It’s been a busy December, overhauling our nation’s outdated tax code and moving one step closer to achieving the decades long goal of opening a small portion of the 1002 Area within the non-wilderness portion of ANWR to responsible resource development. Here’s a quick update with what’s been happening here in D.C. and how it may impact you. As always, you can keep track of what I’m working on for Alaska in the U.S. Senate by following me on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Tax Reform: On December 2, the Senate passed a comprehensive tax reform package that aims to encourage the economic growth needed to create jobs and generate wealth, while reducing taxes. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act contains a section I wrote that opens a small portion of non-wilderness 1002 Area of ANWR for responsible energy development. It is a small area with big potential for both Alaska and our nation. Allowing responsible development generates new wealth, reduces both immediate deficits and long-term debts, creates high-paying jobs, refills the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, strengthens our national security, and helps keep energy affordable for families and businesses.
Title I of the tax reform bill provides relief for hardworking Alaskans and their families by doubling the standard deduction, doubling the child tax credit and increasing the refundability, and reducing the tax brackets at every income level. It stimulates economic growth and takes the actions we need to get the economy back on track. Ninety-nine percent of the businesses in Alaska are small businesses, so reducing their overall tax burden and allowing for full expensing will be an important benefit.
The combination of developing more of our natural resources and stimulating America’s economy through tax cuts will create opportunities for our nation and put more dollars back into the pockets of hard-working Americans.
Click here for additional bill highlights.
Selection to Conference Committee: I was honored to be selected to serve on the Conference Committee alongside my colleague Congressman Don Young, for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Conference Committee will work to reconcile the House and Senate bills. I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent Alaska and the nation as we bring this important bill through the final stages of the legislative process.
(Click here to watch video where I discuss the positive impacts of the tax reform bill & shed light on various misconceptions.)
- Improving Access to Healthcare: The Senate recently passed my bill which provides a land transfer of 19.07 acres in Sitka, improving access to healthcare throughout Southeast Alaska. This legislation will allow for a much needed expansion by Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) by providing a potential future site for both primary and acute care facilities, as well as employee housing.
- 477 Legislation to the President’s Desk: I’m pleased to announce that the Senate unanimously passed Tribal Employment and Training legislation championed by Congressman Don Young, Senator Sullivan, and myself. This bill will strengthen and reform the “477 Program”, a comprehensive Native employment and training program aimed to improve the quality of life in every region of Alaska through innovative workforce development initiatives, expanding self-sufficiency and employment opportunities of Alaska Natives and American Indians.
- Alaskan Confirmed for Key Role in Administration: Alaskan Joe Balash was recently confirmed to be the next U.S. Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the Department of the Interior. Joe has demonstrated that he is both capable and willing to work with everyone, from hunters to tribes to environmentalists and conservationists, on the stewardship of our public lands. His discipline, determination, and broad knowledge and expertise on energy and resource policy, will enable him to be a strong partner for Secretary Zinke and a strong advocate for Alaskans and the American people.
- A Boost for Local Economies: My bipartisan legislation with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to boost local economies, jobs, and small businesses passed the Senate Banking Committee. The legislation gives local credit unions more flexibility to offer loans to small businesses, allowing treatment of loans for small residential buildings as residential loans with lower interest rates. By correcting this disparity, we are not only providing individuals with better access to loans, but also working to stimulate economic growth.
On The Horizon
- Congressional Harassment Reform: I jointed with a diverse bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing comprehensive reform of congressional harassment policies. Quite honestly, I am appalled at the current policies and procedures inplace regarding harassment claims in Congress and reports of settlement payouts. Looking back, Congress has been reluctant to apply basic civil rights protections to its own employees, and when it finally did, it included arduous requirements that seemed to protect the victimizer more than the victims. This is a significant piece of legislation which levels the playing field for victims, improves transparency, and holds members of Congress who use their positions of power in abusive ways personally liable to repay the government for the cost of their conduct. It is the strong medicine we’ve long needed to deter harassment in the congressional workplace and ensure that those who perpetrate it are held accountable. Every workplace should be a safe-haven for employees, free from any kind of harassment.
- Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment: Right now, the system we have in place isn’t fair for employees that fall victim to sexual harassment and discrimination. It has been set up unequally to side with the employer, making it difficult for the victim. This past week I showed my support for ensuring that every workplace is a safe-haven for employees, free from harassment, by signing on as a co-sponsor of Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act, allowing victims to pursue the path they deem necessary towards justice. While we work to change the culture that has tolerated a blind eye to these wrongful acts, we must continue to stand together to support victims and hold people accountable for their actions.
- Monument Designation: Responding to local input,President Trump signed presidential proclamations reducing the size of two national monuments, Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase-Escalante, both located in Utah. The Antiquities Act has been misused in recent administrations to make sweeping withdrawals that ignore local concerns. Lost in those decisions have been the voices of the people who actually live in the areas affected by these designations. The proclamations issued by the President reduce two of Utah’s monuments to a more appropriate size, in keeping with the intent of the law, while continuing to protect areas of historical and scientific significance. For more information, click here. I previously introduced a bill called the Improved National Monument Designation Process Act, to facilitate greater local input and require state approval before national monuments can be designated on federal lands and waters.
(The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is up and shining bright for the holidays.)
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