12/27 Weekly Legislative Update

You can make a difference:

Control of the Senate will depend on the results of the two runoff elections in Georgia.

Help flip the Senate by getting involved in the Georgia Senate races to help elect Jon Osoff and Raphael Warnock.
Check out ways to help through Indivisible, including opportunities to phone bank.

If you are able, one of the best ways to help is to donate:

New Georgia Project

Black Voters Matter

Indivisibles in GA

and/or to the candidates’ campaigns:
Raphael Warnock
Jon Osoff

Let’s do our part to help alleviate food insecurity, which is especially dire during these times.

Donate to or volunteer at Food Bank of NWI
Food Bank of NWI received a $100,000 donation to match money contributed so that each contribution will be doubled, now through Dec. 31. To help  provide 1/2 million meals throughout NW Indiana, go to 1/2 Million Meal Match, https://secure.qgiv.com/event/1mmm/ .
More about efforts of Food Bank of NWI to alleviate hunger this holiday season: https://foodbanknwi.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2020/11/Hope-For-The-Holidays-Flyer.pdf.

For a list of local food pantries: https://www.foodpantries.org/st/indiana

Meals on Wheels, NWI: https://mownwi.org/


In Congress this past week

H.R. 133: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 [Including Coronavirus Stimulus & Relief] 
Covid relief included with the omnibus spending bill passed both chambers on Dec. 21. Some parts of the relief have changed, PPP is reinstated, but with easier to use parameters. Aid to states for vaccine distribution and testing is included, as is aid to schools. Unemployment is extended, along with eviction moratoriums and stimulus checks. It is all much less than most agree is needed. For a detailed summary of both parts see causes.com.
See the vote in the House
Senate: Braun: YEA Young: YEA

Trump finally signed the bill into law Sunday night, unnecessarily delaying benefits for millions and causing a lapse in benefits for approximately 12 million more. He said he signed it because Republicans agreed to pass $2000 stimulus checks, an agreement McConnell has not acknowledged. It will likely take weeks for the benefits to take effect because states will need to reprogram their systems to accommodate the changes. (Liptak, Kevin. “Trump chooses chaos with delayed signature of Covid relief bill.” CNN Politics. 27 December 2020: https://cutt.ly/nh5FhzN.)

The spending bill includes the first legislation dealing with climate change in years. It was welcomed by environmental activists who say more drastic action is still needed. “It includes $35 billion in funding for basic research, extensions of tax credits for renewable energy companies, and a long-delayed mandate to reduce the use of a particularly damaging greenhouse gas… the most meaningful part of the omnibus …is the decision to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, by 85% over 15 years.” (Domonoske, Camila and Jeff Brady. “Climate Action For Christmas? Omnibus Bill Includes Biggest Policy Shift In Years.” NPR. 22 December 2020: https://www.npr.org/2020/12/22/949213763/climate-action-for-christmas-omnibus-bill-includes-biggest-policy-shift-in-years.)

Trump vetoed the Defense Authorization Act, setting up a veto override next week. He cited his objection to renaming military bases named for Confederates and restrictions on his ability to withdraw troops from South Korea, Germany and Afghanistan. (Revell, Eric. “President Trump Vetoes Defense Bill to Set Up Likely Override by Congress.” Causes. 23 December 2020: https://www.causes.com/articles/46679-president-trump-vetoes-defense-bill-set-likely-override-congress.)

Trump is refusing to sign the massive omnibus spending bill that will fund the government until September 2021 and that includes $900 billion in coronavirus relief. He wants $2000 in relief checks instead of the $600 in the bill. He also appeared to confuse the two parts of the bill, complaining about different spending in the bill, such as for foreign aid, that he said was unnecessary and should be used for coronavirus relief when those dollars were asked for by his administration as part of the overall spending bill. Trump’s move appears to be motivated by revenge against Republicans who have acknowledged Biden’s victory and are opposed to overturning it when the electoral college votes are tallied on Jan. 6. Without the bill the government will shut down Monday. (Mascaro, Lisa, Kevin Freking and Andrew Taylor. “Trump threatens COVID relief bill, testing loyalty of GOP.” AP News. 23 December 2020: https://cutt.ly/0h0BmrZ.)

