Friday, March 29, 2019

Jenna Quinn Law to Help Prevent Child Abuse Introduced

by: Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)

Washington, D.C. - March 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) has introduced the Jenna Quinn Law, which would allow current grant funds to be used to train and educate students, teachers, caregivers, and other adults who work with children in a professional or volunteer capacity on how to prevent, recognize, and report child sexual abuse. The bill is named for Jenna Quinn, a Texan and child abuse survivor, and is modeled after successful reforms passed in Texas.

“Child sexual abuse is a terrible crime that preys on the innocence of our most vulnerable, but it takes specialized training to identify and prevent the abuse,” Sen. Cornyn said. “Jenna’s Law has had a profound impact on the reporting of child sexual abuse in Texas, and I’m proud to introduce this successful law on a national level.”

“To better protect children from sexual abuse, we must ensure that teachers, caregivers, and other adults working with children are equipped with the tools and knowledge to prevent, recognize, and report sexual abuse and exploitation, and to ensure that children receive appropriate education on how to recognize and report these heinous acts,” Sen. Hassan said. “By encouraging states to provide training and education on child sexual abuse recognition and prevention, this bipartisan legislation will help keep our young people safe.”


Jenna Quinn has been an outspoken advocate for survivors of child sexual abuse and was the driving force behind what is now known as Jenna’s Law in Texas. Unanimously passed by the Texas State Senate and House, Jenna’s Law was the first child sexual abuse prevention law in the U.S. that mandates K-12 trainings for students and school staff and was amended in 2017 to include sex trafficking prevention education in schools. More than half of all states have adopted a form of Jenna’s Law.

After Jenna’s Law passed in Texas in 2009, a study found educators reported child sexual abuse at a rate almost four times greater after training than during their pre-training career.

The Jenna Quinn Law would:

  • Authorize grants to eligible entities for increasing evidence-based or informed training on sexual abuse prevention education and reporting to teachers and school employees, students, caregivers, and other adults who work with children.
  • Ensure states and CAPTA community-based grant recipients coordinate with local educational agencies to train professionals and volunteers who work with students on sexual abuse prevention, recognition and reporting.
  • Confirm states not only have provisions and procedures in place for an individual to report sexual abuse but also procedures for individuals to prevent sexual abuse and recognize the signs of that abuse.
  • Encourage states to provide operational support, technical assistance and training to community-based and prevention-focused entities in the state to train teachers, school employees, and others who work with children preventing, recognizing, and reporting sexual abuse and exploitation.

  • The Jenna Quinn Law is supported by the National Children’s Alliance, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Sheriff’s Association, Darkness to Light, and TexProtects.

    Legislation to Make Child Care More Affordable Introduced

    by: Sendator Benjamin L.Cardin (D - MD)

    Washington, D.C. - March 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (Both D-Md.) joined Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and 19 Democratic colleagues in introducing the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit Enhancement Act to make child care accessible and more affordable for working families. This legislation builds on the popular Child Care Tax Credit by increasing the full tax credit amount and making the full credit available to more working families.

    “Families in Maryland and across the nation are faced with prohibitively high child care costs, forcing many parents to drop out of the workforce or scale back their hours,” said Senator Cardin. “This expansion of the popular Child Care Tax Credit would lessen financial hardship for working families, support parents in the workforce, and ensure that children from all socioeconomic backgrounds enjoy to safe, quality learning environments.”

    “All children deserve the chance to learn and succeed, regardless of where they are born or their family’s income. That is why it so important that we ensure all families have access to high quality, affordable early learning and childcare,” said Senator Casey. “This measure works to help achieve that goal by making common sense improvements to the existing Child Care Tax Credit, including increasing the full tax credit amount, and by making the full credit available to more working families. I am proud to be joined by 20 of my Democratic colleagues in this fight.”

    Specifically, The Child Care and Dependent Credit Enhancement Act would:

  • Make the full Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit available to most working families: This bill would make the full credit available to families with income under $120,000. The current phase-down of the credit begins at $15,000 of income.
  • Put more money into a family’s pocket: The bill increases the maximum credit from $1,050 to $3,000 per child (age 0-13), up to $6,000.
  • Ensure lower income families see a benefit: The bill would make the credit fully refundable to make sure those with the greatest need see a benefit.
  • Retain the value over time: The bill would index benefits to inflation to ensure they keep up with ever-growing costs.

  • The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

    Bill to Address Physician Staffing Shortages at VA Introduced

    by: Senator John Boozman (R-AR)

    Washington, D.C. - March 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Recruiting and retaining highly-qualified physicians has long been a challenge for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), but a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate seeks to turn the tide by allowing the department to compete for the best and brightest doctors coming out of medical school.

    The VA Hiring Enhancement Act—introduced by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Jon Tester (D-MT)—aims to overcome the competitive disadvantage the VA faces in recruiting medical students by aligning the department’s hiring processes with private sector providers. The hiring process begins much earlier for the private sector than it does for the VA.

    “Under its current hiring processes, the VA loses too many great medical school graduates to private sector employers. The VA Hiring Enhancement Act will fix that by leveling the playing field for the VA and allowing the department to attract the best and brightest doctors. In terms of closing the VA’s recruiting gap with the private sector, this bill is a gamechanger,” said Boozman.

    “The VA must have a qualified medical workforce ready to serve veterans,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.“The VA Hiring Enhancement Act makes the VA more competitive with the private sector when it recruits talented doctors, clinicians, and medical students.”

    The VA Hiring Enhancement Act has the support of key Veterans Service Organizations including the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Veterans & Military Families for Progress.

    Specifically, theVA Hiring Enhancement Act seeks to:

  • Allow the VA to release physicians from non-compete agreements, provided they commit to VA services for at least one year. This makes it easier to hire local doctors, since non-compete contracts are often designed to prevent doctors from competing with their previous employer in the same local area;
  • Grant the VA authority to make binding job offers up to two years prior to completion of residency, which would help the VA become more proactive in its healthcare provider hiring practices and is particularly important to attracting specialists; and
  • Set the minimum education requirement for VA doctors as completion of residency.


    by: Senator Tammy Baldwin (D - WI)

    Washington, D.C. - March 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and every member of the Senate Democratic Caucus in introducing the For the People Act — a sweeping package of comprehensive reforms that would fix our broken politics and make government work for the people. The landmark legislation, companion legislation to H.R. 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives, aims to restore the promise of American democracy by making it easier, not harder, to vote; ending the dominance of big money in politics; and ensuring that public officials work for the public interest. Earlier this month, the House passed H.R. 1 by a vote of 234-193.

    “The American people need to trust that their government is working for them, not the corporate special interests that already have too much power in Washington,” said Senator Baldwin. “Hardworking American families are struggling to get ahead and they can’t afford to have special interests in a cozy relationship with the government. I’m joining my colleagues to introduce this legislation because we need to reform our broken political system, increase transparency and restore faith in our democracy.”

    The legislation includes Senator Baldwin’s Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act which would slow the revolving door between corporations, Wall Street and Washington. It would also prohibit “government service golden parachute” bonus payouts, strengthen ethics requirements, and combat conflicts of interest.

    “President Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp,’ but this revolving door keeps spinning,” said Senator Baldwin. “When Wall Street insiders, corporate executives and long-term industry lobbyists move through the revolving door from the private sector to public service and back again, they should not be rewarded with big bonuses and a free pass to rewrite the rules to benefit corporate special interests. Let’s stop the revolving door and make sure that government officials are working on behalf of the public interest and our common good, not powerful special interests.”

