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By: Colm Phelan of the Irish Sun

THE E-3 visa that would allow Irish people live in America has hit a snag after one Senator put a 'hold' on the bill.

The bill had been passed in the US House of Representatives but the deadline has now passed for US Senate approval.

The Senator is understood to have put a 'hold' on the bill and therefore it failed to get approval before the Senate sat for the final time last Saturday, RTE reports.

A new bill will now have to be passed as the House of Representatives will sit for the first time under new membership.

The new visa proposal was drafted up back in November and sought to allow 4,000 - 5,000 Irish citizens gain access to the US through the visa.

The E-3 visa was originally available for Australian citizens, with 10,500 available each year but only half of them were being used up.

According to the report, Irish officials are now working out other ways to secure support for the plan to add Ireland to the visa programme.

Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner previously welcomed the bill that would allow Irish people to work in the US for a two-year span.

He said: "The United States was built on hard work and the determination of immigrants – many of them who hail from Ireland.

"Through their perseverance, they have enabled this country to grow and prosper.

"This modest proposal would give Irish nationals the opportunity to work in the US under the non-immigrant visa category of the E3 visa, previously reserved only for Australian nationals.

"Ireland in the meantime has proposed a reciprocal work visa specific to US nationals so that those wanting to live and work in Ireland can more easily do so."

Washington, D.C.—Today, the House passed S. 756, the First Step Act. This bipartisan criminal justice reform package includes Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner’s (WI-05) reauthorization language of the Second Chance Act, which provides grants for the purpose of helping newly-released prisoners successfully reenter society.

Rep. Sensenbrenner“Republicans and Democrats coming together to pass criminal justice reform is a monumental victory for the American people, and I’m proud to have been a leader of this effort that has been years in the making. I’m also proud to note that this bill reauthorizes the Second Chance Act, which has been instrumental in healing communities by helping those who have paid their debts to society to rejoin their families and live a productive life. I thank Chairman Goodlatte, Congressman Collins, and the many others who carried this bill across the finish line.”

You can view Congressman Sensenbrenner's remarks on the House floor here

Background on the First Step Act:

The First Step Act is a combination of the original House-passed First Step Act, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and the Second Chance Reauthorization Act. The comprehensive package aims to reduce over-criminalization by preparing inmates to successfully reenter society through programs proven to reduce recidivism. Additionally, it gives judges greater discretion when sentencing low-level, nonviolent offenders and provides grants for reentry programs.

Background on the Second Chance Reauthorization Act:

Congressmen Danny Davis (D-IL-07) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-05) introduced the original Second Chance Act in 2007. It passed Congress with strong bipartisan support, and President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2008. This legislation provided 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.

Reentry services have been improved in the decade since the Second Chance Act was implemented, which resulted in a reduction in recidivism and helped ensure a successful return to society for prisoners who have completed their sentence. More than 160,000 men, women, and youths 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.

Congressmen Sensenbrenner and Davis introduced the Second Chance Reauthorization Act in 2017 to build upon the success of the original legislation. The bill authorizes funding for both public and private entities to evaluate and improve academic and vocational education for offenders in prison, jails, and juvenile facilities.

Washington, D.C.— Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI-05) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-08) introduced legislation to direct the US Attorney General (AG) to make grants to states and localities for gunfire detection and location technology. The AG would be authorized to allocate $10 million annually for the next four fiscal years.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “This commonsense legislation will help law enforcement quickly and accurately locate violent crimes, cut down on response time, and save lives. Cities like Milwaukee have already begun utilizing this type of technology and have with positive results. I’m grateful to Congressman Jeffries for joining me in leading this important effort.”

Background:
Cities like Milwaukee have already begun utilizing gunshot detection technology. Networked sensors are placed throughout a coverage area to detect the origin of gunshots. Once a gunshot is detected, the technology calculates the position of the shooter and instantly notifies law enforcement with real-time data delivered to dispatch centers, patrol cars, and smart phones.

Police stations that have access to shot detecting technology can arrive at the scene faster and better prepared to protect the public and themselves as well as attend to victims. Further, information gather is secured in a database and then turned into preemptive intelligence, which provides for better dispatch of resources and improved collection of evidence.

Far too often gunfire incidents are not reported to 911 dispatchers. This means law enforcement begin responding to crimes with significantly limited information. Additionally, reports of gunfire often contain vague or inaccurate information resulting in lost time and less efficient response by law enforcement.

