Capitol Comments

Georgia’s 6th District Special Election to replace now Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price’s, House seat will be one for the history books. The money spent and the voter turnout for this election quickly turned unprecedented as this seat became a crucial battle between the Republican and Democrat parties. This closely watched election is taking place against the backdrop of a potential data breach of 6.5 million voter records maintained by the Kennesaw State University’s Center for Election Systems.  The center assists the Georgia Secretary of State and all 159 Georgia counties in administering election operations and voting machines deployed statewide.

Technology grows at a rapid pace in today’s increasingly connected society. The computers we used in 2002 seem nearly fossil-like in comparison to 2017’s array of computing tablets, laptops, desktops, and smartphones. The same holds true for the election equipment we used in 2002, and Minnesota recognizes the need to upgrade.

As technology and social media grow increasingly popular, the time a teenager will spend away from their phone is decreasing rapidly. Any task that cannot be completed from a phone seems to take too much effort in today’s world. In attempts to keep up with the kids, Contra Costa County, California, has partnered with Global Mobile to provide a texting service to assist in encouraging young people to vote. The texting service was extended from an existing text service called “2Vote” that the county already used to provide voters with information from poll worker sign-ups to election night results.

The 2017 Grazing Fee was released by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at the end of January, and went into effect on March 1. The federal grazing fee is now $1.87 per animal unit month (AUM) for public lands administered and managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). The new fee is down 11% from last year’s $2.11 AUM.

Voting on H.J. Res. 66 and H.J. Res. 67 took place Wednesday afternoon, February 15, on the House Floor. These joint resolutions passed to roll back rules set in place in August and December 2016, respectively, by the Department of Labor, or DoL. The DoL rules allowed state and local governments flexibility in creating a marketplace of retirement options for employees of the private sector that otherwise could be interpreted as unallowable by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). If approved by the Senate and signed by the president, the DoL rules will then hold no force or effect and programs could be unallowable under the preemption of ERISA statute.

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