So, you may have missed this...
Hello Folks -
My Christmas tree is up and decorated. My house is lit up like the Griswold Home in Christmas Vacation. And there is eggnog in my fridge! I can’t believe we’re already into the holiday season!
While we’re heading into the homestretch of 2019, Congress is hopefully also on the homestretch of getting some important things done.
Lost in a lot of the noise on cable news is the fact that there’s actually been quite a lot of activity in the House. In fact, since January, the House has passed over 275 bipartisan bills, and nearly 400 in total. We’ve seen bills to strengthen the health, economic security, and well-being of families. While too many of them have been stalled in the Senate, I remain hopeful that we’ll see things move forward in 2020 to create more economic opportunity and to make government work better for you. Read on for more details...
Ensuring Access to the Ballot Box
Earlier this year, Sophie and I had the opportunity to join my colleague, Representative John Lewis, in Selma, Alabama. We visited the Edmund Pettus Bridge where Mr. Lewis and other civil rights advocates were beaten and sprayed with tear gas decades earlier simply for advocating for the right to vote. Thankfully, back then, Congress listened and passed the Voting Rights Act - an acknowledgement that the right to vote is one of most sacred rights as Americans.
Six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a section of the Voting Rights Act, taking the teeth out of the law. Unfortunately, in the ensuing years, we’ve seen jurisdictions with histories of discrimination creating barriers to voting - closing polling places, shortening early voting opportunities, and throwing up other hurdles.
Thankfully, last Friday, the House passed H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act. I was proud to co-sponsor this bill - and was honored to watch Mr. Lewis preside over the House as it passed. The VRAA will safeguard voting rights by putting teeth back into the Voting Rights Act and ensuring equal access to the ballot box for every American citizen. Every voice deserves to be heard in our elections, and I’m hopeful that the Senate will pass this bill and get it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Protecting Natural Treasures and Growing Jobs
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 as well.
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 and families travel to our state and contribute roughly $22 billion in economic impact and support 200,000 jobs in Washington’s outdoor economy. Our natural treasures have given opportunities to local entrepreneurs who have started restaurants, guided tour companies, hotels, and other small businesses.
That’s why it makes sense to protect these special places. With that in mind, I was proud to partner with Senator Patty Murray in sponsoring The Wild Olympics and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2019. This bill protects some of our most environmentally sensitive areas by designating a new wilderness area and 19 rivers and tributaries as Wild and Scenic Rivers. I’m excited to report that the bill passed last week out of the House Natural Resources Committee.
This proposal has evolved through extensive public engagement with Tribes, conservation groups, timber communities, business leaders, shellfish growers, and everyone in-between - to create a bill that works for our local communities. It’s because of that extensive public outreach that this bill is now formally supported by more than 800 community leaders - Republicans, Democrats, business owners, sportsmen, mayors, county commissioners, and tribal leaders - who all agree that this proposal moves our region in the right direction.
In addition to protecting recreational access and supporting our outdoor economy, this bill will also bolster our region’s efforts to protect sources of clean drinking water, support critical salmon and steelhead habitat, and protect key waterways that are vital to the shellfish industry.
But just as important are all the things this bill will not do. This proposal will not close, decommission, or otherwise restrict access to any existing forest service roads or trail-heads. It will not impact any harvestable timber base in the Olympic National Forest. And it will not affect any private property rights.
It’s truly a win-win for our region. Our region’s future depends on building a strong and diversified economy. That’s why this bill is so important.
A Big Week Ahead
While much of the press attention has been focused on a potential vote on articles of impeachment, the fact is that there are a number of legislative priorities that are also moving forward (with very little press attention) to make life better for people. This week, it’s expected that the House will take up several important priorities.
Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs
Over the years, I’ve spoken with far too many people who are grappling with the high costs of prescription drugs. When you talk with someone who is having to skip doses or having to cut their pills in half because the costs are simply too high, it has a way of sticking with you. That’s why I’ve been such a strong advocate for reducing drug prices.
Earlier this year, the House passed multiple bills to address several of the problems that are driving up health care costs. These measures will help get generic drugs to market faster, bolster competition within the generic drug marketplace, increase accessibility, and lower costs overall.
This week, the House is set to advance H.R. 3 - the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. This comprehensive bill aims to level the playing field for patients, ensuring they have access to less expensive medications. I’ve written about this bill before but let me revisit some highlights...
Importantly, the bill requires our government to negotiate prices directly with the drug companies in hopes of driving down prices. That notion of negotiating isn’t a new idea - it’s a way for government to be more efficient. You’ve seen that drug price negotiation happen within the Veterans Administration. You’ve even seen negotiation required under Medicare for hospitals, doctors, home health agencies, medical equipment providers, and others. But currently, under Medicare, drug companies set their own prices.
