As we review President Obama’s budget framework for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, I’m reminded that the federal budget speaks volumes about what we prioritize as a nation. Are we focusing on funding priorities that keep our nation competitive and safe while also looking out for the most vulnerable among us? Are we thinking strategically about long term solutions as opposed to short term quick fixes? All in all, I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on reaching a consensus about how to fund and run the federal government in FY 2017.
There are many bright spots in President Obama’s budget, but I was especially pleased to see the President make medical research and innovation a priority with a $33 billion budget request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As a leader in life sciences, the San Diego region benefits immensely from grants from the NIH, and I have supported NIH funding efforts throughout my time in Congress.
If it’s of interest to you, I would encourage you to look at https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget and think about what would be your funding priorities in the FY 2017 budget.
Honoring Black History Month
Civil rights, equality, justice, and voting rights activism are just a few concepts associated with the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. I was honored to celebrate the life and legacy of this great man at Alliance San Diego’s Celebration for All Peoples’ breakfast at Balboa Park last month. It’s important to reflect on his legacy as we celebrate February as Black History Month.
Notably, this month my staff attended the Spring Valley KARAMU Festival, a free annual community event held at the Spring Valley Library in celebration of Black History Month. The event featured live entertainment, speakers, children's activities, free refreshments, arts and more.
Water Supply Safety
In response to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, I voted to require water system officials to alert their customers if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notifies them of increasing levels of lead. The Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act (H.R. 4470) passed the House on a strong bipartisan vote of 416-2. Residents should never have to worry about the safety of their drinking water supply and the fact this happened at all is a betrayal of basic good governance. The legislation will ensure that consumers are not left in the dark when it comes to water safety. Congress should continue to look at ways to help Flint and ensure this doesn’t happen in other communities.
Employment for Students and Transition Assistance for Veterans
I recently joined the San Diego Chamber of Commerce’s Education and Workforce Development Committee in a discussion addressing concerns related to education (including student loans), innovation, and helping our military transition into the civilian workforce. San Diego is uniquely suited to be a leader on these issues. Its strong military presence, network of universities and community colleges, and industry hubs of bioscience and engineering provide an incubator from which to create innovative solutions.
I look forward to continuing to work with the Chamber and other stakeholders on how to foster job opportunities for our region’s students and transitioning veterans. Moving forward, I believe the focus should be on developing better partnerships between schools and industry, recruiting highly qualified instructors, and teaching students and veterans the skills that employers ask for which will actually help them get a job.
Leadership on Preventing Child Hunger
Last year, I teamed up with Senator Patty Murray to introduce the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act, to permanently extend the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program. During the school year, low-income children have the opportunity to receive free or reduced-price meals at school. However, millions of these same children go hungry during summer break.
President Obama recently announced a proposal to enact the provisions of the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act. The President’s $12 billion plan would do two things. It would expand the program beyond the 13 demonstration areas of the pilot program, meaning children in the San Diego area would have access to the program. It would also make the Summer EBT program permanent. This successful program has decreased hunger among participating children by about 33 percent, while having the added benefit of increasing healthy food intake. Providing benefits through an EBT card ensures that transportation or work schedule challenges, weather, or child or parent illness are not barriers to a child receiving nutritious food. I am very pleased the President recognizes the merit of this program.
Burial Rights for Female Veterans
The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) is a group of less than 1,100 women who flew non-combat missions during World War II. Their missions included ferrying aircraft across the country, training combat pilots, and towing airborne targets for other aircraft. Thirty-eight WASP women died during their service.
As the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, I joined U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) in introducing bipartisan legislation to restore the inurnment rights for members of WASP at Arlington National Cemetery. This legislation, the WASP Arlington Inurnment Restoration (AIR) Act, would overturn a recent decision by the Secretary of the Army to rescind inurnment eligibility for WASP pilots, which they have had since 2002. These women deserve to be honored as any other veteran of WWII.
Purrfect Marks on the Humane Society Scorecard
I was honored to receive a 100+ rating from the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) in recognition of my voting record in advocating pro-animal welfare policies in the House of Representatives, including leading the California congressional delegation in a letter urging the California state legislature to increase protections of elephants and rhinoceros.
Happily, I received “extra credit” for sponsoring legislation to compel the federal government to publish clear and accessible information about animal killing activities in San Diego County and other counties throughout the country. The legislation is entitled the Transparency for Lethal Control Act (H.R. 2074)
The San Diego Refugee Forum is a professional association of organizations and advocates serving all populations fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in San Diego, and I appreciated the opportunity to speak to them about the current issues facing the refugee population in our region.
The Great Green Fleet will transform how the Navy uses energy. Through technology and energy modernization, the Navy is deploying next generation capabilities and energy efficient systems to reduce its impact on climate change. I was happy to join Congressman Scott Peters in sharing support of this effort.