Legislative wins for Central Washington approved by U.S. House

Much of the nation’s attention has rightly been focused on Congress’ current push for historic tax reform—the first major effort in more than 30 years. While pro-growth tax reform is a critical topic, I would like to share an update on recent legislative progress that is important for Central Washington but has not received as much focus.
Just last week, Americans observed Veterans Day. I believe that the people’s representatives in Congress should honor veterans with our words as well as our actions. Every step we take to improve the care that veterans receive and require accountability from the VA shows our appreciation for the sacrifice of the men and women who have served in uniform. Last Monday, the House voted to approve bipartisan legislation that I introduced with my colleague from across the aisle, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA). Our bill, the VA Management Alignment Act, followed the release of studies that showed serious management problems at the VA. Our bill would require the VA to report concrete steps that the VA can take to reorganize and improve veterans’ care. We are working to ensure that the VA follows through on promises to our veterans.
 Another issue of major importance for the country and Central Washington is improving the process to give the green light for hydropower projects. In our state, nearly 70 percent of electricity is derived from hydropower. Last week, the House approved the Hydropower Policy Modernization Act, introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ (R-WA), with my support. This bill would streamline the licensing process for hydropower projects. Despite the potential for stable and clean energy production, only three percent of dams in the U.S. are equipped to generate electricity. In some cases, it takes as long as ten years or even longer for necessary reviews to be completed. The bill passed by the House would require greater cooperation between federal and state agencies in order to reduce bureaucratic delays and duplication of efforts.
 Lastly, the Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on bipartisan legislation I am working on with Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) that would give more certainty to farmers across the country. The hearing focused on the discussion draft of the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act to protect farmers who are trying to do the right thing and work in compliance with state or federal agencies to address nutrient management issues. Currently, farmers who are working in good faith to abide by consent decrees and environmental regulations that apply to agricultural operations are liable under lawsuits that function as a kind of ‘double-jeopardy.’ Regulations should provide a clear pathway to compliance so that farmers can be better stewards of our environment, but in practice, even farmers who are working with government agencies are liable to lawsuits that can threaten to put them out of business. Our bipartisan legislation would create a bright line that protects farmers who are working to improve the environmental footprint of their agricultural operations.

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