Tom RamstackTom RamstackJanuary 21, 201819min340

H.J.Res. 99: Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2017, and for other purposes

This was a vote to pass H.J. Res. 99 in the House.

The House passed a resolution Thursday night to continue federal spending at last year’s levels while Congress wrangles over a new budget. The only other alternative was a government shutdown. However, the bill faces a tougher struggle in the Senate, where several senators have said continuing resolutions are not the best way to fund the government. Health care, such as funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program for low-income families, and immigration disputes are among the top issues that have deadlocked Congress on approving a new budget. A breakthrough on passing the continuing resolution came Thursday after an appeal by President Trump to the House Freedom Caucus, which consists of about 40 conservative Republicans. Their agreement to vote for the stopgap resolution might have averted a government shutdown.

Passed.

No  D   DeGette, Diana CO 1st
Yes  D   Polis, Jared CO 2nd
Yes  R   Tipton, Scott CO 3rd
Yes  R   Buck, Ken CO 4th
Yes  R   Lamborn, Doug CO 5th
Yes  R   Coffman, Mike CO 6th
Yes  D   Perlmutter, Ed CO 7th

S. 139: FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017

This was a vote to pass S. 139 in the Senate.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Reauthorization Act is a controversial government surveillance law that allows U.S. intelligence agencies to collect information on foreign targets. The bill also authorizes the FBI to gather information from a database on Americans living abroad. However, investigators must get a warrant based on probable cause before they can view the content of the computerized information. “It enables our intelligence community to collect communications from foreign terrorists on foreign soil who threaten America and our allies,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement after the bill won Senate approval. The Act “does not allow the targeting of American citizens,” he said. “Nor does it permit the targeting of anyone – no matter their nationality — who is known to be located here in the U.S.” The House passed the companion bill last week.

Passed.

No  D   Bennet, Michael CO
No  R   Gardner, Cory CO

H.R. 4279: Expanding Investment Opportunities Act

This was a vote to pass H.R. 4279 in the House.

The Expanding Investment Opportunities Act seeks to simplify the registration process for closed-end mutual funds. Closed-end funds (CEF) or closed-ended funds use collective investments based on a fixed number of shares that are not redeemable from the fund. Unlike open-end funds, managers of new shares in a closed-end fund do not seek to meet demand from investors. Instead, the shares can be purchased and sold only in the stock market, similar to a mutual fund. Some financial advisors have complained regulatory burdens and lack of public information about closed-end funds have impeded their public acceptance. “Notwithstanding the benefits these funds provide to investors and the capital markets, the last several years have seen a steady decline in the number of closed-end funds and new closed-end fund offerings,” said Paul Schott Stevens, president of the Investment Company Institute, a public policy organization. “By simplifying the closed-end fund offering process and liberalizing existing restrictions on communications with investors before and during an offering, the legislation would reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens that raise costs for investors.” H.R. 4279 directs the Securities and Exchange Commission to amend its rules to reclassify closed-end funds that meet certain requirements to be considered “well-known seasoned issuers” (WKSIs). The SEC also would be required to make the filing and offering regulations for closed-end funds the same as for traditional operating companies.

Passed.

Yes  D   DeGette, Diana CO 1st
Yes  D   Polis, Jared CO 2nd
Yes  R   Tipton, Scott CO 3rd
Yes  R   Buck, Ken CO 4th
Yes  R   Lamborn, Doug CO 5th
Yes  R   Coffman, Mike CO 6th
Yes  D   Perlmutter, Ed CO 7th

H.R. 3326: World Bank Accountability Act of 2017

This was a vote to pass H.R. 3326 in the House.

The World Bank Accountability Act of 2017 reauthorizes U.S. participation in the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, but with new conditions. The bill funds the association at the level requested by the Trump administration but only if the World Bank adopts reforms to prevent corruption. One set of conditions would allow the U.S. government to withhold 15 percent of its annual contribution if the World Bank fails to reform its staff incentives, gender-based violence and accountability for trust funds. Current staff incentives are based on volume of lending. H.R. 3326 conditions full U.S. funding on targeting loans to reduce poverty and encourage development among poor countries. Gender-based violence refers to avoiding a repeat of loans that contributed to the sexual abuse of teenage girls during the Uganda Transport Sector Development Project. Other aid conditions require tougher standards for World Bank projects, such as by supporting human rights, minimizing corruption, auditing work and denying support to terrorists. The bill instructs the U.S. executive director at the World Bank to oppose assistance to countries that refuse to enforce sanctions against North Korea.

Passed.

No  D   DeGette, Diana CO 1st
Yes  D   Polis, Jared CO 2nd
Yes  R   Tipton, Scott CO 3rd
Yes  R   Buck, Ken CO 4th
Yes  R   Lamborn, Doug CO 5th
Yes  R   Coffman, Mike CO 6th
No  D   Perlmutter, Ed CO 7th

H.R. 4258: Family Self-Sufficiency Act

This was a vote to pass H.R. 4258 in the House.

The Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Act permanently reauthorizes the FSS program, combines it with the Housing Choice Voucher program and public housing and expands eligibility to include families in privately-owned properties subsidized with Housing and Urban Development project-based rental assistance. The program also offers new services for financial literacy and education. “Growing up in public housing, I am well aware of how important it is that we provide residents with opportunities to become independent and self-sufficient,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., a sponsor of the bill. “A program like FSS helps participants access essential supportive services, putting them on a path towards success. The program has strong support nationally and has been successful in improving outcomes in my own congressional district.” Since its establishment, the FSS program has enabled families living in public or project-based assisted housing or using Housing Choice Vouchers to access workforce training and other resources to pursue higher-paying employment. Families enrolled in the FSS program receive an interest-bearing escrow account to help them save money and apply the savings to work-related purchases. The House bill mirrored the Senate bill introduced last year by Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Jack Reed, D-R.I. The National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote letters to Congress supporting the Family Self-Sufficiency Act.

Passed.

Yes  D   DeGette, Diana CO 1st
Yes  D   Polis, Jared CO 2nd
Yes  R   Tipton, Scott CO 3rd
Yes  R   Buck, Ken CO 4th
Yes  R   Lamborn, Doug CO 5th
Yes  R   Coffman, Mike CO 6th
Yes  D   Perlmutter, Ed CO 7th

 

Sources: GovTrack, Congress.gov, media reports and congressional statements



Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 6, 201714min530
GOLDEN – The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has 40 years of history behind it, but walking through its sprawling Front Range campus one can’t help but think 40 years into the future. Solar cells that can be spray-painted onto windows or printed at a Home Depot; power grids that can take in a wide portfolio […]

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Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJune 20, 20175min470

Colorado’s economy has grown for the past eight years since the economic downturn, and it’s on a path towards the longest expansion in the state’s history, lawmakers heard Tuesday.

State budget writers received an update from the governor’s office and legislative staff on the June revenue forecast for the state.

Colorado is currently in its third-largest economic expansion in the state’s history, with a record-low May unemployment rate of 2.3 percent. Colorado enjoys the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.

The national unemployment rate stands at 4.3 percent.

The Colorado unemployment rate is expected to tick up, but only slightly, meaning the state will continue to benefit from a booming jobs market and economy, albeit with some constraint ahead.

As expected, the economy is not uniform throughout the state, with most of the productive economic activity taking place along the urban Front Range corridor.

But overall, state economists believe Colorado is poised for continued success.

“It is an economy that is close to or pretty much at productive capacity,” said Natalie Mullis, chief economist for Colorado Legislative Council staff.

The forecast, however, is a bit uncertain, as several unforeseen factors remain in play, including an increase in automation for jobs, the state’s growing aging population, and the emergence of so-called “shadow markets,” which utilize the internet and apps.

That said, the economy could also do better than economists anticipate: “It’s possible that there is more capacity in the economy and we’re really not truly in a mature capacity … which would mean our forecast is pessimistic,” Mullis said.

Also weighing on the forecast is the rising price of housing costs in Colorado.

“There’s not a whole lot of opportunity for the supply of labor to increase,” said economist Larson Silbaugh, pointing out that the state needs housing options for an increased workforce.

Economists also believe that the cost of doing business in the state will go up, which means prices will be passed on to consumers, which could cause inflation. Either way, the economy will continue to grow, but more likely at a constrained pace.

In terms of impact to state government, revenue that is used for discretionary spending is increasing at a modest 3.4 percent pace in the current fiscal year, but it’s expected to increase at a stronger 6.7 percent rate in the upcoming fiscal year that begins in July, according to an assessment by the governor’s office.

Budget writers were concerned that the greater revenue impact on the current fiscal year would be from declining oil and gas prices. But a new factor to consider is that taxpayers appeared to delay income from investment gains given uncertainty in Washington, D.C. over likely federal tax changes.

“Colorado reached two significant milestones this year – the number one economy in the country and the state’s lowest unemployment on record,” Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Our challenge now is maintaining this success and that requires addressing tight labor and affordable housing conditions.”

Lawmakers may have some additional budget maneuvering ahead of them in next year’s legislative session, though reserves are $52.3 million above the level that would trigger immediate mandatory budget-balancing moves by the governor’s office, according to Henry Sobanet, the governor’s budget director.

Recent action by the legislature on restructuring a fee that is assessed on hospital bed stays is starting to take form as well. The state is below its spending limit, which means taxpayer refunds are not expected, though they were not expected in the upcoming fiscal year even without the change in law.

Revenue from cash funds will decrease 17.3 percent in the upcoming fiscal year, as the Hospital Provider Fee is restructured to exempt it from contributing to the state’s spending cap, according to the governor’s office.

The move by the legislature also lowered the state spending limit cap by $200 million, so there is some uncertainty in the future over when taxpayer rebates would be triggered.