Congressional Delegation Legislation Update

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

S.251 – Interdiction for the Protection of Child Victims of Exploitation and Human Trafficking Act

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

Co-Sponsors: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH)

Actions: On 1/29/19, this bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Synopsis: A bill to establish a pilot training program to help train federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers to recognize suspicious behaviors in adults and children that may indicate child trafficking and exploitation. The program also would train officers on protocols and procedures for interacting with potential child victims. The law would increase the availability of this training across the country by establishing the pilot program, creating a grant program for agencies wishing to carry out IPC training and requiring regular reporting on the program’s success.
Sponsor Comments: “Patrol officers are regularly trained to know the signs of drunk driving and drug trafficking at traffic stops, but we need the same focus on identifying child trafficking victims,” said Senator Cortez Masto in a press release. “This legislation will provide that much-needed training to law enforcement officers across the country, helping them recognize and rescue victims who may be hiding in plain sight. I’m proud to be fighting in the Senate to give police officers in Nevada, and across the country, the knowledge they need to help protect innocent kids.”

Jessica’s Take: It’s hard to imagine that any work at all got done going into a holiday season that led directly to a 35-day government shutdown. But Senator Catherine Cortez Masto was actually involved with 25 bills had some activity during January, including sponsoring two new bills in the last week of January, the single week of that month in which our government was open.

One of these was S.251, this bipartisan measure designed to provide needed training to law enforcement officers on recognizing and rescuing at-risk and exploited children. According to a press release issued by Cortez Masto’s team, human trafficking enslaves roughly 25 million people worldwide, and here in Nevada we’re seeing one of the world’s highest rates of human trafficking, with 199 cases reported in 2017 — 45 of those being children, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. A companion bill is being introduced by Congressmen Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) in the House.

The Interdiction for the Protection of Children (IPC) Program would model a program already in place at the Texas Department of Public Safety that educates not only patrol officers but also child services professionals. The TXDPS, realizing that many of their officers had no protocols for identifying at-risk or missing children, developed the IPC Program in 2008 — with the help of Texas Rangers, criminal analysts and victim services — to remedy the situation and begin tracking statistics on rescues. The Washington Post reported in February 2018 that since the program’s inception, Texas state troopers have made 341 child rescues, nearly all of which were attributed to the program. And states that have followed Texas’ lead already have seen increased rates of rescue as well.

With Texas leading the fight against child trafficking, the bill, spearheaded heavily by Texan lawmakers, would take the program around the country to make it a law enforcement standard. Currently, though child trafficking is widespread, many children, fearing retaliation by their captors, won’t cry out for help, so it’s essential that officers know the signs to look for during seemingly routine interactions. The program’s success and popularity around the country in agencies that have requested it speak volumes about the possibilities if this bill were to pass Congress and become law, where it would receive federal funding and widespread use. As a bipartisan, unifying bill with nary a downside and a possibility of addressing this growing epidemic, it’s just possible this one may pass.

S.125 – REDUCE Government Waste Act
Sponsor: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)
Co-sponsors: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Related bill: H.R.5509
Synopsis: This bill would amend the Agricultural Act of 2014 by “Removing Excessive Dollars to Uproot and Cut Expensive” (REDUCE) government waste. It includes provisions to:

  • Prohibit the repayment of loans with peanuts
  • Prohibit agricultural subsidies for the development and taste-testing bug-based foods
  • Eliminate grants for the Department of Defense for the research and development of beerbots and robot bartenders

Actions: On 1/15/19, this bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

Sponsor Comments: “With the national debt standing at more than $21 trillion dollars, we must begin to eliminate wasteful spending happening in the federal government,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “The REDUCE Government Waste Act is a good starting point to help us eliminate unnecessary government spending. This legislation will save tens of millions of dollars that could go towards paying down our national debt, supporting our veterans, or funding important medical research.”

Jessica’s Take: Peanuts as loan payment? You betcha. You’re welcome for this funny-but-true bit of comic relief. In the entire history of bizarre laws, this one’s bizarre and wasteful spending may be my favorite. Though I suppose the loss of an indefensible $31.5 million in 2017 thanks to a bizarre USDA program that accepts peanuts as payment for federal loans isn’t something to laugh at — not when $1 trillion is added to the national debt each year. Nor is it funny that the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture spent more than $1.3 million in grants for companies to research the taste-testing of insects and the costs of farming crickets. Nor should we laugh at the DoD and National Science Foundation giving grants — one worth $175,000 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — to research the development of beerbots and robot bartenders, a concept being explored by such companies as Royal Caribbean cruises. After learning of these losses, you may need that robot-prepared drink.
While the law books are full of ridiculous laws, these three seem ripe for being stricken by this bipartisan bill, and let’s hope it happens quickly.

