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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has awarded Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner with its NAM Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence in the 114th Congress. He received an 87 percent overall rating.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “It’s a privilege to receive the NAM Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence and my great honor to stand up for business and manufacturing, both in Wisconsin and throughout the United States. Our nation’s success and long-term health depends on the growth and prosperity of our economy. Manufacturing plays a critical role in production and the employment of millions of Americans, and I will continue to support ongoing efforts to promote and protect this vital industry.”

Manufacturers present the NAM Award for Manufacturing Excellence to legislators who consistently support policies that enable manufacturers in the United States to create jobs, compete in the global economy, and improve living standards for manufacturing workers. NAM requires a Key Manufacturing Votes record of 70 percent or higher to be eligible for the award. 

NAM is the nation’s largest industrial trade association representing small and large manufacturers and their nearly 12 million workers.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner joined 39 Members of Congress in a letter to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, asking for an update on VA efforts to improve its Veterans Crisis Line and provide better service to our nation’s veterans in need.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The men and women of America’s Armed Services put their lives on the line to keep this nation free. When they come home and need support, slow response times, decreased care, and bureaucrat excuses simply don’t cut it. These American heroes give us their best; we must do the same for them.”  

Full transcript below:
 

Deputy Secretary Gibson:

As you know, our nation is in the midst of a veterans suicide emergency as roughly 20 veterans commit suicide every single day. Given these alarming and tragic statistics, we write to express our deep concern with recent reports of failures of the Veterans Crisis Line and to request an update on progress made by the VA to address these issues.

The breakdowns of the VCL were outlined in the recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) which details significant problems with caller response and quality assurance of the VCL. This report found multiple inefficiencies within the VCL that led to veterans’ calls going to voicemail and being placed on hold. In addition, it identified instances where callers did not receive immediate assistance and a general lack of quality assurance. Overall the VAOIG report made seven recommendations to the VA in regards to the VCL.

In addition to issues raised in the VAOIG report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently conducted a review of the VCL and found that the VA is not meeting its call response time goals, and that roughly 73% of calls are answered at the VCL headquarters, while the remaining calls are sent to backup facilities. Furthermore, this study found that the VA has not established sufficient monitoring and performance indicators for calls that are sent to backup call centers. 

Over the past year the VA has attempted to make significant changes to the VCL to improve its service to veterans. Specifically, VA responded to the 7 recommendations of the VAOIG with specific improvements to each recommendation and a completion date for each improvement. These improvements include new employee orientation, an updated call monitoring program, and establishing a formal quality assurance process and more.

Given your agency’s commitment to remedy these issues and the overwhelming public interest in holding the VA accountable to its responsibilities, we respectfully request a detailed response to the following questions by October 15, 2016. Since the VA has been pursuing reforms in this area over the past year and has identified September 30 as the latest target date for improvements to the VCL in its VAOIG response, we believe this is sufficient time for the VA to respond.

1) Has VA completed all of the improvements related to the seven VAOIG recommendations on schedule, including the improvements whose target for completion is September 30?
2) As the VAOIG report points out, the number of calls into the VCL has drastically increased in recent years. Will the changes made by the VA be sufficient to handle these calls in years to come if this trend continues? What changes will the VCL need to make in order to handle increased calls in the future?
3) VA officials have stated to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs that it is their goal to have every call to the VCL by a veteran in crisis answered promptly by an experienced responder by the end of this year. Is the VA on track to meet this goal?
4) Did the VA add any further updates of improvements to the VCL in response to the GAO report in June of this year? If so, what improvements has VA made?

