February 7, 2019 - Issue: Vol. 165, No. 24 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 1st Session
STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 24
(Senate - February 07, 2019)
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[Pages S1135-S1138] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS By Mrs. FISCHER (for herself and Mr. Van Hollen): S. 371. A bill to provide regulatory relief to charitable organizations that provide housing assistance, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Mrs. FISCHER. Mr. President, I rise today to announce the reintroduction of the bipartisan, bicameral Building Up Independent Lives and Dreams Act, more commonly known as the BUILD Act. After the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was tasked with creating a single set of integrated disclosure forms for mortgage loans. This set of forms, created by the TRID rule, was designed to provide a more consumer- friendly approach to traditional mortgage lenders. Its aim was to streamline disclosure requirements in the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlements Procedures Act into a single set of forms. The measure works for most traditional mortgage lenders; however, it buried not-for-profit, charitable organizations in mountains of paperwork. The weight of the nearly 2,000-page TRID rule is not only burdensome but confusing--especially for small lenders and housing charities that do not have the funding to hire financial experts. The forms present a variety of unnecessary obstacles, including the requirement for expensive software with a cost calculator. These costly and complex forms are expected of large banks and institutions, and they can better afford to hire experts who are well versed on the TRID rule, but smaller community-based organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, they simply cannot. The overwhelming majority of the more than 1,200 Habitat for Humanity organizations across our country are faced with limited resources. Historically, Habitat for Humanity has built homes for struggling families and provided a low- or no-interest loan. The loan amounts are typically lower due to the free labor of thousands of volunteers in Habitat projects around the world. These loans give Habitat homeowners a chance to establish themselves as creditworthy and a fresh start for their future. There are currently 15 Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Nebraska. The chapters in Omaha, Lincoln, Fremont, Grand Island, and Columbus, as well as the Sarpy County and Scotts Bluff County chapters have voiced their full support for the BUILD Act. I thank them for that. These organizations are a constant source of hope for our communities across the State, and they make significant contributions to provide a hand up for struggling families. The executive director of Habitat's Lincoln chapter recently sent my office the story of a local couple who became a Habitat homeowner. Abdelkarim and Sailwa worked hard to provide for their five sons. With help from Habitat for Humanity, the couple was approved for a 30- year, zero-interest mortgage on their new home. Payments are capped at 30 percent of their combined monthly income. Now Sailwa can work part time, and Abdelkarim pursues his degree from Southeast Community College. He is helping to secure his family's future. Their children are comfortable in their neighborhood, where they have made new friends and attend a local school. The executive director of the Lincoln chapter continued, saying: ``With the ability to focus on our mission, instead of burdensome regulatory requirements and expenses, we can help more families build strength, stability, and self-reliance through homeownership. The BUILD Act will do exactly that. This bill will allow nonprofits to use the simpler Truth in Lending, good-faith estimate and HUD-1 forms, instead of that overbearing, nearly 2,000-page TRID rule. These forms were previously used for years. Habitat for Humanity's volunteers with financial expertise were once able to sit down with the borrower and review each section of the forms together. This gave the volunteer an opportunity to teach the new homeowner about personal finance and the critical steps he or she could take to grow as a financially responsible citizen. With the passage of the BUILD Act, volunteers will be able to provide this prudent advice once again. My office has also been informed that some Habitat chapters lack the staffing capacity to comply with the TRID rule. What is more, these chapters do not possess the adequate funding needed to purchase the required software. In Habitat for Humanity chapters in Lincoln, Grand Island, and Fremont, they are going to benefit from the passage of the BUILD Act, and I think all of us in this body can agree that charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity are a constant source of hope for families in need. They should not be hurt because of a preventable oversight. By working together and finding commonsense solutions, we can fix this. The BUILD Act gained momentum last year and passed the House unanimously, but we can push this legislation over the finish line during the 116th Congress. I thank the junior Senator from Maryland for partnering with me and helping to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation. I thank our lead sponsors in the House who spearheaded this effort last Congress. The BUILD Act would provide that commonsense reform to ensure all housing charities are able to provide much needed stability to communities without being harmed by overly burdensome regulations. The President highlighted a variety of different ways we can work together during his State of the Union speech this week, and I believe the passage of a bipartisan, bicameral BUILD Act would be an encouraging start. ______ By Mr. BARRASSO (for