The threat posed by COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges to our schools, hospitals, restaurants, and industries of all sizes, as well as the daily routines of all Americans. As the spread of COVID-19 domestically demands we take decisive action to protect public health, I certainly recognize how many workers, including small businesses and those who are self-employed, across numerous industries have been impacted by this virus. All levels of government – state, local, and federal – are working to make decisions to best navigate and lessen the impacts of COVID-19 on Americans and their families, and each will have a critical role to play in that effort.
At the national level, both Congress and the Administration have taken deliberate action to address the burden COVID-19 has levied on American’s physical and financial health. Following the passage of an emergency supplemental package earlier this month, President Trump signed into law Congress’ second package related to addressing COVID-19 last week: H.R. 6201, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.” Among those provisions included in the final bill are those that would provide $1 billion for emergency grants to states for activities related to processing and paying unemployment insurance benefits, coverage for the cost of COVID-19 diagnostic testing, and funding for food assistance programs. Also, the final bill provides 100 percent refundable tax credits for qualified paid sick and family leave wages paid by an employer, including similar tax credits for those who are self-employed. You can read more about those details HERE.
As you also may have heard, Congress’ efforts to address COVID-19 are ongoing, and we are currently working to advance what has been labeled as a “Phase 3” package. You can read more about what’s likely to be in that measure by CLICKING HERE.
In addition to these efforts, I want to share with you the House Ways and Means Committee’s FAQ Coronavirus Resource page, which includes information about the Administration’s efforts to increase access to personal protective equipment for our healthcare workforce along with the latest legislative updates. Also, included below are additional announcements from our federal agencies regarding their efforts to support Americans affected by this outbreak.
With all that said, I encourage you to continue to follow updates provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as those from the Georgia Department of Public Health, as they work to monitor and support efforts to address the spread of COVID-19 across our state and our nation. As this situation continues to develop, please know that you can continue reaching out to my office for help and information.
As the federal government continues in its response to the COVID-19 crisis, Georgia has taken steps on its own to target resources where they are needed. I have heard from some of you inquiring about what efforts are being taken right in our state.
Michael from Lawrenceville:
All restaurant workers in Gwinnett county affected by the state of our current situation. Even if restaurants are open, their business is depleted. These are the folks that are always there for us whether it be a fun night out, a birthday party, a wedding, or any special event.
Gregory from Sugar Hill:
Water is a human right! And water access is critical for public health; you can't wash your hands without it. So far, more than 100 cities across the country have stopped water shutoffs to help protect communities from the growing spread of the virus.
I would like to thank everyone who contacted my office last week to learn more about Georgia’s coronavirus response. You will be pleased to hear that our state and local officials are hard at work monitoring the situation and finding the best ways to assist our community during these turbulent times.
As you may know, Governor Kemp recently declared a public health state of emergency and signed an amended budget that provides $100 million to combat the spread of COVID-19. Georgia has taken immediate action to stock medical facilities across the state and to make testing more widely available. Already, mobile testing sites have been deployed across the state and more are on the way. Emergency housing units are also being constructed for patients that have no alternative housing during recovery – one of which is now nearing completion at the state’s public safety training center in Forsyth, Georgia, in Monroe County.
In addition to these measures, all elementary, secondary, and post-secondary public schools have been closed until March 31. There are currently no plans to ban public events, institute a mandatory quarantine, or shut down businesses.
In regard to Michael’s specific concern about water shutoffs, many suppliers in our region have already announced they would suspend all water service shut-offs for those facing financial difficulties in the face of this crisis. I encourage you to contact your water supplier to learn more about their coronavirus protocol. Additionally, Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light have recently announced that they will suspend disconnections – for 30 days and one week respectively — in light of the growing outbreak.
A state of emergency has also been declared in both Forsyth and Gwinnett Counties. These declarations allow the counties to act swiftly and use available resources to take all necessary precautions. In the past week, Forsyth has been implementing CDC recommendations and taking measures to prevent price gauging. Click HERE to report any wrongdoing in your community and to get the latest Forsyth updates.
Gwinnett County has also taken various measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. Michael will be glad to hear that Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash has recently signed an order to help local businesses impacted by the virus. The order will extend deadlines for business licenses and excise taxes on the sale of alcoholic beverages. It also allows licensed businesses to sell unopened bottles of beer and wine for take-out consumption. Click HERE to get all the latest updates for Gwinnett County.
New information is becoming available every day. I encourage you to utilize Georgia’s new COVID-19 hotline with any questions or concerns. The number is 1-844-442-2681.
Every week, we see outstanding examples of how strong our sense of community is in the Seventh District. Even with the unprecedented challenges posed by the novel coronavirus, we continue to see our district's charitable spirit working in remarkable ways. After Governor Kemp ordered the closure of all schools to combat the spread of coronavirus in Georgia, Gwinnett and Forsyth County School officials planned ways to provide free meals for their students despite the closures. As a result, hundreds of students received free meals last week through the pickup and delivery services provided by our exemplary school districts and their dedicated employees.
I would like to thank the school workers who prepared and delivered those meals. Your hard work and commitment to the students of the Seventh District have not gone unnoticed.
This week, we recognize the thoughtful innovation of our local businesses as they find ways to continue to serve our community during this difficult time. Several restaurants have come up with clever strategies to maintain social distancing while still providing services for the community and supporting their employees.
For example, after Gwinnett County's Good Word Brewing shut down its usual operations, they set up a successful Go Fund Me campaign to continue providing for their employees. The owners of Good Word Brewing have also converted their space into a soup kitchen to provide meals for locals during the temporary closure.
In Forsyth County, a number of restaurants have begun offering delivery and curbside pickups to enforce the recommended social distancing and limit close contact between employees and customers. By finding creative ways to stay in business and feed our friends and neighbors, restaurants like these have continued to provide for community and employee needs.
I commend all businesses in the Seventh District who have thought of ways to continue supporting their employees and their customers while maintaining new health standards to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Keep up the good work!
This week the House is expected to consider Phase 3 of the Covid-19 legislative package, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.” The Senate has been working with the House and the President on this bill for a number of days already, including over this past weekend, to provide even greater economic relief to American employers and workers. Unfortunately, on Sunday night, Senate Democrats refused to support the CARES Act, which they helped negotiate. As such, the House will continue to wait for Senate Democrats to come back to the table to reach a deal.
Member of Congress
As you may know, the District of Columbia has declared a State of Emergency due to concerns about Coronavirus. Unfortunately, this means several popular tourist sites will close to the public on a precautionary basis. Please see below for more information.
Out of an abundance of caution, all White House tours have been temporarily suspended until further notice. At this time, we do not know when the White House will reopen for tours. We will be in contact with you when more information is available.
The House and Senate Sergeants at Arms have ordered limited access to the Capitol Complex. All tours of the Capitol Building have been cancelled beginning at 5:00 p.m. on March 12, 2020. Tours are currently scheduled to resume at 8:00 a.m. on April 1, 2020. We do not know at this time whether the suspension of Capitol tours will extend beyond April 1. We will be in contact with you should additional information become available.
BUREAU OF ENGRAVING AND PRINTING
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) is closed to the public until further notice.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Beginning at 5:00 p.m. on March 12 through 8:00 a.m. on April 1, 2020, all Library of Congress buildings and facilities will be closed to the public.
During the closure, all Library-sponsored public programs are postponed or cancelled. For additional information, please visit www.loc.gov or contact 202-707-8000.
The Supreme Court is closed to the public until further notice.
OTHER TOUR INFORMATION
Information about the operating status of other DC tourist destinations (National Archives, Smithsonian Institution, National Park Service monuments, Arlington National Cemetery, etc.) can be found on the individual webpages of those institutions.
If you have any questions regarding these closures, please do not hesitate to reach out to my staff at 202-225-4272.Read More
Given the precautionary measures being taken across the United States and even here on Capitol Hill to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is easy to succumb to the alarm many may feel as a result. However, it is important to understand that there are simple steps you can take to keep yourself and your family safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also issued guidelines to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading throughout the community that everyone can follow.
President Trump has also taken action using his executive authority to extend travel restrictions from the European Union after having already done so for China and Iran where the outbreak has been particularly extensive. The European Union one of the hardest hit regions outside of China, with 70 percent of new cases world wide being linked to travel from Europe. Additionally, President Trump made a national emergency declaration on Friday to free up $40 billion of disaster relief funds to use towards the COVID-19 response and unburden our state and local health officials from regulatory red tape to expand and expedite testing.
