Sen. Joni Ernst introduced legislation allowing federal authorities to fingerprint children who cross the U.S. southern border. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Focusing heavily on national security, Iowa’s delegates introduced legislation allowing fingerprinting of immigrant children at the border and protecting cyber infrastructure from foreign attacks.
Iowans also saw wins for their proposed amendments, including Rep. Randy Feenstra’s fight against “burdensome regulations” on farmland.
Check out what Iowa’s lawmakers did this week:
Pharmacy benefit manager concerns
Targeting commercial insurance companies, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks introduced legislation to prevent drug price gouging by the companies.
The De-linking Revenue from Unfair Gouging (DRUG) Act targets pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and their practice of driving up list prices, which increase insurance premiums and prescription drug costs, according to Miller-Meeks’ office.
The spread pricing used by PBMs “adds opacity to a supply chain that needs transparency,” according to Miller-Meeks’ office.
The bill would create policies for the PBM to charge a flat fee, rather than a percentage of the drug price and ban spread pricing.
The DRUG Act would also attempt to eliminate incentives for affiliated pharmacies by prohibiting PBMs from paying affiliated pharmacies more than independent pharmacies and would prohibit PBMs from encouraging patients to use affiliated pharmacies.
“Pharmacy benefit managers have excessive influence over the prices patients pay at the pharmacy counter,” Miller-Meeks said in a news release. “The DRUG Act puts downward pressure on prescription drug prices and insurance premiums by removing the incentive for PBMs to drive up the list price of a medication.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley added an amendment in a finance committee meeting to attempt to preserve rural pharmacies in advance of direct and indirect Medicare clawbacks starting Jan. 1. The amendment requires the Department of Health and Human Services to report to Congress the effects of the upcoming changes in Medicare Part D.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services responded to a letter Grassley sent last week, acknowledging the concerns raised by Grassley regarding the Jan. 1 change. The memo, addressed to Medicare Part D sponsors, asked them to prepare for the changes coming on Jan. 1.
Ive been asking CMS 4 months 2 take action 2 protect rural pharmacies during Medicare Part D reimbursement changes CMS finally issued memo this week putting PBMs on notice 2 protect rural pharmacies Good news but will be monitoring 2 make sure agency walks the walk
— Chuck Grassley (@ChuckGrassley) November 8, 2023
Ernst on immigrant treatment
Sen. Joni Ernst announced a bill that would grant authority to border patrol agents to fingerprint non-citizens under the age of 14 crossing the border in an attempt to combat child trafficking.
“The crisis at our Southern border is a criminal’s dream and leaves children vulnerable to abuse and trafficking,” Ernst said in a news release.
Children who cross the border multiple times are considered “recycled” children — a bad actor may use a child to appear as though they are part of a family to cross the border. Ernst’s bill looks to eliminate that practice.
In addition to allowing the fingerprinting of young people, it would create harsher penalties for people caught child recycling. The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to keep track of the number of apprehensions, require an annual report to Congress and criminalize child recycling.
In other news regarding Ernst’s efforts at the border, she and eight other Republicans wrote a letter to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
The letter is in “fervent opposition” to a proposed rule by the office which includes a provision that would not prohibit the Office of Refugee Resettlement from accessing health care services, including abortions.
“The proposed rule neglects the conscience and religious freedom protections that Congress has afforded to ORR employees and contractors,” the senators wrote. “The proposed rule would shockingly require ORR staff and contractors to transport children across state lines for the purpose of obtaining an abortion.”
Nunn considers national security threats
Facing what he called a “disaster looming 1,000 times worse than Chinese ownership of TikTok,” Rep. Zach Nunn introduced a bill to prevent foreign countries from accessing national security intelligence and other private information.
The Creating Legal Accountability for Rogue Innovators and Technology Act would stop the use of Chinese-developed blockchain technology by the federal government.
“Within the next decade, every American will have sensitive, private data stored using blockchain technology,” Nunn said in a news release. “China’s heavy investment in this infrastructure poses a colossal national security and data privacy problem.”
The bipartisan bill would prohibit the use of Chinese-developed blockchain technology and direct the secretary of treasury, secretary of state and director of national intelligence to create a plan to prevent risks of such technologies.
Nunn advocated for the cause on X, formerly known as Twitter.
We’re on the verge of handing China access to A LOT of Americans’ data by adopting cloud storage technology they developed, effectively giving them a backdoor to steal Social Security numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, and sensitive national security information.
— Congressman Zach Nunn (@ZachNunn) November 9, 2023
Nunn offers expansion of fentanyl reversal medication
Nunn proposed increased grants for the purchase of and training for naloxone for businesses and individuals. Naloxone, a medication to reverse opioid overdoses, can be used to rapidly counteract the effects of synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
“We can and must save lives from overdoses,” Nunn said in a news release. “Expanding access to reversal medication is critical to ensure life-saving care is available in the event of an overdose.”
