Skip to content

By: Dr. Tim Westlake, Opinion Contributor to The Hill

As Congress moves swiftly to address the opioid epidemic, it is vitally important the most meaningful and impactful solutions are enacted, including the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act, or SOFA. In testimony last month before the House Judiciary Committee, I urged Congress to consider this critical piece of legislation to halt the spread of fentanyl-related substances. Let me explain.

In my role on the Wisconsin Medical Examining and Controlled Substance Boards, and as an emergency room physician on the front lines of the opioid battlefield for the past two decades, I have witnessed more tragedy than I care to recall. Countless hours have been spent working to identify and implement best practices. One strategy, for physicians to prescribe more judiciously, is already happening in the Badger State -- not with top down mandates, but through education and partnerships with the medical community. The goal is to stem not only the supply of legal, but also illicit, opioids. By far, the deadliest threat in the opioid war is posed by fentanyl-related substances. In fact, deaths from fentanyl-related substances now surpass heroin deaths.

Because so little can kill so many -- a lethal dose of fentanyl is 2mg and one teaspoon is enough to kill 2,000 people -- fentanyl variants are classifiable as weapons of mass destruction. The “bad guys” use loopholes in the existing scheduling laws to create new legal fentanyl variants. These untested chemicals are then produced abroad, mostly in China, and trafficked legally into the U.S. to enter the opioid supply.

As prescription opioid reforms take hold and the medical community returns to more judicious prescribing practices, the market for counterfeit pills will continue to explode. Most illicit opioid users have no idea what they are consuming. With the advent of counterfeit pill production, they believe they’re ingesting a “safe” trade-name manufactured pill, when actually it is a fentanyl-related counterfeit substance. These can be transported legally into the U.S. and even bought online and delivered in the mail. These pills can be alarmingly stronger than what they are purported to be -- up to hundreds of times stronger. The singer Prince died from counterfeit Vicodin pills that were actually fentanyl.

In Wisconsin, we saw this coming and worked closely with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to get in front of it. We created and enacted scheduling statutes now being modeled nationally. The SOFA Act controls, by structure, all likely bioactive chemical modifications of the fentanyl molecule. This novel, catch-all legislative language allows us to schedule proactively and not wait for loved ones to die before we can schedule each newly modified fentanyl variant. Essentially, it unplugs the entire fentanyl machine.

The legislation is specific by design: it targets only the likely bioactive modifications of the fentanyl molecule itself; no other opioids or drugs are included. As well, research would not be impeded. The current research approval process would not change and the DEA has streamlined the registration process.

The week after Wisconsin enacted SOFA, the DEA published identical language in the Federal Register as the method of federal temporary scheduling. Chemists around the world must be paying attention. Since the announcement of the intent to schedule using SOFA seven months ago, no new fentanyl-related substances have been found by the DEA. In contrast, during the prior two years, DEA uncovered 17 new fentanyls, representing hundreds of deaths. SOFA is already saving lives, but the language needs to be written into federal law to achieve the best permanent scheduling solution. Thanks to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Wisconsin’s solution is now under consideration as model legislation for the nation.

With the many well-intentioned opioid bills being considered in Washington, it would be a tragedy to leave the fentanyl-related substances loophole open. It’s why I am writing today. I urge Congress to include SOFA in the solutions it enacts in the coming weeks to minimize the scourge of opioids and stop the spread of what are really chemical weapons.

Dr. Tim Westlake is a full-time Emergency Physician; Medical Director of the Oconomowoc Memorial Emergency Department; Vice Chairman of the Wisconsin State Medical Examining Board, where he serves as Chairman of the Licensing and Controlled Substance Committees; member of the Wisconsin State Controlled Substances Board and of the Governor’s Taskforce on Opioid Abuse. 

By: Marco Green of Lancashire Independent News

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc with higher taxes and said their business would suffer in a public backlash over its decision to move production for European customers overseas.

The US President launched a Twitter tirade against Harley-Davidson in which he also suggested that tariffs on the EU's vehicle exports are imminent, raising fears of a further tariff escalation.

Trump warned the iconic American brand that any shift in production "will be the beginning of the end". "The Aura will be gone and they will be taxed like never before!"

