Congress at Work for October 2016

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Families to Sue Terrorist Governments, Babies Get Bathrooms and Milk, and Native American Tourism Gets a Boost

Congress - Oct 2016Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2015 (H.R. 670) – Introduced in 2015 by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), this legislation is designed to fix a 20-year-old law that puts people with disabilities at a disadvantage. Presently, only a parent, grandparent, legal guardian or a court may establish a special needs trust, which means that a disabled person must incur the expense of petitioning a court in order to create one for himself. However, many people with special needs are able to handle their own financial affairs, so this bill would clear the way for them to do so. Setting up a special needs trust allows the beneficiary use of certain assets for living expenses while still meeting the income requirements for Medicaid coverage. The bill was recently put on the docket for consideration by the House of Representatives.

Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (S. 2040) – This bill was passed by Congress on Sept. 9 and is currently with the President, who has indicated he will veto it. The Act would allow Americans to file lawsuits in U.S. courts against foreign governments that support acts of terrorism by their citizens that result in injuries, death or damages occurring in the United States. For example, families of 9/11 victims could sue Saudi Arabia for damages. President Obama is expected to veto the legislation because it could open up the potential for other countries to sue the United States for criminal acts conducted by American citizens.

Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) Act (H.R. 5147) – Up for consideration by the House in September, this bill was introduced by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). The Act would require all male and female restrooms in public buildings to be equipped with baby changing facilities. These accommodations also must meet the standards required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The only exceptions to the rule would be for restrooms in a public building that are not available for public use, or restrooms that have clear signage indicating another male or female restroom (with baby changing facilities) is located within the same section or corridor.

Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening Act (H.R. 5065) – Introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), this bill would ensure that TSA security screening personnel fully understand that the TSA guidelines permit baby formula, breast milk and juice on airplanes. The House Majority Leader indicated that this bill, which was introduced last April, may be considered in late September.

Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act (S. 1579) – This bill was introduced in June by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and passed by both arms of Congress in September; it is currently awaiting the President’s signature. The Act is designed to expand heritage and cultural tourism opportunities in Native American communities, and increase coordination and collaboration with Federal tourism assets.