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e-News 12/1/17

e-News 12/1/17

  • Big Changes Needed in Senate Tax Bill 
  • Keeping Our Government Open for Business
  • House Approves Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act
  • Fulfilling a Promise: Another Step Toward a Veterans ID Card
  • Salute: To the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project

 

Big Changes Needed in Senate Tax Bill  

The Senate is now in the final hours of debate on its version of the tax bill.  If the Senate musters sufficient votes to pass the bill, the stage will be set for a House-Senate negotiation on a final bill. 

As you know, I opposed H.R. 1, the House tax bill, when it was debated in our chamber just before Thanksgiving because the legislation’s provisions will hurt New Jersey families who already pay some of the highest income and property taxes in the nation!  In this regard, the Senate proposal is even more punitive!

Specifically, the House bill unfairly limited the state and local tax (SALT) deduction which is vital to many families. H.R. 1 also greatly reduced mortgage interest deductions.  These changes to the tax code will certainly erode property values, one of the most important financial assets for many New Jerseyans.  These provisions alone could do much damage to the business climate in our state, a trend we must never tolerate, let alone encourage. 

I had hoped that 2017 would be the year that Congress enacts permanent, pro-growth tax reform.  In fact, I was looking forward to voting for legislation that creates jobs, increases paychecks, reinforces fairness and expands the economy here at home, while strengthening America’s competitiveness around the world.

However, unless there are significant positive changes in the final tax bill brought before the House and the Senate in coming weeks, I will oppose it due to very negative impacts it will have on so many of my fellow New Jerseyans.

Keeping Our Government Open for Business

Next week, I hope to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives to continue current funding for all federal agencies, operations and programs until December 22, thus preventing a government “shutdown.”  This new Continuing Resolution (CR) will keep the government open for business while negotiations continue with the Senate and White House on a final year long package that would include 12 appropriations bills. In absence of this CR, existing funding would run out next Friday, December 8. 

You will recall that the House approved on September 14 all 12 annual funding bills produced by my Appropriations Committee. Since then, however, the Senate has failed to do its part.  Continuing funding for is critical for federal operations, for our military at home and abroad, for our nation’s economic stability and for the well-being of the American people. We need to act to ensure that the programs and services that Americans rely on continue to be available to all, without interruption.

It is absolutely vital that all of the regular Appropriations bills be negotiated and signed into law. The CR I will introduce will allow for additional time for a bipartisan agreement on top-line spending levels for the 2018 fiscal year. Once that settlement is reached, my committee will continue to work with the Senate to complete the final funding legislation.

Learn more here.

House Approves Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act

It’s a question that deserves an answer in every community across America: who responds when our first responders need help?

This week, the House of Representatives provided a partial answer to this question by passing legislation which would help agencies create and improve mental health services for law enforcement officers.  Approval of H.R 2228, the Law Enforcement Mental Wellness Act ensures that we are one step closer to supporting the men and women in law enforcement with the resources they need to stay healthy while selflessly serving our communities and keeping our families safe.

The men and women in law enforcement put themselves in difficult, dangerous, and sometimes life-threatening situations every day.  And it is a fact that they respond to some of the most horrific scenes and traumatic situations imaginable.  This bill will help ensure that mental wellness is a priority for officers from the day they pin on the badge until the day they retire.

The Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017 would direct the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop resources to equip local law enforcement agencies to address mental health challenges faced by law officers. The bill would also make grants available to initiate peer mentoring pilot programs, develop training for mental health providers specific to law enforcement mental health needs, and support law enforcement officers by studying the effectiveness of crisis hotlines and annual mental health checks.

Learn more about the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017 here;

and here.

Fulfilling a Promise: Another Step Toward a Veterans ID Card

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) this week announced that the application process for the national Veterans Identification Card (VIC) is now available.

With my support, Congress passed legislation in 2015 mandating issuance of the VIC card and this week’s rollout of the ID card fulfills that overdue promise.

The VIC card, free of cost to veterans, provides a safer and more convenient and efficient way to show proof of service.  Veterans with honorable service will be able to apply for the ID card, which will provide proof of military service, and may be accepted by retailers in lieu of the standard DD-214 form to obtain promotional discounts and other services where offered to Veterans.

The VIC provides a more portable and secure alternative for those who served the minimum obligated time in service, but did not meet the retirement or medical discharge threshold. Veterans who served in the armed forces, including the reserve components, and who have a discharge of honorable or general (under honorable conditions) can request a VIC.

To request a VIC, Veterans should click here and click on “Apply for Printed Veteran ID Card” here.

Veterans who apply for a card should receive it within 60 days and can check delivery status of their cards at vets.gov.

The VA reports that a digital version of the VIC will be available online by mid-December.

Salute: To Jean Rhodes and Nancy McNamara, two sisters who developed a smartphone app for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project (VHP). Created by Congress in 2000, the VHP exists to document these veterans’ stories in their own words. VHP’s mission is to collect and preserve the personal accounts of America’s war veterans and make them accessible to all, so that future generations may hear directly from those who served and better understand the realities of war.  Ms. Rhodes and Ms. McNamara created a user friendly tool that allows veterans to record and submit stories of their service - all on a smartphone. It’s currently a pilot program with  considerable promise!

To access the Veterans History Project, visit their website here.

To participate in the Veterans History Project, please click here.

To learn more about the Veterans History Project app, visit their website here

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