NJ.com article on 3 Smith bills signed into law'These N.J. lawmakers saw their bills become law before Congress adjourned'
By Johathan Salant of the Star Ledger/NJ.com
In the closing days of the 115th Congress, as lawmakers prepared to go home for Christmas, they passed dozens of bills as final deals were cut and language was tweaked to ensure passage.
Even as he negotiated with congressional leaders over legislation to keep parts of the federal government open past Friday, President Donald Trump affixed pen to paper and signed several measures into law.
Dozens of lawmakers who did not seek re-election or were defeated in November skipped those votes, but not the four New Jersey Republicans who will no longer be in office come January.
Outgoing Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd Dist., Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist., Leonard Lance, R-7th Dist., and Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11th Dist,, were there for every vote.
Fighting human trafficking
Rep. Chris Smith, who in January will be the only Republican among New Jersey's 12 House members, ended his tenure in the majority by seeing three bills signed into law by Trump this month.
The first, the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, would renew and strengthen efforts to stop human trafficking. The bill earmarked $430 million over four years for programs such as teaching airline employees and federal officials how to detect trafficking and coordinating international efforts to address the problem.
The bill was named for Frederick Douglass, the former slave who became an abolitionist. Douglass' great-great-great grandson, Kenneth Morris Jr., was at the press conference when Smith announced the legislation.
The law requires the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice to inform foreign governments when registered sex offenders are visiting their countries, and to receive information when sex offenders travel to the U.S.
Smith sponsored that bill, too. It was named for Megan Kanka, 7, of Hamilton in Smith's district. She was sexually assaulted and killed in 1994 by a convicted sex offender who lived across the street. The original Megan's Law passed by the New Jersey legislature required the residents to be told when a sex offender moved into their neighborhood.
Extending federal flood insurance
Unable to make changes to the expiring federal flood insurance program, Congress simply voted to extend the current program until May 31. The president signed the bill on Friday.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., was the lead Democratic sponsor of the extension,
Before passing a simple extension, the House defeated legislation sponsored by MacArthur to allow private companies who already write federal policies to also offer their own insurance to customers. While that policy had been put in place by the Trump administration, congressional Democrats didn't want to write it into law. The vote was 148 in favor and 226 against.
Reps. Frank Pallone Jr., D-6th Dist., and Bill Pascrell Jr., D-9th Dist., called the bill "a last-minute attempt by Republicans to give an early Christmas gift to private insurance companies, including those who have taken advantage of our constituents."
As was the case with the Republican farm bill that imposed new rules on food stamp recipients and the GOP tax bill that curbed the federal deduction for state and local taxes, MacArthur was the only one of the state's 12 House members to vote yes on his flood insurance measure.
He then moved that the House take up the simple extension, which passed, 315-48, with all 12 New Jersey representatives voting yes.
The U.S. House cleared legislation providing federal funding to maintain the memorials erected at the sites of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. The bill awaits Trump's signature.
MacArthur's 9/11 Memorial Act would authorize up to $25 million a year in federal grants for the memorials at Ground Zero in New York, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania site where United Airlines Flight 93 was forced down by its passengers.
"This law will provide stable funding for the security and operation of this vital memorial so that future generations may safely visit the site and never forget the 3,000 Americans we lost," MacArthur said. "It is our solemn duty to honor the fallen and protect the living."
It had originally passed the House by voice vote shortly after the the 17th anniversary of 9/11. Senators made some minor changes and passed its version without opposition.
Then the House gave final approval by 371-3 on Friday, the 30th anniversary of another terrorist attack, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
Researching sickle cell disease
Trump signed legislation that would allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide funding to state and local agencies to collect information on sickle cell disease and develop ways to better screen for and treat it.
The Sickle Cell Disease and Other Heritable Blood Disorders Research, Surveillance, Prevention, and Treatment Act was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Tim Scott, R-S.C.
Sickle cell disease consists of rare red blood cell disorders that can cause pain, infections, organ damage and stroke. An estimated 100,000 Americans are afflicted with the disease, 90 percent of them African-American.
"Research and treatment efforts for sickle cell disease lags behind that of other chronic illnesses, even though it is the most common inherited blood disorder in our country," Booker said.
Researching traumatic brain injury
The Traumatic Brain Injury Program Reauthorization Act of 2018, which extended federal funding and research though 2023. was signed by Trump on Friday.
The measure was sponsored by Pascrell, chair and co-founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.
"This critical funding will help federal agencies, states, and local providers continue to conduct breakthrough research, while providing support to service members on and off the battlefield, athletes on the ball field, and patients and families across the country who are living with brain injuries," Pascrell said.
Tacking AIDS worldwide
Congress approved a five year $30 billion extension of a federally funded program designed to fight AIDS worldwide was signed into law by Trump.
Smith sponsored the extension of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
"Each year we are closer and closer to achieving an AIDS-free world and an AIDS-free generation," Smith said.
The program has saved an estimated 16 million lives, Smith said.
The measure authorized funding for Coast Guard operations and construction for this year and next. Trump signed it into law Dec. 4.
Protecting victims of genocide
Smith had a third bill signed into law, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act, which he introduced in response to mass killings of minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, by the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS.
The new law allows the federal government to fund religious and other groups that provide humanitarian assistance to survivors, identify threats of violence against members of minority groups, and support investigations of war crimes against them.
"When genocide or other atrocity crimes are perpetrated, the United States should direct some of its humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery aid to enable these groups to survive -- especially when they are minorities whose existence as a people is at-risk," Smith said.
This story in its original form was posted Dec. 25, 2018 and can be read online at: