Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tim Kaine's Progress Report

From U.S. Senator Tim Kaine:

"
Dear Friends,
Earlier this month, the 113th U.S. Congress - and my first two years in office - came to a close. As my team and I gear up for the start of the 114th Congress in 2015, I wanted to share some highlights of what we've been able to accomplish for Virginia over the past two years:
Serving Virginians

• Since I took office two years ago, my office has responded to nearly 400,000 pieces of correspondence and helped more than 3,000 Virginians tackle casework issues. This assistance has ranged from help for veterans facing unreasonable wait times at VA facilities, to assisting Virginians who faced forclosure on their homes, to helping Mildred Pretzer, a 100-year-old World War II veteran, receive long overdue recognition for her military service. Find out more about how my team can assist you.
• There is nothing I've enjoyed more than the opportunity to visit every corner of the Commonwealth and learn firsthand how I can help make policy at the federal level work better for Virginians - from understanding ways to better coordinate the federal response to sea level rise in Hampton Roads, to introducing legislation to help spur permit approval for construction of a major business center in Martinsville-Henry County. Over the past two years, I've visited more than 75 Virginia cities and counties. Click here for photos and information about my travels. 

• In order to make our constituent services accessible to folks who may not live close to one of my six regional offices in Danville, Manassas, Norton, Richmond, Roanoke or Virginia Beach, my staff hosted more than 100 "Kaine Connects" remote office hours in other communities across the Commonwealth. Take a look at where we've been so far.
***
Getting Bills Passed & Signed Into Law

Protecting the USS George Washington & Maintaining our 11 Aircraft Carrier Fleet | As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I worked hard to ensure the USS George Washington (CVN 73) would be refueled and overhauled, preserving the U.S. Navy's 11 aircraft carrier fleet and supporting thousands of jobs across the Hampton Roads region. Legislation I advocated to protect the Norfolk-based carrier was included in the 2015 defense bill and as a result, the USS George Washington was fully funded in the 2015 spending bill signed into law earlier this month.

Preserving Historic Battlefields | My legislation to protect Civil War battlefield land from haphazard development was also just signed into law. The National Park Service program my legislation reauthorizes has already preserved 24,000 acres of at-risk Civil War battlefield land in 16 states, including 11,500 acres in Virginia - more than any other state.
Supporting Pediatric Cancer Research In Honor of Gabriella Miller  | The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, legislation I worked to get passed in the Senate in honor of a Leesburg fifth grader who lost her 11-month battle with brain cancer in October 2013, was signed into law by the President last April and led to the appropriation of $12 million for a pediatric research initiative at the National Institutes of Health in the 2015 spending bill.
Help for Veterans | Key provisions of my first bill, the Troop Talent Act of 2013, were included in the 2014 defense bill, making it the law to provide active duty servicemembers with the tools they need to receive civilian credentials for skills they acquire through military training.
Protection for Military Whistleblowers | Legislation that Senator Mark Warner and I introduced to ensure those who report sexual assault and other misconduct are not further victimized by retaliation was also signed into law as part of the 2014 defense bill.
Promoting Religious Freedom | In July 2014, the Senate unanimously passed a bill I cosponsored to create a special envoy within the State Department to bring attention to religious persecution in the Middle East. I was proud to lead the Senate effort to pass this bill, a companion to a House version sponsored by Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf, a true champion for religious liberty around the world who will be missed in the U.S. Congress.
Boosting Craney Island & Four Mile Run | Senator Warner & I successfully amended the Water Resources Development Act to facilitate additional progress on efforts to develop a marine terminal at Craney Island and promote efforts to restore Four Mile Run in Northern Virginia.
***
Addressing Issues that Impact the Commonwealth

Getting War Powers Right & Fulfilling Our Duty to Servicemembers | Since taking office, I have made it my mission to dramatically improve the way Congress & the President consult on matters of war - an issue that has come into even sharper focus in recent months with the war against ISIL and the President's decision to take U.S. military action without Congressional authorization. Over the past six months, I took every opportunity I could to make the case for why it's immoral to ask our servicemembers to risk their lives without a meaningful debate & vote on this mission.

