The POPVOX Blog

  1. The Week Ahead: May 26 - 30

    *** In honor of Memorial Day, please take a look at our Issue Spotlight:

    10 Facts You Should Know this Memorial Day. ***

     

    From our Hill Sources:  The House returns from a Memorial Day break to work on veterans issues and VA reform. In addition, the House will debate intelligence programs, another appropriations bill as well as international human rights and land bills. Meanwhile the Senate is in recess all week. 

    Veterans Issues and VA Reform

    The Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides services for some 22 million American veterans, but recent reports of preventable veteran deaths and benefit and construction delays have put the organization under intense scrutiny, according to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

    • HR 2072

      Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act

      "Intended to address the pervasive lack of action taken by VA based on their own agreed upon timelines for remediation of issues and recommendations included in VA Inspector General (IG) reports," according to bill sponsor.
    • HR 4261

      Gulf War Health Research Reform Act

      — *Bipartisan* — Makes the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Illnesses (RAC) an independent committee within the VA and requires that a majority of its members be appointed by the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees and gives the RAC oversight responsibilities over Gulf War Illness research, according to bill sponsor.
    • HR 2527

      National Guard Military Sexual Trauma Parity Act

      — *Bipartisan* — To provide veterans with counseling and treatment for sexual trauma that occurred during inactive duty training, according to bill sponsor.
    • HR 2942

      VA Professional Certification

      To reestablish the Professional Certification and Licensure Advisory Committee of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
    • HR 4399

      Comprehensive VA Performance Management and Accountability Reform Act

      Would require performance objectives for senior executives that are tied to organizational goals and veterans outcomes; Ensure senior executives’ progress on meeting objectives is tied to annual performance reviews; Covers all senior executives within the VA, according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 503

      National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial Act

      — *Bipartisan* — To create a national memorial honoring the service members who honorably served and died in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

    Land Transfers

    • HR 3366

      Hermiston Reversionary Interest Release Act

      To release the property interests of land conveyed in 1954 by the United States to the State of Oregon for the establishment of the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center of Oregon State University in Hermiston, Oregon.
    • S 611

      Sandia Pueblo Settlement Technical Amendment Act

      Would require the Secretary of Agriculture to transfer certain lands in the Sandia Mountain Wilderness and Cibola National Forest in New Mexico to the Department of the Interior to be held in trust for the Pueblo of Sandia. — Passed by the Senate on Mar. 12 —

    International Human Rights

    • HR 4587

      Venezuela Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act

      — *Bipartisan* — Denies visas to enter the United States, blocks property, freezes assets, and prohibits financial transactions to members of the Venezuelan regime who are responsible for the commission of serious human rights abuses against the citizens of Venezuela, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 4028

      Protect Cemeteries Act

      — *Bipartisan* — Adds the words desecration of cemeteries to the violations of the rights to religious freedom listed in the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Empowers the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, according to bill sponsor.
    • HRes ___

      Human Rights in China Resolution

      Urging the Government of the People's Republic of China to respect the freedom of assembly, expression, religion and all fundamental human rights for all of its citizens and to stop discussion of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations and their violent suppression. (Resolution number isn't available yet.)

    Appropriations

    This week, the House will consider its third 2015 appropriations bill. In the appropriations process, Congress decides the amount of money that will be spent on federal programs during the next fiscal year. (Check out POPVOX’s glossary on wonky Washingtonian words.)

    • HR 4660

      Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015

      Funds the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies. The legislation contains $51.2 billion in total discretionary funding. This is a reduction of $398 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level, according to the Appropriations Committee.

    Intelligence Authorization

    In the authorization process, Congress debates establishing programs. This week, the House will consider intelligence programs:

    • HR 4681

      Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2014 and 2015

      Would authorize appropriations for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 for intelligence activities of the US government. According to the CBO, implementing HR 4681 would cost about $500 million over the 2015-2019 period. Since CBO does not provide estimates for classified programs, this estimate addresses only the unclassified aspects of the bill.

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  2. Issue Spotlight: Memorial Day

    In honor of Memorial Day, we wanted to share some facts and some recently introduced veterans bills. For those of you who have served in our country's Armed Forces, we thank you and your families for your service.

    10 Facts You Should Know this Memorial Day

    Arlington National Cemetery

    1. Memorial Day was established after the Civil War.

    Three years after the end of the Civil War (May 5, 1868), an organization of Union veterans established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. May 30 was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

    2. Memorial Day was first observed at Arlington National Cemetery.

    However, several local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. The nearby graves of Union soldiers lay bare -- and the women placed some of their flowers on those graves as well.

    3. After World War I, Memorial day was expanded to honor all Americans who died in war.

    In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress and placed on the last Monday in May.

    4. A National Moment of Remembrance at 3pm on Memorial Day honors those who have died in service with a minute-long moment of silence.

    In December 2000, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” PL 106-579

    5. The flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only

    On Memorial Day, the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of the nation’s battle heroes. No regulations existed for flying the flag at half-staff and, as a result, there were many conflicting policies -- until March 1, 1954, when President Dwight Eisenhower issued a proclamation on the proper times. (Learn more on flag etiquette.)

    6. Bright red poppies were first sold in 1920 to help orphans and others struggling after the war.

    The Veterans of Foreign Wars adopted the poppy as its official memorial flower in 1922. And in 1924, a poppy factory was built in Pittsburgh, Pa., providing a reliable source of poppies and a practical means of assistance to veterans. (Learn about the VFW's Buddy Poppy Program.)

    7. The Old Guard honors the fallen with a tradition known as "flags in."

    The Old Guard (3rd US Infantry designated as the Army's official ceremonial unit) places flags before the gravestones of service members buried at both Arlington National Cemetery and the US Soldier's and Airmen's Home National Cemetery just prior to Memorial Day weekend. Small American flags are placed one foot in from and centered before each grave marker: the toe of the combat boot placed against the center of a headstone, flag planted at the heel. In three hours, The Old Guard places flags in front of more than 260,000 gravestones and about 7,300 niches at the cemetery's columbarium, and they remain in the cemetery throughout the weekend, ensuring that a flag remains at each gravestone. (Watch video of the tradition. See photos of the Old Guard on Facebook.)

    8. More than one million Americans who died in our nation’s conflicts going back to the Revolutionary War:

    Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

    1. American Revolution (1775-1783): 4,435
    2. War of 1812 (1812-1815): 2,260
    3. Mexican War (1846-1848): 13,283
    4. Civil War (1861-1865): 364,511 (Union and Confederate)
    5. Spanish-American War (1898-1902): 2,446
    6. World War I (1917-1918): 116,516
    7. World War II (1941-1945): 405,399
    8. Korean War (1950-1953): 36,574
    9. Vietnam War (1964-1975): 58,209
    10. Gulf War (1990-1991): 382
    11. Afghanistan War (2001-present): 2,320 (as of May 23, 2014)
    12. Iraq War (2003-2012): 4,486

    9. There are more than 83,000 missing and unaccounted-for Americans who served in war (as of May 9, 2014).

    Last week, the Dept. of Defense identified the remains of Army Pfc. James R. Holmes, who will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. In late November 1950, Pfc. Holmes, a member of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, was pushing north through North Korea to the Yalu River when his unit was attacked by enemy forces. He was declared missing on Dec. 1, 1950. (Learn about Pfc. Holmes's story. Learn about the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.)

    10. Kyle Carpenter will be the 8th living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Former Marine Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter will receive the nation’s highest award for valor for diving on top of an enemy grenade to save the life of Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio during an insurgent attack in the Marjah district of Helmand province on Nov. 21, 2010. After enduring more than 30 surgeries, the 24-year-old is currently a full-time student at the University of South Carolina. (Learn about Cpl. Carpenter's story.)

    Ten Recently Introduced Veterans Bills in Congress 

    The Dept. of Veterans Affairs provides a wealth of services for some 22 million American veterans, but recent preventable veteran deaths and benefit and construction delays has put the organization under intense scrutiny, according to the House Committee on Veterans AffairsWeigh in on these bills related to veterans and POPVOX will deliver your message to your Members of Congress.

