Weekly Washington Outlook — April 13, 2015

By Vinoth Chandar (Flickr: Capitol Hill - Washington, DC) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Vinoth Chandar (Flickr: Capitol Hill – Washington, DC) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House returns Monday from a two-week recess to consider six bills under suspension of the rules:

  • R. 299 – Capital Access for Small Community Financial Institutions Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Stivers / Financial Services Committee)
  • R. 1259 – Helping Expand Lending Practices in Rural Communities Act (Sponsored by Rep. Andy Barr / Financial Services Committee)
  • R. 1265 – Bureau Advisory Commission Transparency Act (Sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy / Financial Services Committee)
  • R. 601 – Eliminate Privacy Notice Confusion Act (Sponsored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer / Financial Services Committee)
  • R. 1367 – To amend the Expedited Funds Availability Act to clarify the application of that Act to American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands (Sponsored by Del. Amata Radewagen / Financial Services Committee)
  • R. 1480 – SAFE Act Confidentiality and Privilege Enhancement Act (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Dold / Financial Services Committee)

On Tuesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider the following tax-related legislation under suspension of the rules:

  • R. 1058 – Taxpayer Bill of Rights Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Peter Roskam / Ways and Means Committee)
  • R. 1152 – IRS Email Transparency Act (Sponsored by Rep. Kenny Marchant / Ways and Means Committee)
  • R. 1026 – Taxpayer Knowledge of IRS Investigations Act (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Kelly / Ways and Means Committee)
  • R. 1314 – Ensuring Tax Exempt Organizations the Right to Appeal Act (Sponsored by Rep. Patrick Meehan / Ways and Means Committee)
  • R. 1295 – IRS Bureaucracy Reduction and Judicial Review Act (Sponsored by Rep. George Holding / Ways and Means Committee)
  • R. 709 – Prevent Targeting at the IRS Act (Sponsored by Rep. Jim Renacci / Ways and Means Committee)
  • R. 1104 – Fair Treatment for All Gifts Act (Sponsored by Rep. Peter Roskam / Ways and Means Committee)
  • R. 1562 – Contracting and Tax Accountability Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
  • R. 1563 – Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

The House has also scheduled votes on additional financial services and tax legislation, subject to a rule:

  • R. 650 – Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Stephen Fincher / Financial Services Committee)
  • R. 685 – Mortgage Choice Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Huizenga / Financial Services Committee)
  • R. 622 – State and Local Sales Tax Deduction Fairness Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady / Ways and Means Committee)
  • R. 1105 – Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady / Ways and Means Committee)

Senate:

The Senate also returns Monday and will vote on a judicial nomination Monday evening. Later in the week, the Senate is expected to vote on House-passed legislation to reform the Medicare sustainable growth rate and extend CHIP authorization for two years.

White House:

On Monday, the president will attend meetings at the White House.

On Tuesday, President Obama will host Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the White House. The Prime Minister’s visit underscores the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq and the strong U.S. commitment to political and military cooperation with Iraq in the joint fight against ISIL. The president and prime minister will discuss a range of issues, including continued U.S. support to Iraq to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, the Government of Iraq’s actions to address the needs of the Iraqi people and to strengthen cooperation between all communities in Iraq, and advancing a broad U.S.-Iraqi partnership through expanded political, commercial, and cultural relations under the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. In the evening, the president and first lady will invite music legends and top contemporary artists to the White House as part of its “In Performance at the White House” series. The event will pay tribute to the fundamental role gospel music has played in the American musical tradition and the important artists and repertoire that have marked its vibrant history.

On Wednesday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday, the president will welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House in celebration of the eighth annual Soldier Ride. A cycling event to help Wounded Warriors restore their physical and emotional well-being, the Soldier Ride also raises awareness of our nation’s Wounded Warriors who battle the physical and psychological damages of war. Afterward, the President will deliver remarks at a Champions of Change event highlighting issues important to working families.