H.R.253 – Nevada Lands Bill Technical Corrections Act of 2019

Sponsor: Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Synopsis: This bill modifies the process of the Secretary of the Interior for examining certain mining claims on federal lands in Storey County, to facilitate certain pinyon-juniper-related projects in Lincoln County. The bill would also modify the boundaries of certain wilderness areas inside the State of Nevada and would fully implement the White Pine County Conservation, Recreation, and Development Act.

Action: On 1/4/2019, the bill was introduced in House and referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Sponsor Comments: “As a member of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I am advancing legislation to strengthen local control over the federal lands, which compromise more than 85 percent of the state. I think that local communities should be able to decide for themselves the best uses for public lands to spur economic growth,” says Congressman Amodei on his website regarding public lands.

“I’ll continue to work with the support of my western colleagues to pass legislation to help Nevada leverage its vast public lands, while preserving our unique landscape and way of life. In these efforts, I am always cognizant of the importance of water rights and multi-use access.

“During my time in Congress I introduced more than a dozen bills related to land use decision in Nevada. This Congress I have introduced and will continue to introduce even more. The ultimate goal for each individual bill is to reduce the amount of federal land in each county and increase the land use decision making process to locally elected officials, communities, and stakeholders – not by bureaucrats at the BLM or Forest Service.”

Jessica’s Take: Nevada’s presumptive “lands guy” is taking another stab at technical corrections on Nevada lands bills on the heels of his 2018 act of the same name passing the House in September of 2018. Lest you become confused by the somewhat sneakily named bill from a different year, the 2018 bill, which has companion bills currently making the rounds in the Senate, would adjust the process of the Secretary of the Interior to provide a technical correction to facilitate previously authorized land transfers in Storey County; authorize hazardous fuel reduction projects and wildfire planning for restoration projects in Lincoln County; and fully implement the White Pine County Conservation, Recreation, and Development Act.
This new bill has provoked the ire of the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, which calls Amodei one of its “Top Public Lands Enemies.”

H.R.253 adjusts the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act that involves the issuance of patents by the Bureau of Land Management to designate public lands. This bill, worded in a way that perhaps implies it is facilitating the protection or production of pinyons and junipers, at its core proposes a land trade: a 7,548-acre parcel of land from the BLM to Nevada for use by a private real-estate developer in exchange for a smaller piece of land for protected wilderness.

Amodei has, in the past, found much success reclaiming land for Nevadans, but who knows, in a time when members of Congress are feeling the bruises over land disputes regarding The Wall, whether this may be a push too far or a bill that’s easy to pass and move on.

H.R.7385 – Disaster Housing Assistance Program Accountability Act

Sponsor: Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

Synopsis: A bill to direct the president, through the Federal Emergency Management Administration, to establish pilot programs to provide long-term rental housing assistance and case management services after certain major disasters.

Action: On 12/20/18, the bill was introduced in the House and referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. On 12/21/18, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management.

Sponsor Comments: “Recent storms and wildfires have left more than a million homes damaged, and exacerbating housing shortages in communities from the Caribbean to California,” said Rep. Titus, Ranking Member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. “FEMA has been unwilling to utilize the tools we have to help the most vulnerable of disaster survivors. The DHAP Accountability Act takes on this challenge to help survivors get back on their feet without having to worry about living with no roof over their heads.”

Jessica’s Take: In 2018 alone, the U.S. suffered from unprecedented natural disasters, including the worst hurricane on the East Coast since 1969, Hurricane Michael, which made 20,000 people homeless in one fell swoop, and the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California’s history, which destroyed over 150,000 acres and more than 13,000 homes, virtually flattening the entire town of Paradise.

Titus’ bill responds to concerns pointed out in a 2011 report by the Inspector General regarding the DHAP. It addresses the agency’s accountability, requiring it to establish at least three agreements with other federal agencies to provide housing and case management services to disaster survivors, including at least one in the U.S. Territories. FEMA must ensure the program is cost-effective and detailed data must be provided in order for FEMA to conduct cost-benefit analysis at the end of the programs, as well as provide a report to Congress. Scientists continue to caution us that climate change could increase the severity of these natural disasters — this bill would ensure we think long-term about how to help the survivors.