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In recent months there have been some consequential developments in Washington. I’m proud to say I’ve led the effort to advance legislation to protect the mental health and wellness of those who serve in uniform and played an active role in the passage of comprehensive reforms to our nation’s outdated workforce development system, which will help Americans get back to work and ensure individuals have access to the tools to succeed in today's economy.
Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to work on your behalf on policy reforms that will address the failures that occurred at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), legislation to expand access to education and career opportunities, oversight work to restrain federal regulatory overreach, and a series of more than 40 jobs bills that will facilitate stronger economic growth, which you will find more about to your right, in a recent opinion piece I wrote appearing in the Centre Daily Times.
I hope that you find these updates helpful and informative and, over the next several weeks, I look forward to hearing your thoughts and concerns on issues in your community and before Congress during my travels across the 5th District.
Accountability for our Veterans: Being the father of an Army soldier and having worked for thirty years as a health care practitioner, my heart broke when I first heard of veteran mistreatment and reports of widespread mismanagement at the VA. Following these revelations in spring of 2014, I initiated meetings with VA hospitals serving the 5th District, including a visit to Erie VA Hospital, in Erie, PA. It was reassuring to know that our local VA hospitals have been working hard to service our veteran population, despite the failures encountered at other facilities across the country.
(Picture below: Thompson meets with veterans at Erie VA Hospital)
While I’ve remained in close touch with these facilities long before last spring, there are always policies that can be improved upon. It will remain a priority of mine to know of any other challenges or barriers that prevent us from assuring these brave men and women receive timely access to the best possible care and services.
(Picture below: Thompson meets with officials at Erie VA Hospital)
From a national standpoint, we face serious challenges in restoring the faith of our veterans following these events. I’m proud to say Congress took one step closer to doing just that with the passage of H.R. 3230, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which has now been signed into law.
H.R. 3230 begins the process of reforming the Veterans Health Administration and instituting great accountability across our veteran health care system. Without question, our work to fulfill the commitments we have made to our veterans has only just begun.
House Passes Thompson Bill to Improve Military Mental Wellness: One more way to support our veterans is to support those currently serving in uniform. This past spring, I introduced legislation, the "Medical Evaluation Parity for Servicemembers (MEPS) Act," which would create and more comprehensive and effective approach to identifying and addressing mental illness among our soldiers.
On May 22, 2014, the MEPS Act passed the House with broad bipartisan support. Additionally, the legislation has gained more steam in the Senate and backing from over 40 military and veteran support organizations. Most recently, Senator Pat Toomey signed on in support of the legislation (Click here to learn more).
Bipartisan Job Training Reforms Become Law: On July 9, the House passed with bipartisan support the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (H.R. 803), legislation that will help put Americans back to work by reforming the nation’s outdated workforce development system. The legislation, which was signed into law in July, is based upon the House-passed SKILLS Act, which I played a role in drafting as a member of the House Education & the Workforce Committee. By creating greater coordination among federal, state and local workforce training programs and services, the workforce training system can better identify employment in high-demand industries, and also ensure Americans are better equipped to climb the ladder of opportunity. (Click here to learn more).
National Award for Leadership Role With Bipartisan No Labels Group: Two weeks ago, No Labels, a fast growing, grassroots national movement dedicated to bipartisan, ending political gridlock, and solving national problems through consensus building awarded me its “Seal of Approval”. At the press conference for the award, which was held in Bellefonte, PA, I was joined by local public officials and Centre County resident Mr. David Nevins, a No Labels Citizen Leader and Board Member, to discuss the award and ongoing efforts at all levels of government to overcome partisan politics and build consensus on policy solutions (Click here to learn more).