In an effort to call Trump’s bluff and meet his demands over coronavirus relief and the spending bill, the House met on Thursday. $2000 stimulus checks failed to pass by Unanimous Consent on Christmas Eve due to Republican objection; reduced foreign aid failed due to Democratic objection. The House will meet Monday to pass a bill for an increase to $2000 in coronavirus aid to individuals. (Bolton, Alexander. “GOP seeks to avoid messy Trump fight over Electoral College.” The Hill. 25 December 2020: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/531562-gop-seeks-to-avoid-messy-trump-fight-over-electoral-college.)

As Trump golfs millions will run out of unemployment. Even if he signs the bill on Sunday, unemployment benefits will be delayed by at least a week because he did nothing. The bill would extend the number of weeks people can stay on two key pandemic unemployment programs and increase weekly benefits by $300 for all through mid-March. (Luhby, Tami, Sarah Westwook and Nikki Carvajal. “Unemployment benefits lapse for jobless Americans as Trump holds out on signing relief bill.” CNN Politics. 27 December 2020: https://cutt.ly/Nh4968o.)
Trump continues to ignore the suffering of Americans and golfs instead. (Colvin, Jill. “Trump golfs in Florida as COVID relief hangs in the balance.” AP News. 25 December 2020: https://cutt.ly/3h8m8NS.”
About nine million Americans, many who are are self employed or gig workers and normally don’t qualify for unemployment insurance saw their unemployment benefits lapse while Trump refused to sign the relief bill. As the pandemic continues to rage on, the economy is shrinking and the number of unemployed in increasing exponentially. Many have now been left with no income at all. (Lewis, Simon. “U.S. jobless benefit cut-off pushes millions to financial cliff-edge.” Reuters. 27 December 2020: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-jobless/u-s-jobless-benefit-cut-off-pushes-millions-to-financial-cliff-edge-idUSKBN29104T.)

The House will meet Monday to try to pass needed relief along with a veto override of the Defense Authorization Act. They may also pass a short stopgap funding bill to prevent a government shutdown.(Mascoar, Lisa and Andrew Taylor. The Senate is unlikely to pass increased payments to Americans. “GOP blocks $2,000 checks as Trump leaves COVID aid in chaos.” AP News. 25 December 2020: https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-politics-steny-hoyer-coronavirus-pandemic-a83f402618f81fc7a610343ed61ba0be.)

Passed the Senate, House next

S. 2346: Fishery Failures: Urgently Needed Disaster Declarations Act
Govtrack.us: “ A bill to improve the Fishery Resource Disaster Relief program of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and for other purposes. This bill revises the review process for making fishery resource disaster determinations.”

S. 2716: A bill to amend the Grand Ronde Reservation Act, and for other purposes.
Govtrack.us: “This bill revises the land claims of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. In particular, the bill specifies that only the tribe’s claims to the 84 acres of land known as the Thompson Strip, rather than the tribe’s claims to any lands within Oregon, are extinguished. Additionally, the bill prohibits gaming on any real property transferred to the tribe as part of a land claim settlement approved by the United States.”
This bill passed by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was taken.

S. 2827: A bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of African American burial grounds, and for other purposes.
Govtrack.us: “This bill directs the Department of the Interior to establish the U.S. African-American Burial Grounds Network within the National Park Service (NPS).”
This bill was passed by Voice Vote so no individual record of votes was made.

S. 3100: Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Land Transfer Act of 2020
Govtrack.us: “This bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to convey specified property in Anchorage, Alaska, to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium for use in connection with health programs.”
This bill passed by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was taken.

S. 3099: Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium Land Transfer Act of 2019
GovTrack.us: “A bill to provide for the conveyance of certain property to the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium located in Sitka, Alaska, and for other purposes.”
This bill passed by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was taken.

S. 3948: A bill to amend the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act to extend the deadline for a report by the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children, and for other purposes.
Govtrack.us: “This bill extends the deadline, from three years to five years, for the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children to submit its report to the President and Congress. The commission was established to conduct a comprehensive study of federal, state, local, and tribal programs that serve Native children and to develop plans for federal policy related to Native children.”
This bill was passed by Voice Vote so no individual record of votes was made.

S. 3952: Protecting American Intellectual Property Act of 2020
Govtrack.us: “A bill to require the imposition of sanctions with respect to foreign persons that have engaged in significant theft of trade secrets of United States persons, and for other purposes.”
This bill was passed by Voice Vote so no individual record of votes was made.

