Preventing Electoral Funny Business

In my work throughout our region I meet a lot of folks. I treasure the conversations we have, the ideas I hear, and the opportunity to occasionally tell some stories and jokes. 

There has been a lot of talk lately on the national level about what divides us. It seems like we can’t go a day without a new controversy exploding on Twitter and heating up cable news.

But when you meet people supporting local nonprofits at Shelton’s Oyster Fest, or talk with folks at local employers like Kitsap Credit Union and Applied Technical Systems, or visit with people on the ferry, you realize a few important things.

  1. People are doing some awesome things in our region.

  2. The American people are so much better than our current politics; and

  3. While we might have our differences, we are all proud to live in a country that gives its citizens a voice and a vote in determining who will serve on their behalf.

The importance of our democratic republic – that system in which “we the people” are the boss – drives a lot of what I work on. It’s why I hold so many town hall meetings. It’s why I’ve worked on reforms to our campaign finance system and to protect voting rights and address partisan gerrymandering. It’s even why I send out this newsletter every couple of weeks.

And it’s why I’ve gone to work to prevent foreign actors from meddling with our system. There are many foreign actors that want to disrupt our system of government – to influence electoral outcomes, to make Americans feel like they don’t have a say. I’m concerned by the fact that Russians bought thousands of online political advertisements with the intent to influence the 2016 election. From reports we’ve read so far, they were targeted at different groups of voters to have maximum impact. That’s unacceptable and that’s something Democrats and Republicans agree needs to be stopped.

Last week, I introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill (that includes Senator John McCain in the Senate) that would have the Federal Election Commission enact rules for online advertisements similar to what is in place for television, radio, and satellite ads. Those rules require disclosure of who is buying what ads where. That’s vital if we’re going to ensure transparency – to affirm the public’s right to know. And it’s important if we’re going to keep foreign money out of our politics.

You can read more about the particulars of the bill by visiting my website here. And to sum up my feelings on this, check out the graphic I asked folks to share on social media.

Working for Jobs

In addition to pushing to make our government work better, I also want to see our economy work better. I’m focused like a laser on how we grow more jobs for more people in more places. Regardless of your zip code, I want to make sure you have the ability to earn a good paycheck that can help build a decent life.

That means I’m working on a lot of projects in our region. In some instances, outside of introducing legislation, my office is playing a convening role or working collaboratively with folks to solve a problem or pursue an opportunity. For example, we’ve been hard at work on the Olympic Forest Collaborative to responsibly increase harvest levels in our federal forests. That effort has led to several pilot projects in the Olympic National Forest that have increased harvests and contributed positively to forest health. Down the road, I’ve been working with others to support job creation at the Puget Sound Industrial Center (near the Bremerton Airport). We’ve been discussing options to enhance infrastructure there in support of job creation. In addition, I joined Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and the team at the Economic Development Board for Tacoma Pierce County to showcase the community’s proposal for a second Amazon headquarters. The proposal provides a strong blueprint for growing jobs in our region.

Beyond projects like these (and others), I recently sponsored a couple of bills focused on helping people develop new skills. Let me give you some details.

Jobs that Last

My first job was at Westside Video in Port Angeles. It was a great place to learn customer service (and to dramatically expand my knowledge of 80s-era comedies).    

Unfortunately, given the “On Demand” era, video stores are now largely a thing of the past. (When I tried to explain the phrase ‘be kind, please rewind’ to my kids, they looked at me like I was from another planet).

The decline of video stores is just one example of the massive economic change we’ve seen in recent decades. Tower Records, my favorite store as a kid? Filed for bankruptcy and was liquidated in 2006. At its peak, Kodak employed 160,000 people around the nation. Now, it employs four percent of that.

I’m not sharing this to be a bummer. In some respects, the changes we’ve seen have connected us more and made things more convenient. But those changes have also meant enormous economic uncertainty. Starting a job and being in that job for three or four decades is now incredibly uncommon.

How can the federal government support people so they can navigate those changes? 

One important way is to provide more career-connected learning opportunities and help people build more skills. For example, apprenticeships give folks the opportunity to develop experience needed to be successful in fields that are in demand.

That’s why I recently led the introduction of a bipartisan bill to provide funding to states for the creation or expansion of tuition assistance programs that benefit apprenticeship participants. The federal government can be a partner in supporting these programs and the men and women that have signed up for them.

Another bill I led last week is one to narrow the skills gap. (I know … your eyes probably just glazed over at the sight of the phrase ‘narrow the skills gap.’ … But hear me out).

These days many jobs, even at the same company, can see the requirements change. Think about an advanced manufacturing site. A business could get new equipment that requires workers to learn and master new codes and parts that keep it running smoothly.

