[Senate Report 115-63]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

                                                       Calendar No. 81
115th Congress     }                                        {    Report
 1st Session       }                                        {    115-63




                  May 16, 2017.--Ordered to be printed


        Ms. Murkowski, from the Committee on Energy and Natural 
                   Resources, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 392]

      [Including Cost Estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was 
referred the bill (S. 392) to establish the 400 Years of 
African-American History Commission, and for other purposes, 
having considered the same, reports favorably thereon without 
amendment and recommends that the bill do pass.


    The purpose of S. 392 is to establish the 400 Years of 
African-American History Commission.

                          BACKGROUND AND NEED

    In August 1619, the first documented Africans arrived by 
warship at Point Comfort in the English colony of Virginia. The 
group, recorded upon arrival as ``20 and odd Negros,'' was sold 
as involuntary laborers or indentured servants. Slavery had not 
been institutionalized at that point so these Africans were 
informed they would work under contract for a certain period of 
time before being granted freedom and the rights afforded other 
settlers. White indentured servants were listed along with 
their year of expected freedom whereas no such year accompanied 
the names of the African indentured servants.
    The historic arrival of that group marked the beginning of 
the trend in colonial America where people of Africa were taken 
unwillingly from their homeland, transplanted, and committed to 
lifelong slavery and racial discrimination.
    August 2019 will mark 400 years since the first arrival of 
Africans to present day America. There is an interest in 
commemorating the contributions Americans of African descent 
have made to help shape the cultural, academic, social, 
economic, and moral attributes of this nation. A federal ``400 
Years of African-American History Commission'' would mark this 
historic heritage.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    S. 392 was introduced by Senators Kaine, Warner, Booker, 
and Blunt on February 15, 2017.
    In the 114th Congress, Senator Kaine introduced similar 
legislation, S. 2548, on February 11, 2016. The Subcommittee on 
National Parks held a hearing on S. 2548 on June 15, 2016. The 
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met in open business 
session on July 13, 2016, and ordered S. 2548 favorably 
reported as amended (S. Rept. 114-350).
    Representative Scott introduced similar legislation, H.R. 
4539, on February 11, 2016. H.R. 4539 passed the House of 
Representatives by voice vote on July 5, 2016.
    The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met in open 
business session on March 30, 2017, and ordered S. 392 
favorably reported.
    On February 28, 2017, a related bill, H.R. 1242 was 
introduced by Representative Scott and 45 additional 
cosponsors. It was reported by the House Oversight and 
Government Reform Committee on March 28, 2017.

                        COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in 
open business session on March 30, 2017, by a majority voice 
vote of a quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 

                      SECTION-BY-SECTION ANALYSIS

Section I. Short title

    Section 1 contains the short title.

Section 2. Definitions

    Section 2 contains key definitions.

Section 3. Establishment

    Section 3(a) establishes the ``400 Years of African-
American History Commission.''
    Subsection (b) designates the composition of the 15-member 
Commission, appointed by the Secretary and in consultation with 
various entities such as State Governors; civil rights and 
historical organizations; the NPS; the Secretary of the 
Smithsonian Institution; and Members of Congress. The 
subsection specifies that initial members of the Commission 
must be appointed within 120 days after the Act's enactment; 
appointment terms are for the life of the Commission; vacancies 
are to be filled in the same manner as an original appointment; 
and those appointed to fill a vacancy shall serve the remainder 
of the term for which the predecessor was appointed. In 
addition, the subsection restricts the service of a member 
appointed as the NPS employee to no more than 30 days after the 
member ceases to be an NPS employee.
    Subsection (c) sets from the Commission's duties, including 
the requirements to plan, develop, and carry out a wide array 
of programs; encourage civic, patriotic, historical, 
educational, artistic, religious, economic, and other 
organizations throughout the country to commemorate 
contributions made by African-Americans to the nation since 
1619; develop appropriate programs and anniversary activities; 
ensure that commemoration observances are inclusive; and 
educate the public on the impact of slavery and laws that 
enforced racial discrimination on the U.S.

Section 4. Commission meetings

    Section 4(a) directs the Commission to hold its initial 
meeting not later than 30 days after all members are appointed.
    Subsection (b) instructs the Commission to meet at least 
three times each year or at the call of the Chairperson or the 
majority of Commission members.
    Subsection (c) specifies that a majority of the voting 
members shall constitute a quorum, but a lesser number may hold 
    Subsection (d) directs the Commission to elect a 
Chairperson and Vice Chairperson on an annual basis, with the 
Vice Chairperson serving as Chairperson in the absence of the 
    Subsection (e) states the Commission shall act only on an 
affirmative vote of a majority of the Commission members.

