01.10.20

Dearborn Press & Guide: Gary Peters year in review, legislation he worked and and had passed

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), who was recognized as one of the most effective and bipartisan Democratic senators by non-partisan organizations, continued delivering results for Michiganders in 2019. Legislative provisions Peters led to protect the Great Lakes, expand skills training opportunities, address the PFAS crisis and strengthen Michigan and U.S. security passed the Senate or were signed into law last year.

“I’m focused on delivering results for Michigan and willing to work with anyone to advance policies that benefit our families, protect the Great Lakes and clean drinking water and strengthen our security,” Peters said. “Over the past year, I’ve been proud to continue making progress for Michigan. There’s more to do, and I will keep working to expand skills training programs, protect the Great Lakes and lower prescription drug costs and protect those with pre-existing medical conditions.”

The following Peters measures passed the Senate or were signed into law:

Protecting the Great Lakes:

•Increasing Funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for First Time Since the Program Was Established Nearly a Decade Ago: Peters secured a provision that was signed into law as part of the year-end bipartisan funding bill that will provide the first increase in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding since the program was established nearly a decade ago. As a result of Peters’ bipartisan efforts with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), GLRI will receive $320 million this year. This is significant especially after President Trump proposed slashing the program by 90% early last year. The provision Peters secured built on his bipartisan measure that passed the Senate unanimously in October.

•Expanding Resources for Great Lakes Fisheries Programs: The year-end funding bill that was enacted includes Peters’ bipartisan legislation introduced with U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to authorize Great Lakes fishery funding and help support effective fishery management decisions. The Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization (GLFRA) Act will enable the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to continue to conduct research to help support the over $7 billion Great Lakes sport and commercial fishery industries. It also will authorize the Great Lakes Science Center – which helps sustain Great Lakes fisheries and reduce threats such as invasive species and harmful algal blooms. This bill authorizes $15 million each year from Fiscal Years 2020-2024 and gives the USGS Director greater authority to devote money to the Great Lakes.

•Funding the Great Lakes Center of Expertise for Freshwater Oil Spill Research and Response: Peters secured $1.5 million that was signed into law as part of the year-end funding bill for the U.S. Coast Guard National Center of Expertise for the Great Lakes. In 2018, Peters’ provision to establish the Center was signed into law. The Great Lakes National Center of Expertise will examine the impacts of oil spills in freshwater environments and help develop effective responses. Current oil spill response technologies are primarily designed for saltwater environments. The funding included in the bill will help the Coast Guard plan for and establish the Center.

•Improving Icebreaking Capacity for the Great Lakes: Peters secured $4 million that was enacted as part of the year-end funding bill to enable the Coast Guard to establish a major acquisition office to enhance icebreaking capacity for the Great Lakes and provide annual program support. The Coast Guard must have greater capability to carry out icebreaking assignments on the Great Lakes during winters with severe ice coverage to enable maritime commerce and assist with potential emergency responses.

Expanding skills training and manufacturing

•Expanding Apprenticeship Opportunities for Veterans: Peters’ bipartisan Support for Veterans in Effective Apprenticeships Act passed the Senate. It would increase veterans’ access to financial assistance they can use in connection with an apprenticeship program. In Michigan alone, only a few hundred of the 1,000 registered apprenticeships listed as active by the Department of Labor have been approved by the VA. Peters introduced the legislation in early 2019 with Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) and partnered with Oakland County veteran Rick Donovan, State Legislative Officer, Polish Legion of American Veterans Department of Michigan.

•Expanding Advanced Manufacturing: A bipartisan provision Peters coauthored was signed into law as part of the national defense bill in December. The measure expands federal support for public-private investments in advanced manufacturing including the LIFT Manufacturing USA Institute in Detroit—one of 14 institutes across a national network that includes 1,300 member companies, which have generated $2 billion in industry-matched funding to transition innovative technologies from lab to market and to expand the production of goods made in America.

Addressing the PFAS crisis

•Stopping the Use of PFAS Chemicals in Firefighting Foams and Training Exercises: The national defense bill that was enacted in late December includes a provision Peters championed to prevent the Department of Defense from buying firefighting foam that contains PFAS after October 1, 2023 and from using these foams after October 1, 2024. The Senate unanimously passed Peters’ resolution in September calling for the final defense bill to include a similar provision. The bill directs the Secretary of Defense to prohibit the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS in military training exercises. This builds on Peters’ work in last year’s annual defense bill that is now law, which urged the Department of Defense to develop fluorine-free firefighting foams.

•Increasing Coordination on PFAS Remediation Efforts, Data Between the Department of Defense and States: Peters secured a provision in the national defense bill that was signed into law late last month that will encourage the Department of Defense to finalize cooperative agreements with states and partner with Governors to address, test, monitor, remove, or remediate PFAS contamination originating from Department of Defense activities. This would include contamination at decommissioned military installations and National Guard facilities. If a cooperative agreement is not reached within one year of the request from a state, the Secretary of Defense must report to Congress explaining why. This measure is similar to bipartisan legislation that Peters introduced with Senator Debbie Stabenow and other colleagues. The bill additionally requires the Department of Defense to share PFAS in water monitoring data with nearby municipalities.

