The 108th Congress: An Analysis
by Laurence M. Vance
by Laurence M. Vance
"It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress." ~ Mark Twain
Of the thousands of bills introduced in the U.S. Congress every year, only a small percentage of them actually pass both houses of Congress and are signed into law by the president. Whether this is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen.
The U.S. Congress meets for a two-year term, divided into two sessions of one year each. Every Congress since the first one to meet under the Constitution has a number. Thus, the current Congress is called the 109th Congress since it is the 109th time in this country's history that a new Congress has been elected. A new Congress begins its term in January of every odd year, after elections in November of every even year.
The most recent Congress to complete its two-year term is the 108th Congress (2003—2005). In the House of Representatives, this Congress began with 231 Republicans, 203 Democrats, and 1 Independent. Because 2 Republicans resigned and were replaced by Democrats, and because 2 other Republicans resigned near the end of the congressional term and were not replaced, the House ended with 227 Republicans, 205 Democrats, 1 Independent, and 2 vacancies. In the Senate, this Congress began and ended with 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 1 Independent.
During the 108th Congress, there were 498 bills that became new laws. See this House document and this Senate document for details on the legislative process. New laws are called "public laws" (PL), and are given a number that begins with the number of the Congress that made the law. Thus, the first bill of the 108th Congress to be signed into law was numbered PL 108-1 and the last bill signed into law was numbered PL 108-498.
The nature of these 498 laws varies greatly. Some of them are serious; others are downright ridiculous. Some are constitutional; others are blatantly unconstitutional. However, just because a law is serious and/or constitutional does not mean that it is a good law. And the fact that pro-lifers, civil libertarians, the religious right, or conservatives support a particular law does not mean that the law in question is good either. Because of the tremendous number of laws on the books already, it can almost be said that the only new laws that can be considered good laws are those which undo the damage caused by previous laws. That is, laws that result in freer markets, increased liberty, less intervention, sounder money, greater decentralization, and a more limited government.
What follows is a brief analysis and categorization of all 498 new public laws. This is not an in-depth analysis of each law. The treatment given to each law is not equal. The categories are purely my opinion, but I think accurate enough for the purposes of this analysis. Some laws fit into two or more categories, but as a general rule, each law is only mentioned one time under the most appropriate category.
Most of the laws referred to in this article have a link to the House website where further information can be obtained about each one, including bill numbers, sponsors, cosponsors, and the complete text of the legislation. All quotations, unless specified otherwise, are taken from the title to the legislation or the official summary.
Are Appropriations Appropriate?
The most expensive new laws are those that appropriate money (taxpayers' money) for the various federal programs and agencies. These are the billion dollar bills, and are the reason the federal budget is over $2 trillion. Appropriation bills that have become law are of several types. The main ones are those that appropriate money for specific items — Defense, Agriculture, etc. Others are for the purpose of making or authorizing "consolidated appropriations," "continuing appropriations," "further continuing appropriations," or "emergency supplemental appropriations."
The major appropriations made by the 108th Congress are as follows. Public Law 108-83 made appropriations "for the Legislative Branch for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004." Public Law 108-87 made appropriations "for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004." Public Law 108-90 made appropriations "for the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004." Public Law 108-108 made appropriations "for the Department of the Interior and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004." Public Law 108-132 made appropriations "for military construction, family housing, and base realignment and closure for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004." Public Law 108-136 made appropriations "for fiscal year 2004 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe personnel strengths for such fiscal year for the Armed Forces." Public Law 108-137 made appropriations "for energy and water development for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004." Public Law 108-153 authorized appropriations "for nanoscience, nanoengineering, and nanotechnology research." Public Law 108-177 authorized appropriations "for fiscal year 2004 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, the Community Management Account, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System." Public Law 108-193 authorized appropriations "for fiscal years 2004 and 2005 for the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000." Public Law 108-199 authorized appropriations "for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004." Public Law 108-200 authorized appropriations "for fiscal year 2004 to carry out the Congo Basin Forest Partnership program." Public Law 108-287 made appropriations "for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005." Public Law 108-293 authorized appropriations "for fiscal years 2004 and 2005 for the United States Coast Guard." Public Law 108-324 made appropriations "for military construction, family housing, and base realignment and closure for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005." Public Law 108-334 made appropriations "for the Department of Homeland Security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005." Public Law 108-335 made appropriations "for the government of the District of Columbia and other activities chargeable in whole or in part against the revenues of said District for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005." Public Law 108-375 authorized appropriations "for fiscal year 2005 for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, and for defense activities of the Department of Energy." Public Law 108-447 made appropriations "for foreign operations, export financing, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005." Public Law 108-487 authorized appropriations "for fiscal year 2005 for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government, the Community Management Account, and the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System."
There is one long and complex law that makes "consolidated appropriations," and two that continue the appropriations. Public Law 108-7 makes consolidated appropriations for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation Programs, Rural Development Programs, Domestic Food Programs, Foreign Assistance and Related Programs, Related Agencies and Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Justice, the Department of Commerce and Related Agencies, the Judiciary, the Legislative Branch, the Department of State, the District of Columbia, the Department of the Army and its Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Treasury, the Postal Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the China Economic and Security Review Commission, and various independent agencies like the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, the Delta Regional Authority, the Denali Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its Office of the Inspector General, and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board." Public Law 108-84 makes continuing appropriations "at the current rate of operations, projects or activities which were conducted in FY 2003." Public Law 108-309 "appropriates amounts for continuing, at the current rate of operations, projects or activities which were conducted in FY 2004." It provides funding "until the earliest of: (1) enactment of an appropriation for any project or activity provided for in this joint resolution; (2) enactment of the applicable appropriations Act without any provision for such project or activity; or (3) November 20, 2004."
There are also laws that make "further continuing appropriations" so the government doesn't shut down. Public Law 108-2 "provides that funds shall be available and obligations due for mandatory payments on or about November 1, 2002, December 1, 2002, January 1, 2003, and February 1, 2003, may continue to be made for certain entitlements and other mandatory payments whose budget authority was provided in appropriations Acts for FY 2002 and for activities under the Food Stamp Act of 1977." Public Law 108-4 "amends Public Law 107-229 to extend until February 7, 2003, specified continuing appropriations for FY 2003." Public Law 108-5 does the same thing until February 20, 2003. Public Law 108-107 "extends until November 21, 2003: (1) the law making continuing appropriations for FY 2004; and (2) the waiver of certain conditions under the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2003 on the planning, design, or construction of a chemical weapons destruction facility in Russia." Public Law 108-135 does the same thing until January 31, 2004. Public Law 108-185 "amends the law making continuing appropriations for FY 2004 (the law) to increase from $3.8 billion to $7.667 billion the limitation on new loan guarantee commitments of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), General and Special Risk Insurance Fund, for the period of applicability of the law." Public Law 108-416 "amends Federal law to provide further continuing appropriations for FY 2005 until the earliest of: (1) enactment of an appropriation for any project or activity provided for in such law; (2) enactment of the applicable appropriations Act without any provision for such project or activity; or (3) December 3, 2004." Public Law 108-434 does the same thing until December 8, 2004.
Last, but not least, are laws that make "emergency supplemental appropriations." Public Law 108-11 made "emergency wartime supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2003." Public Law 108-69 institutes the "Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2003," and makes "emergency supplemental appropriations to the Department of Homeland Security for FY 2003 for disaster relief in carrying out the functions of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act." Public Law 108-106 makes "emergency supplemental appropriations for defense and for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004." Public Law 108-303 makes "emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2004, for additional disaster assistance."
The titles of all these appropriations laws have one thing in common: they all contain the phrase "and for other purposes." This means that every one of them has page after page of appropriations for a myriad of things. For example, Public Law 108-11 is supposed to make "emergency wartime supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2003." But in addition to appropriating money for "ongoing military operations in Iraq and other operations and related activities in support of the global war on terrorism," this law also makes additional appropriations for the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, the United States Agency for International Development, the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund, the Foreign Military Financing Program and Peacekeeping Operations, the legislative branch, military construction, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Department of Commerce, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. But that is not all, for it also "authorizes the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to accept donations of body armor for U.S. Border Patrol agents and canines." It "amends the Agricultural Assistance Act of 2003 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to provide grants to appropriate State Departments of Agriculture that agree to provide assistance under the Livestock Compensation Program to eligible applicants." It "amends the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 to require the Secretary to allow wild seafood to be certified or labeled as organic." It "establishes a panel to review sexual misconduct allegations at the United States Air Force Academy." It also establishes the "Columbia Orbiter Memorial Act," which "requires the Secretary of the Army to construct an appropriate place in Arlington National Cemetery for a memorial marker honoring the seven members of the crew of the Columbia Orbiter who died on February 1, 2003, during the landing of the space shuttle." And most importantly, it "declares the sense of the Senate" that "the asset acquisition of Trans World Airlines by American Airlines was a positive action that should be commended."
No attempt has been made here to specifically analyze any of these appropriations. Some of the bills that became these laws are thousands of pages long. And if members of Congress don't even read what they vote for, why should I. For those who are not faint of heart, a brief analysis of a $388 billion spending bill was recently done that you can read here — if you can stomach pork.
Are Authorizations Authorized?
Laws that authorize or reauthorize spending on various federal programs and agencies are similar to the aforementioned laws that appropriate money. Again, we are talking about billions of dollars.
