Which bills has Congress passed so far?

congress-passed-bills

The 177th Congress convened on January 3rd, 2021 and will end on January 3rd, 2023. With the Democratic Party gaining enough seats in the Senate in 2020 to have 50 senators (48 plus two Independents who caucus with the party), Vice President Kamala Harris can break tie votes in favor of the Democrats, giving them an effective majority. The Democratic Party also retained control of the House, giving them control of the Executive Branch and both houses of Congress. However, the margins for their majority are slim. 

Since the convening of the new Congress, the Senate has passed 53 bills and the House has passed 115 bills. As of this writing, 26 bills have been passed into law. We’ve detailed each of these bills below.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa’s S 409 amends the Commodity Exchange Act. It provides funding for consumer education initiatives. 

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina’s S 1340 redefines “the eastern and middle judicial districts of North Carolina.” 

A number of senators passed bills that are called joint resolutions of disapproval, which gives Congress the power to overturn a federal agency’s new rule and bars the implementation of similar rules in the future. 

Rep. Cynthia Axe of Iowa’s HR 2441, called the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act of 2021, directs the Department of Veteran Affairs to research whether veterans in rural areas have adequate access to mental health resources and to provide recommendations for improvement. The bill also allocates money towards the expansion of mental health access in rural areas. The bill is named after Sgt. Brandon Ketchum, a veteran who committed suicide. He had previously been “denied inpatient psychiatric care at the Iowa City Veterans Administration Medical Center,” according to the Des Moines Register

Rep. Darren Soto of Florida’s bill designates the nightclub Pulse, the scene of the 2016 mass shooting, as a national memorial. 

Rep. Ted Lieu of California’s HR 711 supports the construction of housing for veterans and their families who are homeless or deemed at-risk at the Los Angeles VA Campus. It also provides funding for maintaining and renovating the VA Campus. 

Rep. Doris Matsui of California’s HJRes 27 appoints Barbara Barrett, the former Secretary of the Air Force, as a member of the Board of Regents for the Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum complex, located in Washington, D.C.

Juneteenth marks the day when the last slaves in the United States were freed by Union troops. Some states had already made it a statewide holiday, but Sen. Edward Markey’s S 475 designates Juneteenth, which occurs on June 19th, as a federal holiday. 

Rep. Mark Takano of California’s HR 1276, which President Biden signed into law on March 24th, 2021, dictates the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine by the Department of Veteran Affairs. It prioritizes veterans enrolled in their system and includes the vaccination of veteran spouses. 

Rep. Mike Levin of California’s HR 2523 provides amendments to a previous veteran retraining program. It strives to place veterans in “high-demand” roles and stipulates reports on the success of the program. 

The ​​Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act passed in 2005 and provides funding for stem cell research. The act needs reauthorization and Rep. Doris Matsui of California’s HR 941 provides about $31 million per year from 2022 to 2026. 

Rep. Don Young of Alaska’s HR 1318 prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from imposing fines and other penalties on coastline voyages from Washington state to Alaska. 

Following the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii introduced legislation called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. It provides for the creation of online reporting of hate crimes to collect better data to help law enforcement in their response. 

Fentanyl has contributed to the current Opioid Epidemic and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.” Rep. Chris Pappas of New Hampshire’s HR 2630 extends the Fentanyl Analogues Act, which labels fentanyl as a schedule I drug, until October 22nd, 2021. 

Biosimilar products closely resemble FDA approved products and have no clinical differences. Sen. Margaret Wood Hansen of New Hampshire’s S 164 provides for the education of what biosimilar products are to health care providers and the public. This will take place on a website. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota’s S 422 allows Senators and Senate offices to share employees. 

Exclusivity is a period of time, granted by the Food and Drug Administration, when a new drug does not have to face competition from generic drugs. Active moiety concerns molecules or ions that affect a drug’s effects. The FDA’s previous stance was that for drugs composed of mixtures (active ingredients), if any of the components (active moieties) have not changed, then it would not be granted exclusivity. However, a court ruling struck down this approach. Congress’ passage of Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana’s S 415 allows the FDA to reject the claim of exclusivity according to its old principles. 

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina’s S 578, called the FASTER Act, stipulates that sesame must be listed amongst active ingredients if present, which had not always been the case even though 1.5 million Americans have an allergy to sesame. The Department of Health and Human Services must also perform a report on allergies and its prevalence and effect. 

As directed by Congress, Medicare reimbursements to home health providers must decline by 2% per year. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act froze this temporarily. Rep. John A. Yarmuth of New York’s HR 1868 extends the freezing of the reimbursement decline. 

