Sweden: Parliament Decides Absent Members Must Repay Salary

Source: US Global Legal Monitor

On November 17, 2021, the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) decided that members who are absent during parliamentary votes may have to repay their salary to the Parliamentary Administration. The decision, expressed in an amendment to the Remuneration Act (Ersättningslagen (SFS 2016:1108)) also includes changes to rules concerning when a member of parliament may be removed from his or her committee seat and what periods of absence members may not count as time served for purposes of income benefits.

Currently, members of parliament are not required to attend votes in the chamber or otherwise participate in the parliamentary process. The rationale for allowing members of parliament to define their own work has been that members of parliament who do not fulfil their duties toward their constituency will not be reelected, and removing them or otherwise disciplining them would infringe on the principle that the voters elect their representatives.

According to the committee,

[t]he purpose of the new provision is to identify those few members who have high absenteeism without a valid reason over an extended period. According to the Riksdag Board, the fact that members over a long period of timechoose not to participate in the work of the parliament but nevertheless continue to receive compensation risks harming voters’ confidence in the Swedish Parliament and the democratic system. The new provision is based on the [members’] presence on voting occasions in order to capture reprehensible cases without creating a great deal of bureaucracy. According to the Riksdag Board, it is reasonable that the member of parliament is first made aware that he or she is at risk of being subject to a repayment duty before the Parliament’s remuneration committee makes such a decision.

The amendment to Chapter 3, Section 11 of the Remuneration Act specifically provides as follows:

A member of parliament who has been absent on no less than 60 percent of voting occasions [voteringstillfällena] in the chamber during a quarter must repay the emolument specified in 3 ch. 1–4 §§ that corresponds to that period, if

1.  The member has been absent during at least 60 percent of the voting occasions in the chamber also during a previous quarter of the election period, and

2.  The speaker has informed the member of his or her absence during the quarter mentioned in 1. and the duty to repay.

The provision would not apply in instances where the member is absent due to excused leave, such as parental leave, international travel, or other special reasons.

The Swedish parliament has previously operated with a reduced number of members voting in-person in the chamber, most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic, when only 55 voting members, reflecting the overall representation of each party in the 349-member parliament, were present to vote in person. Absence during similar parliamentary situations would not trigger a repayment duty.

Currently, members of parliament are compensated 69,900 Swedish kronor (about US$7,700) per month, while certain assignments, such as positions as committee chairpersons, entitle the member to additional remuneration. (3 kap. 3 § Ersättningslagen (SFS 2016:1108).)

Members of parliament who must repay their remuneration for any period will also not be allowed to count that period as time served in the parliament for purposes of income guarantee payments, adjustment support when retiring from parliament, or survivor protection payments. (12 kap. 5, 8 §§, 13 kap. 7 § Ersättningslagen, as amended.)

In the same decision, the parliament also decided that members of parliament who leave their political party while retaining their seat in parliament must give up any position that they hold in a parliamentary committee. Currently, committee seats are awarded on the basis of the party’s parliamentary majorities, but parties cannot force former party members to give up a seat. Currently, one sitting member of parliament lacks a party affiliation after she left her political party during this parliamentary term (2018–2022). Members who leave their party but retain their seat are known as politiska vildar (literally, “political savages”). There have been 33 politiska vildar in recent Swedish history.  

The proposal was one of many decisions in a larger proposal that also included amendments to the Riksdag Act (Riksdagsordningen (SFS 2014:801)). The Riksdag Act holds a special status in Swedish law and is subject to special rules for amendment, requiring that amendments be adopted either with a qualified majority (consisting of at least three-quarters of voting members and half of all members) or through two simple majority decisions with one national parliamentary election between them before they can take effect. According to that proposal (Ändring i riksdagsstyrelsens förslag till lag om ändring i riksdagsordningen), the Riksdag Board would be free to forgo asking the Swedish Council on Legislation (Law Council) for comments when it determines the Law Council’s opinion is unnecessary. Under current rules the Riksdag Board may refuse to ask the Law Council for comment only when the “Law Council’s review would be irrelevant due to the nature of the issue or would delay the treatment of the legislative issue, thereby causing detrimental harm.” (8 kap. 21 § Regeringsformen (1974:152) (Swedish Constitution).)

How FDA Helps You Make Healthy Food Choices

Source: US Food and Drug Administration-1

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As you’re sitting around your kitchen table or walking into your favorite chain restaurant, or in the grocery store, you may wonder:

What should I feed myself and my family at home?