In addition to the emergency supplemental Congress I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, the House has continued to take steps in response to the crisis. Early Saturday morning, the House came together to overwhelmingly pass a bipartisan economic stimulus package to contain the effects COVID-19 has had on families, businesses, and the labor market. Specifically, the bill – negotiated by the White House and House leadership – would provide free testing for the virus, ensure children who are dependent on free and reduced school lunch still have access to food during school closures, access to paid sick leave for those infected with the virus, access to paid family leave for those who must miss work to care for a loved one with the virus, and access to unemployment insurance for those who lost their job due to the outbreak.
It was encouraging to see partisanship put aside in the time of a crisis to deliver meaningful and targeted solutions for the American people. I am hopeful this sets the stage for further bipartisanship here in Congress as we continue to address the needs that arise from this outbreak, and the myriad other issues still pending legislative action after this crisis has subsided.
As I will continue to reference for the duration of the COVID-19 mitigation period, you can visit my website for resources on preventative measures and the latest developments from the CDC, or go to the Georgia Department of Public Health website for efforts being taken right in our state.
Last Tuesday, the House Budget Committee met to discuss a critically important piece of the federal government: the Department of Defense (DOD) budget. Members heard from U.S. Department of Defense Deputy Secretary David Norquist regarding the President’s proposed budget request for Fiscal Year 2021 on various aspects of the defense budget, from how DOD is furthering our national defense capabilities, to how failures in the appropriations process and continuing resolutions hinder DOD’s long-term readiness.
While our nation’s mandatory spending – roughly two-thirds of the federal budget – undeniably poses our biggest threat to fiscal responsibility, our nation’s defense spending accounts for the largest piece of the pie on the discretionary side, which is why we must ensure that every dollar is being maximized. Calls for fiscal accountability in our federal budget do not need to be at odds with our efforts to rebuild and restore our military capabilities and readiness to counter aggression from any number of adversaries. I applaud the Trump Administration and Deputy Secretary Norquist’s commitment to both of those goals in their budget request by providing our military with the resources they need to be effective while also adhering to spending caps set forth by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, in addition to completing the largest financial audit undertaken by a federal agency for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019.
I had an opportunity to ask Deputy Secretary Norquist about the DOD’s efforts to balance those aforementioned goals as well as how the agency prioritizes other activities, like the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, among its larger national defense focus. You can watch that full exchange below.
Rep. Rob Woodall (GA-07) speaks with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary David Norquist during the House Budget Committee hearing on the President’s FY2021 Budget Request
I greatly appreciated the feedback and insights from Deputy Secretary Norquist, and I wish that those insights from all the heads of our federal agencies could be used to better this year’s federal budget. Unfortunately, House Leadership has, for the second year in a row, neglected its responsibility to produce a budget, reneging on the Committee’s primary responsibility. While I appreciate Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth’s work to ensure our budgeting process tomorrow is better than it is today, I hope he will also echo these calls to restore that commitment – and statutory duty – to produce a budget of our federal priorities and restore Congress’s power of the purse so that it can be the most effective.
I’m pleased to report that last week the House passed, under suspension of the rules, H.R. 1771, the “Divided Families Reunification Act” and H.Res. 756, the “Moving Our Democracy and Congressional Operations towards Modernization Resolution,” or “MODCOM.”
As an original co-sponsor, I have been working on passing H.R. 1771 for over a year now. This bill, which I drafted along with my friend, Representative Grace Meng (D-NY), would create a new way for Korean Americans to reunite with family members still living in North Korea. I’m incredibly proud that the House recognized this tragedy and passed our bill to help Korean Americans see their long-lost relatives once again.
As for H.Res. 756 – this is a bill that consists of the good work produced by the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. Since the Committee’s inception, my colleagues and I have developed 45 recommendations to build a better Congress. In the MODCOM resolution, 30 of these recommendations will be implemented to improve internal operations and promote increased transparency in Congress. You can listen to my remarks on the House floor by clicking on the photo below.
Rep. Rob Woodall speaks on the House floor in favor of H.Res. 756
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has been one of the more controversial pieces of legislation Congress has debated since it was first signed into law in 1978. The law has been used to investigate foreign actors who have threatened Americans and is an important of protecting our national security. However, after changes were made in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, it’s been criticized for its potential use to violate the 4th Amendment rights of Americans, lack of oversight into its use, and absence of due process for those it may target. Last week the House considered the reauthorization of the law for the next three years. Here is what many of you had to say about the bill:
Patricia from Cumming:
Dear Rep. Woodall As provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and USA PATRIOT Act are being considered, I urge you to support the following surveillance reforms: (1) require additional notice and disclosure for individuals targeted and/or prosecuted using information obtained via surveillance under FISA; (2) limit the types of records that can be obtained by the government under the Patriot Act; and (3) reform the FISA court process to enhance accountability, oversight and transparency. Right now you have an opportunity —and responsibility to your constituents —to reform our surveillance laws and better protect our privacy rights. The government has far too often abused its foreign intelligence surveillance powers to spy on Americans, including political activists, dissidents, and communities of color. You can’t just look the other way. We're demanding our privacy rights back. Congress must rein in the government's spying powers and enact meaningful reforms that prevent discriminatory surveillance practices and shield First Amendment-protected activities.
Lisa from Lawrenceville:
As your constituent, I implore you to vote NO on any straight-up or “clean” reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act’s Section 215.We cannot bring unnecessary and invasive surveillance powers into the new decade. This is our chance to bring serious reforms to a flawed and opaque foreign intelligence system, ensure more accountability for citizens who may be targeted by surveillance, and end the broken Call Detail Records program that has collected information on millions of Americans. In an era of political upheaval and uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to pass serious reforms of Section 215.
In the past, I have voted against reauthorizing individual FISA programs that I felt did not go far enough to protect Americans’ privacy and strike the proper balance between liberty and security. In fact, in the last reauthorization, I voted for Representative Justin Amash’s (R-MI) amendment, commonly known as the “USA RIGHTS Act,” which would have gone even further in reforming FISA programs to protect Americans’ privacy. However, when that amendment failed, I supported more modest reforms in the underlying bill that I believe protect our privacy while giving our intelligence community and our law enforcement officials the tools they need to keep Americans safe.
That was the case with H.R. 6172, the “USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act.” This bill was a bipartisan product that included input from Attorney General Barr and others involved in the Intelligence Community to enhance the privacy of Americans. New Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a staunch advocate for individual liberty himself, offered his support for the bill.
Specifically, the legislation would reauthorize the roving wiretap authority, required for suspects who frequently change their phone numbers; preserves the lone wolf definition for a foreign individual not part of an international terrorist organization but inspired by one; and amend FISA authorities related to “tangible things” collection regarding business records. The bill would also place new limitations on FISA authorities, including ending the NSA’s authority to collect call detail records on an ongoing basis, prohibiting the government from collecting any records if a warrant would be required to collect the same records for law enforcement purposes to include cell site location or GPS information, and limits the government from retaining materials for more than five years, subject to limitations. In addition to greater transparency guarantees within the reauthorization, the underlying bill also includes provisions to ensure integrity in the FISA process regarding accuracy, remedies for misconduct, and ensuring compliance.
We must continue to be vigilant, and continually reexamine the FISA process so that we can always make certain that we are protecting security, liberty, and privacy. I fully expect Congress to make further changes to FISA when this authorization lapses in 2023.
The Seventh District’s exceptional school system continues to pride itself on producing talented students. Last week, Isaac Baquerizo, a Brookwood High School student, and Julie Morris, a Peachtree Ridge High School student, accepted certificates in recognition for their projects being named Best in Show at the 2020 Music Technology showcase. Earlier this year, over 70 students across the state submitted their original works to the Georgia Music Educators Association (GMEA) for a chance to be featured in the Music Technology Showcase at the GMEA State In-service Conference. Of these students, Isaac and Julie tied for Best in Show for their digital music composition. With this award, they received various digital materials and a chance to meet in a professional studio with industry professionals.
I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Isaac and Julie for achieving such an outstanding award. Students like these exemplify the incredible talent that comes from the 7th District.
Time and time again, the Seventh District proves it is home to a strong community of service-minded volunteers. This week we recognize eighth-grader Tristan Sarrica for his thoughtful Eagle Scout project, bringing the Pinewood Derby to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) Egleston Hospital. On March 7th, Tristan and several scouts from Troop 1109 arrived at CHOA to set up a miniature racetrack for the patients to play with. Participating patients were given miniature white pinewood derby cars to decorate before setting off to race their cars on the track. After three hours of derby racing, the participants of the CHOA Pinewood Derby received medals to commemorate the special event.
