CD101: Trade Away May

Lots of new laws! Hear all about the final version of fast track and other trade related dingleberries, new measures to combat human trafficking, and new benefits for veterans. In this episode, you'll also learn about the bills that passed at least one branch of Congress in May, which include a poisonous scientific research funding bill, an anti-abortion bill, lots of bills to funnel taxpayer money into private pockets, bills that benefit veterans' families, and more.

After the break, get the details for the Chicago and Miami meet-ups, an update on the Congressional Dish Arms Race, and hear a indisputable argument for why train travel is superior to plane travel.


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Meet Up Times & Locations

Chicago: Wednesday, August 5th

6:30pm: Sweetwater Tavern & Grille

225 Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60601
(312) 698-7111

Co-Hosted by Kevin and Loren, hosts of Political Discontent Radio

Miami: Tuesday, August 18th

7pm: Emerge Miami Meeting

6pm: Meet and Greet
7pm: Meeting begins

Sweat Records

5505 NE 2nd Ave.
Miami, FL 33137
(786) 693-9309

8:30pm: Elwoods Gastro Pub

188 NE 3rd Avenue
Miami, FL 33132
(305) 358-5222


Laws


H.R. 2146: Defending Public Safety Employees' Retirement Act

  • Became the vehicle for Trade Promotion Authority to become law

  • Allows Federal law enforcement officers, firefighters, and air traffic controllers with 20 years experience to avoid a 10% tax penalty if they withdraw from their retirement plans after age 50, instead of 59.5 years old.

  • The effects of this on the budget will not be counted.

  • Passed 407-5

  • Sponsored by Rep. David Reichert of Washington

  • 43 pages

Did Your Rep & Senators Vote for Fast Track?


H.R. 1295: Trade Preferences Extension Act

Title I: Extension of African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)

Background

  • Original African Growth and Opportunity Act was signed into law by President Clinton in 2000.
  • Allows certain products from some African countries to be imported tax-free.
    • Oil accounted for 68% of these imports in 2014; "despite remaining the top U.S. import under AGOA, U.S. oil imports from the region have fallen by 80% or nearly $40 billion since 2011."
    • Clothes and vehicles from South Africa are the other main products imported tax-free under this law
  • The law was going to expire on September 30, 2015.
  • The assistance is intended to "encourage governments to
    1. Liberalize trade policy
    2. Harmonize laws and regulations with WTO membership commitments
    3. Engage in financial and fiscal restructuring
    4. Promote greater agribusiness linkages.

Reauthorization Highlights

  • Extends the AGOA until September 30, 2025

  • Eliminates the President's ability to terminate an African country's eligibility for the program without notifying Congress and the country 60 days before.

  • Creates an annual public comment period regarding whether the African countries are meeting their eligibility requirements.

  • Increases the number of people employed full time to make sure African food exports meet U.S. food safety standards from 20 to 30.

  • The Congressional Budget Office estimates that extending this program will cost us $2.8 billion in lost tax revenue by 2025

Title II: Extension of Generalized System of Preferences

Background

  • A bigger program for allowing products to be imported tax-free into the United States, which was first created in 1974.
  • President Obama terminated Russia's status as a Generalized System of Preferences country in October 2014, after the invasion of Crimea.

Extension Highlights

Title III: Extension of preferential duty treatment program for Haiti
Title IV: Extension of trade adjustment assistance
Title VI: Tariff classification of recreational performance outerwear
Title VI: Offsets
  • Extends customs charges for some imports from September 30, 2024 to July 7, 2025 and then increases the fees for two and a half months in the Summer 2025, after the expiration.
    • According to the Congressional Budget Office, this will cause the revenue from those fees to spike from a little under a billion in 2024, to $4.6 billion in 2025. This is the biggest single source of money that will pay for this law.
  • Increases taxes on corporations that make more than $1 billion in 2019 by 8% for the months of July, August, or September of 2020. The corporation's next payment will then be reduced by the same amount.
    • On the Congressional Budget Office estimate, this makes it seem as though there is much more revenue for the 2015-2020 period than there actually is. If the numbers weren't cooked like this, the report would show an additional $5.7 billion budget deficit from 2015-2020.
  • Beginning in 2016, the law forbids college education tax credits from students who don't receive an accounting "statement" from their school.
    • CBO estimates this will save almost half a billion dollars.
  • Increases the fines for failing to file tax returns on time or including incorrect information on a return, for example from $100 to $250 and raises the caps on these kinds of fees, effective in fiscal year 2016.