    The For the People Act would:

    Make It Easier, Not Harder, To Vote

    Improve Access and Secure Voting Rights – Expands access to the ballot box by taking aim at institutional barriers to voting, such as cumbersome registration systems, limited voting hours and many other roadblocks. The bill creates automatic voter registration across the country, ensures that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored, expands voting by mail, promotes early voting and online voter registration, and modernizes the U.S. voting system.
    Promote Integrity – Fights back against the assault on voting rights by reaffirming Congress’s commitment to restoring the Voting Rights Act, prohibiting voter roll purges like those seen in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere, and ensuring that discriminatory voter ID laws do not prevent Americans citizens from exercising their rights. This bill would also end partisan gerrymandering to prevent politicians from picking their voters and making Americans feel like their voices do not count.
    Bolster Election Security – Ensures that American elections are decided by American voters without interference by foreign adversaries. The bill creates a national strategy to protect our democratic institutions, increases oversight over election vendors, and enhances federal support for state voting system security upgrades, including paper ballot voting systems.
    End The Dominance of Big Money In Politics

    Guarantee Disclosure – Shines a light on dark money in politics by requiring all political organizations to disclose their donors, which will break the nesting-doll system that allows big-money contributors and special interests to hide their spending in networks of so-called “social welfare” organizations; expands “Stand By Your Ad” provisions; and harmonizes internet disclosure rules with existing broadcast rules.
    Empower Citizens – Builds a 21st century campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors, reaffirms Congress’s authority to regulate money in politics, and pushes back against Citizens United. This bill levels the political playing field for everyday Americans, creating a multiple matching system for small donations and allowing the American people to exercise their due influence in a post-Citizens United world, while reaffirming that Congress should have the authority to regulate money in politics. The new system of citizen-owned elections will break special interests’ stranglehold on Congress and the White House and lay the groundwork for an agenda that serves the American people.
    Strengthen Oversight – Repairs and restructures the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to break gridlock and enhance enforcement mechanisms, tightens rules on super PACs, and repeals policy riders that block sensible disclosure measures.
    Ensure Public Officials Work For The Public Interest

    Fortify Ethics Laws and Slow the Revolving Door – Breaks the influence of special interests in Washington and increases accountability by expanding conflict of interest law and divestment requirements, slows the revolving door, prohibits members of Congress from serving on for-profit corporate boards, limits first class travel for government officials, ends taxpayer-financed settlements for officeholders, and requires presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
    Impose Greater Ethics Enforcement – Gives teeth to federal ethics oversight by overhauling the Office of Government Ethics, requires the Supreme Court to create a new ethical code, and closes registration loopholes for lobbyists and foreign agents.
    The For the People Act is co-sponsored by every member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, including:

    U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA) Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).


    by: Edison Electric Institute

    Washington, D.C. - March 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Edison Electric Institute (EEI) Vice President for Security and Preparedness Scott Aaronson today issued the following statement on President Trump’s executive order on Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses (EMPs).

    “EEI and its member companies applaud President Trump's ongoing focus on protecting critical infrastructure, and we look forward to working with the Administration to ensure that industry and government continue to work closely together to protect the energy grid.

    “Grid security is a shared responsibility, and addressing dynamic threats to the energy grid requires vigilance and coordination that leverages government and industry resources. Our security strategies constantly evolve and are closely coordinated with the federal government through a partnership called the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC). From electric company CEOs to energy grid operators, we work closely to share threat information and partner with all levels of government to mitigate, and respond to, national-level incidents or threats to electric-sector critical infrastructure.

    “How an EMP may impact critical infrastructure is an extremely complex issue that cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all solution. Sound policy should be informed by sound science. That is why the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) launched a research project in 2016 to evaluate how EMPs could impact the energy grid. Developing this scientific basis enables companies to make science-informed decisions for developing, testing, and deploying EMP-resistant grid components.

    “Next month, EPRI will share its EMP findings with the industry, policymakers, and the public, providing the necessary information for companies to better understand the potential impact of EMP incidents to the transmission system. The findings also will include recommendations for mitigation approaches and investments.

    “EEI’s member companies understand that reliable electricity and a secure energy grid are essential to the nation’s economy and our way of life. By working together through the ESCC, industry and government greatly enhance our nation’s ability to defend and protect against all threats to the energy grid. We value this partnership and appreciate President Trump’s support for improving the security posture of the electric power industry and, by extension, the nation.”


    by: Concerned Veterans for America

    Arlington, VA - March 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) announced its opposition to legislation to eliminate the asset and infrastructure review (AIR) mandated by the bipartisan VA MISSION Act. This bill, introduced by Sens. Rounds and Manchin, would force the VA to maintain excess and aging infrastructure and would take valuable resources away from providing the best care possible for our veterans. The AIR provision of the VA MISSION Act would create a commission to evaluate the VA’s current medical facility footprint to ensure that it is best aligned with the current needs and demands of the VA patient population across the country.

    Dan Caldwell, CVA’s executive director had this to say regarding the bill:

    “This irresponsible and misguided legislation would force the VA to potentially waste billions in taxpayer dollars to maintain VA facilities that are clearly outdated and not serving the needs of the current or future veteran population. The asset and infrastructure review is critical to protecting the VA’s ability to serve our veterans, allowing the VA to modernize and adapt as the veteran population continues to change, and ensuring the VA is spending taxpayer dollars in the most responsible way when serving those veterans. We urge the Senate to reject this bill and we hope that Senators Rounds and Manchin reconsider this counterproductive proposal.”

    Secretary Wilkie, during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday, stressed the importance of modernizing the VA, including the importance of making sure the VA’s facilities are up to the task of caring for our nation’s veterans. He pointed out that “ more than half of the buildings [he is] responsible for age in range from over 50 years to 100 years.” And he reminded the members that it was the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which, through the VA MISSION Act, directed the VA to conduct market assessments and create “the asset and infrastructure review commission to bring the VA up to speed where the veterans are.”

    The VA is one of the largest federal property-holding agencies, owning buildings covering more than 151 million square feet and leasing over 1,500 buildings costing more than $340.6 million annually in rent. Former VA Secretary Shulkin has testified in previous hearings that the VA has hundreds of empty or under-utilized VA buildings that cost the federal government $25 million annually to maintain.

    The VA MISSION Act – which contained the provision mandating the asset and infrastructure review –passed Congress on an overwhelming bipartisan vote and was signed into law by President Trump on June 6, 2018.

    District Court Judge Strikes Down Medicaid Work Reporting Requirements

    by: Community Catalyst

    Boston, MA - March 29, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Statement of Michael Miller, strategic policy director at Community Catalyst, regarding the federal court rulings regarding Medicaid work reporting requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas.

    “Today’s ruling by District Court Judge James Boasberg striking down Medicaid work reporting requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky is a welcome relief for hundreds of thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries who were at risk of losing their health coverage. The judge, who previously struck down work reporting requirements in Kentucky, said that the Trump administration ‘failed to justify that adding employment conditions and other changes to Medicaid…advanced Medicaid’s basic purpose of providing health coverage.’

    “Work reporting requirements have already stripped away health coverage from roughly 18,000 low-income Arkansans. This decision means that the health coverage for Arkansas and Kentucky residents will be protected. The decision also sets an important precedent that could protect the health coverage of millions of Medicaid enrollees in the 15 states with approved or pending work reporting requirement proposals. The fundamental purpose of Medicaid is to provide health coverage to low-income individuals, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and others for whom other forms of health insurance may be out of reach.

    “The Trump administration again failed to make the case as to how and why adding work requirements to state Medicaid programs would increase employment or improve health outcomes for Medicaid beneficiaries.

    “Medicaid is a lifeline for millions of people. As today’s decision shows, efforts by the Trump administration and state legislators to create barriers to coverage in Medicaid will not go unanswered. We urge the administration and state policy makers to take heed of the judge’s unequivocal decision and cease their misguided attacks."

    Thursday, March 28, 2019

    Bicameral Legislation To Protect Taxpayer Dollars In Government Contracting

    by: Ted Bud (R-NC, 13th)

    Washington, D.C. - March 28, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Representative Ted Budd (NC-13) and Francis Rooney (FL-19) and Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and David Perdue (R-GA) released the following statements after introducing the Fair and Open Competition Act, which would lower government construction costs by increasing competition and opportunities for contractors to bid on government work. The bill would ensure that the federal government cannot mandate project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal projects, thereby increasing competition and lowering construction costs for taxpayers.

