Connect with us

National

Shelby urges passage of new omnibus spending deal

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, announced the filing of the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bill and urged passage of legislation that would provide critical funding for the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation.

“This is a strong bill that provides significant support for my priorities on the Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee, such as law enforcement, national security, economic development, scientific research, and space exploration,” Shelby said. “Furthermore, it will rebuild and strengthen our military with the biggest increase in defense funding in 15 years, while also creating opportunities to renew America’s aging infrastructure throughout the nation. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bipartisan bill.”

The FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill reached an enormous $59.6 billion. That is $3.05 billion above the FY2017 enacted level. The bill fund federal law enforcement agencies, state and local law enforcement grants, space exploration, basic science research, economic development programs, trade enforcement, and ocean observations and weather forecasting.

Advertisement

The bill funds the U.S. Department of Commerce at $11.1 billion an increase of $1.9 billion over FY2017, to focus on core economic development activities, protecting intellectual property rights, strengthening trade enforcement, advancing cybersecurity research, and improving severe weather forecasting.

The bill includes $301.5 million for the Economic Development Administration (EDA). This is a $25.5 million increase over FY2017. Increased funding expands the Public Works program to support brick-and-mortar projects in communities across the country and broadband infrastructure and access to unserved areas of the country. The bill also provides $30 million in grants to assist troubled coal mining communities.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – $1.2 billion for NIST, $247 million above the FY2017 enacted level. This amount includes a $10 million increase over the FY2017 level for the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Targeted funding will continue to support our nation’s cybersecurity posture through cutting-edge research, expanded advanced manufacturing opportunities, and the promotion of high quality standards to maintain fairness in the marketplace.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) receives $5.9 billion, which is $234 million above the FY2017 enacted level. The bill provides full funding for NOAA’s flagship weather satellites, which are critical for accurate weather warnings to protect lives and property. Increased funding is provided for the National Weather Service to address failing infrastructure at its Weather Forecast Offices across the country.

The bill also includes increased funding for our nation’s fisheries. This includes continued support for more accurate and agency-independent data and language allowing NOAA to experiment with alternative management regimes. Provisions in the bill promise to help expand opportunities for American commercial and recreational fishermen.

The bill funds the Department of Justice (DOJ) at $30.3 billion, $1.3 billion above the FY2017 enacted level. The constantly-changing landscape of criminal activity at home and abroad tests the DOJ’s ability to deal with emerging threats. The bill reportedly ensures that federal law enforcement agencies work together to focus limited resources in a manner that safeguards taxpayer dollars while preserving public safety.

Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) receives $504.5 million which is, $64.5 million above the FY2017 enacted level, including funding for at least 100 new Immigration Judge (IJ) Teams to help reduce the extensive and growing backlog of pending immigration cases.

The bill funds the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at $9.03 billion, which is a $263 million increase above the FY2017 enacted level. Within funding provided, the FBI is expected to enhance its investigative and intelligence efforts related to terrorism, national security, human trafficking, and cyber threats, while also enforcing U.S. criminal laws. The bill directs the FBI to ensure full funding for the operations of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and to review protocols associated with communication and information sharing between the Public Access Line and FBI field offices.

The bill also funds law enforcement grant programs at $2.9 billion for DOJ State and Local Law Enforcement Activities, including the Office on Violence Against Women, juvenile justice programs, and community crime prevention grant programs. The bill contains $330 million to fund the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) grant program, a $227 million increase over FY2017, and $32 million for Community Oriented Policing Services’ (COPS) anti-heroin task forces grants. Overall, a $299.5 million increase in grant funding is provided above the FY2017 level to combat the opioid and heroin crisis. The bill also contains $415.5 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) and $177.5 million for initiatives to address rape kit and other DNA evidence backlogs. DOJ is directed to require all applicants for Byrne-JAG, COPS, and State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) grants to certify that they are in compliance with all applicable federal laws, including immigration laws.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) receives $20.7 billion, a $1.1 billion increase above the FY2017 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and support fundamental aeronautics research. This includes: $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System (SLS), which is $212 million above the request; $1.3 billion for the Orion crewed spacecraft, $164 million above the request, to continue development of NASA’s next deep-space crewed capsule; $760 million for Space Technology, $74 million above the FY2017 enacted level to advance projects in early stages of development that are expected to demonstrate capabilities needed for future space exploration; $100 million is provided for Education programs that were proposed to be eliminated in the budget request. NASA EPSCoR is funded at $18 million, Space Grant is funded at $40 million, the Minority University Research and Education Project is funded at $32 million, and STEM Education and Accountability Projects are funded at $10 million.

