Bill to help active service members get home loans passes the Senate

Bill to help active service members get home loans passes the Senate

TDN.com

June 14, 2019

The U.S. Senate Wednesday night passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which included Southwest Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler’s bill to make home mortgages more affordable for active duty service members wounded in combat.

The measure now moves to President Trump’s desk for a signature to become law.

The legislation waives the funding fee for active-duty Purple Heart recipients for loans guaranteed under the home-loan program of the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a press release.

Currently, the home loan fee is only waived for veterans, or their surviving spouse, who are receiving VA compensation for a service-connected disability, according to Herrera Beutler’s office. Under the new legislation about 8,000 men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces who have been awarded a Purple Heart could now be eligible for the home loan funding fee waiver.

“It’s an honor to assist our military service members on the home front as they fight for our freedom on the front lines. Helping Purple Heart recipients and their families achieve the dream of home ownership is one thing we can do to repay them for their service,” Herrera Beutler said in a prepared statement. “I’m thrilled Congress passed this legislation to honor the tremendous sacrifice of those who continue to serve our country, even after being wounded in combat, and I look forward to the president signing it into law in the coming days.”

The Purple Heart is awarded to U.S. military personnel wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5, 1917.

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U.S. House passes Herrera Beutler bill on ocean acidification

The Columbian

A bill that would allow institutions researching ocean acidification to compete for $50 million annually in federal prize money passed the U.S. House of Representatives after being introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, earlier this year.

The Ocean Acidification Innovation Act, or H.R. 1921, coasted to victory Wednesday morning with 395 “yay” votes to 22 “nays.” Its next stop is the Senate, where the bipartisan legislation is expected pass.

Under the bill, federal agencies would be able to use existing funds to conduct prize contests — awarding competitors who find better ways to research, monitor and manage ocean acidification.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would free up $30.5 million per year through 2024 for the prize money, according to the bill’s text. The National Science Foundation would supply an additional $20 million per year.

Prize money is a carrot commonly dangled by the federal government to boost research and investment into environmental science. Last year, for instance, the U.S. Department of Energy launched a $3 million series of prize contests for entrepreneurs developing new solar technology.

Herrera Beutler represents Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, which stretches to the West Coast and includes a vast fishing and shellfishing community in Pacific County.

“Shellfish and fishing industry jobs in Pacific County are jeopardized by the detrimental effects of ocean acidification,” Herrera Beutler said in a media release.

About a quarter of the country’s oysters are harvested in Southwest Washington. In 2010, the Washington Shellfish Initiative estimated the regional industry provided 2,700 jobs and $184 million.

As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the water’s pH level drops and it becomes more corrosive. That can spell disaster for coral reefs, which in a sensitive ocean ecosystem affects the entire marine food chain.

Organisms that create shells are especially vulnerable to acidification: oysters, mussels and pteropods, especially, all of which are interwoven into the food chains for salmon and orcas.

In championing the issue, Herrera Beutler appears to be following in the footsteps of her predecessor, Democratic Rep. Brian Baird.

Baird made ocean acidification something of a personal linchpin near the tail end of his 12-year run in the 3rd District seat, and as chairman of a House Energy and Environment subcommittee overseeing federal research grants, he was vocal on its impacts.

The former congressman also attracted national press coverage when his research trips to the Galapagos Islands, Australia, and the South Pole racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer tabs. For better or worse, the coverage further spotlighted the issue of ocean acidification.

Herrera Beutler’s new bill was created in collaboration with the XPRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit group that organizes public competitions targeted at solving existential global problems.

The organization’s causes are varied and vast. Last year, for instance, the Women’s Safety XPRIZE awarded $1 million for a cheap, inconspicuous device that can trigger an emergency alert if a woman is facing a threat. Before that, the Google Lunar XPRIZE awarded $20 million to the best long-term model for affordable transportation to the moon.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, joined Herrera Beutler in introducing the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act in March. The bill has since picked up co-sponsors in Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

“This bipartisan legislation promises to spark innovative solutions to this serious threat facing our coastal communities, and I’m pleased that my House colleagues gave it their strong approval,” Herrera Beutler said in the media release. “The next step is approval by the U.S. Senate, and I’ll continue advocating for this legislative approach to protecting fishing businesses and jobs.”

