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The Latest: A Weekly Federal Update (02/21/22)



Upcoming Events & Activities

February 21st, 2021 - February 25th, 2021

All events in Eastern Standard Time


Monday, February 21st

No meetings to report.


Tuesday, February 22nd

2:00 PM - Environmental Protection Agency: Webinar on “Small Drinking Water Systems Webinar Series: Very Small Drinking Water Systems”


Wednesday, February 23rd

12:00 PM - Department of Defense: Webinar on "Key Advances in Waste to Energy Demonstrations”


Thursday, February 24th

No meetings to report.


Friday, February 25th

No meetings to report.

 

Energy, Water & Environment

The latest from the House and Senate Committees on energy (infrastructure), WIFIA, wastewater management, environmental issues, interior, or environmental justice.

Legislation

H.R. 6728, To amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to provide for an exemption to the manning and crewing requirements for certain outer Continental Shelf vessels, vehicles, and structures

Sponsor: Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA-06) referred to Natural Resources Committee; Transportation & Infrastructure Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


H.R. 6737, To amend the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act to extend the authorization of appropriations for the Lead Exposure Registry

Sponsor: Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-MI-05) referred to Energy & Commerce Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


H.R. 6748, To impose sanctions with respect to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Sponsor: Rep. August Pflugger (R-TX-11) referred to Foreign Affairs Committee; Energy & Commerce Committee; Natural Resources Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


News

Fox News: EPA Announces $20 Million to Reduce lead in Drinking Water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced $20 million in available grant funding to assist communities and schools with removing sources of lead in drinking water. This grant funding, and additional funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will help make rapid progress on the goal of addressing lead and removing lead pipes across the country. Under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, EPA is announcing the availability of $10 million for projects to conduct lead service line replacements or implement corrosion control improvements as well as $10 million for projects that remove sources of lead in drinking water in schools or childcare facilities. This grant will be competed through a Request for Application process. The funding opportunity will remain open for 60 days, or until April 19, 2022.

 

Transportation & Infrastructure

The latest from the House and Senate Committees on industrial and commercial mechanical insulation, cybersecurity, supply chains, port authority, metropolitan transit, or airport.

Legislation

H.R. 6723, To establish a career pathway grant program

Sponsor: Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12) referred to Education & Labor Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


H.R. 6740, To require the Department of Housing & Urban Development to inspect certain low-income housing developments to ensure compliance with housing quality and safety standards

Sponsor: Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY-11) referred to Financial Services Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022

News

TechCrunch: FBI Warns BlackByte Ransomware is Targeting US Critical Infrastructure

On Friday, February 11, 2022, the Federal Bureau of Investigation posted an alert warning that the ransomware gang had compromised multiple U.S. and foreign businesses, including “at least” three attacks against U.S. critical infrastructure, notably government facilities, financial services, and in food & agriculture. BlackByte is a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) operation that leases out its ransomware infrastructure to others in return for a percentage of the ransom proceeds. The gang emerged in July 2021 when it began exploiting software vulnerabilities to target corporate victims worldwide. While BlackByte had some initial success — security researchers tracked attacks against manufacturing, healthcare, and construction industries in the U.S., Europe, and Australia — the gang hit a rough patch months later when cybersecurity firm Trustwave released a free decryption tool that allowed BlackByte victims to recover their files for free. The group’s simplistic encryption techniques led some to believe that the ransomware was the work of amateurs; the ransomware downloaded and executed the same key to encrypt files in AES, rather than unique keys for each session.

 

Immigration & Detention

The latest from the House and Senate Committee on immigration, detention, homeland security, border security, asylum seekers, criminal justice reform, Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP), U.S. Marshal Service (USMS), alternatives to detention programming, reentry programming, or Bureau of Prisons.

