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Residents interested in getting a sense of how national politics and government work can learn more about it from someone who confronts the issue on a daily basis.

House of Representatives member Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, will be in West Bend on Sunday, hosting a town hall beginning 7 p.m. at City Hall. Constituents can attend and listen to the congressman’s views on issues he and his colleagues face regularly.

“Getting back to the community regularly not only helps us understand what constituents need and what their problems are, but it also gives him the opportunity to see if they have issues with the federal government that his office can help them with,” said Nicole Tieman, Sensenbrenner’s communications director.

Tieman said Sensenbrenner visits areas throughout his district. typically on a quarterly cycle. During the events, he speaks with voters to get their opinions on a variety of subjects, from national security to fiscal and budget topics. Afterward he speaks with constituents individually to concerns regarding services received from federal agencies or any other problems they may have.

She touted his legislative initiatives regarding crime and healthcare, saying Sensenbrenner believes in advancing common sense solutions related to crime.

“He wants to make sure we are not throwing people in jail and forgetting about them," Tieman said. “Especially low-level, non-violent criminals. A lot of that can come down to dealing with programs that help them when they can back into their communities, reduce their recidivism rates, making sure they are not just going in and out of the system.”

Kathleen Kiernan, 5th Congressional District chairwoman of the Washington County Republican Party, said she believes jobs and the economy tend to be at the forefront of people’s minds when they attend the town halls, but immigration and terrorism are also significant issues.

“One of the important issues is the open-door immigration policy of the president where we don’t know who is entering the country,” Kiernan said. “We know terrorism exists and it exists in this country.”

One resident who attended numerous town halls is Frank Klein of the town of Wayne. He said he generally agrees with Sensenbrenner’s views and likes the job he has done thus far.

“He is consistently trying to hold down spending,” Klein said. “I know he votes every time he can for balanced budgets. I know he opposes wasteful spending. I know he favors lower taxes.”

Others disagree with is philosophy.

“When I went to a Sensenbrenner meeting, the first thing I said was that I want my taxes raised,” said town of West Bend resident Ken Johnson. “This is about 10 years ago and he was surprised when I said that. When I have a good investment year, I want you to tax 100 percent of my social security.”

For Johnson, Sensenbrenner represents corporate interests and wants to provide tax breaks for the wealthy and not the middle class.

“Sensenbrenner needs to work with his colleagues for sensible gun control reform,” said Waring Fincke of the Washington County Democratic Party. “He should stop trying to repeal Obamacare, and expand social security benefits by eliminating the cap on incomes subject to social security tax.”
 
Our Founding Fathers had a vision – one nation comprised of individuals with different ideas, perspectives, and beliefs; fiercely independent but committed to the common goal of independence from government oppression. For nearly two hundred and fifty years, that basic principle has made America the greatest country in the world. 

In recent years the ideals that define us have been under attack by progressive thought that threatens the foundation our country was built on. Political correctness has made us a nation of victims. Tolerance now means acceptance, and fairness only applies to those who share a liberal mindset. These developments are leading America down a dangerous path that, if not stopped, will strip citizens of their fundamental rights under the Constitution. When that happens, our country as we know it will cease to exist.

One flagrant offense against the Constitution has been the onslaught of the First Amendment by progressives who believe freedom of speech only applies to them. This is particularly true in academia, where diversity of ideas has been exchanged for political correctness. 

Liberal activist students have become perpetually offended by any concept that runs counter to their own, and it has resulted in the end of debate and free flowing ideas. There have already been numerous examples this year, including a petition by students at Yale University to abolish curriculum requiring English majors to study eight noteworthy poets in English literature and the suggestion of segregated ‘safe spaces,’ an idea that has spread to other campuses like New York University and the University of Arizona. 

Further, in the past decade, there have been dozens of examples of conservative thought leaders being disinvited from, or protested off of, college campuses. Among those who withdrew in the face of opposition from progressive students include: President George W. Bush, Former First Lady Laura Bush, Henry Kissinger, and Condoleezza Rice.

Unfortunately, freedom of speech is not the only target of progressive ideology. The expansion of the federal government’s enumerated powers – like the Commerce Clause – coupled with the evisceration of the Tenth Amendment have led to a massive expansion of federal power at the expense of the states.

The great American experiment in self-governance rests on the idea of “for the people, by the people.” States’ Rights are vital to curtailing federal government overreaches and the infringement of such rights, but time and again anonymous Washington bureaucrats collude with liberal political leaders to enact policies that over-regulate the lives of Americans, abate individual liberty, and weaken state sovereignty. An egregious example is the recent mandate from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for states to comply with onerous and arbitrary climate change regulations. 

The Clean Power Plan (CPP), initiated by President Obama and being implemented by the EPA, requires states to become compliant with newly issued emissions standards. Although the EPA allows states to restructure their current environmental plans as they choose, the timeline allotted is so brief that it will be nearly impossible for them to do so. States that don’t meet EPA standards by the deadline will be forced to adopt the Agency’s plan, resulting in increased federal government interference in state affairs. This overreach is devastating to citizens, businesses, and state industries and economies.