Early data suggests that use of gunfire detection technology has shown positive results. According to a report, the city of Milwaukee has seen a 38 percent decrease in the amount of gunshots fired in areas where this technology was used from 2017 to 2018 showing that its use can act as a deterrent. 

Washington, D.C.—Today, The House unanimously passed S. 3170, the CyberTipline Modernization Act of 2018, which cleared the Senate unanimously in September. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) sponsored H.R. 4447, the companion legislation in the House. The bill now heads to the White House for the President’s signature.
 
Rep. Sensenbrenner: “Today’s vote will reduce the online sexual exploitation of children. The bill improves upon the successes of the existing CyberTipline by empowering the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to address new developments in online child abuse. I urge the President to sign it into law immediately.”
 
Background:
First launched by the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in 1998, the CyberTipline allows public citizens and members of the technology industry to report online instances of child sexual exploitation and abuse, such as child pornography, online enticement of children for sexual acts, child sex tourism, and child sex trafficking. In 2017 alone, NCMEC received more than 10 million reports.
 
The CyberTipline Modernization Act makes key updates to the existing program, including changes to reporting requirements for imminent or planned violations. The bill also reflects a commitment to fight new forms of online abuse including the expansion of child pornography.
 
Congress last updated the CyberTipline statute in 2008.

By: Paul Williams of Law360

A federal bill that would prohibit states from taxing remote sellers until 2020 while codifying a temporary exemption for businesses has been introduced by four Democratic senators from two states without a sales tax.

S.B. 3275, filed Thursday by the senators from New Hampshire and Oregon, would enact a moratorium on taxing remote sales until Jan. 1, 2020, prevent retroactive collection and shield businesses with less than $10 million in annual sales from the tax until the U.S. Congress approves an interstate compact with clearly defined nexus thresholds.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said Friday that a federal barricade against the tax would provide businesses ample time to adapt to the country's new tax landscape in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair. That decision, issued in June, no longer requires companies to have a physical presence in a state to be subject to sales and use taxes. The bill would bar states from taxing any remote sales that occurred prior to that date.

“Forcing New Hampshire businesses to adopt and adhere to a new, complicated tax collection system, particularly as retailers approach the busiest time of the year, is entirely unfair and impractical,” Shaheen said in a Friday statement. “New Hampshire doesn’t collect a sales tax, and our small businesses shouldn’t have to bear this burden for other states.”

Joining Shaheen in sponsoring the bill are fellow New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan and Oregon Democratic Sens. Jeffrey A. Merkley and Ron Wyden. Those four senators sent a letter to the Senate leadership in November, arguing for the passage of legislation akin to S.B. 3275 before the current session ends Jan. 3.

In their letter, the senators said federal lawmakers should grant a reprieve to businesses that face the possibility of complying with thousands of taxing jurisdictions nationwide. Wyden doubled down on that stance in a Friday statement.

“Action by Congress is the only way to give small businesses more time to prepare for this new and disastrous internet sales tax regime,” Wyden said.

Several states that have already enacted remote sales tax laws or rules began taxing out-of-state transactions earlier this year, with more eyeing Jan. 1 as their remote tax rollout date. Not all of those states share the same small business exemptions, with nexus parameters ranging from $10,000 to $250,000 in annual sales into a state per year.

The bill’s $10 million annual sales threshold would give way to congressional approval of an interstate compact that contains bright-line nexus thresholds and simplifies the process of registering, collecting and remitting the tax. Currently, 24 states are members of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which simplifies the tax regimes of its participants. However, it is not universal among states and has never been ratified by Congress.

Craig Johnson, executive director of the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board, did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

The bill’s text mostly represents a blend of two bills Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. has introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in the last three months, with the chief difference being the date the proposed remote tax ban would be lifted.

In September, Sensenbrenner filed H.R. 6824, which called for a Jan. 1, 2019, start date for remote tax and included the same $10 million small-seller exemption and interstate compact ratification included in the senators’ bill. In late November, he introduced H.R. 7184 to bar states from taxing any remote sales that occurred prior to the date the Wayfair opinion was issued. Neither of those bills have had a hearing.

Christopher Krepich, a spokesman for Sensenbrenner, told Law360 via email Monday that the congressman would support S.B. 3275 if it passed the Senate, and believes there is still enough time for lawmakers to act if the measure is fast-tracked in the session’s waning weeks.

None of the senators responded to a question asking if they expected the bill to have a hearing by the Senate Finance Committee before the session ends.

--Additional reporting by Maria Koklanaris. Editing by Neil Cohen.