    When the government mandates that a PLA is used on a federal or federally assisted construction project, workers that chose not to join a union, and open shop contractors, are essentially prevented from working on that project. In America, over 86% of the private construction workforce does not belong to a union. In Indiana, 72.7% of the private construction workforce has chosen not to join a union. In North Carolina, 99.7% of the private construction workforce has chosen not to join a union . When PLAs are mandated by government entities, all of those nonunion workers are essentially prevented from working on a project.

    “As someone who has run a business, I know how important it is to have fair and open competition,” said Rep. Budd. “Government-mandated PLAs are not fair, and it’s taxpayers who take the hit. For the sake of our country and our taxpaying constituents, we should be committed to cost-effective construction projects.”

    “PLA’s discourage non-union competition for federal construction projects. As a lifelong businessman, I believe that open competition is best for the market and all businesses should have the opportunity to compete for federal construction projects,” said Rep. Rooney. “That’s why I introduced the Fair and Open Competition Act- to stop federal agencies from discriminating against companies that don’t engage in PLA’s. This will ensure competition for the best price and save taxpayer dollars.”

    “With a majority of America’s private construction workers not a part of a union, government-mandated PLAs are inherently unfair. Being raised by a family of small business owners and workers, I understand the economic value of open competition in the workforce,” said Senator Young. “The Fair and Open Competition Act is a simple solution that will lower costs for taxpayers and restore competition in the construction industry.”
    “As a business guy, I know how harmful onerous government regulations are for a company’s competitiveness,” said Senator Perdue. “The Obama Administration’s project labor agreement mandate gave unionized construction companies an unfair advantage in competing for federal contracts. We need to unwind this burdensome rule and give the decision-making power back to the markets. This will level the playing field for small businesses, rein in construction costs, and ultimately save taxpayer dollars.”

    A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.

    Bill to Help Americans Save for Retirement Introduced

    by: Vern Buchanan (R-FL, 16th)

    Washington, D.C. - March 28, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressmen Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.) has reintroduced their bipartisan legislation to help Americans save for retirement.

    “Unfortunately, too many hardworking Americans enter retirement without adequate savings,” Buchanan said. “It is imperative we provide as many resources as possible to help folks prepare for their golden years and invest in their future.”

    According to USA Today, the average American has less than $4,000 in savings while nearly 60 percent of adults have less than $1,000 to their names.

    The Retirement Security for American Workers Act would make it easier and less costly for small businesses to set up and offer retirement benefits to employees. Specifically, the legislation allows businesses join together in “multiple employer plans” (MEPs) to share the administrative burden and costs of offering a retirement plan.

    Incredibly, up to 35 percent of private-sector workers over the age of 22 work for a company that doesn’t offer a retirement plan, while over 40 percent of millennials didn't have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

    Millions of American employees stand to benefit from expanding the availability of workplace retirement plans. In fact, the AARP has found that workers are 15 times more likely to save when they have access to a retirement plan.

    “The American people need improved access to retirement savings,” Buchanan continued. “Congress should approve this bipartisan legislation and help retirees reach a stronger state of financial stability.”

    Buchanan represents over 220,000 Social Security recipients in the nation’s eighth-oldest congressional district.

    Buchanan and Kind previously introduced the bill in the 114th and 115th Congresses.

    VA COST SAVINGS Enhancement Act Introduced

    by: Mike Bost (R-IL, 12th)

    Washington, D.C. - March 28, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Mike Bost (R-IL, 12th) has introduced the bipartisan VA COST SAVINGS Enhancement Act, which will save the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) tens of millions of dollars annually and improve care for our veterans. The legislation requires the VA to install on-site medical waste treatment systems in VA facilities where it is determined this will result in a cost-savings within 5 years.

    “I completely understand that most folks probably don’t think too much about medical waste treatment systems,” said Bost. “I didn’t either. That was until I saw the tens of millions of dollars being spent on the VA’s generally inefficient process of medical waste disposal. This bipartisan legislation is a straightforward, commonsense solution that embraces proven technology that will free up millions of dollars for the VA to better serve our veterans.”


    In 2012, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported to Congress that on-site medical waste treatment at individual VA facilities may cost half as much as sending waste off-site to treatment locations. However, despite the efficacy of such a program, little implementation has ever been initiated.

    Current waste treatment technologies have demonstrated to be safer, more efficient, more cost-effective, and more environmentally friendly compared to previous technologies. In addition, onsite disposal reduces hazards associated with storing waste on-site and transporting it through communities to regional disposal centers. Implementing this technology will align the VA with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) best practices for infection control, and VA hospitals will no longer truck millions of pounds of hazardous waste on our roads.

    Bipartisan Bill to Fight Ocean Acidification Introduced

    by: Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR, 1st)

    Washington, D.C. - March 28, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), Derek Kilmer (WA-6), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-3), and Don Young (AK-AL), reintroduced bipartisan legislation to help fight ocean acidification. The bill, entitled the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act, would allow federal agencies to use existing funds to conduct prize competitions to increase the ability to research, monitor, and manage ocean acidification and its impacts.

    “Coastal communities in Oregon and across the country are already facing the devastating effects of ocean acidification, and we must strengthen our approach,” said Rep. Bonamici. “The Ocean Acidification Innovation Act’s prize competition will encourage collaboration and spur innovative strategies to mitigate and adapt to ocean acidification. This will help the communities, environments, and industries that rely on healthy oceans and are facing the harsh realities of rising carbon emissions.”

    “We know that changing ocean chemistry threatens entire livelihoods and industries in our state. So, this bipartisan bill is really about jobs,” said Rep. Kilmer. “There are generations of folks in our coastal communities who have worked in fishing and shellfish growing, but that’s endangered if we don’t maintain a healthy Pacific Ocean. This bill creates a strong incentive for experts to focus on developing innovative solutions to this serious challenge.”

    “Our coastal communities depend on a healthy shellfish and fishing industry,” said Rep. Herrera Beutler. “Ocean acidification threatens those jobs and the health of the ocean’s ecosystem, which is why we’re offering this bipartisan bill that will help us better understand the problem and find solutions.”

    “Healthy oceans and waterways are essential to maintaining strong coastal communities and providing for a robust marine economy,” said Rep. Young. “Ocean acidification is an ongoing threat that must be addressed head-on. This bill helps our American innovators develop new tools for tackling this pressing issue. Alaska’s maritime jobs depend on healthy oceans, and I will keep working with my friends on both sides of the aisle in the fight against ocean acidification.”

    Ocean acidification is a rising threat to coastal communities throughout the Pacific Northwest and growing evidence suggests that acidic ocean conditions harm the ability of many marine organisms to generate shells. These marine organisms, which include oysters, mussels, and pteropods, are a key part of the food chain for salmon, herring, and other fish. In addition, scientists at the University of Washington recently discovered that ocean acidification also threatens the $220 million Dungeness crab fishery, raising serious concerns about future implications for species and ecosystems in the region.

    The legislation was created in collaboration with key stakeholders, including the XPRIZE Foundation, an innovative non-profit organization that creates public competitions designed to encourage increased investment in solutions to major societal problems. For example, the Ansari XPRIZE awarded for personal spaceflight technology helped launch a brand-new $2 billion private space industry.

    Federal agencies have increasingly viewed prize competitions as a means of maximizing the return on taxpayer dollars, leveraging prizes to attract more resources to tackle difficult scientific challenges.

    Bonamici and Young co-chair the House Oceans Caucus, a bipartisan group of House members committed to taking action to protect the health and future of our oceans. The Caucus is focused on environmental stressors (including ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, and hypoxia); marine debris; ocean data and monitoring; coastal resiliency; and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

    Bonamici also introduced the bipartisan Coastal and Ocean Acidification Stressors and Threats (COAST) Research Act in February. The COAST Research Act will strengthen federal investments in research and monitoring of changing ocean conditions.

    Democrats Vote to Protect Transgender Troops

    by: Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware at Large)

    Washington, D.C. - March 28, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL) issued the following statement voting protect transgender members of our armed forces.

