THE BENNET TEAM: WORKING FOR COLORADO SUMMARY OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS 2009-‐2012
TOP HIGHLIGHTS Successful Bid to Bring a Patent Office to Colorado
In July 2012, the Department of Commerce selected Colorado for the location of one of its new satellite patent offices. The new satellite office in Denver will bring 500 direct jobs to the region over the next five years, create even more indirect jobs, and lead to economic activity totaling $440 million over the first five years of operation, including $261 million in direct expenditures through the facility. We expect a range of Colorado businesses focused on intellectual property to expand their payrolls and accelerate hiring in 2013 as a direct result of the patent office. Michael coordinated the effort advocating for placement of the office in Colorado; he led several letters from the Colorado Delegation to the Administration urging the selection of Colorado, and worked with the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation and Colorado’s business community to pull together a one-‐of-‐a-‐kind report that included an economic study about the benefits of placing the patent office here. The new satellite offices were authorized because of an amendment Michael and Senator Udall passed in 2011 to establish three new satellite patent offices across the country by 2014.
Reformed Regulations That Stifle Satellite Exports Based on input from the Colorado Competes Innovation Roundtable and statewide aerospace businesses, Michael worked with the industry in Colorado to draft a bill that eliminated a competitive disadvantage to the U.S. aerospace industry caused by outdated export controls. Colorado’s aerospace industry employs over 70,000 people across the state, with Colorado workers in the sector earning an average salary of $109,000. A substantial number of Colorado aerospace companies that build satellites or satellite components will be affected. Under previous law, the Administration did not have authority to determine the appropriate export controls for satellites and space-‐related items even if they had civilian applications and were available commercially abroad. As a result, non-‐sensitive commercial satellites were subject to the same export regulations governing defense-‐related materials, putting U.S. manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage in the global market against foreign competitors not subject to these regulations. Michael pushed lawmakers to include the provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law in January 2013. The aerospace industry has been pushing for this change for the past 10 years.
Chimney Rock Designated a National Monument In response to local advocacy from the Archuleta County Commissioners and the town of Pagosa Springs, Michael introduced a bill in 2010 to make Chimney Rock a national monument. With Congress stuck in gridlock, Michael worked with local communities to build public support for a presidential declaration establishing the monument. Earlier this year, a study commissioned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation found that national monument designation for the Chimney Rock Archaeological Area would double the economic impact Chimney Rock has on the region, bringing an additional $1.2 million to the area in annually. In the wake of this study and Michael’s efforts, 130 local businesses in Durango and Pagosa Springs signed on with a bipartisan group of community leaders as supporters of a monument designation by either legislation or presidential proclamation. Based on this support, Michael successfully persuaded President Obama to declare Chimney Rock a national monument under the authority of the Antiquities Act in September 2012. 2
FDA Reauthorization that Supports Innovators and Protects Patients In response to concerns raised in meetings with Colorado’s bioscience community, Michael helped author the bipartisan U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reform law that made it easier for high-‐ quality drugs and medical devices to make it to market faster while ensuring safety and effectiveness. The bipartisan law, enacted in summer 2012, will help cut bureaucratic red tape for the 600 bioscience companies operating in Colorado, paying an average wage of over $74,000. It included: Ø Drug Innovation & Breakthrough Products: A bipartisan measure led by Michael, along with Senators Orrin Hatch (R-‐UT) and Richard Burr (R-‐NC), expedites FDA approval and provides more flexibility for breakthrough drugs and treatments that show dramatic responses early in development, while still ensuring safety and effectiveness. The new law will be of particular importance to advancing innovations in cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other devastating diseases. Ø Medical Device Innovation and Patient Protection: Michael’s bipartisan provision to reduce regulatory burdens that unnecessarily delay new medical devices from reaching the market. The provision codifies a set of rules from 1997 to ensure that the Secretary focuses only on relevant information when reviewing medical devices and considers alternative approaches to evaluating devices in order to reduce the time, effort, and cost of reaching a regulatory decision. Another bipartisan provision Michael authored would give the FDA the tools it needs to improve oversight and tracking of medical devices after they are approved for patients. Ø Drug Safety: A bipartisan effort Michael spearheaded that increases oversight of the pharmaceutical industry and enhances the ability of the FDA to ensure U.S. prescription and over-‐ the-‐counter drugs and drug ingredients are both safe and effective – regardless of what country they are made in. With over 80% of the active ingredients in our drugs made abroad, the new law will hold foreign manufacturers exporting to the U.S. to the same high standards met by domestic manufacturers by removing barriers that prevent the FDA from inspecting drug facilities abroad, requiring company accountability and oversight of manufacturing practices, and increasing criminal penalties for counterfeiting and intentional adulteration of a drug. For example, under previous law, companies with facilities abroad could delay FDA inspection of their drug products where American facilities were subject to surprise FDA inspection, and the penalties for counterfeiting a CD could be higher than for counterfeiting a drug. Ø Track and Trace: In addition to the new drug safety provisions already enacted into law, Michael continues to work with a bipartisan group of senators to establish a uniform, national traceability system to secure the pharmaceutical supply chain. In October 2012, Michael and this group released a draft track-‐and-‐trace draft bill, which would establish a more effective alert system for when a drug is found to be faulty, fraudulent or harmful. Michael is pushing to enact a Track-‐and-‐ Trace bill in 2013.
Crowdfunding as a New Option to Raise Equity Capital Michael passed a bipartisan amendment, signed into law in April 2012, enabling entrepreneurs, start-‐ ups, and companies to raise money and offer equity financing via the Internet and social media. The bipartisan CROWDFUND Act, which Michael coauthored with a Republican and a Democratic Senator, provided a balanced approach – offering investor protections while expanding business’ access to capital. The new law was created partly in response to concerns expressed by business leaders through Michael’s Colorado Competes innovation table about the difficulty of raising capital. After the amendment passed, Michael’s office held forums attended by more than 700 business owners and entrepreneurs across the state to provide information on the new capital raising options available.
Colorado Compact, Giving Momentum to National Immigration Reform Michael, along with former Senator Hank Brown and statewide leaders spanning the political, business, agricultural, civic, and religious spectrum, unveiled a set of principles in December 2012 signed by over 100 statewide stakeholders to guide a national discussion on comprehensive immigration reform. The Colorado Compact represents a year-‐long effort to convene and promote a civil conversation on immigration in Colorado that can lead to real and lasting reform at the federal level. It brings together leaders and community members of diverse backgrounds and politics who are committed to fostering a more rational and collaborative approach to immigration policy than exists today. It is a result of more than 450 meetings across the state. With an urgent need for a comprehensive immigration policy, Colorado’s commonsense approach is the beginning of an effort to demonstrate to Washington the type of constructive discussion that can lead to a lasting solution. In Washington, Michael is a member of a group of 8 senators negotiating immigration reform.
