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September 19, 2016 - Rokita Report
Thank you for the opportunity to update you on the work of the 114th Congress. I trust this finds you and your family well, as we work together to bring Hoosier common sense to Washington.
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In this week's Rokita Report
Up Close in Baton Rouge
Last weekend, I joined with eight other members of the House of Representatives for a survey of flood damage in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was an honor to bring the thoughts and prayers of Hoosiers to Louisiana, and I would like to thank all of the Indiana organizations that have already volunteered their time and resources to helping those affected by this storm.
As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Vice-Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I will continue to monitor the response in Louisiana, and in other disaster sites, to ensure that those affected get the tools they need to start rebuilding their lives following such a tragic natural disaster. During our visit, we inspected damages sites and reviewed the response from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Aerial view of damaged homes removing debris in Louisiana.
Over the past few weeks, I have seen too much damage caused by natural disasters. Last month, I saw it, in Kokomo and Mace, cities in the 4th District affected by several tornadoes, and now in Louisiana. I am reminded again how fortunate Hoosiers were not to lose any life. The Baton Rouge area alone has incurred 13 deaths from this flooding, with several suicides afterwards. My heart goes out to all of those affected by this disaster, and I have been encouraged to see determination and hope in all of those I’ve met and talked to. I have seen Louisiana pull through after a natural disaster before. As Indiana’s Secretary of State, I represented the state in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina by surveying damage with elected leaders from across the country, and participated in several Angel Flights to the impacted areas.
Educational Opportunities Lead to Careers
This week, I spoke on the House Floor in support of H.R. 5587, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. The legislation boosts career and technical education programs while limiting the federal government’s role in these programs.
Speaking in support of legislation to boost career and technical education programs.
As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, I recognize the need to stay on the cutting edge of technical education. My subcommittee has jurisdiction over H.R. 5587. Passing this bill will allow more people to know the dignity of work and help them escape from poverty. It does so by improving program alignment with in-demand jobs and empowering state and local community leaders. The bill ensures a limited federal role and increases transparency and accountability to prevent overreach by the Department of Education (DOE). To learn more, visit the Education& Workforce Committee website.
Investigating DOE Role in ITT Closure
This week, I questioned James Runcie, the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid, in a letter asking for more information and data related to the government rules that ultimately forced Indiana-based ITT Educational Services, Inc. to close. I have long been an advocate for increased higher education options for both Hoosiers and all Americans. The forced closing of this institution has uprooted the educational plans of many students.
The Obama administration’s targeting of for-profit colleges has led to a decrease in education options at a time when the workforce is demanding more training and skills from its workers. The DOE’s unwillingness to reassess the situation as the results became clear, and lack of corrective actions, would have put any institution in a tough spot, and appear to contradict established precedents in some cases. Furthermore, the Obama administration never focuses such scrutiny on government-funded schools. I will continue to provide oversight and fight to get Hoosiers and ITT Tech students across the nation the answers they deserve.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, a fellow member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, also signed the letter.
Fully Funded Zika Legislation
This week, I introduced H.R. 6040, the Zero Impacted Kids in America (ZIKA) Act. This legislation provides a fully paid-for, commonsense approach to funding Zika virus research. By reducing other social entitlement spending, my ZIKA Act is able to completely pay for the Zika virus research sought by both Republicans and Democrats in a budget-neutral way.
Americans want a cure and prevention for Zika, and funding such research efforts is the highest of priorities. Americans must now decide what is a lesser priority so that Zika research is fully funded. Without reallocating our budget to match our new priorities, we add to the debt and put our children’s quality of life in jeopardy. This would only solve a problem by enlarging another. That is why my bill provides the Zika research funding sought by both sides of the aisle in a way that is entirely paid-for.
The ZIKA Act provides $1.48 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services, $335 million to USAID, and $41 million to the State Department to combat the virus. The bill pays for this by reducing the Social Services Block Grants to states by 12.5% for nine years. This grant is a source of funds for a variety of social services, including redundant services that are covered by other existing federal programs.
Thank you for your continued interest in Congress and for supporting my efforts to bring Hoosier common sense to Washington. Take care.