    “No one with the strength and determination to serve in our military should ever be turned away because of who they are. Transgender service members serve with distinction and are prepared to make the sacrifice to our nation. The Trump Administration’s ban on transgender individuals serving in uniform is misguided, discriminatory, and contrary to our values. Despite their honorable commitment, this ban demeans their service and must be ended,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “By voting to end this ban, we met prejudice with love and intolerance with support. Today, we took an important step forward in fighting for equality, protecting the dignity of our military, and affirming the values that our country stands for.”

    See Also:

    Brooks Votes Against Taxpayer Funding for Gender Reassignment Surgery

    Congressman Blumenauer Introduces Bill to Bolster Alzheimer’s Care Planning

    by: Earl Blumenauer (D-OR, 3rd)

    Washington, D.C. - March 28, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus, along with several members of Congress, has introduced H.R. 1873, the Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act. This bipartisan legislation that would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to inform healthcare providers about care planning benefits available through Medicare. The bill would also require HHS to identify other barriers individuals may be facing in accessing care planning.

    “Alzheimer’s is the signature disease of boomers, and it’s a disease that touches everybody,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “Prevention, early intervention, and care planning with health care providers are key to cutting in half the suffering, the cost, and the trauma that individuals and their families go through every day. The Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act will result in better treatment outcomes and help families to better face the challenges that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis brings.”

    Congressman Blumenauer was one of the lead Democrats on the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act in the 114th Congress, a law that improves Medicare coverage by creating a benefit for comprehensive care planning services following a dementia diagnosis. Unfortunately, many health care providers remain unaware that this benefit is available. As a result, many eligible Medicare beneficiaries are not receiving the assistance that a comprehensive care planning visit can provide. This legislation will increase access to this vital benefit by ensuring more providers are informed and ready to offer it.

    Congressman Blumenauer Leads a Letter to FDA in Support of Plant-Based Food Products

    by: Earl Blumenauer (D-OR, 3rd)

    Portland, OR - March 28, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with several members of Congress, wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in support of plant-based alternative food products like almond milk and coconut butter. The lawmakers wrote to urge FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and the agency to preserve use of terms like “milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter” in product labels of plant-based alternatives.

    “American consumers seek these [plant-based] alternatives for many reasons, including allergies or intolerance to dairy, nutritional needs, religious and ethical beliefs, sustainability, and, quite often, taste preference,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “To prevent these food products from including the names of dairy foods in their labels would only lead to confusion in the marketplace.”

    “We applaud Congressman Blumenauer and his colleagues in the House for advocating for food innovation by asking the FDA to not make unnecessary and harmful labeling changes,” said Michele Simon, Executive Director of the Plant Based Food Association. “The FDA’s proposed labeling changes would undermine our members’ ability to communicate to consumers who are seeking out healthier and more sustainable plant-based options.”

    In 2018, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced FDA’s Nutrition Innovation Strategy (NIS) in a speech to the National Food Policy Conference. As part of its strategy, the FDA is considering approaches to modernize “standards of identity,” which are regulations that set forward requirements for the content and sometimes the methods used to produce certain foods.

    Click here to read the letter.


    by: Sanford D. Bishop, Jr (D-GA, 2nd)

    Washington, D.C. - March 28, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr (D-GA, 2nd) issued the following statement after the House approved H.R. 7, 242 to 187. The Paycheck Fairness Act introduced by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), will strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and close loopholes that have allowed many employers to avoid responsibility for discriminatory pay:

    “Pay discrimination in the workplace is real. The Paycheck Fairness Act is an important step toward ending gender-based wage discrimination and ensuring all women receive equal pay for equal work. The impact of the wage gap grows throughout a woman’s career. Based on today’s wage gap, a woman who worked full-time, year-round would typically lose $406,760 over a 40-year career. This woman would have to work nearly ten years longer than her male counterpart to make up this lifetime wage gap.

    "The wage gap is even larger for women of color: African-American women on average earn only 61 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. When women bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families – groceries, rent, child care, and doctors’ visits. It also means they have far less savings for retirement. I was proud to support this legislation and I urge my Senate colleagues to do the same.”

    See also:

    Bonamici Praises Passage of Paycheck Fairness Act

    Wednesday, March 27, 2019

    Let's Catch Up on Some News, Shall We?

    Someone got into my files and deleted my House of Representative Press Links, so I am having to rebuild from the bottom up. Gonna take some work and a lot of time. There are a lot of them. Anyway, here is what I got done today:

    Today's News from the Lawmakers

    Congressman Biggs Upholds President Trump’s Lawful Right to Declare a National Emergency
    by: Andy Biggs (R-AZ, 5th)
    March 26, 2019
    The U.S. House of Representatives tried – and failed – to override President Trump’s veto on the resolution of disapproval of his national emergency for border security. Congressman Biggs voted to uphold President Trump’s lawful right to declare the national emergency and issued the following statement:


    Okay, let me get this straight: The House votes to enact a resolution disapproving of something the President did, and really expects the President to approve it? Hilarious!

    Bergman Questions Top Defense Official on PFAS Contamination at Michigan Bases
    by: Jack Bergman (R-MI, 1st)
    March 26, 2019
    "PFAS contamination is an emerging threat across the First District of Michigan and throughout the country. Every family has the right to know that the water they drink is clean and safe. I appreciate Acting Secretary Shanahan's statement today, and his commitment to addressing this issue. With multiple known PFAS contamination sites - including Alpena, Grayling, Marquette, and Escanaba - this emerging water crisis significantly impacts Michigan’s First District. Government at all levels, across the country, should work to address this epidemic and protect our impacted communities," said Bergman.



    Statement on Summary of the Mueller Report
    by: Joyce Beatty (D-OH, 3rd)
    March 25, 2019
    “This is a time for full transparency, and a summary report is not sufficient. The American people want the full report. That is why I join my Democratic and Republican colleagues in calling on Attorney General Barr to release Special Counsel Mueller’s entire report and all of its findings.


    Bishop Statement on Attorney General Barr’s Summary
    by: Joyce Beatty (D-OH, 3rd)
    March 25, 2019
    Barr made his summary known via a letter, in which it is stated that “the Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”


    Now, can we please move on?


    by: Gus M. Bilrakis (R-FL, 12th)
    March 8, 2019
    The Fairness to Pet Owners Act allows pet owners to receive a copy of their pets’ prescriptions without having to request it, pay an extra fee for it, or sign a waiver or liability disclaimer. That way, they can decide to buy their pets’ medications at their local or online pharmacy, a big box retailer, or another location of their choosing.


    Thursday, March 21, 2019

    Whatever happened to the U.S. Attorney investigations into the Deep State and the Clinton Foundation?

    by: Americans for Limited Government

    Fairfax, VA - March 21, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement urging Attorney General William Barr to follow through on the investigation of FBI misconduct during the 2016 presidential campaign, during the transition and during the Trump administration:

    “Then Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed the U.S. Attorney of Little Rock, Arkansas to investigate various corruption charges against the Clinton Foundation and the U.S. Attorney of Salt Lake City to investigate the malfeasance within the Justice Department related to the attempt to undo the results of the 2016 presidential election.

    “It has been almost a full year since it was learned that the investigation into potential Justice Department misdeeds was being conducted by U.S. Attorney John Huber, and it is time that new Attorney General William Barr follow through on the investigation and prosecute any wrongdoers to the fullest extent of the law. One of the reasons that the investigation was housed in Salt Lake City was to take it out of the glare of the D.C. media and allow a thorough job to be done. However, it would be a disservice to the nation if the current AG did not aggressively push this investigation with those responsible for abusing their authority brought to justice.

    “One simple example is the abuse of the Christopher Steele dossier paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign as the basis for obtaining FISA court warrants against Trump campaign, transition and political appointees, when Steele himself testified under oath that he used unverified Internet rumors in the report. At the same time former FBI Director James Comey was testifying to Congress that the Steele dossier was ‘salacious and unverified,’ Comey was signing documents using that same report to obtain warrants. Either he was lying to the FISA Court or he was lying to Congress, either way perjury was committed, and the former FBI Director should be subjected to the full weight of the law as a result.

