District Connection - 9/25/17
I push hard in Washington for legislation that preserves the ability of our state and local education leaders to decide what’s best for our students. Congress passed and the President signed legislation to ensure exactly that. I visit Gwinnett and Forsyth schools at all grade levels to see local leadership in action, preparing our young men and women to meet tomorrow’s challenges. I am incredibly encouraged by what I see. Last week, for example, I had the pleasure of visiting South Forsyth Middle School and spent time with the teachers, students, and administrators to see how they are working together innovate and drive educational outcomes. From the introduction of new technologies to exposure to career pathway programs—offering students an opportunity to explore specific career paths like health care or criminal justice while still in middle school—I saw our student leaders learning and engaging in ways that my generation never dreamed of. Visits like these to see first-hand the dynamism of our individual schools confirm for me that our students are best served every day by local leadership and local control. I look forward to sharing with my colleagues in D.C. the great work being done at South Forsyth Middle School and across our district in hopes that their districts can benefit from our cooperative model.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Great news from schools: South Gwinnett JROTC received highest commendation
The best part of my job is being able to travel around our district, meet with local business and community leaders, and translate what I learn from their experience into policy in Washington. This kind of partnership makes me a better representative and produces tangible benefits here in the Seventh District.
During part of last week, one of my colleagues on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Representative Drew Ferguson, and I traveled across Georgia to learn from transportation leaders in different regions. Drew and I represent different parts of the State, but Georgia’s infrastructure needs often cross congressional boundaries. Many of our neighbors either commute to different places around the state for work or rely on the infrastructure in other regions to deliver the goods and services that we need here in our community. With stops in Rome, Duluth, Gainesville, Augusta, and Macon, we are working together to ensure that Georgia’s needs are met.
Representatives Woodall and Fergusson meet with members of the GeorgiaTransportation Alliance on September 18th
As we traveled, one of the most common questions we heard was, “how can we as a community and as a state put ourselves in a position to benefit from the upcoming infrastructure package President Trump is proposing?” What we have done over the past several years to distinguish ourselves from our neighbors – from investing more of our local funds into priority projects to shocking the nation with how well we recovered from the I-85 bridge collapse – has caught the attention and the imagination of both President Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. I am going to ensure that this sort of leadership is rewarded and incentivized by our federal partners, and as Congress begins to fill in the details for the President’s infrastructure package, I commit to you that the conversations you and I have will absolutely make a difference on the kinds of tools and resources our state will have to continue building our 21st century infrastructure.
The 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly convened last week in New York. The General Assembly allows all 193 members of the U.N. a venue to address the entire world, and President Trump took this opportunity to present a clear declaration of his vision for U.S. foreign policy going forward and a call for renewed American leadership on the global stage. Changing course from previous administrations, the President called for a serious reassessment of the relationship between the U.S. and U.N. While many thought that reassessment would mean discarding the U.N. completely, President Trump instead called for cooperation from the diverse members of the General Assembly to significantly reform the U.N. to create a more efficient body that actually solves the issues pressing our international community, a body with more equitable contributions from member nations, and one that respects the sovereignty of each nation.
The President emphasized empowering all nations to be successful to create a community of strong, sovereign nations that lifts one another up to “new heights,” including renewed support for human rights and democratic institutions around the world. That includes removing the hypocrisy of having authoritarian nations as members of the U.N. Human Rights Council, and most importantly, uniting to denounce rogue regimes. Together the U.N. member states must address the rogue nations that threaten to disrupt the peace we so desire. We cannot continue to allow Iran and North Korea to continue their dangerous pursuit of nuclear weapons. We cannot continue to stand for the human rights abuses and suppression of democracy that occurs in Venezuela and Cuba. We cannot allow countries to violate the sovereignty of their neighbors, particularly Russia in Ukraine and China in the South China Sea. We must not be afraid to call out these irresponsible actions.
Just days later, the Trump Administration announced further sanctions on North Korea. Leveraging the power of the United States economy and the dominance of our financial institutions, this new round of sanctions will force foreign financial institutions to choose between doing business with U.S. or doing business with North Korea. As our relations with North Korea have become increasingly strained, it is important to aggressively confront their nuclear ambitions before they become a pressing threat to the U.S. and our allies. With each new administration we have the opportunity to reexamine our relations with the rest of the world, and I’m glad to see the Trump Administration continuing America’s leadership role in the international community. These are common sense calls to action that will not only benefit the United States by renewing principled American leadership in the world, but will benefit all nations by calling on our global community to act together to solve our common issues.