What about when we’re eating out?

Which of the many food options available would be a healthy choice, no matter where we’re eating?

To help you make healthy choices, FDA’s recent efforts will do two things: First, provide the information you need to make those choices.

Second, encourage and help food companies to reformulate, or change the recipes of products to produce healthier foods.

The New, Improved Nutrition Facts Label

For more than 20 years, the familiar Nutrition Facts label on packages at the grocery store has guided many consumers in making food choices for their families. To make the label even more useful, FDA has made changes in both format and content. Updated Nutrition Facts labels may be displayed on packages now but must be on packages by July 26, 2018 (or July 26, 2019 for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales).

These changes include:

  • Highlighting information on calories and servings—two important elements in making informed food choices.
  • Listing additional nutrients. For the first time, “Added Sugars” must be on the label—both in grams and as a % Daily Value. (The % Daily Value tells you how much of the reference daily amount of a nutrient is in a single serving.) Scientific data shows that it is difficult to meet nutrient needs while staying within calorie limits if you consume more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars, and this is consistent with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. On average, Americans consume 13 percent of their daily calories from added sugars—making it much harder to stay within individual calorie limits.
  • In addition to “Added Sugars,” Vitamin D and potassium also are now required to be listed on the label.
  • Serving sizes that more closely reflect the amounts of food people actually eat, so the nutrition information that is listed per serving will be more realistic. In addition, the number of servings and serving sizes are more prominent.

“Some of the changes, such as providing calories and servings in larger and bolder type, will help people see this important information more quickly,” says health scientist Claudine Kavanaugh, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D. “Other changes, such as requiring that ‘added sugars’ be declared and that potassium and vitamin D be labeled, reflect changes in nutrition recommendations.”

Changes to what’s required on the label can also spur companies to adjust their recipes. For example, this happened in 2006, when FDA required that trans fat be declared on the Nutrition Facts label. Trans fat in foods declined dramatically, and companies are already announcing their plans to reduce added sugars in their products.

Menu Labeling: Calorie Counts No Longer a Mystery

More than one-third of the calories Americans eat and drink come from food and beverages consumed away from home, so consumers need nutrition information when they eat out. Calorie counts will now appear on menus and menu boards of establishments covered by the menu labeling rule, including chain restaurants, take-out and delivery food places, salad and hot-food bars, and even some movie theaters that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations. You may have noticed some places posting these calorie counts already, but all restaurants covered by the rule must post calorie counts in accordance with the rule by May 5, 2017.

Among the info you’ll see:

  • Calories from alcohol are often overlooked, so the counts for certain alcoholic beverages in food establishments covered by the rule will also be listed on the menu.
  • To help consumers put the calorie information in the context of their total daily diet, the rule calls for the following reminder to be included on menus and menu boards: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” This will be in sync with a similar footnote on the new Nutrition Facts label.
  • Certain vending machines, too, will post calorie counts for the foods they sell.

Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says, “Consumers are used to seeing calorie counts on the Nutrition Facts label for foods on supermarket shelves. Now, with menu labeling, they will have calorie information and access to other nutrient information when they eat away from home, as well.”

“When you know that lunch at a fast food chain can add up to a day’s worth of calories, it really puts it all in perspective,” she adds.

And other nutrition information, though not posted, will be available on request. Examples include information on sodium, saturated fat, fiber, and protein.

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Sodium: Developing Targets for Industry to Reduce Salt

And what about sodium? Americans currently consume on average 3,400 milligrams (mg) per day of sodium—almost 50 percent more than is recommended. Most of that comes from processed and prepared food.

Sodium already is listed on the Nutrition Facts label, but even if you read labels and choose carefully, it’s a challenge to limit intake to the recommended 2,300 mg per day. And restaurant foods also tend to be high in sodium.

Many in the food industry have taken steps to reduce the amount of sodium in their foods, but sodium levels still remain too high. So FDA has proposed voluntary short-term (two-year) and long-term (10-year) targets for reducing sodium in processed and prepared food.

In developing these targets, FDA found that sodium levels often vary greatly within food categories, providing evidence that reductions are possible. The agency is engaging food companies on the draft targets and will encourage companies to implement the finalized targets. This should help gradually reduce sodium in the food supply so that consumers who wish to reduce their sodium consumption can have increased food choices.