Public Law 108-40 reauthorizes "the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant program through fiscal year 2003." Public Law 108-41 authorizes "the use of certain grant funds to establish an information clearinghouse that provides information to increase public access to defibrillation in schools." Public Law 108-81 reauthorizes "the Museum and Library Services Act." Public Laws 108-88, 108-202, 108-224, 108-263, 108-280, and 108-310 "provide an extension of highway, highway safety, motor carrier safety, transit, and other programs funded out of the Highway Trust Fund pending enactment of a law reauthorizing the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century." Public Law 108-96 reauthorizes "programs under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and the Missing Children's Assistance Act." Public Law 108-145 reauthorizes "the adoption incentive payments program under part E of title IV of the Social Security Act." Public Law 108-146 authorizes "communities to use community development block grant funds for construction of tornado-safe shelters in manufactured home parks." Public Law 108-158 reauthorizes "the Overseas Private Investment Corporation." Public Law 108-160 reauthorizes "the United States Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution." Public Law 108-161 authorizes "the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a loan repayment program regarding the provision of veterinary services in shortage situations." Public Law 108-168 reauthorizes the National Transportation Safety Board. Public Law 108-169 reauthorizes the United States Fire Administration. Public Law 108-174 reauthorizes the ban on undetectable firearms. Public Law 108-176 reauthorizes programs for the Federal Aviation Administration. Public Law 108-195 reauthorizes the Defense Production Act of 1950. Public Law 108-210 reauthorizes the "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant program." Public Law 108-238 authorizes "assistance for the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum and Justice Learning Center." Public Laws 108-262 and 108-308 reauthorize "the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant program." Public Law 108-323 reauthorizes "the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998." Public Law 108-331 authorizes "the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution to carry out construction and related activities in support of the collaborative Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) project on Kitt Peak near Tucson, Arizona." Public Law 108-343 authorizes and facilitates (after a land exchange to be discussed later) "hydroelectric power licensing of the Tapoco Project" in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Public Law 108-360 reauthorizes the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. Public Law 108-372 reauthorizes the State Justice Institute. Public Law 108-373 reauthorizes and improves "the programs authorized by the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965." Public Law 108-383 reauthorizes the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Public Law 108-386 authorizes "improvements in the operations of the government of the District of Columbia." Public Law 108-425 amends "the Tijuana River Valley Estuary and Beach Sewage Cleanup Act of 2000 to extend the authorization of appropriations." Public Law 108-439 authorizes "additional appropriations for the Reclamation Safety of Dams Act of 1978." Public Law 108-446 reauthorizes "the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act." Public Law 108-456 reauthorizes "the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998." Public Law 108-480 authorizes "funds for an educational center for the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument."
There is one authorization that I forgot. Public Law 108-179 institutes the "Torture Victims Relief Reauthorization Act of 2003," which amends the "Torture Victims Relief Act of 1998." This authorizes "appropriations for FY 2004 and 2005 to: (1) the Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants to programs in the United States to cover the costs of services provided by domestic treatment centers in the rehabilitation of victims of torture (including treatment of the physical and psychological effects of torture), social and legal services, and research and training of health care providers outside of treatment centers or programs to enable them to provide such services; (2) the President for grants to treatment centers and programs in foreign countries that carry out projects and activities specifically designed to treat victims of torture for the physical and psychological effects of torture; and (3) the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture." But wait, Congress forgot something. There is another group that should have received appropriations from this law: the Abu Ghraib prisoners who were tortured by the U.S. military.
All of these appropriations and authorizations cost money. But what if the government doesn't have the money it needs? No problem, it can always borrow it. Public Law 108-24 "amends Federal law to increase the statutory limit on the public debt from $6.4 trillion to $7.384 trillion." Public Law 108-415 does the same thing, but the new limit is now $8.184 trillion. It was a mere ten years ago that the government debt was "only" about $5 trillion. And ten years before that it was under $2 trillion. It is interesting that not a single Democrat in the House voted for the bill (S. 2986) that became Public Law 108-415. Only ten Republicans voted against it, including of course, Ron Paul. In the Senate, two Democrats voted for the bill and only one Republican voted against it.
What's in a Name?
About 20 percent of the new laws given to us by the 108th Congress concern a subject of grave importance that is a high priority for most Americans: the naming of buildings. Most of these buildings are post offices. The 108th Congress sent 89 bills to the president to sign into law so that a post office could either be designated (76) or redesignated (13) as the "XYZ Post Office." A typical law of this nature is Public Law 108-120, which is titled as follows: "To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 135 East Olive Avenue in Burbank, California, as the ‘Bob Hope Post Office Building.'"
Other buildings named by an act of Congress include a Department of Defense school in Guam (PL 108-13), a new regional headquarters building for the National Park Service (PL 108-37), the visitor center at the Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona (PL 108-64), the United States Geological Survey and the United States Bureau of Reclamation (PL 108-462), and various federal buildings and court houses. Sometimes a law does double duty, naming at the same time a courthouse and a post office (PL 108-273) or a courthouse and a federal building (PL 108-467).
But in addition to the new public laws that name buildings, there are also some that name other things. Public Law 108-189 renames the "Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940" the "Servicemembers Civil Relief Act." Public Law 108-208 "designates specified archaeological sites in New Mexico as the Galisteo Basin Archaeological Protection Sites." Public Law 108-267 redesignates "the American Indian Education Foundation as the National Fund for Excellence in American Indian Education." Public Law 108-342 designates "El Camino Real de los Tejas as a National Historic Trail." Public Law 108-345 redesignates "the Ridges Basin Reservoir, Colorado, as Lake Nighthorse." Public Law 108-387 redesignates the "Fort Clatsop National Memorial as the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park." Public Law 108-391 designates "the space science learning center in Downey, California, as the "Columbia Memorial Space Science Learning Center." Public Law 108-400 renames "the Colorado Canyons National Conservation Area as the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area."
But why does it take an act of Congress to name a building? And why does a federal building have to be named after someone in the first place? Although these laws are frivolous, they don't increase the power of the state or infringe upon anyone's rights. However, they do entail some costs to the taxpayers for things like plaques to post the official name of the building and the expenses of printing and recording the new law. But on a positive note, if Congress just spent its time naming buildings instead of making appropriations and reauthorizations, no man's life, liberty, or property would ever be in jeopardy when the legislature is in session.
Aside from the naming of buildings, federal land is another category with a large number of new laws. This is no surprise since the federal government is the largest landowner in the United States, owning over 90 percent of the state of Nevada and almost 50 percent of the state of California.
Many of these land laws concern the changing of boundaries. This usually entails an increase in federal land. There were a myriad of laws passed for the purpose of revising, adjusting, modifying, expanding, or clarifying the boundaries of "the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Complex and the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge" (PL 108-23), "the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in the States of Utah and Arizona" (PL 108-43), "the Mount Naomi Wilderness Area" (PL 108-95), "the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area in Colorado" (PL 108-128), "the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park in Hawaii" (PL 108-142), "Harpers Ferry National Historical Park" (PL 108-307), "Mount Rainier National Park" (PL 108-312), "the Johnstown Flood National Memorial in the State of Pennsylvania" (PL 108-313), "the Fort Donelson National Battlefield" (PL 108-367), "the John H. Chafee Coast Barrier Resources System Cedar Keys Unit P25 on Otherwise Protected Area P25P" (PL 108-380), "the John Muir National Historic Site" (PL 108-385), "Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma" (PL 108-389), "Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in the State of Missouri" (PL 108-394), "the Harry S Truman National Historic Site in the State of Missouri" (PL 108-396), and "the Petrified Forest National Park in the State of Arizona" (PL 108-430).
Other land laws that don't specifically mention boundaries in their title nevertheless involve the changing of boundaries as well. Public Law 108-32 directs the Secretary of the Interior "to acquire specified State lands within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park by donation, purchase, or exchange for specified Federal lands of equal value in Wyoming." Public Law 108-131 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior "to acquire the property in Cecil County, Maryland, known as Garrett Island for inclusion in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge." Public Law 108-229 expands the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan. Public Law 108-321 modifies the boundaries of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in Nassau County, Florida. Public Law 108-387 "authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to acquire land, interests in land, and improvements therein" within the park boundaries of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Public Law 108-481 provides "for the expansion of Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge" in Hawaii.
The federal government sometimes conveys some of its land to other parties. Public Law 108-67 directs the Secretary of Agriculture "to convey certain land in the lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Nevada, to the Secretary of the Interior, in trust for the Washoe Indian Tribe of Nevada and California." Public Law 108-206 authorizes "the conveyance of a small parcel of Bureau of Land Management land in Douglas County, Oregon, to the county." Public Law 108-230 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture "to convey certain Mendocino National Forest System lands in Lake County, California, to the owner of Faraway Ranch property, Lake County, California." Public Law 108-305 provides "for the conveyance of the real property located at 1081 West Main Street in Ravenna, Ohio," to Portage County, Ohio. Public Law 108-325 authorizes "a land conveyance between the United State and the City of Craig, Alaska." Public Law 108-338 "directs the Secretary of Agriculture to convey certain National Forest System land in Arkansas for cemetery use to the Hope Cemetery Association, Arkansas." Public Law 108-381 provides "for the conveyance of several small parcels of National Forest System land in the Apalachicola National Forest, Florida, to resolve boundary discrepancies involving the Mt. Trial Primitive Baptist Church of Wakulla County, Florida." Public Law 108-382 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior "to convey certain lands and facilities of the Provo River Project" to "the Provo River Water Users Association." Public Law 108-452 facilitates the transfer of federal land in Alaska to the State of Alaska.
Some of these federal land laws involve land exchanges. Public Law 108-152 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture "to sell or exchange certain land in the State of Florida." Public Law 108-190 directs the Secretary of Agriculture "to convey to certain private land owners specified lands in the Tonto National Forest" and "lands northeast of Payson, Arizona" in exchange for "the conveyance by such land owners of certain lands adjacent to the Montezuma Castle National Monument" and "certain lands within the Coconino National Forest" and "certain lands within the Tonto National Forest." Public Law 108-314 "authorizes the exchange of certain lands within the Martin Luther King, Junior, National Historic Site for lands owned by the City of Atlanta, Georgia." Public Law 108-346 directs the Secretary of Agriculture "to exchange certain lands in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in the State of Colorado." Public Law 108-350 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture "to sell or exchange all or part of certain administrative sites and other land in the Ozark-St. Francis and Ouachita National Forests and to use funds derived from the sale or exchange to acquire, construct, or improve administrative sites." Public Law 108-417 authorizes "an exchange of land at Fort Frederica National Monument." Public Law 108-436 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture "to sell or exchange all or part of certain parcels of National Forest System land in the State of Idaho and use the proceeds derived from the sale or exchange for National Forest System purposes." Public Law 108-343 concerns a land exchange with "Alcoa Power Generating Inc. (APGI) upon conveyance by APGI of acceptable title to certain land adjacent to the APGI power line within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park." Public Law 108-483 authorizes "the exchange of certain land in Everglades National Park."