    “The United States is a nation of laws, and the revelation that the Obama Administration’s Justice Department sought to tip the scales toward their own partisan ends should chill every American regardless of partisan affiliation. If those responsible are not prosecuted, then it will be clear to future Administrations that there is no personal downside to election tampering and abuse of power and this current dark moment of abuse by our intelligence agencies will be viewed as an acceptable risk in the quest for power. This can never be allowed again, and it is time for the new Attorney General to begin bringing light onto the initial finding of the investigations in Little Rock and Salt Lake City.”

    American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Donald Trump's Executive Order on Free Speech

    by: American Federation of Teachers

    Washington, D.C. - March 21, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- AFT President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after President Trump signed an executive order on free speech on college and university campuses:

    “President Trump’s concept of free speech is speech that he agrees with, which is, in fact, the antithesis of what the First Amendment seeks to protect. He has repeatedly indicated his interest in ‘shutting down’ journalists and media outlets that criticize him, and he uses hateful and many times inciteful words on a daily and public basis. With a track record like this, there is no reason to believe that the speech he wants to ‘protect’ on college campuses won’t both suppress speech and enable incitement. If the framers of the Constitution were alive today, they would tell President Trump: ‘No, no, no, sir. You can’t use executive orders to suppress the speech of those with whom you disagree.’

    “As educators, we are staunch supporters of a free exchange of ideas, the free expression that is crucial to intellectual discourse, and the responsibility that all speech must be coupled with an ability to reject that which will incite hatred or violence. Free and unfettered speech is supposed to be exactly that—free and unfettered—not subject to executive branch policing and interference.

    “This order also sets a dangerous precedent that makes public activities at our nation’s colleges and universities susceptible to punitive action if they don’t meet a predetermined, purposefully ambiguous benchmark set by a White House with a very obvious political agenda. When schools are committed to civilized discussion and debate, we should be investing in more research to defend those democratic ideals, not denying them resources.”

    EEOC Union Condemns Drastic $23.7M Budget Cut to Civil Rights Enforcement in #MeToo Era

    by: American Federation for Government Employees

    Washington, D.C. - March 21, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- President Trump’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 would slash the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s historically low budget by $23.7 million, which will make it harder for workers facing discrimination to get the help they need, the union representing EEOC workers said today.

    “The EEOC enforces federal laws barring workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment, and cutting our budget frustrates those efforts,” said Gabrielle Martin, president of American Federation of Government Employees Council 216, the National Council of EEOC Locals. “Victims of workplace discrimination will feel the punch of this cut when they can’t get an appointment or an investigation of their complaint.”

    The administration is proposing to slash EEOC’s current budget from $379.5 million to $355.8 million in fiscal 2020, even while the agency is facing rising workloads. EEOC had a backlog of 49,608 cases in fiscal year 2018, and cases continued to pile up while EEOC was closed during the 35-day shutdown. It takes workers months to get an appointment with EEOC and over an hour to reach a live person by telephone. EEOC’s workload this year included 200,000 inquiries, 76,418 charges, 40,000 interviews, and 105,600 calls.

    Sexual harassment claims were up 13.6 percent in 2018. While Congress modestly increased EEOC’s budget in response to the #MeToo movement, the agency still has not been able to keep up with demand. Last year, the EEOC’s workforce dropped below 2,000 employees for the first time since before 1980. The president’s budget plan would slash another 180 positions, including mediators, judges, intake representatives, and 50 investigators. The agency’s budget justification concedes there will be a “steady rise in pending inventory” as “there will be no replacement of staff.”

    “In a time of rising awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace, it sends the entirely wrong message to cut funding and staff at the agency that handles those complaints,” Martin said.

    One consequence of the massive workload and short staffing is a push by EEOC to swiftly close cases by tagging them as “C charges” under the agency’s triage system.

    “Ravaging the budget will make matters worse,” Martin warns. “The vast majority of workers who come to EEOC for help receive a dismissal with a ‘right to sue’ letter and are left to find help on their own. Likewise, federal employees with discrimination complaints are affected by EEOC pressing a shrinking unit of administrative judges to hit unattainably high quotas by closing cases through summary judgement or without discovery.”

    Martin called upon Congress, civil rights groups, and concerned citizens to take action. “Contact your lawmakers to save EEOC from drastic cuts. Email the EEOC to request a budget in line with its workload. Tweet #StopEEOCbudgetcut. The #MeToo era is not the time to slash EEOC’s budget.”

    AAM Letter to Congress: Support Legislation to Keep Federal Funds from Enriching Chinese SOEs

    by: Alliance for American Manufacturing

    Washington, D.C. - March 21, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Alliance for American Manufacturing is urging members of Congress to support the bipartisan Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act, introduced by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). This vital legislation would ban Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds from being used to award a contract or subcontract to a Chinese state-owned, controlled or subsidized enterprise (SOE).

    In a letter submitted today, Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul wrote:

    "America's tax dollars should not be used to support Chinese state-owned firms seeking to undermine market competition."

    Letter reads as follows:

    Dear Senators and Representatives:

    On behalf of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a partnership between the United Steelworkers (USW) and leading U.S. manufacturing companies, I am writing to express our support for the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act. This legislation would ban Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds from being used to award a contract or subcontract to a Chinese state-owned, controlled, or subsidized enterprise.

    Backed by deep government support and Beijing's "Made in China 2025" initiative, China's electric bus and rail state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are rapidly altering the U.S. competitive landscape for rolling stock manufacturing. This is having a profoundly negative impact on established, private-sector U.S. firms and jeopardizing supply chains that employ tens of thousands of American workers.

    China Railroad Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) – a Chinese SOE – has drastically altered the competitive landscape for domestic railcar manufacturing. Since 2014, CRRC has secured major metro transit car contracts in Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago with impossibly low bids. In Boston, CRRC's bid was hundreds of millions of dollars below the next lowest bidder. In Philadelphia, another bidder was quoted as saying, "I cannot grasp how they are able to do it at that cost." There should be no doubting CRRC's strategy to establish itself in the U.S. market and to eliminate legitimate competition through any means necessary, even if it means losing substantial sums of money along the way. With deals in DC, Atlanta, and Miami within CRRC's sights, it is vital for U.S. national security, innovation, and jobs that we stop subsidizing the destruction of our domestic rolling stock manufacturing base with federal dollars.

    The electric bus industry is also in Beijing's sights. BYD, or Build Your Dreams, assembles electric buses in the United States and is both influenced and subsidized by the Chinese government. BYD has been plagued by quality issues and a recent OIG investigation by the City of Albuquerque suggests that "the majority, if not all, parts were manufactured in China and shipped to the United States" – including the bus frame, chassis, walls, drive train, axels, motor, lights, seating and seat belts, and more. BYD not only aggressively undermines healthy market competition in the electric bus procurement market, it threatens to displace supply chains here in the United States with imported parts and components shipped in from China.

    It is vital that the United States act to prevent the destruction of the U.S. competitive landscape for rolling stock manufacturing before it is too late. America's tax dollars should not be used to support Chinese state-owned firms seeking to undermine market competition. Please support the bipartisan Cornyn-Baldwin-Crapo-Brown Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act.


    Scott N. Paul


    Alliance for American Manufacturing

    President Trump issues executive order supporting free speech at universities

    by: Alliance Defending Freedom

    Washington, D.C. - March 21, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, regarding President Donald Trump’s executive order Thursday that requires public universities to respect the constitutionally protected free speech rights of students in order to continue receiving federal research funds:

    “The administration is right to recognize the threats to freedom of speech on public university campuses and the need to do something about preserving the marketplace of ideas. In the course of winning more than 400 legal victories since 2006, the ADF Center for Academic Freedom has continued to encounter massive free speech and other First Amendment violations, unconstitutional policies, and many repeat offenders. We appreciate the administration’s understanding of this problem as well as actions it has taken to help, including the briefs that the Department of Justice has filed in support of ADF clients who have stood up for their freedoms in the face of having those freedoms jeopardized. Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s voters and civic leaders. That’s why it’s so important that public colleges and universities exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students.”

