Category Archives: Legislation in the News

DOJ’s Zero-Tolerance Policy for Criminal Illegal Entry [text]

On April 6, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions notified all U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the Southwest Border of a new “zero-tolerance policy” for offenses under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a), which prohibits both attempted illegal entry and illegal entry into the United States by an alien. Here’s the DOJ AG memo. — Joe

House Republicans release their draft “compromise” immigration bill [text]

The nearly 300-page bill is one of two that the entire House will vote on next week. It is considered a moderate alternative to the conservative bill proposed by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) according to Vox. Here’s the text. — Joe

National security tariffs would require congressional approval under new bill

On June 6th, Sen. Bob Corker introduced legislation intended to restrict the president’s authority to issue national security tariffs. The bill would require the president to receive congressional approval before restricting trade on the grounds of national security. Here’s the text of the bill. — Joe

The Trump administration and the Congressional Review Act

From the abstract of The Trump Administration and the Congressional Review Act, 16 Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy ___ (2018) by Paul J. Larkin:

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) gives a new Administration and a new Congress with a majority of members from the President’s party the opportunity to invalidate “midnight rules” promulgated by an outgoing Administration and to reject rules that an agency never submitted to Congress. Taking advantage of that opportunity requires some internal analysis by the new Administration of the rules subject to the CRA and coordination with Congress. The President must identify the particular rules that he wishes to see held invalid; the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader must ensure that there are sufficient votes to invalidate the rules to which the President objects; and both branches must ensure that the CRA process is conducted in an orderly and expeditious manner. In the first half of 2017, the Trump Administration and Congress vigorously used the CRA to eliminate unlawful or unwise agency rules. Until recently, however, the CRA review process has gone quiet. The interesting question is why. There are additional opportunities for use of the CRA. Whether President Trump and Congress will make use of those opportunities is likely more a matter of politics than law.

— Joe

Implementation of FDLP Modernization Act of 2018 would cost $13 million over the 2019-2023 period, CBO says

From the CBO:

CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 5305 would cost $13 million over the 2019-2023 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary funds. … Enacting H.R. 5305 could affect direct spending by agencies that use fees, receipts from the sale of goods, and other collections to cover operating costs. The bill also could affect direct spending by allowing GPO to accept and retain gifts. Therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. Because most of the affected agencies can adjust the amounts collected as their operating costs change, CBO estimates that any net changes in direct spending by agencies would be insignificant. CBO expects that gifts to GPO would be nonmonetary and thus have no effect on the budget. Enacting the bill would not affect revenues.

H/T Gary Price’s InfoDocket post. — Joe

A policy overview of permanent legal immigration to the United States: CRS report

From Permanent Legal Immigration to the United States: Policy Overview (R42866, May 11, 2018):

Four major principles currently underlie U.S. policy on legal permanent immigration: the reunification of families, the admission of immigrants with needed skills, the protection of refugees and asylees, and the diversity of immigrants by country of origin. These principles are embodied in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and are reflected in different components of permanent immigration. Family reunification occurs primarily through family-sponsored immigration. U.S. labor market contribution occurs through employment-based immigration. Humanitarian assistance occurs primarily through the U.S. refugee and asylee programs. Origin country diversity is addressed through the Diversity Immigrant Visa.

The pool of people eligible to immigrate to the United States as LPRs each year typically exceeds numerical limits established by the INA for most immigrant pathways. In an effort to process the demand for LPR visas fairly and in accordance with the national interest, the INA imposes a complex set of numerical limits and preference categories within major immigrant pathways that admit LPRs to the United States on the basis of family relationships, needed skills, and geographic diversity.

The INA limits worldwide permanent immigration to 675,000 persons annually: 480,000 family sponsored immigrants, made up of family-sponsored immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (“immediate relatives”), and a set of ordered family-sponsored preference immigrants (“preference immigrants”); 140,000 employment-based immigrants; and 55,000 diversity visa immigrants. This worldwide limit, however, is referred to as a “permeable cap,” because certain categories of LPRs are not subject to numerical limitations. These include immediate relatives of U.S. citizens within the INA’s family-sponsored immigration provisions, as well as refugees whose number is determined by the President in consultation with Congress. In addition, the number of persons granted asylum is not numerically constrained. Consequently, the number of persons receiving LPR status each year regularly exceeds the INA’s statutory worldwide level for permanent immigration.