    • HR 4031

      Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Would give the VA Secretary authority to remove employees of the Senior Executive Service, whose performance the Secretary believes warrants removal, from the government service completely or transfer them to a General Schedule position within the current civil service system, according to bill sponsors. -- Passed by the House on May 21; now goes to the Senate for consideration. --
    • S 1982

      Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- "The most comprehensive piece of veterans’ legislation to be offered in decades and addresses many of the challenges facing service members, veterans and their families," according to the bill sponsor. Includes restoration of full COLA for military retirees; authorizes VA to enter into 27 major medical facility leases in 18 states and PR; expands access to VA health care – including complementary and alternative medicine – and dental care, in a cost-effective and equitable way; in-state tuition assistance for post-9/11 veterans; and would end the benefits backlog. (See full summary)
    • S 2258

      Veterans Compensation COLA Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the rates of veterans’ compensation to keep pace with a rise in the cost-of-living, prompted by an increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The legislation would make an increase available to veterans at the same level as the increase provided to recipients of Social Security benefits, according to bill sponsors. This year, it is projected that over 4.2 million veterans and survivors will receive compensation benefits.
    • S 2091

      21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Would reduce the VA backlog by streamlining the disability claims filing process and holding the federal government more accountable for transferring information to the VA for quicker claims filing, according to bill sponsor.
    • S 2231

      Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers (MEPS) Act

      -- *Bipartisan* --  Would institute mental health assessments for both incoming recruits and servicemembers separating from active duty. The entry screening would serve as a baseline for future mental health assessments throughout servicemembers’ careers, while the exit screening would provide more accurate information on their mental health condition as they transition to civilian life, according to bill sponsor. -- Introduced in the House as HR 4305 --
    • HR 4517

      Examination of Exposures to Environmental Hazards During Military Service and Health Care for Atsugi Naval Air Facility Veterans and their Families Act

      Directs the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs to jointly establish the Advisory Board on Environmental Exposures at Atsugi Naval Air Facility to provide expert advice on matters relating to exposure of current and former members of the Armed Forces and their dependents to environmental hazards at Atsugi Naval Air Facility, Japan, during the period beginning in 1983 in which the air, water, or soil at such facility was contaminated due to an incinerator.
    • S 2243

      Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act

      Makes veterans of all eras eligible for the full range of caregiver support services; makes veterans in the VA caregiver program eligible to transfer Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their dependents in recognition of the fact that a spouse, who may have been unemployed or underemployed previously, may now be required to become the primary source of income for the family, according to bill sponsors.
    • S 2312

      National Guard Technician Equity Act

      Eliminates inequities in the treatment of National Guard technicians. Over 48,000 dual-status technicians serve in the National Guard.
    • S 2300

      Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act

      -- *Bipartisan* -- Requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct periodic mental health assessments for members of the Armed Forces and to submit reports with respect to mental health. Would require assessments for all servicemembers—Active, Reserve, and Guard.
    • HCRes 98

      Resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki

      Urging the President to immediately request the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

      VA Secretary Shinseki's open letter to veterans: “Allegations of VA employees’ misconduct have surfaced over the last several weeks, beginning with scheduling delays at the Phoenix VA Health Care System,” he wrote. “I take any allegations about patient safety or employee misconduct very seriously.” (Read the full letter.)

     

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

    (Sources: Dept. of Veterans Affairs; VA Fact Sheet on Displaying the Flag at Half-staff; The Flower of Remembrance; PBS National Memorial Day Concert; Arlington National Cemetery; Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office; CRS Report on American War and Military Operations CasualtiesDOD Casualty Report; Stars and Stripes) 

  3. The POPVOX Top 20: May 16 - 22, 2014

    As part of the debate to authorize the annual budgets for defense and national security programs -- the National Defense Authorization, or NDAA -- Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) pledged to include the ENLIST Act, which would legalize young undocumented immigrants who serve in the military. However, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has said the legalization bill will not be included in the NDAA as an amendment. On POPVOX, the ENLIST Act was the most popular issue last week, followed by the NDAA.

    Congress passed a bill this week that has consistently been on POPVOX's Top 20 list, the Monuments Men Recognition Act. It honors the “Monuments Men” of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal. The Monuments Men and women helped locate famous works of art confiscated by the Nazis, and return them to their rightful owners. There are currently only five surviving members -– four men and one woman –- of the Monuments Men, according to the bill sponsor, Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX).

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

    Want to get this list via email? Sign up!

    Here are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • HR 2377

      #1 ENLIST Act (Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training Act)

      --Bipartisan-- Authorizes the enlistment in the Armed Forces of qualified undocumented immigrants. The bill would provide a way for undocumented immigrants to become Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) to the US through their honorable service and sacrifice by serving in the US military, according to the bill sponsor.

      42 Support | 300 Oppose

    • HR 4435

      #2 National Defense Authorization Act

      --Bipartisan-- The comprehensive legislation to authorize the budget authority of the Dept. of Defense and the national security programs of the Dept. of Energy. Would authorize appropriations totaling $594 billion for fiscal year 2015 for the military functions of the DOD, for certain activities of the Dept. of Energy. That total includes $79 billion for the cost of overseas contingency operations, primarily in Afghanistan. In addition, HR 4435 would prescribe personnel strengths for each active-duty and selected-reserve component of the U.S. armed forces. CBO estimates that appropriation of the authorized amounts would result in outlays of $581 billion over the 2015-2019 period. (Source: CBO)

      58 Support | 204 Oppose

    • HR 4517

      #3 Examination of Exposures to Environmental Hazards During Military Service and Health Care for Atsugi Naval Air Facility Veterans and their Families Act

      To authorize the provision of health care for certain individuals exposed to environmental hazards at Atsugi Naval Air Facility, to establish an advisory board to examine exposures to environmental hazards at such Air Facility.

      233 Support | 21 Oppose

    • SJRes 19

      #4 Regulating Campaign Contributions

      A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections. Restores authority to Congress and the states, to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns; Allows states to regulate campaign spending at their level; Includes the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, like those from Super PACs, according to bill sponsors.

      27 Support | 194 Oppose

    • HR 4632

      #5 If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then So Should Congress Act

      -- Bipartisan-- To prohibit the use of funds provided for the official travel expenses of Members of Congress and other officers and employees of the legislative branch for airline accommodations which are not coach-class accommodations.

      208 Support | 2 Oppose

    • HR 4031

      #6 Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act

      -- Bipartisan-- To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the removal of Senior Executive Service employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs for performance. -- Passed by the House on May 21st. -- 

      181 Support | 7 Oppose

    • HR 3474

      #7 EXPIRE Act

      A $85 billion bipartisan tax-extenders package, which includes provisions that would benefit individuals, families, and small businesses, incentivize innovative research and development, and promote alternative and renewable energy initiatives, among others, according to bill sponsors. The Senate is using a legislative vehicle -- HR 3474 -- for their tax extenders package, the EXPIRE Act.

      11 Support | 173 Oppose

    • HR 1775

      #8 Saracini Aviation Safety Act

      -- Bipartisan-- To direct the FAA Administrator to issue an order with respect to secondary cockpit barriers.

      126 Support | 8 Oppose

    • S 1697

      #9 Strong Start for America’s Children Act

      To support early learning. Directs the Education secretary to allot grants to state and local authorities for low-income families. This bill consists of four measures that would accelerate states’ efforts to provide high-quality preschool to low and moderate income families; increase the quality of infant and toddler care in center-based and family child care settings; support quality improvements in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG); and encourage continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, according to bill sponsors.

      13 Support | 116 Oppose

    • HR 3530

      #10 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act

      -- Bipartisan-- To provide justice for the victims of trafficking. -- Passed by the House on May 20th -- 

      112 Support | 16 Oppose

    • HR 3658

      #11 Monuments Men Recognition Act

      -- Bipartisan-- To grant the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the Monuments Men, in recognition of their heroic role in the preservation, protection, and restitution of monuments, works of art, and artifacts of cultural importance during and following World War II. -- Passed by the House and Senate on May 20th and is awaiting the signature of the President. -- 

      101 Support | 22 Oppose

    • HR 3474

      #12 Hire More Heroes Act

      A $85 billion bipartisan tax-extenders package, which includes provisions that would benefit individuals, families, and small businesses, incentivize innovative research and development, and promote alternative and renewable energy initiatives, among others, according to bill sponsors. The Senate is using a legislative vehicle -- HR 3474 -- for their tax extenders package, the EXPIRE Act.

      90 Support | 23 Oppose

    • HR 2767

      #13 Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners Act

      To protect American taxpayers and homeowners by creating a sustainable housing finance system for the 21st century.

      65 Support | 45 Oppose

    • S 2280

      #14 Keystone XL Pipeline

      -- Bipartisan -- To approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

      78 Support | 29 Oppose

    • HR 4058

      #15 Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To prevent and address sex trafficking of youth in foster care. -- Passed by the House on May 20th -- 

      59 Support | 13 Oppose

    • S 2223

      #16 Minimum Wage Fairness Act

      Would increase the Federal minimum wage in three 95-cent increments: about six months after enactment ($8.20), one year later ($9.15), and one year later ($10.10). After that, the wage will be indexed to inflation thereafter, to keep up with rising cost of living. The Federal minimum wage for tipped workers, currently $2.13, will increase 95-cents per year until it reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, or $7.10. Then, their wage would be pegged to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, according to bill sponsors.

      23 Support | 49 Oppose

    • HR 4587

      #17 Venezuela Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To impose targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for carrying out or ordering human rights abuses against the citizens of Venezuela.

      44 Support | 27 Oppose

    • HR 3610

      #18 Stop Exploitation Through Trafficking Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To stop exploitation through trafficking. -- Passed by the House on May 20th -- 

      53 Support | 14 Oppose

    • HR 4573

      #19 International Megan’s Law to Prevent Demand for Child Sex Trafficking

      -- Bipartisan -- To protect children from exploitation, especially sex trafficking in tourism, by providing advance notice of intended travel by registered child-sex offenders outside the US to the government of the country of destination, requesting foreign governments to notify the US when a known child-sex offender is seeking to enter the US.  -- Passed by the House on May 20th -- 

    • HR 4380

      #20 Gun Confiscation and Registration Prevention Act

      To prohibit gun confiscation and registration.

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  4. PRESS CLIP: IIM Americas Holds Annual Pinnacle Meeting

  5. The Week Ahead: May 19 - 23

    From our Hill Sources:  The House will work on a bill honoring the "Monuments Men," the National Defense Authorization Act and veterans' issues. The House may also vote on ending NSA bulk data collection. The Senate will consider a judicial nominee, but expect drones in the debate.

