Heritage Action Supports Rep. Mike Kelly and Sen. Mike Enzi’s Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act

Last month, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2017 (H.R. 1881 & S. 811). This legislation would prohibit the federal government, and state governments who receive certain federal funding, from discriminating against a child welfare service provider that serves families and children according to their “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Child welfare providers, including private and faith-based adoption and foster care agencies, who believe every child deserves a mom and a dad would be fully protected under this bill.

Ryan Anderson, Ph. D., Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, and Sarah Torre, visiting fellow in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, write:

“There’s no shortage of kids who need help. Every year about 400,000 children spend time in our nation’s foster care system, with roughly 100,000 eligible for adoption. Many bounce from home to home and are never adopted. Many will “age-out” of foster care, facing increased risk for low academic achievement and poverty.

“The efforts of faith-based organizations and the work of more than 1,000 private, licensed foster care and adoption providers across the United States are helping to increase the number of children adopted every year. Private providers handle roughly a quarter of the domestic adoptions by non-relatives that occur in the United States. Faith-based agencies also provide spiritual, emotional and relational support to families that seek to adopt or become foster parents, which they are less likely to receive from state-run agencies.”

Over the past few years, faith-based organizations who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman have been under attack. In 2014, then President Barack Obama bypassed Congress and issued an executive order elevating sexual orientation and gender identity to special protected status for the purpose of federal grants and contracts. In June 2015, the Supreme Court redefined marriage throughout the country by mandating government entities treat same-sex relationships as marriages.

Religious liberty advocates are hopeful President Trump will fulfill his campaign promise and reverse the Obama Administration’s actions on religious liberty. But sadly, his most recent executive order on “free speech and religious liberty” fails to address the major threats to religious liberty, including protection for faith-based organizations who provide child welfare services.

While limited in scope, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act would be a significant first step toward protecting the rights of organizations to carry out their services according to their religiously informed beliefs about marriage. Not only is this policy common sense, it is essential for the thousands of children who deserve stable homes and families.

Couples who would rather work with state-run agencies or providers without religious convictions are free to do so. This legislation would not prevent secular child welfare providers from continuing their valuable services in any way.   

Summarizing the core argument for the bill, Ryan Anderson issued this statement:

“No adoption agency should be penalized by the state because they work to find children homes with a married mom and dad. Shutting down agencies or disqualifying them from government programs because they believe kids deserve both a mom and a dad does nothing to help children in need. All it does is score a point for LGBT activists using children as pawns in their culture war. We need as many adoption and foster care agencies working for kids as possible. But there is no need to force them to embrace LGBT orthodoxy.”

The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act prioritizes children over politics. It protects and empowers Americans who have dedicated their lives to give the most vulnerable in our society – those without a family – the father and mother they deserve.

***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***

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Heritage Action Supports Rep. Mark Walker and Sen. Steve Daines’ Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act

Earlier this year, Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) introduced the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act (H.R. 719 & S. 221). This legislation would allow states to opt out of programs that fall under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) — and repurpose those federal funds on a consolidated basis “to advance the educational policy of the State.”

During the presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump promised to return educational decision making back to the state and local level by ending common core and prompting school choice. A-PLUS would go a long way in fulfilling this promise by potentially transferring $23 billion in funding that currently goes to ineffective and duplicative federal programs authorized by ESSA, to state-run educational programs that better target the needs of local communities.

According to Lindsey Burke, Director of the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, the A-PLUS Act would:

“Give flexibility to states and local communities, reduce administrative costs and the federal compliance burden associated with accessing federal education funding; and free states and localities from their role as compliance entities subordinate to the federal government, making them accountable to parents and taxpayers instead.”

