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Congressman Rob Woodall

Representing the 7th District of Georgia

District Connection - 9/4/18

September 4, 2018
E-Newsletter Archive

DOING OUR BEST FOR GEORGIA STUDENTS: INVESTMENTS IN OPPORTUNITY

The Seventh District produces some of the best qualified students for some of the most competitive academic institutions throughout the state and the nation, including our nation’s military academies, from West Point to Annapolis and more. And that’s thanks to our tremendous high schools, our career and technical education system, and the commitment of our local communities. It’s no wonder we have had such great success given the impressive facilities and leaders that we have right here at home. I had a chance to visit some of these sites last week during my time in Forsyth County, including the Forsyth County Public Library in Cumming and the combined campus of the Alliance Academy for Innovation and the new Junior Achievement Center. 

At the Cumming library, students are starting early with a “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program.  Reading aloud to preschoolers, toddlers, and even newborns, I was able to play a small role in helping to encourage literacy and a life-long love of reading.  Combining reading with hands-on arts and crafts, and even a surprise visit from Peter Rabbit himself, the amazing team at the Forsyth County Library had these children—and parents—anxious to come back for more.

With the help of a Federal grant from the Library Services and Technology Act, the Library system is bringing the PRIME TIME program to Forsyth County.  This six-week program is for families in underserved communities with children aged 6-10.  The PRIME TIME program brings those families together once a week to share a meal, be a part of a weekly reading session, and then participate in an open and rigorous discussion about the piece. I’m excited to see this program come to our district and even more excited to see the impact it will have on children’s lives.  Reading and learning are lifetime passions, but they begin at a young age.  Thank you to the Forsyth County Library system for all of your great work!


Congressman Rob Woodall (GA-07) reads “Peek-a-Boo Bunny” by Holly Surplice aloud to children at the Forsyth County Public Library in Cumming.

On the campus of the Alliance Academy for Innovation (AAI) in Forsyth, I was able to see the passion for learning extended into the teen years. AAI offers high school students a state-of-the-art curriculum as a way to prepare them for their future careers in five fields of study: Aerospace and Logistics; Criminal Justice and Law; Healthcare and First Responders; Hospitality and Design; and Mechatronics and Energy. This is not the high school that you and I attended.  Attracting students from every high school in the county, AAI offers students real world experience with real world instructors. With access to some of the finest technology in the state, students in health care learn in a model ambulance, students in aerospace learn in the seat of a flight simulator, and students in law learn in a mock courtroom. The school gym doubles as a robotics arena, and every student graduates with not only a high school diploma, but a real world skills certification in their field of choice.  If you haven’t been reading about the exciting curriculum at AAI, I assure you that you will see more and more great things as this school grows to full enrollment.


Congressman Rob Woodall tours the facilities at the Alliance Academy for Innovation and newly opened Junior Achievement Center. (Photo courtesy AAI Website)

In addition to offering students a first class education, AAI has also just opened its Junior Achievement Center, which I toured last week. The Center provides students from across Forsyth County—and from all across north Georgia through partnerships with other school systems—with hands-on learning to develop their financial literacy skills by spending time working in models of local and national businesses ranging from banks to airlines and food service for a more vivid understanding of the skills necessary to lead a household and even lead a business in the 21st  Century. The Junior Achievement Center has the potential to change the lives of almost 17,000 students each year through exceptional financial literacy and responsibility training. I’m proud to have this site located right here in the Seventh District to make our students prepared for an increasingly competitive academic and workforce environment. 

Each of these sites had an incredibly passionate staff dedicated to the achievement of those they serve. I was truly inspired by them and the work that they do to prepare the next generation for the future. 

 

Q&A WITH LOCAL LEADERS: TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE

I also had a chance to visit with the Council for Quality Growth (CQG) in Duluth to discuss our progress on infrastructure and hear feedback on how we can be doing even better. What I heard from my friends at CQG is what I hear from Georgia job creators all over our district—yes, our economy is doing great, but we can only sustain this historic growth if our infrastructure is capable of handling it.  That means our roads, bridges, rail, ports, and airports must all be able to compete not just against neighboring states, but we must be able to compete and win against the entire world.  Georgia’s infrastructure has improved dramatically in the last several years, culminating in a #2 ranking nationwide, but we can’t afford to rest on our past success.

I headed over to Ernst Concrete in Lawrenceville to meet with employees and company leadership to see what kind of effect our #BetterOffNow policies are having on our local and statewide economy. I’m proud to tell you that business is booming! Thanks to our historic tax cuts and new infrastructure investments, Ernst Concrete’s biggest challenge these days is keeping up with demand! I was asked to consider reforming our federal laws that regulate when and if these trucks can use federal interstates to haul their product between job sites. Safety is the number one concern of all drivers in our community, including those driving trucks. With the input of community leaders and corporate citizens, we can find solutions that will build on our already strong safety record.

