District Connection - 11/12/19
Yesterday we honored the brave men and women who have chosen to serve our country in the Armed Forces. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their willingness to sacrifice and defend our American values and freedoms.
I want to thank Gwinnett County and the City of Cumming for the wonderful work they did again this year paying tribute to our veterans and honoring their service to our country. And thank you to all of our neighbors who came together to say thank you for the liberty and security we have here at home.
For those of you who have been following the progress of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, on which I serve, you might be aware that the Committee’s authorization is set to expire at the end of the year. And yet in the short time this Committee has been working, we have made history by being the first committee of its kind to issue rolling recommendations and have issued over two dozen of them so far, ranging from increasing transparency, to making the House more accessible to constituents, to addressing staffing issues, to promoting civility amongst Members – and there’s more to come before the year’s end! With the momentum that we have built in this process and the good will we have achieved both in and out of the Committee, it is no wonder that many have taken notice and are hoping to see the Modernization Committee extended through the second session of the 116th Congress. Already, the association of Former Members of Congress and a group of public policy organizations have each sent a letter to House leadership encouraging them to extend the Committee’s lifespan to address even more issues that have weakened this institution. I am hopeful that the leaders of both parties will heed their call and encourage the Modernization Committee to restore the power of the Article I branch.
- The Hill. Congress can be partisan and productive to benefit citizens
- The Hill. Modernizing Congress is a national security imperative
We are so fortunate to have the world’s leading public health agency right here in our own backyard in Atlanta. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts critical work around the clock to defend our nation from public health and safety threats. Under the leadership of CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency has been working tirelessly to modernize its operational capabilities and ensure that it can continuously meet the extraordinary demands that are placed on it each day – all while working seamlessly with local and state public health officials and agencies to prepare for, prevent, and respond to public health crises.
I made another visit to the CDC last week to visit with Dr. Redfield and other top-notch public health officials who investigate and respond to public health outbreaks. When we think of the CDC responding outbreaks, most of us probably think of food-borne illnesses such as salmonella or E. coli, or about communicable diseases like Ebola or HIV. But the CDC’s work goes far beyond that. In fact, it’s most recent focus has been on understanding the sudden onset of lung injuries that have been associated with the use of e-cigarettes.
So far, more than 2,000 cases of lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use have been reported to the CDC from 49 states. Unfortunately, the outbreak has resulted in 39 deaths, three of which occurred in Georgia. The CDC has been responding to this sudden outbreak since August 2019, and on Friday, the CDC announced a breakthrough in its work. Specifically, the agency found that Vitamin E acetate was the common compound found in samples from all affected patients in the study. The CDC explained that this finding is the first-time researchers have detected a potential chemical of concern in biologic samples. What’s more, nearly all of the patients in the CDC analysis also reported that they had used THC vaping products. As such, while the CDC will continue studying the issue, it recommends that individuals stop using e-cigarette or vaping products that contain THC, especially when those products are obtained through informal sources.
To that end, should you or a loved one experience any symptoms that are linked to this outbreak, please seek medical help immediately. I thank the CDC for hosting me, and I look forward to following the agency’s work on all outbreaks closely.
- NBC News. Vaping illness 'breakthrough' points to vitamin E oil as a cause, CDC says
- CDC. Evaluation of Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid from Patients in an Outbreak of E-cigarette, or Vaping, Product Use–Associated Lung Injury — 10 States, August–October 2019
We often talk about policies focused on growing student interest and success in STEM fields, and a corollary to those efforts is the focus on “hands-on” skills training for jobs with growing demand. We all drive by facilities with “welders wanted” and “drivers wanted” signs, but the list of in-demand jobs is of course much longer. Right here in the Seventh District, we have training facilities for welders and for drivers, and we also have training for more specialized jobs, like aviation mechanics.
Many of you may drive by the Duluth campus of the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) daily without even realizing it, but it is truly a sight to see. The school trains students for promising careers as aviation maintenance mechanics. AIM operates under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 147 rules, which govern the standards that AIM and other domestic aviation mechanic schools must follow to appropriately train and certify students. Like most all schools in our community, AIM goes above and beyond what the federal government requires by offering students the opportunity to pursue a certification in avionics and welding. As the economy continues to grow, and the demand for highly skilled workers continues to grow with it, keep an eye on AIM’s successes. I look forward to partnering with its experts and professors locally to ensure that federal education standards are keeping pace with the advancing technological demands that aviation mechanic students will face after graduation.
Just in time for Veterans Day, I had the pleasure of meeting with the great folks of the Shadow Warrior Foundation. Named for their mission to help those heroes who have fallen into the shadows, the Shadow Warrior Foundation is a non-profit, volunteer group started by veterans who raise awareness about the problems our veterans face, such as homelessness, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and others. The “Shadow Chasers” find and support those veterans who need access to healthcare, housing, food, and more. During their visit, the Shadow Warrior Foundation shared their “survival bags,” which are filled with donated medicine, hygiene items, and clothing which are given to homeless veterans. We have made great strides towards ending veteran homelessness, in no small part because federal Department of Veterans Affairs programs are being supplemented by groups like the Shadow Warrior Foundation, but one homeless veteran is one too many, and we will not stop until that goal is realized. We discussed how the federal government can be a better partner in achieving that goal. If you would like to learn more about the Shadow Warrior Foundation, please visit them HERE. They are just one of many groups you can support or volunteer with to help our veterans.
Rep. Woodall meets with advocates from the Shadow Warriors Foundation
This past week constituted the first full week of a return to “Standard Time,” ending the period between the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November when we observe “Daylight Saving Time (DST).” While I no doubt hear fewer concerns about this switch in the fall than when folks are required to “spring” forward, here is what I have heard from many of you about this change and legislation in Congress meant to address it:
Lisa from Alpharetta:
Please stop the messing with our schedules. It’s an antiquated practice that only aggravates people. As it is Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa do not participate in this practice.
Sydney from Cumming:
Is Congress going to act on the Sunshine Protection Act? I know it has been passed to a committee. And as you certainly know, a committee is the best way to kill something.
Many of us are already familiar with the origins of DST as an energy-saving mechanism first deployed in the United States during World War I, but it wasn’t until 1966, with the Uniform Time Act (UTA), that DST was standardized across the country. However, the law allows individual states to exempt themselves from DST if they choose, and as Lisa mentioned, Arizona and Hawaii are currently the only two states that have opted to do so, along with the U.S. territories.
The Department of Transportation (DOT), tasked with enforcing the UTA, points to the benefits of DST, in that it saves energy by allowing more people to spend time outdoors and use less electricity, and also contributes to preventing traffic accidents and reducing crime. It would hold that Florida also shares many of these viewpoints, as last year their state legislature passed a law to keep the state on DST all year round.
The problem, however, is that the UTA only allows states to exempt themselves from observing it—not expanding it. As such, Florida, joined by Tennessee and Washington, which passed similar laws this year, will not see those laws go into effect without action by Congress. That is why Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL) have reintroduced the “Sunshine Protection Act,” which would make DST the standard time across the nation and would still allow states like Arizona and Hawaii to continue to observe Standard Time as they do now.
However, the question of which “time” to make the permanent time proves not so simple. While some states, like Florida, would prefer a permanent DST, other states have contemplated opting out of DST. Additionally, some studies have called into question the economic benefits of supporting the change to year-round DST. In fact, a 2007 report issued by the Department of Energy found that DST only saved the United States .03 percent in electricity costs, .02 percent in total energy consumption, and it had no statistically significant change in traffic volume or gas consumption. Others simply do not prefer one time over the other; they just want to make one time permanent.
In an effort to learn more, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter last year to DOT asking that it further detail the effects of DST on the United States. While DOT has initiated a review and will share those results with Congress once completed, that review is still ongoing.
I know folks like Sydney, who want to see action on this issue, are frustrated with the slow pace of progress. I am hopeful that once released, DOT’s insights will help provide actionable information on DST to see whether it is truly helpful or just a twice-a-year headache. In the meantime, if you would like to see Georgia change how it observes DST, I encourage you to reach out to your state representative and senator in the Georgia General Assembly. As you might imagine, I support state leadership on this issue, and I am inclined to support federal legislation that will give state leaders the freedom that they need to best serve local families.
Time and again, the 7th District takes to volunteering as a way to bring our community together and help improve the lives of those around us. Last week, hundreds of volunteers gathered behind Baggett Elementary School to construct bunk beds for families in need. Using an assembly line approach, the volunteers produced about 100 beds by the end of the day. Bedding and linens were also collected and will be donated along with the newly constructed beds.
I would like to recognize the nonprofit, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, for organizing this special event. To all the volunteers—your hard work is admirable, and it goes a long way to making our community a better place to live.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Volunteers help build beds for Sleep in Heavenly Peace to help children in need
In the 7th District, we are proud to be continually recognized as having some of the best schools in the country. Recently, in the 2019 College and Career Ready Performance Index of the Georgia Department of Education, Forsyth County high schools ranked the highest among metro Atlanta districts and the other large districts in Georgia. The CCRPI is a yearly report that grades schools on how well they can transition students to the next level, whether that be elementary school to middle school or high school to college. Forsyth County schools’ overall score was 92.7 out of 100—the average of Georgia being 75.9.
In other news, Forsyth County also just posted the highest composite ACT score of all the county and large school districts in Georgia. This score ranks higher than both the state and national average.
I would like to commend all the teachers, administrators, and parents who made these achievements possible. Such great success would not be possible without your hard work.
- Forsyth County News. Forsyth County Schools tops state in 2019 CCRPI scores
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Forsyth students post highest ACT scores of large districts in Georgia
After spending a fantastic week in Georgia, I had hoped to return to Washington this week to share with my colleagues a road map for how we can work together in D.C. for the betterment of our country, just as folks in Georgia do every day. Unfortunately, the Rules Committee is teeing-up another partisan measure, H.R. 4863, which will go nowhere in the Senate; and what’s most disappointing is that it didn’t have to be this way. The Chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee and the Ranking Republican Member of the Committee had come to a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank of the United States. But when the Committee finally acted on H.R. 4863, the bipartisan compromise was sidelined in favor of the partisan bill we’ll have before us this week. With this bill, we’re missing a golden opportunity to reform and reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank so that it better serves American businesses and bolsters our export market. Snatching partisan defeat right out of the jaws of bipartisan victory has become an all too common theme for the 116th Congress.
Unfortunately, the theme of partisan infighting will continue beyond the Rules Committee, as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) will hold its first public hearings on impeachment this Wednesday and Friday. It’s certainly important for Congress to be able to do constructive oversight of the Executive Branch; but considering how poisonous the rhetoric has been so far between and among members of HPSCI, the Oversight and Reform Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the White House, I fear that constructive oversight has become political showmanship. We must rise above the pettiness that we’ve seen so far on both sides of the aisle. We must treat each other in this House with respect and treat this process with the dignity that a solemn Constitutional responsibility deserves.
Member of Congress