District Connection - 8/21/17
A couple weeks ago the House unanimously passed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also known as the “Forever GI Bill.” I am proud to say that in the short time since the bill passed the House, it has not only passed the Senate unanimously but was also signed into law by the President. Originally started to educate our veterans returning from World War II, the GI Bill has since grown to educate generations of veterans by helping pay for college, graduate school, and other training programs, significantly contributing to our country’s economic growth and success. This newest improvement is the largest expansion to the GI Bill in years and both adapts and modernizes the GI Bill to the changes in education and technology that have reshaped the world since the end of World War II.
The “Forever GI Bill’s” biggest change to the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that it eliminates the requirement that veterans must use their GI Bill benefits within 15 years of separating from active duty, thereby allowing our veterans the ability to use their benefits in the way that best serves them. Further changes include awarding anyone who has received a Purple Heart since September 11, 2001, 100% of the benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. In addition, reservists and members of the National Guard will be able to count time receiving medical care for injuries from active duty towards their GI Bill eligibility, and it better facilitates veteran access to STEM education programs that lead to highly in-demand science and technology employment opportunities.
- Army Times. Trump signed the “Forever GI Bill.” Here are 11 things you should know
- Stars and Stripes. Trump signs “Forever GI Bill,” boosting aid to student vets
On the heels of a great statewide event in Macon, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce hosted public officials and private business leaders last Wednesday at its monthly luncheon. Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark was on hand to speak in greater detail about how Georgia compares with other states when it comes to educating our young people, attracting businesses and investment, and delivering health care to our citizens, to name a few topics. While we have much to celebrate in Georgia, including that job growth statewide is projected to outpace the national average for years to come, we also have many challenges—particularly in rural parts of our state—that we must work together to overcome.
Several members of the Georgia congressional delegation were on hand to engage with state and local leaders and speak briefly about the federal policy challenges facing our nation and to discuss our plan and timeline for dealing with each issue. Though many important topics were discussed, most who had an opportunity to speak to the crowd chose to focus on the need to strive for unity in communities across the country, especially in light of what’s been a tragic time in Charlottesville, Virginia. I could not agree more with this message. We will only be successful in building and delivering a prosperous, free nation to future generations if we first agree to put aside our differences and work together for the good of every American. As I’ve said many times before, there is far more that unites us than divides us in this great nation, and I commit to you all once again to work on your behalf to bring more attention in Congress to those common ideas and values that unite us all.
I invite you all to click here to take a look at some really great slides produced by the Georgia Chamber which will give you a better idea of where our state stands today and where we are heading in some very important categories like population and job growth, health care, education, poverty, and more. I look forward to working with the Georgia and Gwinnett Chambers and their many member businesses to develop solutions to our challenges so that Georgia can lead the nation into what is sure to be a bright future for America.
In the past week and a half, a number of horrific terror events have taken place; one in Charlottesville, Virginia, and two others in Spain. While we may not automatically equate them, since the Spanish events were most likely ISIS-inspired and the other was not, in the end, all were acts of violence and terror carried out by individuals who had hatred in their hearts for people who they believed were expendable and unworthy of respect. There is simply no acceptable religious doctrine or political ideology that should support or defend racism, hatred, or violence. These immoralities are vile and have no place in our society. I am heartened that so many nations have come together to support the Spanish people, to mourn the dead, and to pray for the injured in those heinous terror attacks. I’m also heartened to see that so many Americans have come together to stand against the violence perpetrated in Charlottesville. Hatred – whether committed in the name of ISIS or the KKK – must be eliminated from our world. As we all pray for peace, understanding, and healing, I hope that one day soon, all racist and violent organizations and movements across the world will be a vestige of our past instead of a reality of our present.
- Washington Post. Spanish probe points to wider network in attacks; American among dead
- Atlanta Journal Constitution. Georgia GOP lawmakers condemn white supremacists
America is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, and we finally have a President who appears willing to actually harness those resources to bolster America’s energy security for decades to come. In one of President Barack Obama’s last moves as president, he blocked millions of acres from drilling, cordoning off access to oil and gas activity that would otherwise create good-paying American jobs and further lessen our reliance on foreign fuel from some of the most volatile, anti-American regimes on the planet. Last week I wrote to President Trump and advocated for increasing the leasing and responsible development on these energy-rich lands. We are often confronted with the false choice of creating jobs or protecting our environment. A successful five year plan for leasing and development will absolutely achieve both of these goals, and I am hopeful the President hears that message loud and clear.