himself, Mr. Bennet, Mr. Jones, Ms. Baldwin, Mr. Boozman, Mrs. Capito, Ms. Collins, Mr. Cornyn, Mr. Cramer, Mr. Enzi, Mrs. Fischer, Mr. Gardner, Ms. Hassan, Mr. Hoeven, Mr. Inhofe, Mr. Johnson, Mr. King, Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Manchin, Mr. Peters, Ms. Smith, Mr. Thune, Mr. Udall, Mr. Wicker, and Mr. Wyden): S. 382. A bill to authorize a special resource study on the spread vectors of chronic wasting disease in Cervidae, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I have spoken many times in this Chamber about human health from my perspective as an orthopedic surgeon. Today, I am here to talk about a different crisis that is facing our Nation. Earlier today, 24 of my colleagues joined me in introducing a bill to combat chronic wasting disease in cervid populations across this country. Chronic wasting disease is a terrible degenerative brain disease. It affects captive and wild deer, elk, moose, and caribou in at least 26 States and several Canadian Provinces. It is highly contagious and always fatal. In my home State of Wyoming, chronic wasting disease was first detected back in 1985. Since then, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has partnered with scientists, State wildlife managers, and Federal Agencies to understand how the disease spreads. Many other state agencies have forged similar partnerships to study the same things. Over the last 34 years, their work has shown that the disease is spread by prions, but how these prions actually infect animals remains a mystery. The disease can be transmitted through nose-to-nose contact, through [[Page S1136]] animal waste, or through carcasses of infected animals. Some studies have suggested that prions can remain in affected soil for up to 16 years. Well, there is a lot we still don't know about the disease, including the risk to humans. Chronic wasting disease is a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, like bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. There are a number of diseases I studied in medical school from a human standpoint that now seem to be affecting animals as well. There have been no reported cases of this chronic wasting disease in humans as of this time, but the Centers for Disease Control takes the risk of human infection quite seriously. The CDC developed a list of things people can do to reduce their own risk of consuming meat from an infected animal. Across the country, many people rely on meat they harvest from deer, moose, and elk to feed their families. For them hunting is not a recreational activity but an important part of their way of life. Hunting also contributes tens of billions of dollars in economic activity each year. Those dollars fund important wildlife research and habitat conservation and contribute nearly 10,000 jobs in Wyoming alone. Dollars derived from the sales of tags or hunting licenses and hunting equipment are used by State wildlife agencies to carry out important monitoring, management, and conservation work. If this disease persists and we cannot instill confidence in the public that the risk can be controlled, hunting will decrease. Fewer licenses sold means less money for our wildlife agencies, which means less research. So we need to act now. Chronic wasting disease threatens the iconic deer, elk, and moose herds that roam our State. It is a threat to our western heritage, but it is not just a western problem. Chronic wasting disease has found its way to Alabama, New York, and Pennsylvania. After finding the disease late last year, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency now requires hunters to check in their deer at physical locations to check for infection. The Muley Fanatic Foundation in Wyoming, which does fantastic work, told me there is no bigger threat to our big game populations than the spread of chronic wasting disease. The bill is being introduced today. Senator Jones from Alabama is on the floor and is going to speak next. The bill we have introduced today requires the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to work with the National Academies of Science to answer some important questions about chronic wasting disease. They will review gaps in current scientific knowledge about transmission. They will review where Federal and State best management practices can better align, and they will review the areas at greatest risk for new infections. State wildlife managers need answers to these questions so they can coordinate prevention and control efforts among their States and so they can target their research to fill in any gaps in current knowledge. Chronic wasting disease is not a new threat, but it is one that has fundamentally changed our efforts to manage and conserve wildlife. Unchecked, this disease can truly be catastrophic for wildlife and for local economies. Across our Nation, whole industries are built around wildlife, tourism, wildlife watching, and deer and elk farming. I believe this bill and this research can make a real difference. So I am glad that so many of my colleagues agree and have cosponsored this legislation. Mr. JONES. Mr. President, first, I would like to thank my colleague from Wyoming for his work today and for his work on this very, very important issue of chronic wasting disease and prevention. This is an issue of great importance not only to Alabama but to 26 other States-- from Wyoming to Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. This is an issue which, if we fail to act, will result in an environmental and economic crisis. Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is truly a terrible, contagious neurological illness that affects all deer, elk, and moose populations nationwide. It is a disease that is as bad as it sounds. It functions much like mad cow disease. Senator Barrasso gave all of the scientific words. He has a little bit more training in that than I do. So I will just call it what it is--mad cow disease and neurological disorders. It attacks an animal's nervous system and, over time, renders the animal weak and emaciated, with little control over its body. The disease has a fatality rate of 100 percent. Every single animal that contracts this disease dies. It is highly communicable, spreading not only through physical contact but also through contaminated environments where infected animals have been. The jury is still out on whether chronic wasting disease may be transmitted to humans, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend against consuming animals contaminated with the disease. In 2017, a Canadian study documented transmission through consumption of contaminated meat to a nonhuman primate. Clearly, this is something to be very concerned and cautious about because of the clear and concrete evidence that it could be transmitted to humans. The fact is, the disease is spreading, and it is spreading fast. Even if it does not pose an immediate health threat to humans or at least a documented health threat right now, it poses a serious significant financial threat to Alabama and many other States. The total annual economic contribution of deer hunting to the U.S. economy is close to $40 billion. In fact, as a hunting company, if it were a publicly-traded company, it would fall in the top 100 on the Fortune 500 list. The hunting industry in Alabama generates $2.6 billion every year for the State's economy, and according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, deer hunting alone generates nearly $2 billion or roughly 80 percent of that amount. Obviously, this makes deer hunting sound like a very big business, and it is. It is a big business in Alabama, and it is a big business across the country. But make no mistake. It is more than just that. It is more than just an economy. It is more than money that comes into our community. Any hunter in Alabama will tell you that hunting is not only a time-honored tradition and a recreational pastime. It is in our State and in so many others a way of life. Hunters in Alabama will also tell you about the devastating effect that CWD can have in the State of Alabama. They use the word ``disaster,'' and they are not exaggerating. Chronic wasting disease is spreading throughout the country, and it is closing in on Alabama. Cases have already been confirmed in southern Tennessee and northeastern Mississippi. A study out of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on the projected impacts of chronic wasting disease in Tennessee has predicted a nearly $100 million total loss to that State alone. We are thankful currently that no deer in Alabama have yet tested positive for CWD, which is a testament to the hard work being done by groups like the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, but State agencies alone cannot address this problem. Their budgets are already strained by the activities that they currently undertake to monitor and manage the disease as well as the many other fine programs they manage in my State and elsewhere. Adequate resources must be devoted to studying the transmission of this disease and developing strategies for its containment. If it doesn't happen, then CWD, or chronic wasting disease, in Alabama and in other States not yet affected becomes not a question of if but when. That is why today, along with Senator Barrasso from Wyoming and Senator Bennet from Colorado, we are proud to introduce the Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act. Once again, I want to commend Senator Barrasso, in particular, as the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee for his leadership in this space. I know he cares deeply about Wyoming's wildlife population, but clearly he cares about the population and conservation efforts throughout the country. Despite its widespread prevalence, very little is known about CWD and how it is transmitted. Our bipartisan [[Page S1137]] legislation tasks the USDA and the Department of the Interior to work with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a review of the existing science, how it is spread, and current best-management practices in order to get a better handle on what we already know about the disease and its transmission. More specifically, this legislation will allow us to identify the most effective techniques for prevention, surveillance, and management of the disease. It will also enable us to get a better understanding of the total economic cost of CWD to our State economies, to wildlife agencies, to landowners, and to hunters. A review conducted under this legislation will allow us to gather essential data that will enable us to conduct better research into the future and to better formulate our policy goals in order to mitigate and manage this devastating disease. Like many Alabamians, I love spending time outdoors, taking in the breathtaking nature and wildlife of my State. Alabama is a gorgeous State with an incredibly diverse array of fauna and wildlife. It is an amazing place. I am also a pretty avid hunter, and, in fact, this weekend is the last weekend for deer season in my State, and I am hoping to get out there this Sunday, the very last day, for the last deer hunt of the season as this season comes to a close. This has really been a cherished pastime for me and my youngest child, my son Christopher, for many, many years. Taking action to find a solution to stop the spread of CWD will help to ensure that countless other outdoors men and women--because women are a big part of the hunting population in the State of Alabama--can continue to enjoy this tradition. We have to do everything we can to combat what is truly an existential threat to the deer hunting industry in my State and around the country. Our legislation is an essential step forward in protecting the health of our wildlife, protecting