Leading the Fight for a Comprehensive Solution to Our Deficit Michael has been fighting for a comprehensive solution to our unsustainable deficits since 2009. Meeting with leaders in both parties, Michael has pushed for a balanced approach modeled on Simpson-‐Bowles that includes both significant tax reform, spending cuts and meaningful entitlement reform. In 2011, Michael and Senator Johanns led a bipartisan letter to President Obama, signed by 32 Republicans and 32 Democrats, to support a comprehensive deficit reduction package that includes discretionary spending cuts, entitlement changes and tax reform. As a member of the Gang of Eight, Michael has worked with Democrats and Republicans on the outlines of a reasonable bipartisan debt deal. Michael also spent months throughout 2012 working with Republican Senator Lamar Alexander on a process that would result in a Simpson-‐Bowles style deficit reduction plan if Congress and the Administration failed to come to a grand bargain in advance of the fiscal cliff. Michael was one of eight senators to vote against the fiscal cliff compromise because he believed it failed to materially address the deficit. He continues to push vigorously for comprehensive deficit reduction that would put our economy on a sustainable path.
Helped Craft and Pass a Responsible Farm Bill that Trims the Deficit, Promotes Conservation After dozens of meetings across Colorado, Michael helped craft the bipartisan, five-‐year Farm Bill that passed the Senate in 2012. It reauthorizes and strengthens the crop insurance program, streamlines and improves conservation programs, and protects the integrity of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), on which over 450,000 Coloradans rely in order to afford food. The bill represents the only effort in Congress where Democrats and Republicans came together to agree on how to reduce spending, and the final bill includes $23 billion in deficit reduction, in large part by eliminating direct payments to some of the country’s biggest farms. Michael led the work to make sure that the streamlined conservation title was improved for Colorado’s farmers, ranchers and environmental community. He amended the Senate passed-‐bill to give landowners and producers more opportunities to enter into conservation easement agreements like the ones that have preserved the orchards and wineries in the Grand Valley and the Music Meadows Ranch outside Westcliffe. He worked with Senator Mark Udall to include additional resources to mitigate the bark beetle epidemic that has plagued Colorado’s forests.
Social Security Video Hearings for Southwest Coloradans In 2011, local advocates and representatives of disabled applicants applying for Social Security approached Michael about providing additional opportunities for benefit hearings in Durango. At the time, applicants were required to travel to Colorado Springs or Denver for hearings, a more than five-‐ hour drive. In spring 2012, Michael urged the Commissioner of Social Security to begin scheduling video hearings for constituents with disabilities in southwest Colorado, rather than forcing these individuals to travel hundreds of miles for in-‐person hearings. The agency responded and will soon begin scheduling video conferences for the approximately 200 people in Southwest Colorado waiting for a disability hearing, alleviating the burden of travel for these constituents and the high cost to the federal government responsible for reimbursing travel costs.
Extension of PILT and SRS Programs Michael led the fight, with Senator Udall, in support of extending the PILT and SRS programs. The Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal land within their boundaries. Rural Colorado communities shared more than $27 million in both fiscal years 2012 and 2011. The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program provides resources for public schools, road improvement and maintenance projects, and forest restoration and improvement projects in and around National Forests. In May 2012, Michael and Senator Udall sent a letter to the conference committee considering the transportation reauthorization urging its members to include full funding for the programs in the final transportation bill. The conference report which passed into law extended full funding for PILT and SRS for one year. 5
Wind PTC Extension Michael was one of the most active members of Congress in the fight to extend the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), a push that finally succeeded at the end of 2012. He wrote a letter signed by seven other members of the Colorado delegation calling on a congressional conference committee to extend the wind energy production tax credit. He also worked with Senator Jerry Moran (R-‐KS) on two bipartisan amendments to extend the credit. He is an original cosponsor of a bipartisan freestanding bill with Senators Udall and Grassley that would extend the credit. Wind energy supports about 6,000 jobs in our state and tens of thousands more across the country. Congress’ failure to take a long term view on extending the bipartisan credit threatens the ability of the industry to plan for its long term viability. Vestas layoffs are a perfect example of the economic repercussions of this uncertainty. Due in part to Michael’s effort, an extension of the PTC was included in the Fiscal Cliff deal and passed into law at the start of 2013. Although Michael ultimately voted against the much larger package out of concerns that it did not adequately address the federal deficit, he is pleased there has been a temporary extension of the credit.
Red Cliff Loan Refinancing Earlier in 2012, officials from the Town of Red Cliff approached Michael for help in working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to refinance a series of high-‐interest rural development loans. The town had been trying to renegotiate the terms of the loans for 10 years without a response from the USDA. Michael wrote a letter to the USDA, asking it to work with the town to solve the issue. After nearly a year of meetings and follow-‐up, Red Cliff and the USDA reached an agreement that will allow Red Cliff to repair its credit rating, pay off the loans in a timely fashion, and save nearly $400,000. The substantial savings for the town may also allow it to repair its aging and broken municipal water system, which froze over last year, costing $160,000 in emergency repairs and leaving the remote town without running water for four days.
Opening Access to Manitou Trail At the request of area leaders and the Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs communities, Michael worked with Rep. Doug Lamborn to introduce companion bills in the House and Senate that would help open access to the Manitou Incline Trail. It had been illegal to hike the trail because it crosses a right of way owned by the Mt. Manitou Park and Incline Railway Company. The trail is popular with hikers, supporting as many as 500,000 per year. Michael’s bill is a key step in a locally supported plan to officially open the Incline as a recreation trail, improving conditions so that hikers may access it legally and safely. The legislation passed the House and the Senate; as of January 8, 2013 it awaits signature by the President. 6
Expanding Troops to Teachers Michael fought to include bipartisan legislation to expand the successful Troops to Teachers program in the National Defense Reauthorization. The final legislation passed Congress with the Troops to Teachers expansion, and was signed into law early in 2013. The expanded program will help our veterans extend their service to America in classrooms across the country. The Troops to Teachers expansion has been a priority of Michael’s since his early days in the Senate. He first introduced a bipartisan bill to expand the program with Senator John McCain (R-‐AZ) in 2009. The program, originally created in 1994, provides qualified troops with financial incentives to teach in our nation's neediest schools. Despite the program's success, many service members were ineligible to participate in the current program because of certain restrictions, including the requirement of six years of military service and limits on the number of schools eligible to participate in the program. In Colorado for instance, many of the school districts located near military installations – where Troops to Teachers participants often prefer to teach – are excluded from participation because of the restrictions on eligible schools. The Bennet-‐McCain amendment will make the program more accessible by reducing length of service requirements and expanding the number of eligible schools in which participants can teach once they receive their teacher’s license or certification.
