Hi Folks –
I hope you all had a terrific Valentine’s Day! For the Kilmers, it was pretty low key (a bite out and some Netflix… yes - I’m a romantic).
But the highlight of Valentine’s Day was getting to visit the Retsil Veterans Home and VFW Post 2669 in Kitsap County to deliver valentines on behalf of school kids from all over our region. When we put out the word that we wanted to show some love to local veterans, local kids responded - big time! We delivered literally thousands of cards on Friday, and it was fantastic to see how touched and grateful folks were.
Kudos to the kids from Kopachuck Middle School, Voyager Elementary, Brownsville Elementary, Evergreen Elementary, Peninsula High School, Hawkins Middle School, Brinnon School District, Quilcene School District, Vinland Elementary, West Sound Tech, Armin Jahr Elementary, Annie Wright Lower School, Gig Harbor High School, and Goodman Middle Schools, for spreading some love.
I’m working on a number of bills to make sure we show some love to our veterans in other ways too - by making sure they get the care and benefits they have earned, by ensuring they have access to quality affordable housing, and by helping those who fought for our country not have to fight for a job. Stay tuned for more on those efforts...
Now, on to the news!
Recovering Puget Sound
Puget Sound is our region’s most iconic body of water, a place on which generations of friends and neighbors have built their lives and made their livelihoods. It’s a critical part of our environment and economy, and home to culturally iconic species like salmon, orcas, and Dungeness crab.
As co-founder of the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, along with my friend Rep. Denny Heck, I’ve been working to prioritize the protection and restoration of the Sound. This month, Congress took a major step forward to ensure the federal government lives up to its responsibility to help this magnificent body of water by passing the Promoting United Government Efforts to Save Our Sound (PUGET SOS) Act out of the House with bipartisan support.
This bill will ensure the federal government is the strong partner that state, tribal, and local entities need to save our Sound - and assist regional efforts to restore salmon and orca populations, ensure future generations can dig for clams, and uphold tribal treaty rights.
There is still plenty of work and significant challenges ahead - storm-water runoff, habitat loss, and harmful algae blooms among them - but the PUGET SOS Act makes meaningful progress toward protecting the estuary at the heart of the region’s identity and economy. I want to thank Rep. Heck for his leadership and partnership in getting this done.
Passing a Bill to Grow Jobs and Protect Natural Treasures
As many of you know, I was born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula. I know firsthand how special our region is and how our public lands contribute to the fabric of who we are. In our region, we understand that protecting public lands isn’t just about saving these unforgettable places for future generations. It also means protecting high-quality jobs for the next generation.
That’s important to me as someone who grew up here - and as someone who worked in economic development professionally for over a decade. I’ve seen how our natural resources contribute to our economic vitality.
Each year, millions of people travel to enjoy our state’s parks and forests, contributing $22 billion in economic impact and supporting 200,000 jobs in Washington’s outdoor economy. Our public lands have provided local entrepreneurs with opportunities to start restaurants, tour companies, hotels, and other small businesses.
Protecting these places has been, and always will be, a priority to me - and that’s why I partnered with Senator Patty Murray to introduce the Wild Olympics and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The bill permanently protects some of our most environmentally sensitive areas - designating some of these public land as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
I’m excited to report that last week, the Wild Olympics Act passed out of the full House of Representatives with bipartisan support!
The legislation evolved through extensive engagement with tribes, conservation groups, timber communities, business leaders, shellfish growers, and everyone in between. Because of that public dialogue, the bill is formally supported by more than 800 community leaders, including Democrats and Republicans, business owners and outdoor enthusiasts, local mayors and tribal leaders.
In addition to protecting outdoor recreation and bolstering the economy, the Wild Olympics bill helps our regional efforts to ensure sources of clean drinking water, supports salmon and steelhead habitats, and protects waterways vital to the shellfish economy.
Just as important as what the bill does is what it does not do. Based on input from local and regional timber leaders, thousands of acres were removed from the initial proposal to ensure the legislation would have no impact on the harvestable timber base in the Olympic National Forest. In addition, language was added to the bill to ensure that the proposal will have no impact on how the Washington Department of Natural Resources manages state-owned lands either.
The legislation will not close, decommission, or otherwise restrict access to any existing forest service roads or trail-heads. It will not affect any private property rights.
All of these changes are a testament to the folks in our region who reached out and shared their input. I’m sincerely grateful for that.
The Wild Olympics and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is the essence of a win-win. Our region’s character is defined by its natural beauty and its future depends on a strong, diversified economy. I’m happy to have taken a step in protecting both.
Standing Up for Working People
The American economy should reward hard work, but many in this country are working too hard for too little. From 1980 to 2017, average incomes for the bottom 90 percent of households increased just 1.1 percent.
When workers have the power to stand together and form a union, their problems don’t disappear, but they become more manageable. Unions mean higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions - and, ultimately, a better ability to keep pace with the rising costs of housing, childcare, education, and other basic needs. That’s why I was a co-sponsor of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and was happy to see it pass out of the House. It’s a step toward reinvigorating the American middle class by empowering hardworking people to stand together. It introduces meaningful, enforceable penalties for those who violate workers’ rights and closes loopholes used to exploit those workers.