    Honoring the "Monuments Men"

    The House will vote on a bill honoring the “Monuments Men” of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal. The Monuments Men and women helped locate famous works of art confiscated by the Nazis, and return them to their rightful owners. There are currently only five surviving members -– four men and one woman –- of the Monuments Men, according to the bill sponsor:

    • HR 3658

      Monuments Men Recognition Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To grant the Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the Monuments Men, in recognition of their heroic role in the preservation, protection, and restitution of monuments, works of art, and artifacts of cultural importance during and following World War II.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: The bill was introduced in the Senate, S 1862, but hasn't had a vote.

    The NDAA and Immigration Policy

    The House will begin working on the National Defense Authorization:

    • HR 4435

      National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2015

      -- Bipartisan -- The comprehensive legislation to authorize the budget authority of the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. Would authorize appropriations totaling $594 billion for fiscal year 2015 for the military functions of the Department of Defense (DoD), for certain activities of the Department of Energy (DOE), and for other purposes. That total includes $79 billion for the cost of overseas contingency operations, primarily in Afghanistan. In addition, HR 4435 would prescribe personnel strengths for each active-duty and selected-reserve component of the U.S. armed forces. CBO estimates that appropriation of the authorized amounts would result in outlays of $581 billion over the 2015-2019 period. (Source: CBO)

    As part of the NDAA debate, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) pledged to include the ENLIST Act, which would legalize young undocumented immigrants who serve in the military. However, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has said the legalization bill will not be included in the NDAA as an amendment.  

    • HR 2377

      Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training Act (ENLIST Act)

      -- Bipartisan -- Authorizes the enlistment in the Armed Forces of qualified undocumented immigrants. The bill would provide a way for undocumented immigrants to become Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) to the US through their honorable service and sacrifice by serving in the US military, according to the bill sponsor.

    Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls and Human Trafficking

    The House will vote on several measures regarding human trafficking and the abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram:

    Also in the House...

    • HR 3080

      Conference Report to the Water Resources Reform and Development Act

      -- Bipartisan -- Authorizes the key missions of the US Army Corps of Engineers, including developing, maintaining, and supporting the Nation’s economically vital waterway infrastructure and supporting effective and targeted flood protection and environmental restoration needs. Also provides Congress the opportunity to make much needed policy reforms, strengthen oversight, cut red tape, reduce bureaucracy, and open the door to innovation and stronger partnerships that will improve infrastructure development, according to bill sponsors.

      From our Hill Sources: The bill passed the House by a vote of 417 to 3 on Oct. 23, 2013.  House and Senate conferees reached agreement on a final measure last week, and now both Houses of Congress must approve the Conference Report in order to send it to the President to be signed into law. (In the past, WRDA was a legislative vehicle for hundreds of “earmarks” -- narrowly tailored provisions directing money to specific projects, usually in the requesting Member’s district. According to Congressional leaders, the 2014 WRDA contains no earmarks. Instead, it creates a new process: local project leaders take requests directly to regional Army Corps of Engineers offices, which submits a list of recommended projects to Congress. Lawmakers will then review this list of projects for inclusion in future water bills.)

    • HR 4031

      Dept. of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act

      -- Bipartisan -- Would give the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs authority to remove employees of the Senior Executive Service, whose performance the Secretary believes warrants removal, from the government service completely or transfer them to a General Schedule position within the current civil service system. The ability to remove such an employee is modeled after the same authority that Members of Congress have to remove their professional staff members who work for them, according to bill sponsors. 

      From our Hill Sources: The bill comes in response to allegations of falsified documents and life-endangering treatment delays at veterans hospitals. A top VA official, Undersecretary for Health Robert Petzel, resigned last week. This bill would give the VA Secretary greater latitude to fire or demote senior government employees.

    • HR 3361

      USA Freedom Act

      -- Bipartisan -- Ends bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, would strengthen the prohibition on "reverse targeting" of Americans—that is, targeting a foreigner with the goal of obtaining communications involving an American; and requires the government to more aggressively filter and discard information about Americans accidentally collected through PRISM and related programs. The bill would also create an Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) tasked with promoting privacy interests before the FISA court’s closed proceedings, according to bill sponsors. The bill is sponsored by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author of the Patriot Act.

      From our Hill Sources: The USA Freedom Act may go to the House floor for a vote as early as this week.

    In the Senate...

    The Senate will consider David Barron to serve as a judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Barron previously worked at the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department and drafted legal memos justifying the 2011 killing of an American citizen in Yemen with a drone. This week, we can expect this nomination will bring up the issue of drone during the Senate's debate. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) plans to "filibuster" against Barron's nomination -- but because of the Senate's filibuster rules change, Paul will not actually be able to prevent his confirmation. Most judicial nominees need only a simple majority vote, rather than the previous 60-vote threshold.

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  6. The POPVOX Top 20 : May 9 - 15, 2014

    In time for summer vacations, the top bill on POPVOX this week was about air travel safety. The Saracini Aviation Safety Act (HR 1775), would require airlines to install and maintain a secondary cockpit barrier on commercial planes to further protect the cockpit area. The secondary barriers serve as a cost-effective and prudent deterrent to potential terrorists attempting to plan and execute attacks using airliners as a weapon, according to the bill sponsor, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA). POPVOX users overwhelmingly support the bill.

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

    Want to get this list via email? Sign up!

    Here are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • HR 1775

      #1 Saracini Aviation Safety Act

      To direct the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration to issue an order with respect to secondary cockpit barriers.

      338 Support | 19 Oppose

    • HR 3474

      #2 Expire Act

      The Senate is using a legislative vehicle -- HR 3474 -- for their tax extenders package, the EXPIRE Act. The package would extend several dozen tax cuts set to expire through December 2015, including: tax credits helping returning veterans find good-paying jobs; the biggest federal incentive for scientific research; deduction for mortgage interest premiums would expire, and taxpayers who have mortgage debt canceled or forgiven after 2013 may be required to pay taxes on that amount as taxable income. Also the New Markets Tax Credit (to encourage significant private investment in businesses in low-income communities) would expire; deduction for families paying for college would expire; deduction for state and local general sales taxes would expire; and employer wage credit for activated military reservists would expire. (See the full summary of all the tax extenders.)

      169 Support | 58 Oppose

    • S 1697

      #3 Strong Start for America’s Children Act

      To support early learning. Directs the Education secretary to allot grants to state and local authorities for low-income families. This bill consists of four measures that would accelerate states’ efforts to provide high-quality preschool to low and moderate income families; increase the quality of infant and toddler care in center-based and family child care settings; support quality improvements in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG); and encourage continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, according to bill sponsors.

      25 Support | 188 Oppose

    • HR 4587

      #4 Venezuela Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act

      To impose targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for carrying out or ordering human rights abuses against the citizens of Venezuela.

      164 Support | 44 Oppose

    • HR 2548

      #5 Electrify Africa Act

      To establish a comprehensive United States Government policy to encourage the efforts of countries in sub-Saharan Africa to develop an appropriate mix of power solutions, including renewable energy, for more broadly distributed electricity access in order to support poverty reduction, promote development outcomes, and drive economic growth.

      8 Support | 153 Oppose

    • S 2262

      #6 Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act

      To promote energy savings in residential buildings and industry.

      19 Support | 120 Oppose

    • S 2280

      #7 Keystone XL Pipeline

      To approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

      74 Support | 47 Oppose

    • HR 3361

      #8 Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act (USA Freedom Act)

      Ends bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, would strengthen the prohibition on "reverse targeting" of Americans—that is, targeting a foreigner with the goal of obtaining communications involving an American; and requires the government to more aggressively filter and discard information about Americans accidentally collected through PRISM and related programs. The bill would also create an Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) tasked with promoting privacy interests before the FISA court’s closed proceedings, according to bill sponsors. 

      111 Support | 6 Oppose

    • HR 4632

      #9 If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then so Should Congress Act

      To prohibit the use of funds provided for the official travel expenses of Members of Congress and other officers and employees of the legislative branch for airline accommodations which are not coach-class accommodations.

      115 Support | 1 Oppose

    • HR 4530

      #10 Attacks on US Diplomatic Mission at Libya

      To require the Secretary of State to offer rewards of up to $5,000,000 for information regarding the attacks on the United States diplomatic mission at Benghazi, Libya, that began on September 11, 2012.

      23 Support | 73 Oppose

    • HR 2377

      #11 Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training Act

      To amend title 10, United States Code, to authorize the enlistment in the Armed Forces of certain aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States and were younger than 15 years of age when they initially entered the United States, but who are otherwise qualified for enlistment, and to provide a mechanism by which such aliens, by reason of their honorable service in the Armed Forces, may be lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.

      4 Support | 88 Oppose

    • HR 4380

      #12 Gun Confiscation and Registration Prevention Act

      To prohibit gun confiscation and registration.

      72 Support | 8 Oppose

    • S 2260

      #13 EXPIRE Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend certain expiring provisions.

      5 Support | 74 Oppose

    • S 2223

      #14 Minimum Wage Fairness Act

      To provide for an increase in the Federal minimum wage and to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend increased expensing limitations and the treatment of certain real property as section 179 property.

      21 Support | 57 Oppose

    • HR 2710

      #15 Restoration of Parental Rights and State Sovereignty Act

      To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to restore State sovereignty over public education and parental rights over the education of their children.

