Thursday, April 18, 2019

SHLB Welcomes Introduction of Digital Equity Act


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by: Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition applauds Senator Patty Murray, (D-WA), and her colleagues for introducing the Digital Equity Act of 2019. The bill promotes diverse digital equity projects to address gaps in technology access and rural broadband adoption.

“The SHLB Coalition is pleased to support the Digital Equity Act. The bill recognizes the important role that libraries and anchor institutions play in ensuring that every person in every community benefits from the opportunities offered by high-quality Broadband. Community anchor institutions are uniquely suited to take the lead in closing the pervasive gap in broadband adoption.,” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition. “Digital inclusion is not a partisan issue, so we’re looking forward to working with Congress to enact this legislation.”




by: Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA)

Arlington, VA - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the trade association for America's leading retailers, today sent a letter to the White House expressing support for the President's commitment to curbing the sale of counterfeit products online, and urged the White House to include combatting the sale of stolen goods as an Administration priority.

"Counterfeit goods undermine intellectual property, pose a serious safety risk for consumers and employees, and help perpetuate organized retail crime," said Jennifer Safavian, RILA executive vice president of government affairs. "Similarly, sophisticated criminal networks are increasingly using online platforms to quickly and discreetly fence stolen goods. For these reasons, we welcome the Administration's crack down on the sale of counterfeit goods online and urge a parallel effort to combat the theft and sale of stolen goods."

From the letter:

"Preserving American brands and protecting our customers are of paramount importance to the entire retail industry, and we wholeheartedly support your directive to coordinate the efforts of the federal government to crack down on the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods."

"Retailers collectively invest billions each year in preventative security measures, but the vacuum of law enforcement and relative ease of selling stolen goods online has led to increasingly brazen and organized attempts to steal, tragically putting some retail employees in danger when confronted thieves turn violent.

"We ask that any strategic effort to hold online sellers accountable for the sale of counterfeit goods also include a crackdown on criminal networks using online marketplaces to sell stolen property. Both are a threat to the retail community and the future growth of the economy."

The full letter can be read here.

RILA is the US trade association for leading retailers. We convene decision-makers, advocate for the industry, and promote operational excellence and innovation. Our aim is to elevate a dynamic industry by transforming the environment in which retailers operate.

RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs, and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities, and distribution centers domestically and abroad.

Girl Knees Boy In Groin Blocking Her Bathroom Door


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by: Public Advocate USA

Fairbanks, AK - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- "This is what happens when you have liberals running the school system and eliminating one entire sex, the entire female gender, off of the human race in favor of political correctness, " says Eugene Delgaudio, president of Public Advocate.

WCNC reports:

A girl was suspended by her high school after kneeing a boy in the groin after a group of boys went into the girls' bathroom and blocked the door, according to reports.

The Fairbanks Daily News Miner reported Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, criticized North Pole High School for the act.

"I said, 'Good for her,'" Wilson said. "I would have taught my daughter to do the same."

The seven boys reportedly went into the girls' bathroom to protest their bathroom being used by another student who is transitioning from female to male, KUTV reported.

The female student felt threatened, so she kneed one of the boys in the groin. He was sent to the hospital for his injury, KUTV said.

The transgender student and the female student were not connected, the station said.

The school district defended its actions: "We don't advocate violence as a means for students to attain safety. If a student does use force, we have to evaluate that incident."

Counterintelligence Accountability Act Introduced



by: Elise Stefanik (R-NY, 21st)

Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Elise Stefanik introduced a bill this week that would require the FBI to notify the House and Senate Intelligence Committee when the Bureau opens a counterintelligence investigation into a candidate for Federal office, campaign for a candidate for Federal office, or an individual knowingly associated with a campaign for a candidate for Federal office.

This comes after Congresswoman Stefanik’s questioning of then-FBI Director James Comey at a HPSCI hearing in 2017, where he revealed that he did not follow the proper protocol of notifying Congress about opening a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016. That questioning can be found here.

“Despite informal protocols followed in the past, James Comey failed to notify Congress about his investigation into the Trump Presidential campaign,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “This loophole in the law allows the FBI to circumvent Congress and unilaterally conduct investigations without any congressional oversight. My bill will ensure that the right congressional overseers are informed of sensitive counterintelligence investigations into campaigns for Federal office, and I’m proud to lead this effort for transparency.”

Each Republican on the House Intelligence Committee is a cosponsor of this bill. Click here for a write-up on the bill from the Federalist.