    Three ADF Center for Academic Freedom clients—Ellie Wittman, Bernadette Tasy, and Isaac Edikauskas—are scheduled to be present on stage with President Trump for the announcement of the executive order.

    MADD, Rep. Hammoud Call for .05 BAC Law, Ignition Interlocks for All Offenders

    by: Alcohol Justice

    Lansing, MI - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- — Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) today joined Michigan Representative Abdullah Hammoud and traffic safety partners in calling for a state law that lowers the threshold for impaired driving in Michigan to .05 blood alcohol concentration (BAC). MADD also strongly supports Representative Hammoud’s legislation that would require ignition interlocks for all drunk drivers, which would make Michigan the 34th state with an alloffender ignition interlock law.

    Today’s announcement marks the first time MADD has advocated for lowering a state’s BAC law.

    “Today, we are proud to stand with Michigan to support this proposal that research shows will save lives,” said MADD National President Helen Witty, whose 16-year-old daughterHelen Marie was killed by a drunk and marijuana-impaired driver while rollerblading on a bike path. “Research shows that critical driving skills are impaired at .05 BAC, significantly increasing the risk of a horrible, 100 percent preventable crash. We want to do anything we can to support states that are trying to stop these tragedies and keep drunk drivers off the road.”

    Representative Hammoud has filed legislation that would set Michigan’s impairment level at .05 BAC. If passed, Michigan would become the second state to lower the legal threshold for drunk driving.

    “We must address drunk driving, which is a completely avoidable epidemic,” said Representative Hammoud. “As a former public health professional, I am motivated by facts and statistics, and as a legislator I know our current policies in place to prevent drunk driving are not working, which is why we must do more. The loss of the Abbas family, a beautiful family of five, due to a drunk driver, has further motivated a community of
    advocates to step up and propose real solutions backed up by the scientific community. These critical proposals will do more to prevent drinking and driving, and ultimately save lives.”

    In December, Utah became the first state in the nation with a .05 BAC law. In addition to Michigan, proposals in Oregon, New York and California are being considered this year. MADD is not seeking a national .05 BAC standard at this time, but will support .05 BAC legislation as it is proposed state by state.

    Wednesday, March 20, 2019

    Statement from Feeding America on Release of President Trump’s FY2020 Budget Details

    by: Feeding America

    Washington, D.C. - March 20, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- “If the cuts to federal nutrition programs included in the administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget released today became law, they would undermine local economies and increase hunger, particularly among children and seniors.

    “The budget makes drastic changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It cuts the program by nearly one third, in part by reintroducing the inefficient and high-cost America’s Harvest Box plan. From our experience, the complications and costs of this program would result in taking food away from hungry families to run a large and bureaucratic system.

    “The current SNAP system works because it’s a partnership with businesses and grocery stores that do the heavy lifting to connect families with food. The administration’s proposal to switch to government distributed food boxes would result in losing out on the many efficiencies of building on the free market grocery store food chain network.

    “The budget also makes devastating cuts to programs for children and seniors. The budget would impair student access to free and reduced-price school meals by adding red tape and significant administrative burdens to schools and families. In addition, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which provides nutritious USDA foods each month to supplement the diets of more than 730,000 lower-income seniors age 60 and over, would be eliminated.

    “We also want to highlight potentially harmful changes to the structure of Section 32. Currently, USDA uses Section 32 to provide market support to U.S. grown food and distributes the food to food banks and schools. The proposed budget would cap the funds available for this program. The real-world impact of this change would be to reduce the overall assistance to growers and producers as well as the nutritious food provided to food banks and schools.

    “We urge Congress to reject the proposed budget and work together to find solutions that will help Americans struggling to put food on the table.”

    Tuesday, March 19, 2019

    Government Agencies Encouraging New Voting Systems with a Paper Record Nationwide

    by: Pennsylvania Department of State

    Harrisburg, PA - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Pennsylvania counties continue to make great progress transitioning to more secure and accessible voting systems with paper records that voters can verify before casting their ballot.

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, along with the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees and many security experts, are calling on Pennsylvania and other states to have voting systems with a paper trail by the 2020 presidential election.

    Already 19 counties, or 28 percent, have taken official action toward acquiring new voting systems, either through a vote to purchase or lease a system, or a vote to approve funding. The counties are Beaver, Berks, Bradford, Butler, Centre, Clinton, Crawford, Greene, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Mercer, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Susquehanna, Venango and Westmoreland. Almost 80% of counties report they have received, selected or are in the process of selecting new voting systems.

    An estimated 52 counties have already reported plans to implement the new systems as follows:

  • Eight to 10 counties expect to use new voting systems for the May 2019 primary.
  • An additional 32 counties are working to implement new systems for the November 2019 election.
  • About 11 counties expect to deploy for the April 2020 primary.
  • 15 counties remain undecided about their deployment date.

  • "We are very pleased that more than a quarter of the commonwealth's counties have already taken steps to acquire their new voting systems, and more than three-quarters have plans to implement their new systems," Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said. "County officials continue to demonstrate how committed they are to acquiring voting systems that best meet their voters' needs and provide the most secure, auditable and accessible voting systems to all Pennsylvanians."

    In April 2018, the Department of State informed counties they must select new voting systems that provide a paper record, meet 21st-century standards of security and accessibility, and can be more thoroughly audited than current systems allow. Counties must choose their new voting systems by Dec. 31, 2019, and implement them no later than the 2020 primary election.

    In Pennsylvania, every voting system and paper ballot must include plain text that voters can read to verify their choices before casting their ballot. Election officials will also use the plain text to perform pre-election testing and post-election audits and recounts.

    Governor Wolf has proposed a minimum of $15 million in state funding each year for the next five years, for a combined total of at least $75 million to assist counties in acquiring the new systems.

    The governor has already committed $14.15 million in federal and state funding to counties for new voting systems.

    The Department of State will continue to pursue more federal assistance and other funding sources to assist counties in paying for their new voting systems.

    The department also has provided a statewide purchasing contract that counties can use to negotiate their best deal, while including specifics that will best meet their needs. Bids from five vendors have been approved under the contract.

    Under the Pennsylvania Election Code, every county must employ voting systems that are certified by both the federal Election Assistance Commission and the secretary of the commonwealth. Four new voting systems are certified under the state's new security and accessibility standards. A fifth voting system has successfully completed state and federal testing and official certification will be released shortly. A sixth system is nearing the conclusion of its certification testing.

    Misinformed Children Skip School to Protest for 'Climate Change' Agenda, States Physicians for Civil Defense

    by: Physicians for Civil Defense

    Tucson, AZ - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- On March 15, an estimated 1.4 million schoolchildren in 123 countries skipped school to protest governments' failure to drastically cut back on the use of carbon-based fuels. They believe they have no future because of imminent climatic disaster caused by human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).

    The figurehead leader of the Fridays for Future "strike" movement is Greta Thunberg, who reportedly started the movement at age 15. She was named by Time magazine as one of the most influential teens of 2018. Her appealing image is a lucrative money-maker for Swedish entrepreneur Ingmar Rentzhog, founder of We Don't Have Time, who claims to have discovered her.

    "It is not surprising that so many schoolchildren are terrified about their future," states Physicians for Civil Defense president Jane Orient, M.D. "They are immersed in groupthink and apocalyptic environmentalist scenarios in school. Major news outlets censor opposing views about climate science."

    A helpful antidote might be the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness Climate Change IQ Test, she suggested.

    "Children's Crusades have long exploited passionate but uninformed young persons to promote a movement," Dr. Orient noted.

    "The policies the marchers are advocating would have a negligible if any effect on climate. But cutting off the fuels that power 80 percent of the world's economy would cause abject poverty and mass death, especially in the world's poorest nations."

