Washington Watch - 4/3/17
While the media rarely tells the story, Congress and the White House have been working together on important pieces of legislation, and I am proud of that success. Last week, President Trump signed a number of bills into law, and I’m happy to take this opportunity to highlight a few of them for you.
Much of what the House of Representatives has been doing since the start of the 115th Congress is ensuring stakeholders at the local level, who have the knowledge and expertise regarding a certain issue area, have their input considered and implemented in the rules by which they are governed. The President’s signing of H.J.Res. 44, which rejects the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “Planning 2.0” rule, was a move to do just that. Planning 2.0 sought to strip much of the power reserved to state and local authorities in land planning and management and give it to unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. and special interest groups with deep pockets across the nation. It also neglected to establish a process for these local entities to discuss or challenge BLM’s decision on how the land can be used. I absolutely support efforts to protect our land and safeguard our environment, but efforts to do so should not be at the expense of people’s livelihoods. Sharing authority between the federal government and those closest to the land is how we will ensure a balanced approach to environmentalism and responsible land development.
The President also signed two more bills into law last week that overturn two more Obama-era regulations that would have significantly expanded the federal role in K-12 education. The first resolution, H.J. Res. 57, nullifies a federal Department of Education (ED) regulation that would have imposed new requirements on states as they work to develop education accountability plans. As you all may know, state and local education leaders in Georgia, including representatives from Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, have been working diligently since last summer to develop an education accountability plan that will serve the interests of students in our state. Unfortunately, ED’s accountability plan regulation, which was issued in closing lame duck weeks of President Obama’s administration, proposes to substitute the judgement of federal bureaucrats in Washington for that of the best and brightest education minds in our district and state. That’s contrary to the core principles of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a bill which devolved much of the K-12 decision making authority to state and local education leaders and the bill that the regulations were inexplicably purported to implement.
The second resolution, H.J. Res. 58, nullifies a federal regulation that mandates certain requirements that states must use when evaluating the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs. Ensuring that our classrooms are filled with highly qualified educators is an idea that we can all get behind, but we don’t need one-size-fits-all Washington metrics to determine whether our teachers are being adequately prepared to serve our students. The continued educational successes we’ve enjoyed in our part of the world are proof that what we are doing in the Seventh District is working, and our successes are not thanks to federal rules and regulations. They are in spite of those rules and regulations, and I will continue to do what I can to keep as much local control over K-12 decisions right here in our state and local communities.
I’m glad that Congress took a stand on these issues, and I’m proud that President Trump signed them into law.
- Washington Post. Trump signs bills overturning Obama-era education regulations
On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted almost unanimously in support of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue’s nomination to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This vote comes a week after Governor Perdue received bipartisan praise from Senators during his cordial confirmation hearing with the Committee. Given that the Department of Agriculture has been without a proper Secretary since January – leaving the agency rudderless and the Trump Administration without the valuable insight offered by Governor Perdue’s unique perspective – I am hopeful that the full Senate will vote on his nomination swiftly. I can’t think of a more qualified, thoughtful, or capable individual who will better serve farmers both in our state and across the country, and I am proud he will soon serve as our nation’s Agriculture Secretary.
- Politico. Perdue clears Senate Agriculture Committee
- Atlanta Journal Constitution. Sonny Perdue’s agriculture nomination clears key Senate hurdle
On Thursday and Friday, I traveled to Canada with newly confirmed Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster. The goal of the trip was to examine Canada’s air traffic control system, which is substantially similar to the type of corporatized, non-government system that President Trump and Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster have proposed for the United States. Undeniably, the safety, efficacy, and efficiency of the NavCanada system is impressive. The Canadian system covers the second busiest system in the world (second to the U.S.) and the second geographically largest system in the world (second to Russia), so both its challenges and successes can be instructive. I look forward to discussing the issue further with my colleagues and constituents as we consider doing something similar with our own aviation system. Such a change would be the biggest, most transformational reform of our aviation system in more than five decades, so there are still questions to be answered and factors to consider. But what I know now is that the transformation is possible and is working well for our neighbor to the north.
It turns out that my trip with Secretary Chao was timely for another reason as well. By now you have probably heard that a significant portion of Interstate 85 collapsed as a result of a fire. Due to the quick thinking, skill, and professionalism of our first responders, there were no reported injuries. For that I am grateful, because we can always fix things but we can’t restore lost lives. However, being with Secretary Chao, I was able to interface directly with the senior-most transportation leadership of our state and our federal government to ensure that we have the tools we need to get people safely back on I-85 as quick as humanly possible. Secretary Chao approved $10 million to go to work immediately for demolition and operation costs. Construction of the replacement bridges will also qualify for emergency federal funding with a 90% federal and 10% state split. I am appreciative of our federal, state, and local partners working together to make the necessary repairs and get us back on the road.
Thousands of Americans from around the country – and hundreds from Georgia – came to Washington last week to take part in the annual America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. This is one of the largest gatherings of the year in Washington, and I was proud to see so many of our neighbors in attendance. The special relationship between Israel and the United States is constantly being tested by those who wish to eliminate Israel’s right to exist as a nation-state. We simply cannot allow that to happen. I had the pleasure of meeting with many Seventh District residents who are committed to bolstering the U.S.-Israel relationship and supporting our greatest Democratic ally in the Middle East.
Rep. Rob Woodall and 7th District AIPAC participants meet in Washington, D.C.