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Getting the Information You Need

“These initiatives all work together to address the American diet across the food landscape, including packaged and restaurant and retail foods,” says Mayne. “Whether it’s added sugar or sodium or any other ingredient, it’s about knowing what’s in your food and making informed choices.”

“At FDA, we’re consumers too. And as consumers, we want what you do for ourselves and our families—the best information about what we’re eating along with the knowledge that the FDA is working to ensure that we all have healthy choices,” Mayne says.

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VA statement on GPO printing and mailing delay

Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs

Due to supply chain and staffing shortages, the vendor contracted by the Government Publishing Office to provide printing services for the Department of Veterans Affairs is experiencing delays in printing and mailing notification letters to Veterans and claimants. The disruption may impact the ability of some claimants to meet required deadlines via written correspondence with VA.

FDIC Issues CRA Examination Schedules for First Quarter 2022 and Second Quarter 2022

Source: US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation FDIC

WASHINGTON – The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today issued the lists of institutions scheduled for a Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) examination during the first quarter 2022 and second quarter 2022.  CRA regulations require each federal bank and thrift regulator to publish its quarterly CRA examination schedule at least 30 days before the beginning of each quarter. 

 

The Community Reinvestment Act is a 1977 law intended to encourage insured banks and thrifts to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they are chartered to do business, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, consistent with safe and sound operations.  CRA examinations allow federal regulators to assess an institution’s record of helping to meet those needs.

 

CRA examinations are scheduled based on an institution’s asset size and CRA rating.  Absent reasonable cause, an institution with $250 million or less in assets and a CRA rating of Satisfactory can be subject to a CRA examination no more frequently than once every 48 months.  Absent reasonable cause, an institution with $250 million or less in assets and a CRA rating of Outstanding can be subject to a CRA examination no more frequently than once every 60 months.  

 

The schedules of institutions to be examined January 1, 2022, through March 31, 2022, and April 1, 2022, through June 30, 2022, are based on the best information now available and are subject to change.  For example, a regulated financial institution not otherwise scheduled for an examination may be examined in connection with the application for a deposit facility.  Alternatively, some institutions may require more time and resources than originally allotted, thus delaying other scheduled examinations.  If an institution is rescheduled for a different quarter, that information will be included on a later list. 

 

Federal bank and thrift regulators encourage public comment on the institutions to be examined under the CRA. Comments about FDIC-supervised institutions should be directed to the institutions themselves or to the Deputy Regional Director of the appropriate FDIC regional office (attached).  All public comments received prior to completion of a CRA examination will be considered.

 

The CRA examination schedules for the first quarter of 2022 and second quarter of 2022 are attached.  Schedules also can be obtained by calling (703) 562-2200 or (877) 275-3342, faxing a request to (703) 562-2296, or writing to:

 

 

FDIC

Public Information Center

3501 Fairfax Drive Room E-1002

Arlington, VA 22226

 

Attachments:

 

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United States: Private Spyware Technology Companies Not Entitled to Foreign Sovereign Immunity

Source: US Global Legal Monitor

On November 8, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court holding that NSO Group Technologies, Ltd., and Q Cyber Technologies Ltd. (collectively, “NSO”) are not entitled to claim foreign sovereign immunity. (WhatsApp Inc. v. NSO Group Tech. Ltd., No. 20-16408, slip op. (9th Cir. Nov. 8, 2021).)

Background to the Case

NSO is a private Israeli company that develops and licenses surveillance technology (spyware) to governments for national security and law enforcement purposes. One of NSO’s products, Pegasus, enables remote, covert extraction of data from mobile devices. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, WhatsApp, Inc. and Facebook, Inc., have sued NSO, alleging that NSO accessed their servers without permission in order to learn how to put Pegasus on WhatsApp users’ devices without detection. NSO asserts that it was acting at the direction of its foreign government customers.

NSO moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that it was acting as an agent of a foreign state and thus entitled to immunity under the common-law doctrine that protects foreign officials acting in their official capacity. The trial court denied NSO’s motion, and NSO appealed.

Foreign Sovereign Immunity Law

Foreign sovereign immunity has been part of the American legal system since the early days of the nation. Originally, sovereign immunity was a common-law doctrine, and the State Department was the arbiter of foreign sovereigns’ and ministers’ entitlement to immunity. In 1976, Congress enacted the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) and transferred responsibility for deciding claims of foreign sovereign immunity from the State Department to the judiciary. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that the FSIA is a “comprehensive framework” for resolving claims of sovereign immunity. (WhatsApp Inc., slip op. at 11.)

