1:00pm: Delafield Town Hall Meeting
Delafield Town Hall, W302N1254 Maple Ave, Delafield, WI 53018Read More
9:00am: Hartford Town Hall Meeting
109 North Main Street Hartford, WI 53027
1:00pm: Elm Grove Town Hall Meeting
13600 Juneau Blvd. Elm Grove, WI 53122Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement in support of Speaker Paul Ryan’s efforts in Wisconsin and nationwide:
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “During a town hall meeting in Racine, Speaker Ryan reiterated to his constituents last night – and the entire nation – his commitment to finding solutions for America’s most pressing issues, as well as his dedication to working cohesively across Congress in order to make our nation better for all Americans.
“From his first day in office to his rise to the Speakership, Paul has remained earnest, hard-working, and driven to help people. His determination to enact serious legislation, such as reforming our broken tax and health care systems, as well as protect our national security and advocate on behalf of our nation’s most vulnerable, is inspiring and serves as a constant reminder of why Members of Congress are sent to Washington in the first place – to serve the people.
“I’m eager to continue working with the Speaker to help the people of Wisconsin and our country, and move forward on smart, common sense legislation that will help keep America strong and prosperous for generations to come.”Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner issued the following statement upon the signing of the Rapid DNA Act of 2017 into law:
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The passage of the Rapid DNA Act will help law enforcement carry out their duties more quickly, efficiently, and accurately. This revolutionary technology will help identify arrestees and offenders, reduce the overwhelming backlog in forensic DNA analysis, and streamline crime fighting efforts while helping to prevent future crimes from occurring, saving time and taxpayer dollars in the process. I’m thankful to President Trump, as well as my colleagues in the House and Senate, for moving forward on this common sense legislation, which will help millions of Americans nationwide.”
The Rapid DNA Act would establish a system for the integration of Rapid DNA instruments for use by law enforcement to help reduce the DNA backlog. Unlike traditional DNA analysis, which can take weeks, Rapid DNA analysis permits processing of DNA samples in approximately 90 minutes or less.
This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way in which arrested individuals are enrolled in the criminal justice system, shorten the time required for their DNA to be linked to unsolved crimes, and expedite the exoneration of innocent suspects by giving law enforcement officials a new system that meets FBI quality assurance standards to compare DNA samples collected at the time of an arrest to profiles in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement regarding the horrific acts of violence perpetrated in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Congressman Sensenbrenner: "What happened in Charlottesville goes against the principles of this nation and everything I've worked for during my time in Congress. The freedoms given in this country should never be abused to incite violence or spread hate and prejudice. It's my hope that as Americans, we can all come together to denounce bigotry in all its forms."Read More
Since 2010, Republicans have seen the writing on the wall about Obamacare. We knew the dangers it posed to the public. We understood how it would lead to skyrocketing premiums, decrease the quality of care, and leave millions of Americans with fewer, less-desirable healthcare options. That's why for the past seven years, we've fought against this disastrous law.
We made promises to our constituents that we would repeal and replace Obamacare. We assured them that relief was on the way.
That's why it seems unfathomable that when the moment came to save millions of Americans from the burdens placed upon them by the failures of Obamacare, a small minority of my Republican colleagues caved under outside pressure and broke their promises.
Obamacare is failing. Despite the fact that Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., wisely rejected weaving the Obamacare exchanges into the fabric of the state's health insurance market, Wisconsin is still feeling the pain of this terrible law. Earlier this year, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield announced it would pull out of the exchanges. Just last week, Molina Healthcare also announced its departure, making it the sixth health insurer to leave Wisconsinites with fewer options since Obamacare's implementation.
Thousands of Wisconsinites will now be left without their preferred health insurance plans by the end of 2017 and will struggle to find affordable, quality coverage for themselves and their families.
Wisconsin is not alone.
Several counties in Arizona have seen the steepest health insurance premiums in the country. Major health insurers, including UnitedHealthCare and Humana pulled out of the state, and others have significantly decreased their coverage. Last year, drastic premium increases left one Arizona county without any health insurance options, and only two insurance companies offering individual plans through the Obamacare exchanges in the state have committed to continue selling plans in 2018.
In Alaska – one of the most expensive states in the country – individual health insurance premiums increased to nearly 40 percent after Obamacare went into effect. The incredible costs led to all but one health insurance company to leave the market. It has also caused enrollment in the exchanges to drop significantly, from approximately 23,000 last year to just more than 19,000 this year according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
On the other side of the country in Maine, health insurance premiums may increase up to an astounding 40 percent on average by next year. All three of the state's providers have detailed steep hikes that would impact more than 100,000 people on the individual exchanges.
These are just a few examples of the overwhelming deterioration of a law that was fated to collapse the healthcare system from its outset.
The House of Representatives moved forward this year with the American Health Care Act, legislation born from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's Better Way agenda, which would have provided people with more choices at lower costs. The plan expanded Health Savings Accounts and created new tax credits to help people buy insurance at affordable prices. It protected access for individuals with pre-existing conditions, allowed those aged 26 and younger to remain on their parents' plans, and reformed and strengthened Medicaid to help those who needed it most.
