THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - December 04, 2015

Dec 6, 2015
  • House-passed education bill to boost funds for NMI schools
  • Congress passes 5-year highway bill, increases NMI funding
  • Air Force Divert comments due by December 15
  • Typhoon Soudelor Update - Week 18
  • OPPORTUNITIES - Federal contracts, grants, jobs for/in the Marianas
  • Highlights in the Legislative Program

House-passed education bill to boost funds for NMI schools.

A major increase in federal education funding for our schools is one step closer to becoming law. The House passed the Every Student Succeeds Act on Wednesday and the Senate is expected to do the same next week. The bipartisan bill, S. 1177, includes a provision I have been working on intensely all year that increases Title I funding for the Northern Mariana Islands and other insular areas. Title I assists areas with a high percentage of students from low-income families. My provision is designed to give the insular areas about 30 percent more funding than we have been receiving. For the Northern Marianas, the Congressional Research Service estimates Title I to increase to $11.1 million in 2017, up by $4.3 million from the 2016 funding of $6.7 million. The change is contingent upon overall Title I funding increasing so that states, as a whole, do not lose funding because of the change for insular areas. But appropriations for education are expected to rise in 2017. Every Student Succeeds also makes the NMI eligible to compete for Preschool Development Grants and Education Innovation and Research Grants, two competitive grant programs previously open only to states. The President has signaled he will sign the bill into law.

Congress passes 5-year highway bill, increases NMI funding.

Transit and safety programs worth $1.2 million annually and an additional $1 million in highway construction funds for the Northern Mariana Islands over the next five years are part of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, passed by both the House and Senate on Thursday. The five-year, $305 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill retained a provision, Section 1115, to increase annual funding for the Territorial Highway Program from $40 to $42 million, which the Northern Mariana Islands shares with American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The $2 million increase in annual THP funds was contained in the House reauthorization bill, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act, but not the Senate bill, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act. I am thankful that conferees decided that funding increases, though relatively small, should apply to all areas of our country and not just the states. The measure now heads to the White House, and President Obama is expected to sign shortly.

Air Force Divert comments due by December 15.

The public review period for the U.S. Air Force Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement for proposed divert airfield activities remains open until December 15. The purpose of the divert airfield is to give the Air Force backup capacity in the Marianas region in the event planes cannot use Andersen Air Force Base on Guam because of a natural disaster or military attack. The revised draft EIS, now open for comment, includes a Saipan-only, a Tinian-only, and a hybrid alternative that divides activities between the two islands. The original deadline of December 1 was extended by the Air Force at the request of Acting Governor Ralph Torres because of the disruption caused by Typhoon Soudelor. The revised draft EIS is available athttps://www.pacafdivertmarianaseis.com/docs.html. Comments can be submitted at https://pacafdivertmarianaseis.com/comment-form.html.

Typhoon Soudelor Update - Week 18:

As our community continues to heal from Typhoon Soudelor, FEMA and SBA made some important announcements this week. The SBA Disaster Loan Outreach Center (DLOC) has relocated to the Juan A. Sablan Memorial Building, Office of the Governor on Isa Drive in Capitol Hill, Saipan. The DLOC hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Additionally, FEMA is winding down recovery operations on Saipan and closing the Joint Field Office on December 18, 2015. Approximately 20 personnel will remain until that time to coordinate the transition with the Commonwealth government and various volunteer agencies. Your congressional office will continue to work with residents requiring assistance with respect to FEMA issues.

As of December 4, FEMA has granted more than $24 million in assistance to individuals and households and obligated nearly $5 million for public assistance. As of November 30, SBA has approved 361 home loans totaling approximately $13 million, and 104 business loans totaling more than $10 million.

FHWA announces $609,000 in highway repair funding. The Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation has awarded the CNMI Department of Public Works $609,063 in Emergency Relief program grant funds. Emergency Relief funds may be issued for the repair or reconstruction of federal-aid highways that are seriously impacted by natural disaster. Typhoon Soudelor caused widespread damage to traffic signal heads, poles, signs and guardrail across the island. Program funds will be used to help make permanent repairs necessary to restore highways to pre-disaster conditions. Congratulations to DPW.