We know that the individuals at the VA would agree that veteran suicide is a critical issue that has become worse in recent years. With a veteran committing suicide nearly every 72 minutes and veteran suicide rates far surpassing those of civilians it is evident that the VA must do more to ensure our veterans are receiving the time critical care that they need. Veteran suicide is a complex problem that reaches beyond the VCL, but in their most critical hour, we must make sure that veterans are receiving the support they need. That is why we are seeking answers to these questions, to ensure that VA is taking the necessary strides to provide that critical support, and we look forward to your response.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent a letter to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy pressing her to provide answers for the Agency’s harmful E15 regulations that are putting unnecessary burdens on American fuel consumers.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Taxpayers should not be held hostage at the pump by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington. Without evidence to justify its harmful E15 mandate, the EPA must take responsibility for the burdens it’s placing on the backs of American fuel consumers, and answer for the unnecessary harm it’s causing to hardworking citizens.” 

Full text provided below:

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

I write to you with concerns about an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to allow certain configurations of fuel-dispensing blender pumps at retailer locations.

A number of complications surround the introduction of fuels containing higher percentages of ethanol, or E15, as known to many Americans. Apart from the difficulties of managing ethanol-blended fuels, especially in the winter months, there are additional and more serious roadblocks for people who own older automobiles or specific types of motor vehicles. Many vehicles owned and operated in the United States, including lawn mowers, motorcycles, ATVs, and various watercraft, are not built to burn high-ethanol fuel. EPA’s E15 requirements may lead to wide-spread vehicle malfunction, caused by misfueling. Additionally, certain E15 and blender pump implementation options approved by EPA have presented serious obstacles to consumers at large, whether or not they desire to purchase E15. 

The EPA has tried to alleviate consumer difficulties and confusion in connection with E15 by allowing retailers to dispense different blends of gasoline at the same pump from different hoses. Blender pumps with fuel hoses dedicated to each specific blend are adequate in addressing the breadth of consumer demands, minimizing the possibility for consumer confusion, and bypassing issues that are inherent to other types of blender pumps. For these reasons, pumps with hoses dedicated to each blend of motor fuel sold are superior to single-hose pumps. However, for unknown reasons and counter to consumer concerns, EPA has sought over several years to permit retailers to dispense fuel from single-hose pumps. Problems that might have been mitigated for passenger-vehicles with larger fuel tanks are instead compounded by EPA’s attempts to permit these single-hose pumps. Further, EPA’s chosen route to permit single-hose pumps imposes an unreasonable and unnecessary burden on all consumers, regardless of their vehicle’s required fuel grade.

The EPA requires that companies submit an E15 Misfueling Mitigation Plan (MMP) before various pump configurations are permitted at retail locations. Some approved MMPs result in further difficulties for consumers, rather than eliminating confusion. These configurations include a mandated minimum fuel purchase of 4 gallons to dilute any mismatched fuel that remains in the hose from a previous purchase. They also require the installation of a separate pump where fuel containing maximum 10 percent ethanol may be distributed. Blender pumps where EPA mandates a 4-gallon minimum purchase are supposed to be marked for passenger vehicle fueling only. Misuse of these pumps may be in violation of federal law.

Mandating minimum purchases and dividing consumers by vehicle type or age adds regulatory burden, more room for consumer confusion, and is out of touch with the wide range of consumer needs. Consumers should not be required to purchase a minimum amount of any product, especially for something as basic as motor fuel. Consumers may be shut out from accessing this essential need for reasons as simple as only needing a certain amount of fuel or only having the financial resources to purchase an amount lower than the mandated minimum. There would be no need to dispense a minimum volume of fuel if each blend sold had a designated hose at each pump. 

In addition to continuing discussions on the practicalities of single-hose fuel pumps, we request a response from EPA to these questions about single-hose blender pumps as an option. Does EPA:

1) Have supporting evidence that single-hose blender pumps reduce operating costs for retailers?
2) Have evidence to suggest there is strong demand from retailers for an option to dispense multiple fuel blends from single-hose blender pumps?
3) Have evidence to suggest that retailers do not incur increased costs by being required to provide, in addition to single-hose blender pumps, at least one dedicated pump where a maximum blend of E10 is available?

We appreciate your attention to these questions. Please respond by November 21, 2016.

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Member of Congress
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 6133, the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016, which would allow the protections of the Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act to continue saving the lives of children throughout the nation. 

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.

