Can Congress Be Tempted by this Low-Hanging Legislative Fruit?

For the fifth year in a row, National Taxpayers Union is pleased to offer for consideration 10 “no-brainer” bills - commonsense, bipartisan legislation that would in some way create a change for the better. Faced with a fall calendar packed with potential crises and stalemates exacerbated by partisan rancor, here are 10 examples of “low-hanging fruit” that can and should be passed with ease:

  1. Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (S.1562/H.R. 2903): Introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in the Senate and Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Ron Kind (D-WI) in the House, this legislation lowers taxes on both large and small brewers as well as beer importers, eliminating long-standing size-based disparities in tax structure.

  2. PREPARE Act (H.R. 3190): Also known as the Preparedness and Risk Management for Extreme Weather Patterns Assuring Resilience and Effectiveness Act, this bill, introduced by Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), would ensure better planning and coordination among federal agencies to cope with extreme weather events. It would also facilitate information sharing with state and local governments to help increase emergency preparedness.

  3. Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act (S. 1378): This legislation would empower government employees to boost efficiency and better steward the taxpayer funds entrusted to them by incentivizing federal workers to report mismanaged, wasted, or leftover funds. In so doing their good suggestions would be rewarded with up to one percent of the savings or $10,000, whichever is less. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are leading the charge on behalf of Bonuses for Cost-Cutters in the 114th Congress.

  4. Equity in Government Compensation Act (H.R. 2243): After the Federal Housing and Finance Agency approved salaries of up to $4 million for the heads of troubled government sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced legislation to reverse that decision and bring CEO and employee compensation at the two mortgage companies in line with other federal workers. The legislation recently passed the House Financial Services Committee with nearly unanimous support.

  5. ECPA Amendments Act (S. 356)/Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699): These bills would require regulatory agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service or Environmental Protection Agency, to obtain a warrant before compelling the release of private, personal data such as emails or customer records. This long overdue reform has broad bipartisan support in both chambers and has veto-proof majority of 292 co-sponsors in the House.

  6. Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act (H.R. 3187): The legislation would permit states to set their own rules for meat sold inside their borders, enabling local farmers to sell products to consumers without the burdensome hurdles of federally approved middlemen. Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Jared Polis (D-CO) are all original cosponsors of this food-freedom reform.

  7. Fair Treatment for All Donations Act (S.942/H.R. 1104): The IRS has vacillated for decades as to whether or not the federal gift tax applies to donations to tax-exempt organizations such as 501(c)(4), (c)(5), or (c)(6) groups. This legislation, which passed the House on a voice vote, would clarify how the federal gift tax is applied, protecting organizations and donors from potentially discriminatory audits and from what is essentially a form of double taxation that punishes the simple act of generosity.

  8. Ending Special Mail Privileges for Congress Act (H.R. 1873): Backed by a bipartisan slate of co-sponsors led by Reps. Rob Woodall (R-GA) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), this legislation would end franking, the practice of Members of Congress postponing payment and sending mail with a signature in lieu of postage. Ending this double-standard will increase transparency and accountability when it comes to congressional mail costs.

  9. Federal Crop Insurance Premium Subsidy Reform Bill (S. 345): S. 345 is the latest in a long line of bipartisan measures aimed at reining in costly agriculture subsidies from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). This legislation would limit federal crop insurance premium subsidies for any one agriculture producer to $50,000. The resulting budgetary savings would amount to $1.1 billion over five years according to research by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.

  10. Presidential Allowance Modernization Act (S. 1411/H.R. 1777): In FY2015 alone, former Presidents cost taxpayers more than $2.4 million in travel, office space, staff, and other perks. This legislation, introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) in the Senate and  Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in the House, would reduce presidential pensions and limit the spending allowance to $200,000. The bill also includes means testing that would further reduce the allowance when an ex-President’s income exceeds $400,000. The Congressional Budget Office estimates S. 1411/H.R. 1777 could save taxpayers $10 million over five years.

Here are links to previous years' No-Brainers Lists: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.