Washington Watch - 9/10/18

September 10, 2018
E-Newsletter Archive


Student loan debt in this country stands at a whopping $1.5 trillion, affecting more than 44 million Americans, and those numbers are growing larger every year. Too many students are not making wise decisions about their education in relation to their financial futures, and are thus burdening themselves with debt for years. They need to know that there are options out there, from getting a certification for a skills-based trade at instuitions like the Alliance Academy for Innovation, which I visited last week, to attending a local school like Georgia Gwinnett College which offers a vast and affordable education right here in the Seventh District. We must do more to educate folks before they take on loans they may not be able to afford so they can make the choice for themselves on what is financially viable for them. 

That is why I was proud to support H.R. 1635, the “Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act,” which seeks to increase the financial literacy of borrowers by mandating counseling and comprehensive information about the terms of the loans they are receiving and their rights and responsibilities moving forward. Our country has some of the best universities in the world, acting as one of the greatest drivers of social mobility and technical advances across industries. If we are to maintain this high standard, we have to make sure our students understand the financial road they are about to embark on when they pursue their field of study. I’m proud of the work my colleagues have done to put this bipartisan bill together, and I know it will do a great deal to advance the next generation of students in pursuit of a higher education.



On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new building on Gwinnett Drive that is now home to four local organizations that are all working to make our community an even better place to live. Specifically, Navigate Safe Harbor Gwinnett, Mending the Gap, Gwinnett Habitat for Humanity, and Lawrenceville Cooperative Ministry, Inc., have all joined together under one roof to better serve our friends and neighbors by functioning as a “one stop shop” for those in need. It was an honor to be among the first to tour the new space and to learn about the different ways that each organization is working to build up our community, whether that be through lending a helping hand to those in need, providing a comfortable space to recover from the wrath of addiction, bridging the gap between generational divides, or providing much needed housing, I have no doubt that this space will not only foster further collaboration among the four organizations that occupy it, but also that it will also allow each individual organization to grow and expand to its fullest potential.  I look forward to partnering with each of the organizations that can now call this magnificent space their new home as we continue working to uplift, encourage, and engage in our community in meaningful ways.   

Rep. Rob Woodall and Lawrenceville community leaders celebrate the opening of the Navigate Addiction Recovery Support Center



We had a productive week in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this past week!  All three of my subcommittees—Highways, Aviation, and Water—held hearings on issues that affect every family I have the privilege to serve. In Highways, we discussed innovation in surface transportation. From local Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) that ease congestion and improve reliability, to smart vehicles that are being manufactured or deployed by automakers across the state, to the “highways of the future” being studied and demonstrated at The Ray facility in our own backyard, we are positioning Georgia as a national and global leader in transportation technology. In the Aviation subcommittee, we discussed innovative technologies that are changing the way the flying public thinks about air travel. One of the ideas being proposed is updating our laws and regulations to allow for an “Uber of the sky,” whereby you or I could request a seat on a flight or general aviation aircraft with the ease of ordering a taxi cab. There are no doubt many questions to be answered as we dig into these brand new frontiers of public policy, but it’s important that we continue to air out our concerns and pose substantive questions in a public hearing environment like the one we had last week.  

Lastly, during our Water Subcommittee hearing, I had a chance to speak directly with Major General Scott Spellmon, a senior official within the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). We’ve had great success with the Corps over the past two years. My partnership with homeowners, Lake Lanier stakeholders, and local business leaders has led to the approval of security camera on docks, better accessibility for disabled families, and the first water manual update in decades that will ensure Seventh District families will have enough clean, safe drinking water to accommodate our rising population for the foreseeable future. My main focus on Friday, however, was highlighting our local stewardship of water resources to Major General Spellmon. In the Seventh District, we have invested more than a billion dollars to ensure that we send back as much water to the Chattahoochee system as we can—and it’s cleaner than the water we pulled out in the first place!  If you have been following this issue with me, you’re probably aware of the debate over credit for return flows—the water that we redeposit into the watershed. I asked Major General Spellmon to consider giving our community more credit for our stewardship, thereby incentivizing other communities around the nation to do the same, and I was very encouraged by his response and his willingness to come visit our facilities and see firsthand the great work that we’re doing locally.




We are incredibly blessed to have one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in the country. Traveling throughout the district you will meet people who have come from all around the world to settle down in our neighborhoods. The fact that so many people immigrating to the United States decide to make Norcross, Lilburn, Cumming, Alpharetta, and all the other cities in our district home is a testament to both our hospitality and the quality of what we have to offer.  We are a richer and more prosperous community for it.  I wanted to take the opportunity in this week’s Constituent Spotlight to highlight one of those immigrant communities, the Vietnamese-American community. 

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the 10th annual Vietnamese Fall Festival in Norcross. This is an event that I look forward to every year!  With over 40,000 neighbors of Vietnamese heritage coming to the area to join in the festivities, it is one of the largest Vietnamese events in the region. If you have not attended one, I highly recommend it as a cultural experience second to none.  You will mix and mingle—as I have—with families, young and old, who are passionate about sharing their Vietnamese culture and heritage through music, pageants, games, and—of course—amazing food.

