Weekly Legislation Tracker

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H.Res. 780: Urging respect for the constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the democratic transition of power in 2016.

Status: The House Majority Leader indicated on Sep 16, 2016 that this resolution may be considered in the week ahead.

Sponsor: Representative Christopher “Chris” Smith (R-NJ)

Prognosis: 90% chance of being agreed to.

Full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hres780/text

The United States should impose sanctions on government officials of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who impede progress toward a democratic transition through credible elections that respect the will of the Congolese. Sanctions should target core figures in President Kabila's government for visa denials and asset freezes.

Economic and security assistance should be reviewed for possible termination, while preserving humanitarian assistance, until the election crisis is resolved.

The President of the United States should lift sanctions only when: (1) President Kabila has declared that he will not remain in power once his term ends and has made verifiable progress towards holding national elections, or (2) the DRC has held a free and fair presidential election and a new President has been sworn in.

The United States should: (1) support independent DRC civil society organizations and media, and (2) investigate and target money laundering activities by key figures close to President Kabila and those financial institutions involved in such activities.

The United States should coordinate efforts with key Western and African partners, including through other financial intelligence units.

Why we care: In recent years, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has had to adjust to increasing surrounding threats to democracy, including a regional refugee crisis, as well as terror threats. This bill allows the United States to offer a level playing field for the DRC, allowing them to structure a strong democratic government, while being able to hold those who excite corruption accountable. This bill will make it easier for international firms to be able to invest in the African continent, as if successfully enacted, will encourage economic stability across many African nations.

H.R. 2285: Prevent Trafficking in Cultural Property Act

Status: Passed House on Sep 22, 2016. This bill passed in the House on September 22, 2016 and goes to the Senate next for consideration.

Sponsor: Representative William Keating (D-MA)

Prognosis: 34% chance of being enacted

Full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr2285/text

Declares that it is U.S. policy to: (1) ensure that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enhance and unify their efforts to interdict, detain, seize, and investigate cultural property illegally imported into the United States, disrupt and dismantle smuggling and trafficking networks engaged in or facilitating illegal trade in cultural property, and support Offices of U.S. Attorneys in prosecuting persons engaged in such illegal trade; and (2) protect cultural property pursuant to U.S. obligations under international conventions.

Requires the CBP and ICE to each designate a principal coordinator or group of personnel to direct, manage, coordinate, and update their respective policies and procedures, and conduct interagency communications, regarding illegally imported cultural property. Directs the CBP and ICE to update and devise directives, regulations, rules, and memoranda of understanding relating to policies and procedures on the illegal importation of cultural property in order to: (1) reflect changes in cultural property law, (2) emphasize investigating, and providing support for investigations and prosecutions of, persons engaged in or facilitating the illegal importation of cultural property, and (3) provide for communication, coordination, and unity of effort between relevant CBP and ICE offices in investigating and supporting prosecutions of such individuals.

Requires the CBP and ICE to ensure that all CBP and ICE personnel involved in interdicting and investigating the illegal importation of cultural property receive sufficient training in relevant cultural property laws, the identification of cultural property from regions that are at greatest risk of looting and trafficking, and methods of interdiction and investigative techniques specifically related to illegal trade in cultural property.

Requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure that the heads of all DHS components involved in cultural property protection activities are authorized to enter into agreements or memoranda of understanding to temporarily engage personnel from the Smithsonian Institution to further cultural property protection activities.

Why we care: H.R. 2285 would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to designate certain officials to coordinate the department’s efforts to protect international cultural property and develop strategies to reduce the illegal trade in such property. The legislation also would authorize DHS agencies to enter into agreements with the Smithsonian Institution for the temporary use of the institution’s staff. Information from DHS indicates that many of the bill’s requirements are already being met; thus, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 2285 would cost less than $500,000 annually. Such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.This matters because it restricts an open environment where theft of cultural property has become reoccurring. Successful enactment means that our cultural property, as well as other foreign nations’ will be protected.

H.R. 5963: Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act of 2016

Status: The House Majority Leader indicated on Sep 16, 2016 that this bill may be considered in the week ahead.

Sponsor: Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL)

Prognosis: 36% chance of being enacted.

Full text: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/hr5963/text

To promote safe and healthy communities, the federal government has long supported state efforts to set at-risk youth and juvenile offenders on the pathway to success. Helping children reject a life of crime requires more than an adjudication system and a detention facility. It requires a collaborative effort among parents, teachers, and community members to prevent criminal behavior and help support children who have engaged in illegal activity.

In support of that effort, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in 1974. The law coordinates federal resources aimed at improving state juvenile justice systems with a focus on education and rehabilitation. Over the years, these state juvenile justice programs have been able to help children develop the life skills they need to hold themselves accountable and achieve success. However, not all juvenile justice programs have seen the same results, and the consequences can be devastating for vulnerable youth and local communities. In fact:

Roughly 26 percent of youth who have been incarcerated are less likely to graduate high school.

Children who have been incarcerated are up to 26 percent more likely to engage in other unlawful activity and return to jail as adults.

Why we care: Approximately two million children are currently involved in the juvenile justice system, and many more youth are at risk of entering the system because of difficult circumstances, such as poverty, broken families, and homelessness. This is why this bill matters. This bill will make it easier for youth advocates and nonprofits to work side-by-side with the juvenile justice system, and ensure programming success - also known as, making sure these kids don’t end up returning to the system.