Congressional Delegation Legislation Update

jessica_santinaBills From The Hill That Matter To Nevadans
Compiled by Jessica Santina

Bill Tracker for April 2019

S.649 – Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act

Related Bill: H.R.1544 (identical bill)

Senate Sponsor: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Senate Co-Sponsors: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

House Sponsor: Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

House Co-Sponsors: Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) and Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV)

Actions: On 3/5/2019, S.649 was read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works. On 3/7, the House bill was introduced and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Synopsis: To require the Secretary of Energy to obtain the written consent of affected state and local governments (including the governor and each unit of local government potentially affected by placement or transport) and affected Indian tribes before making an expenditure from the Nuclear Waste Fund for a nuclear waste repository, and for other purposes.

Sponsor Comments: “Every year, Nevadans are forced to deal with attempts by Washington to force nuclear waste into their backyards,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “Yucca Mountain is unsafe, scientifically unsound, and a total waste of taxpayer dollars, to the tune of $19 billion so far. That’s why I’ve introduced this legislation, which will ensure the voices of Nevadans are finally heard and which requires the consent of local communities in any discussion on our country’s nuclear waste storage future. I want to be clear: I will oppose Yucca Mountain with every procedural and legislative tool available to me in the Senate, and I’ve secured the commitment of Senate Democratic Leader Schumer to work alongside me in this fight.”

“Today we are sending a clear message to President Trump and Secretary Perry that the State of Nevada remains firmly opposed to nuclear waste storage within our borders,” said Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-1). “The Trump Administration’s attempt to treat our state as the dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste is based on dirty politics, not sound science.

No state or community should have a nuclear waste dump forced upon them. I’m reintroducing this legislation as part of our strategy to put an end to the Yucca Mountain project once and for all.”

Jessica’s Take: It’s exciting and rare to see five members of the Nevada delegation joining together to put forth the same bill. Notably, they’re all Democrats. It took a project with the scope and history of Yucca Mountain to bring five delegation members together on one bill. Nevadans have been dealing with the “will they or won’t they” drama on this nuclear waste storage site for coming on two decades, and our legislators are sick to death of it. This legislation would ensure that Nevadans and members of any other state would have a voice in any plan to store nuclear waste, whether it’s at Yucca Mountain or anywhere else. This bill originated as a joint effort between Titus and former Senator Harry Reid, but thus far it has not passed muster—presumably because lawmakers simply have liked keeping their options open a bit too much. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) has clearly stated that while he doesn’t support the simple storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, he does support the exploration of its use as a center for nuclear research and reprocessing. In 2013, the Department of Energy published a strategy for implementing the 2012 recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. In December 2015, DOE requested public input on plans to develop a new consent-based process for siting facilities for nuclear waste storage and disposal based on those recommendations. This bill is based on the BRC’s 2012 recommendations and DOE’s previous consent-based siting report from 2017. In short, the bill supports science-based recommendations — not always a priority with Congress — and informed consent, which usually is. It’s never passed before, so history isn’t on its side.

S.721 – Jobs, Not Waste Act of 2019

Sponsor: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Co-sponsor: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

Related bill: H.R.1619 (identical bill)

House Sponsor: Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV)House Co-Sponsor: Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Synopsis: This legislation would prohibit the Secretary of Energy from taking action relating to the licensing, planning, development, or construction of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain until the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) submits a study to Congress on the economic viability and job-creating benefits of alternative uses of the site, and Congress holds a hearing on the benefits of alternative uses. As outlined in the bill, the job-creating benefits and alternative uses for the Yucca Mountain site could include: defense activities, such as a command facility for unmanned aircraft systems; a secure electronic data center; the development of renewable energy sources; or scientific research.Actions: On 3/7/2019, both the House and Senate versions of this bill were introduced in the two houses of Congress. In the House, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in the Senate, it was referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Related bill: H.R. 963 (Identical bill)

Sponsor Comments: “Time and time again, Nevadans have said loud and clear that we do not want a dangerous nuclear waste repository in our backyard. Yucca Mountain is not only unsafe, but it’s also a complete waste of hard-earned taxpayer money,” said Senator Rosen. “This bipartisan bill would prohibit the Department of Energy from moving forward with its dangerous and costly nuclear waste repository plan and would require Congress to explore alternative options for Yucca Mountain, such as turning the site into a data storage center or into a facility used by our military for unmanned aircraft systems. Any of these options could help creates jobs without threatening the health and safety of Nevada families. I’ll continue pushing for smart, forward-thinking solutions to repurpose this misguided and ill-conceived project.”

