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WASHINGTON WATCH: March 28, 2023


THE LONG GAME: “Parents Bill of Rights” passes House; TikTok legislation coming soon 

As the nation’s public schools increasingly emerge as the front lines in the culture wars and school administrators become targets of harassment, the House passed the “Parents Bill of Rights” on Friday. Five Republicans crossed over to join Democrats in opposing it, with many contending that it amounted to government overreach. The bill mandates that any school district receiving federal funds post a “Notice of Rights” on its website, which includes the right to review and copy the school’s curriculum and “to know if a school employee or contractor acts to change a minor child’s gender markers, pronouns or preferred name.” With more school boards across the country banning certain books deemed offensive; school libraries would be required to give parents a list of available reading materials. One amendment sponsored by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) requires that parents be informed if the school allows transgender girls to participate in sports. A second Boebert amendment calls on schools to inform parents if a transgender person is allowed to use a women’s restroom. The White House said that it opposed the legislation because it “does not actually help parents support their children at school” while putting LGBTQ students at risk.

Lawmakers are a big step closer curtailing TikTok after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) issued a tweet Sunday saying that Congress will be “moving forward” with legislation to address national security concerns tied to the social media app. This comes a week after the company’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, was grilled by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It is unclear which legislation McCarthy thinks should be taken up by the House, although he said last week that he supported a ban on the Chinese-owned app. A Senate bill, the Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information and Communications Technology Act, or “RESTRICT” Act, has bipartisan support. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD) would give the Secretary of Commerce broad authority to regulate tech produced by China and five other countries: North Korea, Cuba, Russia, Iran, and Venezuela. The White House supports the bill.

Washington Watch is published weekly when Congress is in session. Published monthly during extended recess or adjournment.


Spotlight on Puerto Rico

Senate Democrats reintroduce bill to give Puerto Rico SNAP Access

Last Wednesday, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), alongside Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), introduced the Puerto Rican Nutrition Assistance Fairness Actthat would provide residents of the Island the same food benefits that citizens on the mainland receive. Since the 1980s, Puerto Ricans have been forced to use a limited program called NAP (Nutritional Assistance Program). A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Republicans Jenniffer González-Colón (PR), with support from Rep. María Elvira Salazar (FL). Unlike SNAP, NAP has yearly fixed funding that leads to significant shortfalls in times of crisis, a scenario that has occurred in the last few years. About half the Island’s population relies on NAP and an estimated 30-40% of residents are food insecure, a severe problem considering that Puerto Rico imports about 85% of its food.

Municipality of Adjuntas takes lead on energy resilience in Puerto Rico

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, many people in the town of Adjuntas were left without power for 11 months. In the five and a half years since, local residents and businesses have taken the lead in making sure that never happens again. Fourteen local businesses have banded together to create a solar microgrid connected to batteries that will ensure at least 10 days of electricity, even if there is a complete island-wide blackout. The U.S. Department of Energy is bullish on the project and may even fund such energy resiliency programs with Grid Modernization funds, potentially leading to the development of solar-powered community microgrids in towns across Puerto Rico.

Congressman Grijalva praises court ruling on PREPA debt

In a statement released late last week, Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, praised the decision by Judge Laura Taylor Swain in which she ruled that the bondholders of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) are unsecured creditors. This could lead to a reduction in their $9 billion debt, which could in turn reduce the debt burden of PREPA customers and free up more funds to modernize the grid. PREPA bondholders have pledged to appeal the court ruling.


View From The White House

  • President Biden will launch an “Investing in America” tour, a three-week push to highlight the administration’s legislative achievements, with a visit to Durham, North Carolina on Tuesday.

  • With more than 100,000 Americans waiting for organ transplants, the administration announced on Wednesday that it plans to overhaul the network that manages the nation’s transplant system.

  • A National Security Council spokesman said Sunday that the U.S. was committed to keeping its estimated 1,000 troops in Syria despite recent Iran-backed attacks, including a drone attack last week that claimed the life of an American contractor.

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