Legislation

H.R. 6712 - School Resource Officer Act, To amend the Omnibus Crime Control & Safe Streets Act of 1968 to require a certain percentage of COPS grant funds to be used for the salaries and benefits of school resource officers

Sponsor: Rep. Chris Jacobs (R-NY-27) referred to Education & Labor Committee; Judiciary Committee

Date Introduced: February 11, 2022


H.R. 6715 - Bridging the Gap for New Americans Act, To require the Secretary of Labor to conduct a study of the factors affecting employment

Sponsor: Rep. John Katko (R-NY-24) referred to Education & Labor Committee

Date Introduced: February 11, 2022


H.R. 6730, To make certain members of the Chinese Communist Party ineligible for F or J visas

Sponsor: Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO-04) referred to Judiciary Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022

News

ABC: FL Lawmakers Consider Major Prison Reforms During the Legislative Session

The problems have ranged from severe staffing shortages forcing prison shutdowns, to a lack of medical care and have prompted multi-million dollar lawsuits. State leaders have warned an emergency release of inmates threatens the safety of local communities.


One bill, the Criminal Rehabilitation Act, would reduce the amount of time Florida inmates have to serve but appears to be going nowhere this legislative session. The bill calls for a reduction in sentences for non-violent offenders who show good behavior and participate in rehabilitation activities. The proposal would reduce the minimum amount of time that prisoners must serve from 85% to 65%--giving Florida one of the strictest requirements in the country when it comes to serving prison sentences.


Some discussions have included more compassionate releases to ease the financial strain of caring for sick and elderly inmates. In Florida's Senate, a bill has emerged calling for $1.7 billion to build to two new 4,500-bed state prisons and two 250-bed hospitals for another $400 million, to care for aging population. In Florida's House, Rep. Hart proposed a bill to require the Florida Commission on Offender Review to consider an inmate's achievements while in prison, his or her disciplinary report, and risks to the public in order to allow some inmates to serve the remainder of their sentences in the community under strict supervision. Rep. Learned has proposed nearly tripling how much money stays in the Inmate Welfare trust Fund, from $2.5 million to $7 million. This would increase programming for inmates, rather than divert the money collected in prisons back to the state’s general fund.

 

Public Health & Safety

The latest from House and Senate committees on health insurance, COVID-19 and testing, gun safety, Medicare & Medicaid, telehealth, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), CDC, FDA, or rural hospitals.

Legislation

H.R. 6710, To direct the Secretary of Health & Human Services, acting through the Commissioner of Food & Drugs, to submit to Congress a report on barriers, including regulatory inefficiencies, to domestic manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients, finished drug products, and devices

Sponsor: Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM-02) referred to Energy & Commerce Committee

Date Introduced: February 11, 2022


H.R. 6713 - CEASE Overdose Act, To amend the Controlled Substances Act with respect to the scheduling of fentanyl-related substances

Sponsor: Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA-04) referred to Energy & Commerce Committee; Judiciary Committee

Date Introduced: February 11, 2022


H.R. 6717 - Preventing Pretrial Gun Purchases, To ensure that the background check system used for firearms purchases denies a firearm to a person prohibited from possessing guns by a lawful court order governing the pretrial release of the person

Sponsor: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (R-NY-12) referred to Judiciary Committee

Date Introduced: February 11, 2022


H.R. 6741, To prohibit Federal funds from being used to operate or control an injection center in violation of section 416 of the Controlled Substance Act (commonly referred to as the "Crack house Statute")

Sponsor: Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY-11) referred to Energy & Commerce Committee; Judiciary Committee; Oversight & Reform Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


H.R. 6744, To prohibit the use of Federal funds for local substance use disorder services for the purchase of sterile needles or syringes for the injection of illegal drugs, or to procure, supply, or distribute pipes, cylindrical objects, or other paraphernalia that can be used to smoke, inhale, or ingest narcotics

Sponsor: Rep. David McKinley (R-WV-01) referred to Energy & Commerce Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