After months of pressuring the White House and my colleagues to act on an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIL, the Foreign Relations Committee finally approved one in December that included key provisions I advocated. I deeply regret that the full Senate did not consider the measure before adjourning for the year but remain committed to seeing the process through in early 2015.

Expanding Access to Career & Technical Education | I started the first Career & Technical Education (CTE) Caucus in the Senate because I believe CTE programs in Virginia and across the country are key to developing the skills today's employers are looking for, as well as the talented workforce America needs to stay competitive in the global economy. I was proud to introduce three related bills this year, the Educating Tomorrow's Workforce Act, the Middle School Technical Education Program (Middle STEP) Act, and the Creating Quality Technical Educators Act.
 
Responding to Sea Level Rise & Flooding in Hampton Roads | In June 2014, I convened a bipartisan group of Virginia lawmakers, regional stakeholders and officials from federal agencies at a conference on rising sea levels in Hampton Roads.  It was the most productive and insightful dialogue on this subject I've ever been a part of and produced a lot of great ideas. Since the conference, I've urged the heads of eleven federal agencies to support a regionally driven pilot program developed by Old Dominion University aimed at better coordinating federal, state and local efforts to combat sea level rise.

A New Future for Fort Pickett | After months of advocating Fort Pickett as the right location for a Foreign Affairs Security Training Center to train U.S. diplomatic and government personnel assigned to high-threat posts around the world, the State Department announced in April 2014 that Fort Pickett - a former U.S. Army Base southeast of Richmond - was indeed selected. This is a big win for the region and a testament to the bipartisan work of the Virginia Congressional delegation members involved.
 
Improving Infrastructure | I'm proud to have helped secure a $15 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) infrastructure grant to the Virginia Port Authority and a $24.9 million grant to the City of Richmond in 2014.
   
Making Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre a Reality | I was honored to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre in Martinsville-Henry County last April after working with colleagues in the Virginia delegation to expedite approval of the site. 

Protecting Virginia Miners | I introduced legislation to help miners battling black lung disease get the benefits they deserve.

America's Global Role | In the 113th Congress, as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee that oversees the Middle East and South and Central Asia, I led congressional delegations to India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain & Egypt, as well as traveled with colleagues to Turkey, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates and joined world leaders at global conferences in Canada and Bahrain. On each occasion, the highlight of my trip has been the chance to meet with servicemembers and foreign service officers from Virginia serving overseas.
 
Confirming Virginians To Top Judicial Posts | I'm proud to have successfully advocated the confirmation of four outstanding Virginians to federal judgeships. In the past two years, Hannah Lauck was confirmed to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Patricia Millett to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Sri Srinivasan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Elizabeth Dillon to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Ms. Dillon is the first woman to sit on the Western District bench.
***
Other highlights from the 113th Congress include: helping Congress pass a two-year budget agreement that offsets the worst effects of sequestration; advocating 36 historic reforms to tackle sexual assault in the military included in the 2014 defense bill; and pushing for steps in the Foreign Relations Committee that led to the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile.

...And a few more fun tidbits:

In June 2013, I became the first Senator ever to deliver an entire floor speech in Spanish

I won the National Press Club Centennial Spelling Bee in September 2013, beating out a Politico reporter by correctly spelling the word, "nonpareil." It was a glorious moment!
***
Thank you for your continued support and please let me know if there are any specific issues you would like to continue receiving updates on this year.

Happy holidays to you and your families and best wishes for the New Year!

Sincerely,
" [nice signature graphic] Tim Kaine," he concluded. (Note: I don't have time to check his links. I'm trusting that a U.S. Senator wouldn't send us any bad ones.)