A federal land law can be quite complicated. Consider two abovementioned land exchange laws. Public Law 108-417 authorized "an exchange of land at Fort Frederica National Monument." The underlying bill, H.R. 1113, is very brief, and simply says that the Secretary of the Interior is authorized "to convey to Christ Church of St. Simons Island, Georgia, certain land within the boundary of Fort Frederica National Monument adjacent to Christ Church in exchange for other land to be acquired by Christ Church." It also directs the Secretary "to administer the acquired land as part of the Fort Frederica National Monument." But contrast this with Public Law 108-346, which directed the Secretary of Agriculture "to exchange certain lands in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests in the State of Colorado." This looks like a simple thing until the text of the underlying bill is examined. The bill discusses appraisals, surveys, time limits, permits, donations, use of the land, cash equalization payments, the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, boundary modifications, and "the construction of approximately 140 feet of water pipeline on or near the existing course of the Lindstrom ditch through the Federal land."
Some new laws relate to the possible inclusion of land into a national park. Public Law 108-42 "requires the Secretary of the Interior to conduct and report to specified congressional committees on a special resource study" of certain areas in California "for potential inclusion in the National Park System." Public Law 108-63 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior "to acquire the McLoughlin House (the McLoughlin House National Historic Site, including the Barclay House and other associated property and improvements) Oregon City, Oregon, from willing sellers by donation, purchase, or exchange" and "requires that the acquired property be included within the boundaries and administered as part of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site." Public Law 108-93 directs the Secretary of the Interior "to conduct a special resource study to determine the national significance of the Miami Circle site in the State of Florida as well as the suitability and feasibility of its inclusion in the National Park System as part of Biscayne National Park." Public Law 108-94 directs the Secretary of the Interior "to conduct a study of Coltsville in the State of Connecticut for potential inclusion in the National Park System." Public Law 108-192 "directs the Secretary of the Interior "to establish as a unit of the National Park System the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site in the District of Columbia." Public Law 108-340 directs the Secretary of the Interior "to conduct a study on the preservation and interpretation of the historic sites of the Manhattan Project for potential inclusion in the National Park System." Public Law 108-438 establishes "the Kate Mullany National Historic Site in the State of New York" as "an affiliated area of the National Park System." And speaking of national parks, Public Law 108-352 makes "technical corrections to laws relating to certain units of the National Park System and to National Park Programs."
Then there are other new laws concerning federal land. Public Law 108-62 "authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to grant an easement to Otoe County, Nebraska, for the purpose of constructing and maintaining an access road between the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska, and certain roads." Public Law 108-148 is designed "to improve the capacity of the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to conduct hazardous fuels reduction projects on National Forest System lands and Bureau of Land Management lands," mainly for the purpose of protecting "communities, watersheds, and certain other at-risk lands from catastrophic wildfire." A similar law is Public Law 108-317, which establishes "Institutes to demonstrate and promote the use of adaptive ecosystem management to reduce the risk of wildfires, and restore the health of fire-adapted forest and woodland ecosystems of the interior West." Public Law 108-208 provides "for the protection of archaeological sites in the Galisteo Basin in New Mexico." Public Law 108-268 provides "for the transfer of the Nebraska Avenue Naval Complex in the District of Columbia to facilitate the establishment of the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security." Public Law 108-269 directs the Secretary of Agriculture "to sell the, Bend Pine Nursery Administration Site in the State of Oregon." Public Law 108-279 "establishes procedures for resolving the status of Federal land in Barry and Stone Counties, Missouri, claimed by private property owners." Public Law 108-341 transfers "federal lands between the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior." Public Law 108-421 will "assist the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania in conserving priority lands and natural resources in the Highlands region." Public Law 108-424 is supposed to "establish wilderness areas, promote conservation, improve public land, and provide for the high quality development in Lincoln County, Nevada." Public Law 108-460 provides "for the conveyance of Federal lands, improvements, equipment, and resource materials at the Oxford Research Station in Granville County, North Carolina, to the State of North Carolina." Public Law 108-485 authorizes "the Secretary of Commerce to make available to the University of Miami property under the administrative jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Virginia Key, Florida, for use by the University for a Marine Life Science Center." There are discussed below seven new laws that concern Indian lands.
The titles of some of these federal land laws contain the dubious phrase "and for other purposes." For example, the just-mentioned Public Law 108-424 actually does a variety of things in Nevada. It "designates certain Federal land in Nevada as wilderness." It "directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct specified sales of land identified for initial or annual disposal to qualified bidders" and "to establish a specified corridor for utilities" in two counties and "to conduct a study to investigate ground water quantity, quality, and flow characteristics in the deep carbonate and alluvial aquifers of White Pine County." It also authorizes the Secretary to grant certain rights-of-way, to relinquish others, and "to convey specified land to Lincoln County and the State of Nevada to be used for natural resources conservation or public parks." And most importantly, this law "designates a specified system of trails in Lincoln County as the ‘Silver State Off-Highway Vehicle Trail.'"
Don't be an Indian Giver
American Indians were made U.S. citizens and given the right to vote in 1925. Isn't it time we did away with the Bureau of Indian Affairs? There are 562 federal recognized tribal governments in the United States. In addition to providing "education services" to about 48,000 Indian students, this bureau is responsible for "the administration and management of 55.7 million acres of land held in trust by the United States for American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives." The Bureau of Indian Affairs develops forestlands, leases assets on the forestlands, directs agricultural programs, protects water and land rights, develops and maintains infrastructure, and promotes economic development.
It is no surprise then that seven new federal land laws concern Indian land. Public Law 108-32 "requires the Secretary of the Interior to take legal title of specified lands in the Gila and Salt River Base and Meridian into trust for the benefit of the Zuni tribe." Public Law 108-66 "declares the right, title, and interest of the United States in certain tracts of land in Rio Arriba County and in Rio Arriba and Santa Fe Counties, New Mexico, to be held in trust for the Pueblo of Santa Clara and the Pueblo of San Ildefonso, respectively (including mineral rights), as part of the Santa Clara Reservation and the San Ildefonso Reservation." Public Law 108-204 "amends the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians Recognition Act concerning certain Oregon land conveyed by the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe to the Secretary of the Interior to hold in trust for them." It "declares that real property taken into trust shall be treated as on-reservation land for the purpose of processing acquisitions of real property into trust." Public Law 108-278 institutes the "Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004," and authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior "to enter into an agreement or contract with Indian tribes meeting certain criteria to carry out projects to protect Indian forest land." Public Law 108-329 amends "the Act of November 2, 1966 (80 Stat. 1112), to allow binding arbitration clauses to be included in all contracts affecting the land within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation." Public Law 108-374 institutes the "American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004," and amends "the Indian Land Consolidation Act to improve provisions relating to probate of trust and restricted land." Public Law 108-389 institutes the "Chickasaw National Recreation Area Land Exchange Act of 2004." It "directs the Secretary of the Interior, not later than six months after the Chickasaw Nation conveys all interest in specified non-Federal land (formerly owned by the City of Sulphur, Oklahoma, located adjacent to the existing boundary of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area), to take specified Federal land (in that Area) into trust for the benefit of the Chickasaw Nation."
Then there are other new laws concerning American Indians that do not concern land. Public Law 108-22 institutes the "Gila River Indian Community Judgment Fund Distribution Act of 2003," and "requires the per capita distribution of funds paid in settlement of claims made in Docket Nos. 236-C and 236-D, Gila River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community v. United States, to enrolled members of the Gila River Indian Community (Arizona)." Related to this is Public Law 108-451, which authorizes "the Gila River Indian Community water rights settlement," and "requires the Secretary of the Interior and the State of Arizona to develop a firming program to ensure the availability of a specified amount of agricultural priority water to Arizona Indian tribes during water shortages." The aforementioned Public Law 108-32 institutes the "Zuni Indian Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2003." This "ratifies the Settlement Agreement concerning Zuni Indian Tribe water rights claims in the Little Colorado River basin, Arizona" and authorizes appropriations. The aforementioned Public Law 108-204 institutes the "Native American Technical Corrections Act of 2004," which makes "technical amendments" and contains "other provisions relating to Native Americans." Public Law 108-222 provides "for the distribution of judgment funds to the Cowlitz Indian Tribe." Public Law 108-267 "amends the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act." Public Law 108-270 provides "for the use and distribution of the funds awarded to the Western Shoshone identifiable group under Indian Claims Commission Docket Numbers 326-A-1, 326-A-3, and 326-K." Public Law 108-322 commemorates "the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian." Public Law 108-336 institutes the "Southern Ute and Colorado Intergovernmental Agreement Implementation Act of 2004," which provides "for the implementation of air quality programs developed in accordance with an Intergovernmental Agreement between the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the State of Colorado concerning Air Quality Control on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation." Public Law 108-431 reaffirms "the inherent sovereign rights of the Osage Tribe to determine its membership and form of government." Public Law 108-437 institutes the "Three Affiliated Tribes Health Facility Compensation Act" by amending the "Three Affiliated Tribes and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Equitable Compensation Act." It implements "the recommendations of the Garrison Unit Joint Tribal Advisory Committee by providing authorization for the construction of a rural health care facility on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota."
Since the Bureau of Indian Affairs also handles Alaska Natives, there are two new laws that relate to them. Public Law 108-129 authorizes "the exchange of lands between an Alaska Native Village Corporation and the Department of the Interior." Public Law 108-337 institutes the "Alaska Native Allotment Subdivision Act," and "authorizes an Alaskan Native owner of restricted land (land in Alaska subject to Federal restrictions against alienation and taxation), with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, to: (1) subdivide the restricted land in accordance with State laws or applicable local platting authority; and (2) execute a certificate of ownership and dedication regarding such land with the same effect under State law as if the subdivided and dedicated land were held by unrestricted fee simple title."
Go for the Gold
Five new public laws are for the purpose of awarding a congressional gold medal to nine individuals: Tony Blair, Jackie Robinson, Dorothy Height, Joseph A. DeLaine, Harry and Eliza Briggs, Levi Pearson, Martin Luther King, and Coretta Scott King. Previous recipients have included Howard Hughes, Jesse Owens, and Rosa Parks. These medals cost considerably more than plaques for buildings, but at least Congress only awarded eight of them. Another award given by Congress is the result of Public Law 108-234 — "To provide for the establishment of separate campaign medals to be awarded to members of the uniformed services who participate in Operation Enduring Freedom and . . . Operation Iraqi Freedom." But since this war was unconstitutional from the very beginning, and since there is still no freedom in Iraq (after the senseless deaths of over 1,300 American servicemen), no taxpayer money should be wasted on these medals either.