On Friday, President Obama will host Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at the White House. During their meeting, the president and Prime Minister Renzi will discuss support for Ukraine and continued U.S.-EU unity on pressuring Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to adhere to the Minsk agreements; the situation in Libya; and the need for the international community to continue efforts to counter ISIL and other extremists throughout the Middle East. They will also exchange views on economic developments in Europe, support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, climate change and energy security, and other issues of mutual interest.

Coming Up Next Week:

Nominations – After a two week break, it is still not clear how the Senate will move forward with consideration of a stalled anti-trafficking bill that has become mired in abortion politics. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said repeatedly that the Senate must complete work on this legislation before he will move to confirm Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General.

Health – The Senate is expected to vote this week on legislation that would permanently alter Medicare’s sustainable growth rate. This legislation also extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years. It passed overwhelmingly in the House on March 26. Senate Democrats, however, are hoping to have an opportunity to amend the bill to extend CHIP for four years rather than two years. Some have commented that their support of final passage is contingent on an amendment process. Elsewhere, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on Wednesday on IRS challenges implementing the ACA.

Education – The Senate HELP Committee will begin marking-up a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization bill on Tuesday.  Last week, Senator Murray (D-Wash.) and Senator Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced they had reached an agreement to rewrite the law.  The compromise maintains annual statewide assessments, requires states to set rigorous goals, and includes English Learner language and academic proficiency in state accountability systems. However, the draft allows states greater flexibility in designing their accountability systems without clear guidelines of when states must intervene to address schools failing to meet the needs of specific groups of students. Additional details. In the House, there was speculation that H.R. 5 may be on the floor again this work period. This legislation was not listed in Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s memo outlining the schedule for the next few weeks, suggesting it is still short of votes for passage. Elsewhere, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will testify Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Labor-HHS-Education Sucbommittee.

Immigration – Immigration Customs and Enforcemenet Director Sarah Saldana will appear on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee and Wednesday at the House Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee.

Budget – As the April 15, statutory deadline looms for the House and Senate to agree on a concurrent budget resolution, negotiations between each chamber’s Budget Committees continue. The House and Senate are expected to formally name conferees this week. There is no penalty for failing to meet the deadline, whether by adopting a budget late or not adopting one at all. If no agreement is reached, each chamber can deem its resolution as binding on the spending and revenue bills that come later.

Financial Services – The House this week is voting on a series of consumer-related bills. Notably, H.R. 299 would allow privately insured credit unions to join the Home Loan Bank System and H.R. 1265 would require the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to comply with federal transparency laws (the CFPB is currently exempt along with the Federal Reserve system). Finally, H.R. 601 would exempt financial institutions from providing annual privacy notices to customers if no changes have been made. Elsewhere, the House Financial Services Committee is holding a hearing on Wednesday “Examining Regulatory Burdens of Non-Depository Financial Institutions.” The hearing is likely to focus on a range of industry complaints concerning the CFPB, including efforts to regulate indirect auto lending and payday lending.

Housing – The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing Thursday, “Regulatory Burdens to Obtaining Mortgage Credit.”  In the House, members will vote on a number of housing-related bills. H.R. 1480 will be considered under suspension of the rules and would allow federal and state financial services regulators to receive information through the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry. Later in the week, the House will vote on H.R. 650. This bill would modify the Truth in Lending Act to change the definitions of high-cost mortgage and mortgage originator for the purposes of manufactured housing. The stated purpose is to ensure affordable credit for these loans, but consumer groups have voiced considerable opposition. Similarly, the House will also vote on H.R. 685 which would allow more mortgages to be classified as qualified mortgages under the CFPB’s QM rule. As with H.R. 650, consumer advocates are skeptical of this legislation.

Tax – April 15 is Tax Day!  To celebrate, the House will vote on a number of IRS oversight bills. The House will also vote on legislation to repeal the estate tax (H.R. 1105) and reinstate and permanently extend the state and local sales tax deduction (H.R. 622).