Under the FSIA, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1602 et seq., a foreign state is presumptively immune from the jurisdiction of United States courts unless an exception applies. The term “foreign state” includes a “political subdivision of a foreign state or an agency or instrumentality of a foreign state[.]” (28 U.S.C. § 1603(a).) An “agency or instrumentality of a foreign state” must be a separate legal person or corporation that is an organ of, or majority owned by, a foreign state or political subdivision. (28 U.S.C. § 1603(b).)

Holding of the Court of Appeals

The present decision turned on the question of whether the FSIA applies to all foreign entities (state and non-state) or only foreign state entities. (WhatsApp Inc., slip op. at 13.) Under the FSIA, presumptive immunity from suit is available to an entity that qualifies as a “foreign state.” NSO agreed that it does not qualify as a “foreign state” under the FSIA, but argued that it could claim common-law immunity because the FSIA does not expressly address foreign private entities.

In its analysis, however, the Ninth Circuit found that the text, purpose, and history of the FSIA demonstrate that it occupies the entire field of foreign sovereign immunity with regard to all entities, both foreign state and non-state. None of the policy reasons favoring sovereign immunity are served by granting it to private entities outside of the FSIA. Further, noting the interpretive canon expressio unius exclusio alterius (the expression of one thing implies the exclusion of others), it would not have made sense for Congress to have restricted sovereign immunity under the FSIA to foreign state entities and have intended for non-foreign state entities to resort to a legal scheme outside the FSIA. “The most reasonable interpretation then is that the definition of ‘foreign state’ forecloses immunity for any entity falling outside such definition, particularly where ‘foreign state’ is defined broadly.” (WhatsApp Inc., slip op. at 16.) Finally, the omission of private entities from the FSIA’s definition of “foreign states” “reflects a threshold determination about the availability of foreign sovereign immunity for such entities: they never qualify.” (WhatsApp Inc., slip op. at 18.)

The Ninth Circuit concluded that “an entity is entitled to foreign sovereign immunity, if at all, only under the FSIA. If an entity does not fall within the Act’s definition of ‘foreign state,’ it cannot claim foreign sovereign immunity. Period.” (WhatsApp Inc., slip op. at 14.) Because NSO does not qualify as a “foreign state” under the FSIA, it is precluded from claiming sovereign immunity from suit.

FDIC-Insured Institutions Reported Net Income of $69.5 Billion in Third Quarter 2021

Source: US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation FDIC

  • Net Income Continued to Increase Year Over Year
  • Net Interest Margin Rose Modestly from Last Quarter’s Record Low
  • Quarterly Loan Growth Continued
  • Asset Quality Continued to Improve
  • Community Banks Reported an Increase in Quarterly Net Income from a Year Ago

_______________________________

 

“With strong capital and liquidity levels to support lending and protect against potential losses, the banking industry continued to support the country’s needs for financial services while navigating the challenges presented by the pandemic.”

 

— FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams

_______________________________

 

WASHINGTON— Reports from the 4,914 commercial banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reflect aggregate net income of $69.5 billion in third quarter 2021, an increase of $18.4 billion (35.9 percent) from a year ago.[1]  This increase was driven by further economic growth and improved credit conditions, which led to a third consecutive quarter of aggregate negative provision expense.  These and other financial results for third quarter 2021 are included in the FDIC’s latest Quarterly Banking Profile released today.


[1] The number of FDIC insured institutions excludes one institution that did not file a Call Report this quarter but continue to have an active charter.

 

“The banking industry reported strong earnings in third quarter 2021, supported by continued economic growth and further improvements in credit quality,” McWilliams said.

 

Highlights from the Third Quarter 2021 Quarterly Banking Profile

 

Net Income Continued to Increase Year Over Year: Quarterly net income totaled $69.5 billion, an increase of $18.4 billion (35.9 percent) from the same quarter a year ago, primarily due to a $19.7 billion decline in provision expense.  Two-thirds of all banks (66.5 percent) reported annual improvements in quarterly net income, and the share of profitable institutions increased slightly year over year to 95.9 percent.  However, net income declined $875.5 million (1.2 percent) from second quarter 2021, driven by an increase in provision expense from second quarter 2021 (up $5.5 billion to negative $5.2 billion). 

