U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney Provided Comprehensive Update from Washington D.C. at Chamber’s Business Breakfast
Speaking to a full room at the Groton Inn & Suites on Friday, June 14, U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney began his review of his legislative agenda with an explanation of his need for a cup of coffee after a long Armed Services Committee session: “We began a markup at ten o’clock Wednesday morning and didn’t finish until seven a.m. Thursday morning.”
The important bill they were working on moves forward almost $24 billion in the shipbuilding account, which increases the bottom line and percentage of the budget, with almost half going to the undersea fleet. The bill authorizes funding for three submarines, continues the Columbia-class funding, and restores funding to essential submarine maintenance. Congressman Courtney noted the ripple effect of this work across the community, mentioning the seCTer “Leading the Way” event that connected suppliers to General Dynamics Electric Boat.
With the shipyard increasing to 20,000 employees in the coming years, Congressman Courtney noted the demographic shift at General Dynamics Electric Boat where in 2013 Baby Boomers represented 47% of the workforce and now make up 26% compared to the growing 51% of millennials.
A national conversation around workforce readiness has shown Eastern Connecticut in a strong light. Congressman Courtney commented on the recently commissioned South Dakota. “When that boat came back from its initial sea trials, it actually recorded the highest score in terms of quality of any of the Virginia class ships.”
As a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, he has a broad perspective on the issue. “We are blessed in this region that we had such incredible vision and leadership with the Eastern CT Workforce Investment Board,” he said. “It is the model in terms of an accelerated pre-apprenticeship program in terms of trying to meet these incredibly challenging work force demands…We are seeing that model being replicated …They are scrambling to emulate what we have put together here.”
Congress is moving forward a number of bills, even as the media focuses on other issues. Congressman Courtney cataloged three recent bills that passed with bipartisan support. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act helps small businesses channel employees into retirement plans with tax credits and increased enrollment. It also rectified a tax bill provision that impacted Gold Star families negatively. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act extends coverage for exposure to Agent Orange to military who served offshore. Third, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act closes loopholes in federal background check requirements for firearms purchases.
Congress also passed the Climate Action Now Act to rejoin the Paris Agreement, Equality Act to ensure civil rights for LQBTQ Americans, the American Dream and Promise Act to offer a path to legal status for 8,000 “dreamers,” and the Save the Internet Act to restore net neutrality which is important to small and new businesses. In healthcare, the bills include protecting coverage of preexisting conditions and lowering the price of prescription drugs through several measures around generic drugs. These bills move onto the Senate.
Appropriations bill highlights included the construction of a new pier at the New London Sub Base, $1 billion increase in grants to schools, increased funding for employment and training programs, and preservation of Plum Island by prohibiting its sale and seeking further protection.
Articles in The Day and the Norwich Bulletin cover more details from Congressman Courtney’s presentation. Watch the event recorded by Connecticut Network.