The $1.1 trillion measure approved by the Senate December 13 and sent to President Barack Obama is mostly about spending choices, such as adding $5.4 billion to fight the Ebola virus or trimming the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by $60 million. But it’s also packed with a mishmash of policy add-ons known as riders, many of which couldn’t get through Congress on their own.
Some things the bill would affect:
Extends a freeze on state and local Internet access taxes to Oct. 1, 2015.
Rolls back safety rules that were supposed to keep sleepy truckers from causing wrecks. The government’s rules had effectively shortened truckers’ maximum workweek from 82 hours to 70. The trucking industry fought back.
Loosens rules imposed after the 2008 financial crisis. The change relaxes regulation of high-risk investments known as derivatives; those rules were imposed to reduce risk to depositors’ federally insured money and prevent more taxpayer bailouts. Banks said the crackdown stifled the competitiveness of the U.S. financial industry.
Allows some pension plans to cut benefits promised to current and future retirees. The change is designed to save some financially strapped plans from going broke. It applies to multi-employer plans, which cover more than 10 million people mostly at small, unionized employers, often in the construction business.
THE SAGE GROUSE
Says “no” to putting the greater sage grouse and three related birds on the endangered species list. Environmentalists say time to save them is running out as their sagebrush habitat disappears. But oil and gas companies and other businesses argued that protecting the chicken-sized birds on Western lands would hurt business and local economies.
Attempts to switch off federal rules that are making it harder to find old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. The bill extends a ban on the government spending money to enforce the ongoing phase-out of incandescent bulbs. It may not have much effect, since manufacturers and stores are already well-along in the switch to spiral bulbs and other energy-saving alternatives.
THE CAPITOL DOME
Topping it all off, spends $21 million to continue restoration of the leaky, cracked U.S. Capitol dome.