Decades of anti-labor attacks funded by special interests have hurt workers and their families. The PRO Act prioritizes workers’ quality of life and recognizes the need for an economy where everyone can succeed.
Hearing from Local Native American Tribes
As many of you know, I serve on the Appropriations Committee and on the Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. This subcommittee makes decisions regarding funding for a whole bunch of federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Last week, the subcommittee held two days-worth of hearings in which we heard from Native American tribes who testified about their challenges and opportunities.
Several tribes from Western Washington testified at the hearing, sharing their thoughts about everything from the Indian Health Service, to the Bureau of Indian Education, to their challenges stemming from climate change, to the need to protect treaty rights. I also had an opportunity to sit down with a whole lot of tribal leaders who helped me better understand their priorities.
Each of the sovereign nations I represent has its own unique culture, traditions, and stories that add important threads to the fabric of our region and our nation. Their willingness to share their stories, to educate me, and to work with me to build a brighter future, gives me hope. For generations, the federal government has failed to uphold the promises made to Native Americans in our region and across the country. I’ve been working to change that – to make sure we’re creating more economic opportunities for tribal communities and to ensure the federal government works for everyone.
As a result of those efforts, I was very honored that the National Congress of American Indians, our nation’s largest Native American Organization, gave me their 2020 Congressional Leadership Award.
You can read more about that here.
Opposing the Cuts to Health Care
Since coming to office, the President has promised to protect Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. But unfortunately, the last few weeks suggest he has forgotten that promise.
First, at the end of last month, the Trump Administration unveiled a plan for states to cap and slash Medicaid, a program which provides health care for low-income recipients. This proposal undermines crucial protections of the Medicaid program and gives states broad authority to restrict eligibility. The effect would be to push vulnerable recipients off lifesaving medicines, burden them with unaffordable premiums to maintain coverage, and leave more families with catastrophic medical bills. The consequences for rural hospitals, families seeking opioid addiction treatment for loved ones, and veterans, would be devastating.
Based on those concerns, I supported H. Res. 826, a resolution expressing disapproval of these harmful actions towards Medicaid. The resolution called the plan out for what it was - an attack on a Medicaid program that provides for the health and well-being of some of our most vulnerable citizens - and demanded that the President immediately withdraw the action. As your representative, I hold dear my duty to protect the health of Washingtonians. My vote in favor of the resolution reflected my commitment to providing our communities with lower prescription drug costs and strengthening their financial security.
Then, less than a week after pledging in his State of the Union Address that he would protect people’s health care, President Trump released his budget. It’s not pretty. The budget proposes cutting a half a trillion dollars from Medicare and taking $900 billion from Medicaid. This would be disastrous for seniors hoping to retire with dignity. It would pull the rug out from under low income families battling with illness. It would damage health care providers in our region - including rural hospitals. And it would do this all while exacerbating our nation’s debt problems by providing further tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.
I’ll be writing more about this budget in the weeks ahead, but I want you to know that, in my view, a budget is a statement of values. I value ensuring people have access to quality, affordable health care. I’ll be fighting against these cuts to health care - and for a budget that works for the people I represent.
Working for You
Celebrating Black History Month
The Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective is celebrating Black History Month in a fun, informative way. At each of the group’s weekly meetings in February, there’s a presentation on a different era of music and its significance to African American culture. I joined them and was wowed by Alyce McNeil’s history of blues and jazz, which discussed the foundational contributions of African Americans to this amazing music.
Celebrating New Business
The bagels are here! After much anticipation, Tacoma Baking Company opened its doors last month. I toured their facility and storefront and am happy to welcome them to the Hilltop neighborhood. Doesn’t get much better than 50+ new jobs and delicious baked goods. Click the photo below to hear more about it!
Ringing in the New Year!
The Asia Pacific Cultural Center’s Annual New Year Celebration is a chance to celebrate our area’s amazing diversity. This year, we gave thanks to our Vietnamese neighbors’ many contributions. Thanks to the APCC for an inspiring event - and for encouraging folks to take part in the census. Let’s make sure everyone is counted!
Hearing Directly from You
The terrible weather earlier this month forced us to postpone one of our town halls (turns out - it’s hard to get to Port Angeles when the Hood Canal Bridge is closed!). Not to be discouraged, we rescheduled the town hall for this past Saturday and had a great conversation. Constituents came out to discuss those issues that matter most, including jobs, health care, and climate change. Thanks to all who attended - and to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and Chairwoman Frances Charles for helping us make this happen!
For those who couldn’t attend some of my in-person town halls, I also hosted a Facebook Live town hall last week. I appreciate the accessibility of these virtual events and their ability to bring together residents from all corners of the 6th District. You can log-on to my Facebook page here to check-out the town hall!
I always like hearing from you - and I’m honored to be a voice for you in DC.
OK - that’s it for now folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you.