I would like to thank Tristan and his fellow scouts for brightening the day for all those children who participated in the CHOA Pinewood Derby. We are so proud that you call our district home!
This week, the House is not in session, but the Senate will be in Washington, D.C., working on reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and on passing the most recent Covid-19 supplemental appropriations measure. I know my colleagues in the Senate are going to work together – as the House did last week – to bring the American people the relief that they need and ensure we are safe from foreign terrorist threats. While I had planned on attending a number of community and school events this week right here in Georgia, as you can imagine, all of those events have been temporarily suspended. The good news, however, is that technology is allowing us to continue working. I will be using conference calls this week instead of in-person meetings, and while my D.C. and Lawrenceville offices will be closed, my phone lines are open during regular business hours (9am-6pm), and my staff will still be working hard to serve you.
Member of Congress
WASHINGTON, DC – Last night, the U.S House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to reunite Korean-Americans with family members in North Korea.
H.R. 1771, the “Divided Families Reunification Act,” would direct the U.S. Department of State to consult with South Korean officials on how to reunite Korean-American families with family members in North Korea, as well as to fill the vacancy in the position of “Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea.” While the U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a number of resolutions to raise awareness about this difficult subject, this bill would compel the State Department to take diplomatic steps to address this tragedy.
“The Korean War left too many Korean-Americans wondering if they would ever see their loved ones again,” said Rep. Rob Woodall (R, GA-7). “I worked with my friend Representative Grace Meng (D, NY-6) to introduce this measure, and I am pleased that the House has recognized this tragedy and passed our bill to help reunify these families.”
The “Divided Families Reunification Act” is now headed to the Senate for further consideration.
Congressman Woodall represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia, which includes significant portions of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties. He currently serves on the Rules Committee, the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and the Budget Committee.
Americans are increasingly concerned about protecting themselves and their families from the COVID-19 virus (Coronavirus). While U.S. public health officials have urged Americans to remain calm and institute normal procedures for preventing disease – including regular hand washing, avoiding touching the face, and coughing or sneezing into your elbow – they are of course also working on developing reliable tests to distribute around the country and on a long-term vaccine so that we can prevent outbreaks in the future.
On our end, Congress passed, and the president signed, H.R. 6074, the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act.” These emergency funds will help to expedite vaccine development, procure necessary equipment and hospital supplies, and assist local authorities in helping our incredible medical professionals take all the necessary precautions to keep Americans safe.
Visit the CDC’s website for the most updated information about how to keep yourself safe, and what to do should you feel sick and are concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19. If you think you need to be tested, the CDC advises that you call your doctor or hospital ahead of time to prevent unnecessary spreading of the disease.
The U.S. economy added 273,000 jobs last month according to the latest report from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – almost 100,000 more jobs than economists had originally anticipated for the month of February. That brings our unemployment back down to a historically low rate of 3.5%. Job numbers were also revised up for December and January, adding more than 85,000 jobs than originally estimated. Wages also grew 3% compared to last year. There is a lot to be excited about in the latest jobs report and a lot to be optimistic about in the coming months as trade deals are implemented and markets in China and India begin to open for American businesses.
While it has unfortunately become all too common for House Leadership to bring forth messaging bills that serve as thirty-second sound bites in political ads, I am glad the House still advances smaller bills that have wide bipartisan support. You can click HERE to view all the bills the House considered this week, but I want to mention a few of those notable, bipartisan pieces of legislation from the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Financial Services that were considered and passed in the House.
Included among those was a bill that would direct U.S. representatives at international financial institutions to seek greater transparency surrounding China’s foreign investments and another to direct the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to review its practices in an effort to better understand barriers that prohibit folks from accessing financing for small mortgages. Additionally, after passage in the Senate, the House considered and approved S.1678, which would ensure that the State Department’s policies are best supporting Taiwan’s representation in the international community and to consider, in some cases, altering its engagement with countries that take significant actions to undermine our ally’s security. Taiwan is not only an important ally in the Indo-Pacific region, but it is a valuable trade partner, and we must ensure our international policies are best supporting its ability to be a stable influence in the region. I am hopeful that the House will continue to move bills like these as this legislative session moves forward.
Nearly every part of the passenger experience has changed, from buying your ticket to checking in, to even changes in the boarding procedure – and most of it for the better.
Today, you and I can travel nearly anywhere in the world affordably with more amenities than ever before. That said, the pursuit of innovation is not perfect. While airline performance has improved, customer complaints have increased due to the lack of transparency regarding rising fees, accessibility challenges for those with disabilities, and dramatic examples of denied boardings or “de-planings.” This was the focus of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation hearing last week to explore the American airline passenger experience and what can be done to improve it.
The Government Accountability Office, Consumer Reports, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Airline Passenger Experience Association, and Spirit Airlines were invited to the hearing to share their expertise on the matter. It was not only exciting to hear about the future of the flying experience for Americans, including expanding lavatories to accommodate passengers with reduced mobility and more accessible inflight entertainment, but also to hear what we are doing to overcome the challenges many passengers have. The FAA Reauthorization Act we passed in 2018 included many provisions focused on consumer and passenger experiences, and hopefully once those measures are fully implemented, we will better know how we can further improve the American passenger experience.
Last week, the House Budget Committee invited U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan to testify regarding the President’s budget request for FY2021. Deputy Secretary Hargan spoke to us about the ways in which the administration proposes to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid that will change the way providers are paid and that will help Americans who need these programs the most. The Deputy Secretary, growing up in a rural community himself, also talked to Members about how HHS plans to bolster rural healthcare and telehealth initiatives that are already underway. Other changes put forward by the Administration include lengthening Medicaid postpartum care to one year, providing coverage for serious mental illnesses, and pushing forward with our domestic HIV initiative.
Given the growing number of cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., many Members of the Committee, including myself, took the time to question Deputy Secretary Hargan about the efforts of HHS to respond to the issue.
To watch my questions with Deputy Secretary Hargan, click on the image below.
Rep. Rob Woodall (GA-07) speaks with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan during the House Budget Committee hearing on the President’s FY2021 Budget Request
I appreciate hearing from many of you on your thoughts concerning the growing cost of attending college. Below are a few messages I have received on this topic.
Dorothy from Cumming:
The College Affordability Act makes college more affordable for low- and middle-income students. This legislation will protect students’ interests, provide safe and supportive learning environments for students, faculty, and staff, and ensure that we are funding the best higher education possible.
Phillip from Loganville:
Those Americans who have paid off their own student loans and who have worked hard to pay for their own or their children’s college education should not be forced to pay again for others to attend college debt-free.
I think we can all agree something has to be done to address the rising cost of attendance and the struggle students face paying back the borrowed money used to finance their education. Last year, almost 70 percent of college students took out loans with the average graduate entering the workforce nearly $30,000 in debt. In fact, it’s estimated Americans owe more than $1.64 trillion dollars in student loan debt.
I believe every American deserves the opportunity to earn an affordable college degree, and I applaud my colleagues’ efforts to make this goal a reality. But I’m afraid the legislation Dorothy mentioned, H.R. 4674, better known as the College Affordability Act (CAA), is only going to exacerbate the issues it looks to solve by pouring billions into subsidizing higher education costs rather than working to bring those costs down. The College Affordability Act is a massive piece of legislation, comprising almost 1,200 pages, and it’s hardly “affordable” with a price tag of upwards to $400 billion and absolutely no pathway for reducing costs.
I have to agree with Philip: “college affordability” cannot be defined as massive subsidies for some at the expense of all hardworking Americans. Tuition was once considered a worthwhile investment one was happy to make as a degree offered an opportunity to earn a greater salary than without one. That seems to have changed, and we shouldn’t subsidize investments that are not providing a positive return. We need to resolve the underlying issue on why higher education institutions are charging more for degrees that are worth less in 2020.
The Seventh District often takes to charity to improve the lives of those around us. Last week, Snellville hosted the 26th annual Run the Reagan road race to benefit local charities and schools in the Parkview, Central Gwinnett, Shiloh, and South Gwinnett clusters. This year, the race had 1,923 runners from all over the country who competed in either a timed half-marathon, 10K, 5K, an untimed 5K run/walk, or a 1K fun run. Together, these athletes raised over $20,000 for the community.
I would like to thank the volunteers and athletes who make the Run the Reagan possible each year. I know these charitable donations will go a long way to making our community a better place to live.
