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Hale Pai
Pacific American-News Journal

Kepakemapa - September 1996 Volume 2 Issue 9

 Notes from “Capitol Hill”......

With only eight full weeks to the November 5th presidential election, election year politics will remain “business as usual” as the Congressional votes will fall along party lines. Even with all the sparks that flew during the past year, look for more fireworks during the finale of the 104th Congress as the members play party politics to bolster their respective Presidential and Congressional candidates.

Ironically, while it seemed impossible to escape the persistent political grappling and gridlock of the 104th, this Congress definitely received high marks for at least its productivity - productivity - productivity achieved through bipartisan cooperation. Congress has cleared legislation overhauling welfare, minimum wage, telecommunication and agriculture as well as increasing minimum wage. Neither party was able to outright win its crusade; however, both parties settled on incremental changes.

Welfare Overhaul

In a stunning move, President Clinton signed legislation replacing six decades of federal welfare policy with a new reliance on the states. During the past year, Clinton twice vetoed Republican Welfare plans as too harsh, more likely to hurt children than to help welfare recipients get jobs. This new law gives states broad authority over their own welfare programs, though recipients are required to work within two years and are limited to five years of benefits. The measure is expected to save $54.1 billion through fiscal 2002, mainly by cutting by the food stamp program and denying a variety of federal benefits to legal aliens.

Health Insurance.

On a bi-partisan initiative, President Clinton agreed to sign the Health Insurance Law. This new law allows workers to maintain their insurance coverage if they lose or leave their jobs. The measure will also set up a pilot program for medical savings accounts, increase the deductibility of health insurance for the self-employed and provide tax breaks to increase the use of long-term care insurance. Look for both parties to take credit as this was a popular move with the public.

Minimum Wage

What may end up as the Democrat's greatest victory when the 104th Congress closes, in the passage of the minimum wage law. The $4.25 mandatory minimum and not seen an increase since 1991, and its value was nearing a 40 year low in inflation-adjusted dollars. The overwhelming public support for the increase combined with relentless Democratic pressure wore down the Republican Congress. The law now raises the minimum was to $4.75 an hour on October 1, 1996 and again to $5.15 on September 1, 1997.

Same-Sex Marriage

Brought about by the potential ruling of the Hawaiian Supreme Court which could force all states to recognize same-sex marriages, Congress was stirred into an unusual proactive action. Despite the partisan nature of the debate, President Clinton said he would sign the bill. The House overwhelmingly passed the bill in July that would bar federal recognition of gay marriages legally performed in other state. The second section of the bill would define marriage I federal law as a union between a man and a woman. Watch out for the Senate debate sometime in September but do not be surprised if it passes quickly.

Agriculture Appropriations Conference Report Supports Hawaiian Center for Applied Aquaculture.

Sen Thad Cochran (R-MS), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee in has urged the U.S. Dept. Of Agriculture to favorable consider the establishment of a complete Aquaculture research and precommercialization facility in Hawaii. In a colloquy that accompanied the Senate adoption of the Conference Report accompanying the Fiscal Year 1997 Agricultural Appropriations bill, Sen. Inouye (D-HI) explained that the Center for applied Aquaculture, established in 1988, needed satellite demonstration, quarantine and hatchery facilities on neighboring islands together with the core research facility.

If you have any questions or interests in a particular legislation, feel free to send in your inquiry to Hale Pai.

Ethan S.K.K. Cooper, Esq., is a Legislative Assistant to Rep. Thomas M. Foglietta (D-PA).

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Copyright 1996 Hale Pai Pacific American-News Journal
Last modified: February 28, 1998

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