Gardner Introduces Appropriations Amendments
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate, highlighting the introduction of his amendments to the appropriations bills under consideration by the Senate. The appropriations bills include funding for the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies.
NOTE: Click here to view Senator Gardner’s remarks.
Gardner’s six amendments to the appropriations package include:
- Fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at a level of $900 million
- Increasing funding for the COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program to address Colorado’s increase in meth addictions and overdoses
- The Ski Area Fee Retention Act, Senators Gardner and Bennet’s bill that allows the national forests where skiing communities are located to retain fees so they can more timely process ski area applications for year-round recreation capital improvement projects
- The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Equity Act, Senators Gardner and Bennet’s bill that would ensure Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) would receive credit risk premium reimbursement from the Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Providing an additional $161 million for construction and renovation costs for National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) projects
- Creating a fund to provide every sworn law enforcement officer with Type III bulletproof vests
Remarks as delivered:
Thank you, Madam President.
I come to the floor today to talk about several amendments that I'm working on in relation to the Commerce, Justice and Science, Agriculture, Interior Environment, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bills that this body will be working on shortly.
The first amendment that I'm offering to the legislation addresses a very serious issue – the rising scourge of methamphetamine around the country. Methamphetamine use is something that we talked a lot about a decade ago and conversations turned to opioid abuse in this country and rightfully so, to focus on opioids. But unfortunately, meth use is now increasing dramatically in states like Colorado as we continue to address the opioid epidemic. When I traveled across Colorado over the summer, last week, through the August work period, I heard from rural sheriffs across the state who were especially concerned with the severe impact that meth is having on our small communities. The headlines this summer, as recently as this week, talk about the increase in meth use across Colorado and the country. From 2011 to 2018, treatment admissions for meth across Colorado increased by nearly 40 percent.
In 2018, 318 people died in Colorado from meth overdoses, that's a 750 percent increase over 10 years and from 1999 to 2018 there has been a 1,450 percent increase in meth deaths in Denver alone. In 2018, just last year, Denver police made nearly 1,500 meth-related arrests. Indeed, there were more meth arrests in Denver than arrests for heroin and cocaine combined.
Meth causes property damage and damages our families. It can certainly cause permanent damage to the individual using meth. It causes tremendous harm to families. In Utah, just in August, in Utah nearly $2.2 million worth of methamphetamine was confiscated and seized in the state of Utah, it was heading to Colorado. That $2.2 million is enough meth to provide 1.1 million individual doses in Colorado. It was on its way and it would've done great harm.
So I've introduced an amendment that would add $1 million to the COPS anti-methamphetamine program. This million-dollar increase would allow one more fully funded grant to go to an area, to a state, to a drug program to help reduce and to break up this cycle of meth. And so we've heard the people in Colorado, we've heard the sheriffs, we've heard from our communities to do more and I believe this amendment does more to help address the epidemic of meth and the lives that it is shattering in Colorado. And I hope my colleagues will be able to support this effort.
I want to thank particularly Senator Daines, Senator Tester, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Baldwin and Senator Jones who have all joined me in adding $1 million, fully paid for and offset within the bill, to help combat this epidemic of meth in our country and certainly in our states, like Colorado.
Another amendment that I've been working on is the bullet proof vest amendment. We've seen far too many attacks on our law enforcement over the past several years, so this legislation would provide a $1.1 billion fund for our nation's law enforcement officers with Type III bullet proof vests. These vests are capable of stopping more powerful rifle ballistics and therefore would allow more officers to come home.
To come home at the end of the day and their service, that's what we need to be focusing on, how to protect the men and women in blue in our communities. I’m proud to have joint legislation earlier this year that was signed into law that permanently reauthorized the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program and hope that we continue to build and offer our support to those who defend that thin blue line.
The crown jewel of our conservation programs, Land Water Conservation Fund, has benefited Colorado and this country so significantly over the past several decades. It’s something that has affected every state in the country, to be able to preserve and protect some of our most pristine environments across this great land. We were able to work together in a bipartisan effort last spring to permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This legislation, the amendment that I'll be offering to the bill, would fully fund the Land Water Conservation Fund. So while we've done a great thing in permanently authorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we need to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Now this amendment would do just that and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Why is this important? Because the outdoor economy protecting our public lands is so critical to the state of Colorado. The outdoor economy alone in Colorado generates $28 billion in consumer spending and $2 billion in state and local tax revenue employing close to 230,000 people just in Colorado alone making Colorado the year-round destination for visitors. And if you're interested in skiing, there's already 40 inches of snow in Summit County. Several ski resorts have opened up already and it's snowing right now in Colorado. So this amendment is all the more important as people look to our state for continued enjoyment of the great outdoors. We have a bipartisan amendment along with seven of my colleagues, Senators Bennet, Daines, Tester, Burr, Heinrich, Collins and Shaheen that will fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund for fiscal year 2020. And I hope this chamber will support the legislation.
