Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 (H.R. 3700) – On July 29, President Obama signed this bipartisan legislation into law. This bill impacts the nearly 5 million households that receive rental assistance through HUD, including Section 8 Housing in which tenants pay approximately 30 percent of their income toward rent and the balance is subsidized. The new legislation alters the qualifications for determining federal housing assistance. Specifically, the bill reduces the amount people can deduct for child care and medical expenses for elderly and disabled families, but increases the deduction amount for dependents. In addition, households with more than $100,000 in assets are no longer eligible for assistance. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO).
John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission Act (H.R. 4875) – Signed into law on July 29, this bill was sponsored by Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA). It establishes the John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission, a committee that will plan activities to honor the 100th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birth. The commission is required to submit annual reports on its revenue and expenditures up until Aug. 31, 2017, after which it officially terminates.
Department of Veterans Affairs Dental Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2016 (S. 3055) – This bill amends Title 38 to provide a voluntary dental insurance plan to veterans, their survivors and dependents. Benefits will include diagnostic and preventative services, endodontics and other restorative services, surgical and emergency services. The provision for this bill is scheduled to end on Dec. 31, 2021. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and signed into law on July 29.
Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act (H.R. 2545) – This bill, sponsored by Bruce Springsteen fan Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), is designed to mitigate problems associated with the sale of tickets for music, theater and sporting events. It is in response to the increase in surcharges and fees in recent years, which have increased event prices by as much as 40 percent. Furthermore, the market has been gouged by third-party vendors who buy large volumes of tickets at once, then resell them on the secondhand market for exorbitant prices. This bill is designed to crack down on illegal or unfair practices in the ticketing industry by establishing new rules to be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. Specifically, primary sellers would have to provide public disclosure of the total number of tickets being made available to the public and disclose all fees and additional charges. Buyers would be provided a full refund if requested at least one week before the event. Secondary vendors would have to disclose whether or not they actually possess the ticket(s) at time of sale, and reveal the location and price of the event and seats being sold. Finally, the Act would make it a criminal offense to resell any tickets for a higher than face value. This bill was assigned to a congressional committee on May 16 for consideration before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate.
United States Semiquincentennial Commission Act of 2016 (H.R. 4875) – On July 22, President Obama signed this bill into law. The Act establishes a commission authorized to plan, develop and coordinate the commemoration of U.S. history leading up to the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States in 2026. The commission will give particular attention to the people, locations and ideas that have had a significant impact on U.S. history starting with the Declaration of Independence. The commission will also study actions to further preserve and develop historic sites and battlefields in preparation for the celebration. The commission shall terminate at the end of 2027. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA).
Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (S. 524) – Also signed into law on July 22, this Act was sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). According to the Centers for Disease Control, heroin, prescription drugs and opioid pain reliever overdoses have now surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of injury-related death in America. This bill authorizes the Attorney General and Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. It also established an interagency taskforce to review, modify and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication.
POLICE Act of 2016 (S. 2840) – The full title of this bill is Protecting Our Lives by Initiating COPS Expansion, known by its acronym POLICE. Sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on April 21, this bill amends the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to expand the use of grant funds for active shooter training and other purposes. It was signed into law on July 22.
Summaries for the Veterans’ Compensation COLA Act of 2016 (H.R. 5588) – This bill authorizes the same percentage as the increase in benefits provided under the Social Security Act for certain VA benefits. These include veteran’s disability compensation, additional compensation for dependents, the clothing allowance for qualified disabled veterans, and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. This rate plan will begin on Dec. 1, 2016. Introduced by Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), the bill was signed into law on July 22.
Global Food Security Act of 2016 (S. 1252) – This bill authorizes a comprehensive strategic approach for U.S. foreign assistance to developing countries to reduce global poverty and hunger; achieve food and nutrition security; promote inclusive, sustainable, agricultural-led economic growth; improve nutritional outcomes, especially for women and children; build resilience among vulnerable populations; and for other purposes. The Act states that it is U.S. policy to fully leverage available U.S. humanitarian resources to mitigate the effects of manmade and natural disasters by delivering aid, and permits the President to provide assistance under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to prevent or address food shortages. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and signed into law on July 20.