States, Districts, and Schools Put on Notice to Achieve Education Equity

By Leticia Bustillos, Associate Director, Education Policy Project, NCLR

In 2001, then Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said:

The movement toward standards and accountability will only succeed if we ensure that all children have full and equal access to the educational resources necessary to achieve high standards. Indeed, raising standards without closing resource gaps may have the perverse effect of exacerbating achievement gaps and of setting up many children for failure.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Photo: Wikipedia

Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Photo: Wikipedia

In the 13 years since this statement, the progress of children has steadily increased. Where once only half of all Latino children graduated from high school, today we see nearly three-quarters of them walking across stages to receive their diplomas. Yet disparities remain and many of our students attend schools desperately in need of repair, where too few advanced courses are offered and experienced teachers are in short supply. Today, however, states, districts, and schools were informed that ending these disparities is a must.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a “dear colleague letter” which makes clear that equity of access, equity of resources, and equity of opportunity are not just an aspiration but a goal to be achieved. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. It also states that all entities receiving federal funds, including states and school systems, must equitably provide resources for all students. This includes access to rigorous coursework, effective teachers, safe school buildings, modern technology, and other elements that contribute to a high-quality and valuable educational experience.

“Education is the great equalizer—it should be used to level the playing field, not to grow inequality,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said upon announcing the release of the new guidance. “Unfortunately, in too many communities, especially those that are persistently underserved, serious gaps remain. This guidance aims to fix that by providing school leaders with information to identify and target inequities in the distribution of school resources.”

Evidence shows that Latino children are more likely to attend schools where resource disparities exist, considerably diminishing their chances to succeed beyond high school. The persistence of resource disparities in schools with high concentrations of low-income and minority children illuminate the need for leaders to reexamine our notions of what is equal and what is equitable. In communities where disparities persist, equal access to resources is simply not enough. Rather, state and local leadership must critically examine the specific needs of children and communities to determine the appropriate allocation of resources required to achieve equity of access and equity of opportunity.

So what does this mean for Latino children?

OCR unambiguously states its commitment to ensure that all students have equitable access to a quality education protected under the law. As a community we can raise awareness of disparities that persist and call attention to policies and practices that fuel those injustices. Where disparities exist, OCR will take proactive measures to investigate the evidence and determine whether policies and practices are in violation of Title VI. For the 12 million Latino students enrolled in schools across the nation, their right to a quality education is no longer a rhetorical aspiration, but a goal to be enforced. The responsibility to effectuate change rests with all of us, and today we have been put on notice.

El Día de los Niños: A Day to Celebrate Benchmarks and Help Our Children Reach Even Higher

Yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that the nation has reached an important milestone in education: in 2012 (the latest year that statistics are available), the national high school graduation rate reached 80 percent. Even more encouraging, researchers believe that if this trend continues, that number will increase to 90 percent by 2020.

The story for Latino students is just as positive, with graduation rates increasing by 15 percent. This impressive jump is great news not only for the Latino community but for the nation overall. Latinos will constitute close to 20 percent of the nation’s labor force in 2020, and educated workers are essential to ensuring that our economy remains robust and competitive.

CCSS_sharegraphic

The notable improvement in graduation rates can be attributed to several factors. Teachers, parents, and students are finding better ways to partner and communicate, giving children a greater chance at academic success. We believe new education standards are also a key component in making our kids ready for college and able to step into the career path of their choice.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, our country can no longer be satisfied sitting in the middle of the pack when it comes to academic performance among industrialized nations. In the last test given by the Program for International Student Assessment, in 2012, 29 countries ranked higher than the U.S. in math and 22 in science. This means that while it is great news that our graduation rates are improving, it will take much more to prepare our children for the jobs of the future. That’s why we are encouraging innovation, creativity, and the broader thinking skills necessary to compete in a global job market.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are setting higher benchmarks and improving the way our kids learn. Rather than simply memorizing facts, they are being taught to connect what they learn in the classroom to the world around them, sharpening their analytical skills, and reawakening a love of learning. Fewer, higher, and clearer standards are also allowing our teachers to be creative in the classroom and dive deeper into subject areas, imparting a greater breadth of knowledge.