Harley-Davidson said that shifting targeted production from the U.S.to global facilities could take at least nine to 18 months to be completed.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration plans to impose curbs on Chinese investment in American technology companies and high-tech exports to China.

Trump offered no clarity later in the day when he was asked about tariffs during a White House photo-op with Congress members.

"Harley-Davidson is using that as an excuse and I don't like that because I've been very good to Harley-Davidson and they used it as an excuse", he said in response. "And I think the people who ride Harleys aren't happy with Harley-Davidson and I wouldn't be either".

"To address the substantial cost of this tariff burden long-term, Harley-Davidson will be implementing a plan to shift production of motorcycles for European Union destinations from the USA to its worldwide facilities to avoid the tariff burden", the company said in an official filing to the United States market regulator.

Trump first responded angrily to the Harley announcement on Monday, saying he has fought hard for the 115-year-old company and was surprised by its plans, which he described as waving the "White Flag". The EU's trade chief said last week that it was "left with no other choice" after Mr. Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum from the EU on June 1.

The Milwaukee-based company made a decision to build the Thailand plant past year after Trump pulled out from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have lowered import tariffs on its bikes in some of the fastest-growing motorcycle markets in Asia.

"Harley must know that they won't be able to sell back into US without paying a big tax!" In January, it said it would consolidate its Kansas City, Missouri, plant into its York, Pennsylvania, facility. "Taxes just a Harley excuse - be patient!" "Shows how unbalanced & unfair trade is, but we will fix it...."

He said: "We are finishing our study of Tariffs on cars from the European Union in that they have long taken advantage of the USA in the form of Trade Barriers and Tariffs". "Companies are now coming back to America".

More potential pitfalls for Harley-Davidson and other US manufacturers could be on the way. "Europe is a critical market for Harley-Davidson".

"It's unfortunate that such a strong Wisconsin company like Harley-Davidson has to bear the brunt of this trade dispute", Sensenbrenner said.

By: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

June 26, 2018

Last Thursday, the United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling in the closely-watched case South Dakota v. Wayfair. While the facts of the case narrowly focus on whether South Dakota can force businesses without a “physical presence” within its borders to remit state taxes during online sales, the far-reaching implications cut to the heart of one of our nation’s most foundational principles and the primary catalyst for the Revolutionary War: taxation (and regulation) without representation.

In light of Wayfair, Congress must now take action to preserve the rights of each state and protect the economic interests of consumers and small businesses.

By overturning decades of precedent established in National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Ill. and Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the high court opened the door to something feared by consumers and businesses alike: internet sales tax. Small businesses and entrepreneurs will now be forced to navigate the maze of more than 10,000 different tax jurisdictions. Large chain stores, like Walmart and Target, will survive the additional regulatory burden. However, the thousands of independent online entrepreneurs that use platforms such as eBay and Etsy to do business will experience the most harm.

Moreover, the increased cost of compliance for small businesses will likely result in higher prices and fewer options for consumers.

In his dissent, Chief Justice Roberts rightly concluded, “’The Constitution gives Congress the power ‘[t]o regulate Commerce… among the several States.’ Art. I, §8. I would let Congress decide whether to depart from the physical-presence rule that has governed this area for half a century.”

Fortunately, the majority deliberately noted in their opinion: “[…] when Congress exercises its power to regulate commerce by enacting legislation, the legislation controls.”

Now more than ever, Congress must exercise its plenary power by passing my No Regulation Without Representation (NRWR) Act. This bipartisan legislation defends the principles of federalism and reasserts Congress’s authority over interstate commerce by clearly defining when a state can tax and regulate a business. Specifically, it bars states from levying taxes or imposing regulations on businesses that are not physically present in that state, and, therefore, do not have a voice in the creation of those tax laws and regulations.

The NRWR Act prevents states from bullying out-of-state businesses by attempting to set de-facto national policies.

For example, in 2008, California voters passed a proposition that requires egg producers to use cages twice the size of a typical cage. Initially, the regulation only applied to in-state producers. However, when California egg producers complained they were at a competitive disadvantage, state legislators extended the regulation to producers from other states as well.

California’s regulatory overreach is not unique. In 2016, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot initiative to ban certain types of housing for pigs, chickens, and cows. The rule would ban the sale of out-of-state meat and eggs that do not meet the state’s animal housing standards.

