Washington Review, April 25, 2016
Last week in Washington I held several meetings, participated in two House Committee markups, and celebrated special events.
Last week, I met with New Jersey members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). We discussed important legislative issues including long-term transportation funding to pay for federal transportation projects. Next, I met with representatives of the Organization for International Investment (OFII), a business association that represents the United States operations of many leading global companies. OFII companies support over 400 jobs in the 8th District of New Jersey. We discussed issues that are important to OFII members including federal tax reform, trade, and the importance of investing in our nation’s infrastructure.
On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to welcome students from Rutgers University and discuss the importance of federal student aid. We talked about the impact that Pell Grants, federal loans, work-study, and other vital federal programs have on students that are pursuing higher education. More than a third of all undergraduate students at Rutgers rely on federal student aid to finance their degree and I am proud to support these critical programs.
On Wednesday, I met with members of the American Bar Association from New Jersey to discuss various legislation as well as funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The LSC is the largest provider of civil legal aid in the country with programs that help vulnerable members of society including veterans returning from active duty, domestic violence victims, and those living below or near the poverty line. I then met with members of the American Waterways Operators (AWO), the national trade association representing America’s inland and coastal tugboat, towboat, and barge industry. We discussed maritime issues in the 8th District that are important to members of the AWO.
Later that day, I met with the BuildStrong Coalition, a group of business and consumer organizations, companies, and emergency management officials that are working to promote stronger building codes. We discussed how stronger building codes can better prepare us for natural disasters and help us mitigate recovery time and costs. The following day, members of the Children’s Health Fund stopped by to update me on the important work they are doing to provide primary care services to children across the country.
I also met with New Jersey representatives of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, the only U.S. trade association representing mutual property and casualty insurance companies. We discussed important legislative issues including insurance regulation and legislation focused on disaster mitigation. Finally, I met with members of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) who were visiting from New Jersey. They stopped by were just a few of the over 2,000 postal service employees working in our district. We discussed the importance of preserving door-to-door delivery, six-day delivery, and upholding delivery standards. The letter carriers also updated me on their annual food drive to Stamp Out Hunger. This year’s food drive will be happening on Saturday, May, 14. These employees work hard to ensure our mail system is working and I will continue to support their efforts.
Last week, I attended two markups, one held by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the other held by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs reviewed several bills including H.R. 1150, the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act. This bill aims to assist in addressing religious based violence and religious persecution around the world by training diplomats to counter extremism and address religious persecution. It would also give the President new options to address violence perpetrated by groups such as ISIL and Boko Haram. We also reviewed legislation related to organ trafficking, human rights accountability, the relationship between Taiwan and the United States, and engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee markup, we reviewed three pieces of legislation including the PIPES Act. H.R. 4937, the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2016, would provide federal funding to make significant improvements to the pipeline safety program. It would authorize $696 million over four years for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration’s (PHMSA) pipeline safety program, including $211 million in grants to States. H.R. 4937 would provide the Secretary of Transportation with new authority to impose emergency safety measures on pipeline operators to address an imminent hazard and would direct the Department of Transportation to establish safety standards for underground natural gas storage tanks. I voted in favor of the PIPES Act and I am pleased that the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee came together to unanimously pass this important bill that will improve our nation’s pipeline safety program. H.R. 4397 is now awaiting further action in the House of Representatives.
On Thursday evening, I attended the 12th Annual Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) Gala and Leadership Awards. It was my privilege to present the CHLI Leadership in Public Service Award to my colleague, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), as recognition for his support of the Hispanic community in the United States.
Friday, April 22, was the 46th annual Earth Day, marking the creation of an environmental movement designed to educate people about the importance of caring for the environment. This year, on Earth Day, 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement, the result of the United Nations Climate Change Conference that concluded on December 12, 2015. This agreement is a marker of the progress we have made to combat climate change and shows international recognition that climate change is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by the global community.