March 27th, 2017

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

S. 360 A bill to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require States to provide for same day registration

Sponsor: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
 
Cosponsors: Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
 
Synopsis: Also called the Same Day Registration Act, this amendment to the Help America Vote Act of 2002 would require states to allow people to register to vote on the same day as the election.
 
Action:  Introduced in Senate on 2/13/17. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on Rules and Administration.
 
Sponsor Comments: The right to vote is the cornerstone of American democracy, and we should be doing everything in our power to make sure  people’s voices are heard,” Klobuchar said. Minnesota has a long tradition of same-day registration, which has consistently led us to have some of the highest statewide turnout rates in the nation. This legislation would help ensure that no one is turned away from the voting booth due to a failure to register.”
 
Jessicas Take: Minnesota has the highest voter turnout in the countryabout threequarters of eligible residents vote, versus Hawaii, which has the lowest rates at half of voters. It likely isn’t coincidence that Minnesota also allows sameday voter registration, a policy that tends to boost voter turnouts by 7 14 percent. It’s also not a coincidence that Sen. Klobucher, representing thstate with the highest voter turnout, is sponsoring this Democrat-supported measure, with cosponsors from states that include those with the lowest turnout, including Sen. Masto of
Nevada.
 
However, it’s obviously Democratic leanings may not bode well for the bill in a Republican-majority Senate that won with existing voting laws.

 338 – Scientific Integrity Act

Sponsor: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Co-Sponsors: Sens. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Gary Peters (D-MI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Edward Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Al Franken (D-MN), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Synopsis: A bill to protect scientific integrity in Federal research and policymaking, and for other purposes. S. 338 would prohibit political, ideological or financial influence upon scientific research or the communication of scientific findings.

Action: Introduced on 2/7/2017 and read twice, referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Sponsor Comments: “Few things are more un-American than censorship, especially when it would keep the public in the dark on vital public health and safety information, such as climate changed and sea level rise,” said Nelson. “Any attempt to intimidate or muzzle scientists must be stopped.”

Jessica’s Take: The regard for scientific research has become a bit of a test for partisanship, which is obvious from the 30-person cohort of Democrats supporting this measure. Pro-science lobbyists are applauding the move, saying there’s never been a more important time to pass such a bill, with certain actions by the Trump administration raising alarms about their commitment to open scientific communication and respect for research. But like many issues, science is often thought of as a “Democratic issue,” and the bill isn’t expected to fare well in a Republican-controlled Congress.

H.R. 996 – To direct the Secretary of Labor to establish a competitive grant program for community colleges to train veterans for local jobs

Sponsor: Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV)

Synopsis: This bill would align Labor Department grants for community colleges with local veteran labor markets. Calls for grants for community colleges to assess employment openings to match the skills and training of veterans, and establishes an advisory board of business community representatives and Veterans Affairs staffers to assist veterans with job searches.

Action: Introduced in House on 2/9/2017 and referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Sponsor Comments:  Kihuen calls the bill the Service Training Education and Preparation for Veterans Act. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his bill ensures “community colleges have the tools they need to best serve those who risked their lives for our country, and fill much-needed jobs.”

He went on to say that “As our service members transition out of the military, they are looking for good-paying jobs. Across the country, small businesses, startup companies and local employers are seeking a talented workforce capable of meeting the demands of today’s economy.”

Jessica’s Take: Fledgling Congressional Representative Kihuen learned a lot from Senator Harry Reid and takes much of his philosophy from the veteran legislator. This bill is Kihuen’s first sponsored piece of legislation, and it honors his commitment to voters that veterans’ issues would be among his top priorities. While hard numbers are hard to find regarding underemployment among vets, one study found that 43 percent of veterans leave their first civilian job within one year. The point is that many struggle to find meaningful work, and Kihuen’s legislation addresses this by helping to align veterans’ needs with those of employers. Young veterans face challenges in the marketplace with putting their military experience to use in the workplace with civilian equivalence, and military service simply does not train young people for the challenges of employment. Kihuen’s bill would address these issues and also help to keep veterans in place, rather than forcing them to leave the market for suitable employment. Ultimately, the plan would be a win for the local economy and its veterans. But like any bill—especially one from a newbie representative—there’s simply no telling whether the language of the bill (particularly one that’s attached to funding) will enable it to pass.

H.R. 243 – Nevada Land Sovereignty Act

Sponsor: Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Synopsis: This bill prohibits any extension or establishment of national monuments in Nevada except by express authorization of Congress.

Action: Introduced in House on 1/4/2017 and referred to House Committee on Natural Resources. On 2/10/17, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

Sponsor Comments: “Whether you agree with our proposals or not, I have always supported a public and transparent process which includes input from interest groups, local communities, and elected representatives,” said Congressman Amodei. “Unlike all of our Nevada lands bills that allow stakeholders an opportunity to voice their concerns and ultimately reach a consensus agreement that achieves bipartisan support, the Obama Administration has repeatedly bypassed Congress and local input. I continue to be amazed by the fact that some people hug unilateral, non-transparent monument designations, while at the same time, protesting vehemently over the introduction and public discussion of Congressional lands bills proposals. In contrast to the last eight years of this Administration’s one-sided approach on major land management decisions in Nevada, our bill simply ensures local stakeholders have a seat at the table going forward.”

Jessica’s Take: Amodei partnered with Senator Heller on this bill, which was introduced in 2015 by Heller as S. 232 and arose from the Obama Administration’s restrictions on more than one million acres of public land in Nevada alone, via the American Antiquities Act of 1906. Heller and Amodei called this a “land grab” and penned this bill, which argues that the states know better than Washington what should be done with public lands. With the majority (85%) of Nevada’s land being owned by the federal government, the chances of the government making changes to the land without the state’s approval are high. National monument declarations aren’t always welcome—Presidents Obama and Clinton made several that were widely opposed by residents of those areas, and with very little notice. It would seem a no-brainer to allow input from states, and Amodei and Heller are in the majority party, so it would seem to stand a good chance of passing.