By: Erik Maulbetsch of the Colorado Times Recorder

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner had a few unexpected guests at his annual Christmas party Friday evening at the Brown Palace Hotel.

In addition to the usual gathering of elected officials and Republican party volunteers, several disability rights activists with the group Atlantis ADAPT joined the festivities.

The group wanted Gardner to grant them a meeting to discuss his reason for being the only member of the Colorado congressional delegation who has not yet signed on to the Disability Integration Act (S. 910).

The bipartisan civil rights bill was introduced by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D- New York) and U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI). As of August the bill has 24 Senate and 114 House co-sponsors. It would protect the rights of disabled people who require Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) to live and receive services in their own homes, rather than being forced into institutions.

Dawn Russell, one of the activists pictured below (center), confirmed that they received a photo with Gardner, but no firm promise on sponsorship or a date for an in-person meeting. Prior to the Friday, they talked with Gardner’s state director Andy Merritt, whom they say promised to follow up with the group this week.

Gardner and his staff know the ADAPT activists well. Russell was among those arrested and forcibly removed from Gardner’s office last year, along with Jordan Sibayan (right).

Besides the ADAPT activists, Senator Gardner’s party attendees included a number of prominent elected officials. Outgoing Secretary of State Wayne Williams, outgoing Congressman Mike Coffman (R – CO06), and outgoing Senate President Kevin Grantham (R- Cañon City) all attended. Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D – CO07) also dropped by.

In years past the evening has typically featured speeches by Senator Gardner and others. Gardner delivered his speech via video last year as he was stuck in Washington. This year however, despite a microphone and stand set up in the suite, not one speaker addressed the crowd.

By: John Kindt, Opinion Contributor to The Hill

In her Nov. 28 presentation at Liberty University, First Lady Melania Trumpstated that the opioid epidemic was the “worst drug crisis in American history.”

The Trump administration even appeared to signal that opioids/addictions needed to be treated as a socio-economic security issue because Melania’s trip entourage included Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Similar to the bipartisan issue of opioid addiction, the looming crisis of internet gambling addiction is now getting renewed attention.

On Sep. 27, House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Chair James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) held a hearing on internet sports gambling, which he followed with a pointed Nov. 15 letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) asking what actions DOJ proposes to initiate on the matter.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have also raised parallel concerns.

Jeopardizing millions of families, internet gambling addiction is currently the fastest growing addiction among kids, high schoolers and college students because of real-time 24/7 sports gambling on cell phones and video games.

Young gamblers are notoriously unaware that most internet gambling is illegal in the United States, as exemplified by the case where a University of Wisconsin honor student lost over $72,000 in tuition money on illegal internet sports gambling, killed three young men in the bookie’s apartment and thereafter committed suicide.

The United Kingdom has legalized more types of electronic gambling than the United States, and therefore, U.K. reports for November are illustrative of anticipated comparable U.S. numbers within the next 2 to 4 years.

The U.K. Gambling Commission reported that 1 in 7 children ages 11 to 16 (U.S. = 2.2 million kids) gamble regularly, which is more than those who have smoked, taken drugs or consumed alcohol — reflected in a 400-percent increase over 2 years in the numbers of kids becoming addicted and problem gamblers.

Via social media, 1 in 6 boys reportedly followed betting brands, and in this age group about 1 million kids (U.S. = 500,00 kids) had explored internet gambling via smartphone apps and video-game “loot boxes.”

Among the European Union, the almost universal trend of countries is to declare loot boxes illegal, but comparable U.S. safeguards have been legislatively paralyzed by the gambling industry.

As implied in Sensenbrenner’s DOJ letter, the gambling industry has used its legal clout in recent years to negate congressional legislative safeguards on gambling, and U.S. kids will be victimized.

First, the DOJ decided administratively not to enforce the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Second, a dubious 2011 DOJ memorandum “reinterpreted” U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s 1961 Wire Act, which was passed to fight organized crime.

Third, the gambling industry got the U.S. Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) neutered by the U.S. Supreme Court via a 10th Amendment argument in Murphy v. NCAA, 584 U.S. (2018).

For two decades, the congressional bipartisan U.S. National Gambling Impact Study Commission, as well as the U.S. medical and psychological communities, have delimited electronic sports gambling as the “crack-cocaine” for addicting new gamblers — particularly kids.

The commission also concluded that internet gambling was impossible to regulate and could only be “prohibited." While opioids and illegal drugs may be found on street corners, illegal internet gambling will soon be available everywhere — via in-your-face, real-time gambling on every cell phone and video game.

