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Updates from Sen. Schatz (July 21-27)



The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has voted unanimously to advance the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act (S. 2250), legislation to reauthorize Brand USA, a successful travel promotion program aimed at boosting international tourism to the United States.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Competitiveness, and Innovation, and 24 other Senators introduced the bipartisan legislation earlier this year to promote Hawaii and other U.S. locations as premier destinations for international visitors. Since introduction, six more senators have cosponsored the bill.

The House of Representatives voted 347-57 to pass H.R. 4450, the House version of the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act.

“Tourism is central to Hawaii’s economy and to good local jobs,” Schatz said. “Reauthorizing Brand USA will help grow our visitor industry and continue promoting Hawaii as one of the best places for international travelers to visit.”

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaii’s tourism industry generated $14.5 billion in total annual visitor spending in 2013, and supported 173,000 jobs.

Brand USA is a non-profit private-public partnership – authorized by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 – dedicated to increasing inbound international travel to the United States. The program is funded by fees paid by international visitors and matching contributions by the private sector, not taxpayer dollars.

Last year, Brand USA increased inbound travel by 2.3 percent, resulting in 1.1 million additional trips and supported more than 53,000 U.S. jobs.

The Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act was introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and cosponsored by Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), David Vitter (R-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wy.), Michael Bennet (D-Co.), Michael Enzi (R-Wy.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

In March, Schatz was named Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Competitiveness, and Innovation and pledged his commitment to reauthorize Brand USA.



President Barack Obama has signed an Executive Order protecting federal contract workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) sent a letter in March with U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and the House LGBT Equality Caucus leadership urging Obama to issue this executive order, which bans discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees by companies that do business with the federal government.

“Decisions at work should be made based on job performance, not on who you are or who you love,” Schatz said. “President Obama’s executive order is an important step towards ending discrimination, but all workers deserve this protection. The Senate has already passed legislation to give all American workers these protections and it’s time for the House to do the same.

Last year, Schatz cosponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide the same workplace anti-discrimination protections offered to federal contractor hires in the executive order to all workers. ENDA passed the Senate by a final vote of 64-32 and is awaiting consideration in the House.

Federal contractors employ more than 20 percent of the American workforce and receive about $500 billion from federal taxpayers every year.

Today, only 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws barring an employer from firing or refusing to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation.

The executive order will protect 11 million more American workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and up to 16.5 million more American workers from discrimination based on gender identity, according to the Williams Institute.



The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) announced an agreement on legislation to improve accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and give veterans the flexibility to seek care in their community should the VA be unable to provide care in a timely manner.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, who has repeatedly called for improvements at the VA following a troubling report detailing long wait times at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center in Honolulu, praised the bipartisan agreement.

The agreement also makes way for a major new VA medical facility on Oahu, which will help cut wait times and improve access to health care for veterans on Oahu.

“If there’s one area where Democrats and Republicans should be able to come together to find common ground, it’s making sure veterans have the health care they need,” Schatz said. “This is a great bipartisan step in the right direction that will make way for the ALOHA Center on Oahu and double clinical services for veterans on the island.”

Last week, Schatz met with President Obama’s VA secretary nominee, Robert McDonald.

During the meeting, McDonald pledged his support to working as expeditiously as possible to completing the ALOHA Center on Oahu.

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