      37 Support | 4 Oppose

    • H Res 36

      #16 Attack on US Consulate in Libya

      Establishing a select committee to investigate and report on the attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

      30 Support | 10 Oppose

    • HR 352

      #17 Tax Code Termination Act

      To terminate the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

      31 Support | 7 Oppose

    • HR 4135

      #18 Firearm Importation Fairness Act

      To clarify the standard required for the importation of sporting arms into the United States.

      30 Support | 5 Oppose

    • HR 4438

      #19 American Research and Competitiveness Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to simplify and make permanent the research credit.

      11 Support | 20 Oppose

    • S 2105

      #20 Gun-Owner Registration Information Protection Act

      To prohibit the Federal funding of a State firearms ownership database.

      29 Support | 2 Oppose

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  7. PRESS CLIP: Startup looks to hack politics

    Startup looks to hack politics in Silicon Valley Business Journal

  8. The Week Ahead: May 12 - 16

    From our Hill Sources:  The House is on recess, for a "District Work Period." Meanwhile, the Senate is working on energy issues. Also, the Senate will take up an $85 billion tax extenders proposal.

    Energy Efficiency and Keystone, Take 2

    Last week, the Senate began working on a bipartisan energy efficiency bill, which would expand building codes, offer training opportunities in energy-efficient building technologies and boost conservation efforts at federal agencies. And after that, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said they would consider approval of the Keystone pipeline, another bipartisan proposal.

    However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is now holding up the deal, according to our Hill Sources. The Republicans want at least five amendment votes to the energy bill -- otherwise, we can expect a Republican filibuster.

    • S 2262

      Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act

      This bipartisan bill promotes the use of energy efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors -- and save consumers and taxpayers money through lowered energy consumption, help create jobs, make our country more energy independent, and protect our environment from harmful emissions, according to bill sponsors. The proposal is estimated to create 136,000 new jobs by 2025. By 2030, the bill will net annual savings of $13.7 billion and lower CO2 emissions and other air pollutants by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road, according to the bill sponsors' analysis.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: We can expect a cloture vote on this bill on Monday evening.

    Then, they will consider Keystone:

    • S 2280

      Approving Keystone XL

      Authorizes TransCanada to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the US Gulf Coast, transporting an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to US refineries, which includes 100,000 barrels a day from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, according to bill sponsors.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: Senate Democrats who are up for reelection this year are supporting the Keystone pipeline. The bill's sponsor, Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), secured an opinion from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) confirming Congress’s constitutional authority to approve the project.

    $85 Billion Tax Extender Bill

    The Senate will also work on a $85 billion bipartisan tax-extenders package, which includes provisions that would benefit individuals, families, and small businesses, incentivize innovative research and development, and promote alternative and renewable energy initiatives, among others, according to bill sponsors:

    • HR 3474

      Tax Extenders Package

      The Senate is using a legislative vehicle -- HR 3474 -- for their tax extenders package, the EXPIRE Act. The package would extend several dozen tax cuts set to expire through December 2015, including: 

      — Tax credits helping returning veterans find good-paying jobs;

      — The biggest federal incentive for scientific research;

      — Deduction for mortgage interest premiums would expire, and taxpayers who have mortgage debt canceled or forgiven after 2013 may be required to pay taxes on that amount as taxable income;

      — The New Markets Tax Credit (to encourage significant private investment in businesses in low-income communities) would expire;

      — Deduction for families paying for college would expire;

      — Deduction for state and local general sales taxes would expire;

      — Employer wage credit for activated military reservists would expire.

      (See the full summary of all the tax extenders.)

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: The Senate is taking a different approach to tax extenders, putting dozens of provisions into one bill. The House is looking at tax extensions piecemeal. The Senate is using a bill, which already passed in the House, as a vehicle for their own bill. If the Senate sends an amended version of a House bill back to the House, it will be easier for the House to take up the Senate-passed tax extenders package.

    Also in the Senate...

    The Senate will also consider:

    • S 1697

      Strong Start for America's Children Act

      Directs the Education secretary to allot grants to state and local authorities for low-income families. This bill consists of four measures that would accelerate states’ efforts to provide high-quality preschool to low and moderate income families; increase the quality of infant and toddler care in center-based and family child care settings; support quality improvements in the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG); and encourage continued support for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, according to bill sponsors.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will mark up the bill this week.

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  9. Clip: Entrepreneurship in Civic Tech

    Entrepreneurship in Civic Tech - live blog of Code for America panel discussion, by Matt Stempeck

  10. The POPVOX Top 20: May 2 - 8, 2014

    The top issue this week on POPVOX was approving the Keystone XL Pipeline. Three in four POPVOX users support constructing the pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the US Gulf Coast. The pipeline would transport an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to US refineries, which includes 100,000 barrels a day from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, according to bill sponsors. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), who sponsored the bill, secured an opinion from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) confirming Congress’s constitutional authority to approve the project. However, the Senate did not move the bill forward for a vote.

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

    Want to get this list via email? Sign up!

    Here are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • S 2280

      #1 Keystone Pipeline

      -- Bipartisan -- Authorizes TransCanada to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the US Gulf Coast, transporting an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to US refineries, which includes 100,000 barrels a day from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, according to bill sponsors.

      523 Support | 167 Oppose

    • HR 3361

      #2 USA Freedom Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act)

      -- Bipartisan -- Ends bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, would strengthen the prohibition on "reverse targeting" of Americans—that is, targeting a foreigner with the goal of obtaining communications involving an American; and requires the government to more aggressively filter and discard information about Americans accidentally collected through PRISM and related programs. The bill would also create an Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) tasked with promoting privacy interests before the FISA court’s closed proceedings, according to bill sponsors. 

      521 Support | 17 Oppose

    • S 2262

      #3 Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To promote energy savings in residential buildings and industry. Would expand building codes, offer training opportunities in energy-efficient building technologies and boost conservation efforts at federal agencies. 

      53 Support | 280 Oppose

    • HR 4530

      #4 Reward for Information on the Benghazi attacks

      To require the Secretary of State to offer rewards of up to $5,000,000 for information regarding the attacks on the United States diplomatic mission at Benghazi, Libya, that began on September 11, 2012.

      87 Support | 194 Oppose

    • HR 4380

      #5 Gun Confiscation and Registration Prevention Act

      To prohibit gun confiscation and registration.

      248 Support | 18 Oppose

    • HR 2710

      #6 Restoration of Parental Rights and State Sovereignty Act

      To amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to restore State sovereignty over public education and parental rights over the education of their children.

      241 Support | 23 Oppose

    • S 2223

      #7 Minimum Wage Fairness Act

      Would increase the Federal minimum wage in three 95-cent increments: about six months after enactment ($8.20), one year later ($9.15), and one year later ($10.10). After that, the wage will be indexed to inflation thereafter, to keep up with rising cost of living. The Federal minimum wage for tipped workers, currently $2.13, will increase 95-cents per year until it reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, or $7.10. Then, their wage would be pegged to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, according to bill sponsors.

      47 Support | 217 Oppose

    • HRes 36

      #8 Committee to Investigate attack on US Consulate

      Establishing a select committee to investigate and report on the attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

      212 Support | 37 Oppose

    • HR 1096

      #9 Enhancing the Quality of Parental Legal Representation Act

      To provide funds to State courts for the provision of legal representation to parents and legal guardians with respect to child welfare cases.

      34 Support | 202 Oppose

    • HR 4518

      #10 Parental Protection Act

      To protect the constitutional rights of parents and children.

      209 Support | 17 Oppose

    • HR 4405

      #11 Preventing Gun Violence Act

      To prohibit the possession of a firearm by a person who is adjudicated to have committed a violent juvenile act.

      32 Support | 188 Oppose

    • HR 4135

      #12 Firearm Importation Fairness Act

      To clarify the standard required for the importation of sporting arms into the United States.

      182 Support | 29 Oppose

    • S 1599

      #13 USA Freedom Act

      -- Bipartisan -- Ends bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, would strengthen the prohibition on "reverse targeting" of Americans—that is, targeting a foreigner with the goal of obtaining communications involving an American; and requires the government to more aggressively filter and discard information about Americans accidentally collected through PRISM and related programs. The bill would also create an Office of the Special Advocate (OSA) tasked with promoting privacy interests before the FISA court’s closed proceedings, according to bill sponsors.

      188 Support | 5 Oppose

    • HR 2548

      #14 Electrify Africa Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To establish a comprehensive US government policy to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa to develop an appropriate mix of power solutions for more broadly distributed electricity access in order to support poverty alleviation and drive economic growth.

      15 Support | 176 Oppose

    • S 2068

      #15 Handgun Trigger Safety Act

      To provide for the development and use of technology for personalized handguns, to require that, within 3 years, all handguns manufactured or sold in, or imported into, the US incorporate such technology.

      14 Support | 156 Oppose

    • S 1908

      #16 Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To allow reciprocity for the carrying of certain concealed firearms.

      126 Support | 6 Oppose

    • HRes 325

      #17 Presidential Award of Freedom

      -- Bipartisan -- Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the President should award the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both of whom died from enemy action during the attack on US facilities in Benghazi, Libya, on the night of September 11-12, 2012.

      122 Support | 7 Oppose

    • HR 3

      #18 Northern Route Approval Act

      To approve the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline.

