End of Year Update from Rep. Larson
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2017 has been a busy year, to say the least. In D.C., we have debated everything from health care to tax plans, and in Connecticut, I’ve traveled through the First District, holding over 20 public forums, and holding meetings with different groups. If you are interested in what events I’m hosting be sure to check my website’s event page here.
Below are some highlights of initiatives and legislation that I’ve been working on. If you ever have any questions on legislation, please feel free to email me or call my Washington D.C. office at 202-225-2265.
Social Security 2100 (H.R. 1902) – Introduced on April 5, 2015, this bill would not only cut taxes for Social Security recipients, it would also provide a benefit bump for current and future beneficiaries, and keep the system strong for generations to come - without slashing benefits or asking seniors to wait longer to collect the benefits they have paid for. Social Security is not an entitlement – it’s the insurance Americans have paid for to fund retirement, disability, and survivor benefits through a lifetime of work. The bill has the support of 163 cosponsors.
America Wins Act (H.R. 4209)– Introduced on November 1, 2017, this plan will invest $1 trillion in the nation’s infrastructure over 10 years, creating millions of jobs, and providing a boost to the economy and the middle class that is sorely needed. It is fully paid for by taxing pollution, with a portion of the revenue reserved to be passed to consumers in the form of a tax rebate and dedicated funding to assist those in coal country who have been struggling. The America Wins Act offers a common-sense way to pay for a robust infrastructure bill without adding a penny to the national debt. It is a jobs program for the middle class, it’s tax relief for consumers, it shores up the pensions of coal miners, and it improves the quality of the air we breathe.
I-84/I-91 Tunnel Proposal – The proposal to address the Greater Hartford Region’s infrastructure challenges and spur economic development has gathered momentum and garnered significant support in 2017. By routing I-84 and I-91 through tunnels, this plan will improve traffic flow, reconnect neighborhoods in Hartford and East Hartford, recapture access to the riverfront, repurpose highways and bridges into local boulevards, and will shore up the levee systems that protects the city and critical infrastructure from the threat of flooding. Since this plan was first unveiled, more than 50 meetings and events have been held to gather input and engage with the public, including a ground-breaking meeting at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau with Hartford-area stakeholders. It has the support of local government officials, the business community, the construction industry, labor organizations, newspaper editorials, and other regional stakeholders.
Expanding Health Insurance Options for Americans: Two new bills were introduced to provide people with more affordable, higher quality health insurance options – especially for Americans facing higher premiums (ages 50-64) and those in areas with just one or two options.
- Medicare Buy-In and Health Care Stabilization Act (H.R. 3748) – Introduced on September 12, 2017, this bill would build on the success and structure of the Medicare program to provide Americans (ages 50-64) with a new option for affordable, quality healthcare. The Act will offer people in this age group the option to buy into Medicare, thus avoiding the increase in premiums that they often face in the private insurance market. The bill also proposes important common-sense solutions to bolster stability in the health care marketplaces and by investing in innovative ways to reduce potentially billions in waste, fraud, and abuse, especially in the Medicare system that 57 million Americans have paid into. This is a simple and commonsense solution that offers one path forward to strengthen our health care system.
- Medicare Choice X Act (H.R. 4094) - Introduced on October 24, 2017, this is the House companion to the Senate Medicare-X Choice Act, originally introduced by Senators Tim Kaine (VA) and Michael Bennett (CO). Medicare-X would operate much like a public option and be offered through both individual and family coverage plans. The current Medicare provider network would be expanded to include pediatricians, children’s hospitals and others. Beginning in 2020, the Medicare-X plan would be available in rural areas of the country where there are only one or no health insurance providers on the exchange. The plan would also be available in counties where there is a shortage of health plan options, which have driven up costs and rendered prices simply unaffordable for Americans below the age of 65. By 2023, the public option would be available on the individual market and in 2024, the plan would be an option on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchange.
America’s Call To Improve Opportunities Now Act (ACTION) (H.R. 3140) – Introducedon June 29th, 2017, this bill will enhance access to national and community service opportunities. Right now, less than 1% of the nation serves in the military, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps combined. Americans who wish to serve should be encouraged to do so, and this bill does exactly that by supporting at least one million full-time federal service positions a year and providing those who enter national service with tuition assistance and student loan relief in order to pursue higher education. ACTION was introduced this year with 163 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and in the Senate by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI).
