Washington Review, February 28, 2014
This week I signed a discharge petition for an immediate vote to raise the minimum wage, attended several hearings on transportation safety and efficiency, and met with constituents and organizations from New Jersey’s 8th District.
Raising the minimum wage is a critical step in closing the opportunity gap and building an economy that works for everyone. This week I joined my Democratic colleagues in filing a discharge petition for an immediate vote on H.R. 1010 to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, generating economic activity, creating jobs, and growing the middle class. Americans deserve an economy where a hard days’ work earns a decent day’s pay. By raising the minimum wage, we will restore fairness for working men and women across the country and lift between 1 and 4.5 million Americans out of poverty. It is my hope that Congress takes immediate and swift action in raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Earlier in the week, I participated in a Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials to investigate rail safety. The hearing was a direct result of a letter sent with my Democratic colleagues on the Subcommittee, urging Chairman Jeff Denham to hold a hearing regarding rail safety in the wake of two major and fatal railway accidents, Lac-Megantic and Metro-North. Although this has been one of the safest decades for rail safety, we have witnessed several horrible incidents recently, on both passenger and freight rail. At a time when crude oil production in the United States is booming and railroads are carrying the majority of this supply, it’s important to take safety concerns seriously and implement Positive Train Control as quickly as possible, a risk mitigation system that could prevent additional major train incidents.
I also attended the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing this week to examine how to improve our nation’s freight network. The safe and efficient movement of freight throughout the United States directly impacts the day-to-day lives of every American, and in 2011 alone, the U.S. transportation system moved 17.6 billion tons of goods valued at more than $16.8 trillion. It is critical for Congress to examine our freight network and improve both its efficiency and its safety. I asked the witnesses if they agreed with the assessment that freight investments do not fare well in a flat-funded, state-based formula program, given the significant backlog of maintenance and reconstruction needs facing individual states, and whether or not they believe that the federal government would instead be best suited for setting and funding a strategic freight vision for the nation.
In addition, I met with members of the New Jersey Association of REALTORS this week who discussed issues impacting the real estate market, such as secondary mortgage market finance, delaying flood insurance rate increases, and common sense tax reform. I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 3370, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2013, and was glad to hear of their support for the bill. I look forward to future progress on the bill to ensure that premiums do not spike for homeowners.
I then met with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to discuss the importance of increased investments and access to mental health services. Every year, more than 38,000 Americans die by suicide; that is 38,000 too many. Family members of suicide victims were able to share the stories of their loss and how access to suicide prevention networks could have prevented tragedy in their lives. Moving forward, Congress must address the inadequacies in our health care system to assist those suffering from mental illness.
Finally, I met with the Commander and other members of the New Jersey Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, based out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, who provided updates on their work with the U.S. Air Force. The Civil Air Patrol performs several key missions, including search and rescue and disaster relief operations, aerospace education for youth and the general public, and cadet programs for teenage youth. I am proud of the work being done by these young people for the state of New Jersey.