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Yesterday, multiple people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, were shot during a congressional baseball practice in Virginia. Reports show that prior to this terrible event, the gunman specifically asked whether the practice was for Republican or Democrat players.

This is an extremely disturbing example of just how bad the political atmosphere in America has become, but it’s certainly not the only example. The flames of hate are fanned every single day on social media and in the news, and there’s no denying that the toxicity of this rhetoric feeds into the unspeakable actions of those such as yesterday’s shooter, and countless others over the years.

As Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s (R-Wis.) communications director, I personally monitor his social media accounts every day. That includes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. On average, the Congressman receives dozens of comments per day, sometimes hundreds.

I read every single post and tweet, and I often wish that this disheartening task didn’t fall to me because each day, I’m faced with message s like these:

 

  

 

A profession in politics is not for the faint of heart. You need to have a thick skin and a healthy sense of humor to maintain a positive and optimistic perspective. I, like many communications professionals, am often on the receiving end of similar hate-filled messages. But there must be a line somewhere that separates legitimate criticism and excessive hate mongering.

At what point should politicians say enough is enough? What has to happen before our political leaders can stand together and denounce extreme and dangerous rhetoric? 

Unfortunately, it usually takes a terrible act of violence, such has yesterday’s shooting.

It was uplifting to see Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) come together before the full House of Representatives and share expressions of unity while condemning the cowardly actions of a disturbed and deadly individual.

But their message of optimism and strength is one that shouldn’t be reserved for days of tragedy. Admonishment of hate should resonate from the halls of Congress to the far-reaching corners of this country every single day.

In recent months, we’ve seen too many words and examples of violence against our political leaders promoted in the national news. Whether it’s Snoop Dogg’s video depicting the shooting of a clown resembling President Trump, Kathy Griffin’s photo illustrating a decapitated President Trump, or the most recent Shakespearean play featuring a Trump-like Julius Caesar being violently murdered, these visual representations of violence are not only offensive, but they lower the standard of what is acceptable in the public arena. They also further deteriorate the national political climate and promote threatening societal norms.

The degradation of political civility is not exclusive to supporters or opponents of any one party. I’m confident that any Democratic member of Congress would be able to produce appalling examples of social rhetoric similar to those I’ve highlighted from Mr. Sensenbrenner’s account. This is a wide-ranging symptom of our polarized and explosive political climate that must be addressed for the safety of our people and the continued success of this country.

And while Americans have the right to say what they want under the First Amendment – no matter how vulgar, profane, or inflammatory, as a society, we don’t have to condone it.

If we truly hope to stop these horrific acts of violence and begin to heal our deep political divides, we all need to denounce hate speech and the sharing of false or misleading information, particularly online.

It’s not easy to find a silver lining in tragedy, but if there’s one to garner from yesterday’s events in Virginia it would be this: an opportunity to hit the reset button on a disconcerting political climate and bring some light and optimism back to America.

Tieman is Rep. James Sensenbrenner’s (R-Wis.) communications director.

You can view this piece online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2017

The Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2017 builds on the success of the original Second Chance Act of 2008 and continues to authorize funding for both public and private entities to evaluate and improve academic and vocational education for offenders in prison, jails, and juvenile facilities.

Congress passed the original Second Chance Act with strong bipartisan support and President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2008. This legislation provides non-profit faith and community-based organizations with mentoring grants to develop support programs such as drug treatment, housing, job training, medical care, and education.

Re-entry services have been improved, which has resulted in a reduction in recidivism and helped ensure a successful return to society for prisoners who have completed their sentence. More than 100,000 men, women, and youth returning home from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities have benefited from Second Chance grants providing career training, mentoring, family-based substance abuse treatment, and other evidence-based reentry programs. 

This investment has also paid public safety dividends. A report from the National Reentry Resource Center highlights how numerous states have experienced drastic reductions in statewide recidivism rates as a result of robust reentry services made possible in part through Second Chance.

The outcomes are impressive, but state and local governments as well as non-profit organizations need resources in order to ensure that the millions of individuals returning from prison, jail, and juvenile facilities each year continue to receive coordinated evidence-based reentry services.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The Second Chance Reauthorization Act is an important component of my ongoing efforts to reform and improve our federal criminal justice system, save taxpayer money, and strengthen American families. While prisons are important deterrents in our fight against crime, they remain one part of the solution to a complex problem. Rehabilitation efforts, such as the ones in the Second Chance Act, will help prisoners who have paid their debt to society get back on the right path and become successful, contributing members of their communities.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 in the House of Representatives.

