Bill to Fund Military, Veterans, Clean Energy Programs PassesSeptember 14, 2018, 8:57 AM HST (Updated September 14, 2018, 8:57 AM)
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawai‘i-02) and Colleen Hanabusa (Hawai‘i-01) voted on Sept. 13, 2018, to pass the FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act (H.R. 5895) that funds critical clean energy, transformational science, military construction, veteran healthcare programs and more.
The bill passed by a vote of 377-20, and now heads to the president’s desk for signature.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said:
“Today’s appropriations bill takes a small step forward toward Congress actually doing its job, working together, and passing legislation to serve the people of Hawai‘i and our country. This legislation is a good example of bipartisan compromise, providing funding for veterans’ services, research into burn pit exposure for veterans, several military construction projects in Hawai‘i, expanded rural and mental healthcare, preventing homelessness, opioid addiction treatment programs, and more. This legislation also invests in clean energy and water infrastructure as we strive to protect our environment, and the health and welfare of our people. We must continue to build on this progress, put the well-being of people before party, and deliver results for them.”
“This bipartisan spending bill is a solid compromise that includes critical funding for clean energy initiatives, rural health care, military construction projects, water resource management and Veterans Administration programs that address mental health, homelessness and women’s health. Hawai‘i is home to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, which manages an Area of Responsibility that covers half the earth. These funds support the construction of new facilities and necessary refurbishments to existing infrastructure. These ongoing improvements are vital to their mission of managing the array of diplomatic and military challenges that exist throughout the region,” said Congresswoman Hanabusa. “Also included is much needed funding to help combat and plan for the impact of climate change by shoring up water resource management programs that address flooding, drought and rural water improvements. The heavy rains and flooding that we saw in April and again with Tropical Storm Olivia and Hurricane Lane highlight the immediate need to ensure our water infrastructure is properly fortified.”
Provisions in the FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act (H.R. 5895) include:
- Funds $6.999 billion, $171.5 million above 2018 enacted level, for the Army Corps of Engineers, for construction projects, operations and maintenance, harbor maintenance, and more. Risk experts in Hawai‘i have warned that the Ala Wai watershed’s high vulnerability to devastating flooding could result in financial devastation of over $1.1 billion, damaging more than 3,000 structures, and threatening the area that is home to over 150,000 residents and over 80,000 visitors every day.
- Provides $1.565 billion, $85 million above 2018 enacted levels, for Department of Interior/Bureau of Reclamation water resources projects, specifically water conservation, reuse, reclamation, and drought activities, water infrastructure improvements, and rural water projects. Hawai‘i has more cesspools than any other state—half of which are located in areas that require urgent action. According to a 2017 report, Hawai‘i also needs an estimated $1.05 billion in drinking water investment over the next twenty years to ensure safe water for our people.
- Includes $2.38 billion, $57 million above 2018 enacted levels, for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and their work to transition to a global clean energy economy. Hawai‘i was the first state in the nation to set a 100% clean energy goal. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (H.R. 3671) to build on Hawai‘i’s progress and replace fossil fuels with 100 percent clean energy generation and use by 2035.
- Dedicates $366 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, $12.7 million above the 2018 enacted level, and their work to develop promising research into game-changing technologies that can meet our future energy needs.
- Dedicates $7.3 million for operations and maintenance, including dredging, of Honolulu Harbor—the principal seaport of Honolulu and the State of Hawai’i.
Provides $500,000 for Flood Control Projects, to study, design and construct small flood control projects.
- Funds $10.3 billion for Military Construction, a $241 million increase from 2018 enacted levels. This amount includes $361 million for Hawai‘i: $105 million for Fort Shafter Command and Control Facility, Rotary Wing Parking Apron (Wheeler Army Airfield)—$50 million, $45 million for Pearl Harbor-Hickam Dry Dock Waterfront Facility, $66.1 million for Kaneohe Bay Corrosion Control Hangar, $78.3 million for Pearl City Water Transmission Line, and $17 million for Pearl Harbor-Hickam F-22 LD/CRF.
- Provides $270 million, for the Rural Healthcare Initiative, which includes opioid abuse prevention, pain management, Justice Outreach Homeless Prevention programs, and increasing access to care for veterans in rural areas such as Hawai‘i, Alaska, and Native American reservations. According to Department of Veterans’ Office of Rural Health, 5.2 million veterans live in rural communities across the United States, and more than 32.9 million rural veterans rely on VA for their health care.
- Dedicates $8.6 billion towards VA Mental Health Programs, including suicide prevention, Veterans Crisis Line, and the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Provides $1.8 billion, for Homeless Prevention Programs, including supportive services for low-income veterans and their families.
- Directs $521.4 million for VA women’s health programs, including redesigning the women’s healthcare delivery system and facilities to better ensure quality care.
- Funds $5 million for Burn Pit research and directs the VA to inform veterans through the VA and community health providers about the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit registry. Report provides an additional $5 million for further burn pit research. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard introduced the bipartisan Burn Pits Accountability Act (H.R. 5671) to evaluate the exposure of U.S. servicemembers and veterans to open burn pits and toxic airborne chemicals.
- Provides $1.1 billion, an increase of $318 million over 2018 enacted levels, for the development and rollout of a new VA electronic health record.
- Directs the VA to provide Congress with “a strategic plan to implement and improve the utilization of healthcare services for veterans in [the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Freely Associated States] through piloting the expansion of health services via telehealth or other community providers,” and directs the GAO to assess the impact that lack of medical services for veterans in these areas have on Hawai‘i.
- Funds $8.8 million for Members of the House of Representatives to pay interns.