New to the art form? This Wall Street Journal article will get you orientated. Also, for more information on how some of these titles mislead lawmakers and the citizenry, find some academic commentary from Brian Christopher Jones here:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An All-STAR Bill?

Although you may read this title and immediately think of Lebron James, Derek Jeter or Peyton Manning, the All-STAR Act of 2013, sponsored by Sen. Durbin (D., IL) is actually in relation to establishing more public charter schools. Sen. Durbin proposed similar bills in 2010 and 2011, both of which did not get out of the committee stage. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Show Me the Money (Contributors)!

Senators Wyden (D., OR) and Murkowski (R., AK) have introduced the Follow the Money Act of 2013According to a press release by Sen. Wyden, the measure "creates a simple and universal system of disclosure for independent spending in federal campaigns. The legislation would require the source of independent spending to be disclosed in a manner consistent to that applied to federal candidates." Among other things, the bill would "require any and all groups spending at least $10,000 on electoral activity to register and disclose contributions above $1,000. The bill would also raise the threshold for contributor disclosure from $200 to $1,000 for all political committees, including those of candidates and political parties."

Partial press release is located below the jump. 


Wyden and Murkowski Unveil “Follow the Money” Reform Bill

Senators Co-sponsor Legislation to Address Campaign Finance Abuses and Anonymous Spending

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today introduced bipartisan campaign finance reform legislation to address the influx of anonymous federal election spending and bring transparency and consistency to campaign finance law.

The Follow the Money Act of 2013 creates a simple and universal system of disclosure for independent spending in federal campaigns. The legislation would require the source of independent spending to be disclosed in a manner consistent to that applied to federal candidates.
“These reforms reflect the belief that where there’s significant campaign spending, everyone has to play by the same rules and that voters deserve to know where the money is coming from and where it’s going,” Wyden said. “This will bring an end to the most flagrant abuses that have made a mockery of campaign finance and tax law.”

“Americans expect accountability and transparency from their candidates, and those deciding to influence elections should be held to the same standard,” said Murkowski.  “A majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents were concerned over the role of big money and secret donors in the last election, proving that this is not a partisan issue, this is an issue about having the best-informed voters possible.” ...

Publishing Someone's Name a Crime in MO?

The Missouri Legislature has passed HB 436, known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act, and the measure now heads to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature. The legislation appears primarily aimed at the federal government regarding the recent debate over background checks, and notes that all past, present and future federal acts will be "invalid, will not be recognized, are specifically rejected, and will be considered null and void and of no effect." The bill also prohibits publishing the names of gun owners or those that have registered for gun licenses or permits, in addition to revealing other information about gun owners. Some, however, have argued that the law could also have a large application to individuals using smaller forms of media such as microblogs and Facebook. This could be due to poor drafting, as the bill reads: 

"A person or entity cannot publish the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm or who is an applicant for or holder of any license, certificate, permit, or endorsement that allows the person to own, acquire, possess, or carry a firearm. Any person or entity violating these provisions is guilty of a class A misdemeanor."

We'll let you know if Mr. Nixon signs the legislation. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

"Merry Christmas Bill" Heads to Perry

The Texas Legislature has passed HB 308, the so-called "Merry Christmas Bill," which would allow Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and other symbols of winter celebrations (i.e. Hanukkah) to be displayed in public schools without the threat of legal action. Under the legislation "schools cannot endorse or publicly support belief to any one of these religions." The bill is controversial, however, as opponents say that it's a violation of the separation between church and state. 

After the Senate passed the measure, the bill's sponsor, Robert Nichols, exclaimed "[t]hank you members and Merry Christmas to you all.” The bill now heads to Gov. Perry's desk. 

"Dead Voters" in TX Actually Alive

As the Texas Legislature is wrapping up their session, a number of bills are heading to Governor Perry's desk. Among them is the so-called "Dead Voters" Bill, HB 3593, which would "require the secretary of state to come up with more accurate “matching” criteria for comparing voter registrations with death records to ensure no Texans are improperly removed from voter rolls." In recent elections people were removed from the voter roll because the government thought they were dead. 

In fact, House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Chairman Wayne Smith was one of the voters removed from the voter roll. During debate on the bill, in order to prove that he was still alive 'n' kickin', Mr. Smith jumped into the air, and then exclaimed, "dead men can't jump!"

Friday, May 24, 2013


That's right, lawmakers are now using the phrase that Tracy Morgan popularized on Saturday Night Live in the 1990s to name legislation (although, not in the same fashion, of course). Rep. Black (R., TN) recently introduced the Safety Net Abuse Prevention (SNAP) Act of 2013, which "prohibit[s] the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using funds for any agreement with a foreign government to promote enrollment in the supplemental nutrition assistance program." The bill also "[t]erminates the Partnership for Nutrition Assistance Initiative between the United States and Mexico."

