Bill Tracker – March 2018

jessica_santinaCongressional Delegation Legislation Update
Bills From The Hill That Matter To Nevadans
Compiled by Jessica Santina


H.R.5028 – Sunlight in Workplace Harassment

Act Sponsor: Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Related Bill: Introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), bill as yet numbered at press time Synopsis: A bill to amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to require public corporations to disclose certain activities regarding settlements of disputes relating to sexual abuse or certain types of harassment or discrimination.

Actions: Introduced in House on 2/14/2018, referred to House Committee on Financial Services.

Sponsor Comments: “What the #MeToo movement has taught us is that we’re not going to change the culture where this misconduct is brushed aside or openly tolerated in workplaces across America without more transparency on how these issues are being handled,” Rosen said in a statement. “It’s my hope that we can bring Republicans on board in the House and Senate to move this plan forward,” Rosen said. “Our bill will help systemically expose workplace harassment and push employers across the country to aggressively prevent it,” said Senator Warren, who sponsored the companion bill in the Senate.

Jessica’s Take: The deluge of allegations of sexual misconduct against numerous high-profile individuals in recent months has, frankly, created the appearance that harassment and discrimination are facts of life at every workplace. They aren’t, and they shouldn’t be, but until transparency makes such a thing impossible to get away with and produce a general public awareness of the problem, people in power will sweep it under the rug. After all, in FY 2016, nearly 30,000 harassment charges were filed with the EEOC, and most investors never heard about them. Rosen and Warren want to shine a light on these dark dealings by changing the language of the Securities Exchange Act to insist upon transparency. This bill hits them in the wallet, as revealing these issues could affect investors’ decisions—requiring companies to reveal amounts spent on settlements and lengths of times spent on resolving complaints—about where to spend their money effectively. The bill also includes protections for accusers, prohibiting the SEC from revealing their names, and it requires companies to disclose information about what they’re doing to prevent harassment and discrimination. The bill has the support of the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority, the Human Rights Campaign, and numerous other high-profile people and organizations. And, let’s face it, anyone who opposes the bill can’t look great to voters. Will it stop sexual misconduct? Of course not. But if it passes, it certainly would make such misconduct less appealing to attempt, and it would make for more informed investors.

H.R. 4855 – SNAP Healthy Incentives Act of 2018

Sponsor: Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA)

Co-Sponsors: Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Gwen Moore (D-WI), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Jared Polis (D-CO), Raoul Grijalva (D-AZ), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At Large), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Darren Soto (D-FL), Yvette Clarke (D-NY),Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Gene Green (D-TX), Al Lawson Jr. (D-FL), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU-At Large)

Synopsis: This bill amends the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to provide a financial incentive for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program) participants to purchase fruits and vegetables.

Action: On 1/192018, introduced in House and referred to House Committee on Agriculture. On 2/8/2018, referred to Subcommittee on Nutrition.

Sponsor Comments: “Unfortunately, the increase in healthy food prices have put fruits and vegetables out of reach for many SNAP recipients. This bipartisan bill revamps SNAP by targeting the benefits towards healthy foods,” said Rep. Cartwright. “Increased fruit and vegetable intake can help reduce rates of heart disease and prevent several cancers. Not only does this alleviate health care costs, but it can save lives.”

Jessica’s Take: One of America’s favorite punching bags is welfare recipients, who often are criticized for buying inappropriate items. But according to a USDA study, less-healthy items such as soda comprised larger percentages of grocery expenditures among SNAP households versus those not in the program. And studies show that low-income families do eat fewer fruits and vegetables—likely due to a combination of their communities being food deserts, along with processed foods often being cheaper and easier to purchase, and lasting longer, than fresh produce. Rep. Mark Amodei has caught plenty of fire in past years for his votes to cut SNAP benefits, so his appearance as the sole Republican co-sponsoring an otherwise-entirely Democrat-supported bill is noteworthy and perhaps telling about his, and other Republicans’, concerns with the program, which may bode well for its passage. This bill would make purchasing fruits and vegetables more appealing to SNAP recipients by refunding money on those purchases. A pilot program in Massachusetts refunded recipients 30 cents for every dollar spent on fruits and vegetables, which generated a 25 percent increase in their consumption. This legislation would expand the benefits to all recipients. S.2380 – Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Synopsis: This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to make an alien: (1) inadmissible if a consular officer, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or the Department of Justice (DOJ) knows or has reason to believe that such person is or has been a member of a criminal gang or has participated in criminal gang activities; and (2) deportable if such person is or has been a member of a criminal gang or has participated in criminal gang activities. A “criminal gang” is defined as an ongoing group, club, organization, or association of five or more persons (group): (1) one of the primary purposes of which is the commission of one or more specified criminal offenses and the members of which engage, or have engaged within the past five years, in a continuing series of such offenses; or (2) that has been designated as a criminal gang by DHS. DHS may: (1) designate a group as a criminal gang based upon its conduct, and (2) revoke a designation for national security interests or if the group no longer conducts such criminal activities. Such designation shall be effective until revoked or judicially set aside. Congress may block or revoke a designation. A group may file a petition for revocation: (1) prior to designation, with DHS, and (2) after designation, with the U.S. Court of Appeals, DC Circuit. The bill: (1) provides for mandatory detention of alien gang members; and (2) makes alien gang members ineligible for asylum, temporary protected status, special immigrant juvenile status, and parole (unless such an alien is assisting the United States in a law enforcement matter).