    • CBO estimates this will bring in an additional $136 million by 2025.
  • Disqualifies people who choose to exclude foreign earned income from their tax returns from claiming the child tax credit, effective this year.

  • Somehow changes the way Medicare pays for dialysis services in a way that will cut direct spending by $250 million.

  • Passed the Senate 97-1 and the House of Representatives 286-138

  • Sponsored by Rep. George Holding of North Carolina

  • 58 pages


S. 178: Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act

  • Through September 30, 2019, a person convicted of a human trafficking related offense will have to pay an extra $5,000 fine. The money will go to a "Domestic Trafficking Victims' Fund, controlled by the Attorney General. The money will be used for law enforcement, grants to States, tribes, local government and non-profit NGO's, and local children's advocacy centers.
  • Authorizes grant money specifically for victims of child pornography.
  • Expands the property that can been seized by the government from people convicted of human trafficking crimes.
  • Expands the "range of conduct punished as sex trafficking."
    • "Section 108: Reducing demand for sex trafficking" adds "patronized, or solicited" to the list of of things punishable by a fine and at least 10 years in prison.
    • The crime: "Whoever knowingly" in the United States "recruits, entices, harbors, transports, provides, obtains, patronizes, or solicits" anything of value that arises out of forcing someone under 18 to "engage in a commercial sex act", which means "any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person."
  • Gives crime victims the right to be informed of any plea bargains or deferred prosecution agreements.
  • Mandates that officers in anti-human trafficking programs operated by the Justice Department will have training on methods for investigating and prosecuting human traffickers and for getting proper physical and mental health care for the victims.
  • Mandates that Federal prosecutors request restitution for the victims whether or not the victims request it.
  • Creates an advisory council made up of human trafficking victims to analyze human trafficking laws every year until September 30, 2020.
    • The members will not be paid except for travel reimbursement and per diem allowances.
  • Requires missing children reports to include a recent photo
  • Requires audits of human trafficking grants
  • Prohibits the Attorney General from giving a grant to a nonprofit that has offshore tax havens.
  • Includes the SAVE Act which makes advertising the services of prostitutes who are under 18 or are forced into prostitution punishable by ten years in prison.
  • Creates a website for accessing victims' services
  • Expands the statute of limitations on civil actions by child trafficking survivors to 10 years after they turn 18.
  • Creates a "cyber crimes center" within the Customs and Immigration section of the Department of Homeland Security to "provide investigative assistance, training, and equipment to support United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement's domestic and international investigations of cyber-related crimes."
    • The cyber crimes center will have a "Child Exploitation Investigations Unit" in it.
    • The cyber crimes center will have a "Computer Forensics Unit" which will train and support Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees and help "Federal, State, local, tribal, military, and foreign law enforcement agency personnel engaged in the investigation of crimes"
    • The cyber crimes center will have a "Cyber Crimes Unit" , which will "enhance" Immigration and Customs ability to "combat criminal enterprises operating on or through the Internet, with specific focus in the areas of cyber economic crime, digital theft of intellectual property, illicit e-e-commerce (including hidden marketplaces), Internet- facilitated proliferation of arms and strategic technology, and cyber enable smuggling and money laundering" and will also help "Federal, State, local, tribal, military, and foreign law enforcement agency personnel engaged in the investigation of crimes"
    • The cyber crimes center will be allowed to coordinate with the Defense Department to hire war veterans.
  • Temporarily increases by 10% the amount of money a State can get from Federal grants if the State has a law that allows the mother of a child to eliminate the parental rights of her rapist and authorizes $5 million for the increases (only 10 states currently have such laws).
  • Adds people convicted in the military justice system to the National Sex Offender Registry.
  • Creates a hotline for sex trafficking victims to speak with service providers starting in 2017.
  • Makes sex trafficking victims automatically eligible for the jobs corps.
  • Allows human trafficking survivors to move to vacate any arrest or conviction records for crimes that they committed as a direct result of human trafficking.
  • Passed the Senate 99-0 and the House 420-3
  • Sponsored by Senator John Cornyn of Texas
  • 41 pages

S. 802: Girls Count Act

  • Authorizes the Secretary of State and Administrator of USAID to coordinate with the World Bank, UN nations agencies and "relevant organizations" to "enact, implement, and enforce laws" in other countries to register births of baby girls.
  • Sunsets in June 2020.

