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."