In their never-ending quest for new revenues, states are growing increasingly aggressive in imposing regulatory burdens on out-of-state businesses. The No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 will stop such overreaches by states and help out-of-state businesses defend themselves against overly burdensome tax obligations.

This legislation prohibits states from regulating beyond their borders by imposing sales tax collection requirements on businesses with no physical presence in the taxing state, and no vote in the representation that would implement such a tax.

Prohibited activities include:

  • Telling an out-of-state business how to make or dispose of its products
  • Imposing income tax or sales tax collection burdens on out-of-state businesses

The No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 does not prohibit states from regulating businesses within their borders. States remain free to insist that products entering their borders comply with national standards.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Over-taxation and regulatory burdens weigh heavy on American businesses. These practices prohibit economic growth, stunt hiring, and make it harder for businesses to expand. The No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 helps alleviate these burdens, promotes entrepreneurial endeavors, and is an ally of small business. It reduces overregulation, keeps government overreaches in check, and ensures that only businesses within a state are subjected to state tax obligations.”

The No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017 is supported by various organizations, including: Council for Citizens Against Government Waste; Net-Choice; National Taxpayers Union; Software Finance and Tax Executives Council; Overstock; Electronic Retailing Association; Americans for Tax Reform; American Catalog Mailers Association.

By: Craig Gilbert: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The most “bipartisan” congressman from Wisconsin, according to one recent study, is moderate Democrat Ron Kind of La Crosse.

Which makes sense politically, since his mostly rural district isn’t dominated by either major party. In fact, it’s the most competitive U.S. House seat in the state.

But the No. 2 Wisconsin lawmaker on the list doesn’t fit this pattern at all.

Republican Jim Sensenbrenner is nowhere near the middle politically (he ranks as one of the most conservative members of Congress). And he represents one of the state’s most politically one-sided districts, which includes the ultra-Republican outer suburbs of Milwaukee.

But Sensenbrenner, who has served longer than all but two U.S. House members, has forged coalitions with Democrats and liberals over the years on issues ranging from voting rights to criminal justice to the Patriot Act.

“It can be done,” says Dan Diller of the Lugar Center, which publishes a “Bipartisan Index” of Congress. The ratings are based on how often lawmakers introduce bills that attract co-sponsors from the opposing party, and how often they co-sponsor bills introduced by colleagues from the other party.

It’s just one of many ways to define bipartisanship, but it’s a concrete, quantifiable measure of the effort members make at the front end of the legislative process to work across party lines. That is a practice this particular nonprofit group is trying to promote, and one that some scholars say makes lawmakers more effective.

In the Lugar Center’s recent index for the 114th Congress (2015-'16), Kind ranked 19th among all House members, tops in the Wisconsin delegation. Sensenbrenner ranked 65th and Republican Reid Ribble (since retired) ranked 90th. Those were the state’s only three House members with positive scores.

Republican Sean Duffy ranked 250th, Democrat Mark Pocan 265th, Democrat Gwen Moore 355th and Republican Glenn Grothman 426th (placing Grothman second to last among the 427 House members who received a rating). The index does not include House speakers, so Republican Paul Ryan was not rated.

In the U.S. Senate, Republican Ron Johnson ranked 52nd and Democrat Tammy Baldwin ranked 75th.

The Lugar Center has published ratings for House members since 2013 and for senators since 1993.

Here are some highlights from the data:

  • Kind (18th) and Sensenbrenner (59th) also ranked highly for bipartisanship in the 113th Congress (2013-'14). Ryan, who had not yet become speaker, ranked a little below average in the House for bipartisanship (244th). And the lowest-ranked members from Wisconsin for this two-year period were Duffy (319th), Moore (376th) and Pocan (390th).
  • The Senate rankings suggest Johnson became much more bipartisan in the final two years of his first term than in his first four years. The Wisconsin Republican ranked 96th out of 98 ranked senators in 2011-'12 and 89th in 2013-'14 before rising to 52nd in 2015-'16. Democrat Baldwin, elected in 2012, ranked 77th in her first two years.
  • Wisconsin has seen some of its most bipartisan lawmakers leave Congress in recent years. Republican Tom Petri ranked among the top 5% of the House for bipartisanship before he retired at the end of 2014. Republican Ribble ranked in the top quarter of the House before he retired at the end of 2016. And Democrat Herb Kohl routinely ranked in the top half of the Senate before he retired at the end of 2012.

