Weekly Update from Rep. Denham - March 15, 2013

Dear Friend,

The American people deserve for Washington to come together and agree on a responsible, balanced budget that will improve the health of our economy and get our family and friends back to work, while simultaneously securing our safety net programs for generations to come.  On Tuesday, the House introduced our budget plan for 2014, The Path to Prosperity, led by  the Chairman of the Budget Committee, Representative Paul Ryan.   The 2014 budget aims to put an end to Washington’s spending problem through common-sense cuts to wasteful spending -- something that has been my goal since day one in office -- end the crushing debt our children and grandchildren will inherit.

In fact, Chairman Ryan’s plan endorses my legislation, The Civilian Property Realignment Act (CPRA), which streamlines the process for selling unneeded or underutilized federal properties across the country.  According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in 2009, taxpayers paid $1.7 billion for the operation of underutilized federally-owned buildings and another $134 million for excess buildings.  CPRA calls for a common-sense approach to end such wasteful spending and inefficiency, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find ways the government can reign in unnecessary spending and begin to function within its means. 

As you may have heard, my colleagues and I had a frank and open discussion with President Obama at the Capitol on Wednesday.  I’m hopeful his willingness to meet indicates an opening for Washington to come together to find real solutions that will put our country back on the right path.

On Tuesday I met with city officials from Palo Alto to discuss their concerns with the ongoing California High Speed Rail project.  Without a detailed business plan and interest from private investors, taxpayers should not have to bear the burden of such an expensive and unsteady project.  In the Valley, we have an opportunity to look for more cost-effective and innovative approaches to our transportation needs; and as Chairman of the Rail Subcommittee, I plan to find ways to make things work for us in a responsible way.  I also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the Railroad Association on Thursday, and I look forward to working with them as well as we continue to find ways to improve freight and passenger rail not only for the Central Valley and California, but across the nation. 

Having affordable and reliable access to water and energy is crucial to the economy of the Central Valley, and I plan on continuing to work with my colleagues in the California delegation to find ways to improve water storage and water management on a federal level.  It was great to have members from the Turlock Irrigation District (TID) stop by my office this week.  We discussed the importance of TID’s continued water deliveries to the Valley and its farmers and keeping energy costs low for families through the generation of renewable hydropower. 

I want to help our public utilities continue to provide low utility rates to our families, businesses and schools in the Valley. That’s why I introduced legislation this week with Reps. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) and Jim Costa (D-CA),to protect public power ratepayers from drastically rising by increasing the sources from which public power entities may purchase energy for future needs.  The bill, H.R. 1038 – the Public Power Risk Management Act, will eliminate red tape inadvertently imposed on public power entities by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in 2010.  Ensuring long term, low prices on commodities such as natural gas and oil is critical to providing consistent rates for utility users like those in Modesto and Turlock who have benefited from the reliable and low cost electricity provided by MID and TID.

Our service men and women and the veterans who have bravely served our country are relentless in their mission to protect and defend our nation, and likewise, we have an unyielding commitment to provide the best possible care and support for our veterans once home.  On Thursday I introduced two bills to improve and extend care for our deserving service men and women.  H.R. 1132, The Efficient Service for Veterans Act, would streamline the process for veterans at Vet Centers by allowing them to access their DD-214 at any of the 300 centers across the country; and, H.R. 1131 would extend commissary and exchange store privileges to veterans with a service-connected disability and their families.  Our brave soldiers deserve nothing but the best as they return home, and these bills are a step in the right direction toward ensuring our veterans have the most efficient service and best care possible.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to call my office this week to share their opinion on immigration reform, and I agree that now is the time to fix our immigration system for good.  We all must face the reality of 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country, and it’s about time that we had a system in place that does things right.  I look forward to continuing our working discussions on immigration reform in Congress, and I encourage you to continue to reach out and share your opinion and thoughts with me.

I’m happy to announce the start of the 2013 Congressional Art Competition for California’s 10th Congressional District. If you are, or know of, an artistically-talented high school student, this competition is a great way to showcase our young talent with the rest of the country. I encourage all interested students in the 10th District to submit their entries to this year’s competition. For complete rules and deadlines, please visit the Art Competition page on my website.

This week I sent our first veterans' newsletter with updates on my work for Central Valley veterans and a list of upcoming events and meetings for veterans in California's 10th District. If you or someone you know would like to receive these monthly email updates, I encourage you to sign up here.  Or, to view the newsletter online, visit my website here.

It’s an honor to represent you in Washington, D.C., and I would encourage you to stay informed with the latest affecting the Valley by sharing our weekly newsletter with your family and friends and visiting my website, facebook, and twitter pages.  Also, please be sure to check out this week's intern spotlight on Miss Ashley Murray - a truly dedicated and hard worker in my Washington, D.C., office.  Congratulations again to Catholics back at home who are celebrating with the rest of their community on the appointment of Pope Francis I.

Have a safe, enjoyable, and peaceful weekend.

JEFF DENHAM