We're bidding our summer interns adieu…
…as they share their biggest takeaways from covering and studying Congress. Major opioid legislation recently became law, and we answer the age old question: What does Congress do on recess?
You've probably heard about CARA and may be scratching your head. CARA refers to major opioid legislation Congress passed before adjourning for recess. President Obama recently signed the bill into law, marking the most expansive federal legislation to date for addiction support services.
Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) (S. 524)
Sponsor: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D, RI]
CARA expands opioid addiction intervention, prevention, and education efforts and includes provisions that would support parents and caretakers, as well as increasing the ability of law enforcement agencies and first responders to counter overdoses. The legislation expands resources available to incarcerated individuals afflicted with addiction disorders and strengthens states’ ability to monitor drug prescriptions.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 94-1 in March, and the House passed the bill in May by a vote of 407-5. The two chambers met in conference in July, working to resolve differences in their versions of passed legislation. On July 22, President Obama signed the bill into law.
Farewell to our summer interns!
HUGE thank you to our summer interns for all their hard work this summer. Check out their biggest takeaways from a summer spent working on the Hill.
"There’s a lot of good happening in the American political system — yes, even in Washington and even in Congress. I’m walking away from this summer with a brand new Twitter, a farmer’s tan on my feet from the sandals I wear on my walk to work, and a newly rediscovered love for our government."
Read more from Maddie Burton, Government, New Media Intern
Read more from Holly Stokes, Government Relations Interns
Read more from Hannah Gourdie, Legislative Affairs Intern
What does Congress do on recess?
Congress is back home working right now, away on a seven-week recess. A lot of people assume that recess is vacation for Members of Congress, but that’s not true. Part of the problem is the name: recess conjures up images of kids playing tag, a break from school. The official term is “District Work Week,” and recess is just used because in parliamentary procedure, a session of Congress is adjourned and said to stand in recess.
Most Members of Congress use their time away from Washington to interact directly with their constituents. They host town halls, visit small businesses in their districts, and meet with constituents. While they do take time to spend with their families, lawmakers stay busy back home, working to understand constituents, which informs the work they do when they return to Washington.
- There are 102 veterans currently serving in Congress. Four are women (two from each party), and they're teaming up to talk military issues.
- President Obama commuted the sentences of 214 inmates, the largest single-day batch in the last century. This is the fourth round of commutations for drug offenders from the White House this year.
- This interactive calculator shows how much tax havens are costing U.S. in missed taxes.
- New jobs report: U.S. added 255,000 jobs and unemployment rate held steady at 4.9%.
- In biggest healthcare fraud case the Department of Justice has ever brought, prosecutors said Florida network defrauded Medicare and Medicaid of over $1 billion over the last 14 years.
- Oil prices are falling again, check out these charts.
- 10 additional people in Florida have been infected with Zika virus after being bitten by local mosquitoes, bringing the total to 14 cases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued travel advisory, its first ever advising people not to travel to a place in the continental United States.
Legislative Lowdown: States Edition
- Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit employers from asking about applicants' salaries before extending job offers.
- Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner [R] signed legislation that would change the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana from the possibility of jail time to a citation similar to a traffic ticket.
- New York announced it will bar registered sex offenders on parole from playing Pokémon Go. New bill would go further and prevent augmented reality game developers from placing incentives (such as Pokéstops) within 100 feet of a registered sex offender.
- To fill $1.3 billion gap in the state’s budget, Pennsylvania residents will be charged a tax on digital download services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. The tax was enacted as part of a sales tax extension.
- New California bill would overturn law barring researchers from paying women to donate their eggs to science.
- Federal court dismissed Alabama’s lawsuit against the U.S. government contesting the possible relocation of Syrian refugees to the state.
- Delaware Supreme Court ruled that the state’s death penalty law is unconstitutional, holding that the General Assembly should revise it for it to be upheld. The court opined that the law violates the U.S. Constitution by giving judges, not juries, the final say to impose a death sentence.
- These states have passed legislation on police bodycams.
- Texas worked out a deal with the Department of Justice that will loosen its voter ID law in time for the November general election. The law will now allow those without an ID to sign an affidavit certifying they are a U.S. citizen and present proof of residence.
- Supreme Court blocked Virginia transgender student from using bathroom of his choice.
- Several courts have been scrutinizing voter ID laws. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked NC law that limited types of acceptable photo IDs, restricted early voting, and eliminated same-day registration. In Kansas, a county judge ruled that votes cast from people who did not provide proof of U.S. citizenship when registering must still be counted in state and local elections. A federal judge in Wisconsin struck down several provisions included in state's voter ID law.
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo [D] has directed the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to prohibit the state’s 3,000 sex offenders on parole from playing Pokémon Go and other similar games. The state will be working with Niantic, the creator of Pokémon Go, to cross-reference the game’s players with the state’s database of sex offenders.
- Obama administration organized airlift of $400M worth of cash to Iran that coincided with January release of four Americans detained in Tehran. Payment was part of settlement related to arms deal signed just before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Department of Justice officials objected to the timing but were overruled by the State Department. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to appear at future hearing to discuss the payment.
- Sens. Richard Blumenthal [D, CT] and Ed Markey [D, MA] sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, calling for "robust cybersecurity and privacy provisions" for airwaves that will comprise vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity. See related bill.
- Former Rep. Steve LaTourette [R, OH-14] died after battling pancreatic cancer. Several lawmakers said he will be missed for his friendliness and sense of humor.
- White House released final guidance for environmental reviews under National Environmental Policy Act, directing federal agencies to consider climate change.
- Rep. Carlos Curbelo [R, FL-26] rocked two different shoes.
- Space exploration startup Moon Express Inc. became the first commercial venture to receive U.S. regulatory authorization for venture beyond Earth's orbit, looking to land on the moon in 2017 but several obstacles still exist.
- President Obama penned an essay on feminism.
- Most Americans view opioids as our country's most serious drug problem.
- President Obama will bypass Congress and seek U.N. resolution on nuclear testing. Learn more about the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).
- Pentagon launched military campaign against ISIS in Libya, using 2001 war authorization intended for al Qaeda in the Afghanistan War.
- President Obama celebrated 55 years young with family dinner, star-studded bash, and friendship bracelets from Vice President Joe Biden.
- Central Intelligence Agency Chief John Brennan said he's not optimistic Syria will remain one country.
- NY and MA attorneys general rejected House Science subpoena regarding investigation into whether ExxonMobil and parts of fossil fuel industry misled the public on the effects of climate change.
- Six House Republicans sent a letter to President Obama, saying they oppose lame-duck consideration of Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- Obama administration said half of the money it repurposed to combat Zika has been spent.
- Treasury rolled out new proposal aimed at preventing estate tax avoidance.
- Group of Democratic senators from rural states sent a letter to Federal Communications Committee Chairman Tom Wheeler regarding proposed rule on business broadband service in low-density markets.
- North Korea launched ballistic missile into the waters off Japan.
- President Obama said he still plans to push Congress to approve Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- Vice President Joe Biden officiated wedding of two longtime White House staffers, Brian and Joe, at his house.
- Federal appeals court tossed out part of Environmental Protection Agency boiler rule, citing improper exemption within the regulation.
Congress is back home working, and we're sending a summer version of Gavel Down — full of how current events relate to Congressional happenings, as well as updates on major legislation. 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.