THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - November 22, 2019

Nov 26, 2019

In this issue:

• House votes to protect sharks

• No local Medicaid match needed

• Use your free Medicare services

• High-speed internet for students

• Free books for libraries

• No to USCIS fee increases

• Marianas visa waiver featured

• Keeping tabs on FEMA funding

• $5.2m for CPA recovery

• Kilili Time Capsule

• Opportunities

• Legislative highlights

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House votes to protect sharks

Following the example of the Northern Marianas and 14 other U.S. states and territories, the House approved my legislation on Wednesday to ban the buying and selling of shark fins nationwide. The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2019, co-led by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), garnered 287 cosponsors – easily the largest number for an ocean conservation bill this Congress. The global shark fin trade contributes to the loss of up to 73 million sharks each year, and largely due to the demand for fins, some species have declined by 90 percent. As apex predators, sharks play a pivotal role in the health of our oceans. They are also important to the economies of many coastal communities. While it is already illegal to harvest sharks solely for their fins in the U.S., fins can still be bought and sold in areas without bans, keeping our country a player in the international fin trade. H.R. 737 would put an end to that and help protect these majestic creatures from the threat of extinction. The bill now goes to the Senate which has companion legislation, S. 877, co-led by Senators Booker and Capito with 37 cosponsors.

No local Medicaid match needed

No local match will be needed for the Marianas Medicaid program through December 20. The House extended the 100 percent federal money provision from June’s disaster relief law in the FY20 Continuing Resolution signed on Thursday. Though improving the federal-local matching rate in this way is a long-standing goal of the Marianas and all the insular areas, we still have to provide more money for our Medicaid programs. The Marianas has a grant of $6.9 million for this fiscal year and carried over about $2.5 million in Obamacare funding, but that falls far short of what is really needed. The House remains locked in negotiations with the Senate on H.R. 2328, a bipartisan bill that provides the Marianas with $360 million. in federal Medicaid funds over the next six years. H.R. 2328 requires no local match for the first two years and then scales down to a 76 percent federal/24 percent local match in year six—the most generous rate given to any U.S. State.

High-speed internet for students

About 12 million school-aged children nationwide lack high-speed broadband internet at home. That creates a “homework gap” between those students and their classmates who do have broadband at home. To make sure all our students have the internet access they need, I joined several of my colleagues in introducing the Closing the Homework Gap Through Mobile Hotspots Act. The Act establishes a $100 million grant program that Marianas libraries, PSS, and NMC could all use to loan mobile broadband hotspots to students. Our goal is to close the homework gap and ensure every child in our country can access the technology needed to succeed in their education no matter where they live.

No to USCIS fee increases

Once again, the Trump administration is trying to raise immigration filing fees. We successfully blocked last year’s attempt to boost CW fees by $700. Now, the administration is proposing across-the board increases in fees that will affect not only the Marianas but applicants nationwide. Representatives Grace Meng (NY-06), Norma Torres (CA-35), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Chuy Garcia (IL-04), and I have objected to this proposal, calling on the administration to work with Congress to provide more funding for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, if needed. The proposed rule increases the fee for a naturalization application from $640 to $1,170. Fees for lawful permanent residence, a “green card,” would rise from $1,220 to $2,195. Additionally, fee waivers would be eliminated for naturalization, lawful permanent residence, and employment authorizations. The public can also submit comments on this proposal at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/11/14/2a019-24366/us-citizenship-and-immigration-services-fee-schedule-and-changes-to-certain-other-immigration. The deadline for comments is December 16, 2019.

Marianas visa waiver featured

Attracting more international visitors to the Marianas means more jobs and supports our economic recovery. That is why I worked with Brand USA to include the Marianas’ visa waiver program in its outreach to prospective visitors. Up to now Brand USA only advertised that the U.S. visa waiver program applies in the Marianas. But this week, Brand USA unveiled a new section of its flagship website VisitTheUSA.com, with information on the Marianas' own visa waiver. Translations of the new section will be available in the coming weeks in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

$5.2m to CPA for recovery

The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded $5,221,507.25 in public assistance funds for the Commonwealth Ports Authority last Friday. The grant is for repairs to the buildings and equipment at the Francisco C. Ada Saipan International Airport, damaged by Super Typhoon Yutu. Although the award is for CPA, the funds are first obligated to the Commonwealth government. The Commonwealth then collects the required documentation from CPA before distributing the money to that agency.

OPPORTUNITIES

Scholarships/Fellowships

·     President Harry S. Truman Scholarship (Due 2/24/20)

·     Senator Barry Goldwater Scholarship (Due 1/31/20) 

·     President James Madison Fellowship (Due 3/1/20)

Grants

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

·     H.R. 3702 - Reforming the Disaster Recovery Act of 2019 (passed, 290-118)

·     H.R. 5084 - Improving Corporate Governance Through Diversity Act of 2019 (passed, 281-135)

·     H.R. 737 - Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2019 (passed, 310-107)

NEXT WEEK

The House is in recess for the District Work Period.