THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - BOH proves wage hike doable

Jan 7, 2018

In this issue: January 5, 2018


BOH proves wage hike doable

Bank of Hawai’i deserves recognition for raising its minimum wage to $15/hour this week, including here in the Marianas. BOH says savings from the new federal tax law make the raise possible. I did not support the new tax law because it will force cuts to federal programs ($100 million for the Marianas in 2016) and means lost revenue for the Federal and Commonwealth governments. But I do support putting more money into the pockets of working people; and I have cosponsored legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour over a seven-year period. The Raise the Wage Act is not likely to pass with a Republican majority in Congress, but a wage hike could happen at the local level in the Marianas. Governor Torres promised to raise the Marianas minimum wage, when he testified in favor of my labor legislation, P.L. 115-53, last year. He said a higher wage brings more U.S. workers into the labor force and reduces the need for foreign workers. I agree and hope the Governor – and the Legislature – follow through on his promise. Bank of Hawai’i is showing that it is possible to start paying workers more.

USCIS asked to clarify

I have asked the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to clarify how the agency is interpreting Public Law 115-53, which bars the use of CW permits for new construction workers. The Marianas Variety has reported that engineers at the Commonwealth Utility Corporation are in danger of losing their permits because of misclassification as construction workers. This would be odd. The law identified construction workers as defined by Standard Occupational Classification Group 47-000. And the law specifically set aside 10 CW permits for workers who control, operate, or maintain machinery to generate electric power per Standard Occupational Classification Group 51-8000. I asked the Director, L. Francis Cissna, how confusion between these two distinct job categories could arise. Anyone who believes their application for a CW permit may been misclassified should contact the congressional office for assistance. We have already successfully solved a number of these cases. Call 670.323.2647 or e-mail me at

"Sablan bill has merit"

401(k) Specialist gave my retirement savings bill a positive review this week. The web-based magazine for retirement plan advisors said H.R. 4158 has merit, particularly for the retirement plans of businesses that have many small accounts left behind by workers who have gone on to other employment. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Michigan) and I introduced the bill as part of our work as Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions. Our Retirement Plan Modernization Act raises the automatic rollover limits for Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) from $5,000 to $7,600. This means that workers’ orphan retirement plans from former employers with a small balance will be put into safe harbor IRAs for the workers instead. I appreciate the work Chairman Walberg and I have been able to accomplish in a bipartisan fashion to find common ground on issues of importance to the American people.

No good from North Korea war

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un should find ways to de-escalate tensions in our region, not add fuel to the fire with tweets and threats. There is no doubt that the United States is militarily more powerful than North Korea. But nothing good comes to either side, if war erupts. Last week, Kim said he was willing to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea and engage in talks with Seoul about easing military tensions between the two countries. And South Korea responded to Kim’s remarks, offering a dialogue aimed at de-escalating tensions ahead of the winter games. Serious dialogue is the way to peace, not tweets from our President, or more threats from Kim.

@Kilili_Sablan on Twitter

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Legislative Highlights


The House is on recess for the District Work Period.


On the Floor

  • S. 139 – Rapid DNA Act of 2017
  • S. 140 – To amend the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act of 2010 to clarify the use of amounts in the WMAT Settlement Fund

Committee Hearings

Wednesday, January 10