February 24th, 2017

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

S. 229 – Protect DREAMer Confidentiality Act of 2017

Sponsor: Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM)Cosponsors: Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI)

Synopsis: This bill is intended to safeguard private information such as addresses and telephone numbers of young immigrants, known as DREAMers (individuals who generally meet requirements of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act). Specifically, it would protect the confidentiality of information submitted in requests for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, unless it involves potential national security concerns or other limited exceptions.

Action: Introduced in Senate on 1/24/17 and referred immediately to Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sponsor Comments: “Nearly a million DREAMers across the country have come out of the shadows because of the promise that DACA represented, including more than 7,000 from New Mexico. These are some of our brightest students and veterans who volunteered their personal information to apply for the DACA Program. However, the Trump Administration now threatens to use this information against them to break families apart, deport these students or their families, and enact anti-immigrant policies that are contrary to American values,” Heinrich said. “This bill will protect the personal information they entrusted with the government and ensure that they are not targeted by our new President in his pursuit to divide the country. The President should work with us to pass comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform that keeps families united, not build walls that divide us.”

“I have had the honor of meeting with many inspiring DREAMers in Nevada and across the country,” said Cortez Masto. “These hardworking young men and women are American in all but paper and want nothing more than to be able to work and continue contributing to their communities, and we must ensure they have the chance to do this. I am committed to doing everything in my power to protect them and their families, and this bill is the first of many steps that will help me keep that promise and give DREAMers the peace of mind they long for and deserve.”

Jessica’s Take: This bill was introduced by a cohort of Democratic senators on the heels of President Trump’s announcement of a series of executive actions on immigration that may affect nearly 1 million DREAMers across the nation. It comes from concern that undocumented immigrants, many of whom have only known life in the U.S. and were brought here as children by their parents, came out of the shadows in order to file paperwork under the DACA in exchange for a promise that their information would not be used against them. In his first interview since taking office, Trump was asked by ABC’s David Muir whether he had anything to say to DREAMers to assure them they’ll be allowed to stay. Trump replied, “They shouldn’t be very worried. They are here illegally. They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody. We’re going to have a very strong border. We’re gonna have a very solid border. Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried. We’ll be coming out with policy on that over the nextperiod of four weeks.” When pressed to clarify whether they’d be allowed to stay, Trump only could reply that he’d tell us over the next four weeks. In the current political climate, with Trump rolling out numerous controversial executive orders and remaining mum on the fallout for DREAMers, and with many senators and house representatives, on both sides of the aisle, coming out against those orders with regard to immigration, there’s simply no telling where this bill will fall, but perhaps the public outcry on unconstitutional policies against refugees and immigrants in general may help speed along its passage.

S. 95/H.R. 456 — Nuclear Waste Informed Consent ActHouse

Sponsor: Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)House Co-sponsors: Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)
Senate Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)
Senate Co-sponsor: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Synopsis: This bill prohibits any expenditures from the Nuclear Waste Fund for a nuclear waste repository unless the Secretary of Energy has entered into an agreement to host the repository with the following entities:

  • the governor of the state in which the repository is proposed to be located,
  • each affected unit of local government,
  • any unit of general local government contiguous to the affected unit if spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste will be transported through that unit of general local government for disposal at the repository, and
  • each affected Indian tribe.

Furthermore, any agreement to host the repository must meet the following conditions:

  • it must be written and signed by all parties,
  • it must be binding on the parties, and
  • it shall not be amended or revoked except by mutual agreement of the parties.

Action:

  • Introduced in House on 1/11/2017 and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
  • Introduced in Senate on 1/11/17, read twice, and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Sponsor Comments: “Today we send a clear message to the next administration and those in Congress who have long championed the Yucca Mountain project that the State of Nevada remains opposed to nuclear waste storage within our borders,” Rep. Titus said. “No state or community should have a nuclear waste dump forced upon them. This bipartisan, bicameral, common sense legislation gives voice to those most affected while creating a process to address the nation’s nuclear waste concerns.”

“It’s time for the federal government to admit what Nevadans already know: Yucca Mountain does not have a path forward,” Heller said in a statement.

Heller said that for decades “billions of dollars were wasted by bureaucrats in Washington in an attempt to force an ill-conceived move of this nuclear waste to Nevada.”

Jessica’s Take: Formerly H.R. 1364, sponsored by Dina Titus and Joe Heck in the 114th Congress in 2015, this bill reflects a unified Nevada against Yucca Mountain, with a rare coalition of the entire bipartisan Nevada congressional delegation. Their actions are consistent with the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future’s statement on the matter, which is that a “good gauge of consent would be the willingness of affected units of government—the host states, tribes, and local communities—to enter into legally binding agreements” with operators with the assurance that those operators will protect citizens’ interests. The renewed vigor of this bill being ushered through both houses of Congress appears to be a clear statement to a new administration that, should it feel compelled to take up the matter anew, the state of Nevada is not interested in housing nuclear waste. Despite these fears, however, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told the National Press Club in early January that such speculation is unwarranted, and that “We believe a consent-based approach is the only way to get across the finish line.”

Nonetheless, President Trump has tapped Texas governor Rick Perry as a potential successor to Muniz, and Perry backed a plan to store wastes from reactors in Texas at a facility in his own state, prompting worry among Nevada lawmakers. And there is pressure mounting to store more than 84,000 tons of spent fuel assemblies from commercial reactors. It would appear that early passage of this bill might help, ensuring informed consent while the new energy secretary adjusts to the pile of work on his plate and is too busy to look at Yucca Mountain.

S. 112 – CARE for Veterans’ Dependents Act

Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)Co-sponsor: Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)

Synopsis: This bill authorize per diem payments under comprehensive service programs for homeless veterans to furnish care to dependents of homeless veterans, and for other purposes. It ensures that VA-funded homeless shelters can be reimbursed for services provided to veterans’ dependents, reducing the risk that families will be separated in homeless shelters.

Action: Introduced in Senate, read twice, and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on 1/12/17.

Sponsor Comments: Heller rolled out a comprehensive package of legislation that are intended to benefit Nevada’s veterans and service members. About the package of bills, Heller commented, “Knowing Nevada is home to over 300,000 veterans and service members, it is imperative that we dedicate the appropriate time and resources to ensure our nation’s heroes are safe, healthy, and thriving. Whether it be improving services at the VA or providing essential business advice for those transitioning into civilian life, my top priority is to ensure that we properly care for those who have sacrificed so much to protect our country. I look forward to advancing these measures through Congress and will work to have them signed into law as soon as possible.”

Jessica’s Take: As Nevada’s senior senator, now that Harry Reid is gone, he has stated that his top priorities going into the 115th Congress is resisting Yucca Mountain, developing the I-11 corridor, and legislation that benefits veterans. As such, he’s rolled out a big package of bills to benefit veterans, addressing Filipino veterans, methods for streamlining health care, transparency with regard to bonuses in the VA, and others to aid in the transition to life back home.

(See related bills S. 111, S. 113, S. 114, S. 115, S. 116, S.120, and S.121.)

Heller is under a bit of fire for introducing such sweeping legislation right after announcing a bid for reelection—in a state that went blue in the 2016 election and now has a predominantly Democratic congressional delegation. Nonetheless, veterans are a hot-button issue right now, and it’s hard to argue with a humanitarian bill such as this, backed by bipartisan support from Senators Heller and Murray. This is certainly no trend Heller’s hopping on—veterans issues have long been near and dear to his heart, and his willingness to work with Democrats to support them may bear fruit.