Standing up for Public Safety and Colorado Women In May 2012, Michael introduced the SAFER Act with Senator John Cornyn (R-‐TX), which would help states and local governments conduct audits of rape kits in law enforcement storage facilities and increase available funds for crime labs to test those kits. According to prominent victim’s rights groups, there is a national backlog of at least 400,000 rape kits sitting untested across the country. The bill would repurpose existing federal funds under the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program to reduce the backlog of crime scene DNA evidence such as rape kits. It will not add to the deficit. The Senate passed the bill late in the 112th Congress. The bill has bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and Michael will continue to push for Congressional passage in the 113th Congress.
Senate Passed PREEMIE Act to Reduce Infant Mortality and Pregnancy-‐ Related Deaths This year in the U.S. alone, approximately 28,000 babies will die before their first birthday, 36 percent of them from preterm birth complications. Premature birth can also cause a lifetime of health challenges and intellectual disabilities for those children who do survive. To address this health crisis, Michael cosponsored a bipartisan bill with Senator Alexander that will help us better understand the causes of preterm birth and how we can reduce the number of occurrences in Colorado and around the country. This bill will reauthorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s research and data collection on preterm birth, support community-‐based programs that educate mothers at high-‐ risk for premature babies, and issue recommendations on the treatment and outcomes for babies born prematurely. It passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support on November 16. Bipartisan companion legislation has been introduced in the House, and Michael will continue to push for passage in the 113th Congress.
Passage of Amendment to Make College Campuses Safer for Women As part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Senate passed a provision Michael wrote with the University of Colorado to help make college campuses safer for women. The bill would have helped to provide more education programs and resources to victims of violence and expand law enforcement’s tools to prosecute cases of assault and abuse. The larger VAWA legislation, which included Michael’s amendment, passed the Senate in April with 68 votes, demonstrating broad bipartisan support. The House refused to pass the legislation, which died in the 112th Congress; Michael is pushing for swift passage this year.
Including Natural Gas Vehicles as Part of the New CAFE Standards In August 2012, Michael led a letter to the Congressional Budget Office requesting that the Administration consider creating a technology neutral pool of alternative fuel vehicle incentives so that all qualified alternative vehicles, including Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs), would be eligible for the tax benefits awarded to other types of alternative fuel vehicles for oil savings and increasing fuel efficiency. Previously the Administration only awarded incentives for hybrid and electric vehicles, even though NGV’s are competitive in terms of fuel efficiency and in decreasing emissions. The Administration changed its position and adopted our recommendation.
New Veterans Cemetery in Southern Colorado Since his appointment, Michael has fought hard to locate a Veteran’s cemetery in southern Colorado. Shortly after entering the Senate, in March 2009, he introduced legislation with Senator Mark Udall to create a cemetery in El Paso County. The following year, he and then-‐Representative John Salazar met with Secretary for Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to discuss the issue and shortly thereafter, the President’s FY2011 budget included language for establishing such a cemetery. Earlier in 2012, Bennet convened a meeting of the Southern Colorado Veterans Cemetery Committee to receive feedback on potential site locations. This new cemetery will help ease demand for space at existing facilities while significantly reducing the cost and distance of travel for families of fallen soldiers. The new cemetery will also enable veterans who reside in Southern Colorado to be buried near the communities they call home. The Pikes Peak area has one of the highest concentrations of veterans in the country, estimated at more than 100,000.
Fulfilling the Promise of the Arkansas Valley Conduit Since John F. Kennedy was in the White House, southeastern Colorado has been waiting for a conduit to call its own. Michael, working with Senator Mark Udall and Representatives John Salazar and Betsy Markey, was able to secure funding to begin construction on the Arkansas Valley Conduit and deliver clean drinking water to southeastern Colorado communities. He continues to push for adequate funding of the project in the 113th Congress.
Expanding Membership in Blue Star Mothers The Blue Star Mothers is a congressionally-‐chartered veterans’ service organization that provides support and services to members of the Armed Forces, Reserve Components, veterans, and military families. In September 2011, Michael introduced bipartisan legislation (with Senator Kelly Ayotte) to allow grandmothers, foster-‐mothers, and female legal guardians to become members of the organization. The legislation passed both chambers of Congress with broad bipartisan support and was signed into law in December 2011
REMAINING HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2011-‐2012 MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK BETTER FOR COLORADO Reforming GI Overpayment Procedures to Support our Veterans After hearing about the difficulty many veteran students face meeting their financial obligations when they are penalized for overpayments of GI Bill benefits from his Veteran Working Group, Michael wrote to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Secretary Shinseki in 2012, urging him to change the VA’s policy. Currently, there are times when veterans are paid more in GI Bill benefits than they are entitled. When students are notified that they have received a GI Bill benefit overpayment they are allotted 30 days to contact the VA to repay the entire debt, establish a repayment plan, or request a waiver. If a student fails to satisfy one of these three options, the VA immediately begins deducting the debt amount from tuition and housing payments. The immediate loss in benefits can create a serious hardship on veteran students relying on the tuition and housing benefits to enable them to stay in school. Michael proposed that these reduced benefit payments should come at the end of students’ eligibility period for benefits, instead of upon discovery of the overpayment. The change would ensure that the VA is able to collect the debts owed to it without unnecessarily impairing the ability of veterans to use their benefits and complete their education.
Fighting for Efficient Delivery of GI Bill Benefits
Michael’s statewide Veterans Working Group and his staff heard increased reports from Colorado’s student veterans experiencing difficulties with GI Bill payment delays. In an effort to take a more comprehensive look at the issue, Michael conducted a survey of student veterans at Colorado universities. More than 200 veterans responded to the survey, which found that two out of three respondents reported an issue with education benefit payments, including widespread payment delays. In response to the results, Michael wrote a letter to Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki calling for a critical examination of the effectiveness of the Department’s delivery of education benefits, so that student veterans are able to get the benefits they earned on time.
