THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - Sablan, Murkowski intro CW bill

Jan 21, 2018

In this issue:

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Sablan, Murkowski intro CW bill

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and I introduced the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act today. The bill gives the Marianas access to foreign labor for another 10 years and allows for 13,000 CW workers. The bill also creates a new category to give long-time foreign workers more certainty. (See box above for more details.) I have been working with Senator Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, since July 2017 on this long-term solution. She formed a working group to draft the new policy with myself and key Republicans and Democrats from the Senate and the House to help ensure the success of the legislation. I am very grateful to the Chairman and all the members of the working group. We put in many hours of discussion to reach today’s agreement. There will be more fine-tuning in the days ahead, but we now have a solid foundation for a long-term labor policy for the Northern Marianas. See our news release for a more complete discussion of the bill.

USCIS asked: Who is using up CWs?

Marianas employers have brought over 400 denied CW-1 petitions to the congressional office in recent weeks. With 9,998 permits available and 9,735 used by legacy businesses before the Chinese construction boom, the reasons for so many denials is not clear. So, I have sent a formal request to USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna for an explanation. When my bill, the Northern Mariana Islands Economic Expansion Act became law, it was expected that most CW-1 workers who were employed prior to the construction surge in 2016 would be protected, because the number of non-construction CW-1s at that time was lower than the present reduced cap. One possible explanation being reported is that certain companies may have submitted petitions for hundreds, or even thousands, of non-construction CW-1 workers for fiscal year 2018, and that in some instances the jobs for these workers may not actually exist, or the company is not otherwise a legitimate business. This "ghost permit" scam is addressed on the U.S. Workforce Act I introduced today.

Invest in school infrastructure

Along with 153 Democratic colleagues, I sent a letter to President Trump asking him to invest $100 billion for the rebuilding of our public schools in any comprehensive infrastructure improvement plan. In addition to improving our highways and ports, we must also invest in our schools to make them safe, modern, and conducive to learning. Across the country, more than 50 million students are forced to learn in substandard buildings. The Department of the Interior’s Insular ABCs initiative in 2013 identified a total of $177.4 million in deferred maintenance costs alone in insular area school systems, including $11.3 million for our PSS schools. A 2014 study by the Department of Education also found that it would cost about $197 billion to bring all public schools in the country to “good” condition. We urged the President to back the Rebuild America's Schools Act, of which I am an original cosponsor. Introduced by Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), the bill would provide $100 billion in federal grants and construction bonds to build and renovate schools, creating about 1.8 million jobs.

Congratulations to E-NAP

The $32.5 million that I put in the 2014 Farm Bill is being put to good use by making more families eligible and raising food stamp benefits. The Department of Agriculture reported to me that we are now helping 2,736 households put food on the table, which is 341 more households than June, when the new “E-NAP” system now started. The new money is also increasing benefits; over one-third of the benefits paid out are from the additional funds. Farm Bill money is also funding the development of an automated system which will allow for online applications and the implementation of an electronic benefit system, which will end paper food stamps, making it easier for retailers and E-NAP families. My new bill, H.R. 4216, will put another $42.5 into E-NAP, so the program can continue beyond 2020, or until the CNMI joins the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Veterans resource list now online

Your congressional office has created an online Veterans Resource Directory, to provide a quick guide to the federal and local government services that are available to assist and support veterans, military personnel, and their families in the Marianas. The directory project began in conjunction with the Veterans Resource Fair I hosted last year on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota, which drew over 150 veterans and military families and brought together a wide range of service providers. Check out the Veterans Resource Directory at the congressional office’s website: https://sablan.house.gov.

Marianas gets real ID extension

The Commonwealth government now has until October 22, 2018, to meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act under an extension granted by the Department of Homeland Security. Northern Marianas residents can continue to use their CNMI drivers licenses or identification cards as proof of identity for access to federal facilities and for air travel until then. In 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act which established minimum security standards for driver licenses and state ID cards. Beginning January 22, the Transportation Security Agency will begin enforcing REAL ID requirements. Residents of jurisdictions not in compliance with REAL ID standards or that have not been granted an extension will have to provide another acceptable form of identification for domestic air travel.

OPPORTUNITIES

Grants:

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

On the Floor

  • Legislation Making Further Appropriations for FY 2018
  • H.R. 4712 – Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act (Passed, 241-183)
  • H.R. 3326 – World Bank Accountability Act of 2017 (Passed, 237-184)
  • H.R. 2954 – Home Mortgage Disclosure Adjustment Act (Passed, 243-184)
  • H.R. 3445 – AGOA and MCM Modernization Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 3776 – Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 1660 – Global Health Innovation Act of 2017 (Passed, 423-3)
  • H.R. 4258 – Family Self-Sufficiency Act (Passed, 412-5)
  • H.R. 770 – American Innovation $1 Coin Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4279 – Expanding Investment Opportunities Act (Passed, 418-2)
  • H.R. 4318 – Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act (Passed, 402-0)

Legislation I Sponsored

Legislation I Cosponsored

  • H.R.4820 – To extend funding for certain public health programs, and for other purposes.
  • H.R.1406 – Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2017

NEXT WEEK

The House is on recess for the District Work Period.