Congress at Work: Protecting Water, Music and Intellectual Property

November 14, 2018

The Congress at Work series of articles is designed to give you a glimpse of various types of legislation currently under consideration. While either the Senate or the House of Representatives may initiate a bill proposal, be aware that many bills never become law. They may never make it out of committee, be blocked by a Senate filibuster, be delayed, lack sufficient votes, never be agreed upon by the two houses, or be vetoed by the president.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021) – This bill authorizes water pollution control activities as well as conservation and development of water and related resources to facilitate improvements to the rivers and harbors of the United States. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on June 7 and signed into law by the President on Oct. 23.

Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (H.R. 1551) – This bill was introduced by Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) on March 15, 2017 and signed into law by the President on Oct. 11. It represents one of the most significant legislative reforms to U.S. copyright law over the past 20 years by updating licensing agreements to include digital reproduction and distribution. The bill establishes a blanket statutory licensing system on a song-by-song basis administered by a nonprofit mechanical licensing collective. This entity is charged with collecting and distributing royalties, identifying songs and their owners for payment, and maintaining a comprehensive, publicly accessible database for music ownership information for both pre- and post-1972 sound recordings.

Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S. 2554) – Introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), this bill is designed to end the practice of insurers and pharmacy benefit managers instituting “gag order” agreements with pharmacists. It has been a practice to prevent pharmacists from informing customers whether it would cost less for a drug if they use their health insurance or pay fully out of pocket. Many times, a consumer would actually save money by paying out of pocket . This legislation formally bans the practice of pharmacy gag clauses at the federal level. The bill was first introduced on March 14 and signed into law on Oct. 10.

Know the Lowest Price Act of 2018 (S. 2553) – Sponsored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), this bill is similar to S. 2554 in that it also prohibits Medicare Part D plans from restricting pharmacies from informing individuals regarding the prices for certain drugs and biologicals. The bill was introduced on March 14 and was signed into law by the President on Oct. 10.

Justice Served Act of 2018 (H.R. 4854) – This legislation increases the capacity of prosecutors to address the backlog of violent crime cases involving suspects identified through DNA evidence. The Department of Justice must allocate a specified percentage of grant funds for such purpose, including at least 5 percent for grants to prosecute cold cases involving violent crime. The bill was introduced by Rep. John Carter (R-TX) on Jan. 19 and enacted on Oct. 9.

Small Business Innovation Protection Act of 2017 (S. 791) – This bill directs the Small Business Administration and the United States Patent and Trademark Office to leverage existing outreach programs to educate more small businesses on intellectual property and domestic/international patent protections. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on March 30, 2017 and signed into law by the President on Oct. 9.

Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act of 2018 (S. 994) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on May 1, 2017 and signed into law by the President on Sept. 28. The bill amends the federal criminal code to broaden the scope of defacing, damaging or destroying religious real property to include threatening such acts. The legislation also establishes criminal penalties of a fine, a prison term of up to five years or both.

Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017 (S. 97) – Sponsored by Sen. Michael Crapo (S-ID), this bill enables civilian research and development of advanced nuclear energy technologies by private and public institutions. In addition, the DOE is directed to study the need for a new test reactor to support research and development of advanced reactor systems and, if so, construct such a facility by 2025. The bill was introduced on Jan. 11, 2017 and was signed into law by the President on Sept. 28.