Not surprisingly, the long-term trend in the Lugar Center’s data is a decline in bipartisanship, which has coincided with the growing polarization of Congress along party lines.

The lawmakers who receive the highest ratings for bipartisanship tend to be those in the middle of the right-left spectrum. The most bipartisan senator in the latest index is moderate Republican Susan Collins of Maine, and the lowest ranked senators are Vermont’s Bernie Sanders on the left and Texan Ted Cruz on the right.

Among Wisconsin lawmakers, Kind is arguably the most centrist politically and ranks by this measure as the most bipartisan.

But bipartisanship and moderation are not the same thing. A legislator can be at the right or left end of the political spectrum and have a bipartisan working style at the same time.

“It’s possible for very conservative and very progressive members to work at this,” says Dillar, of the Lugar Center.

Sensenbrenner was among roughly 70 House members cited by the Lugar Center as scoring well for bipartisanship while representing a very one-sided district politically.

In the center’s latest index, Democrat Pocan and Republican Johnson both ranked fairly close to the middle of their chambers for bipartisanship, even though neither is remotely centrist. Pocan is more liberal than 96% of his House colleagues and Johnson is more conservative than 87% of his Senate colleagues, according to one highly respected rating system of ideology in Congress.

But only Kind and Sensenbrenner, among Wisconsin lawmakers still in office, got a positive rating for bipartisanship in the last Congress.

One is a centrist Democrat whose congressional district has voted for both Donald Trump and Barack Obama in recent years.

The other is a staunch conservative whose district often produces the top Republican turnouts in the country.

“Bipartisanship,” it seems, is practically the only thing they have in common politically.

View this article online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement in response to the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord:

Congressman Sensenbrenner:  “President Obama bypassed the Constitution and entered the United States into a losing agreement when he committed the country to the Paris Climate Accord. Knowing he could not get Senate approval for a treaty, Obama sidelined Congress and called the deal an “executive agreement.”

“The agreement, which does not hold all nations to the same standards, forces the U.S. to reduce emissions immediately while allowing global polluters, such as China and India, to expand their carbon footprints through the 2020s. This is not only bad for the environment, but it puts the U.S. at a severe economic disadvantage.

“Further, it hurts Wisconsin. Coal provides more than half of our state’s net electricity generation, and our manufacturers already pay more for electricity than most of our neighboring states. This means higher electricity costs to Wisconsin’s consumers, a less competitive state, and stunted economic growth. 

“I applaud President Trump for putting America first and leaving this unfair climate agreement. We all want cleaner air and water, but we can achieve these goals without handicapping the country and outsourcing jobs to foreign countries.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the Deducting Expenses Derived from Use of Care and Treatment (DEDUCT) Act in the House of Representatives.

In the Tax Reform Act of 1986, Congress allowed Americans to deduct medical expenses from their tax returns if the costs exceeded a certain amount of their adjusted gross income. Current law states that no medical expense may be deducted until the costs reach 10 percent of an individual’s gross income.

The DEDUCT Act would eliminate this unnecessary tax threshold in order to help make medical expenses more affordable for Americans.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The costs of medical procedures and prescriptions can be a significant burden on individuals and families. As Congress continues to debate health care and tax reform, now is the ideal time to repeal the arbitrary medical tax deduction threshold for medical expenses and give a hand up to Americans struggling to pay for necessary medical expenditures.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner gave the following statement on the House floor in support of the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017: 

Watch here.

See full transcript below:

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, enacted in 2006, is landmark legislation intended to keep our communities, and most importantly our children, safe from sex offenders and other dangerous predators.

This bipartisan bill strengthened sex offender registry requirements and enforcement, extended federal registry requirements to Indian tribes, and authorized funding for several programs intended to address and deter child exploitation.

The centerpiece of the Adam Walsh Act is the national Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, or SORNA. SORNA’s goal is to create a seamless national sex offender registry to assist law enforcement’s efforts to detect and track offenders.  SORNA provides minimum standards for state sex offender registries, and created the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Website, which allows law enforcement officials and the general public to search for sex offenders nationwide from just one website.

H.R. 1188, the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017, reauthorizes two key programs from the original Adam Walsh Act – grants to the states and other jurisdictions to implement the Adam Walsh Act’s sex offender registry requirements, and funding for the U.S. Marshals’ to locate and apprehend sex offenders who violate registration requirements.  These programs are crucial to efforts to complete, and enforce, the national network of sex offender registries, particularly in light of the already-passed deadline for the states to come into compliance with SORNA. 

