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VOLUME XVII, NUMBER 1
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JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2001
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Cover Story
A Scorecard For the 106th Congress

How Did They Vote?

The Scorecard

Our Thought on the Scorecard

Special Features
Patrick Henry College expands career choices

Across the States
An overview of state legislation for 2000

State by State

Regular Features
Notes to Members

Active Cases

Around the Globe

Prayer and Praise

President’s Page

FYI
HSLDA legal contacts for 2000

Breakdown of states by regulatory policy

How Did They Vote?
House of Representatives

1. Religious Liberty Protection Act (RLPA)—H.R. 1691

Passed by 306 to 118, the RLPA tried to fix a real problem in the wrong way. Addressing the damage done to religious freedom by the U.S. Supreme Court in City of Boerne v. Flores, RLPA claimed that religious activity could now be protected under Congress's constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce. But religion is not commerce. HSLDA believes this wrong interpretation of the Commerce Clause would create a dangerous precedent for future protection of religious liberty. Although this bill never passed the Senate, a less offensive version of this bill passed both chambers by unanimous consent on July 27, 2000.

2. A+ Education Savings Accounts—H.R. 2488

This legislation would have reduced federal taxes by $792 billion over 10 years. It would have also reduced the marriage penalty; cut the capital gains tax rate for individuals; reduced the estate and gift tax rates; and-most importantly for home schoolers-increased the annual contribution limit for Education Savings Accounts (ESA) from $500 to $2,000. ESAs permit tax-free withdrawals to pay for public, private, and home school elementary and secondary tuition and expenses. President Clinton vetoed this legislation.

3. Academic Achievement for All (also known as "Straight A's")—H.R. 2300

Straight A's would have taken the first step toward returning education spending decisions from federal to local control. It would give states the flexibility to spend federal education funds in exchange for new accountability requirements and pledges to improve student performance. If a participating state could not meet its own objectives within five years, it would have to revert back to the current allocation system.

4. Marriage Tax Penalty Relief Bill of 2000—H.R. 4810

The House failed to garner the two-thirds majority necessary to override President Clinton's veto of this bill. H.R. 4810 would have promoted marriage and family values by fixing a flaw in current IRS code that taxes married couples at a much higher rate than unmarried, cohabiting couples. First, it would have increased the standard deduction for married couples to the equivalent of the deductions for two single taxpayers. Then, it would also have expanded the income limits on both the 15 percent and 28 percent tax brackets for married couples to the equivalent of the income limit for two singles. Many low-income families could have kept between $600 and $1,000 more each year. A similar bill is expected to be the very first legislation introduced for the 107th Congress.

5. Final FY2001 Budget Legislation—H.R. 4577

This omnibus appropriations bill increased spending for unconstitutional, federal education programs, including a $6.5 billion (18%) increase for the Department of Education. Also funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, etc., this measure authorized a total $111.1 billion in spending. That's a $22 billion (26%) increase from last year's appropriations measure.

The Senate

1. Educational Flexibility—H.R. 800

Signed into law by President Clinton on April 29, 1999, "EdFlex" gives states greater flexibility in spending federal funds. This is a turn in the right direction for education reform-it empowers states and reduces federal control. EdFlex expands the number of states eligible for greater latitude in spending federal school aid funds from a pilot program of just 12 to all 50. The measure would allow a participating state to waive certain federal rules normally required to use federal education dollars.

2. FY2000 Omnibus Appropriations—H.R. 3194

This measure eliminated two of the largest titles-III and IV-of the Goals 2000 Educate America Act. Cutting Title III alone eliminated over $400 million in invasive local meddling by the U.S. Department of Education. Education goals should be state and local goals-not federal goals.

3. Education Savings Accounts—S. 1134

Raising the annual contribution limit from $500 to $2,000, this bill would have allowed families to annually set aside $2,000 per child into tax-free account for educational expenses. The money could be withdrawn and used for pre-K-12 public, private, or home school expenses. Unfortunately, President Clinton vetoed this legislation.

4. FY2001 Labor / HHS / Education Appropriations—H.R. 4577

This Senate bill approved $354.6 billion for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies, including $99.8 billion in discretionary spending. This bill also appropriated $38 million for Title IV of Goals 2000, which was repealed in 1999.


5. Marriage Tax Penalty—H.R. 4810

President Clinton vetoed this bill which would have increased the standard deduction for married couples and expanded the income limits on both the 15 percent and 28 percent tax brackets for married couples to the equivalent of the income limit for two singles. See the description of H.R. 4810 under "How the House Voted."

R E L A T E D   I T E M S

A Scorecard for the 105th Congress
The Scorecard
Our thoughts on the scorecard