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Herrera Beutler secures funding for salmon treaty

TDN.com

Southwest Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) secured $30 million to implement the newly-ratified Pacific Salmon Treaty.

The duo also secured $25 million to support Mitchell Act hatchery activities, an increase of more than $4 million, according to a press release issued Thursday. The funding will be included in the 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill, which was approved by the Appropriation Committee Thursday by a 30-22 vote.

“As I travel around Southwest Washington listening to folks talk about their livelihoods, I consistently hear the same thing from sportsmen, commercial fishermen and tribes: We must increase the hatchery production of salmon on the Columbia River,” Herrera Beutler said in the release.

Herrera Beutler also said that salmon are an invaluable part of life in the Pacific Northwest.
Herrera Beutler backs bill to raise smoking age

Herrera Beutler backs bill to raise smoking age

The Columbian

A resolution that would raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 nationwide was co-sponsored by a Republican congresswoman from Washington, a state that last month joined a growing list of individual states making the switch.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, quietly signed on to the Tobacco to 21 Act when it was introduced to the House floor by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. Herrera Beutler was one of six original bipartisan co-sponsors, a group that’s since grown to 11 representatives.

The resolution, H.R. 2411, would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, including smoking and vaping products.

“Jaime supports this measure to curb the rise of cigarette-smoking and vaping among youth,” Angie Riesterer, Herrera Beutler’s communications director, wrote in an email. “Many (18)-year-olds are still in high school, with a high probability of passing on tobacco products to younger students and siblings.”

It’s a new position for Herrera Beutler, who in the past hasn’t been vocal one way or the other about raising the legal age for tobacco use nationwide. Riesterer said the congresswoman decided to co-sponsor the legislation based on new developments in the tobacco industry.

Vaping — in which a smokeless electronic cigarette heats a solution of nicotine and flavoring — is on the rise among young people, even as traditional cigarette use continues to drop. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in February that about 37 percent of high school seniors vaped last year, compared with 28 percent in 2017.

“Vaping and e-cigarette use among youth has exploded in recent years,” Riesterer wrote. “Jaime has heard from many Southwest Washington residents concerned about this issue, including a recent group of high schoolers who urged her to sponsor this legislation and help prevent premature illnesses and deaths among youth.”

Until now, individual states have relied on a piecemeal approach to tackle the issue.

State Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, took the lead in Washington. In 2018, Harris, a cancer survivor, sponsored a bill raising the tobacco age to 21, which died in the state Senate. Last month, he had more success, ferrying a similar bill all the way to the governor’s desk.

On April 5, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the legislation, raising Washington’s smoking age to 21, effective Jan. 1, 2020. Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Illinois, Virginia, Delaware, Arkansas and Maryland (and Guam) already have age bumps on the books, while Utah is working on a similar law.

“A dozen states have already passed legislation to raise the age to 21, including here in Washington state where Rep. Paul Harris successfully championed the effort to take this life-saving step,” Riesterer wrote. “Our proposed federal legislation reinforces those states’ efforts to prevent youth from tobacco-related illnesses.”

Opponents of raising the smoking age point to other things 18-year-olds can do as legal adults with personal freedom — vote, get married, go off to war — and consider raising the legal tobacco age an overreach of the “nanny state.” Supporters point to the public health benefit of making tobacco use illegal among young adults. They also point out that the legal cap for alcohol (and marijuana in some states) is 21, not 18.

“While substantial gains have been made since 1964, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, responsible for more than 480,000 premature deaths each year,” H.R. 2411 states. “National data show that about 94 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. The ages of 18 to 21 are a critical period when many smokers move from experimental smoking to regular, daily use.”

After its April 30 introduction on the House floor, the Tobacco to 21 Act was referred back to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

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ODFW: Upper Willamette steelhead numbers improve after 16 sea lions killed

ODFW: Upper Willamette steelhead numbers improve after 16 sea lions killed

Statesmen Journal

One of the most imperiled fish runs in Oregon is making a comeback this season, thanks in part to a state program killing the sea lions that had been feasting on them, state officials said Wednesday.