Volunteer debris cleanup in Kagman on Saturday. The Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts, or C.A.R.E., and United 4 Saipan will continue their community cleanup efforts this Saturday, December 5 in Kagman from 8:30am - 12:00pm. Volunteers will assist in sorting storm debris that will then be collected and disposed of by the CNMI Department of Public Works and the Saipan Mayor’s office. To help with the project, volunteers are asked to meet at Kagman High School at 8:30am. They will be assigned to a team leader who will direct cleanup activities at pre-identified sites. For more information, contact C.A.R.E. at (670) 783-7790 or visit www.cnmicare.com.

OPPORTUNITIES - Federal contracts, grants, jobs for/in the Marianas:

Grants:

  • FY 2015 Assistance to Firefighters Grants - The AFG program provides financial assistance to help fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Service organizations and State Fire Training Academies for critically needed resources to protect the public, to train emergency personnel, and to foster interoperability and support community resilience. Current closing date isJanuary 15, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=280249.
  • National Fish Passage Program - The National Fish Passage Program is a voluntary program that provides direct technical assistance and financial assistance in the form of cooperative agreements to partners to provide fish (and other aquatic organisms) passage and restore aquatic connectivity for the benefit of federal trust resources. Current closing date is September 1, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=280260.
  • R1 Endangered Species Sec 6 Traditional - Funds in the amount of $300,000 are available to implement conservation projects for state-listed, candidate, federally listed, and recently recovered species. This grant program was established by the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. Current closing date is March 9, 2016. For more information, go tohttps://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=280253.
  • Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Part D Grants - The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement is to assist currently funded RWHAP Part D WICY recipients in their efforts to strengthen their organizational interventions to improve health outcomes along the HIV care continuum. Current closing date isFebruary 1, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=280269.
  • Digital Humanities Implementation Grants - The Digital Humanities Implementation Grants program awards substantial grants to support the implementation of experimental projects that have successfully completed a start-up phase and demonstrated their value to the humanities. The program can support innovative digital humanities projects that address multiple audiences, including scholars, teachers, librarians, and the public. Current closing date is February 17, 2016. For more information, go tohttps://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=280266.
  • National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative - The purpose of this program is to provide and increase access to effective trauma-focused treatment and services systems in communities for children, adolescents, and their families who experience traumatic events throughout the nation. Current closing date isFebruary 4, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=280297.

Jobs:

  • Clinical Nurse (Mother Baby Unit) - The Department of the Navy, Naval Medical Command is accepting applications for a Clinical Nurse in Guam. Incumbent will observe and report changes in patient conditions, document patient care, prepare patients for delivery, help with recovery, and evaluate and provide professional, comprehensive nursing care. Position is open untilDecember 7, 2015. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/422702300.
Highlights in the Legislative Program

THIS WEEK:

On the floor

  • S.611 – Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.3490 – Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.3279 – Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.1755 – To amend title 26, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the congressional charter of the Disabled American Veterans (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.1541 – Preservation Research at Institutions Serving Minorities Act or the PRISM Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.22 – Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 (Conference report agreed to in House, 359-65)
  • S.1177 – To reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to ensure that every child achieves (Conference report agreed to in House, 659-64)

NEXT WEEK:

On the floor

  • S.614 – Federal Improper Payments Coordination Act
  • H.R.2241 – Global Health Innovation Act of 2015
  • Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R.2297 – Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015
  • Possible Consideration of the Conference Report to Accompany H.R.644 – Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015
  • Possible Consideration of Legislation to Extend Certain Provisions of the Tax Code
  • Possible Consideration of a Consolidated Appropriations Act
  • Possible Consideration of the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3762 - Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015

Committee Hearings

December 7

  • Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Field Hearing on Restoring Atlantic Fisheries and Protecting the Regional Seafood Economy

December 8

  • Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Legislative Hearing (Part II) on H.R. 3764, Tribal Recognition Act of 2015

December 9

  • Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on the Department of the Interior’s role in the EPA’s Animas Spill