California and Massachusetts are well within their rights to regulate their citizens, however, any regulations that extend beyond their borders must come, as the Chief Justice reminds us, from Congress.

While I don’t expect to see residents of Connecticut and Rhode Island storming ships in Boston Harbor to throw bacon, eggs, and veal overboard, we still must restore the principles of federalism and representative government.

Ultimately, the NRWR Act provides a common-sense solution to restore fairness and order to the regulatory free-for-all created by Wayfair. In a time of hyper-partisan disagreements and widespread concern with government overreach, the NRWR Act can bridge the partisan divide and preserve the will of the Constitution.

You can read this piece online here.

By: Jess Bravin, Brent Kendall, and Laura Stevens of the Wall Street Journal

States have the authority to make online retailers collect sales taxes, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, a milestone marking e-commerce’s treatment as a mature player in a marketplace no longer defined by trips to the corner store or the shopping mall.

By a 5-to-4 vote, the court closed a loophole that helped fuel the early growth of internet sales, overruling a half-century of its own precedents that forbid states from requiring merchants to collect sales tax unless those sellers maintain a “physical presence” within the state’s borders.

The ruling likely will spell the end of an era in which consumers could avoid taxes by purchasing goods online instead of from local merchants.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who suggested years ago that the pre-Amazon.com precedent should be updated for the digital age, wrote for a majority that defied conventional ideological lines. Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined his opinion, along with conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

Justice Kennedy said the “physical presence” rule, always doubtful, had become untenable. He cited studies suggesting that the court’s own “artificial, anachronistic rule” now costs states up to $33.9 billion annually in uncollected sales taxes, sapping resources for essential public services while distorting the marketplace by advantaging remote sellers over those anchored in the community.

Because the court’s rulings freed out-of-state sellers from collecting sales taxes, the duty to pay them has fallen on consumers themselves. Few people have known of that obligation, and fewer still have complied: 96% of such taxes go uncollected, according to a California tax board estimate cited by the court.

More than 40 states, territories and the District of Columbia that rely on sales taxes had urged overruling the 1967 case that established the physical presence rule and a 1992 decision that affirmed it.

Groups representing conventional store retailers including Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. backed them. South Dakota brought the suit, seeking to require out-of-state companiesWayfair Inc., Overstock.com Inc. and Newegg Inc. to collect sales tax on transactions with the state’s residents. Antitax groups and retail platforms including eBay Inc. and Etsy Inc. supported the defendants.

While the justices rarely disturb their own precedents, the court no longer could stand behind an erroneous decision that “limited states’ ability to seek long-term prosperity and has prevented market participants from competing on an even playing field,” Justice Kennedy wrote.

Even the four dissenters, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, agreed that the “physical presence” rule was wrong. But with so much of the economy having grown under its influence, they said the court should leave well enough alone.

Congress, under its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, could at any time have altered the court’s rules, which effectively serve as a default in the face of legislative inaction. Torn between opposing commercial interests and fearful of the blame for effectively increasing costs for consumers, Congress hasn’t found the will—or consensus—to do so.

Some online retailers, such as Amazon.com Inc.,already collect state sales tax on products they sell directly. Others don’t—and, to Justice Kennedy’s chagrin, brag about it.

Wayfair’s advertising not only presents “an image of beautiful, peaceful homes,” but “also says that ‘one of the best things about buying through Wayfair is that we do not have to charge sales tax,’ ” Justice Kennedy wrote, calling the pitch, which since has disappeared from the Boston-based retailer’s website, “a subtle offer to assist in tax evasion.”

Nevertheless, the decision suggested states may face some limits on their collection powers. Justice Kennedy favorably noted provisions of the South Dakota law exempting small retailers and forgoing any effort to collect taxes retroactively on prior sales. The state imposes collection duties only on remote sellers that do more than $100,000 in business or at least 200 transactions a year within South Dakota.

“Many states will pick up on those details and incorporate them into their own regulatory regimes,” said Eric Citron, an attorney who represented South Dakota. He said he expected nearly every state with a sales tax to move legislation or regulations to enforce collections. “Complete compliance will become the norm within the next year or two,” he said.

Amazon originally set up its business model to avoid state sales taxes, limiting its physical presence to a handful of warehouses. But it changed strategy to build more warehouses closer to consumers as it has relied more on its Prime two-day shipping offer—and started charging sales tax on items it sells directly.

