February 1, 2019

Congress at Work: Reimbursing Unpaid Federal Workers, Fact-Based Policy Making and Fighting Human Trafficking

Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019 (S. 24) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) on Jan. 3 and signed into law on Jan. 19. It requires federal employees who are furloughed or working without pay to be compensated for the time of the government shutdown. Workers are to be paid as soon as possible after the government is reopened, irrespective of pay schedules.

Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017 (H.R. 4174) – This legislation mandates that agencies of the federal government use available scientific data, statistics and fact-based evidence when making policy decisions. The bill authorizes each agency to appoint a chief data officer to manage relevant data assets and determine how to incorporate them, including how to secure private data that contains personally identifiable information. The bill is designed to make data more readily available to both federal employees and independent researchers. The bill also establishes a common application system for qualified individuals to apply for access to restricted, confidential government data for approved projects. This legislation was introduced on Oct. 31, 2017 by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and was signed into law by the president on Jan. 14.

Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018 (H.R. 1318) – This bill was introduced on March 2, 2017 by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) in response to the country’s high rate of maternal deaths – deemed the highest in the developed world. The bill authorizes $12 million per year to support state investigations and data gathering regarding every maternal death that occurs for compilation and analysis by maternal mortality review committees. The objective is to use fact-based evidence to make policy decisions to reduce deaths due to childbirth, which are largely considered preventable. The bill was signed into law by the president on Dec. 21, 2018.

Medicaid Extenders Act of 2019 (H.R. 259) – Sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), this bill expands the current “Medicaid Money Follows the Person” program to encourage states to test ways that Medicaid nursing home benefits can be used to help elderly people and people with disabilities remain in their own homes. Program funds may be used for home health aide services, personal care services, homemaker services, information services and adult daycare services. The goal of the legislation is to enable individual states to determine ways to prevent eligibility rules for Medicaid home and community-based long term care programs from depleting the income and assets of the care recipient’s spouse. The bill, which authorizes $112 million for this program for fiscal year 2019, was introduced on Jan. 4 and signed into the law by the president on Jan. 17.

Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 2200) – This legislation is part of a trio of bills designed to combat human trafficking worldwide and in the United States. Named for Frederick Douglass, the former slave who became an abolitionist, this bill authorizes $430 million to strengthen efforts to stop human trafficking. One provision is to establish an Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons within the State Department, which will be responsible for reporting on and ranking countries based on their efforts to eliminate human trafficking. Other programs include educating factions on how to detect human trafficking activities, including people in diplomatic and consular posts within the United States, airline personnel, and education for school-age children. This legislation was introduced on April 27, 2017 by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and signed into law by the president on Jan. 8.

Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2017 (S. 1862) – This legislation was introduced on Sept. 26, 2017 by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and signed into law by the president on Jan. 9. It was first passed in 2000 and is now updated to provide criteria for determining whether countries are meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, and actions to be taken against countries that fail to meet such standards. The bill sets forth child soldier protection provisions and directs the U.S. Agency for International Development to incorporate child protection and anti-trafficking strategies into the policies developed for each country on the special watch list.

Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2017 (S. 1312) – This legislation is designed to renew existing programs that make federal resources available to human trafficking survivors and establish new prevention, prosecution and collaboration initiatives to help bring the perpetrators to justice. This bill was introduced on June 7, 2017 by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and was signed into law by the president on Dec. 21, 2018.