ROBOCOP Act to Require Free Robocall Blocking Technology Introduced



by: Jackie Speier (D-CA, 14th)

Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) was joined by 14 of her colleagues in the House of Representatives last week to introduce H.R. 2298, the ROBOCOP (Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones) Act. This bicameral legislation would finally require telephone companies to offer free robocall blocking services to all their customers. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has introduced the companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

An estimated 22.1 million Americans lost $9.5 billion to Robocall scams in 2016, according to a 2017 study. This epidemic of telephonic harassment skyrocketed in 2018, with the number of robocalls made to Americans exceeding 16.3 billion in the first five months of that year. And thus far efforts like the Do Not Call Registry have had little to no impact, particularly when it comes to scams and call centers located outside of the United States.

“Seldom a day goes by that I am not barraged with calls at home and on my cell phone from automated call services and scam artists. I recently received a call from a con artist claiming to work for the Social Security Administration claiming that there was a problem with my status. These schemes rob Americans, often the most vulnerable among us, of billions of dollars every year,” Rep. Speier said. “It’s clear that the Do Not Call Registry has not solved this problem and Congress can no longer wait for the FCC or telephone companies to take the necessary action. I urge the House and Senate to swiftly take up and pass the ROBOCOP Act.”

“The increase in disruptive and harassing robocalls is out of control. Consumers are demanding that we take action, which is why I’m proud to join Congresswoman Speier in introducing the ROBOCOP Act to help cut down on this vicious onslaught of scam and spam messages by requiring phone companies provide robocall blocking tech and verify that caller IDs are accurate” Sen. Blumenthal said.

The ROBOCOP Act would:

  • Direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require telecom companies to verify that caller ID is accurate.
  • Provide an exception for consumers with a legitimate need for altered caller ID, such as medical offices and domestic violence shelters.
  • Direct the FCC to require telecom companies to offer consumers optional, free robocall-blocking technology.
  • The technology would not block public safety entities and calls that the consumer consents to receive (e.g., notifications from school districts about closings and messages from doctor’s offices and law enforcement alerts).
  • Give consumers a private right of legal action against telecom companies that violate this statute.
  • Require the FCC, in consultation with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), to provide a public report every four years to help determine whether the new rules have successfully reduced unwanted calls.
  • Authorize the FCC to create a nationwide unblocking system that will ensure consumers are in control of the calls and text messages they receive.

  • Rep. Speier’s bill has 14 cosponsors and has the support of Consumer Reports.

    “The ROBOCOP Act would provide sorely-needed relief from unwanted robocalls, a top consumer complaint. This legislation would address ‘spoofed’ calls that scammers so often use to evade call-blocking services and enforcement efforts, as well as the growing problem of unwanted text messages,” said Maureen Mahoney, Policy Analyst, Consumer Reports. “Consumer Reports commends Congresswoman Speier and Senator Blumenthal for their leadership in addressing this issue and urges Congress to take this measure up quickly.”

    The cosponsors of Rep. Speier’s bill are: Representatives Steven Cohen (D-TN), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Raúl Grijalva (D-ZA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Thomas R. Suozzi (D-NY), Peter Visclosky (D-IN), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

    Click here for a copy of the bill text.

    The Mueller Report: Read it for yourself



    by: Ross Spano (R-FL, 15th)

    Lakeland, FL - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representative Ross Spano (FL-15) released the following statement regarding the release of the ‘Mueller Report’ to Congress and the general public:

    “I applaud Attorney General Barr releasing the Mueller report for the American people to read and make up their own mind. It’s time to put this collusion delusion aside and work together in the best interest of the American people.”

    To read the released report, click HERE.

    See Also:

    Mueller Report: We Need the Truth and Nothing But

    Mueller Report Shows U.S. Democracy Under Fire

    Barrasso Statement on Release of Special Counsel’s Report




    by: Lloyd Smucker (R-PA, 16th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- This week, U.S. Reps. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) and Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) introduced legislation to hold federal agency employees accountable for misconduct.

    The two introduced the Department of Labor Accountability Act and the Department of Education Whistleblower Protection Act, which give the two departments more authority to discipline or fire employees who have engaged in misconduct and would shorten the appeals process which often lasts several years. The bills also grant the department Secretary the authority to revoke bonuses for underperforming employees and in some cases would reduce the pensions of executive-level employees disciplined by the department.