Upper Willamette River winter steelhead, an iconic native species that appeared headed toward the brink of extinction, are showing their best returns after two very poor seasons, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The agency said more than 2,400 winter steelhead have crossed Willamette Falls into the upper river system so far, the best return since 2016. ODFW projects the return to reach 3,200 fish.

It’s a good sign given numbers were as low as 822 in 2017 and 1,829 fish in 2018, but it’s still well below even the 10 year average of 4,844 fish.

ODFW placed credit for the improvement on a program that allows state officials to kill sea lions that had been feasting on the federally-protected fish at Willamette Falls.

The state was granted permission to kill California sea lions last November after a years-long process in which the state argued the pinnipeds were eating almost 25 percent of the steelhead run and putting them in “imminent danger of going extinct.”

ODFW has since removed and euthanized 16 sea lions — including three Wednesday morning. The agency is allowed to kill up to 93 per year.

“We’re excited to see some of the best winter steelhead returns in recent years,” said Dr. Shaun Clements, ODFW senior policy analyst. “We’re encouraged by the fish numbers and by the success in implementing the sea lion removal program. We’ve definitely been able to reduce predation this year and provide some relief to the fish.”

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Herrera Beutler appointed to joint committee

The Goldendale Sentinel

Congressional leadership announced yesterday it has appointed U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler to serve on the U.S. Joint Economic Committee, a bipartisan panel of members of Congress from both the House and Senate. The primary tasks of the committee members are to review U.S. economic conditions and make needed policy improvements to benefit American families.

“Since I was first elected to Congress, I have been laser-focused on creating a better economic future by championing legislation to spur better-paying jobs, lowering taxes to help employers reinvest capital in their workers, and seeking solutions to improve health care for Southwest Washington families. It’s an honor to serve on the U.S. Joint Economic Committee where I will continue to seek solutions that result in higher paychecks and plentiful job opportunities,” Herrera Beutler said.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy appointed Herrera Beutler to this committee with this statement:“Jaime is leading American workers into the 21st Century with vision and strategy. Most recently, Jaime reintroduced the bipartisan Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act, which aims to create training programs in STEM fields to address a growing skills gap that is leaving middle class Americans behind while American technology companies charge forward. With this foresight, along with her history of supporting small businesses that create jobs in southwest Washington, Jaime will bring a unique and experiential perspective to the Joint Economic Committee.”

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Children’s Hospitals Applaud U.S. House Introduction of Bipartisan ACE Kids Act of 2019

Children’s Hospital Association

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The bipartisan Advancing Care for Exceptional (ACE) Kids Act of 2019 (H.R. 1226) was introduced in the U.S. House by lead co-sponsors Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash. Children’s hospitals applaud these leaders for prioritizing children’s health by championing legislation to help our nation’s sickest children.

The ACE Kids Act supports better coordination of care for children with complex medical conditions in Medicaid, reducing the burden on families. It enables care closest to the families’ homes and communities, reduces unnecessary hospitalizations, and provides more seamless access to specialized care the child may need across state lines. This legislative effort follows the ACE Kids Act of 2017, which achieved strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, passing the House late last year by an overwhelming majority.

The Senate introduced their own version of the ACE Kids Act (S. 317) last week. Children’s hospitals look forward to working with lawmakers to advance this critical bipartisan legislation on behalf of children and families across the country.

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Sea lion bill signed into law by President Trump

TDN.com

December 27, 2018

WASHINGTON D.C. — Legislation that allows the lethal taking of sea lions that prey on at-risk fish populations on the Columbia River and select tributaries in Washington, Oregon and Idaho has been signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., makes slight changes to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which lays out prohibitions for killing marine mammals, and institutes a permit process for the lethal taking of sea lions. Permit holders are legally allowed to kill sea lions that are part of a population and/or stock that is not classified as being depleted or at risk.

The signing of the bill by President Trump was the culmination of years of hard work and advocacy to bring attention to the issue. Moses Lake resident Rick Graser, who spent 31 years as a fishing guide, was at the forefront of the fight for a fix to come about and says he is relieved to see it come. But at the same time, he says, it could have come sooner.