Section 5. Commission powers

    Section 5(a) allows the Commission to accept, use, and 
dispose of gifts or devises of money or other property in 
support of the Commission's work.
    Subsection (b) permits the Commission to appoint advisory 
committees as needed to carry out the Act.
    Subsection (c) grants any member or employee of the 
Commission to take any action authorized under the Act.
    Subsection (d) authorizes the Commission to enter into 
contracts, leases or other legal agreements that cannot extend 
beyond the date of termination of the Commission for the 
purpose of procuring supplies, services, and property in 
support of the Act.
    Subsection (e) enables the Commission to utilize the U.S. 
Postal Service under the same conditions and manner as used by 
other federal government agencies.
    Subsection (f) permits the Commission to provide grants of 
up to $20,000 to communities and non-profits organizations, 
research and scholarly organizations, and State and localities 
to assist with and further the commemoration.

Section 6. Commission personnel matters

    Section 6(a) specifies that a member of the Commission 
shall serve without compensation and that members who are 
federal employees shall receive only compensation for their 
service with the federal government.
    Subsection (b) allows a member of the Commission travel 
expenses while performing duties of the Commission away from 
the regular place of business, including a per diem.
    Subsection (c) authorizes the Chairperson of the Commission 
to nominate an executive director, to be confirmed by the 
Commission, to perform the duties of the Commission.
    Subsection (d) sets forth the compensation and maximum rate 
of pay for the executive director.
    Subsection (e) specifies that any federal agency, on a 
reimbursable or non-reimbursable basis and at the request of 
the Commission, may detail any personnel of the agency, without 
interruption or loss of civil service status or privilege, to 
the Commission to assist in carrying out the duties of the 
Commission under the Act. The subsection also allows the 
Commission to accept detail services from state employees with 
reimbursement to the state for those services.
    Subsection (f) permits the Chairperson of the Commission to 
procure temporary and intermittent services.
    Subsection (g) allows the Commission to accept and use 
voluntary and uncompensated services as deemed necessary.
    Subsection (h) requires the Secretary to provide 
administrative support to the Commission as requested on a 
reimbursable basis to be credited to the account used for 
paying the amount reimbursed.
    Subsection (i) states that nothing in this section 
supersedes the authority of the NPS with respect to the 

Section 7. Plans; reports

    Section 7(a) requires the Commission to complete a 
strategic plan for its activities.
    Subsection (b) directs the Commission to submit a final 
report to Congress, no later than July 1, 2020, that summarizes 
the activities of the Commission, gives a final accounting of 
the funds received and expended by the Commission, and lists 
all findings and recommendations.

Section 8. Authorization of appropriations

    Section 8(a) authorizes such sums as may be necessary to 
carry out the Act.
    Subsection (b) states that any appropriated funds shall 
remain available to the Commission until July 1, 2020.

Section 9. Termination of Commission

    Section 9(a) terminates the Commission on July 1, 2020.
    Subsection (b) requires the Commission to transfer all 
documents and materials of the Commission to the National 
Archives or another appropriate federal entity before the 
termination date.


    The following estimate of costs of this measure has been 
provided by the Congressional Budget Office.
    S. 392 would establish a commission to plan activities and 
provide grants to develop programs and events to commemorate 
400 years of African American history in the United States. The 
bill would authorize the appropriation of the necessary amounts 
for those purposes. The commission would consist of 15 members. 
Members would serve without pay but would be reimbursed for 
travel expenses. The legislation would authorize the commission 
to make grants to communities, nonprofit organizations, and 
other groups to conduct activities to commemorate the 
anniversary. In addition, the commission could hire staff, use 
personnel from other federal agencies or state governments, and 
accept volunteers to perform its work. The commission would 
submit a final report to the Congress and terminate on July 1, 
    Based on the cost of similar commissions, CBO estimates 
that implementing the bill would cost about $2 million a year--
a total of $6 million over the 2018-2021 period, assuming 
appropriation of the necessary amounts. Enacting S. 392 would 
affect direct spending because it would authorize the 
commission to accept and spend monetary gifts; therefore, pay-
as-you-go procedures apply. However, CBO estimates that the net 
effect on direct spending would be negligible. Enacting S. 392 
would not affect revenues.
    CBO estimates that enacting S. 392 would not increase net 
direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four 
consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028.
    S. 392 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and 
would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal governments.
    On April 4, 2017, CBO transmitted a cost estimate for H.R. 
1242, the 400 years of African-American History Commission Act, 
as ordered reported by the House Committee on Oversight and 
Government Reform on March 28, 2017. The two pieces of 
legislation are similar and CBO's estimates of their cost are 
the same.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Matthew 
Pickford. This estimate was approved by H. Samuel Papenfuss, 
Deputy Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.