the health of our environment, and, ultimately, protecting the way of life for millions of hunting Americans. Thank you, Mr. President. ______ By Mr. CARDIN (for himself and Mr. Van Hollen): S. 416. A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to amend the process by which students with certain special circumstances apply for Federal financial aid; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I would like to bring the Senate's attention to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Fairness Act of 2019, common sense legislation I am introducing with my colleague from Maryland, Senator Van Hollen today. This legislation seeks to eliminate a barrier that potential college students with difficult personal and financial circumstances face when applying for Federal financial aid that too often has left them without a path forward to earning a college education and joining the middle class. This body has worked to improve the college application process for students and their families over the last several years and successfully lobbied the Department of Education to allow students and their families to submit their FAFSA application in October and utilize prior prior-year tax data. These changes provide future college students and their families with several months to submit their financial information instead of a short time frame between January and February to meet State and institutional-based deadlines for need- and merit-based financial aid programs. These steps have made it easier for students to sit with their families and make informed financial decisions on which college or university will provide the highest quality yet least expensive college education. Despite our work, a number of our students are being left behind and cannot take advantage of these changes. Many of these students face difficult personal and financial situations. For instance, some have left home due to abusive family environments; others may have parents who are incarcerated. Still others may be unable to locate their parents. All of the students in these circumstances are unable to fill out the FAFSA application. Rather than fill out one universal Federal financial aid application form, a potential college student must contact each institution she or he is applying to and undergo a ``dependency override'' process before a college or university will put together an estimated financial aid package for the student. Under this process, a student applying to one university in my State of Maryland, for instance, must submit nine different pieces of financial information, a personal statement, and references to verify their independent status. These students, often first generation students unfamiliar with the process for applying to school, may give up on the dependency override process and fail to finish the college application process or leave significant Federal financial aid on the table. Mr. President, I think it is unfair that we place additional burdens on these students. We should not make opening the door to a brighter future harder than it is already. In Maryland, we know that access to a high-quality, yet affordable, education is the key to success and increasingly required for entry into the middle class. Regardless of a student's background or the circumstances that he or she has fought to overcome, it is my belief that this Congress should work to ensure maximum access to higher education. The FAFSA Fairness Act would seek to correct this inequity for some of our most vulnerable students. If enacted, my legislation would allow students in these difficult personal and financial circumstances to fill out a FAFSA form as a ``provisional independent'' student and receive a provisional determination of their Federal financial aid award from the Department of Education. The colleges that the student applies to would receive notification of the student's special circumstances and conduct outreach to inform the student of the process for completing a dependency override. After a student has completed the dependency override form, the school would provide the student with a final financial aid award package that includes Federal, State, and institutional need- and merit-based aid so the student could bargain shop for the best financial aid award package between multiple schools. After such students have been admitted to college, this legislation would allow them to remain focused on their classwork instead of annual recertification of their independent status by maintaining the dependency override decision for as long as they remain in school or if the university is made aware of new information about their status. My legislation would provide students with a pathway to complete the FAFSA, one of the first steps towards applying to college and obtaining a foothold in the middle class. It also provides students with an opportunity to identify the colleges and universities that match up the best with their financial situation and educational goals. I am proud to lead this Senate effort with my colleague from Maryland and appreciate the work of our delegation, especially U.S. Representatives Elijah E. Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, and John P. Sarbanes, who are introducing a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. I urge my Senate colleagues to join in this effort to help some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged students achieve their dream of higher education despite their difficult family and financial circumstances. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record. There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 416 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the ``FAFSA Fairness Act of 2019''. SEC. 2. PROVISIONAL INDEPENDENCE FOR CERTAIN STUDENTS. Section 483 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1090) is amended-- (1) in subsection (h)(1), by inserting the following before the semicolon: ``, including the special circumstances under which a student may qualify for a determination of independence''; and (2) by adding at the end the following: ``(i) Provisional Independent Students.