Ryan and House Republicans kept their promises. They passed the AHCA -- smart legislation that would put Americans, not government, in control of their healthcare.
Unfortunately, the Senate could not do the same.
Despite ongoing reports of the breakdown of Obamacare in their states and states throughout the country, a small group of Republican Senators refused to stand up and vote for the best interests of their constituents and Americans nationwide. Rather than fulfilling the promises they made and honoring the commitments they guaranteed, they succumbed to the political pressures of Washington and failed their constituents.
However, it's not too late to change course.
The Senate can still move forward with repeal and replace measures that will give people the hand up they desperately need and put our health insurance system back on track.
Obamacare is failing and Americans are paying the price. With the future of our nation's health at stake, members of Congress, both in the House and the Senate, must remember why they were sent to Washington in the first place.
View this piece online here.Read More
By: Clark Packard and Peter O'Rourke, contributors to the Washington Examiner
Nearly 230 years after the Constitution's ratification, we are still debating the limits of power granted to the states to tax and regulate.
Should California have the power to prohibit the sale of pork from out-of-state producers if the pigs were born to sows housed in gestation stalls? Should Massachusetts have the authority to prohibit the sale of out-of-state eggs if the hens were housed in battery cages? Should Colorado have the ability to mandate that at least 20 percent of the electricity imported into the state from out-of-state producers comes from renewable sources?
Curbing potentially inhumane farming practices and promoting clean energy may be worthwhile policy goals, but under our Constitution, the states lack the power to regulate business practices beyond their borders. Congress has power over interstate commerce, making it the appropriate venue for achieving these goals.
That's not to say states lack authority to set appropriate farming practices or target climate change. Colorado, for instance, could require that all electricity producers in the Centennial State use at least 20 percent renewable sources, but it cannot condition the ability of out-of-state producers to sell electricity in the state on those renewable targets.
Perhaps the most contentious question raised in this area of law in recent years is whether states have the authority to collect tax from out-of-state businesses that have no physical presence in the state. With the rise of the internet and online commerce, states continue to try to compel out-of-state companies to report and submit sales taxes owed by residents, despite Supreme Court precedent prohibiting such requirements. The ability to compel tax collection necessarily implies the ability to audit out-of-state companies. Do we really want to empower tax auditors in one state to comb through the books of companies located in other states?
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law pondered that question in a July 25 hearing on H.R. 2887, the No Regulation Without Representation Act. Sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., the bill would codify in statute that states can only tax or regulate entities engaged in interstate commerce that have a genuine physical presence within their borders. Unfortunately, this measure is needed because states continue to violate the guidelines set out by the Constitution's Commerce Clause.
The Constitution's basic construction is clear: States are free to regulate the rules of the road for wholly intrastate business practices and tax wholly intrastate transactions. Where commerce flows beyond state borders, Congress, not state legislatures or regulatory authorities, is given exclusive authority to regulate.
This framework isn't an accident. A primary weakness of the Articles of Confederation was that the federal government lacked the power to pre-empt state authority. This proved unworkable. By contrast, one of the geniuses of the constitutional framework is that the founders essentially established a free-trade zone among the states, with Congress as the ultimate arbiter of the rules of commerce between states.
Not only does this framework make practical sense—prohibiting a balkanized taxing and regulatory regime from overly burdening business practices—but it is consistent with democratic norms. In short, overzealous states may not threaten out-of-state parties who have no say in the process by which the rules are written. That's why Congress is the proper venue to resolve disputes about state efforts to tax online sales, set regulatory standards for sow pens and chicken cages, or the sale of electricity across state lines. Every adult in America can participate in the democratic process and congressional deliberations.
Sensenbrenner's bill would make a number of sensible changes that would properly balance the Constitution's respect for federalism and the Commerce Clause's demands. The bill would essentially mandate that a state can tax or regulate a person's activity when the person is physically present in a state and spells out reasonable parameters for how to define that physical presence.
If Congress fails to pass the No Regulation Without Representation Act or similar legislation, states will continue to push to tax and regulate beyond their borders. This will inevitably result in costly litigation and a confusing patchwork of rules and levies that must be sorted out in the courts. Congress can and should act to protect our existing constitutional framework.
Clark Packard is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an outreach manager and policy analyst for the R Street Institute. Peter O'Rourke is a summer intern with the R Street Institute.
View this piece online here.Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) sent the following letter to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to express concerns and objections to his proposal to expand the Department of Justice’s civil asset forfeiture program. The letter also urges AG Sessions to reconsider his newly-announced policies.
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Expanding the federal civil asset forfeiture program is a step in the wrong direction and I urge Attorney General Sessions and his Department of Justice to reconsider. I am a supporter of criminal asset forfeiture – the seizure of property after the conviction of crime—but with civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement has a direct economic incentive to take people’s property without ever even charging them with a crime. We need to add more due process to forfeiture proceedings. Expanding forfeiture without increasing protections is, in my view, unconstitutional and wrong.”
