Top Search on POPVOX this week: "HR25"
Most active bill on POPVOX this week:
Trade secrets bill headed to President Obama
The bill allows companies to sue entities for trade secret theft in federal court. Currently, only the Justice Department can sue on allegations of trade secrets theft.
House chose to take up Senate-passed bill, rather than similar measure from Rep. Doug Collins [R, GA-9].
So what is a trade secret, anyway?
Information that someone has taken reasonable measures to protect which derives independent economic value from not being generally know.
Examples include: designs, negative information, computer software, customer lists, non-public financial information, cost and pricing information, manufacturing information, confidential information about business opportunities, and certain personnel information.
Trade secrets are a form of intellectual property. However, other common forms such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks all have federal civil causes of actions as well as federal registration. Currently, trade secrets are protected civilly at the state level only. (See: Jones Day)
Obama administration strongly supported the measure, highlighting the need for effective protection of trade secrets and commending lawmakers on bipartisan effort to formulate the bill. (See: Statement of Administration Policy)
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law, with some describing the new protections as "the most significant expansion of federal law in intellectual property in 70 years."
House passed e-mail privacy protections bill
House unanimously passed most co-sponsored bill this Congress — bill to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, law that allows law enforcement to access emails without a warrant if the emails are at least six months old. Bill would remove six month distinction, extending privacy protections to older emails.
The bill would not alter law enforcement's ability to subpoena individual targets of an investigation for emails or other electronic communications. It would, however, prohibit law enforcement from obtaining such communications from companies like Google or Microsoft.
During debate, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte said that when the law was written in 1986, "Tweets were the sounds made by birds in the trees and clouds were found only in the skies."
Bill sponsor Rep. Jared Polis [D, CO-2] echoed these sentiments, "When ECPA was written, the internet as we understand it did not exist."
House voted to disapprove DOL's "Fiduciary Rule"
House voted 234-183 to disapprove a rule from the Department of Labor requiring financial advisors to disclose any incentive agreements or conflicts of interest they have with financial products they recommend, known as the fiduciary rule.
The rule requires brokers to act in the “best interest” of their clients when handling retirement accounts. This rule is meant to protect workers from conflicting investment advice and improve disclosures. Opponents of the rule say that it would discourage financial firms from serving low-income clients.
The CRA (Congressional Review Act) gives Congress sixty “session days” to overturn a rule issued by the Executive branch. (See: Congressional Research Service)
Disapproval resolutions are “rarely used and almost always veto-ed,” but have become more common in the current Congress, with resolutions to disapprove environmental regulations passing both the House and Senate (and encountering the Obama veto pen.)
S.J.RES. 33 JOINT RESOLUTION PROVIDING FOR CONGRESSIONAL DISAPPROVAL UNDER CHAPTER 8 OF TITLE 5, UNITED STATES CODE, OF THE RULE SUBMITTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR RELATING TO THE DEFINITION OF THE TERM "FIDUCIARY" AND THE CONFLICT OF INTEREST RULES WITH RESPECT TO RETIREMENT INVESTMENT ADVICE
Sponsor: Sen. Johnny Isakson [R, GA]
Senate Appropriations stalled
Appropriations process stalled in the Senate with two failed cloture votes on $37.5B energy and water spending bill. Disagreement arose over proposed amendment to prevent the government from using federal funds to purchase heavy water from Iran's nuclear program.
Senate failed to invoke cloture on the bill in two votes: first 50-46 on Wednesday and then 52-43 on Thursday — falling short of the 60 votes needed to end debate. Procedural refresher: Senate cannot vote on the bill until cloture is invoked or until lawmakers agree on how to handle the heavy water amendment offered by Sen. Tom Cotton [R, AR].
Lawmakers are divided over whether the amendment is "germane to the bill," meaning it is relevant to the appropriating of fiscal year 2017 funds.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he was "gratified" with the Senate vote. "We've made clear our commitment to a principle that ideologically motivated policy riders are not appropriate for appropriations bills."
Bipartisan Senators unveiled revised criminal justice bill
Bipartisan group of Senators announced new progress on "criminal justice overhaul package." Senate Judiciary approved the bill last year by a vote of 15-5, but disagreements among lawmakers prevented the bill from seeing the Senate floor.
The revised bill still contains provisions to reduce sentences for non-violent offenders but now incorporates new provisions aimed at ensuring violent offenders do not benefit from the bill, such as disqualifying violent criminals from reduced sentencing options.
Defense Bill Advanced #FY17NDAA
On Thursday, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) marked up and passed the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the "NDAA" (H.R. 4909). The NDAA authorizes a total of $610.5 billion in mandatory and discretionary spending for national defense, including $58.8 billion for overseas operations. See: Bill Summary
- Requiring a database of reported military hazing events, Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act (H.R. 5060)
Prohibiting the housing unaccompanied alien children on US military installations located
inside the US.
- Delisting the Lesser Prarie Chicken and the American Burying Beetle from the Endangered Species List for two years.