Free Trade or Managed Trade?
There are nine new laws that relate to trade. Even though some of them are about free trade, reading them ought to dispel forever the myth that the United States has a free trade policy.
Four of these laws are for the purpose of implementing free trade agreements with the countries of Chile (PL 108-77), Singapore (PL 108-78), Australia (PL 108-286), and Morocco (PL 108-302). But rather than simply stating that the United States will practice free trade with these countries, these laws are free trade laws in name only. Every one of them is very long and very complex. A genuine law implementing free trade would only take one sentence.
But even as it preaches the benefits of free trade for some countries, Congress gives preferential treatment to other countries and prohibits free trade with still other countries. Public Law 108-61 "prohibits the importation into the United States of any article that is a product of Burma (Myanmar) until the President determines and certifies to Congress that Burma has met certain conditions." Public Law 108-272 "renews import restrictions" on products from Burma, even though one of the co-sponsors of the bill that became this law acknowledged that the State Department noted that the Burma import restrictions have caused 50,000 to 60,000 workers in Burma to lose their jobs. Public Law 108-274 grants preferential treatment under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to "apparel made from fabrics or yarns listed in Annex 401 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) without regard to the origin of the fabrics or yarns." And what would we do without Public Law 108-19 "directs the President to prohibit the importation into, or exportation from, the United States of any rough diamond, from whatever source, that has not been controlled through the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme."
Anyone who is still not convinced that the United States does not have a free trade policy ought to read Public Law 108-429, which amends "the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States to modify temporarily certain rates of duty" and makes "other technical amendments to the trade laws." These complex amendments to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule concern "Temporary Duty Suspensions and Reductions," "New Duty Suspensions and Reductions," "Existing Duty Suspensions and Reductions," "Liquidation or Reliquidation of Certain Entries," "Miscellaneous Provisions," "Other Trade Provisions," and "Technical Amendments Relating to Entry and Protest."
There are in this law "New Duty Suspensions and Reductions" on chemicals and dyes, plastics, helium, acrylic fiber tow, compound metals, cases for certain children's products, children's products, optical instruments used in children's products, epoxy molding compounds, textile machinery, filament yarns, pesticides and herbicides, refracting and reflecting telescopes, rubber riding boots, a specified ink, sawing machines, manufacturing equipment, thermal release plastic film, silver paints and pastes, polymer masking material for aluminum capacitors, necks used in cathode ray tubes, combed cashmere and camel hair yarn, carded cashmere yarn, rayon filament yarns, tire cord fabric, carbon dioxide cartridges, high-performance loudspeakers, 12-volt batteries, prepared or preserved artichokes, low expansion laboratory glass, stoppers, lids, and other closures, railway car body shells for electric multiple units (EMUs), railway passenger coaches, railway EMU gallery commuter coaches of stainless steel, snowboard boots, hand-held radio scanners, mobile and base radio scanners, fine animal hair of Kashmir (cashmere) goats, R-core transformers, decorative plates, night vision monoculars, satellite radio broadcasting apparatus, acephate (a chemical), and bags for certain toys.
And here is a typical example of a "Liquidation or Reliquidation of Certain Entries": "Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to admit free of duty into the United States a replica of the Liberty Bell imported from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry of London, England, by the Liberty Memorial Association of Green Bay and Brown County, Wisconsin, for use by the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Brown County, Wisconsin."
Six new laws relate to the coining of money. Public Law 108-15 "authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to change the design on the obverse and reverse sides of five-cent coins issued in 2003, 2004, and 2005, in recognition of the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase and the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark." Public Law 108-289 provides "for the issuance of a coin to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement." Public Law 108-290 requires "the Secretary of the Treasury too mint coins in commemoration of Chief Justice John Marshall." Public Law 108-291 requires "the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the 230th Anniversary of the United States Marine Corps." All sales of these one-dollar Marine Corps coins include a surcharge of $10 per coin to be paid "to the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation for construction of the Marine Corps Heritage Center." Public Law 108-464 requires "the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the tercentenary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin." Public Law 108-486 requires "the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins celebrating the recovery and restoration of the American bald eagle." Since Congress is authorized by the Constitution in Article I, Section 8, "to coin money," I suppose that these are some of the few laws that could be considered constitutional. Whether they are necessary is another matter.
Foreign Aid or Foreign Bribery?
The United States gives more countries (actually foreign governments) foreign aid than any other country in the world. But this also means that the United States takes more of its citizens' money than any other country in the world. In 2003, $37.8 billion of taxpayers' money was taken and given. The next largest foreign aid budget ($12.2 billion) was the Netherlands. Besides the money appropriated for foreign aid, there are three new laws that basically amount to foreign aid. Congress has committed the U.S. taxpayers to increasing assistance for "the poorest people in developing countries" (PL 108-31), combating HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in foreign countries (PL 108-25), and assisting in the "conservation of marine turtles and the nesting habitats of marine turtles in foreign countries" (PL 108-266).
National Interest or National Intervention?
The United States has appointed itself to be both the world's mother and the world's policeman. Besides bribing countries with foreign aid, or the threat of withholding foreign aid, the United States meddles all over the globe in other ways.
The aforementioned Public Law 108-61 institutes the "Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003." It is supposed to "sanction the ruling Burmese military junta," "strengthen Burma's democratic forces" and "support and recognize the National League of Democracy as the legitimate representative of the Burmese people." Among other things, it "authorizes the President to use all available resources to assist Burmese democracy activists dedicated to nonviolent opposition to the regime in their efforts to promote freedom, democracy, and human rights in Burma." But it also pledges "resources that will be necessary for the reconstruction of Burma after the SPDC is removed from power."
Public Law 108-175 is designed to "halt Syrian support for terrorism, end its occupation of Lebanon, stop its development of weapons of mass destruction, cease its illegal importation of Iraqi oil and illegal shipments of weapons and other military items to Iraq, and by so doing hold Syria accountable for the serious international security problems it has caused in the Middle East, and for other purposes."
Public Law 108-283 requires "a report on the conflict in Uganda." How many members of Congress could locate Uganda on a map of Africa?
Public Law 108-332 requires "a report on acts of anti-Semitism around the world." This is the "Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004." Has the government ever considered the possibility that U.S. intervention in Muslim countries might have the result of increasing anti-Semitism because of our historic association with Israel?
Public Law 108-333 is for the purpose of promoting "human rights and freedom in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." This is the "North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004." Among other things, it authorizes the President to "provide grants to private, nonprofit organizations to promote human rights, democracy, rule of law, and the development of a market economy in North Korea" and "increase the availability of information inside North Korea by increasing the availability of information sources not controlled by the Government of North Korea." We have had troops in Korea for over fifty years. I think it is time to bring them home and let South Korea worry about North Korea. The United States has plenty of defense contractors who can supply South Korea with anything it needs to defend itself against the starving people of North Korea.
Public Law 108-347 provides "for the promotion of democracy, human rights, and rule of law in the Republic of Belarus and for the consolidation and strengthening of Belarus sovereignty and independence." This is the "Belarus Democracy Act of 2004." It authorizes the President "to support primarily indigenous Belarusian groups that are committed to the support of democratic processes." But it also makes demands of Belarus and threatens the country with sanctions.
Public Law 108-484 institutes the "Microenterprise Results and Accountability Act of 2004," and amends "the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to improve the results and accountability of microenterprise development assistance programs." It does this by authorizing "microenterprise development grant assistance in developing countries." This law "targets 50 percent of microenterprise assistance for very poor clients." It "establishes the Office of Microenterprise Development within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which shall be responsible for approving and administering assistance under this title to eligible partner organizations." It "directs USAID, by October 30, 2004, to develop and certify for use at least two poverty measurement methods for partner organization use, which shall be used by such organizations no later than October 1, 2005." And here is the bottom line: It also "authorizes FY 2005 and 2006 appropriations."
Public Law 108-497 expresses "the sense of Congress regarding the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, to provide assistance for the crisis in Darfur and for comprehensive peace in Sudan." This is the "Comprehensive Peace in Sudan Act of 2004." But this law does more than express the sense of Congress. Among other things, it "directs the President to implement specified sanctions in support of peace in Darfur, including blocking the assets of senior Sudanese officials," and "authorizes the President to provide non-military assistance to areas that were outside the Government of Sudan's control as of April 8, 2004."
A Federal Offense
More and more "crimes" are becoming federal offences.
Public Law 108-21 institutes the "Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation of Children Today Act of 2003 or PROTECT Act." This is an act "to prevent child abduction and the sexual exploitation of children." This is a long and complex law, and contains some provisions that could be abused by the federal government, such as: "Authorizes the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications in the investigation of kidnaping, sex trafficking, specified sex offenses against children, or transportation for illegal sexual activity."
Public Law 108-29 institutes the "Veterans' Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act of 2003," which establishes "criminal penalties for willfully injuring or destroying or attempting to injure or destroy any structure, plaque, statue, or other monument on public property commemorating the service of any person(s) in the U.S. armed forces." Sounds good, but if the United States just stopped engaging in senseless foreign wars and interventions, the number of veterans and the need for memorials would decrease.
Public Law 108-36 instituted the "Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003." It amends "the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to make improvements to and reauthorize programs under that Act." But it also amends the Amends the "Family Violence Prevention and Services Act" and the "Abandoned Infants Assistance Act of 1988" and the "Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act of 1978."
Public Law 108-38 expresses "the sense of Congress with respect to raising awareness and encouraging prevention of sexual assault in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month."
Public Law 108-68 amends the PROTECT Act (Public Law 108-21) "to limit the liability of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (or a director, officer, employee, or agent) for volunteers in connection with a pilot program for volunteer groups to obtain national and State criminal history background checks through a 10-fingerprint check to be conducted utilizing State criminal records and the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."
Public Law 108-79 provides "for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations, and funding to protect individuals from prison rape." The United States is the world's largest prison camp. But thank God we keep dangerous criminals like Martha Stewart off the streets.
Public Law 108-105 institutes the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003." It "amends the Federal criminal code to prohibit any physician or other individual from knowingly performing a partial-birth abortion." However, it contains an exception: "Except when necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury."