    “Employees deserve proper protections and the freedom to report misconduct – and employees at fault shouldn’t be receiving bonuses after behaving badly,” Smucker said. “This bill is a step to end the bureaucratic status quo resisting reforms and rewarding bad actors for their poor behaviors.”

    “We must make sure that federal agencies have the tools to hold their employees accountable in order to safeguard taxpayer dollars against waste and fraud,” Rooney said. “This legislation provides these tools by allowing the Secretaries of Education and Labor to dismiss or discipline bad employees based on performance or misconduct. Our agencies must be able to address the bad actors that are not working in the best interest of the American people.”

    Accountability is a priority of President Donald Trump, who has publicly voiced his support for promoting accountability within federal agencies.

    Smucker and Rooney previously introduced these bills in the 115th Congress, when the House passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act by a bipartisan vote of 368-55. Another bill, the Department of Homeland Security FIRM Act, was included in the DHS reauthorization bill signed into law last year.

    During Week after Tax Day, Smith and NJ Charitable Groups Stress Need for Legislative Solution


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    by: Chris Smith (R-NJ, 4th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- During the week after Tax Day 2019, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) was joined by NJ charitable and philanthropic organizations in advocating for his new bipartisan legislation to give taxpayers maximum flexibility to make tax-deductible charitable contributions.

    “In the first tax year since the 2017 tax law was enacted, we’ve already seen reports of a decline in the number of donors to charitable causes,” Smith said. “We need to fix the tax code to help make charitable giving affordable for every taxpayer, and my legislation provides that remedy.”

    Smith’s bill, the Charitable Giving Tax Deduction Act (H.R. 651)—cosponsored by lead Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX)—would allow charitable deductions to be universal and “above-the-line,” giving everyone the authority to deduct charitable donations from their taxes whether or not they itemize.

    “Charitable organizations perform so many vital services for those in need, and we must ensure they have the necessary support to continue their work,” Smith said. “Restoring opportunities for tax-deductible charitable giving would assist soup kitchens, homeless shelters, recovery programs, and so many other worthy causes.”

    Initial reports indicate that the total dollar amount of charitable donations in 2018 did not increase with the rate of inflation. Large dollar donations are doing okay but there is concern that relying only on large donations is not sustainable, especially since there was a decline in both the overall number of donors and the number of donations less than $1,000.

    NJ charitable and philanthropic organizations are supporting Smith’s bill:

    “The Council of New Jersey Grantmakers supports the Charitable Giving Tax Deduction Act introduced by Congressman Smith,” stated Theresa Jacks, Deputy Director of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers. “By making the charitable deduction available to all taxpayers, H.R. 651 will help mitigate a situation created by the 2017 tax law that is expected to cause a significant reduction in charitable contributions. The nonprofit sector is critically important to our society and is a key driver of the economy. The universal charitable deduction bill that Congressman Smith is sponsoring would democratize giving for all taxpayers. This is common-sense public policy that will help nonprofits and the communities they serve, which in turn helps our state and nation to thrive.”

    “As the 2019 Tax season comes to a close, many middle class individuals and families are seeing for the first time that their charitable donations may no longer provide the same benefit because of the provisions contained in the 2017 tax law,” stated James King of the Office for Social Concerns of the New Jersey Catholic Conference.

    “New Jersey Catholic Charities agencies assist hundreds of thousands of individuals and families struggling to make ends meet. A substantial percentage of Catholic Charities operating budget comes from charitable donations. Now with the charitable deduction no longer a viable option for middle class individuals and families, non-profits like Catholic Charities could face unnecessary harm to their operating budget.”

    “The New Jersey Catholic Conference thanks Congressman Smith for introducing H.R. 651, the ‘Charitable Giving Tax Deduction Act.’ If signed into law, Congressman Smith’s bill would restore this tax benefit for the middle class and protect a vital source of revenue required for non-profits to sustain their operations serving those most in need.”

    “Non profit organizations survive thanks to important donations from individuals,” said Adam Philipson, CEO and President of the Count Basie Center for the Arts. “If donations are not recognized as above-the-line, itemized deductions it will discourage philanthropy. Congressman Smith's Charitable Giving Tax bill restores the ability to receive those deductions and allows us to do the important work of not for profits.”