State and local governments finance 90 percent of all K-12 education spending but must comply with burdensome federal mandates and regulations or risk losing billions in federal funding. This federal overreach hinders the ability of state and local governments from engaging in innovative educational initiatives, such as school choice programs like the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

School choice programs put parents, not federal bureaucrats or unions, in charge of their children’s education and makes local schools more accountable to parents and taxpayers. The A-PLUS Act would free up states through additional resources and less federal mandates, allowing them to pursue student-centered education reforms. Burke writes:

“Language within the A-PLUS proposal explicitly recognizes that accountability is strengthened when directed toward parents. Allowing states to put their dollars toward state and locally determined priorities would enable them to respond more directly to parents and taxpayers. Specifically, and with conservative leadership at the helm in most states, it would create space for states to establish and grow choice-based options for families—the ultimate accountability mechanism.”

With a unified Republican government and the vast majority of House Republicans having already voted for A-PLUS last session, now is the time for Congress to begin to restore federalism in education, empower parents and students, and remove archaic obstacles that have prevented true opportunity for all.

***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***

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Heritage Action Supports Rep. Gary Palmer and Sen. Mike Lee’s Agency Accountability Act

Earlier this year, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Agency Accountability Act of 2017 (H.R. 850 & S. 299). This legislation would restore Congress’ power of the purse found in Article I of the Constitution over unelected federal bureaucrats by requiring “any agency that receives a fee, fine, penalty, or proceeds from a settlement” to “deposit such amount in the general fund of the Treasury.”  

Under current law, federal agencies that confiscate taxpayer dollars through fines, fees and proceeds from legal settlements — such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Financial Stability Oversight Council — may repurpose those dollars as they see fit. The Agency Accountability Act would subject this revenue to the regular appropriations process and empower lawmakers, not federal bureaucrats, to determine how best to allocate scarce resources.

Justin Bogie, The Heritage Foundation’s Senior Policy Analyst in Fiscal Affairs, explains:

“Under current law, agencies have the ability to use funds received through fines, fees, and proceeds from legal settlements without going through the formal appropriations process, thus avoiding congressional oversight.

“The Agency Accountability Act seeks to correct this problem by requiring that (with limited exceptions) any fees, fines, penalties, or proceeds from a legal settlement be deposited into the Treasury’s general fund. The funds would then be available to the respective agencies, but only through the formal appropriations process.”

This legislation restores power back to Congress to make funding decisions. It also increases transparency within federal agencies by shining a light on the amount of revenue raised from agency fees and penalties, and the source of that revenue. Bogie continues:

“According to a report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, agencies collected $83 billion in fines between fiscal years 2010 and 2015. The committee found that the amount of power given to agencies to pursue penalties and legal settlements allows them to act as both judge and jury.

“By forcing agencies to return these revenues to the Treasury’s general fund before they are appropriated back to the agencies, Congress would be able to fully account for how much revenue these agencies collect and what sources they collect from.”

Under this legislation, lawmakers would also have the option of keeping this revenue in the general fund for the purpose of deficit reduction. In fiscal year 2015 alone, agencies collected $516 billion through a wide array of user fees.

The Agency Accountability Act is a win for lawmakers who want to reclaim their rightful power of the purse and for those who care about fiscal sustainability and the negative economic effects of our growing national debt. With nearly two-thirds of the annual federal budget already consisting of “auto-pilot” mandatory spending, Congress should use this opportunity to pass the Agency Accountability Act and take back the power of the purse.

***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***

 

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Heritage Action Supports Chairman Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10)

In response to the housing collapse and financial crisis of 2007-08, Congress rushed to pass the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act under the guise of “consumer protection.” But instead of addressing the root causes of the financial crisis, such as the government’s reckless efforts to expand housing affordability and implied guarantees to bail out large financial institutions, Dodd-Frank empowers the very regulatory establishment which created the environment that led to the financial crisis in the first place.

Heritage Foundation Financial Regulations expert Norbert Michel writes:

“The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is among the most inappropriately named laws ever enacted in the U.S. It neither reformed Wall Street nor protected consumers, and it imposed massive new regulations on banks far away from Wall Street.”

