President Obama signed trade secrets bill into law, as well as making the American bison the national mammal. Federal Court sided with House in lawsuit against the Obama administrattion over implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Senate passed first “regular order” appropriations bill, regarding energy and water spending. House passed several bills related to opioid abuse and treatment, looking to combine passed bills into one legislative package and work out differences with Senate-passed opioid bill. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland submitted extensive questionnaire to Senate Judiciary.
Top Search on POPVOX this week: "firearms"
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H.R. 5090 To ensure that air transportation between the United States and the European Union complies with the intent of article 17 bis of the United States-European Union-Norway-Iceland Air Transport Agreement of June 21, 2011
President Obama signs trade secrets bill into law
President Obama signed trade secrets bill into law, with some describing the new protections as "the most significant expansion of federal law in intellectual property in 70 years." The bill allows companies to sue entities for trade secret theft in federal court. Previously, only the Justice Department can sue on allegations of trade secrets theft.
The bill was largely uncontroversial, passing both chambers last month.
President Obama signed the bill into law, saying:
"What these members of Congress have done is to, on a bipartisan basis, pass a strong enforcement bill that allows us not only to go after folks who are stealing trade secrets through criminal actions, but also through civil actions, and hurt them where it counts in their pocketbook."
Read: full remarks
So what is a trade secret, anyway?
Trade secrets are a form of intellectual property. 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.
Court sides with House in ACA Suit
On Thursday, Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for DC sided with the House of Representatives in a lawsuit against the Obama Administration regarding its implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Read the decision
The ACA created a system for insurers to give discounts to people with incomes below a certain threshold, with the federal government reimbursing insurers for those discounts. The House of Representatives sued the Administration claiming that while Congress authorized (decided to spend the money) the program in the ACA, the money for the payments to insurers was never actually appropriated (writing the check). The court agreed with the House:
Paying out Section 1402 reimbursements without an appropriation thus violates the Constitution. Congress authorized reduced cost sharing but did not appropriate monies for it, in the FY 2014 budget or since. Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.
Such appropriations are an integral part of our constitutional checks and balances, insofar as they tie the Executive Branch to the Legislative Branch via purse strings
What happens now?
The decision enjoins (halts) payments to insurers under the program unless or until Congress appropriates funds for it. However, the court will “stay its injunction” (postpone stopping the payments) until the case has an opportunity to be heard on appeal. So, while the decision is a victory for House Republicans, nothing changes until after an appeal.
Speaking of Appropriations…
This week, by a vote of 98-0, the Senate passed the first “regular order” Energy and Water Appropriations bill since 2009. Regular Order requires each of the twelve appropriations to pass through committees and then both chambers to appropriate spending for the coming year. In past years, Congress has not been able to get all twelve through the process, resorting instead to “continuing resolutions” (extending spending from previous years) or, as last year, an “Omnibus” (wrapping all the spending bills up into one big one).
It is still highly unlikely that all twelve spending bills will make it through the process in time this year, but the Senate is acting early to do its part. Immediately after passage of the $37.5 billion Energy and Water funding bill, the Senate announced a deal to consider the “THUD” and “MilCon-VA” appropriations bills together, as a substitute amendment to H.R. 2577.
Read full post for more information about spending levels within each appropriations bill.
House passed several opioid related bills
House spent the week considering legislation related to opioid abuse and treatment. House leaders plan to combine handful of passed bills into single legislative package; then request conference with the Senate to hash out differences between House package and Senate-passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).
Bills passed this week include (but are not limited to):
- Bilirakis bill to require the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Dept. of Defense (DOD) to update clinical guidelines for opioid therapy and implement enhanced pain management and safe opioid prescribing education and training
- Guinta bill to require Government Accountability Office study on Good Samaritan laws that pertain to opioid overdoses
- Dold bill to authorize grants for states programs that allow pharmacists to distribute opioid overdose reversal medication to individuals without a prescription
- Clark bill to permit certain partial fillings of prescriptions
- McCarthy bill to direct Dept. of Justice (DOJ) and Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) to evaluate the effectiveness of grant programs to address problems pertaining to opioid abuse
- Luján bill to reauthorize residential treatment programs for pregnant and postpartum women and establish new substance abuse pilot program
As well as larger bill that would authorize $103M annually over 2017-2021 for Department of Justice (DOJ) grants to state, local, and tribal governments for programs to combat opioid abuse:
Senate passed CARA in March by a vote of 94-1, with Sen. Ben Sasse [R, NE] in opposition, saying he's "not convinced fighting addiction…is best addressed at the federal level." The broad drug treatment and prevention bill is the largest of its kind in nearly a decade.
CARA includes provisions to:
- Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other responders to help in the reversal of overdoses
- Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medicines
- Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and intervention program to promote best practices throughout the country
- Increase resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders
- Launch medication assisted treatment and intervention demonstration program
- Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs
Bills heading to President Obama
- Senate passed bill by unanimous consent to eliminate dated references to minorities in federal law text. House passed the bill unanimously in February.
- Senate cleared long-delayed measure to provide tariff relief for U.S. manufacturers by unanimous consent. House passed bipartisan bill 415-2 last month.
- Senate passed bill to ensure cremated remains of Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) be eligible for interment in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. House unanimously passed bill in March. Now the bill heads back to the House to work out technical differences, and then it's off to the White House.
Source: Mike DeBonis/Twitter
Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland submitted questionnaire to Senate Judiciary
Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland submitted an extensive questionnaire to Senate Judiciary in effort to spur hearings and confirmation vote.
Questionnaire didn’t include detailed financial information, departing from recent Supreme Court nominees. In recent years, Senate Judiciary has created a customized questionnaire for nominees. In the absence of one created by Senate Judiciary, Garland used a form completed by more routine judicial nominees.