Giving Colorado a Voice in National Veterans Licensing Improvements
Several members of Michael’s statewide Veterans Working Group expressed concerns about the difficulty service members encounter when they attempt to obtain professional licensing after serving in the military. In many cases, service members complete training and gain the experience necessary to earn a professional license during their service in the military. However, many state licensing agencies and certifying organizations have difficulty recognizing and understanding the military experience, forcing the service member to repeat training after they leave the military to earn professional licensure. The Department of Defense is currently working on a broad pilot program meant to make it easier for veterans to use training and experience gained in the military to earn professional licensure. Due to Michael’s office’s advocacy, the DOD is now working directly with the State of Colorado to get input on this project. 10
Climbing in Black Canyon The National Park Service’s draft plan for managing wilderness areas in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park proposed ending guided rock climbing on the world famous big walls of the Black Canyon. The climbing community in Colorado had strong concerns that this policy change would end many people’s ability to complete one of these climbs safely. Michael, along with Senators Udall and Baucus, asked the Park Service to reconsider this policy. After the request, the Park Service revised their proposed policy and will continue to allow guided climbing and the economic activity it generates.
Reducing Financial Regulatory Burden for Companies to Scale
The 2012 JOBS Act, which included Michael’s crowdfunding amendment, also included modifications to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules to help early-‐stage and high-‐growth companies raise capital. After hearing from Colorado small businesses about the difficulties they were experiencing, Michael played a key role in pushing this bill across the finish line. The law directs the SEC to: (a) raise the cap under Regulation A from $5M to $50M; (b) update Regulation D to allow companies to solicit funds from a wider network of accredited investors; (c) increase the SEC reporting threshold from 500 to 2000 shareholders; and (d) defer Sarbanes-‐Oxley Section 404(b) compliance up to five years for companies with under $1B in annual revenues after they complete their Initial Public Offering.
Pushing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Visa Reform
In response to recommendations from his Colorado Competes Innovation Table, Michael introduced a bill that would create a new green card category for foreign students graduating from American colleges and universities with advanced degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Michael continues to push for passage of this legislation and for comprehensive immigration reform that improves STEM visa policy, in 2013. Cutting Government Waste, Using Improved Technologies to Streamline Government Michael and Senator Tom Coburn (R-‐OK) introduced legislation in summer 2012 to conserve energy, save taxpayer dollars and reduce government waste by requiring federal agencies to shut down needlessly duplicative federal data centers. Agencies have been instructed to develop consolidation plans that would save over $2 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). However, a number of agencies have been slow to begin to implement the plans – or, in some cases, to even take stock of the total number of centers they currently manage. The Bennet-‐Coburn legislation would require participating federal agencies to submit a complete data center inventory and consolidation plan, which must include a timeline for implementation and cost-‐savings estimates, to the Office of Management and Budget with hard deadlines. The GAO has publicly argued that legislation is needed to ensure that agencies move more decisively to close down unnecessary data centers. Michael continues to work to enact a provision achieving these objectives in 2013.
Advancing a Bill to Protect Tuition Waivers at Fort Lewis College
Colorado is home to Fort Lewis College, one of two four-‐year universities that participate in land-‐grant agreements between the federal government and Native American tribes. These agreements require the university to provide a tuition-‐free education to Native American students. Because of the 11
agreements, the states in which the universities are located are required to cover the full cost of the tuition reimbursements with no assistance from the federal government. In Colorado, the burden of the payments on the state has increased exponentially over the years, especially as an increasing number of out-‐of-‐state students choose to attend Fort Lewis College. In the past 25 years alone, the State of Colorado has spent over $110 million for the tuition waiver program, repaying the original land grant valued today at less than $19 million many times over. Michael introduced the Native American Indian Education Act, a bill that would require the U.S. Department of Education to cover the costs of tuition waivers for any out-‐of-‐state students, while states would continue to pay for any in-‐state tuition waivers. In August 2012, Michael held a field hearing in Colorado on his bill. This legislation would help significantly alleviate the burden on the education budget for both states. The hearing helped highlight the importance of this issue and build support for the bill.
A Comprehensive Guide to the Grant Programs in Health Care Reform
In 2012, Michael released a comprehensive, easily searchable guide to grant programs, demonstration projects and workforce development initiatives included in the Affordable Care Act. The guide provides the eligibility requirements, application timeline and the department and office in charge of the program. The guide also provides information about the most recent appropriation of the grant. Community Forums to Provide Coloradans with Information about Health Care Reform During the summer of 2012, Michael partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Know Your Care Colorado, an organization that seeks to educate Coloradans about the Affordable Care Act, to host educational forums about the health care law. The forums highlighted the Supreme Court decision, the provisions that have already taken effect, and provisions taking effect in the near future. Michael and his staff heard from community members with questions about consumer protection, preventative services for Medicare beneficiaries, and Colorado’s health insurance exchange. The forums were held in Pueblo, Lakewood, Boulder, and Fort Collins. Additional Review of the Estes-‐Flatiron Transmission Project In late 2011, the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) moved forward on a project that would consolidate two power transmission lines (along two different routes) into one line running just outside Estes Park. The project involved placing 100-‐foot towers within a subdivision. Roughly 150 property-‐owners in the area who would have been affected opposed the project, raising a number of concerns about the proposal and the rigorousness of the review process to date. Michael worked with Senator Udall to push for an extension of the public scoping period and suggested that the Western Area Power Administration consider undertaking a more rigorous review process before moving forward with the project. WAPA agreed with Michael’s suggestions, and we expect a draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2013.
Meaningful Campaign Finance Reform to Protect Integrity of our Elections In response to Super PACs bombarding Colorado with millions of dollars in political advertising over the past two election cycles, with the source of funding often unclear, Michael has fought for meaningful campaign finance reforms. In March of 2012, Michael joined a group of his colleagues in the Senate to form the Citizens United Task Force, to reduce the impact of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. The taskforce introduced the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, which requires any covered organization 12
that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report with the Federal Election Commission within 24 hours, detailing the amount and nature of each expenditure over $1,000 and the names of all of its donors who gave $10,000 or more. Michael and the task force pushed twice in July 2012 for passage of the legislation, and Michael spoke about the importance of the issue on the Senate floor; however, a minority of Senators filibustered the bill twice. In addition, in February 2012, Michael led members of the task force in a letter to the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), calling on the IRS to investigate whether organizations claiming tax-‐exempt status are engaging in a substantial amount of campaign activity. Michael and Senator Tom Udall have also introduced a constitutional amendment to grant Congress and the states the authority to regulate the campaign finance system.
Pushing for Stricter Rules on Washington Lobbying As part of a larger package designed to reform the worst excesses of Washington, Michael had previously proposed new stricter rules to shut the revolving door of lobbyist influence in Washington by banning Members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists. In February, Michael and Senator Tester filed an amendment to a larger bill that would have made this proposal law. The amendment would have placed a lifetime ban on current members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, banned congressional staff from lobbying their former boss for six years, created a more accessible website for public reporting of lobbying activities, improved disclosure requirements, and made other positive changes to the current law. Michael continues to push for passage of this legislation, in order to ensure that Washington lobbyists can’t drown out the voices of Coloradans.
