Weekly Legislative Update
 Week of May 23, 2016
  
Congressional Outlook

Week of May 23rd
 
The House and Senate are both in session this week. On Monday, the House will vote on 30 bills under suspension of the rules. For the remainder of the week, the House will also vote on: (1) the House amendments to the "Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act" (H.R. 2576), which would reauthorize the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act and expand the EPA's power to regulate chemicals and substances that are used to make consumer products; (2) the $37.4 billion FY 2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill (H.R. 5055), which funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation; (3) and the House Amendment to the "Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016" (S. 2012), which includes a broad package that touches on subjects such as energy, government science programs, and public lands. The proposed House amendment to S. 2012 includes elements of the House-passed version of the measure, H.R. 8, as well as provisions based on more than 30 other bills, such as the "America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015" (H.R. 1806),which would reauthorize the America COMPETES Act and the "Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2015 (H.R. 2406), which would open recreational activities on public lands, and the "Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015" (H.R. 2898), which would increase water supplies in California's Central Valley.         
 
On Monday, the Senate will consider the "Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016" (S. 2613), which would amend the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act to reauthorize through FY 2018 the Sex Offender Management Assistance program and the Jessica Lunsford Address Verification Grant program. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has announced plans to bring up the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2943), which authorizes $602 billion in funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Energy Department. The Senate may also consider a House-passed resolution (H.J.Res.88) disapproving of the Labor Department's fiduciary rule, which requires investment companies that advise people on retirement planning to put the interests of clients ahead of their own and also consider the House amendment to the "Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act."
 
On Wednesday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is scheduled to markup its "Water Resources Development Act of 2016" (WRDA), which authorizes 28 Army Corps of Engineers Chief's Reports and other investments in America's ports, channels, locks, dams, and other water infrastructure. The House Natural Resources Committee is slated to vote Wednesday on new legislation, the "Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA)" (H.R. 5278) designed to help Puerto Rico restructure $70 billion in debt, and which was negotiated between House Republicans and the White House. Lastly, the FY 2017 appropriations bills continue to be marked up and considered, with the full House Appropriations Committee marking up the FY 2017 Transportation-HUD and Commerce-Justice-Science bills on Tuesday, followed by Subcommittee markups on Wednesday of the FY 2017 Financial Services-General Government and Interior-Environment Appropriations bills. On Thursday, the full Senate Appropriations Committee will markup its FY 2017 Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations bills. 
Week in Review

Labor Department Unveils Final Overtime Rule
 
On May 17, the Labor Department released the final overtime rule, which will raise the salary threshold from $23,660/year ($455/week) to $47,476/year ($913/week). This is a minimal change from the originally proposed threshold of $50,440 ($970/week). The rule also will automatically update the salary threshold every three years, based on wage growth. This is different from the originally proposed annual adjustment. Employers have until December 1, 2016 to comply with the new rule, which is longer than the originally anticipated 60 days from the rule's release. In response to the new overtime rule, DOL provides that employers can:(1) Pay time-and-a-half for overtime work; (2) Raise workers' salaries above the new threshold; (3) Limit workers' hours to 40 per week; and (4) Some combination of the above. The rule does not make any changes to the duties test for executive, administrative and professional employees; more information on exempt vs. non-exempt employees can be found here.
 
Congress has 60 days to respond through the Congressional Review Act, which is expected. Bills have already been introduced in Congress to nullify the rule and require a more extensive analysis on the economic impact of the rule, namely on small businesses, non-profits, and state and local governments; they are H.R. 4773/S. 2707. Even if that legislation is passed, the President will likely veto it and it is doubtful that Congress will have the votes to override that veto. A lawsuit(s) should be expected in the near future and it is also unknown is if a court will issue a stay on implementation while the legal battle ensues. DOL estimates this change will impact 4.2 million workers. Read more...
House Passes Zika Funding Bill
 
