Senator Doug Jones’ FUTURE Act Signed into Law by President Trump

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Special to the
Opelika Observer

Last week U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) released the following statement on the President’s signing of his bipartisan FUTURE Act legislation to permanently renew funding for Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs). The bill also includes a first step toward simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process. The legislation passed in Congress last week with overwhelming bipartisan support.
“Today marks the end of a 15-month effort to provide permanent, reliable funding for our HBCUs and minority-serving institutions of higher education around the country. These schools are part of the very foundation of our higher education system and serve six million talented students across the country. Permanent funding will allow them to fulfill their mission of serving their students and educating our next generation of leaders. This is just one example of how members of Congress can still work in a bipartisan way to get things done and do the right thing for the people we serve,” Jones said. He is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Background:
Earlier this month, Jones joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues to announce a compromise deal to permanently fund HBCUs and MSIs as well as take a step toward simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That legislation was amended to strengthen privacy protections and approved in the House of Representatives by a vote of 319 to 96. The amended bill was approved unanimously in the Senate.
Before funding expired on Sept. 30, Jones took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to support a vote on his legislation. The Senate failed to take action before the deadline, but Jones continued to fight to renew the funding and raise awareness about the urgent need to pass this legislation.
Jones first proposed to permanently increase and renew funding for HBCUs and MSIs last year through his legislation, the Strengthening Minority-Serving Institutions Act. It earned the support of one-fourth of the Senate.
Appropriations
Package
Jones announced last week that dozens of his requests to fund priorities for Alabama were included in a year-end appropriations package that passed the Senate today. The two funding bills now head to the President’s desk for his signature.
“From increased resources for our HBCUs to additional funding to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in our deer population, there are dozens of Alabama priorities included in this bill,” Jones said. “The deal will also fund my Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Commission, end the Kiddie Tax on military families, and provide funding for heirs’ property owners to resolve burdensome legal issues. I want to thank Senators Richard Shelby and Patrick Leahy, who lead our Appropriations Committee, for their bipartisan work to get this done.”
Key provisions championed by Jones include:
• Ending the “Kiddie Tax”: As a result of the Military Widow’s Tax, Gold Star spouses often put benefits in their children’s names in order to collect full survivor benefits. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act significantly raised taxes due on these benefits up to a tax rate of 37%, resulting in surprise tax increases of more than $1,000 for many families. The inclusion of Jones’ bill to get rid of the Kiddie Tax will restore the previous lower tax rate on these benefits.
• Civil Rights Cold Case bill implementation: $2 million has been allocated for National Archives and Records Administration to implement Jones’ Civil Rights Cold Case Collection Act, which was signed into law by the President early this year.
• Funding gun violence prevention research: For the first time in two decades, Congress will allocate $25 million for research into the causes of gun violence in America. Jones has supported this effort as a common-sense, bipartisan step to better understand and prevent acts of gun violence.
• Improving maternal and child health: $17 million increase for programs to improve maternal and child health through the Health Resources and Services Administration, including an additional $5 million to reduce maternal mortality. Jones has introduced numerous pieces of legislation to support families and increase access to health care for women and children.
• Increasing funding to enforce federal child protection laws: $90 million for state grants and $55.66 million for the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention grants to enforce the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which Jones has introduced legislation to reauthorize in 2020.
• Raising the purchasing age for tobacco to 21: The deal prohibits sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 across the country. Jones joined similar legislation earlier this year.
• Clotilda excavation assistance: $500,000 for the Smithsonian Institution to support excavation, education, and community engagement around discovery of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to arrive in the United States. The bill also expands eligibility for Civil Rights grants under the Historic Preservation Fund to include recently discovered sites of the transatlantic slave trade, including the Clotilda. Jones also recently memorialized the discovery of the Clotilda, which was found near Mobile in a Senate resolution.
• Funding programs to resolve heirs’ property disputes: $5 million secured by Jones for a new heirs’ property relending fund program.
• Preventing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease: Preventing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease: $1.72 million for the U.S. Geological Survey and $5 million to the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to combat chronic wasting disease. As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, Jones has introduced several pieces of legislation to fight the spread of CWD. Also included in the bill was another of Jones’ priorities, the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, which will help state wildlife agencies to conduct important CWD outreach activities.
• Increasing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) funding:

  • In addition to securing permanent mandatory funding for HBCUs, Jones has advocated for this bill to also provide $325 million—a 15% increase—for HBCU discretionary funding next year. Last year, he also secured a 14% discretionary funding increase in the omnibus funding bill.
  • $10 million for HBCU Historic Preservation Fund grants.
  • $50 million, including $10 million for Public HBCUs, for HBCU Capital Finance Loan deferment authority.
    • Increasing the maximum Pell Grant award: Students are now eligible for a $150 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award, bringing the maximum award to $6,345 per student.
    • Funding wastewater grant programs: $5 million for the Household Water Well System Grant Program, which Jones expanded in last year’s Farm Bill to include up to $15,000 for households in rural areas to install and maintain individually owned decentralized wastewater systems.
    • Enforcing EPA civil rights protections: $9.554 million for enforcement of environmental justice programs under EPA. Earlier this year, Jones called on EPA to better enforce civil rights protections in the environmental justice context.
    • Saving miners pensions: The bill shores up the miners pension plan, which is headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis, and ensures that the miners who are at risk due to coal company bankruptcies will not lose their healthcare. There are nearly 6,000 United Mine Workers of America pensioners in Alabama.
    • Protecting public transportation funds: The bill includes Jones’ amendment to protect $1.2 billion in public transportation funds, including more than $7 million that was set to be cut for Alabama transit agencies without this amendment.
    • Protecting Alabama auto manufacturers from unnecessary tariffs: The bill requires the release of automobile and auto part Section 232 investigation within 30 days, which Jones has called on the Administration to make public.
    • Addressing the shortage of pilots and lack of diversity in military service: $3 million for the Air Force and Army Junior ROTC to create pilot scholarship programs to increase diversity in military pilot ranks. Jones introduced a bill earlier this year to authorize the secretaries of each military department to create these programs.

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