Congressman Conyers: “I am deeply disappointed by the Justice Department’s recent move to reverse its ban on adoptive seizures. The prior policy, which was instituted in January of 2015, greatly curtailed this practice, which provides financial incentives for law enforcement to seize the property – including the homes – of individuals who may not even be guilty of a crime. I call on Senator Sessions to withdraw the new policy, which is contrary to the growing bipartisan effort to reform our civil forfeiture laws and practices. Indeed, the time has come for Congress to enact the DUE PROCESS Act, a bipartisan bill to significantly alter these laws and increase protections for innocent property owners.”
Full text provided below:
Dear Attorney General Sessions:
We write to express strong objections to your decision to reverse the Department of Justice’s policies curtailing adoptive seizures. Under this process, state and local law enforcement can receive up to 80 percent of forfeiture proceeds for simply transferring seized property to federal authorities to pursue forfeiture under federal law.
This practice has been criticized as a “bounty” system because it perversely incentivizes state and local law enforcement to seize the property of individuals who may not even be guilty of a crime. Furthermore, in states that restrict civil forfeiture, the policy raises serious federalism concerns by allowing state law enforcement to pursue forfeiture in circumvention of protections provided by state law.
The prior policy issued in January 2015 substantially curtailed adoptive forfeitures. In announcing your decision to reverse these reforms, you claimed to implement “safeguards.” None of these steps, however, will provide any meaningful degree of protection against abuse.
The first two steps outlined in the Policy Directive issued by the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, concerning review of seizures and probable cause determinations, are merely internal assessments that make us no more comfortable with adoptive seizures than we were prior to their curtailment three years ago.
Curiously, the third step would provide additional limitations on certain adoptions, but only for cases of less than or equal to $10,000 – reflecting your decision that higher-dollar cases are somehow less deserving of protections against abuse. In any event, even this degree of protection for the lower dollar cases is largely illusory as the Policy Directive provides that a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office may simply waive the additional procedures in individual cases.
Lastly, the Policy Directive admonishes that the Department should “proceed with particular caution” in seeking the forfeiture of people’s homes if they were “not implicated in criminal conduct.” We cannot emphasize enough how stunningly inappropriate and brazen it is for the Department to engage in such a practice. That officials charged with the responsibility of protecting the rights of our citizens would contemplate taking personal residences of innocent homeowners underscores our lack of faith in the discretion to be exercised by Department officials in the prior three “safeguards.”
Civil forfeiture, at the federal level and also through adoptive seizures, requires significant reform if is to continue at all. It has become increasingly apparent that the procedures in federal law governing civil forfeiture are fundamentally inadequate. Forfeiture reform has long been a bipartisan issue, raising serious concerns about fairness and due process on both sides of the aisle.
Congress last enacted reform to these laws in 2000, under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, sponsored by the late Representative Henry Hyde. We have learned much since passage of that law and have introduced bipartisan legislation, entitled the DUE PROCESS Act, to responsibly increase procedural protection for innocent owners.
We should be reforming civil forfeiture, not expanding it. Therefore, while we pursue legislation on this issue, we ask that you withdraw the newly-announced changes to the Department’s adoptive seizure policies.
Although we believe this new policy should be rescinded, we would like additional information concerning the rationale for some of its provisions and your plans to implement them.
Please reply with written answers to these questions by August 15, 2017.
F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Member of Congress
John Conyers, Jr.
Member of CongressRead More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the devastating news that Molina Healthcare will be dropping out of the Obamacare Exchanges:
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The announcement that Molina Healthcare will be dropping out of the Obamacare exchanges isn’t a surprise, but it certainly is disastrous for the more than 50,000 of Wisconsinites who may be left with no health care options under Obamacare.“This is the latest development in a string of devastating health care losses for Wisconsin under Obamacare – an ill-fated law that has been a failure since its passage. It’s imperative for the health of our nation for Congress to find real solutions to the intensifying problems caused by Obamacare. The House of Representatives passed smart, patient-centered repeal and replace legislation – the Senate must do the same for the sake of all Americans. ” Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on health insurance companies across the country looking to increase Obamacare premiums:
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Unfortunately today we’re seeing further evidence of the failures of Obamacare. Across the country, health insurers are looking to once again increase premiums by as much as 30 percent, putting added pressure on millions of Americans who cannot afford it.
“Wisconsin is not immune from these increases. Molina Healthcare of Wisconsin is proposing an increase ranging from 30 to 46 percent for its member plans. Increases like these will be devastating for Wisconsinites who are not eligible for Obamacare subsidies.
“Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a smart, patient-centered repeal and replace plan that would make health insurance better and more affordable. It’s my hope that Congress can move forward to find real solutions that will finally put an end to skyrocketing prices and provide the quality care that Americans need and deserve.”Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Rapid DNA Act, introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support earlier this year, has passed in the Senate and now heads to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.
