Rob Woodall

Rob Woodall

GEORGIA's 7th DISTRICT

District Connection - 10/15/18

2018/10/15

HELPING OUR FELLOW AMERICANS RECOVER FROM HURRICANE MICHAEL

Hurricane Michael grew rapidly from a relatively intense tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane – where it remained well after landfall – breaking meteorological records and causing devastation from the Florida panhandle, through Georgia, all the way to Virginia. Only now in Michael’s aftermath can we truly assess the destruction and loss of life left in the storm’s wake and come to terms with just how long it will take to recover.

As a result of the storm, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in Georgia. In doing so, healthcare providers in Georgia were given greater flexibility to meet emergency health needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Those who rely on dialysis machines and oxygen concentrators are especially vulnerable when storms like this one create power outages that can last for days, and this declaration ensures they will have access to the resources they need.

Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard are already on the ground to facilitate clean up and search and rescue operations. In fact, FEMA had already been preparing even before Michael made landfall at its headquarters in Georgia’s Dekalb County, and FEMA is prepared to provide assistance to all those affected by the storm.

Congress has also played a part through the appropriations process to ensure FEMA has sufficient funding to meet the needs of the disaster response in anticipation of the potential devastation of this year’s hurricane season. Each natural disaster we face offers us an opportunity to learn how to better prepare, how to better respond, and how to better serve our fellow Americans in crisis. I am grateful to all the first responders who put their lives in harm’s way in the face of disaster, and my heart goes out to those who have lost everything to this storm.

For updated information about resources offered by FEMA and the federal response to Hurricane Michael, CLICK HERE.

If you would like to help our friends and neighbors in the recovery effort, here is a list of trusted national and local organizations to which you can donate time and money:

As always, if there is any way I can serve you, please don’t hesitate to contact me or visit my website for information before and after a disaster strikes.

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MEDICARE OPEN ENROLLMENT: NOW THROUGH DECEMBER 7TH

If you or someone you know is on Medicare, you’ll want to know that the 2019 plan year open enrollment has begun and will continue through December 7th. As you may know, during this period you can make changes to your current health plan, whether that is altering your Medicare Advantage plan, changing your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, switching to Original Medicare, and more. During this time, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also advises folks to review any materials that your plan sends you, including the “Evidence of Coverage” (EOC) and “Annual Notice of Change” (ANOC), to make sure that your needs will continue to be met if your plan is changing. Of course, if you are happy with your current plan, you do not have to make any changes at all!

During the open enrollment period, there are a number of resources available to help you find the plan that works best for you, and you can visit https://www.medicare.gov/ to compare coverage options, estimate plan costs, and explore services in your area. What’s more, if you would like free, personalized health insurance counseling through Georgia’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), a national program that offers assistance to those with Medicare, you can call them at 1-866-552-4464 or you may visit their website for more information.

I know there are few decisions as important as deciding what medical coverage is best for your family, so I encourage you to take this time to review these and other available resources and reach out with any questions that you may have.     

 

SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFICIARIES WILL SEE AN INCREASE IN 2019

I often hear from seniors and their families about how much they rely on the Social Security program as a steady source of income, and I hear that message loud and clear. Social Security absolutely plays a critical role in ensuring that our seniors are protected in their retirement. In fact, a question I hear commonly is: “When will Congress increase my Social Security benefits?” Many folks are surprised when I tell them that the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) determination, which makes sure that benefits keep pace with inflation, isn’t made by any one member of Congress or any one committee, but instead, is tied to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). In fact, the statute exists so that politics and political maneuvering are taken completely out of the process. When the CPI-W shows an increase in inflation, the COLA increases in kind, and this year, seniors will see a significant increase. Last week, the Social Security Administration announced that beneficiaries will receive a 2.8% percent COLA increase for 2019, the largest increase since 2012!

 

NIKKI HALEY RESIGNS FROM HER POST AS U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.

Last week, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.), Nikki Haley, announced that she will be stepping down from her post at the end of this year. Ambassador Haley is both a dedicated public servant and diplomat, and I believe she has served our country well in her role as U.N. Ambassador. Undoubtedly, Ambassador Haley will leave those who succeed her with big shoes to fill, as she has faced and engaged with foreign nations on unprecedented matters such as when the U.S. moved its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, discussions and negotiations surrounding the denuclearization of North Korea, as well as taking a staunch stance on Russia and Iran just to name a few of the most notable foreign policy matters she’s expertly maneuvered in her two years serving at the U.N. Despite her decision to resign, I certainly expect that we will continue to see Ms. Haley’s name and presence in the years to come, especially when it comes to important foreign policy matters, and I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.

 

PRESIDENT TRUMP SIGNS BILLS TO LOWER DRUG PRICES AT THE COUNTER

President Trump acted on drug prices last week by signing two bills into law – S. 2553 and S.2554 – both of which prohibit so called “gag clause” provisions in Medicare and in group or individual health plans. These “gag clauses” have long prevented pharmacists from telling patients at the counter that they could save money if they chose to pay cash rather than use their health insurance.

Certainly, I think we’d all agree that patients and consumers deserve to know the lowest price option available to them, as well as make the decision of whether it makes more sense for them to pay out of pocket or to utilize their insurance plan. I am pleased that this Congress and White House have once again acted to do just that and afford patients and consumers more choices when it comes to being in control of their health care destiny.

The good news is that acting to prohibit the inclusion of “gag clauses” in such agreements between pharmacists, pharmacy benefit managers, and insurers is just one example of the many ways in which this Administration is working to move the needle forward on lowering the costs of prescription drugs, and I believe the passage of these two bills with overwhelming bipartisan support represents just how willing this Congress is to play a role in bringing solutions home to constituents. You can be sure that I will continue looking for ways the federal government can supplement the ongoing movement across states to bring increased pricing transparency to the healthcare realm which will hopefully in turn spur increased competition and greater consumer choice.

 

CONSTITUENT SPOTLIGHT: FOCUSING ON ELIMINATING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Last week, President Trump proclaimed October 2018 as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As the President said in his proclamation, “Personal relationships should be a source of comfort and support — a solid foundation for each person’s empowerment and achievement in his or her daily life.” Unfortunately, domestic violence shatters lives, and we must do all we can to prevent it. While this month will serve as a reminder of our commitment to ridding our society of this awful crime, this crime does not discriminate at which time it will strike or whom it will affect. Here is some mail I’ve received about Congressional efforts to stop domestic violence:

 

Shoshana from Peachtree Corners:

 

Preventing violence against women through legislation sends a strong message to prove you believe in protecting Americans. The Violence Against Women Act is due to expire soon. I strongly urge you to not only vote for its renewal, but cosponsor this vital piece of legislation. Protect the women of this country and help stop domestic violence in it.

 

Darryl from Lawrenceville:

 

Supports the Violence Against Women act and hopes that RW does the same. It is supposed to help women who endure domestic violence and various crimes related to this. Thanks us for our hard work.

 

Alola from Cumming:

 

More than any other legislation, the Violence Against Women Act has had the largest impact on preventing and responding to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Since VAWA's implementation in 1994, the annual incidence of domestic violence has decreased 53 percent. We pray that the current Congress continues to affirm the importance of VAWA, and through reauthorization, continues to affirm the God-given worth of women.

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The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that Shoshana, Darryl, and Alola wrote in about is a critically important law for funding community violence prevention programs as well as protection and assistance programs for victims, amongst so much more. Like many of you have pointed out in your correspondence, VAWA was set to expire on September 30th. The good news is, though, the funding bill that Congress recently passed and the President signed into law maintained funding for these programs through December 7th. Until that time, Congress will continue its work on the remaining funding bills, including the bill for funding our federal justice programs, which contains VAWA programs. As with any bill, VAWA is not a perfect law as it stands today, but I expect there to be a robust debate about how we can craft a better VAWA to end violence against women. 

That said, the truth is that most domestic violence laws—like most criminal justice laws—are enacted on the state level where law enforcement agencies can more quickly and appropriately respond to any crisis. The Georgia Department of Community Supervision and the Georgia Commission on Family Violence are charged with enforcing and implementing state domestic violence laws, including creating Family Violence Intervention Programs, which rehabilitate family and domestic violence offenders, and running community task forces, which oversee the implementation of family violence laws in Georgia. In addition to our state government, organizations like the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a coalition of advocates which raise awareness about domestic violence and directly serve those affected, or Family Haven in Forsyth County, which can provide shelter, counselling, and support to those fleeing violence, lead efforts across the state to end domestic violence. 

If you ever need to talk to someone because you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please contact one of these organizations or use Georgia’s 24 hour hotline at 1-800-33-HAVE (1-800-334-2836) to receive assistance. If you believe Georgia’s domestic violence laws should be changed to better protect women and children, I encourage you to contact your state representative or state senator, as they have the appropriate jurisdiction to enact those laws. 

Domestic violence is far too common—just one instance of abuse in any form is one too many. Together we can put an end to this horrific crime, and we thank the many advocates, first responders, healthcare providers, and more who work every day protecting and serving those affected.  

 

GWINNETT SELECTS TEACHER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS

When you have a school system that is nationally known for its standard of excellence – and in fact twice been the recipient of the Broad Prize for best urban school district in the country, as Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) has – you certainly didn’t get there without remarkable teachers. Each year we as a community celebrate some of these amazing people with the district-wide Teacher of the Year Award, and last week, Gwinnett’s six finalists were announced. Once a winner is selected, they will represent GCPS in the State competition. I’m sure whomever is selected will make us proud and I wish each of them the best of luck moving forward. Irrespective of the results, we are fortunate to have such dedicated teachers all across the Seventh District, and I certainly don’t envy those having to make this decision!

 

FORSYTH COUNTY EDUCATION FOUNDATION AWARDS GRANTS TO LOCAL SCHOOLS

Forsyth County is no stranger to success – in education and so much more – and one of the most important ingredients to that success is the way we support each other. While not all of us are teachers or working directly in our community’s schools, we all understand the importance of their mission. In a world that is rapidly changing from a technological and economic standpoint, incorporating necessary innovation into our schools is crucial to preparing the next generation for the jobs and careers that will be needed and available. The Forsyth County Education Foundation was founded in 2015 for this very purpose of adding to the financial resources of schools so that they can invest even more in innovative and interactive initiatives. I love that kind of proactive passion that is so prevalent here at home, and it is undeniably why we lead in so many areas. I often say that we are a community of problem-solvers who are only interested in being a part of a solution, not assigning blame. That absolutely applies in this case. We are always looking for ways to do even better than we already are, and as a result, our schools, businesses, service organizations and more are exceptionally successful. Local leadership isn’t a catchphrase for the Seventh District, it’s a way of life, and I’m grateful for everyone responsible for that reality.

