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Congressman Albio Sires

Representing the 8th District of New Jersey

2019 Domestic Legislative Recap

Jan 7, 2020
Washington Review

This week, the 116th Congress enters its second session and we will continue to build on the work we did in the first session.  Over the last year, I have introduced and cosponsored numerous pieces of legislation, sent letters to government agencies and congressional committees, and attended hearings and conducted oversight through my work as a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the House Budget Committee. Specifically, I have focused on supporting initiatives that improve access to quality, affordable health care, protect our natural resources and combat climate change, and create jobs and opportunities for advancement.

Health Care

2019 marked a continuation of the Trump Administration’s efforts to rollback protections provided under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), reducing the ability of America’s health care workforce to adequately address the needs of all individuals. Beyond our attempts to prevent such dangerous rollbacks, Democrats in the House have been working to resolve longstanding problems that millions of Americans face such as the rising price of prescription drugs and the growing financial burden of health care costs. That is why I have supported and cosponsored several bills to ensure that 8th District residents and Americans throughout the country can access affordable, quality, and comprehensive health services.

I cosponsored H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, to promote generic competition, restore ACA enrollment and outreach activities, and strengthen protections for pre-existing conditions. I also cosponsored H.R. 1884, the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions and Making Health Care More Affordable Act, which would lower health insurance premiums by expanding financial assistance, stop the sale of junk health insurance plans, and protect people with pre-existing conditions. I supported H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would improve financial burdens on seniors and others by allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of certain drugs, capping out-of-pocket prescription costs for Part D, and reinvesting savings in critical health programs and expanded Medicare benefits. H.R. 3, passed the House of Representatives on December 12, 2019 by a vote of 230-192 and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

I continue to advocate for investments in health care that will have the greatest impact on our communities by regularly supporting robust funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and cosponsoring two different bills to fund Community Health Centers, H.R. 2328, the CHIME Act of 2019 and H.R. 1943, the Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act of 2019. I also once again introduced my bill, H.R. 1131, the Collaborative Academic Research Efforts (CARE) for Tourette Syndrome Act of 2019. This legislation would direct the NIH to expand and coordinate Tourette Syndrome (TS) research and establish a system to collect data on TS. It would also create a grant program for the creation and support of Collaborative Research Centers for TS, as well as for further TS research.

Environment

2020 is going to be a crucial year for climate action. The effects of global climate change are wreaking havoc around the world and things will continue to get worse unless we act quickly and decisively. Due to many decades of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, our planet’s average temperature is warming. This is causing the polar icecaps to melt, which changes the ocean’s chemistry, strengthens storms, and worsens dry seasons.

In 2019, I cosponsored over 40 bills and resolutions aimed at improving our carbon footprint, preventing reckless oil drilling off our coasts, strengthening protections for our public lands, and helping our transportation networks transition to clean emissions standards. Last year, I cosponsored and voted for H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, to have the U.S. reengage with the international Paris Climate Agreement and cosponsored H.R. 5221, the 100% Clean Economy Act, to have all federal agencies develop and execute plans to transition the programs under their purview to include completely-clean emissions technology. I was also an original cosponsor of H.R. 1146, the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, to prohibit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and voted in favor of it when it passed the House by a vote of 225-193 on September 12, 2019.  In addition, I cosponsored H.Con.Res.65, expressing Congressional support for defending the Clean Air Act’s rules for vehicle emissions standards in our country.

Supporting these bills is a step towards real action on climate change. Combined, these legislative efforts represent a commitment to future generations. As the richest and most powerful country in the world, we have a unique responsibility to lead by example on climate change mitigation by demonstrating that collective action on such an important issue is possible. The world looks to us for leadership and we must show the will to act.

In 2020, Congress needs to build on these legislative efforts and our country needs to step up to the challenge of mitigating the effects of climate change. This year, I will continue supporting legislation aimed at strengthening our efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and improve clean energy technologies. I will also work through the yearly government funding process to support robust financing for the federal programs that manage our lands, maintain vehicle emissions standards, finance electric vehicle technology research, and ease Americans’ transition away from fossil fuels. Last year, I led a letter, signed by 46 members of Congress to the Appropriations Committee requesting $50 million for the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Coalitions Program which helps cities around the country finance electric vehicle technology upgrades. I will continue pressing for funding for programs like these, which can make some of the biggest contributions to climate change mitigation.