“It was a lot of hard work and I’m just thrilled that this thing has gone through. I still make the stance that we are not to the point of killing all of the sea lions, but their numbers need to get back under control.”

The permits are good for up to five years, can be renewed and set the total number of seal lions to be killed annually under all issued permits at no great than 10 percent of the annual potential biological removal of the animals. The legislation requires the taking of the sea lions be humane and the “primary euthanasia be limited to chemical methods.”

In order for a sea lion to be eligible for lethal removal the animal must have been previously captured and branded by a fishery, have been observed for at least five days on the river and must have been subjected to hazing techniques and been observed eating a salmon or steelhead.

“The way the fish runs have gone down and the damage these sea lions have done it is going to take years to repair the runs to where they were before the sea lions showed up,” Graser said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been keep statistics on sea lion predation on salmon/steelhead directly below Bonneville Dam in Washington from January through May each year since 2002. California sea lions have been migrating north from California since the mid-1980s and their numbers have varied over the years, but during the 16-year time span almost 4,000 fish have been consumed by the animals each year below the dam. Estimates put the total number of wild salmon populations in the Upper Columbia River and Snake Rivers that are at risk of predation by sea lions below the dam at 32.

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Herrera Beutler, state Republicans want ‘alternatives to light rail’ in bridge planning

Herrera Beutler, state Republicans want ‘alternatives to light rail’ in bridge planning

Lawmakers wrote letter to Inslee citing advisory votes in Clark County

The Columbian

December 19, 2018

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and seven Southwest Washington state lawmakers have written to Gov. Jay Inslee asking him to “keep mass transit alternatives to light rail on the table” as part of negotiations to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge across the Columbia River.

The letter was prompted by news last week that Inslee included $17.5 million in his proposed budget for a project office to replace the I-5 Bridge. The budget item included language that light rail would be part of the project.

He also made remarks to The Columbian that including the means of transit on the bridge would signal to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who has insisted on light rail on a replacement crossing, that Washington would be a partner on the project. Inslee also said that the budget item would convey to the federal government that an actual project is in the works.

Washington has been seeking to restart talks with Oregon to replace the century-old I-5 Bridge since the collapse of the Columbia River Crossing five years ago. The letter states that while the lawmakers were encouraged that the governor’s budget contained funding for a bridge replacement, they were “dismayed to find that the proposal also contains a statement that any new bridge will include light rail, with no consideration of alternative transit options.”

“We all agree on the pressing need to address the congestion and safety issues at the current I-5 Bridge, and it’s imperative that we all work together on a long-term solution that both sides of the river can support,” reads the letter that was also signed by Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver; Sen. Ann Rivers, R- La Center; John Braun, R-Centralia; Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver; Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Felida; Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis; Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama.

The letter cites three advisory votes, most recently in 2013, where a majority of Clark County voters expressed opposition to extending light rail to the county.

Last week, a bistate committee formed to look into replacing the bridge met for the first time with Oregon lawmakers. Wilson, Rivers and Orcutt are serving as members of the committee.

“It’s not just faithful representation that demands we remain open-minded to transit alternatives, it’s also practical politics for those of us who actually want to solve the problems on the I-5 corridor,” reads the letter.

The letter states that the Columbia River Crossing failed “in large part due to the insistence of politicians and bureaucrats” that the project extend light rail to Clark County.

“Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” reads the letter.

Since Washington lawmakers began seeking to restart talks with Oregon about replacing the I-5 Bridge, most of Clark County’s legislative delegation has expected that mass transit will be included on the new crossing. There’s also broad support among the county’s delegation that bus rapid transit would be an acceptable option.

The letter states that the lawmakers were encouraged by Inslee’s remarks to The Columbian that he was “not foreclosing on other alternatives” and asked him to “further elaborate on your position to clarify that you are open-minded on the topic.”

Tara Lee, spokeswoman for Inslee responded with a statement:

“Gov. Inslee and Gov. Brown have worked to align our states for a restart of the project, and it’s good to see that elected, tribal, business, labor, and environmental leaders in both Washington and Oregon have expressed interest in coming back to the table. We encourage the lawmakers who signed the letter to focus on what’s practical and join us in advancing this reinvigorated bistate effort that moves this critical project forward.”

