On Tuesday, Representative Derek Kilmer introduced two amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to help servicemembers find jobs and authorize overtime for civilian shipyard workers overseas. The amendments will be considered by the House Rules Committee for inclusion in the NDAA bill set to be debated on the floor this week in the House.
Rep. Kilmer’s amendment on veteran employment – cosponsored by Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs – would encourage companies to hire veterans who are leaving the service, recently left, or have been unemployed or underemployed. It would create a pilot program within the Department of Defense that any business, regardless of size, could participate in. Businesses putting veterans on their payroll would see that factored into their bids for government contracts.
“Many veterans who have sacrificed on our behalf find a tough job market when they leave the armed forces,” said Kilmer. “I want to make sure we don’t forget our obligation to servicemembers. That’s why I’m introducing legislation that provides another reason for businesses interested in federal contracts to hire veterans and give them a chance to succeed in the civilian workforce.”
In 2013, the unemployment rate for veterans was 7.3 percent. Washington state’s 6th District is home to more than 25,000 active duty and reserve service members, along with more than 50,000 veterans and their families. Naval Base Kitsap, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and many other important facilities and vessels are located in the 6th District. Many residents (both civilian and servicemembers) also work at nearby Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) – Washington state’s third largest employer.
Rep. Kilmer’s other amendment to the NDAA would authorize overtime payments for shipyard workers who conduct nuclear maintenance on the U.S. aircraft carrier stationed in Japan. Shipyard workers at the Puget Sound Shipyard who volunteer to go overseas will lose the ability to collect overtime from the Navy this September without an extension from Congress.
“Civilian workers at the nation’s shipyards work tirelessly to help keep our naval edge on the seas,” Kilmer continued. “It’s time to ensure that when they go overseas to make needed carrier repairs they get paid the same as they would in the United States. It is not fair for us to ask them to leave their families for four to six months and compensate them less. I hope to see this as part of the National Defense Authorization Act we will discuss on the floor.”
Separately, Representative Kilmer and Representative Cole jointly introduced an amendment to the NDAA to limit the Department’s ability to furlough civilian employees funded through working capital projects when it would not save taxpayers any money.
Since taking office in January, Representative Derek Kilmer has been active both at home and in Washington, DC to work for his constituents. The following report presents Representative Kilmer’s accessibility in the region, a snapshot of benefits secured for his constituents, and a summary of his legislative efforts and accomplishments in his first year in office.
“While Congress itself continues to be something of a ‘fixer-upper,’ I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished for the people of the 6th District this year and I’m excited about how much more we can do in the coming year,” said Representative Derek Kilmer. “I’ll continue to work in a bipartisan way to get Congress back to work, to build on the recent budget agreement and move toward a long-term fiscal plan, to help our neighbors cut through red tape, and to continue producing results on the issues that matter the most to our region.”
Accessible to His Constituents
- Rep. Kilmer has made it a priority to be accessible to his constituents so he can hear what’s on their minds and help them with their problems. To that end, he has held or been accessible at the following events:
- First and foremost, as a former economic developer, Rep. Kilmer has held 53 “Kilmer at Your Company” visits. During these events, he typically receives a tour or speaks briefly with the heads of businesses, and is accessible to employees so he can hear what’s on their minds.
- 10 Public Town Halls
- 4 Telephone Town Halls
- 3 Open Office Hours
- 2 Derek on Your Docks where he visited with commuters at the Kingston and Bainbridge island ferry docks
- 4 Farmers Markets visits
- 15 Rotary Meetings
- 15 Chamber Meetings
- Over 60 festivals, county fairs, and annual community events
- Reached out to every mayor in the 6th District
- Visited with leaders of all nine tribes located in the 6th District
- Visited every major military command and facility
Helping Constituents Cut Through Red Tape
- Representative Kilmer’s office has been active in helping over 500 constituents cut through red tape and resolve problems. To date, the total casework savings returned to constituents by Rep. Kilmer’s office is over half a million dollars.
- Total Casework Savings for Constituents: $615,440.00
- Medicare à $166,252
- Department of Veterans Affairs/Defense Finance Accounting Service à $161,387
- Social Security Administration à $105,928
- Office of Personnel Management à $21,373
- IRS à $160,500
Working in a Bipartisan Manner
- In his first year in office, Rep. Kilmer has established himself as a Member of Congress who will work across the aisle to solve problems for Washington’s families. Rep. Kilmer is a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus and a part of the “Bipartisan Working Group” which meets every week to discuss how to move past partisanship to create progress.
- Rep. Kilmer is a cosponsor of the Problems Solvers Government Reform Agenda which includes provisions such as No Budget No Pay, procurement reform, and other ideas to save taxpayers money.
Fighting Against Sequestration and Shutdown
- On March 1, when the across-the-board cuts caused by sequestration went into place, Rep. Kilmer stood outside the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard gate to greet workers as they arrived.
- When sequestration led to Department of Defense (DoD) furloughs, the Department wrongly furloughed employees at Working Capital Fund sites. Those workers are legally protected from furloughs and aren’t directly funded by taxpayer dollars. In response, Rep. Kilmer led a bipartisan letter and passed an amendment on the floor of the House to exempt those employees from future sequestration-related furloughs.