On May 18, the House passed, by a vote of 241-184, the "Zika Response Appropriations Act, 2016" ( H.R. 5243), which would appropriate $622.1 million to fight the Zika virus. The bill contains a total of $170 million for the CDC, of which $50 million is allowed for maternal and child health programs, targeted to states and territories that are suffering from Zika outbreaks. $230 million is for the NIH, which will support pre-clinical and clinical development of vaccines to stop the spread of infection and prevent future outbreaks.  The bill also provides $119.1 million for programs through the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to fight Zika, which includes $100 million for Global Health programs to stop the spread of the virus at its source. However, the Obama Administration issued a veto threat for H.R. 5243 on May 17, stating that "While the Administration appreciates that the Congress is finally taking action to address the Zika virus, the funding provided in H.R. 5243 is woefully inadequate to support the response our public health experts say is needed. Specifically, the Administration's full request of $1.9 billion is needed to: reduce the risk of the Zika virus, particularly in pregnant women, by better controlling the mosquitoes that spread Zika; develop new tools, including vaccines and better diagnostics to protect the Nation from the Zika virus; and conduct crucial research projects needed to better understand the impacts of the Zika virus on infants and children. [...] The Administration urges the Congress to provide full emergency supplemental funding at the level requested by the President." Read more...
Senate Passes POLICE Act
 
On May 18, the Senate passed, by voice vote, the "Protecting Our Lives by Initiating COPS Expansion (POLICE) Act of 2016" ( S. 2840). The bill would revise the rules of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) to allow first responders to use grants received through the program for active shooter response training. The bill is supported by the National Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the Department of Justice's VALOR program. The House may now act on S. 2840, in order to send the legislation to President Obama for his signature. Read more...
Senate Passes FY 2017 Transportation-HUD/Military Construction-VA Appropriations Bill
 
On May 19, the Senate voted 89-8, to pass the FY 2017 Transportation-HUD/Military Construction "minibus" appropriations bill ( H.R. 2577). The THUD section of the bill appropriates $56.5 billion in discretionary spending, including $525 million for TIGER grants; $50 million for rail safety activities in the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Improvement grants program, $20 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants, and $15 million for Restoration and Enhancement grants; $9.7 billion for transit formula grants; $2.3 billion for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts), including $333 million for core capacity projects, $241 million for small starts projects, and $20 million for the expedited delivery pilot program; $3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) formula program; $2.3 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants; $950 million for the HOME program; $335 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program; and $27.9 billion for Section 8 Public and Indian Housing. The MilCon-VA section of the bill provides $83 billion in discretionary funding, including $205 million for the DoD's Base Closure Fund for Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and $65.5 million for the Veterans Health Administration.
 
On May 19, the Senate voted 68-30 to pass an amendment to provide $1.1 billion to increase U.S. efforts to combat the Zika virus and on a 87-9 vote, the Senate agreed to an amendment to prohibit the use of HUD funds to direct a grantee to undertake specific changes to existing zoning laws as part of carrying out the final rule entitled "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing." On May 16 and May 17, the Senate also approved 17 amendments to the FY 2017 THUD/MilCon-VA Appropriations bills by voice vote (see here and here), including extending the obligation for HOME funds, increasing funding for transit safety activities, and slightly modifying the scope of projects eligible for railroad safety grants. The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy for the bill on May 16, threatening to veto H.R. 2577 "if the final bill that is presented to the President includes [...] problematic ideological provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation." Read more...
House Passes FY 2017 Military Construction-VA Appropriations Bill
 
On May 19, the House passed, by a vote of 295-129, the FY 2017 Military Construction-VA Appropriations bill ( H.R. 4974). The bill appropriates $81.5 billion in discretionary budget authority, which is $1.6 billion more than the FY 2016 enacted level and $1.2 billion below President Obama's request, alongside $102.5 billion in mandatory spending for veterans' programs and military construction for FY 2017. It also appropriates an additional $172 million in discretionary budget authority designated for Overseas Contingency Operations. Accounting for mandatory programs, including veterans' pensions, the measure provides a total of $184 billion in budget authority. The legislation also includes $663 million for medical and prosthetic research, $528 million for major VA construction projects, $4.2 billion for VA Information Technology and $850 million for health care needs including treatment of hepatitis C, long-term care for veterans, assistance to caregivers of veterans, and to fight veteran homelessness.  In addition, H.R. 4974 also provides $66.3 billion in advance appropriations for FY 2018 for veterans' health benefits and $103.9 billion for mandatory benefit programs. The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy for H.R. 4974 on May 17, threatening to veto H.R. 4974 "if the final bill that is presented to the President includes [...] problematic ideological provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation." Read more...
House Passes National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act
 