Nunn’s bipartisan bill would create a standard for opioid overdose reversal for employees, including training via the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Currently, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program provides federal funds to states and local governments to plan, develop and implement opioid-related problems.
Hinson looks to fund foreign security solutions
Rep. Ashley Hinson, among a bipartisan cohort, introduced a bill that would use $3.08 billion in unobligated COVID relief funds to replace communication equipment made by Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE that has been or will be removed as a result of a 2020 law that banned such equipment.
There are 24,000 pieces of Chinese-made communications equipment in the U.S., according to Hinson’s office, and discarding the equipment is “critical to protecting Americans’ privacy, as well as our national security, from CCP spying.”
When the 2020 law banned the Chinese-made equipment, a “rip and replace” program was created to reimburse communications providers for the replacement of equipment.
“Chinese technology is embedded in communications networks across the United States, giving the Chinese Communist Party backdoor access to Americans’ personal information and sensitive data,” Hinson said in a news release. “If communication flows through Huawei or ZTE equipment, it should be treated as if it is being downloaded back to a server in Beijing with a full access pass for the CCP regime.”
For decisions up individual consumers, Hinson weighed in on another GOP security concern, TikTok.
Communist China is feeding our kids anti-Semitic, pro-Hamas propaganda on TikTok.
This is intentional.
It’s time to ban TikTok.
— Ashley Hinson (@RepAshleyHinson) November 6, 2023
Feenstra looks to reauthorize funds for future farmers
A bipartisan bill to reauthorize funds promoting agricultural education was introduced by Feenstra.
Specifically, the bill would reauthorize the Food and Agricultural Sciences Education account and the Agriculture in the Classroom program, a program providing teachers workshops, conferences and other educational opportunities.
“Education – especially agriculture education – is vital to the long-term success of our economy, rural communities, and our country,” Feenstra said in a news release. “On my Feenstra Agriculture Tour, I have met with agriculture students… we must invest in educating the next generation and supporting our teachers so that we can maintain Iowa’s status as the breadbasket to our country and the world.”
The bipartisan provision is included in the current farm bill. The farm bill, which hit the five-year expiration date Sept. 30, will have a one-year extension “without a doubt,” according to Grassley, but the senior senator said he does not know if it will come on Nov. 17 or at the end of the year.
“I believe in both houses there isn’t any progress being made,” Grassley said on a call with reporters.
Feenstra advocates for sustainable aviation fuel research
The Farm to Fly Act, a bill advocating for the use of sustainable aviation fuel and the Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Transportation Model (GREET), would find ways to promote commercial adoption of sustainable aviation fuel.
The legislation, introduced by Feenstra and a group of Midwestern representatives, would include sustainable aviation fuel in the U.S. Department of Agriculture bio-energy program, increase research for the product and utilize the GREET model to measure emissions.
“Representing the top biofuels-producing district in Congress, I know that Iowa has the unlimited potential to grow and produce our world’s future fuels, and this legislation will help us achieve this important goal,” Feenstra said in a news release.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, sustainable aviation fuel has a smaller carbon footprint than conventional aviation fuel and depending on how it is produced, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically compared to conventional jet fuel.
Feenstra farmland amendment passes
The House passed legislation with a farmland-related amendment sponsored by Feenstra.
Feenstra’s amendment would require congressional approval of proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that would impact more than 50% of American farmland, according to Feenstra’s office.
“President Biden and his EPA have weaponized the power of the pen to impose burdensome mandates on our farmers and rural communities,” Feenstra said in a news release. “From expanding the size and scope of WOTUS to banning pest control tools like rodenticide, the Biden administration has repeatedly demonstrated that it is out-of-touch with the needs and concerns of rural America.”
Ernst applauds downsizing of federal offices
The General Services Administration (GSA) announced a reduction of 3.5 million square feet in federal buildings.
The organization estimates more than $1 billion will be saved over 10 years.
Ernst has advocated for eliminating government buildings not currently being used and succeeded in passing an amendment last week to require in-person attendance to be taken at government agencies.
The downsize came from Ernst’s advocacy, according to her office.
“Imagine the return for taxpayers if GSA got serious and downsized to fit its actual use,” Ernst said in a news release.
Rural broadband companies could report less to SEC
Ernst introduced a bipartisan bill to increase access to broadband internet in rural areas.
The bill would reduce regulatory costs for telecommunications service providers by streamlining financial reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission
The bill would limit the number of businesses following SEC public report requirements based on number of investors, in an effort to support smaller businesses.
“Due to red tape, many Iowans in rural areas still lack access to the high-speed internet and quality broadband services they need for school and work,” Ernst said in a news release.
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