To respond to this, H.R. 3 gives Medicare the power to negotiate directly with the drug companies and creates powerful new tools to secure real price reductions. It also makes the lower drug prices negotiated by Medicare available to Americans with private insurance, not just Medicare beneficiaries.
In addition, one of the most common concerns I’ve heard from people is a basic frustration that Americans are charged more than folks in other countries for the same drugs. Historically, we’ve been willing to subsidize poorer nations in hopes of reducing preventable deaths and suffering. But, there’s a real frustration that, under the current system, we are also subsidizing countries like England, France, Germany, Australia, and Japan. That would end under H.R. 3.
Beyond that, the bill creates a new out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Limiting the amount people pay has the potential to save lives and prevent medical bankruptcies.
Because the bill generates such substantial savings, it enables some of those savings to be reinvested in innovation and the search for new cures and treatments through the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, some of the savings will be dedicated to providing dental and vision coverage under Medicare.
This bill would represent historic progress for seniors - and for all Americans. I’m hopeful that the bill will pass the House this week and become law!
Protecting Our Coasts
The challenges of severe storms and increased flooding are affecting communities throughout our country. In fact, four tribes in our region alone are actively working to move to higher ground due these threats. That’s why I am thrilled that this week the House will be considering my bipartisan bill called the Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act. My proposal would provide Native American tribes living in coastal areas access to federal resources to support their efforts to mitigate threats caused by climate change and rising sea levels. These resources will help our region’s tribes - and coastal tribes throughout the country - enhance their resiliency and keep their people out of harm’s way. It’s a bill that’s important for protecting public safety, public health, and cultural assets.
I’m grateful that this bill has the support of amazing community and tribal leaders from our region, including President Fawn Sharp, of the Quinault Indian Nation, who testified in front of the House Natural Resources Committee in support of the bill earlier this year.
Importantly, this legislation will lead a package of bills aimed at protecting vulnerable coastal communities impacted by the climate crisis and severe weather. I’m excited to see this legislation pass the House - stay tuned for more!
Being Accessible to You
I work for the people I represent and it’s important to me that I get opportunities to hear directly from you. I hope folks will be able to join one of my upcoming town halls to share their ideas and concerns.
Facebook Live Town Hall - Tuesday, December 17 at 5:00pm PT
WHAT: Facebook Live Town Hall
WHEN: Tuesday, December 17 at 5:00pm PT
DETAILS: All are welcome to join the event by visiting http://www.facebook.com/derek.
Telephone Town Hall - Wednesday, December 18 at 5:00pm PT
WHAT: Telephone Town Hall
WHEN: Wednesday, December 18 at 5:00pm PT
DETAILS: Residents of the 6th District who would like to join the call can send an email to kilmer.teletownhall@mail.
Working For You
Ensuring Our Veterans Have a Home
We’re lucky to have the Composite Recycling Technology Center in our region! Through their innovative work to develop cross-laminated timber products, the CRTC is partnering with Pennies for Quarters and the First Federal Community Foundation to build much-needed housing for veterans experiencing homelessness. It's exactly kind the of partnership that will drive innovation in our region and help us solve our biggest challenges.
Honoring Our Veterans
One of the best parts of my job is paying tribute to the men and women who serve or have served our nation. I was honored to say thank you, on behalf of a grateful community and nation, to 131 Vietnam veterans at the HUB Center for Seniors in Belfair just before Thanksgiving. My thanks to Mason County Commissioner Randy Neatherlin and the North Mason Chamber for their incredible partnership.
Supporting the Backbone of our Economies – Small Businesses!
After Thanksgiving we celebrated Small Business Saturday - a day to support local businesses! It’s a Kilmer family tradition to visit the Beach Basket Christmas Shop in Gig Harbor to get ornaments for our tree. Tess and I also managed to swing by WinterFest at Peninsula High School and TideFest at Gig Harbor High School for stocking stuffers galore! There are some talented entrepreneurs in our region - and I’m proud to support them.
Lending a Hand
Thanks to the team at the Tacoma Rescue Mission and to all of the volunteers for lending a helping hand this Thanksgiving. Our family was happy to serve (my girls cracked 624 eggs and helped make banana bread!).
Helping Our First Responders
First responders keep our communities safe. They’re quite literally life savers. Their jobs are among the most stressful, highly-intensive lines of work out there. With that in mind, I appreciated the opportunity to join local leaders at Kitsap 911 to talk about mental health awareness and legislation I’m co-sponsoring in Congress to provide more resources for first responders to ensure we’ve got their backs.
Before I wrap up, I want to give a quick shout-out to my colleague, DC apartment-mate, and friend, Representative Denny Heck, who announced last week that he’ll be retiring from Congress. For over 40 years, he’s been a dedicated public servant - and the people of our region and our state have benefited immensely from it. I am thrilled for his wife Paula and the rest of the Heck family that they will get to have him around more, but I’m really going to miss serving with him.
Ok - that’s it for now, folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you.
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