Based on feedback from the states, H.R. 1188 makes targeted changes to the SORNA sex offender registry requirements.  The bill changes the period of time after which juveniles adjudicated delinquent can petition to be removed from the sex offender registry for a clean record from 25 years to 15 years, and provides that juveniles do not need to be included on publicly-viewed sex offender registries.  Instead, it is sufficient for juveniles to be included on registries that are only viewed by law enforcement entities.  I believe these provisions strike an appropriate balance between being tough on juveniles who commit serious sex crimes and understanding that there can be differences between adult and juvenile offenders.  

The bill also recognizes the unique challenges that tribes face in implementing SORNA.  H.R. 1188 provides technical assistance to tribes so they can access, and enter information into, the federal criminal information databases. Finally, H.R. 1188 amends the statute of limitations to allow individuals who were victims of exploitation or trafficking as juveniles to have 10 years after becoming an adult to file suit for a civil remedy.  It is my hope that with these common sense changes, more states will come into compliance. 

With the passage of this legislation, Congress can send a strong message to all Americans about our continued commitment to keeping our nation’s children safe.  I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 1188 and yield back the balance of my time.  

Legal foreign workers are necessary for a thriving, successful American workforce. They bring expertise and flexibility to our companies, allowing them to grow, innovate and create more American jobs. However, our federal visa program is in desperate need of reform and it must be addressed with a serious, clear-eyed approach.

For years, America’s work visa programs – specifically H-1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers – have been abused. At their conception, these visas were the solution for American companies that could not find American workers to fill specific, niche positions. The program allows employers in the United States to temporarily permit specialized foreign employees into the country for particular jobs, most often in the technology, engineering, medical and scientific fields.

However, over the years, the program has transformed into a way for companies to undercut American workers and replace them with foreign labor for significantly less money. Eighty percent of H-1B workers receive less than the median wage – this is not only a violation of the spirit of the program, but it also disadvantages American-born job seekers.

Several high-profile stories have highlighted this growing problem, most notably the lawsuits currently pending against the Walt Disney Company, in which American workers lost their jobs to foreign workers on H-1B visas and were instructed to train their replacements. Similar situations are occurring across the country. In my home state of Wisconsin, a number of the largest local employers are utilizing the program in order to maintain their bottom lines.

Serious reforms are necessary to tamper abuse of the program, level the playing field, and bring the process back to its original purpose.

Improving the process in which visas are awarded is one such necessary reform. In the current system, 85,000 H-1B visas are allotted by lottery annually. If there is competition to come to the United States, we should ensure we get the best and brightest, not just roll the dice and accept the results. Applicants with specialized skills should be selected for specific positions, the way the program intends. By shuffling foreign applicants through a lottery system, we empower businesses to replace qualified American workers with cheaper labor. Higher standards and stricter qualifications must be enforced. No job that could be filled by a qualified American worker should be given to a visa holder for less money.

Additionally, earlier this year outsourcing giant Cognizant claimed it “fully complies with all U.S. regulations regarding H-1B visas” and ensures their “practices are not merely compliant with existing laws in letter and spirit, but also adhere to best practices.” If this is truly the case, it’s imperative we reassess the laws and regulations governing the H-1B visa program to ensure that our country no longer tolerates questionable hiring and firing practices of American and foreign workers.

Last month, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order entitled Buy American and Hire American, which highlights the problems within our visa and guest worker policies and calls for the enforcement of all laws governing foreign workers’ entry into the United States. It also calls upon the Departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security, and State to take action against fraud and abuse of our visa programs. While the order applies broadly to all U.S. visa programs, it specifically addresses the problems within the H-1B visa program and demands reforms that ensure these visas are only awarded to companies that actually require highly skilled foreign workers.

I disagree with the partisan charges leveled against this executive order. Democratic leaders, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and members whose districts are home to many of the companies taking unfair advantage of our nation’s visa programs, need to recognize that reform is good for American workers, American businesses and America’s economic health and prosperity.

The first step in the reform process is beginning the conversation, which is what the President has done with his Buy American and Hire American executive order. It is now up to Congress to take legislative action. As Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to facilitate real reform that will not only uphold the spirit of our laws, but encourage growth, competition and diversity in the American workforce.

View the original piece online here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017, which would allow the protections of the Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act to continue saving the lives of children throughout the nation, passed in the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support.

Introduced by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act became law in 2006 and has played a vital role in the prevention of sexual exploitation of America’s children. The comprehensive, bipartisan law strengthened sex offender registry requirements and enforcement across the country, as well as extended registry requirements to Native American tribes, increased penalties for child predators, and authorized funding for various programs to strengthen our defenses against child exploitation.

