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Capitol Hill Update, 24 February, 2014
House & Senate/Schedule: Both chambers have returned from a week’s recess, and both will remain in session until their next week off - March 17-21.
Legislative Highlight of the Week: H.R. 3865, the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014. Sponsored by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), this bill would stop the IRS – for one year – from finalizing a proposed regulation that would stop 501(c)4 non-profit groups from exercising nearly any political speech during an election year. This bill would basically silence many Tea Party, 9/12, and other grassroots liberty groups. For more on what the proposed regulation would do to inhibit political free speech, read Julie Borowski’s article HERE. FreedomWorks strongly supports this legislation.
House/Property Rights: On Tuesday, the House will vote on H.R. 1944, the Private Property Rights Protection Act. Sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), this bill would stop states from using eminent domain to confiscate private property for “economic development” purposes if that state takes federal economic development dollars, and stop the federal government from exercising eminent domain for the same purpose. The bill also provides for legal avenues to sue the government if these abuses occur. This bill is designed to undo some of the damage done by the Supreme Court Case Kelo vs. New London, which declared that state governments are allowed to confiscate private land and give it to another private entity.
House/Flood Insurance: On Wednesday the House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 3370, the homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. Sponsored by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), this bill, like the Senate bill that passed earlier this month, undoes important reforms that were made to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). These reforms were designed to start winding down the amount of taxpayer subsidies for homeowners in flood-prone areas, and to have flood insurance premiums start to more accurately reflect what they would be in an actual competitive market. Instead, the House bill will continue to over-subsidize the premiums of people who choose to live in high-risk areas, and will incur further debts in a program that is already $25 billion in debt to taxpayers. FreedomWorks will Key Vote NO against this bill.
House/Technology: On Tuesday, the House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. Currently, even after your existing contract with a wireless service provider ends, breaking the digital “lock” on your cell phone to transfer to another carrier is illegal – restricting you from using your own property as you see fit. Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), this bill claims to lift the prohibition on digitally unlocking cell phones for one year. However, there is one caveat – “bulk unlocking”, i.e. running a company which unlocks large quantities of phones and resells them, remains illegal. There is no reason why any aspect of cell phone unlocking ought to be illegal, and there is no reason to target bulk unlocking except to
House/Financial Services: The House is scheduled to vote this week on the Consumer Financial Protection and Soundness Act. Sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), this bill attempts to rein in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of the major new regulatory bodies created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill of 2010. Currently this agency has essentially no oversight by Congress, and this bill would at least reform the CFPB by making it an independent executive agency headed by a board of five members – all subject to Congressional approval – rather than being headed by one individual.
House/Transparency: On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 3308, the Taxpayer Transparency Act. Sponsored by Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), this bill would require any advertising or educational communication made by any federal agency to clearly identify that the communication is taxpayer funded.
House/Regulatory Reform: The House is scheduled to vote late this week on H.R. 2804, the All Economic Regulations Are Transparent Act. Sponsored by Rep. George Holding (R-NC), this bill would amend the regulatory process to require that every agency head provide a great deal of information on new proposed regulations. All of this information, including a cost/benefit analysis of the rule, must be published on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) website for at least six months before the regulation is allowed to proceed.
Senate/Veteran’s Affairs: The Senate may finally take up a Veteran’s Affairs bill by Senator Sanders (D-VT) this week, S. 1982. One major concern with this bill is that as it stands it would still be funded using Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) spending. OCO is off-budget emergency spending that is supposed to be reserved for funding actual wartime operational needs. Funding this bill with OCO, or with other methods such as a tax increase, would be unacceptable.