 

THE WEEK AHEAD

With those great stories about how well our local schools are doing, I’m excited to spend some time this week meeting with those great students, teachers, and parents. I often say that my best days are those that start out at a school, and this week I’m going to be visiting an elementary school in Dacula to talk with young people who are starting to study the Constitution. I’ll also be with two science classes at Lanier High School in Sugar Hill to congratulate them and their teachers on receiving the National Green Ribbon Schools Award. And to round-out my “education week,” I’ll be with seventh and eighth graders in Duluth talking with them about the important issues facing our nation and how they can become the leaders of tomorrow. We hear all the time how apathetic our young people are and how they aren’t engaged in our national discourse. I don’t think that’s the case at all. And I’m sure that these students will prove just how bright and engaged they are in the future of America!

Sincerely,

Rob Woodall
Member of Congress

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District Connection - 10/9/18

2018/10/09

LANDMARK OPIOID LEGISLATION SENT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR HIS SIGANTURE

Overshadowed by last week’s partisan news cycle was a significant bipartisan achievement that I want to take a few moments to highlight, and that is the final passage of H.R. 6, the “SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act,” which has been sent to the President to be signed into law. In fact, H.R. 6 will be signed into law during National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, a month that the President has dedicated to reaffirming our commitments to lending a helping hand to our friends and neighbors who may be struggling with any form of substance abuse. 

You may recall that it was just a little over four months ago that the House advanced its opioid legislation to the Senate for consideration, and I am thrilled that both chambers of Congress have acted across the aisle and in unison to bring solutions home to the many individuals and families that have been devastated by the opioid crisis that has gripped our nation for too long. This landmark legislation is comprised of dozens of bills that lawmakers have carefully crafted to deliver assistance and resources to parents, patients, teachers, state officials, and communities, and I do believe that the bill’s many solutions will work to bolster efforts we’re already taking at the state and local level to combat the crisis. 

What’s more, this bill not only provides critical resources to communities across the country to thwart the crises, but it also includes measures preventing such illegal and controlled substances from pervading our communities by preventing the flow of illicit substances like fentanyl across borders, as well as ensuring increased access to drug disposals to easily rid unused or old prescription drugs and opioids from homes. Additionally, the bill addresses the economic and workforce impacts of the opioid crisis by putting in place safeguards and initiatives to help prevent individuals from relapsing into addiction. It’s often very difficult for individuals who have battled with addiction to attain work after recovery and thus, our rehabilitation and health care systems can become overwhelmed by those who find themselves using again. As such, H.R. 6 works to help stem the cyclical wrath of addiction by helping to create a solid foundation for these individuals post recovery. 

Because the solutions in H.R. 6 will not put an end to this crisis on their own, as they will surely require a lot of commitment and effort on behalf of states and localities to optimize their impact and reach, I hope you will join me uplifting those individuals who are battling this crisis on the front lines and who are working each day to drive down the number of opioid related deaths in Georgia – and across the country – and are working endlessly to reverse this perverse trend. They are the ones who will take the tools and resources provided in H.R. 6 and move them across the only finish line that truly matters – saving lives and keeping families together.

 

AMERICA’S ECONOMY CONTINUES TO REACH NEW HEIGHTS

America’s economy continues to roll, as the September jobs report indicates. In fact, we added 134,000 jobs last month and achieved the lowest unemployment figures since 1969!  To put that in perspective, the last time American workers had this kind of opportunity, Richard Nixon was president, the Saturday Evening Post was still in publication, and the Brady Bunch premiered on television.  Despite calls to raise our taxes and return to an economy strangled by red tape, this continued record-setting success demonstrates yet again that the American people are the greatest force for productivity, innovation, and prosperity in the world.  With your partnership, we will look back at these milestones as the beginning of the American economic renaissance!

 

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH CONFIRMED TO THE SUPREME COURT

This past Saturday, the Senate confirmed President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court – for whom Judge Kavanaugh himself used to clerk. This confirmation process was long, arduous, and emotional for so many Americans, and I do not envy my Senate colleagues for the responsibility they had to bear and the divisiveness they had to face these past few weeks. With that said, I believe they have made the right choice. Judge Kavanaugh is immensely qualified to be the next Supreme Court Justice as demonstrated by his academic background and career, as well as his twelve-year experience on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals – informally called the second most powerful court in the land – where he authored over 300 opinions. The Senate Judiciary Committee was also provided 42,000 pages of documents related to Judge Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush Administration. After seven F.B.I. investigations and thousands upon thousands of pages of documentation related to Judge Kavanaugh’s background, I am satisfied the Committee performed its due diligence to ensure the integrity of this candidate for the Supreme Court. 

 

CONSTITUENT SPOTLIGHT: MAINTAINING OUR STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL

A significant factor supporting America’s ability to shape world events is the relationship we have with our allies around the globe. With active diplomatic relations with nearly 200 countries, we have partnered with other nations to spread freedom and prosperity since our very beginning.  Countries like the United Kingdom and France have stood with the U.S. for centuries—despite some bumps along the road—while others, like those of the former Soviet Union and other newer countries, have only just begun. While not our oldest or our newest ally, Israel is one of our most important as it is the only fully functioning democracy in the Middle East and our greatest partner for peace and freedom in the region.  Here is what I have heard from some of you about that relationship:

Daniel from Suwanee:

Annual security assistance to America's ally Israel is the most tangible manifestation of American support for the Jewish state. Today, Israel faces an unprecedented array of threats, that range from Iran's increased presence in Syria and Lebanon to the growing weapons capabilities of Hamas and Hezbollah. These threats require the Jewish state to significantly increase its defense expenditures in order to protect itself and to keep its citizens safe. The United States must continue to help ensure that Israel has the resources necessary to defend itself, by itself, against these threats. 

To this end, I ask that you support $3.3 billion in security assistance to Israel as well as $500 million in cooperative missile defense funding for Israel for fiscal year 2019 in accordance with the 2016 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on security assistance. Thank you for standing with Israel, the United States' closest ally in the Middle East.

Miriam from Cumming:

I urge you to support robust U.S. security assistance to Israel and cosponsor the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018. Annual security assistance to Israel is the most tangible manifestation of American support for the Jewish state. With mounting threats on Israel's borders, including Iran's increased presence in Syria and Lebanon, this assistance is more important than ever. The United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 seeks to ensure Israel has the means to defend itself, by itself, against these and other growing threats. This bipartisan bill supports full security funding to Israel, in accordance with the 2016 


U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on security assistance (MOU). This bill also extends authorization for the U.S. War-Reserve Stockpile in Israel by five years and authorizes an additional $1 billion in stocks. Additionally, it authorizes the president to add precision-guided munitions to the stockpile. Please cosponsor the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 and support $3.3 billion in security assistance to Israel and $500 million in cooperative missile defense funding for fiscal year 2019, as called for in the MOU. These funds are critical for ensuring that Israel—America's closest ally in the region—has the military means to counter these threats. 

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As the sole democracy in the Middle East, Israel faces constant real and existential threats from terrorists and rogue regimes from hundreds of miles away to just feet away. The U.S. has stood as a proud partner in protecting Israel from those threats from the very beginning. In fact, Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. Because of the aforementioned threats, that foreign assistance has largely been in the form of military assistance, the primary vehicle for which being the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that Daniel and Miriam wrote about. This past week marked the beginning of the 2019 fiscal year, and with it starts the ten-year period of implementing the most recent MOU. The MOU is a decade long agreement negotiated back in 2016 under the Obama Administration demonstrating our nation’s bipartisan commitment to protecting our crucial ally Israel.

Back in 2016, I was proud to lend my support for this MOU by sending a letter with a number of my colleagues to then-President Obama asking him to increase our commitment to Israel. Under the terms of the new $38 billion MOU, the U.S. will provide Israel with $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing and $500 million for cooperative programs for missile defense over each of the next ten years. This MOU replaced the previous $30 billion agreement, representing a significant increase and enabling Israel to acquire additional advanced military capabilities from the U.S. which will ensure Israel’s security and strengthen our bilateral relationship.

A safe and strong Israel is not only critical for the people of Israel but also to America’s own national security interests. I am proud to be a strong friend to Israel and to provide it with the resources necessary to defend itself. 

 

MIGRATING MONARCH BUTTERFLIES ARE FLYING OVER GEORGIA 

The feel of fall is in the air already for some parts of the country, even if those of us in Georgia are still feeling the warm temperatures of a late summer.  While fall usually brings us football games, pumpkins, and outdoor hikes, you might not know that it also brings a great migration of monarch butterflies.  Yes – monarch butterflies!  

The autumn migratory generation of eastern monarchs will be traveling up to 3,000 miles from their most northern breeding range in the United States and Canada to warmer climates in the south. What that means for all of us is that you can watch their peak migration now through October 11th, as they glide over Gwinnett and Forsyth counties on their way to their final destination in either Florida or Mexico. So while you’re outside enjoying Georgia’s beautiful late summer weather, look up, and you just might see one of the 50+ monarch butterflies I released with the House Pollinator Protection Caucus and Pollinator Partnership in Washington, D.C. on September 25th.  We held this bipartisan event to raise awareness about the decline of the monarch population and to share how Americans may help this necessary species by planting milkweed and various nectaring fuel sources,  which are essential for their survival.   


Suwanee resident Caroline LeBleu visited Washington, D.C., with her family and took part in the monarch release in front of the U.S. Capitol.

Other congressional colleagues who joined me include Reps. Rodney Davis (IL-13), Jeff Denham (CA-10), Randy Hultgren (IL-14), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Barbara Lee (CA-13), and Dan Newhouse (WA-4). Additional participants were U.S. Department of Interior Assistant Secretary Andrea Travnicek and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jim Kurth. This was a fun, educational, and bipartisan event, and I hope to take part in more events like this in the future. 

 

STEM EDUCATION AND TECH INDUSTRY THRIVING IN PEACHTREE CORNERS

Our community is full of legacies left by those who have called it home over the years, and last week we celebrated one of the most impactful residents we’ve known. Paul Duke is often referred to as the “Father of Peachtree Corners” for his service and vision. It was his leadership that brought about Technology Park which is now home to a thriving and ever-growing technology industry in Peachtree Corners. His passion now lives on in the Paul Duke STEM High School, which opened this past August but was recently officially dedicated to its namesake.

The Seventh District is home to so many wonderful communities, and Peachtree Corners is right there with the best. As is the case with each, it’s the people that make our communities what they are. It’s no accident. I’m grateful for all the men and women who put their talents to use and share their vision with us to make our home a better place. The Seventh District has award-winning schools, and it has a robust economy. These things go hand-in-hand; one doesn’t happen without the other. The partnership demonstrated by Peachtree Corners leadership and Gwinnett County Public Schools is further evidence of that shared commitment to excellence not only now, but in the long-term. Thank you all for what you do!

 

PAYING TRIBUTE TO FIRST-RESPONDERS

It would be all too easy to take for granted the assurance we have when it comes to calling upon our first-responders in times of need, but thankfully we have a deep appreciation for these men and women here at home. Whether law enforcement, firefighters, EMS personnel, and more, they are so very important to us all. Their service provides a peace of mind that would otherwise be absent. Day-in and day-out, they go to work to serve their neighbors – often times in precarious and potentially life-threatening situations. They do this willingly, for us, and we’re grateful. 

