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Updates from Schatz


U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz joined Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in introducing the Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014.

This bill reauthorizes the Native American languages grant program, administered by the Health and Human Services Administration for Native Americans, through Fiscal Year 2019.

The Native American languages grant program was a landmark achievement for Tribes, tribal organizations and Native Hawaiian organizations.

It was a strong statement of policy in support of self-determination and preserving and protecting Native American languages. This was a stark change from earlier federal policies of assimilation that sought to divide families and communities, and banned Native children from speaking their languages in schools.

“The Hawaiian language is an unbroken thread that connects all Native Hawaiians from ancient to modern to future generations, and it is vital to the rich culture of Hawaii. What was once in danger of dying, the Hawaiian language now lives on through thousands of speakers,” Schatz said. “Our bill will make sure the Native American languages grant program continues to fund important programs that improve education and preserve Native languages.”

“Since first being signed into law, the Native Americans Languages Act has helped to preserve and revitalize Native languages and encourages both young children and adults to develop a fluency in their Native language,” Johnson said. “Across South Dakota, this vital grant funding gives the opportunity for our cherished Lakota elders to sit down with the younger generation to revive the Lakota language. The continuity of these languages strengthens Native American culture and history, and I will continue to push until this reauthorization is signed into law.”

“Our Alaska Native languages are alive and spoken today, yet we have much work to do to keep them alive,” Murkowski said. “Our Native languages are at risk, and if they are not passed to the next generation the richness of our Native cultures are at risk. We must be doing all that we can, whether it be within our public schools, our universities, our Native institutions, or in the home.”

According to the National Indian Education Association, by the year 2050, there may only be 20 Native American languages remaining. The Native American Languages Act was first signed into law in 1992 and established a grant program within the Native American Programs Act of 1974 to ensure the survival of Native languages.

Language maintenance grant funding provides opportunities for grantees to assess, plan, develop and implement projects.

It has been shown that, in addition to the preservation of Native languages, this type of learning promotes higher academic success for students.

The Native American Languages Reauthorization Act of 2014 is cosponsored by Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai), Angus King (I-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

Earlier this year, Schatz introduced the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act, with Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), legislation that establishes a special grant program to fund Native language immersion educational programs in order to support Native language medium schools and enhance Native language immersion student achievement.


Schatz Denounces Congressional “Pig Book”

Schatz said mainland groups in Washington, D.C. and conservative Sen. Ted Cruz don’t get to decide what equals waste in Hawaii.

The Citizens Against Government Waste held a press conference with Cruz earlier to announce a “Congressional Pig Book” that listed an increase in funding for the East-West Center that Schatz helped secure.

“Ted Cruz and mainland groups in Washington don’t understand our values or our needs,” Schatz said. “The East-West Center has always been important to Hawaii and given President Obama’s focus on the Asia-Pacific and the significance of U.S.-Asia relations to our national and economic security, the Center could not be more valuable.”

In the fiscal year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill that became law, Schatz worked with appropriators to increase funding for the East-West Center to $16.7 million, nearly $6 million above the request in the President’s budget, and protect funding for Native Hawaiian health, education, and housing programs, as well as other Hawaii priorities that the U.S. House of Representatives tried to cut.

In total, $5,900,000 was earmarked for the East-West Center to promote better relations with Pacific and Asian nations. The center was established by Congress in 1960 with no congressional hearings, and over the State Department’s opposition.

For years, the State Department tried to eliminate the center by not requesting funding in the department’s annual budget requests.

After Sen. Daniel Inouye passed away in 2013, Schatz willingly stepped up to the plate to defend the center.

In a Jan. 16 press release, Schatz claimed an appropriations victory for adding the $5.9 million to the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations bill, making it clear that he is responsible for this earmark.

Since FY 1997, the East-West Center has received 11 earmarks totaling $109.7 million.



Schatz announced Hilo International Airport will receive a $3.1 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

This grant will provide funding to rehabilitate the airport’s runway by improving the structural integrity of the pavement and minimizing debris on the airstrip.

“These funds for the Hilo International Airport are an important investment for Hawaii Island’s local economy,” Schatz said. “These federal funds will make sure Hilo International Airport has the resources it needs to make critical improvements, making it safer and easier for families and visitors to travel to and from Hawaii Island.”

Schatz is chairman of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Tourism, Competitiveness, and Innovation.



Schatz applauded President Obama and his administration following an announcement from the White House that he will be making more than 300 private and public sector commitments to create jobs and cut carbon pollution by advancing solar deployment and energy efficiency.

The president announced executive actions that will lead to $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in federal buildings; smarter appliances that will cut carbon pollution by more than 380 million metric tons, and training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020.

“These clean energy actions by President Obama will protect our environment and cut carbon pollution by more than 380 million metric tons – the equivalent of taking 80 million cars off the road for one year,” Schatz said.

“The National Climate Assessment report released earlier this week details how climate change is already impacting Hawaii and every state across our country and that we can’t afford to wait. We must act to address climate change and cut carbon pollution now,” he said. “That is why President Obama’s leadership is so important and his announcement today shows his strong commitment to addressing one of the greatest challenges of our time.”

Since 2009, America has increased its electricity generation from solar more than ten-fold and tripled electricity production from wind power.

Last year, about a quarter of new power generation capacity was from solar – second only to natural gas. Growing deployment, led in large part by the utility sector, has driven down costs: over the last three years, the cost of a solar energy system has dropped by more than 50 percent – helping to give more and more American families and businesses access to affordable, clean energy.

Last month, Schatz introduced the Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives Act with Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), legislation that would boost energy efficiency in government, in industry, and in commercial and residential buildings which account for more than 40 percent of energy consumption in the United States.

Schatz is also a cosponsor of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, introduced by Sens .Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

This bipartisan bill uses a variety of low-cost tools to reduce barriers for private sector energy users and drive adoption of off-the-shelf efficiency technologies that will save businesses and consumers money, make America more energy independent, and reduce emissions.



Schatz said the Third National Climate Assessment Report out today by the U.S. Global Change Research Program shows an urgent need for Congress to renew energy efficiency and renewable energy legislation and for the Environmental Protection Agency to be able to curb carbon.

The report detailed potentially devastating impacts around the country, including in Hawai‘i and the Pacific, where coastal flooding, decreasing freshwater availability, and impacts on animal populations are real and pose threats to food and water security, infrastructure, and public health and safety.

“Climate change is happening. The new National Climate Assessment report is a harsh reality check for anyone who thinks we don’t need to act on climate change,” Schatz said. “Rising ocean temperatures and sea levels have and will continue to threaten Hawaii’s food and water security, unless we act now. We can’t afford to wait.”

Schatz also called on climate deniers in Congress to stop repeated attempts to strip the government of its ability to reduce carbon pollution through limits on EPA authority and attempts to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

“In the same week that another sobering report is released, the Senate is again faced with attempts by Republicans to weaken the government’s ability to fight climate change,” Schatz said. “We should be moving forward with comprehensive climate legislation, not having to defend reality against those who refuse to believe in science or are in the pocket of big oil or big coal interests.”

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