Amazon hasn’t collected the taxes for most independent merchants who sell on its platform. About $200 billion in sales originated with independent merchants selling on Amazon world-wide last year, according to Factset analyst estimates, compared with about $116 billion in direct sales by Amazon. The company declined to comment on the ruling.

Amazon has drawn sharp criticism from President Donald Trump, and the Justice Department had backed the states’ argument.

On Thursday, the president exulted. “About time! Big victory for fairness and for our country,” he said in a tweet. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that TrumpStore.com failed to collect taxes for more than 40 states, including New York, where the flagship store is in Trump Tower.

Online merchants’ stocks moved lower after the decision was released before recovering slightly. Amazon initially was down about 1% and Wayfair nearly 7%, before both recovered to close about flat. Etsy’s stock closed down 1.38% and eBay was down more than 3%.

Wayfair said it collects sales tax on some 80% of its U.S. orders and didn’t expect the decision to have “any noticeable impact on our business.”

“While we believe the court was not the ideal venue for creating this level playing field, we expect that today’s decision will bring clarity and certainty to this issue,” the company said.

Small online businesses have been using Amazon, eBay and Etsy to build their sales for years and have argued for a blanket legislative solution to prevent the high cost and burden of complying with different rules in each state.

“Now is the time for Congress to provide clear tax rules with a strong small business exemption,” an eBay spokeswoman said.

Before the court’s ruling, eBay Chief Executive Devin Wenig warned in an interview with The Wall Street Journal of an “extremely chaotic” environment if the Supreme Court handed states more authority to force companies to collect such taxes.

“Every state loves this tax because you get to tax people who can’t vote for you,” Mr. Wenig said. “You get to tax businesses that aren’t in your jurisdiction, so this is the favorite tax of every state legislature.”

Shares of retail landlords rose on the ruling. Perhaps the biggest boost came to a newly public company called Avalara Inc. that makes a type of tax-compliance software many smaller merchants may now need. Its shares finished up more than 14%.

Thursday’s opinion is likely to spur a new push for a federal law to limit states’ ability to require tax collection by small businesses and to restrain cross-border audits. This time, however, it will be internet retailers and catalog businesses seeking guardrails on state action, and they’ll have the burden of mustering majorities in Congress.

Lawmakers, however, appeared just as divided on the issue Thursday as they did before the ruling, making near-term legislative action a challenge. Like at the Supreme Court, the congressional split is not entirely ideological.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.), Richard Durbin (D., Ill) and Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), for example, praised the ruling as “good news” for Main Street businesses, while Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) and Anna Eshoo (D., Calif.) said the decision was a “nightmare” that would “stifle online commerce, close businesses, and ultimately harm consumers.”

“We are now really comfortable with Congress continuing its path of not acting on this issue,” said Max Behlke, director of budget and tax policy for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Steve Delbianco, president of NetChoice, an e-commerce trade group, said Congress should act immediately to create rules for states and retailers.

“A brick-and-mortar business won’t have to comply with the differing rules of over 12,000 tax jurisdictions, or integrate costly and complex tax software into its operations,” Mr. Delbianco said in a statement. “But small web businesses will.”

Justice Kennedy saw it differently. “There is nothing unfair about requiring companies that avail themselves of the states’ benefits to bear an equal share of the burden of tax collection,” he wrote.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement after voting for H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act:

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “This comprehensive legislation advances our bipartisan effort to end the opioid epidemic and restore hope to families and communities suffering from this public health crisis. I’m proud of our work and urge my colleagues to take the next step and pass my Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act to specifically target the proliferation of fentanyl analogues, which, along with other synthetic opioids, have become the most common cause of overdose-related death.”

More than 150 patient advocacy groups support H.R. 6. You can view the full list here.