 

The banking industry reported an aggregate return on average assets ratio of 1.21 percent, up 24 basis points from a year ago but down 3 basis points from second quarter 2021. 

 

Net Interest Margin Rose Modestly from Last Quarter’s Record Low: The net interest margin (NIM) improved to 2.56 percent in the third quarter, up 6 basis points from the recent record low in the previous quarter but down 12 basis points from the previous year Quarterly NIM expansion was accompanied by an increase in net interest income of $5.2 billion (4 percent) from the prior quarter.  

 

The yield on earning assets rose 5 points from the previous quarter’s record low to 2.73 percent while average funding costs declined 1 basis point from the previous quarter to a new record low of 0.17 percent.  Improvements in net interest income were widespread, as nearly three-quarters of banks (72.1 percent) reported higher net interest income compared with a year ago. 

 

Community Banks Reported a 19.6 Percent Increase in Quarterly Net Income Year Over Year: Community banks reported annual net income growth of $1.4 billion, supported by an increase in net interest income and a decline in provision expense.  Provision expenses declined $1.4 billion (83.5 percent) from a year ago and increased $219.2 million (427.9 percent) from the previous quarter.  Higher commercial and industrial (C&I) loan income, reflecting, in part, increased fee income from the payoff and forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, helped lift net interest income $2.2 billion (11.7 percent) from the same quarter a year ago. 

 

The net interest margin for community banks expanded 3 basis points from the year-ago quarter to 3.31 percent, as the continued reduction in average funding costs outpaced the decline in earning asset yields.  Nearly two-thirds (65.8 percent) of the 4,450 FDIC-insured community banks reported higher quarterly net income. 

 

Loan Balances Increased From the Previous Quarter and a Year Ago: Total loan and lease balances increased $62.7 billion (0.6 percent) from the previous quarter.  Several portfolios contributed meaningfully to the industry’s growth, including 1-4 family residential mortgages (up $41.3 billion, or 1.9 percent), consumer loans (up $39.6 billion, or 2.3 percent), nonfarm nonresidential commercial real estate loans (CRE) (up $24.5 billion, or 1.5 percent), and loans to nondepository institutions (up $24.2 billion, or 3.9 percent).

 

Annually, total loan and lease balances increased $10 billion (0.1 percent) as growth in  loans to nondepository institutions (up $95.9 billion, or 17.5 percent), consumer loans (up $87.1 billion, or 5.1 percent), and nonfarm nonresidential CRE loan balances (up $63.2 billion or 4.1 percent) help offset declines in C&I loans (down $301.8 billion, or 11.9 percent).  The decline in C&I balances was driven by Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness and repayment.

 

Community banks reported a 0.2 percent decline in loan balances from the previous quarter, and a 1.1 percent decline from the prior year.  Declines in C&I loan balances resulting from payoffs and forgiveness of PPP loans drove the change. 

 

Credit Quality Continued to Improve: Loans 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status (i.e., noncurrent loans) continued to decline (down $6.9 billion or 6.3 percent) from second quarter 2021.  The noncurrent rate for total loans declined 7 basis points from the previous quarter to 0.94 percent.  Net charge-offs also continued to decline (down $7.4 billion, or 58.4 percent) from a year ago.  The total net charge-off rate dropped 27 basis points to 0.19 percent—the lowest level on record.  

 

The Reserve Ratio for the Deposit Insurance Fund Remained Stable at 1.27 Percent: The Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) balance was $121.9 billion as of September 30, up $1.4 billion from the end of the second quarter.  The reserve ratio remained at 1.27 percent, due to modest growth in the DIF balance and insured deposits.

 

Three New Banks Opened During the Quarter: Three new banks opened, 39 institutions merged with other FDIC-insured institutions, one bank ceased operations, and no banks failed in third quarter 2021.

# # #

 

Quarterly Banking Profile Home Page (includes previous reports and press conference webcast videos)

Charts and Data

Chairman McWilliams’s Press Statement

Email Alerts and Browse Page Updates: Congress.gov New, Tip, and Top for November 2021

Source: US Global Legal Monitor

Earlier this month, Robert shared news of the addition of the “Add to My Calendar” feature for upcoming committee hearings on Congress.gov. I have already used it several times to be reminded of when a hearing that I want to follow is scheduled.

