Category Archives: Congress at Work

Making Changes to Corporate and Individual Income Taxes, Indian Tribe Resource Programs and Previous Legislation

January 1, 2018

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) – The GOP-sponsored tax reform bill made final passage through Congress on Dec. 20. The following are provisions with the widest-ranging impact:

  • Lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent
  • Allows companies a one-time repatriation of overseas cash
  • Retains seven individual tax brackets: 10 percent, 12 percent, 22 percent, 24 percent, 32 percent, 35 percent and 37 percent
  • Nearly doubles the standard deduction, but repeals personal exemptions
  • Eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate starting in 2019
  • Eliminates the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for corporations, but keeps it for individuals (Exemption: $500,000 for single taxpayers; $1 million for couples)
  • $2,000 credit for each qualifying child under the age of 17; fully refundable up to $1,400
  • Estate tax remains at 40 percent but approximately doubles the exemption ($11 million for individuals; $22 million for married couples)
  • May deduct up to $10,000 in local property taxes and state and local income taxes
  • May deduct interest on mortgages up to $750,000 (down from $1 million)
  • Gives pass-through businesses a 20 percent deduction for the first $315,000 of joint income
  • Retains current deduction for student loan interest
  • Retains tax-free status for tuition waivers received by graduate students
  • Allows deduction of medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of AGI

Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2017 (H.R. 228) – Sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on Jan. 3, 2017, this bill amends the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992. The goal is to integrate the employment, training and related services from diverse federal sources for Indian tribes under a single plan and budget. The bill clarifies the plan approval process and timelines, as well as reporting and audit requirements that tribes must fulfill for funding. The bill passed in the House in February 2017 and passed in identical form by the Senate on Nov. 29. It was signed into law by the president on Dec. 18.

Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017, Improvements Act (S. 371) – Sponsored by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) on Feb. 14, 2017, this bill makes technical changes and improvements to the original Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017. Amendments include replacing a specific reference to anti-Semitism with a reference to intolerance; the definition of “change to the federal status” with respect to the Cuba Service and the Television Marti Service; the report on the costs, strengths and limitations of U.S. and U.N. peacekeeping operations; U.N. peacekeeper training to reduce sexual exploitation; completion of the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission report; and ransoms to foreign terrorist organizations. This bill was enacted on Dec. 18.

Combating Human Trafficking in Commercial Vehicles Act (S. 1536) – Sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on July 12, 2017, this bill authorizes a human trafficking prevention coordinator to expand the scope of activities under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s program. The scope extends to include human trafficking prevention activities as part of its outreach and education initiative. This bill was passed by Congress on Dec. 19 and goes to the president next.

Women in Aerospace Education Act (H.R. 4254) – Sponsored by Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) on Nov. 6, this Act amends the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002. The objective is to strengthen the aerospace workforce pipeline by promoting the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program and National Aeronautics and Space Administration internship and fellowship opportunities for women. Ultimately, this bill is part of a movement to encourage young women to enter the previously male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The bill passed in the House on Dec. 19 and goes to the Senate next for consideration.

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Enhancing Access to Retirement Funds and Emergency Medications; Getting Tougher on Online Predators of Children

December 1, 2017

H.R. 3031,H.R. 304,H.R. 1329,S. 190,S. 504,S. 782TSP Modernization Act of 2017 (H.R. 3031) – Sponsored by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) on June 23, this bill will offer government employees who participate in the Thrift Savings Plan more flexible withdrawal options. The law eliminates the current restriction on taking partial post-separation withdrawals if the participant has already taken an age-based in-service withdrawal. The law also allows separated participants over age 70½ to remain in the TSP without having to make a withdrawal election on an entire account balance. Once implemented, plan participants will be able to stop monthly payments, change payment frequency, or elect to purchase an annuity while receiving monthly payments. This bill was signed into law on Nov. 17 by the President, and gives the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) up to two years to make the requisite regulatory and operational changes necessary.

Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2017 (H.R. 304) – Sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) on Jan. 5. This bipartisan bill amends the Controlled Substances Act to permit medical director physicians to issue standing orders to EMS personnel to administer controlled substances to patients, such as anti-seizure and pain management drugs. The bill was passed in the Senate on Oct. 24; by the House on Nov. 2; and signed into law by the President on Nov. 17.

Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017 (H.R. 1329) – This bill was introduced on March 2 by Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL). It authorizes a 2 percent pay increase for military veterans starting in January. This pay hike, which may amount to an extra $25 a month, or $300 a year, is one of the biggest pay increases in the past six years. The bill was signed into law on Nov. 2.

Power and Security Systems (PASS) Act (S. 190) – Sponsored by Cory Gardner (R-CO) on Jan. 23, the PASS Act eliminates a policy that would require security and life safety external power supplies (EPS) to meet a “no-load mode” energy efficiency standard. The requirement would have increased product redesign and manufacturing costs by 200 percent to 300 percent. The bill, which gives the U.S. Department of Energy the authority to retain this policy for any future updates to energy efficiency standards governing external power supplies, was signed into law on Nov. 2.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards Act of 2017 (S. 504) – Sponsored by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) on March 2, this bill allows Americans and citizens from APEC nations to access fast-track processing lanes at airports across the United States and Asia-Pacific region. The new legislation is expected to benefit hundreds of Hawaii residents by making it easier to travel and conduct business across regions critical to the state’s local economy.

PROTECT Our Children Act of 2017 (S. 782) – This bipartisan bill is designed to protect children from online predators by strengthening the task forces charged with combating online child exploitation and increasing penalties for predators. The legislation was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on March 30 and signed into law on Nov. 2.

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