The attack on the Constitution has not stopped with the Bill of Rights. While the deterioration of freedom of speech and states’ rights would dramatically change the fabric of the United States, progressive thought is also making this nation increasingly vulnerable to attack. There’s no clearer example than the Iran Nuclear Deal brokered by President Obama. 

The Constitution clearly states in Article II, Section 2 that the President has the authority to negotiate treaties “with the advice and consent of the Senate.” President Obama knew that his negotiated deal with Iran would never gain the approval of the United States Senate due to the glaring flaws in the deal, such as a lack of oversight of Iran’s previous weapon’s development, the quick windfall in money and sanction relief, and the fact that Iran would be able to begin processing nuclear fuel without any limitations in only 10 years.

In order to get this illegal treaty approved, the President decided to pass this off as a United Nations (UN) negotiated deal. By negotiating under the auspices of the UN, the President circumvented Congress’ authority completely. In addition to avoiding congressional oversight, the deal illegally removed sanctions that Congress itself voted for. I fought this deal from day one, and voted against its approval.

Our Founders made Article II shorter than Article I for a very specific reason. They believed that the power of Congress should be greater than one person. 

Our Founding Fathers had a vision for America that centered on the idea of freedom and self-governance. These basic principles are under attack. We cannot allow the interests of a few to fundamentally change the ideas this country was built upon. 

This Independence Day, I urge my fellow citizens to remember where we came from and the reasons our forefathers were willing to lay down their lives to ensure a future of freedom for all. They believed in a greater idea – the American Dream – and we must fight to protect it. We must preserve America’s promise for ourselves and for generations of Americans to come.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the dubious meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Lynch described her highly unorthodox meeting with Bill Clinton as ‘primarily social.’  As someone with a long history investigating Bill Clinton, I know that almost everything he does is “primarily social,” but with Clinton, you always have to wonder, ‘what were his ulterior motives?’  

“Bill Clinton should not be soliciting a conversation with the Attorney General while her Department is investigating his wife.  And the Attorney General should not be engaging him in conversation.  What did they talk about?  We’ll likely never know for sure, but this is precisely why prosecutors must avoid even an appearance of impropriety.  This is a case of, at best, extremely poor judgment and it absolutely taints the Department’s investigation of Hillary Clinton.”
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) becoming law:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The signing of PROMESA into law is the first step on the path toward fiscal solvency and a brighter future for Puerto Rico and its citizens. It is a common sense solution that will protect taxpayers and be the vehicle for real, substantive change in the lives of millions of Americans.”
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the 2016 OASDI Trustees Report, officially named the Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds, was released, revealing the precarious future of America’s Social Security program.

According to the report, Social Security’s combined trust fund asset reserves will become depleted by the year 2034 and the Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund will be depleted by the year 2028. 

In an effort to curtail these devastating findings, the Trustees recommend a 21 percent increase in payroll taxes or a 16 percent cut in benefits for all current and future beneficiaries. Either option would significantly hurt hard working American citizens. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The facts revealed in the annual OASDI Trustees Report are troubling, but certainly not surprising, and they show that we cannot kick the can down the road any longer. Every day that goes by, the situation grows worse and will require more drastic changes to the Social Security and Medicare programs. The time to act is now. The health and security of all Americans depend on it.”
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement regarding the Great Lakes governors’ unanimous approval of the Lake Michigan water diversion to Waukesha:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “For more than a decade, Waukesha officials and dedicated members of the Wisconsin DNR have conducted studies, evaluated alternative water supply options, and presented their findings to various environmental authorities, both in the state and throughout the Great Lakes region. The city met every environmental requirement, resulting in today’s unanimous approval granting Waukesha access to Lake Michigan water. It is a great victory for Waukesha and its citizens, and will prove to have a net positive effect for the community and the environment.”
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement regarding the adoption of House Concurrent Resolution 89, which expressed that a proposed carbon tax would increase costs for middle class families, contribute to job losses, and put further strain on the United States economy:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Under President Obama, the American economic outlook is precarious at best. Rather than find solutions to the real problems citizens face each day, the President and his EPA want to create a carbon tax that would increase energy prices, force hardworking families to pay more for necessities, such as food, gasoline, and electricity, and lead to additional job losses. Today, the House of Representatives made the right decision to put American families first and consider the best interests of the country over those of the President’s legacy.”
 
Intellectual property rights are critical to our nation’s unsurpassed creativity and cultural development. I’ve long been an advocate for intellectual property rights because individuals deserve to be compensated for their work. However, the process in which these artists receive payment has become opaque. This is largely due to performing rights organizations (PROs), which operate in a convoluted fashion. The music licensing system in which artists are compensated must be clear and transparent for the good of artists, consumers and bar and restaurant owners.

