Gavel Down Closing out the Week in Congress

6 min read

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.

Read up on all the major legislation this Congress has passed and why you're probably not hearing about it.

POPVOX S.524 CARA Timeline.001

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

"As my internship draws to an end, I am filled with a greater appreciation for the work that goes into informing and empowering citizens – along with the work that Congress does to understand and represent their constituents."
Read more from Holly Stokes, Government Relations Interns
"It wasn’t the Congress you normally see in a soundbite on the nightly news. Rather, it was a constructive, collaborative atmosphere that was refreshing to see.”
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.



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.


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.