H.R. 6 contains the following bills:

Sec 101. – H.R. 1925, the At-Risk Youth Medicaid Protection Act

Sec 102. – H.R. 4998, the Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act

Sec 103. – H.R. 5477, the Rural DOCS Act

Sec 104. – H.R. 5808, the Medicaid Pharmaceutical Home Act of 2018

Sec 105. – H.R. 5799, the Medicaid DRUG Improvement Act

Sec 106. – H.R. 5789, To amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to provide for Medicaid coverage protections for pregnant and post-partum women while receiving inpatient treatment for a substance use disorder, and for other purposes

Sec 107. – H.R. 5810, the Medicaid Health HOME Act

Sec 201. – H.R. 5603, the Access to Telehealth Services for Opioid Use Disorders Act

Sec 202. – H.R. 5809, the Postoperative Opioid Prevention Act of 2018

Sec 203. – H.R. 5798, the Opioid Screening and Chronic Pain Management Alternatives for Seniors Act

Sec 204. – H.R. 5804, the Post-Surgical Injections as an Opioid Alternative Act

Sec 205. – H.R. 3528, the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely Act Act

Sec 206. – H.R. 5675, To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require prescription drug plan sponsors under the Medicare program to establish drug management programs for at-risk beneficiaries

Sec 207. – H.R. 5776, the MOST Act

Sec 301. – H.R. 5806, the 21st Century Tools for Pain and Addiction Treatment Act

Sec 302. – H.R. 5580, the STOP Fentanyl Deaths Act

Sec 303. – H.R. 3692, the Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act of 2017

Sec. 5001 – H.R. 5583, to amend title XI of the Social Security Act to require states to annually report on certain adult health quality measures, and for other purposes

Sec. 5011, 5012 – H.R. 5800, the Medicaid IMD ADDITIONAL INFO Act

Sec. 5021, 5022 – H.R. 3192, the CHIP Mental Health Parity Act

Sec. 5031, 5032 – H.R. 4005, the Medicaid Reentry Act

Sec. 5041, 5042 – H.R. 5801, the Medicaid PARTNERSHIP Act

Sec. 6001 – H.R. 3331, To amend title XI of the Social Security Act to promote testing of incentive payments for behavioral health providers for adoption and use of certified electronic health record technology

Sec. 6011, 6012 – H.R. 5582, the Abuse Deterrent Access Act of 2018

Sec. 6021, 6022 – H.R. 5685, the Medicare Opioid Safety Education Act

Sec. 6031, 6032 – H.R. 5590, the Opioid Addiction Action Plan Act

Sec. 6041, 6042 – H.R. 5605, the Advancing High Quality Treatment for Opioid Use Disorders in Medicare Act

Sec. 6051, 6052 –  H.R. 5796, the REACH OUT Act of 2018

Sec. 6061, 6062, 6063, 6065, 6064 – H.R. 5773, the PASS Act of 2018

Sec. 6071, 6072 – H.R. 5723, the Expanding Oversight of Opioid Prescribing and Payment Act of 2018

Sec. 6081, 6082, 6083, 6084, 6085, 6086 – H.R. 6110, the Dr. Todd Graham Pain Management, Treatment, and Recovery Act of 2018

Sec. 6091, 6092, 6093, 6094, 6095 – H.R. 5774, the COACH Act of 2018

Sec. 6101, 6102 – H.R. 5676, the SENIOR Communities Protection Act of 2018

Sec. 6111, 6112, 6113, 6114 – H.R. 5775, the Providing Reliable Options for Patients and Educational Resources (PROPER) Act

Sec. 7001, 7002 – H.R. 449, Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2017

Sec. 7011, 7012 – H.R. 4275, Empowering Pharmacists in the Fight Against Opioid Abuse Act

Sec. 7021, 7022, 7023 – H.R. 4284, Indexing Narcotics, Fentanyl, and Opioids (INFO) Act of 2017

Sec. 7031, 7032 – H.R. 4684, the Ensuring Access to Quality Sober Living Act of 2017

Sec. 7041, 7042 – H.R. 5002, ACE Research Act

Sec. 7051, 7052 – H.R. 5009, Jessie’s Law

Sec. 7061, 7062 – H.R. 5041, Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act

Sec. 7071 – H.R. 5102, Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Act of 2018

Sec. 7081, 7082 – H.R. 5176, Preventing Overdoses While in Emergency Rooms (POWER) Act of 2018

Sec. 7091, 7092 – H.R. 5197, Alternatives to Opioids (ALTO) in the Emergency Department Act

Sec. 7101, 7102, 7103, 7104, 7105, 7106 – H.R. 5228, the Stop Counterfeit Drugs by Regulating and Enhancing Enforcement Now (SCREEN) Act

