Fifth District Report
Column by Tom Perriello
When I was sworn in almost a year ago, our economy was on the brink of collapse. While we still have a long way to go toward complete economic recovery, I believe we took actions that prevented the next Great Depression. At the same time, we have made investments in Central and Southern Virginia that will benefit our region’s long-term competitive advantage: improved infrastructure, a well-trained workforce, and getting us ahead of the curve in the new energy economy.
Here is a brief summary of my legislative achievements of 2009:
My first bill, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, was passed into law as part of the stimulus bill. This legislation provides a $2,500 tuition tax credit for higher education that includes the cost of textbooks for the first time.
I worked with Sens. Webb and Warner to pass into law a bill that starts the process of transferring the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA over to the National Park Service, which will ensure its longevity for generations to come.
I have introduced and passed through committee a couple of bills related to Veterans Affairs: one to increase job training benefits for veterans and another to increase health benefits for caregivers of disabled vets.
As part of the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights, which was signed into law earlier this year, I wrote an amendment to set a 6-month minimum on credit card companies’ promotional rates to protect consumers from the tricks and traps of the credit card industry.
As part of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which will increase Pell grants to students in the Fifth District by $88 million, I wrote an amendment to address disparities in early childhood education in rural areas.
To demonstrate my commitment to fiscal responsibility, I voted against the President’s budget and also opposed the release of the second $350 billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or bank bailout.
To support our small farmers, I voted against both FDA regulation of tobacco products and the Food Safety Enhancement Act, which would over-regulate and over-burden our farmers that are so important to our economy.
I was proud to support the Kennedy Serve America Act to triple the number of AmeriCorps members, who provide vital services and provide meaningful training and education opportunities. This bill included my amendment to create a National Service Reserve Corps for situations of national emergency.
I supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – or stimulus bill – which has saved the jobs of teachers and public safety officers all over the Fifth District and put people to work weatherizing homes, in summer youth employment programs, and constructing roads and bridges. Over $300 million in Recovery Act funds have been allocated to the Fifth District just in this first year.
I supported the American Clean Energy and Security Act to shift our energy dollars from petro-dictators overseas to homegrown American energy and jobs for Americans. As part of my mission for energy independence, I convened a Fifth District Energy Summit and created a New Energy Blueprint to put our district at the forefront of this new economic engine.
I supported the Affordable Health Care for America Act so that every Virginian can have access to a doctor they can afford. This bill will bring down premiums for the middle class and small businesses, provide prescription drug relief for 12,500 seniors in the Fifth District, and extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.
Our success this past year comes from the advice and wisdom of all the constituents with whom I have met as I’ve covered over 23,000 miles in my truck and had over 21 town hall meetings in every locality in the district. While I am proud of everything we have accomplished in this first half of my first term in Congress, I know our work is nowhere near done. Even as the national economy begins to recover from this recession, I remain focused on the struggle we face in Central and Southern Virginia. I have been honored to serve the Fifth District in 2009 and I look forward to the privilege of serving in the year to come.
Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit www.perriello.house.gov to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.
Tom Perriello represents the Fifth District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives.