On the first day of the 111th Congress, U.S. Representative Judy Biggert today introduced ten bills designed to cut government waste, aid low-income families, restore the housing market, safeguard the ecosystem of the Great Lakes, and strengthen the health and financial security of children.
"I'm very grateful for this opportunity to serve the residents of the thirteenth district for a sixth term," said Biggert. "The nation faces great challenges, and this new Congress and Administration will need to work together toward smart, sensible solutions that will work for the American people. And we must get started without delay. That's why I'm so pleased to be announcing the introduction of these important bills."
The first bills Biggert has introduced in the 111th Congress are as follows:
1. The Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act: adds black, silver, and bighead species of carp to the list of species that are prohibited from importation or shipment in interstate commerce. Asian Carp prey on and compete with native species for food, living space, and spawning areas. Individual fish can grow to between 50 and 150 pounds and eat up to 40 percent of their body weight every day. Marine biologists say that if the Asian Carp enter the Great Lakes, they would devastate the ecosystem and endanger the multi-billion dollar Midwest commercial fishing industry.
2. The 401Kids Family Savings Act of 2009: extends through 2015 the Coverdell Education Savings Account tax benefits, renames these accounts 401Kids Savings Accounts, and expands the allowable uses of tax-free distributions to help parents establish savings accounts for their children to finance college education, buy a home, or save for retirement. Individuals may contribute up to $2,000 annually to the accounts. The money deposited to the accounts is contributed after taxes, but interest accumulates tax-free and withdrawals for approved purposes are also tax-free.
3. The Eating Disorders Awareness, Prevention, and Education Act of 2009: allows states and localities to use federal funds to develop and design their own awareness and prevention programs, which include role modeling, teacher training, and mentoring. The bill expands the allowable uses of the Innovative Education Strategic Block Grant program to include such programs. It is estimated that up to ten million females and one million males suffer from eating disorders.
4. The Eating Disorders Awareness Resolution: encourages increased public awareness of eating disorders and expanded research for treatment and cures. It is estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health that one in ten people with anorexia nervosa will die of starvation, cardiac arrest, or other medical complications.
5. The Medicare Fraud, Prevention and Enforcement Act: prevents waste, fraud and abuse by strengthening the Medicare enrollment process, expanding certain standards of participation, and reducing erroneous payments. The bill also gives law enforcement agencies additional tools to pursue health care swindlers. It is estimated that waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare are costing taxpayers more than $10 billion per year.
6. The Homeless Children and Youth Act: expands the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) definition of "homeless" so that homeless children and families in involuntary and unstable living arrangements can access housing support services from which they are currently barred. During the 2005-2006 school year, over 60 percent or nearly 600,000 children and youth who were identified as homeless by the Department of Education did not qualify for housing support under HUD's current definition. This bill amends the HUD definition of homeless to include homeless children and youth who are already considered homeless by other federal programs.
7. The Stop Mortgage Fraud Act: authorizes an additional $32 million annually for the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud. Last year alone, mortgage fraud increased by 42 percent. Since 2000, it has grown an astounding 1,200 percent. The bill would strengthen law enforcement's ability to investigate and prosecute these cases, especially in hard-hit areas like Chicago.*
8. The Expand and Preserve Home Ownership Through Counseling Act: expands the availability of HUD-approved housing counseling services, offers grants to state and local agencies, launches a national outreach campaign, and establishes a counseling office within HUD. Counselors can help guide homeowners into a loan that best meets their budget and needs - steering them away from possible foreclosure down the road.*
9. The Teacher Tax Reduction Act of 2009: doubles the current $250 tax deduction offered to teachers for classroom expenses paid out-of-pocket and extends the tax credit through 2011. The deduction can be used to buy books, supplies, computer equipment, and other materials to improve the educational experience of students.
10. The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Act of 2009: expands the availability of FSS programs offered in connection with HUD's Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. FSS programs provide homeownership counseling, job training, child care, education, and other services to help low-income families reduce their dependence on public assistance. The FSS Act will ensure that local public housing authorities have the consistent coordinator funding necessary to administer FSS programs and better serve their populations.*
"These are the kinds of common-sense ideas that can help meet the needs of American families and protect their health, wallets, and well-being," said Biggert. "I look forward to working with all my new colleagues - and the returning ones - to get these and other good bills to the President's desk."
*The Stop Mortgage Fraud Act, Expand and Preserve Home Ownership Through Counseling Act, and the Family Self-Sufficiency Act each passed the House during previous Congresses either as stand-alone bills or as part of broader legislation. However, no action was taken in the Senate prior to adjournment.