Taking the politics out of student loans, creating a more affordable system that protects the taxpayer and students
Students and parents saw a huge victory this past week with passage of the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act (H.R. 1911). After months of political games, the Senate finally passed a bill that is nearly identical to what the House passed back in May, in order to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling and take Washington out of the business of setting student loan rates.
The week before, the House passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which makes huge improvements to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, otherwise known as No Child Left Behind.
The House has also been working on reforms to our federal agriculture policies, including passage of a new Farm Bill. We’ve also advanced legislation to support our troops, including one proposal I introduced that will improve health care access for those returning from war with serious mental and physical wounds.
It’s been a busy summer so far and there is much to catch up on from Washington and across the 5th District.
As always, if you have immediate questions or comments, or need assistance with a federal department or program, I encourage you to contact my office directly.
U.S. Representative Glenn 'GT' Thompson
Improving College Affordability and Removing Politics from Student Loans: On May 23, 2013, the U.S. House passed the Smarter Solutions for Students Act. The bill would have transitioned the system for setting loan interest rates to one that is market-based, ending the current policy whereby rates are arbitrarily set by Congress.
Despite House action on a bipartisan, permanent solution, the Senate failed to act in a timely manner. As a result, interest rates on many federal student loans doubled for millions of students due to the expiration of the law.
Not unit July 24, 2013, did the Senate finally act on a measure, H.R. 1911, the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, which mirrors the Smarter Solutions for Students Act passed by the House in May. The House approved H.R. 1911 on July 31st.
H.R. 1911 returns the loan system to a market-based variable rate that is tagged to the 10-year Treasury note – but with rates fixed for the period of the loan. The bill will apply retroactively to any loans taken out by students since July 1st, when the 3.4% interest rate rose to 6.8%. Most importantly, H.R. 1911 creates a loan rate system that is more predictable and affordable – one that protects both the taxpayer and students. Click here to learn more.
Passage of the Student Success Act: There is widespread agreement that the current Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), otherwise known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), is not adequately serving the needs of our children and should be drastically overhauled. On July 19, 2013, the House passed H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which would reform and reauthorize the ESEA.
The Student Success Act is a step in the right direction in terms of restoring local control, providing for academic standards set by states, school boards, and local educators, and putting a stop to coercive mandates from Washington.
H.R. 5 also includes language based on a bill I introduced last year, which will provide new flexibility for school districts to integrate academic and technical instruction, and encourage the creation of educational partnerships among school districts, institutes of higher education, and local industry.
Ending Duplication and Improving Efficiency in Agriculture Spending: The federal government, under what is known as the Farm Bill, currently operates a costly maze of duplicative and outdated agriculture and nutrition spending programs that are in dire need of reform.
On July 12, 2013, the House passed H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) Act, a comprehensive overhaul of agriculture programs that will save taxpayers over $20 billion. The bill offers new tools to keep American agriculture competitive and hold government accountable.
H.R. 2642 does not include Title IV of the Committee-passed legislation, which contained significant reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, which have traditionally been included as part of the Farm Bill.
The American people deserve a transparent and open debate over both agriculture and nutrition programs. The SNAP provisions will be considered separately by the House in the coming month.
Reducing federal spending and improving program efficiency must be our priority in all areas of government, including agriculture, which is why I will continue to fight for these commonsense reforms. Click here to learn more.
Above Picture: Thompson meets with Centre County farmers and business owners at the Bellefonte district office.
Upcoming Dates & Events:
Barnyard Discussion on Agriculture Policy at Penn State’s Ag Progress Days: Next week, on August 14, 2013, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary George Greig and I will host a “Barnyard Discussion” on agriculture policy during Penn State’s Ag Progress Days (APD). Click here for more information about APD.
Deadline Set for 2014 Service Academy Applications: This week, my office announced October 1, 2013, as the submission deadline for high school seniors to apply for nomination to one of the four military service academies for 2014. Click here to learn more.
Application Deadline Set for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants. The SAFER 2013 grant application period runs from July 29th through August 30th. Click here to learn more.
Erie Times Editorial: Our View: Thompson's 'No Labels' affiliation is good news: “Thompson has stellar conservative credentials...He supports the rights of gun owners, opposes abortion and supports repeal of Obamacare. But Thompson has worked with Democrats on improving care for veterans, education funding, forestry policies and natural gas..." (Erie Times, August 4, 2013)
Warren Times Observer: NSA Vote Disappoints Local Rep: "Thompson weighed in on why he supported reigning in NSA record collections..." (Warren Times Observer, July 26, 2013)
DuBois Courier Express: Thompson drills down on coal regulation: "The House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing Tuesday on the status of the Obama Administration’s rewrite of a sweeping coal regulation known as the Stream Buffer Zone Rule. U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Howard, questioned Joseph Pizarchik, director, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, U.S. Department of the Interior, on the lack of transparency governing of the rulemaking process and the potential for huge economic..." (Express, July 24, 2013)
Centre Daily Times: Penn State Alumni Association honors Rep. Thompson: “The Penn State Alumni Association has honored U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson with the eighth annual “Friend of Penn State” legislative award. The group recognized his support, particularly for the College of Agricultural..." (Centre Daily Times, 7/3/2013)
Picture: Thompson with Penn State President Rodney Erickson and Kay Salvino, President, Alumni Association.
Thompson Amendments Expanding Health Care to Wounded Warriors Adopted as Part of National Defense Policy Bill: "On June 14, 2013, the U.S. House adopted two amendments sponsored by U.S. Representative Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (H.R. 1960). The reforms expand health care for transitioning soldiers and strengthen mental health screening at the Department of Defense..." (Click here to learn more.)