The INA further specifies that countries are held to a numerical limit of 7% of the annual worldwide level of family-sponsored and employment-based immigrants, known as the per country limit or country cap. The cap is intended to prevent one or just a few countries from dominating immigrant flows.

— Joe

Facebook’s influence on the Irish abortion referendum

On May 25, 2018, Irish voters will vote on repealing Article 40.3.3 – known as the eighth amendment – which since 1983 has given unborn foetuses and pregnant women an equal right to life, in effect enshrining a ban on abortion in the country’s constitution. Following the controversy around Cambridge Analytica and its influence on the US presidential election and Brexit referendum, there has been concern that outside influence could swing the vote, in a country with just 3.2m eligible voters.

In May, Google announced a ban on all ads relating to the referendum and Facebook announced that it was blocking all foreign referendum advertising. However, Facebook is still a major factor in this campaign. In an attempt to build a picture of how both sides of the referendum are using Facebook to influence voters, the Transparency Initiative Referendum has been examining adverts, including boosted posts, that have appeared in the feeds of 600 Irish-based Facebook users. For a report on the study, see The Guardian’s How Facebook is influencing the Irish abortion referendum. — Joe

Senate passes joint resolution to restore net neutrality [text]

S.J.Res.52 restores net neutrality by nullifying the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission entitled “Restoring Internet Freedom.” The rule published on February 22, 2018: (1) restores the classification of broadband Internet access service as a lightly-regulated “information service”; (2) reinstates private mobile service classification of mobile broadband Internet access service; (3) requires Internet service providers to disclose information about their network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of service; and (4) eliminates the Internet Conduct Standard and the bright-line rules. There is no expectation that the joint resolution will pass in the House. — Joe

State-by-state net neutrality laws

Since the FCC’s Restore Internet Freedom Order, officials across 26 states have taken action aimed at preventing ISPs from engaging in throttling or blocking content or services, engaging in paid prioritization of traffic, or otherwise mismanaging data traffic traveling over broadband networks within state lines. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of local net neutrality state laws. — Joe

Federal and state bill drafting guides

At the federal level, see House Office of Legislative Counsel, Legislative Drafting Guide and Style Manual. For a 50-state survey, see this compilation of resources produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures. — Joe

Bipartisan support for Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act [text]

Intended to protect Special Counsel Mueller, under the terms of the bill a special counsel may be removed only for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest or other good cause, including violation of DOJ policies. Not yet on Congress.gov, the text of the bill was uploaded to Scribd by one of the bills sponsors. — Joe

Oregon is second state to protect net neutrality by statute [text]

Following Washington State’s landmark move last month, Oregon’s governor signed House Bill 4155 into law to attempt to protect net neutrality. Legal challenges are expected. — Joe

House committee markups manual

A principal responsibility of House committees is to conduct markups, to select legislation to consider, to debate it and vote on amendments to it (to mark up), and to report recommendations on passage to the House. House Committee Markups: Manual of Procedures and Procedural Strategies (R41083 Mar. 27, 2018) examines procedures and strategy related to committee markups and provides sample procedural scripts. — Joe

FDLP Modernization Act of 2018, H.R. 5305, introduced

“There is good news and bad news” wrote James R. Jacobs, Free Government Information, about H.R. 5305, the FDLP Modernization Act of 2018. His analysis is highly recommended. See FDLP Modernization Act of 2018 introduced. Take action now to improve the bill! To access other related resources, visit FDLP.gov’s Title 44 Revision page. There, you will find links to related Congressional testimony, the Depository Library Council’s Title 44 recommendations, GPO’s formal comments to proposed legislation, and more. — Joe

Russian cyber actors for interference with the 2016 U.S. elections and malicious cyber-attacks finally sanctioned by Trump administration

Announced Thursday, the Treasury Department enacted what amounts to the most stringent punishment yet by Trump for Russia’s election interference. The new sanctions, which include individuals indicted by the Special Counsel, finally met the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’s mandate to impose measures punishing Moscow for its cyber intrusion.

