An Anchor in our Region

Dear Friend,

There are some pretty special things about our neck of the woods. Sure, some might say I’m biased because I was born and raised here. But where else can you find Dungeness Spit – the world’s longest naturally occurring sand spit. Or how about a 73 mile long wilderness coast?

I’m not just talking about natural landscapes either. Our region is home to folks like Gig Harbor’s Megan Blunk. After being paralyzed in a motorcycle crash in 2008, she discovered a love for wheelchair basketball and dedicated herself to the game. That’s what led her to the White House last week as a member of the U.S.’s women’s basketball gold-medal winning Paralympics team.

It’s that determined spirit of people like Megan that make up who we are.

A lot of special people live in our neck of the woods. And for 125 years, many of those men and women have worked at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

One of my favorite parts of the ferry ride into Bremerton is seeing that big yellow and blue slogan painted on the side of Building 460 that says: “Puget Sound Naval Shipyard: Building on a Proud Tradition.”

It’s a proud tradition based on the hard work of folks who invested in their trades, showed up for work each day, and got the job done. For 125 years this shipyard has been an anchor in our area and I have such admiration and respect for the role shipyard workers play in protecting our servicemembers, our nation, and their history of helping out in wartime efforts.

To celebrate the 125th Birthday of PSNS, I spoke on the House floor about its importance to our national security – and to our region. You can watch my remarks here.

Déjà Vu

In other news, Congress fortunately avoided dragging our country into another damaging government shutdown. Yes, I know. Readers might recall this is something I’ve said many times before. It’s a lot like Groundhog Day but without Bill Murray.

Late last Wednesday night, Congress passed a bill to avoid a shutdown (with just two days to spare). It’s good that businesses and workers don’t have to worry about a shutdown hitting their bottom lines and wallets. I suppose it’s a sign of how messed up Congress is these days that simply averting a shutdown is cause for celebration.   

But the fact is that this is no way to do business. Congress is only funding the government until December 9th. And then we will have to go through the same routine again. Even worse, we are operating under a continuing resolution, a mechanism that forces agencies to operate with the exact same budget – and the exact same priorities – as they had last year.  As you can imagine, this doesn’t give our government agencies the flexibility to meet changing priorities, to have longer-term contracts with vendors that protect the interests of taxpayers, or to jump-start projects that could be beneficial to our everyday lives.

So I think it’s time for Congress to get its act together. I’ll keep working toward that end.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve sponsored a bill known as “No Budget, No Pay” that says if Congress doesn’t do its job and pass a budget, then members of Congress shouldn’t get paid. And I’m hopeful that, going forward, Congress can get back to passing funding bills in an orderly manner so our country can stop lurching from one fiscal crisis to the next.

Protecting Small Businesses from Cyber Attacks

Before Congress adjourned, I was proud to see a bipartisan bill sail through the House. I was the lead Democrat, working with New York Republican Richard Hanna, on a bill to help small businesses fend off cyber-attacks. I’ve talked before about how important this is because after all, small businesses are the backbone of our economy.

Unfortunately, small businesses are also often threatened by cyber-attacks. That’s a problem because they are so key to the growth of jobs. A study this year found that three out of every five cyberattacks target small businesses. So the legislation we passed would give small businesses critical tools so they can have a comprehensive plan for tackling cyber threats. The bill would enable the network of small business development centers to work with small businesses to help them strengthen their cyber resiliency and to protect their bottom lines.  That’s also important to all of us as consumers, because none of us want our personal details or our financial information to end up in the wrong hands.

You can read more about the passage of our legislation here.

Protecting Rural Communities

Since my last newsletter I also called on Congressional leadership to reauthorize a program that has been essential to our communities near national forest lands. Since national forest land cannot be taxed by counties or states, for more than 100 years the Forest Service has shared revenues from timber harvests on federal land with nearby communities. As harvest levels declined, a program called Secure Rural Schools was started to assist communities so they could maintain essential services.

SRS payments are a key component in supporting vital services like law enforcement, road maintenance, and education in rural communities. Unfortunately, Congress has failed to reauthorize this program – putting continued funding at risk.

Without it, transportation projects are being thrown in limbo and school districts are finding themselves poring over budgets, trying to figure out how to scale back services for students and their families.

We need this program. It’s why I joined many of my colleagues in sending a letter to House leadership asking them to move forward with protecting this critical program. You can read my letter here.  

Canada Takes a Step to Clean It’s Mess

Since I first came to office I’ve worked on making sure Canada takes care of the raw sewage that gets dumped into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I’ve reported on this battle through many newsletters (continued apologies to those who find the topic really gross…for what it’s worth, I’m with you). 

I’m happy to say that keeping the pressure on is having some impact.

Recently, the Capital Regional District in British Columbia approved a plan to build a sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt and committed to other wastewater management solutions. This is a positive step toward Canada cleaning up its mess.  

Now we need to make sure that the British Columbian and Canadian governments step up to the plate and follow through with the investments needed to open this plant. Just last week, I met once again with representatives from the Canadian Embassy to push our case.  I’m going to continue to press our Canadian partners for a lasting solution so this does not impact our shared waters any longer.

You can read about more about the news here.

A Prayer for our Neighbors

Closer to home, we all watched in horror as the news came out that a gunman walked into Burlington’s Cascade Mall and killed five people in one minute. When these tragedies strike, our thoughts and prayers go to those who lost loved ones.

This awful event was a sad reminder of just how often these mass killings happen. And sadly, it was a reminder that – while Congress has held multiple moments of silence for victims of gun violence, it has held zero moments of action.  Outside our nation’s capital, there is a strong – and bipartisan – consensus that we need to take some common sense steps to reduce violence, to address failures in our mental health system, and to ensure that felons, terrorists, and folks with serious mental illness cannot get their hands on dangerous weapons. The vast majority of Americans believe we can protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and take some sensible steps to keep these tragedies from occurring. I agree.

When we drop our kids off at school, when we go to church, a movie theater, a night club, or a mall, Americans shouldn’t have to fear for their safety. I think it’s time for Congress to act. 

Working for You

Congratulations to the Hilltop Community in Tacoma on the Grand Opening of the People's Community Center Pool! Thanks to the City of Tacoma, Metro Parks, the State of Washington, and the People's Center Steering Committee for creating a first class recreational facility for families and adding another positive place in the neighborhood that young people can say "yes" to.

I had a great evening at the Filipino Association in Bremerton! Their celebration of 95 years in the community and their first year in their Filipino-American community center demonstrated the importance of their presence in our region. I joined Bremerton City Councilwoman, Leslie Daugs and President Rual Bacas along with the Board of Directors in celebration.

I want to thank Jim Morrell, John Bolender, and the whole Skookum Rotary crew for letting me crash another fantastic (albeit wet) Oyster Fest! I was able to visit with a geoduck, pour some microbrews, and scarf down some curried mussels. After grabbing some delicious Duckleberry Grunt from the folks at Westport Winery, I had the important task of timing the great Jose Loza from Taylor Shellfish in the first heat of oyster shucking! All said - a Saturday morning well spent.

As always, don't hesitate to give me a holler if I can help you or someone you know.

Derek Kilmer