Congressional Delegation Legislation Update

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

Bill Tracker for May 2019


S.537 – Hire Student Veterans Act

Sponsor: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Co-Sponsors: Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Steve Daines (R-MT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Actions: On 2/25/19, read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

Synopsis: This bill allows a work opportunity tax credit for hiring a veteran attending an educational institution using educational assistance provided under certain programs administered by the Department of Defense or the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also modifies the minimum employment period required for veterans who qualify for the credit under this bill.

Sponsor Comments: “After talking to countless veterans and military families across Nevada, I decided to introduce bipartisan legislation to incentivize businesses to hire our student vets who are currently using their GI benefits to study,” said Senator Rosen in a press release. “I’ve met with organizations like Work for Warriors and UNLV Rebel Vets on how we can help veterans find good-paying jobs. I’m confident this commonsense legislation will put student vets on the pathway toward success and will continue working on bipartisan solutions to help our veterans transition back to civilian life.”

Jessica’s Take: When she was a member of the House, Rosen introduced this same bill (H.R. 6392), the result of a roundtable discussion with community leaders and Nevada veterans about the challenges they face in the workforce. One of these is the fact that the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, a tax incentive for employers to hire certain target groups that face barriers to employment, only incentivizes employers to hire vets who have either been unemployed for more than four weeks or who have service-related disabilities. And the work requirement of 400 hours per year is quite stringent. Employers don’t have incentive to hire vets who don’t fit into these categories or who would work part time, seasonally or as interns. This bipartisan legislation would:
  • Automatically qualify employers who hire student veterans using GI benefits for the
  • WOTC’s 40 percent tax credit on the first $6,000 of the new employee’s first-year wages;
  • Reduce the existing credit’s 400-hour work requirement to 120 hours if the veteran is  using GI benefits;
  • Directly incentivize employers to hire more student veterans for part-time work and paid  internships.

More than 200,000 veterans live in Nevada, and it’s believed that this legislation would enable them to compete for better career opportunities if given greater opportunities to gain work and internship experience. As a bipartisan measure aimed at a population both parties want to please right now, I’d suggest it has a good shot of passing this time.

H.R. 2069 – SPIKE Act

Sponsor: Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV)

Co-sponsors: Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY), TJ Cox (D-CA), Susan Wild (D-PA), Ed Case (D-HI), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD)

Synopsis: The Stopping the Pharmaceutical Industry from Keeping Drugs Expensive, or SPIKE Act, is a measure to require drug manufacturers to publicly justify large price increases and launch prices for high-cost drugs. The measure would require manufacturers to report detailed information to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for certain drugs if their prices exceed certain thresholds. Beginning in 2021, if a drug price increases by more than 10 percent or $10,000 over one year, 25 percent or $25,000 over three years, or has a launch price higher than $26,000, the manufacturer would be required to submit a justification to the Secretary. Drug manufacturers would be required to submit a justification that explains the causes of a price increase or high launch price, which could include information on expenses pertaining to developing, manufacturing, licensing, and marketing the drug.
Actions: On 4/3/19, bill was introduced in House, then referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and Committee on Ways and Means.
Sponsor Comments: “In 2017, Nevada led the nation on drug price transparency by requiring insulin-makers to justify their large prices increases. I’m proud to bring Nevada’s model to the national level,” said Congressman Horsford. “Too many families are being forced to choose between refilling a medication and putting food on the table. The SPIKE Act will expand upon Nevada’s list of covered drugs and help us lower drug costs by holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for price gouging.”
Jessica’s Take: An April 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll revealed that the Affordable Care Act is supported as is by 54 percent of Americans. And an ABC News/Washington Post poll found health care will be the number-one issue on voters’ minds in the presidential election. Affordable health care is a major concern to the aging baby boomer population in particular, who are struggling to afford prescription medications.  Nevada has been ahead of the curve on this idea, thanks in large part to former Governor Sandoval, who passed Senate Bill 539 in 2017 to create transparency in the pricing of prescription drugs for diabetes, which became a model piece of legislation. Horsford’s introduction of this bill asserts Nevada’s authority in the matter of drug pricing, and with a bipartisan cohort of co-sponsors, it gives both parties the opportunity to have demonstrated support of health care affordability. Big Pharma, unfortunately, holds plenty of sway with
politicians, and the bill’s constitutionality may be called into question, so while I think there’s reason to hope for more predictability in drug pricing, I won’t be holding my breath.