News


ABC: Unvaccinated Still Make Absolute Majority of Lives Lost to COVID-19

As of Wednesday, February 16th, the nation is reporting 2,200 new COVID-19 daily deaths on average. While this is lower than the 3,400-peak seen last winter, it's still three times higher than the number of average fatalities recorded two months ago. Infectious disease doctors say it is still mainly unvaccinated people, most of whom are in their 30s and 40s with no underlying health issues, who are dying. A small percentage of deaths are among fully vaccinated (and boosted) people who are either older or have preexisting conditions that increase their risk of dying. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that during the first week of December -- when the omicron variant began taking hold -- unvaccinated people were dying at a rate of 9 per 100,000. By comparison, fully vaccinated people were dying at a rate of 0.4 per 100,000, meaning unvaccinated people were 20 times more likely to die of the novel coronavirus.

 

Finance & Federal Partnerships


The latest from House and Senate committees on taxation, retirement, small business, federal contracting, or monetary policy.

Legislation

H.R. 6724, To provide procedures for congressional disapproval of the issuance of additional debt

Sponsor: Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA-02) referred to Ways & Means Committee; Rules Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


H.R. 6729, To require a report on the People's Republic of China's use of international financial institutions, to set United States policy regarding the identification of the People's Republic of China as a "developing nation" and address this matter in regional multilateral financial institutions, to prohibit the use of Federal funds to purchase certain goods from the People's Republic of China

Sponsor: Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS-03) referred to Financial Services Committee; Ways & Means Committee; Foreign Affairs Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


H.R. 6732, To alter requirements associated with small business loan data collection

Sponsor: Rep. J. French Hill (R-AR-02) referred to Financial Services Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


H.R. 6733, To prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from requiring taxpayers to provide biometric information

Sponsor: Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI-02) referred to Ways & Means Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


H.R. 6738, To provide a CSED employee tax credit

Sponsor: Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-03) referred to Ways & Means Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022


H.R. 6745, To establish or modify requirements relating to minority depository institutions, community development financial institutions, and impact banks

Sponsor: Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY-05) referred to Financial Services Committee; Small Business Committee

Date Introduced: February 15, 2022

News

Politico: Democrats Demand More Detail on Taxper Safeguards from ID.me

A group of Senate Democrats on Tuesday, on February 15th, demanded more information about the ongoing IRS partnership with the identity verification company ID.me, despite the recent IRS decision to dump a requirement that taxpayers use the contractor’s face recognition technology. The IRS inked an $86 million contract with ID.me last June. It required taxpayers to use the company's face recognition technology to access and review advanced Child Tax Credit payment information starting later in the summer. In November, the IRS announced taxpayers would have to use it to prove who they were when setting up new online accounts with the agency to review their tax information. The procedure required taxpayers to offer government-issued photo identification, such as pictures from driver's licenses or passports, and then submit a separate picture like a selfie for comparison. Last week, the IRS announced a “transition away” from the facial recognition mandate, while still allowing taxpayers the option to use the technology. During the transition, the agency plans to develop and bring online an additional authentication process separate from facial recognition, but it hasn't provided any details. The senators also raised worries that facial recognition technology violates minority groups’ civil rights.They cited a 2019 federal study that "found that Asian American and Black individuals were up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified than white men."

 

Special Reports


The latest from reports issued from the Office of Government Accountability, the Congressional Research Service, and others.
  • GAO: February 15, 2022 - National Security Snapshot: Challenges Facing DoD in Strategic Competition with China

  • GAO: February 17, 2022 - Financial Audit: FY2021 & FY2020 Consolidated Financial Statements of the U.S. Government

  • GAO: February 17, 2022 - Spectrum Management: Information Technologies for Managing Federal Use

  • CRS: February 16, 2022 - Energy & Minerals Provisions in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act

  • CRS: February 16, 2022 - COVID-19 & Access to Medical Products: Implications of Section 301 Tariffs

  • CRS: February 17, 2022 - Climate Change Risk Disclosures and the Securities & Exchange Commission

  • CRS: February 18, 2022 - Federal Support for Domestic COVID-19 test Availability