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By: Peter Roper of The Pueblo Chieftain

Disabled activists were outside U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton's office Monday -- not to picket but to thank the 3rd District Republican for co-sponsoring legislation that would help guarantee their access to home-care services.

Tipton is one of 70 Republican and Democratic House members who are supporting the Disability Integration Act that is being offered by Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner.

Kristen Castor, a Pueblo advocate for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, said disabled activists spent a long summer pushing back against Republican efforts to distribute federal Medicaid funding to the states through block grants.

They feared a block-grant approach could lead to states requiring the disabled to be in nursing homes to get any benefits.

"The Disability Integration Act says that home-care services are also mandated by the Medicaid program," Castor said. "This is as close as we've ever come to getting home care on an equal footing with nursing home care. That's why we want to thank Mr. Tipton for supporting us."

Disabled people use more than 25 percent of all Medicaid funding and the federal program initial required the disabled to be in nursing homes to receive the money. Activists fought that policy in the courts in the 1980s and won the right to have Medicaid pay for home care as well.

Those services can include everything from motorized wheelchairs to oxygen and other essentials.

The Sensenbrenner bill would require that Medicaid give equal weight to home-care services as institutional care.

Tipton joins Colorado Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis in co-sponsoring the legislation.

by: Shari Dingle Costantini of the Daily Younder

Three Ways the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act Will Impact Patients in Rural Communities

Nurses are few and far between in rural communities. The Journal of Nursing Regulation reported that by 2020 over 70,000 nurses will be retiring. This decline in staff could affect healthcare facilities in rural areas first, since they already struggle with longer patient wait times, longer shift hours for their nurses and are more at risk for closure than healthcare facilities in metropolitan areas.

In response to the nurse shortage, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (WI) introduced H.R.3351 Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act 2017, which allocates up to 8,000 immigrant visas annually for nurses and physicians who are in critical need and in short supply.

Since 2010, 82 U.S. rural health facilities have shut down due to declining Medicaid reimbursements, cuts in funding, and the high cost to upgrade facilities. The healthcare professional shortage also plays a factor in rural hospital closures. Recruiting international nurses and physicians for rural hospitals can help facilities and reduce the risk of closures by keeping beds staffed. The Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act aims to improve patient care in three crucial areas: access to care, quality of care and patient engagement.

Improving patient access to health care

In rural North Carolina, a 48-year-old woman died from cardiac arrest after waiting 90 minutes for a medical helicopter to arrive, according to the Associated Press. Healthcare professionals assessed that the patient could have been revived if the local hospital had not closed (only six days earlier). Since this incident in 2015, more than 673 rural hospitals are at risk of closing,, according to the National Rural Health Association (NRHA). Hospital closures as a result of inadequate staffing are a life-threatening reality that 11.7 million Americans could face.

International healthcare professionals, such as physicians and nurses, could be recruited and placed in rural hospitals to help prevent closure.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, an additional 4,000 nurses are needed to meet current rural health needs. The Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act can help supply nurses to meet these demands.

Reducing medical errors

According to Patient safety and quality: an evidence-based handbook for nurses, nurse fatigue and stress are the main causes of medication errors. Due to the shortage, nurses often need to work longer hours under very stressful conditions, which can result in fatigue that may increase medical errors.

Increasing nurse staffing levels is one major way to reduce nurse fatigue and prevent medical errors. This bill ensures that international healthcare professionals are available to assist in facilities with the strongest needs.

Improving patient engagement

Research shows that patients who acquire regular primary care comply with their prescribed treatments and have lower rates of illness and premature death. This is because an effective primary care system has a full staff to provide a team approach to patient care, according to the report Health Status and Health Care Access of Farm and Rural Populations.

Proper staffing levels allow nurses the time needed to properly care for and discharge patients.

The Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act aims to protect rural hospitals from closure and helps them provide quality care for their patients. Access to a supply of international healthcare professionals is a must in this nurse shortage.