Read: complete questionnaire
- 45% of registered voters think Congress should take legislative action to address Puerto Rico's debt crisis. 59% are concerned that Congress will be required to come up with emergency debt relief if the island cannot restructure its debt.
- New White House report warns that algorithms might inadvertently discriminate against particular populations — similar findings to FTC report released earlier this year.
- Scientists detected atmospheric oxygen on Mars for the first time in 40 years.
- You can now search the Panama Papers online, widening the extent of the release and with several Americans listed.
- Surprising side effect of the opioid epidemic? Rising organ donation.
- New index ranks countries on resilience, examining infrastructure, supply chains, natural disasters, and more.
- Thanks to a particularly sunny and windy day, Germany hit new high in renewable energy generation, with power prices going negative, meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity. Check out the U.S. cities where going solar is all the rage.
- New from Congressional Research Service: Education Dept. "exceeded its statutory authority" on implementation of new ESSA law.
- National migration trend has reversed, see what states people really want to move to, and which ones not so much.
- Morning Consult surveyed registered voters and compiled the most and least popular governors.
- New from PEW: where the middle class is shrinking, compare U.S. cities
Legislative Lowdown: States Edition
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan [R] signed a bill into law, making the state the first to require health insurers to cover over-the-counter contraceptives with no co-pay. The bill also provides free vasectomies for men.
- Austin, TX voted down Prop. 1, a ballot initiative to reverse city ordinance requiring driver fingerprint background checks, supported by Lyft and Uber. Both companies have paused operations in the city and are threatening to do the same in other markets with similar laws.
- Louisiana legislature passed bill requiring women to wait three days before receiving an abortion, tripling the state's existing waiting time, and joining five other states with 72-hour waiting periods: Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah. Gov. John Bel Edwards [D] plans to sign the bill into law.
- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey [R] signed bill into law that invalidates existing local government drone laws and prohibits any new rules and regulations.
- Bills to legalize medical marijuana cleared Ohio House and Louisiana House.
- Release of new Puerto Rico bill delayed, but committee vote is still scheduled for next week.
- Sens. Inhofe and Boxer reached an initial agreement on bill to overhaul 40-year-old toxic chemicals law.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing pressure to bring up revised criminal justice bill.
- Senate Veterans' Affairs unanimously approved legislative package that affects how the VA hires, fires, pays, and manages workforce. See nearly 400-page omnibus bill, known as the Veterans First Act (S. 2921).
- House Select Committee on Benghazi turned two years old, making it one of the longest-running special congressional investigations in history. Meanwhile, Chairman Trey Gowdy sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter accusing the Pentagon of wading into politics and making false claims.
- FDA Commissioner Robert Califf cited concerns with 21st Century Cures legislation, saying it could cause drugs and devices to be approved too quickly.
- President Obama called on Congress to combat tax evasion and money laundering.
- Keep hearing about the Clean Power Plan but not clear on the details? Check this out.
- White House announced President Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan later this month, set to become the first sitting U.S. president to do so. Obama will visit the site of the world's first atomic bombing.
- Speaker Paul Ryan published an op ed on the Iran deal.
- Puerto Rico's been receiving billions of dollars in aid through "little-noticed and convoluted tax arrangement."
- EPA released landmark methane regulations for new oil and gas sources.
- Sen. Jeff Flake [R, AZ] released new government waste book about scientific studies.
- House Energy and Commerce subcommittee advanced Olson bill to weaken EPA's power to regulate ground-level ozone.
- Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden sent letters to Nevada and Wyoming secretaries of state about anonymous shell companies in their states with ties to the law firm at the center of the Panama Papers.
- President Obama signed law making the bison the country's first national mammal. Interior compiled 15 facts about the American Bison.
- Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew visited Puerto Rico, seeing the effects of financial collapse and spread of the Zika virus.
- New report from House Energy & Commerce majority concluded that CMS Acting Administrator "misled Congress" regarding recouped ACA grant money.
- Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR] plans to introduce anti-government hacking bill next week, addressing Supreme Court's recent changes to federal criminal procedure. Congress has until Dec. 1 to reverse or revise the measures before they go into effect.
- Senate Judiciary discussed changes to controversial surveillance law (FISA) that expires next year.
- NYC public schools added graphic novel series from Rep. John Lewis [D, GA-5] to eighth grade social studies curriculum.
- Senate negotiators are working on a deal to provide more than $1 billion in emergency funds to combat the Zika virus.
- Sen. Tim Scott [R, SC] got in on the Running Man.
- Key Senators are growing impatient for House to pass legislative solution to Puerto Rico's debt crisis.
- Bipartisan group of 30+ lawmakers touted their tax bills at yesterday's Ways and Means Member Day hearing.
- Sen. David Vitter [R, LA] placed a hold on Beth Cobert's nomination as director of OPM over provision that allows congressional offices to sidestep Obamacare provision that requires lawmakers and their staffs to obtain health insurance on public exchange.
- Senate Commerce announced hearing on 25-year-old law governing robocalls and "Do Not Call" list.
- 127 lawmakers sent letter to Fed Chair Janet Yellen, saying the Federal Reserve is disproportionately white and male.
"Drug Price Control: How Some Governments Do It" by David Blumenthal and David Squires, The Commonwealth Fund
"International Energy Outlook 2016" from the U.S. Energy Information Administration
"Off the Podium: Why Public Health Concerns for Global Spread of Zika Virus Means That Rio de Janeiro’s 2016 Olympic Games Must Not Proceed" by Amir Attaran, Harvard Public Health Review
What, If Anything, Has Judge Garland Said About the
Second Amendment and Guns?, Congressional Research Service