    “The Center for Non-Profits is grateful to Congressman Chris Smith and Congressman Henry Cuellar for sponsoring H.R. 651, which would create a universal income tax deduction for charitable gifts,” stated Linda M. Czipo, President & CEO of the Center for Non-Profits. “The charitable community is vital to a vibrant economy and strong quality of life. Although more and more people are turning to charities for help, the funding needed by charities has failed to keep pace with this growing demand. With the increase in the standard deduction, the 2017 federal tax law has made this challenge even harder by drastically curtailing the number of taxpayers who can deduct their charitable gifts, resulting in a precipitous projected drop in giving. H.R. 651 would address this dire situation by allowing generous taxpayers of all income levels to deduct their charitable donations. This important bill will help to strengthen the ability of charities to provide essential programs and services in our communities.”

    “The New Jersey Alliance of YMCAs thanks Rep. Smith for his commitment to encourage and empower Americans to support their communities through charitable giving. We support his efforts to preserve and expand charitable giving, and applaud introduction of The Charitable Giving Tax Deduction Act, H.R. 651,” stated Dr. Darrin Anderson, Executive Director of the NJ YMCA State Alliance.

    “Not only is a universal charitable deduction a more fair and inclusive approach than current law, research has consistently shown that people give more when the tax code supports giving. The YMCA offers our support and is willing to work with Rep. Smith and other members of Congress to enact a universal charitable deduction that maximizes charitable giving. America is stronger when everyone has the opportunity to give, to get involved, and to strengthen their communities.”

    Congressman Brad Sherman Responds to White House with Deeply Personal Confession


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    by: Brad Sherman (D-CA, 30th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders’ comments Sunday morning that no member of the House of Representatives would be “smart enough” to understand President Trump’s tax returns really hit home for me. They compel me to reveal something about myself that I have long concealed for fear I would be judged, shamed and ostracized.

    From a very young age, I’ve known I was different. Where other children admired singers and athletes, I found myself stirred by a well-balanced double-entry ledger. When I opened a lemonade stand, not only did I debate whether I should sell cookies, I struggled as to whether it should be operated on a cash or accrual basis. While watching the Oscars, I yawned through the speeches and awards waiting for that sweet, sweet moment when the representatives of Price, Waterhouse appeared. “Someday,” I whispered to myself, “that will be me.”

    You see… I’m an accountant.

    And not just a regular accountant. I am a Certified Public Accountant.

    For too long, stigma has kept us in the shadows. We have denied ourselves what should be the right of every person — to live our truth publicly and proudly.

    You probably know an accountant, even if they are not “out.” We are your family, members of your church, parents at your school and, yes, the people who do your taxes.

    Who is responsible for Sarah Sanders not knowing that there are accountants in the House? I am. But that ends today.

    America, I am Brad Sherman, CPA. The “P” stands for “public,” and that’s what I’m going to be from now on.

    Congressman Brad Sherman chairs the bipartisan and bicameral CPA and accountants caucus. He is also the former head of the nation’s second largest tax agency in California.

    Shalala and Pallone Introduce Comprehensive Legislation to Address Youth Tobacco Epidemic


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    by: Donna E. Shalala (D-FL, 27th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL) announced the introduction of the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 today. The new legislation aims to address the sharp rise in use of tobacco and e-cigarette products among young people.

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an alarming 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use by high school students and 48 percent increase among middle school students from 2017 to 2018. According to reports, the sharp increase in tobacco use in recent years could reverse years of progress in reducing youth tobacco use in America.

    “The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act makes clear that we will not tolerate the proliferation of slick new products purposefully designed to appeal to young people to get them addicted to nicotine and tobacco” Pallone said. “Congress must act to reduce youth nicotine addiction by making it clear that selling tobacco products to kids is illegal. My legislation also treats e-cigarettes and other tobacco products the same as traditional cigarettes under the law. We cannot afford to wait – we are on the cusp of losing an entirely new generation to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

    “If a person does not start using tobacco products when they are young, it is less likely they will start as an adult. As HHS Secretary during the Clinton Administration, we made great strides in holding tobacco companies accountable for marketing their products to kids, and we reduced the number of people who smoked cigarettes,” Shalala said. “But now, the use of e-cigarettes, particularly by children, is beginning to undo years of progress we have made. Our bill, The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, takes concrete steps to limit access and the appeal of tobacco products to people under 21. At the end of the day, our main goal is to reduce the number of kids using tobacco products in the United States.”

