H.R. 1153: Mortgage Choice Act of 2017
This was a vote to pass H.R. 1153 in the House.
The Mortgage Choice Act of 2017 approved this week is intended to make mortgage lending easier for financial institutions by excluding some charges from the points and fee calculations. It also is supposed to incrementally drive down the cost to consumers to obtain a mortgage. The bill has the support of the Credit Union National Association. “These common sense changes will help low and moderate income families as well as first-time homebuyers access affordable mortgage credit and experience the benefits of one-stop shopping by ensuring that safe, properly underwritten mortgages pass the qualified mortgage test,” said Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., who sponsored the bill. It limits the points and fees for “Qualified Mortgages” to no more than 3 percent of the loan value. It also removes title insurance purchased from a company affiliated with the lender as well as escrowed homeowners insurance premiums from the points and fees calculation.
H.R. 1997: Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act of 2017
This was a vote to pass H.R. 1997 in the House.
The “Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act” is intended to promote U.S.-Ukraine cooperation for cybersecurity while both the Ukraine and United States are concerned about Russian hacking. This week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that the Russians are likely to try to hack American computer systems to influence the upcoming midterm elections. He also said the United States is unprepared. Under the legislation the House approved this week, the U.S. will offer Ukraine support to secure its government computer networks. In addition, Ukrainian officials hope to reduce their dependence on Russian information and communications technology. In return, the U.S. government will get opportunities for cybersecurity information-sharing. The sponsors of the bill said it is authorized under the U.S.–Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership and the Budapest Memorandum on security assurances. The bill still needs Senate approval.
H.R. 1892: Honoring Hometown Heroes Act
This was a vote to pass H.R. 1892 in the House.
The Honoring Hometown Heroes Act modifies the federal flag code to give governors and the mayor of Washington, D.C., authority to “proclaim that the U.S. flag shall be flown at half-staff in the event of the death of a first responder (public safety officer) working in such jurisdiction who dies while serving in the line of duty.” The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., said in a statement, “First responders are the nation’s front line of defense here at home. In the unfortunate times when the ultimate sacrifice is given, they deserve the respect of having our nation’s flag flown at half-staff. Amending the Flag Code is the least we can do.” The standards for handling and displaying the U.S. Flag are defined by the U.S. Flag Code. It authorizes the president to order the flag to be flown at half-staff when governors or high-ranking U.S. government figures die. H.R. 1892 extends the authority to governors to honor local police, firefighters and emergency responders killed in the line of duty.
H.R. 772: Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2017
This was a vote to pass H.R. 772 in the House.
This bill clarifies the Obamacare menu labeling rules to give restaurant owners greater flexibility in posting the nutrition information of the food they sell. The “Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act” is a response to concerns of the food industry, which has complained that food labeling provisions of the Affordable Care Act placed too much of a burden on them. Current law requires chain restaurants, convenience stores, movie theaters and supermarkets with at least 20 locations to post nutrition information on their in-store menu boards to comply with the requirements. The Food and Drug Administration announced in November the rules would take effect May 7. The guidelines would have required a listing of calorie counts next to each food item on the menu. Supporters of the Obamacare rules say the menu labeling requirements encourage public health by informing consumers about their food orders. However, pizza chains and other fast food restaurants say the rules can be misleading. Nutrition information can vary widely depending on toppings customers choose, the restaurants say. Instead, they want to post nutrition information on their websites. The Republican-endorsed H.R. 772 would give them that option. They also could list the nutrition information through phone recordings or mobile apps.
H.R. 4547: Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017
This was a vote to pass H.R. 4547 in the House.
H.R. 4547 would increase oversight of the Social Security Administration’s payee representative program, which handles payments to persons who are too young, disabled or elderly to manage their benefits themselves. The Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2017 was a reaction to reports of abuses by payee representatives who sometimes embezzled money paid to more than eight million beneficiaries under the program. The House bill is intended to protect the beneficiaries through a more rigorous process of selecting and managing payee representatives. Complaints about abuses came from government watchdog groups and stakeholders in the program, which the Social Security Administration has used since 1938 to administer funds. Some of them testified during congressional hearings leading up to passage of H.R. 4547. Provisions of the bill would increase the number of performance reviews of payee representatives. The reviews would be done by the Protection and Advocacy system of each state. The legislation also would eliminate the requirement for spouses and parents who live with their children to file annual payee accounting forms.
Sources: GovTrack, press statements, congressional and media reports