 

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Herrera Beutler advocates for bipartisanship

As fifth term nears, she says Republicans, Democrats need to work together

The Columbian

December 17, 2018

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said it’s certainly more fun to be in the majority, but as she prepares to enter her fifth term in Congress as a member of the new minority party, she isn’t worried about her effectiveness.

“I think you have to have a little bit more direct path on certain things,” Herrera Beutler said in a telephone interview last week. “I do think it’s probably going to take some people by surprise that they’re no longer just a brute force in the majority. But the way my team and I have operated, I expect us to continue to be able to get results.”

She cites December as proof. Four of Herrera Beutler’s bills passed the House or were signed by the president last week. All relied on bipartisanship.

A bill to allow fisheries managers and Native American tribes to kill problematic sea lions on the Columbia River, for example, took 12 years to pass. Herrera Beutler said when it finally moved out of the House, she and co-sponsor Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., exchanged hugs.

“We made it look like that was something there was a total consensus on,” she said. “Right up until the last minute, I was working with the Democratic Senate to get that bill.”

A willingness to cross the aisle is how all members of Congress should approach their jobs, Herrera Beutler said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the majority or minority, you don’t have to agree on everything,” she said. “What I have learned in my time in both the majority and minority is if your approach and your tenor and your tone is respectful, you can disagree agreeably and you can get a lot done.”

A specific plan of action is yet to be determined. Many of the bills that moved forward at the end of the session represented the remaining issues outlined in prior work sessions. Herrera Beutler said she plans to formulate a new plan in 2019, but expects to continue working on similar issues.

Maternal care, for example.

“I think the maternity care caucus will continue to have a good chunk of our attention just because we had success,” she said. “There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit.”

Making it easier to travel on airplanes with breast milk, for example, was a relatively easy fix that made parents’ lives easier.

I-5 bridge

Facilitating a replacement Interstate 5 bridge is also on Herrera Beutler’s mind.

“We have to fix this,” she said. “Moving forward, I don’t think anybody disagrees with that.”

She plans to continue encouraging relationships across state lines, especially at the local level.

“But I was saddened when I saw (Oregon Gov.) Kate Brown comment ‘my way or the highway’ with light rail,” she said.

Bus rapid transit, however, is a viable option for Herrera Beutler.

“It still allows us to access mass transit money from the federal pot. We could hook that into the Portland system,” she said. “This is a tough pill to swallow for some of our Republican lawmakers across the river, but I think we can move forward. We need to move forward.”

And when it comes to Oregon’s plan to toll parts of Interstates 5 and 205, Herrera Beutler said Southwest Washington residents need to benefit if they end up paying tolls.

“I won’t yield on this,” she added.

A woman of color

Going into the 2019 Congress, Herrera Beutler will be the only Republican congresswoman of color.

Although the fact was a little surprising, Herrera Beutler noted she’s also the first Hispanic Washington representative to serve in the U.S. House.

But she doesn’t feel that she’s been elected in the 3rd Congressional District because of her ethnicity.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had somebody say this needs to be part of your message in D.C.,” Herrera Beutler said. “In other districts maybe it’s different, maybe this is more part of what the voters there ask of their member (of Congress.)”

Honoring Bush

Although there’s plenty to consider heading into a new Congress, leaders recently paused to honor former President George H.W. Bush. Bush died Nov. 30, and on Dec. 3, his coffin arrived at the Capitol, giving lawmakers a chance to pay their respects.

Herrera Beutler said she almost didn’t make it to the ceremony but in the end is grateful she did.

“I just felt strongly, the whole country felt it,” she said. “This is something I need to be a part of.”

As she recalled watching the living former presidents enter the Capitol Rotunda, Herrera Beutler said she couldn’t help but reflect on Bush’s integrity.

“I know a lot of people disagree with the Bushes on a number of different issues, but the one thing you couldn’t find anywhere was someone who took issue with (his) character and leadership,” she said. “I almost felt like we’re ending that era.”

The acrimony and hostility between the parties needs to change, Herrera Beutler said.

“I don’t want this generation to only know that acrimony and personal attacks,” she added. “That’s the legacy I felt was leaving that day. My hope is we can change it.”

 

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