•Funding to Better Understand PFAS Through Advanced Computing: The national defense bill that was enacted includes a provision to authorize funding for advanced computer modeling to improve the understanding of PFAS. This is similar to bipartisan legislation Peters authored and introduced last year.

Keeping borders secure

•Ensuring Secure, Efficient Trade and Travel at Michigan Border Crossings: Peters helped secure $15 million for inspection and screening systems for the Gordie Howe International Bridge in Detroit – the first federal funding to go to the project. About 300,000 people and $910 million in trade cross the Northern Border every day, representing the largest bilateral flow of goods and people in the world.

•Protecting the Nation’s Food Supply and Agricultural Industries at the Border: The Senate unanimously passed Peters’ bill to address the shortage of agricultural inspectors who protect the nation’s food supply and agricultural industries at the border. In the year-end funding bill, Peters helped secure $19.6 million to hire more than 150 agricultural inspectors at America’s airports, seaports and land ports of entry.

•Cracking Down on Producers and Distributors of Fentanyl: A Peters-backed effort was signed into law to crack down on producers and distributors of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids that have taken thousands of American lives. The provision established new sanctions to hold the Chinese government accountable for their failure to crack down on manufacturers and traffickers of these lethal substances.

•Helping Faith-Based Organizations Secure Their Facilities against Terrorist Attacks: Following a surge in terrorist attacks targeting houses of worship, Congress unanimously approved a Peters measure providing additional resources to help religious and cultural institutions secure their facilities against potential terrorist attacks. Peters also helped secure $90 million in funding for the program in the year-end funding bill.

Strengthening cybersecurity

•Bolstering Cyber Defenses Across Government: The Senate unanimously approved Peters’ bipartisan bill to provide state and local governments with resources to help combat cyber-attacks that can cost taxpayers millions of dollars and threaten the security of Americans’ personal data. The bill encourages the Department of Homeland Security to share cybersecurity resources and threat information with state and local governments.

•Retaining Highly Skilled Cybersecurity Experts in Government: The Senate unanimously passed Peters’ bipartisan legislation to hire and retain qualified cybersecurity professionals at the federal level helping protect our nation’s sensitive data. The program will help reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities, strengthen our current systems, and create innovative infrastructure that puts safety and security first.

Saving Taxpayer Dollars and Improving Government Efficiency:

•Cracking Down on Billions of Dollars in Wasteful Government Payments: The Senate approved Peters’ bipartisan bill to rein in improper payments that cost taxpayers more than $151 billion in fiscal year 2018 alone. The bill aims to prevent duplicative, excessive, unnecessary, and improperly documented payments to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively.

•Protecting Retirees’ Hard-Earned Benefits from Fraud and Misuse: The Senate passed Peters’ bill to crack down on the fraud and misuse of retirement benefits for federal workers. The bill makes it a federal crime to misuse retirees’ funds, punishable by fines or imprisonment, to protect retirees from deceitful caretakers.

•Improving Transparency on how Taxpayer Dollars are Spent: Peters helped lead a bipartisan bill that was signed into law to streamline the federal grants process to improve transparency around how taxpayer dollars are spent.

Working to Lower the Cost of Prescription Drugs

•Recommending Congressional Action to Address Skyrocketing Prescription Drug Costs and Drug Shortages: Through his role as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters unveiled a new report on skyrocketing prescription drug prices and drug shortages. Peters’ report followed the listening sessions he held across the state where he heard directly from Michigan health care providers and families struggling with high prescription drug costs and drug shortages. Peters then investigated drug pricing and his report made recommendations to address the cost, supply and national security threats to affordable prescription drugs.

•Combating Anticompetitive Business Practices: Bipartisan legislation Peters supported was signed into law as part of the year-end funding bill that will help combat anticompetitive practices used by some pharmaceutical companies to block lower cost generic drugs from entering the marketplace. The Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act will help encourage greater competition and help lower costs for consumers.

•Increasing Access to Affordable Insulin: Peters supported bipartisan legislation that was enacted as part of the year-end funding bill to speed up approvals of lower-cost generic insulin prices and help lower costs of the life-saving drug. The Affordable Insulin Approvals Now Act will create a faster path for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and help promote competition and bring lower-cost generics to market sooner. With an over 600 percent price increase over the past two decades, unaffordable insulin has impacted nearly 7.5 million Americans—including Michiganders with diabetes, who depend on daily insulin treatments to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

Other efforts

•Improving the Accuracy of Broadband Maps: Peters’ bipartisan Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which he introduced with U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS), John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) passed the Senate in December. It would improve the accuracy of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadband availability maps by strengthening the process by which broadband data is collected. Accurate maps are important to efforts to close the digital divide in rural and urban communities across the country, including in Michigan.

•Permanently Protecting Apollo Sites on the Moon: Peters’ bipartisan One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act passed the Senate ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The bill would enact first-of-its-kind legal protections for the Apollo sites from intentional and unintentional disturbances by codifying existing NASA preservation recommendations.


By:  Dave Herndon
Source: Dearborn Press & Guide