Current Legislative Update:

  • February 2016


Legislative Updates

Keeping you up to date on policy action from the president's administration and the U.S. Congress.

January 2016

>>> Education

Acting Secretary of Education Creates New Guidelines for States to Reduce School Testing
Acting Secretary of Education John King released new guidelines to states on how to use federal dollars to create better testing in schools.  Following the enactment of the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) which creates revisions to No Child Left Behind, the guidelines will help schools reduce complicated testing practices, but also provide for teacher assessments.  The guidelines also create more flexible options for states in creating testing practices as well.   

Read more:
Letter to Chief State School Officers (Department of Education)
Education Department Helps States Cut Standardized Testing (NBC News)

>>> Energy, Transportation, and Environment

Obama Declares State of Emergency in Flint Michigan
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Flint, Michigan after reports indicating the drinking water contains high levels of lead, posing extreme health risks to the thousands of residents living there. The governor of Michigan declared a state of emergency in mid-December following reports from doctors of elevated levels of lead in children’s blood.  The city of Flint changed the water supply from the Great Lakes to the Flint River two years ago.  Residents indicated to city officials that their water was unusable for use and consumption, noting strange odors and color.  With further investigations, more information comes to light including allegations that state employees were receiving purified water a year prior to residents’ complaints.

Read more:
Obama Declares Flint Water Crisis an Emergency (Governing)
Obama Meets With Flint Mayor About Water Crisis (Governing)
National Guard Activated in Flint Water Crisis  (Governing)
Gov. Snyder to Flint Residents: Government Failed You  (Governing)
The Growing Water Crisis in Flint (The Atlantic)
Class-Action Lawsuits Filed over Flint Water Crisis (The Detroit News)
Flint, Michigan's water crisis: what the national media got wrong (Vox)
What Went Wrong In Flint (FiveThirtyEight)
As Residents Drank Toxic Water, State Workers in Flint Got Purified Water for Over a Year (Governing)

>>> Labor and Workforce Development

Obama Works to Close the Gender Pay Gap;
In an executive order, President Obama proposed regulations that would require companies with 100 employees or more to include salary information on reporting forms that document employees’ sex, age and job groups. 

Read more:
Obama Moves to Expand Rules Aimed at Closing Gender Pay Gap (The New York Times)

>>> Law, Justice, and Ethics

U. S. Supreme Court Rules on Death Penalty, Life Sentences for Juveniles
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty sentencing scheme used in Florida violates the Sixth Amendment.  In Florida, juries can recommend the death penalty, however judges are charged with finding facts, essentially giving too much power to judges.  As a result, the future of the 300+ inmates on death row currently hangs in limbo.  In another case, the Supreme Court ruled that current prisoners who were sentenced to life as teenagers must have the opportunity to argue for release.  Montgomery v. Louisiana is an extension of Miller v. Alabama which found sentencing juveniles to life in prison without the possibility of release as unconstitutional.  Montgomery v. Louisiana allows the Miller ruling to be applied retroactively to incarcerated individuals.   

Read more:
Hurst v. Florida (SCOTUSblog)
Supreme Court Ruling Has Florida Scrambling to Fix Death Penalty Law (The New York Times)
Montgomery v. Louisiana (SCOTUSblog)
Supreme Court: Life Sentences on Juveniles Open for Later Reviews (The Washington Post)

Executive Action on Deportation to be Reviewed by Supreme Court
The Supreme Court will review a case brought by Texas and 25 other states that contend President Obama exceeded his executive powers in his policies that prevented the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, namely the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. 

Read more:
Supreme Court to Review Obama’s Power on Deportation Policy (The Washington Post)
The Supreme Court Will Drop an Immigration Blockbuster Right in the Heat of the Election (Business Insider)

President Bans Solitary Confinement for Juveniles

In another set of executive actions, the President banned the use of solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in federal prison.  Many of the President’s actions incorporated recommendations from a review of the criminal justice system conducted by the Department of Justice.  The executive action also shortens the maximum amount of time a prisoner can be placed in solitary confinement from 365 days to 60 days.

Read more:
Obama Bans Solitary Confinement For Juveniles In Federal Prisons (The Washington Post)
Report and Recommendations Concerning the Use of Restrictive Housing (Department of Justice)

What’s Happening on the Hill?

