Space Weather Forecasting, New Safety and Transparency Reporting Guidelines, Paying to Charge Federal Electric Vehicles, and a Plan to Celebrate Route 66

s881, s2193, s2299, HR6078, HR4894, s1014PROSWIFT Act (S 881) – This Act was sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on March 26, 2019. The legislation is designed to improve understanding and forecasting of weather events in space. The bill details provisions designed to improve the ability of the United States to both forecast and mitigate the effects of space weather. The bill designates the National Science and Technology Council’s Space Weather Operations, Research, and Mitigation Working Group as the authority to direct other agency initiatives. The bill establishes a pilot program to enable the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to enter into contracts with the commercial sector to provide space weather data, in adherence to certain standards. The bill passed in the Senate in July and in the House in September, and is currently waiting to be enacted by the President.

CHARGE Act (S 2193) – This bill requires the General Services Administration to issue a charge card to federal agencies in order to pay for charging up federal electric motor vehicles at commercial charging stations. The bill was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on July 19, 2019. It was passed in the Senate in November 2019 and in the House on Sept. 14, 2020. It is currently awaiting signature by the President.

PIPES Act of 2020 (S 2299) – This bill would amend title 49 of the United States Code to enhance the safety and reliability of pipeline transportation. It was introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) on July 25, 2019, passed in the Senate on Aug. 6, 2020. It is currently in the House for consideration. This bill would fund appropriations through the fiscal year 2023 to address pipeline safety and infrastructure as authorized under the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.

Microloan Transparency and Accountability Act of 2020 (HR 6078) – Introduced by Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) on March 4, this legislation modifies disbursement and reporting protocols for certain financial assistance by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Specifically, the bill establishes a technical assistance grant of 5 percent for intermediaries who issue 25 percent of their loans to rural small businesses. The legislation also requires the SBA to report, among other metrics, the number, amount, and percentage of such loans that went into default in the previous year; the number of microloans issued to small businesses in rural areas; and the average size, rate of interest and amount of fees charged for each microloan. This bill passed in the House on Sept. 14 and is in the Senate for consideration.

Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2020 (HR 4894) – Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced this legislation on Oct. 29, 2019. The bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to make many of the budget justification materials submitted to Congress also available to the public. The legislation passed in the House on Sept. 14 and is now in the Senate for consideration.

Route 66 Centennial Commission Act (S 1014) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) on April 3, 2019. It establishes a Route 66 Centennial Commission and specifies the duties of the commission, including membership, powers, reporting requirements, and a termination date of no later than June 30, 2027. The intent is to honor U.S. Route 66 on the occasion of its centennial anniversary in 2026. This bill passed in the Senate on Aug. 10 and goes to the House next for consideration. A similar bill (HR 66: Route 66 Centennial Commission Act) was introduced by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) and passed in the House in February 2019, giving the current Senate bill a high probability of making it into law.

Laws to Enhance Benefits for Service Members, First Responders, Veterans and to Restore National Parks and Public Lands

A bill to amend the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to extend lease protections for servicemembers under stop movement orders in response to a local, national, or global emergency, and for other purposes (S 3637) – This bill extends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act to protect service members who were previously issued orders to change duty stations but had those orders rescinded because of the pandemic. A stop movement order may leave them with a housing and/or car lease in two different locations. This extension allows families who are unable to relocate due to pandemic-related travel restrictions to be released without penalty from their leases. It is retroactive to March 1, 2020. The bill was introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) on May 6. It was passed by the Senate in June, the House in July, and was signed by the President on Aug. 14.

Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 (S 3607) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on May 5. The bill extends death and disability benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) to public safety officers (e.g., law enforcement officers) and survivors of public safety officers who die or become injured as a result of COVID-19. The bill classifies COVID-19 or related complications suffered by a public safety officer as a personal injury sustained in the line of duty. The Act was passed in the Senate in May and in the House in July. It was signed into law on Aug. 14.

Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2019 (HR 886) – Introduced by Rep. Charlie Christ (D-FL) on Jan. 30, 2019, this legislation directs the Department of Justice to establish a Veterans Treatment Court Program to provide grants and technical assistance for state, local and tribal governments to develop and maintain veterans’ treatment courts. Treatment courts are designed to assist justice-involved vets with treatment needs such as substance abuse, mental health, and other issues unique to active service. The Act was enacted after being signed by the President on Aug. 8.

Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Improvement Act of 2019 (HR 3504) – This bill is designed to amend Title 38 of the United States Code that provides for improvements to the specially adapted housing and educational assistance programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is designed to help eligible disabled veterans purchase adaptive homes or upgrade existing homes to meet their specific needs for daily living activities. The bill was introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) on June 26, 2019. It was passed in the House in July 2019; in the Senate in March 2020, and was signed into law by the President on Aug. 8.

Great American Outdoors Act (HR 1957) – This Act was initially sponsored by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) on March 28, 2019. This legislation establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which is designed to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands for fiscal years 2021 to 2025. The bill makes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund permanent and allocates money equal to 50 percent of energy development revenues from oil, gas, coal, or alternative or renewable energy development on federal lands and waters. The bill establishes reporting procedures for all associated projects and mandates that deposited amounts must not exceed $1.9 billion for any fiscal year. The bill was signed into law by the President on Aug. 4.

Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act (S 2163) – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced this legislation on July 18, 2019. It is designed to establish a Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys within the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Office to conduct a systematic study of the conditions affecting black men and boys. The Act was passed by the Senate in June, the House in July, and was signed into law by the President on Aug. 14.

Relief and Funding for Human Rights, Emergency Aid, Cash-Flow Assistance and New Infrastructure Projects

Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act (S 2746) – This bill authorizes the establishment of a new Law Enforcement Officers Suicide Data Collection Program to be administered by the FBI. The program will gather data related to suicides and attempted suicides of current and former officers, as well as the wrongful detainment of U.S. nationals abroad. The purpose of the Act is to help understand and prevent law enforcement suicides. The bill was introduced by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) on Oct. 30, 2019. It was passed by the House and the Senate in May and was signed into law on June 16.

Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 (S 2744) – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced this legislation on May 14 as a means to condemn human rights violations of ethnic Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. The bill calls for an end to the arbitrary detention, torture and harassment of these communities inside and outside of China. The Act was passed by both the Senate and the House in May and was signed into law by the president on June 17.

Hong Kong Autonomy Act (HR 7440) – Introduced by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) on July 1, this legislation authorizes the president to sanction foreign individuals, entities and financial institutions that materially contribute to China’s failure to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy in response to a written report to be submitted by the State Department each year. While the bill also gives the president the authority to waive or terminate sanctions, it permits Congress to override such an action by passing a joint resolution of disapproval. The Act was unanimously passed in Congress and signed into law by the president on July 14.

Emergency Aid for Returning Americans Affected by Coronavirus Act (S 4091) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to amend section 1113 of the Social Security Act. The Act authorizes funding for fiscal year 2020 in order to increase payments for temporary assistance to U.S. citizens and their dependents who return from foreign countries due to the COVID-19 crisis and are without available resources. The legislation enables the Department of Health and Human Services to provide monetary payments and medical care on a temporary basis. The Act was introduced and passed in both the House and Senate on June 29 and signed into law on July 13.

Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act of 2020 (S 4209) – This bill is designed to improve emergency unemployment relief for governmental entities and nonprofit organizations by amending Title IX of the Social Security Act. The bill was introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) on July 2. It was passed in the House and in the Senate on July 9, and is currently awaiting signature by the president.