S. 4556: A bill to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services, acting through the Director of the Indian Health Service, to acquire private land to facilitate access to the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center in Hemet, California, and for other purposes
Govtrack.us: “This bill authorizes the Indian Health Service (IHS) to purchase certain private land in Hemet, California, at fair market value and then construct a paved road on that land to facilitate access to the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center. The IHS shall maintain the road or enter an agreement with Riverside County, California, to maintain the road.”
This bill passed by Unanimous Consent so no record of individual votes was taken.

Passed House and Senate, President next

H.R. 1240: Young Fishermen’s Development Act
Last Action: Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent.

H.R. 4031: GLRI Act of 2019 (Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2019 or the GLRI Act of 2019)
Last Action: Passed Senate without amendment by Unanimous Consent.

H.R. 5458: Rocky Mountain National Park Boundary Modification Act
Last Action: Passed Senate without amendment by Voice Vote.

H.R. 6535: To deem an urban Indian organization and employees thereof to be a part of the Public Health Service for the purposes of certain claims for personal injury, and for other purposes.
Last Action: Passed Senate without amendment by Voice Vote.

H.R. 7460: Peace Corps Commemorative Work Extension Act
Last Action: Passed Senate without amendment by Voice Vote.

S. 2174: To the extent provided in advance in appropriations Act, the Attorney General is authorized to use funds appropriated for the operationalization, maintenance, and expansion of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) for the
Last Action: Senate agreed to the House amendments to S. 2174 by Unanimous Consent.

Enacted, signed by the President

S. 134: Combat Online Predators Act

S. 578: ALS Disability Insurance Access Act of 2019

S. 1153: Stop Student Debt Relief Scams Act of 2019

H.R. 1830: National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coin Act

H.R. 3349: Republic of Texas Legation Memorial Act

S. 3703: Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act

The week ahead in Congress: https://www.causes.com/articles/46687-congress-attempt-override-president-trump-s-veto-defense-bill.
The upcoming week is the last one for the 116th Congress unless they vote to extend it by one day so the new Congress doesn’t start on a weekend.

To find and contact your Members of Congress:  https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials 

In Other News

Trump loyalists huddled in a meeting on Monday at the White House to discuss strategy for overturning the election results on Jan. 6 and thereby effectively ending our democracy. Pay attention to who they are. They MUST be voted out. (Zanona, Melanie. “House Republicans meet with Trump to discuss overturning election results.” Politico. 21 December 2020: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/21/trump-house-overturn-election-449787.)

Trump’s election fraud claims have been debunked and yet they live on and will likely result in increased voter restrictions across the country as Republican legislatures work to make voting more difficult. (Rutenberg, Jim, Nick Corasaniti and Alan Feuer “Trump’s Fraud Claims Died in Court, but the Myth of Stolen Elections Lives On.” NY Times. 27 December 2020: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/26/us/politics/republicans-voter-fraud.html.)

The EPA revised its rules for lead in water. It’s touted as an improvement, but many environmental activists and specialists say it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough and in fact does not make water safer. (Beitsch, Rebecca. “EPA revises lead rule, sidestepping calls for more stringent standards.” The Hill. 22 December 2020: https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/531326-epa-revises-lead-rule-sidestepping-calls-for-more-stringent,)

Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of murderers and political allies convicted of fraud, money laundering, and lying to federal officials, among other crimes. More disturbing pardons are expected. Trump is entitled to issue these pardons, but is denigrating the intent of presidential pardons outlined in the Constitution. (Garcia, Catherine. “Trump pardons 3 former GOP congressmen, Blackwater guards convicted of killing Iraqi civilians.” The Week. 22 December 2020: https://www.theweek.com/speedreads/956824/trump-pardons-3-former-gop-congressmen-blackwater-guards-convicted-killing-iraqi-civilians.)

The Justice Department has sued Walmart claiming they illegally filled opiod prescriptions over a long period of years. The DOJ says Walmart was obligated to report suspicious prescriptions and that they rarely did. Walmart had already filed their own lawsuit, saying they are unjustly being targeted.
(Balsamo, Michael and Anne D’Innocenzio. “Feds sue Walmart over role in opioid crisis. AP News. 22 December 2020: https://apnews.com/article/health-lawsuits-opioids-9a21000256f9cde4c666bb552547349e)

Dominion Voting Systems security director Eric Coomer has sued the Trump administration, conservative media and others for defamation. Dominion is the company who supplied many voting counting equipment for the 2020 election and has been the target of far right conspiracists, including Trump, who falsely charge the machines were rigged for Biden. Coomer has been forced into hiding after receiving multiple death threats. (“Dominion worker sues Trump campaign and conservative media.” Politico. 22 December 2020: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/22/dominion-worker-lawsuit-trump-campaign-450212.)