The PPP Extension ACT, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia, extends the CARES Act and Small Business Act. Both acts’ new deadline became June 30th rather than March 31st. For more information regarding the provisions on the CARES Act, you can click on its link. 

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York’s HR 1651 amends the CARES Act to extend the sunset for bankruptcy related legislation. This happened due to the pandemic exhibiting longevity that Congress did not expect. 

Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana’s S 579 makes changes to social security disability benefits for those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. 

The American Rescue Plan provides $1.9 trillion in stimulus to help the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its provisions include: a national vaccine program, aid for school reopenings, stimulus paychecks, extends unemployment benefits, rental assistance, increases the child tax credit and earned income tax credit, helps cover the cost of childcare, provides aid for small businesses, and aid for state and local governments. 

The law stipulates that a Secretary of Defense nominee must be at least seven years out of the military, according to the National Security Act. President Joe Biden’s nominee, Lloyd Austin, had retired in 2016, meaning that he had not been out of service for seven years yet. Rep. Adam Smith of Washington’s bill provides for the exception to this rule in order to allow for Lloyd Austin’s nomination. 

Many of the bills introduced during this legislative session relate to the current COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on society. 609 of the 7876 bills introduced contain phrasing related to COVID-19 or the pandemic. 61 bills have an upcoming hearing. President Biden has vetoed zero bills. 

A look at infrastructure bills from around the country

infrastructure

While President Biden’s infrastructure plan has taken hold of the national political spotlight, many states are passing their own infrastructure bills. Each one will have a significant effect on their state’s transportation and economy. Below we have compiled some notable bills that have passed in different states around the country.

In the state of Maine, Rep. Teresa Pierce’s HP 1265 permits the government to issue bonds worth up to $100 million to fund statewide infrastructure projects. $85 million is allocated to the construction or rehabilitation of priority highways. The other $15 million is allocated to facilities or equipment for areas such as ports, railways, and airports. Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill into law on July 6th, but for it to be enacted, the people of the state must vote for its ratification. 

According to the census, Colorado grew the 6th fastest out of all states during the past decade. With this growth comes the need for better and larger infrastructure. Sen. Leroy Garcia and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger’s SB 21-238 creates a rail district for the future planning and development of a passenger rail line for Colorado’s front range. This area includes Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Boulder, which encompasses a majority of the state’s largest cities. Following passage in both the Senate and the House, Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law on June 30th, 2021. 

Missouri passed its first increase in its gas tax since 1996, which will raise the per gallon gas tax by 2.5 cents per year for the next five years. According to research done by Quotewizard which “analyzed new numbers from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA)”, Missouri has the 10th worst road infrastructure in the United States. The increased revenue, which is estimated to be $460 million, will be used to fund state roads and bridges. Sen. Dave Schatz’s 262, however, also allows drivers to get refunded the tax amount if they keep their receipts. An additional part of the bill creates an Electrical Vehicle Task Force. Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill on July 13th, 2021. 

The increased adoption of electrical vehicles has become a platform for politicians promoting “green legislation”. Multiple states have introduced legislation pertaining to charging stations, thereby making it easier for electric vehicle owners to travel longer distances. Assemb. Annette Quijano of New Jersey, Rep. Alex Ramel of Washington, and Sen. Mark Johnson of Arkansas introduced charging station legislation which their respective governors all later signed into law. 

At the national scale, the Demoractic Party is debating that the modern definition of infrastructure should include more than just roads and bridges. Many states have reflected this in their legislation: 

Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross of Maine, Rep. Rick Carfagna and Rep. Brian Stewart of Ohio, Sen. Scott Baldwin of Indiana, and Iowa’s House Committee on Appropriations introduced broadband bills which then passed both legislative houses. All but the bill from Maine have already been signed into law. Broadband provides people with the internet with “a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds”, according to the Federal Communications Commision. This is an attempt to connect all citizens to the internet. For example, according to the 2020 Census, only 80% of Indiana residents have broadband internet access. The national average isn’t much higher at 82.7% access

In California, 86% percent of the state is experiencing extreme drought and 33% exceptional drought, which is the highest category. The state has seen more fires than this stage in 2020. Scientists attribute the increase in fires to poor historical forest management and global warming. Sen. Anna Cabellero’s bill will help increase revenues for urban forestry to help reduce greenhouse gas levels as a means to improve what the bill calls “green infrastructure”. 

