Congress at Work: Transparency for Elder Abuse, Internet Ads and Drug Pricing

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.

Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (S. 178) – Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on January 20, this bill is intended to prevent elder abuse and exploitation and improve the justice system’s response to victims in such cases. Among other provisions, the Act facilitates improved data collection and Federal coordination and enhances penalties for telemarketing and email marketing fraud directed at elders. The bill authorizes the Attorney General to designate at least one Assistant United States Attorney to serve as the Elder Justice Coordinator in each Federal Judicial District.  The bill also ensures implementation of a regular and comprehensive training program for FBI agents in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes, including specialized strategies for communicating with and assisting elder abuse victims and relevant forensic training relating to elder abuse. This bill was signed into law by the President on October 18.

Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 (S. 1141) – Sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) on May 16, this Act requires the President to submit a government-wide Women, Peace, and Security Strategy (within one year of enactment) for how the United States will promote and strengthen women’s participation in peace negotiations and conflict prevention overseas. The strategy must include guidelines for training, implementation, communication, and ongoing reporting. The bill was enacted on October 6.

Social Security Number Fraud Prevention Act of 2017 (H.R. 264) – Sponsored by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) on January 24, this bill restricts the use of Social Security numbers on documents sent by mail from the Federal government unless the head of a department or agency deems it necessary. The rule applies to 24 major executive agencies. The Act was passed in May by the House, in September by the Senate, and signed into law by President Trump on September 15.

Honest Ads Act (S. 1989 and H.R. 4077) – Both chambers of Congress introduced versions of an Honest Ads Act on October 19 amid revelations that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter placed ads paid for by foreign entities during the 2016 election. For context, foreign spending in U.S. elections has been banned since 1966, but a loophole allows internet companies to avoid detection. Both bills hold internet ads to the same transparency requirements as television and radio advertisements, which have long been required to disclose the purchasers and content of those who place ads on their stations. Currently, internet companies are not required to do so. Both bills are presently being reviewed by committees of the respective chambers.

To amend the Public Health Service Act to require reporting by drug manufacturers to increase transparency in drug pricing (H.R. 4116) – Introduced by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) on October 25, this bill would require drug manufacturers to submit an annual report to Congress specifying total manufacturing expenses from the previous calendar year. These reports also would include the manufacturer’s revenues, number of drugs sold, and all relevant pricing information. The act mandates that such information would be made publicly available at the Department of Health and Human Services website. The bill is in the first stage of the legislative process and will be assigned to a committee for consideration before possibly being sent to the House.