Along with imposing 3,500-plus pages of new rules and regulations on the financial industry, Dodd-Frank codifies “too big to fail” policy, runs local community banks out of business, restricts access to credit for investors and homebuyers, raises lending costs, reduces access to capital for small businesses, and created one of the most powerful and unaccountable federal agencies — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Evidence shows Dodd-Frank is one of the major factors responsible for the country’s historically slow economic recovery.

On June 6, 2016, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) unveiled his plan to repeal most of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. His legislation, entitled the Financial CHOICE (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers, and Entrepreneurs) Act, was a significant, positive step toward repealing Dodd-Frank and restoring economic stability and growth to the financial markets.

But after the election of President Donald Trump and with Republicans maintaining control of both branches of government, Chairman Hensarling took advantage of the opportunity to strengthen  and reintroduce his bill.    

According to the Financial Services Committee website, the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 would:

“end taxpayer-funded bailouts of large financial institutions; impose tougher penalties on those who commit financial fraud and insider trading; demand greater accountability from Washington regulators, and relieve well-capitalized banks from growth-strangling regulations that slow the economy and harms consumers.”

The newly introduced Financial CHOICE Act would do the following:

  • Mitigate “too big to fail” and bank bailouts by repealing most of Title I and all of Title VIII of Dodd-Frank.
  • Stop the government from seizing troubled financial firms through orderly liquidation and returns to a time-tested bankruptcy system by repealing Title II of Dodd-Frank.
  • Fundamentally reform the CFPB:
    • Rename it as the “Consumer Financial Opportunity Agency”
    • Governed by a single director removable at will by the president along with a deputy director appointed by the president
    • Restructure into an enforcement agency only, with no supervisory authority
    • Subject it to congressional oversight and the appropriations process
  • Rein in the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authority by making it more difficult for the Fed to conduct bailout-style loans to insolvent firms.
  • Unleash small business creation, innovation and entrepreneurship by eliminating the misguided Volcker rule which has limited capital formation over the past few years.
  • Repeal the “Durbin Amendment” that allows the Federal Reserve to price-fix interchange fees from debit card purchases.
  • Subject all new major rules imposed by financial regulatory agencies to congressional approval under the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act.
  • Strengthen penalties on Wall Street for those who engage in fraud, insider trading and other corrupt practices.

Summarizing the core principle of the bill, Norbert Michel issued this statement:

“Dodd-Frank enshrined too big to fail with several key changes that make future taxpayer bailouts likely. The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 repeals those key provisions and reduces the likelihood of future bailouts by providing regulatory relief for firms that absorb their own losses. Specifically, The CHOICE Act provides relief to banks that choose to fund themselves with more equity, thus lowering the probability of failure and taxpayer bailouts. Thus, the Financial CHOICE Act emphasizes the key principle that should drive any financial regulatory reform effort: there’s no justification for heavily regulating companies that bear their own losses.”  

The Financial CHOICE Act is a significant, positive step toward full repeal of Dodd-Frank. This bill provides regulatory relief essential to restoring economic growth, significantly reins in the unaccountable CFPB, and pushes the government out of the business of enacting price controls by repealing the Durbin Amendment. Republican members of Congress have repeatedly promised to get rid of Dodd-Frank and stop taxpayer funded bailouts. Now they have the opportunity to fulfill that promise by bringing the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10) to a vote in the House and Senate, and sending the bill to the president’s desk.

***Heritage Action supports the legislation, encourages Representatives and Senators to support it, and reserves the right to key vote in the future.***

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Heritage Action Supports Olson’s Civil Rights Uniformity Act (H.R. 5812)

Background: On May 13, 2016, the Obama Administration’s Department of Education and Department of Justice issued a joint “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students, declaring that the agencies would “treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX.”  This brash claim clearly ignores the letter and the spirit of the 1972 Civil Rights Act, which intended to protect against discrimination based on individual’s biological sex, not their subjective self-perceived gender identity.

Problem: In his article responding to the guidance, Obama Unilaterally Rewrites Law, Imposes Transgender Policy on Nation’s Schools, Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., the William E. Simon senior research fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, points out three major problems with this sweeping and illegal executive overreach:

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