Public Law 108-159 amends "the Fair Credit Reporting Act" with the "Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003." It is designed to "prevent identity theft," "improve resolution of consumer disputes," "improve the accuracy of consumer records," and "make improvements in the use of, and consumer access to, credit information."
Public Law 108-187 institutes the "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003." This is also called the "CAN-SPAM Act of 2003," since it regulates interstate commerce "by imposing limitations and penalties on the transmission of unsolicited commercial electronic mail via the Internet." It "sets forth the determination of Congress that: (1) there is a substantial government interest in regulation of commercial electronic mail (spam); (2) senders of spam should not mislead recipients as to the source or content of such mail; and (3) recipients of spam have a right to decline to receive additional spam from the same source." It also "expresses the sense of Congress that: (1) spam has become the method of choice for those who distribute pornography, perpetrate fraudulent schemes, and introduce viruses, worms, and Trojan horses into personal and business computer systems; and (2) the Department of Justice should use all existing law enforcement tools to investigate and prosecute those who send bulk commercial e-mail to facilitate the commission of Federal crimes." By invoking the commerce clause of the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 8, Par. 3), Congress can do just about anything.
Public Law 108-191 amends the "Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 to further the conservation of certain wildlife species." This is the "Captive Wildlife Safety Act." It defines "‘prohibited wildlife species' as any live species of lion, tiger, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, or cougar or any hybrid of such species," and "declares it a prohibited act for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any prohibited wildlife species." Thank God the government is so concerned about animals. It is too bad that the state is not equally as concerned with human life.
Public Law 108-198 institutes the "Preserving Independence of Financial Institution Examinations Act of 2003." This law "amends Federal criminal law to subject to criminal penalties: (1) personnel of a financial institution who offer a loan or gratuity to a financial institution examiner; and (2) a financial institution examiner who accepts such loan or gratuity."
Public Law 108-212 institutes the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004," by amending "title 18, United States Code, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice to protect unborn children from assault and murder." This looks good on the surface since it "provides that persons who commit certain Federal violent crimes . . . and thereby cause the death of, or bodily injury to, a child who is in utero shall be guilty of a separate offense." However, it "bars prosecution under this Act: (1) of any person for conduct relating to an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman (or a person authorized by law to act on her behalf) has been obtained or is implied by law or for conduct relating to any medical treatment of the pregnant woman or her unborn child; or (2) of any woman with respect to her unborn child."
Public Law 108-275 institutes the "Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act," and establishes "penalties for aggravated identity theft." It "prescribes sentences, to be imposed in addition to the punishments provided for the related felonies, of: (1) two years' imprisonment for knowingly transferring, possessing, or using, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person during and in relation to specified felony violations (including theft of public property, theft by a bank officer or employee, theft from employee benefit plans, various fraud and immigration offenses, and false statements regarding Social Security and Medicare benefits); and (2) five years' imprisonment for knowingly taking such action with respect to a means of identification or a false identification document during and in relation to specified felony violations pertaining to terrorist acts."
Public Law 108-277 institutes the "Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004," and amends "title 18, United States Code, to exempt qualified current and former law enforcement officers from State laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed handguns."
Public Law 108-281 "amends the E-Government Act of 2002 to provide for court rules allowing parties in a Federal court proceeding to file under seal a reference list that would include both a complete and partially-redacted version of protected information (e.g., Social Security numbers and credit card account numbers) contained in pleadings."
Public Law 108-299 "amends the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002." It does this by extending some deadlines relating to the installation of "software capable of processing machine-readable, tamper-resistant entry and exit documents and passports that contain biometric identifiers."
Public Law 108-304 designates "certain conduct by sports agents relating to the signing of contracts with student athletes as unfair and deceptive acts or practices to be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission."
Public Law 108-358 institutes the "Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004." It "amends the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 to modify the definition of ‘anabolic steroid' to include tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), androstenedione, and specified related chemicals." But it also "directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to review the Federal sentencing guidelines with respect to offenses involving anabolic steroids and consider amending such guidelines to provide for increased penalties."
Public Law 108-370 amends "the International Child Abduction Remedies Act to limit the tort liability of private entities or organizations that carry out responsibilities of United States Central Authority under that Act."
Public Law 108-482 is for the purpose of preventing and punishing "counterfeiting of copyrighted copies and phonorecords." It does this by rewriting "Federal criminal code provisions regarding trafficking in counterfeit labels." Thus, the new definition of ‘counterfeit label' includes "a genuine label that is: (1) distributed for a product for which it was not intended, without authorization of the copyright owner; or (2) altered to falsify the number of authorized copies, the authorized user, or the edition of the program."
Public Law 108-495 institutes the "Video Voyeurism Prevention Act of 2004." It "amends the Federal criminal code to prohibit knowingly videotaping, photographing, filming, recording by any means, or broadcasting an image of a private area of an individual, without that individual's consent, under circumstances in which that individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy. It further defines a "private area" as "the naked or undergarment clad genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast of an individual." However, the government is exempt from this act. The prohibition is "inapplicable to lawful law enforcement, correctional, or intelligence activity."
Death and Taxes
Ben Franklin's statement is still true: "In the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." The government will make sure of the latter and sometimes the former.
Public Law 108-27 institutes the "Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003." It contains several provisions. Among other things, it "amends the Internal Revenue Code to accelerate the increase to the $1,000 child tax credit to include 2003 and 2004," it "accelerates the increase in the 15 percent bracket for joint filers," it "accelerates the increase in the standard deduction for joint filers," and it "accelerates to 2003 individual income tax rate reductions scheduled to begin in 2006." It also contains "growth incentives" for business and a reduction in taxes on dividends and capital gains.
Public Law 108-121 institutes the "Military Family Tax Relief Act of 2003." Among other things, it "doubles, from $6,000 to $12,000, the military death gratuity payment and amends the Internal Revenue Code to provide that the full payment shall be tax exempt." It also extends "for ten years the five-year period utilized in determining full exclusion of gain from the sale of a principal residence."
Public Law 108-311 institutes the "Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004." It amends the Internal Revenue Code to repeal scheduled reductions of "the $1,000 child tax credit," "the standard deduction for married taxpayers," "the threshold taxable income level applicable to married taxpayers eligible for the 15 percent tax bracket," "the threshold taxable income level applicable to married taxpayers eligible for the ten percent tax bracket," and "the refundability of the child tax credit." It also "extends through 2005 the increased exemption from the alternative minimum tax for individual taxpayers" and "treats combat zone compensation (otherwise excludable from gross income) as earned income for purposes of calculating the refundable portion of the child tax credit." We are supposed to be grateful to the government for taking a little bit less of our money (and we are), but it would be better if the government took a lot less, which it could easily do if it did not spend so much of the taxpayers' money.
Public Law 108-326 clarifies "the tax treatment of bonds and other obligations issued by the Government of American Samoa."
Public Law 108-357 institutes the "American Jobs Creation Act of 2004." It amends the Internal Revenue Code in a number of ways that are supposed to help corporations and small businesses. Given the government's track record, this remains to be seen.
Public Law 108-435 institutes the "Internet Tax Nondiscrimination Act." This is supposed to "make permanent the moratorium on taxes on Internet access and multiple and discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce imposed by the Internet Tax Freedom Act." On the surface this looks like a good law; however, things are not always what they seem — especially when dealing with the federal government. There is nothing permanent about this law. It "amends the Internet Tax Freedom Act to extend the ban on State taxation of Internet access and on multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce until November 1, 2007." But it doesn't ban all Internet taxes. It extends through the same date "the Internet access taxing authority of States that had a tax on Internet access prior to October 1, 1998" and "through November 1, 2005, the Internet access taxing authority of States that had a tax on Internet access as of November 1, 2003." It also "permits subjecting Internet access charges to taxation if they are aggregated with telecommunications service charges and the provider cannot identify them from regular business records." Then it states that nothing in the act shall "prevent the imposition of fees to preserve and advance Federal universal service (or similar State programs) or 911 or E-911 services."
Public Law 108-476 treats "certain arrangements maintained by the YMCA Retirement Fund as church plans for the purposes of certain provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986."
My favorite new tax law is Public Law 108-493, which amends "the Internal Revenue Code to revise the excise tax on arrows, effective after March 31, 2005, to: (1) impose a tax equal to 39 cents per arrow shaft on the first sale of such shaft (instead of a 12.4 percent tax on the sales price), with inflation adjustments on such 39-cent amount after 2005; and (2) include points suitable for use with arrows in the 11 percent excise tax on arrow parts and accessories."
Federal employees generally receive better pay and benefits than they could get in the private sector. If there is any doubt about this, just look at how many people apply for each new federal job. The 108th Congress has seen fit to enact several new laws relating to federal pay and benefits.
Public Law 108-92 amends "chapter 84 of title 5, United States Code, to provide that certain Federal annuity computations are adjusted by 1 percentage point relating to periods of receiving disability payments."
Public Law 108-196 is for the purpose of making "a report on the parity of pay and benefits among Federal law enforcement officers" and "establishing an exchange program between Federal law enforcement employees and State and local law enforcement employees."
Public Law 108-197 amends "the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Public Health Service Act to extend the mental health benefits parity provisions for an additional year."
Public Law 108-411 institutes the "Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2003." It "amends Federal employment law to allow the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to authorize the head of a Federal agency to pay a recruitment or relocation bonus to an individual appointed, moved, or relocated to a position likely to be difficult to fill in the absence of such a bonus, if the individual is a newly appointed Federal employee or current employee who moves to a new position in the same area or relocates to another position."
Public Law 108-445 amends "title 38, United States Code, to simplify and improve pay provisions for physicians and dentists and to authorize alternate work schedules and executive pay for nurses."
Public Law 108-469 amends "chapter 84 of title 5, United States Code, to provide for Federal employees to make elections to make, modify, and terminate contributions to the Thrift Savings Fund at any time."
Public Law 108-496 amends "part III of title 5, United States Code, to provide for the establishment of programs under which supplemental dental and vision benefits are made available to Federal employees, retirees, and their dependents, to expand the contracting authority of the Office of Personnel Management."
