health needs - is now a common component of training for new officers. Still, placing the needs of their communities above their own, a gap has occurred in mental health and wellness services for these heroic men and women who face dangerous, and even deadly, situations on a daily basis. The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act goes a long way to close that gap. It is imperative that we provide robust mental health and wellness care to our law enforcement officers, so they can continue to serve each of their communities at their best. I am so pleased with the passage of this bill, and I’m grateful to Senator Joe Donnelly and Senator Todd Young, and all of Indiana’s representatives in Congress for their support.”

Rick Snyder, Indianapolis FOP President, said, “This is a significant step forward for our law enforcement profession in addressing the mental trauma officers suffer due to acute and repeated exposure to violence, threats of violence and traumatic events. This legislation will allow our communities to better understand these challenges so proper support may be made available to those on the front lines in our cities and towns across America. This legislation is also a great example of bipartisan work within Congress. We value and appreciate the leadership of Senator Donnelley, Senator Young, Congresswoman Brooks and Congresswoman Demings. We are collectively grateful to President Trump for signing this legislation into law and once again demonstrating his support for law enforcement nationwide.

Chuck Canterbury, National President of the FOP, said, “Our officers wear protective clothing and other equipment to keep themselves safe from physical harm, but they also face challenges to their mental health and well-being. It is time we take care of those who watch over and protect us. The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act is now law and will help better support the men and women behind the badge. The FOP has been a leader on mental health for law enforcement officers, and we have been proud to work with Senators Donnelly and Young on this effort. The passion Senators Donnelly and Young show for the mental health and wellness of our law enforcement officers should be the standard for every member of Congress.”

Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations, said, “State and local law enforcement officers are our nation’s first responders. They respond to our country’s greatest tragedies as well as violent and abhorrent crimes that unfortunately occur with some frequency in our communities. They have seen and experienced horrors that they cannot forget, yet they still put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve our communities. The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act recognizes the stress and strain of the job and gives officers the support and resources they need to address their emotional and mental wellbeing. The enactment of this vital legislation is a victory for officers across the nation and we offer our sincere appreciation to Senators Donnelly and Young for their leadership on this issue and their commitment to ensuring officers have access to the best mental health services available.

William Owensby, President of the Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, said, “Senator Donnelly’s support of Indiana law enforcement reached new heights as legislation authored by him was signed into law. The Senator was approached by the Fraternal Order of Police about helping to provide assistance to law enforcement who suffer from the effects of the stresses of their jobs and he immediately rose to the occasion. With strong bipartisan support from Indiana, the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act was made a reality. Many thanks for the unwavering support Senator Donnelly!"

The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act authorizes grants to initiate peer mentoring pilot programs, directs the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to develop resources for mental health providers based on the specific mental health challenges faced by law enforcement, and supports law enforcement officers by studying the effectiveness of crisis hotlines and annual mental health checks.

It also directs the Departments of Defense (DoD), Justice, and Veterans Affairs (VA) to confer about existing DoD and VA mental health practices and services that could be adopted by law enforcement agencies.

The legislation had the support of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Officers (NAPO), the Major County Sheriffs of America (MCSA), the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), and the Sergeants Benevolent Association.

Recognizing the stress and trauma that law enforcement officers experience and in an effort to support officers, IMPD created initiatives through the Office of Professional Development and Officer Wellness and started a peer mentoring program. These efforts by IMPD helped inspire Donnelly’s and Young’s bill.

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Thune Bills to Combat Human Trafficking Signed Into Law

By: Senator John Thune (R - SD)

Washington, D.C. - January 11, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement after the president signed his bipartisan legislation to combat human trafficking, the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act (S. 1532), and the Combatting Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act (S. 1536), of which he was a cosponsor.

“Now that the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act and the Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act have been signed into law, they will aid in the ongoing battle against human trafficking,” said Thune.

S. 1532 and S. 1536 would (respectively):

  • Disqualify individuals from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for their lifetime if they used a CMV to commit a felony involving human trafficking.
  • Designate a human trafficking prevention coordinator at the U.S. Department of Transportation and would increase outreach, education, and reporting efforts at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

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    By Senator John McCain - (R - AZ)

    Washington, D.C. - January 11, 2017 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement in recognition of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month:

    “In recognition of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we must reaffirm our commitment to eliminating all forms of modern day slavery and human trafficking. These are horrific crimes that undermine the most basic human rights, and target the most vulnerable and at-risk individuals in our society.

    “I commend the Senate’s work to combat modern day slavery and human trafficking, including through the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, which I am proud to cosponsor. I’m also proud of my wife Cindy’s longstanding effort to help victims of human trafficking and drive change both in Arizona and around the world.

    “We have a long way to go to end this tragedy and restore the freedom of those exploited through these crimes. Let this month serve as a reminder that it is our duty to not only raise awareness, but to stop the victimization of all men, women and children.”

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