      97 Support | 27 Oppose

    • HR 10

      #19 Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act

      -- Bipartisan -- To amend the charter school program under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

      78 Support | 34 Oppose

    • HR 352

      #20 Tax Code Termination Act

      To terminate the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

      91 Support | 10 Oppose

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  11. Press Clip: decodeDC - "Future Congress"

    Future Congress on decodeDC (A Scipps podcast with Andrea Seabrook)

    "We have always been innovators. It is in our nature as Americans. Heck, democracy itself was born here, as part of what the 19th century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville called the Great American Experiment. ...."

    "Today on the DecodeDC weekly podcast, we explore these forward-looking examples of legislative innovation, and ask the question of our own lawmakers here in Washington, DC: What’s the future of Congress?"

    Listen in

     

  12. The Week Ahead: May 5 - 9

    From our Hill Sources:  It's going to be a busy week for Congress -- filled with House investigations on the IRS and the 2012 consulate attacks in Libya. The House will also vote on charter schools, financial regulations and a women's history museum. The Senate will focus on energy policy. 

    IRS Investigations

    This week, the House will begin investigating the IRS's targeting of conservative nonprofit groups. And things will get really heated as the House votes on whether to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress. Lerner was the former director of the IRS division overseeing tax-exempt organizations and is seen as "the face of the investigation" into whether the IRS applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking a tax-exempt status.

    The Scoop from our Hill Sources: This is the second time in two years the House has attempted to hold an Obama Administration official in contempt. In June 2012, the House voted on a resolution filing contempt charges against Attorney General Holder based on the the "Fast and Furious" gun-tracking operation. (A Republican-sponsored resolution was introduced last year to impeach Holder,  but hasn't been considered for a vote.)

    • HRes 565

      Appointing a Special Counsel

      Calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate the targeting of conservative nonprofit groups by the Internal Revenue Service.
    • HRes 574

      Finding Former IRS Director Lerner in Contempt

      Resolution Recommending that the House of Representatives find Lois Lerner, Former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations, in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. (This resolution hasn't been formally introduced yet, so stay tuned.)

    Investigating the 2012 Attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi

    The House may consider a resolution to create a select committee to investigate the September 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. While that resolution has yet to be introduced, here are some related proposals currently pending in Congress:

    • HR 4530

      Reward for Information

      To require the Secretary of State to offer rewards of up to $5,000,000 for information regarding the attacks on the US diplomatic mission at Benghazi, Libya.
    • HRes 36

      Select Committee to Investigate

      Establishing a select committee to investigate and report on the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
    • HRes 325

      Awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom

      Expressing the sense of the House that the President should award the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both of whom died from enemy action during the attack on US facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

    Energy Efficiency and Keystone

    The Senate will work on a bipartisan energy efficiency bill, which would expand building codes, offer training opportunities in energy-efficient building technologies and boost conservation efforts at federal agencies:

    • S 2262

      Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act

      This bipartisan bill promotes the use of energy efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors -- and save consumers and taxpayers money through lowered energy consumption, help create jobs, make our country more energy independent, and protect our environment from harmful emissions, according to bill sponsors. The proposal is estimated to create 136,000 new jobs by 2025. By 2030, the bill will net annual savings of $13.7 billion and lower CO2 emissions and other air pollutants by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road, according to the bill sponsors' analysis.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: We can expect a cloture vote on this bill on Tuesday.

    And after that, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the Senate would consider the Keystone pipeline: “And then there would be a vote on Keystone following our work on the energy efficiency bill … immediately following the energy efficiency bill.”

    • S 2280

      Approving Keystone XL

      Authorizes TransCanada to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the US Gulf Coast, transporting an additional 830,000 barrels of oil per day to US refineries, which includes 100,000 barrels a day from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, according to bill sponsors.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: Senate Democrats who are up for reelection this year are supporting the Keystone pipeline. The bill's sponsor, Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), secured an opinion from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) confirming Congress’s constitutional authority to approve the project. He also believes he has the support of 56 Senators -- of the 60 needed to proceed to a floor vote. 

    Charter Schools

    The House recently marked up a bipartisan charter school bill, which may get a vote this week:

    • HR 10

      Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act

      Would strengthen the Charter School Program and allow successful charter school models to be replicated nationwide to support choice, innovation, and excellence in education, according to sponsors.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: While it has bipartisan support, some Democrats worry that this bill would weaken teachers' unions, while other Democrats believe this bill would hold charter school more accountable to federal requirements

    Also in the House...

    The House will also consider:

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

     

  13. The POPVOX Top 20: April 25 - May 1, 2014

    This week, the minimum wage was the top issue on POPVOX. On April 30, the Senate voted against moving the bill that would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour over three years. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn't have the votes needed to end the Republican filibuster of the bill, so he ended up voting against the bill in a procedural step in order to reintroduce it again later this year. (Learn more about the mysteries of a cloture vote.)

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

    Want to get this list via email? Sign up!

    Here are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • S 2223

      #1 Minimum Wage Fairness Act

      Would increase the Federal minimum wage in three 95-cent increments: about six months after enactment ($8.20), 1 year later ($9.15), 1 year later ($10.10). After that, the wage will be indexed to inflation thereafter, to keep up with rising cost of living. The Federal minimum wage for tipped workers, currently $2.13, will increase 95-cents per year until it reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, or $7.10. Then, their wage would be pegged to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, according to bill sponsors.

      102 Support | 427 Oppose

    • HR 4405

      #2 Preventing Gun Violence Act

      Closes a loophole so violent juveniles cannot get guns after they become old enough to purchase one, according to bill sponsor.

      64 Support | 452 Oppose

    • HR 4135

      #3 Firearm Importation Fairness Act

      To clarify the standard required for the importation of sporting arms into the United States.

      418 Support | 59 Oppose

    • HR 4380

      #4 Gun Confiscation and Registration Prevention Act

      Cuts off NICS Improvement Amendments Act and Community Oriented Policing Services [COPS] Program funding to any state that “maintains a registry of gun ownership” or “conducts a program of gun confiscation directed at any firearm which is not prohibited by Federal law or any group of persons who are not prohibited from possessing a firearm under Federal law,” according to bill sponsor.

      408 Support | 30 Oppose

    • S 2068

      #5 Handgun Trigger Safety Act

      To provide for the development and use of technology for personalized handguns, to require that, within 3 years, all handguns manufactured or sold in, or imported into, the United States incorporate such technology.

      18 Support | 349 Oppose

    • HR 4156

      #6 Transparent Airfares Act

      To allow advertisements and solicitations for passenger air transportation to state the base airfare of the transportation.

      106 Support | 222 Oppose

    • HR 4486

      #7 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

      Making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015.

      278 Support | 43 Oppose

    • H Res 468

      #8 Gun Violence as a Public Health

      Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that gun violence is a public health issue and Congress should enact by the end of the 113th Congress comprehensive Federal legislation that protects the Second Amendment and keeps communities safe and healthy, including expanding enforceable background checks for all commercial gun sales, improving the mental health system in the United States, and making gun trafficking and straw purchasing a Federal crime.

      25 Support | 268 Oppose

    • S 1373

      #9 Rebuilding American Homeownership Act

      To increase access to refinancing for homeowners.

      126 Support | 159 Oppose

    • HR 3703

      #10 Approve the Pipeline Now Act

      To provide for the expedited approval of the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline.

      233 Support | 38 Oppose

    • HR 3933

      #11 Protecting Gun Owners in Bankruptcy Act

      Amends federal bankruptcy law to permit an individual debtor to exempt from the property of the estate in bankruptcy the debtor's aggregate interest, not to exceed $3,000, in a single firearm or firearms.

      225 Support | 23 Oppose

    • HR 4487

      #12 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act

      Provides annual funding for the offices of Members of the House of Representatives, the support agencies of Congress (including security), services for visitors, and Capitol operations and maintenance. The total included for the House and joint operations, excluding Senate-only items, is $3.3 billion. This is the same as the FY 2014 level, and it is $122.5 million below the President’s request. Also includes a provision preventing any pay increases for Members of Congress in FY 2015, which has been in place since 2010.

      39 Support | 190 Oppose

    • S 2105

      #13 Gun-Owner Registration Information Protection Act

      To prohibit the Federal funding of a State firearms ownership database. Would clarify existing law that bars the federal government from storing information acquired during the firearms background check process. The GRIP Act would extend that prohibition to prevent any federal funding from being used to contribute to nonfederal gun registries, according to bill sponsor.

      178 Support | 11 Oppose

    • HR 4414

      #14 Expatriate Health Coverage Clarification Act

      This bipartisan legislation was introduced as a fix to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that would exempt plans from the law’s requirements when they sell policies to individuals who work outside of the United States. However, some Democrats believe that this bill creates large loopholes that would permit insurance companies to sell inferior insurance policies to American and foreign workers and their families who live in the United States.

      29 Support | 153 Oppose

    • HR 4518

      #15 Parental Protection Act

      To protect the constitutional rights of parents and children.

      164 Support | 10 Oppose

    • HR 3878

      #16 Hate Crime Reporting Act

      To require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to update a report on the role of telecommunications, including the Internet, on the commission of hate crimes.

      12 Support | 156 Oppose

    • S 1908

      #17 Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act

      To allow reciprocity for the carrying of certain concealed firearms.