Shelby is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS). He has served Alabama in the U.S. Senate since his 1986 election and in the Congress since his election representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District in 1978.

Continue Reading

National

Former First Lady Barbara Bush dies at 92

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Former First Lady Mrs. Barbara Bush at LBJ Presidential Library in 2012.

Tuesday, former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away. She was the wife of President George H.W. Bush, who was President from 1989 to 1993 and was the mother of President George W. Bush who was president from 2001 to 2009. She had been in failing health for some time now. She was 92.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey expressed her condolences.

“I am saddened to hear about the death of former First Lady Barbara Bush,” Ivey said. “She was a dynamic Republican woman, as First Lady she lead an effort to increase family literacy, an issue she championed to this day. She was matriarch of the Bush family, that produced governors and a president. Her life is a shining example of how strong women can serve their country and help improve the lives of all Americans. My thoughts and prayers are with the Bush family and all of America tonight.”

Advertisement

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby said, “My deepest condolences to the Bush family following the loss of former First Lady, Barbara Bush. She was a remarkable woman. Her legacy and service to our country will never be forgotten.”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said, “The Alabama Republican Party is saddened to hear of the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush. A shining light to all who knew her, Mrs. Bush will be deeply missed. Her great American and family legacy she leaves behind is a true testament of a lifetime filled with grace, strength and a strong love for our country. Our hearts and prayers are with the former first family during this time. Barbara Bush was a true American patriot, matriarch and role model for our nation.”

“What a wonderful woman. I certainly admired her as a citizen, but especially as a son who had a tough but lovable mom,” Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, said. “God bless her. The prayers of the nation are with the Bush family.”

“Barbara Bush led a remarkable life, and her legacy will impact our country for many years to come,” Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, said. “My prayers are with the Bush family during this very sad time.”

“My family and I are sad to hear of the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush,” Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said. “She was the rock of the Bush family and I know she will be deeply missed. My sincere condolences to the Bush family.”

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the Bush family tonight after the passing of Mrs. Bush,” said Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Saks. “She was a strong woman, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and proud American. She served her country with poise and dignity and will be sincerely missed.”

Charlotte Hays, Director of Cultural Programs at Independent Women’s Forum said, “Independent Women’s Forum extends our condolences to the family of former First Lady Barbara Bush. Mrs. Bush, who served as First Lady from 1989 to 1993, was universally admired for her forthrightness and ability to put people at ease.”

“Despite her aristocratic origins, Mrs. Bush was unpretentious, and her country loved her for her for it,” Hays said. “She made no pretenses about her trademark fake pearls and delighted in the ‘America’s grandmother’ image conferred by her mane of white hair. She firmly believed that literacy was the key to solving many national problems and improving the lives of disadvantaged Americans. To that end, she established and worked hard for The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. She was essential to President George H. W. Bush’s career, both as a politician and a transplanted Texan building a career in the oil business, and exerted an important influence on President George W. Bush, who sometimes traced his outspokenness to his mother. Our hearts go out to the Bush family at the loss of this wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, and to the country for the loss of this model First Lady.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, also released a statement on the passing of Mrs. Bush.

“Barbara Bush holds a revered place in the hearts of generations of Americans,” Ryan said. “She so loved her family and our country. She led both with clarity and character. She shined a light on the power of a parent reading to a child. Her husband, our 41st president, wrote in his last days in office: ‘history will show that she was beloved because she was real and she cared and she gave of herself.’ Who could say it better?”

“To Mrs. Bush’s family—especially her 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren—I extend the deepest condolences of the whole House of Representatives. May she rest in eternal peace.” Ryan stated.

