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500,000 girls in the U.S. are at risk of female genital mutilation. With a ban on the practice struck down, we need new legislation to protect them.

For more than two decades, underage girls in this country have been federally protected from the horrific practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). The ritualistic cutting or removal of a young girl’s external genitalia is an anachronistic act that occurs mostly in parts of Africa, the Middle East and a few countries in Asia. Last month, during a trial of a Michigan doctor accused of performing FGM on nine minor girls, a federal judge ruled that the law banning FGM is unconstitutional. Now, Congress and the states must act immediately to re-enact FGM protections. 

FGM is decried internationally for its cruelty. It is denounced by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as a violation of basic human rights and a form of child abuse. At its most basic, this practice is rooted in the desire to control a woman’s sexuality. Physicians worldwide agree that FGM is medically unnecessary, and the procedure poses physical, sexual, and psychological dangers for the young victims. These girls, sometimes only a few days old, are subjected to an act that will have a profound negative effect on their lives. 

Michigan ruling was misguided

In the Michigan case, the defendants were charged under the 1996 statute that banned FGM on minors. In their motion to dismiss, the defense claimed that Congress had overstepped its constitutional authority by enacting this statute. Judge Bernard Friedman agreed with this position and ruled the law unconstitutional.

Judge Friedman’s ruling rests on his belief that Congress, under principles of federalism, lacks the authority to prohibit this activity under the Commerce Clause because it is not a “commercial activity.”  I share those views in some respects. And perhaps, Congress should address the judge’s concerns to make clear the federal aspect of this crime. But this ruling is nevertheless misguided and wrong. 

Judge Friedman is too quick to dismiss the interstate “market” for this horrid procedure.  In his decision, he rejects the comparison of the FGM marketplace to that of other illicit goods, like marijuana or child pornography.  But in his view, because there are only “…a small number of alleged victims” and not billions of dollars at stake, there is no real market for FGM. 

This reasoning fails on two fronts. First, this case absolutely demonstrates an interstate marketplace. Five of the victims were transported across state lines for the sole purpose of undergoing this mutilation. A relatively small marketplace is still a marketplace. Second, while there are the nine victims in this case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2012 that there are likely more than 500,000 women and girls in the United States who are at risk of being victims of this procedure.  Today these women are now at a greater risk as a result of this ruling.

We need to protect at risk girls

The Trump administration should appeal this decision immediately. This law has protected girls from FGM for 22 years. To accept this ruling without contention would be a dereliction of our duty to protect our young girls from this this abuse.

Without a federal ban in place, FGM is now legal in 23 states. Unless these states act swiftly to ban the practice, more of America’s young girls remain at risk. While Judge Friedman suggests that FGM can be prosecuted under existing assault statutes, this especially barbaric form of child abuse — being masqueraded as a religious practice — deserves to be addresses explicitly in our criminal code.

For my part, I intend to introduce legislation early next year to reinstitute a federal ban on this practice. The message should be clear to the women and girls of America — they are protected from this barbaric practice.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner represents Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District. He is a former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and current Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

You can view this piece online here.

By: WisPolitics Capitol Report

A U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson spokesman says the Oshkosh Republican would back a bill aiming to delist the gray wolf in all but two states should it be taken up in the Senate.

But the office of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin didn’t say whether she’d support the legislation from 7th CD U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy seeking to remove the wolves from the Endangered Species Act. The bill, which cleared the House earlier this month, would lift protections for the wolves across the continental United States.

A Johnson spokesman this week noted Johnson has been working on the issue “for a while.” Johnson in 2015 introduced a bill that would direct the Department of the Interior to reissue final rules related to the endangered listing of the gray wolf in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Wyoming. He reintroduced the legislation last year.

But a Baldwin spokeswoman in an email expressed preference for the Madison Democrat’s HELP for Wildlife Act, which would delist the gray wolf in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes as well as reauthorize and provide funding for a series of conservation programs.

The spokeswoman noted Duffy’s bill “has not yet come up in the Senate” and didn’t answer whether Baldwin would vote for the Wausau Republican’s legislation if it does hit the floor.

The comments follow the House passage of Duffy’s “Manage Our Wolves Act.” The bipartisan legislation — passed on a 196-180 vote — aims to remove the gray wolf from the list of endangered or threatened species and reinstate a rule that removed the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes region from the list.

