Rep. Curtis, Gov. Herbert Speak at Cato Event on State-Based Visas

Rep. Curtis, Gov. Herbert Speak at Cato Event on State-Based Visas

February 11,  2020

Washington, DC — Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) joined Utah Governor Gary Herbert for a discussion at Cato Institute to discuss state-based visas and his bill the State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act of 2019. Introduced last November, the legislation would create a new state-sponsored temporary worker visa pilot program.

“States are far better equipped to know the needs of their individual economies than the federal government is. My State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act grants states the flexibility to tailor a visa program based on their industries and needs. It will create an additional tool to connect workers with industries that are most in need and allow visa holders flexibility to move throughout the state as employment opportunities and demands shift. There’s no quick fix to our immigration system, but I am excited to be proposing real common-sense solutions to address the problem.”

Background

The legislation will:

  • Create a pilot program at the Department of Homeland Security for states to opt-in and sponsor three-year visas.
  • Allow states the flexibility to customize their visa allocations based on each state’s unique economy and needs.
  • Incentivize states to comply with program rules in order to earn additional visas the next year.
  • Encourage states to enter into compacts, giving additional flexibility to visa holders and employers to move seasonal workers between them as needed.

Full text of the bill is available [HERE]. FAQ available via PDF [HERE]

The Congressman’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

“One thing I consistently hear from business owners in my district is that they need access to workers across many industries. For example, there is a landscaping company in Orem that has had a hard time getting enough workers under our current visa system and their business has suffered because of it. An excavator in Utah is being offered more work than he can handle with his current workforce. He has the equipment for 2 more crews, but because he can’t find consistent, dependable workers, his equipment is sitting idle. These are just two examples of how the current visa programs are not sufficient.

Our current immigration system is broken and in desperate need for modernization and reform. As with most things, one-size-fits-all programs and solutions do not completely address the problems that our communities are facing. Each state has unique industries and employment opportunities, and our current immigration system doesn’t fully recognize these differences. Utah’s economy is very different than Louisiana’s or California’s and thus have different employment needs.

As a former mayor, I know first-hand that the layer of government closest to the problem generally comes up with the best solutions. States are far better equipped to know the needs of their individual economies than the federal government is. My State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act grants states the flexibility to tailor a visa program based on their industries and needs. It will create an additional tool to connect workers with industries that are most in need and allow visa holders flexibility to move throughout the state as employment opportunities and demands shift.

There’s no quick fix to our immigration system, but I am excited to be proposing real common-sense solutions to address the problem.”

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Curtis, Bishop, Stewart Send Letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator

Curtis, Bishop, Stewart Send Letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator

February 10,  2020

 

Washington, DC — Representative John Curtis (R-UT), joined by his colleagues Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and  Chris Stewart (R-UT), sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services leadership offering support for the agency’s Health Adult Opportunity proposal. The federal agency announced the proposal last week, which gives states the ability to customize their Medicaid programs based on the needs of their citizens. Click for PDF.

 

“In Utah, we take the responsibility to provide for ourselves and for our families seriously. We also understand the importance of showing compassion, and giving back to those in need,” said Curtis. “This achieves both of these objectives and I am happy to see the agency truly putting energy into delivering high-quality care.”

 

“This proposal grants Utah the flexibility to customize care for our most vulnerable citizens. It is also a step in the right direction of containing ballooning health care costs,” said Bishop. “I appreciate the agency’s continued commitment to providing states the ability to tailor programs that meet their unique needs.”

 

“Utah has always been a leader in finding innovative ways to provide high-quality healthcare to its citizens that are most vulnerable,” said Stewart. “Healthcare needs are dynamic and constantly changing, so it’s encouraging to see the federal government recognizing the need for flexibility. This policy is about compassion and sustainability, and will ultimately allow states to focus resources towards those who need help the most.” 

 

Background

 

Medicaid is a federal and state safety net program designed to offer wrap-around health care services for individuals or families with limited resources. These populations include seniors, individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities, or those living in severe poverty.

 

The 2010 Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act (ACA) gave states the ability to apply for waivers to expand their Medicaid programs, which permitted able-bodied adults and non-US citizens to become eligible to receive services under the health care program. Now, the federal government is responsible for financing most of these expanded programs, which consequentially divert precious dollars from other programs that help struggling individuals, create significant delays in care driven by an increased demand for services, and lead to higher health care costs in private insurance markets.

 

The proposal is a positive step to help control unsustainable spending and places the focus back on delivering high-quality health care for our sickest patients. This change would also lead to more Americans receiving insurance through private markets and help to drive down premiums for the millions of hard-working American families enrolled in the private health care exchanges. Most importantly, the policy protects qualified Medicaid recipients by requiring states to continue offering essential health benefits that serve as the bedrock of the program.