      145 Support | 10 Oppose

    • S 1996

      #18 Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act

      A comprehensive Senate sportsmen’s bill that enhances opportunities for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation; improves access to federal lands and helps to boost the outdoor recreation economy, according to bill sponsors.

      54 Support | 85 Oppose

    • HR 1723

      #19 Fairness in Taxation Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose increased rates of tax with respect to taxpayers with more than $1,000,000 taxable income.

    • HR 352

      #20 Tax Code Termination Act

      To terminate the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

      105 Support | 12 Oppose

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  14. Issue Spotlight: The Minimum Wage

    At the federal level, the minimum wage was last increased on July 24, 2009, when it rose from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour, the last step of a three-step increase approved by Congress in 2007. However, before 2007, the minimum wage was at $5.15 per hour for ten years. (Learn more about the history of the minimum wage.) For workers who receive tips, the federal minimum wage is $2.13

    Twenty-two states have established minumum wages higher than the federal $7.25 per hour. California's minimum wage will be $9.00 per hour beginning July 1, 2014, and will increase to $10.00 per hour on Jan. 1, 2016, when it will become the highest in the country.

    Share your voice on POPVOX, and we'll deliver your message to Congress, guaranteed. (Learn how it works.)

    Senate Begins Considering an Increase in the Minimum Wage

    4/29: This week, Senate may vote on a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years:

    • S 2223

      Minimum Wage Fairness Act

      Would increase the Federal minimum wage in three 95-cent increments: about six months after enactment ($8.20), 1 year later ($9.15), 1 year later ($10.10). After that, the wage will be indexed to inflation thereafter, to keep up with rising cost of living. The Federal minimum wage for tipped workers, currently $2.13, will increase 95-cents per year until it reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, or $7.10. Then, their wage would be pegged to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, according to bill sponsors.

    The Minimum Wage Increase Supported by the President

    In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act and raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. He also issued an Executive Order to increase the minimum wage for federal contract workers.

    • HR 1010

      Fair Minimum Wage Act (House Version)

      Would increase the Federal minimum wage in three stages: $8.20 an hour three months after the bill is enacted, $9.15 an hour a year after enactment and to $10.10 an hour two years after enactment.
    • S 460

      Fair Minimum Wage Act (Senate Version)

      Would increase the Federal minimum wage in three stages: $8.20 an hour three months after the bill is enacted, $9.15 an hour a year after enactment and to $10.10 an hour two years after enactment.

    Other Minimum Wage Proposals in Congress

    There are also many other proposals in Congress, which would increase the minimum wage using different formulas or for particular workers.

    • HR 3746

      Fair Minimum Wage Act

      To increase in the Federal minimum wage to $8.50 an hour three months after the bill is enacted, $10.00 am hour a year after enactment and to $11.00 two years after enactment.
    • S 1737

      Minimum Wage Fairness Act

      To provide for an increase in the Federal minimum wage in three stages: $8.20 an hour six months after the bill is enacted, $9.15 an hour a year after enactment and to $10.10 an hour two years after enactment. Would also incrase the wage of tipped workers to $3.00 six months after the bill is enacted, and then up to 70% of the minumum wage for other workers. 
    • HR 1346

      Catching Up to 1968 Act

      Would index minimum wage to inflation. Would also close the gap between tipped employees and other workers, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 650

      WAGES Act

      Would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13 per hour to $3.75 per hour three months after enactment; to $5.00 per hour one year after enactment; and 70% of minimum wage, but no less than $5.50 per hour, two years after enactment, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 229

      Original Living American Wage (LAW) Act

      Would adjust the federal minimum wage every four years to at least 15% higher than the federal poverty threshold for a family of two. Under current poverty guidelines, it would increase the minumum wage from $7.25 to $8.36, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 831

      Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act

      Would remove a section of a 1938 labor law that allows employers to apply for federal waivers to pay disabled workers less than minimum wage, according to the bill sponsor. It would be enacted in stages: discontinue the issuance of new special wage certificates; revoking Waivers held by private, for-profit entities one year after enactment; those held by public entities two years after enactment; and those held by private nonprofit entities three years after enactment.

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  15. The Week Ahead: April 28 - May 2

    From our Hill Sources:  Congress is back from Easter break on Monday! The House returns for an early appropriations season -- the earliest since at least 1974. Meanwhile, the Senate will consider raising the minimum wage.

    Appropriations Season Begins!

    The annual appropriations process begins this week in the House, as they consider the first two 2015 spending bills. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) has set a goal to have the House pass all of the 12 annual spending bills for FY 2015 before the August recess to avoid another omnibus measure after Sept. 30. (To put it in perspective, the first appropriations bill last year didn't hit the House floor until June.)

    • HR 4486

      Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015

      Provides $71.5 billion in discretionary funding – a cut of $1.8 billion below the FY 2014 level. This reduction will not negatively affect projects or services on which troops and veterans rely. Instead, the bill provides less funding than the previous year for military construction, largely due to a lack of new need for such projects, while increasing funding for veterans programs by $1.5 billion.
    • HR 4487

      Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2015

      Provides annual funding for the offices of Members of the House of Representatives, the support agencies of Congress (including security), services for visitors, and Capitol operations and maintenance. The total included for the House and joint operations, excluding Senate-only items, is $3.3 billion. This is the same as the FY 2014 level, and it is $122.5 million below the President’s request. Also includes a provision preventing any pay increases for Members of Congress in FY 2015, which has been in place since 2010.

    Government Reporting

    The House will consider two bills related to government reporting:

    Increasing the Minimum Wage

    After completing work on nominations, the Senate could begin considering a bill to raise the minimum wage this week:

    • S 1737

      Minimum Wage Fairness Act

      Would provide for an increase in the Federal minimum wage in three stages: $8.20 an hour six months after the bill is enacted, $9.15 an hour a year after enactment and to $10.10 an hour two years after enactment. Would also increase the wage of tipped workers to $3.00 six months after the bill is enacted, and then up to 70% of the minumum wage for other workers.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: Democrats see raising the minimum wage as an important issue, particularly during an election year. However, Republicans opposing the bill point to a February Congressional Budget Office study, which found that "once fully implemented in the second half of 2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent." The study also found that the policy would lift 900,000 people out of poverty.

    Another Obamacare Fix

    The House will again consider amending the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, once again. But this time, it has bipartisan support:

    • HR 4414

      Expatriate Health Coverage Clarification Act

      This bipartisan legislation was introduced as a fix to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that would exempt plans from the law’s requirements when they sell policies to individuals who work outside of the United States. However, some Democrats believe that this bill creates large loopholes that would permit insurance companies to sell inferior insurance policies to American and foreign workers and their families who live in the United States.

      The Scoop from our Hill Sources: The House previously considered this bill on April 9, under suspension of the rules, which required two-thirds of the House to support the bill for passage. However, the bill did not garner two-thirds support and failed by a roll call vote (259 - 159). This time, it will need only a simple majority to pass.

    Also in the House...

    The House will also consider:

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  16. The POPVOX Top 20: April 18 - 24, 2014

    The most popular bill on POPVOX this week was the Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act (HR 4046), which would remove restrictions that require the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), colloquially known as the “Drug Czar,” to oppose changing the legal status of marijuana and prevent it from even studying whether there could be any medical benefits, according to the bill's sponsor, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09).

    The bill was part of an Issue Spotlight on Marijuana in honor of "420 Day", a popular culture reference. Public perception and public policy around marijuana is changing, particularly in certain states. In November 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana use. And last year, US Attorney General Eric Holder said the US Justice Department is "deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time." Meanwhile, 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing for the medical use of marijuana. This state-level activity is prompting greater interest in federal marijuana legislation. (Learn more about the history of marijuana laws.)

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

    Want to get this list via email? Sign up!

    Here are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • HR 4046

      #1 Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act

      To strike provisions that prohibit the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy from studying the legalization of marijuana, that require the Director to oppose any attempt to legalize marijuana.

      249 Support | 78 Oppose

    • HR 4142

      #2 No Welfare for Weed Act

      To amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to prohibit the use of benefits to purchase marijuana products, to amend part A of title IV of the Social Security Act to prohibit assistance provided under the program of block grants to States for temporary assistance for needy families from being accessed through the use of an electronic benefit transfer card at any store that offers marijuana for sale.

      265 Support | 41 Oppose

    • HR 4179

      #3 Lucid Act

      To amend title 23, United States Code, to establish requirements relating to marijuana impaired driving.

      190 Support | 70 Oppose

    • HR 4380

      #4 Gun Confiscation and Registration Prevention Act

      To prohibit gun confiscation and registration. Cuts off NICS Improvement Amendments Act and Community Oriented Policing Services [COPS] Program funding to any state that “maintains a registry of gun ownership” or “conducts a program of gun confiscation directed at any firearm which is not prohibited by Federal law or any group of persons who are not prohibited from possessing a firearm under Federal law,” according to bill sponsor.

      210 Support | 13 Oppose

    • HR 4397

      #5 Real Time Transparency Act

      To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require all political committees to notify the Federal Election Commission within 48 hours of receiving cumulative contributions of $1,000 or more from any contributor during a calendar year.

      96 Support | 127 Oppose

    • HR 352

      #6 Tax Code Termination Act

      To terminate the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

      194 Support | 26 Oppose

    • HR 1723

      #7 Fairness in Taxation Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose increased rates of tax with respect to taxpayers with more than $1,000,000 taxable income.