    The Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 includes a number of important provisions to curb the rise of youth tobacco use:

  • Requires FDA to finalize a rule requiring graphic health warnings for cigarette packages within 12 months;
  • Extends FDA regulations on the sale, distribution, and use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to all deemed tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;
  • Raises the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 years and makes it unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age;
  • Directs FDA to prohibit non-face-to-face sales of all tobacco products including e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories;
  • Prohibits all characterizing flavors of tobacco products, including menthol;
  • Provides FDA with authority to collect user fees from all classes of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes;
  • Instructs FDA to issue a final rule on the regulation of products containing synthetic nicotine or nicotine that is not made or derived from tobacco;
  • Makes it unlawful to market, advertise, or promote any e-cigarette products to individuals under the age of 21; and,
  • Requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue an annual report to Congress on the domestic sales, advertising, and promotional activity of cigarette, cigar, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarette manufacturers.

  • Pallone and Shalala’s bill has widespread support from public health advocates, including: the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, March of Dimes, and National African American Tobacco Prevention Network.

    Section-by-section available HERE.

    Bill text available HERE.

    RURAL Act Introduced



    by: Terri A. Sewell (D-AL, 7th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (AL-07) and Adrian Smith (NE-03) have introduced the Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands (RURAL) Act, legislation that would help preserve jobs and encourage infrastructure development by expanding tax-exempt cooperative organizations’ access to government grants and assistance, including rural broadband grants and FEMA disaster relief.

    “Our rural communities depend on reliable infrastructure, access to broadband and secure energy sources for their local economies to thrive,” Rep. Terri Sewell said. “Alabama’s rural electric co-ops provide essential broadband services in rural areas where high-speed internet is limited but essential to those areas’ economic growth. We must do more to provide high-speed internet – and the opportunities and resources that it brings – to the 22.4 million Americans living in rural parts of our country without quality internet access. The RURAL Act would ensure that these co-ops can retain their tax-exempt status when applying for grants to expand rural broadband or disaster assistance and provide these co-ops with the ability to secure the grants needed to continue to grow their renewable energy, economic development and energy efficiency initiatives.”

    “Nebraska has a long tradition of relying on public and cooperative power generation to affordably meet the needs of families, farmers, ranchers, and small businesses,” Rep. Adrian Smith said. “While continuing to ensure rural electric co-ops are largely funded by their membership as a condition of their tax-exempt status, we should also ensure funds received from grants or for pole usage do not affect their tax status. Just as rural power generation and transmission were vital to rural economic growth in the 20th century, access to both power and broadband will drive our rural economies in the 21st.”

    “The legislation will enable electric cooperatives to continue powering rural communities across America,” said National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson. “Without this legislation, co-ops risk losing their not-for-profit, tax-exempt status if they accept government grants for recovery from major storms or to expand rural broadband access and other services that are critical to the future of rural communities. I applaud Congresswoman Sewell’s leadership on this issue and encourage House members to join the sponsors in supporting this bill.”

    “Rural Electric Cooperatives have historically received grants from various sources to assist in providing services to their members such as renewable energy development, energy efficiency and conservation and more recently helping to deploy vital broadband service to rural Alabama communities. Recent changes in the Revenue Code create an unintended consequence for cooperatives that may jeopardize their tax-exempt status,” said Alabama Rural Electric Association President and CEO Fred Braswell. “Representative Sewell understands the importance of this to rural Alabama and its citizens. We thank her for continuing to fight for programs to help the rural cooperatives and the areas we serve.”

    “Crucial community infrastructure projects in central Alabama have materialized because Central Alabama Electric Cooperative (CAEC) has successfully obtained grants. Over the years these federal, state and local allocations have funded a rural wastewater system and new entry roads in county business parks. Congresswoman Terri Sewell has introduced the RURAL Act, which offers protection to electric cooperatives and other nonprofit organizations by allowing them to maintain certain tax exemptions. Without their not-for-profit status, electric cooperatives’ ability to pursue grants will be hampered by having to include additional costs in rates,” said Central Alabama Electric Cooperative President and CEO Tom Stackhouse. “Thank you, Congresswoman Sewell, for your leadership and diligence in sponsoring the RURAL Act. Continued protection will be essential for CAEC as we embark on our rural broadband project this year.”

    “As an electric cooperative that was severely impacted by Hurricane Michael in October 2018, HR 2174 will allow PowerSouth Energy Cooperative’s members to utilize FEMA grants without fear of losing our non-for-profit status,” said PowerSouth Energy Cooperative Vice President of External Affairs Horace Horn. “We are grateful for Rep. Sewell’s sponsorship of this legislation and look forward to working with her on this issue.”