Last week, first responders and Forsyth County residents gathered to celebrate, memorialize and remember the sacrifice of local heroes in our community and across the nation at the third annual Blue Lives Matter event. Such things can certainly be somber as we remember those we lost, but in our shared gratitude and celebration of their lives and character, we’re brought even closer together. Thank you to each and every one of our first-responders, the families who also bear the weight of that sacrifice, and thank you to all those in our community who made this event possible.

 

THE WEEK AHEAD

This week the Senate is expected to move to the President’s desk a major water infrastructure bill, S. 3021, the “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018.” This bill passed the House overwhelmingly in September, and now, in a similarly bipartisan fashion, it’s expected to pass the Senate. This will be the third Congress in a row where we have been able to draft, negotiate, and pass a water resources bill to support the work of the Army Corps of Engineers – which manages our very own Lake Lanier – and various states and utilities that provide drinking water and storm water infrastructure. This bill is another critical piece of President Trump’s larger infrastructure plan, and I’m so proud that it’s finally going to become law.

On a more somber note, many of us in the southeast are going to be preparing for Hurricane Michael to make landfall this week. While the hurricane is expected to track south and east of the metro Atlanta area, our friends and neighbors in south Georgia, especially in Albany, Valdosta, and Waycross, should plan for strong tropical storm force winds and many inches of rain. For those of us in the metro area, weather forecasters are predicting that this will be a rain event, with possibly strong, tropical storm force wind gusts, but hopefully, no chance for real damage. That said, with likely power outages, flooding, and wind damage expected to our south, please keep our fellow Georgians – and our neighbors in Florida and Alabama – in your thoughts and prayers. And if you’d like to help, I would encourage you to donate to your charity of choice. 

Sincerely,

Rob Woodall
Member of Congress

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Washington Watch - 10/1/18

2018/10/01

U.S. AND SOUTH KOREA SUCCESSFULLY RENEGOTIATE TRADE DEAL 

President Trump has made the renegotiation of America’s longstanding trade agreements a top priority of his Administration, and I am encouraged by the progress that we are making on behalf of American workers.  While the President is still deeply engaged in ongoing negotiations with China, Japan, Canada, and Mexico, we saw last week a final deal come together with our close friends in South Korea!  This process began with a law Congress enacted in 2012, which opened up economic opportunities between our two nations, and culminated last week in a signing ceremony that updates the terms of this agreement to our mutual benefit.  Free and fair trade is an important part of our plan to continue growing family paychecks and the American economy, so I look forward to finalizing even more deals in the near future. 

 

ENSURING THE TAX CODE CONTINUES TO WORK BETTER FOR AMERICAN TAXPAYERS 

Last week, the House took an important step forward in making permanent the many changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Even though the primary effects of the TCJA won’t be felt until next year, many of us have already seen and experienced the immediate effects of tax reform over the past nine months. With a booming economy, unemployment in Georgia has fallen substantially over the past year, and more jobs are available than there are job seekers in America, and it is undeniable that the TCJA and American workers are moving our nation in the right direction. 

That said, I have long said that the TCJA is not the end all be all, nor was it intended be. We must be careful not to fall into the same trap that our predecessors did after 1986 – the last year significant reforms were made to the tax code prior to the enactment of the TCJA – as they thought their work was done, and so they largely ignored the code for the next three decades. As such, we must never stop looking for ways to make our tax code work even better for American families and businesses on a more regular basis, as well as to ensure that our tax code is dynamic enough that it can continue to bolster our growing economy and place America on a level playing field with other lower tax countries. That is why I was proud to join my House colleagues in advancing three bills to the Senate that I am confident will work to make American families, individuals, and small businesses better off and permit them to keep more of their hard-earned dollars. I want to take this opportunity to share with you some of the notable changes those bills would make, and I hope you will join me in urging the Senate to take up these bills and send them to the President’s desk. 

  • H.R. 6757, the “Family Savings Act of 2018,” was sponsored by Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) and has been specifically designed to allow families the opportunity to save more of their hard-earned dollars to cover life’s big events – emergencies, education, and children – as well as to set more aside for retirement. 
  • H.R. 6756, the “American Innovation Act of 2018,” was sponsored by Representative Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and seeks to spur innovation and encourage entrepreneurs and start-ups to grow and expand by allowing such businesses to deduct up to $20,000 in startup and organizational expenses in the year they are incurred, with some exceptions.
  • H.R. 6760, the “Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act of 2018,” was sponsored by Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) and would make permanent the tax provisions for individuals and pass-through businesses enacted by the TCJA that would otherwise sunset after 2025. 

 

HOUSE APPROVES LONG-TERM FAA REAUTHORIZATION 

On Thursday, a bipartisan majority of the House passed FAA reauthorization legislation, which I was proud to help write as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Aviation Subcommittee.  This bill provides more long-term certainty for the FAA and America’s world-leading aviation community than any bill passed in more than 25 years.  It does far more than simply keep our nation’s aviation systems operational—it included a number of provisions to protect consumers, enhance safety, spur job growth, and invest in better airport infrastructure which will make traveling more convenient and reliable.  You can read a full summary of the bill here, but I want to highlight two parts that I was particularly focused on—certification reform and air ambulance oversight.   

Regarding certification reform, we have a number of businesses in the Seventh District which I’ve had the privilege of visiting and which manufacture aviation components, and they impressed upon me the need for a more predictable regulatory structure.  The way their aviation components are tested for safety and functionality can vary from region to region, generating uncertainty and needless cost overruns.  Some of the larger companies even claim to have better testing equipment than the FAA does, and when the FAA agrees, the FAA is allowed to speed its approval process by including the results of these pre-approved tests in its own evaluation.  This year’s FAA bill makes sure that both the federal regulators and the private companies are working collaboratively to get better products to domestic and international markets faster.  We all know the federal government can never move at the speed of the private sector, so you’ll find language in Title II of this legislation that streamlines this process and makes sure that the only delays in getting our companies’ products to market are due to rigorous safety testing rather than unnecessary bureaucracy.  

We also harmonize other parts of existing law to remove barriers to getting our local products to international markets, which is a win for our job creators and employers in Gwinnett, Forsyth, and throughout the State of Georgia.

Another portion I want to highlight relates to predatory behavior by a handful of air ambulance companies.  I was approached by a number of folks—including local air ambulance operators, state insurance regulators, emergency medical personnel, and consumer protection advocates—who alerted me to the troubling business practices being employed by a few large corporations backed by private equity investors.  The issue boils down to this: if tragedy should strike you or your family and emergency transport to a hospital via air ambulance becomes necessary, you may think your insurance would cover the bill—but you might very well be wrong.  These predatory companies have hired lawyers and lobbyists to subvert and leverage a 40-year old federal law that courts have ruled regulates air ambulances like regular commercial airlines rather than ground ambulances.  This means that if your insurer refuses to pay the exorbitant rate charged by an air ambulance, you could be on the hook for a six-figure bill in the midst of your recovery.   Individual states have attempted to regulate these “balance billing” practices, but they have had little success given the courts deference to the federal law in question.  In other words, the predatory corporations sue the state to overturn reasonable consumer protection laws, and they usually win.  This is outrageous, and I worked for months to craft language that will provide more oversight, more transparency, and tougher enforcement to end these unfair and deceptive practices.  You can read a deep dive into this problem right here, and you can read the specific language I wrote in the bill right here (Sections 418, 419, 420, and 424).   

This bill now goes to the Senate, where I will expect it will pass in the near future and be presented to the President for his final signature!

 

PROMOTING SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH IN CONGRESS 

Earlier this month, small business optimism reached a historic high, and it’s no wonder given our continued economic growth, record number of job openings, and low unemployment. This is in no small part due to the work we have done here in Congress to encourage that growth and incentivize businesses to continue investing in themselves and their employees through regulatory reform and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, among others. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) recognized this work at a ceremony last week where I was honored to receive the Guardian of Small Business Award from Juanita Duggan, the President and CEO of NFIB.  

I have always said that jobs aren’t created in Washington; they’re created by small business owners in our communities back home. Those owners deserve an environment that allows them to flourish, providing good, meaningful employment to their workers and the best services to their customers. I’m proud of the work I have been able to accomplish with my colleagues here in the House, and, for as long as you entrust me with your voting card, I commit to you that I will continue my efforts to provide businesses with the tools they need to grow today and into the future.

 
Rep. Rob Woodall receives the Guardian of Small Business Award from Juanita Duggan, President and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business

 

CONGRESS SENDS FY2019 FUNDING BILLS TO THE PRESIDENT’S DESK 

As you may have heard, Congress last week worked across the aisle to pass another package of FY2019 Appropriations bills – H.R. 6157, the “Department of Defense and Labor (DoD), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education Appropriations Act, 2019 and Continuing Appropriations Act.” Passage of H.R. 6157, in addition to the three appropriations bills President Trump signed into law earlier this month, marks the first time since 2007 that Congress has sent multiple appropriations bills to the President’s desk prior to the end of the fiscal year. Building on the American people’s priorities that Congress supported in the first package, H.R. 6157 funds vital Department of Defense activities along with critical Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services programs. More so, the bill gives Congress until December 7th to continue work on the remaining Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriation bills. 

On the defense side, H.R. 6157 provides $674 billion in total funding, consistent with the levels established by the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed Congress overwhelmingly. Congress provided a 2.6% pay raise for the military in addition to $243 billion for key readiness programs to ensure our servicemen and women are prepared for every mission. Looking at the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education portion of the bill, I am proud that Congress retained many longstanding pro-life provisions, boosted funding for the National Institutes of Health to $39 billion, provided money to increase students’ safety and well-being in schools, and included more money to help veterans transition back into the workforce, just to name a few of the many notable provisions. 

 

CONSTITUENT SPOTLIGHT: CREATING A BETTER FEDERAL WORKFORCE 

With employment prospects in nearly every job sector you can think of, Georgia’s Seventh District is full of a wide range of opportunities. This week I want to highlight and share my support for one of those groups of workers: federal employees. 

There are over 7,000 federal employees here in the Seventh working at federal agencies and departments ranging from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to the U.S. Postal Service, the CDC, and the Social Security Administration. Each of them perform the daily essential tasks of keeping our government running and serving its citizens. I truly admire all those who choose to work in the federal government and dedicate themselves to serving the public, and it’s an honor to work shoulder to shoulder with many of them every day.  That said, as an employee of the federal government, they are under more scrutiny and are entrusted with the responsible use of American taxpayer dollars.

You can read below about what some of our neighbors have written in about federal employees: 

Cheryl from Lawrenceville: 

Every member of Congress should support the MERIT Act, which would expedite the removal of federal employees who have engaged in misconduct or are simply not performing, while limiting appeals to 30 days. Under current law it can take multiple years to remove an employee. A system that was initially designed to stop political manipulation of the civil service has become an unhealthy protection of bad behavior. 

