Congress at Work for January 2019
Prisoner Reform, the Farm Bill, and Taking Aim at Weapons of Mass Destruction
Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 2018 H.R. 7213 – Sponsored by Rep. Daniel Donovan (R-NY), this bill amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to establish a Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office as part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). All personnel, budget authority and assets of the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and the Office of Health Affairs will be transferred to this new office. Its function will be to coordinate DHS strategy and policy to plan, detect and protect against the importation, possession, storage, transportation, development or use of unauthorized chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials, devices or agents. This new office also will have a Chief Medical Officer to advise DHS on medical and public health issues. The bill was introduced on Dec. 3, 2018, and signed into the law by the president on Dec. 21, 2018.
FIRST Step Act (S. 756) – This legislation is designed to prepare former prisoners to re-enter their communities as responsible citizens by allowing them to serve the final days of their sentences in halfway houses or home confinement. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is authorized to develop a risk and needs assessment system to offer each prisoner individualized, evidence-based recidivism reduction plans. The program will include vocational training, educational support, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, anger management courses, faith-based initiatives and other resources to reduce the chance that men and women re-offend. This bill also requires that prisoners be placed in facilities located nearer their families; that female inmates have access to personal products as needed; and that individuals leaving custody receive identification documents to help them get a job. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK). It was introduced on March 29, 2017, and signed into law by the president on Dec. 21, 2018.
Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) of 2017 (H.R. 1918) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) on April 5, 2017, and signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018. It requires the president to oppose certain loans by international financial institutions that would benefit the government of Nicaragua until he can certify that the government of that country is taking effective steps to combat corruption and promote democracy, free speech, civil society and rule of law.
21st Century IDEA (H.R. 5759) – The purpose of this bill is to improve executive agency digital services. It ensures that any new or redesigned website, web-based form, application or digital service has a consistent appearance; does not overlap with or duplicate any existing websites; and is accessible to individuals with disabilities. It also mandates that executive agency websites be regularly reviewed, consolidated and eliminated, as needed.
Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) – Also known as the Farm Bill, this legislation was introduced on May 10, 2018, by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA). It amends and extends major programs for income support, food and nutrition, land conservation, trade promotion, rural development, research, forestry, horticulture and other programs administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for five years through 2023. Among its provisions, the bill makes changes to the eligibility requirements for individuals participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including expanding the population that is subject to work requirements. The legislation, which is budget neutral and $112 billion below baseline funding, was signed into law by the president on Dec. 20, 2018.