On May 16, the House passed, by a vote of 394-3, the "National Cybersecurity Preparedness Consortium Act of 2016" (H.R. 4743), which would allow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to work with a consortium of academic, nonprofit, private industry, and federal, state, and local governmental partners to support the DHS's cybersecurity efforts. Specifically, this legislation would authorize DHS to work with consortiums to: 
  • Provide training, develop and update curriculum, and provide technical assistance to State and local first responders and officials specifically for preparing for and responding to cybersecurity risks and incidents;
  • Conduct cross-sector cybersecurity training and simulation exercises for entities, including State and local governments, critical infrastructure owners and operators, and private industry, to encourage community-wide coordination in defending against and responding to cybersecurity risks and incidents; 
  • Help States and communities develop cybersecurity information sharing programs for the dissemination of homeland security information related to cybersecurity risks and incidents; and
  • Help States incorporate cybersecurity risk and incident prevention and response into existing State and local emergency plans. 
President Obama Signs Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act Into Law
 
On May 16, President Obama signed the "Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program Reauthorization Act of 2015" ( S. 125 ) into law, which reauthorizes, through FY 2020, $25 million a year for matching grants for bulletproof vests worn by law enforcement officers, to be awarded to states, local governments, and Indian tribes. The last authorization for the grant program expired at the end of FY 2012. Under S. 125, appropriated funds that aren't obligated by December 31, 2022, would be transferred to the general fund of the Treasury. The bill would express the sense of Congress that funds appropriated in a fiscal year should be spent by the end of the following year. Recipients of a matching grant would be barred from using other federal grant funds to pay or defer the cost of the matching requirement. JAG grantees would be required to adopt a mandatory-wear policy and purchase vests that comply with required standards. The bill would also allow the bureau to prioritize matching grants for jurisdictions that supply well-fitting vests, "including vests uniquely fitted to individual female law enforcement officers." Read more...
Congressional Schedule