This is one of the many issues that I expect to delve into as we begin to consider the next major surface transportation reauthorization. You’ll recall that we enacted the FAST Act in 2015—which produced $6.8 billion overall in formula funding for Georgia, $184 million for our GA-400 improvements, and $44 million for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). That law expires in 2020, and next week in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, we’re holding three separate subcommittee hearings to begin laying the foundation for what will be the next step in our national infrastructure plan.

 

Rep. Rob Woodall visits with Ernst Concrete and the Council for Quality Growth.

Chairman Bill Shuster, who is retiring in the coming months, recently released draft legislation that was designed to spur debate and stimulate discussion on what our priorities will be in the next surface transportation law. You can read all about that proposal here, and I encourage you to get in touch with me if you find ideas you like or if you find areas where we can improve. As always, I am reachable by phone (202-225-4272) or email (woodall@mail.house.gov).

 

TRADE OFFICIALS WORK TO DELIVER ON A NEW NAFTA AGREEMENT

As many of you have likely heard, the Administration is continuing its work to follow through with its promise to restructure the more than two decade-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Last week was a big week for our trade officials as they worked around the clock with officials from both Mexico and Canada in hopes of delivering a final deal. I have repeatedly expressed my support of the Administration’s efforts to uphold and strengthen our free and fair trade policies, and I certainly believe the ongoing negotiations are a positive step in the right direction.

We must find ways to ensure that American workers, companies, and goods can compete with their international counterparts on a level playing field, especially in the globally competitive world in which we live. As such, I find that it would be difficult to argue that we should not modernize our current free trade agreements to prevent harming U.S. industries, workers, and consumers who rely on these agreements. In fact, I believe that if we don’t take action today to update NAFTA and our other free trade so that they are in-line with today’s ever changing technologies and security implications, we’d unduly harm the very companies that rely on such agreements. With more than 95 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power outside the United States, we cannot for one second overlook how important free trade deals are to the various industries that employ many of our friends and neighbors here in Georgia, including motor vehicle and aircraft manufacturing, carpet and textile, agriculture, and more. In fact, the state of Georgia's exports to Mexico and Canada in 2017 totaled more than $9.7 billion combined. 

While Congress has the ultimate say on any final NAFTA agreement that the Administration negotiates, you can be sure that I will continue to support all efforts to bring long overdue updates without doing harm to U.S. industries, workers, and consumers who rely on these agreements.

 

CELEBRATING OUR DIVERSE COMMUNITY AND SHARED VALUES

Last week I had the honor of participating in the opening of the Swaminarayan Gurukul USA’s new assembly hall in Duluth. For those who do not know, Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul USA is a non-profit organization doing great work in our community, and it maintains active chapters across the country that teach classes to promote good moral character and engage with local communities through activities like relief efforts, blood drives, and more. Most recently, the organization assisted flood relief efforts and held a food drive for those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and surrounding areas. 


Rep. Rob Woodall attends the opening of the Indian Vedic cultural celebration in Duluth 

With Indian-Americans now making up as much as one sixth of Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District, places like Swaminarayan Gurukul USA-Atlanta are important places for Indian-Americans to not only pass down traditions to their children but also to promote universal values like possessing a high moral character and committing to a life of service to others. It was an honor to be invited to take part in their ceremony!

 

WORKING TOGETHER TO DEFEAT ADDICTION

While there is an undeniable heaviness surrounding the reality of drug addiction and the opioid crisis, our community is leading the charge to defeat it – and that makes me very proud. Addiction affects individuals without regard for race, religion, or socioeconomics, and the time to address it is now. Thankfully, across households, communities, and various levels of government from City Hall to Capitol Hill, we’re working to do just that. Here at home, our Forsyth County Commissioners have long been dedicated to this cause, and recently designated August 31 as Overdose Awareness Day to serve not only as a reminder of this epidemic that has damaged so many families, but also a call to action for those who have yet to get involved. 

Sadly, as the proclamation stated, overdoses are the number one cause of injury deaths per year, with one occurring approximately every eight minutes. That is untenable. Irrespective of how we got to this point, we can all agree that we must respond. That responsibility to act is why our Forsyth County Commissioners continue their work of bringing awareness and crafting solutions. It is why members of our community like Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Kathy Schrader and State Senator Renee Unterman have been unrelenting in their efforts to help families overcome this challenge. It’s why in Congress we have made an unprecedented $4 billion investment in combating opioid addiction, and the House has passed more than 50 pieces of legislation specifically targeting areas of concern from the spread of a deadly synthetic drug known as fentanyl to ensure communities have the necessary resources to prevent and treat addiction. For each one of us, we have either been touched by drug addiction at a personal level or know someone who has. At times in the past, it has been a topic some avoided talking about, but now we’re united in our commitment to confronting and defeating it. With more work yet to do, I believe we absolutely can – and will – be successful together. 