The CCSS lay out clear guidelines that provide parents with a better understanding of how to best support their children’s learning. They are ensuring that, regardless of race, ethnicity, or ZIP code, all youth are given the same opportunity to succeed. These new standards are elevating what and how we teach our children, a vital component to maintaining the graduation rates we celebrate today and seeing them rise in the future.

Stop the Madness! Let’s Really Invest in Children.

By Liany Arroyo, Associate Director, Education and Children’s Policy Project, NCLR

Milagro Kids

As a mamí and an advocate, I have had a lot to smile about over the last two weeks. I am finally hearing politicians talk about the issues that matter most to me personally and professionally. While some would have thought it impossible for Republicans and Democrats to both agree that investments in the future of our children are necessary, it has finally happened. Granted, they may have different ideas on how to do it, but at least there is an acknowledgment that we have to invest in children.

The fact that both House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–Va.) in remarks to the American Enterprise Institute and President Obama in his State of the Union address made it clear that children are, and should remain, a priority to our nation is something to be excited about. However, as parents, we now need to ensure that this is not simply talk. We have to hold our elected officials accountable for doing the hard work necessary for all of our nation’s children to thrive. That starts with ensuring that the arbitrary cuts scheduled for March 1 do not occur.

Those cuts, known as sequestration, will have a devastating impact on programs vital to the future of our children. Yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified about the impact of these cuts on education. Education programs that serve our most vulnerable children would face severe cuts, with 1.2 million children losing access to additional educational supports through Title I and as many as 7,200 teachers and aides who work with disabled children at risk of losing their jobs. These are children who need assistance most, yet our elected officials are willing to leave them in the dark.

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Our Affiliates Are Paving the Way for Safer Communities

PromiseNeighborhood_pic
Photo: Department of Education

When it comes to education, our Affiliates make the grade. The federal government has also taken note.

Recently, the Department of Education announced the winners of the 2012 Promise Neighborhoods grants. Three of our Affiliates were among 17 organizations that received a total of $60 million in grants. At a speech on school safety in Washington, DC, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan emphasized the role that Promise Neighborhoods plays in keeping communities safe.

“Children must be safe, healthy, and supported by adults across an entire community to reach their fullest potential,” said Duncan in a press release. “Against all odds, Promise Neighborhoods work to provide families and children with the support they need to help break the cycle of poverty that threatens too many of our nation’s communities.”

The NCLR Affiliates that received the grants are Youth Policy Institute (YPI) in Los Angeles, Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) in San Francisco, and Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation in Brooklyn, New York.

Promise Neighborhoods, first launched in 2010, is a community-focused program that funds local-led efforts to improve educational opportunities and provide comprehensive health, safety, and support services in high-poverty neighborhoods. To help leverage and sustain grant work, 1,000 national, state, and community organizations have signed on to partner with a Promise Neighborhood site, including over 300 organizations supporting 2012 grant winners. The grants are part of the Obama administration’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which is aimed at breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty through what the White House calls “innovative and inclusive strategies that bring public and private partners together.”

YPI and MEDA are both receiving implementation grants, which will help the two Affiliates build upon previous work that was funded with planning grants. Each Affiliate is set to receive $6 million.
Cypress Hills has been awarded a planning grant in the amount of $371,222.

“NCLR congratulates all three Affiliates who are exceptional models of community-based organizations,” said Sonia M. Pérez, NCLR Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives. “Their dedication, efforts and results exemplify the power of the NCLR Affiliate Network and the roles that these organizations play in strengthening neighborhoods across the country.”