In the U.K., 8 percent of the 2018 advertising market is gambling advertising, which is seven times more than Proctor and Gamble spends.

Despite seven U.S. state attorneys general initiating legal actions against illegal daily fantasy sports in 2015, a couple of DFS operators together were the largest U.S. advertisers for 2015. 

Without new U.S. safeguards, millions of American and international kids will continue to be targeted by the gambling industry and will become gambling addicts, creating enormous social and economic costs. A bipartisan Congress needs to act quickly to eliminate the surging specter of 24/7 sports gambling.

John Kindt is professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, teaching law and economics. He is senior editor of the multi-volume United States-International Gaming Report. 

As appears on JD Supra

A quick pop quiz.

What do Newt Gingrich, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Barton, Henry Waxman, Jim Inhofe, Ed Markey, Jim Sensenbrenner, Chuck Schumer, and Fred Upton have in common?

The answer is provided by the League of Conservation Voters.

This combination of Democrats and Republicans all voted for the final passage of the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act.

The enactment of arguably one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in United States history would not have occurred without the management and support of former President George H.W. Bush and his Administration.

The passing of George H.W. Bush has resulted in remembrance of the skill in which he managed important foreign policy issues such as Desert Storm and the ending of the Cold War. However, a sometimes overlooked aspect of President Bush’s single term in office is his work in developing and enhancing federal environmental protection programs.

National environmental organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund do not normally praise Republicans these days on environmental matters. However, they noted President Bush’s passing and stated:

. . . President George Herbert Walker Bush will be remembered for a great many proud achievements and outstanding qualities. He knew that our country matters far more than political party or personal ambition, and that the national interest demands that we protect America’s precious natural heritage. And he knew that there is no inherent conflict between environmental progress and economic progress.

The first Bush Administration accomplished environmental goals in diverse ways.

From an environmental legislative standpoint, President Bush and a bipartisan Congress on November 15, 1990, enacted amendments to the Clean Air Act. Air related issues addressed by the amendments included:

  • Acid Rain
  • Urban Smog
  • Hazardous Air Emissions
  • Ozone Layer
  • Expanded (Title V) Permitting Requirements

Certain aspects of these programs were innovative and precedent setting. An example are the provisions intended to drastically reduce acid rain. A market-based system of marketable pollution allowances was created. This program has dramatically reduced sulfur dioxide emissions with a corresponding decrease in acid rain. There has clearly been a reduction in damage to water quality in lakes and streams along with ecosystems and forests because of acid deposition.

An equally important achievement by the Bush Administration was undertaken pursuant to Executive Action.

In 1989 the Bush Administration established the National Policy of “No-Net Loss of Wetlands.” This imposed upon the Clean Water Act 404 program a requirement that each newly impacted quantity of wetlands must be replaced with a wetland of the same size and with similar wetland functions/values.

While the definition of what constitutes a jurisdictional wetland continues to be a subject of intense debate, the no-net loss policy remains in place – and is not the subject of serious debate. In view of the importance of wetlands to both public health and the environment (i.e., protection and nurturing of many species of plants and animals, storing floodwaters, filtering pollutants, serving as a carbon sink, providing recreation sites, etc.) this was clearly an important achievement.

I will end this post by quoting another national environmental organization. The National Resources Defense Council stated, in commenting on the President’s passing:

. . . George H.W. Bush left a legacy all Americans share with every breath we take. As President, he led efforts to pass one of the most successful environmental packages in history, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

By: Bill Glauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to "take aggressive and immediate action," in the wake of a computer glitch that led to veterans receiving incorrect GI Bill housing stipends.

The Menomonee Falls Republican made public Friday a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The agency has had difficulty implementing a "Forever" GI Bill that expanded education benefits. One key change involved how veterans' housing allowances are calculated.

The VA's information technology system had difficulty applying the new formula for the housing allowance and payments were delayed.

"Many of these veterans were forced to either pay housing costs out of pocket or faced eviction," Sensenbrenner wrote. "Those whose claims were approved often received smaller benefit payments than what they required to pay expenses."

Sensenbrenner said that on Nov. 28 the VA told congressional staff that the agency "would not be repaying veterans who received smaller GI Bill payments." The next day, a VA spokesman said the vets harmed by the glitches "would be made whole," according to Sensenbrenner's letter.

Sensenbrenner told Wilkie: "I am requesting that your department take aggressive and immediate action on this issue by reaching out to those who use the GI Bill and make clear your intentions to reimburse all who were damaged by your technology glitch in full."

By: WisPolitics.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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