    The RURAL Act would amend the Internal Revenue Code to ensure tax-exempt cooperative organizations do not lose their tax-exempt status when they apply for and use certain government grants, contributions and assistance, including rural broadband grants and FEMA disaster relief.

    A Senate companion measure was introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

    The RURAL Act is available here.



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    by: Kim Schrier (D-WA, 8th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- As Congress holds hearings about the high cost of insulin, U.S. Representative Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) has introduced a bipartisan bill that will bring down the cost of insulin. Rep. Schrier, a member of the Executive Committee of the Diabetes Caucus who has Type 1 diabetes and is a pediatrician, knows all too well how the price of insulin is affecting families all across the country.

    “My insulin has tripled in price in the last 10 years and now costs $260, which is in between the price of Chanel No. 5 and cobra venom,” said Rep. Schrier. “We should be doing everything we can to make more affordable treatments widely available, because right now for too many of my patients and people across the country, the cost of insulin is a life or death issue. This bill paves the way for less expensive versions of brand name insulins.”

    In December 2018, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance giving drug makers a pathway for biosimilar approvals. Like a generic drug, biosimilars can use an expedited approval process that doesn’t need to duplicate expensive clinical trials and are often sold at a fraction of the price of brand name drugs. The Protecting Access to Biosimilars Act, introduced by Rep. Schrier with Rep. Diana Degette (D-CO01) and Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY23) and Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY-02) would make this FDA guidance law. This is important to do because guidance can be easily revoked, throwing a future market into chaos and affecting people who were taking biosimilar drugs.

    Most biologics are approved by the FDA under Section 351 of the Public Health Service Act. A handful of protein-based biologics, including insulin, however, are approved under Section 505 of the Food, Drug, & Cosmetic Act. Drug makers are not able to make biosimilar (generic) versions of drugs approved under Section 505 due to regulatory issues.

    The Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act, enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, clarified that all protein-based biologics, including insulin, must be approved under Section 351 of the Public Health Service Act starting on March 23, 2020. Drug makers can make biosimilars of biologics approved under Section 351. Biologics that were approved under Section 505 prior to March 23, 2020 would receive a “grandfathered approval” under Section 351. FDA guidance on how drug makers can file biosimilar applications after the law’s implementation date on March 23, 2020 was issued in December.




    by: Bradley Schneider (D IL, 10th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Rep. Nita Lowey, Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations; Rep. Ted Deutch, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism; and Rep. Brad Schneider made the following statement:

    “As strong, life-long supporters of Israel, a U.S.-Israel relationship rooted in our shared values, and the two-state solution, we are greatly concerned by the possibility of Israel taking unilateral steps to annex the West Bank. Every one of Israel’s frontiers plays an important role in its security, and Israel’s ability to guard itself from threats is non-negotiable. We hope that any security measures are implemented within the context of preserving the eventual possibility of a two-state solution. Two states for two peoples, negotiated directly by the two sides, with mutually agreed upon land swaps, is the best option to achieve a Jewish, democratic, secure Israel living side-by-side with a democratic, de-militarized Palestinian state.

    “This will not be easy. Palestinian leadership has been unwilling to accept any reasonable peace proposal or even to negotiate seriously toward a solution. To paraphrase Abba Eban, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. And instead of negotiating, they have pursued unilateral statehood through the United Nations.

    “Our fear is that such unilateral steps—whether from Israelis or Palestinians—would push the parties farther from a final, negotiated settlement.”

    Schakowsky Calls on Mattel to Recall Dangerous Infant Sleeper


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    by: Jan Schakowsky (D-IL, 9th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today called on Mattel to issue a recall for the Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play. With at least 32 deaths associated with the use of this infant sleeper, it is beyond time to remove this item from store shelves and online markets.

    “I have written to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and I have made a direct plea to Mattel to do what’s right and issue a recall on this infant sleeper immediately,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Mattel should put children’s lives and safety first and quickly alert consumers and stores that this product should not be used or sold. Any delay continues to put more children’s lives at risk.”

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long advised that babies should sleep flat on their backs in a clutter-free environment. The Rock ‘n Play is an inclined sleeper, which also recommends using its restraint system, which is also contrary to AAP recommendations.