Many Americans wonder how civil servants at the Justice Department who abused their power still have their jobs. The reason is because of antiquated civil service protections. Congress has already managed to reform this problem at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and it’s working, now it needs to be allowed to work for all the other departments and agencies to hold federal employees accountable for their actions.

Michael from Suwanee: 

As a federal employee in your congressional district, I am writing to ask you to provide federal employees with a pay increase for calendar year 2019.  

Amidst a recovering economy and healthy private-sector job market, federal employees should receive fair pay. Human resource consultancies are reporting that the average private-sector pay increase in 2018 is 3 percent. In recent years, the federal workforce has endured multi-year pay freezes as well as several years of below-market pay raises. The President has also proposed a pay freeze for 2019. Federal employees, like all other Americans, face rising food, utility, college, and health care costs. They live and work in every district across the country, and proudly serve the American public, ensuring that our federal agencies are open and ready for business. Given the President's proposal, it is imperative that Congress act to provide a pay raise for federal workers for 2019. Representative Connolly (D-VA) has introduced the Federal Adjustment of Income Rates (FAIR) pay H.R. 4775 calling for a 3 percent adjustment for 2019 for federal workers covered by the General Schedule and Wage Grade systems.

Please show your support for federal employees and their families in your district by supporting a pay increase for federal workers in 2019 and cosponsoring H.R. 4775. I look forward to hearing back from you soon. 

Shari from Buford: 

What is being done to cut waste in federal agencies and remove federal employees who think they have a job for life despite their performance? 

Amanda from Lawrenceville: 

Please pass a 1.9% pay increase for federal workers! They deserve a pay raise. 

___________________________________________________________ 

In the words of President George H.W. Bush, “public service is a noble calling,” and you will find federal employees at every level of government working tirelessly to make our country a better place. But as you can see, people view federal employees through different lenses.  It is unquestioned that federal employees make sacrifices on behalf of the American people, but too often we have seen both reports of abuse and waste as Cheryl and Shari describe and reports that show government employees are receiving better salaries, better benefits, and more job security than those in the private sector. A 2017 Congressional Budget Office report found that, overall, “the federal government paid 17 percent more in total compensation than it would have if average compensation had been comparable with that in the private sector.” It is no wonder that constituents like Cheryl and Shari expect the highest performance from our federal employees, and so do I.

That is why I have concerns about supporting a bill like H.R. 4775, the “FAIR Act,” that Michael references, that automatically provides raises to every current federal employee without regard to merit or any other performance related factor. To me, it seems like it would be unfair that the employees who work the hardest and accomplish the most are treated the same as underperformers by H.R. 4775.  I do want federal employees to be financially rewarded, but based on their merit, not their longevity.

As Michael said, the President did propose a pay freeze in his budget aimed at aligning federal pay more closely with the private-sector.  Inflation does erode the value of a salary, so I hope Michael and Amanda will be pleased that the funding bill that Congress just passed maintains the 1.9% COLA from the year prior. That provision of the funding bill will remain in effect until early December while Congress continues to debate the last of the FY19 appropriations. But during that time, I expect more discussion on how we can reward those in public service who go above and beyond every day, while also holding accountable those who fail to meet the expectations of the American people.  

Besides pay, both Congress and the President have taken steps to ensure that our federal employees are indeed serving the American people. Congress has passed bills like the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 that allows the Secretary of the VA to more easily remove employees who do not adequately serve our veterans. As a result, the VA has removed nearly 2,000 employees this year. 

The horror stories we have all heard from the VA represent some of the worst abuse and waste, and I was proud to support the bipartisan VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act to put an end to it. Since he entered office, the President has made it known that he would take major steps to bring accountability to federal employees, and he has. Through a number of Executive Orders, he put a freeze on federal hires early on in his term, and he has placed an increased emphasis on the merit system that holds employees accountable for performance and conduct. 

Again, I want to echo the words of President George H.W. Bush that those who dedicate themselves to serving our country are remarkable people, and you can count on me to support them in that effort.  Accountability ensures that we can reward true public servants while terminating those who refuse to give American taxpayers their money’s worth. 

 

FORSYTH COUNTY SCHOOLS EARN TOP RANKING IN METRO ATLANTA GRADUATION RATES  

When I have the opportunity to visit with young people in high schools across the Seventh District, I’m struck by their intelligence and commitment to excelling not only in school, but beyond. That dedication is innate in many cases, but also taught and nurtured in our community. Whether parents, mentors, teachers, and more, we invest in our young people; and that matters. Having the highest high school graduation rate in metro Atlanta is a wonderful accomplishment for the folks in Forsyth County working so hard to educate the next generation, but it’s representative of a much deeper principle, and reflective of our character. We know that with a top-notch education, the sky is the limit for each of these students. That starts here at home, and follows them to future jobs, families, and careers. It pays dividends in so many ways, but most importantly, in each individual’s life. It’s easy to take for granted the remarkable characteristics of where we call home, but none of them happened by accident. The approach we have taken with education is no different. When I carry the Seventh  District’s message of local decision-making and leadership in our schools to Capitol Hill, it isn’t just a political philosophy, it’s a proven record of success in a thriving community for others to emulate. 

 

DULUTH FALL FESTIVAL RETURNS FOR 36TH YEAR 

Although the summer temperatures have not left us just yet, the calendar now tells us that fall is here, and it sure looked like it Duluth last Saturday! If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll be able to make it out to some of the wonderful community events coming up this season. One of those celebrations did indeed take place this past weekend with another successful Duluth Fall Festival that I was pleased to be able to join. Returning home to see friends and neighbors is always a highlight, but to share in the 36th annual Duluth Fall Festival was a great way to wrap-up a very productive month in Washington. To all those who were in attendance, I’m sure you had as much fun as I did, and for those who couldn’t make it, I hope to see you soon. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at my local office at (770) 232-3005!

 

THE WEEK AHEAD  

The House completed its work last week, passing bipartisan pieces of legislation to combat opioids, reauthorize the FAA, fund the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and ensuring that individual Americans see even greater rewards from another round of critically important tax cuts. Now, the Senate will continue its work on some of those pieces of legislation, as well as on the most publicized issue of last week, the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. I know this event has sparked much discussion between friends and families in the past week, and I have no doubt that the discussions will continue as the Senate moves forward with its Constitutional role of providing advice and consent. 
                        

Sincerely,

Rob Woodall
Member of Congress

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FAA Reauthorization Act Clears Congress, Brings Big Wins to Georgia, Seventh District

2018/09/27

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House unanimously approved H.R. 302, the “Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018,” which invests in airport improvements, introduces new protections for aviation customers, establishes a framework for drones to promote safety and innovation, and streamlines the certification process for safe aviation components, making it easier for Seventh District manufacturers and aviation suppliers accounting for millions of dollars’ worth of local economic activity to get their products to market faster.  The measure provides long-term funding certainty through fiscal year 2023, and contains language authored by Seventh District Representative Rob Woodall to clarify regulatory jurisdiction over air ambulance providers, and offer consumers an avenue to address billing complaints.

“Working together across the aisle to move crucial legislation to the President’s desk is far more common than many may realize, and this bill is another example,” said Rep. Woodall. “It provides long-term certainty for the industry and those working day-in and day-out to keep America’s airspace safe and reliable, but it also makes vital reforms that will free up our innovators and job creators in Georgia and right here in the Seventh District. Removing excessive federal bureaucracy that stands between our local manufacturers and economic success means a more efficient government and more jobs back home. I’m very proud of the bipartisan work that got us to this point, and look forward to President Trump signing it into law very soon.”

Among the regulatory reforms Woodall mentions, certification reform for the aviation industry is at the top of the list of wins for several Seventh District companies including Gulfstream’s 2017 Supplier of the Year, A.S.A.P Technologies. Other local companies poised to benefit from the reform include – but are not limited to – A.E. Petsche, CORUS 360, Netplanner Systems, and American Cybersystems. As suppliers of aircraft manufacturers, companies such as these have historically had production hindered due to an antiquated and cumbersome federal certification process for their products. The reforms in the FAA Reauthorization streamline that process to preserve vital safety measures while allowing proven manufacturers to do what they do best at a much faster pace.

“We appreciate the House passing a five-year FAA Reauthorization bill.  This bill will help ensure the FAA and US manufacturers remain the global leaders in aviation safety,” added Robert Glasscock, Vice President, Gulfstream ODA (Organizational Designation Authorization) Lead Administrator.  “The FAA safety certification reform represents a significant and positive change that will ensure the full benefits of ODA are achieved.  These reforms also incorporate efficiencies into the certification process that will address delays in bringing new safety-enhancing products to the global marketplace.”  

“The long-term certainty and important reforms included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 will help advance the general aviation manufacturing and maintenance industry, and the economy,” said Sarah McCann, spokesperson for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), of which companies in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties are members. “Streamlining federal processes and paving the way for manufacturers to get their products to market safely, but more efficiently, benefits Seventh District citizens and businesses, as well as the customers they serve. We thank Representative Woodall for his work on this issue, which will benefit manufacturers in Georgia’s Seventh District and beyond.”

The legislation also includes a variety of other provisions that would provide additional funds for disaster relief and modify federal disaster programs, as well as reauthorize the National Transportation Safety Board and Transportation Security Administration.

FAA Reauthorization of 2018 High Points:

Advisory Committee on Air Ambulance Patient Billing and other reforms

Found in Sections 418, 419, and 420 of the legislation, language authored by Rep. Woodall establishes an advisory committee to recommend solutions to improve the disclosure of charges and fees for air medical services, better inform consumers of insurance options for such services, and protect consumers from balance billing, and other predatory business practices. The advisory committee will include representation from health insurance providers, patient and consumer advocacy groups, State insurance regulators, and additional stakeholders. The measure improves the consumer complaint process for patients who believe they were excessively billed, and mandates that air ambulance providers disclose the hotline number and website on any billing correspondence.  Further, Section 424 establishes the position of the Aviation Consumer Advocate, who will be responsible for pursuing enforcement or corrective actions that would be in the public interest on behalf of consumers.

Airport Improvement Program Grants

A pilot program that allows the FAA to provide Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds to states as a block grant would be expanded to include as many as 20 states per fiscal year, rather than the previous 10.

The federal share of airport project costs would be 75 percent at medium or large hub airports such as Hartsfield-Jackson International. Projects at other airports, including in states participating in the block grant program, could be eligible for a 90 percent federal share.

New Grant Program

The measure would establish a new discretionary grant program for airports. It authorizes $1.02 billion for grants in fiscal 2019, increasing to $1.11 billion in fiscal 2023. At least 50 percent of the funds would have to be used for non-hub and small hub airports, as well as general aviation airports.