    According to EIKE (Europäisches Institut für Klima & Energie—European Institute for Climate and Energy), the projections of UN climate models have been consistently wrong, but the UN is using the climate-change apocalypse as a tool (Werkzeug) to bring about global economic transformation. "The goal is a socialist, global energy-rationing regime," explained Dr. Orient.

    Physicians for Civil Defense distributes information to help to save lives in the event of war or other disaster.

    Dream and Promise Act Introduced in the House of Representatives of theUnited States

    by: Embassy of The Republic of Haiti

    Washington, D.C. - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- On Tuesday, March 12, 2019, the House Democrats introduced the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, which would create a pathway to permanent residency for over fifty-thousand (50,000) Haitian nationals who are Temporary Protective Status (TPS) recipients, millions of Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients. H.R.6 was introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Rep. Yvette Clark, and other House Democrats.

    If the legislation passes, TPS holders could immediately apply for a green card. This bill only applies to petitioners who have been in the country for at least three years, had status as of September 2016, and can successfully pass a background check. In addition, within five (5) years of obtaining a green card, all three groups could apply for citizenship.

    However, immigrants who have been convicted of crimes punishable by more than one (1) year in prison, or have been convicted of three or more offenses that carry sentences of more than 90 days in jail, would not be eligible.

    Former Defense Intelligence Officer Pleads Guilty to Attempted Espionage

    by: U.S Department of Justice

    Washington, D.C. - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, a resident of Syracuse, Utah, and a former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, pleaded guilty today in the District of Utah in connection with his attempted transmission of national defense information to the People’s Republic of China. Sentencing is set for Sept. 24, 2019.

    Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney John Huber for the District of Utah and Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office announced the charges.

    Hansen retired from the U.S. Army as a Warrant Officer with a background in signals intelligence and human intelligence. He speaks fluent Mandarin-Chinese and Russian. DIA hired Hansen as a civilian intelligence case officer in 2006. Hansen held a Top Secret clearance for many years, and signed several non-disclosure agreements during his tenure at DIA and as a government contractor.

    As Hansen admitted in the plea agreement, in early 2014, agents of a Chinese intelligence service targeted Hansen for recruitment and he began meeting with them regularly in China. During those meetings, the Chinese agents described to Hansen the type of information that would interest the Chinese intelligence service. During the course of his relationship with the agents of the Chinese intelligence service, Hansen received hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for information he provided them, including information he gathered at various industry conferences. Between May 24, 2016 and June 2, 2018, Hansen solicited from an intelligence case officer working for the DIA national defense information that Hansen knew the Chinese intelligence service would find valuable. Hansen agreed to act as a conduit to sell that information to the Chinese. Hansen advised the DIA case officer how to record and transmit classified information without detection, and explained how to hide and launder any funds received as payment for classified information. The DIA case officer reported Hansen’s conduct to the DIA and subsequently acted as a confidential human source for the FBI.

    As Hansen further admitted in the plea agreement, Hansen met with the DIA case officer on June 2, 2018, and received from that individual documents containing national defense information that Hansen previously solicited. The documents Hansen received were classified. The information in the documents related to the national defense of the United States in that it related to United States military readiness in a particular region and was closely held by the United States government. Hansen reviewed the documents, queried the DIA case officer about their contents, and took written notes about the materials relating to the national defense information. Hansen advised the DIA case officer that he would remember most of the details about the documents he received that day and would conceal some notes about the material in the text of an electronic document that Hansen would prepare at the airport before leaving for China. Hansen intended to provide the information he received to the agents of the Chinese intelligence service with whom he had been meeting, and Hansen knew that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.

    Hansen pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to gather or deliver national defense information to aid a foreign government. The plea agreement calls for an agreed-upon sentence of 15 years.

    Special agents of the FBI, IRS, U.S. Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, U.S. Army Counterintelligence, and the Defense Intelligence Agency were involved in the investigation.

    The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert A. Lund, Karin Fojtik, Mark K. Vincent and Alicia Cook of the District of Utah, and Trial Attorneys Patrick T. Murphy, Matthew J. McKenzie and Adam L. Small of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington assisted with this case.

    President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Fortifies DHS Operations, Supports Frontline Personnel, Secures Our Borders & Confronts Emerging Threats Release Date: March 18, 2019

    by: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

    Washington, D.C. - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen released the details of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Budget request to Congress for DHS and its component agencies and offices. The DHS request includes $51.7 billion in discretionary funding and an additional $19.4 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF). The Budget request provides critical resources to help our frontline personnel do their jobs to secure the homeland against all threats and hazards, and it ensures DHS is able to defend Americans against emerging dangers.

    “The American people and our law enforcement personnel rightfully demand effective border security as supported by the White House budget—building the wall and giving the men and women of DHS the support, tools, and resources they need to safeguard our territory,” said Secretary Nielsen. “This year’s request also delivers landmark investments to protect America and our way of life—including by combating terrorism and homeland threats, defending our nation’s networks and critical infrastructure, facilitating and securing legal trade and travel, and so much more.”

    Border & Maritime Security
    To address the unprecedented humanitarian and security crisis at the Southwest Border, the FY 2020 budget requests $5.0 billion for the construction of approximately 200 miles of a new border wall system and over $232 million to equip our law enforcement personnel with the latest in surveillance technology. Further, over $80 million is requested to provide migrant care including medical services, general consumables and transportation. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) funding request includes 54,000 beds to address immigration enforcement. DHS continues to support its law enforcement men and women in uniform by requesting over 1,000 combined Border Patrol Agents and Customs and Border Protection Officers, and over 1,660 ICE law enforcement and support staff. In continued commitment to safeguarding our Nation’s ports and waterways while enforcing the law on the high seas, the Department has requested $1.2 billion in funds for recapitalization of U.S Coast Guard resources.

    Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security

    In an age of pandemic malware and network instructions, the Budget requests $1.3 billion for programs such as Federal Network Protection, Proactive Cyber Protection, and Infrastructure Security, which will allow DHS to safeguard the federal government’s civilian information technology systems against cybersecurity risks. It also supports the maturation of the Department’s new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

    Transportation Security
    The FY 2020 Budget goes further to invest in the security of the traveling public. The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) continues to experience airline passenger volume growth at airport checkpoints nationwide. The funding request for TSA supports an additional 700 Transportation Security Officers (TSO) contributing to a total of more than 46,600 TSOs, the highest level in history. Additionally, $221 million is requested for new equipment to effectively detect smaller and more artfully concealed threats within checked or carry-on bags in response to an evolving threat landscape.

    Emergency Management & Recovery
    In keeping with a policy of “Relentless Resilience,” the Budget proposes crucial resources to enhance the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). A funding request of $28.5 billion, which includes $19.4 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund, ensures FEMA continues to provide the requisite support to disaster survivors by increasing their capacity to take effective and practical steps to help themselves, their families, and their communities. And it funds FEMA’s transformation into a more responsive agency focused on helping Americans better prepare for the worst.

    USDA Announces Investments in Rural Community Facilities that will Benefit Nearly 300,000 Americans

    by: U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Washington, D.C. - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $91 million to build or improve community facilities (PDF, 108 KB) and essential services for nearly 300,000 rural residents in 12 states.

    “Modern community facilities are key drivers of economic development,” Baxley said. “Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building and maintaining these institutions that are foundational to quality of life and prosperity.”

    USDA is funding 16 projects through the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program. The funding helps rural small towns, cities and communities make infrastructure improvements and provide essential facilities such as public schools, libraries, courthouses, public safety facilities, hospitals, colleges and day care centers. For example:

  • In North Carolina, the town of Spencer will use a $2.5 million loan to renovate a vacant building into space for a new town hall and the police department. This project will benefit 3,267 residents.
  • Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., will use a $14.5 million loan to construct a facility to house the university’s business and community offices. Currently, the business department uses basement space in another building. The new building will be called the Center for Business and Innovation. This project will serve the rural community’s 15,250 residents.
  • In Texas, the Coleman County Medical Center District will receive a $13.6 million loan to upgrade the hospital to better serve the 8,895 residents in the county and surrounding communities. The funds will be used to renovate the cardiac rehabilitation, physical therapy and emergency departments. This investment will enhance the hospital’s ability to deliver quality health care and attract and retain physicians and other professional staff.