The spirit of generosity is present throughout the Seventh District, and the work of the Mentor Me volunteers is a prime example of that charitable spirit. Mentor Me volunteers have helped nearly 3,000 children in the Forsyth community to navigate the difficulties of growing up since the nonprofit was established in 2002. The Mentor Me program matches a child in need of guidance with an approved volunteer mentor. Mentors act as a positive role-model and provide support for their mentees by meeting a few times each month to participate in shared interests, to develop skills like reading, and to talk about life. This week, Mentor Me hosted its annual celebration breakfast to recognize mentors who have gone above and beyond to support the children of Forsyth County and the surrounding community.
Thank you to all the folks at Mentor Me who contribute their time and effort to improve the lives of children in our community.
For the second time this year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is using a House procedure whereby the House will amend a bill that we have already passed and the Senate has already amended for the sole purpose of shutting down debate and silencing Republican Members. The House is going to amend H.R. 2486, which was a bill about higher education funding, with two amendments that hamstring the government’s ability to control immigration and create a new pathway for the Federal Trade Commission to challenge legal settlements between drug companies. These are highly contentious amendments, but instead of having a full-throated debate on them, Speaker Pelosi is trying to jam them through the House with as little debate as possible. It’s as if the Speaker doesn’t want the American people to know that she’s trying to reverse President Trump’s national security Executive Orders ensuring that that immigrants coming to America are properly vetted. I know discussing immigration issues is hard, but that’s what we’re here to do; make the hard choices.
While I’m disappointed in the Speaker’s actions on H.R. 2486, I’m pleased to report that a measure I’ve been working on for a year, H.R. 1771, the “Divided Families Unification Act,” will likely pass the House this week. That bill, which I drafted in conjunction with my friend Representative Grace Meng (D-NY), would create a new way for Korean Americans to be able to meet with family members who live in North Korea. South Koreans have had opportunities over the years to reunite with their lost family members in North Korea, but Korean Americans have never had that opportunity. Bringing families together who were torn apart by war and decades of autocracy is a worthy endeavor, and I’m so proud that my colleagues are moving one step closer to making cross boarder family reunions a reality.
We will also be voting on H.Res. 756, the “Moving Our Democracy and Congressional Operations towards Modernization Resolution,” or “MODCOM” under suspension of the rules. The resolution is a work product of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress made up of a number of recommendations issued by the Committee to improve internal operations and promote transparency in Congress.
Member of Congress
As many of you may have already learned, the continued outbreak of the “coronavirus,” more formally known as COVID-19, affected markets around the globe as domestic and international health officials continue working to combat and monitor this novel virus. President Trump and top U.S. health officials addressed the nation last Wednesday to discuss the efforts federal and state agencies are taking to limit the spread and impact of COVID-19. Following the President’s address, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a case of COVID-19 in an individual who reportedly did not have relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient with COVID-19.
Given the growing number of cases of COVID-19 overseas and here in the United States, I want to take this opportunity to share with you everyday preparedness measures the CDC recommends that folks can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and respiratory infections like it. Those preparedness measures the CDC recommends include:
To that end, please know that our federal health agencies, namely the CDC, conduct critical work around the clock to defend our nation from public health threats and have been hard at work doing so long before the COVID-19 outbreak began. Congress is more than willing to ensure our federal agencies have the tools they need to best protect the American public, and in fact, lawmakers on Capitol Hill began discussing those needs last week with our nation’s top health officials. You can be sure that I will continue to keep you updated on the CDC’s work to address COVID-19, and I encourage you to stay informed and practice good preventative measures to best protect yourself and your families.
Partisan politics should never stand as an impediment to moving forward good, bipartisan bills that have overwhelming support in Congress, which is why the House can bring forth those pieces of legislation under a procedure known as “suspension of the rules.” Considering bills under this procedural mechanism is common, and this week the House passed 13 bills from the Committees on Judiciary, Veterans’ Affairs, and Natural Resources in this manner.
Among these bills were those that would open up grant programs to additional states so that they may better control harmful nutria (a semi-aquatic rodent that is an invasive species found in coastal areas) populations that threaten native plant species, another to better provide for long-term workers in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, and a bill to require the VA to disclose additional information on its “GI Bill Comparison Tool” so that veterans can make more informed decisions with regards to their educational pursuits. Additionally, the House passed with overwhelming bipartisan support H.R. 35, the “Emmett Till Antilynching Act,” specifically classifying lynching, an act historically associated with violence perpetrated against African American communities, as a hate crime punishable by federal law.
You can read a full list of the bills that the House considered and passed HERE. I hope the House will continue to seek opportunities to advance even more bipartisan legislation. Our success in Congress is that much greater when all voices have an opportunity to be heard.
Last week, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held its first full committee markup for 2020 where we approved six bipartisan pieces of legislation that included bills like H.R. 2914, the “Housing Survivors of Major Disasters Act,” to better assist those affected by large-scale devastation, to H.R. 5912, the “Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act,” which incentivizes early completion of airport improvements.
The very next day, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a Member Day hearing to provide an opportunity for Members who are not on that committee to share their priorities on matters under the committee’s jurisdiction. There we had the opportunity to hear from two Georgia Members. Rep. Buddy Carter (GA-01) spoke about the beach re-nourishment along Georgia’s coast, and Rep. Rick Allen (GA-12) testified about the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam that sits down the Savannah River from Augusta. These opportunities are a great way to hear about the transportation and infrastructure needs of districts across the country and an opportunity to work together on those challenges.
I appreciate all the recent messages I have received from folks back home concerning the illegal drug trade in our community and across our nation. Here’s what some of you had to say:
Lauren from Lawrenceville:
I strongly care about this issue because I have witnessed many people around me using, buying, and dealing drugs. It has only affected me and this community in very negative ways. I do not want to see our community fall down this path any deeper than it already has.
Dawson from Lawrenceville:
I am contacting you because I have a major concern in this state that I feel like should be addressed. That is the issue regarding the Triangle Drug trade in Atlanta. This is a major issue in Atlanta and now it has spread even more. I have a personal connection to this issue. My proclamation to end this or at least weaken it is that we should put more cops in Atlanta patrolling near the bluff and other areas where drug activity is strong so that we can crack down on these drug dealers and end it before it spreads further in the U.S.
Let me start by saying I agree with both Lauren and Dawson: something must be done to help prevent illegal substances from flowing across our borders and taking root in our own back yard. To this end, I believe the federal government plays an important role, and the bipartisan High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program is just one federal measure that is doing the most to combat this issue back home.
As you may know, HIDTA was created by Congress after passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. The program aids federal, state, and local law enforcement in all 50 states in areas most susceptible to drug trafficking. Last year, HIDTA dismantled almost 3,000 drug trafficking organizations, confiscated almost $16.5 billion worth of drugs and 21,000 firearms, and made nearly 99,000 arrests.
You will be pleased to know HIDTA operates in the metro Atlanta area and has had great success. Just this month, over $3 million of cocaine was seized in DeKalb, and a Georgia drug dealer, who was arrested in 2015 by the Atlanta-Carolinas HIDTA division, was convicted by a federal jury. Results like these are why the White House announced its disbursement of more than $266 million last week to HIDTA, the program’s largest amount of baseline funding yet. I know these funds will go a long way to contributing to the program’s success, which is why year after year, I have signed on to letters in support of HIDTA funding so we can continue to see results like the ones noted above.
For the remainder of my term, you can be sure I will work with my colleagues to develop new measures to combat drug trafficking in Georgia.
We are always proud of our thoughtful and hard-working community here in the Seventh District. That’s why I was so glad to learn about Three Basketeers, a nonprofit gift basket business based in Forsyth County. The business was founded to provide meaningful employment for adults with special needs in the Forsyth and North Fulton community. Brett, Luke, and Daniel are the original employees of the growing business. They have been able to thrive in their work because it highlights their excellent organizational skills and attention to detail. Each of their baskets is carefully assembled with personal designs and handmade items, including a journal decorated with Brett’s own heart wreath design.
I would like to commend Three Basketeers for providing employment opportunities for those with a developmental disability in the Forsyth community. I would also like to congratulate Brett, Luke, and Daniel for a job well done!
Time and again, the Seventh District takes to charity as a way to bring our community together and help improve the lives of those around us. Recently, State Senator P.K. Martin and Vasudev Patel, president of the Federation of Indian-American Associations of Georgia, collected 1,500 blankets to hand out to the homeless throughout Georgia. A portion of these blankets were delivered to Lawrenceville and Lilburn police departments as well as local co-ops to distribute to those in need. The officers at the Lilburn Police Department went one step further by bundling the blankets with other helpful items like snacks, toothpaste, water, shampoo, soap, and more. Sargent Gabriel Garner said officers will hand them out during their normal duties if they see someone in need.
