THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - November 3, 2017

Nov 6, 2017

In this issue:


Bill extends E-NAP for 5 years

I introduced H.R. 4216 on Thursday to extend the Enhanced Nutrition Assistance Program in the Marianas through 2023. E-NAP is the result of the $32.5 million I included for the Marianas in the 2014 Agricultural Act. The funding has allowed the Commonwealth government to add more households to the existing food stamp program and raise benefits. But funding ends this year, fiscal 2018, so more is needed to continue. So far, an additional 314 households have been added to E-NAP, or approximately 1,036 individuals. Benefits have gone up for a household of four on Saipan from $515 per month to $686. On Tinian, the increase was from $568 to $744. On Rota, benefits went from $719 to $897. Tinian and Rota receive higher benefits because of the higher cost of food there. I advocated for this benefit differential with the Food and Nutrition Service at the House Agriculture Committee and it went into effect in 2014. If enacted, H.R. 4216 would provide $42.5 million more for food aid in the Marianas.

$250,000 to fight drugs

The Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation is receiving a second year of funding through the Opioid State Targeted Response program. The Department of Health and Human Services announced the decision this week to continue funding for all states and territories at the same level as last year. Mr. Herbert Sablan, Substance Abuse Treatment Supervisor at the Community Guidance Center’s Recovery Clinic, said, “the benefit of the Opioid State Targeted Response, put forth by our current administration, provides the CNMI the opportunity for us to work within our community, and specifically private and government entities in primary care and behavioral healthcare integration, so that we can identify, treat, and support individuals who are living with prescription abuse or opioid use disorders.” Thank you. And keep up the good work!

Equal funding for beaches, parks

A ten-fold increase in funding for public parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and beach areas is the goal of a bill I cosponsored with fellow non-state area representatives this week. Authored by Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam) the LWCF Parity for Territories and DC Act would provide our jurisdictions the same share of the Land and Water Conservation Act funds as states receive. This would increase the Marianas current $75,000 allocation to over $800,000 per year. Studies show that every $1 that goes into these improvements generates a $4 economic return. 

Stop hiding monument decisions

The lack of transparency surrounding President Trump’s review of our National Monuments and Marine Sanctuaries continues. This week, I signed on to a congressional letter to the President requesting that the public be allowed to see a Commerce Department report reviewing 11 National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments. The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument is among the areas. This secret process has extended for months and has further delayed release of a management plan for the Marianas Trench, closing in on seven years overdue. 

EAD filers get auto SS card

Noncitizens residing in the Marianas, applying for an Employment Authorization Document on Form I-765, no longer have to apply in-person for a Social Security card. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services now processes the EAD application, then transmits the approval to the Social Security Administration electronically. Once the approval is received, SSA issues an original or replacement card and mails it to the address listed on the I-765. The Social Security card should arrive within seven business days of receipt of the approved EAD. The Social Security Administration has more information here.

Governor: Thanks for H.R. 339 support

I sent Governor Ralph DLG. Torres a letter of thanks this week for his strong support of H.R. 339, my bill increasing the number of CW permits available for the Marianas in 2017. President Trump signed it into law in August. Public Law 115-53 also blocks the use of CW permits for new construction work to protect local businesses unable to renew their legacy workers. And it adds extra money for training local workers. The Governor testified to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in April that the bill was “necessary and important.” And he agreed that “construction workers could be sourced through H2-B visas.” This could prove crucial, if the Trump administration deeply cuts CW permits for 2018. Many CW permits are now being used by temporary construction workers, who could get the H-2B visa instead. I have advocated for a CW cut of just one for 2018—to 12,997. That would be consistent with what the Obama administration had been doing.

Other community leaders, who provided letters of support for H.R. 339, also received letters of thanks, including Ms. Velma Palacios, President of the Board of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce; Ms. Gloria Cavanagh, Chairman of the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands; Mr. Alexander A. Sablan of the CNMI Strategic Economic Development Council; and Ms. Esther L. Muna, Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation. As a memento, they are also receiving a photo of the new law, signed by President Trump, framed with the pen that the President used.

$181k to combat Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle

The Commonwealth Department of Land and Natural Resources is receiving $181,048 to combat the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros) recently discovered on Rota. The Interior Department announced the award on Tuesday. DLNR will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the University of Guam’s Biosecurity Extension Program to contain and eradicate this invasive pest that has caused significant damage to coconut palms in Palau, Guam, and Hawaii. Native to Africa and Asia, the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle can thrive on Pacific islands where it has no natural enemies. The beetle was discovered October 4 on Rota and is suspected to have been introduced from Guam within the last five months. Congratulations to DLNR, and thank you for your work to protect our fragile island ecosystems from invasive species.




Public Comments




On the Floor

  • H.R. 849 — Protecting Seniors' Access to Medicare Act of 2017 (Passed, 307-111)
  • H.R. 3922 — Community Health And Medical Professionals Improve Our Nation Act of 2017 (Passed, 242-174)
  • H.R. 2936 — Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 (Passed, 232 - 188)
  • H.R. 2921 — National Forest System Vegetation Management Pilot Program Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 3903 — Encouraging Public Offerings Act of 2017 (Passed, 419-0)
  • H.R. 1585 — Fair Investment Opportunities for Professional Experts Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 425 — FTO Passport Revocation Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 422 — Urging adherence to the “one country, two systems” policy as prescribed in the Joint Declaration between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Question of the Hong Kong (Agreed to by voice vote)

Legislation I Sponsored

  • H.R. 4216 — To amend the Agricultural Act of 2014 to make available additional funds for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands pilot project

Legislation I Cosponsored

  • H.R. 2862 — Wildlife Disaster Funding Act
  • H.R. 4158 — Retirement Plan Modernization Act
  • H.R. 4179 — To amend title 54, United States Code, to apply the same apportionment formula to territories and the District of Columbia as is applied to States with respect to amounts made available for State purposes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and for other purposes


On the Floor

  • H.R. 3441 — Save Local Business Act
  • H.R. 2201 — Micro Offering Safe Harbor Act
  • H.R. 3043 — Hydropower Policy Modernization Act
  • H.R. 1066 — VA Management Alignment Act of 2017
  • H.R. 3122 — Veterans Care Financial Protection Act of 2017
  • H.R. 3562 — To amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish assistance for adaptations of residences of veterans in rehabilitation programs under chapter 31 of such title, and for other purposes

Committee Activity

Tuesday, November 7

  • Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on “Examining Challenges in Puerto Rico’s Recovery and the Role of the Financial Oversight and Management Board”

Wednesday, November 8

  • Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Legislative Markup
  • Committee on Natural Resources Legislative Markup
  • Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Jointly with the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development Hearing on “Close to Home: How Opioid are Impacting Communities”