Monday, May 23 
  • Full House Rules Committee hearing to consider the "Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015" (H.R. 897); the Senate amendment to the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015" (H.R. 2576); and the "Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017" (H.R. 5055). 
Tuesday, May 24 
  • House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture hearing entitled "Focus on the Farm Economy: A View from the Barnyard."
  • Full House Appropriations Committee markup of the FY 2017 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill, FY 2017 Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill, and Report on the Revised Interim Suballocation of Budget Allocations.
  • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense markup of the FY 2017 Defense Appropriations bill.
  • Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security markup of the FY 2017 Homeland Security Appropriations bill.
  • House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training hearing entitled "Demanding Accountability at the Corporation for National and Community Service."
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade legislative hearing on 17 FTC bills.
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing entitled "Medicare and Medicaid Program Integrity: Combatting Improper Payments and Ineligible Providers."
  • Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife hearing entitled "Erosion of Exemptions and Expansion of Federal Control-Implementation of the Definition of Waters of the United States."
  • Full Senate Finance Committee hearing entitled "Debt versus Equity: Corporate Integration Considerations."
  • House Homeland Security Subcommittees on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies & Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications hearing entitled "Enhancing Preparedness and Response Capabilities to Address Cyber Threats."
  • House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing entitled "Border Security Gadgets, Gizmos, and Information: Using Technology to Increase Situational Awareness and Operational Control."
  • Full House Judiciary Committee hearing entitled "Examining the Allegations of Misconduct Against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Part I."
  • Full House Judiciary Committee Executive Overreach Task Force hearing entitled "The Federal Government on Autopilot: Delegation of Regulatory Authority to an Unaccountable Bureaucracy."
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands legislative hearing on the "Fort Frederica National Monument Boundary Expansion Act of 2015" (H.R. 3480); the "Fort Ontario Study Act" (H.R. 4202); a bill to "authorize the Interior secretary to establish a structure for visitor services on the Arlington Ridge tract, in the area of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial" (H.R. 4789); and a bill to "provide for the establishment of a national memorial and national monument to commemorate those killed by the collapse of the Saint Francis Dam on March 12, 1928" (H.R. 5244).
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans legislative hearing on the "San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution Act" (H.R. 4366); the "San Luis Unit Drainage Resolution Act" (H.R. 5217); and the "Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act of 2016" (Discussion Draft).
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on "Investigating the Culture of Corruption at the Department of the Interior."
  • Full House Natural Resources Committee markup of the "Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act" (H.R. 5278).
  • Full House Small Business Committee hearing entitled "The Sharing Economy: A Taxing Experience for New Entrepreneurs, Part I."
  • House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing entitled "Improving the Safety and Reliability of the Washington Metro."
  • Full Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee markup of pending legislation.
  • Full House Ways and Means Committee markup of bills to "Advance Hospital Reforms and Improve TANF." 
Wednesday, May 25 
  • Full House Agriculture Committee hearing entitled "Food Waste from Field to Table."
  • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government markup of FY 2017 Financial Services-General Government Appropriations bill.
  • House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment markup of FY 2017 Interior-Environment Appropriations bill.
  • Full House Budget Committee hearing entitled "Reclaiming Congressional Authority Through the Power of the Purse."
  • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard hearing entitled "Improvement in Hurricane Forecasting and the Path Forward."
  • House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hearing entitled "Promoting Safe Workplaces Through Effective and Responsible Recordkeeping Standards."
  • House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing entitled "Examining Cybersecurity Responsibilities at HHS."
  • Full House Homeland Security Committee hearing entitled "Long Lines, Short Patience: The TSA Airport Screening Experience."
  • Full Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee markup.
  • Full House Judiciary Committee markup of the Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016" (H.R. 5203); the "O-Visa Act" (H.R. 3636); and the "Due Process Act" (H.R. 5283).
  • Full House Natural Resources Committee markup of the "Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act" (H.R. 5278).
  • House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing entitled "Exploring 21st Century Mining Safety, Environmental Control, and Technological Innovation."
  • Full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled "Federal Agencies' Reliance on Outdated and Unsupported Information Technology: A Ticking Time Bomb."
  • Full House Rules Committee hearing for the "Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016" (S. 2012) and the "Clarifying Congressional Intent in Providing DC Home Rule Act of 2016" (H.R. 5233).
  • Full House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing entitled "Science of Zika: The DNA of an Epidemic."
  • Full House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup of the "Water Resources Development Act of 2016" (H.R. 5303).
  • House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy hearing entitled "Perspectives on the Need for Tax Reform." 
Thursday, May 26 
  • Full Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee hearing entitled "A Review of the U.S. Livestock and Poultry Sectors: Marketplace Opportunities and Challenges."
  • Full Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the FY 2017 Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations bills.
  • Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women's Issues hearing entitled "Cartels and the U.S. Heroin Epidemic: Combating Drug Violence and Public Health Crisis."
  • House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security hearing entitled "Long Lines, Short Patience, Local Perspectives."
  • Full Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing entitled "Protecting America from the Threat of ISIS."
  • Full Senate Judiciary Committee markup of the "Expatriate Terrorist Act" (S. 247); the "Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2015" (S. 356); and the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Improvement Act of 2016 (S. 2944).
  • Full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing entitled "Social Security Administration: Information Systems Review."
  • House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Environment hearing entitled "Impact of EPA's Clean Power Plan on States."
  • Full House Small Business Committee hearing entitled "The Sharing Economy: A Taxing Experience for New Entrepreneurs, Part II."
  • Full Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing entitled "Oversight of the SBA's 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program."