The Rapid DNA Act would establish a system for the integration of Rapid DNA instruments for use by law enforcement to help reduce the DNA backlog. Unlike traditional DNA analysis, which can take weeks, Rapid DNA analysis permits processing of DNA samples in approximately 90 minutes or less.
This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way in which arrested individuals are enrolled in the criminal justice system, shorten the time required for their DNA to be linked to unsolved crimes, and expedite the exoneration of innocent suspects by giving law enforcement officials a new system that meets FBI quality assurance standards to compare DNA samples collected at the time of an arrest to profiles in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Rapid DNA is a promising new technology and an effective tool for law enforcement – I’m thrilled to see its final passage in the Senate. This technology will help quickly identify arrestees and offenders, reduce the overwhelming backlog in forensic DNA analysis, and make crime fighting efforts more efficient while helping to prevent future crimes from occurring. It will also save time and taxpayer dollars. I look forward to President Trump promptly signing it into law.”Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) announced that Loni Hagerup, Sensenbrenner’s deputy chief of staff, and Matt Bisenius, director of legislative affairs at the National Propane Gas Association, will serve as co-chiefs of staff beginning in August.
The news comes after the announcement that current Chief of Staff Bart Forsyth has accepted a new position with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
“Working on Capitol Hill is an unparalleled opportunity to do good and make a difference in people’s lives. In Henry Hyde and Jim Sensenbrenner, I’ve had the distinct privilege of serving two historic Members of the House of Representatives,” said Forsyth. “I am deeply grateful to both of them for the opportunities they have given me. It is particularly hard to leave Congressman Sensenbrenner and his amazing staff, but I am excited to join a world-class team at PhRMA and to continue my work with the Hill on PhRMA’s behalf.”
Forsyth served under Sensenbrenner in a number of capacities, including his work on the House Science Committee as investigative counsel, Sensenbrenner’s chief of staff on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, his work on the House Judiciary Committee, and finally as Sensenbrenner’s chief of staff in his personal office.
“It’s always difficult to part with talented members of staff, especially those who have served faithfully for many years,” said Sensenbrenner. “Bart has been a true asset as a trusted advisor, effective facilitator, and respected leader. I’m thankful for his distinguished service and wish him continued success as he begins this new chapter.”
Stepping into the role of chief of staff are Sensenbrenner alumni Loni Hagerup and Matt Bisenius.
Hagerup, a long-time Sensenbrenner staffer, began her political career in the Wisconsin State Assembly as a legislative aid before moving to Washington, D.C. to work for Sensenbrenner as his staff assistant in 1985. After serving in the Reagan administration, she returned to work with Sensenbrenner in Wisconsin in various roles as campaign manager, district director, and most recently deputy chief of staff.
“I’m thrilled to continue my service with Congressman Sensenbrenner in this new role, although Bart’s absence will certainly be felt,” said Hagerup. “Team Sensenbrenner has benefitted immeasurably from his keen legal mind, sharp communication acumen, and adept people skills. Bart’s leadership has been exemplary and he will be missed.”
Matt Bisenius rejoins Congressman Sensenbrenner’s staff from the National Propane Gas Association, where he currently serves as the director of legislative affairs. Matt joined NPGA in August 2014, and has managed several successful advocacy campaigns during his tenure. Prior to joining NPGA, Matt worked as the senior legislative assistant for Congressman Sensenbrenner.
“I am excited for the opportunity to return to the Sensenbrenner office. The Congressman’s exceptional record of constituent service and legislative success greatly benefits Wisconsin’s Fifth District. I look forward to working with the staff to further support and expand the Congressman’s work.”Read More
By Commissioner David Jeffrey for Huff Post
Last summer, President Barack Obama signed The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) into law to combat the skyrocketing opioid epidemic in our country. Drug overdoses related to prescription pain relievers and heroin are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. More than 90 Americans die each day from the opioid epidemic.
As you may have seen in the news, rustbelt states are at the center of the epidemic. In Ohio, according to the state Department of Health, opioid-related deaths jumped from 296 in 2003 to 2,590 in 2015 – a 775 percent jump. In Indiana, we’ve seen double digit percentage increases in the patient count at our Harbor Light Centers, which offer treatment and recovery programs for those struggling with addictions.
With support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, CARA is the first major federal addiction act in 40 years. The legislation encompasses all six pillars necessary for a coordinated response – prevention, treatment, recovery, law enforcement, criminal justice reform and overdose reversal. CARA gives nonprofit organizations such as The Salvation Army critical help for our work with the thousands of Americans struggling with addiction. To mark the first year since the legislation passed, I asked Wisconsin Representative Jim Sensenbrenner about how we can continue to raise awareness about the severity of the opioid epidemic.
Q: What is the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and how does it help Americans struggling with addiction to opioids?
A: The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) helps those with addiction through alternative incarceration programs and outpatient treatment options for non-violent drug offenders. Such options not only better serve individuals, but save significant taxpayer dollars. The legislation also creates community-based anti-drug coalitions and a national education campaign, which helps rebuild communities, deter young Americans from trying drugs, and stalls the increase of addicts, overdoses, and deaths.
