Dr. Boozman's Check-up

A WIN-WIN for Arkansas, and for our nation.

That is how Carol Williams, the executive director of Land Trust Arkansas, describes the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN) Act—a bill I introduced with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to modernize our approach to funding water infrastructure. 

Carol’s piece in today’s edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is behind a paywall, but I’d like to highlight what she wrote about the SRF WIN Act. 

She writes

As chair of the Environment and Public Works' Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife, Senator Boozman has introduced a bill which secures funding for the preservation and improvement of the processes which protect our natural surface and ground water, while assuring the proper re-entry of wastewater into our system of water resources.

This Senate bill is bipartisan and has become bicameral, with similar legislation introduced in the House. It provides leveraged funding of $50 billion over five years in secured loans to benefit communities both large and small. It is named the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now (SRF WIN).

Its passage will be a WIN-WIN for Arkansas, and for our nation. 

Her praise for the SRF WIN Act comes on the heels of an Environment and Public Works (EPW) hearing where experts offered their support of the bill. 

During the hearing, Arkansas Rural Water Association Dennis Sternberg said it “would offer a new and efficient tool to leverage limited federal resources and stimulate additional investment in our nation’s infrastructure” and Kristina Swallow, the President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, called it “one more tool in our tool box that will help our local communities fund the infrastructure that they need to serve their community’s needs.”

My staff and I put together a video to show Arkansans what one of my typical days working for them in Washington, D.C. looks like. We wanted to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on during an average day: meetings with Arkansans & stakeholders, attending committee hearings, giving a speech on the Senate floor and helping to celebrate worthy causes are just a few of the highlights. Watch the video to see for yourself how the day unfolds.

It's an honor to represent you. I'm working hard to use the power of this office for good, help make your life better and ensure that future generations will enjoy the many benefits our state and country have to offer.

Last week, Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-04) and I toured Arkansas’s Fourth Congressional District in an effort to highlight small businesses. On the tour, we which called the #TalkSmallYall Small Business Tour, we listened to business owners, managers, employees and other key figures about what they are seeing and experiencing in today’s economy and we asked for input on how to make it easier for small businesses to grow and thrive.

More than 90 percent of Natural State businesses are small businesses. They employ nearly half of Arkansas employees. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, so Congressman Westerman and I wanted to hear directly from the people who are on the frontlines of economic activity. We’ll be taking their concerns and feedback to Washington, D.C. in order to help enact pro-growth policies that provide the predictability small-business owners need.

Here are some highlights from the #TalkSmallYall Small Business Tour as covered by media outlets in Arkansas:
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created an initiative aimed at helping to encourage investment in low-income, economically disadvantaged areas. The plan, which allows governors to nominate tracts of land as "Opportunity Zones" for approval by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is based on Senator Tim Scott’s Investing in Opportunity Act. It was included in the recent tax reform law that is already helping Arkansans keep more of their own money and choose how best to use their resources.

Now, through these Opportunity Zones, tax reform is seeking to bring even more benefits to average, working people and the communities they live in.

I had an opportunity to speak about water issues—specifically the water infrastructure reform bill I introduced with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)—with over 300 members of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) during their visit to Capitol Hill this week.   

My message was simple: water infrastructure is not a rural issue, or a big city issue. It is not a red state problem or a blue state problem. This is a national emergency, and one where we can find bipartisan support. 

Evidence of that can be found in the wide-range of support our bill has garnered in the Senate. The cosponsors of the bill—the Securing Required Funding for Water Infrastructure Now or SRF WIN Act—are split evenly between Republicans and Democrats and include senators from large and small states. 

My colleagues who have lent their support to the SRF WIN Act see the need for common-sense reform to the way we invest in water infrastructure. Our bill accomplishes that by combining the best aspects of state revolving funds (SRFs) with the leveraging power of the Water Infrastructure and Innovation Act (WIFIA) to make the process easier and more affordable for states to meet their underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs. This approach dramatically increases the availability of funds to communities across the nation while substantially reducing the time, and related costs, for completing projects. 

Senator Booker and I believe this innovative approach can help communities of all sizes, across the country, secure loans so they can improve their crumbling infrastructure. With the help of professionals in organizations like NACWA, we can continue to build support for the legislation here in the Senate, as well as for the companion bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen John Katko (R-NY) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). 

We can, and must, work together to provide all Americans safe, and reliable drinking water and effective wastewater and storm water treatment. 

This week, the President signed legislation aimed at curbing online sex trafficking into law.

The new law includes the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which reforms a misused provision in a 1996 telecommunications act that allows companies to evade prosecution for online business practices that facilitate human trafficking. 

