Congress at Work for December 2017

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Enhancing Access to Retirement Funds and Emergency Medications; Getting Tougher on Online Predators of Children

H.R. 3031,H.R. 304,H.R. 1329,S. 190,S. 504,S. 782TSP Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R. 3031) – Sponsored by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) on June 23, this bill will offer government employees who participate in the Thrift Savings Plan more flexible withdrawal options. The law eliminates the current restriction on taking partial post-separation withdrawals if the participant has already taken an age-based in-service withdrawal. The law also allows separated participants over age 70½ to remain in the TSP without having to make a withdrawal election on an entire account balance. Once implemented, plan participants will be able to stop monthly payments, change payment frequency, or elect to purchase an annuity while receiving monthly payments. This bill was signed into law on Nov. 17 by the President, and gives the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) up to two years to make the requisite regulatory and operational changes necessary.

Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2017 (H.R. 304) – Sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) on Jan. 5. This bipartisan bill amends the Controlled Substances Act to permit medical director physicians to issue standing orders to EMS personnel to administer controlled substances to patients, such as anti-seizure and pain management drugs. The bill was passed in the Senate on Oct. 24; by the House on Nov. 2; and signed into law by the President on Nov. 17.

Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 (H.R. 1329) – This bill was introduced on March 2 by Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL). It authorizes a 2 percent pay increase for military veterans starting in January. This pay hike, which may amount to an extra $25 a month, or $300 a year, is one of the biggest pay increases in the past six years. The bill was signed into law on Nov. 2.

Power and Security Systems (PASS) Act (S. 190) – Sponsored by Cory Gardner (R-CO) on Jan. 23, the PASS Act eliminates a policy that would require security and life safety external power supplies (EPS) to meet a “no-load mode” energy efficiency standard. The requirement would have increased product redesign and manufacturing costs by 200 percent to 300 percent. The bill, which gives the U.S. Department of Energy the authority to retain this policy for any future updates to energy efficiency standards governing external power supplies, was signed into law on Nov. 2.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2017 (S. 504) – Sponsored by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) on March 2, this bill allows Americans and citizens from APEC nations to access fast-track processing lanes at airports across the United States and Asia-Pacific region. The new legislation is expected to benefit hundreds of Hawaii residents by making it easier to travel and conduct business across regions critical to the state’s local economy.

PROTECT Our Children Act of 2017 (S. 782) – This bipartisan bill is designed to protect children from online predators by strengthening the task forces charged with combating online child exploitation and increasing penalties for predators. The legislation was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on March 30 and signed into law on Nov. 2.

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