5 Things You Missed On Capitol Hill in 2019
Watch the news these days and the one thing you’re least likely to get is the news on what Congress is actually doing. The exception of course is any investigations, insinuations and insults. After all, that’s the kind of news that boosts TV ratings, so that is what is reported. The public is left to find out for themselves if anything else worthwhile happened in Washington in 2019. Appropriations bills to keep the government going have to pass, and the package squeaked through in the final hours before congress adjourned for the holiday break. That is one piece of good news. However, you may be surprised that several other bills meaningful to suburban families actually became law in 2019.
It should be noted, these bills may not reach the level of global threats such as missiles in North Korea or Iranian sponsored terrorism. However, they do address topics important to kitchen table discussions across the country. Here is a list of five bills you might have missed, but that you and your family should know about:
1. Never Forget the Heroes Act (HR 1327): After years of temporary funding, this bill makes permanent the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund. Among the images we remember from the collapse of the World Trade Center were the dust covered faces of those who helped to clean up the mountains of debris. Since 2001 several developed serious health problems from the toxic dust and air, and many died. In the past Congress authorized short term aid, however, even those amounts fell short. Victims were facing severe cuts to their compensation. With passage, compensation will remain in place for all victims.
2. Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support (CARES) Act (HR 1058): Autism is a complex, life-long disorder appearing in early childhood that effects language, social skills, and behavior. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. Unfortunately, once a person turns 21, support services often end, even though many are employable if they continued to receive supportive help. Families of children with autism know well the strains (and blessings) of caring for an individual with autism. The incidence of the diagnosis is currently one in 59 according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and four times more common in boys than girls. A cause and cure are not yet known. This bill authorizes $1.8 billion for research and evidence-based treatment for children and adults.
3. Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (HR 724): This is the sort of law we hate to think is necessary, but there are people who intentionally crush, burn alive and torture small animals. They make and distribute films of these heinous acts of cruelty called “animal crush” videos. Many states ban the practice, and federal law prohibits interstate distribution of videos or photographs. This new law makes it a federal crime to engage in the actual torturous acts of animal crushing.
4. Emergency Medical Services for Children Program RE-authorization Act of 2019 (HR 776 and S 1173):. Thirty million children visit an emergency department in the US each year. Treatment for their injuries and illnesses, require specialized care, staff training, medication and equipment unique to a pediatric population. Many regions do not have a dedicated children’s hospital, and even where one exists, the closest emergency department must be properly equipped and staffed to handle front line treatment of trauma such as head injuries. This bill re-authorizes an act of 1984 and assures grant monies remain available to states to maintain and develop top level emergency services for children.
5. Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act of 2019 (HR 2368 and S 998): Prior to training every police candidate undergoes extensive psychological testing, interviews and background checks to make sure those susceptible to mental illness are screened out before joining the Police. Despite this, officer suicide rates are higher than the rest of the population. They experience in their everyday work horrific auto accidents, brutal child abuse, murder and assaults. It is far more than any average citizen would ever see in their lifetime. Additionally, about ten percent of police officers are assaulted each year, and routinely face long work hours, sleepless nights, and may work additional part time jobs to make ends meet. These stresses take a huge psychological toll on police and their families. Sadly, more police die from suicide with their own gun, than shot by a criminal. Worse yet is that many police do not have the funds to pay for psychological counseling and many departments have little or no training in suicide prevention. This bill authorizes $7.5 million per year from 2020-2024. The good news is the bill passed; the bad news is the funding is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of the 500,000 police officers in the United States. States and communities need to step up to provide additional monies.