Fast Facts on Sex Trafficking:

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 4.5 million victims of sex trafficking worldwide.
  • A 2014 report by the ILO found that two thirds of the estimated $150 billion profit from the underground industry of human trafficking in the U.S.—an estimated $99 billion—came from commercial sexual exploitation.
  • Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received reports of 22,191 sex trafficking cases inside the U.S. 

How SESTA Will Help:

  • Makes narrowly-crafted changes to the law to ensure websites that knowingly facilitate criminal sex trafficking online are held accountable.
  • Gives law enforcement and prosecutors additional tools to crack down on crimes involving exploitation of the vulnerable.
  • Allows state attorneys general to prosecute the owners of websites that violate federal sex trafficking laws.                                                                                                      

Learn more by watching the remarks I gave in support of SESTA during its consideration on the Senate floor:

In 2017, my office received more than 3,400 requests from Arkansans for help with federal agencies. More than 60 percent of those calls for assistance were related to military and veterans’ issues. These topics consistently rank as the top requests for help from folks in our state. To help get answers to these questions we routinely reach out to the Little Rock Regional Office of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

There is a dedicated staff of 13 people who work to answer questions for individual veterans on claims and appeals as well as requests originating from Congressional offices, like mine. They are also actively working throughout the state conducting outreach to highlight the services and benefits available to veterans. My staff and I regularly attend veterans’ events across Arkansas where it is routine to see VA personnel promoting services and benefits day in and day out. In the last quarter of 2017, VA staff members participated in 68 outreach events in the Natural State, reaching more than 5,100 veterans. 

This is a team devoted to providing information and assistance to veterans throughout the region.

As the VA improves its electronic data systems, it is getting easier and faster for its Little Rock Regional Office staff to input veterans’ personal information and identify benefits veterans qualify for.

The outreach is having a positive impact for those who have served our country but may not realize they are eligible for VA benefits and services. 

Collaborating to educate veterans about the resources and tools available to them is essential to continuing our commitment to the men and women who served our nation in uniform. It is important that we promote the assistance the department offers and provide our veterans answers to questions they have surrounding their claims and benefits. I also appreciate Arkansans sharing their concerns with my staff and me so that we can identify what changes may be needed for implementation at the national level. 

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, my team and I work diligently to propose and advocate for legislation and policies that consider the needs of veterans. Issues that Arkansans have shared with me continue to shape my work in Washington.

 

Despite what you may have heard from those who opposed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act - including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called the tax cuts "open warfare" against the middle class, or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's infamous description of the tax plan's benefits as "crumbs" and the passage of the plan as "The end of the world. Armageddon." - the economy is responding incredibly well to the changes we made to the tax code.

I was proud to present Korean War veteran E.L. Heffley with the “Medal of Gratitude” on behalf of the Korean government. Heffley was also recognized by our office for his service and sacrifice in our series “Salute to Veterans.” Heffley shared his memories of his military experience in an interview that will be submitted to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

New data released by the U.S.-Cuba Trade Economic Council shows that Arkansas’s agricultural producers continue to lose out under Washington’s current restrictive trade policy with the island-nation.

The top two commodities Cuba purchased from American producers in 2017 are among the top commodities produced in Arkansas—chicken leg quarters and soybeans.

A deeper dive into the data shows that chicken and soybean products make up over 80 percent of the total food product/agricultural product exports from the U.S. to Cuba last year.

According to the Arkansas Farm Bureau, the Natural State has about 2,500 farms that produce chicken. Arkansas is the tenth largest soybean producing state and exports almost half of the state’s crop.

In theory, the Cuban market is ripe for Arkansas’s poultry and soybean producers. Add rice to that list, which is a staple of the Cuban diet, and you have the potential for a significant economic boost for our state.

In reality, however, this is not the case.

U.S. producers are still unable to fully tap into the market because federal law does not allow private financing for agricultural trade with Cuba. This misguided policy creates a major roadblock to trade with the cash-strapped island nation.

There is bipartisan solution to this problem. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and I introduced the Agriculture Export Expansion Act to lift the ban on private banks and companies offering credit for agricultural exports to Cuba. This would help level the playing field for exporters across the country and support American jobs.

This commonsense solution does not put the American people on the hook for business deals with Cuba. It simply removes the regulatory barrier banks and companies run into when trying to offer private financing to Cubans for the sale of U.S. agricultural commodities.

It’s a small step would help level the playing field for Arkansas’s farmers and exporters while simultaneously exposing Cubans to American ideals, values and products. A true win-win for American farmers and the Cuban people.