Rep. Rob Woodall and attendees at the 10th Annual Vietnamese Fall Festival in Norcross sign steel bars that will form the columns of the new worship center.

It is not only a pleasure to engage with the variety of cultures in our district through festivals and celebrations at home in Georgia, but it is also an honor for me to represent them in Washington, D.C., especially when constituents like Michelle from Sugar Hill write in to share support for legislation that is important to both Vietnamese-Americans and to their families abroad. 

“I would like to ask for your support of The Vietnam Human Rights Bill (H.R. 5621), proposed by Congressman Christopher Smith. Throughout Vietnam political dissidents, independent bloggers, human rights defenders and people of faith continue to be subjected to police brutality, torture and even extra-judicial killings. In the first five months of 2018, the Vietnamese government handed out 23 sentences totaling over 172 years in prison followed by 41 years of house arrest to human rights defenders and democracy advocates. By passing The Vietnam Human Rights Bill, America will send a message of hope to those who stand for freedom in Vietnam and will advance American interests in a free and prosperous Vietnam.”

As Michelle wrote, this bill will provide assistance for the development of freedom and democracy in Vietnam, while prohibiting non-humanitarian assistance unless the President certifies that the Vietnamese government has met a number of human rights requirements, including the release of political and religious prisoners. I am pleased to be a cosponsor of the “Vietnam Human Rights Act,” and I am committed to ensuring that human rights violators are brought to justice. In addition to writing to me, Michelle was able to come to visit me in my Washington, D.C., office along with the Atlanta delegation of Vietnamese advocates to personally advocate for this bill on behalf of her community. It means a lot to see this delegation come up each year to share what is important to them.

The diversity of the Seventh District is unquestionably one of our very best attributes, and it is a joy to be able to serve and represent each of the incredible cultures that contribute to our successes. 



We live in a wonderful place. That fact certainly doesn’t insulate us from tough times, though, and whether it is us personally or our neighbors, there’s always more to the story than meets the eye. Addressing those root causes of difficulty is most often the secret to moving beyond them, and thankfully, we have some amazing folks in our midst who make it their mission to be a pillar of support for those in need – both in the immediate sense and in the long-term. If you’re not familiar with Family Promise, I’d encourage you to learn more about the work they’re doing. It is a non-profit organization with chapters in both Forsyth and Gwinnett counties that provides a 30-90 day program for families going through homelessness and poverty. The goal is to ensure they receive not only an interim home, but also the skills, tools, and resources they need to be independently successful once they graduate from the program.

Our community is fortunate to have such an organization, and the reality is, not every place can claim such service-minded citizens. Over the years, I’ve had several opportunities to see what this remarkable organization is doing first-hand, but it always makes me proud to see the continued impact they’re having on the lives of their neighbors. We lead by example in the Seventh District. The proof is all around us – and I’m grateful for each and every one.



In case you haven’t noticed – there’s a cycle of service in our community. Military personnel, first-responders, non-profits, churches, everyday individuals, and more, it just seems to never stop. When one needs help, another steps up. If more help is needed, here comes the reinforcement of another organization or neighbor. If no such organization exists, well then someone decides to create it. It’s that spirit of problem-solving we have here in the Seventh District that I brag about to my colleagues in Washington all the time. We don’t wait around for someone else to address a need, we just find a way to pull together and get it done. There is a mentality that while not every person or organization can address every need, every person has the capacity to serve another. Our different passions, talents, and abilities help guide us to the right destination, and the combined effort is something remarkable.

For former Gwinnett County firefighter, Duluth Police Department officer, and current Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy Bill Stevens, Operation One Voice is one of those callings. Lieutenant Stevens founded the organization 12 years ago, and it has since helped thousands of families of fallen or wounded Special Operations Forces. Following this year’s annual Honor Ride, 50 additional families will now be served. Thank you to Lt. Stevens and all participants in this wonderful cause – and most of all – thank you to the men and women who have given so much for America.



During the August District Work Period, my colleagues and I heard from countless numbers of Americans – in big businesses and small from all corners of the country – that they are still concerned about the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on their businesses, workers, and families. That’s why the House is working this week to bring a small health care package to the floor that will help workers and employers better afford health care. H.R. 3798, the “Save American Workers Act of 2017,” contains the text of H.R. 1150, the “Tanning Tax Repeal Act of 2017,” H.R. 6718, which allows individuals to request yearly health insurance coverage statements, and H.R. 4616, which delays the implementation of the so-called Cadillac Tax on high value health insurance plans and places a retroactive moratorium on the employer mandate. Taken together, these bills will encourage employers to expand employee working hours, will ensure that employees can continue receiving high value health care from their employers, will help employers better comply with the ACA, and will lower unnecessary costs for health insurers.


Rob Woodall
Member of Congress