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Congressman Capuano's
E-UPDATE
An update from the office of U.S. Representative Michael E. Capuano
7th Congressional District of Massachusetts


12,169 subscribers

February 5, 2016

Federal Aviation Administration

I am happy to report we recorded a few “wins” relating to airplane noise abatement. On Wednesday the Transportation Committee released the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) reauthorization bill. This is a long overdue update of legislation funding the programs, policies and administration of the FAA. My office has consistently dealt with the impact of Logan Airport on surrounding cities and towns. Constituents in every community in my district have long expressed concerns about airport noise. I have spoken with many of you about this and participated in a lengthy community meeting in December.

I cannot move Logan to another location but I can look for ways legislatively to address concerns that my constituents raise, particularly as the only Massachusetts member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I worked with the Republican majority on the committee to get a few items included in the FAA reauthorization bill. The committee is expected to consider the legislation next week.

The legislation includes three provisions of mine that relate directly to noise concerns. The first provision has to do with RNAV or “area navigational system” departure procedures. RNAV is being used by the FAA to narrowly direct airplanes over very specific flight paths. The unfortunate result of this is that some neighborhoods are experiencing an increase in flights over their homes. My provision requires the FAA to consider “dispersing” flights to address noise concerns if the community and airport request it. Dispersal is a navigational tool that air traffic controllers can use to send flights over a broader area if they find that too many flights are using a specific path at any given time. It cannot end the pain of too much airplane interference, but it can spread that pain out more fairly. I am in regular contact with Massport on a whole host of issues and have already spoken with them about dispersal. They have expressed their support of the concept where appropriate.

My second provision has to do with the way the FAA measures noise under flight paths. Currently, airports are required to offer various forms of mitigation to neighborhoods that experience noise levels above 65 DNL. DNL is an average noise level, measured over 24 hours, with higher weights given to noise in the overnight and early morning hours. My provision requires the FAA to review noise exposure and its effects on communities around airports and report on whether the current 65 DNL standard should be updated or changed entirely. The limit was first set in the 1970’s. The science behind noise exposure has no doubt gotten more sophisticated since then, and the FAA should at least consider whether it should be updated.

The FAA reauthorization also contains a review of categorical exclusions. The FAA often applies a categorical exclusion to skip otherwise required environmental reviews when implementing RNAV procedures. My provision requires the FAA to go back and review the categorical exclusions over the last few years to see if RNAV has had a significant effect on the human environment in communities impacted by the airport. If a negative impact is identified then the FAA must implement measures to mitigate that impact.

Each of these is a significant step that will require the FAA to take a closer look at how RNAV and other policies are impacting the people who live below flight paths. Reasonable people understand that Logan Airport isn’t going anywhere and some airplane noise is an unavoidable part of urban living. This doesn’t mean however, that some communities should be unfairly burdened by airplane noise.

Please note that the FAA reauthorization legislation does have some problematic provisions. I expect many House members, myself included, will have trouble supporting the bill in its current form and I have no doubt many amendments will be offered. However, just like the bipartisan transportation reauthorization that the House passed last year, I am hopeful these disagreements can be resolved before the bill comes to the floor for a vote.

Regardless of what happens to the bill on the floor, the FAA now knows that the provisions I outlined above are widely supported by the bipartisan leadership of the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. While the legislative process moves forward I will keep up my ongoing dialogue with the FAA, making the case that they can and must do more to address noise concerns in the communities surrounding Logan regardless of what happens to the larger bill.

Housing

On Tuesday the House considered H.R. 3700, the Housing Opportunity through Modernization Act of 2015. This legislation updates existing housing laws in order to make affordable housing available to more eligible families. Most of the changes made are commonsense and straightforward. As you will see by the voting chart below, it passed unanimously in the House, which is not a common outcome. H.R. 3700 addresses issues with over-income tenants living in public housing which a recent Inspector General report identified as a problem. If a family living in public housing exceeds income limits for 2 consecutive years, then that family must be charged fair market rent and contribute towards maintenance of their unit. Alternatively, H.R. 3700 gives public housing authorities the right to terminate over-income tenants’ occupancy after 6 months. This approach accounts for periodic increases in a tenant’s income and gives families the time they need to find other housing, making space for the next family on the list.

H.R. 3700 also updates unit inspection requirements for the section 8 housing voucher program, giving housing authorities more time to complete unit reviews. This reduces the administrative burden on authorities and reduces inconvenience for tenants. It creates a Special Assistant for Veterans Affairs who will help veterans access housing programs. I voted YES. H.R. 3700 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

243

0

0

2

DEMOCRAT

184

0

0

4

TOTAL

427

0

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

9

0

0

0

Iran

On Tuesday the House also considered H.R. 3662, the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act. You may recall that the House first considered this legislation in January but Speaker Ryan closed the vote on H.R. 3662 after 15 minutes, which is the minimum time allotted under the rule for Members to cast their votes. The Speaker had expressed concern that votes were being kept open long after the allotted time to accommodate a handful of Members who are routinely late. Because the vote closed after 15 minutes, well over 100 Members did not vote. Both parties agreed to vacate the vote and take H.R. 3662 up again at a later date.