 

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Curtis, Bipartisan Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Boost Funding for Recreational Trails

Curtis, Bipartisan Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Boost Funding for Recreational Trails

February 9,  2020

Washington, DC — Representative John Curtis (R-UT), Deputy Republican Leader of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee, along with Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Angie Craig (D-MN) introduced legislation that will more than double funding for the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). Since 1991, RTP has provided funding to states to develop and maintain outdoor recreational trails, allowing millions of Americans and their families to enjoy activities such as off-roading, snowmobiling, hiking, bicycling, and cross-country skiing.

“The Recreational Trails Program has created countless opportunities for motorized recreation and human-powered experiences,” said Curtis. “This bill will ensure that future generations get to visit the great outdoors, while supporting local economies and jobs, especially throughout rural areas.” 

Our nation has an unparalleled natural beauty that provides year-round opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors,” said Welch. “Boosting funding for this important program will ensure that future generations will experience the joy of hiking and exploring our scenic trails for many years to come.”

“I’m excited to introduce the Recreational Trails Full Funding Act of 2020 with Rep. Welch to make sure folks have quality trails to enjoy Minnesota’s four seasons for hiking, cross country skiing and taking their ATV’s out,” said Craig. “Not only will this bill invest in these opportunities right now, but it also makes sure future generations of Minnesotans and visitors can experience the beauty of the Minnesota River Valley and our well-traveled trails from Zumbrota to Cottage Grove.”

Statements of Support

Bud Bruening, President of UTV Utah:

“UTV Utah supports the Recreational Trails Program Full Funding Act of 2020. Motorized recreation is one of the largest contributors to the outdoor recreation economy, and we welcome any improvements to programs that are designed to invest in motorized recreation.”

Clif Koontz, Executive Director of Ride with Respect:

“Trail use is growing, yet the USFS and BLM’s recreation budgets are dwindling, so more funding is desperately needed to protect the trails and their surroundings. If the RTP budget were to become several-times larger, we are confident that all of it would be put to good use. Those funds would boost local economies since trails are a key amenity for tourists and residents alike. For these reasons, Ride with Respect wholeheartedly supports the RTP Full Funding Act of 2020, and we appreciate your initiative on this vital issue.” Full letter [HERE].

Ben Burr, Policy Director of BlueRibbon Coalition/ShareTrails:

“The RTP framework has resulted in positive investments into recreational access. However, there is room for improvement in how the funding for the program is determined, and there is a need for increased transparency to ensure all members of the outdoor recreation community benefit as intended. The Recreational Trails Full Funding Act of 2020 is a great step towards correcting these deficiencies in the program.”

Background

The bill will more than double RTP funding to at least $250 million. The program is modeled after the Highway Trust Fund and is funded through taxes paid on gasoline used to fuel snowmobiles, ATVs, and other recreational vehicles that do not use highways. The program is currently funded at $84 million annually, which is substantially less than is collected in taxes on fuel used by these vehicles.

The Recreational Trails Full Funding Act of 2020:

  • Requires the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to estimate the amount of gas taxes paid by non-highway recreational users. The current estimate is more than a decade old, but suggests that those users pay more than $270 million.
  • Increases RTP funding from $84 million to $250 million.
  • Increases the transparency of the programs funded.

The legislation is also cosponsored by Reps. Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Mike Simpson (R-ID).

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Curtis, Garamendi, Romney, Bennett Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Emergency Wildfire Cleanup Bill

Curtis, Garamendi, Romney, Bennett Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Emergency Wildfire Cleanup Bill

January 20,  2020

Washington, DC — Representative John Curtis (R-UT), Deputy Republican Leader of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee, along with Representative John Garamendi (D-CA) and Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the Making Access to Cleanup Happen (MATCH) Act.

In September 2019, Rep. Curtis hosted US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources and Environment Under Secretary James Hubbard and senior USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service officials in Utah County for a roundtable discussion with local elected leaders, state officials, and USDA Forest Service representatives. Among other topics, they discussed ways to address wildfire cleanup challenges and how to improve the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program. See [HERE] for more information.

Working with the USDA, Congressman Curtis was able to take the solutions from the roundtable and develop the MATCH Act, bipartisan legislation that will expedite disaster cleanup, save taxpayers money, and prevent further disasters.

“After a wildfire disaster, the land is left at its most vulnerable. Rehabilitation and protection efforts must be quickly implemented to guard against further damage, and in most cases, the workload continues to increase as a project waits for the federal government’s approval,” said Curtis. “I am proud to introduce the Making Access To Cleanup Happen (MATCH) Act to allow certain watershed rehabilitation work, carried out by a sponsor before the Emergency Watershed Protection project is approved, count toward the sponsor’s required financial contribution to the overall project. This change will allow communities the flexibility that they need to recover from wildfire more quickly without using any additional taxpayer dollars.”

“California is experiencing historically devastating wildfires with regularity and a year-long wildfire season. We must take forward-thinking steps to recover from wildfires as quickly as possible to support our communities. The MATCH Act takes critical steps to prioritize wildfire prevention and recovery, and I am proud to support this legislation,” Garamendi said.