Q: Why do you feel it’s important to raise awareness about the rise in opioid consumption?
A: Opioid abuse has become a major problem in the United States. Not only does it ruin the lives of individual users, but it has negative impacts on the families and friends of abusers as well. Addiction also weakens communities and puts unnecessary added pressure on taxpayers who ultimately pay for increased health care, incarceration, and judicial costs.
Q: What should every American know about the opioid epidemic?
A: Opioid addiction isn’t specific to any one demographic. It grips individuals from all walks of life. From urban neighborhoods, to quiet suburbs, to rural America.
Q: Why is continued support still needed for federal legislation to combat the opioid epidemic?
A: Between 2002 and 2013, national heroin deaths nearly quadrupled, reaching more than 8,000 annually by 2013. In that same year, an estimated 517,000 people used heroin – a figure up 150 percent from just six years earlier.
Between 2006 and 2011, my home state of Wisconsin experienced a 350 percent increase in heroin samples submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory by law enforcement. In 2012, the number of heroin-related deaths jumped by nearly 50 percent and statewide data shows one quarter of Wisconsinites who abuse the drug began using when they were younger than 25 years old.
It’s clear that this problem won’t solve itself. It will take the hard work and cooperation of Congress, as well state and local entities, to find and implement serious solutions to fight this epidemic.
Q: How can social service providers help raise awareness about the opioid epidemic or help those struggling with addiction?
A: The community-based anti-drug coalitions noted in CARA will play a large role in helping social service providers on the local levels. While the federal government can help with these efforts through additional funding, the real, meaningful work takes place within communities.
Q: What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned about people struggling with addiction to opioids?
A: The fact that many abusers begin at a young age is troubling, which is why some provisions within CARA focus on an awareness campaign. It’s critical that we not only help those currently struggling with addiction, but also our nation’s young adults. If we can stop them from trying opioids and other drugs, we can stop the tragedies of addiction before they happen.
You can view this article online here.
Mr. Speaker, today I rise to recognize the 27th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Congress passed the ADA to break down the physical and societal barriers that kept disabled Americans from fully participating in the American Dream. From creating standards for wheelchair accessibility in places open to the public, to requiring 911 phone lines to be equipped to respond to hearing-impaired callers, the ADA has transformed the lives of millions of Americans. The progress we’ve made is remarkable, and I’m proud to have been part of these efforts.
Throughout my career, I have seen few pieces of legislation that bring all people together as much as the ADA. Not only did this historic legislation pass both chambers with large bipartisan majorities, but the ADA Amendments Act passed unanimously in 2008. This legislation shows that Congress can come together to solve problems for the betterment of the American people.
I proudly stand with the thousands of advocates who come to Washington D.C. this week to continue the fight for the rights of all Americans.Read More
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, performing rights organizations (PROs) BMI and ASCAP announced they will be joining efforts to release a database for musical works and sound recordings. This announcement comes just six days after Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act, which also aims to establish a comprehensive database for music and sound recordings through the Register of Copyrights.
Despite claims from BMI and ASCAP that they have been working on this joint database for the past year, they have made no effort to cooperate with Members of Congress on the issue. Further, such a database would be incomplete due to the lack of participation from all PROs, meaning business owners across the country would continue to be plagued by the convoluted and difficult process of finding and purchasing the correct licenses to play and perform music in their establishments.
There is an overwhelming atmosphere of mistrust between businesses and PROs, which is why it’s imperative that a publicly accessible database is established through the Register of Copyrights. Business owners and those seeking music licensing should have the ability to access a complete, easy-to-navigate system which will provide them peace of mind in knowing that they have the facts they need to make smart, legal purchasing decisions. A third party database will streamline and bring much-needed transparency to the process. Under the BMI and ASCAP initiative, businesses would still be subject to statutory damages – this is unacceptable and it’s a problem only Congress can solve.
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “If BMI and ASCAP were serious about establishing a music database, not only would they have spoken to my office and other interested Members of Congress about their plans, but they would have also included their fellow PROs in the initiative. With their announcement today, they are grasping at straws; trying to maintain power over a failing process that only serves their interests, not those of the American consumer.”
Some of the key provisions of Congressman Sensenbrenner’s Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act include:
Forfeiture has been a part of the American justice system for more than 200 years. It has been a tool used by law enforcement – both local and federal – to fight criminal activity, such as drug trafficking.
However, over the years, there have been numerous cases of abuse in the forfeiture process, specifically in civil cases. These abuses threaten citizens’ constitutional rights, put unnecessary burdens on innocent Americans, and weaken our faith in law enforcement.
While I disagree with the decision by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Department of Justice to expand the federal asset forfeiture program in the coming months, the expansion makes it more important than ever that Congress pass reform measures.
I have long been a supporter of criminal asset forfeiture – the seizure of property after the conviction of crime—but with civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement has a direct economic incentive to take people’s property without ever even charging them with a crime.
