Nutrition Subcommittee Holds Hearing to Review SNAP Recipient Characteristics and Dynamics

2/26/15

Today, Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN-2), Chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition, held a public hearing to review the characteristics and dynamics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. [SNAP is the former Food Stamp Program.] The committee will conduct a full-scale review this Congress in order to improve and strengthen the program for its intended recipients. This hearing follows yesterday’s full committee hearing on the past, present, and future of SNAP…
Continue reading

(The following are several excerpts from links included in the above press release. – Admin.)
* [SNAP is] the largest welfare program in both the number of recipients and the amount of spending, yet the program lacks a clear mission and the data reveals that it is not helping lift people out of poverty. (This and the next comment come from different sources. – Admin)
*SNAP has become one of the most effective antipoverty programs overall, especially at lifting non-elderly households with children out of deep poverty.
*Currently 18 different programs provide food assistance, and while many of them do not fall within this committee’s jurisdiction, they do serve SNAP recipients. In addition, a range of low-income benefit programs are offered at the local, state and federal levels.  On top of that, a web of non-profits and community service providers exist to provide assistance.
* SNAP provided benefits to 46.5 million people in an average month in fiscal year 2014, slightly down from 47.6 million people in an average month in fiscal year 2013. The average monthly benefit in fiscal year 2014 was also down to $125 per person from $133 per person in fiscal year 2013.
*Today, 1 in 7 Americans receive assistance from SNAP at a cost approaching $80 billion, making it the second largest means-tested transfer program in terms of cost after Medicaid.

Cutting IRS staff leads to cutting taxpayer services and collections

The Washington Post
By Joe Davidson
2/26/15

…Cuts to IRS staff mean cuts in service to taxpayers.

That’s the message Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, delivered to a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday. She described an agency with stark declines in customer service.

“From January first through February 14th this year, the IRS answered only 43 percent of the calls it received from taxpayers seeking to speak with a customer service representative, and those taxpayers who managed to get through sat on hold an average of about 28 minutes,” she said. “By comparison, during the same period last year, 77 percent of taxpayers got through and waited on hold an average of about 10 minutes. The IRS is now only answering the most basic of tax-law questions through April 15, and none after that. And it is no longer preparing tax returns for the most vulnerable taxpayer populations: elderly, disabled and low-income…

…“The IRS’s budget has been reduced by about 17 percent in inflation-adjusted terms since FY 2010,” which (Olson) said so far has resulted in almost 12,000 fewer employees, a 12.3 percent drop. There are projected cuts of several thousand more during this fiscal year.

This adds up to “the worst levels of taxpayer service since at least 2001, when the IRS implemented its current performance measures,” Olson said…
Continue reading

The FCC approves strong net neutrality rules

The Washington Post
By Cecilia Kang and Brian Fung
2/26/15

The Federal Communications Commission for the first time classified Internet providers as public utilities Thursday, a landmark vote that officials said will prevent cable and telecommunications companies from controlling what people see on the Web.

The move, approved 3 to 2 along party lines, was part of a sweeping set of new “net neutrality” rules aimed at banning providers of high-speed Internet access such as Verizon and Time Warner Cable from blocking Web sites they don’t like or auctioning off faster traffic speeds to the highest bidders…

…The rules ban Internet providers from several specific activities: They can’t block or stop Web services such as Netflix. They can’t slow down or “throttle” content from particular Web sites. And they can’t speed up a Web site’s traffic, particularly in exchange for money.

The rules also apply to wireless carriers such as Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile, which provide Internet service to tens of millions of smartphones and tablets….
Continue reading

THIRD HOUSE: Rep. Culver says ‘world would be a better place,’ without Indiana State Teachers Association

goshennews.com By JULIE CROTHERS julie.crothers@goshennews.com 2/21/15 GOSHEN — As tensions rose surrounding the topic of Indiana’s embattled education system, state Rep. Wes Culver on Saturday took a shot at the Indiana State Teachers Association. “The world would be a better place … Continue reading

Obama’s Expected Keystone Pipeline Veto Is Likely to Be the First in a Wave

(Summary of Bills vetoed including brief description, 1789-present – Admin.)

NYTimes.com
By Michael D. Shear and Coral Davenport
2/22/15

WASHINGTON — Wielding the weapon of his pen, President Obama this week is expected to formally reject a Republican attempt to force construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. But in stopping the transit of petroleum from the forests of Alberta to the Gulf Coast, Mr. Obama will be opening the veto era of his presidency.