Additionally, Rep. Marino (R., PA) has introduced the  SNAP Transparency Act of 2013, which, according to the lawmaker's press release, would establish "a system to report items purchased with SNAP benefits – formerly known as food stamps – and requires the Secretary of Agriculture to publish the information online in a searchable, comparable format."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

House Approves of the Northern (XL) Route

The Northern Route Approval Act was passed by the House today (241-175-1). Sponsored by Rep. Lee (R., NE) the legislation would virtually eliminate the need for Presidential approval of the XL pipeline. The project, first proposed in 2008, would stretch from Canada to Texas, and advocates state that it would create jobs and bring in about 800,000 barrels of oil a day, thus lessening dependence on foreign oil. However, opponents have called "the project a 'carbon bomb' that would carry 'dirty oil' that could trigger global warming."

A partial press release by Rep. Lee on the House passage of the legislation is below the jump. 


House Passes Terry Legislation to Build Keystone Pipeline

Terry: “Our nation of builders needs these jobs.”
WASHINGTON – Representative Lee Terry (R-NE) today released the following statement after his legislation, The Northern Route Approval Act (H.R. 3) passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 241-175-1:
“When the President went to a manufacturing facility to promote his executive order designed to expedite the federal permitting process; he highlighted how significant delays hamper job creation.  
“So it’s timely the House today passed my legislation to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. Congress wouldn’t have acted without all of the bureaucratic tricks and delays holding back this important project.
“It’s been over 1,700 days since the initial permits were filed. That’s longer than it took the Greatest Generation to win WWII and longer than it took Lewis and Clark to walk the Louisiana Purchase and back.
“If signed into law, it’s estimated that my legislation will create up to 20,000 new jobs directly related to the construction of the Keystone Pipeline and another 120,000 indirect jobs will be created for companies like the one the President visited last week. ...

Not a Smarter Student Loan Solution

Rep. Kline (R., MN) has introduced the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, which would raise interest rates on some student loans, but cap Direct Stafford loans at 8.5%, and cap Direct Plus loans at 10.5%. The Obama Administration is opposed to the legislation, noting in a statement on the legislation that: 

"While the Administration welcomes action by the House on this issue, H.R. 1911 is the wrong approach. First, the bill would not guarantee low rates for today's students. A rate that continues to vary after the loan has already been taken out would create uncertainty and lessen transparency for students and their families who are making decisions about borrowing for college. Second, the bill's changes would impose the largest interest rate increases on low- and middle-income students and families who struggle most to afford a college education. Third, the bill does not include the President's proposal to extend repayment options to borrowers who have already left school and often face the same debt burdens as current and future students. Finally, the Administration believes that student loan interest rates should not be raised to reduce the deficit."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Protecting the Press

After revelations that the Justice Department seized a large amount of AP phone records, Representatives Poe (R., TX), Radel (R., FL) and Conyers, Jr (D., MI) have introduced the the The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013, which builds on similar legislation that passed the House in 2007 and 2009, but never became law. 

A partial press release of the bill is below the jump. 


Representatives Poe, Radel, Conyers Announce Bipartisan House Support for Press Shield Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C.--Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX)Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) and John Conyers, Jr (D-MI) announced they were working together on “The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013" (H.R. 1962).  The legislation is based on similar legislation which passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly in the 110th and 111th Congress.
The legislation protects members of the media by providing a qualified privilege that prevents reporters source material from being revealed to government investigators except under certain narrow circumstances, such as where necessary to prevent an act of terrorism or other significant and specified harm to national security, imminent death, or harm to national security.  The bill strikes a carefully tailored balance between the First Amendment and national security and law enforcement. 
Both Rep. Poe and Rep. Conyers are senior members of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation and were past supporters of the legislation.  Rep. Conyers was Chair of the Committee when similar legislation passed in 2007 and 2009. Rep. Radel spent nearly twenty years as a journalist in Florida. ...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care...(Or, Another Partial Obamacare Repeal Attempt)!!

Sen. John Cornyn (R., TX) has introduced the Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013, which would not allow the IRS to "implement or enforce any provisions of or amendments made by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148) or the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-152)."

The Senator's press release notes the following: 

“The official who oversaw the targeting of tea party groups is now in charge of implementing Obamacare at the IRS. Now more than ever, we need to prevent the IRS from having any role in Americans’ health care.

"I do not support Obamacare, and after the events of last week, I cannot support giving the IRS any more responsibility or taxpayer dollars to implement a broken law.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Michael Morton Act" Passes TX Legislature

Yesterday we reported on the so-called "dark money" bill that recently passed the Texas Legislature and landed on Gov. Perry's desk. Today, we note that lawmakers passed the so-called "Michael Morton Act," which is actually a combination of two bills, H.B. 1790 and S.B. 1611. According to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, S.B. 1611 will "ensur[e] that defense lawyers have access to the evidence that the prosecution is relying upon," as this "will help prevent wrongful convictions." Additionally, the organization notes that H.B. 1790, a jail reform bill, would "allow those convicted of a state jail felony currently on probation to apply for a reduction in the classification of their offense to a Class A misdemeanor. This would only be possible after a few years of successful probation."