The real intent of this legislation is to block the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear agreement. It prevents the United States from fulfilling some of its commitments under the JCPOA, effectively impeding its implementation. H.R. 3662 prohibits the administration from lifting sanctions on some 400 financial institutions and individuals, without first certifying that they were never involved in any prohibited activities. Many of the entities in question will continue to be monitored, but the lifting of these sanctions is a requirement of JCPOA. The Administration has stated that H.R. 3662 will be vetoed. I voted NO. H.R. 3662 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

243

0

0

2

DEMOCRAT

3

181

0

4

TOTAL

246

181

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Repealing the Affordable Care Act, for the 63rd Time

The House took up the President’s veto message on H.R. 3762, Restoring America’s Health Care Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015. This is one more in a very long line of votes to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — 63 times, in fact.

In early January the House passed H.R. 3762 after it had already passed in the Senate. It is a reconciliation bill, which means it only required a majority vote for passage in the Senate instead of the 60 votes often needed to advance legislation. As expected, the President vetoed the legislation and this week the House took up a vote to override that veto.

H.R. 3762 repeals numerous provisions of the ACA, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates will result in the loss of health care coverage for more than 20 million Americans after 2017. H.R. 3762 also defunds Planned Parenthood for one year, which will leave many patients without access to cancer screenings, family planning and preventive care.

It is worth noting that despite this continued obsessive focus on eliminating the ACA, the Republican-led House has still failed to propose any alternative legislation. Overriding a Presidential veto requires a 2/3 majority. While a majority of House members voted to override the Presidential veto, the 2/3 threshold was not met so the measure failed. I voted NO. The entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

240

3

0

2

DEMOCRAT

1

183

0

4

TOTAL

241

186

0

6

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC)

On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 1675, the Encouraging Employee Ownership Act of 2015. H.R. 1675 combines five bills governing capital markets that create unnecessary burdens for the SEC and do not do enough to protect investors. The legislation directs the SEC to review and revise all of its rules dating back to 1934 but does not provide any additional money for staff to accomplish this sweeping analysis. It also changes rules relating to when companies are required to disclose the value of their stocks and other financial information when issuing that stock to their employees. I voted NO. H.R. 1675 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

241

1

0

3

DEMOCRAT

24

158

0

6

TOTAL

265

159

0

9

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Financial Institutions

On Thursday the House considered H.R. 766, the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act of 2015. Rather than protecting consumers, this legislation really hinders the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ability to investigate financial crimes. H.R. 766 also reduces the window that the DOJ can prosecute criminal activity from ten years to five years. I voted NO. H.R. 766 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:

  YEA NAY PRESENT NOT VOTING
REPUBLICAN

240

0

0

5

DEMOCRAT

10

169

0

9

TOTAL

250

169

0

14

MASSACHUSETTS
DELEGATION

0

9

0

0

Municipal Bonds

On Monday the House considered H.R. 2209, to require the Appropriate Federal Banking Agencies to Treat Certain Municipal Obligations as Level 2A Liquid Assets. It passed by voice vote. When federal regulators were drafting rules for banks on how to define “high quality liquid assets” they were not including bonds issued by states and municipalities in the definition. Municipal debt is generally rated as safer than other financial investments and communities use it for improvements such as building a new school or updating transportation infrastructure. This concerned me and many of my colleagues so H.R. 2209 was introduced in response. It requires regulators to include municipal bonds when defining “high quality liquid assets”. I hope the Senate will take up this commonsense measure soon.

South Sudan

You may recall that in November I traveled to South Sudan with representatives from the United Nations Foundation and other Members of Congress. I wanted to learn more about the work of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, and the role other humanitarian agencies are playing in the region. As the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan I thought it was important to spend some time in the region. During the trip, we also met with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir who assured us he was committed to implementing the peace agreement and holding human rights violators accountable. We urged him to do everything he could to achieve peace.

I was concerned when the January 22nd deadline for establishing a unity government in South Sudan came and went without meaningful progress. I wanted to share with you a statement I released this week along with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep Michael McCaul and Rep. Tom Rooney, all members of the Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan:

Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan Joint Statement on South Sudan’s Failure to Form a Unity Government

“We are disheartened that South Sudan’s warring parties failed to form a Transitional Government of National Unity by the January 22 deadline. Since the country’s civil war erupted in December 2013, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced from their homes and now face starvation. The ongoing violation of human rights and of the ceasefire, the dissolving of South Sudan’s regional states, and further steps to undermine negotiations have disrupted the implementation of the peace agreement. President Kiir and former Vice President Machar are responsible to their people for beginning a transitional process without further delay so that the country can become a prosperous state. We urge both leaders to set aside their bitter differences and commit to sustaining peace in South Sudan”.

What’s Up Next

The next votes will occur on Tuesday February 9th. The House is expected to consider H.R. 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act and H.R. 3442, the Debt Management and Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Mike


Congressman Mike Capuano
7th District, Massachusetts
Committee on Ethics
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee on Financial Services

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