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Most Expensive Bill of the Week
The Bill: H.R. 350, Anti-hunger Empowerment Act of 2011
Annualized Cost: $200 million ($1 billion over five years)
The Anti-hunger Empowerment Act would amend one and establish another federal food program for low-income individuals. Congressman Jose Serrano's (NY-16) bill would make changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps. In exchange for making SNAP accessible to more Americans, the federal government would reimburse states up to 75 percent of administrative costs. As a condition of the program's expansion, states would be required to provide longer hours of operation, reduce wait times at SNAP-related offices, and upgrade computer systems and Internet acceptance of SNAP applications. Additionally, in an effort to reduce duplicative SNAP office visits, the fingerprinting of food stamp recipients would be prohibited.
Community food initiatives are also provided with funding from the Department of Agriculture in H.R. 350. Nonprofit anti-hunger groups within 20 designated communities would be given operational and technical assistance grants. A wide range of eligible programs would qualify for pilot program funding including welfare to work efforts, educational programs emphasizing physical activity, and programs that provides funding to service programs like AmeriCorps and Freedom Corps.
According to the bill, community food pilot programs would be funded at $200 million per year. Approximately $190 million would be awarded in grants, while $8 million would go towards technical assistance. Each grant would range between $500,000 and $20 million.
Least Expensive Bill of the Week
The Bill: H.R. 258, Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Act of 2011
Annualized Cost: $1 million (first year cost)
Since its creation in the early 1980s, the Chesapeake Bay Program has received tax dollars to reverse water pollution, help indigenous species prosper, and to encourage sound land use. Two major Congressional bills reformed the program in order to address new environmental problems and include new areas within the bay region.
H.R. 258 would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create an adaptive management plan for the program's activities. The EPA and an independent evaluator would be responsible for reviewing the plans every three years. Progress and financial reports would also be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for future funding considerations. Citing successes in the Everglades and the Great Lakes, Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-1) sponsored the bill to bring better management practices to preserving one of America's major waterways.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the changes to the program would result in $1 million in new spending.
The Bill: S. 99, American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2011
Annualized Cost: $36 million ($143 million over five years)
US health care providers import molybdenum-99 from Canada and a number of European countries. The radioactive isotope is the most widely-used substance in the world for molecular and nuclear diagnostic imaging tests. About two-thirds of the imports are injected into patients as a means to diagnose cardiac problems.
In light of shortages and production slowdowns, Senator Jeff Bingaman (NM) sponsored S. 99, which would change both the supply chain for molybdenum-99 and American exports of highly enriched uranium. The bill would authorize $143 million in new spending over the next five years to establish a domestic medical isotope supply.
S. 99 would also phase out exporting highly enriched uranium for the purposes of creating medical-related isotopes. Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK), who cosponsored the bill, said the "technology exists to produce molybdenum-99 from low enriched uranium - South Africa and Australia are currently doing so."
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The Bill: S. 306, National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2011
Annualized Cost: $7 million ($14 million over two years)
Number of Cosponsors: 21 Senators
With the goals to "be smarter about whom we incarcerate, improve public safety outcomes, make better use of taxpayer dollars, and bring greater fairness to [the American] justice system," Senator Jim Webb (VA) has re-introduced the National Criminal Justice Commission Act. The bill would establish a 14-member blue-ribbon, bipartisan commission to make a complete review of the American criminal justice system. At the end of its 18-month tenure, recommendations would be submitted to Congress, the President, State, local, and tribal governments.
The bill calls for a total appropriation of $14 million, of which a maximum of $7 million could be spent in a single year. Costs include staff expenses, travel reimbursements, and compensation for commission members.
Cosponsors include 20 Democrats and one Republican in the Senate.
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