WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman highlighted his legislative accomplishments of the 113th Congress. Several pieces of legislation introduced by Boozman were approved by Congress or were included in larger bills and passed with bipartisan support.
- Language included by Boozman in the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization (NDAA) allows servicemembers killed or wounded in attacks by foreign terrorist organization to be eligible for the Purple Heart. This provision is meant to address the attacks at the recruiting station in Little Rock and Fort Hood, TX. If the person or persons who carry out such an attack can be shown to have been in contact with a foreign terrorist organization or the attack was motivated by a foreign terrorist organization then the servicemembers wounded or killed in such an attack would be eligible for the Purple Heart. The provision is retroactive to September 11, 2001. Foreign terrorist organization means an entity designated as such by the Secretary of State.
- Boozman included an amendment in the FY2015 NDAA that requires that the Secretary of the Army submit a report to Congress no later than March 15, 2015, on how the Army intends to modernize the Army National Guard’s fleet of UH-60A aircraft. This is relevant to Arkansas because the AR National Guard has a number of UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters. The “A” model is the oldest variant of the Black Hawk and is costly to maintain and operate because of the age of the airframe. The Army has two newer variants, the “L” and “M” variants and this section asks for a plan from the Army on how they will replace the “A” models with newer models.
- Boozman authored language included in NDAA will improve the ability of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Board of Visitors to perform critical oversight responsibilities.
- Boozman authored language included in the CR-Omnibus that prohibits the use of funds for the disestablishment of any Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. This provision is of interest to a number of universities/colleges within Arkansas who are in danger of losing their ROTC programs. The Army will not be allowed to expend any funds in FY15 to close these programs.
- Advance Funding of VA Benefits – Expanded advance funding for the Veterans Benefits Administration which administers compensation, pensions, readjustment benefits and insurance.
- GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act –Included in the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, this require schools eligible for GI Bill education benefits give veterans in-state tuition rates regardless of the veteran’s residency status.
- Veterans Paralympic Act of 2013 – Included in the VA Expiring Authorities Act of 2013, this reauthorizes the VA adaptive sports program to provide disabled veterans with opportunities for recreational therapy through sport.
- Expansion of the VA contracted disability evaluation program – Boozman included this language in the CR-Omnibus to increase the number of healthcare providers outside the VA medical system that are allowed to preform disability evaluations and thus reduce the backlog within VA. This section allows for the increase to 15 regional offices by FY2016.
- Commemorating D-Day – The Senate unanimously supported this resolution commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and honoring the U.S. Armed Forces who helped bring an end to WWII.
- National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial: Boozman helped secure language authorizing the creation of a national memorial to commemorate the service of veterans of Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. More than 3,400 Arkansas Guard soldiers were called up to serve in these operations, the second-highest percentage of any state.
- Improving trade to Africa – Boozman authored language to establish a White House designated senior coordinator to review current export strategies with the ultimate goal of significantly increasing American exports to Africa.
- Private Property Rights Protection – This amendment, passed by unanimous consent, makes it simpler for Congress to ensure that Americans will be protected in their property from the abuse of eminent domain to transfer property solely for private economic development. The Amendment was included in the Budget Resolution, so it does not have the force of law, but the Amendment helps to set the state for future efforts to protect private property rights.
- Inspectors General Vacancy Legislation - The Senate acted by unanimous consent on a Boozman amendment to increase pressure on the administration to fill inspectors general vacancies, particularly the vacancy at Federal Housing Finance Agency. IGs are independent watchdogs that address waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct within federal agencies. Boozman also introduced legislation to reform the appointment process to ensure the permanent IGs are in place. This legislation is still under consideration.
- Regulatory Relief for Small Aircraft Pilots - Following the introduction of Boozman’s legislation the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, the FAA responded by announcing its intent to go through a formal rulemaking process that may provide similar relief. This sets the stage for further legislative efforts in the 114th Congress, if the FAA fails to follow-through.
Water Resources Improvements
Boozman authored several items in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act including:
- Improves River Ports in Arkansas: The law guarantees adequate funding for river ports in Arkansas from the industry-supported Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. This funding is collected through a small tax on imports, but until a Boozman-supported provision was added to the legislation, little if any of the funding was coming to maintain facilities in Arkansas. Arkansas farms and factories use the river to ship goods to and from our state. Without well-maintained ports, Arkansas products will become more expensive and less competitive as we try to increase exports.
- America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program: This allows the Corps to participate in this program in the same manner as the National Park Service and the Forest Service.
- Provides Park Passes for Active-Duty Military Personnel and Dependents: Provides free annual passes to active duty military personnel and dependents. These military families will now be treated the same at Corps-operated sites as at other federal recreation sites.
- Improves Dam Safety: This extends the National Dam Safety Program—which provides grants to improve state dam safety programs through training, technical assistance, inspection, and research. Dams throughout Arkansas provide water for homes, farms, and factories, as well as opportunities for fishing and other types of recreation while reducing the risk of flooding.
- Incentivizes Low-Interest Financing Options for Water Resources Projects: Another Boozman-authored provision of the law incentivizes low-interest financing options for water resources projects to guarantee that critical irrigation and groundwater protection projects, like Bayou Meto and Grand Prairie, will be eligible to participate in this program.
- Assures Water Cost Transparency: This provision requires the Corps of Engineers to explain the rationale for the water rates that it charges to utilities. The Corps sells water to utilities and municipalities that provide water to hundreds of thousands of Arkansans. This Boozman-authored provision will require the Corps to provide a detailed accounting of the costs associated with providing this water, so that customers will know whether or not their current water rates are justified.
- Finding Beneficial Uses for Excess Water: Boozman authored a provision that requires the Corps of Engineers to work with water districts that are under contract to purchase more water than they can use. In many cases, the Corps sells water to utilities on long-term contracts based on predictions of future population growth. If this growth fails to occur, the costs can skyrocket for families, businesses, and farmers. Under the Boozman-authored language, the Corps will work with water districts in this predicament to open new markets so that the excess water can be put to a beneficial use elsewhere.
- Enhancing Cooperative Joint Management: The law includes language authored by Boozman to improve the management of Corps recreation facilities, providing a better experience for Arkansans who visit Corps parks for recreational purposes.