H.R. 6133 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, and the devastation it causes impacts every societal group. Reauthorizing the Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act would ensure efforts continue to prevent the ongoing sexual exploitation of our nation’s children.”  

Further details of the proposal include the following:

• The Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act of 2016 would reauthorize the two primary programs of the Adam Walsh Act – The Sex Offender Management Assistance Program and SORNA – for five years. 
o 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.
o 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 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 25 years, and limiting public access to juvenile sex offender information.
 
Over the course of the past three years, Congress has made criminal justice reform a priority.

In 2013, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) created the Over-criminalization Task Force which examined the depth, seriousness, and complexities of the problems facing our federal criminal justice system. The findings that came from the task force allowed Members on the Committee to identify key problem areas and begin the reform process.

Last year, momentum for criminal justice reform reached an all-time high. It united a wide range of law enforcement and political organizations, advocacy groups, and Congressional leaders under a common goal: to fix our broken system.

For months, headlines heaped praise on the bipartisan efforts and cast optimism over upcoming legislation that would address specific areas in desperate need of reform, including front-end sentencing and back-end rehabilitation and re-entry strategies.

A total of 11 bills have already been passed out of the House Judiciary Committee. Speaker Paul D. Ryan expressed earlier this year his desire to see criminal justice reform legislation come to a Floor vote this month, and as Congress reconvenes, it looks as though there is a strong possibility that it will.


That is good news for the millions of American currently living with the consequences of over-criminalization in our country. Although a large number the nation’s 2.3 million inmates deserve their place behind bars, too many low-level, non-violent individuals are caught up in broken system. Their incarceration diverts limited resources away from other priorities, such as policing and the capture and punishment of violent and career criminals.

For too long, the pressing need for criminal justice reform has been put on the backburner. It has led to increasing financial burdens on taxpayers, violent outbursts in economically depressed neighborhoods throughout the nation, and the breakdown of hundreds of thousands of American families.

Fifty percent of the current prison population suffers from substance abuse problems, mental health issues, or a combination of both. Our criminal justice system is not equipped to provide these individuals with the help they need to gain control of their lives and acquire the critical work skills necessary to successfully re-enter society and the workforce. Without these basic tools, the likelihood of recidivism is high.

Despite the recent downtick of media coverage on the issue, Americans largely support reform efforts, with 6 out of 10 saying there are too many drug criminals taking up space in prisons. Further, 85 percent support allowing people in prison to earn time off their sentences through rehabilitation and work skills programs.

Each piece of legislation currently on the table addresses specific problems in the current system and offers common sense, fiscally responsible solutions that will increase public safety, support law enforcement and victims of crime, and decrease the overwhelming financial burden on hardworking taxpayers. However, none of it matters unless Congress is willing to pass legislation and President Obama is ready to sign it.

At the heart of federal criminal justice reform is the desire to create a better way forward for every American struggling under our broken system. Families ripped apart by incarceration, communities divided by a seemingly impenetrable wall between law enforcement and the neighborhoods they protect, and an ineffective justice system not only weakens the fabric of society, but hinders economic growth and opportunity for all Americans.

Three years ago, Congress began a journey to rectify the injustices in our federal criminal justice system. Right now, we have the opportunity to finish the job and pass meaningful and effective reform legislation. Our system cannot continue on its current trajectory. It’s not only fiscally unsustainable, but morally irresponsible. We must do better and we can do better.

View this piece online here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the nation’s largest small business advocacy group, awarded Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner with its biennial Guardian of Small Business Award for his outstanding support of America’s small business owners in the 114th Congress.

Founded in 1943, NFIB is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that represents the consensus views of its members in Washington and all 50 state capitals. The Guardian of Small Business is NFIB’s most prestigious award and is reserved for lawmakers who vote consistently with NFIB on key issues identified by small business owners.

The NFIB tracks the votes of every Member of Congress, and only those who vote with NFIB at least 70 percent of the time are eligible for the Guardian Award. Congressman Sensenbrenner received a perfect 100 voting record during the 114th Congress.

NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan praised Congressman Sensenbrenner, saying “many elected officials claim that they are champions of small business, but our Guardian Award shows our members and other small business owners who is really fighting for them. Based on his voting record, Rep. Sensenbrenner is one of the most reliable advocates for small business in Washington.” 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Small businesses are a big deal, and I’m proud to be their constant ally in Congress. American entrepreneurs provide more than half of all jobs in the United States, and it’s more important than ever to support them by reducing unnecessary tax burdens and regulations. I am honored to be a recipient of the ‘Guardian of Small Business’ Award and will proudly continue to fight on behalf of American small business.”
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 6042, legislation that would stop the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from placing unnecessary and burdensome estate tax regulations on family-owned businesses.

The IRS is proposing new and harmful regulations that would hurt family-owned businesses. Currently, valuation discounts exist for family business owners to make the transition from the owner to an heir after death more manageable. The IRS-proposed regulations would eliminate these valuation discounts, forcing many family-owned businesses to sell. 

These burdensome regulations would be particularly damaging to family-owned farms, many of which often have large assets due to land holdings, but maintain relatively modest incomes.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: 
“The IRS should not be in the business of making it difficult for family-owned businesses to keep their doors open, especially during a difficult time such as the loss of a loved one. At a time when the economic outlook is precarious and full of uncertainty, it’s critical we do everything we can to keep our nation’s small and family-owned businesses well and flourishing.”

Background:
• Currently, there are valuation discounts available for family business owners for purposes of estate and gift taxes, due to the lack of an identifiable market for the business.
• When a family tries to pass a family-held business on to the next generation, there are valuation discounts available to protect a business’s assets from undue taxation, including:
o Lack of Control Discount:
 Heirs often receive portions of family-held businesses that are minority ownership stakes. These minority owners do not have control over management decisions, making the minority interest less valuable to a potential buyer. 
o Lack of Marketability Discount:
 Most family-held businesses are not easily convertible to cash. This is a barrier to easy liquidation that, in the case of a family-held business, makes it less valuable to a potential buyer. 
• Currently, the fair market value of an interest in a family-held business is based on what a willing seller would be able to receive from a willing buyer. These discounts reflect reality by properly determining the realistic value of a family business in the open market.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent the following letter to United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack regarding the USDA’s ongoing role in preventing fraud and abuse in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):

Dear Mr. Secretary:

Among other important programs under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to deliver much-needed assistance to Americans at a precarious point in their lives.

SNAP relies on cooperation from private retailers or grocers who accept government payments through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards and distribute eligible food items to SNAP beneficiaries. In previous years, the EBT card’s function was filled by physical food stamps. 

Recently, a federal grand jury indicted multiple individuals in Baltimore, Maryland in connection with a practice known as “food stamp trafficking,” through which FNS-approved retailers and grocers exchange EBT funds for cash without delivering food to hungry Americans, or after greatly inflating food costs. Some reports indicate that SNAP was defrauded to the tune of $16 million in taxpayer funds in connection with these Maryland fraudsters. 

According to a 2012 press release, USDA has actively and successfully combated food stamp trafficking. The possibility for fraud exists when government distributes money, and it is always incumbent on government to safeguard the public’s trust by good administration. I commend USDA for the work it has already done to increase efficiency and reduce fraud in SNAP, and I am interested in seeing USDA reach greater successes in combating fraud.

I understand the importance of SNAP benefits for Americans. SNAP funds are dedicated to ensuring we stamp out hunger, and we must take strong action to keep the system clear of criminal activity. In the interest of guaranteeing SNAP funds go to feeding hungry people, I am asking about USDA’s activities to keep known fraudsters from repeatedly committing the same offenses. 

Does USDA:

1. maintain a comprehensive list of locations or addresses at which fraudulent activities have occurred?
2. maintain a comprehensive list of retail store owners and operators who have committed fraudulent activities?
3. cross-reference applications to become FNS-approved retailers with any existing list of retailers who may have committed SNAP fraud, or with any existing list of locations at which systematic fraud has occurred?
4. have processes and procedures in place to suspend or scrutinize retailers who may be discovered to have connections with previous cases of fraud?