Civil forfeiture cases make a mockery of the Constitution and its protection of private property by creating the legal fiction that the property itself is the defendant in a crime. The law pretends that inanimate objects have committed wrongdoing and then assumes that property should be entitled to fewer procedural protections than people. For innocent individuals, getting seized property back can be a long, onerous, and often prohibitively expensive process.
According to a Washington Post investigation, nearly 62,000 cash seizures have occurred since Sept. 11, 2001, and only a sixth of those cases were legally challenged. This is partly due to the high costs of bringing legal action against the government. Because law enforcement can seize assets despite the innocence of a property owner, many cases harm lawful citizens and places the burden of proving innocence on them. If an individual can prove their property was not linked to criminal activity, their seized assets can be returned. However, this often involves months – sometimes years – of judicial battles, requiring costly legal representation.
In 41 percent of civil asset forfeiture cases where there was a challenge, the government returned the seized money. This is a remarkably high error rate for seizures. Worse still, 40 percent of those cases took more than a year to resolve and required individuals to sign agreements stating they would not sue the police.
Current forfeiture laws put law-abiding citizens at risk for unwarranted seizures, and the DOJ proposal to expand programs supporting such laws will only make the problem worse. The suggested changes to federal civil asset forfeiture laws will circumvent state laws enacted in 13 states around the country, increasing incentive for local law enforcement to participate in the federal program and diminishing the Tenth Amendment.
Although it’s true that in many cases, seizures aid in the apprehension and conviction of known criminals and drug traffickers, some put superfluous burdens on innocent people. Reform to the current federal forfeiture laws is necessary to curb abuse, restore confidence in law enforcement, and help citizens protect their property rights. It’s imperative that we add more due process to forfeiture proceedings, and expanding forfeiture without increasing protections is, in my view, unconstitutional and wrong.
In 2000, Congress took steps to begin the reform process by passing the Civil Action Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA). The legislation required the government to procure a warrant upon probable cause before seizing property, to send a written notice of a seizure to property owners, and compelled the government to present clear evidence that the seized property was used for criminal activity. It also gave innocent owners the ability to retrieve their seized property faster.
In both the 114th and 115th Congresses, I introduced the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures (DUE PROCESS) Act, which builds upon the reforms in CAFRA by increasing transparency in the process, adding protections for innocent owners, and implementing additional protections to ensure property owners have the opportunity to contest seizures. It also improves the notice that the government must give property owners, makes it easier for them to be heard by a judge, and entitles property owners to an initial hearing, where they can retrieve confiscated property immediately if it was not seized according to the law. The legislation also increases the availability of attorney fees for innocent owners, and places a higher burden of proof on the government.
The government should not be in the business of incentivizing forfeiture of property from innocent Americans, but by expanding federal asset forfeiture programs, that’s exactly what the Department of Justice is doing. While I urge the Department to reverse its decision, if we are going to increase the number of federal forfeitures, it is more imperative than ever that we also pass the DUE PROCESS Act.
Forfeiture is a critical tool in the fight against crime, but it is also vulnerable to abuse. We must be vigilant in order to protect innocent citizens, preserve honesty in policing, and curb unwarranted searches and seizures.
Sensenbrenner represents Wisconsin’s 5th District and is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
You can view this piece online here.Read More
This commentary appeared in the July 17, 2017 issue of SpaceNews Magazine.
As the Trump administration continues to review federal spending and implements good-government policies in Washington, it should take into consideration America’s outdated acquisition policies and procedures at the Pentagon and NASA.
Modern manufacturing and production is becoming increasingly complex, especially within highly regulated industries such as aerospace and defense. Ensuring quality in these industries can mean the difference between life and death. Quality and mission assurances are significant components of the hundred million dollar legacy launch cost of NASA. This spring, NASA’s Inspector General (IG) revealed that America’s space agency lost more than $1 billion over the past decade due to components that failed to meet performance expectation or quality standards. Moreover, NASA is not the only organization that falls prey to a continuing escalation of complexity with a growing risk of failure. We need to look no further than current programs for multipurpose aircraft to support the Air Force and Navy. The lack of appropriate oversight, reporting, and corrective actions continues to cost taxpayers millions of dollars, delaying strategic defense initiatives in the process.
In order to reduce costs, rather than looking for things to avoid in the future, companies, especially those with government contracts, should instead turn to a solution that will automate the critical and necessary quality and mission assurance tasks. An electronic quality management system (QMS), which has been designed specifically to support defense contractors and their supply chain partners, allows for the integration of quality and manufacturing data with a seamless interface to a company’s enterprise resource planning solution.
A modern QMS can provide many benefits to an organization. The ability to track the entire product lifecycle in real-time, including the documentation of a component’s condition, history and genealogy ensures improved quality and lowers production costs. With a complete online product history, that information is immediately available to the Department of Defense (DoD), as well as auditors. The information they request is available in minutes, rather than days.