Shari Dingle Costantini is the CEO of Avant Healthcare Professionals, a Florida-based professional staffing agency for registered nurses. 

 

by Jonathan Miller of CQ

In the early months of 2017, a good deal of attention was paid to members of Congress who seemed to be skipping out on town halls for fear of mobs of angry constituents.

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Around that time, the Town Hall Project was born. It evolved from a Google spreadsheet to a searchable online database that allows anyone to find a town hall near them. Some paid staffers and up to 120 volunteers keep it up to date.

Now, the founders of the effort are awarding two members of Congress with an MVP for constituent interface: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, and Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat. Both well outpaced their colleagues in meeting with the people. Wyden held 80 town halls, Sensenbrenner a whopping 115. Nathan Williams, the co-founder of the Town Hall Project, notes that Wyden makes a point to schedule town halls off his natural turf. “He holds them in all counties in the state, even in ones that aren’t especially Democratic,” he says. Wyden was presented his award at a town hall on Dec. 2.

As for Sensenbrenner, Williams says he is trying to arrange a time to present the award but hasn’t heard back from staff yet. “There’s a lot going on in Congress right now, so we’re not taking it personally that he hasn’t gotten back to us,” he says. The Top 5 town hallers for both the Senate and House can be found in the chart.

Washington, D.C.—Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) offered the following statement after the Department of Justice confirmed its ongoing investigation into the alleged sale of human fetal tissue by a major abortion provider in America:

“It is heartbreaking and disgusting that anyone would profit from sale of innocent unborn human body parts. The Department of Justice is right to open this investigation at the referral of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives.”

In February, Congressman Sensenbrenner introduced the Safe RESEARCH Act (H.R. 1203) to prohibit the sale of fetal tissue acquired by abortion. Specifically, the Safe RESEARCH Act amends Section 498A of the Public Health Act to only permit human fetal tissue research to be conducted with tissue obtained as a result of a stillbirth or ectopic pregnancy.

The text of the Safe RESEARCH Act is available here.

By: Susan Jones of CNS News

(CNSNews.com) - Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he was the one who insisted on putting the instant check system in the Brady bill, which President Bill Clinton passed and signed in 1993.

Sensenbrenner said the National Instant Check System (NICS) works, but there are lessons to be learned from its terrible failure in Sutherland Springs:

"At the time the legislation was drafted, I made the point that the National Instant Check System would only be as good as the data that was put into it," Sensenbrenner said.

"And it took about five years to appropriately automate and input records, not only for felony convictions, (but also for) mental incompetency adjudications as well as domestic violence legal action. And, you know, we found that one state kept all of these records in boxes of 3 by 5 cards located in every country courthouse. That took a while to finally automate that."

Sensenbrenner said the law is not to blame for the system's failure to disqualify the church shooter from buying four guns over four years.

"I don't think we can blame the system which we set up almost 25 years ago, because the system has worked in hundreds of thousands of cases. I think we have to blame the Air Force for not doing what was necessary to let the system be able to identify this gentlemen when he came and purchased the firearms that he ended up using in a truly horrific killing..."

"So I think we have to identify, you know, why this failure was.  "And it's not just the Air Force. It could be any clerk of court anywhere in the country that could have done that, and I think this has got to be a lesson, that when you've got something that is disqualifying that has been adjudicated by a court, get it into the system and get it into the system right away."

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he shares the concerns about the effectiveness of the national instant background check system for gun buyers, and "therefore we'll look into a briefing on that subject" as soon as possible, he told the committee on Tuesday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told a news conference on Tuesday that the Sutherland Springs shooter “should not have gotten a gun” because he was a domestic abuser.

“That’s why we’ve got all these questions for the Air Force right now, which is, how did this slip through the cracks?”

Ryan said it’s important to find out what more needs to be done to enforce the laws that are actually on the books.

You can view this article online here.

