H.R. 3373 – Office of International Disability Rights Act

Sponsor: Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

Cosponsor: Rep. Don Young (R-AK)

Synopsis: A bill to establish the Office of International Disability Rights within the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). This office, under the supervision of a Special Advisor of International Disability Rights, would promote the rights of people with disabilities around the world. The bill would also require State Department personnel to undergo disability inclusion training.

Action: On 6/20/2019, bill was introduced in House and referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Sponsor Comments: “The full inclusion of people with disabilities is a fundamental aspect of democracy, and it must be a priority for U.S. foreign policy,” said Congresswoman Titus. “This legislation will help ensure that the State Department uses its diplomatic tools to promote the empowerment of persons with disabilities worldwide. We must regain our footing on the world stage as the leading defender of human rights for all people.”

Jessica’s Take: According to the text of the bill, there are now more than 1 billion people around the world (15 percent of the world’s population) with disabilities, and 80 percent of them live in developing countries. Sixty percent of people with disabilities are women and there are more than 90 million children disabled children worldwide; statistically, they are both more likely to experience sexual violence than those without disabilities. They also are more subject to economic and social marginalization, difficult obtaining education, adverse labor market outcomes, financial instability, lack of housing and substandard living conditions.

The thinking behind this bill is that the United States has the opportunity to lead the world in defending the rights and dignity of the disabled and promote equitable and fair treatment around the world. Currently, the U.S. is not part of the global Disability Rights Movement, a part of the global health landscape that has been gaining steam since 2006 when the landmark UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) passed. It has been ratified by more than 170 countries, which do not include the U.S. Signing this bill not only makes great strides toward protecting a vulnerable population in a formalized and important way, but it also would send a message to the world that despite perceptions or current events, the U.S. puts humanitarian concerns at the forefront.

H.R. 3342 – Health Providers Training Act

Sponsor: Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV)

Co-sponsors: N/A

Synopsis: A bill to grant hospitals eligibility for the Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG) Program to train Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients and low-income individuals for positions in the healthcare field expected to be in high demand or experience a labor shortage. HPOG participants can obtain a higher education, training, and support services needed to secure jobs that pay well in the healthcare field, providing the opportunity to reach financial security.

Action: On 6/19/2019, bill was introduced in House and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Sponsor Comments: “Our country faces a growing aging population, a rise in chronic diseases, and increased behavioral health conditions — all of which contribute to a substantial need for a dynamic healthcare workforce that can meet the demands of today and tomorrow,” said Congressman Horsford. “My bill is an investment in programs that make education and training in the healthcare field accessible. The Health Providers Training Act would allow hospitals like Centennial Hills and Summerlin Hospital Medical Centers to create opportunities for Nevadans to learn the required skills to become a nurse, medical aide, home health aide, or a number of other much-needed healthcare positions.”

Jessica’s Take: In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its projections for 2015-2030 for the Long-Term Services and Support (LTSS) workforce — the people providing paid and unpaid medical personal care provisions that people need when they experience difficulty living independently and completing daily self-care tasks. The BLS found that these direct-care workers, which include nursing assistants, home health aides, personal care aides and psychiatric assistants/aides comprise 71% of the health care workforce. Demand is projected to be extraordinary, with job growth for these four professions alone at 48 percent between 2015 and 2030. Meanwhile, demand for nurses during this period will be nearly as high, with job growth of 46 percent.

Following these dire projections and the realization that many currently sitting in Congress will soon be availing themselves of the services these critical occupations provide, members of Congress officially agreed that the healthcare workforce shortage is worsening and federal action was needed. A number of bills began being sponsored, and Horsford’s newest bill is among them. Interestingly, this bill does not have a cosponsor, but Horsford’s background as CEO of the Culinary Training Academy, an organization dedicated to eliminating unemployment through workplace education and vocational training, informs this bill, which would develop a grant program that kills two birds with one stone: Provides low-income, needy individuals with funding to afford career training so they can fill one of these high-demand careers. Fortunately, the current administration does have a history of addressing many healthcare issues, including oversight of electronic health records administration, a rural health strategy to reduce regulatory barriers to telehealth and others. Hopefully, that will extend to this bill as well, which could prove a boon for both the healthcare industry and addressing poverty.

S. 1901 – GEO Act

Sponsor: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Co-Sponsors: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Synopsis: A bill to promote the growth of geothermal energy by developing stronger public-private partnerships, reducing barriers to leasing public land for geothermal energy use where certain energy extraction activities are already permitted, and promoting the direct development and deployment of geothermal heat pump technologies among large-scale facilities and buildings.