CONSUMER PROVISIONS

The measure would bar the use of e-cigarettes on flights. It would be unlawful to put a pet in an overhead storage compartment. Violations would be subject to a civil penalty of as much as $25,000. Air carriers would be prohibited from involuntarily removing ticketed passengers once they’ve been cleared to board the plane.

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Congressman Woodall represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia , which includes significant portions of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, and currently serves as Chairman of the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, as well as serving on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Budget Committee. 

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District Connection - 9/24/18

2018/09/24

GEORGIA IS THE #1 STATE FOR DOING BUSINESS…AGAIN! 

Across the nation, unemployment is down, wages are up, job openings are through the roof, small business optimism is at an all-time high, 90% of families are keeping more of the money they earn, and the economy is booming.  Our story in Georgia is no different, as Governor Nathan Deal just announced that we were named the #1 state for business—for the fifth consecutive year!  The recipe for this kind of success is simple, but it’s difficult to implement.  In the face of near unified resistance from the left, we’ve cut taxes by nearly $3,000 for the average Seventh District family, we’ve repealed $18 billion worth of ineffective federal regulations, we’ve made significant investments in our transportation infrastructure, we’ve achieved record-breaking gains in the stock market—and analysts say that we are just getting started and the best is yet to come. I agree! Americans are achievers, Americans are innovators, Americans are hard workers, and—in many cases—Washington simply needs to get out of their way and focus on what the federal government does best – supporting local success by keeping our homeland safe.  I’m proud to be your partner in the success of our great nation and our great state.

 

OFFERING DIGNITY THROUGH WORK

For eighty years, the federal government has provided employment opportunities to those who are blind and disabled, thereby ensuring meaningful employment. Now called the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, this program has become the largest employer of those with disabilities across the United States. In fact, Georgia is home to a number of facilities employing workers under the AbilityOne program, including one right here in Lawrenceville. 

Goodwill participates in AbilityOne, helping to place folks at sites like the CDC Biorepository, which I visited last week. I had a chance to meet with the custodial team there who shared with me their pride in the work that they do and their love for the culture of performance that they experience every day. It’s no wonder why Goodwill boasts a nine-year retention rate for their employees who gain access to increased independence and financial stability. These programs lift up everyone in the community and reinforce the fact that there is dignity in work, which is especially vital for folks who might struggle to find good, meaningful careers in the traditional job market. That is why I have and will continue to support AbilityOne contracting goals for goods and services so that others may benefit from this program for another eighty years. 


Rep. Rob Woodall visits with the Goodwill Custodial Team at the CDC Biorepository in Lawrenceville

 

CONGRESS IS MOVING ANOTHER FEDERAL FUNDING BILL AHEAD OF DEADLINE

You read in last week’s newsletter about how the House worked to approve three appropriations bills ahead of the September 30th deadline. Well, I’m pleased to let you know that President Trump signed those three appropriations bills into law on Friday. What’s more, responding to House passed bills, the Senate last week also passed a second Fiscal Year 2019 spending package that funds the Department of Defense, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and other related agencies. 

The Senate’s overwhelming bipartisan action last week is a move that puts the House on track to take up this second package, thus sending more bills to the President’s desk ahead of the fiscal year deadline than any Congress has done in almost 20 years. In fact, you may recall that it was just a little over 16 weeks ago that I shared with you that the House was just getting the ball rolling on the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations process, and while we haven’t quite pushed everything across the finish line, I am thrilled that the House and Senate have been able to overcome the political divisiveness that all too often stymies important government funding measures like these and work together to fund the priorities of the American people. I look forward to working with my House colleagues in sending a second package to the President’s desk for his signature this week, and you can be sure that Congress will continue working to pass the remaining appropriations bills in a timely manner.

I know this is campaign season, so the naysayers are peddling a message of inaction, but you can be proud that your Congress—whether for our armed forces, our infrastructure, our medical research, or our children—is having the most productive funding session of the 21st Century.  Don’t look for this news to be promoted on most networks or many major papers, but if you are a believer in self-government, you should be proud of this record-setting bipartisan, bicameral success.

 

FORSYTH FIREFIGHTERS SECURE FEDERAL GRANT OPPORTUNITY 

One of the many great things about being the Seventh District’s Representative in Washington is the way in which I am able to partner with our remarkable local leaders here at home. Some folks in Washington don’t have the kind of leadership in their districts that I do, and consequently, they may feel a need to craft one-size-fits-all policies on Capitol Hill rather than send many of those decisions back to our communities. We don’t have that problem here. You see example after example where City Halls, County Commission board rooms, and the Gold Dome are doing an absolutely outstanding job. 

One of those examples of our partnership, however, came to fruition just recently when Forsyth County was awarded a $1.6 million federal grant to hire firefighters for a new station that will serve the growing needs of the area. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, as it is known, comes from the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA, and requires a $1 million cash match from the county. What many may not know is that the likelihood of being selected for federal grant opportunities goes up immensely when there is an established track record of success locally – like we see from Forsyth County. That competency makes telling our story and speaking on Chief Bowman’s behalf to FEMA’s leaders so much easier and tremendously more effective. It’s exciting to see what our community is doing and the ways we continue to lead not only Georgia, but the entire region. The way in which we work together is certainly at the core of that success, and I look forward to achieving even more in months to come.

 

CONSTITUENT SPOTLIGHT: UPDATING MUSIC LAWS FOR THE MODERN AGE

As a member of Congress, I have the opportunity to tackle issues big and small. Rightfully so, we focus on the biggest issues most of the time.  However, almost every day Congress votes on bills that are smaller and target specific industries. And most of the time, these smaller issues are common sense and bipartisan success stories. One of those issues is H.R. 5447, the “Music Modernization Act.” Nearly everyone in America listens to music. Whether it be on the radio, at a concert, or what is now becoming more common, on streaming services via the Internet, we can all relate to the joy and connection of listening to music. 

Some of you have written in in support of this bill:

Arthur from Lawrenceville

Songwriters are egregiously underpaid because laws governing the music industry have not kept pace with technology. The Music Modernization Act of 2017 will change that. This bill is the most significant update to music copyright law in over a generation and represents an unprecedented agreement between the music and technology industries. We, as the songwriters most affected by 100-year-old policies that reduce our royalties, encourage Congress to pass this legislation as soon as possible….The next time you hear your favorite song, think of the struggling small business owner who wrote it, and remember that you can do something to help by supporting the Music Modernization Act.

Tikesha from Duluth

Thank you for supporting music creators earlier this year by voting for the Music Modernization Act (H.R. 5447). Since then, the Senate has worked with stakeholders to build more support for the bill and add more protections and assurances for artists, songwriters and producers. On September 18, the Senate unanimously passed its version of the Music Modernization Act and have sent it back to the House of Representatives for consideration. I urge you to once again stand with music creators and vote for the Music Modernization Act (S.Amdt. 4022 to H.R. 1551)--the bill is expected to be voted on before the end of September. 

The current copyright system for music creators is rooted in the distant past and does not reflect the current digital environment, resulting in below-market compensation for performers, songwriters and studio professionals. The Music Modernization Act provides a clear path forward to address outdated and broken laws, benefiting all who create music, including thousands of songwriters, studio professionals, legacy artists and musicians. The MMA is a critical step towards ensuring that music is properly valued and protected in the 21st century, and that all who create music have the opportunity to earn fair value for their work. The Music Modernization Act is the result of years of negotiations, hearings, and input from members of the music community. In addition to the greater music community, businesses, and unions, the MMA is also endorsed by the Digital Media Association, the National Association of Broadcasters and the Internet Association. This final vote represents an historic opportunity for you and your colleagues to bring consensus reform to the president's desk. Please vote for the Music Modernization Act (H.R. 1551).

________________________________________________________________________________

What issue can be more bipartisan than music? No matter the genre, music has been called a universal language, and with the advent of the Internet, it has only allowed us more access to an even wider range of music and allowed more artists to enter the market. However, the rapid advancement of technology has left many artists without appropriate compensation since we’re still forcing songwriters to adhere to rules established before the first World War! Technology always moves faster than lawmakers, and as such, there is a constant need to update our nation's many laws. Certainly, when lawmakers first drafted our copyright laws, they could have never envisioned online streaming sites like Pandora or Spotify, to name a few, or whatever the brand new innovation will be in the years to come. 

The Senate-amended version of the “Music Modernization Act” combines three earlier bills to create a new framework for enforcing songwriting copyrights and paying royalties for digital streaming and downloads. The bulk of the bill is dedicated to creating a new mechanical licensing system (the rights to reproduce copyrighted material on CDs, tapes, digital streams, downloads, etc.) governed by publishers and songwriters called the Mechanical Licensing Collective. The body would be tasked with: identifying musical works used in recordings and locating the corresponding copyright; maintaining a musical works database available to those who have a newly created blanket license; establishing a process for copyright owners to claim ownership of works; and enforcing the new blanket licenses. The new blanket licenses would allow digital streaming services to obtain universal permission to play songs, and it would set the compensation rates for the licenses based on free-market conditions, rather than the low rates set by the current Copyright Royalty Board. Other provisions include codifying the right of producers, mixers, and sound engineers to digital royalties, and requiring payment of royalties for the digital reproduction of works recorded before 1972 under the same license provided to post 1972 recordings. You might not believe it, but sound recordings were not included in federal copyright law until 1972, which shows just how long it takes for legislation to catch up to innovation. 

With the growing popularity of music streaming services, songwriters and performers have not been compensated properly for the digital reproduction of their works and streaming services have been left in the dark, uncertain about who to compensate or even able to compensate artists. This legislation updates our antiquated music licensing system by creating an authoritative and accurate database of music copyright ownership that is run and enforced by the industry. Streaming services will avoid future litigation over improper compensation, and songwriters, performers, and studio professionals will be fairly compensated for their works. The revised legislation was just passed unanimously by the Senate, and I am eager to support this bill when it comes back to the House. 

 

USING LOCALLY DEVELOPED TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE SCHOOL SAFETY

I know I often talk about partnership and what it means to the success of our community, but just in case you still aren’t convinced, I’ll highlight another example which I was able to witness on Friday at Discovery High School. We’ve all seen the flashing school beacons at various times – typically in the mornings and afternoons – to slow traffic and create a safe environment for children going to and from school, but most of us don’t likely think about what goes into making those beacons function, and function at the highest level possible. The folks at Applied Information, Inc. in Suwanee did think about this, however, as entrepreneurs often do. They worked to develop a connected school beacon system using Internet technology, and consequently, offer local governments the ability to more closely monitor these beacons and interactively communicate with them. The Gwinnett County Department of Transportation (DOT) is one of those local governments utilizing the technology, and on Friday I was able to see in person just how the process works.