“After seeing the many bureaucratic hurdles communities in Utah and Duchesne counties faced after the wildfires of 2018, Congressman Curtis and I are advocating on behalf of local leaders to streamline the mitigation process,” Romney said. “Our legislation will cut through the red tape that local communities face in the aftermath of wildfires to make it easier for them to recover.”

“Communities that take steps to mitigate damage in the wake of destructive fires deserve a reliable partner in the federal government. The Emergency Watershed Protection Program is a valuable tool for post-fire recovery in Colorado and throughout the West, but communities often face significant hurdles accessing funding quickly,” said Bennet. “This bipartisan, bicameral bill help relieve some of the burden on local project sponsors and improve the effectiveness of EWP for wildfire recovery.”

Statements of Support

Utah Governor Gary Herbert:

“As a former county commissioner myself, I applaud Senator Romney and Representative Curtis for their leadership in giving communities the tools to prevent or recover from wildfires. The first responsibility of county leaders is to protect their residents, and anything Congress can do to provide more flexibility for federal funds is a welcome improvement.”

Tanner Ainge, Chairman of the Utah County Commission:

“We are grateful for the work of Senator Romney and Congressman Curtis for their prompt and direct response to challenges we have been facing after the Bald Mountain and Pole Creek fires. This legislation will cut through the bureaucratic red tape we face and help our county and our impacted communities as they continue to recover from the damage caused by these fires.”

Ty Ellis, Mayor, Elk Ridge:

“The MATCH Act will eliminate the crippling delay we encountered after the Bald Mountain Fire. Had this been in place during last year’s fire season, we would be better equipped to handle the threats we will face this summer from wildfires. We appreciate Senator Romney and Congressman Curtis for hearing our concern and doing something about it.”

Kari Malkovich, Woodland Hills City Council Member:

“I appreciate the efforts of Congressman Curtis and Senator Romney in helping local communities recover from the aftermath of a natural disaster. The MATCH Act will greatly assist the city of Woodland Hills in our post-fire mitigation efforts as we prepare for potential flooding, debris flow, and mudslides after the devastating Bald Mountain/Pole Creek fires of 2018.”

Background

This bill will:

  • Direct the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a list of watershed rehabilitation activities for potential EWP sponsors to carry out prior to project approval.
  • Direct the NRCS to establish a procedure for potential EWP sponsors to consult with state NRCS offices about additional pre-approval watershed rehabilitation work.
  • Ensure that those activities count towards the program’s required 25% sponsor match.

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In Light of White Mesa Uranium Mill Layoffs, Rep. Curtis Commits to Creating New Economic Opportunities in Rural Utah

In Light of White Mesa Uranium Mill Layoffs, Rep. Curtis Commits to Creating New Economic Opportunities in Rural Utah

January 16, 2020

Washington, DC— Rep. John Curtis (R-UT),  spoke on the House Floor in support of the residents of San Juan County, Utah in light of a round of layoffs at the White Mesa uranium mill. Changes in the global uranium market have affected mill operations with a result of 30% employees being let go. The mill is the largest private employer in San Juan County.

“This mill has provided families with good incomes and generated tax dollars to help the local infrastructure. In fact, this facility is the largest private employer in San Juan County. I am committed to creating new economic opportunities in rural areas. Rural Utahns deserve the same quality of life that their urban friends have, including access to broadband, quality medical care, and good-paying jobs. I will continue to work in Congress to bring these vital services to rural Utah. While it has been a difficult week for many in San Juan County, I know the community will be resilient and persevere.”

Full text of the speech, as prepared for delivery, is below:

“I rise today in support of hard-working Utahns in the uranium industry in San Juan County, and especially those who have recently lost their jobs at the White Mesa uranium mill and the La Sal uranium mine complex.

Unfortunately, foreign subsidization of uranium production has had a devastating impact on North American production and has affected the mill’s operations, and as a result, roughly 30% of the employees had to be let go at our nation’s last operating uranium mill.

In addition to producing critical minerals, this mill has provided families with good incomes and generated tax dollars to help the local infrastructure. In fact, this facility is the largest private employer in San Juan County.

Since my election to Congress, I have had the privilege to spend significant time in rural parts of Utah, including San Juan County. I appreciate rural Utah’s sense of community, and desire to help their neighbors during a time of need.

Unlike more urban parts of Utah with a business hiring on every corner, rural areas often have fewer economic opportunities. However, the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit I’ve observed among the residents of San Juan County make me confident they’ll successfully fight through this difficult time and ultimately come out stronger for it.

Additionally, I am committed to creating new economic opportunities in rural areas. Rural Utahns deserve the same quality of life that their urban friends have, including access to broadband, quality medical care, and good paying jobs.

I will continue to work in Congress to bring these vital services to rural Utah. While it has been a difficult week for many in San Juan County, I know the community will be resilient and persevere.”

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