Government Matters: Week in review, May 15-19

By Victoria Mullen, WKTV

Peters Cosponsors Bill to Protect Public Land & Water

Bill Permanently Reauthorizes Land and Water Conservation Fund

By Allison Green


U.S Senator Gary Peters announced that he is cosponsoring the bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF uses revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling to fund the protection of everything from wildlife refuges and national parks to lakes, rivers and community parks.


Sleeping Bear dune

Michigan has received over $320 million in funding from the LWCF over the 50-year lifespan of the program, helping to protect places like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the Keweenaw National Historical Park, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, the North Country National Scenic Trail, and all of Michigan’s National Forests.


“Protecting our environmental resources is not just about good stewardship, it is also vital to our health, our economy and our way of life in Michigan,” said Peters.

Outdoor recreation is a key component of Michigan’s economy, generating $18.7 billion in consumer spending and supporting nearly 200,000 jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 4.4 million people hunt, fish, or enjoy wildlife-watching in Michigan each year, contributing over $6.1 billion to the state’s economy.

Peters, Stabenow & Colleagues Introduce Bill to Tackle Student Loan Debt

Legislation Allows Borrowers to Refinance Student Loans at Lower Interest Rate

U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow joined their colleagues in introducing the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. The legislation would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at the lower interest rates offered to new federal borrowers in the 2016-2017 school year.


“Access to higher education can provide a pathway to economic opportunity, but too many young people are saddled with crushing debt after they leave school,” said Senator Peters. “You can already refinance your mortgage or car loan, and there is no reason student loans should be treated any differently.”


“Our bill would allow students and parents to refinance their loans for a better rate – just like people can already do with their car or home loans. All of our students deserve an equal shot at success!” said Senator Stabenow.


Since the bill was introduced during the 113th congress, student loan debt has grown by about $200 billion. In 2015, 70% of college seniors graduated with debt. This year, more than one in four borrowers are in delinquency or in default on their student loans. In Michigan, tuition for almost every college has more than doubled since the early 2000s. Each student who attends a four-year college in our state leaves with over $29,000 in loan debt on average.


According to a recent analysis, a quarter of borrowers default over the life of their loans. It is clear that the student loan debt crisis is getting increasingly worse, with no signs of slowing down. It is a crisis that threatens our economy, and the futures of young people all across America. With interest rates scheduled to rise again this summer, the urgency for Congress to address the student debt crisis and to allow borrowers to access today’s lower rates is stronger than ever.


Peters Statement on Appointment of Special Counselor in Russia Investigation

The Kremlin in Moscow

U.S. Senator Gary Peters released the following statement on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel in the Russia investigation:


“Russia’s unprecedented interference into our election threatens our national security and the very foundation of our democracy. The appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel is a good first step toward a thorough investigation that is free from political pressure or interference. The American people deserve to know the facts about Russian efforts to disrupt the 2016 election, any involvement with the Trump campaign, and any attempt by the President or other officials to improperly influence the FBI. The facts alone should drive this investigation.”

Peters Cosponsors Bill to Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits

U.S Senator Gary Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, announced he is cosponsoring the bipartisan Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, which will help veterans suffering from respiratory ailments as a result of exposure to open burn pits during their military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Burn pits were frequently used on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to burn waste, including toxic items such as plastics, electronics, batteries and human waste.


“When veterans are exposed to harmful substances in service to our nation, we must ensure they can receive the necessary medical care and treatments they need when they return home,” said Senator Peters.


The bill would establish a center of excellence within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the treatment of health conditions related to burn pit exposure. Chemicals found in burn pits has been linked to a number of adverse health effects including cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders, and respiratory and cardiovascular toxicity.


Peters Introduces Bill to Expand Broadband Deployment Using Accurate Coverage Maps

Bipartisan Bill Requires FCC to ensure Broadband Coverage Maps Reflect the Real-World Experiences of Rural Consumers

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017 to require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to collect up-to-date and accurate data on wireless broadband coverage across the United States and especially in rural areas.

“Having an accurate assessment of which rural areas are most in need of wireless broadband coverage is critical to closing the digital divide, but the availability of broadband coverage can be difficult to assess,” said Senator Peters.


According to the FCC, 87 percent of rural Americans – 52.2 million people – lack access to mobile broadband with minimum advertised speeds of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, compared to 45 percent of those living in urban areas. According to Connect Michigan, 44 percent of working-age Michigan adults rely on internet access to seek or apply for jobs, while 22 percent further their education by taking online classes.


Stabenow Statement on Trump Administration’s NAFTA Renegotiation Notice

By Miranda Margowsky


U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow released the following statement on the Trump Administration’s NAFTA renegotiation notice:


“In the 23 years since NAFTA was signed, our country has lost too many good-paying manufacturing jobs to other countries. No other state has felt the pain of those losses more than Michigan. Given NAFTA’s importance to our workers, our farmers, and our economy, a modernization is long overdue.  As we move forward, we need to make sure that any changes to NAFTA lead to an improvement in our quality of life and higher incomes, not a race to the bottom.”


Peters, Collins Introduce Bill to Give Fire Departments Flexibility in

Bill Allows Fire Departments to Use Federal Funding to Promote Part-Time Firefighters

By Allison Green


U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced bipartisan legislation to help local fire departments across the country save money and hire and promote trained first responders. The Firefighters Retention Act of 2017 will give fire departments flexibility to use Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants to transition part-time or paid-on-call personnel to full-time status. Under current law, fire departments can only use SAFER grants to hire and train new personnel and are prohibited from using these grants to promote part-time firefighters, who are already trained and equipped to respond to emergencies.


“Part-time firefighters serve on the frontlines of their communities and have the experience to effectively and efficiently respond when emergency strikes,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “This commonsense legislation would give fire departments greater ability to promote trained, experienced firefighters, which will save money and reaffirm the critical role these men and women play in keeping our neighborhoods safe.”


The SAFER grant program provides direct funding to fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained firefighters available in their communities. The majority of organized fire departments recruit resident and community leaders who are familiar with their neighborhoods to be part-time or volunteer firefighters – comprising 70% of the total firefighting force in the United States.


Senator Stabenow Receives Praise and Recognition from Small BusinessCouncil of America

By Ian Wilhite


Senator Stabenow

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow was presented with the Small Business Council of America’s Special Congressional Achievement award during the 34th Annual Congressional Awards Reception. Stabenow was recognized for her tireless work as a member of the Senate Budget and Finance Committees and her continued role as a champion of small businesses. She is only the 6th member of Congress to ever receive this award.


Senator Stabenow has been a strong advocate for small businesses, cutting taxes and increasing access to capital for entrepreneurs to help them expand and create jobs. Over the past year, she has visited over 80 small businesses during her Small Business Tour across the state.