S. 384: A bill to require the Secretary of Commerce, acting through the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to help facilitate the adoption of composite technology in infrastructure in the United States, and for other purposes. GovTrack.us: The bill was passed in a vote in the Senate on Aug. 4. It goes to the House next. The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.
S. 2330: Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019 GovTrack.us: “A bill to amend the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to provide for congressional oversight of the board of directors of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and to protect amateur athletes from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and for other purposes.” The bill was passed in a vote in the Senate. It goes to the House next. The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.
S. 785: Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019 GovTrack.us: “A bill to improve mental health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.” The bill was passed in a vote in the Senate. It goes to the House next. The vote was by Voice Vote so no record of individual votes was made.
S. 3455: No Tik Tok on Government Devices Act Countable.us: “This bill prohibits federal employees from using the social media video application TikTok on government-issued devices.” Passed the Senate by unanimous consent so no record of individual votes was made. It goes to the House next. Countable.us: “…it (is) likely the bill will ultimately become law as the House passed companion legislation introduced by Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) on a voice vote as an amendment to a spending package, so it may approve Hawley’s bill in a similar manner when it returns from recess.”
Introduced in the Senate
S. 3851: BARR Act GovTrack.us: This bill “would ban presidentially-appointed Justice Department officials from involvement in cases, lawsuits, or investigations involving that president, their relatives, or their campaign officials. Most prominently, that would apply to the attorney general, whether Barr or any future attorney general. Career appointees at the Justice Department would still be able to participate in such matters, the idea being that they would have less of a conflict of interest than political appointees.” See the complete summary and context.
Signed into law
S. 3637: A bill to amend the Service members 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.
All three of the above bills were signed into law August 14.
S. 4209: Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act of 2020 GovTrack.us: “A bill to amend title IX of the Social Security Act to improve emergency unemployment relief for governmental entities and nonprofit organizations.” Signed in to law August 3.
H.R. 1957: Great American Outdoors Act GovTrack.us: “This bill establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands.” “Watch: Trump signs the Great American Outdoors Act.: PBS News Hour. 04 August 2020: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/watch-live-trump-signs-great-american-outdoors-act Musto, Julia. “Trump Signs Landmark Great American Outdoors Act.” Fox News. 04 August 2020: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/president-trump-sign-the-landmark-great-american-outdoors-act Signed into law August 4.
In other news
The United States Post Office has come under attack by the Trump Administration and his Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, generally regarded as a ploy to limit mail in balloting. The postal service has sent letters to 46 states warning them that mail in ballots may not be delivered in time to meet election day deadlines. Senator Elizabeth Warren and eight other lawmakers sent a letter requesting a review of the changes DeJoy has made to the postal system and a review of possible ethics violations by DeJoy. Trump has said that by refusing additional funding for the postal service, mail in voting would be more difficult and thereby prevent voter fraud that such voting allows. To be clear, mail in voting has rarely if ever been subject to fraud. In addition, Speaker Pelosi noted that the additional funding for the postal service was included in the House’s HEROES Act at the request of the service’s bipartisan Trump-appointed board of governors, funding needed to meet normal operating standards during a pandemic. (Choi, Matthew and Daniel Lippman. “Trump signals openness to compromise on USPS funding.” Politico. 14 August 2020: https://cutt.ly/Td4vaZ2)
The Trump administration significantly weakened an Obama era ruling intended to reduce climate warming methane emissions. The new rule from the EPA would no longer require oil and gas companies to monitor and repair methane leaks from pipelines, storage facilities and wells. (Newburger, Emma. “Trump lifts Obama-era regulations on methane, a potent climate-warming gas.” CNBC. 14 August 2020: https://cutt.ly/Td4vaZ2)
President Trump has announced the repeal of the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation, an Obama era regulation meant to help ensure equity in housing opportunities in support of the 1968 Fair Housing Act and viewed as a critical tool in desegregating communities. This move was widely perceived as an appeal to the President’s suburban base and a watering down of the law. (Richardson, Brenda. “Fair Housing Advocates Decry Repeal Of Regulation Aimed At Diversifying Suburbs.” Forbes. 30 July 2020: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brendarichardson/2020/07/30/fair-housing-advocates-decry-repeal-of-fair-housing-law-aimed-at-diversifying-suburbs/#69c55fb569be)
On Monday, August 3, President Trump directed that states pay 25% pf the tab for the deployment of National Guard forces for coronavirus response. Two states that will be spared will be Texas and Florida, a move many are saying has political motivations. (Ollstein, Miranda Alice. “Trump spares only Texas and Florida in cutting funds for National Guard.” Politico. 04 August 2020:https://cutt.ly/6d7R5rU)
Coronavirus relief legislation:
Executive actions: Trump’s orders create a $400 per week unemployment benefit that many say is unworkable and would take states months to implement. In addition, states must pay 25% of the benefit, which many states cannot afford since their coffers have already been depleted by the pandemic’s catastrophic economic effects. Trump simply criticized states for being poorly run. In addition, he has instituted a payroll tax cut for those making less than $100,000, which he said he would make permanent if he is reelected. It is a halt on paying social security and medicare taxes, funds which have already been severely depleted. (Holmes, Kristen, Nicky Robertson, Tami Luhby and Jeremy Diamond. “Trump Signs Executive Actions after Stimulus Talks Break Down on Capitol Hill.” 08 August 2020: https://cutt.ly/Hd7RS1U)
