September 21st, 2018

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

NEW BILLS

S.3393 – Council on Rural Community Innovation and Economic Development Act of 2018

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

Co-Sponsor: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)

Synopsis: This bill creates a standing Council on Rural Community Innovation and Economic Development that would work across executive departments, agencies and offices to streamline the work of agencies and programs that specifically work to support rural communities. This council would work to maximize the impact of federal investments and promote economic prosperity and quality of life in those communities and encourage the use of innovative technologies that resolve local and regional challenges.

Actions: Introduced in Senate on 8/28/18 and referred to Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

Sponsor Comments:  “We must focus on better addressing the unique challenges and needs of rural communities,” said Cortez Masto. “This bill will create a council that will look out for the best interests of Nevadans who live in rural areas and ensures that we are doing our best to provide geographically isolated communities with the resources and innovative technologies they need to thrive.”

Jessica’s Take: According the language of this bill, 16 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural communities. Here in Nevada, just over 10 percent live in rurals. Yet this is where much of the natural resources — namely, agriculture and mining — that are essential to Americans’ health and prosperity are located. This bipartisan bill seeks to unite the various efforts to infuse investment and support innovation in rurals into one council that would serve as a hub for rural resources, provide information about rural opportunities and challenges, and address regulatory barriers, such as broadband deployment. It would also require the council to report on “Rural Smart Communities” that would describe efforts in these areas to integrate “smart” technology into their communities to solve local challenges related to energy, health care, transportation, law enforcement and housing. It would appear that the only obstacle to passing such a forward-thinking, problem-solving, nonpartisan bill would be that it is likely to be overshadowed by more pressing, high-profile issues in this heated election season.


S. 3395 – Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act

Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Synopsis: This bill directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to: (1) encourage veterans to study and pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and computer science in coordination with other federal agencies that serve veterans, and (2) submit a plan to Congress for enhancing veteran outreach.

The National Science Board shall provide in its annual report on the state of science and engineering in the United States relevant data on veterans in science and engineering careers or education programs.

The bill provides for veterans’ participation and outreach in: (1) the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program to recruit and train mathematics and science teachers, (2) NSF fellowships and masters fellowships for mathematics and science teachers, (3) computer and network security capacity building grants, and (4) traineeship grants leading to a doctorate degree in computer and network security research.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy shall establish an interagency working group to coordinate federal programs and policies for transitioning and training veterans and military spouses for STEM careers.

Action: Introduced in Senate on 8/28/18, referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Sponsor Comments: “As a senior member of the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am committed to passing legislation into law that creates meaningful job opportunities for our nation’s veterans,” said Heller. “With the influx of drones, autonomous and electric vehicles, and other technology companies in Nevada, there continues to be a high demand for individuals to meet STEM specific job requirements. The Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act addresses this need by offering an effective partnership between veterans and career opportunities throughout the state. I look forward to supporting this critical legislation through the U.S. Senate and working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to send it to the President’s desk.”

Jessica’s Take: Notable for his frequent and successful support of veterans in Nevada and the nation, Senator Heller has been working this year to encourage the VA to increase efforts to help veterans find employment in STEM careers. He also was supportive of the recently passed INSPIRE Women Act and Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth in STEM opportunities to grow to more than nine million by 2022, while the Department of Defense expects 1.5 million servicemembers to transition out of service in the next five years. It would appear this is a match made in heaven, especially with the luck Heller’s bills seem to be having lately. Additionally, companion bill H.R. 4323, with the same name, passed the House. The writing on the wall looks like this bill stands a good chance of passing.


S. 3388 – Ensuring Coverage for Patients with Pre-Existing Conditions Act

Sponsor: Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC)

Co-sponsors: Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV), John Barrasso (R-WY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Dan Sullivan (R-AK)

Synopsis: This bill would amend the language of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 by adding provisions guaranteeing availability of coverage in the individual and group market and prohibiting discrimination against individual participants and beneficiaries based on health status, including medical or genetic history, disability, evidence of uninsurability or other circumstances.