    Bill to Improve Assessment, Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease Introduced



    by: Linda Sanchez (D-CA, 38th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- U.S. Representatives Linda Sánchez (D-CA) and Darin LaHood (R-IL), members of the Ways and Means Committee, along with Energy and Commerce Committee members Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, have introduced H.R. 2283 — Concentrating on High-Value Alzheimer’s Needs to Get to an End (CHANGE) Act to encourage early assessment and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. With as many as 16 million Americans expected to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by 2050, the legislation seeks to aide caregivers and accelerate progress to disease modifying treatments.

    Companion legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Roger Wicker (R-MS.), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

    “Millions of American families, including my own, know all too well the devastating toll that Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can take. Too often, patients don’t get a timely diagnosis, if they ever get one at all. Family caregivers do their best to provide the support and care their loved ones need, at great personal expense,” said Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez. “I am proud to work with my colleagues to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to promote and streamline early assessment and diagnosis. The CHANGE Act provides critical support to patients and their family caregivers. With millions more Americans, including and particularly people of color, expected to be diagnosed in the coming decades, we can’t afford to wait.”

    “Alzheimer’s Disease affects millions of Americans each day and the search for a cure must be relentless, which is why I am proud to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral bill to build upon existing tools for early detection, support physicians, families, and caregivers, gather data on how to improve federal efforts in Alzheimer’s research, and outline additional ways we provide care and treatment to those battling this disease,” stated Congressman Darin LaHood. “As a strong advocate for the fight to find a cure to Alzheimer’s, I will continue to support legislation that will help end this cruel disease for good.”

    “Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease and millions are or will suffer from this heartbreaking illness,” said Congresswoman Doris Matsui. “We need to do more to encourage early diagnosis while helping to relieve the burden placed on caregivers and family members. This bipartisan, bicameral bill is a critical first step to providing people with Alzheimer’s the care and treatment they need and deserve.”

    “Alzheimer’s impacts families all throughout Eastern Washington. This heartbreaking disease not only presents a health crisis in America, but also an economic one. Almost everyone knows someone with or caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s,” Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers said. “They need our support, more research for early detection and diagnosis, and better resources for care. The CHANGE Act will help by encouraging early assessment and diagnoses and accelerating development of life-changing treatments. One day we will find a cure, but until then, it’s critical that we move forward with legislation like this to help patients by improving diagnosis and treatments.”

    “I thank this bipartisan group of legislators for their commitment and leadership to accelerating a cure for Alzheimer’s and providing relief to the 5.8 million Americans currently battling this terrible disease and their families, caregivers, and friends,” said George Vradenburg, chairman of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “We look forward to working with these legislators and their colleagues to advance the CHANGE Act through Congress and into law.”

    Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in the United States without an effective means of prevention, treatment, or cure. The CHANGE Act supports, incentivizes, and authorizes high-value Alzheimer’s patient care, caregiver support, and research initiatives to improve prevention and treatment and move toward a cure for the disease.

    Specifically, the CHANGE Act:

  • Requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to identify a uniform, reliable cognitive impairment detection tool or set of tools that will incentivize clinicians to detect, refer, and diagnose Alzheimer’s and related dementias in their earliest stages.
  • Establishes payment measures to incentivize the detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or related dementias and discussion of appropriate care planning services, including potential for clinical trial participation.

  • More information on the bill is available here.

    Legislative text is available here.

    Law Enforcement Immersive Training Bill Introduced



    by: Tim Ryan (D-OH, 13th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) introduced the Law Enforcement Immersive Training Act of 2019 (H.R. 2329). The bill would require the U.S. Department of Justice to create an immersive, real-life, scenario-based training curriculum to address key issues raised by law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. These include improving community-police relations, officer safety and resilience, situational awareness, physical and emotional responses to stress, critical decision-making and problem-solving, de-escalation and use of force, and crisis intervention. The bill would also create a grant program to support public and private entities that train law enforcement officers using a substantially similar immersive curriculum. The FOP and NAACP have both endorsed the legislation. To view the full text of the bill, click here.

    “Trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect is an absolute necessity. It makes citizens feel respected, officers feel supported, and allows communities to work together to fight crime and keep everyone safe. Across the country, we have seen what happens when that trust is tested or broken. Unfortunately, the lack of standardized police training can lead to negative outcomes for officers and citizens,” said Congressman Ryan. “Policing is a difficult job, and law enforcement training should reflect and prepare officers for the unique challenges of 21st century policing. All officers—in departments large and small, rural and urban—should have access to the state-of-the-art immersive training that saves lives and rebuilds trust. This bill is an important step toward addressing related concerns and finding common ground.”