Wisconsin Ag Connection

Three federal lawmakers from Wisconsin are asking House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway to reform the Dairy Margin Protection Program, which provides producers with payments when dairy margins fall below the margin coverage levels. In a letter sent by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, Mike Gallagher and Sean Duffy, the congressmen said a top priority in the 2018 Farm Bill should be to reform the MPP because it gave participants 'very little return' on their investment in recent years, despite the fact that farmers paid millions of dollars into the program.

"The dairy industry in Wisconsin and nationwide has faced significant struggles in recent years," the memo stated. "Our current trade challenges with Canada are particularly acute in 'America's Dairyland,' a major manufacturer of ultrafiltered milk, and our producers continue to struggle with labor costs and challenges. Moreover, milk prices deteriorated significantly last year, causing dairy farmers added pain during an already challenging climate."

Sensenbrenner added that American producers play a vital role in supplying the nation with fresh milk and other important agricultural products. He says programs like the MPP need to be re-evalulated in order to become more responsive to the needs of Wisconsin dairy farmers.

"As a longtime supporter of the agricultural industry, I remain committed to working with my colleagues to see these issues addressed in the final legislation," Sensenbrenner said.

Earlier this year, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue utilized his authority to provide dairy producers the ability to opt out of the Margin Protection Program for 2018.

The voluntary program established by the 2014 Farm Bill, MPP provides financial assistance to participating dairy producers when the margin--the difference between the price of milk and feed costs--falls below the coverage level selected by the producer. The program was meant to give producers the flexibility to select coverage levels best suited for their operation.

Meanwhile, enrollment for the next round of coverage ends on December 15 for coverage in calendar year 2018. Participating farmers will remain in the program through December 31, 2018, and pay a minimum $100 administrative fee for 2018 coverage.

You can view this article online here.

Washington, D.C.—Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-05), along with Congressmen Mike Gallagher (R-WI-08) and Sean Duffy (R-WI-07), sent a letter detailing 2018 Farm Bill policy priorities to House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway. Specifically, the letter calls for reforms to the Dairy Margin Protection Program, which provides producers with payments when dairy margins are below the margin coverage levels.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Americans across the heartland play a vital role in supplying our nation with fresh milk and other important agricultural products. As we begin crafting the upcoming Farm Bill, I will push to ensure programs, like the MPP-Dairy, are updated to become more responsive to the needs of Wisconsin dairy farmers.  As a longtime supporter of the agricultural industry, I remain committed to working with my colleagues to see these issues addressed in the final legislation.”

Congressman Gallagher: “For too long hardworking farmers in Northeast Wisconsin and across the country have been paying into a program that does not give them the results they need. As Congress begins to debate the upcoming Farm Bill, I will work with my colleagues to improve the MPP-Dairy program so that it is effective in meeting the challenges farmers face in an increasingly volatile market.”

The full text is available below:

Dear Chairman Conaway:

            As members who represent Wisconsin’s vast dairy industry, we thank you for your early start to the 2018 Farm Bill process and we are grateful for your efforts to complete the bill on time.  We appreciate your steadfast advocacy for rural America and your commitment to reforming dairy policy in the new Farm Bill.

            As you know, Wisconsin is the second largest milk-producing state and is home to more dairy farms than any other in the nation.  Wisconsin’s roughly 9,500 family-owned dairy farms, totaling well over 1 million cows, produce roughly 14 percent of the U.S. milk supply each year.  These farmers are 

the lifeblood of our communities and the fresh milk they produce supports many jobs in the agricultural and food manufacturing sectors of our state.

            The dairy industry in Wisconsin and nationwide has faced significant struggles in recent years.  Our current trade challenges with Canada are particularly acute in ‘America’s Dairyland’, a major manufacturer of ultrafiltered milk, and our producers continue to struggle with labor costs and challenges.  Moreover, milk prices deteriorated significantly last year, causing dairy farmers added pain during an already challenging climate.

