December 5, 2016

Legislative Focus: 21st Century Cures, Government Funding
Lawmakers have until Dec. 9 to fund the government through a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown. The text of the CR is expected to be released today. The Senate is expected to advance the House-passed “Cures” package including medical innovation, mental health language, and opioid funding – although some groups have raised concerns over its funding mechanisms.

Later this week, the House is expected to begin consideration of a continuing resolution and could take up the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 which funds water projects nationwide and is expected to contain the reauthorization language for the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act.

Senate Floor: Convened at 3:00pm ET for consideration of the Cures package. The cloture vote is expected for 5:30pm.

House Floor: Convened at 2:00pm for consideration of 6 bills under suspension.

Key Hearings and Markups

Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee

  • Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee hearing on “Assessing the Security of Our Critical Transportation Infrastructure.” Wednesday, December 7 at 2:30 p.m., 253 Russell Building.

House Energy and Commerce Committee

  • Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on “Volkswagen’s Emissions Cheating Settlement: Questions Concerning ZEV Program Implementation.” Tuesday, December 6 at 10 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Building.

The Week in Review

Senate and House Pass Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2016
On Thursday, December 1st, the Senate passed S.2577, the Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2016. The House passed the bill on Tuesday, November 29th, by voice vote.  The bill now goes to the President for consideration. The bill would amend the federal criminal code to require a defendant, as a mandatory condition of supervised release, to pay court-ordered restitution. The bill would also amend the Justice for All Act of 2004, the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act of 2004 and the Innocence Protection Act of 2004. Text and summary of the bill can be found here.

Department of Labor Releases Final Rule on Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Provisions of WIOA
Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center published a final rule updating the Section 188 Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Regulations governing any programs or activities carried out with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I funds. The regulation, originally issued in 1999, prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, political affiliation or belief and citizenship status against participants in and other beneficiaries of WIOA Title I–financially assisted programs and activities. The new final rule makes a number of substantive changes to reflect updates to other nondiscrimination laws since 1999 in addition to other changes. Among those are changes to the Department of Labor’s enforcement program for the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity provisions of WIOA, most notably increasing the frequency of governors’ compliance monitoring reviews from “periodically” to annually. Other changes made in the rule include clarifying that sex discrimination includes discrimination based on pregnancy, transgender status and sex stereotyping; establishing that discrimination based on national origin includes failing to provide services to someone with limited English proficiency; updating language to ensure that the definition of disability is interpreted more broadly; and addressing accessibility requirements for technology and the use of service animals. For more information about the final rule, please see the DOL Fact Sheet here.

Budget Process Reform Discussion Draft Released
Last week, Rep. Price (R-GA), the outgoing Chairman of the House Budget Committee released a discussion draft on a proposal to reform the Congressional budget process, legislation is expected in the 115th Congress. The proposal would make several broad changes, including moving the beginning of the Federal fiscal year from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1, a calendar-year cycle and biennial budgeting processes, resulting in a biennial appropriations process. The proposal would also fundamentally change how Congress considers transportation legislation financed by the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and/or Airport and Airway Trust Fund programs. The proposal would “treat obligation limits on contract authority from the HTF and Airport and Airway Trust Fund as discretionary budget authority and outlays”. In addition, the proposal would make the House’s “Ryan rule”, which requires offsets the same year a general fund transfer occurs, also applicable to the Senate and all federal trust funds, including the HTF. Additional information on the proposal can be found here.

EPA Releases Plan to Improve Safety, Reliability of Nation’s Drinking Water
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a plan calling on the government, utilities, community organizations and other stakeholders to cooperate to increase the safety and reliability of drinking water. While U.S. drinking water remains among the safest in the world, the EPA outlined six priority areas in which there are opportunities to improve safety. These six areas are: promoting equity and build capacity for drinking water infrastructure financing and management in disadvantaged, small and environmental justice communities; advancing next generation oversight for the Safe Drinking Water Act; strengthening source water protection and resilience of drinking water supplies; taking action to address unregulated contaminants; improving transparency, public education and risk communication on drinking water safety; and reducing lead risks through the Lead and Copper Rule. The plan includes a series of proposed actions in each priority area that the EPA believes will lead to overall safer and more reliable drinking water.

$247 Million Awarded to Governors for Pre-K
The U.S. Department of Education announced that 18 states will receive Preschool Development Grants totaling $247.4 million. The grants are the third year of awards for governors and states that initially competed for the three-year grant in 2014. Preschool Development Grants were codified and the format of the program changed in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Beginning next year, governors will compete for one-year planning and evaluation grants with the opportunity to apply for three-year renewal grants. Today the department also released a national report and 18 state progress reports on the first two years of Preschool Development Grants.

U.S. Department of Education Releases Final Rule on ESSA Accountability Provisions
The U.S. Department of Education released its final regulations for implementation of the accountability, data reporting and state plan provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The final version takes into account many of the more than 20,000 comments collected from public education stakeholders in response to the proposed rule, released in May of 2016. Some significant changes made in the final rule include: lengthening several timelines for states to comply with provisions of ESSA; providing states more flexibility with regard to addressing assessment participation rates, determining indicators of school quality or student success and defining the timeframe within which a school is identified as consistently underperforming; clarifying that summative school determinations may be based on the determinations defined in ESSA itself (comprehensive support and improvement and targeted support and improvement); defining the minimum subgroup size (n-size) for the purposes of accountability below which a state is not required to submit a justification to the department as 30; and requiring states to determine a “research-based” maximum timeline for English language learners to become proficient in English. A summary of the final rule distributed by the department can be found here.