Sec. 7111, 7112 – H.R. 5261, TEACH to Combat Addiction Act of 2018

Sec. 7121 – H.R. 5272, a bill to ensure that programs and activities that are funded by a grant, cooperative agreement, loan, or loan guarantee from the Department of Health and Human Services, and whose purpose is to prevent or treat a mental health or substance use disorder, are evidence-based

Sec. 7131, 7132 – H.R. 5327, Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers Act 2018

Sec. 7141, 7142, 7143, 7144 – H.R. 5329, the Poison Center Network Enhancement Act of 2018

Sec. 7151, 7152 – H.R. 5353, Eliminating Opioid-Related Infectious Diseases Act of 2018

Sec. 7161, 7162 – H.R. 5473, the Better Pain Management Through Better Data Act of 2018

Sec. 7171, 7172 – H.R. 5483, Special Registration for Telemedicine Clarification Act of 2018

Sec. 7181, 7182 – H.R. 5587, the Peer Support Communities of Recovery Act

Sec. 7191, 7192, 7193, 7194 – H.R. 5752, the Stop Illicit Drug Importation Act of 2018

Sec. 7201, 7202, 7203 – H.R. 5812, the Creating Opportunities that Necessitate New and Enhanced Connections That Improve Opioid Navigation Strategies (CONNECTIONS) Act

Sec. 7211, 7212 – H.R. 5687, the SOUND Disposal and Packaging Act

Sec. 7221 – H.R. 5811, to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to post approval study requirements for certain controlled substances, and for other purposes

Sec. 8001, 8002, 8003, 8004, 8005, 8006, 8007, 8008, 8009 – H.R. 5788, the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act of 2018

Sec. 8011, 8012 - H.R. 5889, the Recognizing Early Childhood Trauma Related to Substance Abuse Act of 2018

Sec. 8021, 8022 –  H.R. 5890, the Assisting States’ Implementation of Plans of Safe Care Act

Sec. 8031, 8032 – H.R. 5891, the Improving the Federal Response to Families Impacted by Substance Use Disorder Act

Sec. 8041 – H.R. 5892, to establish an Advisory Committee on Opioids and the Workplace to advise the Secretary of Labor on actions the Department of Labor can take to address the impact of opioid abuse on the workplace

Sec. 8051, 8052 – H.R. 2147, the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act of 2018

Sec. 8061 – H.R. 4635, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to increase the number of peer-to-peer counselors providing counseling for women veterans, and for other purposes

Sec. 8071, 8072 – H.R. 5294, the Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act of 2018

Sec. 8081, 8082, 8083, 8084 – House Amendment to S. 1091, the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Sec. 8091, 8092 – H.R. 6029, the REGROUP Act of 2018

You can read more information about the SOFA Act here and review the bill text here.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) voted for H.R. 4760, the Securing America’s Future Act. Congressman Sensenbrenner, an original cosponsor of H.R. 4760, offered the following statement after the legislation failed in the House:

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “Today, the House missed a golden opportunity to pass H.R. 4760, which included much-needed reforms like the mandatory use of E-Verify, end of chain migration, and increased border security. Our efforts would have also addressed the issue of family separations and provided a fix for DACA recipients — without granting amnesty. I’m disappointed by today’s results but remain committed to securing our porous borders and fixing our broken immigration system.” 

You can read the full text of the Securing America’s Future Act here.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) offered the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair:

Rep. Sensenbrenner“Today’s Supreme Court decision only highlights the urgency for Congress to take action to clarify these matters of interstate commerce. Failure to do so leaves American entrepreneurs and small businesses subject to taxation and regulation without representation. Congress should immediately pass my No Regulation Without Representation Act, which restores fairness and order to our nation’s e-commerce system.”

You can read the Court’s decision here.

By: Digital Commerce 360

Overstock.com Inc. is calling on Congress to pass legislation to simplify, or clarify, online sales tax collection in the wake of Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that enables states and local governments to force online retailers to collect sales taxes, even if they don’t have a physical presence, or nexus, in the state.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has reshaped the interstate commerce landscape in a move that could impact small business innovation on the internet, which has been a driving force behind our nation’s economy for the last 15 years,” says Jonathan Johnson, an executive and board member at Overstock, No. 32 in the newly released Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000, “The framers of the Constitution intended Congress to regulate interstate commerce by thoughtful legislation. To lessen the potential impact of today’s ruling on internet  innovation, Congress can, and should, pass sound legislation allowing states to accomplish their aims while still permitting small internet business to thrive.”

