On the first day of the 112th Congress, U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th) today introduced eight bills designed to promote economic growth, aid low-income families, strengthen the U.S. financial system, and improve the health and financial security of American families.
"I'm very grateful for this opportunity to serve the residents of the 13th District for a seventh term," said Biggert, who this morning renewed her oath of office in a special ceremony with Speaker John Boehner. "This is a critical time in American history, and I am eager to get back to work, fighting for the priorities of families and small businesses in my district. As a member of the 112th Congress, my top priorities will continue to be job creation and putting a stop to out-of-control spending in Washington. With Congress under divided control, implementing a new agenda and providing effective oversight won't be easy tasks, but I am up to the challenge and ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get the job done. That's why I'm so pleased to announce the introduction of these important bills."
The first bills Biggert has introduced in the 112th Congress are as follows:
1. The Homeless Children and Youth Act: expands the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) definition of "homeless" so that homeless children and youth in involuntary and unstable living arrangements can access housing support services from which they are currently barred. During the 2008-2009 school year, over 72 percent or approximately 956,914 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.
2. The Taking Responsible Action for Community Safety (TRACS) Act: amends laws governing how the Surface Transportation Board (STB) reviews railway mergers like the one between Canadian National (CN) and the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway (EJ&E) line in order to protect local communities like Plainfield, Joliet, Naperville, and Aurora. The bill requires the STB to weigh the public costs a merger would have against the transportation benefits. For a merger to proceed, the adverse impacts on communities could not outweigh the transportation benefits. The STB also would have the authority to set stricter mitigation conditions on a merger.
3. The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Accountability and Transparency for Taxpayers Act: ramps up Congressional oversight over failed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. During the recent financial meltdown, taxpayers were forced to take on the costs and risks associated with the government sponsored entities (GSEs), including an estimated outlay of $150 billion. The bill would require the GSE Inspector General to submit regular reports to Congress outlining taxpayer liabilities, investment decisions, and management details of Fannie and Freddie. The bill also requires that these reports, along with a system to report waste, fraud, or abuse, be made publically available.
4. The 401Kids Family Savings Act: 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.
5. The Eating Disorders Awareness, Prevention, and Education Act: 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.
6. The Teacher Tax Reduction Act: doubles the current $250 tax deduction offered to teachers for classroom expenses paid out-of-pocket and extends the tax credit through 2013. The deduction can be used to buy books, supplies, computer equipment, and other materials to improve the educational experience of students.
7. The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Act: improves the accessibility of coordinators within 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.
8. The Tele-Care Act: reduces Medicare expenses while improving patient access to their physicians through non-emergency telephone consultations. The bill allows a beneficiary's primary care provider to be reimbursed under Medicare Part B for offering unscheduled telephone consultation services to seniors with immediate concerns. Similar to nurse call-in services offered by some larger insurance carriers, the plan is aimed at reducing unnecessary emergency room visits that can cost approximately three times more than a simple doctor's appointment.
"These are the kinds of smart, common-sense solutions that can help meet the needs of American families and protect their 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."