STANDING UP FOR COLORADO WOMEN, STUDENTS, AND FAMILIES
Providing a Forum for Advancing and Creating Opportunity for Women Last October, Michael partnered with the University of Denver Women’s College and Alchemy Consulting to host the first annual Women’s Leadership Forum. Over 130 leaders from around the state attended the forum to talk about how to foster an environment in Colorado that continues to advance and create new opportunities for women. Through their discussions on tax policy, entrepreneurship, health care, and fulfilling our obligations to our women veterans, forum participants were able to develop policy recommendations that will serve as a road map for Michael’s work on women’s issues in the months to come. Preventing Student Loan Interest Rates from Doubling Michael successfully fought to keep interest rates from doubling on federal student loans this year, which would have hit more than 166,000 college students in Colorado. The average 2011 bachelor's degree recipient in Colorado graduated owing $23,662, according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The current 3.4 percent rate on subsidized Stafford student loans was set to double at the end of June. Michael joined students at the University of Colorado and other colleges and universities across Colorado to highlight the issue and put pressure on Congress to extend the current more affordable rate. A provision extending the lower rate for an additional year was included in a larger package due to pressure applied by Michael and others, and became law at the end of June 2012. 13
Opposed Restricting Access to Contraception In March 2012, Michael railed against an amendment offered by Senator Roy Blunt that would have restricted access to contraception. Before he voted against the amendment, Michael argued, “I have a wife and three daughters . . . and one thing I know is they don’t need to be told by the government how to make their own health care decisions, nor do the 362,000 Colorado women who would be affected immediately if this amendment passed. This amendment is written so broadly that it would allow any employer to deny any health service to any American for virtually any reason, not just for religious objections.” The amendment failed.
Successfully Pushing to End Deportation of Eligible Young Immigrants In June 2012, the Obama Administration announced that certain young people who were brought to the United States as children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible on a case-‐by-‐ case basis to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization. It’s estimated that at least 15,000 young Coloradans are eligible to apply under the new program; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications for deferred action in August of 2012. In 2011, Michael joined 21 of his colleagues in writing to President Obama to push for this new policy. The young immigrants who stand to benefit from this policy are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” after the DREAM Act, a bill Michael cosponsored which would have implemented the policy legislatively, but which a minority of Senators succeeded in filibustering in previous years.
Supporting a Visa System That Keeps Families Together
This past summer, Michael joined Senator Bob Menendez in sending a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in support of administrative action that would help prevent families from being torn apart and increase efficiency in our visa system. The rule change, finalized at the beginning of 2013, allows qualified immigrant spouses and children to remain in the country with their family members while they apply for a hardship waiver in order to stay in the United States and undergo the process to obtain a green card. Before this change, these individuals without legal status were forced to return to their home countries to apply for the waiver without the certainty of seeing their loved ones again for months or even years.
ADVOCATING FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES
Increasing Transit Funding for Colorado’s Rural Communities Michael successfully pushed to pass a final transportation bill that provides more certainty for highway and transit projects in Colorado. The bill, enacted into law in June 2012, reauthorizes our highway and transit programs for the next 2 years, providing some needed certainty for Colorado businesses after a series of short-‐term extensions. Michael secured an amendment in the final bill which modified the rural transit formula to account for the number of miles traveled on rural transit trips – this common-‐ sense improvement means that Colorado’s share of rural transit funding will increase. Michael also 14
secured a provision that authorizes $10 million per year to award competitive grants for transit-‐ oriented development planning purposes, allowing urban and rural communities alike to plan mixed-‐ used communities centered around transit hubs more effectively.
Long Term Certainty on FAA Reauthorization for Colorado’s Economy:
Congress finally passed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill earlier this year, after 23 temporary extensions, one partial shutdown and numerous unnecessary delays. Last year, Michael advocated on numerous occasions, including on the floor of the Senate, for the passing the FAA reauthorization to provide certainty for Colorado businesses, airports and travelers. The bill authorizes funding for the FAA for the next four years, including $3.35 billion per year for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which provides grants to airports in Colorado to make needed improvements. The bill also makes investments in the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), a satellite-‐based GPS navigation system, which will reduce delays in Colorado and across the country. The bill also helped to maintain flights out of Alamosa, Cortez, and Pueblo airports. Standing Up Against Increasing Grazing Fees Michael wrote a letter opposing the Administration’s proposed doubling of grazing fees in 2012. County Commissioners and ranchers on the West Slope argued that the grazing fee increase was unfair, especially in a year when ranchers were already hit hard with the drought and low cattle prices. The Administration decided not to raise the fees.
Advocating for Broadband to Silverton
Silverton was the only county seat left out of the original agreement between Qwest and the State of Colorado to bring broadband fiber to all counties in Colorado. In winter of 2011, Michael organized a meeting with local leaders; the Governor’s office, FCC, Eaglenet, Ouray County Commissioner Lynn Padgett and other stakeholders to discuss options for moving forward on this issue. The meeting elevated the importance of the issue within the Administration and has led to continued work towards a solution in 2012.
Supporting Northwest Colorado’s Application for Economic Development Assistance
For the past several years, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments had tried unsuccessfully to obtain a designation as an “economic development district” from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA). The designation would help the region apply for competitive grants to boost tourism and promote commercial activity across the area. After hearing about the importance of the issue, Michael and his staff shared relevant data with EDA, highlighted the issue through multiple conversations with local representatives of the agency, and finally persuaded the regional and national EDA office to award the designation in 2012. Supporting Colorado Potato Farmers by Boosting Exports Over 60 percent of U.S. potato exports to Mexico come from Colorado San Luis Valley farmers. Unfortunately, significant trade barriers currently prevent these potatoes from reaching many Mexican consumers. Michael has repeatedly fought to support these farmers by boosting U.S. potato exports to Mexico: 15
Ø Michael pushed the Administration to resolve a trucking dispute between the two countries that resulted in hefty retaliatory tariffs placed on U.S. potatoes and other agriculture exports. Resolving the dispute lifted these tariffs, making Colorado exports more competitive in Mexico. Ø Mexico continues to block access to markets outside a 26-‐kilometer zone below the U.S.-‐Mexico border by claiming that potatoes grown in the U.S. may contain pests that will harm the country’s agriculture industry, yet an independent panel convened by both the U.S. and Mexico has confirmed that these pest-‐related concerns are unfounded in science and do not provide reasonable ground for blocking market access. Senator Udall recently led a bipartisan letter of senators to President Obama, which Michael joined, urging the President to make resolving this potato issue a top priority.
Urging Caution on Agriculture Regulatory Changes The Department of Labor proposed a rule in 2011 to update child safety standards for agricultural work under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The new rule would have prevented children under age 16 from handling pesticide, operating heavy machinery, cutting timber and performing other agricultural tasks identified as hazardous to children by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. In response to concerns heard from Colorado farmers and ranchers about the impact the new rule would have on family farms, Michael wrote a letter with Senator Udall encouraging the Department of Labor to take into account the concerns of Colorado farmers and ranchers before making any decisions about finalizing the rule. The letter was well received by the agricultural community across Colorado. The Department of Labor withdrew this proposed rule in April 2012. Pushing for An Immigration System that Works for Agriculture Michael has routinely spoken with farmers and ranchers across Colorado struggling with labor shortages driven in large part by convoluted and inflexible immigration policies that hurt our economy and undermine our state’s robust agriculture industry. In March 2012, Michael led a bipartisan letter to Secretary Hilda Solis expressing serious concerns regarding the H-‐2A guest worker program. In the letter, Bennet called for improving and streamlining the administration of H-‐2A visas to better meet the needs of business. The letter further asked the Department of Labor and other H-‐2A managing agencies to strengthen the program through better communication with local representatives and businesses. The Department of Labor has since announced the creation of an H-‐2A Ombudsman to work directly with producers to resolve complaints and concerns and now allows H-‐2A program users to prepare and file applications online.
PUBLIC LANDS AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Draft Thompson Divide Bill Michael released a draft bill in summer 2012 for the management of the Thompson Divide area southwest of Carbondale. His draft bill offers a middle ground solution to the ongoing conversation about Thompson Divide’s future. It presents an option that would withdraw un-‐leased public minerals in the area from future oil and gas development while also preserving existing private property rights 16
for current leaseholders. The bill also creates an opportunity for existing leases to be retired should they be donated or sold by willing owners. The bill was drafted at the request of local governments and following a series of conversations Michael held with a unique coalition of Colorado leaseholders, elected officials, ranchers, advocacy groups and community leaders. It has been endorsed by the Garfield, Gunnison and Pitkin county commissions. Establishment of Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area Michael helped secure formal establishment of the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area in the San Luis Valley, which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed in September 2012. The agreement was made possible by the donation of a nearly 77,000-‐acre conservation easement by Louis Bacon.
Extension of the BLM Comment Period for the New Fracturing Rule At the request of natural gas companies in Colorado, Michael requested an extension, with Senator Udall, of the comment period of a proposed rule that would “require the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids, as well as reporting requirements, certifications, approvals and standards for well construction and management of produced water.” The Department of Interior extended the comment period on the rule by 60 days.
Supported Passage of NAT GAS Act
The “NAT GAS Act” would have provided greater federal support for natural gas vehicles. Specifically, it would have created smart incentives in the tax code to ramp up penetration of natural gas vehicles and infrastructure. Estimates say the Nat Gas Act would put 700,000 natural gas vehicles on the road in 10 years, all while displacing 20 billion gallons of petroleum and creating millions of direct and indirect jobs. Michael went to the Senate floor to call for support of the bill, and he voted for passage. Colorado River Valley BLM Plan Extension In January 2012, the Bureau of Land Management was preparing to close a public comment period on the draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the 500,000 acres of public land managed by the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office. The BLM had already granted an extra 32 days on top of the standard 90-‐day comment period for the plan, but a number of oil and gas companies and trade groups—as well as some counties, and conservation groups—had publicly expressed a need for additional time to research the complicated document in order to submit informed comments. Congressman Tipton and Governor Hickenlooper had also requested additional time. Senator Bennet wrote a letter to Secretary Salazar and then-‐BLM Directory Abbey requesting an additional 90 days, prompting the Executive Director from the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association to state that “it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican or if you’re an energy producer or an environmentalist, it’s important to everybody to get it right.” Four days later, the BLM extended the comment period by an additional 42 days. A final/proposed RMP is expected in summer 2013. Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Legislation Michael has been working with local stakeholders to protect 108,000 acres of San Juan National Forest land between Durango and Silverton. He formally introduced legislation to enshrine the local community’s vision for this area in July 2012. 17
Supporting the Wildfire Recovery Michael worked vigorously with Senator Udall and the rest of the Colorado delegation to ensure Coloradans got the support they needed in the wake of the devastating wildfires that swept the state earlier this summer. Ø Michael and Senator Udall succeeded in including necessary funding for the Colorado wildfires in a larger disaster supplemental package passed by the Senate at the end of 2012. Colorado urgently needs supplementary funding for the Emergency Watershed Protection fund (EWP) to help the state rebuild water management systems that were damaged and destroyed in the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires, putting Colorado communities at increased risk of flooding. After writing a bipartisan letter to the President and the Appropriation committees with Senator Udall and other Colorado representatives, as well as introducing a stand-‐along bill, the Senate leadership was persuaded to pass a disaster supplemental package with $125 million in EWP funding shortly before Christmas 2012. Michael is currently pushing the House of Representatives to include EWP funds in its disaster supplemental in the new Congress. Ø Previously, Michael and Senator Udall led the Colorado congressional delegation in signing a letter to President Obama urging him to support a federal expedited major disaster declaration for the Colorado fires which was issued June 29th. He then joined the rest of the delegation in supporting the Governor’s request for FEMA Public Assistance through the disaster declaration to be expanded across additional counties and added to additional counties. Ø Michael and the Colorado delegation called on the Administration to make SBA disaster loans for businesses and homeowners available in Colorado. SBA began issuing these loans earlier this month. Michael and his staff also worked with Colorado Springs to obtain a grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help the community recover from the economic impact of the Waldo Canyon fire. Ø Michael cosponsored an insurance provision enacted into law at the end of June that allows the FEMA administrator to waive the 30-‐day waiting period for flood insurance policies purchased for private properties affected by wildfire on Federal lands. He then pushed FEMA to promptly waive the 30-‐day requirement for affected Colorado homeowners; FEMA did so within days. Ø Michael also wrote to the Chairman and Ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee in charge of funding the Forest Service, urging that the committee give the Forest Service the resources necessary to modernize and replace the current aging tanker fleet. 18
Pushing for Drought Assistance for Colorado Michael pushed to ensure that Colorado received relief for the drought that affected agricultural production and rural communities in Colorado during 2012. He worked to ensure that counties afflicted by dry conditions were eligible for disaster assistance from the USDA, and saw the damage created by the drought firsthand by traveling through farm country to meet with farmers, ranchers, and small businesses. Michael later spoke on the Senate floor to call attention to the drought’s impact on Colorado, and to highlight how moving a Farm Bill forward would help to provide relief. Michael also invited Rick Palkowitsh, a corn farmer from Burlington, Colorado, to Washington to discuss the drought and importance of passing a Farm Bill with the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee; Mr. Palkowitsh was the only farmer from the entire 50 states on a panel of CEOs and trade association leadership.