House Calendar

Wednesday, February 3, 2016
  • House Committee on Agriculture | Subcommittee on Nutrition, Hearing: To review incentive programs aimed at increasing low-income families' purchasing power for fruits and vegetables 10:00 AM | 1300 Longworth HOB
  • House Committee on Homeland Security, "Crisis of Confidence: Preventing Terrorist Infiltration through U.S. Refugee and Visa Programs” 10:00 AM | 311 Canon HOB
  • House Committee on Financial Services | Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, “Trading with the Enemy: Trade-Based Money Laundering is the Growth Industry in Terror Finance” 10:00 AM | 2128 Rayburn HOB
  • House Committee on Education and the Workforce | Full Committee, "Expanding Educational Opportunity Through School Choice" 10:00 AM
  • House Committee on Appropriations | State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Oversight Hearing - Assistance to Combat Wildlife Trafficking 10:30 AM | H-140 The Capitol
  • House Committee on Veterans' Affairs | Full Committee, “Lost Opportunities for Veterans: An Examination of VA’s Technology Transfer Program” 10:30 AM | 334 Cannon HOB
  • House Committee on Foreign Affairs | Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Subcommittee,” Turkey: Political Trends in 2016” 2:00 PM | 2172 Rayburn HOB

Thursday, February 4, 2016
  • House Committee on the Judiciary | Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, “Another Surge of Illegal Immigrants along the Southwest Border: Is this the Obama Administrations New Normal?” 9:00 AM | 2141 Rayburn HOB
  • House Committee on Energy and Commerce | Subcommittee on Health, “Examining Implementation of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act” 10:00 AM | 2123 Rayburn HOB
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
  • House Committee on Veterans' Affairs | Full Committee, “U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2017” 10:00 AM | 334 Cannon HOB
Thursday, February 11, 2016
  • House Committee on Veterans' Affairs | Subcommittee on Health, “Choice Consolidation: Improving VA Community Care Billing and Reimbursement” 10:00 AM | 334 Cannon HOB

Senate Calendar

Wednesday, February 3, 2016
  • Senate Committee on Armed Services: Hearings to examine an independent perspective of United States defense policy in the Asia-Pacific region.  | 9:30 AM SD-G50
  • Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works:  Hearings to examine the Stream Protection Rule, focusing on impacts on the environment and implications for Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act implementation. | 9:30 AM SD-406
  • Senate Budget: Hearings to examine spending on unauthorized programs.| 10:00 AM SD-608       
  • Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: Hearings to examine strains on the European Union, focusing on implications for American foreign policy. | 10:00 AM SD-419       
  • Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management: Hearings to examine Canada's fast-track refugee plan, focusing on implications for United States national security. | 10:00 AM SD-342       
  • Senate Committee on the Judiciary: Hearings to examine the need for transparency in the asbestos trusts. |10:00 AM SD-226       
  • Senate Committee on Indian Affairs: Business meeting to consider S.1125, to authorize and implement the water rights compact among the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, the State of Montana, and the United States, and S.1983, to authorize the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians Water Rights Settlement; to be immediately followed by an oversight hearing to examine the substandard quality of Indian health care in the Great Plains. | 2:15 PM
  • Senate Committee on Armed Services: Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities:  Closed hearings to examine counterterrorism strategy, focusing on understanding ISIL. | 2:30 PM SVC-217       

Thursday, February 4, 2016
  • Senate Committee on Armed Services: Hearings to examine the situation in Afghanistan. |10:00 AM SD-G50
  • Senate Committee on Finance: Hearings to examine the nominations of Mary Katherine Wakefield, of North Dakota, to be Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, Andrew LaMont Eanes, of Kansas, to be Deputy Commissioner of Social Security for the term expiring January 19, 2019, and Elizabeth Ann Copeland, of Texas, and Vik Edwin Stoll, of Missouri, both to be a Judge of the United States Tax Court for a term of fifteen years. |10:00 AM SD-215       
  • Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Hearings to examine the nomination of Beth F. Cobert, of California, to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management for a term of four years. |10:00 AM SD-342
  • Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation| Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet: Hearings to examine ensuring intermodal Universal Service Fund support for rural America. |10:30 AM SR-253 

Monday, February 8, 2016

  • Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: To receive a closed briefing on the way forward in Syria and Iraq. | 4:00 PM SVC-217       

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

  • Senate Committee on Armed Services| Subcommittee on Strategic Forces: Hearings to examine Department of Defense nuclear acquisition programs and the nuclear doctrine in review of the defense authorization request for fiscal year 2017 and the Future Years Defense Program. 2:30 PM SR-232A       

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
  • Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources: Hearings to examine the President's proposed budget request for fiscal year 2017 for the Department of the Interior. |10:00 AM SD-366

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