I would like to commend everyone involved who made this initiative a reality. Your charitable efforts are admirable and will go a long way to making our community a better place to live.
For more information on how to donate, you can contact the Lilburn Police Department at (770) 921-2211.
This week the House will consider H.R. 1140, a bill compelling all Transportation Security Agency (TSA) officials to join a federal labor union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). The bill overturns current law allowing TSA employees to decide if they want to join a union. You read that right. Should this measure become law, a TSA employee will lose his or her right to decide for themselves whether they want to join the AFGE union. Forced unionization is against the law in Georgia, and in dozens of other states as well, as it takes choices away from employees and puts them in the hands of union bosses. The House fought a similar forced unionization fight a few weeks ago; a fight which is already dead in the Senate. The issue here isn’t whether TSA employees are being appropriately compensated, the issue here is that too many members of the House seem to believe that the only way for an employee to be treated fairly is to force them into paying union dues. I couldn’t disagree more. TSA management has the flexibility now to pay workers higher wages than the collective bargaining agreements than AFGE might propose. And TSA employees now have the flexibility to adjust their work schedules through shift switching with fellow employees to meet the needs of their families; something that a collective bargaining agreement may likely prohibit. If TSA employees want to join a union, they are free to do so. What we shouldn’t do is force people to give up their workplace freedoms to a union boss in order to serve the American people and keep us safe from terrorism.
Member of Congress
It is such a privilege of mine to visit with the future leaders of our nation and encourage their interests in service to others. During my time in the district last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the bright young minds in the 4th and 5th grades at Burnette Elementary School in Suwanee. Currently, these classes are in the midst of studying the structure of our government and electoral system which is tremendously exciting given this is an election year. I was honored to be invited to help supplement their studies by offering my experience in Congress and sharing the work my colleagues and I engage in on a day-to-day basis.
Rep. Rob Woodall speaks to students at Burnette Elementary School
My time at Burnette Elementary School also reaffirmed my desire to see H.R. 849, the “Civics Learning Act,” become law. We must engage students early in their academic careers and educate them about their civic responsibilities so that they have a well-rounded understanding of the functions of our government and the desire to be civically engaged by the time they reach voting age. H.R. 849 will help to foster that growth in our young people and make our nation’s electorate even stronger.
This week, President Trump made his first official visit to India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered a warm welcome to the President at the “Namaste Trump” event in the Indian State of Gujarat, and together, they toured several cities over two days. While a deal was not yet finalized by the end of the visit, there is still hope for the Trump and Modi Administrations to reach a new trade agreement to expand businesses opportunities between our two nations.
Just in time for President Trump’s visit to India, I had the opportunity last week to meet with India’s representative in the Southeastern United States, Consul General Dr. Swati Vijay Kulkarni. We spoke about the President’s upcoming trip, but most of our conversation focused on how important our countries are to each other economically and culturally. One of our most significant similarities is our constitutions, and in fact, this year marks the 70th anniversary of India’s. Both our constitutions are the supreme law of the land, establish a separation of powers within the government, and provide equality under the law with rights enshrined in a bill of rights – among many other parallels. It is mine and the Consul General’s sincere hope that the world’s two largest democracies can continue to be fruitful collaborators and an example to the rest of the world.
Too many Americans are plagued by surprise medical bills or know a friend or loved one who has received one. While the movement to put an end to surprise billing is not a Republican or Democratic ideal, but rather a bipartisan one, the solutions put forward to resolve the issue have unfortunately been held up due to disagreements among lawmakers about what the best path forward is. Earlier this month, two House Committees advanced separate bills to address the issue of surprise billing: the Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labor Committee. They have reported three bills, H.R. 5800, the “Ban Surprise Billing Act,” H.R. 5826, the “Consumer Protections Against Surprise Medical Bills Act of 2020,” and H.R. 3630, the “No Surprises Act.”
Because I’ve already discussed H.R. 3630 in a previous newsletter, I want to focus on H.R. 5800 and H.R. 5826, both of which were advanced with support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The Labor and Education Committee’s bill, H.R. 5800, would apply benchmarked rates based on in-network rates to settle disputes between insurers and health care providers for bills equal to or less than $750. For bills with a balance greater than $750, the proposal utilizes arbitration to settle bills. Supporters of H.R. 5800 believe the bill strikes a compromise between rate setting and mediation, while its opponents question whether the rate setting approach could have some market distorting effects or that the bill relies too heavily on mediation. In contrast to H.R. 5800, H.R. 5826 does not directly impose benchmarked rates. Instead, the Ways and Means bill seeks to resolve disputes between health care providers and insurers through third party mediators when they are unable to reach an agreement on payments for out-of-network health care.
While I expect that the Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members of each of the House panels will continue working in the coming weeks to find the best path forward, it is too early to determine which proposal will be brought forward for the full House to consider. It is my sincere hope that any final bill is crafted in a bipartisan manner and truly holds patients harmless from predatory billing practices and payment disputes. You can be sure that I will continue to keep you updated on this matter.
I’m sure many of you have been following the news of the spread of the “coronavirus,” a respiratory illness more formally known as COVID-19. While an overwhelming majority of the confirmed cases have been tied to mainland China and those who have recently traveled to Wuhan (a city in Central China where the virus was reportedly first identified), the disease has spread internationally, with reported cases in the U.S. I assure you Congress is doing everything in its power to learn how best to respond to this public health threat domestically.
Here are a few messages I have received on the topic below.
Caleb from Cumming:
I am writing to you today in concern about the Wuhan virus. It seems that we are so caught up in the polarization in today's and age that we have forgotten about something right under our noses, the virus! Atlanta being a hub for domestic and international travel, I am concerned about our health, and it is not just me.
Susan from Suwanee:
I’m concerned about mail orders of various items from China. Example: Shoes, clothing etc. If someone sneezes on an item or has an undetected virus, will that affect us when we receive that item after shipping. Are we sure that virus is human to human? Should we stop ordering all items from China? I order from Amazon and others and don't always know where item if made. Would appreciate your knowledge and wisdom and hope you are following up on this epidemic.
As you may have heard, the World Health Organization first declared the outbreak of the coronavirus – a strain which had not previously been identified in humans – as a “public health emergency of international concern” at the end of last month. Since the beginning of this outbreak, the federal government and numerous federal, state, local, and public health partners around the U.S. have coalesced to monitor this disease and ensure we are taking proper precautions to limit the spread and impact of COVID-19 in the United States. In fact, I’m sure you are familiar with one such prominent institution leading these efforts – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – as they are headquartered right here in Atlanta.
Specifically, I know folks like Caleb and Susan are concerned with how air travel and international commerce may be affected by the spread of COVID-19. While the CDC has said that the “potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States, … for the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus, the immediate health risk is considered low at this time.” With regards to air travel, the U.S. has suspended the entry of foreign nationals who have been to China in the past 14 days, the believed incubation period for COVID-19, and the CDC is working with the Departments of State and Homeland Security to assess the health of Americans returning from those affected areas. While the State Department and the CDC have also issued travel warnings for all travel to China, it has not issued recommendations urging the public to avoid air travel in general. And to Susan’s concern, the CDC has said that while they suspect “there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packages that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” more study is needed to definitively understand the transmissibility of COVID-19. You can read more about the CDC’s extensive efforts to protect public health as it relates to COVID-19 by clicking HERE.
With all that said, COVID-19 is an emerging disease and there is still much we don’t know about the virus – from its exact origins to how it is transmitted. As the efforts to better understand this virus and monitor its spread continue, the CDC has released a wealth of information and resources for individuals looking to better understand this virus, along with precautions they can take. Most importantly, the CDC urges folks to stay informed. You can be sure that Congress will continue to monitor this disease and ensure our federal agencies have the tools they need to best protect the American public.
Here in the 7th District, we are protected by outstanding law enforcement officers who go above and beyond to make our community a better place to live. Last week, the Suwanee Police Department hosted a food drive to help create taco kits for the North Gwinnett Co-op, a non-profit organization that distributes food and provides financial assistance for those in need. Taco kits are a main staple at the food pantry, and recently, supplies had been running low. Suwanee PD had previously partnered with the North Gwinnett Co-op in November, helping to restock the food pantry for the upcoming holiday season.
I would like to commend the Suwanee Police Department for their outstanding service to our community. Their dedication is inspiring, and it goes a long way to improving the lives of our friends and neighbors.
For more information on how to donate, click HERE.
We take pride in having students in our community who are among the best and brightest in the nation. Last week, one of these incredible students, Pinecrest Academy’s Allie Doerr, was named a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. The annual National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. Of about 1.6 million entrants each year, only 15,000 students with the highest PSAT/NMSQT scores become finalists. Clearly, this is an extremely elite group that Allie has now joined.
I would like to offer my sincerest congratulations to Allie for receiving this prestigious recognition. I wish you the best of luck as you move forward in the competition!
I always enjoy spending time with you in the 7th District, and last week was no exception. Everything I learn from you I get to bring back to Washington, D.C., and this week, I’ll be able to use that knowledge as the House considers H.R. 2339. This bill, which narrowly passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would effectively ban all flavored tobacco products from being sold in the U.S. Like most of you, I absolutely want to keep our kids from smoking. But as long as tobacco is legal in this country, adults should have the freedom to choose for themselves which types of products they want to purchase.
Member of Congress
Presidents’ Day began by celebrating the lives of two of the most revered Americans in our nation’s history – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln – during the month of their birth. Washington led the American colonies to victory during our fight for independence and served as the first U.S. president of our newly established Republic. Nearly 100 years later, President Lincoln preserved the country Washington fought so hard to create by leading us through one of our most divisive moments as a nation. But Presidents’ Day is about more than just those two great men, we also take this time to recognize others who have served in the White House, including Georgia’s own Jimmy Carter who continues to contribute to our great nation through his inspiring philanthropic endeavors.
America’s presidents are incredible leaders who have served our country at great personal cost. From George Washington to Donald Trump, I’m sure there is a President whose life and service speak to you. If you’d like to learn more about each of America’s Presidents, CLICK HERE. It is my hope that you enjoyed the holiday and took time to remember those who have helped propel our nation forward.
Last week, President Trump released his budget for FY2021 entitled “A Budget for America’s Future,” which outlined his vision for the next fiscal year and beyond. In it, he outlined his plan to strengthen our national defense, reduce regulatory burdens on our nation’s economy, and cut the biggest driver of our nation’s debt, mandatory spending. His plan would save roughly $2.5 trillion over 10 years by increasing state innovations in Medicaid, addressing the high cost of prescriptions drugs in Medicare, reforming the welfare system, student loans, and federal employee benefits.
On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee held a hearing on the President’s budget and invited Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought to testify. He spoke about ways Congress could partner with the President to deliver solutions for the American people and put our nation on a stable financial trajectory. I had a chance to speak with Acting Director Vought during the hearing which you can watch by clicking on the photo below.
Rep. Rob Woodall speaks with Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought regarding the President’s budget request for FY2021
Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation held a hearing to examine the state of our nation’s aviation maintenance workforce and to discuss challenges it will face going forward. Many of you may recall from a previous newsletter that I had the pleasure of visiting with the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) in Duluth late last year. That visit gave me a deeper understanding of how federal regulations shape the curriculum of individuals interested in pursuing a career in the field of aviation maintenance and engineering.
Many of the witnesses who testified before the subcommittee echoed what I learned during my visit to AIM’s Duluth campus that our aviation maintenance schools and apprentice programs are going above and beyond what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires of them. But in doing so, the FAA still mandates that schools check certain boxes that require students to perform obsolete tasks that are not applicable to the demands of todays’ aviation maintenance workforce demands.
I certainly believe there is an appropriate role for the FAA to play in ensuring adequate training, but candidly, I am unsure of the extent to which the FAA should dictate the certification curriculum and standards of aviation maintenance workers. That’s because I am convinced that no one has more skin in the game to ensure their students are properly trained and ready to meet the needs of airlines than the schools and apprentice programs, not to mention the students themselves. More so, the FAA has not modernized its regulations guiding aviation maintenance workers in several years and has slow walked recent efforts to do so. I had the opportunity to discuss this very mater with Kate Lang, FAA’s Senior Advisor for Aviation Workforce Outreach, and I hope you’ll take a moment to watch our discussion by clicking the image below.
Rep. Woodall poses questions to witnesses testifying before the House T&I Subcommittee on Aviation
Following the first panel, the subcommittee heard directly from aviation maintenance stakeholders that are regulated by the FAA, which included two representatives of notable Georgia-based companies – Delta and Gulfstream. Both companies had the opportunity to share with lawmakers how their respective companies are taking steps to ensure safety, meet FAA mandates, and bolster the workforce through community and veteran outreach. I very much enjoyed hearing from these companies and all other witnesses present, and I look forward to working with them to ensure that our laws and regulations allow them to be successful for the future of our nation’s aviation mechanics and engineers.
I appreciate the messages I have received from folks back home who want to ensure that the federal government is doing its part to protect the rich and diverse flora and fauna found across our nation. One such focus is on our world’s pollinators, which include monarch butterflies, honeybees, moths, and more.
Unfortunately, these pollinators have faced a decline in recent years. That decline has proven difficult to definitively pinpoint, but insect pests, improper use of pesticides, and changing landscapes are thought to be some of those contributing factors. Here is what I have heard from some of you about one bill in Congress aimed to further conservation efforts to protect one such pollinator that plays a vital role across our ecosystems.
William from Duluth:
Support the MONARCH Act of 2020. Monarchs are essential pollinators for a host of wild plants that are also in decline. If monarch populations decline any further they could soon be beyond saving, and their extinction could cause a ripple effect throughout already fragile ecosystems.
Joanne from Cumming:
I urge you to support and co-sponsor the MONARCH Act of 2020 introduced by Representative Panetta. The Bill establishes a fund of up to $12,500,000 for each of fiscal years 2021 through 2025 to provide grants for projects that fund western monarch conservation and recovery actions.
Many folks are surprised to learn just how important pollinators, like the Monarch butterfly, are to U.S. food production. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), honeybees and wild pollinators affect more than one third of the world’s crop production. To put that into perspective: crops like almonds and melons require pollination, and other crops like blueberries, apples, and tomatoes produce greater yields from pollination. In fact, the USDA estimates that the direct and indirect economic value of these pollinators reaches up to $19 billion annually.
It is critical that we work toward restoring their population to sustainable levels, which is why I was proud to add my name as an original cosponsor of H.R. 5920, the “Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat Act,” better known as the MONARCH Act. As Joanne mentioned, this bill establishes the Western Monarch Butterfly Rescue Fund which will provide grants to projects focused on Monarch conservation. Studies indicate that Western Monarch butterfly populations have dropped approximately 97 percent since the 1980s, with only an estimated 200,000-300,000 in the U.S. last winter. It is clear that more must be done to prevent their further decline, and I applaud Representative Jimmy Panetta’s (D-CA) work in introducing this legislation.
In addition to these efforts, I am excited to continue working with the bipartisan Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus, of which I am a member, to ensure our federal policies are best supporting pollinators. I am glad we have such dedicated co-chairs of the caucus, Representatives Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) working toward that goal.
Remember, our greatest successes are often the result of the ideas brought to us by passionate advocates across our community, so if you have any thoughts about how we can add on to the caucus’s good work, I hope you will share those with me.
We are consistently proud to recognize our excellent, high-performing schools here in the 7th District. Last week, Forsyth County Schools earned a spot on College Board’s AP District Honor Roll list, which recognizes the top school districts in the U.S. and Canada that have increased the number of students who take AP exams while maintaining or increasing the percentage of students who score a 3 or higher on those exams. Forsyth students took a total of 11,671 AP exams in 2019, receiving an average score of 3.46. Forsyth is one of only five school districts in Georgia to receive this honor!
I would like to congratulate the parents, students, and faculty who worked hard to make this achievement possible. It is your dedicated effort that makes our schools among the best in the nation.
Constituents of the 7th District are always going above and beyond to give back to their community. Among these individuals is Lawrenceville resident, Donald Bagley, who recently celebrated his 260th platelet donation to Northside Hospital’s Atlanta Blood Services. Over the past 17 years, Donald has been donating nearly twice a month, helping an estimated 750 cancer, surgery, and emergency patients. He currently holds the record for second most platelet donations at Atlanta Blood Services, and by the end of this year, he hopes to reach 275 donations. Giving the gift of life merits praise from everyone in our community.
I would like to commend Donald for his dedication to helping others and saving lives. Individuals like you are an inspiration to our community, and I wish you the best of luck on hitting your donation goals!