Some of these laws concern specific groups. Public Law 108-6 authorizes salary adjustments for Justices and judges of the United States for fiscal year 2003. Public Laws 108-167 and 108-491 do the same thing for 2004 and 2005. This means that they got a pay raise. Public Law 108-18 reforms "the funding of benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System for employees of the United States Postal Service." Better that all the employees of the Postal Service were retired and the free market handled mail delivery. Public Law 108-133 amends "the Policemen and Firemen's Retirement and Disability Act to permit military service previously performed by members and former members of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, the Fire Department of the District of Columbia, the United States Park Police, and the United States Secret Service to count as creditable service for purposes of calculating retirement annuities payable to such members upon payment of a contribution by such members, and for other purposes." Public Law 108-182 is to "ensure that a public safety officer who suffers a fatal heart attack or stroke while on duty shall be presumed to have died in the line of duty for purposes of public safety officer survivor benefits." Public Law 108-201 amends "the provisions of title 5, United States Code, to provide for workforce flexibilities and certain Federal personnel provisions relating to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration." Public Law 108-271 institutes the "GAO Human Capital Reform Act of 2004." This deals with the retirement of General Accounting Office employees. Public Law 108-489 amends "the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 to improve the administration of Federal pension benefit payments for District of Columbia teachers, police officers, and fire fighters."
Two of these laws specifically concern military personnel. Public Law 108-189 "provides certain protections for servicemembers against default judgments while in military service, including a minimum 90-day stay of proceedings, with respect to the payment of any tax, fine, penalty, insurance premium, or other civil obligation or liability." Public Law 108-220 requires "the Secretary of Defense to reimburse members of the United States Armed Forces for certain transportation expenses incurred by the members in connection with leave under the Central Command Rest and Recuperation Leave Program before the program was expanded to include domestic travel."
And four of these laws specifically concern veterans. Public Law 108-147 increases "the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities." Public Law 108-183 institutes the "Veterans Benefits Act of 2003," which concerns benefits for surviving spouses of veterans, former prisoners of war, Filipino veterans of World War II, and disabled military personnel. Public Law 108-363 increases "the rates of disability compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for survivors of certain service-connected disabled veterans." Public Law 108-454 amends "title 38, United States Code, to improve and enhance housing, education, and other benefits under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs."
Are You Entitled to Entitlements?
Income transfer programs are falsely called entitlement programs. In addition to entitlement spending in appropriations bills, we have the following.
Public Law 108-89 extends "the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant program, and certain tax and trade programs, and for other purposes."
Four new laws relate to unemployment benefits. Public Laws 108-1 and 108-26 extend unemployment benefits. Public Law 108-295 amends "titles III and IV of the Social Security Act to improve the administration of unemployment taxes and benefits." But since it is not the job of the government to pay its citizens with other citizens' money for not working, the whole unemployment system should be scrapped.
America's premier socialist program, Social Security, is the subject of two new laws. Public Law 108-127 amends "title XXI of the Social Security Act to make technical corrections with respect to the definition of qualifying State." Public Law 108-203 amends "the Social Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide additional safeguards for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries with representative payees." But since Social Security an income transfer program, and not a retirement program, it should also be scrapped.
Uncle Sam or Dr. Sam?
The government has a strong grip on the health care system.
Public Law 108-20 institutes the "Smallpox Emergency Personnel Protection Act of 2003," and provides "benefits and other compensation for certain individuals with injuries resulting from administration of smallpox countermeasures."
There are also new programs regarding children's health insurance (PL 108-74), birth defects (PL 108-154), contact lenses (PL 108-164), prescription drugs (PL 108-173), and mental health benefits (PL 108-197).
Public Law 108-155 amends "the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to authorize the Food and Drug Administration to require certain research into drugs used in pediatric patients."
Public Law 108-163 makes "make certain technical and conforming amendments to correct the Health Care Safety Net Amendments of 2002."
Public Law 108-170 is designed "to improve and enhance the provision of health care for veterans."
Public Law 108-214 amends "the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to make technical corrections relating to the amendments by the Medical Device User Fee and Modernization Act of 2002."
Public Law 108-216 amends "the Public Health Service Act to promote organ donation." The government outlaws the selling of organs. This, of course, results in a massive shortage of organs and thousands of preventable deaths. The government should get out of the organ business and let the free market handle organ sales and donations.
Public Law 108-276 amends "the Public Health Service Act to provide protections and countermeasures against chemical, radiological, or nuclear agents that may be used in a terrorist attack against the United States by giving the National Institutes of Health contracting flexibility, infrastructure improvements, and expediting the scientific peer review process, and streamlining the Food and Drug Administration approval process of countermeasures."
Public Law 108-355 amends "the Public Health Service Act to support the planning, implementation, and evaluation of organized activities involving statewide youth suicide early intervention and prevention strategies, to authorize grants to institutions of higher education to reduce student mental and behavioral health problems."
Public Law 108-362 institutes the "Pancreatic Islet Cell Transplantation Act of 2004," and amends "the Public Health Service Act to increase the supply of pancreatic islet cells for research, and to provide for better coordination of Federal efforts and information on islet cell transplantation."
Public Law 108-365 amends "the Public Health Service Act to revise and extend provisions relating to mammography quality standards."
Public Law 108-377 institutes the "Asthmatic Schoolchildren's Treatment and Health Management Act of 2004." It "amends the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in making certain PHSA grants or any other asthma-related grant to a State, to give preference to States that require public elementary and secondary schools to allow students to self-administer medication to treat that student's asthma or anaphylaxis under specified conditions."
Public Law 108-441 is supposed to "improve access to physicians in medically underserved areas." And how does it do this? It "amends the Immigration and Nationality Technical Corrections Act of 1994 to reauthorize for a period of two years the Conrad State 30 program, which annually allows each State to request up to 30 waivers of the home residency requirement applicable to J-1 foreign medical graduates for medical service in health professional shortage areas." It also "amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to exempt Conrad State 30 physicians from the numerical limitation on H-1B visas." And it "allows Conrad State 30 physicians to practice medicine outside geographic areas designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in the case of a waiver request from an interested State agency."
Public Law 108-448 amends "title XIX of the Social Security Act to extend medicare cost-sharing for the medicare part B premium for qualifying individuals through September 2005."
Public Law 108-490 amends "section 340E of the Public Health Service Act (relating to children's hospitals) to modify provisions regarding the determination of the amount of payments for indirect expenses associated with operating approved graduate medical residency training programs."
The U.S. government is also concerned about animals. Public Law 108-130 institutes the "Animal Drug User Fee Act of 2003." This law "amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to assess and collect fees for an animal drug application, defined as a request for approval of a new animal drug." It "directs the Secretary to also assess fees for a supplemental animal drug application, defined as a request for a change in an approved animal drug application or in an approved generic animal drug application." Public Law 108-282 amends "the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with regard to new animal drugs." It is too bad that the federal government is not as concerned about people. Perhaps if it were, over 1,300 American servicemen would still be alive instead of dying in Iraq.
Why Johnny Can't Read
Like the health care system, the federal government has a tight grip on the education system.
Public Law 108-76 institutes the "Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003," and provides "the Secretary of Education with specific waiver authority to respond to a war or other military operation or national emergency." Specifically, it "authorizes the Secretary of Education to waive or modify any requirement or regulation applicable to the student financial assistance programs under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 as deemed necessary with respect to an affected individual who: (1) is serving on active duty during a war or other military operation or national emergency; (2) is performing qualifying National Guard duty during a war, operation, or emergency; (3) resides or is employed in an area that is declared a disaster area by any Federal, State, or local official in connection with a national emergency; or (4) suffered direct economic hardship as a direct result of a war or other military operation or national emergency." The basic purpose of this law is to grant a waiver to ensure that "affected individuals who have received student financial assistance (affected recipients) are not placed in a worse position financially in relation to that financial assistance because of their status." This law would be unnecessary if the United States did not send young men overseas to fight in senseless wars.
Public Law 108-98 amends "the Higher Education Act of 1965 with respect to the qualifications of foreign schools." It "exempts graduate medical schools or veterinary schools located outside the United States from a requirement that they be a public or other nonprofit institution in order to qualify. Retains certain requirements for foreign medical schools, but no longer applies these to foreign veterinary schools. Requires the students of a foreign veterinary institution that is neither public nor nonprofit to complete their clinical training at an approved veterinary school located in the United States."
Public Law 108-123 increases "the annual and aggregate limits on student loan repayments by Federal agencies."
Public Law 108-366 temporarily extends "the programs under the Higher Education Act of 1965." It "extends through FY 2005 the authorization of appropriations for, and the duration of, each program authorized under HEA" and "requires the extended FY 2005 funding for any HEA program to be at a level that is the greater of: (1) the amount authorized to be appropriated for FY 2004; or (2) the amount appropriated for FY 2004."
Public Law 108-409 reduces "certain special allowance payments" and provides "additional teacher loan forgiveness on Federal student loans." This is supposed to be the "Taxpayer-Teacher Protection Act of 2004"; however, it protects teachers at the expense of taxpayers.
Public Law 108-453 amends "title 35, United States Code, to promote cooperative research involving universities, the public sector, and private enterprises."
Public Law 108-457 amends "the District of Columbia College Access Act of 1999 to reauthorize for 2 additional years the public school and private school tuition assistance programs established under the Act."
Public Law 108-474 institutes the "American History and Civics Education Act of 2004," and authorizes "grants to establish academies for teachers and students of American history and civics."
It goes without saying that the federal government should not be involved in education. This includes the funding of education, as Ludwig von Mises said: "There is, in fact, only one solution: the state, the government, the laws must not in any way concern themselves with schooling or education. Public funds must not be used for such purposes. The rearing and instruction of youth must be left entirely to parents and to private associations and institutions" (Liberalism, p. 115).
Food for Thought
Because the government is involved in every conceivable area of life, it is no surprise that there are many new laws related to food.
Several new laws relate to government-provided school lunches. Public Laws 108-134 and 108-211 reauthorize the program. Public Law 108-30 extends "the availability of funds to carry out the fruit and vegetable pilot program." Public Law 108-265 amends the original "Richard B. Russell School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 by instituting the "Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004." This reauthorizes "various programs, including the national school lunch and breakfast, child and adult care food, after-school snack, summer food service, and special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children (WIC)." It also "revises requirements relating to eligibility for and access to such programs." But since it is the job of parents to feed their children — not the government — the government should get out of the food service business. As one who has taught in a public school, I know from experience that the same kids who supposedly can't pay for their school lunch always have money for the coke and candy machines after lunch.