- CNN Money. North Korea sanctions: Here’s what Trump did
- New York Times. Trump moves to widen U.S. sanctions on North Korea
Congress often works to cut budgets and spend less money. Just as often, though, Congress works to get more value out of the same amount of money. This is what Congress and states are seeking to do today through federal Medicaid waivers. The major health reform bills in Congress today are trying to make this flexibility obligatory and permanent, but even today temporary flexibility is permissive and available, and Georgia is working to take full advantage of it on behalf of Georgia’s citizens. A good example of this effort is Georgia’s Section 1115 waiver which was designed to reduce the number of low birth weight (LBW) babies in the state—Georgia ranks 46th in the nation in this category. This waiver is allowing Georgia to come up with innovative ways to raise that ranking.
While the media sometimes portrays waivers as an effort by states to do less for its citizens, support for these waivers is strongest from those who work hardest to serve Georgia’s underserved. Last week, for example, I sat down with executives from Mercy Care, a primary care provider to homeless individuals in the Atlanta area and one of Georgia’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). You and I support Mercy Care and those that they serve through our support of FQHC funding. Mercy Care shared with me both its optimism and concern on a variety of topics including FQHC funding, the Graham-Cassidy bill making its way through the Senate, and the Medicaid waiver, Section 1115 of the Affordable Care Act which allows states to request permission from the federal government to “test new or existing ways to deliver and pay for health care services in Medicaid”—meaning, if approved, a state could take an innovative approach to delivering health care services to their citizens that would not ordinarily be allowed under federal rules. Like Mercy Care and many others, I absolutely support Section 1115 and giving states more flexibility to innovate and meet the health care needs of its citizens.
For those wondering how the Medicaid reforms in the Senate’s Graham-Cassidy bill would impact Medicaid, somewhat like the House bill it would convert Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement program that imposes strict requirements on states to a per capita system that sends states a lump sum of federal dollars based on the number of individuals in the Medicaid program. This bipartisan idea was championed by former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and it would guarantee that states would have more freedom and flexibility under the new system to decide how to spend those dollars—meaning states like Georgia wouldn’t have to go calling on Washington for permission to implement innovate and much needed health care programs or services.
While it has been more than a week since Tropical Storm Irma affected our community, the work to repair and rebuild what was damaged continues. In both Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, many were affected by this storm in one way or another, and over the past week, officials from local, state, and federal agencies have been working with the community to assess the damage. Whether government officials, first-responders, or local residents, the partnership has been what we’ve come to expect here at home: remarkably cooperative. From FEMA and GEMA representatives deploying to the region to move the recovery process forward, to volunteers cleaning debris from Lake Lanier, and on and on, we’re working together to make our home a better place. Thank you all for what you do to make that a reality.
- Forsyth County News. Lanier shoreline holds up well during Irma ahead of cleanup
- Gwinnett Daily Post. FEMA, GEMA officials get in-person view of Irma’s damage in Gwinnett
Beyond just helping those around us, many of you have already helped our neighbors to the west and those to the south who have been devastated by Hurricane Irma, and moving forward I hope we’ll all keep those near and far away in our thoughts and prayers, helping them when we are able. Sadly, now Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and those throughout the Caribbean are weathering the effects of Hurricane Maria, which has proven to be even more damaging in many areas than Irma. As a reminder, there are many ways to help, but it’s important to be careful in selecting those you support. If you would like to learn more about available resources, please visit my website, and as always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.
This Tuesday and Thursday, I will be hosting two more town hall meetings to discuss issues of health care and infrastructure. I hope you’ve been able to take part in my two previous town hall meetings this month, and that you can time to do so again. But even if you’re missed those meetings, I encourage you to add your voice now.
This week, the House is going to pass two important pieces of legislation: H.R. 2824, the “Increasing Opportunity Through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act,” and H.R. 2792, the “Control Unlawful Fugitive Felons Act of 2017.” The first bill extends funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which is a bipartisan home visitation program that uses evidence-based solutions to help low-income children and families escape the cycle of poverty that too many families have been trapped in for generations. To pay for the extension of this program, H.R. 2792 improves Supplemental Security Income program integrity by prohibiting individuals with an outstanding arrest warrant for a felony or a parole violation from receiving SSI benefits. Ensuring that struggling families are given an opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and onto a higher rung on the ladder of economic success by limiting the ability of criminals to receive government benefits is an entirely appropriate way of paying for the programs that we want to prioritize. I look forward to supporting these bills, and I hope that they will receive broad bipartisan support.
I also expect that we will continue to hear about the Senate’s possible consideration of the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. The Senate is still working hard on coming to an agreement on a way to reform and replace parts of Obamacare, and I look forward to a successful that will give more Americans access to affordable health insurance, empower states to take the lead in designing more effective Medicaid programs, and put patients in charge of their health care.
Member of Congress