-- ``(1) Requirements for the secretary.--The Secretary shall-- [[Page S1138]] ``(A) enable each student who, based on the special circumstance specified in subsection (h)(1), may qualify for an adjustment under section 479A that will result in a determination of independence under such section and section 480(d)(1)(I), to complete the forms developed by the Secretary under subsection (a) as an independent student for the purpose of a provisional determination of the student's Federal financial aid award, but subject to verification under paragraph (2)(E) for the purpose of the final determination of the award; ``(B) upon completion of the forms developed by the Secretary under subsection (a), provide an estimate of the student's Federal Pell Grant award, based on the assumption the student is determined to be an independent student; ``(C) ensure that, on each form developed under this section, there is a single and easily understood screening question to identify an applicant for aid who wishes to provisionally apply for independent status under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I); and ``(D) specify, on the forms, the consequences under section 490(a) of knowingly and willfully completing the forms as an independent student under subparagraph (A) without meeting the special circumstances to qualify for such a determination. ``(2) Requirements for financial aid administrators.--With respect to a student accepted for admission who completes the forms as an independent student under paragraph (1)(A), a financial aid administrator-- ``(A) shall notify the student of the institutional process and requirements for an adjustment under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I) that will result in a determination of independence under such sections within a reasonable time after the student completes the forms developed by the Secretary under subsection (a) as an independent student for the purpose of a provisional determination of the student's Federal financial aid award; ``(B) may make an adjustment under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I) for a determination of independence in the absence of conflicting information; ``(C) shall provide a final determination of the student's Federal financial aid award to the student in the same manner as, and by not later than the date that, the administrator provides most other provisionally independent students their final determinations of Federal financial aid awards, or during the award year in which the student initially submits an application, whichever comes sooner; ``(D) shall, in making a final determination of the student's Federal financial aid award, use the discretion provided under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I) to verify whether the student meets the special circumstances to qualify as an independent student; ``(E) in accordance with paragraph (B), may consider as adequate verification that a student qualifies for an adjustment under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I)-- ``(i) submission of a court order or official Federal or State documentation that the student's parent or legal guardian is incarcerated in any Federal or State penal institution; ``(ii) a documented phone call with, or a written statement from-- ``(I) a child welfare agency authorized by a State or county; ``(II) a Tribal child welfare authority; ``(III) an independent living case worker; or ``(IV) a public or private agency, facility, or program serving the victims of abuse, neglect, assault, or violence; ``(iii) a documented phone call with, or a written statement from, an attorney, a guardian ad litem, or a court appointed special advocate, documenting that person's relationship to the student; ``(iv) a documented phone call with, or a written statement from, a representative of a program under chapter 1 or 2 of subpart 2 of part A; or ``(v) submission of a copy of the student's biological or adoptive parents' or legal guardians'-- ``(I) certificates of death; or ``(II) verified obituaries; ``(F) if a student does not have, and cannot get, documentation from any of the designated authorities described in subparagraph (E) of whether a student may qualify for an adjustment under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I) that will result in a determination of independence, may base the verification and final determination on-- ``(i) a documented interview with the student that is limited to whether the student meets the requirements, and not about the reasons for the student's situations; and ``(ii) an attestation from the student that they meet the requirements, which includes a description of the approximate dates that the student ended the financial or caregiving relationship with their parent or legal guardian, to the best of the student's knowledge; ``(G) retain all documents related to the adjustment under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I), including documented interviews, for the duration of the student's enrollment at the institution and for a minimum of 1 year after the student is no longer enrolled at the institution; and ``(H) shall presume that any student who has obtained an adjustment under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I) and a final determination of independence for a preceding award year at an institution to be independent for a subsequent award year at the same institution unless-- ``(i) the student informs the institution that circumstances have changed; or ``(ii) the institution has specific conflicting information about the student's independence.''. ____________________