The technology was first deployed throughout Gwinnett County in 2016, and according to the county DOT, citizen reports involving issues with the beacons went down 80% in the first year! Now of course, school safety has always been priority number one for school and county officials here in the Seventh District. Their track record speaks for itself, but like any good group of leaders, they’re always looking for ways to serve the community even better, and it’s exciting to see such developments happening right here at home. I’m grateful to Discovery High School and Benefield Elementary School Principals Marci Sledge and Shonda Stevens, Gwinnett County Deputy Director for Traffic Engineering Tom Sever, as well as Applied Information, Inc. President Bryan Mulligan, and the whole team who made the visit possible. Thank you all for what you do for our community, and thank you again for your partnership on this important issue!

 

THE WEEK AHEAD

This week the House is expected to consider two critically important packages of legislation: the Conference Report for H.R. 6157, which includes FY19 funding for the Department of Defense and the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and a Continuing Resolution to fund the remaining departments and agencies through December 7th, as well as three bills which make-up the “Tax Reform 2.0” legislation – H.R. 6760, H.R. 6756, and H.R. 6757. 

If this sounds like a lot to pack into one week, you’re absolutely right! Passing our two largest annual appropriations bills – Defense and Labor/HHS/Education – before the end of the fiscal year is something that Congress hasn’t been able to do in many years. And what’s more, given the incredible success of our first tax reform bill, the House is moving another package that will help even more individual Americans keep more of their hard-earned money. Under the leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and President Trump, we’re changing the culture of brinksmanship and inaction in Washington, D.C., in favor of a culture of stewardship for the American people.

Sincerely,

Rob Woodall
Member of Congress

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Washington Watch - 9/17/18

2018/09/17

FIRST THREE APPROPRIATIONS BILLS ARE GOING TO THE PRESIDENT ON TIME

On Thursday, the House approved three appropriations bills in advance of the September 30th deadline—that’s when the current government funding law expires.  These bills provide a years’ worth of stable funding for programs within the Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch Appropriations accounts.  First and foremost, this legislation bolsters our nuclear security needs, increases resources for our military personnel, and provides the highest dollar amount ever to the Department of Veterans Affairs and those programs that are so essential to our servicemen and women. 

Not only that, but this package of bills is a success story for a Congress that has had trouble finding consensus for funding our government on time. Now, for the first time in more than a decade, we’ve sent three full appropriations bills to the President’s desk before current funding expires.  By passing these bills, we are on track to avoid a disruptive and costly government shutdown and provide certainty for our veterans and our growing economy! And when we return to Washington next week, I expect that we’ll complete two more bills. Congress and the President are working together to serve the American people, and that is something to be proud of and support.

 

HOUSE PASSES DOZENS OF BIPARTISAN MEASURES TO HELP AMERICANS ACROSS THE COUNTRY

I know that when you read the news or turn on your television, it is easy to believe that bipartisan success in Congress is rare, but I can assure you that legislative achievements gained by reaching across the aisle are a defining characteristic of the 115th Congress. I often say that as Americans, there is more that unites us than divides us, and that couldn’t be more evident than last week as the House took action and passed several pieces of legislation – supported by both Republicans and Democrats – to better serve our friends and neighbors.

One of these bills, H.R. 6198, the “Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 2018,” which unanimously passed the House, completes a reorganization of part of the Department of Homeland Security – the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office – so that we have the tools we need to thwart biological threats and threats from weapons of mass destruction. Ensuring that our federal agencies are equipped to serve the American people is crucial to their success, and supporting their success will always be a valuable endeavor.

H.R. 3186, the “Every Kid Outdoors Act,” also passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support and grants fourth graders and their parents or guardians free admittance into our national parks and federal lands by way of the “Every Kid Outdoors” program. From running around the backyard or swinging in the local park, to playing on a youth sports team or visiting the treasures in our national parks, our children are blessed with natural resources all around them, and we must encourage them to take advantage of these riches. In fact, I have heard from a number of folks back home about their support for this program, and I am proud that the House has taken steps to reward young people and inspire them to be active and explore the world around them.

What’s more, the House came together and passed H.R. 6690, the “Fighting Fraud to Protect Care for Seniors Act of 2018,” which establishes a “smart card” pilot program that will strengthen the Medicare program by eliminating the ability of unscrupulous persons from billing for services for a beneficiary without the beneficiary’s knowledge. It is so important that we ensure that every dollar spent in the Medicare program is benefiting our seniors, and it is essential that we work to deploy the most recent technologies available to us to curb waste and inefficiency and have our government programs better serve their beneficiaries.

I believe that the answers to some of our nation’s greatest legislative challenges will come from creative, bipartisan solutions, and I commit to you that I will press for more as Congress considers even more bills in the coming weeks.

You can read more about other bills that passed the House this week below.

  • H.R. 3635 – Local Coverage Determination Clarification Act of 2018
  • H.R. 6197 – RAWR Act
  • H.R. 6227 – National Quantum Initiative Act
  • H.R. 6287 – 9/11 Memorial Act
  • H.R. 6411 – FinCEN Improvement Act of 2018
  • H.R. 6561 – Comprehensive Care for Seniors Act of 2018
  • H.R. 6662 – Empowering Seniors’ Enrollment Decision Act of 2018
  • H.R. 6720 – Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2018

 

HOUSE MOVES WATER RESOURCES BILL CLOSER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP’S DESK

On Thursday, we passed the most important bill you’ve probably never heard of (unless, of course, you’re a regular reader of my newsletter).  S. 3021, “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018,” is the latest effort to fulfill our promise to the American people to build a 21st Century infrastructure system.  This particular bill focuses on our water infrastructure, which takes on special significance here in the Seventh District.  I’m pleased to report that both of our top priorities were included in this bill—we successfully protected Lake Lanier’s clean water supply, and we raised the authorized federal funding level for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP)—Georgia’s #1 economic priority which supports more than 30,000 jobs in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties. In addition, we de-authorized older, obsolete projects and repurposed those funds toward the many critical projects that are underway throughout our state and nation.  

Click on the picture to watch my remarks on the House Floor in support of this bipartisan legislation.

 

 

CONSTITUENT SPOTLIGHT: RESPONDING TO THE NEEDS OF AMERICA’S STUDENTS

As the school year gets into full swing, I often hear from students from all age ranges writing in to learn about our government, the issues that are important to them, or simply as a part of a school project. No matter the reason, I am happy to be of service to our students and answer whatever questions they may have, share my experiences, or listen to their concerns. Naturally, a majority of the student letters I receive speak directly to what they are experiencing in their daily lives at school and in class. Here are some interesting letters about what our students are experiencing:

Amaya from Buford

I believe students shouldn’t be forced to do so much testing in multiple years and in such a constricted time limit. High school is an institution that prepares you for college and your career. I believe Georgia can live up the that cause. I believe Georgia should allow incoming high schoolers the freedom to be able to choose what classes they want that would lead them on their correct career path. High schools have electives however there are classes that must be taken. If we open students to either have more electives or open the entire track to choice, then the graduation rate would increase and students would be more engaged simply because they chose their track.

Alexis from Lawrenceville

There are multiple classes that I take that I will not need for my desired major. I want to major in business and minor in marketing or entrepreneurship, and classes such as chemistry will not help me in my major. My fellow classmates agree that the majority of their classes do not pertain to what they want to do in their life. My fellow classmates and I think that curriculum, starting 9th grade year, should accommodate to what each student wants to do outside of high school. If the student is still undecided on what they want their major to be then they could still chose classes that interest them. This would most likely increase grades because students are actually taking classes they enjoy. Due to students having better grades and enjoying the classes they are taking, dropout rates would decrease and graduate numbers would increase.

Senjin from Duluth

An education issue that has bothered me is the number of days in a school week. Currently, Gwinnett County Public Schools adopts a five-day week schedule, however, I feel as if introducing a four-day week schedule would greatly benefit students, teachers, and other faculty members. Adopting a four-day week schedule would allow public schools to save more money and allocate those funds towards other budget spending or staff wages. Excluding Fridays would save money on resource usages, such as electricity consumption and school bus fuel. Saving funds and resource usage could prove to be beneficial especially during the harsh winter and tropical hurricane seasons.

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While most students may be too young to vote, I hope that does not discourage them from reaching out to their elected officials at every level, because their voices and experiences are important for all of us to hear. As policymakers, we strive to lead our students to success through a quality education, but, like with any other policy area, it is critical to get feedback from those on the other side of those policy decisions. In the case of K-12 education, though, the truth is that those closest to our students, including parents, teachers, and state and local education leaders, are in the best position to determine what’s best for them, and as a federal official, I have little input on matters like curriculum or school schedules. The needs of students can vary vastly from school district to school district, and even school to school. In the past, federal one-size-fits-all efforts, like No Child Left Behind, to push curriculum or testing standards have failed to produce the results we expect or to elevate our students to the educational standards we demand as a community and a country.

Rather than institute more impersonal, burdensome requirements that cannot sufficiently assess, manage, or achieve the educational outcomes for such disparate school districts across the country, I have consistently fought for more local control of our schools, where local education officials can adequately respond to the needs of our students. The most significant effort to do this has been the Every Student Succeeds Act, which became law in 2015 and devolves the vast majority of K-12 decision making authority to the individual states. Education has long been an intimately local issue and is often how many families first become involved in their communities. Our schools are proof of what success communities can see by investing in their students. A good example is the newly opened Alliance Academy in Forsyth County, which I discussed in a recent edition of my newsletter. This new alternative high school allows students to focus on building a career by pursuing unique curricula in specific pathways, such as aerospace, criminal justice, healthcare, or mechatronics, just like Alexis and Amaya proposed.

To answer Amaya, Alexis, and Senjin’s concerns directly, I would encourage them to engage with their local education leaders in their schools, on their school boards, and on the state level to discuss how changing the school schedule may improve our schools or how curriculum can be catered to better prepare students for the future. We have entrusted these local leaders with the power to change the direction of education in Georgia, and if our schools in Forsyth and Gwinnett are any example, they have done a great job and will value the students’ input. I look forward to continuing to empower our local leaders to make positive changes for our schools, and I am eager to hear from many more students throughout this school year.

 

PRESIDENT TRUMP IMPROVES ENERGY REGULATIONS

Clean air is essential, and the federal government plays a big role to ensure our air stays clean through regulations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The energy sector also takes it upon itself to limit emissions and employ technology that helps to keep pollutants to a minimum. When this happens, it’s important for the EPA to take a look at the regulations on the books and see which ones make sense to keep folks accountable and which ones don’t. President Trump recognized this when he decided to relax regulations for the oil and gas industry, ridding them of overly burdensome and duplicative regulations and allowing them to redouble their efforts to generate cleaner energy – and more of it! Technology is evolving rapidly, and our regulatory framework should reflect that reality. If we want to keep energy costs low, ensure our country is not dependent on foreign oil, and allow energy companies to invest in clean technology, we cannot impose punitive regulations that go against that mission. We should continue to incentivize energy companies to be better stewards of the environment while keeping sensible regulations that protect the air we breathe, and the Administration’s actions last week moves us closer to both.