Although bills in the Texas legislature cannot be given official short titles, it seems that many gain informal short titles while traveling through the legislative process; this is true of both the "dark money" bill and the "Michael Morton Act." After serving 25 years for the murder of his wife, Michael Morton was released from prison after DNA evidence exonerated him. An interview prosecutors had with Morton's son was never provided to defense counsel, something that S.B. 1611 specifically targets.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Dark Money" Bill Sent to Perry

The Texas Legislature has passed the so-called "dark money" bill, and the controversial legislation now heads to Governor Rick Perry for his signature. According to the AP, the bill will would "requir[e] politically active nonprofits to make the names of major donors public." The measure is designed to target "dark money," those contributors who are politically active but avoid disclosure laws. Perry faces pressure from conservatives to veto the legislation, who contend that it violates free speech. However, the bill was passed by the Texas House by a vote of 95-52 on Tuesday. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fairness Coming for NC's Taxes?

North Carolina state Senators have unveiled their tax reform plan, known as the North Carolina Tax Fairness Act (complete with its own website). Generally, the plan seeks to cut income taxes and increase sales taxes. Senate Leader Phil Berger called it the "largest tax cut in state history." Additionally, the measure is already receiving support from key interest groups, such as the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, who stated that the plan "will help every citizen of North Carolina while also protecting vital services," and that the group is "proud to support Chairman Berger and look[s] forward to North Carolina implementing tax reform that will create jobs and make the state more competitive."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bizarre, Attempted Jerry Sandusky Bill Name in NJ

S2278 in the New Jersey Legislature is a protection measure designed to prohibit counseling attempts to change sexual orientation. In fact, there is no short title for the legislation, because the bill only goes by its long title: "An Act concerning the protection of minors from counseling attempts to change sexual orientation and supplementing Title 45 of the Revised Statutes." The legislation appears to have some level of bipartisan support, as it was approved in committee by a vote of 7-1 and Gov. Chris Christie has even noted that he does not support gay conversion therapy. 

However, in a bizarre move to reframe the argument, opponents of the legislation have started calling the measure the "Jerry Sandusky Victimization Act," which has outraged gay rights advocates and other proponents of the legislation.  In attempting to legitimize the name change, Gregory Quinlan of New Jersey Family First stated that being molested sometimes induced sexual feelings for the same sex, and said, "[w]e’d be denying the child the discovery of why they’re having those feelings, which is why we’re calling this the ‘Jerry Sandusky Victimization Act.'"

A spokesperson for Garden State Equality called the Sandusky reference a "new low." 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

In the Line of Duty

Sen. John Cornyn (R., TX) has introduced the Line of Duty Act of 2013, after a Kaufman Country District Attorney and his wife, and an assistant District Attorney were recently killed. The DA and his wife were killed while at home, and the Assistant DA was killed on his way into the courthouse. 

According to the Sen. Cornyn's press release, the bill would: allow "all judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials (both state and federal), subject to limited regulations, to carry firearms into all federal facilities, federal courts, and in jurisdictions where the carrying of such weapons is otherwise prohibited by law"; allow "all prosecutors and law enforcement officers to possess and obtain an ammunition magazine of any size"; and would create a "new federal crime for the killing, attempted killing, or conspiring to kill a United States judge, federal law enforcement officer, or federally funded public safety officer, including state prosecutors and judges."

Sen. Cornyn was recently in Texas gathering support for his legislation. The bill has been read twice and referred to the Judiciary Committee. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Doubly American

Rep. DeFazio (D., OR) has introduced the American Jobs in American Forests Act of 2013. Though Congress cannot legislate for any other country's jobs, or forests, for that matter, Rep. DeFazio obviously decided to emphasize the patriotic aspects of his legislation in the bill's short title. The long title of the bill notes that it is an Act to "increase the employment of Americans by requiring State workforce agencies to certify that employers are actively recruiting Americans and that Americans are not qualified or available to fill the positions that the employer wants to fill with H-2B nonimmigrants."

The Other Dream Act

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., IL) has re-introduced the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act. Though the US unemployment rate has been steadily decreasing over the past two plus years, the Representative's press release (partially below the jump) seems to consider the lingering high unemployment rate and sequester cuts an "emergency." 

Congressional AMMO Conspiracy

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R., OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R., OK) have introduced the AMMO (Ammunition Management for More Obtainability) Act of 2013. The bill was sparked by the conspiracy theory that the federal government is attempting to subvert formal (i.e. legislative) gun control by stockpiling ammunition and therefore limiting the supply of bullets available to the public.

A story on the bill by CBS News is partially available below the jump.