BRINGING TOGETHER THE DELEGATION FOR COLORADO
Spaceport Colorado A spaceport is similar to an airport, but allows travelers to reach their destinations by traveling outside of Earth’s atmosphere, cutting a trip to Australia, for example, from nearly 20 hours to under five. The entire delegation signed a Bennet–initiated letter to the FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation outlining the benefits of locating a spaceport in Colorado and demonstrating unified congressional support for the project. In addition, Michael coordinated a delegation-‐wide support letter for a $200,000 Space Transportation Infrastructure Matching (STIM) Grant for the project. – the grant was announced in September 2012. The funding will allow a coalition of leaders in the Colorado aerospace sector to conduct a feasibility study on locating a spaceport in the Denver area. This is the first step in a process that could ultimately land a spaceport with a horizontal launch site in Colorado, transforming the state into a hub for commercial space flight. Creation of a Colorado Innovation Economy SWAT Team Based on a recommendation from Michael’s Colorado Competes Innovation Roundtable, Michael is working with the leadership and board of Colorado Concern, a statewide organization of 100 business leaders, to set up the foundation to form a SWAT Team. The purpose of the SWAT Team is to encourage bipartisan and unified collaboration among key government and industry leaders to better compete for strategic initiatives that will advance Colorado’s economy. Initiatives may include advocating for federal programs key to Colorado (e.g., NASA program funding) or working together to attract a federal government asset.
Pushing for Less Burdensome Capital Requirements
In September 2012, Michael led a Colorado delegation-‐wide letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other federal officials, expressing concern about new proposed financial regulatory standards, known as the BASEL III capital ratio requirements, that would require many banks to increase capital and liquidity holdings dramatically. Michael and the rest of the delegation argued that while Colorado financial institutions were already taking steps to increase their capital reserves in response to the Dodd-‐Frank law and the financial crisis of 2008, the proposed BASEL III requirements 19
would severely limit lending by community banks in Colorado and across the U.S., with a negative overall impact on economic growth.
Iran Sanctions Legislation with Bennet Amendment Congress enacted and the President signed into law the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 earlier this summer. The bill includes an amendment, led by Michael and Senator Robert Menendez (D-‐NJ), which will improve reporting requirements on Iran’s energy sector to monitor the effectiveness of sanctions. The Menendez-‐Bennet amendment strengthens the sanctions against Iran by requiring the President to report on the imports and exports of Iranian crude oil and refined petroleum products to monitor the effectiveness of the economic sanctions.
ADDITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2009-‐2011
Passage of Patent Reform
In Fall 2011, Michael helped pass the first significant reform of the patent system in over half a century into law. The new law includes a transition to a first-‐to-‐file system from a first-‐to-‐invent system; a ban on the practice of granting patents for business methods; and more control granted to the Patent and Trademark Office over the fees it collects. In addition to the satellite office mentioned above, Michael also successfully included amendments in the final legislation that would make the patent process more affordable for small businesses, provide a fast-‐track process for patents important to national competitiveness and allow courts to remove uncertainty in patent litigation. Fighting for an FDA that Fosters Innovation and Competitiveness In late August 2011, Michael invited FDA Commissioner Hamburg to the University of Colorado to meet with over 40 of Colorado’s bioscience CEOs and top researchers to discuss the need to modernize the FDA regulatory system. Michael also followed the discussion with a letter to the Commissioner urging the FDA to reform regulations so that they foster innovation and competitiveness and serve as a driver of the global economy.
Led the Delegation in Support of the Effort to Bring the National Solar Observatory (NSO) Headquarters to Colorado
In May 2011, Michael led a letter from the Colorado delegation and Governor Hickenlooper expressing support for the location of the NSO headquarters in Colorado. Due to the hard work by the University of Colorado and the unified support of the Delegation, AURA announced in September that it had recommended Boulder as the new location for the NSO headquarters. According to the Colorado Daily, the move would result in jobs for up to 70 scientists, engineers and staff members with an annual payroll of roughly $20 million.
Led the Delegation in Support of Arrow Electronics Moving Its Headquarters to Colorado at Governor Hickenlooper’s Request In July 2011, Michael brought the delegation together in a letter in support of Arrow Electronics moving its headquarters to Colorado. Last month, the company announced that Colorado would be its new home. The move will bring an additional 1250 jobs over the next five years to our state and, according to Steve McMillion (Business Editor for the Denver Post), will “arguably make Colorado the premier electronics state overnight.” [Denver Post, 10/28/2011]
Started the Conversation on How We can Work Together to Build the Right Environment in Colorado for Innovation to Thrive
In spring and summer 2011 Michael completed a series of discussions on the innovation economy that included CEOs and other business leaders from the aerospace, bioscience, and clean energy industries. The discussions resulted in a report entitled “Colorado Competes: A report on Colorado Job Creation, Collaboration, Innovation,” which Michael shared with the entire Colorado delegation summarizing specific policy options the businesses believed would help to build the right environment in Colorado for the innovation-‐based industries to thrive. Work is underway to implement many of the recommendations in the report.
Using Colorado as a Forum for a Real Conversation
When it was clear Washington wasn’t moving forward with a serious conversation on the deficit in spring of 2011, Michael moved the conversation to Colorado and hosted forums with national and local leaders to discuss our nation’s fiscal condition and potential solutions to the problem. Building a Colorado-‐Based Agenda for Colorado’s Veterans In August 2011, Michael organized a Colorado Veterans Forum in Denver and Colorado Springs. This event brought together veterans advocates, health experts, and service providers from across our state to come together to discuss how we make Colorado the best place for veterans to live. Forum participants plan on presenting their findings to Michael in the coming weeks.
Passed Legislation Allowing Ski Areas to Bolster their Offerings of Snow and Summer Sports
Michael was cosponsor and supported passage of Mark Udall’s Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, which passed Congress with widespread bipartisan support and pass signed into law in November 2011. The bill clarifies that the Forest Service can permit appropriate recreational activities such as snowboarding, concerts and ropes courses in addition to the alpine and Nordic skiing already allowed in ski areas. The legislation would let ski areas bolster their offerings of both snow and summer sports, allowing mountain communities to grow local jobs and attract more tourists who fuel their economy.