“If you live in Wisconsin, especially northern Wisconsin, it might be necessary for us to actually manage this population because it's good for the environment,” Duffy said in a statement following the bill’s passage. “Frankly, I believe that our states are far more in tuned in understanding the ecosystem of their state than bureaucrats in Washington.”

The legislation garnered support from U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay; Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah; and Ron Kind, D-La Crosse. U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont; and Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, voted against the bill, while U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, did not vote.

State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua, praised Duffy’s work and urged Baldwin to back the bill in a joint statement last week with Michigan Sen. Tom Casperson.

Tiffany this session introduced a bill that would ban police from enforcing state or federal law aimed at managing Wisconsin’s wolf population. The language would also prohibit the state Department of Natural Resources from spending any money to manage wolves — other than paying claims for any losses they cause.

The Obama administration in 2012 first delisted the gray wolf in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. In 2014, the wolves were returned to the federal endangered species list after a lawsuit, resulting in the end of wolf trapping and hunting.

By: CBS 58 Newsroom

MADISON, WI (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has ordered flags of the United States and the State of Wisconsin to be flown at half-staff beginning December 1, in honor of former President George Herbert Walker Bush.  Flags will remain at half-staff until sunset on December 30, 2018.

Upon learning of the passing of the former President, the Governor issued the following statement.

“So sorry to hear of the death of President George Herbert Walker Bush. In 1988, I cast my first vote for President for him. I am proud of that vote today. He was a true gentleman and our country is better because of his service. Tonette and I send our love and prayers to the Bush family as America mourns the loss of one of our greatest patriots.”

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson issued this statement via email and twitter.

“Throughout his life, George H.W. Bush fought for freedom and prosperity for all Americans. From his service in World War II as a naval aviator to his efforts organizing international disaster relief, the nation and world will never forget his years of public service.”

In a tweet, Senator Tammy Baldwin said of the former President.

"I have a lot of respect for President George H.W. Bush's lifetime commitment to serving our country. His humility and kindness serve as an example for all who follow him in public service. My thoughts are with the entire Bush family."

Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner issued this statement after learning of the death of the former President.

"My deepest condolences go out to the Bush family, and I join our nation in mourning the passing of George H.W. Bush.  The former president was a heroic veteran, accomplished statesman, and lifelong public servant whose sense of duty and devotion to our country stands as a shining example for all.  He lived a remarkable life, and our nation is stronger today because of him. I am grateful for his contributions to society and will keep his loved ones in my prayers. May he rest in peace."

Former Wisconsin Governor and Health and Human Services Secretary under George W Bush issued this statement on the death of the elder President Bush.

“Today we mourn the loss of a leader who has long-served as a shining example of selfless leadership and compassion. George H. Bush held a steadfast belief in a greater calling, underlined by his service to our country as a World War II hero, public servant, elected official and through countless philanthropic efforts. There was President Bush, a man of great character that our nation truly admired and also the George Bush whom was genuine, sincere and quick-witted that I was fortunate to call a friend. The loss of George H. Bush weighs heavy, may the example he set inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”

The 41st President of the United States died Friday in Houston.   He was 94-years-old. 

Brookfield, WICongressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) issued the following statement after the death of the 41st President of the United States, President George H.W. Bush:

"My deepest condolences go out to the Bush family, and I join our nation in mourning the passing of George H.W. Bush.

The former president was a heroic veteran, accomplished statesman, and lifelong public servant whose sense of duty and devotion to our country stands as a shining example for all. 

He lived a remarkable life, and our nation is stronger today because of him. I am grateful for his contributions to society and will keep his loved ones in my prayers. May he rest in peace."

By: Rachel Farrell and Laura Larkin of the Irish Independent

Thousands of Irish citizens will be able to avail of a visa to work in the United States under proposed legislation passed by the lower house in the US Congress.

The E-3 work visa, a two-year renewable visa currently reserved for Australian nationals, would under the bill which passed through the House of Representatives become available to Irish applicants.

It is for workers in "special occupations" - there is no prescribed list of jobs but the requirement mandates a specialised knowledge.

Only unused visas, not taken up by Australians, would be issued to Irish citizens under the proposed changes.

The bill must now be cleared by the Senate where it needs unanimous consent.

Work has been ongoing, spearheaded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, to gain access for Irish people to the coveted scheme over the past number of months.

Ireland's special envoy to the US, John Deasy, welcomed the bill's progress but said he was under no illusions over the difficulty the bill may face in getting through the Senate.