Congress.gov continues to grow with new material. If you had done a global search six years ago there would have been about a million items in the results. Now there are almost 1.5 million items to search, including materials from the current Congress, over 90 years of the Bound Congressional Record, and hearing transcripts now starting with the 105th Congress.

We have made a number of enhancements with this month’s second release. We updated the old RSS and Email Alerts page to focus on the variety of alerts Congress.gov provides. See the new Get Email Alerts and Updates page for all the ways to subscribe. Also with this release, there is a new and improved appropriations alert under legislation on the page:

Appropriations Measures Considered by Congress
Email alerts when appropriations measures are considered by Congress. View Appropriations Status Table 

After you are signed in and select “Get alerts” on the site you will be subscribed and will receive an email update when any appropriations bill has action.

We added contextual links to alerts across the site. For example, if you are on the Most Viewed Bills or Enhancement Timeline you will now have an easy link to set up the respective alerts. We also added a new link to Get Email Alerts and Updates on the homepage.

New “Get Email Alerts and Updates” link on the Congress.gov homepage

In a recent update we added the option in the quick search and advanced search forms to default to modern legislation or also include historical legislation. With today’s release we are adding a similar historical check box to the Congressional Record quick search form. Checking the historical box will include the Bound Congressional Record in your search results.

Another section that we focused on enhancing this release is Browse. With the addition of earlier Congresses, the drop down list has been getting longer. This is now a type ahead field, which should be easier for the user. Interested in the 93rd Congress? Start to type 93 and it will be an option. Alternatively, you can type in a year like 1977 if you don’t know off the top of your head that it is in the 95th Congress. Also on the updated Browse pages is the specific date range for the Congress, so on the 95th Congress page you will see “January 4, 1977 – October 15, 1978.”

Newly Updated Browse Page with Type Ahead and Specific Date Range

We continued our quest to improve the accessibility of Congress.gov. The Glossary of Legislative Terms has been improved for accessibility purposes.

Enhancements

The following are the second set of Congress.gov enhancements for November.

Enhancement – Email Alerts and Updates – Appropriations Alert

  • Go to the redesigned Get Email Alerts and Updates page to see the full list of email alerts, updates and RSS feeds available for you to keep up with Congressional activity and current legislation.
  • To get alerts on appropriations legislation for the current fiscal year, use the “Get alerts” link under the heading Appropriations Measures Considered by Congress.
  • You will receive an email when new appropriations bills are introduced or when any current appropriations bills are updated.

Enhancement – Congressional Record – Search

  • Congress checkboxes on the Congressional Record search form give you the option to limit your search to 1995-2022 (Daily Edition issues) or Historical (1909-1994) (Bound Edition volumes).
  • Options for searching only headings and Members Remarks are disabled when you select only Historical Congresses.
  • Tooltips, visible when you move your cursor over the icon next to a Congress checkbox, display helpful reminders and link to the Congressional Record help page for more details.

Enhancement – Browse – Congress Type Ahead

  • Start typing to select a Congress on the Browse page, a directory of frequently-requested resources, lists of legislation and more.
  • Links to House and Senate calendars are available for previous Congresses under Congressional Activity.

Enhancement – Glossary of Legislative Terms – Improved Accessibility

  • Definitions are no longer collapsed in the Glossary of Legislative Terms, improving accessibility and allowing you to get the information you need with fewer clicks.

Enhancement – Congressional Record – Bound Edition

Congress.gov Tip

Did you know that you can search Congress.gov without a search term? Do a blank search and then use the filters (or facets) on the left to winnow your way down to a smaller results set. You can check the “Search Within” box in the search bar later on if you decide you want to add a search term to this results set. And, just a reminder, you can “Save this Search” and “Get Alerts.”

Most-Viewed Bills

The following is the most-viewed bills list for the week of November 21, 2021.

 
1. H.R.3684 [117th] Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
2. H.R.5376 [117th] Build Back Better Act
3. H.R.4350 [117th] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022
4. H.R.1319 [117th] American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
5. H.Res.789 [117th] Censuring Representative Paul Gosar.
6. H.Res.57 [117th] Impeaching Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States, for abuse of power by enabling bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors.
7. H.R.1996 [117th] SAFE Banking Act of 2021
8. H.R.133 [116th] Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021
9. S.1260 [117th] United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021
10. H.Res.774 [117th] Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 5376) to provide for reconciliation pursuant to title II of S. Con. Res. 14; and for other purposes.

Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.

Jordan: Religious Authorities Drafting New Law Regulating Blood Money Payments (Diya)

Source: US Global Legal Monitor

On October 10, 2021, the king of Jordan’s adviser for tribal affairs, Atef al-Hajaya, confirmed that work is underway to issue a new law regulating diya — monetary compensation, or “blood money” — paid by a killer and his relatives to the families of the victims in homicide cases.

Al-Hajaya stated that the chief justice of the religious court (qadi al-qudah) and the Jordanian Board of Ifta’, an official religious institution authorized to issue religious decrees, are working together on drafting a new law regulating the amount of diya to be paid according to the circumstances of each homicide case. Al-Hajaya also stressed that individuals from victims’ families who carry out acts of violence against the perpetrator or his family, including burning, vandalism, and destroying their property, will be held accountable according to the law.

Blood Money (Diya) Under Jordanian Law

In addition to the secular criminal court system, article 105(2) of the Jordanian Constitution grants religious law (shari‘a) courts jurisdiction to enable offenders to pay diya to victims’ families.

Article 2 of Law No. 11 of 2016 on Religious Courts allows victims’ families to file blood money complaints before the courts against the perpetrator in cases of murder and injury. Furthermore, Religious Decree [Fatwa] No. 3428 of October 18, 2018, issued by the Jordanian Board of Ifta’, states that it is permissible under Islamic jurisprudence to receive compensation from a person who caused the death of another human being.

Determination of Blood Money Compensation

The Jordanian Board of Ifta’ determines the amount of blood money. According to Decree No. 129 (7/2009), issued by the Board of Ifta’, the amount of diya the offender must pay to the victim’s family is 100 camels. Because camels are not circulated as property in the majority of Islamic countries, the board has ruled that the prices of camels must be determined in the currency of the individual countries. Accordingly, on the basis of the board’s calculations, the value of 100 camels in the Kingdom of Jordan is 20,000 Jordanian dinars (about US$28,189).

According to the board, in cases of manslaughter, the diya compensation is to be 20,000 dinars and may come from male family members of the killer. In the event of premediated murder, the diya compensation is to be 25,000 dinars (about US$35,236) and must come from the killer’s personal money. If a single person’s actions cause the deaths of a number of people, he or she must pay blood money for each victim.

However, if the family of the victim demands retribution (qisaas) for the killer, they cannot receive diya compensation.

Sweden: Government Proposes Raising Student Loan Interest Rate

Source: US Global Legal Monitor

On October 31, 2021, the Swedish government tasked the Swedish Board of Student Finance (Centrala Studiestödsnämnden, CSN) with creating a new model to calculate the interest rate on all student loans taken out by students in Sweden after 1989. The CSN is a government agency responsible for managing Swedish student finance — that is, providing grants and loans for studies and collecting loan repayments.

The current interest rate would be raised so that state profits from collecting interest on the loans would cover any credit losses (kreditförluster) that the state suffers when student loans are not repaid as agreed. In addition, the revenue from the increased interest would also fund a new program to provide employed individuals with funding to attend university. The proposal to amend the interest rate is currently part of the government’s 2022 budget proposal.

Background to the Interest Rate Proposal

In 2016, after learning that the CSN had had difficulty in collecting student loan repayments, the government tasked the CSN with surveying and analyzing the problem. The CSN determined that the most common reason for nonpayment is that the borrower was residing abroad, with 93.6% of people residing in Sweden making payments on their loans compared to 70.3% of people residing abroad. In 2018, the CSN reported that 13 billion Swedish kronor (SEK) (about US$1.5 billion) was currently owed by persons living abroad. In total, the government estimates that 10% of all student loans will never be repaid. Swedish law allows the state to collect unpaid student debts by garnishing wages, and seizing property. However, not all student loans can be repaid — for example, student loans outstanding at the time of death are not enforceable against the estate and are written off, and loans not repaid because collection was not possible (e.g., when the domicile of the borrower is unknown) are currently born by the state as a credit loss.

The increased interest rate would cover the annual credit loss of SEK2 billion (about US$230 million) that is currently listed in the national budget for 2021 as a cost to the government. As part of its assignment, the CSN will estimate how much more income the state can expect to collect annually from the interest rate increase. In accordance with the proposal, the state plans to collect about SEK2 billion annually following the changes, compared to SEK33 million (about US$3.8 million) as budgeted in 2021.

