Congress at Work for December 2016

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Doing Right by Veterans, Citizen Trailblazing and Election Parity

Congress - Dec 2016Gold Star Families Voices Act (H.R. 4511) – Introduced in February by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), this bill amends the Veterans’ Oral History Project Act to include biographical history video and audio recordings about members of the Armed Forces who died while serving in a war by their immediate family members. The bill was passed by both chambers in November and is currently awaiting the president’s signature.

National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (H.R. 845) – Introduced in February by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), this bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to publish in the Federal Register a strategy to significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in trail maintenance for the National Forest System. The bill was unanimously passed by both chambers and is now with the president.

No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act (H.R. 5392) – This bill instructs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to improve the Veterans Crisis Line through various quality assurance measures. The objective is to ensure each call is answered in a timely manner by someone in accordance with guidance from the American Association of Suicidology. A plan to meet this objective must be submitted by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Committees on Veterans Affairs of both houses of Congress within 180 days of the legislation’s enactment. Introduced in June by Rep. David Young (R-IA), this bill was passed by Unanimous Consent in both chambers and is currently awaiting the president to sign into law.

Election Integrity Act of 2016 (H.R. 6072) – In response to the hacking of files and emails from the Democratic National Committee earlier this year, this legislation is designed to prevent potential tampering of U.S. national elections through the use of electronic voting machines. Presently, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina use only electronic voting with no paper trail. Introduced in September by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) to combat this problem, the legislation would require “durable and readable” paper ballots to be verified by each voter before leaving the polling station. It would mandate that detailed printed results be available to the viewing public that would reveal any inconsistencies or problems and significantly limit the purchase of any voting systems that do not provide paper ballots. The bill would also prevent any electronic machines from being insecurely linked to the Internet.

Fairness in Political Advertising Act (H.R. 6085) – This bill also was introduced as a result of events that unfolded in the 2016 presidential election. A recent analysis of coverage in the media of the presidential candidates estimated how much it would have cost to purchase the same amount of air time at current market rates for advertisements. President-elect Donald Trump earned $1.89 billion worth of media coverage compared to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s $746 million. This new bill, introduced by Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), is designed to legislate parity. The bill was assigned to a congressional committee in September for consideration.