If you or someone you know would like to donate blood or blood products like platelets or plasma, please contact Atlanta Blood Services, the American Red Cross, or one of our local hospitals to ask how you can make a difference in people’s lives.
Member of Congress
Last Tuesday, President Trump spoke for the fourth time to a joint session of Congress to deliver his third State of the Union address, and while unfortunately punctuated by a divisive move by Speaker Pelosi, the President’s speech presented a glowing list of America’s latest accomplishments and projected an optimistic vision for the future.
Our nation’s robust economy stole the night. With rising incomes, millions of new jobs, and historically low unemployment rates, the American economy is booming. I expect this momentum to continue in 2020 as we continue strengthening U.S. trade relationships, which President Trump discussed at length in his address. As you know, the President recently signed the USMCA trade deal, which replaced the outdated NAFTA. This much-needed update is a huge win for our farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses. We have also made progress on our partnership with China, and while it’s too early to determine the long-term economic impact of President Trump’s phase-one agreement, I am confident that this deal is a step in the right direction for rebalancing trade and making sure our Chinese counterparts play by the rules.
While our economy’s newfound prosperity consumed much of President Trump’s speech, the list of victories did not stop there. President Trump touted his success at stemming the influx of illegal immigration at the southern border and renewed his call for comprehensive immigration reform. I look forward to building on this recent progress to find new, innovative ways to secure our southern border and modernizing our immigration system.
Regarding health care, President Trump spoke about the many steps we could take together. He called upon Congress to take charge and pass bipartisan legislation to lower prescription drug costs – a solution my colleagues and I are continuing to work towards as we discuss ideas here on Capitol Hill. The President also announced his intention to end surprise medical billing, another priority for us here in Congress. I was excited to hear the president’s enthusiasm on these issues, and I am hopeful we will get things moving in the right direction within the halls of our chamber.
One of the most significant achievements the president discussed was the revitalization of our armed forces. The President is correct: strengthening our military acts as a deterrent in itself against our international rivals.
From America’s energized economy--bringing with it higher wages and lower unemployment; to a healthier, more robust military; to new and improved trade deals leading to new investments in America and the American worker; by each measure, the state of our union is stronger than three years ago. I appreciate the President’s focus on success for every American, and I agree with President Trump that America’s best days are indeed ahead.
Buttressing President Trump’s summary of our economy during his State of the Union address, the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics jobs report shows that 2020 is off to a great start with the economy adding 225,000 this past January. While the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.6% from 3.5%, it indicates that more individuals who had been sitting on the sidelines of the job market are now more optimistic about their prospects and are looking for employment. And there’s a lot to be excited about: wages are increasing, the economy is expanding, and employers continue to seek out workers. Labor force participation also remains high, tightening the labor market and further encouraging folks to seek work. With January being the 112th month of continuous growth, all signs indicate that we can continue this momentum and deliver a stronger economy for all Americans.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted on the two articles of impeachment to remove President Trump from office, ending the months-long impeachment drama that has dominated Congress since September of last year. The Constitution requires a two-thirds, or 67 votes, majority to convict and remove the President from office. On the first article of abuse of power, the Senate voted 52 not guilty to 48 guilty votes, mostly along party lines. The second vote on the charge of obstruction of Congress again acquitted the President, this time by a vote of 53 to 47, completely along party lines.
Now it is time for Congress to get back to the business of the people, passing legislation to benefit the nation as a whole and tackling the serious problems we face. Let us now come together based on our common drive to see America succeed rather than focus on what divides us.
You don’t have to search long to find where civility has been abandoned on Capitol Hill: Members utilize their time in committee to generate pithy soundbites for their social media rather than ask thoughtful questions for the witnesses, the Speaker continuously admonishes Members for their disparaging remarks against others, and floor managers use their prepared remarks to speak past one another instead of fostering substantive debate. This was the issue being discussed at the latest hearing in the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress entitled “Article One: Fostering a More Deliberative Process in Congress.”
In last Wednesday’s hearing, we were joined by Dr. Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Executive Director Emerita of the National Institute for Civil Discourse; and Dr. James Curry, associate professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Political Science at the University of Utah to identify the reasons the quality of debate has deteriorated and why serious deliberation about our nation’s most pressing issues is largely absent.
I had a chance to speak to our panel about different options the House could pursue to improve our capacity to discuss and negotiate legislation. Click on the photo below to watch my time with these experts.
Rep. Woodall speaks with witnesses during the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress hearing, “Article One: Fostering a More Deliberative Process in Congress”
Last week, the House passed several bills under suspension of the rules that fall under the purview of the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support. You’ll likely notice that the bills mentioned below tend to be place-based or region specific. That’s because many federal programs the Committee authorizes focus on project specific locations and outcomes that can impact more than one state:
On Thursday, the Highways and Transit Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the current state of transportation infrastructure on tribal, Federal, and U.S. territorial lands. I had the opportunity to hear from witnesses about the importance of adequately funding programs that aid in constructing and maintaining infrastructure on these lands. Members of the Subcommittee heard from representatives of the Virgin Islands, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, the Intertribal Transportation Association, and Hanson Professional Services, all of which have a unique role in administering federal dollars.
While our community is not directly impacted by the federal programs scrutinized at the hearing, I was able to learn more about the regulatory hurdles some of our federal agencies face when addressing their maintenance backlogs and whether there’s room to reduce those hurdles without jeopardizing the environmental stewardship the American people expect of these agencies. You can click the below picture to watch my full exchange with Messrs. Aron Reif of the U.S. Department of Interior and Christopher French of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rep. Woodall poses to questions to witnesses at the T&I Highways and Transit Subcommittee Hearing.
Lastly, I want to share with you some exciting news. I partnered with Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) to introduce a bipartisan bill, H.R. 5773, the “FRESH Act,” that seeks to improve the movement of perishable goods on our roadways. Specifically, the legislation would allow vehicles carrying perishable goods to operate on the Interstate Highway System at the same weight tolerances that states allow on their respective state roads and highways. I encourage you to click HERE to read more about our bill, and I look forward to keeping you updated on its progress as it makes its way through the legislative process.
There’s an old saying in the nation’s Capital; “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” While the saying is intended to be a dig at the sometimes-ruthless nature of politics, the underlying truth is that dogs are faithful companions and can provide a critical service to those with mobility limitations or PTSD. Last week, the House voted to help our veterans by passing H.R. 4305, the “Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) for Veterans Therapy Act,” a bill which I gladly cosponsored.
Introduced by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), this bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to conduct a 5-year grant pilot program for accredited non-government entities who are working to address post-deployment mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder through the training of service dogs for veterans with disabilities. The VA currently provides veterinary care and other support services for service and guide dogs provided to veterans with hearing or sight loss, or veterans with mobility impairments, but the VA does not provide the benefit for PTSD service dogs. Studies have shown that service dogs can “significantly reduce symptoms of posttraumatic [stress]...and depression in veterans.” I am hopeful the Senate will take up this bill and swiftly send it to the president’s desk for his signature so that our veterans can reap the benefits of companionship offered by our canine friends.
This past fall, the use of electronic cigarettes came under higher scrutiny given the instances of lung injuries associated with their use. As of January, more than 2,700 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and while the good news is that we have seen a decline in reported cases given increased public awareness and the CDC’s efforts to understand the issue, the challenge still remains for lawmakers about how to best address the use of vaping products and curb nicotine addiction, particularly among young people. Here are a few messages I have received from you all back home on the topic.
Stefan from Buford:
I am writing to urge you to support and cosponsor H.R. 2339, the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act. We are in the midst of a new youth tobacco epidemic as more than 1 in 4 high schoolers are using electronic cigarettes. Restricting marketing and removing flavored products from the market would go a long way to combat the rise in youth tobacco use.
Bailey from Suwanee:
I understand completely that Nicotine and E-Cigs are an epidemic. I experienced it in high school, and it spread like wildfire. My concern is how can the FDA allow this law to be pushed to move Tobacco Sales to 21, but I can still buy CBD at 18+ Year of age. I don’t understand this, and how we can allow all of these people to suffer from Addiction. I believe that the 21 Law should be appealed and go back to 18+, but regulate the products more, and the businesses that sell without ID Verification.
Mohammed from Lawrenceville:
I'm very disappointed to learn that Congress is considering H.R. 2339. This bill includes a ban on menthol cigarettes, flavored dip, and flavored cigars, even though flavor varieties are allowed for other adult products, like alcohol. As we've seen with alcohol and marijuana, banning products to dictate adult behavior doesn't work. Instead, it drives consumers to the illegal market, which hurts small businesses and our communities.
