January 31, 2007
Last Week in Congress
By James Wilson
It was a quiet week on Capitol Hill. The President came to visit on Tuesday for the State of the Union address. On the legislative front, not a whole lot got done, and some of the bills that did pass weren’t all that bad. The House passed the following: H.R. 390 Preservation of Records of Servitude, Emancipation, and Post Civil War Reconstruction Act - 3 pages This will create a national, searchable database in the National Archives to publish records relating to slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction held by the Federal Government. Publishing the federal government’s records is always welcome; unfortunately, the bill also grants $5 million for states, colleges, universities, and genealogical associations to do the same. Sometimes it’s the little things that make DC grow. The federal government is not Constitutionally authorized to hand out money for genealogical research, of all things. It is literally thousands of unconstitutional projects like this that account for many billions of dollars. H.R. 599 Directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to Streamline the SAFETY Act - 3 pages This bill was unanimous, and we do not object to streamlining in principle. So what is the SAFETY Act? From what I can tell here, it’s a bill that provides liability protections to developers of “anti-terrorism” technologies. That is somewhat unsettling. If anti-terrorism = surveillance technologies, then private corporations will make a profit by helping the government snoop, and will be not be held accountable. Nevertheless, the intent of this bill was apparently to make this process less expensive and less complicated, which is always welcome. H.R. 392 - District of Columbia and United States Territories Circulating Quarter Dollar Program Act - 7 pages Hey, the states got their special coins, so why not our territories and colonies? Passed by voice vote. H.R. 323 Seasoned Customer CTR Exemption Act of 2007 - 9 pages CTR means “currency transaction reporting” and it requires financial institutions to report large transfers of money to the federal government (i.e., takes away financial privacy). This act removes this hassle for trusted, long-standing customers so that only potentially “suspicious” transactions will be reported.. Passed by voice vote. H.R. 476 “ to make noncreditable for Federal retirement purposes any Member service performed by an individual who is convicted of certain offenses”- 8 pages If a Member of Congress was in the federal workforce and then in Congress, and he was convicted of a crime like bribery while in Congress, then his term in Congress won’t count for his federal pension. Passed unanimously. The Senate was quiet, spending the week considering H.R. 2, the minimum wage hike bill. There is still time to voice your objection to an increase in the minimum wage by clicking here. All in all, it wasn’t a bad week. All in all, Congress passed five bills totaling just 30 pages, and wasted “only” $5 million. If only every week in Congress was this simple! publishes this feature on weeks when Congress is in session. To see how your represenatives voted on particular bills, or to read the bills themselves, go here for the House and here for the Senate. You may also keep abreast of day-to-day activities in Congress by going to the Congressional Record Main Page and click for recent issues of the Daily Digest.
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