I’m also working on an amendment that would address the ski area fees that our ski resorts pay to the federal government to operate on public lands and have their ski runs on public lands. Many times, the ski resorts, the ski areas, are the largest employers in our mountain communities and contribute significantly to the economy and to the health and stability of our local communities. 122 of our ski areas operate on National Forest System lands, generating roughly $37 million in rental fees for the Treasury. But staffing levels for those very recreation programs, the permitting needs, those recreation programs are 40 percent lower than they were in the year 2000. So just as more and more people are enjoying our public lands, we see fewer and fewer people employed by the federal government to deal with those public lands to process it, the permitting needs and to address the needs of our public lands. Fire borrowing has been an issue that has gobbled up some of the funding that helped manage our forests. We've put a fix, a bipartisan fix in place that will no longer allow that money to be gobbled up. But we need to have a solution on the ski area fee retention as well, so that we can allow that money to stay within the forest that it's generated in.
And so now that we've got the fire borrowing fix, we put the ski area fee bill in place and we can have even more dollars returned to the forest where those fees are generated, so that we can address the staffing issues and other complex issues that we face in our national forests. This bill alone, would allow apportion of that $37 million to be returned to the forests where they were generated. That means more timely permit application processing at the Forest Service and better customer service for the ski areas who are trying to accommodate even more and more people visiting our great ski areas.
Also working on an amendment to the legislation dealing with the RTD, our public transit system in Denver and the Front Range. Years ago, the Department Transportation was working on a effort that refunded some programs in Colorado. RTD had paid off a loan of more than 20, it basically paid off a loan and all these projects more than 20 years early. They were told that they would be reimbursed by the Department of Transportation if they paid this off and unfortunately, while they paid it off early, they haven't been reimbursed. And so if you look at the project they accomplished with this loan, the Denver Union Station Project that’s one of the highlights of urban renewal in the country. They got the loan successfully paid off early, a great success, and now they need that money back to continue investing in Colorado. So I’m working with Senator Bennet to make sure that this money comes back to Colorado. That's one of the amendments that we have filed.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is one of the nation's premier research agencies in the federal government. Colorado was lucky to house the second largest contingent of NIST staff in Boulder, Colorado, where they work on issues so important to this country like telecommunication, bio sciences, forensics and quantum information science and technology. The Boulder campus of NIST and their affiliated NIST partnerships have won three Nobel Prizes in physics, and a National Medal of Science. These preeminent experts were charged with continuing to build on their successes in the National Quantum Initiative Act, which passed into law just this last Congress. But in order to remain competitive globally, competing against countries like China, the U.S. must continue its robust investment science, research, and development. And that's going to require investing in our science facilities as well. When I was able to travel to the NIST facilities in Boulder just a couple of months ago, I witnessed a trash can and a giant trash bag that's being used to collect rainwater from a leaky roof. That's happening in a place where we have Nobel scientists, Nobel Prize winning scientists working.
It's unacceptable and harmful to think that it's okay for this great country to have Nobel Prize winning scientists working in a facility that can't even keep them dry because the roof leaks. And while I'm grateful for the Appropriations Committee’s attention to increasing the construction and facilities budget for NIST in recent years, we've still got a lot more work to do. And that's why in light of the National Quantum Initiative, I introduced an amendment to these appropriations bills to provide an additional $161 million for construction and renovation cost for NIST projects. And partnering with universities like the University of Colorado at Boulder, NIST can continue to expand their work on issues like quantum and renovated a new state of the art research facilities that benefits the United States and will help us retain and grow our competitive advantage around the globe.
Another issue that I continue to hear about in Colorado that we're able to address through the appropriations package before us is the issue of affordable housing. Many times, the people may think that affordable housing is simply an urban issue that it is something that we face in Boulder, or Denver, or Colorado Springs. But it's actually an issue that I hear in some of the smallest communities as well as the biggest communities.
So Senator Young and I have been working on an amendment that deals with affordable housing. We know we have a relationship between the lack of affordable housing and issues relating to health, education, nutrition, and job outcomes and those issues combine homelessness and lack of affordable housing combined with these other issues to create significant strains on government and other social services. And so the amendment that we've offered will help us understand those challenges, will help us understand the root causes of, and lack of affordable housing and help us understand the effects of the affordable housing crisis on health, on education, on employment as well.
And they'll help us understand that the work we need to do to solve the problem or whether there are smaller programs that are already working that we could expand to help do even more good. That's a number of bills related to the great state of Colorado and this country I think that will do a lot of good. And I hope that as we process these appropriations bills in a bipartisan fashion, that we'll be able to approve them and to start addressing some of these major issues.
With that, Madam President, I yield the floor.
Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.
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