- In response to concerns he heard from shipyard workers, Rep. Kilmer passed another amendment to ensure that civilian workers wouldn’t lose their security clearances just because they’ve been furloughed as a result of sequestration. Rep. Kilmer also introduced legislation to ease the financial hardship on those civilian employees who needed to make emergency withdrawals from their retirement accounts.
- Thousands of civilian workers were furloughed because Congress failed to do its job and replace sequestration. Just as Congress came together to provide backpay to federal workers who lost pay as a result of the government shutdown, Rep. Kilmer introduced the bipartisan Federal Employee Pay Restoration Act to ensure that we continue to support our federal workforce.
- When Congress could not reach a compromise to keep federal agencies funded Rep. Kilmer voluntarily gave up his own pay for the duration of the government shutdown.
- When Congress finally passed a bipartisan budget, Rep. Kilmer voted to help avert a government shutdown, and halt most of the damaging across-the-board cuts that have hurt our region. Rep. Kilmer continues to call on Congress to put together a plan to deal with our long-term fiscal health and get folks back to work.
Supporting Economic Growth, Financial Stability and Investments in our Future
- Given the strong role of the military in our region, Rep. Kilmer passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to reauthorize a program known as the IT Exchange Program to provide for workforce exchanges between the DoD and private employers.
- As a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Rep. Kilmer has been active in the effort to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, a bill focused on strengthening national research policy and STEM education efforts to improve American competitiveness. Specifically, he led an effort of the New Democratic Coalition to develop a list of strong legislative principles for the reauthorization effort.
- Rep. Kilmer introduced the bipartisan Transfer Act to support early commercialization of research efforts and expand economic development from early research. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee voted in December to move the legislation forward.
- Recognizing the need to invest in our workforce, Rep. Kilmer introduced the Skills Investment Act, which would help workers save for education and job training through the establishment of worker-owned, employer-matched savings plans called Lifelong Learning Accounts.
- Rep. Kilmer introduced the bipartisan American Savings Promotion Act, a bill to make it easier for financial institutions to offer products that incentivize individuals to build their savings. This bill was recently featured on PBS Newshour.
- As our military installations face encroachment challenges, Rep. Kilmer led a delegation letter to Gov. Inslee and successfully pushed for funding key investments to ensure the long-term viability of these national assets.
- As Congress considers final passage of the Farm Bill, Rep. Kilmer is pushing for strong funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
- Our communities are made stronger when loving families open their hearts and homes to needy children and become adoptive parents. Rep. Kilmer introduced the Adoption Tax Credit Tribal Parity Act, which would ensure that parents who adopt Native American children with special needs get the tax relief that Congress intended for them to have.
Preserving Natural Resources
- Rep. Kilmer worked closely with Rep. Heck to create the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus devoted exclusively to promoting Puget Sound cleanup efforts.
- Rep. Kilmer is working on legislation to help strengthen our ability to monitor ocean acidification to protect our natural resources and local economic engines.
- Rep. Kilmer established a collaborative that will bring together a wide range of stakeholders looking to move past the timber wars of the past and instead focus on what steps we can take to promote forest health and support economic growth in our region.
Supporting Servicemembers, Veterans, and their Families
- After hearing from servicemembers and veterans who have experienced discrimination, Rep. Kilmer introduced legislation that would prohibit discrimination against veterans and servicemembers seeking employment or housing opportunities.
- Rep. Kilmer’s Veterans Advisory Group has kicked off several initiatives to ensure that those who have served get the resources they need.
- Native American veterans face obstacles in receiving federal assistance to help fight homelessness. Rep. Kilmer introduced the Housing Native Heroes Act to ensure that the successful HUD-VASH voucher program can help reduce homelessness among our Native American veterans.
Protecting National Security
- The threat of cyber attacks represents one of our nation’s largest national security challenges, but cybersecurity technologies are also an emerging industry within our region. Rep. Kilmer is pursuing ways to connect local institutions of higher learning with federal agencies and the private sector to provide valuable on-the-job training in the cyber field.
- Our intelligence and law enforcement officials must have the resources they need to keep us safe but there must also be clear and firm rules to guide their work so Americans’ civil liberties are protected. Rep. Kilmer was active in the effort to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing & Protection Act.
- Rep. Kilmer is working with his colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee to refine the way that the government spends taxpayer money, pursuing opportunities for procurement reform.
- Rep. Kilmer used his position on the House Armed Services Committee to advocate for critical infrastructure investments at Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. These projects will help our service members and civilian employees execute their missions and help to ensure our installations remain strong into the future.
Investing in Local Infrastructure
- Ports are essential engines of economic growth throughout our region. As the House considers final passage of the Water Resources Development Act, Rep. Kilmer is pushing to maintain provisions that support our small ports and harbors and help address the “donor port” status that creates competitiveness issues for the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle.
- After reaching out to a number of stakeholders, Rep. Kilmer helped stand up an infrastructure working group focused on addressing the needs of the South Kitsap Industrial Area.
- Communities throughout our region are today vulnerable due to the threat posed by a tsunami. Rep. Kilmer is working at both the state and federal level to enhance coastal resiliency.