Fairness in music licensing was brought to my attention in the early 1990s, when Wisconsin bar and restaurant owners from my district contacted me about being harassed in their places of business by representatives from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) — one of the three PROs in the U.S. While seeking payments from the small-business owners, ASCAP representatives were unnecessarily aggressive and combative.

Bar and restaurant owners frequently complained that these organizations exploited bureaucratic complexities to demand increasingly high payments. Worse, small businesses were often unclear about what exactly they were paying for.
I became involved to enact meaningful reforms, and as I dove deeper into the complexities of the issue, the extent of the problems became clear.

The Copyright Act of 1976 granted copyright owners the exclusive right to perform or to authorize others to perform publicly their works. When establishments, such as restaurants or bars, turn on a radio or television for the benefit of customers, or feature live music, that constitutes a public performance of copyrighted works under current law. Unless an exemption applies, the copyright owner of a work publicly performed has the right to receive compensation for that work.

To comply with the law, business owners pay licensing fees to PROs. However, each PRO represents different intellectual property, essentially forcing businesses to pay fees to every PRO to ensure compliance.

The Copyright Act of 1976 contained narrow exemptions, however, including an ambiguous home-style exemption that allowed a single receiving apparatus — such as a television or radio — to be used if there was no direct charge to a customer collected by a business owner.

This vagueness created the opportunity for PROs to go after unsuspecting establishments, often anonymously. That threatened everything from sports bars to barbershops, which would frequently find themselves in legal limbo if an investigation yielded evidence that a radio broadcast was being played on multiple devices or that charges for goods or services had the economic value of the intellectual property factored into them.

In response to this problem, I introduced the Fairness in Music Licensing Act.

The legislation expanded the home-style exemption and increased the number of bars and restaurants exempted from needing a public performance license to play music on television during business hours. It also created a dispute resolution mechanism available to small- and medium-sized businesses through the federal courts.

Despite strong opposition from PROs, the legislation was signed into law after having been attached as an amendment to the Copyright Term Extension Act. The new provision kept the home-style exemption of the original provision but added specific exemptions based on the type and size of establishment, as well as the type of equipment used to play music.

Studies have concluded that the act exempts roughly 70 percent of eating and drinking establishments, making it easier for small-business owners to operate and serve consumers. The Copyright Act of 1976 has helped; yet problems still exist, including the tactics used by PROs and the method in which they determine which spaces within small businesses are determined public or private — an important distinction when considering where music licensing is necessary.

Establishment owners should not be forced to conduct business with every licensing society demanding a fee. There needs to be transparency in how establishments are billed, and we need to ensure that when a business pays a music licensing fee, it knows what it is buying. There can be no fair long-term marketplace outcomes when the playing field is weighted in favor of performance rights groups.

Music, film, literature and all other forms of intellectual property represent the soul of the American people. It’s vital we protect them, but there needs to be balance and fairness in the process. When that balance is lopsided, it’s the duty of Congress to take legislative action to ensure it is restored for the benefit of both the creators and consumers of intellectual property.

View this piece online here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures (DUE PROCESS) Act – the companion bill to Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s legislation, which was passed in the House of Representatives last month.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Civil asset forfeiture is a critical component of the overall effort to fix our broken criminal justice system, and the DUE PROCESS Act makes common sense changes to federal forfeiture laws that help innocent Americans. Its introduction today in the U.S. Senate brings us one step closer toward meaningful reform that will tamper abuse and protect citizens’ Constitutional rights.”

The DUE PROCESS Act builds upon changes made in the 2000 Civil Action Forfeiture Reform Act by increasing transparency in the civil asset forfeiture process, adding protections for innocent property owners, and implementing additional protections to ensure property owners have the opportunity to contest seizures. The legislation also improves the notice that the government must give property owners and makes it easier for them to be heard by a judge.

Additionally, the DUE PROCESS Act entitles property owners to an initial hearing, where they can retrieve confiscated property immediately if it was not seized according to the law. It increases the availability of attorney fees for innocent owners, and places a higher burden of proof on the government.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures (DUE PROCESS) Act, sponsored by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), passed the House Judiciary Committee and now moves forward to a full House vote. 

The DUE PROCESS Act builds upon changes made in the 2000 Civil Action Forfeiture Reform Act by increasing transparency in the civil asset forfeiture process, adding protections for innocent property owners, and implementing additional protections to ensure property owners have the opportunity to contest seizures. The legislation also improves the notice that the government must give property owners and makes it easier for them to be heard by a judge.

Additionally, the DUE PROCESS Act entitles property owners to an initial hearing, where they can retrieve confiscated property immediately if it was not seized according to the law. It increases the availability of attorney fees for innocent owners, and places a higher burden of proof on the government.

Congressman Sensenbrenner:
 “Civil asset forfeiture is an important piece of the overall effort to reform our criminal justice system, and the DUE PROCESS Act makes common sense changes to federal forfeiture laws that help innocent Americans. Its passage out of the House Judiciary Committee is a significant step forward in the process, and I’m confident that it will soon be passed in a full House vote.”