Introduced Legislation that Would Require Home Energy Costs to Be Taken into Account
Michael introduced (with Senator Isakson R-‐GA) the SAVE (Sensible Accounting to Value Energy) Act, which would require federal mortgage loan agencies to consider a homeowner’s expected energy 21
costs when underwriting home loans. The bill would create an estimated 80,000 construction jobs as homeowners and builders seek to increase energy efficiency and make improvements. It would also improve the accuracy of home mortgage underwriting. Passed Bipartisan Legislation to Reform No Child Left Behind out of Committee Michael was part of the bipartisan group that negotiated the bill to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and he fought for the inclusion of changes important to Colorado teachers, principals and parents. In October, Michael helped pass the legislation out of Committee with bipartisan support. Michael fought for changes to NCLB that including: Ø Make it Easier for Great Teachers to Teach: Michael helped to write the Teacher Pathways Program in the bill that would provide federal support for teacher preparation programs that train great teachers for high-‐need schools and subjects. Ø Create Places for Teachers and Principals to Learn: Michael introduced and passed an amendment (with Senator Alexander) that would allow states to create teacher and principal academies that will train teachers and principals working in high-‐need schools. The academies would not only train teachers and principals, but also hold them accountable for results. Ø Create Competitive Grants for Innovative Approaches to Teacher Rewards: Teacher Incentive Fund: Michael fought for first-‐time authorization of the Teacher Incentive Fund, which provides competitive grants to school districts that come up with innovative ways to reform their systems for rewarding teachers. Ø Help Veterans Become Teachers: Michael introduced the Post 9/11Troops to Teachers Act of 2009 along with along with Sen. John McCain. The bill reauthorized and updated a program to help veterans serve in the classroom after they finish military service. The ESEA Reauthorization included an expansion to the Troops to Teachers program, which will help veterans serve in the classroom after they serve in the military. Ø Ensure the Best Principals Serve Where They are Needed Most: Michael has fought for legislation to provide great principals the training and support they need to lead effectively in the nation’s lowest performing schools. Michael’s “LEAD Act,” would ensure we have strong principals in public schools and many provisions of the LEAD Act are included in the ESEA reauthorization bill. In addition, Michael passed an amendment to create a new Princpal Pathways program to support recruiting and training great principals in high-‐need schools. Ø Ensure Federal Resources Go to the Right Places: Michael introduced the Fiscal Fairness Act along (with Republican Senator Thad Cochran) which closes a long-‐standing loophole that often results in federal resources going to affluent schools instead of the low-‐income schools they were intended to serve. This provision is included in ESEA 2011. Ø Allow for a Colorado-‐Based Accountability System: Michael fought to include language in ESEA reauthorization that allows states to implement more useful accountability systems—like the Colorado Growth Model-‐-‐ than the one currently allowed under NCLB. 22
Ø Learn Where and Why We Are Testing Students and Cut Red Tape: Michael introduced an amendment, cosponsored with Senator Lamar Alexander, to create a commission that will study the regulations and assessment systems in schools and determine their effectiveness. Ø Invest in Cutting-‐Edge Education: Michael introduced an amendment to invest in research and development that will aggressively pursue breakthroughs in technology that empower teaching and learning. This will be modeled after the successful research done in the Department of Defense that resulted in the creation of the internet and GPS technology. Ø Improving Teacher Preparation: Michael also advocated for the development of the Presidential Teacher Corps and introduced the GREAT Teachers and Principals Act, a bipartisan bill. Elements of these proposals were included in a recent announcement by the Department of Education to enact regulations to improve the quality of teacher training. Ø Ensuring High Level Instruction to English Learners: Michael introduced the English Learning and Innovation Act which would create competitive grant programs to provide resources to provide high-‐quality instruction that enables English learners to acquire English and prepare for college and beyond. Ø Advocated for Flexibility and Support for Rural Schools: Earlier this year, Michael wrote Secretary Duncan urging him to provide additional flexibility to rural schools as they work to meet the standards set by NCLB. Michael is also a cosponsor of legislation which would require the U.S. Department of Education to study the effect of proposed regulations on rural schools.
Supporting a Strong PACE Program The Property-‐Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program helps homeowners finance clean energy and energy efficiency improvements on their properties. The program allows a homeowner to pay for clean energy or energy efficiency improvements through assessments to their property taxes instead of paying all the costs up front. Several counties in Colorado have benefitted from the program but confusing and unhelpful guidance from FHFA has stopped PACE in its tracks. Michael has continued his leadership towards a solution to this issue. Reducing Readmission Costs Through Preventing Readmissions In 2009, Michael introduced the Medicare Care Transitions Act which was signed into law as part of the Affordable Care Act. The bill is based on the work by Grand Junction and Denver reducing readmissions through transitional care. Readmissions cost our Medicare program $17 billion a year for seniors that are going into the hospital and coming back within the same month for problems that are preventable. In April, the Administration began implementation of the program. Protecting Intangible Drilling Cost and Percentage Depletion deductions In 2010, the Administration and some Members of Congress wanted to repeal the Intangible Drilling Cost and Percentage Depletion deductions essential to the survival of Colorado’s independent natural gas producers. Michael has repeatedly heard about the importance of those deductions to the survival 23
and strength of Colorado’s small natural gas producers. Michael voted against repealing the deductions, stopping the repeal, and the amendment failed.
Passing the Pay it Back Act
Michael wrote and passed the Pay it Back Act, which required paid back Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds to go to deficit reduction. The legislation also ensured that repaid banking, housing and auto bailout funds were used to pay down the deficit, not fund further spending, and it reduced the authority of the TARP program. The legislation was signed into law in July 2010 as part of a larger package.
A Record of Pushing for Legislation to Reduce the Deficit Michael drafted and introduced new legislation in 2009, known as the Deficit Reduction Act, which would impose a limit of 3% of GDP on the deficit. He also helped implement new budget rules known as PAYGO in the 111th Congress, requiring Congress to offset any new spending and tax cuts. Michael originally pushed for a version of PAYGO that was even stricter, with fewer exceptions and loopholes, than the final budget rules that were ultimately agreed to. Finally, during the debate over the health care reform legislation in December 2009, Michael introduced an amendment that would have helped ensure the final law stays true to its deficit reduction targets by requiring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to make year-‐by-‐year assessments of the law's costs, determine whether the bill is meeting its cost-‐savings targets, and put in place a procedural fast-‐track to bring the law's savings back in line with its original projections if necessary.