As many of you may know, Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law on December 20th, two appropriations packages to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2020. In addition to funding our government’s priorities across multiple sectors, that legislation included a provision that raises the age for purchasing tobacco or vaping products from 18 to 21. This move codified a standard that was already current practice across 19 states and D.C., and more than 500 localities that had already implemented this increase in purchasing age. Additionally, major components of the legislation that Mohammed and Stefan mentioned above – H.R. 2339 – have already been implemented, as evidenced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) announcement last month of its ban on flavored e-cigarette products other than tobacco or menthol as a means of discouraging tobacco use among younger Americans.
While supporters of more stringent regulations applauded these moves, consensus on this issue has not yet been achieved, as evident from the opinions expressed above. At the heart of this division is an underlying question: how can we best preserve access for those adults who wish to use those safe, approved products, all the while protecting public health and a future generation from becoming addicted? It is clear that the most recent efforts have been tailored to the latter, but there also comes a renewed need to ensure that any regulatory or congressional action is not overreaching. And to Bailey’s point, in the midst of greater pushes for easing marijuana regulations across the board, it raises further questions about the federal government’s role in limiting access for some products while expanding it for others. So, where does that leave us?
As the debate on the appropriate legislative solution continues in the halls of Congress, the good news is there are more areas where we agree than disagree. Young people shouldn’t be smoking. Retailors who violate the law and sell to minors should be held accountable. And efforts on the ground are critical to addressing the societal pressures and wide range of factors that encourage this behavior in the first place. In addition to the correspondence I received above, I was glad to meet last week with Vinayak – a youth leader with the Forsyth County Drug Awareness Council and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America from Lambert High School to hear his ideas about how we can be most successful in curbing e-cigarette usage among teens in our community. Vinayak’s advocacy is an example of how these issues are felt locally, and solutions to address recent spikes in e-cigarette usage among young people will almost certainly require community action. I look forward to working with him and my Colleagues in Congress to find solutions that strike the right balance.
Our community works hard to run efficiently and effectively. This was exemplified last week when the Citizens Financial Review Committee of the City of Lawrenceville received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA). To win this highly coveted award, Lawrenceville’s budget had to excel in four main categories, including its ability to serve as a policy document, financial plan, operations guide, and communications device. Lawrenceville received a “proficient” rating in each of these categories as well as all the criteria within them. This was Lawrenceville’s first year of participation in GFOA’s budget program.
I would like to congratulate the City of Lawrenceville for earning this prestigious award. It is hard work and commitment such as yours that keeps our community functioning at a high level.
Here in the 7th District, we are proud to recognize the courage and sacrifice of our veteran community. Last week, the French government appointed a Forsyth World War II veteran, Cpl. David Nelson, as a knight in the National Order of the Legion of Honour. The Legion of Honour is the highest award given by the French government, recognizing “individuals who have served France or the ideals it upholds.” Nelson joined the U.S. Army in 1943 and fought for freedom on French soil during WWII. The ceremony was led by Vincent Hommeril, Consul General of France in Atlanta, on behalf of President Emmanuel Macron.
I would like to extend my sincerest congratulations to Cpl. Nelson on receiving this honor. Your efforts in the fight for a freer world will never be forgotten.
H.R. 2546 is a large package of six individual natural resources bills that expand federal ownership over new wilderness areas in the western United States, in most cases, against the wishes of local elected officials and communities. While I absolutely want to protect our nation’s natural wonders, there is no need to continually expand the ownership of that land by the federal government and take away the right of local communities to protect or responsibly develop the land to fit their needs. And what’s more, as has been the theme of this Congress so far, we’re moving forward with this bill without any bipartisan support.
The other issue before the House this week is another unfortunate attempt by House Democrats to go it alone on an issue that should be bipartisan. You may know that the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution was initiated by Congress in 1972, and the proposed amendment had a ratification deadline of 1979, meaning that if the amendment wasn’t ratified by the requisite number of state legislatures by 1979, the amendment would be dead. In 1979, Congress extended the ratification period for an additional three years, giving states until 1982 to ratify it. Once the 1982 deadline passed without 38 states ratifying the amendment, the ERA was dead, and there was broad consensus that another ERA would have to start from the beginning. Now, however, H.J.Res. 79 attempts to revive the dead ERA by saying that the original time limits don’t matter. Let me be clear, this bill isn’t about whether you support or oppose the ERA; it’s about whether Congress has the authority to change a proposed Constitutional amendment without the state legislatures having to hold another ratification vote.
Member of Congress
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Rob Woodall (GA-07) and Congressman Sanford Bishop (GA-02) introduced the bipartisan Freight Restriction Elimination for Safer Hauling (FRESH) Act, which would allow vehicles carrying perishable goods to operate on the Interstate Highway System at the same weight tolerances/limits that states allow on their respective state roads and highways.
Today, weight limits on Federal highways force large trucks onto two-lane highways and rural roads that direct them through school zones, neighborhoods, and local business districts; roadways where drivers are more likely to encounter poor or changing roadway conditions and higher volumes of pedestrian and bicycle traffic. These inefficient routes are more dangerous than the Interstate, and when perishable goods are being transferred this way, safety and economic risks are high.
The FRESH Act balances our collective need to maintain safe roadways while simultaneously ensuring timely delivery of perishable goods by granting vehicles hauling such goods access to the Interstate system.
“One of my favorite things about serving in Congress is finding a better way to do things, and this bill does just that by keeping these oftentimes heavier vehicles on the Interstate system, a system that is well-designed to handle their operation,” said Congressman Woodall. “Our federal laws should never jeopardize the safety of our communities, but unfortunately we’ve come across that scenario here.” Woodall said a perversion in the law reroutes Interstate prohibited vehicles onto local streets. “We’re sending these trucks away from infrastructure designed to handle it and over to the same surface streets on which our children walk home from school. We can do better for both operators hauling perishable goods as well as our friends and neighbors who want safe streets for their families, and our bill seeks to get that done.”
“I am proud to introduce this common-sense legislation to ensure our nation’s perishable goods are safely and efficiently transported over our nation’s roadways,” said Congressman Bishop. “Current law encourages the diversion of large trucks into neighborhood roads, causing substantial damage and creating unnecessary risk. This bill will fix this problem and put large trucks back on the highway. It will increase the safety of our roads and help ensure perishable goods get where they are needed.”
“As the state with the highest timber harvest volume in the entire nation, the FRESH Act couldn’t be more important in making log truck routes safer and more efficient in GA,” said Georgia Forestry Association President & CEO, Andres Villegas. “The Georgia Forestry Association applauds Rep. Woodall’s leadership on this bipartisan, common-sense measure to make Georgia’s roadways safer while also enhancing routes for perishable goods.”
“Too often, we see one-size-fits-all mandates that are simply not in tune with the practical realities of the real world, particularly when it comes to commercial trucking. We believe the FRESH Act strikes the right balance between the sensitivity of the logistics in hauling perishable products and maintaining the safety of both our drivers and the travelling public. The Georgia Ready Mixed Concrete Association looks forward to working with Representative Woodall, Representative Bishop, members of Congress, and other industry stakeholders on the passage of this important legislation,” said Georgia Ready Mixed Concrete Association Executive Director, Jimmy Cotty.
“The National Ready Mix Concrete Association (NRMCA) applauds the efforts of Reps. Woodall and Bishop to safely increase the allowable weight for trucks hauling perishable goods traveling on federal highways. Increased weight limits will alleviate traffic congestion, increase safety, save millions on maintenance, and increase the productivity of large trucks – including ready mixed concrete trucks. The FRESH Act is a common-sense proposal to simplify and streamline unnecessarily complex and restrictive federal rules, providing ready mix haulers with quicker and safer routes to job sites,” said NRMCA Director of Government Affairs, Andrew Tyrrell.
Click HERE to view text of the bill.
1724 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
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 Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
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 has served in a variety of leadership roles during his short time in Congress ranging from Chairman of the Budget and Spending Task Force, where he authored the most conservative budget to come before Congress in the last 5 years, to Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the caucus comprised of the Republican conference’s most conservative Members.
Rob 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.
Retweeted by @RepRobWoodall
Tax Day has been officially moved from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses can use this additional ti… https://t.co/EjW7oZk885
Retweeted by @RepRobWoodall
Retweeted by @RepRobWoodall
Emergency loans are now available for Georgia small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Click below fo… https://t.co/m4ul0Q9ziQ
Retweeted by @RepRobWoodall
If you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, you can now call G… https://t.co/nTQuMoSmvG