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Updates from Sen. Schatz

MEDIA RELEASE

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) released the following information during the months of February and March:

SENATE PASSES BILL TO IMPROVE CHILD CARE

Schatz voted to pass the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, legislation that will help provide funds for education and child care to low-income families.

“In far too many communities across this nation, a lack of quality early childhood resources places children at risk of falling behind other students from their first days in school,” Schatz said. “I am glad our bipartisan legislation includes measures that will strengthen child care programs and help provide quality care and education to children and families who need it the most.”

Schatz worked with Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pension, to include measures to enhance funding for native child care programs and provide much needed flexibility to address the need for facility renovation and construction of new facilities.

“We must build more opportunities for native children to learn and excel in school and fulfill their true potential and we need to provide tribes and native communities with the tools and support needed to design programs in ways to best serve the needs and circumstances of native children in their communities,” Schatz said.

Schatz’ co-sponsored amendments will:

* Help Native Hawaiian organizations upgrade facilities. Schatz cosponsored an amendment that will now allow CCDBG funds to be used to construct and renovate native child care facilities.

* Help child care providers go to college. Schatz cosponsored an amendment that will allow funds to be used to help child care staff connect with state or federal financial aid programs to assist them in pursuing higher education.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 updates the original legislation first passed in 1990 to: make it easier for parents access to child care services through a new website; protect children by requiring background checks on child care workers for the first time; and enhance the quality of child care by focusing on training improvements for providers.

SENATE REACHES BIPARTISAN AGREEMENT TO RENEW UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Schatz announced a bipartisan agreement to renew unemployment insurance for five months and will give immediate relief to millions of Americans who lost unemployment insurance since Dec. 28, 2013.

Schatz has been a vocal advocate of the need to restore unemployment insurance, voting earlier this year to advance legislation to extend benefits for three months.

The bipartisan agreement is paid for and the lead sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Jack Reed (D- R.I.), has said he has the 60 votes needed to pass the agreement through the Senate.

“For thousands of families in Hawaii, and millions more across the country, unemployment insurance is a vital lifeline that families need to put food on the table. Reaching a bipartisan agreement was not easy, and it should not have taken this long. But it is a major breakthrough that we were finally able to get Republicans on board to support renewing unemployment benefits,” Schatz said.

“The Senate and House need to move quickly to pass this important legislation that will give families immediate relief and spur growth in our economy,” he said.

There are more than 60,000 unemployed people in the State of Hawaii. About 7,700 people have been affected by the expiration of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. The bill will allow for retroactive payments to eligible beneficiaries going back to Dec. 28.

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SENATORS FIGHT TO PROTECT MEDICARE FOR SENIORS

U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor (AR), Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH) Jeff Merkley (OR), Al Franken (MN), Brian Schatz (HI), Tom Udall (NM), and Elizabeth Warren (MA) have introduced the Medicare Protection Act, legislation expressing strong opposition to changes in Medicare that would reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or raise the eligibility age for hard-working seniors.

Today, more than 46 million Americans rely on Medicare.

“We’ve seen an irresponsible few in Washington try to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors by recklessly voting to turn Medicare into a voucher system and raise the eligibility age for benefits,” Pryor said. “I refuse to let that happen. That’s why I’m proud to lead the charge on the Medicare Protection Act, a responsible solution that will protect the health, safety, and financial security of nearly 600,000 seniors in my state alone.”

“Seniors cannot afford cuts to their Medicare benefits,” Brown said. “As the cost of living continues to rise, the budgets of many are already stretched to the breaking point. Instead of privatizing Medicare, we should focus on ensuring the health and wellness of our country’s seniors. The Medicare Protection Act would protect Medicare as we know it so that we aren’t reducing the deficit on the backs of our seniors.”

“I want to make sure that Medicare can continue to provide New Hampshire seniors with the care they need,” Shaheen said. “Preserving Medicare is crucial to the health and financial security of our seniors.”

“Raising the Medicare eligibility age would be absolutely disastrous. In my town halls, I hear from a lot of Oregonians who are in their early 60s and are praying they make it to 65 to receive their Medicare benefits. If anything, we should be lowering the eligibility age. Medicare is an important lifeline for our seniors, and must be protected from hostile attacks to privatize it or weaken it,” Merkley said.

“About 700,000 Minnesota seniors rely on Medicare to cover most of their health care costs,” Franken said. “It not only keeps them healthy and out of poverty, but also brings peace of mind to their families who don’t have to worry about whether they can afford to see a doctor. I disagree with those who want to turn Medicare into a voucher program, slash benefits, and tell seniors that they’re out on their own. This legislation will help protect this important program that millions of Americans depend upon.”