We should be encouraging businesses to help their workers keep up with these changes. That’s why I sponsored a bill that would create a tax credit for 25% of the first $5,000 that an employer spends on qualified education and training expenses for an employee.

Giving employees the opportunity to learn and build new skills while on the job helps our economy grow. The federal government can be a partner in supporting classes and training offered by companies to give more stability to their workers and put them in a position to earn more money.

We’re working on a number of other bills to grow jobs and expand economic opportunity in our region, so stay tuned for further updates in the weeks and months ahead.

Helping Americans in Need

It’s been a tough few months.

On our coast, wildfires have damaged forests and threatened communities.

Florida and Texas residents saw major damage to their properties from hurricanes.

Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, decimating the island and its resources. About 80% of residents and businesses there still don’t have power. As of this past Friday, over one-third of residents lacked running water. This situation is serious—and requires our attention and diligence.

Given these challenges, I was proud to vote for a bipartisan bill to provide supplemental disaster assistance that will directly provide funds to respond to the forest fires, and to ensure the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund doesn’t run out of money.

This funding impacts our neighborhood too. Read more here.

An Opportunity for Bipartisan Progress on Health Care

Disaster funding isn’t the only big update coming out of DC.

Unfortunately, we’ve also seen a number of recent actions by the Trump Administration clearly intended to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In addition to cutting funds to organizations working to sign people up for insurance and shutting down the ACA website nearly every Sunday to reduce enrollment, the President recently took executive action that will particularly hurt middle-class and poorer families. Specifically, the President announced his intent to end subsidies that help reduce insurance costs so folks can have insurance and get the care they need. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the President’s action will spike premiums.

Thankfully, our state’s own Senator Patty Murray joined with her Republican colleague Lamar Alexander last week on a compromise to fix the damage. I’m hopeful that Congress will act on this and reduce costs for the American people.

I wasn’t in Congress when the ACA was passed. It’s undeniable that a lot of the folks I represent have benefited from the protections provided under this law. Millions of people now have health insurance who previously did not. 

But it’s not a perfect law. I’m willing to work with anyone to make improvements and ensure people can have quality, affordable health care.

Rather than playing politics and making things worse (as we’ve seen too often in DC), I’m committed to doing all I can to make progress for the folks I represent.

Talking to You

One of the most important parts of my job is being accessible and accountable to you. That means I hold as many town halls, company visits, and local meetings as possible. When I’m in DC, I also hold periodic telephone town halls. I recently held a call for folks in our region. We talked about securing our electric grid, what Congress can do to combat environmental challenges, and where the health care conversation might go. It was a great conversation—with excellent questions! Thanks for tuning in—and keep your eyes peeled for another telephone town hall coming up.

Pastor Molly Fraser’s Opening Prayer

Every morning, Congress (much like our state legislature) goes into session with the Pledge of Allegiance and with a prayer. It’s multi-denominational and provides an opportunity for folks from throughout our nation to share their spiritual thoughts. Recently, Pastor Molly Fraser of Gig Harbor United Methodist Church (my home church) gave the opening prayer in the House. Her message was simple: center us, and help us to consider others in our decision making. Tune in to hear her prayer—and my speech about the importance of welcoming all into our communities.

Quick Questions about Congress with Kilmer

Many of you may have checked out the podcast I do periodically to give you some insights into Congress and the people who serve in it. It’s called “Quick Questions about Congress with Kilmer.” If you haven't listened to it, I encourage you to tune in and hear my conversations with other members of Congress about why they wanted the job, what policy priorities they have—and what movies they recommend. My most recent edition included a discussion with Rep. Ami Bera from California who talked about being a doctor in Congress—and what he’s excited about for the future.

Working for You

It was an honor to join the Ruckelshaus Center for their 7th Annual Chairman’s Circle Luncheon where I spoke about their work in Grays Harbor. The Center is collaborating with local leaders to figure out how we build up coastal resiliency for the communities I represent. It’s part of their ongoing efforts to combine expertise at University of Washington and Washington State University to find solutions to pressing public policy challenges across our state. Bill Ruckelshaus, the Center’s namesake and the first Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, had a fascinating conversation about the future of democracy with the 66th Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

I recently had a meeting with the new Army Corps of Engineers District Commander to discuss the various priorities in our district and to welcome him to the Northwest. Thank you Colonel Mark Geraldi for taking time to sit down with me!

I visited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Manchester Research Station to learn about the work they are doing to protect Puget Sound. Their research helps us better understand the wildlife we find in the Sound's waters. Not only did I have a great discussion with the station’s staff, they also allowed me to feed sable fish, see growing steelhead, and watch baby abalone under a microscope.

I visited the Kitsap Humane Society and heard about their plans for a new facility. I am enormously grateful for the important work they do to promote animal welfare. It took everything in my power not to bring another furry friend home with me!

OK… that’s it for now.  As always, it’s an honor to represent you.