e-News 5/18/2018

VA Mission bill: Another Step in the Right Direction for Veterans

Appropriations Bills Boost New Jersey Programs

Lifting the State Department Hiring Freeze Will Enhance National Security

Turkey’s Long, Slow pivot to the Dark Side

Remembering Those Who Protect and Serve: Our Police Officers

Salute: Students and teachers at County College of Morris and Passaic County Technical Institute


VA Mission bill: Another Step in the Right Direction for Veterans

As Memorial Day approaches, the House is moving to build a stronger Veterans Administration (VA) for our nation’s heroes and ensure veterans are receiving the care and benefits they deserve.  This week the House passed S. 2372, the VA MISSION Act, potentially transformational legislation to reform the VA.    

The VA MISSION Act of 2018 (S. 2372) will help veterans in several major ways by:

- Streamlining all of the community care programs, including the Veterans Choice Program, into one common sense program;

- Expanding the VA’s caregivers program to all war eras of veterans, not just the post-9/11 generation, which is critical. This program should be available to all war eras and the families of veterans who proudly served our nation;

- Providing additional resources to the VA to fund the Veterans Choice Program through the next year while the community care programs are being modified and streamlined. 

For years, I have been working with my Congressional colleagues to modernize the VA and transform it into an effective, modern, state-of-the-art organization focused on support of veterans and their families.  While the VA Mission Act is not the complete answer, it is another step towards better service for those who have worn the nation’s uniform and those who care for them. 

With these reforms to vital care services, we are returning the VA to its core mission. I was proud to support the VA Mission Act and look forward to the President signing the bill soon.   

The VA Mission Act passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 347-70.  It had previously passed the United States Senate.

Read more about the VA Mission Act here


Appropriations Bills Boost New Jersey Programs

The House Appropriations Committee advanced three more bills to the House floor this week.  The FY 2019 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, the Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations bill and the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill all include funding for programs important to New Jersey. 

A few examples:

Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Grants– the FY 2019 bill includes $493 million in funding for Violence Against Women Act programs which is $1 million above FY 2018 and an $8 million increase over the President’s budget request. VAWA grants are critical to the state of NJ to support services and programs in response to domestic violence and sexual assault. VAWA grants provide annual support to organizations like the Jersey Battered Women Service which uses this funding to support the Morris Family Justice Center and transitional living programs.

Reduce Sexual Assault Kits Backlog Grants –the bill provides $48 million (equal to FY 2018 funding and $3 million increase over president’s budget) to promote progress in reducing the backlog of untested sexual assault kits.  These grants provide resources and improve processes to test kits, provide training to law enforcement personnel while providing justice and resolution to the victims of sexual assault.

Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG)– the legislation includes $442 million for the Department of Justice’s Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, an increase of $26 million over FY 2018. The cornerstone of federal crime fighting programs, this funding will provided direct assistance to New Jersey police officers and the law enforcement community by supporting multijurisdictional drug and gang task forces, information sharing and technology, county jails, prosecutors, drug courts, and juvenile delinquency and drug treatment programs.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)– The legislation provides $12 million, an increase of $3 million over the President’s budget request ($12 million provided in FY 2018) for CASA which will support CASA programs across the country including CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties, CASA for Children of Essex County, Passaic County CASA, and 12 other local CASA programs in New Jersey. These programs provided specially-trained and supervised advocates that devote sustained, long-term attention to the needs and rights of more than 3,800 child victims of abuse and neglect in New Jersey's 21 counties.  These child victims face significant trauma, multiple risk factors and, without effective intervention, long odds for success.

National Science Foundation (NSF)- The legislation funds NSF at $8.2 billion, an increase of $400 million over FY 2018. In 2017 New Jersey received $139 million from the NSF to support research at universities and colleges including Montclair State University, William Patterson, Princeton, Rutgers, Stevens Institute of Technology, Rider, Rowan and the College of New Jersey. In addition, funding from the NSF was provided to NJ small businesses in order to create jobs and help grow the economy.  Also included in this account is $123 million for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST). Rutgers and Princeton are two of the 36 institutional members working on LSST, which is a multipurpose observatory.  More than 27 scientists and engineers in New Jersey are working on this project which will bring more than $7.5 million to the state.

Legal Services (LSC)- The bill funds LSC, which the Administration proposed eliminating, at $410 million (equal to FY 2018).  LSC funding allows Legal Services of New Jersey to provide representation to an additional 20,000 New Jersey clients

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)– Overall, the legislation provides $5.2 billion for NOAA, an increase over the President’s $4.8 billion budget.  Among other important activities, the funding supports:

$68.5 million for the National Sea Grant College, which the Administration slated for elimination.  Funding supports the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium to address challenges facing our coastal communities and work with nearly 23,000 school children to make ocean science part of their education.  The funding also supports programs that filter storm- or wastewater;

$875 million in funding for National Marine Fisheries Service, this funding helps ensure productive and sustainable New Jersey fisheries an economic engine in our state which employees 65,000 people and generates $2.5 billion in economic activity.

Manufacturing Extension Program- $140 million provided in the bill, equal to the FY 2018 enacted level. The Administration had proposed to eliminate the program.   Since 2000, New Jersey manufacturers have reported the following results as a result of engaging NJ MEP:

  $2.29 billion in increased and retained sales;

  31,215 in jobs created or retained;

Energy and Water Appropriations

This bill includes strong funding for the Army Corps of Engineers – $451 million more than last year. Projects supported by this funding are vital to keeping our local port, the New York-New Jersey harbor, open for business and to protect people, businesses, and infrastructure from damages caused by floods and coastal storms.  The Army Corps’ work also ensures our ports and waterways are able to move cargo and bulk goods around the country and overseas.

