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Washington Review, June 5, 2015

Jun 5, 2015
Washington Review

During my time in Washington this week, I questioned federal officials regarding the tragic Amtrak derailment, met with groups from New Jersey, and voted on several measures affecting the 8th District.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on the devastating Amtrak derailment that occurred last month in Philadelphia. The committee received testimony from Amtrak, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. During this hearing, I questioned the panel about how short-term, patchwork funding from Congress influences Amtrak’s capabilities and decision making.  It is clear that continuing to fund Amtrak without a long-term funding plan is detrimental to rail safety and improvement projects, especially along the Northeast Corridor.

Later in the week, I met with members of the National Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) to discuss Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization and other legislative issues pending before Congress. I also met with members of the American Association of Railroads (AAR) and the Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) as part of Railroad Day on Capitol Hill. During this meeting, we discussed the Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2015, which I cosponsored. This bipartisan bill would help promote investment in our nation’s railroads to increase safety and reduce congestion.

Also visiting this week was the YWCA of Union County, located in Elizabeth. The YWCA plays a critical role in Union County by providing life changing services to women, children, and families. YWCA discussed several pieces of legislation introduced that would help protect domestic violence and stalking victims, combat racial profiling, and support healthy families.

This week, the House of Representatives voted on the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. I did not support this measure because I believe it fails to protect essential programs for the American people. This bill includes significant cuts to community policing programs, legal assistance, and programs critical to coastal areas. Specifically, the majority’s CJS appropriations bill excludes funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program. The COPS program is a competitive grant program that provides funding to address the police officer needs of state and local agencies nationwide to increase their community policing capacity and crime prevention efforts. This bill would cut Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funding, which is the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation. Furthermore, the CJS appropriations bill cuts funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which provided coastal science, management, and operation expertise to our area during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. 

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