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Congressman Capuano's
E-UPDATE
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
7th Congressional District of Massachusetts


12,456 subscribers

September 1, 2017

Harvey

Hurricane Harvey has left a path of devastation and my heart goes out to everyone impacted by this natural disaster. I am sorry for the loss of life and am keeping all who are suffering in my heart. Residents of Texas and the impacted areas need all of us to help, in any way that we can. As Congress goes back into session, a relief package will be a priority. The flooding is an unprecedented disaster and rebuilding will not happen overnight. I will work with my colleagues to make sure our neighbors have what they need to recover.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

A big THANK YOU to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for amending a reporting requirement for small community banks to reflect their close attachment to their customers and neighbors. I wrote CFPB Director Richard Cordray in November of 2016, asking the bureau to take another look at pending requirements for credit unions and small banks because they appear to be overly burdensome on them. Starting in 2018, credit unions and small banks would have been required to report more than two dozen additional categories of data on home equity lines of credit (HELOC). The yearly reporting requirements go into effect as soon as 100 HELOCs are approved. In response to my concerns, the CFPB increased that threshold to 500 loans and will further study the issue. This is good news for these smaller financial institutions and their customers. There is a great deal of additional training and expense necessary to fulfill the CFPB’s reporting requirements which is much easier for large financial institutions to absorb. The 100 HELOC threshold could cause some credit unions or smaller banks to limit HELOC approvals to 100 yearly, which would make it harder for consumers to access this financial tool. Homeowners rely on HELOCs for necessary home repairs, to help meet college tuition obligations and so much more. I appreciate the CFPB’s willingness to reconsider this rule.

Transportation

I met this week with Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack. We meet regularly to talk about ongoing projects in the state. As Massachusetts’ only member on the House Transportation Committee, I think it’s important to stay in regular contact with state transportation officials. The Green Line Extension (GLX) is always a topic of conversation. Secretary Pollack updated me on the status of the GLX. Work is underway and the project is advancing. The GLX is a priority for many of my constituents and I will continue monitoring it closely. We also talked about other transportation projects, including the proposal to extend the Fairmount Line to Foxboro. I am generally always open to expanding service if resources allow because it is good for the economy, the environment and increases options for commuters. I am concerned, however, that this initiative will negatively impact those who currently rely on the Fairmount Line. The priority should be those who are using the service now and on efforts to improve it. I hope the Fairmount Line can be expanded without any negative impact on the core service. I will be monitoring this experiment closely.

J Street

I met with constituents from J Street, “pro-Israel, pro-peace” activists. They thanked me for supporting the two-state solution, which I believe remains the only possible basis for enduring peace in a deeply troubled region. No one believes this goal will be easy to achieve but they and I are concerned to see the current Administration seemingly retreating from it. I reiterated my opposition to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) campaigns against Israel but also my conviction that the First Amendment protects the right to advocate such actions. We also discussed immigration and refugee issues. I appreciate J Street’s advocacy for H.R. 852, the Freedom of Religion Act of 2017. This legislation amends the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of national origin, to also prohibit discrimination on the basis of religious belief or lack of religious belief. The bill preserves authority exercised on a case-by-case basis to exclude individuals judged to pose a threat to the United States. We had a lengthy and productive conversation.

Behind the Curtain — More House and Trump Administration Actions You Don’t Want to Miss

Here are this week’s additions. If you need to catch up or share with friends, you can find the full list here.

  1. In August of 2017 it was reported that the Department of Education changed the application rules for the Small, Rural School Achievement grants. These formula based grants are available to eligible small school districts and are generally modest awards. In the past, these school districts applied for the grants through a government website. Now, the districts must submit a complicated application involving numerous separate online steps and significantly more information. As a result of the additional requirements, 20% of eligible schools did not apply, even though federal officials extended the deadline. The problem with the additional application steps is they are overly burdensome to the school districts eligible for the grants. Because of their small size, these districts do not have, or cannot spare from other duties, administrative personnel to devote to the expanded applications. There is concern that this grant program will be shrunk, reducing necessary educational resources for rural schools.
  2. On August 25, 2017, with coverage of Hurricane Harvey dominating the news, President Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of ignoring a court order to stop targeting drivers he believed to be immigrants in traffic stops. Many of Arpaio’s methods were shocking and reprehensible, including keeping those he detained in desert camps without relief from the Arizona heat and subjecting inmates to chain gains. Arpaio showed a remarkable disdain for the law and judicial process. Yet he received a Presidential pardon. Civil liberties groups, advocates for prisoners and immigration activists have long sounded the alarm about Arpaio’s troubling approach to law enforcement. It’s worth noting that Trump was asked why he announced the pardon on a Friday night when the nation’s attention was on a looming natural disaster. His response? “Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they were normally.”
  3. On August 28, 2017 President Trump issued an Executive Order restoring the practice, banned by President Obama in 2015, of giving local police departments access to military surplus equipment. This includes grenade launchers and bayonets that simply do not belong on the streets of any American neighborhood. Militarization of this kind does not foster trust between police officers and the communities they protect.
  4. On August 29, 2017 the Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump Administration withdrew a rule requiring employers with more than 100 employees to report wage data broken down by race and ethnicity to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The data could be used to help the EEOC identify wage discrimination. The reason for withdrawing this rule was basically that it would be too much trouble for businesses. Despite public proclamations by first daughter Ivanka Trump about eliminating the gender wage gap, the Administration has done nothing to accomplish this goal. They have not even offered any specific policies that the administration would pursue to actually eliminate the gap.

What’s Up Next

Votes are scheduled for Tuesday September 5th. The House is expected to consider appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2018.

Mike


Congressman Mike Capuano
7th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Financial Services

P.S. I welcome your feedback on our e-Updates. Please let me and my staff know what you think of this service by e-mailing our office.


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