  • Passed the House and the Senate by voice vote

  • Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida

  • 3 pages


H.R. 2252: Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Act


H.R. 2496: Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act

  • Authorizes and additional $900 million for a Department of Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Denver, CO.

  • Passed the House and the Senate by voice votes

  • Sponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado

  • 2 pages


H.R. 606: Don't Tax Our Fallen Public Safety Heroes Act

  • Excludes money paid to the families of law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty from counting as taxable income.
  • Passed the House of Representatives 413-0 and the Senate by voice vote
  • Sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota
  • 1 page

H.R. 1191: Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act

  • Requires the President to give Congress any agreements with Iran within 5 days of reaching the agreement, along with a report by the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of the agreement.
  • Requires the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee to hold hearings on the agreement within 30 days – 60 days if it would interfere with their August vacation.
  • Prohibits the President from altering sanctions on Iran during the Congressional review period.
  • Prohibits the President from altering sanctions on Iran if a joint resolution of disapproval passes both the House and the Senate for 12 days after passage.
    • If the President vetoes the joint resolution of disapproval, the law prohibits him from altering Iran's sanctions within 10 days of the veto.
  • Allows the agreement to go into effect if Congress does nothing
  • Creates an expedited process for Congress to bring back the sanctions if Iran violates the agreement.
  • Passed the Senate 98-1 and the House of Representatives 400-25.
  • Sponsored by Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania
  • 12 pages

H.R. 2353: Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015

  • Clean extension of Federal transportation programs until July 31, 2015.
  • Passed the House of Representatives 387-35 and the Senate by voice vote
  • Sponsored by Rep. Bill Schuster of Pennsylvania
  • 9 pages

H.R. 91: Veteran's I.D. Card Act

  • Allows veterans who have honorably completed their service but who didn't "retire" or receive a medically-related discharge to request and pay for an ID card proving their veteran status.
    • The fee for the card will be reassessed every five years.
  • The cards would be available 60 days after the bill would be signed into law.

  • Final version passed the Senate by a voice vote and the House of Representatives 411-0

  • Sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan

  • 3 pages


Bills


H.R. 1806: America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015

Funds the National Science Foundation, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Institute f Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy – Science, the Department of Energy – Applied Research and Development, and the Department of Energy – Technology Transfer.


H.R. 1735: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016

  • Passed the House 269-151 and the Senate (with changes) 71-25
  • Sponsored by Rep. Mac Thorneberry of Texas
  • 994 pages

S. 136: Gold Star Fathers Act


H.R. 1732: Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015

  • Forces the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA to withdraw a proposed rule that would expand protection of waterways in the United States.
  • Orders a new proposed rule to be crafted using studies – including an economic impact study – hand picked by the bill authors.
  • Forces the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA to consult with "public and private stakeholders" that would be effected by the rule
  • Prohibits any additional money for the extra work.
  • Prohibits the Federal government's classification of waterways from voiding State permits for two years.
  • Passed the House of Representatives 261-155
  • President Obama would veto the bill.
  • Sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who has taken almost $400,000 from the Oil and Gas industry, with over half of that for the most recent election.
  • 13 pages

H.R. 723: Fallen Heroes Flag Act of 2015

  • An immediate family member of a deceased fire fighter, law enforcement officer, member of a rescue squad or ambulance crew who died in the line of duty can request and be sent a Capitol-flown flag free of charge by their Congressional Representative.
  • Caps the amount to be spent on this at $30,000 per year.

  • Passed the House of Representatives by voice vote

  • Sponsored by Rep. Peter King of New York

  • 4 pages


H.R. 36: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act


H.R. 2297: Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015

  • Orders the Secretary of State to report to Congress "the activities of all satellite, broadcast, Internet, or other providers that knowingly provide material support to al-Manar TV and any affiliates" and the status of sanctions against them as ordered by President W. Bush on September 23, 2001.
  • Prohibits financial institutions that process transactions for Hezbollah from opening or maintaining accounts in the United States.
    • Penalties for facilitating Hezbollah transactions will be the greater of $250,000 or twice the transaction amount in addition to a criminal penalty of up to $1 million and up to 20 years in prison.
    • This can be waived in 180 day intervals if the Treasury Secretary says it's in the "national security interests of the United States"
  • These rules will not apply to intelligence activities
  • Passed by 423-0
  • Sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce of California
  • 20 pages

H.R. 474: Homeless Veterans' Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act of 2015

  • Reauthorized a program for homeless veterans for five years.
  • Clarifies that veterans being released from prison are eligible for benefits.