The expected Keystone veto, the third and most significant of Mr. Obama’s six years in office, would most likely be followed by presidential vetoes of bills that could emerge to make changes in the Affordable Care Act, impose new sanctions on Iran and roll back child nutrition standards, among others…

…If Mr. Obama takes the veto path in his last two years in office, he could easily surpass the 12 vetoes of his immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush. He will not come close to the 635 vetoes that President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued during his 12 years in office or the 414 by President Grover Cleveland during his first term. But Mr. Obama might match the 37 by President Bill Clinton or the 44 by the first President George Bush…
Continue reading →

Ritz would lose post as board chair under bill passed by Senate

(Vote results for all Senate members on SB 1 are  shown on a screen shot following this article and also here. –  Admin.)

TheStatehouseFile.com
By Adam Lee
2/17/15

INDIANAPOLIS – The Senate passed a controversial bill Tuesday that removes state Superintendent Glenda Ritz as the chair of the State Board of Education and give its members the ability to elect their own leader.

Senate Bill 1, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, would end an arrangement unique to Indiana and Oklahoma, which are the only states in which the elected superintendent of public instruction automatically serves as chair of the state board of education.

The bill also alters the composition and governance of the board. The number of members would drop from 11 down to nine. Four of those members would be appointed by the governor, two by the House speaker and two from the Senate president pro tem. The state superintendent would continue to serve on the board.

Those members would then choose a chair, which could be the superintendent. Holdman said the bill also allows the board to hire an executive director and staff to help tackle problems more efficiently.

The proposed change in policy has created strong opinions on both sides of the issue.

Sen. Timothy Lanane, D-Anderson, said that he had an “obligation to speak on behalf of the 1.3 million people” that voted for Ritz to be superintendent. Lanane called SB 1 dangerous and said it is a dispute over policy. He questioned how much more power legislators would take from the superintendent in the future.

“Somebody wants to take the superintendent of public instruction to the proverbial woodshed,” Lanane said. “It’s a woodshed made of politics by politics and for politics.”

But Sen. Brandt Hershman, R- Buck Creek, said SB 1 is about policy rather than the politics. He said the bill does not strip her of her power and she will continue to be an important factor in education.

“She has a budget of millions of dollars and a staff of hundreds of employees that will continue to have the responsibility of implementing the policy” the General Assembly sets, Hershman said.

Sen. Brent Waltz Jr., R-Greenwood, said the way the current board operates is dysfunctional – pointing out that Ritz had walked out on a board meeting and sued other members of the board. He said it is legislators’ responsibility to correct the process.

Others, including as [sic] Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, agreed there is dysfunction but argued that the bill would make things worse. He said taking away the superintendent’s position as chair and expecting her to be cooperative is going to cause more problems.

The bill passed the Senate 33-17 and now moves to the House, which has already passed legislation to remove Ritz as chair but does not change board appointments.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence said Tuesday that he supports letting the state board choose its own chair and objected to the characterization that it was stripping her of authority. However, Pence said he does not support provisions to reduce the number of appointments he can make to the State Board of Education.

Adam Lee is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

SB 1

Congress and missed work weeks

The House and Senate are not in session today, Presidents’ Day. However, neither are they tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The same is true for two more weeks near the end of March and the first part of April. During the remainder of the year there are several more such weeks. Take a look at the calendars: House and Senate. You will note some differences in the two calendars.

A different Senate calendar refers to these weeks as “State Work Period.”

It’s not a matter of nothing to do. Yesterday, in The Indianapolis Star, a USA Today graphic was included that shows the looming deadlines beginning with funding for the Department of Homeland Security with a deadline of February 27th with others to come up in the following weeks.

What are your thoughts on these calendars?

President’s 2016 Budget in Pictures

National Priorities Project
By Jasmine Tucker
2/9/15

President Obama recently released his fiscal year 2016 budget proposal. Budgets are about our nation’s priorities: What are we going to spend money on? How are we going to raise the money we want to spend?

Though the budget ultimately enacted by Congress may look very different from the budget request released by the president, the president’s budget is important. It’s the president’s vision for the country in fiscal year 2016 and beyond, and it reflects input and spending requests from every federal agency.

These pictures tell the story of the priorities found in the president’s budget.


President’s Proposed 2016 Budget: Total Spending

This chart shows how President Obama proposed allocating $4.1 trillion* in total federal spending in fiscal year 2016, an increase of more than 5 percent over the total 2015 spending level. This includes every type of federal spending, from funding for discretionary programs like infrastructure improvements and job training to mandatory spending programs like Social Security and Medicare, as well as interest payments on the federal debt. Social Security and labor, Medicare and health programs, and military spending will make up 76 percent of the total budget, leaving just 24 percent, or $957 billion of the $4.1 trillion total, to spend on all other programs.

* Spending on Government (administration) is less than zero and omitted in the total spending pie chart. Lower than zero spending can occur when segments of government have surpluses from previous years that they return to the federal government.

Continue reading →