U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) released the following information regarding legislation, constituent services and more from 2019.
By the Numbers
Over the course of the year, Westerman and his staff:
•Introduced nine bills
•Cosponsored 131 bills
•Visited 31 businesses in the Fourth District
•Gave 152 U.S. Capitol tours
•Mailed 212,320 letters to constituents
•Opened 826 constituent casework files
•Hosted four Coffees with Your Congressman
•Held 58 mobile offices
The Fair Care Act – introduced Feb. 25, 2019
The Fair Care Act is a bill that significantly overhauls the U.S. health care system by increasing the number of Americans with health insurance coverage while reducing premium costs. Its five sections are:
•Private-sector health insurance reforms that strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges, lower health insurance premiums and implement Invisible High Risk Pools to cover preexisting conditions
•Medicare and Medicaid reforms that promote solvency and increase access to quality health insurance plans
•Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other reforms that promote transparency and competition among drug and device manufacturers to increase access to generic products and lower costs
•Reforms aimed at increasing competition among hospitals and lowering costs by discouraging monopolies
•Miscellaneous provisions affecting innovation and technology, bringing current laws into the 21st century
Other provisions include creation of more efficient pathways for generic drug development, repeal of several Obamacare-era taxes, expanded options in telehealth, reduced spending on Medicare drugs, increased competition among hospitals and reassignment of significant decision-making power to the states.
Sara’s Law – introduced March 28, 2019
Sara’s Law, H.R. 1949 and H.R. 1951 were introduced as a juvenile sentencing reform package.
H.R. 1949 prohibits federal judges from sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole. Juveniles sentenced to life in prison would be guaranteed a parole hearing after serving 20 years. It also brings federal law into compliance with the 2012 Supreme Court decision Miller v. Alabama.
Sara’s Law increases the discretion of federal judges sentencing juveniles for crimes associated with sex trafficking, sexual abuse, or sexual assault. The bill provides that juveniles found guilty of crimes against persons who sexually trafficked, abused, or assaulted them shall not be required to serve the mandatory minimum sentence otherwise associated with the crime, and that the presiding judge may suspend any portion of an otherwise applicable sentence if the circumstances so warrant.
H.R. 1951 directs federal judges to consider “the diminished culpability of juveniles compared to that of adults” when sentencing those who committed crimes as juveniles. It also allows federal judges to downwardly depart from mandatory minimum sentences by up to 35 percent if such a departure is deemed appropriate based on the juvenile’s age and prospects for rehabilitation.
Keeping Our Promises Act – introduced April 10, 2019
The Keeping Our Promises Act implements nine new classifications, based on the National Academy of Medicine’s biennial Veterans and Agent Orange (VAO) Committee’s evaluation of epidemiologic literature and reflect the committee members’ judgement of the relative certainty of the association between the illness and exposure to the herbicides used in Vietnam. Military personnel involved with the storage and transportation suffered severe rates of exposure to Agent Orange. Despite constant reassurance that it was safe and harmless to handle during the war, veterans began reporting symptoms of lymphoma, leukemia, respiratory cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, digestive disorders and other diseases.
This legislative package also included a second bill from the 115th Congress that would allow veterans who served in Thailand to apply for benefits based on exposure to Agent Orange.
Resilient Federal Forests Act – introduced May 8, 2019
The Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2019 pairs targeted forest management reforms with needed regulatory streamlining to dramatically improve the health and resiliency of forests and rangelands. The bill provides federal land management agencies immediate tools to increase the pace, scale and cost efficiency of forest management projects, without sacrificing environmental protections. Westerman introduced similar legislation in the 115th Congress with bipartisan support, and several provisions were signed into law as part of the omnibus and Farm Bill packages.
The bill utilizes tools that the United States Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can implement immediately to mitigate insect and disease infestation, prevent damage to municipal watersheds and critical infrastructure, quickly harvest wildfire-killed trees to pay for reforestation and improve the health of forests and grasslands to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire.
It also streamlines environmental reviews of projects for the removal of dead trees to pay for reforestation after large wildfires, requires an Environmental Assessment for a reforestation project, and encourages and speeds wildlife habitat improvement for wild turkey, ruffed grouse, elk, deer and other “early seral” forest-dependent species.
Rural Road Safety Act – introduced Sep. 16, 2019
The Rural Road Safety Act, which Westerman introduced with U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), would ensure states are investing a portion of federal Highway Safety Improvement Program money into their high-risk rural roads by re-establishing a set-aside which existed from 2005 to 2012. After the set-aside was eliminated, rural road fatalities declined at a far slower rate. The bill will also update the 2014 Rural Local and Tribal Roads Safety Toolkit to include new best practices for reducing fatalities on rural roads. This toolkit helps rural communities identify their safety needs and prioritize the safety projects that will work best for them.