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 – On December 12,2017, President Donald J. Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (HR 2810) after the House and Senate came to an agreement on the Conference Report. The bill authorizes $626.4 billion for the base defense budget and $65.7 billion for a war fund known as Overseas Contingency Operations. The agreement represents a significant output increase for Connecticut-based defense manufacturing ecosystem consisting of nearly 160 suppliers in the First Congressional District alone.
Crumbling Foundations – The crumbling foundations crisis in Connecticut will require an all-hands-on-deck response at the municipal, state, and federal level. No single bill or action will make all affected homeowners whole – it will require an amalgamation of different solutions. This year, former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Assistant Secretary of Tax Policy Dave Kautter, and National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson were all personally briefed on the disaster and all recognized the unique harm homeowners are suffering from. On November 22, 2017, the IRS announced a new exemption that would allow some affected homeowners to deduct the cost of foundation repairs from their federal tax liability. While the passage of the new tax plan has complicated this effort, the CT Delegation is continuing to work with the IRS and Treasury on what this will mean for homeowners.
Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act (H.R. 2465) – Introduced on May 16, 2017, this bipartisan bill would make coverage of medically necessary speech generating devices (SGDs) permanent under “routinely purchased durable medical equipment” in the Medicare program, protecting beneficiaries’ access to critical means of communications with their loved ones and providers. SGDs are essential for millions suffering from ALS and other degenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. This legislation is named after and supported by former NFL player, Steve Gleason, who became a champion for those with ALS after being diagnosed with the disease himself in 2011. In an important step forward this year, the bill was passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee with unanimous support.
Protecting access to Complex Rehabilitation Technologies (CRT) wheelchair accessories – After the introduction of bipartisan legislation (H.R. 1361) that garnered the support of 104 cosponsors, CMS announced in June 2017, a reversal of a previous policy that would have harmed access to highly customized wheelchair accessories designed for those suffering from severe disabilities due to ALS, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and other debilitating illness or injuries. However, the reversal of the payment cuts only applied to CRT power wheelchair accessories, and left CRT manual wheelchair accessories open to further rate reductions. A second bipartisan bill (H.R. 3730) was introduced to combat this new parity issue. Regardless of what kind of CRT wheelchair (power or manual) a beneficiary and their physician determine is best for them, their access to medically necessary wheelchair accessories should be equally protected.
Honoring Hometown Heroes Act (H.R. 1892) – On May 17, 2017, the House of Representatives voted 411-1 to pass HR 1892, legislation amending the United States Flag Code to allow the governor of a state or territory (or the Mayor of the District of Colombia), to order the lowering of the flag to half-staff in the tragic event that a first responder dies in the line of duty. Senator Jon Tester (MT) sponsored a companion bill (S 1108) in the Senate and, on November 28, 2017, he successfully lead the effort to pass HR 1892 with a technical Amendment by unanimous consent in the Senate. Currently, the bill awaits action in the House before being signed into law by the President. This legislation was inspired by a local Hartford firefighter.
Coltsville Technical Correction – On February 27, 2017, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 863, legislation clarifying the National Park Service’s authority to establish the Coltsville National Historical Park headquarters in the historic brownstones next to the East Armory. The Coltsville National Historical Park Act was signed into law at the end of 2014, authorizing the establishment of a National Park at Coltsville in Hartford. Following passage of the law, the National Park Service determined that the brownstones, which date back to the 1850’s, provide the best location for historic preservation and visitor access for the location of the park headquarters. The Park Service issued a technical clarification that would allow for this to occur and this legislation would simply codify that decision. H.R. 863 passed the Senate at the end of December and is awaiting being signed into law by the President.
Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act (H.R. 4547) – Introduced on December 5, 2017, this bipartisan legislation would improve and strengthen the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) representative payee program. The SSA’s representative payee program helps approximately 8 million Social Security beneficiaries manage their benefits if they are unable to do so themselves because they are children or have a condition such as Alzheimer’s.
Fuel Cell Amendment – An amendment, offered with Rep. Elizabeth Esty, to increase funding to the Department of Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies program to Fiscal Year 2017 levels, was adopted as a part of H.R. 3219, Make America Secure Appropriations Act. Connecticut is home to some of the world’s leading fuel cell manufacturers, employing a high-skilled workforce, and this federal R&D funding will help to advance the growth of this cutting-edge industry.
The Hartford District Office has also been hard at work assisting constituents with Federal Agencies. From Social Security, Medicare, the VA, Immigration, Education, Housing, and more, they’re there to help. To learn more, please visit my website, or call the Hartford office at 860-278-8888.
Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year!