Time Running Out on 2013 Congress Session

Dec 9, 2013, 7:58 pm EDT
Time Running Out on 2013 Congress Session

Few people would say 2013 was a good year for Congress. Between the government shutdown in October, the sequestration cuts being implemented in March, and its general refusal to enact serious legislation on a number of important issues facing the U.S., Congress took a beating in the public eye.

In polls, Congress’ popularity plunged to a record low of 9%, less than Americans approval ratings for things like zombies, jury duty, and dog poop. Clearly, Congress has much work to do to revamp its image.

There isn’t much time left for that to happen in 2013, however. Congress’ last day in session this year will be Friday, and there are plenty of issues on the table that need resolved, or else we will see a repeat of the turmoil that’s dogged American politics for much of this year. Read 

Congress to Extend Plastic Gun Ban

Dec 9, 2013, 11:10 am EDT
Congress to Extend Plastic Gun Ban

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on Monday to extend a decade-old ban on plastic firearms. Source: Flickr

The move will prohibit the production of guns that can pass through metal detectors and screening equipment without raising an alert for another ten years. Under current law, gun makers can produce plastic guns as long as they feature a metal component that can be detected by screening machines. Some gun control advocates complain that the part can be too easily removed, the Associated Press notes.

However, any effort to impose additional restrictions on plastic firearms will face opposition from the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), which has signaled that it won’t oppose the extension — so long as the law remains as already written. The ban’s renewal comes as 3D printer technology from manufacturers like Stratasys (SYSS), 3D Systems (DDD) and Voxeljet (VJET) is moving toward becoming mainstream. Read 

Wis. Governor Scott Walker Fires Aide Over Offensive Tweets

Dec 4, 2013, 2:32 pm EDT
Wis. Governor Scott Walker Fires Aide Over Offensive Tweets

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker fired a campaign aide for posting offensive comments about Hispanics on Twitter.

USA Today reports that Walker’s deputy finance manager Taylor Palmisano got the boot after some of her offensive tweets saw the light of day. In 2011, she posted comments such as “illegal mex cleaning the library” and “nobody speaks English.” The tweets were removed but not before they made their way to the rest of the Internet. Read 

Illinois Legislature Passes Pension Reform

Dec 3, 2013, 7:58 pm EDT

Facing one of the worst pension funding crises of any city or state in the U.S., Illinois finally got its financial ducks in a row today.

State lawmakers passed a bill during a special session today that will address unfunded liabilities in the state pension plan. Illinois, which owes its pension plan $100 billion, will save $160 billion over the next 30 years, and will immediately reduce its unfunded liability by about 20 percent.

The bill made it through the Senate by a 30-24 vote and through the House by a 62-53 vote. It was supported by both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders and by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who has pushed the legislature to pass pension reform all year. After attempts to get a bill done in spring failed, along with a summer session that led to a legislative committee that hammered out a bill, Quinn’s efforts seem to have finally paid off. Read 

Obama Announces $100M HIV Research Project

Dec 3, 2013, 12:29 pm EDT
Obama Announces $100M HIV Research Project

President Barack Obama, announced on Monday, that he is moving $100 million toward a research project to fight HIV. Source: mailto:letters@investorplace.com

The research project will be handled by the National Institutes of Health and will work to find a way cure for HIV, the Associated Press notes.

“We will stand with you through every step of this journey until we reach the day possible when all men and women can protect themselves from infection, a day when all people with HIV infection have access to treatment to save their lives,” President Obama told Politico. Read 

White House Claims Healthcare.gov Glitches Fixed

Dec 2, 2013, 9:46 am EDT
White House Claims Healthcare.gov Glitches Fixed

Two months after it launched, the Obama administration says that the federal health insurance exchange that covers 36 states is finally able to serve most users.

Healthcare.gov debuted on Oct. 1, the most visible part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but was widely criticized for numerous glitches that left users unable to access the exchange or purchase insurance coverage. Chasten by the mounting backlash against the troubled website rollout, the White House brought in new experts and promised to have the exchange working by the end of November, the Washington Post notes.

Now, the administration says it has met that goal. According to an official tapped to lead the overhaul of Healthcare.gov, the website now functions properly 90% of the time. That’s up from 43% in October. Administration officials said that while the website is performing significantly better now, compared to its launch, some users will still face delays. There are also concerns that insurance providers will continue to encounter problems exchanging information with the website. Read 

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