S.1046 – Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Business Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand (ACCESS BROADBAND) Act
Sponsor: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)
Co-Sponsors: Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Doug Jones (D-AL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jacky Rosen (D-NV)
Synopsis: A bill to establish the Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The office would serve as a single point of contact office to streamline management and oversight of federal broadband resources across multiple agencies.  The office shall:
  • Connect with communities that need access to high-speed internet and improved digital inclusion efforts,
  • Hold regional workshops to share best practices and effective strategies for promoting broadband access and adoption,
  • Develop targeted broadband training and presentations for various demographic communities through media,
  • Develop and distribute publications providing guidance to communities for expanding broadband access and adoption, and
  • Track construction and use of broadband infrastructure built using federal support.
The office must report annually: (1) a description of the office’s work, (2) the number of U.S. residents who received broadband as result of federal broadband programs, and (3) an estimate of the economic impact of such broadband deployment efforts on the local economy. The office shall consult with any agency offering a federal broadband support program in order to streamline the application process and create one application that may be submitted to apply for all federal broadband support programs.
Action: On 4/4/19, the bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Sponsor Comments: “Nevadans rely on Internet access to enhance their education, acquire skills through training resources available online, and expand their business opportunities,” said Cortez Masto. “Better coordination between federal agencies and local governments to streamline broadband access will help ensure that every Nevadan will have the information and resources they need to gain the important benefits of Internet access while improving the transparency and oversight of federal dollars spent.”
Jessica’s Take: This oh-so-cleverly named bill is designed to take on the challenge facing rural Americans in obtaining internet connectivity. The FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report reveals that 24 million rural Americans still lack adequate access to broadband. According to the Farm Bureau, “Access to broadband is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.” The federal government already has taken on the challenge with the American Broadband Initiative (ABI), which aims to speed up broadband deployment and bring faster, more reliable internet to the millions of Americans who don’t have it. The ABI includes streamlined permitting processes, leveraged federal assets to lower the cost of buildouts and maximizing the impact of federal funding to better target areas of need. Masto’s bill takes things a step further to go beyond deployment into communities and the people who use broadband. The bill establishes a centralized office to handle connectivity and
growth, and the office would conduct outreach efforts to ensure people have access to broadband and understand how to use it and expand it in their communities.  And it provides for greater transparency in buildouts to ensure construction is expedited. It’s a nice example of bipartisan efforts to reach rural areas and work for the common good.

S. 982 – Not Invisible Act of 2019
Sponsor: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)
Co-Sponsors: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT)
Synopsis: A bill to engage law enforcement, tribal leaders, federal partners and service providers in addressing the crisis of missing, murdered and trafficked Native people and improving coordination across federal agencies.  This bill:
  • Requires the Secretary of the Interior to designate an official within the Office of Justice Services in the Bureau of Indian Affairs to coordinate violent crime prevention efforts across federal agencies.
  • Requires the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Attorney General, to establish an advisory committee on violent crime composed of members including tribal, state, and local law enforcement, service providers, representatives of relevant federal agencies, tribal leaders, and survivors and family members.
    • The Committee will identify legislative, administrative, training, and staffing changes to increase reporting and prosecutions of relevant crimes.
    • The Committee will develop best practices for tribes and law enforcement to better collect and share information across systems and agencies.
    • The Committee will make recommendations to the DOI and DOJ on what more the department can do to combat violent crime.
Action: On 4/2/19, bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs.
Sponsor Comments: “Our Native communities need more support to combat human trafficking and stop violent crime across Indian Country,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “We need stronger partnerships and programs to properly address this epidemic of violence. By ensuring that there is better coordination between the federal government, law enforcement and tribal governments and leaders, all parties can work together to find the best strategies to respond to this crisis.”
Jessica’s Take: There’s nothing new about the crimes being committed against Native Americans — they’ve occurred since white men first stepped foot on this continent. Violence against women and children is at epidemic proportions, and Native women are 3.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted or raped than women of other races. More than 80 percent of Native men and women will experience violence in their lifetimes, and 34 percent of Native women will experience sexual violence or assault. And while numerous federal resources and programs are in place to address violent crimes in Indian Country, there’s no overarching plan to
coordinate resources. This act would do so, requiring that the Secretary of the Interior identify a designated official to coordinate federal resources and establish a committee that identifies challenges in addressing these crimes and makes recommendations about best practices for sharing information about these crimes and enforcing against them. The fight against trafficking is, for good or for ill, becoming a rallying point for both Democrats and Republicans, with the Trump Administration’s Human Trafficking Institute and numerous bipartisan measures making their way to the Hill. This fact alone may give this bill legs.