The House moved another regulatory relief resolution last week that will overturn a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation that was issued just days before the November 2016 elections. The regulation in question stemmed from a larger effort by the FCC to overtake Internet regulation authority from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has been the primary federal regulator for all things Internet-related for several decades, by reclassifying Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as “common carriers,” a giant power grab that was never anticipated or authorized by Congress. Like many of you, I have watched the Internet thrive in recent decades under the FTC’s watch, and it’s hard to imagine where we would be as a modern society without the transformative impact the Internet has had on our world. The last thing we need is for any federal agency to step in with a “red tape is the solution” agenda and trample on tomorrow’s Internet innovations.
That said, as the Internet plays an increasingly important role in our lives, we must get together to decide how to deal with the issues such interconnectedness raises. There was a great deal of debate about the FCC regulation that would be overturned by Congress’ action last week, as it dealt with rules governing what ISPs can know and disclose about customer Internet usage. As you all are likely aware, many Internet companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and more, collect a great deal of information about Internet users and use that data for things like advertising. The question last week in Washington was not whether that practice should be prohibited or restricted, but whether the FCC could hijack regulatory powers from the FTC. Rather than having different rules from separate agencies to deal with a single issue, I believe a collaborative approach between Congress and federal agencies – one that balances both privacy and freedom – is the best way to address consumer privacy issues, and my hope is that last week’s vote is the first step towards getting it right for American consumers. This is too important an issue for us to get it wrong!
Last week in the House we passed two bills aimed at improving the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – H.R. 1430, the “Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act” and H.R. 1431, the “EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017.” The EPA has gone unchecked for too long, and we have seen instances of federal agencies working hard to find the facts to support their ideological conclusions, instead of using science to inform public policy. As a result, the EPA has become the poster child for government waste, fraud, and abuse in many people’s eyes.
I believe that we can do better, which is why I was proud to support both of these bills as they move us closer to our shared goal of protecting our environment in ways that are consistent with facts rather than political agendas – irrespective of who is in the White House. The HONEST Act ensures that every regulation is based upon sound, publicly available information to guarantee transparency in the rule-making process and will hold the EPA accountable to the people that it serves – the American voters. The second bill, H.R. 1431, reforms the EPA’s Science Advisory Board in an effort to bring diversity to its membership, encourage additional public participation, and provide balance to the advisory process so that it’s not beholden to special interests from the right or the left. Together, these two pieces of legislation are a step in the right direction to make sure that facts and research—rather than political ideology—drive America’s science and environmental policy.
The Seventh District is fortunate to have so many amazing individuals with unique talents, passions, and skills in our community. Jon Richards was one of those individuals. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to him last month, but I was lucky to have a chance to know him. Jon was tireless in his work – and the rest of us benefitted from it. While he was a successful entrepreneur and devoted to so many civic pursuits, Jon is known best by so many for leadership in the world of government and politics, and most importantly, his passion for mentoring young people with that same interest. His expertise was a coveted resource for anyone of any age looking to get a better understanding of public policy – whether in the County Commission Board Room, under the Gold Dome, or on Capitol Hill.
- GeorgiaPol.com. Jon Richards Celebration of Life
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Jon Richards, a fixture in the Gwinnett political community
- AJC. RIP Jon Richards, a conservative chronicler of Georgia politics
Jon was one of those people that believed if only he worked hard enough for long enough, he could make things better for our community. And he did so in so many different ways. In all the years I knew him, I never saw him do one thing for himself. I can’t count the number of times, however, that I saw him arrive early and be the last to leave an event to help others. So very often Jon sought out the work no one else would do – and he did it with a smile on his face and a friendly word for all. He left a legacy; and as a result, he also leaves a void. There is no replacement for Jon Richards. All who knew him are better for it, and I hope you’ll join me in remembering his family in your prayers.
It’s becoming a trend, but I’m always proud to announce when our community has been recognized for the excellence we’ve grown accustomed to here at home. Each year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute publish health rankings by county for every state, and the Seventh District’s Forsyth and Gwinnett counties have become mainstays in the top listings for Georgia. In fact, our two counties are ranked first and fourth respectively, and it is the fifth consecutive year Forsyth County has taken the top honor! The rankings use local data that includes education, employment, income, and housing, among many other factors. I often brag on Capitol Hill about how we do so many things well in our part of the world, and this really is the culmination of all those efforts. Let’s keep it up!
- Forsyth County News. Forsyth County ranked healthiest in Georgia for fifth consecutive year
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Gwinnett No. 4 among counties in state health rankings
This week, hundreds of folks from the 7th District are travelling to Washington, D.C., during spring break. Whether you contacted my office to schedule a tour for you or not, I invite you to visit your Capitol Hill office for a respite from your hectic vacation schedule. Please feel free to drop by any time you’re in the DC area from 9am to 6pm in room 1724 of the Longworth House Office Building just across the street from the United States Capitol. The door is always open for you!
This week the House is continuing to push forward with making our government work better for American workers and their families. We are continuing to work across the aisle on a bill that would ensure employee health insurance premiums are affordable with H.R 1304, the “Self Insurance Protection Act.” We are also working hard – Democrats and Republicans – to ensure that employees and America’s job creators are able to take advantage of capital investment to grow jobs and our economy with H.R. 1343, the “Encouraging Employee Ownership Act,” and H.R. 1219, the “Supporting America’s Innovators Act.” I look forward to working with my House colleagues this week to push these bills one step closer to the finish line.
Member of Congress