 

CONSTITUENT SPOTLIGHT: HOME DEPOT IN FORSYTH

I typically highlight constituent mail in this section, but with the August recess, I have been in the district visiting and meeting many of you all, and I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight one visit. 

As anyone who has been in our district for any amount of time knows, we are growing quickly. Every day, it seems that a new store or business decides to locate in our neighborhoods. Some of those are small local entrepreneurs and family businesses, but some are large corporations that we can see no matter where we go throughout the country. Because of the sheer size and number of locations for some of these businesses, it can be difficult to picture some of them as local businesses that directly impact our communities. But, I can tell you with certainty that is not the case for the Brookwood Home Depot.

 
Rep. Rob Woodall visits with team members at the Brookwood Home Depot

I was fortunate to visit with Store Manager Lance and his team over at the Brookwood Home Depot last Wednesday. While the store itself was beautiful and their trademark customer service was on full display, what really impressed me was the store’s drive to help and give back to the community. Each of the over 100 employees that I met shared their joy for working there and what they do to help the community. Lou shared his passion for reaching out to the community, especially through their Kids Workshop, which can host as many as 600 children on a Saturday. Nick, a mechanic in the Army reserves, shared how the store works with him so he can fulfill his military duties and continue advancing through the Home Depot ranks. Lance, the store manager, talked about the opportunities they have available to employee students even when they go off to school and internship opportunities to continue a career with Home Depot. By the number of orange aprons with patches marking ten, twenty, and even thirty-plus years with the company, you can tell that the store is much more than just a job for so many of the folks I have the privilege to represent in Congress—it’s a career and a real point of pride, and their commitment to our community is special.

 

BERKMAR HIGH SCHOOL FIRST IN GEORGIA TO ESTABLISH ARCHITECTURE CHAPTER

Having visited Berkmar High School, I can attest to the fact that students and staff alike aren’t shy about thinking outside the box or casting a bold vision. Just recently, they added to the list by becoming the first – and only – Georgia high school to establish an American Institute of Architecture (AIA) chapter! The student-run organization is independent, non-profit, and works to promote architectural education, training, and practice in related fields. It also just so happens that there are already 200 Berkmar students signed up to join! At a time when we’re seeing an economy rife with opportunity – and employers always looking for skilled individuals to fill the demand – encouraging young people to develop needed skills is increasingly important. I’ve discussed at length the challenge many employers have expressed to me regarding the difficulty of finding qualified workers as well as what we’re doing to stem that tide. In Congress, we’ve done things like pass the largest – and overwhelmingly bipartisan – reform and expansion of career and technical education programs in decades, but there are also remarkable things being done right here at home. The kind of leadership and initiative demonstrated by Berkmar fits into that category, and I’m excited about what all of our combined efforts will yield going forward. Together, we’re already having a significant impact, and we’re just getting started!

 

THE WEEK AHEAD

With Labor Day behind us, summer vacation is officially over, as is the House's annual August District Work Period. That means the House is back in Washington, D.C., this week to work for the American people. Along with the many hearings that House committees will be holding this week, on issues as wide ranging as health care delivery, workforce training, and surface transportation innovation, the House will be voting on two bills that my committee -- the Rules Committee -- has the privilege of bringing to the House floor.

  • H.R. 1635, the "Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act," establishes new requirements ensuring students who are receiving federal student loans, including the Pell Grant, must receive financial counseling from their institution of higher education. Student loan debt is a serious financial issue for individuals and for our economy, and for too long our young people have been given nearly unlimited amounts of loan money without knowing how that debt will affect them in their adult lives. This measure will empower students to take control of their financial futures. 
  • H.R. 4606, the "Ensuring Small Scale LNG Certainty and Access Act," harmonizes current law with a Department of Energy proposed rule allowing the import or export of smaller amounts of natural gas to countries with which the U.S. does not have a free trade agreement. Given the vast reserves of natural gas that America is blessed with -- some 60 years’ worth of natural gas by some estimates -- it only makes sense for us to make it easier to export this important domestic product, and I look forward to the House approving this bipartisan bill this week. 

All of this and much more is going on in Washington, D.C., this week. And as always, you can check on the status of all the legislation that might be considered by visiting http://docs.house.gov. I'm excited to be back in D.C. working for you! 

Sincerely,

Rob Woodall
Member of Congress