“Nevada has made it clear that we do not want our state to become the nation’s dumping ground for nuclear waste and it’s time for Washington, D.C. to listen and accept it. Instead of wasting more time and money by trying to force something we don’t want onto our state, the Department of Energy can and should explore other options for Yucca Mountain,” said Rep. Susie Lee (NV-03). “Together with Senators Cortez Masto and Rosen, I am introducing the Jobs, Not Waste Act–legislation that will require the Department of Energy to find new job-creating projects for Yucca Mountain other than nuclear waste storage. We should be creating jobs for hardworking Nevadans, not putting their lives and safety at risk, not to mention our state’s economy and environment.”

Jessica’s Take: Nevada’s delegation galvanized and got busy in early March drafting an all-out legislative assault on nuclear storage and any attempts to use or go near Yucca Mountain. Even Mark Amodei put his name on this House bill, having gone on record numerous times to denounce simple waste storage but explain his openness toward exploring Yucca’s economic benefits such as job creation or research. That’s an idea, it seems, that the ENTIRE delegation can get behind and has. The bipartisan nature of this bill, featuring aspects of job creation and economic growth frequently supported by both parties, would, in my opinion, bode well for its passage. It’s high time something definitive was decided once and for all with the site.
S.737 – A bill to direct the National Science Foundation to support STEM education research focused on early childhood, also called The Building Blocks of STEM Act

Sponsor: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Co-Sponsors: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Deb Fischer (R-NE)

Synopsis: This would direct the National Science Foundation to equitably distribute funding for early childhood education in its Discovery Research PreK-12 program, to improve the learning of STEM in the classroom.

Action: On 3/11/2019, bill was introduced in Senate.Sponsor Comments: “This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that our children are prepared with the education necessary to succeed in a 21st-century economy while also taking steps to close the gender gap in STEM,” said Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). “I will continue to be an advocate for investing in STEM education initiatives so that we are better equipped to address our changing economic and national security needs.”

Jessica’s Take: Rosen’s background in computer programming has put her on the frontlines of the fight to enhance STEM education, grow and support the STEM workforce, and increase the success and innovation in STEM businesses. This bill is aimed at STEM education in early childhood, which “stems” from research indicating that early math skills are the strongest predictor of future academic achievement. STEM jobs are growing by 17 percent, which is nearly twice as fast as all other occupations, and STEM workers are less likely to experience joblessness and earn higher wages. This bill has the support of the Girl Scouts of the USA, Save the Children Action Network, Common Sense Kids Action, American Association of University Women, National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, the National Organization for Women, Stop Sexual Assault in Schools, and Girls, Inc. Its resounding support from both parties and the basic demands of today’s workforce are helping to see many STEM-supportive bills pass, and this one stands a good shot.

S.582 – FinCEN Improvement Act of 2019

Sponsor: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Co-Sponsors: Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Synopsis: This is a bill to ensure that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network works with Tribal law enforcement agencies, protects against all forms of terrorism, and focuses on emerging methods of terrorism and illicit finance or virtual currencies.

Action: On 2/27/2019, this bill was introduced in the Senate.

Sponsor Comments: “Since my time as Attorney General, I’ve worked to strengthen our nation’s ability to respond to emerging threats to our national security and financial systems,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “We must use every tool at our disposal to address financial crime as new currencies and forms of terrorism emerge. I’m proud to introduce a bill that empowers FinCEN to reach its full potential in safeguarding the integrity of our financial systems.”

Jessica’s Take: This legislation takes aim at money laundering and terrorism through financial intelligence. It would bolster national security by expanding the capacity of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to work with tribal law enforcement agencies, protect against domestic terrorism, and focus on virtual currencies. As technology is continually being exploited to commit acts of terrorism and commit illegal acts, this bill would give FinCEN additional ammunition to protect against threats in the digital age. According to a news release from Cortez Masto, Congress has not updated FinCEN’s statutes in years, thus limiting its ability to work with tribal law enforcement or address these new and evolving crimes and virtual currencies. This new bill would address those gaps, allowing it to monitor such things as cryptocurrency. In 2018, $1.7 billion in cryptocurrency was stolen. It’s a bipartisan bill that could only help in leading to prosecution in these escalating and poorly understood crimes.