However, the uses of electronic QMSs are not widely adopted throughout government supply chains and inconsistent federal policies on the matter are not helping. A 2014 Pentagon IG report found that DoD has not established an overarching quality management policy to ensure the consistent application of QMS requirements across the military, nor does it have an effective feedback mechanism in place to evaluate the performance of quality management systems. As a result, the IG recommends the Pentagon emphasize the importance of a robust quality management program throughout the entire acquisition life cycle, and establish standardized reporting requirements for quality assurance metrics throughout the Defense Department.
Congress and the Executive branch both agree that government acquisition programs are ripe for modernization and improvement. This shared view is reflected in the increasing size of our acquisition workforce – especially at the Pentagon – and the fact Members of Congress inserted more than 10 provisions specifically targeting the acquisition workforce in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
One such provision, which was included in last year’s NDAA conference report, encouraged the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), which is responsible for conducting Defense contract audits, to examine the potential for electronic quality management systems to improve the ability of DCAA to conduct thorough and timely audits. This is a step in the right direction to ensure potential production mishaps are identified and remedied before they develop into severe problems resulting in increased costs and missed deadlines.
Managing the supply chain and generating the associated data is not a simple operation. Complex manufacturing involves supply chains comprised of multiple levels. Airplanes alone are made from hundreds of thousands of parts from thousands of supplies – domestic and international. Having the ability to hold all suppliers accountable and the capacity to score the supplier in a real and meaningful way is critical to driving higher quality across the DoD, NASA, and other strategic initiatives supported by tax dollars.
Moving forward, the government should continue to examine the potential use of electronic quality management systems within its own agencies, and encourage its private sector contractors to follow suit.
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) chaired the House Science Committee from 1997–2001.
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No matter what the circumstances are surrounding a visit to a hospital or medical facility, nurses are the first people a patient sees for treatment. They listen, comfort, and administer vital services that keep our health care industry functioning.
There are approximately three million nurses in the United States, making them the largest segment of the health care workforce in the country. These men and women are on the front lines of health care, providing the quality support and services we need to stay healthy. And while nursing it is currently one of the fastest growing occupations in the nation, the demand for nurses is outpacing the supply and the nation is facing a severe shortage here in Wisconsin, and nationwide.
According to a 2015 Georgetown University study, despite the economy creating 1.6 million job openings for nurses through 2020, the United States will face a deficit of nearly 200,000 nursing professionals.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 1.2 million vacancies for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022. Further, it predicts that the shortfall will be more than twice as large as any nursing shortage experienced since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in the mid-1960s by the year 2025.
In Wisconsin, data produced by the Public Policy Forum shows that the state will need to grow its registered nurse workforce by 24 percent between 2010 and 2020 to meet demand. The gap between supply and demand is estimated to be 10,500 by 2030. This discrepancy will be most devastating in the state’s rural areas, where it is often more difficult to recruit and retain health care professionals due to location and salary constraints.
Current and worsening nursing shortages are driven by various factors, including an aging population and workforce, and an inadequate and expensive educational infrastructure.
As the Baby Boomers grow older, they demand more health care services. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that between 2012 and 2050, the population of those over the age of 65 will be nearly 84 million. Further, Americans in this demographic are retiring at an increased rate. That includes those in the health care industry, leading to the large number of nursing shortages we’re experiencing. As significant numbers of Baby Boomers leave the workforce, there aren’t enough people to take their place. This is largely due to an education system that turns away applicants to nursing programs and medical and physical therapy schools and cannot employ enough qualified instructors in these programs.
Together, these factors have created an alarming problem that must be addressed. While no one piece of legislation can solve each issue contributing to America’s nursing shortage, there are steps Congress can immediately take to help alleviate some of the pressure on the industry.
One such step is increasing the amount of foreign-trained nurses allowed into the United States on temporary work visas to help fill the thousands of nursing positions left unfilled. I recently introduced the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act, which would do just that.
This legislation expands the amount of available visas to up to 8,000 for qualified applicants and provides immediate relief for hospitals facing shortages.
America’s health care industry faces a lot of uncertainties, but ensuring there are enough nurses to care for our nation’s patients shouldn’t be one of them. The Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act is a common sense response to this growing problem and takes pressure off the thousands of medical facilities struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for professional nurses.
Nurses are the driving force behind effective, quality care in the United States. It’s in America’s best interest to act quickly and find solutions that will not only help this vital industry, but also benefit the millions of American health care consumers who depend on nurses every day.
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An important aspect of Wisconsin’s history and culture centers on its bars, restaurants, and breweries. These are places where Wisconsinites of all kinds can put aside their differences and come together over a great schnitzel, a strong Old Fashioned and festive live music.
But over the past several years, I’ve heard from many local business owners in my district that they’ve had to decrease their use of live music as a result of a complicated and convoluted music licensing process. This problem certainly isn’t localized to Wisconsin. It’s happening throughout the entire country, and it’s up to Congress to take the necessary steps to fix it.
The problem, simply stated, is that when a venue wants to play music, they turn to the performing rights organizations that offer blanket licenses covering millions of songs within their respective catalogs. However, this process is inefficient, confusing and costly to bar and restaurant owners. Without a clear database of options and licensing requirements, business owners are often left to guess what licenses they need and what products they’re actually purchasing. This confusion is not only frustrating, but opens up unsuspecting business owners to copyright infringement lawsuits, despite the fact they were trying to follow the letter of the law.