Tanáiste Simon Coveney has also welcomed the passage of the bill, describing it as a "positive development for future generations to travel to [the] USA". However, he acknowledged there was "still work to do".

To qualify for the scheme as it stands, a legitimate offer of work from a US employer must be in place, and have been accepted, for a person to apply.

The visa can be "indefinitely" renewed and a spouse can also work in the US but not their children.

If the law is passed, there will be a maximum of 5,000 visas awarded to Irish citizens. It will not be accessible to undocumented Irish in the US.

Jim Sensenbrenner, who helped to introduce the legislation, said the bill would add to the "great legacy" between Ireland and the United States.

By: Andrew Clancy Rogers of Green and Spiegel LLP

When Congress reconvenes in Washington following the Thanksgiving holiday, it may be Irish Nationals that have most cause to be grateful.

In a bipartisan effort, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Richard Neal and Wisconsin Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner have introduced a bill to Congress (H.R. 7100) that proposes adding Irish Nationals to the E-3 “Australian Special Occupation” Program. The E-3 program provides 10,500 visas each fiscal year to Australians entering the U.S. to “perform services in a specialty occupation”. The E-3 visa classification is very similar in substance to the H-1B classification, except that it is only available to Australians and as such, in the twelve years that the E-3 program has existed, the program has yet to reach the stated cap of 10,500 visas per fiscal year. Therein lays the opportunity: this bipartisan bill proposes that 50% of these 10,500 visas should be made available to Irish nationals.

This is welcome news for Irish nationals seeking to work in the United States. The E-3 visa is one of the most efficient U.S. visa options for Australians. Applicants may apply directly at a U.S. consulate (thus avoiding lengthy processing times with USCIS), the visas are granted for 2 year periods (renewable indefinitely), and spouses of E-3 visa holders are permitted to apply for employment authorization documents. Further, the proposed cap of 5,250 would not apply to E-3 extensions, and E-3 visa holders may be the beneficiaries of Immigrant Visas (although they are still required to intend to depart the U.S. upon termination of their E-3 status).

This significant addition to the U.S. immigration system will not only benefit Irish nationals seeking employment in the United States, but will also open up an additional talent reservoir for U.S. employers. Green and Spiegel remains cautiously optimistic and will be monitoring the development of this legislation closely. 

By; Ryan Prete of Bloomberg Law

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) has introduced yet another online sales tax bill.

The Congressman introduced the No Retroactive Online Taxation Act of 2018 Nov. 29, a new online sales tax bill that would prohibit states from imposing sales tax collection duties on remote sellers for any sale that occurred prior to June 21, 2018—the day the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the Wayfair decision.

Sensenbrenner has been the most active federal lawmaker in the online sales tax field since the Wayfair ruling. In September, he filed the Online Sales Simplicity and Small Business Relief Act of 2018 (H.R. 6814), a which would also ban retroactivity and would require all states to push back online sales tax law implementation dates to Jan. 1, 2019.

As of Nov. 1, 23 states have seen online sales tax enforcement laws go live.

Sensenbrenner told Bloomberg Tax in September he was he was “very confident” that H.R. 6814 would be considered by the House by the end of 2018. The bill hasn’t moved since its introduction.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s groundbreaking ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair tossed out Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court’s 1992 physical presence threshold for when states could tax remote sales. The majority in the 5-4 ruling suggested strongly that South Dakota’s law requiring remote sellers that meet thresholds of $100,000 in annual in-state sales or 200 transactions to collect and remit sales tax would pass constitutional muster.

The court didn’t rule on the validity of South Dakota’s law in the absence of Quill, but that hasn’t stopped states from passing their own versions of it.

By: Aidan Lonergan of the Irish Post

The E-3 visa is currently available to Australian nationals only and allows them to live and work in the US for up to two years with a spouse – but typically only half are used.

Last night, a bill (HR-7164) proposing that Irish people be able to apply for the remainder of unused visas offered to Australians was unanimously approved by the House.

The legislation now goes through to the Senate, and – if passed – would open up a wealth of opportunities to Irish workers looking to start a new life and explore fresh opportunities across the pond.

Around 10,500 E-3 visas are offered to Australians who wish to work in America every year, and up to 5,000 Irish citizens will be eligible for the scheme annually if the bill passes.

