Month: April 2017

The Four Types of Legislation

Legislation is not only comprised of lengthy, confusing language, it is graced with titles and official classifications that can be just as confusing. There is rhyme and reason on the abbreviations and numbers to legislation, however. It actually gives the designation of the type and numerical order of introduction to a chamber of Congress.

The first type of legislation is the one that we most often think of, the bill. I bet that as soon as you read that, you got at least a flash of the Schoolhouse Rock video about Bill on Capitol Hill. Ahh, nostalgia. Perhaps that video is why we really only think of bills but it could also be because they have a wide variety of uses. They can create new laws, amend an existing one, or even nix one that is already on the books. Bills can be introduced in either house of Congress but must be passed by both in order to move on to be signed (hopefully) by the President. Bills can also be public or private. Public bills apply to everyone in the United States. Private bills only pertain to a group, person, or business. Bills are denoted by an “H.R.”  or an “S.” before the number.

Bill Title

The next three types of proposed legislation are resolutions but they are obviously all a little different. I pretty much have a hate relationship with most resolutions, but that is another post entirely.

First, you have the “Simple Resolution.” It is denoted as in the picture above but the abbreviations are “H. Res.” or “S. Res.” They essentially just express an opinion or sentiment of the House of Representatives or the Senate. The other chamber does not have to approve the simple resolution.

On the rare occasion that both chambers of Congress agree on an opinion, we will see the “Concurrent Resolution” which carries “H. Con. Res.” or “S. Con. Res” before the number.

Finally, the fourth type of legislation is a “Joint Resolution” and is denoted by “H. J. Res.” or “S. J. Res” depending on which chamber introduced the resolution. This type of resolution is similar to a bill because it will be passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President. The only exception is when it is used to propose a constitutional amendment and then each chamber must pass it with at least a two-thirds vote with no need to be signed by the President. Joint resolutions can also be used to allocate money for specific types of spending, appoint persons to certain positions, or even to disapprove rules that have been submitted by government agencies.

Knowing the differences between the four types of legislation may not seem important, but it is for anyone who wishes to understand what is being attempted and accomplished in Congress. On a side note, I mainly refer to Congress.gov for research on current legislative activity and I encourage you to browse the site as well if you find the time.

S. 544 : Changing the Veteran’s Choice Program

The Veteran’s Choice Program is not without its flaws. News agencies far and wide have reported on inefficiency, ridiculous eligibility criteria, and general messiness. Perhaps some would be glad to see it expire in August 2017 as scheduled, but considering that wait times and care services are still not where they should be across the board, we may be better off hoping that President Trump signs this bill into law. Instead of expiring three years after enactment of the original bill, the Veteran’s Choice Program will continue as long as there is money in the fund. Initially, 10 billion was allocated, but President Trump’s proposed budget would add 3.5 billion for the program. Given this fact and the president’s promises to take care of Veteran’s, it would be unlikely that he would veto this bill.

In addition to changing the termination date of the Choice Program, this bill, which amends the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, will also allow for the Choice Program to recoup money from third parties (insurance companies) for provided medical care that is not service-connected. This will clearly help extend the budget of the program and ensure that the appropriate parties pay for care.

VA medical records will also be able to be send to outside agencies for the purpose of providing medical care. Any other use of the records will be prohibited. If you have ever tried to get records sent from one government agency to another, especially the VA, you know what a pain it can be!

These changes may not seem like much but they are certainly a step in the right direction. For some, the Choice Program works, for others, it does not. Each improvement provides more Veterans with the care that they need.

Senators Get Paid To Throw A Tantrum

In my daughter’s six years on this earth, she has thrown exactly two tantrums that I would consider EPIC. Strangely enough, they both occurred at the same restaurant as we were leaving. The first included a lot of screaming and the second including less screaming but a complete refusal to sit in her car seat so I could buckle her in. She arched her little body outward and it was tense like a rock! Fearing that I would hurt her if I forced her down, my husband and I were held hostage in the car for 45 mins while she screamed about the unfairness of a toddler’s life. It was loud, it was frustrating, and we just wanted to go home. It was that day that I declared a war on tantrums.

That war now extends beyond the reach of my family, I am talking about the tantrums thrown by United States Senators: grown men and women who give speeches so long that it makes me wonder if they wear adult diapers. Seriously, who talks for a dozen or more hours without a bathroom break!?! The purpose isn’t really even to convince other Senators to feel one way or the other about what is being voted on. The purpose is to keep the vote from happening. Do you see the similarity there? A toddler is just as capable of filibustering as a grown politician. My Mini had no other purpose in her tantrum than to keep us from leaving. She gained nothing unless she could outlast us. Thankfully, toddlers sleep more than politicians. One Senator’s filibuster can last up to 30 hours if they can last that long.

Is this what we want our elected officials doing? Do we want them to be sharing recipes, reading Shakespeare, singing, and rambling just because they want their way? Sure, there can be another vote to the end the filibuster, but that vote can be filibustered too. If our Senators cared about the American Taxpayer, then they wouldn’t spend time yammering on (or threatening it) just to see if they can get other people to leave and avoid a vote. Sometimes these Senate tantrums work and sometimes they don’t, but from this mom’s point of view, they are always a waste. Please locate your Senator’s contact information and let them know that you don’t get paid for speaking off-topic for hours on end and neither do they. Republican, Democrat, Independent, whatever you are, you deserve more respect from the people on Capitol Hill.