An Act to Designate the United States Postal Facility Located At… – On June 13, President Barack Obama signed into law 13 separate bills to change the names of 13 different post offices around the United States. The Acts were sponsored by various House Representatives and Senators from both parties.
Native American Children’s Safety Act (S. 184) – The Department of Human Services disqualifies anyone seeking to be a foster parents who has been convicted of theft, sexual-based offenses or assault. Unfortunately, until this Act was signed into law on June 3, people with previous convictions for violent crimes could and did receive approval to become foster parents of Native American children by tribal social service agencies. In previous cases, tribal social services did not have this requirement in place and children have died of abuse and neglect. The bill was sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND).
Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act (H.R. 648) – This bill is designed to address the fact that 45 million Americans do not live within one hour of a trauma center. Sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), who is also a physician, the Act would reauthorize existing trauma center grants (through FY2020), improve emergency medical services in rural areas, fund pilot projects for new models of emergency care, and require that all burn centers meet standards set out by the American Burn Association. The bill passed in the House on March 16 and is currently with the Senate for consideration.
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (H.R. 4909) – This is the annual federal spending bill that sets funding levels and outlines spending priorities for the military. The current version of this bill would authorize $602 billion in military spending for 2017, keep Guantanamo Bay open, not include women in the military draft, and overrule last year’s executive order barring federal military contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), passed in the House on May 18 and is currently with the Senate for consideration.
Democracy Day Act of 2015 (S. 1969) – This bill, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), would designate the Federal election day as a public holiday in order to facilitate the entire American workforce with the means to participate in national and local elections. If passed, this bill would authorize the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November in every even-numbered year as a national holiday. The bill was assigned to a congressional committee on August 5, 2015, but as yet has not been submitted to either the House or Senate.
National Bison Legacy Act (H.R. 2908) – Sponsored by Rep. Lacy Clay Jr. (D-MO), this bipartisan bill was easily passed by both the House and Senate and was signed into law on May 9. It authorizes the North American bison as the national mammal of the United States, now joining the bald eagle as America’s symbolic animal; the oak as the national tree; and the rose as the national floral emblem.
Transnational Drug Trafficking Act of 2015 (S. 32) – This bill was co-authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). The act permits the Justice Department to prosecute foreign drug traffickers, including chemical producers from other countries who illegally ship precursor chemicals (for example: cold medicines to be turned into meth) into the United States, knowing these chemicals will be used to make illegal drugs. The bill was signed into law by the president on May 16.
Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act (H.R. 5053) – Under current law, tax-exempt groups and organizations don’t have to reveal their donors to the public, but they do have to report to the Internal Revenue Service the names of any donors who contribute more than $5,000 each year. This new bill would no longer require 501(c) charities to identify contributors in annual tax returns. The law is specifically intended to shield large donations to organizations that contribute to political campaigns. Historically, 501(c) organizations were not large contributors to election campaigns. However, these organizations – which include PACs – spent more than $300 million in the 2012 election year. In late April the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), moved from a congressional committee to the House/Senate for consideration.
Used Car Safety Recall Repair Act (S. 900) – Following April’s largest safety recall in American history (Takata air bags installed in 34 million vehicles), this bill would mandate that used cars with recalled parts cannot be resold until they are repaired – the same requirement that currently applies to new cars. It is estimated that 23 percent of cars with recalled parts do not get fixed, in part because they are sold on the used market. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in April and has been assigned to a congressional committee for consideration.
Democracy Restoration Act of 2015 (H.R. 1459) – If enacted, this bill would permit 4.4 million ex-felons who have served their time to vote in federal elections, a right many are presently barred from doing. Presently, each state sets its own rules for voting eligibility. For example, Vermont and Maine allow current incarcerated prisoners to vote, while Florida, Kentucky and Iowa ban those with felony convictions from voting for life. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (R-MI), was assigned to a congressional committee in March, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.