It’s easy to track legislation using FastDemocracy’s free legislative lookup tool, but to make it even easier, we’ve created a list below of each of the laws that were passed in that contained the word “infrastructure” in the bills’ description. 
But there’s even more that you can do with FastDemocracy Professional, which we’ve created for non-profits, lobbying groups, and media organizations. Stay on top of the legislature with real time hearing alerts, bill similarity detection, customizable reports for clients and stakeholders, and so many more helpful features by scheduling a demo today. If all that isn’t right for you and your organization, you can still check out the list of passed bills below.

What are New Jersey’s marijuana laws?

medical-marijuana-dispensary

On a federal level, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, which includes the likes of heroin and LSD. Eighteen states, including New Jersey, have fully legalized marijuana and 38 have legalized medical cannabis, many of which have just done so recently.

Passed by both New Jersey legislative houses last year and signed into law this February by Gov. Phil Murphy, Assemb. Annette Quijano’s marijuana bill led to the legalization of recreational marijuana for certain adults, decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and removed its status as a Schedule I drug. In conjunction with the passage of this landmark bill for recreational use has been the passage of three bills pertaining to medical cannabis.

Sen. Declan J. O’Scanlon Jr.’s bill, which passed in both the Senate and the Assembly last legislative session, is currently awaiting the governor’s approval. The bill permits qualified medical professionals to use telehealth to authorize the use of medical cannabis for patients except in special cases. The bill also stipulates that the patient must have an annual in-person consultation to re-approve the patient for medical cannabis authorization. This includes written instructions to be given to the patient to present to a medical cannabis dispensary. 

Sen. Troy Singleton’s bill “revises certain restrictions on ownership of medical cannabis alternative treatment centers [and] expands [the] scope of review of alternative treatment center permit applications and related materials.” The Senate passed the bill last legislative session while the Assembly passed it on May 20th. In the original act in which the bill is amending, it is written that “no entity or person shall hold more than one medical marijuana permit.” Sen. Singleton’s bill allows entities to provide financial assistance until they own a 40 percent interest in a minority, women, and/or disabled veteran owned medical marijuana dispensary. Also, if the owner defaults, the investor will not become the new controlling interest. 

Sen. Joseph F. Vitale’s bill bans the sale of tobacco and electronic smoking devices in pharmacies and certain businesses that contain a pharmacy. Relating to medical marijuana, the bill emphasizes that it does not include the banning of medical marijuana or anything else that the Federal Drug and Food Administration approves of for smoking. Sen. Vitale introduced this bill last January and it passed in the Senate this February. The bill is currently in the Assembly Health Committee.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey’s legislative session had limited activity in 2020, meaning that many of the bills carried over. Some of the bills introduced this session have yet to be passed by either the Senate or the Assembly, including many medical marijuana bills. To stay up to date on the cannabis-related bills that have been introduced this year, click below.

Which bills passed this year in Alabama?

Alabama’s legislative session ended on May 17th at midnight this year, when the House and Senate officially stood adjourned sine die, meaning with no designated day for resumption. On the last day, the legislature passed some notable bills, including Rep. Wes Allen’s curbside voting ban bill and Rep. Jeremy Gray’s yoga in schools bill, and adjourned before the House could vote on Sen. Shay Shelnutt’s transgender bill. Gov. Kay Ivey also signed Sen. Tim Melson’s medical cannabis program bill into law. 
Sen. Arthur Orr’s vaccine passport bill, Rep. Scott Stadthagen’s transgender athlete bill, and the aforementioned medical cannabis program bill made headlines when they went through committee hearings, were debated on the floor, and eventually passed.

Other bills didn’t receive the same level of press coverage, but may be just as important to lobbyists, non-profit organizations, or citizens who are trying to keep an eye on their lawmakers. 

How many bills have passed in Alabama this year?

The Alabama Legislature passed 545 bills and joint resolutions that have now either been signed into law or are awaiting Gov. Ivey’s signature. No bills have been vetoed so far. 

How do I look up bills that passed in Alabama?

It’s easy to track legislation using FastDemocracy’s free legislative lookup tool, but to make it even easier, we’ve created a list below of each of the laws that were passed in Alabama this year. 
But there’s even more that you can do with FastDemocracy Professional, which we’ve created for non-profits, lobbying groups, and media organizations. Stay on top of the legislature with real time hearing alerts, bill similarity detection, customizable reports for clients and stakeholders, and so many more helpful features by scheduling a demo today. If all that isn’t right for you and your organization, you can still check out the list of passed bills below.

Which bills passed this year in Missouri?