Former President George W. Bush said in a statement, “My dear mother has passed on at age 92. Laura, Barbara, Jenna, and I are sad, but our souls are settled because we know hers was. Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I’m a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother. Our family will miss her dearly, and we thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.”

Continue Reading

National

Sen. Doug Jones co-sponsors bipartisan legislation to address opioid crisis

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Sen. Doug Jones delivers a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate on March 21, 2018. (CSPAN)

Tuesday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) co-sponsored legislation introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennesee) and Patty Murray (D-Washington), leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP), which was composed of 40 different proposals, and is the result of seven bipartisan hearings over several months, and feedback from the public.

Jones’ office said that the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (S. 2680) will improve the ability of the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to address the crisis, including the ripple effects of the crisis on children, families, and communities, and improve data sharing between states.

“Many communities in Alabama and across our country are struggling to combat the opioid epidemic, and alleviate the harm it has caused to families and to our economy,” said Senator Jones. “I’m proud of the comprehensive, bipartisan efforts led by my HELP Committee colleagues to confront this issue with the urgency that it deserves. I’m also grateful that they agreed to incorporate the bipartisan bill I introduced recently with my colleagues Senators Tim Kaine and Todd Young, which would integrate job training into addiction recovery programs. We have more work ahead, but this is a strong step in the right direction.”

Advertisement

Alabama has more active opioid prescriptions than it has people. There is more prescription opioid abuse in Alabama than in any place in the country. Doctors remain immune from prosecution, under state law, for their role in aiding and abetting, and in some cases encouraging opioid addiction. The Alabama Medical Association has vigorously opposed legislation that would allow prosecutors to pursue doctors and pharmacists who abuse their prescribing authority.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 will:

Authorize the Department of Labor to provide grants to address the economic and workforce impacts for communities affected by the opioid crisis, targeted at workforce shortages for the substance use and mental health treatment workforce, and to align job training and treatment services.

Reauthorize and improve grants to states and Indian Tribes for prevention, response, and treatment of the opioid crisis, authorized in 21st Century Cures, for three more years.

Spur development and research on of non-addictive painkillers, and other strategies to prevent, treat, and manage pain and substance use disorders through additional flexibility for the NIH.

Clarify FDA’s regulatory pathways for medical product manufacturers through guidance for new non-addictive pain and addiction products.

Encourage responsible prescribing behavior by clarifying FDA authority to require packaging and disposal options for certain drugs, such as opioids to allow a set treatment duration, for example “blister packs,” for patients who may only need a 3 or 7 day supply of opioids, and give patients safe disposal options.

Improve detection and seizure of illegal drugs, such as fentanyl, through stronger FDA and Customer Border Protection coordination.

Clarify FDA’s post-market authorities for drugs, such as opioids, which may have reduced efficacy over time, by modifying the definition of an adverse drug experience to include such situations.

Provide support for states to improve their Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) and encourage data sharing between states so doctors and pharmacies can know if patients have a history of substance misuse.

Strengthen the health care workforce to increase access to mental health services in schools and community-based settings and to substance use disorder services in underserved areas.

Authorize CDC’s work to combat the opioid crisis, including providing grants for states, localities, and tribes to collect data and implement key prevention strategies.

Address the effects of the opioids crisis on infants, children, and families, including by helping states improve plans of safe care for infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and helping to address child and youth trauma.

Improves treatment access to patients by requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue regulations on how qualified providers can prescribe controlled substances in limited circumstances via telemedicine.

Allow hospice programs to safely and properly dispose of unneeded controlled substances to help reduce the risk of diversion and misuse.

S. 2680, The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 Legislation is the result of 7 bipartisan hearings on opioid crisis with FDA, NIH, CDC, SAMHSA, governors, experts, and families. The legislation combines 40 different proposals to try to address the opioid crisis into one bill, mostly from members of the Senate Health Committee.