Moving Forward Act (HR 2) – On June 11, this Act was introduced by Rep. Peter Defazio (D-OR). This bill would authorize funding for federal highways, highway safety programs and transit programs. It also addresses climate change strategies to reduce weather impacts on surface transportation by conducting a vulnerability assessment and recommending ways to enhance resilience for highways, mass transit and rail. The bill would allocate a grant program to help improve the safety, state of good repair and connectivity of transportation infrastructure in rural communities. It also directs the Department of Transportation to establish a pilot program for a national motor vehicle per-mile user fee to restore and maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund to uphold a state of good repair for the future. The bill passed in the House on July 1 and is currently in the Senate, where it enjoys considerable bipartisan support for infrastructure projects.

Helping Small Business Owners, Seniors and U.S. Hostages, and Limiting Intrusive Domestic Surveillance

Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (HR 7010) – Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) introduced this legislation on May 26. This Act modifies provisions related to small business loans issued under the original Paycheck Protection Program. Specifically, the bill permits forgiveness of loans used to pay expenses incurred over a 24-week period, longer than the original eight-week limit, and extends the timeframe to pay off unforgiven loans from two to five years. This bill also increases the limit on non-payroll expenses up to 40 percent when used to pay for rent, utilities, mortgage interest, and similar fixed costs. Loan recipients have until the end of 2020 to rehire employees with full access to payroll tax deferment. The bill was signed into law by the President on June 5.

Providing for Congressional Disapproval Under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of the Rule Submitted by the Department of Education Relating to “Borrower Defense Institutional Accountability” (HJ Res 76) – This bill was introduced on Sept. 26, 2019, by Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV). In response to a September 2019 rule issued by the Department of Education (ED), this resolution sought to reverse a process that no longer allows a borrower to be discharged from a student loan if an educational institution misrepresented material facts. The new rule also requires individual borrowers to apply to ED for a defense to repayment, whereas in the past an application could be submitted on behalf of an entire group (e.g. veterans). This resolution passed in both the House and Senate but was vetoed by the President on May 29. No attempt has been made to override the veto.

USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020 (HR 6172) – This bill would reauthorize (through November 2023) provisions related to the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA). Updated provisions mandate that the FBI may not seek detailed phone records on an ongoing basis, cellular or GPS location information, or any evidence in which there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Other mandates include certifying that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has received any information that might raise doubts about the application, and imposes additional requirements for FISA authorizations that target a U.S. person, federal elected official or candidate. The bill would increase criminal penalties for unlawful violations of FISA electronic surveillance and expands the criteria for when a FISA court decision shall be declassified. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on March 10. It was passed in the House in March and in the Senate, with alterations, in May. The bill was recently put on hold during its second pass in the House.

Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act (S 712) – This bill addresses the wrongful detainment of U.S. nationals abroad. It authorizes the President to appoint 1.) a Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs to engage in U.S. hostage policy recovery efforts; 2.) an interagency Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell to assess and track all cases and coordinate agency efforts to safely recover hostages; 3.) a Hostage Recovery Group to develop, implement and recommend hostage recovery policies. The bill also gives the President the authority to impose visa- and property-blocking sanctions against foreign nationals responsible for or complicit in the unlawful or wrongful detention of a U.S. national abroad. The bill was introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) on March 7, 2019. It was passed by the Senate on June 15 and is currently with the House.

Stop Senior Scams Act (S 149) – Sponsored by Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA), this bill establishes a Senior Scams Prevention Advisory Group to develop educational materials to help employees of retailers, financial services companies and wire transfer companies identify and prevent scams that affect seniors. It was introduced on Jan. 16, 2019, and passed in the Senate on June 10. The legislation is currently under consideration in the House.

In the Wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Congress Passes the Most Expensive Single Spending Bill in American History

Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (HR 266) – This is a multilayered legislative bill divided into four distinct sections. Phase 1 authorized funding for coronavirus preparedness and response; specifically, for measures such as vaccine development and public health funding. Most of the money was allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services. Approximately 81 percent of funds were allocated domestically, with the other 19 percent allocated internationally.

