South Jersey's Priorities in the New Year
While the calendar may have moved forward, several key issues facing South Jersey remain as Congress returns this week.
My immediate focus will be on legislation to address the serious financial strain facing a great number of South Jersey residents - particularly those still recovering from Superstorm Sandy - due to extreme increases in their flood insurance premiums. For several months, I’ve been part of a task force supported by the House Republican Leadership charged with finding a common-sense solution in this divided Congress to this national problem. While the current increases will ensure full-risk costs are covered by policyholders – and not taxpayers at large – there is bipartisan agreement that the steep rise of premiums in addition to rebuilding costs and sluggish economic growth locally is too much all at once for many families to manage. I anticipate Congressional action on this issue in the coming weeks.
Over the long-term, fostering a pro-business environment that encourages hiring and capital investments remains the top priority. With stubborn double-digit unemployment in much of our region, we must invest in job-creating initiatives that will benefit South Jersey and the nation.
Just last week we secured a significant opportunity for our region. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the New Jersey-Virginia partnership was selected as one of six test sites for the integration of commercial unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace. Leading our state’s Congressional delegation, I highlighted the unique assets of South Jersey – from the expertise of the employees at the FAA Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township and physical facilities at the Atlantic City International Airport to our proximity to restricted airspace - as we created a solid working relationship with Virginia to strengthen our application against 22 other states.
In my view, the opportunities from winning this designation for our region cannot be overstated. As FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “We have successfully brought new technology into the nation’s aviation system for more than 50 years, and I have no doubt we will do the same with unmanned aircraft.” I wholeheartedly agree and envision the active participation and partnership of the private sector in South Jersey, providing economic growth and potential job opportunities in the aviation field.
Residents should be aware that unmanned aircrafts to be tested in our region are not the military “drones” you read about in combat zones or see in movies. These are small-scale, weight-restricted systems that are prohibited from being weaponized. As the test sites are set up over the coming months, data from each site will be sent to the FAA Technical Center, who has been working on unmanned aircraft systems for several years. Furthermore, each site will have specific public regulations to protect the privacy of surrounding residents – from operating restrictions to limits on use. With a future eye towards widespread commercial use and integration into the national airspace, Congress continues to evaluate further legislative options to address civil liberty concerns and I will remain actively engaged.
Finally, we cannot lose sight that the greatest drag on our economy is the uncertainty surrounding Obamacare and its disastrous implementation. While President Obama has arbitrarily delayed several provisions in his signature healthcare law, the most egregious parts remain. We need to dismantle Obamacare’s tax penalties and job-crushing mandates. While I support prohibiting the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and helping seniors with prescription drug coverage, the destruction of the traditional 40-hour work week, rise in premiums for many small businesses, and loss of existing coverage will stop any momentum of recent economic growth in its tracks.
From securing our borders and immigration reform to reducing our $17 trillion debt and extending unemployment benefits for those in greatest need, complicated issues remain for Congress to tackle despite the change in the calendar. One thing that will not change, however, is how I will approach my work on the issues that are important to South Jersey. Whether its additional services for veterans to ensuring our beach replenishment projects continue as scheduled, I have been proud to work with my colleagues on legislation and initiatives that are critical to communities in our state.
More importantly, my dedication and accessibility to South Jersey residents will not change. My single greatest focus is serving the residents of New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional district. For constituents navigating bureaucratic red-tape or needing assistance with federal agencies, my office and I remain willing to assist. Anyone needing assistance should contact my Mays Landing office at 609.625.5008 or toll-free at 1.800.471.4450.
While 2014 is certainly going to be a challenging year, working together it can also be an exciting time for South Jersey.