            With this in mind, a top priority for us in the Farm Bill is reforming the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy).  While the program is fairly new, it has not performed to the expectations of our dairy farmers.  In 2015 and 2016, the first two years of the program, dairy producers paid millions of dollars into the program but received very little return on this investment, even though last year was a very difficult year for our dairy farmers by all accounts.

            Therefore, we look forward to working with you to improve MPP-Dairy to make it more responsive to farmers.  We understand that the program's current feed cost formula does not fully reflect producer costs, so we are interested in improving the program to better reflect the margins producers face to provide them a viable safety net in the difficult years.  We are also urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to classify milk as a commodity under the federal crop insurance program, to provide producers with additional risk management options.

            We recognize that there will be budgetary limitations in the Farm Bill process and we stand ready to work with you to craft a Farm Bill that supports all of rural America.  We appreciate your consideration and we are eager to work with you.

Sincerely,

Mike Gallagher
Member of Congress

Sean Duffy
Member of Congress

F. James Sensenbrenner
Member of Congress

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Washington, D.C.—Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) voted for H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 231 to 198. Contained in the bill was language from the Fix NICS Act, which adds enforcement measures to ensure that federal agencies provide the most accurate data to the National Instant Background Check System.

Congressman Sensenbrenner gave the following remarks on the House floor:

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I am pleased that H.R. 38, as amended, includes the Fix NICS Act.  I have long supported the National Instant Check System, or NICS. NICS is about saving lives and protecting people from harm—by preventing guns from falling into the wrong hands. It does this without interfering in the timely transfer of firearms to eligible gun buyers.

I was an original cosponsor of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, and worked diligently for its passage. I strongly supported this bill because it makes sense to prevent convicted felons, and individuals judged to be mentally ill, from obtaining guns. At the time of negotiations, I insisted on the inclusion of a NICS program. Under this system, firearm dealers use the FBI's NICS system to cross-reference with a list of known convicted felons, drug users, illegal aliens, and those convicted of domestic violence.

As I have stated many times, the NICS system is only as good as the records that are put into it. Too often, people who otherwise would not pass a background check can slip through the cracks and buy guns.  After the recent shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the U.S. Air Force disclosed that it failed to report the gunman’s history of domestic assault to the database, which should have prevented him from purchasing a firearm in the first place.

This legislation will provide a much needed push to speed implementation of the NICS system used in conducting instant background checks prior to gun purchases. At the federal level, it would require federal agency cooperation in providing relevant records to the Attorney General for inclusion into the NICS.  It holds federal agencies accountable if they fail to upload relevant records to the background check system through public reporting and prohibiting bonus pay for political appointees.  At the state level, it will incentivize them to make sure their reporting is up-to-date by giving federal grant preferences to states who comply. 

Let me be clear, this bill is not about expanding background checks.  This is about ensuring that existing law is working. There is strong bipartisan support for improving what has become a systemic problem of missing information in the database. Accurate reporting is essential to ensuring the system works as intended.  I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

You can read the full text of H.R. 38 HERE.

Washington, D.C.Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) announced that Christopher Krepich will serve as his Press Secretary following the departure of former Communications Director Nicole Tieman.

Tieman, who had been a part of Sensenbrenner’s staff for more than two years, is now the Press Secretary for Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Krepich joins the Sensenbrenner office following two and a half years as a member of Congressman Keith Rothfus’ (R-PA) staff, most recently serving as Deputy Press Secretary. He got his start on Capitol Hill in 2015 working as an intern for Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI).

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Washington, D.C.—Today, the House of Representatives voted to form a Conference Committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate tax reform bills. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) offered the following statement after supporting the motion to go to conference:

“Americans deserve to keep more of their hard-earned paychecks and are counting on Congress to create a 21st century tax system that facilitates job creation and economic growth. Today’s vote brings us another giant step closer to doing just that. I look forward to working with my colleagues to bring much-needed tax relief to families and businesses across Wisconsin and the nation.”

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