      55 Support | 162 Oppose

    • S 1373

      #8 Rebuilding American Homeownership Act

      To increase access to refinancing for homeowners. Would allow underwater homeowners who currently have no option to refinance to lock into a lower interest rate and reduce their monthly payments, putting more cash back in their pockets and increasing their chances of staying in their homes, according to bill sponsor.

      100 Support | 87 Oppose

    • HR 1635

      #9 National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy Act

      To establish the National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy.

      66 Support | 104 Oppose

    • HR 2470

      #10 Making Work and Marriage Pay Act

      To establish the National Commission on Effective Marginal Tax Rates for Low-Income Families.

      50 Support | 112 Oppose

    • HR 3703

      #11 Approve the Pipeline Now Act

      To provide for the expedited approval of the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Keystone XL pipeline.

      97 Support | 49 Oppose

    • S 696

      #12 Safe Chemicals Act

      To amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to ensure that risks from chemicals are adequately understood and managed.

      40 Support | 95 Oppose

    • S 720

      #13 Buffett Rule Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for taxpayers making donations with their returns of income tax to the Federal Government to pay down the public debt.

      70 Support | 60 Oppose

    • HR 25

      #14 Fair Tax Act

      To promote freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States.

      99 Support | 19 Oppose

    • HR 2652

      #15 Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act

      To create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses.

      91 Support | 21 Oppose

    • HR 1523

      #16 Respect State Marijuana Laws Act

      To amend the Controlled Substances Act to provide for a new rule regarding the application of the Act to marijuana.

      94 Support | 9 Oppose

    • HR 4476

      #17 Cleaning Product Right to Know Act

      To require ingredient labeling of certain consumer cleaning products.

      44 Support | 44 Oppose

    • HR 3483

      #18 Protecting Individual Liberties and States’ Rights Act

      To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide exceptions from the firearm prohibitions otherwise applicable in relation to marijuana if its possession is lawful under State law.

      70 Support | 11 Oppose

    • HR 3180

      #19 Residential Care For Veterans

      To amend title 38, United States Code, to include contracts and grants for residential care for veterans in the exception to the requirement that the Federal Government recover a portion of the value of certain projects.

      9 Support | 65 Oppose

    • HR 4307

      #20 Milk Freedom Act

      To authorize the interstate traffic of unpasteurized milk and milk products that are packaged for direct human consumption.

      50 Support | 5 Oppose

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  17. Issue Spotlight: Earth Day

    Today is Earth Day, April 22. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 in the United States, but has now grown to include 192 countries. This year, Earth Day will focus on investing in efficiency and renewable energy, particularly in cities. (Source: Earth Day Network)

    We've pulled together bills related to the environment and renewable energy. Share your voice with Congress on this Earth Day.

    Legislation related to Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy and Chemicals

    • S 1627

      American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act

      Would create huge benefits for consumers, create jobs, and protect the environment by requiring electric utilities to obtain a minimum of 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, and biomass by 2025. The bill also requires electric and natural gas utilities to implement energy efficiency programs that would save the equivalent of 15 percent and 10 percent of sales, respectively, by 2025, according to the bill sponsor.
    • HR 2126

      Energy Efficiency Improvement Act

      *Bipartisan* Establishes energy efficiency best practices for commercial tenants renting space in commercial buildings and creates a new TENANT STAR certification program. Requires federal agencies to implement strategies to increase the efficiency of energy consuming data centers operated by the federal government. Removes a regulatory barrier to the manufacture of large scale water heaters, which act as residential energy storage devices and allow utilities to curb energy demand during peak hours, according to bill sponsors. -- Passed by the House; now goes to the Senate for consideration. --
    • HR 596

      Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act

      *Bispartisan* (Also S 279.) Streamlines permitting for renewable energy projects on public lands. Provides local governments increased revenue and certainty by establishing a more predictable and direct royalty system from energy production that will support wildlife conservation, hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities on federal land, according to bill sponsor.
    • HR 1616

      Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act

      *Bispartisan* (Also S 1392.) Uses a variety of low-cost tools to reduce barriers for private sector energy users and drive adoption of off-the-shelf efficiency technologies that will save businesses and consumers money, make America more energy independent, and reduce emissions. Kick starts private sector investment in building efficiency upgrades and renovations by creating a Commercial Building Energy Efficiency Financing Initiative. Requires the federal government – the single largest energy user in the country -- to adopt energy saving techniques for computers, saving energy and taxpayer dollars, according to bill sponsor.
    • S 1261

      Energy Efficient Government Technology Act

      *Bipartisan* To require the federal government to reduce energy consumption at federal data centers. Data centers are the fastest growing consumers of energy, so focusing on energy efficiency in this arena is a critical component of the United States' plan to achieve energy self-reliance and reduce costs to taxpayers, according to bill sponsor.
    • S 696

      Safe Chemicals Act

      Allow EPA to secure health and safety information for new and existing chemicals, while avoiding duplicative or unnecessary testing. Screen chemicals for safety by prioritizing chemicals based on risk, so that EPA can focus resources on evaluating those most likely to cause harm while working through the backlog of untested existing chemicals. Require risk management of chemicals that cannot be proven safe. This can include labeling, disposal requirements, restricted uses, or even full chemical bans. Establish a public database to catalog the health and safety information submitted by chemical manufacturers and the EPA’s safety determinations, while also protecting trade secrets, according to bill sponsor.
    • S 1202

      Safeguarding America's Future and Environment Act

      To provide local communities with better tools to prepare for extreme weather and require federal agencies to work more efficiently by implementing a single coordinated strategy for protecting, restoring, and conserving the natural resources that American tourism and recreation jobs and local economies depend on, according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 2023

      Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act

      Would address the negative health effects related to climate change by supporting research, surveillance, planning, and interagency coordination to develop national plan for action, according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 4461

      Climate Change Education Act

      To authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a Climate Change Education Program.
    • S 1961

      Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act

      According to bill sponsors: Requires regular state inspections of above-ground chemical storage facilities; requires industry to develop state-approved emergency response plans that meet at least minimum guidelines established in this bill; allows states to recoup costs incurred from responding to emergencies; and ensures drinking water systems have the tools and information to respond to emergencies.
    • HR 2791

      Responsible Electronics Recycling Act

      *Bipartisan* To prohibit the export from the United States of certain electronic waste.

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  18. Issue Spotlight: Marijuana

    Today is April 20, known as 420 Day, which is now well-referenced in popular culture as referring to marijuana. Even the 2003 California state bill codifying the medical marijuana law voters had approved was named SB 420. While urban legand often points to police code as the origins, Ryan Grim, author of This Is Your Country On Drugs, disagrees. Instead, Ryan was able to trace the roots of 420 to a group of five San Rafael High School friends who coined the term in 1971 -- when marijuana was very much illegal.

    Since then, public perception and public policy around marijuana has changed considerably. In November 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana use. And last year, US Attorney General Eric Holder said the US Justice Department is "deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time." Meanwhile, 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing for the medical use of marijuana. This state-level activity is prompting greater interest in federal marijuana legislation. (Read about the history of marijuana laws.)

    Federal Marijuana Legislation

    • HR 3483

      Protecting Individual Liberties and States' Rights Act

      To provide exceptions from the firearm prohibitions otherwise applicable in relation to marijuana if its possession is lawful under State law. *Bipartisan*
    • HR 1523

      Respect State Marijuana Laws Act

      Would prevent the federal government from continuing to prosecute residents who are acting in accordance with their state’s marijuana laws. The bill would legalize marijuana at the federal level to the extent it is legal at the state level, according to bill sponsor. *Bipartisan*
    • HR 1635

      National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy Act

      To establish the National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy. The Commission would undertake a comprehensive review of the federal government’s current policies toward marijuana, particularly in light of the growing number of states where marijuana is already legal for medicinal or personal use, according to bill sponsor. 
    • HR 499

      Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act

      To decriminalize marijuana at the Federal level, to leave to the States a power to regulate marijuana that is similar to the power they have to regulate alcohol. *Bipartisan*
    • HR 4046

      Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act

      To strike provisions that prohibit the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy from studying the legalization of marijuana, that require the Director to oppose any attempt to legalize marijuana.
    • HR 4179

      Lucid Act

      To establish requirements relating to marijuana impaired driving.

    Legislation about the Sale of Marijuana

    • HR 2652

      Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act

      Would allow banks, credit unions and other depository institutions the legal clearance to provide banking services to a marijuana-related legitimate business, ensuring these businesses do not have to operate on a cash-only basis, according to bill sponsors. *Bipartisan*
    • HR 501

      Marijuana Tax Equity Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the taxation of marijuana.
    • HR 4142

      No Welfare for Weed Act

      To amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to prohibit the use of benefits to purchase marijuana products, to amend part A of title IV of the Social Security Act to prohibit assistance provided under the program of block grants to States for temporary assistance for needy families from being accessed through the use of an electronic benefit transfer card at any store that offers marijuana for sale. *Bipartisan*
    • HR 4137

      Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act

      To prohibit assistance provided under the program of block grants to States for temporary assistance for needy families from being accessed through the use of an electronic benefit transfer card at any store that offers marijuana for sale.
    • HR 2240

      Small Business Tax Equity Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow deductions and credits relating to expenditures in connection with marijuana sales conducted in compliance with State law. *Bipartisan*

    Medical Marijuana Legislation

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  19. The POPVOX Top 20: April 11 - 17, 2014

    This week, with one in four Americans waiting until the last day to file our taxes, it's no surprise that the top bill of the week was tax related! In fact, half of the bills on the Top 20 list were about taxation. (You can find even more tax related bills in our Income Tax Issue Spotlight.)