  • The projects announced are located in Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

    More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes. Applicants and projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less.

    In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

    To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

    USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.

    Action Alert: Support #FreeToBelieve Act to Protect Texans' Religious Freedom

    Support #FreeToBelieve Act to Protect Texans' Religious Freedom
    by: Texas Values
    March 4, 2019
    Throughout this Legislative Session, we have continually educated Texans on dangerous bills that seek to override religious freedom. These #BanTheBible “sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI) bills have been filed by Democrats. Despite an overwhelming response of over 40,000 messages to elected officials across Texas, we continue to see more of these aggressive bills. Recently, 2 new bills were introduced attacking our freedom to believe in biblical values.

    We know that in light of these increased attacks on biblical values at the Texas Legislature and in local governments across Texas, the legislature must act this session to protect religious freedom for all Texans. Understanding this, we are excited that Faith & Family Champion, Rep. Bill Zedler (R), has introduced The Free to Believe Act, HB 1035.

    The #FreeToBelieve Act ensures the government cannot punish individual Texans, religious groups, businesses, counselors, medical providers, wedding vendors, or state employees for their sincerely held religious beliefs on marriage and human sexuality. Believing the Bible and living out your faith should never get you fined, jailed, or in any other way punished.


    Congressional Resolution Calls on U.S. Government to Address Violence Against Children Globally

    by: Save the Children

    Washington, D.C. - March 19, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Ending Violence Against Children Taskforce applauds Sens. Boozman and Cardin and Reps. McGovern and Wilson for introducing Sen. Res. 112 and its companion H. Res. 230 yesterday. Written with input by the Taskforce, which includes ChildFund International, Futures Without Violence, Save the Children, UNICEF USA and World Vision, the resolution condemns all forms of violence against children and youth while encouraging the development of a strategy for preventing, addressing and ending violence against children and youth globally.

    The resolution is part of a multi-year advocacy effort led by the Ending Violence Against Children Taskforce, a group of international non-governmental organizations committed to addressing the global prevalence of physical and emotional violence. Continued engagement by the Taskforce organizations with members of Congress galvanized the support and ultimate introduction of the resolution.

    According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion children worldwide are exposed to violence in their homes, schools and other places that are presumed to be safe. Violence, when unaddressed, damages children’s learning, behavior and health across a lifetime. Violence against children undermines our development efforts around the globe. In schools, 246 million boys and girls experience gender-based violence, with girls at a higher risk of sexual violence, harassment and exploitation. School-related gender-based violence is a major obstacle to ensuring girls’ access to basic education. Around the world, nearly one in three adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 suffered from the effects of violence.

    The Ending Violence Against Children resolution also calls on Congress to recognize the economic consequences of violence against children and youth. The global economic impact of physical, psychological and sexual violence against children may be as high as $7 trillion, or 8 percent of the world’s GDP.

    “The outcomes the United States hopes to achieve with our global economic development initiatives will struggle to fully take hold in countries where violence against children goes unaddressed,” said Sen. John Boozman, a lead sponsor of the resolution. “Horrific acts like human trafficking and child labor have tragic lifelong consequences for individual children and devastate entire communities. This bipartisan resolution sends a strong message that a plan to end violence against children must be a priority in our global development strategy."

    Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, also a lead cosponsor of the resolution, echoed the gravity of the issue, stating, “Millions of children around the world have lost their childhoods to physical, sexual and mental violence and abuse. As adults, it is our responsibility to keep them safe and prevent the types of inhumane treatment and developmental roadblocks found in far too many corners of the world. This is a local issue and a global one. I am proud to stand with Sen. Boozman to lead the call for the U.S. government to develop and implement a strategy to address the widespread dangers being faced by children and youth that is in line with international standards and sustainable development goals.”

    The World Health Organization, along with the Centers for Disease Control, the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, UNICEF and others have developed INSPIRE, a package of evidence-based interventions to reduce rates of violence against children. The coordinated approach adopts common metrics and indicators that can be used by U.S. government agencies to prevent, address and end violence against children and youth globally.

    “Now is the time for Congress to lead on the important issue of eliminating violence against children,” said Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, a lead sponsor of the resolution in the House. “As more families flee their home countries to escape violence, we must take up the commonsense actions laid out in this bipartisan resolution to protect as many children as possible.”

    Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina joined Rep. McGovern in leading this effort, adding, “This important bipartisan resolution sends a clear message across the world: Congress cares about the plight of millions of children exposed to violence. Our moral duty requires us to be the advocates for those whose lives are forever affected by the tragic consequences of violence. We must do everything in our power to increase our commitment to ensuring that all children can live in a safe environment, without having to endure violence in any form. I am grateful to work with Congressman Jim McGovern on this critical issue."

    Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding 100 years ago, we’ve changed the lives of more than 1 billion children. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share.

    Monday, March 4, 2019

    CAIR Calls on FBI to Take Seriously Threat to 'Assassinate' Minn. Rep. Ilhan Omar

    by: The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

    Washington, D.C. - March 4, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today urged the FBI to take seriously an alleged public threat to assassinate Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

    FBI officials say they are looking into the threat "Assassinate Ilhan Omar" scrawled on a bathroom stall in Minnesota and posted on social media. The FBI is in the "initial stages" of looking into the alleged threat but appears not to have opened a case file on the incident. CAIR will continue to monitor the case.

    SEE: FBI Looking Into Graffiti Death Threat Against U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar

    Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, have faced constant rhetorical attacks since seeking public office.

    SEE: Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib Show Muslim Women Don't Need Saving

    "The unrelenting rhetorical attacks on Representative Omar have the potential to result in violence and threats of violence, as in this incident," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "We urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to take this apparent threat seriously, thereby sending the message that threats or violence targeting elected officials will not be tolerated."

    He added that CAIR recently called on West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and the state and National Republican Party to repudiate an anti-Muslim display with an image of Omar in the rotunda of the West Virginia House of Delegates.

    The display featured a meme with two photos, the top one showing planes crashing into the Twin Towers on September 11, with the text "'Never Forget' - You Said. . .", and the bottom one showing a photo of U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN), with the text "I Am the Proof – You Have Forgotten." While the discussion over the display was taking place, Sergeant at Arms Anne Lieberman allegedly called all Muslims "terrorists."

    SEE: CAIR Calls on W. Va. Governor, State and National GOP to Repudiate Anti-Muslim Display in State Legislature

    Awad noted that during that same week, two government officials across the country engaged in anti-Muslim bigotry.

    An Idaho state legislator brought an anti-Islam pastor to the statehouse to give a presentation in which he portrayed all Muslims as radicals and a Pennsylvania school board president and Republican state representative apologized for a string of anti-Muslim Facebook posts.

    CAIR-Pennsylvania Calls for Resignation of Local School Board Official Over Anti-Muslim Posts

    Rep. Heather Scott Brings Anti-Islam Pastor to Statehouse

    Just today, CAIR called on the GOP to drop notorious anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Chris Gaubatz as a speaker at an event in Texas.

    SEE: CAIR-DFW Calls on Texas GOP to Disinvite Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theorist John Guandolo

    CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

    Three-Fourths of Aborted Baby Left Inside Woman for 2 Months After Botched Abortion at Planned Parenthood

    Three-Fourths of Aborted Baby Left Inside Woman for 2 Months After Botched Abortion at Planned Parenthood
    by: Operation Rescue
    March 4, 2019
    When a 21-year old Amanda Davis reported to the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Boston, Massachusetts, on February 4, 2016, for a routine elective first trimester surgical abortion, she likely expected to receive a “safe” and easy abortion from the largest abortion business in the country.

    What she got instead was a two-month long nightmare of debilitating pain and bleeding while her calls to Planned Parenthood for help were ignored and never returned, according to a lawsuit she filed against Planned Parenthood on January 14, 2019.