 

CUMMING FORSYTH MIRACLE LEAGUE BASEBALL IS THE BEST OF OUR COMMUNITY

I thoroughly enjoy sharing the stories from across the district of all the amazing and inspiring things going on each week – and sometimes, I’m fortunate enough to participate and see them take place in real-time. That was the case in Forsyth County just recently as I got to throw out a pitch at the Cumming Forsyth Miracle League baseball game. This event is a high-point for so many folks from so many different walks of life, and if you ever attend, it doesn’t take long to see why.

From the very youngest athletes to the most senior, from ages 4 to 60-plus, and from various levels of physical or intellectual disability, the Cumming Forsyth Miracle League is changing lives. And from the organizers that I spoke to, though the league requires a great deal of effort, it’s clearly a labor of love which means so much to the families involved. The camaraderie of the athletes, coaches, and participants is palpable, and the energy is immediately infectious! If you ever have the opportunity to see one of the Miracle League games, you should absolutely spend some time with these athletes and count yourself among their community of supporters. Thank you to all the organizers and athletes who made this day so special!

 

EVEN HOLLYWOOD WANTS TO VISIT THE SEVENTH DISTRICT

For anyone who has been around metro Atlanta for any length of time, we all know that the term “Hollywood of the South” has certainly been earned. From television to Internet streaming series to full-length motion pictures, production companies make the trek to Georgia on a regular basis to film their projects. In fact, the film industry in Georgia accounted for an estimated $9.5 billion in economic impact last fiscal year, with $2.7 billion in direct spending! That kind of activity is reflective of the great work Governor Deal and his economic development team have done over the past 8 years to make Georgia a great place to do business, and from the looks of what was happening on the Lawrenceville Square last week, the trend continues. An adaptation of the DC comic book “Doom Patrol” was filming on several streets, and while I can’t say I’m familiar with this particular comic, if you are, you’ll now be able to stream it in the months to come – and catch a few glimpses of some of your favorite downtown Lawrenceville destinations while you’re at it! Apparently we’re not the only ones who are fans of our community!

 

THE WEEK AHEAD

This week I’m happy to be back home in Georgia, and I have to say that I’m very much looking forward to attending all the local events on the calendar: from meeting with students and faculty at Georgia Gwinnett College, to community leaders with our local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, to meeting with insurance and financial services professionals who are providing investing, saving, and retirement advice to our friends and neighbors. Everything that I learn from you, I take back to Washington, D.C., with me and use to inform my colleagues about how we can better craft legislation to provide real benefits to families back home.

If you have an issue that you’d like to discuss with me, or if you want to invite me to one of your local church or community organizations, please contact me at woodall@mail.house.gov.                        

Sincerely,

Rob Woodall
Member of Congress

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House Clears Bipartisan, Bicameral Water Resources Legislation to Expand Georgia Ports, Protect Water Supply

2018/09/13

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the House Amendment to S. 3021, “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018” – the bicameral agreement to investment in America’s ports, inland waterways, locks, dams, flood protection, ecosystem restoration, and other water infrastructure. Of particular note to Georgians and businesses across the southeast, the agreement raises the authorized federal share of funds for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project from $492 million in 2014 to what will now be nearly $732 million to keep it on time and on track.  Without the provision, federal funding for the State of Georgia’s top economic priority would be at risk. The bill also preserves protections for Georgia’s water supply, including the Seventh District’s own Lake Lanier, by keeping Washington politics out of the ongoing tristate water dispute between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member and Seventh District Representative Rob Woodall spoke on the measure prior to its passage today, and has been highly instrumental in the legislation throughout the process.

“Today’s overwhelmingly bipartisan vote to invest in America’s water infrastructure is the result of a great deal of work, and a great deal of cooperation across the aisle,” said Rep. Woodall. “Protecting our water resources while also fulfilling our commitment to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) has been a top priority of mine since first coming to Congress, and today’s success makes me very proud of the work that got us to this point. As Georgians, we are quick to lead by example, and that reality is invaluable in securing the federal partnership we see in this final bill. This is a fantastic bill for Georgia, the entire region, and it’s a great bill for America. I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation very soon.”

Vocal support of the bill wasn’t hard to find beyond the halls of Congress, and included those ranging from local Seventh District business owners to the Georgia Ports Authority expressing appreciation for the committed effort culminating in today’s passage of S. 3021.

“As a Georgia based manufacturer, I am excited and grateful that the Georgia Ports Authority projects are progressing to help our state's economic growth and our nation's ability to ship and receive goods faster and with more efficiency,” said Lisa Winton, CEO and Co-owner of Winton Machine in Suwanee. “Reduced shipping costs and improved delivery time of our machines are both mission critical to increasing our export business. Thank you to Rep. Woodall, Georgia’s Congressional delegation, Governor Deal, and all our leaders for working together to make such tremendous progress on the GPA expansion and capacity projects.”

“We continue to appreciate the unwavering commitment by Georgia’s Congressional delegation to ensure this critical project has the support and resources it needs to remain on time and on track,” added Georgia Ports Authority Chief Administrative Officer Jamie McCurry. “It is a vital part of maintaining our state’s economic momentum and creating even more employment opportunities for Georgians, and Rep. Woodall’s leadership on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has been invaluable in getting us to this point today.”

Click here for more information on S.3021 or find the full text here.

Congressman Woodall represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia , which includes significant portions of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, and currently serves as Chairman of the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, as well as serving on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Budget Committee.                                                                                       

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Washington Watch - 9/10/18

2018/09/10

INCREASING FINANCIAL LITERACY OF STUDENT LOAN BORROWERS

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.

 

CELEBRATING A NEW SPACE: FOUR ORGANIZATIONS COME TOGETHER UNDER ONE ROOF TO SERVE OUR COMMUNITY

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

 

HOUSE REMAINS FOCUSED ON CREATING A 21ST CENTURY INFRASTRUCTURE FOR AMERICA

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.

CLICK ON THE PICTURE BELOW TO WATCH THE WATER SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING

 

CONSTITUENT SPOTLIGHT: CELEBRATING OUR VIETNAMESE-AMERICAN COMMUNITY

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. 

 

OVERCOMING HOMELESSNESS, CHANGING LIVES

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.

 

A CYCLE OF SERVICE

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.

 

THE WEEK AHEAD

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.

Sincerely,

Rob Woodall
Member of Congress 

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District Connection - 9/4/18

2018/09/04

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

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District Connection - 8/27/18

2018/08/27

ROB WOODALL RECEIVES THE FRIEND OF ISRAEL AWARD 

On Sunday evening, I was honored to receive the “Friend of Israel” award from the Congregation Beth Israel, led by my good friend Rabbi Levi Mentz.  I was tremendously honored to receive the award, and I am very proud of all of the work that we do in Congress to promote the very special bond between Israel and the United States.  Specifically, we discussed the strong support that Congress and the President have demonstrated for Israel over the last 18 months, from strengthened military partnerships, to relocating our embassy to Jerusalem, to enacting a number of laws to fight terrorist activities and put our common enemies on notice.  Today, our bilateral relationship has never been stronger.  I am grateful for so much positive feedback I’ve received from many of you on the important steps we’ve taken to help Israel defend itself from international hostility.

Much more than an award ceremony, though, Sunday night’s celebration was a recognition of local leaders in Forsyth County who have long dreamed that Forsyth would one day have its own synagogue. Rabbi Mentz again laid out that vision and shared the path for making it a reality.  I’m proud of the work Congregation Beth Israel does in our community, of the work Chabad of Georgia does across the state, and of the partnership that we all have supporting both the U.S. and the nation of Israel.

 
Rep. Rob Woodall meets with Forsyth Commissioner Dennis Brown, Mrs. Suzy Brown, Georgia State Representative Todd Jones and Mrs. Tracey Jones

 

AMERICANS MOURN THE PASSING OF SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN

As everyone knows by now, Arizona Senator John McCain died last Saturday after a brave and hard-fought battle against brain cancer. So much has been said about his life, his legacy, and his honorable service to the American people over the past few days, and you will hear more about his heroic life as his constituents in Arizona and the American people say their final goodbyes to him. A man of great character who had a deep love for America, Senator McCain will not soon be forgotten by those who knew him, nor by those who found his courage in war and in peacetime uplifting and admirable. I hope that all Americans take a moment to say a prayer for his family and friends and honor his legacy this week. 

 

SENATE MOVING FORWARD ON JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS FOR GEORGIA COURTS  

This August has turned out to be a busy one for confirming more of President Trump’s nominees, particularly those to the judiciary. Just last week, the Senate announced that they will soon vote to confirm Judge R. Stan Baker to be U.S. District judge for the Southern District of Georgia. The native Georgian and University of Georgia School of Law graduate is an impressive choice to fill the vacancy here in Georgia, and I am pleased that the Senate is so close to confirming him, as it’s already taken almost a year from his initial nomination to get to this point. And this comes just weeks after the Senate confirmed another Georgian, Justice Britt Cagle Grant, to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit in Georgia. Justice Grant, as you may know, used to clerk for another justice awaiting confirmation, the Honorable Brett M. Kavanaugh. Our state is blessed to have such qualified individuals serving our communities in such a capacity, and I am proud they have dedicated their lives to such a noble cause. I look forward to having my colleagues in the Senate complete their work to confirm the pending nominations before them. 

 

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PROPOSES CHANGES TO FEDERAL ENERGY RULES

In 2015, President Barack Obama began implementing an unprecedented federal takeover of American energy sources that threatened to further slow economic growth, raise electricity bills for those who could least afford it, and cede the global energy boom to foreign competition.  The rule involved enormous costs, yet even Obama Administration officials and carbon control advocates admitted at the time that this rule would have, at best, a marginal impact on global carbon output.  Fortunately, President Trump announced last week that America would be replacing the misguided Obama-era “Clean Power Plan” with a new stewardship vision, the “Affordable Clean Energy Rule,” which allows states to take the lead on regulating energy products to best serve state needs and take advantage of state opportunities.  Rather than simply waging an ideological war on coal as the “Clean Power Plan” did, this new rule will put states and local communities in charge to ensure that both our legacy and renewable energy sources remain plentiful and available to continue fueling our economic boom. We’ve seen first-hand here in Georgia, with the simultaneous expansion of Plant Vogtle and the explosion of Georgia solar energy resources, how state and local entities can work together to spur energy innovation. Georgia has led and done it, and I know that every other state can do it too. 

 

TRADE UPDATE: THWARTING CHINA’S UNFAIR TRADE PRACTICES 

With the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, it can be difficult to keep up with the ever-changing news cycle, much less understand how certain changes or events might affect your family, company, or even your retirement investments. For that reason, I want to take this opportunity to update you on the Administration’s efforts to combat China’s unfair trade policies that for too long have put U.S. industries and workers at a disadvantage. 