    Top 20 Bills of the Week

    Want to get this list via email? Sign up!

    Here are the bills and proposals that POPVOX users weighed in on with Congress in the past week. Keep in mind that these numbers aren't aggregates of total support, but just what happened in the past seven days.

    • HR 1723

      #1 Fairness in Taxation Act

      To impose increased rates of tax with respect to taxpayers with more than $1,000,000 taxable income. Would create new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires, according to the bill sponsor.

      95 Support | 384 Oppose

    • HR 4440

      #2 Horse Transportation Safety Act

      To amend title 49, United States Code, to prohibit the transportation of horses in interstate transportation in a motor vehicle containing 2 or more levels stacked on top of one another. *Bipartisan*

      350 Support | 77 Oppose

    • HR 352

      #3 Tax Code Termination Act

      To terminate the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Would abolish the Internal Revenue Code by December 31, 2015 and require Congress to approve a new federal tax system by July of the same year, according to bill sponsor. *Bipartisan*

      350 Support | 42 Oppose

    • S 994

      #4 DATA Act

      To expand the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 to increase accountability and transparency in Federal spending. *Bipartisan*

      378 Support | 10 Oppose

    • S 720

      #5 Buffett Rule Act

      To provide for taxpayers making donations with their returns of income tax to the Federal Government to pay down the public debt.

      228 Support | 116 Oppose

    • HR 4415

      #6 Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act

      To provide for the extension of certain unemployment benefits.

      53 Support | 253 Oppose

    • S 2235

      #7 Democracy Restoration Act

      To secure the Federal voting rights of persons when released from incarceration.

      55 Support | 232 Oppose

    • HR 4312

      #8 Public Online Information Act

      To establish an advisory committee to issue nonbinding governmentwide guidelines on making public information available on the Internet, to require publicly available Government information held by the executive branch to be made available on the Internet, to express the sense of Congress that publicly available information held by the legislative and judicial branches should be available on the Internet.

      209 Support | 24 Oppose

    • S 1251

      #9 Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Reauthorization Act

      To establish programs with respect to childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer. *Bipartisan*

      174 Support | 53 Oppose

    • HR 4374

      #10 Biological Implant Tracking and Veteran Safety Act

      To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to adopt and implement a standard identification protocol for use in the tracking and procurement of biological implants by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      112 Support | 98 Oppose

    • HR 25

      #11 Fair Tax Act

      Promotes freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States.

      203 Support | 15 Oppose

    • HR 2470

      #12 Making Work and Marriage Pay Act

      To establish the National Commission on Effective Marginal Tax Rates for Low-Income Families. Would establish a national commission to study how multiple federal and state benefit programs create disincentives for low-income families to work and can discourage marriage, according to bill sponsors. *Bipartisan*

      40 Support | 126 Oppose

    • HR 3508

      #13 Hearing Aid Specialists

      To amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify the qualifications of hearing aid specialists of the Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs. *Bipartisan*

      135 Support | 10 Oppose

    • S 122

      #14 Fair Tax Act

      Promotes freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States.

      129 Support | 12 Oppose

    • S 722

      #15 Simpler Tax Filing Act

      To require the Secretary of the Treasury to study the feasibility of providing certain taxpayers with an optional pre-prepared tax return. Would "pave the way for the Internal Revenue Service to provide many tax filers with a one-page tax return already filled out with the taxpayer’s information, known as a “simple return,” in turn saving American taxpayers billions in tax preparation fees," according to bill sponsors.

      32 Support | 108 Oppose

    • S 420

      #16 Tax Return Due Date Simplification and Modernization Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the logical flow of return information between partnerships, corporations, trusts, estates, and individuals to better enable each party to submit timely, accurate returns and reduce the need for extended and amended returns, to provide for modified due dates by regulation, and to conform the automatic corporate extension period to longstanding regulatory rule.

      106 Support | 30 Oppose

    • HR 766

      #17 Paying a Fair Share Act

      Reduces the deficit by imposing a minimum effective tax rate for high-income taxpayers.

      34 Support | 94 Oppose

    • HR 4368

      #18 Keep Knives Out of Our Skies Act

      To prohibit the Secretary of Homeland Security from implementing proposed policy changes that would permit passengers to carry small, non-locking knives on aircraft. *Bipartisan*

      16 Support | 110 Oppose

    • S 2105

      #19 Gun-Owner Registration Information Protection Act

      To prohibit the Federal funding of a State firearms ownership database.

      108 Support | 18 Oppose

    • S 173

      #20 SMART Act

      To repeal the current Internal Revenue Code and replace it with a flat tax, thereby guaranteeing economic growth and fairness for all Americans.

      72 Support | 49 Oppose

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.

  20. Issue Spotlight: Taxes

    It's Tax Day, and if you're like most people, you've already filed your taxes. But one in four people wait until April 15th, according to a McClatchy-Marist Poll (4/14/14). Interestingly, a majority of people surveyed -- 56 percent -- said they paid "about the right amount" in federal taxes. Nearly 7 in 10 men expect refunds, while just 54 percent of women expect money back from the IRS.

    Regardless of how you feel about paying taxes, take a look at the proposals in Congress that would change income tax policies -- and how we file our taxes. Share your voice with Congress on this Tax Day 2014! 

    Changing Tax Policies...

    • HR 1723

      Fairness in Taxation Act

      To impose increased rates of tax with respect to taxpayers with more than $1,000,000 taxable income. Would create new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires, according to the bill sponsor.
    • S 1287

      AMT Credits

      To raise the limitation on the election to accelerate the AMT credit in lieu of bonus depreciation for 2013. *Bipartisan*
    • S 720

      Buffett Rule Act

      To provide for taxpayers making donations with their returns of income tax to the Federal Government to pay down the public debt.
    • HR 766

      Paying a Fair Share Act (or the "Buffett Rule")

      Reduces the deficit by imposing a minimum effective tax rate for high-income taxpayers.
    • HR 2470

      Making Work and Marriage Pay Act

      To establish the National Commission on Effective Marginal Tax Rates for Low-Income Families. Would establish a national commission to study how multiple federal and state benefit programs create disincentives for low-income families to work and can discourage marriage, according to bill sponsors. *Bipartisan*
    • Draft

      Congressman Camp's draft of Tax Reform Act -- (No bill introduced yet!)

      Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) released draft legislation, the Tax Reform Act. The proposal flattens the code by reducing rates and collapsing today’s brackets into two brackets of 10 and 25 percent for virtually all taxable income. Provides an inflation-adjusted standard deduction of $11,000 for individuals and $22,000 for married couples. Taxes long-term capital gains and dividends as ordinary income, but exempts 40 percent of such income from tax. Repeals the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for individuals.

    ...Or Doing Away with Income Taxes

    • HR 25

      Fair Tax Act

      (Also S 122.) Promotes freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the States.
    • HJRes 104

      Repealing the 16th Amendment

      Proposing an amendment to the US Constitution to repeal the sixteenth article of amendment.
    • HR 352

      Tax Code Termination Act

      To terminate the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Would abolish the Internal Revenue Code by December 31, 2015 and require Congress to approve a new federal tax system by July of the same year, according to bill sponsor. *Bipartisan*
    • HR 1040

      Flat Tax Act

      To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide taxpayers a flat tax alternative to the current income tax system.
    • S 173

      SMART Act (Simplified, Manageable, And Responsible Tax Act)

      To repeal the current Internal Revenue Code and replace it with a flat tax, thereby guaranteeing economic growth and fairness for all Americans.

    Changing How We File Taxes

    • S 722

      Simpler Tax Filing Act

      To require the Secretary of the Treasury to study the feasibility of providing certain taxpayers with an optional pre-prepared tax return. Would "pave the way for the Internal Revenue Service to provide many tax filers with a one-page tax return already filled out with the taxpayer’s information, known as a “simple return,” in turn saving American taxpayers billions in tax preparation fees," according to bill sponsors.
    • HR 2530

      Taxpayer Transparency and Efficient Audit Act

      To improve transparency and efficiency with respect to audits and communications between taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service. Requires the IRS to provide a substantive response to any written taxpayer correspondence within 30 days of receipt and sets a one-year deadline for completion of audits, according to bill sponsor.
    • S 669

      Free File Program Act

      To make permanent the Internal Revenue Service Free File program. *Bipartisan*
    • S 448

      Seniors’ Tax Simplification Act

      To allow seniors to file their Federal income tax on a new Form 1040SR. Simplifies tax filing with one form, 1040SR, for seniors who not only have income through social security but also have income through retirement benefits, interest, and capital gains, according to bill sponsor. *Bipartisan*
    • S 420

      Tax Return Due Date Simplification and Modernization Act

      To provide for the logical flow of return information between partnerships, corporations, trusts, estates, and individuals to better enable each party to submit timely, accurate returns and reduce the need for extended and amended returns, to provide for modified due dates by regulation, and to conform the automatic corporate extension period to longstanding regulatory rule. *Bipartisan*

    Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill doesn't imply a POPVOX endorsement in any way. Rather, we're simply trying to offer one more way to stay informed of an overwhelmingly complex legislative system.