'OUR UNIQUE FRIENDSHIP'

Republican Jim Sensenbrenner, who introduced the bill alongside Democrat Richard Neal, said the passing of the bill would add to the "great legacy" between Ireland and the US.

"The United States was built on hard work and the determination of immigrants – many of whom hail from Ireland. Through their perseverance, they have enabled this country to grow and prosper," he said.

"I believe in the value and opportunity that comes with legal immigration. I am pleased to have authored this legislation to make the process more efficient for one of our oldest allies, and add to the great legacy of cultural diversity celebrated in our country."

According to Mr Sensenbrenner, applicants based in Ireland would be able to apply directly at a US consulate but should expect lengthy processing times with US citizenship and immigration services.

He added that the visa would benefit both Irish and US citizens, including Americans who wish to "retire in Ireland" – as the Irish Government has promised to ease restrictions on US retirees if the bill passes.

"This significant addition to the U.S. immigration system will not only benefit Irish nationals seeking employment in the United States, but also ease restrictions on Americans wanting to live or retire in Ireland."

Fellow Republican congressman Steve Chabot said extending the E-3 visa to Irish citizens would recognise the special bond between the two countries.

"It's a simple bill that recognises the unique friendship and working relationship between the United States and Ireland," he said.

"HR-7164 allows nationals of Ireland to be eligible to apply for unused E3 non-immigrant visas."

A WAY TO GO

Speaking after last night's House vote, Irish TD John Deasy urged supporters of the legislation to be cautious.

"The bill will now be sent to the US Senate and it needs to be passed thereby unanimous consent meaning that it will require the agreement of all 100 senators for this to be signed into law," he said.

"I am under no illusions as to how difficult that may be."

Unlike many other visas, E-3 permits the spouses of recipients to live and work in the US without restrictions, but not their children.

To qualify, applicants must be employed in a specialty occupation, have necessary qualifications and receive a legitimate offer of employment from the US.

By: Matt Rybaltowski of Forbes

In reaching a comprehensive gaming deal with Major League Baseball earlier this week, MGM Resorts International reverted back to a playbook that has dictated the company's sports betting strategy in the brief Post-PASPA era.

The partnership, which designates MGM Resorts as the first-ever official gaming partner of the league, follows similar deals with the NBA and the NHL over the last four months. MGM Resorts, one of the world's largest gaming operators, owns the distinction of being the only company in the casino industry to form partnerships with all three leagues. Though MGM  completed all three deals on a non-exclusive basis, it remains the lone sports book operator to land a sponsorship deal with a Big Four professional sports league since the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting in May.

With the three leagues on board, MGM has yet to hook the big fish in the pond. On Wednesday, MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren delivered a keynote address at the ICE Sports Betting USA Conference in New York. Predictably, Murren was peppered with questions on MGM's relationship with the NFL. While Murren noted that MGM shares a philosophical alignment on sports betting with the three aforementioned leagues, the same can not be said for the NFL.

Without enumerating all of the differences between the sides, Murren addressed a key sticking point during his appearance. While the NFL has urged Congress to enact uniform standards for states that are considering the legalization of sports gambling, Murren said that MGM does not support a federal approach. Echoing that position, the American Gaming Association has consistently opposed legislative efforts for certain business interests that it believes can be accomplished through commercial relationships such as MGM's partnership with Major League Baseball. 

"It is not a coincidence that we have relationships with those three leagues and not currently with the NFL," Murren said. "This is an emerging field, I think anyone that drives a stake in the ground and says 'this is my position and I'm not willing to change,' is going to end up eating those words."

The NFL, meanwhile, has taken the position that any federal legislation pertaining to sports gambling should contain a provision that requires gaming operators to use official league data in determining betting outcomes. Since betting outcomes for prop wagers now depend on granular details such as the number of yards gained by a certain player, the need for the data has become more pronounced, NFL Executive Vice President Jocelyn Moore testified at a Congressional hearing in September. Following November's midterm elections, Rep. James Sensenbrenner warned that it could take Congress months, possibly years, to enact legislation on sports betting.

Casey Schwab, Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs for the NFL Players Association, indicated Wednesday that he favors a cautious approach in evaluating potential commercial relationships with gaming operators. To that end, the league may prefer to wait until Congress acts before entertaining such deals. Sensenbrenner, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, outlined several pathways for Congress to explore in deciding whether federal legislation for sports betting is necessary. On one hand, Congress can adopt uniform federal standards, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recommends. On the other, the federal government can defer completely to the states. The biggest mistake, Sensenbrenner argues, would be to do nothing. 