For general background, see this CRS report — Overview of U.S. Sanctions Regimes on Russia (IN10634, July 11, 2017). — Joe

Washington is first state to establish net neutrality rules by legislation

While several states, including Montana, New York and New Jersey, have taken steps to protect net neutrality by executive orders, Washington is the first state to enact net neutrality rules by legislation. HB 2282 will be put into practice 90 days from now (by June 6th) or whenever the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom order takes effect, whichever comes first. — Joe

50-state survey on gun control

The Washington Post surveyed state regulation of guns, finding seven types of gun control enacted at the state level: red flag laws, relinquishment laws, assault weapons bans, high-capacity magazine bans, gun possession prohibitions for high-risk individuals, gun possession prohibitions for individuals with domestic violence convictions and mandatory background checks. Details at How strictly are guns regulated where you live? — Joe

Assessment of New York State’s assault weapons and large capacity magazine ban

Here’s the abstract for James Jacobs and Zoe Fuhr’s The Safe Act: New York’s Ban on Assault Weapons and Large Capacity Magazines, 53 Criminal Law Bulletin ___ (2017):

NYS’s 2012 SAFE Act includes tougher assault weapon and large capacity magazine bans than those enacted just 12 years earlier as part of NYS’s omnibus 2000 gun control law. The SAFE Act outlaws semi-automatics that accept detachable magazines and have one or more military-like features. Current owners may keep their assault weapons if they register them with the State Police, but they may not transfer or bequeath them to a fellow New Yorker. Manufacturers and retailers quickly adjusted by modifying prohibited weapons so that they do not qualify as assault weapons although they are functionally identical. The SAFE Act’s large capacity magazine ban initially limited magazine capacity to seven rounds, but had to be amended to ten because seven round magazines did not exist. The amendment’s stipulation that a ten round magazine could not be loaded with more than seven cartridges was struck down by a federal court. This assesses what the two bans have so far achieved.

— Joe

Trump, Twitter, and the Russians: The Growing Obsolescence of Federal Campaign Finance Law

From Anthony Gaughan’s Trump, Twitter, and the Russians: The Growing Obsolescence of Federal Campaign Finance Law, 27 Univ. of Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal ___ (2017):

Since the 1970s, federal campaign finance law has been built on four pillars. The first is contribution limits on donations to candidate campaigns and political party committees. The contribution limits are designed to reduce the role of money in politics by preventing large donors from corrupting elected officials. The second is the ban on foreign contributions to American political campaigns. The prohibition is intended to prevent foreign influence on American elections and to ensure that candidates rely exclusively on American sources of support for getting their campaign messages out to voters. The third is the mandatory public disclosure of the identities of campaign contributors. Disclosure laws are intended to enable voters to evaluate the sources of a candidate’s support and to guard against corruption. The fourth pillar is the Federal Election Commission, which is charged with enforcing the law in an effective and bipartisan manner.

The 2016 presidential campaign made it starkly apparent that all four pillars of federal campaign finance law have become woefully outdated in the age of the internet, social media, and non-stop fundraising. First, contribution limits have not only failed to reduce the role of money in politics but have instead severely distorted our political system. Second, the federal ban on foreign contributions failed to prevent a massive level of foreign intervention in the 2016 presidential election. Third, FECA’s requirement that all contributions to political committees be reported and publicly disclosed no longer keeps the public adequately informed. Fourth, FECA’s foundational presumption that the FEC would enforce the law in a bipartisan and vigorous fashion has collapsed amid finger-pointing, personal acrimony, and profound ideological divisions among the commissioners.

A vestige of the post-Watergate reforms of the 1970s, FECA no longer adequately regulates the campaign finance world of 21st century American politics. The time has come for a sweeping reform and restructuring of the law. This article proposes 4 major reforms to modernize federal campaign finance law: the elimination of FECA’s contribution limits, the closing of the dark and gray money loopholes, the clarification and expansion of federal regulation of foreign government influence on American elections, and the fundamental restructuring of the FEC. By adopting those reforms, FECA will finally be brought out of the 1970s and into the age of the internet, iPhones, Twitter, and Facebook.

— Joe

Trump income tax calculators

Here’s three:

  1. Marketwatch
  2. New York Times
  3. Wall Street Journal

— Joe