- Extending military family leave
- Requiring women to register with Selective Service
See full amendment list.
New Bills on the Block
- New Inhofe-Boxer bill would authorize 25 Army Corps projects in 17 states to improve water infrastructure and includes $220M in aid for Flint and other cities with water contamination.
- New Long-Matsui bill would establish a chief information security officer position at the Department of Health and Human Services, focused on upping cybersecurity protections.
- New Blackburn bill would prohibit the use or sale of software that could hack an internet ticket seller's network to steal tickets and allow the Federal Trade Commission or private firms to take legal action against people who sell tickets acquired through hacking.
- New Manchin bill would expand network of people who can provide consent for a patient's substance abuse records to be disclosed to their physicians.
Legislative Lowdown: States Edition
- A new bill in New York would allow the police to examine drivers' phones to determine use at the time of an accident — similar measure recently failed in New Jersey and Maryland, still being considered in Vermont.
- North Carolina lawmakers introduced bill to repeal law that restricted restroom use to the sex listed on birth certificates, rather than that of gender identity.
- California Assembly introduced bill that would give landlords the power to prohibit smoking inside rental units.
- Michigan lawmakers advanced bill to stop automatically treating 17-year-olds criminal offenders as adults.
- Senate confirmed Roberta Jacobson to be the ambassador of Mexico. Sen. Marco Rubio [R, FL] blocked the nomination for months over her role in normalizing relations with Cuba, but agreed to lift the hold after Senate Foreign Relations voted to extend sanctions against Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses.
- 81 Senators sent a letter to the Obama administration calling for a new foreign agreement with Israel. The U.S. has until 2018 to conclude a new 10-year deal, but senators argued the new agreement is needed sooner due to security concerns in the Middle East.
- Lawmakers and journalists alike participated in take your (grand)kid to work day, with kids asking questions and participating in pressers…plus plenty of shenanigans, like one minute of dead air on NPR because a room full of buttons is just way too tempting for grade-schoolers.
- Senate negotiators are nearing a deal on at least $1.1B in federal funds to combat the Zika virus. Meanwhile, CDC confirmed first Zika-related death.
- Despite "agile approach," it's looking like some federal agencies will not be ready to publish and standardize spending data by May 2017 deadline (refresher on passage of the DATA Act).
- Senate Armed Services approved nomination of General Lori Robinson to lead the U.S. Northern Command — if confirmed, Robinson would be the first woman to ever serve as a combatant commander.
- Sen. Bill Nelson [D, FL] scored points for matching his tie to his floor props.
- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Congress will not be able to pass Puerto Rico debt bill before Puerto Rico has to make a $470M debt payment on May 1 — "hopeful" the House will clear the bill before July 1, deadline for $2B debt payment.
- House passed bill to make the bison the national mammal of the U.S.
- Speaker Paul Ryan invited India Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address Congress in June.
- Draft Senate legislation is circulating that would significantly revamp how the Veterans Affairs Department pays and fires some senior executives, as well as toughen the disciplinary process for all employees.
- FCC will soon greenlight Charter's acquisition of Time Warner and Brighthouse, making it the second largest broadband provider. One of the stipulations: Charter cannot cap users' broadband limits for seven years.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fast-tracked two IRS related bills passed by the House last week — Smith bill on IRS fees and Rouzer bill on IRS hiring.
- Morning Consult asked registered voters how they feel about their home-state senators — here's the most (and least) popular Senators in America.
- President Obama plans to send up to 250 additional military personnel to work with Syrian forces to combat ISIS, bringing total U.S. forces in Syria to 300.
- Valeant CEO Michael Pearson testified before Senate Special Committee on Aging this week, acknowledging price spikes in decades-old pharmaceuticals.
- White House will likely make a decision by June on whether to release some classified material withheld from the public 9/11 Commission Report — Senate bill and House res call for full release. Information is "central to dispute" over whether Americans should be able to sue the Saudi Arabian government for damages. See: Cornyn bill
- U.N. special envoy for Syria closed two weeks of talks with warring parties without setting a date for the next round and urged Russia and the U.S. to "revitalize" collapsing cease-fire.
- Supreme Court approved rule change that would let U.S. judges issue search warrants for access to computers located in any jurisdiction. Congress has until Dec. 1 to reject or modify the changes — inaction means the rules take effect automatically.
- You always hear about “normal America” but new analysis says the areas most resembling the U.S. as a whole (in terms of age, educational attainment, and rate and ethnicity) are actually metropolitan areas, with the top three being New Haven, CT; Tampa, FL; Hartford, CT.
Lessons from Prince’s legacy and struggle with digital music markets – Zach Graves, TechDIrt
Defense Authorization and Appropriations Bills: FY1970-FY2016
– Congressional Research Service (CRS)
GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY AND EFFECTIVENESS: Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits – Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Wishing you a wonderful weekend!
– Team POPVOX
Please keep in mind that highlighting a bill does not imply POPVOX endorsement in any way. As always, our goal is to offer one more way to help you stay informed about the complex U.S. legislative system.