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Accelerate Colorado

2016 Successes

Healthcare
In December Congress passed, and the President signed, sweeping bipartisan legislation intended to expand medical research and speed up approval of new drugs and medical devices. The $6.3 billion bill, called the 21st Century Cures Act, in which Congresswoman Diana DeGette was actively involved as an initial lead sponsor in the House, is a broad mixture of initiatives, including $1 billion over two years to address the opioid epidemic and $500 million to help the FDA implement changes called for in the legislation, though none of the funding is mandatory.  However, the Continuing Resolution that Congress also passed, and which funds the federal government through April 28, 2017, contains funding for certain portions of the 21st Century Cures Act, including $20 million for the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), $352 million for the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) cancer prevention initiatives, and $500 million for grants to states to curb opioid abuse. 
 
Defense
In early December Congress overwhelmingly passed a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The $618.7 billion bill includes a $3.2 billion increase in military spending, when there has been no similar increase in non-defense funding.  Colorado bases are safe.  Although top Pentagon officials say they have too much capacity, the bill bars further closures of military bases, and it blocks planned reductions in active-duty troop numbers. The NDAA also continues policies that bar transfers of prisoners to U.S. soil from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which Obama had hoped to close. 
 
Water
Just before adjourning for the year, both the House and Senate passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN) by large margins. Overall, WIIN authorizes 30 new Army Corps of Engineers projects, but Colorado did not request or have any major water development projects in the bill.   There will be another opportunity, however, in two years and new project requests should be developed now in order for Colorado projects to be considered for the next bill. 
 
Overtime Rule
In late November, a federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction blocking the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) rule requiring overtime pay for more than 4 million new workers. U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant ruled that 21 states and more than 50 business groups that sued to block the rule stood a significant chance of success and would suffer serious financial harm if the rule was put into effect as scheduled on December 1, 2016. The judge found it likely the Obama Administration overstepped its authority by raising the salary cap at which all workers must receive overtime pay from $455 a week to $921 a week or $47,892 a year.  In late January 2016 the Trump Administration filed papers with the federal court indicating that it might withdraw an Obama White House appeal of the federal court's invalidation of the rule.
 
FCC Confirmation
The Senate went home for the holidays without voting to reconfirm Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.  Thus the FCC, which has been working on net neutrality and other important issues affecting the telecom industry, had a tie through the end of 2016 and therefore nothing major has happened.  However, now that President Trump designated Ajit Pai to be the new Chairman of the FCC he may be signaling that the FCC will once again consider Net Neutrality rules.