The U.S. economy is expected to shrink by 5% for 2020 while China’s is expected to grow by 2%. China’s economy will likely be the only economy in the developed world to grow, likely due to its successful response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Elliott, Larry. “China to overtake US as world’s biggest economy by 2028, report predicts.” The Guardian. 25 December 2020: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/26/china-to-overtake-us-as-worlds-biggest-economy-by-2028-report-predicts.)

The execution or the only woman on death row may be delayed until Biden takes office. (Balsamo, Michael. “Judge delays execution of only woman on US death row.” AP News. 26 December 2020: https://apnews.com/article/joe-biden-prisons-coronavirus-pandemic-executions-courts-1fb7341415efb79f0eff742bcf586c2d.)


Lake County is among 26 Indiana counties participating in a pilot program to connect individuals charged with or convicted of misdemeanor crimes to mental health or addiction treatment.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Teacher Pay Commission released a report with 37 recommendations on increasing salaries to cut teacher turnover, boost recruitment and support student achievement.  (Watts, Chris. “Taking On Teacher Pay.” Indy Politics. 20 December 2020: http://indypolitics.org/taking-on-teacher-pay/.)
For the full report see https://www.in.gov/gov/teachercompensation/.

For every one child enrolled in an afterschool program, three are still waiting to get in, according to a recent report from a national afterschool group. Advocates say that’s a problem, since those programs can play a key role in addressing educational and economic inequalities further highlighted and exasperated by the pandemic.   (WFIU)

More certificates than ever are being awarded to Hoosiers seeking workforce training or a jump start on college education, according to a new report from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

Indiana’s workforce shrunk by more than 40,000 from October to November, a sign the local economy continues to struggle amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent report from the Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development.  (Indy Star)

Governor Eric Holcomb has extended the application period for the Indiana Small Business Restart Grant. Holcomb’s office says Hoosier small businesses in all of Indiana’s 92 counties can apply for recovery funding through January 22, 2021.  (Inside Indiana Business)

Third round of Manufacturing Readiness grants awarded to 31 Indiana businesses Eyewitness News WEHT/WTVW) The Indiana Economic Development Corporation announced the third round of awards totaling about $1.5 million to 31 Indiana businesses in …

The opening of the Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana, scheduled for spring 2021, was thrown into uncertainty Wednesday after the Indiana Gaming Commission forced out two of the owners of the casino’s parent company, Spectacle Entertainment.  (Times of Northwest Indiana)

People over 75, essential workers next in line for vaccine WISHTV.com Indiana University says it is postponing May commencement ceremonies on all campuses. March 21: Indiana’s death toll rises to 14. ISDH announces …

For more than nine months, Indiana officials reassured the public that nursing homes were receiving the help they needed to handle the pandemic and protect vulnerable residents.  But the state never really got it under control.  (South Bend Tribune)

Indiana prisons, jails to receive coronavirus vaccine in Phase 2 of plan The Indianapolis Star Indiana’s draft does not include dates, as much of the rollout will depend on the quantity of doses made available to the state. “Additional groups will be …

For every one child enrolled in an afterschool program, three are still waiting to get in, according to a recent report from a national afterschool group. Advocates say that’s a problem, since those programs can play a key role in addressing educational and economic inequalities further highlighted and exasperated by the pandemic.   (WFIU)

For a third straight week, more than a quarter of Indiana counties are rated with the highest risk level of coronavirus spread in Wednesday’s state update that continued to show no area in the low or moderate community spread zones.  (AP Indiana)

At Tuesday’s COVID-19 media briefing, the Holcomb administration says there was an error in calculating the weekly positivity rate which could result in a higher state rate and mixed rates at the county level.  (Indy Politics)

As the Christmas holiday travel season approaches, Indiana has gained an unenviable distinction – the state is ranked fourth-riskiest for visiting because of COVID-19, according to a report by Forbes magazine.  (Journal Gazette)

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