In this episode, we look at a bill that furthers the “new normal” in Africa, a bill that sanctions Venezuela, a banking bill, a charter school bill, some silly bills that won’t become law, and a few Presidential declarations.
H. Doc. 113-107: Withdrew Russia as a beneficiary country under the Generalized System of Preferences program
Russia loses duty-free treatment.
- State Dept website says: Products that are eligible for duty-free treatment under GSP include: most manufactured items; many types of chemicals, minerals and building stone; jewelry; many types of carpets; and certain agricultural and fishery products.
- USTR numbers sheet: Top 6 Products: Car parts, metals, tires, oil, precious metal jewelry, corn
Bills That Passed the House
HR 4386: State Supervision of Banks
- Allows state examinations of banks if the state examines the banks for compliance with federal rules.
Became Law on August 8th without any recorded votes.
H.R. 3080: Water Project Funding
This was the bill that privatized water projects that was the subject of episode CD050: Privatize Water Projects.
- The version that became law didn’t rush environmental reviews. There’s no deemed approval of projects and lawsuits against a permit will be barred after 3 years, not five months.
- The bill keeps the provision that allows natural gas companies and utilities to pay the Army to speed up their permitting process, but added that the authority will expire in seven years and the permits have to be available to the public on the Internet.
- The House version would have allowed privatization of facility management and emergency water projects but the law allows privatization of the construction of publicly paid-for water projects in the United States.
- The pilot program to privatize fifteen flood mitigation projects also survived.
HR 2548: Economic Hitmen to Africa Act of 2014
Passed 297-117 on May 8, 2014
- “The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s work in the energy sector shows high projected economic rates of return that translate to sustainable economic growth and that the highest returns are projected when infrastructure improvements are coupled with significant legislative, regulatory, institutional, and policy reforms.”
- Orders a report on “Administration policy to support partner country efforts to attract private sector investment and public sector resources.“
- Would be US policy to promote installation of 20,000 megawatts of electricity in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020 and support “the necessary in-country legislative, regulatory and policy reforms to make such expansion of electricity access possible.”
- Electricity would come from new hydroelectric dams “supported” by the private sector.
- The President needs to establish the policy and funding strategy which includes efforts “to attract private sector investment and public sector resources”.
- It’s the sense of Congress that USAID should give loan guarantees to banks in Africa and grants to undefined groups to support this plan. USAID is requesting $1.5 billion from Congress in 2015.
- Part of the strategy includes providing technical assistance to African governments “to remove unnecessary barriers to investment” in commercial projects.
- “Trade and development policy: In general, the director of the Trade and Development Agency should promote United States private sector participation in energy sector development projects…”
Introduced by Rep. Ed Royce, who represents the hot and dusty parts of Orange County, California.
S. 2508, an almost identical bill, was introduced in the Senate in June by a Democrat. The White House has not issued a veto threat.
H.R. 4578: Sanction Venezuela Act
No Recorded Vote – Passed Unanimously
After the former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, died in 2013, his hand-picked Vice President, Nicholas Maduro, became President. President Maduro continued the policies of Hugo Chavez which are not liked by the multi-national corporations. For example, he recently cracked down on electronics and car dealers for price gauging, making good on an announcement from late last year during which he said he wants limits on business’ profit margins. President Nicholas Maduro is not a free-market kind of leader.
Since February, there have been protests in the wealthier areas of Venezuela. This is where things get murky. The protests were started by students who were apparently protesting the high crime rate, inflation, and inability to get certain products. People against President Maduro quickly joined.
President Maduro has accused the United States of stirring up the protests to attempt what he called a “slow-motion” coup, like the recent successful coup in Ukraine. It’s worth remembering that the U.S. was proven to have attempted a coup in Venezuela as recently as 2002.
Either way, President Maduro’s government has responded with arrests of protestors and expelled three U.S. diplomats from Venezuela whom President Maduro said were responsible recruiting students to lead the protests.
H.R. 4578 says that in response to the government’s response to the protests – including the intimidation of journalists by the government – the U.S. government will take the following actions:
- Sanctions against current or former Venezuelan government officials, or anyone acting on behalf of the government, who ordered violence, the arrest of protestors, media censorship, or provided money or support to someone who did.
- The sanctions include asset blocking of money or property if it comes into the possession of the United States or a United States “person” (corporation).
- Exception: The importation of goods.
- The same people eligible for sanctions will be ineligible for visas into the United States.
- Exception: To let them in for a United Nations event.
- Sanctions will be applied to people or companies who give Venezuela firearms, ammunition, technology, including telecommunications equipment.
- The bill also orders a classified report from the Secretary of State on how to improve communications for activists in Venezuela, including activities to “train human rights, civil society, and democracy activists in Venezuela to operate effectively and securely.”
- Gives $5,000,000 to USAID to “provide assistance to civil society in Venezuela”
There is currently a hold on the Venezuelan sanctions in the Senate because Senator Mary Landrieu – who has taken at least $1.4 million from the oil & gas industry – put a hold on the bill after Citgo – the wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela’s national oil company – raised concerns that the sanctions would make it harder for the company to import their Venezuelan oil.
H.R. 10: Another Charter School Bill
A public school that is exempt from State and local rules about the management of public schools. The schools can not be religious or charge tuition.
- The purpose of the bill is to use $300 million to expand the number of charter schools in the United States and to divide our education money more equally between public and charter schools.
- The most significant change to the rules on charter schools is that public money would go towards charter school facilities, which is not currently allowed. The bill would force States to spend 12.5% of their Federal education money on charter school facilities.
- Creates the “per-pupil facilities aid program” which gives five year grants to States to give to charter schools for facilities.
- Charter school grants will be valid for five years; currently, the grants are valid for three.
- States may privatize the application process.
- Priority for grants will be given to States that don’t limit the number of charter schools or the percentage of students that attend charter schools.
- The application process will include the applicant’s ability to get money from the private sector.
The vast majority of both Democrats and Republicans voted for it.
This bill was authored by Rep. John Kline of Minnesota. He’s Chairman of the Education Committee and his #1 campaign contributor for this upcoming election is Apollo Education Group, a multi-billion dollar corporation that makes its money in for-profit education.
H.R. 3584: Privately Insured Credit Unions Can Become Members of Federal Home Loan Banks
- Are privately owned cooperatives; they’re owned by the member banks
- They provide money to local banks
- There are twelve of them around the country
- Most locals banks are members of at least one Federal Home Loan Bank
- They get their money from the global credit market.
What Would H.R. 3584 Do?
- Allows privately insured credit unions to become members of Federal Home Loan Banks if they are FDIC eligible or are certified by the State.
- If the State doesn’t get to it in under 6 months, the application is deemed approved.
This bill was sponsored by Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio. His top two contributing industries are Insurance and Commercial Banks.
H.R. 4225: Jail for Advertisers Bill
- Makes advertising the services of prostitutes who are under 18 or are forced into prostitution punishable by ten years in prison.
Only nineteen representatives voted against this bill and it now moves into the Senate.
Authored by Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri.
H.R. 2527: Therapy for Veteran Sexual Assaults
- Allows veterans who were sexually assaulted during training to get therapy to deal with the assault included as part of their veterans’ health benefit package.
Passed without a recorded vote.
H.R. 4438: Permanent Business Tax Credits
- Expands and permanently extends the tax credits businesses receive for research and development expenses.
- Exempts these tax cuts from being counted by the PAYGO budget scorecard.
The bill was written by Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas.
The President said he would veto the bill because the tax credits are not paid for.