One of the President’s top priorities – building a 21st Century American infrastructure – is beginning to come to the fore, and as a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, these kinds of conversations both excite me and make me bullish about our prospects for notching more big wins for Georgia and the American people before the end of the year. As I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters, we’ve already passed our transformational FAA reform bill out of committee and Congress must pass legislation reauthorizing the agency before the end of next month. That deadline will command much of our attention when members return to D.C. from their August district work period. But just because Congress is out of session right now, that doesn’t mean things aren’t getting done.
In fact, just last week, the President built upon our regulation-cutting success by signing a new Executive Order to cut even more red tape from the onerous federal permitting process. Today, if Georgia uses state or local dollars to build a road, it can be done in a matter of months. If Georgia uses federal dollars for that same project, red tape can add more than three years of delay to the completion timeline and millions of dollars to the final cost. This provides no benefit to taxpayers or the environment – it simply pads the wallets of high-priced consultants and cedes more control over our own tax dollars to faceless bureaucrats in Washington. I applaud the President’s latest step to make our government work better for the people it serves, and look forward to adding to successes like this one as Congress begins to craft a major bipartisan infrastructure package that will reduce traffic, get products to shelves quicker, and make our roadways safer for the families who use them.
- New York Times. Trump Signs Order Rolling Back Environmental Rules on Infrastructure
- Reuters. Trump infrastructure push rolls back environmental rules
Last Wednesday marked the beginning of talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While I certainly look forward to having these important conversations about how we can work to ensure that our trade agreements simultaneously protect American workers and jobs while maintaining our status as a global leader in free trade, I certainly expect challenges to arise as these tough conversations unfold.
As talks get underway, the negotiators from each country are looking for ways to modernize and improve upon the 23-year-old agreement. For instance, e-commerce and intellectual property are two realms of trade that have become increasingly interconnected in the global economy since NAFTA’s inception. For that reason, it is crucial that negotiators take these sectors into consideration that way we can ensure American workers and employers are treated fairly in global markets.
Along with the many modification proposals that are going to be up for debate, we must also make sure that we are maintaining and improving the agreement for those sectors of the American economy that have benefitted a great deal from NAFTA, and at the top of that list for Georgia and the country in general is agriculture. In 2016, trade from agriculture created a trade surplus of close to $130 billion. As you and I both know, Georgia’s agriculture industry is a driving economic force behind Georgia’s booming economy. That said, I was pleased to learn that the Administration placed great emphasis on the agriculture industry during the first round of NAFTA renegotiation talks over the weekend. One example in which U.S. negotiators are seeking to protect American farmers is by ensuring that provisions are in place to prevent foreign competitors from selling their goods in the U.S. below market price. This is only one example of many in which the Trump Administration is working to secure the best deal it can for American workers and families. I am confident that with a Georgian like Sonny Perdue leading the Department of Agriculture, our NAFTA renegotiations will be good news for Georgia.
- The Economist. The North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation begins
- Inside Sources. U.S. agriculture is watching closely as NAFTA 2 talks begin
- Reuters. U.S. talks tough on trade deficit as NAFTA discussions begin
Instilling the traits of good leadership in our young people is one of the many things we do well in our part of the world, and opportunities like the Georgia Student Advisory Council are great examples. If you have or know any local middle and high school students who might be interested in helping State School Superintendent Richard Woods and his team make our education system even stronger, please encourage them to apply for this opportunity. Applications can be found at www.gadoe.org and must be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 1 at 5PM. Applicants must also be enrolled in a Georgia public middle or high school for 2017-18 to be considered.
- Forsyth County News. Georgia superintendent seeking students for advisory council
It’s no secret that the Gwinnett County public school system is a nationally recognized program, and that kind of success doesn’t happen by accident. It’s deliberate, it’s earned, and it’s a direct reflection of the kind of people we have in our community, as well as the committed mentors who work tirelessly to share their expertise with both students and fellow educators. That dedication was on full display last Thursday as some of those passionate individuals were recognized for completing Gwinnett County Schools’ Aspiring Principal Program. One of the things of which I am most proud in our community is the way we build each other up. Success isn’t defined by what we can do for ourselves, but rather what we can do for others, and how we can make our community better. Congratulations to each of these graduates, thank you for what you do, and best of luck moving forward!
- Gwinnett Daily Post. GCPS honors latest class of Aspiring Principal Program
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