Public Law 108-58 "requires that funds appropriated for FY 2003 and 2004 for the purpose of providing the Bill Emerson and Mickey Leland Hunger Fellowships be made available to the Congressional Hunger Center for the purpose of awarding such fellowships. States that any such funds provided in excess of $3 million in either FY 2003 or 2004 shall be appropriated to the Congressional Hunger Fellows Trust Fund established by the Congressional Hunger Fellows Act of 2002." Since it is not the job of the Congress to feed people, and since the Congressional Hunger Center is not authorized by the Constitution, the entire program should be scrapped.
Public Law 108-379 "amends the Agricultural Adjustment Act, reenacted with amendments by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, to eliminate pear marketing order requirements that: (1) processors be members of an agency administering a marketing order; and (2) processor and producer agency representation be equal respecting a marketing order for canned or frozen pears."
Public Law 108-465 is designed to "ensure an abundant and affordable supply of highly nutritious fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops for American consumers and international markets by enhancing the competitiveness of United States-grown specialty crops."
Public Law 108-470 confirms "the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture to collect approved State commodity assessments on behalf of the State from the proceeds of marketing assistance loans."
Federal Program or Federal Pork?
You name it and the federal government has some kind of a program for it.
New from this Congress is the "do-not-call" registry. Public Law 108-10 authorizes the Federal Trade Commission "to collect fees for the implementation and enforcement of a ‘do-not-call' registry." Public Law 108-82 "declares that the Federal Trade Commission is authorized under the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act to implement and enforce a national do-not-call registry."
Three new laws relate to the national flood insurance program. Public Laws 108-3 and 108-171 extend the program. Public Law 108-264 amends the program "to reduce loses to properties for which repetitive flood insurance claim payments have been made." But what is the government doing in the insurance business? Not only is this not authorized by the Constitution, there are thousands of insurance companies in the United States. And if you can't get cheap insurance because you live near a flood plain — move.
The housing and mortgage business is another job that government has taken on. Public Law 108-91 amends "section 242 of the National Housing Act regarding the requirements for mortgage insurance under such Act for hospitals." Public Law 108-186 institutes the "American Dream Downpayment Act," and provides downpayment assistance under "the HOME Investment Partnership Act." This simply means that money is being taken from some citizens and given to other citizens to help them make a downpayment on a house. A similar law is Public Law 108-285, which facilitates "self-help housing homeownership opportunities." Two new laws relate to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Public Law 108-213 restores "allowable increases in the maximum mortgage limits for FHA-insured mortgages for multifamily housing projects to cover increased costs of installing a solar energy system or residential energy conservation measures." Public Law 108-301 preserves "the ability of the Federal Housing Administration to insure mortgages." This, of course, should be immediately repealed since it is not the job of the federal government to be in the mortgage business.
Congress is concerned about farmers. So concerned that it has given them special bankruptcy laws. Public Law 108-73 is entitled "To extend for six months the period for which chapter 12 of title 11 of the United States Code is reenacted." However, what it really does is institute the "Family Farmer Bankruptcy Relief Act of 2003," which extends "family farmer bankruptcy relief." Public Law 108-369 institutes the "Family Farmer Bankruptcy Relief Act of 2004," which "amends the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999, to extend for 18 additional months (until July 1, 2005) the period for which chapter 12 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code (Adjustments of Debts of a Family Farmer) is reenacted."
Congress also claims to be concerned about small businesses. But instead of removing all the rules, regulations, and taxes that strangle small businesses, Public Laws 108-172, 108-205, 108-217, and 108-306 extend the programs under the "Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958." Public Law 108-8 is for the purpose of improving "the calculation of the Federal subsidy rate with respect to certain small business loans." Public Law 108-156 extends and expands "the basic pilot program for employment eligibility verification." This "Basic Pilot Program Extension and Expansion Act of 2003" will certainly expand the paperwork required of small businesses.
Public Law 108-45 institutes the "Strengthen AmeriCorps Program Act." It is supposed "to improve the manner in which the Corporation for National and Community Service approves, and records obligations relating to, national service."
Public Law 108-99 amends "the Immigration and Nationality Act to extend for an additional 5 years the special immigrant religious worker program."
Public Law 108-194 provides "assistance for poison prevention and to stabilize the funding of regional poison control centers."
Public Law 108-202 institutes the "Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004," and "extends Federal highway, highway safety, motor carrier safety, and transit programs for five months, and authorizes appropriations, through April 30, 2004."
Public Law 108-344 "amends the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 to provide for the establishment of 300 additional Boys and Girls Clubs of America."
Public Law 108-364 amends "the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 to support programs of grants to States to address the assistive technology needs of individuals with disabilities."
Public Law 108-406 provides "assistance to Special Olympics to support expansion of Special Olympics and development of education programs and a Healthy Athletes Program."
Public Law 108-423 requires "the Secretary of Energy to carry out a program of research and development to advance high-end computing."
Public Law 108-449 amends and extends "the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998 (IPPCTPA) and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to revise the nonimmigrant alien eligibility qualifications for participants in the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program.
Public Law 108-494 does a mouthful. It amends "the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Organization Act to facilitate the reallocation of spectrum from governmental to commercial users; to improve, enhance, and promote the Nation's homeland security, public safety, and citizen activated emergency response capabilities through the use of enhanced 911 services, to further upgrade Public Safety Answering Point capabilities and related functions in receiving E-911 calls, and to support in the construction and operation of a ubiquitous and reliable citizen activated system."
Public Works or Public Pork?
The federal government can always be counted on to build things or otherwise make "public works."
Sometimes the government is an exterminator. Public Law 108-16 provides "for the eradication and control of nutria in Maryland and Louisiana." God only knows how many Congressman knew what nutria was when they voted to pass the bill underlying this law. The actual dollar amounts authorized are "$4,000,000 for the State of Maryland program and $2,000,000 for the State of Louisiana program for each of fiscal years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008." Public Law 108-75 authorizes grants "through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mosquito control programs to prevent mosquito-borne diseases." However, I don't remember reading in the Constitution where it is the job of Congress to fight mosquitoes. Public Law 108-412 requires the Secretary of Agriculture "to establish a program to provide assistance to eligible weed management entities to control or eradicate noxious weeds on public and private land." Again, where is it stated in the Constitution that it is the job of Congress to kill weeds? Public Law 108-488 provides "for the development of a national plan for the control and management of Sudden Oak Death, a tree disease caused by the fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora ramorum." Once again, where is fighting a fungus mentioned in the Constitution?
Public Law 108-109 institutes the "National Cemetery Expansion Act of 2003," and provides "for the establishment by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs of additional cemeteries in the National Cemetery Administration."
Public Law 108-184 institutes the "National Museum of African American History and Culture Act." It "establishes within the Smithsonian Institution (SI) the National Museum of African American History and Culture, to be operated as a center for scholarship and a location for museum training, public education, exhibits, and collection and study of items and materials relating to the life, art, history, and culture of African Americans that encompass the period of slavery, the era of reconstruction, the Harlem renaissance, the civil rights movement, and other periods of the African American diaspora."
Public Law 108-418 amends "the Reclamation Projects Authorization and Adjustment Act of 1992 to increase the Federal share of the costs of the San Gabriel Basin demonstration project."
Public Law 108-420 institutes the "California Missions Preservation Act," and "authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to enter into a cooperative agreement with the California Missions Foundation to provide technical and financial assistance to the Foundation to restore and repair the California missions and their associated artworks and artifacts."
New building projects include Public Law 108-125, which extends "the authority for the construction of a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.," Public Law 108-126, which authorizes "the design and construction of a visitor center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial," and Public Law 108-413, authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, in cooperation with the University of New Mexico, "to construct and occupy a portion of the Hibben Center for Archaeological Research at the University of New Mexico."
Eye See You
There are six new laws that merely recognize things. It is too bad that the Congress doesn't recognize the frivolous nature of these laws.
Public Law 108-9 recognizes "the 92d birthday of Ronald Reagan." Is this worthy of an act of Congress? Public Law 108-122 recognizes "the Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in Baltimore, Maryland, as the official national museum of dentistry in the United States." Public Law 108-140 recognizes "the Agricultural Research Service of the Department of Agriculture for 50 years of outstanding service to the Nation through agricultural research." But instead of recognizing an arm of the Department of Agriculture, the entire department should have been abolished.
Several of these recognition laws relate to World War II. Public Law 108-236 recognizes the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Is this really necessary? Once Congress made this official recognition, was there anyone but members of Congress who knew about it? Would Americans forget about D-Day without this official recognition by Congress? Doesn't Congress have anything better to do? Similar laws are Public Law 108-432, which recognizes "the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge during World War II," and Public Law 108-479, which recognizes "the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Peleliu and the end of Imperial Japanese control of Palau during World War II." But this law also urges "the Secretary of the Interior to work to protect the historic sites of the Peleliu Battlefield National Historic Landmark and to establish commemorative programs honoring the Americans who fought there."
Similar to these laws is Public Law 108-139, which commends the Inspectors General "for their efforts to prevent and detect waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement, and to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the Federal Government during the past 25 years." But a look at growth of the size and scope of the federal government shows that the Inspectors General has not done a very good job.
Water, Water, Water Everywhere
Water, the most essential element of life. Is it essential that the government control it? On water privatization, see Walter Block. On the new federal laws that concern water, see below.
Public Law 108-85 institutes the "Fremont-Madison Conveyance Act." It directs the Secretary of the Interior to "convey to the Fremont-Madison Irrigation District in Idaho, pursuant to a specified Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the District and the Secretary, the canals, lateral, drains, and other components of the water distribution and drainage system operated or maintained by the District."
Public Law 108-233 institutes the "Irvine Basin Surface and Groundwater Improvement Act of 2004," and amends "the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in projects within the San Diego Creek Watershed, California."
Public Law 108-315 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior "to convey certain water distribution systems of the Cachuma Project, California, to the Carpinteria Valley Water District and the Montecito Water District."
Public Law 108-316 amends "the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in the Williamson County, Texas, Water Recycling and Reuse Project."
Public Law 108-318 amends "the Reclamation Project Authorization Act of 1972 to clarify the acreage for which the North Loup division is authorized to provide irrigation water under the Missouri River Basin project."
