07.02.18

Celebrating our Independence

Hello friends,

I hope you and yours are gearing up for a great Independence Day. I’m hoping to end my 4th of July with a bit of family time (with special guests – BBQ and pie!!!). Before that, though, I’ll be participating in three local community parades around our region (and serving some pancakes in Kingston).  It will be a full day, but if you’ve been following me on social media, you’ve probably gathered that they’re all really full days.  With that in mind … on to the news!  

Remembering our History

To me, Independence Day is about celebrating the freedom we’ve enjoyed since our Founders conceived the nation two and a half centuries ago. And a big reason we can enjoy our freedom this week is because, through our history, Americans have stood up to defend it.

In 2000, the Library of Congress set out to add to its vast audio collections the voices and stories of America’s veterans. It launched the Veterans History Project to collect those stories. According to the Library of Congress: “Our mission is to collect and preserve the personal accounts of America’s war veterans and make them accessible to all, so that future generations may hear directly from those who served and better understand the realities of war. We do this by asking the general public—this means you!—to record and submit first-person narratives by American veterans.” 

This year, my team has joined with the Library of Congress to help collect the stories of veterans in our neck of the woods. And we’d like your help. If you or a loved one would like to participate in an interview, contact Rob Richards in my Tacoma office by calling 253-272-3515.

If you know an enterprising young person who wants to gather stories, or have a family member you’d like to talk to, check out the Veterans History Project website for instructions on how to record an interview on your own.

Veterans Picture - 7-3-2018

I’ve also recently become a Commemorative Partner of the Vietnam War Commemoration. This year is the war’s 50th Anniversary. The Department of Defense authorized the Commemoration as a way to honor and thank veterans of the Vietnam War for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States. As a Commemorative Partner, I’ve committed to hosting events in our region to honor those who served, and I’m working on that coming up in August. I’ll post updates about these on my Facebook and Twitter pages.

Thriving in a Changing Economy

Often times, it seems that the conflict and partisanship get a lot of the attention.  But, I’m excited to let you know that I just introduced a new bipartisan bill in Congress that is getting a fair amount of attention too.

Last week, with the help of Representative Glenn 'GT' Thompson, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and a group of 10 colleagues—5 Democrats and 5 Republicans—I introduced The Skills Investment Act of 2018.

The bill would create lifelong learning accounts to help people invest in upskilling themselves.  The accounts would function kind of like a Health Savings Account but for workforce training. They’d be optional and portable, meaning that the account moves with people as they advance in their career and from job to job. Folks who create and pay into a lifelong-learning account will receive a tax advantage for the money they pay in. Their employers will receive a benefit too, so employers can start using contributions as a tool to compete for the best workers.

The goal is to create accounts workers can tap into throughout their lives. If they’re in a job and want to advance into a higher paying new role, they could use their account to pursue a new certification.  If they got laid off, they could use the account to get retraining. Learning new skills—whether it’s welding, or coding, or anything else that gives someone an extra edge in their field—translates into more job security and a bigger paycheck.

In a nutshell, this legislation is about creating tools folks can use to thrive within our changing economy. I’m hopeful it will advance quickly into law. In addition to the group of Democrats and Republicans who joined with me to introduce the bill in the House, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) teamed up to introduce The Skills Investment Act in the Senate.

You can learn more about the bill here.

Keeping Families Together

In my last newsletter, I outlined my thoughts on the president’s family separation policy. But a few things have happened since then that I wanted to provide an update on.

On Friday, I met with 22 mothers who have been separated from their children. The stories I heard were gut-wrenching. One mother told me that she and her children were fleeing violence in Central America and came to the border asking for asylum. She said she was told she would be separated from her child for 3 to 5 days – and now it’s been nearly two months.

I think we’re better than a nation that takes kids from their families.

I support keeping families together. I also support bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, lets us know who is coming and going from our country and gives certainty to Dreamers. And I am a cosponsor of bills like the DREAM Act, the USA Act, and the Keep Families Together Act to make common sense changes to our immigration system.

I will keep standing up for our values and for keeping families together.

You can learn more about my visit to the detention center here.

Fixing Congress

If you’re a regular follower of my newsletter, you may know that, over the winter, I was named to the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform (an important committee that needs a better name). The group has been meeting with policy experts and others to develop solutions to fix Congress’s broken budgeting process and end the gridlock.

Last week, we heard ideas from the leaders of Congress and other members who are committed to change. I was in listening mode this time as a member of the committee, but I outlined some of the things I think Congress should do in an op-ed earlier this year.

Congress Picture - 7-3-2018

Working for You

As I mentioned, it’s been a busy couple of weeks.

A few days ago, I had the chance to sit down with folks in our community who are on the front line, helping our friends and neighbors confront addiction and address the opioid epidemic. I streamed the meeting on Facebook Live, so everyone has the chance to learn a little more about what’s going on in our community, and the work cut out for Congress to get this crisis under control. I’m pleased that Congress passed a large number of bipartisan bills focused on addressing this challenge (including several that I sponsored-which I touched on in my last newsletter), but it’s clear there’s plenty more to do. 

Opioid Panel Picture - 7-3-2018

A few days ago, my daughters and I joined some awesome volunteers from the Pierce Conservation District at the Holy Rosary School in Tacoma. We tore up some pavement as part of PCD’s De-pave program, which is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. The pavement will be replaced with a soft surface the students at this school can safely play on during recess. In addition to preventing scuffed knees during kickball, porous pavement slows down the flow of contaminated stormwater that runs into – and pollutes – Puget Sound. We had a great time (but I was reminded why I don’t do CrossFit). 

Conservation Picture - 7-3-2018

One final note. Two weeks ago, Kitsap County lost one of its best leaders, and I lost a dear friend, Natalie Bryson. I had the chance to wish her well from the House floor shortly before she passed, and the Kitsap Sun wrote a fitting tribute to her. She helped define the spirit of our community. She stood up for what was right, and spoke out when she saw injustice. As we celebrate our Independence later this week, I can’t help to think that the Founders would have been proud of folks like Natalie who used her right of free speech to speak up for so many. 

Floor Speech Picture - 7-3-2018

OK…that’s all for this time.  Be sure to have a safe and happy Independence Day.  And – as always – if my team and I can ever lend a hand, please don’t hesitate to holler. 

I’m honored to represent you.

Sincerely,

Derek