    In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following 
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in 
carrying out S. 392. The bill is not a regulatory measure in 
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or 
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals 
and businesses.
    No personal information would be collected in administering 
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal 
    Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the 
enactment of S. 392, as ordered reported.


    S. 392, as ordered reported, does not contain any 
congressionally directed spending items, limited tax benefits, 
or limited tariff benefits as defined in rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate.

                        EXECUTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

    Because S. 392 is similar to legislation considered by the 
Committee in the 114th Congress, the Committee did not request 
Executive Agency views. The testimony provided by the National 
Park Service at the hearing before the Subcommittee on National 
Parks hearing on June 15, 2016, follows:

 Statement of Dr. Stephanie Toothman, Associate Director for Cultural 
   Resources, Partnerships, and Science, National Park Service, U.S. 
                       Department of the Interior

    Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for 
the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the 
Interior on S. 2548, a bill to establish the 400 Years of 
African-American History Commission.
    The Department supports S. 2548, however, we would like to 
work with the committee on the composition of the commission.
    S. 2548 would create the 400 Years of African-American 
History Commission (Commission) to commemorate four centuries 
of African-American history in the United States. Through 
programs, activities, education, and outreach, the Commission 
would honor the arrival of Africans in the United States and 
the contributions of African-Americans throughout the nation.
    The Commission would consist of 15 members appointed by the 
Secretary of the Interior, including an employee of the 
National Park Service (NPS). It also authorizes the Commission 
to provide grants of up to $20,000 and technical assistance to 
communities and nonprofit organizations for the development of 
programs, projects, and activities to assist in the 
commemoration. It would also provide grants to research and 
scholarly organizations to research, publish, and distribute 
information relating to the arrival of Africans in the United 
States. The bill would allow federal employees to be detailed 
to the Commission, at the Commission's request. Finally, the 
bill provides the authorization of funds until the Commission 
terminates on July 1, 2020.
    When the first African people arrived in the English 
colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619, it was not in the 
pursuit of a new life, wealth, or freedom from oppression; it 
was in bondage, against their will, with a loss of their 
freedom. Their arrival marked the beginning of a long and 
difficult narrative of slavery, resistance, reconstruction, and 
civil rights, with the story still being written today. 
However, in all the tragedy and hardship that is interwoven 
into the history of slavery in America, there is a greater 
narrative of resilience and perseverance, making it one of the 
greatest survival stories rarely told and not fully understood. 
The work of this Commission would support the research, 
preservation, and commemoration of this 400-year history of 
courage, determination, and great accomplishment in the face of 
brutal oppression.
    There are several units in the National Park System that 
help to tell the story of the African-American struggle and 
triumph, including the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad 
National Monument, the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National 
Monument, and the African Burial Ground National Monument. 
However, the NPS recognizes that there are countless sites 
outside of the system that deserve recognition. These sites and 
stories related to African-American history have not always 
been fully recognized or preserved, and are often in danger of 
being lost or destroyed. If enacted, S. 2548 would establish a 
Commission that could prevent further loss through partnership 
coordination, research, educational outreach efforts, technical 
assistance, and commemoration activities leading up the 400-
year anniversary of African-American history. Establishing a 
commission to commemorate and recognize the resilience and 
contributions of African-Americans since 1619, as envisioned in 
S. 2548, would provide the nation an opportunity to reflect 
upon their struggles and successes within an environment that 
would be inclusive and contemplative. The Department of the 
Interior and the National Park Service stand ready to 
contribute their resources and expertise to this important 
commemoration. Ultimately, the Commission would create greater 
public insight, foster preservation, and promote increased 
awareness of this 400-year narrative of great resilience and 
immeasurable contribution to our American story.
    While we support establishment of this Commission, we would 
like to work with the committee to ensure that the Commission 
represents a diverse composition of national, state, local, and 
private individuals.
    Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I would be happy 
to answer any questions you or other members of the 
subcommittee may have.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no 
changes in existing law are made by the bill as ordered