Lynxes, Tiger Grants and Bills, Oh My!
As we’ve seen in recent weeks, young people are stepping up in a big way. They are leading changes in our economy and speaking up about challenges in our country. Whether it’s the threat of gun violence in our schools, the challenge of starting a career in today’s economy, the high cost of college tuition, or the impact that money and special interests have in our democracy, young folks are working to make a difference in their community. I’m inspired by their passion and energy, and that’s why I’m heading to college campuses to hold Student Town Halls. Find more details about those events below, and RSVP to this Facebook event for more information.
April 3rd, 3:30pm-5:00pm
University of Washington Tacoma
Keystone Building, Carwein Auditorium
1754 Commerce St.
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 4th, 5:00pm-6:30pm
Pirate Union Building Little Theatre
1502 E Lauridsen Blvd
Port Angeles, WA 98362
April 5th, 4pm-5pm
Olympic College, Bremerton
William D. Harvey Theater
1600 Chester Ave
Bremerton, WA 98337
Now, on to the news!!!!
Passing a Bipartisan Spending Agreement
If you read the previous edition of my newsletter, you might remember that Congress had only passed legislation to fund the government until March 23. In fact, so far this fiscal year, Congress saw two government shutdowns and five stop-gap spending bills (known as continuing resolutions). This is no way to run a government.
Thankfully, on March 23, Congress passed a spending bill that finally, fully funds the government until the end of the fiscal year.
No compromise is ever perfect, but I voted for this plan because there are important investments for folks in our necks of the woods, and because our country has to stop lurching from crisis to crisis.
This bill invests in the American people and makes a difference on many of the challenges facing our region. There are families that have been ravaged by the scourge of opioids who will benefit from the funding this bill dedicates to combatting the opioid crisis. There are people on the Olympic Peninsula who will have a better shot economically as a result of funding for fighting wildfires, funding for rural schools and rural broadband. There are tens of thousands of servicemembers and defense workers in our region who have asked for an end to furloughs and chaos, and this bill finally gives them certainty. This bill will provide help to fishermen in Westport who are wondering if they can fish for another season, or if they need to put a for sale sign on their boats because of repeated natural disasters. The bill will help grow jobs by funding important infrastructure projects (through the federal TIGER Grant program and other important efforts). Families in our region and local businesses that depend on clean water will benefit from funding to keep the Puget Sound clean and healthy. This bill invests in folks who work in our forests, so that our timber industry can innovate and find new ways to compete in the global economy. And it takes the first step forward to making sure that America’s elections are free from foreign influence and dark money.
By getting this bill passed, hopefully this will now give Congress time to work on the rest of our nation’s most pressing challenges. I hope the bipartisan cooperation that produced this bill will translate into bipartisan action that gives certainty to Dreamers and makes progress on other important priorities requiring attention and action.
Standing up for our Veterans
Our region has more veterans than almost any other part of the country. That’s why I formed a Veterans Advisory Council when I came to Congress. This volunteer group has given me great advice, and they’ve spent a lot of time helping me understand what folks in our neck of the woods want from their government. Last week, I got an update from them (just in time given the changeover at the VA). It is important to me that our VA system is serving those who served. I’ll keep pushing to make it better.
In the spending bill that passed a couple of weeks ago, I was able to get a couple of provisions important to support veterans. Specifically, I secured a provision in the bill that could be a big help to veterans buying a house. Right now, veterans are at a disadvantage when they go to bid on a house using VA loans, because the appraisal process is so much more burdensome that often sellers choose other candidates. The Tacoma News Tribune reported on this issue last year, and my team and I dug into the issue local veterans to determine the scope of the problem. Rather than ignoring the problem, we got language in the spending bill directing the VA to come up with--and report to Congress on--a plan of attack. That’s the first step in creating policies to fix this problem. I’ll keep you posted once we get the report back. The News Tribune wrote an update on this story, which you can read here.
The spending bill also included legislation I worked on with Rep. Dan Newhouse called the VA Management Alignment Act. It comes just as the management at the VA is changing. The bill directs the VA to address management issues to ensure veterans across the country are getting the care they earned and deserve. You can read more about this bill here.
Righting a wrong
Imagine counting down the days to your retirement, then putting in the paperwork and finding out from your boss that you have to work years longer than co-workers who started the same day as you because of how the government calculates the time you worked. Some folks at the shipyard came to me with this exact problem. I think Washington, DC can do better for the people who devoted their lives to keeping the Navy’s ships afloat. I just introduced legislation to fix the problem so that federal workers can make catch-up payments so they can retire on-time with full retirement benefits. You can read about the bill here.
I introduced this legislation because a constituent reached out to my office with a concern about his own retirement. Without that knowledge, I wouldn’t be able to make this situation right. That’s why I always ask you to let me know if you or someone you know needs a hand.
Working for You
I got an update from the Mason County Sheriff on their work to help people in our community struggling with opioids. I’m working in Congress to secure funding to help people get treatment for opioid addiction and support local communities, and I’m pleased to report that the spending bill Congress passed included $3.3 billion in help--that brings the total funding from Congress over the last few months to nearly $10 billion. But that’s only the start. Congress needs to do far more so people facing addiction can get help from medical professionals and have access to better treatment options.
I also had the chance to tour the awesome Haven Boatworks--this small business employs about 25 people to repair and restore wooden boats. This is an example of the great jobs available to folks who learn a skilled trade.
I visited students and teachers at Port Townsend High School. Thanks for sharing your ideas and concerns with me. As I told these insightful young people: no matter how young you are, your voice matters. I’m going to keep working with everyone, every day from every angle to make sure the grown-ups in Washington, DC listen and take action so everyone feels safe at school and everywhere else.
Finally, I got to visit Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium where I got an update on their new aquarium and their policy priorities (including protecting red wolves and other conservation efforts). I even got to pet a lynx (which, thankfully, did not eat me after this photo was taken).
OK--that’s it for this time. Stay tuned for more updates!
As always, I’m honored to represent you!
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