The repayment of student loans is regulated in Chapter 4 of the Student Support Act (Studestödslagen (SFS 1999:1395)). As stipulated in Section 1 of Chapter 4, the government sets the interest rate on student loans annually. Currently the interest rate calculation is based on the average of the three most recent years’ annual deposit rate (inlåningsränta). The CSN would determine the new way to calculate the interest rate with the goal of raising the total interest to 0.5%, a tenfold increase from 0.05% in 2021. Because student loans are not eligible for the current 30% tax deduction that other loans are eligible for, the new calculation would also include a 30% reduction on the raised amount. While Section 3 of Chapter 4 of the act requires students to start repaying their loans six months after they stop receiving loan payments, individuals may request that repayments be paused because of low income, but the unpaid interest is then added to the loan sum. To offset the immediate cost of the increased interest rate, the government has instructed the CSN to create a way for lenders to choose to repay their loans over a longer period than is currently allowed.

The Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations has criticized the proposal for increasing the cost of education and thus possibly disincentivizing students from pursuing university studies. Citing the OECD Education at a Glance 2021 report, the confederation claims that Sweden is already one of the countries in the world where a university education is the least profitable to the individual. Others also criticize moving the credit risks associated with defaulted borrowers from the state to those student loan borrowers who do repay their loans.

The CSN must deliver its final report by April 2022. The government intends for the new interest rate to enter into force in 2023.

New Report on Children and Data Protection Laws in Ireland

Source: US Global Legal Monitor

The following is a guest post by Clare Feikert-Ahalt, a senior foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress covering the United Kingdom and several other jurisdictions. Clare has written numerous posts for In Custodia Legis, including 100 Years of “Poppy Day” in the United Kingdom; Weird Laws, or Urban Legends?FALQs: Brexit Referendum; and The UK’s Legal Response to the London Bombings of 7/7.

The Law Library recently published a report titled Children’s Online Privacy and Data Protection for Ireland. This adds Ireland to the Law Library’s report on this subject that cover 10 jurisdictions: the European Union (EU) and its member states of DenmarkFranceGermanyGreecePortugalSpainSweden, and Romania, and the non-EU member of the United Kingdom (UK).

Title page of the Law Library’s report “Ireland: Data Protection and Children.”

As Ireland is a member of the European Union, it must follow the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect in all EU member states, plus the UK, on May 25, 2018. Ireland implemented the Data Protection Act in 2018 to give effect to certain aspects of the GDPR in its domestic laws. This Act also established the Data Protection Commission (DPC), which is the national independent authority in Ireland that supervises the GDPR and ensures it is implemented.

Children’s personal data is provided with special protection under both the 2018 Act and the GDPR. In December 2020, the DPC published a draft code, titled Fundamentals for a Child-Oriented Approach to Data Processing (known as “the Fundamentals”), under the Data Protection Act. The Fundamentals aim to clarify the principles in the obligations under the GDPR and set “high-level obligations” that organizations must take before processing children’s data, and highlight that the best interests of the child take precedence over any legitimate business interests.

Since the Law Library’s report was published, on November 19, 2021, the DPC published a report into the findings of the public consultation on the Fundamentals. In this report, the DPC concluded “[t]he best interests of the child must ground the actions of all data controllers, and there must be a floor of protection below which no user, and in particular no child user, drops” and that it is satisfied that the broad approach of applying the Fundamentals to services that are likely to be accessed by children is the correct one to take, but stated that it will add text to help clarify this, and some of the other Fundamentals, further.

The DPC stated that it will work to finalize the Fundamentals and publish them. It notes that once the Fundamentals are published in their final form they “will have immediate effect and there will be no lead-in period for compliance.” The DPC has stated that this is because the Fundamentals are not a statutory code, nor are they, in essence, new obligations for organizations, noting:

the GDPR is now more than 3 years into its application. Organisations which process children’s personal data – particularly in the digital sectors where business models are predicated upon the processing of personal data for the provision of services – should throughout that period, in line with their accountability obligations under GDPR, have been constantly keeping their child protective measures under review and revision in order to achieve the higher standards of protection which the GDPR requires in relation to the processing of children’s data.

Thus, once the DPC publishes the Fundamentals in their final form they will enter into effect and the DPC will consider an organization’s compliance with the Fundamentals when assessing whether it has met the obligations of the GDPR.

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