    “This training will not only better equip officers to ensure their own safety, but it will enhance their ability to serve and protect their communities by using current immersive technology to better prepare officers for real-life situations on the beat. This kind of training will improve officer safety, de-escalation, and community-police relations,” said Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police.

    “The NAACP strongly supports the Law Enforcement Immersive Training Act,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “We are very appreciative of all of the hard work Congressman Ryan and others have put forth to ensure that law enforcement officers receive training on the culture of the communities with whom they interact. The majority of law enforcement officers are hard working men and women, whose concern for the safety of those they are charged with protecting and serving is often paramount, even when their own lives are on the line. However, if and when even one of their colleagues engages in unethical or problematic behavior, whether it be conscious or subconscious, the trust of the entire community can be, and will be, lost. The result can only lead to trouble for the communities and the officers. This training will go a long way in ensuring smooth, mutually beneficial relations.”

    Dr. Ruiz Sends Letter to the President Urging Federal Aid for Local Communities Impacted by the Valentine’s Day Flood



    by: Raul Ruiz (D-CA, 36th)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Representative Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-Palm Desert) sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to devote federal funding to help local communities recover from the Valentine’s Day flood. The letter comes after Governor Gavin Newsom sent a letter to President Trump over the weekend requesting a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for communities across California impacted by February’s flooding.

    “I urge President Trump to issue a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration in order to help hundreds of families and local businesses qualify for federal resources and get back on their feet,” said Dr. Ruiz. “Our communities hurt by the Valentine’s Day floods need help to fix roads and property. I have monitored the damage and communicated our local needs to Governor Newsom and applaud his diligent response and request to the President. We must support the people who, due to road damage, endure long drives to medical appointments, loss of customers to their small business, and longer commutes to work. I will continue to track progress and advocate to bring home federal resources to fix our roads and businesses.”


    On April 13, Governor Gavin Newsom requested Presidential Major Disaster Declarations to bolster ongoing state and local recovery efforts following severe February storms that caused widespread flooding, mudslides, and damage to critical infrastructure across California.

    If granted, the Presidential Major Disaster Declarations would help state, tribal, and local governments with recovery projects including the repair and replacement of disaster-damaged facilities and infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and utilities.

    You can read the full text of the Congressman’s letter to the President below.

    April 15, 2019

    President Donald Trump
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
    Washington, D.C. 20500

    Dear Mr. President,

    I am writing in support of Governor Gavin Newsom’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration for California communities impacted by the severe winter storms that occurred in February. As the Representative of California 36th Congressional district, I urge you to swiftly provide federal aid to the affected communities, including those I represent in Riverside County and the San Jacinto Mountains.

    The major weather event that occurred in mid-February brought heavy winds and rains that caused intense flooding, mudslides, and damaged critical infrastructure including sewage systems and roadways. State Routes 243 and 74, near the town of Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains, were so severely damaged that repairs are estimated to take up to two months to complete, stranding businesses and residents in the area.

    I have heard from my constituents about the personal and economic toll these damages have taken on our communities. Road closures have led some residents to struggle to reach their medical appointments, and local economies have suffered due to declines in tourism. Federal aid is essential to helping these communities recover and local residents get back on their feet.

    Thank you for your consideration, and I urge you to grant this disaster request as soon as possible. I look forward to working with you to ensure that the individuals affected by these storms have the necessary resources to repair their communities and local infrastructure.


    Raul Ruiz, M.D.
    Member of Congress

    Rep. Chip Roy On San Antonio City Council Reconsidering Banning Chick-fil-A From The Airport


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    by: Chip Roy (R-TX, 21st)

    Washington, D.C. - April 18, 2019 - (The Ponder News) -- Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) released the following statement Friday regarding the San Antonio City Council’s decision to reconsider banning Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio International Airport:

    “I was pleased to see that San Antonio city councilman Greg Brockhouse is planning to motion to reconsider the city council’s previous decision to ban Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio International Airport.

    As I wrote in a letter to members of the city council last month, targeting individuals, organizations, or corporations for carrying out their deeply-held religious beliefs in accord with our laws and consistent with many Americans’ similarly held religious beliefs is hardly making San Antonio a ‘champion of equality and inclusion.’

    I hope the motion to reconsider results in a reversal of the council’s initial decision that I can only describe as discriminatory and bigoted.”