Public Law 108-328 amends "the Safe Drinking Water Act to reauthorize the New York City Watershed Protection Program."
Public Law 108-354 directs the Secretary of the Interior "to conduct a feasibility study of a Chimayo water supply system, to provide for the planning, design, and construction of a water supply, reclamation, and filtration facility for Espanola, New Mexico."
Public Law 108-361 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior "to implement water supply technology and infrastructure programs aimed at increasing and diversifying domestic water resources."
Public Law 108-399 amends "the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize the National Estuary Program."
Lost in Space
Space, the final frontier for the government to control. There are two new laws relating to space travel.
Public Law 108-428 extends "the liability indemnification regime for the commercial space transportation industry." It "directs the Secretary of Transportation to arrange with a nonprofit entity for a study: (1) regarding the liability risk sharing regime in the United States for commercial space transportation; (2) to assess methods by which the liability risk sharing regime could be eliminated and whether alternative steps would be needed to maintain a viable and competitive U.S. space transportation industry if it were eliminated; and (3) to examine liability risk sharing in other nations with commercial launch capability and evaluate the direct and indirect impact that eliminating the regime would have on the competitiveness of the U.S. commercial space launch industry in relation to foreign commercial launch providers and on U.S. assured access to space."
Public Law 108-492 promotes "the development of the emerging commercial human space flight industry." But the best way for the government to promote any commercial activity, including space flight, is to stay away from it and let the free market handle it.
Last but not least are the new public laws that don't fit in any of the above categories. Most are downright boring.
Public Law 108-12 authorizes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission "to reinstate the license for construction of a specified hydroelectric project in the State of Illinois." The elimination of the commission would have been a better idea.
Public laws 108-28 and 108-235 relate to the participation of Taiwan in the World Health Organization. The acceptance or rejection of any country by the World Health Organization should not be the concern of the United States.
Public Law 108-39 amends "the Communications Satellite Act of 1962 to provide for the orderly dilution of the ownership interest in Inmarsat by former signatories to the Inmarsat Operating Agreement." Did anyone in Congress know what Inmarsat was before they voted for this?
Public Law 108-44 is supposed to "provide for the protection of investors, increase confidence in the capital markets system, and fully implement the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 by streamlining the hiring process for certain employment positions in the Securities and Exchange Commission." Specifically, it institutes the "Accountant, Compliance, and Enforcement Staffing Act of 2003," and "amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to permit the Securities and Exchange Commission to appoint any candidates for accountant, economist, and securities compliance examiner positions in the competitive service according to statutes, rules, and regulations for the excepted service, notwithstanding those governing appointments in the competitive service."
Public Law 108-59 "amends the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission Act." It requires the Commission to "study a possible rededication" of the Lincoln Memorial and "recommend to Congress a plan to carry out its duties."
Public Law 108-72 provides "for additional space and resources for national collections held by the Smithsonian Institution." This is another one of those laws that was also enacted "for other purposes." In this case, mainly improvements to the Patent Office Building and the establishment of "a program for making voluntary separation incentive payments for Smithsonian employees." Congress also took this opportunity to commend the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History "for establishing a Jazz Appreciation Month."
Public Law 108-86 amends "chapter 10 of title 39, United States Code, to include postmasters and postmasters organizations in the process for the development and planning of certain policies, schedules, and programs."
Public Law 108-100 is basically for the purpose of improving "the overall efficiency of the Nation's payments system." It deals with the authorizing of substitute checks "to foster innovation in the check collection system without mandating receipt of checks in electronic form."
Public Law 108-102 amends "title 44, United States Code, to transfer to the Public Printer the authority over the individuals responsible for preparing indexes of the Congressional Record."
Public Law 108-138 corrects "a technical error from Unit T-07 of the John H. Chafee Coastal Barrier Resources System."
Public Law 108-157 provides "for Federal court proceedings in Plano, Texas." This is a technical law that amends "the Federal judicial code to eliminate the Paris Division of the Eastern District of Texas" and to include other counties.
Public Law 108-178 "amends the United States Code to make specified technical changes relating to: (1) Public Law 107-217 (including revival of certain provisions); (2) Title 40 (Public Buildings, Property, and Works); and (3) conforming cross-references." Correcting the United States Code is a good thing, but even better thing would be to eliminate some of the Code.
Public Law 108-181 seems like one of the most harmless new public law to come out of the 108th Congress since it just appoints the day for the convening of the second session of the Congress. However, it is actually one of the most harmful since billions of dollars of the taxpayers' money is wasted every day that Congress is in session. Public Law 108-433 appoints the day for convening of the first session of the 109th Congress.
Public Law 108-188 is for the purpose of approving "the Compact of Free Association, as amended, between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Compact of Free Association, as amended, between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and to appropriate funds to carry out the amended Compacts."
Public Law 108-207 extends "the final report date and termination date of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, to provide additional funding for the Commission." This law amended in three ways "provisions of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003" which established "the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States." It extended "the Commission's final report date from 18 to 20 months," it terminated the Commission 30 after the final report, and it earmarked "$1 million for Commission activities out of amounts appropriated for programs and activities of the Federal Government for FY 2004."
Public Law 108-215 authorizes "the President of the United States to agree to certain amendments to the Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Mexican States concerning the establishment of a Border Environment Cooperation Commission and a North American Development Bank."
Public Law 108-218 amends "the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to temporarily replace the 30-year Treasury rate with a rate based on long-term corporate bonds for certain pension plan funding requirements and other provisions."
Public Law 108-219 conveys "to the Utrok Atoll local government of a decommissioned National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship." On the surface this seems like a good gesture. However, the purpose of this conveyance is "in support of radiological monitoring, rehabilitation, and resettlement of Utrok Atoll, whose residents were affected by U.S. nuclear testing." But this law is also "for other purposes." It amends the "Fishermen's Protective Act of 1967," the "Yukon River Salmon Act of 2000," and the "South Pacific Tuna Act of 1988."
Public Law 108-221 directs the Administrator of General Services "to convey to Fresno County, California, the existing Federal courthouse in that county."
Public Law 108-228 amends "the Communications Satellite Act of 1962 to extend the deadline for the INTELSAT initial public offering."
Public Law 108-231 authorizes the Secretary of the Interior "to revise a repayment contract with the Tom Green County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, San Angelo project, Texas."
Public Law 108-232 allows "certain premier certified lenders to elect to maintain an alternative loss reserve."
Public Law 108-237 institutes the "Standards Development Organization Advancement Act of 2004," which "amends the National Cooperative Research and Production Act of 1993," the "Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act of 2004," the "Sherman Act," and the "Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act." This law provides that "the conduct of a standards development organization (SDO) while engaged in a standards development activity shall be subject to a rule of reason standard in any action under the antitrust laws." Great. But it would be better to give everyone relief from all antitrust laws because they are the enemies of freedom. All of these "acts" should be abolished, beginning with the Sherman Act.
Public Law 108-284 provides "for the appointment of Eli Broad as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution."
Public Law 108-297 amends "title 49, United States Code, to make certain conforming changes to provisions governing the registration of aircraft and the recordation of instruments in order to implement the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment, known as the ‘Cape Town Treaty.'"
Public Law 108-319 extends "the term of the Forest Counties Payments Committee."
Public Law 108-320 amends "the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 to permit Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards to be made to nonprofit organizations."
Public Law 108-330 institutes the "Department of Homeland Security Financial Accountability Act." This law "amends the Chief Financial Officer Act of 1990 and the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the President to appoint a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who is to report directly to the Secretary of DHS and to the Under Secretary for Management." It also "removes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from the list of agencies required to have a CFO."
Public Law 108-339 replaces "two maps relating to the Coastal Barrier Resources System Cape Fear Unit NC-07P."
Public Law 108-349 amends "the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 to permit members of the Board of Directors of the Office of Compliance to serve for 2 terms."
Public Law 108-351 amends "the Lease Lot Conveyance Act of 2002 to provide that the amounts received by the United States under that Act shall be deposited in the reclamation fund."
Public Law 108-359 amends "the securities laws to permit church pension plans to be invested in collective trusts."
Public Law 108-371 modifies and extends "certain privatization requirements of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962."
Public Law 108-376 protects "the voting rights of members of the Armed Services in elections for the Delegate representing American Samoa in the United States House of Representatives."
Public Law 108-378 amends "the Organic Act of Guam for the purposes of clarifying the local judicial structure of Guam."
Public Law 108-419 amends "title 17, United States Code, to replace copyright arbitration royalty panels with Copyright Royalty Judges."
Public Law 108-444 "amends the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act of 1999 to extend the termination date of such Act's mandatory beef and swine reporting and related authorities to September 30, 2005."
Public Law 108-450 institutes the "District of Columbia Mental Health Civil Commitment Modernization Act of 2004," and "amends the District of Columbia Code to modify the composition of, appointment to, and organization of the Commission on Mental Health."
Public Law 108-455 extends "the authority of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa to hold court in Rock Island, Illinois."
Public Law 108-458 is for the purpose of reforming "the intelligence community and the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government."
Public Law 108-498 limits "the transfer of certain Commodity Credit Corporation funds between conservation programs for technical assistance for the programs."
And the Winner is!
The most ridiculous new law of the 108th Congress has got to be Public Law 108-348. This law authorizes "the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, to be illuminated by pink lights in honor of breast cancer awareness month."
The Problem and the Solution
Were there any good laws passed by the 108th Congress? Did any law lower taxes, reduce spending, eliminate a federal program or result in freer markets, increased liberty, less intervention, sounder money, greater decentralization, or a more limited government? Perhaps a few.
The problem is simple: Congress thinks that more legislation is the answer. It doesn't matter what the "problem" is, the solution is always more legislation. But legislation is the problem, not the solution. Therefore, the solution is just as simple: no more legislation unless it undoes the damage caused by previous legislation.
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) is about the only member of Congress with the right attitude. According to Dr. Paul, who never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution:
Rights belong to individuals, not groups.
Property should be owned by people, not government.
All voluntary associations should be permissible — economic and social.
The government's monetary role is to maintain the integrity of the monetary unit, not participate in fraud.
Government exists to protect liberty, not to redistribute wealth or to grant special privileges.
The lives and actions of people are their own responsibility, not the government's.
God give us 534 more Ron Pauls.
January 17, 2005
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting and economics at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, FL. His new book is Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his website.
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