Need to get it done


The former coach of the Miami Dolphins, Don Shula, was known as a great motivational leader.  When asked the secret of his success, he said, “I’m just a guy who rolls up his sleeves and goes to work.”

Like most folks, I’d like to see Congress follow that ethic. Less bickering. Less games. More progress. More work.

Sadly, Congress recently went into one of its longest recesses in recent decades. And worse still, it did so without getting the job done on a multitude of issues. Congress hasn’t passed a budget or the required spending bills. It hasn’t taken up legislation to address student debt.  It hasn’t passed bills to help Flint with its water problems or to address the Zika outbreak. 

I joined others in pushing for Congress to stay in DC and to do its job. To me, Congress needs to roll up its sleeves and go to work.

Though House leaders chose to move forward with the recess, I’m committed to continuing to work on your behalf. Read on to see what I’ve been up to in recent weeks.

Remembering a Legend

Last week we got to witness something special. Hundreds of people – tribal, local, state, federal leaders, and others – came to Nisqually National Wildlife to celebrate as it was officially renamed the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. It was a sight to see so many come out to celebrate the legacy of a true civil rights icon – Billy Frank Jr.

For Billy, protecting our natural world and everything that depends on it was an innate calling. And folks responded to that. They followed his fearless protests by standing up for civil rights. They followed his example by becoming fishermen themselves in places like Puget Sound. They listened to his ideas about keeping communities vibrant by building tribal youth centers.

And in the marble halls of Congress, he convinced so many that tribal rights could not be held back and that we need to protect clean water and recover the salmon. He left tracks across our state and nation and his advocacy will live on. That’s what makes the renaming so significant.

I’m grateful to Denny Heck – our neighboring congressman and my roommate in Washington DC – for taking the lead on this effort. He sponsored this new law that will be a vital piece of helping future generations know who Billy was and what he stood for. And we can only hope that they follow his lead and do their part to take care of our waters.

There has been a lot more going on in the past two weeks so read on!

Addressing mental health challenges

As I’ve written previously, we face an enormous challenge relating to mental health. Behavioral health issues are taking a toll on the South Sound. We hear it in the stories of individuals whose struggles with mental illness keep them cycling through our local jails. We see it when police and emergency responders are forced to devote more and more of their time to behavioral health problems.  We see it in homelessness. And we know that our hospital emergency rooms are strained as people enter in acute mental crisis.

Folks are not getting the professional help they need. We have both a moral and economic imperative to act. Consider this, in the South Sound community there are only 2.8 inpatient beds per 100,000 people. 2.8.

Thankfully, two hospitals in our region have come together to try to address this need.

I want to make sure the government is a partner in this venture. So I worked across the aisle with my colleague on the Appropriations Committee, Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, to successfully include a provision into one of the appropriations bills that would ask the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide Congress with a range of options to assist local communities in their efforts to increase the number of inpatient beds available to treat mental health and substance abuse disorders.   

Canada – Clean up Your Mess!  

Regular readers know that there are certain issues that I’ve worked on since first coming to office. One of them is the fact that British Columbia continues to dump 34 million gallons of raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca every single day. Having grown up right across the waters from Victoria, it concerns me that after many years, raw sewage from Canada continues to end up in our shared waters. 

Thankfully, we’ve seen some progress. The recently reorganized wastewater treatment board in British Columbia is currently reviewing proposed plans for two sewage treatment plants in the region. But we need to keep at it. That’s why I authored a provision in a recent Appropriations bill that would encourage the U.S. State Department to work with their Canadian counterparts on a solution to the sewage problem and ensure that Canada lives up to its international commitments in this area.

You can read more about it in the Peninsula Daily News here.

Defending the Rights of our Workers and the Future of Our Planet

On the House floor we recently debated the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill. This legislation funds some important agencies for our region like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service. And it did some good. It made strong investments to address the needs of Indian Country. It also continued the West Coast Early Earthquake Warning System and the Volcano Hazards program. But unfortunately, the final legislation didn’t do enough when it comes to protecting in our environment.

In Washington state, we are passionate about the outdoors. That's why I could not defend a bill that makes steep cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. For 50 years the fund has protected community greenspaces, built parks and trails, and improved boating and recreational access. That's why I'll continue to fight for it. We also need to continue strong investments in Puget Sound recovery, as this iconic body of water benefits our entire nation.  You can watch my comments on this bill here.

I also spoke out about amendment was offered that would weaken the Davis-Bacon Act, which helps provide good wages for local workers. I stood up against this because federal construction projects aren’t just about building a road, or a bridge, or a facility. Davis-Bacon makes sure that our taxpayer dollars also build the middle-class, the next generation of workers, and enable people to live with dignity. You can watch my remarks here.              

Quick Questions About Congress with Kilmer

As you likely know, I’ve worked hard to develop relationships with Democrats and Republicans in Congress with an eye toward getting more done for our community.  And the reality is, while there are always disagreements on specific policy issues, I’ve found that understanding what brought folks to DC helps me find common ground with them.

With that in mind, I’ve launched a new podcast for you to get some insight into the folks I work with and how we’re trying to get things done. Each episode I sit down with one of my colleagues to ask what brought them to Congress, what they’re working on, and even some fun stuff (like what their favorite movie is).  I’m looking forward to more of these conversations and I hope you’ll tune in to learn more about the people who represent our country and the issues we’re trying to address. Follow the link here to listen on my webpage or go to iTunes and subscribe!

District Events

While Congress has been in recess, I’ve been running from pillar to post around our region.

I got to do several “Kilmer at Your Company” visits to learn about local employers. For example, I spent time at Westport's largest employer, Ocean Gold Seafood. We had a great discussion regarding fishing policy and other topics critical to their business. I also got to visit the Forks Motel. Thanks to owner Chintu Patel for sharing this priorities with me and Bob Pensworth of Crescomm who worked with them to get high speed internet in every room. Thanks, too, to Forks Mayor Bryan Monohon for joining us.

Nothing beats Allyn Days. Tess and I started with a visit with Rob from Rob's Shellfish who introduced us to a geoduck. Then we joined the team from Xinh's serving delicious geoduck won tons (I admit... we ate a lot). We got to kick off the oyster shucking contest. The contestants were fast (and finished with all of their fingers). We got to award the medals (golden oyster shells!) We finished the day with geoduck ice cream... which was....interesting. Thanks to all the folks who came out and visited with us!

It was terrific to be a part of the grand opening of the new Bucklin Hill Bridge. The project will enhance the area’s safety and mobility and will be key to restoring the estuary. Once the ribbon was cut, I got to take a stroll across the bridge with local residents!

Thanks to everyone who came out for our meeting of the Olympic Peninsula Forest Collaborative in Quilcene. We had a great conversation about this effort to manage our forests in a way that strengthens our local economies and improves forest health. The members of the collaborative have put in a tremendous amount of time and energy – and we’re making some progress!

OK – that’s all for this update. If I can ever lend a hand to you or someone you know, please give me or my office a holler.

As always, it’s an honor to represent you. 

Derek Kilmer