Action: On 2/6/2018, it was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Sponsor Comments: “In Nevada, gang violence has infiltrated our neighborhoods and threatened our communities, and that’s why I introduced the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act. This legislation empowers law enforcement with the tools they need to help protect Nevadans from violent criminals, and it boosts public safety in Nevada and throughout the country by cracking down on gangs,” said Heller. “Our entire immigration system is broken and in need of reform, and this commonsense bill to stop individuals who are affiliated with dangerous gangs, such as MS-13, from entering the United States represents a positive step in the right direction. I am encouraged by the bipartisan support for this bill, and I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to send it to the President’s desk for his signature.”

Jessica’s Take: The Republican-led Congress has made its call for immigration reform a top priority, and yet in many ways has failed to come up with a unifying piece of legislation. This bill, sponsored solely by Heller, has strong support from the Trump Administration as a way to strengthen law enforcement’s ability to fight transnational criminal gangs, such as MS-13, a particularly violent gang that operates in Nevada and nearly every other state. Its companion House bill passed with a bipartisan vote of 233-175, giving it a strong possibility of passing the Senate.

However, though it seems a no-brainer to expel gangs from our midst, many critics argue that the details of the bill further victimize the victims—for instance, young people who have been forced into gangs against their will—by deporting them and making it impossible for them to improve their lives. These young children—some as young as 6—have had their lives threatened if they didn’t do what the gangs wanted. Critics also say that because the bill allows deportation for those who have never had any criminal convictions, or even speeding tickets, it could ultimately lead to the deportation of legal residents who have been in the country a long time and have never had legal problems.

S.2409 – Tribal Nutrition Improvement Act of 2018

Sponsor: Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) Co-sponsors: Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV) and Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN)

Synopsis: This bill amends the Richard B. Russell National School Act to allow an Indian tribe to assume, from a nearby local educational agency (LEA) and in lieu of a state, responsibility for administration of the school breakfast program, the school lunch program, the child and adult care food program, or the summer food service program for children. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) must identify, for optional use in LEAs on or near Indian reservations, alternatives to current program requirements related to the daily counting of meals by category, the use of annual applications to determine program eligibility, and the use of universal meal service. USDA may implement such alternatives, as limited by the bill, as well as further test them in demonstration projects. The bill also amends the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to require USDA to increase the amount of administrative funds paid to an Indian tribe that agrees to assume responsibility for the administration of one of the aforementioned food programs.

Action: On 2/8/2018, read twice and referred to Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Sponsor Comments: “Existing laws that mandate sovereign tribes to go through state agencies before they can administer food programs exacerbates the growing problem of food insecurity and obesity among Native American families,” said Cortez Masto. “With far too many Native American children relying on school lunches as their only source of food and nutrition, it is crucial that we provide essential resources for tribes to expand access to critical school breakfast and lunch programs, the child and adult care food program, and the summer food service program for children. I am proud to support a bill that will help Nevada’s Tribal communities ensure that no child experiences hunger or lack of nutrition as a barrier to learning and success.”

Jessica’s Take: Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) reintroduced legislation in the Senate and House to give tribes the ability to administer federal programs that provide free, healthy meals to children in school, in the belief that tribes understand best the needs of their own communities.

The issue of food insecurity among Native Americans is pervasive, with numerous barriers to healthy eating including geographic isolation, the high cost of and limited access to healthy, fresh produce being among them. Because virtually all of Indian Country resides within a food desert, Native American children are at a much higher risk of suffering from hunger and nutrition-related diseases like obesity and diabetes. In fact, it is estimated that half of all Native children will develop diabetes in their lifetime. School nutrition programs are proven to help prevent food insecurity and obesity and a healthy diet protects against diabetes, but tribal schools and Native families face unnecessary hurdles to accessing important hunger and nutrition services because tribal governments are restricted under current law in administering school meals and other critical food programs. This measure would provide funding and adds federally recognized Indian Tribes to the list of governments authorized to administer the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, so that they may directly administer school food programs without having to go through state agencies. This Democrat-sponsored bill provides more options to tribes to feed more children—a notion that’s hard to find fault with, though the current administration has proposed sweeping cuts to food stamps (SNAP), federal crop insurance subsidies, and regulations enforcing healthy food at school. It’s unlikely (but not impossible) that this bill will gather steam in the Senate.