January began a new year and a new Congress. On January 6th, I was officially sworn in as our district’s representative for the 114th Congress. It is the highest honor to serve our communities, and I will continue working across the aisle to make sure our nation is a place where everyone has a fair shot to work hard and get ahead.
I am glad to report that the new year has brought good economic news. Our economy is getting back on its feet. 2014 was the best year for job growth since 1999. The deficit is shrinking, health insurance is more affordable, gas prices are dropping and renewable energy use is increasing. In his State of the Union address this month, President Obama laid out a clear agenda to build on this recovery by strengthening the middle class and ensuring our economic recovery is felt in the day-to-day lives of hard working American families. Helping the middle class is more than the right thing to do it is the economic thing to do, and that’s why Congress needs to work together to invest in infrastructure, reform our tax code to support small businesses, ensure our education system leaves no one out, and to pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy. The middle class are America’s job creators. They generate demand which, in turn, allows businesses to grow. When they grow, they create more jobs, and that’s why my top priority is strengthening the middle class.
Business Tours in our District
During January I enjoyed a number of tours and meetings around our district. I visited Mare Island’s Earthquake Protection Systems, a local business with top quality workers engineering and constructing state-of-the-art facilities to protect contents, non-structural components, and structures from damage during the most severe earthquakes. I toured Alluxa Inc. in Santa Rosa, a high-tech manufacturing company that produces top-of-the-line optical lens coverings. Alluxa has created well-paying jobs in our community and attracted supporting businesses to the area. I also visited ECOMULCH, a Martinez-based company that re-purposes locally collected urban trees that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Since 2008, they have diverted approximately 18,000 tons of wood materials with the help of local cities and landscapers in Contra Costa County. We can all take pride in the fact that great companies like these call our district home.
Meetings with our Local Leaders
Over the month, I met with Martinez Mayor Rob Schroder, Interim City Manager Alan Shear, Martinez City Councilwomen Lara Delaney and Anamarie Farias, District Supervisor Federal Glover, Kathy Gallagher, Director of the Contra Costa County Department of Employment & Human Services, and Paul Buddenhagen, Assistant Director of Policy & Planning with Contra Costa County Department of Employment & Human Services. These meetings were aimed at combining local and federal efforts to strengthen our community and make our district a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Events around the District
On January 23rd, Congressman Jared Huffman and I hosted a public meeting in Santa Rosa to discuss the important benefits President Obama’s Executive Actions on immigration will bring to our community. I was in Vallejo for the MLK Day March and Rebuilding Together Solano’s volunteer project, where local volunteers helped to restore the Vallejo Salvation Army building. I also visited with the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce and spoke with them about how we can work together to support local businesses.
This Month in Congress
Unfortunately, the new Congress picked up where the last one left off as one of the first bills the House Majority brought to the floor was their 54th attempt to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act. This newest effort would cut hours for middle-class workers, kick a million workers off their job-based insurance, and add more than $53 billion to the deficit. This is the opposite of what American families need from their new Congress.
A few days later, the House Majority passed a Homeland Security funding bill poisoned with radical immigration measures that will tear apart millions of hard working families. The bill won’t be signed by the President and puts funding for the Department of Homeland Security at risk. I voted against it because you don’t play political games with the safety of American families. The President’s Executive Actions on immigration are expected to grow California’s economy by more than $27 billion over the next 10 years. Instead of trying to defund the Department of Homeland Security and undermine these actions, we should build on them by passing comprehensive immigration reform.
I also voted against the anti-choice legislation the House Majority brought to the floor this month because women’s health choices should be made by herself and her doctor, not by politicians in Washington, DC.
In addition, I have been busily authoring and introducing new legislation.
I am working with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to introduce legislation that fixes a portion of the Affordable Care Act so that small businesses have more health care choices and can save money. I am also in the process of crafting a proposal that would authorize tax credits for communities like Mare Island dealing with closed or realigned military installations. These tax credits are job and revenue creators that can help rebuild communities that have been devastated by military base realignments and closures.
I am putting the final touches on my bipartisan legislation to expand telehealth services so that more people can get high-quality care no matter where they live or how far away they are from a doctor. This legislation will save people money and help save lives. And, I am working on proposals that will put people back to work rebuilding and repairing our roads, railways and bridges.
I am proud to once again co-author the Respect for Marriage Act that would ensure all same-sex marriages are treated equally under federal law. In an effort to combat chronic hunger across the nation, I joined a bipartisan coalition to introduce H.R. 461, the Wild Game Donation Act of 2015 to provide hunters with charitable deductions for the costs associated with donating wild game meats to food-based charities. I also helped introduce H.R. 394, the Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States (PEGASUS) Act, which would effectively ban all genetically engineered (GE) fish in the United States. A second bill, H.R. 393, would improve efforts to inform the American consumer by requiring the labeling of all GE fish sold for consumption.
Saluting our Heroes
Earlier this month, I was proud to vote in support of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. As a wounded combat veteran, I understand the importance of making sure we provide our heroes with the care and support they have earned.
I also had the high honor of presenting Jason Campbell of Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue with the VFW Firefighter of the Year Award and Nicholas DeGuilio of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office with the VFW Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award. In addition, I was glad to celebrate Napa Police Chief Richard Melton’s retirement after his many years of dedicated service.
The year has gotten off to a busy and positive start. It is always a privilege to serve as your representative, and I look forward to keeping you up-to-date with our goings-on throughout 2015.