  • Passed the House by a voice vote

  • Sponsored by Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio

  • 3 pages


H.R. 1038: Ensuring VA Employee Accountability Act

Forces the Department of Veterans Affairs to keep a copy of all official reprimands or admonishments in the employee's permanent record as long as they work at the Department of Veteran's Affairs.

  • Passed the House by voice vote
  • Sponsored by Rep. Ryan Costello
  • 3 pages

H.R. 1313: Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Relief Act

  • Allows the business that was owned by a disabled veteran to keep it's veteran perks if the spouse takes over the business for three years, if the veterans did not die as a result of a service related disability (if the veteran did die of service related injuries, the spouse can keep the benefits for 10 years or until she remarries).
  • Passed the House of Representatives 403-0
  • Sponsored by Rep. Jerry McNerney
  • 3 pages

H.R. 1382: BRAVE Act

  • Authorizes the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs to give preferential treatment to companies that hire veterans in their choice in awarding procurement contracts.
  • A company that lies about the veteran status of its employees will be prohibited from contracting with the Department of Veteran's Affairs for five years.

  • Passed the House of Representatives 404-0

  • Sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Rice

  • 3 pages


H.R. 1816: Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2015

  • Excludes monthly pension payments from counting as income for veterans who become permanently or totally disabled from non-service related injuries.
  • Limits the total amount of bonus money allowed to be issued to employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Passed the House by voice vote

  • Sponsored by Rep. Joe Heck of Nevada

  • 3 pages


H.R. 874: American Super Computing Leadership Act

Broadens the definition of "institution of higher learning" to include organizations that exist to benefit institutions of higher education

  • Orders the Department of Energy to partner with universities, National Laboratories, and industry.
  • Eliminates the Department of Energy's High End Software Development Center and replaces it with a partnerships with universities, National Laboratories, and industry to do research.
    • Part of this program will include outreach to domestic industries, including manufacturing so they can use the technology developed.
  • Passed the House by voice vote
  • Sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren of Illinois
  • 8 pages

H.R. 1162: Science Prize Competitions Act

  • Allows private for-profit entities to be given grants and contract so administer government prize competitions.
  • Passed the House by voice vote
  • Sponsored by Rep. Donald Beyer of Virginia
  • 6 pages

H.R. 1119: Research and Development Efficiency Act

  • Creates a working group to make recommendations on how to streamline Federal regulations and to "minimize the regulatory burden" on universities performing federally funded research.
  • Passed the House by voice vote
  • Sponsored by Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia
  • 4 pages

H.R. 1156: International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of 2015

  • Creates a working group to coordinate international science and technology cooperation, designed in part to "support United States foreign policy goals".
    • Will be co-chaired by officials from the Office of Science and Technology and the Department of State.
  • Passed the House by voice vote
  • Sponsored by Rep. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois
  • 4 pages

H.R. 1561: Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2015

  • Creates a program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to improving weather knowledge, understand how the public reacts to warnings, and develop radar and other weather forecasting technologies.
    • At least 30%) of the money for the program will go to universities, private entities, and NGO's to further their research.
  • Creates a tornado warning improvement program with the goal of predicting tornadoes more than an hour in advance.
    • No budget listed.
  • Creates a Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program with the goal of extending hurricane forecasts.
    • No budget listed.
  • Allows the government to pay commercial providers up to $9 million for weather data
  • Authorizes (but doesn't appropriate) about $100 million per year through 2017.
  • Passed the House by voice vote
  • Sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma
  • 25 pages

H.R. 1158: Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2015

  • Orders an assessment and report on the Department of Energy's ability to host and oversee "privately funded fusion and non-light water reactor prototypes and related demonstration facilities at Department-owned sites"
  • Orders the Energy Department to carry out a pilot program designed to "commercialize" research at National Laboratories.
  • Passed the House by voice vote
  • Sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren of Illinois
  • 16 pages

H.R. 880: American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015


Hearings


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