“No matter where I go in Washington state, I hear from families about how devastating the opioid crisis has been to their lives and to their community,” Senator Murrat said. “I’m grateful to members on both sides of the aisle for their strong work on the policies in our bill, which will offer families and communities in Washington and across the country much-needed tools and resources as they continue working to stop this epidemic and rebuild. The work isn’t over, and I look forward to more bipartisan progress in support of everyone on the frontlines of the opioid crisis looking to Congress for support.”

“Our goal is to move urgently, effectively, and in a bipartisan way,” Sen. Alexander said. “This is a broad-based set of 40 different proposals to address the opioid crisis. The bill could help states and communities begin to bring an end to the opioid crisis by reducing the number of prescription opioids, stopping illegal drugs at the border, and accelerating research on non-addictive pain medicines. We will consider and seek to approve this bill next Tuesday, so we can get it to the Majority Leader and to the Senate for prompt consideration, along with other important proposals that may be coming from other committees.”

Deaths from drug overdoses have soared in recent years and now exceeds murder and automobile accidents combined. 62,469 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 al one, which is more than died in the entire Vietnam War. That is up from just 16,849 in 2000. That does not include addicts who commit suicide or people killed by violence in the drug trade.

Doug Jones was elected to the U.S. Senate on December 12.

Continue Reading

National

On Tax Day, Shelby praises GOP tax cuts but calls for a flat tax

Chip Brownlee

Published

on

Sen. Richard Shelby speaks at a committee hearing.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican, on Tax Day Tuesday praised the GOP’s recent tax cuts as a positive for the average American taxpayer but, at the same time, called for going further to implement a so-called flat tax.

As last-minute filers finished their annual returns, Shelby said the Republicans’ 2017 tax cuts benefit American taxpayers by lowering the rates for individuals, doubling the standard deduction, doubling the child tax credit, eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and incentivizing saving for retirements.

“When Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we made huge progress in simplifying the tax code and increasing efficiency,” Shelby said. “Today is the last Tax Day that Americans will file their taxes under the old, broken system. Hard-earned money will finally go back into the pockets of the American taxpayer.”

Advertisement

Even as Shelby touted the new tax cuts, they remain unpopular with Americans and the legislation was the most unpopular tax cut in recent American history when it passed last year, according to a polling average compiled by FiveThirtyEight.

Even though the tax cuts were never particularly popular according to public poling, a new poll NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday showed that only 27 percent of Americans believe the cuts were a good idea.

Republicans were banking on the tax cuts to be a campaign talking point as Congress heads into an election year, and Republicans touted the tax cuts Tuesday. Ivanka Trump, an adviser to her father, President Donald Trump, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke in New Hampshire, a swing state, about the money they said Americans would save when they file next year.

The event — and pronouncement’s like Shelby’s — are part of a larger effort by GOP lawmakers and the White House to talk up what they say are the benefits of the new tax law.

Trump quoted an administration estimate that a middle-class family of four would see a reduction in their annual income taxes of about $2,000.

Shelby pointed to pay raises, bonuses, 401(k) match increases, cuts to utility rates and other benefits that he said are the result of the tax cuts. He said tax reform is already helping to create an environment that lets employers grow their business and hire new employees while increasing wages.

While he praised the tax cuts, he also called on Congress to push forward with his own legislation that would establish a so-called flat tax on income and simplify filing requirements.

“Every year on Tax Day, I highlight the SMART Act as a straightforward solution that would require taxpayers to file only a simple postcard-size return, saving Americans time and money,” Shelby said. “The SMART Act would also allow businesses to focus on expanding their businesses and creating jobs rather than directing resources toward tax compliance.”

Shelby has introduced similar legislation since his election to the Senate in 1986. The act would establish a flat income tax of 17 percent on all income.

There would be more simplified personal exemptions of $14,590 for a single person; $18,630 for a head of household; $29,190 for a married couple filing jointly; and $6,290 for each dependent.

The allowances would be indexed to the Consumer Price Index in order to track inflation, and the law would exempt all savings from being included in taxable income, which he said would result in an immediate tax cut for all taxpayers.

Shelby is not seeking re-election this year.

 

Continue Reading

Authors

Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending

Shelby urges passage of new omnibus spending deal

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 5 min
0