Senator McConnell kept the Senate in session until Aug. 13 in case a coronavirus relief bill agreement was reached. In another indication of the gridlock preventing such legislation, the Senate has recessed until September. (Carney, Jordain. “Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal.” The Hill. 13 August 2020: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/511896-senate-leaves-until-september-without-coronavirus-relief-deal?userid=295338)
Sticking points between Democrats and Republicans include aid to schools, food aid, jobless benefits, funding for USPS, and evictions moratoriums. Republicans prefer a ‘slimmed down bill” while Democrats are “insisting there must be a comprehensive deal.” At this point there is agreement for another round of $1200 direct payments and :”changes to the Paycheck Protection Program to permit especially hard-hit businesses to obtain another loan under generous forgiveness terms.” Speaker Pelosi said she would consider reducing the $600 unemployment benefit in states with low unemployment while Lyndsay Graham has said he would replace the $600 with a payment that would make unemployment compensation equal to 100% of lost wages. (Taylor, Andrew. “A Line in the Sand: Both Sides Dig in on Relief Bill.” AP News. 04 August 2020: https://cutt.ly/GdRWRkX)
To find and contact your Members of Congress: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members
The Indiana Election Committee deadlocked 2-2 along party lines on whether or not to expand mail in voting. Several federal lawsuits are currently in litigation to force Indiana to expand its mail in voting options from the current 11 reasons voters can choose from in order to apply for an absentee ballot. Last week Indiana State Schools Superintendent Jennifer McCormick called for expanded vote by mail because schools should not be polling places this year as they have been in the past. So far more than 37,000 absentee ballot applications have been submitted while at this point in 2016 the applications numbered 109. Indiana is one of nine other states that do not allow for more expanded mail in voting. (Associated Press. “Indiana Election Commission stalemates on vote-by-mail issue.” Fox 59. 14 August 2020: https://fox59.com/news/indiana-election-commission-stalemates-on-vote-by-mail-issue/ ) Indiana Republicans Again Reject Any Expansion Of Vote-By-Mail Indiana Public Media Indiana Election Commission kills proposal for expanded mail-in voting for November election – WTHR Indiana Election Commission stalemates on vote-by-mail issue – WHAS11.com
Governor Holcomb expresses support for in person voting, but counties lack guidance and support. (Sullivan, Kayla. “A 90 day Update on Indiana’s General Election.” Fox 59. 05 August 2020: https://fox59.com/news/politics/a-90-day-update-on-indianas-general-election/ )
State Attorney General Curtis Hill is urging Gov. Eric Holcomb to call a special session of the Indiana General Assembly to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, joining legislative Democrats who have also called for a special session to address the health crisis and potentially other issues. (IBJ)
Update on the efforts to purge Indiana’s voter roles: “The Brennan Center filed a lawsuit against the State of Indiana on behalf of the Indiana NAACP and the League of Women Voters of Indiana, challenging Senate Enrolled Act 442 (SEA 442), a law enacted in 2017 that violated the National Voter Registration Act’s protections against wrongful voter removals. In March 2020, Indiana enacted Senate Enrolled Act 334 to amend SEA 442, but provisions of the amended law continue to violate the NVRA.” (“Indiana NAACP and League of Women Voters of Indiana v. Lawson.” Brennan Center for Justice. Updated 28 July 2020: https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/court-cases/indiana-naacp-and-league-women-voters-indiana-v-lawson)
See several pending lawsuits, including requiring an excuse to vote by mail, destroying ballots with mismatched signatures without notifying the voters affected and giving them the opportunity to challenge, and the timeline for return of completed ballots, all seen as disenfranchising voters and in violation of the 1st and 14th amendments. “Voting Rights Litigation 2020.” Brennan Center for Justice. Updated. 13 August 2020: https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/court-cases/voting-rights-litigation-2020#Indiana
A $10 million grant program meant to help Indiana schools grapple with the impact of the coronavirus is pitting charter and traditional public schools against each other and creating tension over how to divvy up federal aid. (Chalkbeat Indiana)
Wang, Stephanie and Emma Fittes. “Indiana schools could lose state funding if they don’t open for in-person instruction, top lawmaker warns” Chalkbeat Indiana. 07 August 2020: https://in.chalkbeat.org/2020/8/7/21358476/indiana-schools-could-lose-state-funding-if-they-dont-open-for-in-person-instruction-lawmaker-warns
The governor proposed delaying the student count from September to December to preserve full funding to schools that don’t resume full in person instruction. The move gives lawmakers a few months to review the law and it gives school districts a little breathing room to provide student instruction in ways that are most safe. A change to the law requires legislative action and may be opposed by the republican majority, according to at lease one republican lawmaker. ( Smedley, Megan. “Indiana officials urging full school funding, release long-term care dashboard.” WNDU 16 News Now. 12 August 2020: https://www.wndu.com/2020/08/12/indiana-officials-urging-full-school-funding-release-long-term-care-dashboard/ )
Wang. Stephanie. “Indiana governor proposes moving fall student count date to avoid school funding cuts.” Chalkbeat Indiana. 12 August 2020: https://cutt.ly/td9uXMZ
Senator Braun favors reopening school in person. (Carden, Dan. “Senator urges Hoosiers to ‘take a little risk’ by reopening schools amid COVID-19 pandemic.” The Times NWI. 04 August 2020:https://cutt.ly/LdTTCv5.)
To find and contact your Indiana legislators: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/