As many of you may recall, the President last August instructed the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to determine whether to investigate under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, the laws, policies, practices, or actions of the Government of China. In a 215 page executive report detailing the USTR’s findings, it was determined that “the acts, policies, and practices of the Government of China related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation covered in the investigation are unreasonable or discriminatory and burden or restrict U.S. commerce.” In order to combat China’s egregious tactics and trade policies, the Administration decided that it would be in the best interest of American companies and workers to get tough on China by applying certain trade remedies pursuant to Section 301 – the statutory means by which the United States enforces U.S. rights under trade agreements and addresses unfair foreign barriers to U.S. exports. While I have previously expressed my concerns about simply cobbling together tariffs to meet a certain dollar threshold in hopes of addressing our trade deficits, I do understand that there are valid instances in which we must use the tools at our disposal to protect our national security infrastructure and intellectual property rights, but we must do so in a narrow and targeted manner.  

To date, tariffs on nearly 1,100 imported goods from China have gone into effect, many of which have been specifically applied to target China’s unfair practices in areas of development that the Chinese government would like to bolster – areas that U.S. companies are typically front-runners in – as well as China’s “Made in China 2025” plan (i.e. aircraft and aircraft components, pharmaceuticals and advanced medical devices, and agricultural machinery and equipment). While I support U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer and the President doing all that they can to tear down any and all unfair trade barriers and subsidies and bring strong free trade to all of our trading partners, I would be remiss if I told you that I don’t expect there to be any bumps along the way. That’s because it is no easy task trying to determine which goods China’s unfair practices benefit and which they harm.  

As such, I am pleased that Ambassador Lighthizer has established a Section 301 product exclusion process that provides for an open and transparent process that will work to further refine the list of goods subject to the enacted tariffs.  For some manufacturers here in Georgia, there simply are not any domestically produced alternatives for their inputs.  In this situation, tariffs punish American companies much more than they punish the Chinese government, so an exclusion process was created to recognize and correct bad outcomes for American companies.  If you or someone you know have any questions about what actions have been taken pursuant to Section 301or have questions about the product exclusion process, I do hope you’ll reach out to my Washington, D.C. office at 202-225-4272 so that my team can work to get you the answers you seek.  I look forward to partnering with you to achieve the free and fair trade that all of America wants and needs.

 

CONSTITUENT SPOTLIGHT: ENSURING THE LAW KEEPS UP WITH TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT 

In today’s modern age, we find that technology moves and advances so rapidly that it’s nearly impossible to fully anticipate the consequences of those advances. From in-app purchases on smart phone applications to licensing for online music streaming services to the potential of drones flying overhead and self-driving cars on our streets, new technological advances have brought both wondrous capabilities and a host of challenges that very few imagined just a few years ago. The truth is that technology always moves faster than the law, and as such, there is a constant need to update our nation's many laws.  This week’s Constituent Spotlight highlights another good example of a problem many of us never could have envisioned: 3D printed guns. 

Sarah from Alpharetta: 

You have GOT to do something about the blueprints for the 3D printed guns going online tonight. This is a safety nightmare. Take a stand against the plans being released. Protect people's lives. 

Christine from Cumming: 

Please stop the imminent release of 3D printed plastic gun plans. This can only make our community less safe. 

Leonard from Lawrenceville: 

I am concerned about the Trump Administration allowing downloadable 3D printed guns to be legal.  

_____________________________________________________________________________ 

From all of the news coverage, this issue appears to be a new one, but in fact it has been the subject of years of litigation already, and I expect it will continue to be.  Whenever you hear about guns and firearms, you expect to be talking about Second Amendment issues, but that isn’t the case here.  The releasing of plans or blueprints—or the prohibition on that release—is a First Amendment issue—freedom of speech, and as extended, freedom of expression.  Let me start at the beginning, and I will explain.

If you do not know, 3D printing has just recently entered the mainstream. Instead of printing an image on paper, 3D printing actually creates, or “prints,” a layer-by-layer, three-dimensional object. While the idea of printing a 3D object may sound like something from science fiction, but in fact, we have cutting-edge, international industry leaders in 3D printing based right here in the Seventh District.  The potential for this technology is nearly endless with examples of applications ranging from the 3D printing of mechanical parts, medical devices, houses, and even food.  However, as Sarah, Christine, and Leonard point out, this potential also includes the production of firearms.

The issue of 3D printing a firearm started with the so-called “Liberator,” when the plans for a 3D printed gun created by Defense Distributed were published online. Soon after its announcement, the State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance demanded that the files for the “Liberator” be taken down, citing its violation of the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and the files were removed. This was just recently settled after years in court, when in July, the State Department recognized Defense Distributed’s First Amendment right to publish the plans. 

Existing federal law already prohibits the manufacture or possession of undetectable plastic firearms, so the discussion on this issue has never been a Second Amendment issue.  It has been a First Amendment issue about whether a company is free to share its ideas and work product.  We all revere the First Amendment and its protections, but as demonstrated by Sarah, Christine, and Leonard’s concerns, Americans grapple constantly with the continuum of freedom and security.

To Leonard’s concern specifically, the Trump Administration is not working to legalize printed guns.  In fact, to the contrary, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made crystal clear that the Department of Justice will prosecute producers of any products that violate federal law.  In a statement, the Attorney General said:  

"Under federal law, it is illegal to manufacture or possess plastic firearms that are undetectable. Violation of this law is punishable by up to five years in prison. Such firearms present a significant risk to public safety, and the Department of Justice will use every available tool to vigorously enforce this prohibition. We will work with federal, state and local law enforcement to identify any possible cases for prosecution… We will not stand for the evasion, especially the flouting, of current law and will take action to ensure that individuals who violate the law by making plastic firearms and rendering them undetectable, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent." 

Further, Attorneys General from nineteen states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against Defense Distributed to stop the publishing of the plans, and an injunction was issued to block the plans from being published. That case is expected to be decided this week. What’s more, the largest online retailer, Amazon, has announced that it will not allow the plans to be available through its website.  

I am an ardent supporter of our Bill of Rights, all of the amendments from the First and Second to the Tenth. Our system of justice punishes actions, not ideas. As Attorney General Sessions said, producing undetectable firearms has long been against the law and will be vigorously prosecuted.  Considering the promise of 3D printing and its potential applications, however, we are sure to see even more and as yet unforeseen legal conundrums arise. Some of these will be handled by local community and state laws. Some of them will be addressed by Congress. I look forward to partnering with you to unleash the innovative potential of new technologies while holding fast to our traditional understandings and expectations of freedom and security.

 

LANIER FORSYTH ROTARY RAISES THOUSANDS FOR CHARITABLE CAUSES ACROSS COMMUNITY 

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to visit with and get to know the great folks of the Lanier Forsyth Rotary, so this bit of news didn’t surprise me, but it sure does reaffirm what I know to be true about them: they are true leaders who let their example do the talking. Raising $85,000 for your neighbors in need is a remarkable labor of love, and this is just one of their efforts! This can be said of Rotarians all throughout the Seventh District, and any time you encounter these men and women, you’re better off for it. They are, after all, a service organization by definition, so one would expect to see this kind of involvement, but the truth is not every community can boast of a group like Lanier Forsyth Rotary, much less multiple Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions clubs, and so many more in every corner of the region. In the Seventh District, we are so fortunate to have this abundance character – and that matters. When I visit these groups, I often share with them my appreciation not only for the work they’re doing, but how they’re doing it. They don’t care what your politics are. They don’t care what your background is. They only care that you show up and help make the community better, tend to someone in need, and be a part of a solution. Time and again, this is what we see, and it’s the legacy not just of a particular club or organization, but who we are as a community. Thank you all for what you do to make that a reality, and make our voice in Washington that much stronger.

 

FIVE GWINNETT COUNTY TEACHERS WIN STATE HONORS FOR CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION 

In case you were wondering – our community is full of fantastic teachers! Last week, a total of five Gwinnett County Public Schools teachers were honored at the Georgia Association of Career and Technical Educators (GACTE) Summer Leadership Conference for their respective fields, and are now eligible for the overall GACTE Teacher of the Year Award. I don’t know if you saw the recent report that Gwinnett County’s population rose by more than 16,000 last year to reach over 910,000, but there are reasons folks continue to make their home here – and top notch schools is a big one! That said, this creates a tremendous need for talented teachers, and thankfully we have them in our midst. Congratulations to each of these dedicated men and women!

It also just so happens that last month Congress passed – and the President signed – the biggest federal overhaul of career and technical education programs in decades to further partner with remarkable communities like the Seventh District of Georgia. We want to leverage that success such that communities getting it right have even more freedom to excel, and those who have yet to find that level of success will have needed resources to ensure young people are receiving the skills and training they need for a dynamic and evolving economy. I recently wrote more about this in the Gwinnett Daily Post, and if you missed it, you can find it here. At the core of this legislation was the knowledge that our communities, teachers, and mentors here at home are the cornerstone – not Washington – and teachers like these five recently recognized serve as a wonderful example of our broader educators across the district. Best of luck, and thank you again for what you do!

 

THE WEEK AHEAD 

And this week and upcoming Labor Day weekend have even more fantastic community events to take part in. You could spend time in Norcross at the annual Vietnamese Fall Festival this weekend getting a taste of Vietnam right here in Gwinnett County. You could celebrate at Stone Mountain Park with its Labor Day Weekend Everyday Heroes Celebration. Or you can check-out any of the dozens of great activities in Forsyth County. Whatever you do this coming weekend, I hope that you get to spend some quality time with family and friends enjoying your day off!  

This month has been tremendously valuable to me as I’ve been able to visit with you in the community, at your places of worship, at your cultural events, and at your businesses and schools.  Everything that I’ve learned from you is going back to Washington, D.C., with me to help me bring our values and our successes to the rest of America. Thank you!

Sincerely,

Rob Woodall
Member of Congress

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Rep. Woodall Manages the Rule for H.R. 4182 and H.R. 1699

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Contact Information

1725 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-4272
Fax 202-225-4696
woodall.house.gov

Rob Woodall serves the 7th district of GA in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Committee on Rules, the House Budget Committee, and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rob also serves as Chairman of the Republican Study Committee’s Budget and Spending Task Force.

Rob was born and raised in Georgia, graduated from Marist School in 1988, attended Furman University for his undergraduate degree and received his law degree from the University of Georgia

Rob first came to public service as a staffer for then Congressman John Linder serving as his Chief of Staff and was elected to Congress in 2010.

Rob’s political philosophy is guided by the principles of freedom, and his proudest accomplishment is helping Seventh District families one at a time through casework and creating a Congressional office that functions for the people.


Serving With

Buddy Carter

GEORGIA's 1st DISTRICT

Drew Ferguson

GEORGIA's 3rd DISTRICT

Karen Handel

GEORGIA's 6th DISTRICT

Austin Scott

GEORGIA's 8th DISTRICT

Doug Collins

GEORGIA's 9th DISTRICT

Jody Hice

GEORGIA's 10th DISTRICT

Barry Loudermilk

GEORGIA's 11th DISTRICT

Rick Allen

GEORGIA's 12th DISTRICT

Tom Graves

GEORGIA's 14th DISTRICT

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