Missouri’s legislative session ended on May 14 at 6pm this year, when the House officially stood adjourned. The Senate ended roughly four hours earlier when Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo motioned to adjourn, having promised that no legislative work would get done that day due to issues and distrust within the chamber.

Some major pieces of legislation passed this year, like Sens. Tony Luetkemeyer and Brian Williams’ police reform bill, Rep. Phil Christofanelli’s education reform bill, and Sen. Holly Rehder’s PDMP legislation. Each of these bills made headlines when they went through committee hearings, were debated on the floor, and eventually passed. 

Other bills didn’t receive the same level of press coverage, but may be just as important to lobbyists, non-profit organizations, or citizens who are trying to keep an eye on their lawmakers. 

How many bills have passed in Missouri this year?

The Missouri General Assembly passed 69 bills that have now either been signed into law or are awaiting Gov. Mike Parson’s signature. Below, we’ll explain how to look up the bills that were passed in Missouri this year using FastDemocracy’s free legislative lookup tool.

How do I look up bills that passed in Missouri?

It’s easy to track legislation using FastDemocracy’s free legislative lookup tool, but to make it even easier, we’ve created a list below of each of the laws that were passed in Missouri this year. You can see who sponsored them, the latest version of the bill text, and even add your own notes to each by signing up for a free FastDemocracy account.

The Room Where It Happens

In an age of information abundance, we have to make choices of where to place our time, attention, and talents. Guided by media framing, our attention is often captivated, even isolated to, national politics instead of our home communities. From November to present day, we’ve been inundated from the top of the ticket – the national elections, the Georgia runoff, a potential government shutdown, imperiled relief efforts, and a raging global pandemic. However, behind all of these stories is the story of a nation of 50 parts.

Instead of looking for the overview, we shouldn’t be afraid to dig into the details and come to know and understand our states. Despite the national noise,  we cannot forget a central tenet of our political reality – politics are, fundamentally, local. It’s time to refocus.

Using FastDemocracy’s search tools, we know that since 2015, Congress has passed and presidents have signed 871 pieces of legislation. In the meantime, state legislatures have passed and governors have signed 100,296 pieces of legislation. State governments tax residents, build roads, fund schools, reform criminal justice systems, run elections and more. Each State legislature has between 60-400 members compared to 435 federal congressmen and 100 senators. If we compared their activity, state legislatures pass 115 times more legislation than the federal government.

From January to July, almost every state will gear up again to pass legislation against the same political backdrop as that of the federal government. If our attention remains focused at the top, we will miss the moving parts that make up our national fabric. To do that, we need to stay informed. That doesn’t have to be hard with a tool like FastDemocracy. Sign up, access your free account, and stay informed. We can choose to sharpen our focus and lead our political lives as we do our personal ones, closer to home.

 

State of Humor: What you can learn from your state government if you follow closely

It makes sense that there’s humor lurking behind the desk of government bureaucrats but I recently got a front row seat. Through FastDemocracy, I now get daily press clips from government agencies across multiple states. What have I learned so far? Birds are getting drunk in Missouri, I can adopt captive desert tortoises in Utah, Florida has (shockingly) found you should be drinking more orange juice, I could have should have, would have bought a bison in Wyoming, and there is a smart cat in South Carolina dedicated to teaching me to wash my paws properly.  

Let me explain. 

As a government relations professional, I need to follow state press releases. I can learn about the latest COVID-19 numbers and strategies and come to understand changes to state Supreme Courts and vital economic initiatives county by county. That said, I find it completely delightful when I can easily find what I need and find a reason to smile. Hence the reason I make sure my daily brief never misses the department of conservation and always includes a variety of state agencies. 

Check out two of my recent favorites below and sign up for FastDemocracy to get the inside scoop. 

INTOXICATED WILDLIFE, Missouri Department of Conservation 

The friendly little bird known as the cedar waxwing often gets drunk off fermented berries in the spring and tumble from their perches. Most are unharmed but they aren’t alone in their boozy escapades. Apparently wasps can also become tipsy when feeding on rotten fruit. How can I tell? According to the Missouri Department of Conservation the wasps will “buzz around on their backs for a few seconds while their rapid metabolism cleanses the alcohol from their systems.” I feel better informed already. 

South Carolina ETV announces new Smart Cat education initiative, South Carolina ETV Commission

I knew it. South Carolinians are tried and true cat people. As such, it should come as no surprise that they’ve found a way to help combat COVID-19 through a new cat animation dedicated to teaching young folks how to wash their hands. I’m not sure I needed to watch the whole video but I did and I’m better for it. Thank you South Carolina.

Heading into session? Here are 3 things you can do to get prepared.