In the News:
Opinion: Bipartisan Solutions on Job Creation: "There have been real bipartisan solutions passed out of the House of Representatives, in the form of over 40 bills that will increase American competitiveness and facilitate an environment for job creation. Yet, almost every single one of these bills sets idle, awaiting Senate action even though most have received Democrat support in the House...Given the August jobs report and tremendous pressures on American families at home and our national interests overseas, there is obviously need for much more to be done. However, in our constitutional republic everyone must be at the table for the system to work..." (Centre Daily Times, Sept. 9, 2014)
Opinion: EPA Grabs Power With Water Rules: "In Pennsylvania, agriculture is our No. 1 industry. As in other parts of the country, our farmers and landowners know that clean air, clean water and being good stewards of the environment in which they live and work is fundamental to their livelihoods. Despite local prerogatives and successful state and regional initiatives to protect our natural resources, the federal government once again has chosen to undercut these efforts with punitive federal regulations. In March, the EPA issued the WOTUS proposal, alleging the rule expands neither federal authorities nor the amount of water or land under the agency's jurisdiction. The EPA has argued the action will help eliminate ambiguity over which bodies of water are jurisdictional under the law. Unfortunately, this is a far cry from the truth..." (Erie Times, Aug. 21, 2014)
Huntingdon Daily: Water regulations blocked by House: "Wrangling over protecting the nation’s waterways has reached the Congressional level, but is still causing concern locally. Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved a bill to block the EPA from implementing a waters rule..."The EPA’s attempt to expand its authority under the guise of the Clean Water Act would undermine this carefully crafted partnership that is supported by Democrats and Republicans alike," stated Thompson. "Passage of the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act will protect our farmers, landowners and local municipalities by prohibiting the federal government from moving forward with this misguided proposal..." (Huntingdon Daily News, Sept. 15, 2014)
Thompson Initiates Oversight Hearing in Harrisburg to Review Northern Long Eared Bat Endangered Listing: "In September, the House Natural Resources Committee held a field oversight hearing in Harrisburg, PA, on “The Northern Long Eared Bat: The Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Impacts of a Listing on Pennsylvania and 37 Other States." “No one can deny the challenge facing the Northern Long-Eared Bat due to White Nose Syndrome and there is consensus that we must learn more about the disease and improve partnerships at all levels to slow its spread," stated Thompson. "However, it is imperative that we get the science right and strategically address the root cause of the apparent population losses, rather than restrict large areas of the economy and activities that have no bearing on slowing or reversing the disease..." (Click here to learn more).
(Picture above: Thompson at Harrisburg Field Hearing)
Agriculture Subcommittee Reviews Forest Service Groundwater Directive: "In September, U.S. Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, held a public hearing to review the Forest Service’s proposed Groundwater Resource Management Directive. The agency asserts the new plan is intended to provide a more comprehensive approach to managing groundwater resources on Natural Forest System land. In June, Thompson joined 38 other lawmakers in sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, warning that the Forest Service’s directive will restrict access to public lands and interfere with state and private water rights. The hearing was intended to clarify and address concerns with the directive..." (Click here to learn more).
USDA Inclusion of Wood Products in BioPreferred Program will Strengthen Forestry Economy: "In August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a final rule eliminating the restrictions on including mature market wood products in the USDA’s BioPreferred program. The action implements legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, commonly known as the Forest Products Fairness Act, that was included as part of the final 2014 Farm Bill and signed into law on February 7, 2014..." (Click here to learn more).
From DC to the 5th District:
New Naval Chief of Legislative Affairs from the 5th District: During the summer, I had the honor to meet Rear Admiral Craig Faller, of Fryburg, Clarion County, PA, who was recently nominated as the new Naval Chief of Legislative Affairs. I want to thank Rear Admiral Faller for his service and I look forward to working with him in this new role in the months ahead.
(Picture at right: Thompson with Rear Admiral Craig Faller)
Flag Raising for 150th Anniversary of Emporium: In August, I visited the Cameron County School District during the first day of classes for the 2014-15 school year to present a Congressional Flag in honor of the 150th Anniversary of Emporium’s incorporation.
A Congressional Flag is one that has flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, and is bestowed as an honor on a community or an organization. The 5th District office arranged for the flag to be flown over the Capitol on May 12, 2014.
(Picture: Thompson presents Congressional Flag in Cameron County)