"We want to make sure that the framework is set up first and so does our league," Schwab said. "We don't want to go out there and do a deal without the proper underlining framework."

More immediately, Murren emphasized that there were several factors driving the deal with MLB. The agreement enables MGM to become an official partner of grassroots events such as the league's MLB Road Show in Japan. Though sports betting in Japan has been limited primarily to horse racing, recent legislation was passed over the summer that could lead to the opening of casinos nationwide, the Japan Times reported. As MGM waits to hear whether it will be awarded with a casino license in Japan, Murren is focused on promoting baseball with MLB across the country.

Furthermore, while Murren believes the deal could yield a reasonable return on investment from sports betting he appears more concerned in augmenting relationships with associations like MLB. When confronting significant regulatory and lobbying hurdles with the new sports betting environment, it will be valuable for the company to align with the leagues, said Adam Greenblatt, CEO of MGM GVC Interactive, a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and GVC Holdings.

Despite their differences, Murren also demonstrated a willingness to maintain a more fulsome relationship with the NFL. Over the next several months, he said MGM will target strategic relationships with NFL team owners comparable to one the company signed last month with the New York Jets.

Whether it is team owners or the leagues themselves, Murren seems determined to cultivate partnerships with those who share his view on sports betting as a unique value proposition.

"Our focus has been to develop philosophical alignments with the leagues as a way to build fan engagement and ensure the integrity of the product," Murren said. "Those three leagues have been willing to do that."

By: Rachel Farrell of the Irish Independent

The US House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that may see thousands of new visas issued to Irish citizens every year- if it passes through the Senate.

The E-3 work visa, a 2-year renewable visa that is currently reserved for Australian nationals only, would be issued to Irish citizens from the remainder of unused visas offered to Australians.

Here's everything you need to know about the E-3 visa, and what requirements are needed to apply for one.

What is the E-3 visa?

The E-3 visa, or the “Australian Specialty Occupation Professional” visa, is a visa that currently allows Australian nationals to work and live in America.

According to Australian immigration, the visa was first introduced in 2005 to allow professionals “to capitalise on the opportunities offered under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement”. 

There is no definite list of “special occupations” eligible for the visa, but it is defined as “theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge”.

Who is eligible?

At the moment, only Australian citizens are eligible for the visa, but that could be all set to change. The US House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that could make thousands of Irish people eligible for the visa, if it passes a final vote from the Senate.

What requirements are needed?

To apply for the E-3 visa, a legitimate offer of employment in the US is needed. You also must have necessary academic or other qualifying credentials, and be able to show that you have the “necessary license or other official permission” to practice in the specialty occupation. 

There is no age limit on the visa, but a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or at least 12 years experience in the specialty occupation is necessary.

How can I get one?

The first step for Australians interested in obtaining the E-3 visa is to find a suitable job in the US. Once someone has accepted a job offer, they can begin the application with their employer.

The application includes paperwork and a pre-organised interview with a consular officer. There is not yet any details on whether the Irish citizen application will be the same.

How long is the visa for?

The E-3 visa is a two-year visa, but it can be “indefinitely renewed”. It also allows spouses of recipients to work in America during this time, but not their children. 

How many visas are issued?

There is currently a total of 10,500 visas available for Australian citizens, but if the bill is passed, the remainder of the visas each year may be issued to Irish applicants. 

A maximum of 5,000 will be allocated to Irish citizens if the bill passes in the US Senate.

How much does it cost?

The application fee for Australians currently costs $205 USD (€180).

Why is it now being offered to Irish citizens?

Democrat Richard Neal and Republican Jim Sensenbrenner introduced new legislation to the Congress earlier this year, and it was passed in the House of Representatives during a Congress debate last night.

It is expected to go through the Senate in the coming weeks. 

Why did the Congressmen decide to sponsor the bill?

According to Mr Sensenbrenner, passing of the bill would add to the "great legacy" between Ireland and the States.

"The United States was built on hard work and the determination of immigrants - many of them who hail from Ireland. Through their perseverance, they have enabled this country to grow and prosper," he said yesterday.

"I believe in the value and opportunity that comes with legal immigration. I am pleased to have authored this legislation to make the process more efficient for one of our oldest allies, and add to the great legacy of cultural diversity celebrated our country."