Growing Economic Opportunity from the Middle Out
Hello Friends -
Tomorrow I will be heading back to Washington, DC for what’s expected to be the final legislative week until after Labor Day. There’s a lot cooking as Congress works out an agreement with the Trump Administration on budget caps and on the debt limit. Beyond that, in the week ahead, you’ll see Former FBI Director Robert Mueller testify in front of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and the House will take up a bill to stabilize multi-employer pensions as well as a couple of bills to ensure humanitarian standards for children at our southern border. Things will be pretty hectic.
If all goes well, I’ll be back in our Washington (aka the better Washington) for August. It’s a great opportunity to crisscross the region a few times over, hear what’s on your mind, and see many of you at fairs, festivals, and other events (yes, I plan on a repeat performance of “the Derek Kilmer Summer Tour of Eating Fried Food”).
Read on for an update on the last couple of weeks!
Raising Wages for Workers
In our state, we’ve recognized the importance of trying to build the economy from the middle-out, rather than using trickle-down policies. Part of that approach has been through having a minimum wage that pays a living wage and tying that to inflation - so that as the cost of things go up, so does the minimum wage.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for most of the country. Too many people across America are working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and barely making enough to get by. This week, the House took action and passed the Raise the Wage Act – a bill I sponsor and was proud to vote for. This bill will gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 across the nation (and will tie future increases to inflation), giving pay raises to up to 33 million American workers. And believe it or not - it’s been ten years without an increase in the federal minimum wage - the longest stretch in history!
By increasing the minimum wage, Congress will be making it easier for folks to put food on the table, to make ends meet, to pay for medical bills, and to support their families. I’m proud to support raising the federal minimum wage. I’m hopeful that the Senate will take this bill up soon.
Building a Pipeline for Computer Science Education
We know that education is the door to economic opportunity. In today’s changing economy, it’s important to continue to find ways to prepare our kids for the jobs of the future.
Not everyone is going to have a tech-related job, but we know that there is a growing demand for workers with computer science skills. In fact, a lot of employers in our region have job openings going unfilled because they can’t find folks with these skills. And beyond that, we know that China is currently producing computer science degrees at three times the rate we are in the U.S.
To prepare students to be successful and innovative in the workforce, the federal government should help expand computer science education. With that in mind, I introduced a bipartisan bill last week called the Teacher Education for Computer Science Act (the “Teach CSAct”). The Teach CS Act will establish “Centers of Excellence” for teacher education programs in computer science at colleges and universities - ensuring that our teachers are empowered with the skills they need to teach computer science. In addition, funding would be provided to schools to build strong programs – to hire and retain faculty, carry out robust computer science education research, train doctoral students, and educate graduate and undergraduate students preparing to be teachers in computer science in our communities.
Strengthening computer science programs will provide more job opportunities for our kids, more qualified employees for local employers, and more economic resiliency for our communities.
Helping First Responders Who Supported Our Country on September 11th
On September 11, 2001, our nation suffered an unthinkable tragedy, and witnessed the incredible bravery of hundreds of first responders who put their own lives on the line - rushing into the World Trade Center to save countless Americans and deal with the aftermath in the years following.
Last week, I proudly voted in favor of permanently and fully funding the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which provides 9/11 first responders, survivors, and their families with the support and financial security they deserve. When we needed them most, they were there for us. Our federal government should be there for them.
Improving the Lives of Our Military Families and Supporting Our Defense Communities
Earlier this month, I supported the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a bill that authorizes funding for the Department of Defense. Importantly, this bill had a big, big focus on supporting the men and women who serve our country. I believe that if you serve this country, Congress should have your back and invest in you and your family. I’m proud that this bill includes a number of measures to support our troops and our military families, including a 3.1 percent pay raise for service members, and provisions to improve military housing and clean up contaminated drinking water at military bases. In addition, I was able to secure some provisions important to folks in our neck of the woods.
Ensuring Fairness for Shipyard Workers
For decades, the Navy has sought to recruit and retain talented workers to public shipyards, like Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, for critical positions in science and engineering using the Accelerated Promotion Program (APP). In 2016, the Navy suspended the program as it sought recertification from the Office of Personnel Management. Workers hired during that one-year gap in the program were adversely affected by the suspension, leading to lost pay and slower promotions when compared to their other colleagues. To fix this, I authored an amendment that directs the Navy to develop a plan to make this right for those workers. I’m proud that this provision was included in the NDAA when it passed the House.
Prohibiting Federal Funds from Being Used for War Against Iran
Earlier this year, I joined over 100 of my colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump to urge him to deescalate the tensions between the U.S. and Iran and to ensure he seeks Congressional approval for potential offensive use of military force. In the NDAA, I sponsored a bipartisan amendment to prevent federal funds from being used for any military force against Iran without congressional authorization. The amendment clarifies that neither the 2001 nor the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) can be invoked to justify the use of military force against Iran. Our government was built on a system of check and balances and I’m committed to ensuring the Administration recognizes that.
Reducing Jet Noise
Over the past several years, I have pushed the Department of Defense to reduce the noise of the Navy’s EA-18G Growler. In addition to measures secured to monitor Navy jet noise and make that monitoring data public in the Defense Appropriations bill, the NDAA directs the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Air Force to conduct real-time noise-monitoring at Navy and Air Force installations. Like the Defense Appropriations bill, the NDAA also sets aside funds to continue developing technology that could be installed on Growler engines to reduce their noise. I’ll continue to work to ensure that the Navy remains a good neighbor to residents of the Olympic Peninsula and surrounding communities.
Working For You
As always, one of the best parts of my job is meeting with all of you. Here are a few highlights:
Supporting Local Agriculture
It was great to hear about the terrific work being done by young farmers on Bainbridge Island, like Deanna, who are growing healthy, local food and promoting sustainability. I left the Bainbridge Island Friends of the Farm dinner feeling inspired!
Hanging at the McCleary Bear Festival
It was a blast to see so many folks at the McCleary Bear Festival! I got to chat with the local fire fighters (who are also some amazing stew chefs), greet some of the parade entrants, and catch up with McCleary Mayor Brenda Orffer, who does a great job for her community!
Tacoma Pride was awesome!! We should be proud that as a city, and as a nation, we have come such a long way toward a more just and equal society. I was especially proud this year seeing the pride flag flying over the Tacoma Dome!
Making Sure Kids Don’t Go Hungry
I enjoyed the opportunity to spend an afternoon hanging out with kids, families, volunteers, and advocates at Blueberry Park in Bremerton to talk about the importance of the USDA’s Summer Meals Program. Thanks to the folks at the Bremerton School District for letting me help for the day! The work they do helps make sure families in our neck of the woods don’t go hungry.
OK, that’s it for this week, folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you.
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