I have heard numerous times about the ways in which PROs like the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and Broadcast Music Inc. have used their power over information and near duopoly control of music — together they control almost 90 percent of all music — to harass business owners. As a result, many venues are choosing to stop playing music or booking live performances. When venues stop playing music, it not only impacts the atmosphere at bars and restaurants, but it also affects the entire music ecosystem. This loss means less revenue is generated for songwriters and that there are fewer opportunities for artists to perform and discover new audiences.
One simple solution to help alleviate the problem is to house all music copyright ownership and licensing information in one database. Such a database doesn’t currently exist. PROs claim that their proprietary databases are available for small-business owners to access, but these databases are not interoperable or comprehensive. In fact, each PRO explicitly states that their database can’t be relied on to make licensing decisions.
In response to this problem, I’ve introduced the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act, which would establish a comprehensive and actionable database that would be maintained by the U.S. Copyright Office. Ever since the issue was first brought to my attention in the 1990s, I’ve been actively involved in enacting meaningful reforms in the music licensing space. Over the years, it has become clear to me that a public database is necessary to offer all stakeholders a real-time and fully searchable record of music ownership and licensing information that they can rely on.
My colleagues in the House Judiciary Committee and I have spent several years examining the Copyright Act and its need for reform. After more than 20 hearings and an extensive open comment period, there is overwhelming support to modernize our copyright laws and make them easier to follow. This includes the adoption of new user-friendly technologies and instituting procedures to ensure transparency in music licensing.
Business owners make hundreds of decisions daily — each one made in order to achieve the best results for their bottom lines. Without a clear and actionable music licensing database, they are left without a choice when it comes to which licenses are best for their needs. It doesn’t need to be this way.
The Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act is a commonsense solution to a growing problem that impacts the lives and businesses of Americans nationwide. It is a positive step forward in helping our country’s business owners make the best possible decisions while ensuring that copyright owners are fairly compensated for their work.
In Wisconsin, and throughout the country, music is essential for bringing people together. Making it easier to share and enjoy music is good for our businesses, our communities, and our well-being. I hope my colleagues will join me in support for this legislation.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act, which would establish an information database for musical works and sound recordings.
Across the country, businesses and establishments play or perform music for the enjoyment of their patrons, but the process of ensuring they are legally able to do so, as well as those who hold the license to the music or recordings being played are fairly compensated, is convoluted and difficult. Because of this onerous process, business owners often struggle to obtain the correct licensing, leaving them vulnerable to lawsuits, as well as increased licensing fees.
To address this problem, the House Judiciary Committee has spent several years examining the Copyright Act and its need for reform. After more than 20 hearings and an extensive open comment period, there is overwhelming support to modernize our copyright laws and make them easier to follow. This includes the adoption of new user-friendly technologies and instituting procedures to ensure transparency in music licensing.
The Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act is a step forward in simplifying the process and helping business owners to identify copyright holders in one easy location to ensure they comply with licensing and payment requirements.
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “When it comes to rules and regulations, simpler is always better. Streamlining the music licensing process into one, easily accessible database is a straightforward way to help our nation’s business owners while ensuring copyright owners are fairly compensated for their work.”
Some of the key provisions of the Transparency in Music Licensing Ownership Act include:
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F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., (Jim), represents the Fifth Congressional District of Wisconsin. The Fifth District includes parts of Milwaukee, Dodge and Waukesha counties, and all of Washington and Jefferson counties.
Jim was born in Chicago and later moved to Wisconsin with his family. He graduated from the Milwaukee Country Day School and did his undergraduate studies at Stanford University, where he majored in political science. He then earned his law degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1968.
After serving ten years in the Wisconsin State Legislature, Jim ran for a U.S. House seat and was elected in November, 1978. He has been reelected since 1980.
Jim’s current committee assignments include serving on the Committee on Science and Technology and the Committee on the Judiciary. Congressman Sensenbrenner is Chairman of the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Oversight Subcommittee. He is also a member of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and Internet, and the Subcommittees on Environment and Oversight.
He is the former Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and as a long-serving committee member, Jim has established a strong record on crime, intellectual property and constitutional issues. Previously, Jim also served as Chairman of the House Committee on Science, where he solidified his reputation as an independent leader on science issues, as well as oversight.
Throughout his public life, Jim has been at the forefront of efforts to preserve the sanctity of life, eliminate wasteful government spending and protect the interests of American taxpayers. He has regularly been cited by the National Taxpayers Union as one of the most fiscally responsible House Members and is well known for completing his financial disclosure forms down to the penny.
Jim is proud of his many legislative achievements that have helped improve the lives of many during his tenure in Congress.
In 1977, Jim married Cheryl Warren of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a staunch advocate for the rights of the disabled. They have two adult children, Frank and Bob. In his free time, Jim enjoys watching the Packers and reading.