This legislation is critical because despite ongoing prevention efforts, the fight against child exploitation is not over. The Justice Department reports that only 17 states, three territories, and 36 Native American tribes have substantially implemented the Sex Offender Management Assistance Program and the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

Additionally, there are also an estimated 100,000 fugitive sex offenders across the country who are unregistered or in violation of registry requirements.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Childhood sexual abuse is a serious problem facing this nation. The devastation it causes impacts every societal group and lasts a lifetime for its victims and their loved ones. Today’s reauthorization the Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act ensures that serious action will continue to prevent the ongoing sexual exploitation of our nation’s children.”  

Further details of the bill include the following:

  • The Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017 reauthorizes the two primary programs of the Adam Walsh Act – The Sex Offender Management Assistance Program and SORNA – for five years.
    • SORNA sets minimum guidelines for state sex offender registries and establishes the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, which is a comprehensive national system for the registration and notification to the public of sex offenders. This registry currently contains information on more than 600,000 convicted sex offenders in the United States.
    • The Sex Offender Management Assistance Program provides funding to the states, tribes, and other jurisdictions to offset the costs of implementing and enhancing SORNA, and funding for the U.S. Marshals Service and other law enforcement agencies to assist jurisdictions in locating and apprehending sex offenders who violate registration requirements.
The Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2017 makes targeted changes to the SORNA requirements, including giving states more flexibility in classifying sex offenders on their registry, lowering the period that certain juveniles must register to 15 years, and limiting public access to juvenile sex offender information.
In recent years, a multitude of states have attempted to impose sales taxes on purchases made over the internet and to set regulatory standards that would apply to out-of-state producers, despite U.S. Supreme Court precedent barring such practices. Recently introduced federal legislation could offer a commonsense solution to what has been a growing problem.
 
Just recently, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed into law a measure to subject sales made over the internet to the state’s sales tax, regardless of where the seller is located. In Wyoming, the state house approved legislation this year that would require any remote seller with more than $100,000 annually in gross sales to the state to pay sales tax. In South Carolina, the state senate passed a bill in February requiring out-of-state remote sellers to register with the Department of Revenue so that they may be held liable for the state's sales tax.
Likewise, states continue to try to set regulatory standards that apply when out-of-state companies sell products into the state. California, for example, is trying to require out-of-state egg farmers to use a certain size cage for chickens if they want to sell their eggs in the Golden State. This sort of ad hoc tax and regulatory policymaking poses enormous constitutional and economic concerns.
In its 1992 decision in Quill v. North Dakota, the Supreme Court held that, before a state may levy a sales tax on purchases made from a company, the company in question must have a physical presence in that state. This decision was grounded in sound constitutional principles of federalism and Congress’ plenary authority to regulate commerce between the states. For instance, the Quill court noted that Congress could choose to grant states the ability to levy taxes beyond their borders, but thus far, it hasn’t exercised that power.

The implications from the court’s quarter-century-old decision are far-reaching. For example, if a state had the power to levy sales taxes on companies located in other states, it necessarily also would have authority to send its auditors out of state to examine that company's books. This would have appalled the designers of our constitutional framework. Allowing states to set standards that apply to companies in every state would begin the process of eviscerating federalism as we know it. Yet spendthrift states with ever-growing appetites for more resources and busybody state regulators increasingly push the envelope in order to chip away at the Quill decision.

In order to stop state efforts to tax and regulate beyond their borders, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) has introduced a promising new piece of legislation, the No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017. By codifying the Supreme Court’s Quill decision in federal statute, the bill would make clear that Congress respects its own Commerce Clause authority and that it will force states to respect each other’s borders, as well.

Since the early days of our republic, Americans have benefited immensely from our federalist system, in which states are generally free to set the rules of the road for their own citizens and businesses, but their ability to influence other states’ citizens and businesses are largely circumscribed. 

Should Congress fail to enact something similar to the Sensenbrenner bill, states will continue to try to tax and regulate beyond their own borders. This will increasingly impede economic growth and balkanize the regulatory environment. Stakeholders will increasingly turn to the courts to try to solve their problems.

Congress can stop this unnecessary litigation by passing the No Regulation Without Representation Act. It should do so quickly in order to stop the regulatory and taxation overreach that has grown in recent years.

Clark Packard (@Clark_Packard) is outreach manager for the nonprofit R Street Institute.

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