“Since the program’s creation, Medicare has been a vital lifeline for our seniors, ensuring access to health care for people who need it the most,” Schatz said. “Yet time and time again, changes to the Medicare program are wrongfully used as a bargaining chip. This bill will help us protect seniors’ Medicare benefits. In Hawaii, generations take care of each other and it is our responsibility in Congress to make sure benefits are there for America’s seniors.”

“Our seniors rely on Medicare, they paid into Medicare, and they deserve to know they can count on Medicare when the need it,” Tom Udall said. “I have been proud to fight for Medicare, and will continue to push for measures like this that will keep this program strong.”

“Millions of seniors rely on Medicare to pay for critical health care services, and we should not cut these essential benefits for people who need them most,” said Warren. “Cutting benefits will not stop people from getting sick, it will only shift more of the cost of health care onto our seniors. We should be focused on bringing down the costs of health care, not slashing benefits for people who need care. I’m pleased to support the Medicare Protection Act, which will help protect older Americans from irresponsible benefits cuts and efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher program.”

The Medicare Protection Act would amend the Congressional Budget Act to define any provision included in reconciliation legislation that makes changes to Medicare to reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or restrict eligibility criteria as extraneous and an inappropriate use of the reconciliation process.

The bill would also express the sense of the Senate that 1) the Medicare eligibility age should not be increased and 2) the Medicare program should not be privatized or turned into a voucher system.

SCHATZ SAYS PRESIDENT OBAMA’S BUDGET PROMOTES ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES

Schatz released the following statement after President Barack Obama submitted his proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget to Congress:

“President Obama’s budget proposal takes major steps forward to make sure we have an economy that provides opportunities for everyone. It builds on the progress we made in Congress’s two-year Budget Agreement to protect Hawaii priorities, Social Security, Medicare and veterans. Budgets are about priorities and choices. The President’s budget proposal ends some tax breaks for the wealthiest one percent and creates a more fair tax system in order to provide more resources for middle-class jobs, clean energy programs, and investments in education programs like universal pre-K. I look forward to working with President Obama as we move our budget process and appropriations forward this year.”

Specific programs in the President’s budget proposal that will benefit Hawaii include:

* $250 million for Honolulu Rail

* $20 million for SelectUSA, which will bring jobs back to the U.S.

* $13 million for Native Hawaiian Housing Grants

* $32 million for Native Hawaiian Education grants

* $10.8 million for the East-West Center

* $211.98 million for Hawaii military construction

* $68.6 billion for discretionary education

* $2.3 billion for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office

* $63 million for State Energy Programs, which helps implement the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative

* $2 million for Ala Kahakai Trail on Hawaii Island

President Obama’s 2015 budget follows the spending levels authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act, which Schatz helped to pass last December.

SCHATZ NAMED CHAIRMAN OF COMMERCE SUBCOMMITTEE ON TOURISM, COMPETITIVENESS, AND INNOVATION

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announced Schatz will become the Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Competitiveness, and Innovation.

Schatz worked with Chairman Rockefeller to create the new Commerce Subcommittee which will include a focus on tourism issues.

As the Chairman of the new Subcommittee, Schatz outlined a plan to boost tourism by working to expand visas and renew successful programs, like Brand USA, to support jobs and grow Hawaii’s local economy.

“A high quality visitor industry is one of the fastest ways to boost the entire economy. It creates jobs within the industry as well as jobs and small businesses that support the entire economy. Through this new Commerce Subcommittee we’ll be able to make sure federal travel and tourism policies support the hospitality industry,” Schatz said. “I thank Chairman Rockefeller for his confidence in my leadership and I look forward to this new opportunity to better serve the people of Hawaii.”

“Sen. Schatz’s chairmanship of this important tourism and commerce position will help support Hawaii jobs and businesses,” said Roy Yamaguchi, owner of Roy’s Restaurants and Board of Directors Member of Brand USA. “Growing our hospitality industry means a stronger local economy and more opportunities for local kids like me when I was starting out. As a business owner and Board Member of Brand USA, I know how important it is to have effective public-private partnerships working to promote tourism. I look forward to working with Sen. Schatz on our national tourism efforts and continuing to promote Hawaii as a world-class visitor destination.”

“I am supremely confident that Sen. Schatz, as chairman of the Tourism Subcommittee, will put his singular insight on the importance of a robust tourism industry and an appreciation for its profound economic benefits to good use for his state and the country,” Rockefeller said. “As Hawaii’s Senator and as a former lieutenant governor, he has worked to help Hawaii’s economy grow and develop through leveraging tourism opportunities. Sen. Schatz will continue to bolster and sharpen our nation’s competitive edge in the global economy by fighting for strong export and pro-innovation policies. I look forward to working with Sen. Schatz on these issues that are vital to the future of our economy.”

