10 ongoing U.S. bills worth reading over the holidays

in December 24th, 2021
ten-u-s-bills

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We get the feeling this time of year: Work is wrapping up, holiday relaxation (or stress) is kicking in, and it’s easy to fall out of the loop with the news. Problem is, the world doesn’t stop just because we don't have time for the news on it. 👀

That’s why today, we’re breaking from our regular programming to provide a special edition quickly highlighting the 10 ongoing U.S. bills hidden behind the sea of holiday headlines. While each one is important, we’ve kept our highlights short and sweet with the option to read more by clicking the associated links.

FEDERAL BILLS

Freedom to Vote Act

Expanding voter access has been a high-profile topic around election seasons, but often gets forgotten afterwards. The Freedom to Vote Act would not only expand access to registration and voting options (vote by email, early voting), but would also make Election Day an official holiday to encourage higher voter turnout.

For more on this bill, including how it impacts those with criminal offenses, check out Rock the Vote.

Protecting Our Democracy Act 

Trumps’ tax filings may have been a major story of his presidency, but there’s much more than meets the eye. The Protecting Our Democracy Act would enforce greater transparency from presidents by strengthening congressional checks and balances on executive power. This could include disclosing conversations between the White House and government agencies such as the justice department.

For further inclusions, head to Protect Democracy.

Growing Climate Solutions

Reducing carbon emissions has proven to be one of the biggest levers we have towards a stronger climate future. Carbon markets, for example, were introduced to encourage companies and countries alike to reduce their carbon emissions. Problem is, proper incentives were never put in place to ensure farmers play their part. That’s why the Growing Climate Solutions Act would make it easier for farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners to participate in carbon markets. The bill seeks to reduce barriers to entry by offering a fair share of the carbon credit revenue generated.

Details of the program and eligibility are still being ironed out, but you can learn more from Farm Progress.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Paid maternity leave has been one of the great promises of high-growth technology companies, but it’s important for all Americans to have equitable access. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would promote women’s health and economic security by requiring companies with over 15 employees to have reasonable accommodations for pregnant job applicants and employees. It also makes it unlawful for employers to force an employee out or retaliate against them for requesting accommodations due to pregnancy.

To understand the specifics, check out National Partnership.

Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act of 2021 

It might sound obvious that federal judges are not allowed to hear cases in which they themselves or a member of their immediate family holds financial interest. However, a Wall Street Journal report found that more than 130 federal judges failed to remove themselves from such cases between 2010 and 2018. The Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act would enact guidelines and additional requirements that would make it easier to audit the cases of federal judges to catch conflicts of interests.

Stay tuned for a summary from Congress.gov.

STATE BILLS

Illinois: Amendments to the School Code regarding sexual abuse and health education

Over the years, our team has sadly read far too many stories of sexual abuse in schools. Some Democratic Illinois lawmakers want to adopt more comprehensive sex education standards that would help students learn to detect sexual abuse, reduce sexual stigmas, and embrace gender and sexual fluidity. If passed, the state would then be responsible for developing, maintaining, and publicizing the standards.

To learn more, refer to Bill Track 50.

Georgia: Establishing a House Study Committee on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) 

Economic hardship, divorced parents, and racial discrmination are just a few examples of what falls under the definition of ACE (adverse childhood experiences). Such experiences can shape a child’s life through adulthood, which is why Georgia seeks to appoint a committee of five representatives who would research the negative effects of ACE. They would then file their significant learnings and recommendations for legislation. Learn more from the complete bill here.

Hawai’i: Establishing a stipend fund for early childhood educators

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic placed a heavy strain on educators nationwide. Paired with the overall shortage of early childhood educators, this bill would establish a stipend program to support the workplace development of educators in Hawai’i. The program would provide more financial security for an occupation traditionally paid the least in comparison to other occupations.

Learn more at Bill Track 50.

San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oakland, California: Establishing overdose prevention programs

Although considered a controversial approach to combating the U.S.’ drug epidemic by some, select progressive politicians continue to uphold the idea that safe drug use is essential to overall recovery. This bill would authorize three California cities to operate such overdose prevention centers as safe spaces for people to receive and use pre-obtained drugs without fear of consequence. The bill sites studies that suggest such spaces would, for example, reduce deaths and the spread of bloodborne diseases.

Learn more in the California Globe.

California: Banning suspensions and expulsions in preschool

Did you know research suggests that children who are suspended in preschool are more likely to drop out of high school and end up incarcerated? This bill would ban state-subsidized preschools and childcare programs from unenrolling students due to behavior, which disproportionately affects Black and Latinx children (especially boys). In lieu of these disciplinary measures, California requires daycare facilities to “utilize positive, age-appropriate behavior management strategies.” With the additional responsibility, the bill would provide educators with access to free mental health consultations (for those who follow the bill’s guidelines).

Dig into more of the research behind this bill at EdSource.

🎬 Action of the Week

We just mentioned a swath of bills deserving our time and attention. Reading into as many as you are able is the best action we can all take this week — especially if you want to call or email in any support for bills that have not yet been voted on. 🙂

ASCII-ING ABOUT THE NEWS

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I object… to my aunt’s involvement in this potential crime!

Art Credit: Joan G. Stark

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