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Updates from Sen. Schatz

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Schatz introduces bill to support investment in neighborhoods near transit

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has announced legislation that will help finance the development of better walkable, bikeable communities near transit stations.

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, are co-sponsors of Schatz’s legislation.

The Transit-Oriented Development Infrastructure Financing Act (S. 2275) would support community development that integrates housing, amenities and commercial development into walkable neighborhoods located near quality public transportation.

The act would enable the U.S. DOT Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program to provide loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit to public infrastructure projects for those neighborhoods.

“No one wants to sit in traffic all day. This bill will help provide investment in smart development that can transform our communities making them safer and more economically and environmentally healthy,” Schatz said. “Building communities near public transit and integrating retail and residential areas is the smart thing to do. Making investment financially feasible in neighborhoods around transit will create construction jobs and reinvigorate communities while preserving our water and undeveloped land.”

“This bill will help both the public and private sectors build great places along our rail corridor,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “The housing in these transit-enhanced neighborhoods will be affordable for middle-class working families like teachers, office workers, and young professionals, whose lives will be linked to where they work, play, and connect with family and friends. We welcome and support the new financing tool this bill provides.”

Locating housing, workplaces, and retail within walking distance of a bus or rail station creates better access to jobs for working families and economic opportunities.

Transit-oriented development frees up household income by reducing dependence on automobiles and benefits the environment by using land more efficiently, preserving undeveloped land, and protecting water quality.

Today, financing for public infrastructure in these areas is often complex and hard to obtain.

Supporters of the Transit-Oriented Development Infrastructure Financing Act include LOCUS, Smart Growth America, the American Planning Association and Transportation for America.

“Investing in smart, transit-oriented development is about communities working smarter, not harder,” Markey said. “By providing up-front public assistance for projects that focus on development around transportation hubs, these infrastructure projects create much-needed construction jobs, attract private investment, and promote sustainable living in our towns and cities in Massachusetts and across the country. That’s good for our economy, our environment, and our future. I am proud to join Sen. Schatz in introducing this legislation and will work with my colleagues to work to include it in the next surface transportation bill.”

“Investing in transportation infrastructure is one of the fastest, most effective ways to support job creation and strengthen our economy,” Gillibrand said. “Building our communities with more transit choices can connect more of our workers, students and businesses, and help families save time and money. And by using more sidewalks, buses and bikes, we can get more cars off our roads — protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

“In today’s real estate market, transit-oriented development is one of the most important ways the public and private sector is investing in our infrastructure and real estate to meet the growing demand for great walkable communities. Public-private partnerships, like transit-oriented development, face many huddles including financing of infrastructure improvements and regulatory barriers to private investment in areas around transit,” said Chris Leinberger, president of LOCUS, a national network of smart growth and transit-oriented investors.

“The Transit-Oriented Development Infrastructure Financing Act, proposed by Sens. Brian Schatz, Ed Markey, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Jeff Merkley, would provide common sense tools to the private and public sector to address those challenges and unleash the many economic benefits of transit-oriented development,” Leinberger said.

“I applaud Sens. Schatz, Markey, Gillibrand, and Merkley for introducing the Transit Oriented Development Infrastructure Financing Act. Increasingly, Americans are choosing to live and work in places accessible by transit and demand for this type of development is projected to double over the next 20 years,” said Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America. “This bill will allow communities to better realize the potential of their transit systems, grow their economies and provide families with more housing and lifestyle choices while giving both the private and public sectors the financial tools to help make it happen.”

“Transit-oriented development provides a powerful draw for the talented, young workforce that every region seeks to recruit and retain – something our recent poll with the Rockefeller Foundation underscored,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “With only a modest boost from federally supported financing, communities can make themselves more economically competitive while boosting the tax base to the benefit of all residents. We thank Sens. Schatz, Markey, Gillibrand, and Merkley for their vision in introducing the TOD Infrastructure Financing Act.”

Senate passes Cardin-Schatz-Menendez Resolution recognizing minority Health Awareness Month

U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) praised Senate passage of a resolution promoting the importance of minority health and efforts to end health disparities.

S. Res. 428, which recognized April as Minority Health Awareness Month, passed by unanimous consent.

A companion resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Al Green (D-Texas).

“Inequalities in health status and health care exact an enormous human and economic toll on our nation that we simply cannot afford. We cannot accept the status quo– where African American children have a 60 percent higher prevalence of asthma than white children, or one where Native Americans and Alaska Natives are more than twice as likely to have diabetes as whites. Your race, ethnicity or zip code should not dictate your health status,” Cardin said. “Our work is unfinished, but now we have a national strategy for quality improvement with more tools and resources at our disposal to fight the challenges inherent in our health care system.”

“Everyone deserves equal access to care,” Schatz said. “In the Senate, I have worked to secure funding for health programs designed to reverse the persistent healthcare disparities Native Hawaiians face, but we can, we need to, and we will do better to improve healthcare access for our native communities. When people have access to healthcare, they get healthier.”

“In 2014 it is unacceptable that people in the United States have different access to quality care and different health outcomes based on their ethnicity or race. As the Affordable Care Act is providing improved access to care for minority communities, recognizing Minority Health Awareness Month allows us to go further to reach the goal of eliminating all health disparities in our nation,” Menendez said. “I salute the Senate’s passage of this resolution and will continue working towards a goal of equal access to care for all those in need.”

S. Res. 428 promotes minority health awareness and supports the goals and ideals of National Minority Health Month in April 2014, which include bringing attention to the health disparities faced by minority populations of the United States, such as American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, African Americans Hispanic Americans and Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders.

According to a study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, between 2003-2006, the combined cost of “health inequalities and premature death in the United States” was $1.24 trillion.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has identified six main categories in which racial and ethnic minorities experience the most disparate access to health care and health outcomes: infant mortality, cancer screening and management, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, HIV/ADS, and immunizations.

Cardin’s amendment to the Affordable Care Act, established six Offices of Minority Health throughout HHS and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health.

Schatz calls on Congress to follow Hawaii’s lead and raise minimum wage

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz called on Republicans in Congress to pass legislation to raise the national minimum wage.

Schatz cosponsored the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and increase earnings for more than 28 million workers across the country, while helping grow our economy.

The Hawaii Legislature already has passed legislation raising the state’s minimum wage to $10.10.

“Hawaii showed leadership again on an issue that’s important to families and our economy by increasing the state’s minimum wage and giving workers a raise,” Schatz said. “Nobody who works full time should be in poverty. It’s time Republicans do the right thing and allow more Americans across the country a fair shot to support their families.”

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