The GEO Act establishes public-private partnerships to improve the collection of geothermal data and reduce drilling risk.

Poor geothermal resource maps and the related challenge of finding “hot spots” deep underground create financial risks for the use of this technology; the GEO Act reduces future drilling risk through a competitive, cost-shared grant program administered by the Department of Energy (DOE).

This legislation reduces barriers to obtaining leases for geothermal energy development by allowing oil and gas leaseholders to coproduce geothermal energy without going through an additional competitive lease process.

It would also allow for rapid expansion of already identified geothermal resources without additional delays and ensure taxpayers fair market value for the resource.

The GEO Act promotes geothermal heat pumps and direct use of geothermal energy by establishing a pair of programs at the DOE to promote the development and deployment of this technology both at the Department of Energy and among local entities.

This bill would create a research program conducted by the DOE and a second grant program for states and local governments, universities, and non-profits to promote the use of geothermal energy.

This bill ensures the federal government prioritizes the development and use of public geothermal energy.

It would require the Bureau of Land Management to identify high-priority areas for new geothermal development and set goals for the Secretary of Interior to approve more than 15,000 megawatts of new geothermal energy and for the Director of the United States Geological Survey to identify sites capable of producing 50,000 megawatts of geothermal power by 2025.

Action: On 6/19/2019, bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Sponsor Comments: “Nevada is a leader in the production of renewable energy, and geothermal technology is an essential part of that clean energy future,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This important legislation makes sure the federal government is on notice to prioritize this vital resource that can power our communities without polluting our planet. Right in Reno, Nevada, we have renewable energy leaders like Ormat Technologies harnessing the innovative technology that powers our future – which is why I’m introducing legislation that gives these companies the opportunity to grow and thrive without the federal government standing in the way.”

Jessica’s Take: Harnessing the heat of the earth and using it as a renewable source of energy has been done since the 1960s, and currently the U.S. leads the world for installed geothermal capacity, with more than 3.7 gigawatts. The U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy says geothermal could meet more than 10 percent of U.S. electricity demand. However, currently only a few countries — Iceland, El Salvador and the Philippines — are using geothermal for more than 25 percent of total electricity generation.

Barriers include cost, lack of awareness and a difficult process in obtaining land. It’s difficult to find hot spots deep underground, presenting drilling risk. It’s costly to drill and maintain the equipment used. And getting leases from the Bureau of Land Management is a lengthy, complex process. This bill addresses all these barriers. Currently, power providers in Nevada are required to source 20 percent of their electricity from renewables; The Silver State is a leader in geothermal production, as is Oregon, which has one of the largest reservoirs of geothermal power in the nation. Residents of the West should support this bill, which would enhance these opportunities, growing an important economic sector while helping to address climate change.

S. 1921 – Provider Training in Palliative Care Act

Sponsor: Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Co-Sponsors: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Synopsis: A bill to provide that primary care services provided by the National Health Service Corps may include palliative care services. The bill would amend Section 331(a)(3)(D) of the Public Health Service Act by inserting “palliative care,” after “gynecology.”

Action: On 6/20/2019, bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Sponsor Comments: “Countless patients facing serious illness or injury can benefit from the practice of palliative care,” said Senator Rosen. “Palliative care is an option that does not get the attention it deserves and is proven to improve outcomes as well as reduce the cost of treatment. This bipartisan legislation will help strengthen the skills of our medical workforce in Nevada and across the country to better meet the needs of patients and families in need, especially those in rural and underserved areas.”

Jessica’s Take: According to the National Institute on Aging, palliative care “can be helpful at any stage of illness and is best provided from the point of diagnosis.” Palliative care can work well alongside curative treatment for a range of conditions and helps to meet a patient’s needs as a whole. Positive aspects of palliative care include reduced discomfort and disability, better care coordination, and improved outcomes. And a 2010 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients who received palliative care early after a serious illness diagnosis had better quality of life, experienced less frequent depression and lived longer than counterparts who did not receive this type of care. This care, which focuses on addressing pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness, but unlike hospice, could allow patients to receive curative treatment simultaneously. An aging population will see increases in this type of care, adding to an already burgeoning demand in the healthcare workforce. This act would call for palliative care training opportunities through the National Health Services Corp, a program whose goal is to grow the primary care workforce by awarding scholarships and loan repayment opportunities. The Hospice Action and Palliative Care Organization has offered its support to this bipartisan bill, and as another measure offered by Congress to stem the rising workforce challenges to come, it’s a bill I believe few could dispute.