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HELP Committee Approves Seven Bipartisan Bills, Builds on Record of Accomplishments

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued the following statement after the HELP Committee approved seven bipartisan bills at a Committee markup today. The approved bills include: the Promoting Physical Activity for Americans Act; the Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research and Education (MD-CARE) Amendments of 2014; the Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2014; the Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act; the Improving Trauma Care Act of 2014; the Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act of 2014; and a bill to amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. The bills will now go on to be considered by the full Senate.

“Today the HELP Committee passed seven more bipartisan bills, continuing our strong record of working across party lines to put Americans first,” Harkin said. “Six of the bills passed today underscore the Committee’s focus on improving and supporting our country’s public health—from addressing muscular dystrophy, to supporting emergency medical services for children, to improving care for traumatic injuries.

“In particular, I am pleased that the Committee has unanimously approved the Promoting Physical Activity for Americans Act, legislation I first introduced in 2008 with Senator Sam Brownback, and introduced this Congress with Senator Roger Wicker. This important bill will help ensure that all Americans have access to the information they need to support an active and healthy lifestyle by giving them clear, science-based guidelines on physical activity. We know that people who are physically active tend to live longer and have lower risk for obesity-related chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Providing accurate, timely, and uniform recommendations for physical activity can help communities and families across the country lead longer, healthier lives.

“I hope the Senate will consider these important, bipartisan measures as soon as possible.”

The HELP Committee approval of seven bipartisan bills arrives on the heels of Congressional approval of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which was signed into law this week. WIOA, led to passage by Chairman Harkin, Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, Senator Patty Murray and Senator Johnny Isakson, is the 14th bipartisan HELP Committee bill to become law in 2014. Read the full list of HELP Committee bills that have become law this Congress here.

Summaries of the bills passed by the HELP Committee today are below:

  • S. 531, Promoting Physical Activity for Americans Act– This legislation would require the Department of Health and Human Services to publish a report every ten years that provides physical activity recommendations for Americans based on the latest scientific evidence; review evidence-based practices and continuing issues with respect to physical activity every five years, midway between reports; and ensure physical activity recommendations from across government agencies are based on the most current evidence-based scientific and medical knowledge.
  • S. 315, Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research and Education (MD-CARE) Amendments of 2014 – This legislation provides updates to reflect the clinical needs of the larger population of both children and adults with muscular dystrophy. The legislation will improve data sharing and collection and coordination between various health agencies, strengthen current research, and improve information-sharing with physicians treating muscular dystrophy.
  • S. 2154, Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2014 – This legislation would continue the thirty years of care provided through the Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) program and ensure that the entire spectrum of emergency medical services (EMS) can be provided to children and adolescents no matter where they live, attend school, or travel. Additionally, the bill reflects the important physical, developmental, and mental differences pediatric patients have compared to adults. From smaller-sized medical equipment to different dosage requirements for medicine, the EMSC program helps medical professionals meet the unique needs of pediatric patients and provide state-of-the-art emergency medical care for ill and injured children and adolescents. 
  • S. 2405, Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act – This legislation would reauthorize two important grant programs: Trauma Care Systems Planning Grants, which support state and rural development of trauma systems; and Regionalization of Emergency Care Systems Pilot Projects, which provide funds to design, implement, and evaluate innovative models of regionalized emergency care. The bill would also direct states to update their model trauma care plan with the input of relevant stakeholders.
  • S. 2406, Improving Trauma Care Act of 2014 - This legislation would bring much-needed updates to the federal definition of trauma to include burns, a change that more appropriately reflects the relationship between burns and other traumatic injuries. 
  • S. 2539, Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act of 2014 – This legislation addresses traumatic brain injuries (TBI), a significant and expensive public health challenge, by supporting a variety of activities related to TBI at several agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, under the authority granted by the Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 1996 and subsequent reauthorizations. This legislation reauthorizes programs to help ensure that hospitals and medical facilities have the resources they need to ensure that all patients with traumatic brain injuries get the care they need and includes an increased focus on brain injury management in children.
  • S.2511, A bill to amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 - This legislation will bring clarity to the pension downsizing liability rules and will ensure that there is a workable mechanism to protect pension benefits when employers show symptoms of financial distress.