To strengthen tourism in Hawaii, Schatz’s agenda includes:

Attracting international visitors. Schatz’s plan will highlight Hawaii and the United States as a world class tourist destination. Reauthorizing programs like Brand USA, which ends in fiscal year 2015, will strategically market the United States to international visitors as a vacation destination.

Schatz will also work to promote smart and efficient use of government travel and meetings, spurring additional growth in tourism and hospitality.

Making it easier to travel. Visitors should be able to enter the United States more efficiently. Schatz will work to streamline the visa process, reduce wait times at U.S. entry ports, continue to facilitate interisland and domestic travel, and modernize infrastructure to ensure travelers have a hassle-free experience.

Providing a world class experience. To ensure that Hawaii remains a premiere tourist destination, Schatz will make sure that the U.S. Department of Commerce and other agencies have the resources they need to help Hawaii hotels, restaurants, and attractions stay competitive with other world class tourist destinations and continue to provide visitors with a unique experience.

The Subcommittee works to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industry, promoting tourism, trade, and investment, ensuring fair trade and compliance with trade laws and agreements. The Subcommittee has oversight of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which includes agencies and programs vital to Hawaii’s tourism sector including the International Trade Administration and its national Travel and Tourism Office.

The U.S. Department of Commerce also works closely with Brand USA through a unique public-private partnership to attract more international travelers to the United States.

This is Schatz’s second chairmanship. Schatz also chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource’s Subcommittee on Water and Power.

SCHATZ ANNOUNCES HAWAII AMONG TOP 10 FOR GREEN BUILDINGS

Schatz announced that Hawaii ranks ninth in America’s Top 10 States for healthy, high performing Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) buildings — a list from the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Top 10 States for LEED.

“Making our buildings energy efficient helps preserve our environment, and save money. LEED building creates good clean energy jobs and helps to make Hawaii more sustainable and self-sufficient,” Schatz said. “This recognition highlights Hawaii’s strong commitment to conservation and energy efficiency.”

As Chairman of the Senate Energy Subcommittee on Water and Power, Schatz has worked to promote a clean energy economy and policies that will make Hawaii more sustainable and self-sufficient.

Hawaii certified 17 LEED projects in 2013, representing 2,323,379 square feet of real estate, or 1.71 square feet per resident.

“The USGBC Hawaii Chapter is both very excited and very proud to have Hawaii ranked in the Top 10 States for LEED building nationwide,” said Jason Selley, President of the USGBC Hawaii Chapter. “There is a deep connection both culturally and spiritually to the preservation and stewardship of our beautiful state, and LEED has played a fundamental role in helping guide a more responsible and higher performing built environment throughout the islands. With the extraordinary amount of new growth currently under way, we thank all those that have made the commitment to pursue LEED certification. We will continue to strive to make the islands of Hawaii a world leader in creating, developing and sustaining self-sufficient communities.”

“Hawaii has a strong base of dedicated individuals who are using LEED to transform its built infrastructure into high-performing spaces that promote the health of our planet and the people who use these buildings each and every day,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO & founding chair of USGBC.

USGBC calculates the list using per-capita figures as a measure of the human element of green building, allowing for a fair comparison of the level of green building taking place among states with significant differences in population and, accordingly, number of overall buildings.

Notable projects that certified in Hawaii in 2013 include:

* Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Kapolei, the largest certified project in the state, LEED Silver

* Hickam Air Force Base F-22 low observable composite repair facility, designed by USGBC Platinum member CH2M Hill, LEED Gold

* Kaiakea Fire Station in Kapaa, LEED Silver

* Kawailoa Wind Project Operations and Maintenance Building in Haleiwa, LEED Silver

* Maui Community College Science Building in Kaului, LEED Gold

* Punahou School Omidyar K-1 Neighborhood in Honolulu, LEED Gold

* Windward Community College Library & Learning Center in Kaneohe, LEED Silver

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction, maintenance, and operations of green buildings. Every day, more than 1.5 million square feet of space is certified using LEED.

LEED buildings benefit taxpayers, families, and communities through water and energy savings; creating healthier spaces to live, work, and learn.

Collectively, 1,777 commercial and institutional projects became LEED certified within the top 10 states in 2013, representing 226.8 million square feet of real estate.

Worldwide, 4,642 projects were certified in 2013, representing 596.8 million square feet.

BrianSchatzNOH8

SCHATZ TAKES STAND FOR EQUALITY WITH NOH8 CAMPAIGN

The NOH8 Campaign, the nation’s leading advocacy group committed to achieving marriage equality, released photos from its fourth NOH8 On the Hill photo campaign, of which Schatz was a participant.

The NOH8 Campaign was founded in an effort to defeat Proposition 8, the law banning same-sex marriage in California that was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge.

“Those standing in the way of committed couples’ right to marry are on the wrong side of history,” Schatz said. “We all have friends, relatives, and loved ones in devoted same-sex relationships, and they should be treated the same way under the law as my family. We need to continue to speak out against discrimination and for equality.”