Every year before the legislative session formally begins, there is a sense of urgency and apprehension. What will be the priorities? How will the parties fracture? Anyone who tells you they know exactly what to expect is absolutely lying. 

There is only one thing that truly helps keep the nerves at bay and your goals in sight. Being prepared. 

That’s not a cliche– it’s a warning, but it’s actually not as ominous as it sounds. In the world of politics, preparation comes down to making sure you’ve got the right players on your team firing on all cylinders. For some organizations, that might mean finding the right contract lobbyists. For those running point under the dome, this means doing as much work to coordinate with your team as possible. 

Here are three things you can do now to make sure you’re prepared for the start of legislative session

  1. Collaborate with your communications team. Using FastDemocracy, I make sure to have files shared under my known affirmative and know opposition bills as early as possible so that my communications team can independently create content related to legislative happenings, and, because we are on the same platform, I know that they are up to date with where the bill is in the process. 
  1. Coordinate with coalition lobbyists. I double check to make sure that all my bill lists on FastDemocracy are shared with my partners and prompt them for their feedback if needed. This way, I’ll have everything in one place for that quick meeting  with a legislator and be ready to pivot from one topic to the next in a blink without running to find my colleague or desperately searching through my email inbox. 
  1. Share with community supporters. Working in the nonprofit space, I can’t overstate the importance of coalitions. However, coordinating coalitions is time-consuming and time is never easy to come by. With FastDemocracy, I cut through the noise by sharing information in a widget on my webpage. That way supporters, donors, and coalition partners can subscribe and follow along rather than wait for my call. 

So get your tools ready. Fire up your bill tracker and talk to your people and know this– with the right team in place, working together, you can be the small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens ready to  change the world.

What’s Next?

What's Next?Despite lawsuits by the Trump administration, it should be abundantly clear that we are in a moment of transition to a new administration. Your vote took work and it mattered. For many, the post election phase feels like a moment to recover. For those that govern, the work has really just begun. 

Civil servants are stepping up to fill their roles. The incoming Biden administration has a vast team of individuals ready to implement their policy agenda. Elected officials across the country and across parties are doing the same. As a voter, I’m left to wonder– are we ready?

We elect officials to represent us. Elections are seen as inflection points, report cards for if an official is up to the task but what if we didn’t bottle up the power of the people and distill it to just a vote. What if instead, we flexed the people’s power year round and became part of the governing process? 

Elections do not equal representation– accountability does. 

We must transition from voters to organizers and become as invested in the political outcomes we seek as the politicians we support. 

I’m not sitting back after this election, I’m staying vigilant. Using FastDemocracy, I have the government at my fingertips.  I’ll be digging deep on legislative analytics as newly elected representatives take their seats. I’ll be combing through historic legislative data to pick up on where the hotspots of legislature are unresolved. Why? Because my vote isn’t my only power. I have the power to be informed. The power to organize my peers. The power to shape the governing process to reflect the will of the governed.

My first step is to log into FastDemocracy and set my priorities. My focus is simple– I want to be able to track legislation I care about, compare my issues with my elected’s voting record and, when there is a failure of alignment, I want to be ready in the wings to hold my elected official. I’ll be using FastDemocracy to tag the votes I care about, see where my representative landed, and follow up directly with their office. I’ll be telling my friends to do the same. We cannot passively wait for good governing to happen, we have to put the people back in the process. 

We campaign far too hard to let our elections run on a boom and bust cycle. My ability to be a changemaker rests on my understanding of government.  

This election Americans woke up to engage in unprecedented numbers. What’s next? Governing with unprecedented input. We owe it to ourselves to hold elected officials accountable. Let the work of governing begin.

Written by Sara Baker, Chief Innovation Officer at FastDemocracy

Our commitment to pursuing racial justice

Today on Juneteenth, we celebrate freedom and progress while recognizing there is still much work to be done. The senseless murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Michael Brown, Jr., among too many others, starkly demonstrates once again that our Black friends and neighbors have yet to achieve equality and justice. We can do better as a country and it starts with making sure all of our institutions are accountable. 

Our company is new. We are navigating our place and we are sure to make missteps along the way, but right now we know our role is to be an ally, to listen and learn, to raise up the voices of our BIPOC community, and to give what we have in pursuit of justice. 

In this moment, we are donating services to organizations that stand strong for racial justice. We are first committing to five organizations in our home state of Missouri to begin our work as allies. We stand with Black communities and we loudly and unequivocally state that Black lives matter.

In solidarity,

The FastDemocracy Team