Wayfair Inc., No. 16, which was named in the suit before the court, agreed in a statement that “the court was not the ideal venue for creating this level playing field,” before noting that it expects the decision will bring “clarity and certainty to this issue.”

Several key legislators, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee,  issued a joint statement that calls the court’s reversal of the 1992 Quill Corp. v. North Dakota decision a “nightmare for American businesses and small online sellers, who will now have to comply with the different tax rates and rules of, and be subject to audits by, over 10,000 taxing jurisdictions across the U.S. in which they have no say at the ballot box or representation in state and local government.”

They suggest the decision will have broad ramifications that Congress, rather than the court, is best equipped to deal with. However, spokesmen for the congressmen and congresswomen could not be immediately reached for comment on the likelihood that online sales tax legislation will pass.

While there are thousands of state and local taxing districts, David Campbell, CEO of Tax Cloud, which offers merchants free software that enables them to comply with state and local taxation laws (it is paid by 24 states that offer the software), says Overstock and the congressmen and congresswomen are overstating the issue.

“It sounds daunting to comply with all the more than 10,000 taxing jurisdictions, but it really isn’t,” he says. “It may have been difficult to comply with all of those jurisdictions in 1967 [ed: when the Supreme Court ruled in National Bellas Hess v. Department of Revenue of Illinois that a mail-order reseller was not required to collect sales tax unless it had a physical contact with the state], but that’s no longer the case. Computers are really good at keeping track of lot of information. To suggest that any company that can figure out how to sell  online can’t handle taxation is silly.”

By: Mark Sommerhauser of the La Crosse Tribune

Wisconsin Republicans scrambled Tuesday to respond to a rising backlash to President Donald Trump’s controversial policy resulting in thousands of families being separated after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Members of the state’s GOP congressional delegation met with Trump and their colleagues late Tuesday in Washington, D.C., in search of a possible legislative fix.

Some defend policy

Some, such as U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Oshkosh and U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir of Brookfield, have defended the Trump administration’s current policy.

Vukmir’s main GOP rival for Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate nomination, Kevin Nicholson, backed a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas that would detain together, rather than separating, asylum-seeking families that cross the border illegally. Many are fleeing violence and persecution in Central American countries.

Others, such as Gov. Scott Walker, are ducking the issue altogether.

A Tuesday statement from Nicholson, R-Delafield, blamed the situation on former President Barack Obama, though its immediate cause was Trump’s newly adopted “zero-tolerance” policy on border-crossing families.

“As a father I feel great concern any time I see a child crying out of fear or desperation, anywhere in the world,” Nicholson said.

Asked about the issue Tuesday, Vukmir, R-Brookfield, said that “of course families shouldn’t be separated.” But Vukmir’s campaign declined to say what changes, if any, she thinks should be made to prevent it.

Asked about separating families on a WISN-TV interview that aired Sunday, Vukmir said “I believe that we are a nation of laws and we have to stand up and uphold those laws.”

A Johnson spokesman said Tuesday that he is “working with his colleagues to find a legislative solution to this issue that keeps families together and does not encourage additional illegal immigration.”

‘Fair warning’

In an interview that also aired Sunday on WISN, Johnson said “we put everybody on fair warning” about the consequences of illegally seeking asylum after crossing the border between ports of entry, as many of the families at the center of the current controversy have done.

“You are committing a crime; we are going to prosecute you,” Johnson said in the interview. “When you start prosecuting someone like that, you separate them from their loved ones.”

The Cruz plan backed by Nicholson would increase the number of federal immigration judges, authorize new temporary shelters to detain asylum-seeking families and mandate that families be kept together, absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to the children.

14-day window proposed

It would create an expedited 14-day window to process and review asylum cases — in which time the asylum-seeker either would be accepted or sent back to their country of origin.

But critics have questioned the plan’s feasibility. Sara McKinnon, a UW-Madison communications professor with expertise in U.S. immigration law and policy, said a 14-day window to review and decide asylum cases seems unrealistic.