Action: Introduced in Senate on 8/23/18 and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Sponsor Comments: “There are strong opinions on both sides when it comes to how we should overhaul our nation’s broken health care system, but the one thing we can all agree on is that we should protect health care for Americans with pre-existing conditions and ensure they have access to good coverage,” said Senator Tillis. “This legislation is a common-sense solution that guarantees Americans with pre-existing conditions will have health care coverage, regardless of how our judicial system rules on the future of Obamacare.”

Co-Sponsor Comments: “Nevadans and Americans throughout the country with pre-existing conditions should be protected – period,” said Senator Heller. “This legislation will make sure that Nevada’s most vulnerable have access to coverage, and I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce it.”

Jessica’s Take: Republicans face an uphill battle this election season. On Nov. 6, one heated issue the GOP is likely to take a hit on is health care. An Associated Press-NORC poll released in August found that 64 percent of Americans disapprove of how Trump is handling health care. Attempts to make good on Republicans’ promise to fix or repeal Obamacare have come to little. As statements are being made this month in Texas vs. the United States on the matter of it Affordable Care Act’s unconstitutionality, S.3388 is GOP senators’ way of extending an olive branch (or at least seeming to). And while protecting those with pre-existing conditions certainly benefits those concerned about losing coverage, a closer look at this bill raises red flags — namely, that it doesn’t prohibit coverage for pre-existing conditions, but it doesn’t protect treatments for them either. The text of the bill states that health insurance issuers may restrict enrollment As Larry Levitt, senior VP for health reform at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, explains that the legislation includes loopholes that weakens the existing law. While it prohibits individual premiums from varying based on health conditions, it allows them to vary based on age, gender, occupation, and leisure activities. And it allows pre-existing condition exclusions, which were common before ACA was implemented. So that while it couldn’t deny you a policy based on a pre-existing condition, your carrier could exclude any services associated with it, making it what Levitt called “a bit of a mirage.” This is precisely the issue being taken up in Texas vs. the U.S., and if Texas is successful, pre-existing condition protections could go away, with this bill still not addressing it. Of course, Democrats are seizing the opportunity to go on the offensive with this one, and Jacky Rosen has argued that this could take us back to the days when insurance companies could discriminate for things such as cancer or pregnancy.

Dems are making their own moves on the pre-existing conditions law, making the swamp even murkier on this issue than before. Rosen has drafted a resolution in the House to defend the constitutionality of the ACA’s pre-existing conditions provisions, and 97 members of Congress had signed on as of Sept. 5, 2018. The resolution would authorize the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives to intervene in the federal lawsuit on behalf of the House to defend its constitutionality.


H.R. 6131 – PET AID Act

Sponsor: Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

Synopsis: This bill amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to require a governmental entity that receives assistance under such Act to maintain for a specified period, and make available to the public, records on activities relating to the intake, care, and disposition of animals funded with such assistance.

Action: Introduced in House on 6/15/18, referred to House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. On 6/18/18, was referred to the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management.

Sponsor Comments: “I’m the ranking member on the Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. This subcommittee oversees FEMA grant programs, so it is our responsibility to ensure federal emergency dollars are being spent wisely and doing the most good in response to major disasters,” said Rep. Titus in an interview with BestFriends.org. “We deserve to know how our tax dollars are being spent, especially when it comes to the pets in our community.”

Jessica’s Take: Quietly taking the reins as an animal protection warrior, Dina Titus’ recent legislative activities have included leading a congressional inquiry into animal testing at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (leading to the halting of a plan to conduct an experiment involving drugged Dobermans), earning a 100+ on the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s 2016 Humane Scorecard, cosponsoring the Humane Cosmetics Act to end animal testing in the cosmetics industry, and now this bill, which would require FEMA to better track animals rescued and ensure accountability and transparency to the organizations entrusted with their care. The first-ever nationwide assessment of emergency response capabilities for animals was conducted last year by the ASPCA, and it found that most states and about half of high-population cities and counties had organizational infrastructure for managing animals in disasters, but only about one in four smaller counties had such organizations, even in those prone to natural disasters. Meanwhile, people with pets are more likely to refuse to evacuate in emergencies, and only a little over half of U.S. counties have plans for emergency shelters that house pets with their owners. This legislation would be a step toward a better plan by seeing to it that pets rescued would be better documented and those records made available.