“This year’s event really showed how far we have come in so short a time,” NOH8 co-founder and photographer Adam Bouska said.“Equality and freedom appear to be highly contagious.”

Schatz joined 20 Members of Congress in this year’s event–including four other Senators–in support of marriage equality and equal rights for all Americans. More than 120 Members of Congress have participated in NOH8 On The Hill events over the past three years.

The portraits, taken on Capitol Hill late last year, were released by NOH8 Campaign co-founders Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley on Valentine’s Day, one day after a federal judge in Virginia struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

In November 2013, Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Schatz’s wife Linda delivered testimony before the Hawaii legislature on behalf of the Schatz family in support of marriage equality.

SENATE ADVANCES SCHATZ CO-SPONSORED BILL TO RESTORE MILITARY RETIREE BENEFITS

The Senate has taken a first step to advance the Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act, co-sponsored by Schatz, which will safeguard military retirees from changes in cost of living adjustments (COLA) that are set to take effect in 2015.

Schatz helped to introduce similar legislation that would protect military retiree pay in December, and fought to include this provision as part of the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act last month.

“The last place we should be looking for savings is in reductions in military retiree benefits. These people put their lives on the line and we need to hold up our end of the bargain and make sure they get every dollar they were promised after careers of service to our country,” Schatz said. “We need to pass this bill and reverse any pay changes before they have a chance to go into effect.”

SCHATZ, BEGICH INTRODUCE BILL TO MAKE COMMUNITIES AND STREETS SAFER

U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) introduced the Safe Streets Act of 2014, legislation that will improve the safety of our nation’s roads and expand access for all users.

With many roads today designed only for cars and busy traffic, communities across the country have pushed for safer, more livable, Complete Streets. The Safe Streets Act will change the approach to the way federally funded roads are planned, designed, and built, ensuring new roads follow Complete Street policies, safely accommodating travelers of all ages and abilities, including drivers, transit passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

Complete Street policies make sure that sidewalks, crosswalks, and safe transit access are taken into consideration as roadway plans are developed. Schatz and Begich’s Safe Streets legislation will increase safe travel options, like walking and biking, and help save lives.

“Too many people are killed or injured each year because our streets are simply not designed and built with the safety of everyone — including pedestrians and bicyclists — in mind. Our communities deserve safer streets,” Schatz said. “Many of our roads in Hawaii and across America make travel difficult for seniors, families, youth, and others who are unable or choose not to drive. Our legislation provides commonsense solutions to consider the needs of our seniors and children, encourage alternative forms of transportation, and make our roads and communities safer for everyone.”

“I’ve been a proud supporter of Safe Streets policies since I was mayor and continue to support them here in the Senate,” Begich said. “These policies lead to safer roads, less traffic congestion, higher property values, and healthier families. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce this common-sense bill to strengthen our transportation infrastructure and enhance the quality of life in our local communities.”

Over the last decade 47,000 pedestrians have died along our nation’s highways. Two thirds of pedestrian deaths have occurred on federally funded roads. These roadways often lack complete street features like sidewalks, crosswalks, and bicycle lanes, limiting access and creating a dangerous environment for travelers.

The Safe Streets Act will require all states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) to adopt complete street policies for federally funded projects within two years, and consider the safety of all users when designing new roads or improving existing roads.

In addition, the Secretary of Transportation will provide resources to transportation agencies across the country with best practices for implementing complete streets principles for those states and MPOs.

The Safe Streets Act of 2014 will ensure that effective practice and proven safety measures become federal guidelines, improving safety on our community streets. Access to safe sidewalks, bike lanes, and other street features would reduce injuries and deaths, improve the quality of communities, ease traffic congestion, and allow for more healthy and active lifestyles.

“America’s streets should be safe and convenient for everyone, whether you are driving, riding a bike, walking or using transit,” said Roger Millar, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America. “The Safe Streets Act is another sign that Congress is dedicated to making our nation’s streets safer and more open to everyone, regardless of age, ability, income, ethnicity or transportation choice.”

“Hawaii families deserve to have streets that are safe and easily accessible for everyone,” said Jesse Souki, Director of the Office of Planning for the State of Hawaii. “I applaud Sens. Schatz and Begich for their work to improve our streets. Safe streets that accommodate various modes of transportation contribute to the health and happiness of Hawaii’s current and future generations.”

A bipartisan House version has been introduced by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio).

The Safe Streets Act is supported by the following organizations: AARP; National Association of Realtors; Smart Growth America; Complete Streets Coalition; American Planning Association; American Public Transportation Association; Transportation for America; Easter Seals; Safe Routes to School National Partnership; America Society of Landscape Architects; America Walks; and the League of American Bicyclists.

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