I am pleased to see USDA taking action to shore up the public’s trust in its administration of taxpayer funds. I look forward to reviewing your response to these questions, and expect to receive your response by October 29, 2016. It is my hope that our cooperation results in a reduced burden for the American taxpayer.

Sincerely,

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Member of Congress
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent a letter to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy asking her why the Agency has failed to produce reports on the environmental impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Congressman Sensenbrenner:
“The EPA has a statutory requirement to produce these reports. It is vital that Members of Congress have access to the Agency’s findings while evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of our national biofuels mandate in order to take sound actions on behalf of the American consumer.” 

Full text provided below:

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

In November 2013, the House Science Committee held a hearing entitled Strengthening Transparency and Accountability within the Environmental Protection Agency, at which you testified. During the hearing, you and I discussed the merits of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol (E15), and its effects on engines. During this colloquy on E15 fuel – which traces its roots back to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – you stated that “additional research that’s done credibly and transparent is always welcome.” I appreciate those comments, as I too believe there is value in further research into a host of areas under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) jurisdiction, including the RFS. Your desire for additional research apparently is not shared by everyone at EPA, however. 

According to statute, your agency is required every three years to update Congress on the environmental and conservation impacts of the RFS. As noted by the Office of Inspector General (OIG), EPA hasn’t completed a triannual congressional impact report since 2011 and never issued a backsliding study to determine if the RFS and our national biofuels mandate adversely affects air quality.

Although EPA says some of the required reports were not produced due to scare resources and other priorities, the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) stated that in regards to lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the state of the science (since 2010)  has not changed enough to necessitate an updated study on the impacts of the renewable fuels program. 

Additional and updated research and analysis allows lawmakers to better gauge the strengths and weaknesses of policy we enact, and science-based decision making is vital when evaluating our biofuel mandate. With this in mind, please answer the following questions by October 8, 2016:

• Considering missed deadlines in the past, how confident is the agency that it can produce a triennial report on biofuels to Congress during the first quarter of 2018?
o What specifically is EPA doing to ensure this deadline is met?

• Would it be beneficial for EPA to complete an anti-backsliding air study on the RFS before proposing new biofuel volume requirements in the future?
o If yes, why?
o If no, why not?

• Does your statement: “additional research that’s done credibly and transparent is always welcome” only apply to E15? Does this statement also apply to the RFS?
o If the statement does apply to the RFS, do you support OAR’s decision to forego an additional report on the lifecycle GHG emissions associated with the RFS?
? Why or why not?
o If the statement doesn’t apply to the RFS, why doesn’t it?

Thank you for your attention to these questions.

Sincerely,


F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, JR.
Chairman Emeritus
House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the Increase Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP) Ceiling Act, legislation that would amend the Internal Revenue (IRS) Code of 1986 in order to help make the cost of childcare more affordable for families and businesses. 

Each year, up to $5,000 in funding is available for childcare services to employees with children 13 years and younger who are unable to care for themselves. Currently, if an individual does not use the full allotment within a year, the funds cannot be rolled-over for later use. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner’s legislation not only increases the amount available from $5,000 to $7,500, but also allows participants in the program to roll-over unused funds. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The cost of reliable, quality childcare has risen dramatically over the years. Changes to the Dependent Care Assistance Program are necessary to give our hardworking families a hand up and ensure our businesses have a focused, productive workforce.”

Background:

• The Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP) is a flexible spending account which can be used to pay for eligible dependent care expenses, such as childcare.
• Expenses must be incurred from the care of dependents under the age of 13, or older dependents incapable of caring for themselves, and must be needed to allow employees to work.
• The money set aside is pretax, which has the effect of lowering an individual’s taxable income. Under current law, each household may set aside up to $5,000 annually. This limit has been in effect since 1986, despite the fact that the cost of care has significantly increased.