Jobs

According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 7.1 million open positions across our country that employers are looking to fill. Yet many of the better-paying job openings are in sectors that require workers with specialized skills. The National Federation of Independent Business reported last month that 57% of small businesses owners indicated they are hiring or trying to hire, and 88% of these owners report finding few, if any qualified candidates for these open positions. In 2019, I reintroduced an updated version of H.R. 4848, the Better Education and Skills Training (BEST) for America’s Workforce Act, to close this skills gap and ensure that the needs of individual communities are being met. It would create a $1 billion tax-credit program that would encourage job training partnerships and provide local businesses that train and hire long-term unemployed workers up to $4,000 in tax credits for the tuition costs at a community college for each job filled that requires a specific certificate or other training credential.    

Last year, I was proud to support important legislative efforts to ensure that American workers are treated fairly and are compensated equally for their work. I cosponsored and voted for H.R. 582, the Raise the Wage Act, to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, and for H.R. 7, the Paycheck Fairness Act, to close the gender pay gap by providing stronger legal enforcements to prevent wage discrimination.

I also prioritize ensuring that workers’ retirement earnings are protected. Growing old should not mean also growing poor, and millions of retirees depend on the pensions they earned during a lifetime of hard work. That is why I voted for H.R. 397, the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act. This bill, also known as the Butch-Lewis Act, establishes a government assistance program to help give financial assistance to distressed pension plans so that they can keep paying their retirees during-and-after an economic downturn.

It is vital that we ensure workers have a voice when decisions are being made that impact their livelihoods which is why I am a cosponsor of H.R. 2474, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, to strengthen legal protections for employees working to organize their workplace and facing retaliation. I also cosponsored H.R. 1711, the No Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Act, to tax income from a company’s overseas subsidiaries at the same rate as their domestic income. Protecting our unions and keeping jobs in our country are the two important pillars in keeping our economy strong.

America must invest in our next generation of business owners. In the 116th Congress, I cosponsored H.R. 231 and H.R. 3706, two bills aimed at growing new ideas in our community and supporting businesses as they get off the ground. H.R. 231, the Supporting America’s Young Entrepreneurs Act, would allow loan deferment and cancellation for founders and employees of small businesses, including start-ups. H.R. 3706, the Startup in a Day Act, permanently authorizes the Small Business Administration (SBA) “Startup in a Day” program which seeds new ventures with a “24-hour toolkit” to streamline initial regulations and registration.

Other Legislation

Beyond my work on health care, the environment, jobs, and foreign affairs, I have also introduced legislation that seeks to improve the lives of those living in the 8th District.  Entering the new year, the 2020 Census carries significant consequences for our state and our nation. While preparation has already begun, we must take steps to ensure we conduct the most effective, fair census moving forward. I introduced H.R. 5404, the Coordinating Efficiency in Nonprofit, State, and U.S. (CENSUS) Resources Act to issues a landmark national study into census operations. Millions of dollars are spent by local governments and nonprofits in addition to federal efforts. It is in our best interest to study the ways we can better coordinate and lift up resources to fairly count every American.

I also introduced H.R. 1800, the Local Solutions to End Homelessness Act, to support community leadership in federal funding for homelessness programs. H.R. 1800 would allow cities that previously received Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funding, but now fall below the national threshold, to continue receiving funding for local programs at the county level. This legislation would directly, and positively, impact numerous towns including Hoboken, NJ.

This Congress, I have also reintroduced H.R. 1411, the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act. This legislation allows former volunteers and staff to use the name and logo of the Peace Corps for memorial purposes in an obituary or on a gravestone.

On January 14, 2019, I introduced H.R. 543, which requires the Federal Railroad Administration to inform Representatives and Senators of any safety assessment of a commuter or intercity passenger rail system in their district within 10 days. This bill ensures that a community’s representatives in Congress are aware of possible safety issues and can be included in decisions that keep commuters safe. The House passed H.R. 543 with broad support on February 6, 2019.

In December, I introduced H.R. 5426, the Standardized Assessment for Electric (SAFE) Scooters Act. This bill directs the federal Department of Transportation to run a nationwide study on incidents of people using electric scooters under the influence, electric scooters involved in traffic accidents, and collisions between pedestrians and electric scooter riders. Electric scooters are an important innovation that not only help people get around with ease, but also help solve one of transportation policy’s biggest challenges – getting people to-and-from public transportation hubs. My bill will kick off a study about electric scooters’ safety so that Congress can be better informed, should any action need to be taken.

In 2020, it is vital that work to tackle the issues facing our communities, and I look forward to continuing the work I have started with my colleagues in these areas and more.  Thank you for taking the time to read this recap as we begin the second session of the 116th Congress.  If you have any questions or would like more information on legislative efforts, please reach out to my Washington, D.C. office.