“I see 14 days, and that reads to me that a lot of Central American migrants are just going to get a blanket ‘no,’” McKinnon said.

On Monday, Walker declined to comment, saying it’s a federal issue. Some governors, including at least two Republicans, have said they will not send state National Guard troops to the border until the family-separation policy is removed.

Wisconsin announced Monday that about two dozen National Guard troops will travel to Arizona to bolster border security.

Walker said he won’t prevent the state assistance, saying “the work they’re doing doesn’t have anything to do with (the child separation issue).”

Other members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation, such as Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menominee Falls, and Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, issued statements criticizing the Trump administration policy leading to family separations and saying Congress should work to fix the problem.

Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, issued a statement saying he would meet with Trump and others late Tuesday “to discuss solutions to these problems at our Southern border.” The statement called for addressing “the shortage of family spaces in Immigration and Customs Enforcement shelters” along the Mexico border.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, has said he’s not comfortable with the administration’s current practice of separating families and wants to stop it through legislation.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families in April and May after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the new policy that refers all cases of illegal entry — even for those seeking asylum to remain in the U.S. — for criminal prosecution. The government previously limited prosecution for many family entrants, partly because children aren’t charged with a crime and can’t be detained with their parents.

The emerging divisions show how Republicans in Wisconsin are grappling with the same issues as their national counterparts. But GOP officeholders and candidates remain wary of alienating supporters of Trump.

Separation ‘immoral’

Wisconsin Democrats have blasted the Trump administration, calling the family separations immoral.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, traveled to the Mexico border Sunday to view federal immigration facilities and said he was deeply troubled by what he saw.

A spokesman for Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said he supports a newly introduced bill to end family separation at the U.S. border.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison — who either Nicholson or Vukmir will face in November — said in a statement that “tearing families apart and traumatizing children is wrong and immoral.”

“This is an inhumane Trump Administration policy that the President could and should end today,” Baldwin said.

The offices of Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, and Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) introduced legislation to address the shortage of qualified physicians. H.R. 6123, the Physician Visa Reform Act, clears the path for highly-trained foreign physicians to access temporary visas so they can practice in health professional shortage areas. Paired with changes to state law, H.R. 6123 will help residents of rural areas across Wisconsin access life-saving medical care.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “Every community should be served by well-trained medical staff. This legislation is a commonsense solution to the very real problem of doctor shortages that affects vulnerable populations across the country.”

Problem:

Our nation’s health care system is becoming increasingly strained due, in part, to a lack of qualified doctors. Each year, more physicians retire while fewer medical students graduate to fill the vacancies. As studies have shown, medical students frequently practice in the area where they completed their residency – often in large cities – because they lack strong incentives to move to a shortage area.

Currently, federal law requires foreign physicians to complete a residency training program in the United States if they wish to practice here. While this policy is appropriate for younger, less experienced foreign doctors, it is unnecessary for highly-experienced and well-trained foreign physicians. For instance, a Canadian physician with 20 years of specialized experience treating cancer patients should not be required to complete the same residency program as a physician who recently graduated from medical school. This current policy is time-consuming, unnecessary, and a disincentive for foreign physicians to relocate to the US.

Solution:

H.R. 6123 would reform the current visa program to allow highly-trained physicians to live and practice in an area designated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as having a shortage of health care professionals for three years without having to complete a residency program.

Notably, the legislation maintains states’ rights by allowing each state to maintain its own standards, requirements, and licensing board for physicians. In other words, when a foreign physician applies to work in a particular state, that state’s licensing board will determine, based on its own criteria, if the applicant is qualified and therefore eligible. Such criteria could include: the candidate’s country of origin, where the candidate graduated from medical school, how many years of experience the candidate has, if and what the physician’s specialty is, and other relevant information the state deems appropriate.

Once a state determines that a physician is qualified, a visa may be granted through the same application process that is prescribed under current law.

After three years of service in a shortage area, the physician may apply for permanent resident status after completing the National Board of Medical Examiners Examination (the test that all medical students must pass to graduate medical school and become fully licensed). Upon successful completion of the exam and approval from the Department of Homeland Security, the physician may remain in the U.S. and practice anywhere they are qualified and licensed.

The full text of H.R. 6123, the Physician Visa Reform Act, is available here.