Phase 2 allocated $104 billion for three specific objectives: 1) Require private health insurance plans and Medicare to cover COVID-19 testing; 2) Expand unemployment insurance by $1 billion and loosen up eligibility requirements; 3) Provide for paid sick leave at an employee’s full salary, up to $511 per day, and paid family leave at two-thirds of a worker’s usual salary.

Phase 3 provided stimulus checks to individuals and “grants” to small businesses meeting specific criteria, such as keeping employees on the payroll for two months. This phase of the bill represents by far the most expensive single spending bill ever enacted in American history, at about $2.2 trillion.

And finally, the last phase of the bill provided funding to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses and shore up public health measures, such as virus testing and hospital funding. The bill was signed into law by the president on April 24.

VA Tele-Hearing Modernization Act (HR 4771) – This bill amended previous guidelines to allow appellants to appear in cases before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals by picture and voice transmission from locations outside the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill was introduced by Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) on Oct. 21, 2019, and signed into law by the president on April 10.

Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 (S 3607) – Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), this bill was introduced on May 5 and passed in the Senate on May 14. The legislation is designed to extend death benefits to public safety officers whose deaths are caused by COVID-19, and for other purposes. The bill is currently under consideration in the House.

Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act (S 2746) – Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced this legislation on Oct. 30, 2019. The act would require the director of the FBI to provide information on suicide rates in law enforcement, and for other purposes. It was passed in the Senate on May 14 and is currently being considered by the House.

HEROES Act (HR 6800) – This bill was introduced on May 12 by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, this bill is designed to provide emergency supplemental appropriations for a variety of applications, including assistance to state, local, tribal and territorial governments; further, expand paid sick days, family and medical leave; unemployment compensation; nutrition and food assistance programs; housing assistance; payments to farmers; and the Paycheck Protection Program. It also outlines several potential tax credits and deductions and requires employers to develop and implement infectious disease exposure control plans. The House passed this bill on May 15; it is currently in the Senate for consideration.

More Coronavirus Relief, Plus Beefed-Up Security for Technology, the Elderly, and Children Born to U.S. Citizens Serving Overseas

HR 748, S 893, S 1822, HR 4344, HR 4803Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (HR 748) – This legislation provided $2 trillion of stimulus relief in response to the coronavirus crisis. Provisions of the bill include:

  • $1,200 for each American making up to $75,000 a year
  • Additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits for up to four months
  • $100 billion available for hospitals and health providers; increase Medicare reimbursements for treating COVID-19
  • $750 million for food banks and food assistance to American Indian reservations, Puerto Rico and other territories
  • $500 billion in loans or investments to businesses, states, and municipalities
  • $32 billion in grants to the airline industry
  • Relief for homeowners with federally backed mortgages
  • Delay for student loan payments

This bipartisan bill was signed into law by the president on March 27.

Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2020 (S 893) – Sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), this bill authorizes the development of a strategy to secure and protect next-generation mobile telecommunications (5G) and future generations systems and infrastructure within the United States. These protections should include assistance via mutual defense treaty allies, strategic partners, and other countries to maximize security and operations, as well as protect U.S. competitiveness, consumer privacy and the integrity of regulatory bodies. The bill was introduced on March 27, 2019, and signed into law on March 23, 2020.

Broadband DATA Act (S 1822) – Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced this legislation on June 12, 2019, and it was enacted by the president on March 23, 2020. The Act mandates that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) change the way broadband data is collected, verified, and reported. Going forward, the FCC must collect and distribute broadband maps from wired, fixed-wireless, satellite, and mobile broadband providers by establishing the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (a dataset of geocoded information for all broadband service locations) as the centralized vehicle for reporting broadband service availability data.

Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 (HR 4344) – This bill supports programs relating to care for the elderly, as administered by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor. It reauthorizes funding through the fiscal year 2024 for informational services, such as pension counseling; nutritional services, such as meal delivery; disease prevention and health promotion services; community and workforce training for elder care; promotion of independent living and the reduction of social isolation for the elderly; as well as prevention services for abuse and neglect. The bill was introduced by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) on September 16, 2019, and signed into law by the president on March 25, 2020.

Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act (HR 4803) – This bill was introduced on October 23, 2019, by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). In an effort to clarify a rule change initiated by the Trump Administration, this bipartisan legislation guarantees citizenship for anyone born to a U.S. citizen parent stationed overseas, including military members and federal workers. The new law does not apply to children born to non-U.S. citizens stationed overseas working in a role on behalf of the United States.

Focused Almost Exclusively on Mitigating the Health and Economic Impact of the Coronavirus

HR 6074, HR 6201, HR 4998, S 3548Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (HR 6074) – Introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), this was the first bill passed to authorize funding in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It was introduced on March 4 and signed into law on March 6. The legislation provides $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. It includes appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services, the State Department and the Small Business Administration for the development, manufacture and procurement of vaccines and other medical supplies; grants for state, local and tribal public health agencies and organizations; loans for affected small businesses; evacuations and emergency preparedness activities at U.S. embassies and other State Department facilities; and humanitarian assistance and support for health systems in affected countries.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201) – Introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) on March 11, this bill authorizes funding and support for Americans suffering from the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. Specifically, the legislation includes allocations for: 1.) $500 million to provide access to nutritious foods for low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency; 2.) $400 million to assist local food banks to meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency; 3.) approve state plans to provide emergency food assistance to households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price meals at school; 4.) $100 million for nutrition assistance grants to Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; 5.) $82 million to cover the costs of COVID-19 diagnostic testing for beneficiaries receiving care through the Defense Health Program; 6.) $15 million for the IRS to implement tax credits for paid sick and paid family and medical leave; 7.) $64 million for the Indian Health Service to cover the costs of COVID-19 diagnostic testing; 8.) $250 million for the Senior Nutrition program to provide additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors; 9.) $1 billion to reimburse the costs of COVID-19 diagnostic testing and services provided to individuals without health insurance; 10.) $60 million to cover the costs of COVID-19 diagnostic testing for veterans. The Act also includes provisions to enhance unemployment insurance and increase federal Medicaid funding. This legislation passed in both the House and Senate and was signed by the president on March 18.

Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 (HR 4998) – This legislation prohibits the federal government from obtaining communications equipment or services from a company that poses a national security risk, such as from the Chinese company Huawei Technologies. The bill also establishes a reimbursement program to supply small communications providers with funds to replace this type of prohibited equipment or services from their networks with more secure options. The Act was introduced on Nov. 8, 2019, by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ) and signed into law by the president on March 12.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (S 3548) – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced this legislation on March 19. The bill is designed to address the economic impact of the coronavirus by providing direct cash payments to Americans, loan guarantees for impacted businesses and more resources for testing and development of vaccines. The current version of the bill includes: 1.) a substantial boost in unemployment insurance benefits (expanded eligibility and an additional $600 a week for four months); 2.) $367 billion loan program for small businesses; 3,) $150 billion for state and local stimulus funds; 4.) $130 billion for hospitals; 5.) $500 billion lending fund for large employers – subject to independent oversight with exclusions for members of Congress and the executive branch. The bill is expected to pass in both houses and be signed by the president.

Supporting Veteran Careers, Protecting the Food Supply, and Reducing Wasted Government Spending

Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act (S 153) – This bill encourages veterans to participate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields in a variety of ways, including making veterans eligible for certain National Science Foundation (NSF) programs. The Act directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish an interagency working group to improve veteran and military spouse representation in STEM fields, and authorizes funding for the Government Accountability Office to study 1) the academic success rates of student veterans pursuing an undergraduate degree in STEM and related fields; and 2) the barriers faced by such students in pursuing such degrees. This legislation was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (D-FL) on Jan. 16, 2019. It was passed in the Senate in December, the House in January, and was signed into law by the president on Feb. 11.

Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 (S 2107) – This legislation directs U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire and train more agricultural inspectors at land, air and sea ports to prevent African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases from entering the United States. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI). It was introduced on July 11, 2019, passed the Senate (October) and then House (February) and is currently waiting to be signed by the president.

Payment Integrity Information Act of 2019 (S 375) – This bipartisan bill is designed to reduce federal government waste in the form of overpayments, underpayments, payments made to ineligible recipients or payments that are not properly documented. It authorizes the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish pilot programs to test potential accountability mechanisms for compliance requirements, such as updating a plan to improve the integrity and usage of Social Security death data. The Act was introduced on Feb. 7, 2019, by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE); it passed the Senate in July, the House in February and is currently waiting to be enacted.

Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019 (S 394) – This law requires eligible presidential candidates (as of September of an election year) to develop and release transition team ethics plans, including how they will address their own conflicts of interest, prior to election day. It also is designed to focus a transitioning government on ongoing issues in the public interest during the changeover so that priorities are not shifted to solely address those of special interest lobbyists. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Feb.7, 2019, was passed by the Senate in August and the House in February. It is awaiting signature by the president.

United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act (HR 5340) – Introduced by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), this legislation represents the new trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. This bill passed in both the House and Senate and was signed by the president on Jan. 29. Mexico has also signed the agreement. However, Canada is still in the process of getting it ratified through Parliamentary procedures.

PIRATE Act (HR 583) – This bill dramatically increases the fine for operating a “Pirate Radio” station, in which people set up their own stations outside the official Federal Communications Commission (FCC) system. The maximum fine increases from $19,639 to $100,000 per day, with a maximum total fine capped at $2 million, up from $147,290. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) in January 2019. It passed in the House in February 2019 and in Senate in January 2020. The bill was signed into law on Jan. 24.

Blocking Robocalls, Stepping Up Suicide Prevention for Vets, and Appropriating Funds for a New Space Force

Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (S 151) – Approximately 58.5 billion robocalls were made in the United States last year, a 22 percent increase over 2018. That works out to an average of 178.3 robocalls per person, per year. Perhaps it’s no wonder then that this law was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress. The legislation requires that phone companies ensure all calls come from real numbers, do not charge extra to block robocalls, and authorize government regulators to punish scammers with fines of up to $10,000 per call. This legislation was sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ); it was signed into law by the president on Dec. 30, 2019.

Building Blocks of STEM Act (S 737) – This bill modifies National Science Foundation (NSF) grant programs that support STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to promote the role of teachers and caregivers in encouraging participation by female students in STEM activities. Specifically, the bill authorizes the development of gender-inclusive computer science enrichment programs in pre-kindergarten through elementary school. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). It was introduced on March 11, 2019, and signed into law by the president on Dec. 24.

Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act (HR 2333) – This legislation requires the Government Accountability Office to report on the responsibilities, workload, training and vacancy rates of suicide prevention coordinators. The bill responds to reports that coordinators are overworked and unable to keep up with their many responsibilities, particularly in light of the recent increase in veteran suicides. The Act was introduced on April 18, 2019, by Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY); it passed the House in May, the Senate in December and was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2019.

Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (HR 1865) – This annual appropriations bill sets government spending limits for the current fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020). Among a myriad of provisions, the bill extends funding for various health-related programs; deters pharmaceutical companies from blocking lower-cost generic alternatives from entering the marketplace; and repeals the Cadillac tax on expensive employer plans, the medical device excise tax, and the health insurance fee that was initially imposed by the Affordable Care Act. The final version of the bill was passed by the House and Senate in mid-December and signed by the president on Dec. 20, 2019.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (S 1790) – This $738 billion defense bill authorizes fiscal year 2020 appropriations and policies for the Department of Defense. Provisions include authorization for a sixth, stand-alone branch of the U.S. military service (Space Force); guaranteed 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers; a 3.1 percent pay raise for active-duty personnel; allows for Liberian nationals living in the United States under Deferred Enforced Departure to apply for permanent residency; funding for improvements to military housing and health care; funding to purchase 60 F-35s for the Air Force; and a dictate that prohibits Turkey from participating in the F-35 program as long as it maintains a Russian-made missile system. Note that passage of this bill does not provide budget appropriations, which is authorized in subsequent legislation. This bill was passed in both the House and Senate on Dec. 17, 2019, and signed into law on Dec. 20, 2019.

FUTURE Act (HR 5363) – This bill permanently authorizes funding for historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions, and increases appropriations for Pell Grants. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) on Dec. 9, 2019, passed in both the House and Senate on Dec. 10, 2019, and signed into law on Dec. 19, 2019.

Protecting TV Viewers, Whistleblowers and Supreme Court Justices; New Status Provisions for Immigrant Workers; and OTC Drugs

Reauthorizing Security for Supreme Court Justices Act of 2019 (HR 4258) – This bill reauthorizes the Marshal of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Police to protect the Justices of the Supreme Court, their employees and official guests outside of the Supreme Court grounds. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ). It was introduced on Sept. 9, 2019, and signed into law by the president on Nov. 27, 2019.

Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 (HR 5038) – This bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for terms and conditions for nonimmigrant workers performing agricultural labor. Under this law, certified agricultural worker (CAW) status may be granted to someone who 1) performed at least 1,035 hours of agricultural labor during the two-year period prior to Oct. 30, 2019, 2) was inadmissible or deportable on that date, and 3) has been continuously present in the United States from that date until receiving CAW status. The CAW status is valid for five and a half years with the option to extend, and the Department of Homeland Security may grant dependent status to the spouse or children of a principal alien. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) on Nov. 12, 2019, and passed in the House in December 2019. It is currently in the Senate for consideration.

Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (HR 5035) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Michael Doyle Jr. (D-PA) on Nov. 12, 2019, passed in the House of Representatives and currently awaits review in the Senate. The legislation would ban hidden fees from cable providers by requiring them to disclose all itemized charges, fees and estimated taxes in the total price before a consumer signs up for a video package (whether offered individually or as part of a bundle). The bill also would give customers the right to cancel service without penalty within 24 hours of purchasing the service plan.

The Over-the-Counter Monograph Safety, Innovation and Reform Act (S 2740) – Introduced on Oct. 30, 2019, by Sen. John Isakson (R-GA), this bill would add new incentives to the FDA’s process for approving drugs that do not require a prescription. It would allow an over-the-counter drug manufacturer to request 18 months of exclusivity upon FDA approval for products that are new to the OTC market. The application would require a user fee ranging from $100,000 to $500,000, depending on the type of OTC product. This legislation passed the Senate on Dec. 10, 2019, and is currently under consideration in the House.

Engineering Biology Research and Development Act of 2019 (HR 4373) – This bill would establish a federal engineering biology research initiative to bolster U.S. leadership in engineering biology, among other provisions. The bill was introduced on Sept. 18, 2019, by Rep. Eddie Johnson (D-TX) and passed the House on Dec. 9, 2019. It is currently in the Senate.

Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Authorization Act (HR 4713) – Following the emergence of whistleblowers worried about their civil rights, this legislation would give the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office new authority to ensure that the rights of individuals subject to its programs and activities are protected. Specifically, the bill would allow each Homeland Security department to appoint its own civil rights and liberties officer and grant them the authority to access all relevant department records, as well as subpoena non-federal entities. The bill was introduced on Oct. 17, 2019, by Rep. Al Green (D-TX) and passed in the House on Dec. 9, 2019. It is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate.