8/2 Weekly Legislative Update


Passed House and Senate

S. 2163: Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act
The bill was passed by both chambers in identical form. It passed in the Senate June 25 and passed the House July 27. In the Senate the vote was by Voice Vote so no record of individual votes was made. See the votes in the House. It goes to the President next who may sign or veto the bill. 
For summary and context: https://www.countable.us/bills/s2163-116?legislator_id%5B%5D=3785&legislator_id%5B%5D=193&legislator_id%5B%5D=208&scroll_to_vote=true

Passed House

H.R. 7617: Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2021 
The House on Friday approved a $1.3 trillion package of spending bills for the 2021 fiscal year. It goes to the Senate next.
See your Congressman’s vote
Countable.us: “A minibus appropriations package would provide $1.367 trillion in discretionary funding for fiscal year 2021 to agencies funded under seven of the 12 appropriations categories, including Commerce-Justice-Science; Defense; Energy & Water Development; Financial Service & General Government; Homeland Security; Labor-HHS-Education; and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development.” See more details here
The package, passed in a largely party-line 217-197 vote, included the spending bills for defense; labor, health and human services, and education; commerce, justice and science; energy and water; financial services and general government; and transportation and housing and urban development. 
The bill would also provide the Army with $1 million for renaming assets named for Confederate figures and block funding for President Trump’s border wall. 
Democrats included significant spending on COVID-19-related issues in the labor and health bill, including $5 billion in emergency spending for the National Institutes of Health and $9 billion in emergency funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
The commerce, justice and science bill includes funding for NASA and the National Science Foundation and would also provide nearly $600 million to implement a slew of law enforcement reforms in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.  (Elis, Niv., “House approves $1.3 trillion spending package for 2021.” The Hill. 31 July 2020: https://thehill.com/policy/finance/509968-house-approves-13-trillion-spending-package-for-2021)H.R. 7327: Child Care for Economic Recovery Act
Passed the House July 30. Click to see your Representatives’ vote
Countable.us: “This bill would increase funds for the Child Care Entitlement to States program for the first time in over a decade, bringing the program’s funding to $10 billion. It would also invest $10 billion in infrastructure to improve child care safety and provide $850 million to states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories to fill in gaps in dependent care for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.” For detatiled summary and context from Countable,us.

Passed Senate

S. 529: National Landslide Preparedness Act
GovTrack.us: A bill to establish a national program to identify and reduce losses from landslide hazards, to establish a national 3D Elevation Program, and for other purposes. This bill was passed by the Senate on July 30 and goes to the House next. It was passed by Unanimous Consent and so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 850: Highly Rural Veteran Transportation Program Extension Act
GovTrack.us: “A bill to extend the authorization of appropriations to the Department of Veterans Affairs for purposes of awarding grants to veterans service organizations for the transportation of highly rural veterans.” This bill passed the Senate July 30 and goes to the House next. The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 914: Coordinated Ocean Observations and Research Act of 2020
GovTrack.us: “A bill to reauthorize the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009, to clarify the authority of the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with respect to post-storm assessments, and to require the establishment of a National Water Center, and for other purposes.” This bill passed the Senate July 30 and goes to the House next. The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

S. 2336: Department of Veterans Affairs Information Technology Reform Act of 2019 
GovTrack.us: “A bill to improve the management of information technology projects and investments of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.” 
This bill passed the Senate July 30 and goes to the House next. The vote was by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was made.

Upcoming Legislation and Actions

Democrats and the Trump administration continue to negotiate a bipartisan coronavirus relief package.

The House is on recess until Labor Day and no votes are scheduled, but lawmakers may be called to the Capitol with 24 hours of notice for a vote if a deal is reached on cornoavirus relief.

A confirmation vote is expected on the nomination of Mark Menezes to be Deputy Secretary of Energy. There may also be consideration of a possible coronavirus relief legislation.

Hearings to be held this week in the Senate:https://www.senate.gov/committees/hearings_meetings.htm These hearings include oversight of the Russia collusion investigationdeteriorating situation in Venezuela, and American nuclear energy infrastructure(Revell, Eric. “Senate Looks to Reach Coronavirus Relief Deal This Week.” Countable. 02 August 2020: https://www.countable.us/articles/45645-senate-considers-nominations-coronavirus-relief-negotiations-continue)

More on Cornonavirus Relief Legislation

Foran, Clare and Puil Mattingly. “McConnell formally unveils $1 trillion Senate GOP stimulus proposal: ‘The American people need more help’: CNN.27 July 2020: https://cutt.ly/Hs0jgNP 
The bill introduced in the Senate is the HEALS Act (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools)
For summary and breakdown of some of the most pertinent parts of the bill and how they contrast with the House bill that was passed over two months ago, the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act) :
Colby, Clifford and Erin Carson. “Next stimulus bill: HEALS Act would offer more than just another check.” C/NET Personal Finance. 20 July 2020: https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/next-stimulus-bill-heals-act-would-offer-more-than-just-another-check/ 

For a more detailed breakdown between the two bills:
Smith, Dale and Kate Conner. “HEALS vs. CARES vs. Heroes Acts: Republican and Democrat stimulus packages compared.” C/NET Personal Finance. 29 July 2020: https://www.cnet.com/personal-finance/heals-vs-cares-vs-heroes-acts-republican-and-democrat-stimulus-packages-compared/
More about the HEALS Act and schools: “The funding would be distributed like this: The federal education department would first send about $70 billion to states. One-third of that money could go to schools regardless of whether they planned to physically reopen. But another two-thirds of the money would only be distributed if the school district, charter school, or private school planned to hold some form of in-person instruction…Schools offering in-person learning for at least half of their students and for at least half of the school week would be eligible for their full allotment. Funding would be reduced for schools offering in-person learning to fewer students or for less time.” (Barnum, Matt and Sarah Darville. “Schools that don’t physically reopen would lose out on most funding under Republican stimulus bill.” Chalkbeat. 27 July 2020: https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/7/27/21341036/schools-that-dont-physically-reopen-would-lose-out-on-most-funding-under-republican-stimulus-bill

A breakdown and overview of the Senate Republican bill and the House bill especially in terms of aid to schools: Barnum, Matt. “What do schools need, and what might they get? Making sense of the big numbers that will shape the stimulus bill.” Chalkbeat. 28 July 2020: https://www.chalkbeat.org/2020/7/28/21344958/schools-stimulus-coronavirus-funding-heroes-heals

More about the HEALS Act and litigation protections:

The HEALS Act also provides broad litigation protections: …”employers could only be held liable if they didn’t make “reasonable efforts” to follow public health guidelines and “engaged in gross negligence or willful misconduct that caused an actual exposure to coronavirus,” according to the text of the legislation released Monday.” (text of bill: https://www.cornyn.senate.gov/sites/default/files/SAFETOWORKAct.pdf)
In contrast, Democrats support federal standards for safety precautions outlined by OSHA that would protect both businesses and workers. That proposal was part of previously passed legislation, but such guidelines have yet to be produced. In addition, there has not been much workplace litigation related to coronavirus. (Muellder, Eleanor. “McConnell’s Warning of Lawsuit Epidemic Undercut by Lack of Litigation.” Politico. 27 July 2020: https://cutt.ly/3s0ZMIN)
More specifically:
“There Is No Wave of COVID-19 Litigation Threatening to Stall an Economic Recovery: Granting corporations legal immunity will put American workers, consumers at risk.” American Association for Justice. 14:July 2020: https://www.justice.org/resources/press-center/there-is-no-wave-of-covid-19-litigation-threatening-to-stall-an-economic-recovery

More about the HEALS Act and unemployment compensation:
The changes in the unemployment compensation in the Senate bill means that states will have to change the configuration of benefits, first to account for the lesser amount of federal compensation and then to add to each unemployed worker’s compensation so that that compensation is no more than 70% of their previous income. These changes will undoubtedly lead to delays in unemployment relief in most states.
Mulvihill, Geoff. “GOP’s jobless benefit plan could mean delays, states warn.” AP News. 29 July 2020: https://cutt.ly/ls0BB7U.

More about the HEALS Act and issues included that are not related to coronavirus relief:
Siegel, Benjamin. “Senate GOP coronavirus relief package includes $1.75 billion for new FBI headquarters.” ABC 11 Eyewitness News. 28 July 2020: https://abc11.com/senate-gop-coronavirus-relief-package-includes-$175-billion-for-new-fbi-headquarters/6338991/ 
Browne, Ryan., “Republican Cornonavirus Bill Seeks to Fund Pentagon Projects That Were Cut to Pay for Trump Border Wall.” CNN Politics. 28 July 2020: https://cutt.ly/as09RH7

(See a detailed summary of the HEROES Act from Countable: https://www.countable.us/bills/hr6800-116-the-heroes-act)



H.R. 7544Missed Opportunities in Public Health and Biomedical Research Act 
GovTrack.us: “The bill would require the NIH to report on requests for funding that weren’t granted but were deemed to have great potential for public health.” Introduced by John Lewis a week before his death, on July 9

S. 4349: A bill to address behavioral health and well-being among health care professionals. This legislation aims to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals.Details and summary: (Cristina, Victoria. “Sens. Cassidy, Kaine, Young, and Reed introduce legislation to support health care workers mental health amid COVID-19.” WGNO ABC. 30 July 2020: https://wgno.com/news/health/coronavirus/sens-cassidy-kaine-young-and-reed-introduce-legislation-to-support-health-care-workers-mental-health-amid-covid-19/)

S. 4323: TRUST Act of 2020
GovTrack.us: “A bill to save and strengthen critical social contract programs of the Federal Government.”Introduced July 30 by Sen. Todd Young; its purpose is to “rein in the National Debt.” (“Young offers bipartisan bill aimed at tackling growing national debt.” Ripon Advance News Service. 30 July 2020:https://riponadvance.com/stories/young-offers-bipartisan-bill-aimed-at-tackling-growing-national-debt/)

In other news

SCOTUS: “The Supreme Court on Friday declined to block the Trump administration from using $2.5 billion in reallocated Pentagon funds to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall…In a 5-4 ruling that broke along ideological lines, the court’s conservative majority denied a bid by interest groups to halt construction after a federal appeals court last month said the use of defense funding for the project is illegal. The court’s four more liberal justices dissented from the ruling.” ( Kruzel, John. “Supreme Court declines to halt Trump border wall.” The Hill. 31 July 2020: https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/510073-supreme-court-declines-to-halt-trump-border-wall

The Census: The door to door counting of residents will be cut short. In July Census workers started to go door to door to finish the count of those who have not so far responded either online, by mail, or by phone; that is estimated to be 4 in 10 people living in the United States. That count will end September 30, not Oct. 31, the date set in April that was deemed necessary to complete the count. (Lo Wang, Hansi. “Census Door Knocking Cut A Month Short Amid Pressure To Finish Count.” NPR. 30 July 2020: https://www.npr.org/2020/07/30/896656747/when-does-census-counting-end-bureau-sends-alarming-mixed-signals)

To find and contact your Members of Congress: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members

State of Indiana

On July 30 the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP and Common Cause Indiana filed a federal lawsuit challenging Indiana’s  early deadline of noon on Election Day to receive mail-in ballots during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis  (Indy Politics)

Joe Kernan, a former South Bend mayor and Indiana governor who was a dominant force in state politics and local causes for years, died early Wednesday morning.  (South Bend Tribune)

The latest campaign finance filings show that incumbent Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb is far ahead in the money race over his Democratic opponent, Dr. Woody Myers, while other key races are more competitive ahead of the Nov. 3 general election. Here is a breakdown of the money raised in some of those contests:  (The Statehouse File)

A Libertarian Party candidate for Indiana’s 1st Congressional District with a history of run-ins with police was arrested Sunday on allegations he threatened and injured an East Chicago police officer.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Governor Eric  Holcomb Friday announced several appointments to various state boards and commissions.  (Indy Politics)

An informal survey of nearly 750 Indy Politics readers gives Governor Eric Holcomb mixed marks so far for his handling of the COVID-19 public health crisis.  (Indy Politics)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking the public’s feedback on a proposed cleanup of coal ash buried along Lake Michigan that the agency believes is threatening wildlife at the Indiana Dunes National Park.  (Indiana Public Media)

Diversity is lacking in police departments across the Midwest. (Lee Enterprise Midwest Reporters. “Sea of white cops doesn’t reflect diversity of communities, Midwest analysis shows.” The Times NWI.com. 01 August 2020: https://cutt.ly/IdiF2eT

The governor is being urged to expand mail in voting. Two former lieutenant governors, including Republican John Mutz said that without changes there would be fewer polling places and longer lines, resulting in voter voter suppression among minority, disabled, and low income voters. (Smith, Casey. “Indiana Governor Urged to Expand Mail Voting During Pandemic.” WNDU 16 News Now. 01 August 2020: https://www.wndu.com/2020/08/01/indiana-governor-urged-to-expand-mail-voting-during-pandemic/)

To find and contact your Indiana legislators: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/