Army Corps funding also supports

Construction funding for the Green Brook Sub-Basin flood control project ($5 million) and funds for monitoring of the Passaic River Flood Warning System ($668,000);

Requires the Army Corps to update Congress with regular status updates on the Passaic River Basin Mainstem project, the Peckman River project and the Rahway river project;

$2.1 billion to support public health and safety by funding flood and storm damage reduction activities, an increase of $190 million above fiscal year 2018 and $647 million above the President’s budget request; 

In addition, the legislation includes $590 million for Fusion Energy Sciences, which is $57 million above FY18 and $250 million above the request. This funding supports work at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab;

The bill continues congressional efforts to support the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, providing a total of $267.7 million, an increase of $100 million above the President’s budget request. Funding will be used to accelerate progress toward meeting the federal government’s legal obligation to take responsibility for storing the nation’s nuclear waste, some of which is now stored in New Jersey.

Agriculture Appropriation

The legislation continues to support a new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) program, the Continuous Manufacturing Initiative, which will award grants to institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations - many located in New Jersey - which are working to transform pharmaceutical production.  The goal is to develop new technologies to replace the pharmaceutical industry’s century-old batch processing methods. Continuous manufacturing will benefit patients, healthcare providers, and our domestic pharmaceutical industry by accelerating the introduction of new medicines, assisting in drug quality monitoring and minimizing waste, energy consumption, and raw material use.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – The FDA receives a total of $3.1 billion in discretionary funding in the bill, $308 million above the 2018 enacted level. Total funding for the FDA, including revenue from user fees, is $5.57 billion. Within this total, the Committee provides a net increase of $303 million for medical product safety activities, including an increase of $5 million for the new Oncology Center of Excellence. The bill’s focus on medical product safety covers a broad spectrum of critical public health and safety matters – from $30 million to fight opioid abuse to $38.5 million to advance modern drug and biological product manufacturing in the U.S. to $27 million for the modernization of generic drug development and review. The intent of these funds is to support novel medical technology that will lower costs, provide higher quality, and deliver greater regulatory predictability.

The bill appropriates $70 million to accelerate medical product development as authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act, passed by Congress last year.

The Committee also recommends an allocation of $1 million for blueberry and cranberry research at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to support New Jersey’s blueberry and cranberry growers and research conducted at Rutgers University.

The bill includes language encouraging USDA to expand support for urban agriculture and vertical farming. Urban agriculture improves health and well-being in densely populated urban areas, like New Jersey, by making locally-grown nutritious food available.

The bill also provides $150 million for Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations, the same level as FY18. This program is administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to help federal, state and local government agencies protect and restore watersheds, a significant issue in urbanized states like New Jersey.

Read a complete summary of the Agriculture Appropriations bill here

Read a complete summary of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill here

Read a complete summary of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill here


Lifting the State Department Hiring Freeze Will Enhance National Security

The new Secretary of State took an action this week which will enhance our national security: Secretary Mike Pompeo lifted the hiring freeze at the State Department. 

Now, this may sound like an inside-the-Beltway bureaucratic action.  But its impact will echo across the world.   Why?

The talented men and women of the State Department are on this country’s front lines, defending our national interests and freedom around the world.  If we are to effectively ‘marry’ the ‘hard power’ of our military with the ‘soft power’ of diplomacy, we need the right foreign service personnel at the right posts now!

In his statement this week, Pompeo said resuming the hiring of Foreign and Civil Service personnel will “give our domestic bureaus and missions overseas the flexibility to fill positions that are essential to promoting the Department's mission and the United States' foreign policy goals worldwide on behalf of the American people.” 

There’s no denying that this is an increasingly complex and challenging world.  Secretary Pompeo understands that we need the most gifted and qualified people promoting our interests across the globe!

Learn more about Secretary Pompeo’s action here


Worth a Read:  Jamie McIntyre’s piece in the Washington Examiner, “Turkey’s Long, Slow pivot to the Dark Side.”  Read it here


Remembering Those Who Protect and Serve: Our Police Officers

This week, we marked the National Police Unity Tour and Police Week 2018. 

The Police Unity Tour started in my Congressional District back in 1997 by Officer Patrick Montuore of the Florham Park Police Department.  The aim was to bring greater public focus to the sacrifice police officers who have died in the line of duty.

Back then, Officer Montuore started with 18 riders on a four-day fund-raising bicycle ride from Florham Park to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC.  They raised $18,000.

Last year, 2,500 riders participated and they raised $2,600,000 for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. 

The names of 360 officers who died in the line of duty are being added to that Memorial, 129 of whom were killed in 2017. Every name that is attached to the wall is a reminder of the valuable life that was lost and the spouses, children, parents, friends, and fellow officers who have been left behind.

To the men and women officers who rode to Washington this week and the 900,000 serving across our nation every day, we say “thank you” for protecting our neighborhoods and putting your safety on the line every day you put on the uniform.  

And, thank you to the families of officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for their sacrifice.  They will never be forgotten.


Salute to students and teachers at County College of Morris and Passaic County Technical Institute as they are honored as part of the National Aeronautical and Space Administration’s (NASA) High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) program for their contributions to helping astronauts live and work on the International Space Station (ISS).  The recognition ceremony for schools in the North Eastern region of the United States is tomorrow at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City.  NASA’s HUNCH program is an instructional partnership between educational institutions and NASA.  Students are challenged to meet NASA’s work requirements as they coordinate to plan, design, model and fabricate products for the ISS astronauts and ground support personnel.