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Work Week with Congressman Faso
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Responding to the South Florida School Shooting

The tragic school shooting in Florida highlights the need to ensure that those who should not have a firearm, such as the Florida shooter, are not able to purchase one. We know that the FBI and local sheriff's office both received numerous warnings of the shooter's instability and violent behavior. Despite those warnings, nothing was done. The school shooter should have been ineligible to purchase any sort of firearm, including an AR-15.

Congress and state legislatures need to improve systems so that background checks are done correctly and that there is accountability when failures occur. Previously, I have supported and continue to support strengthened background check proposals like the one included in the ‘Fix-NICS’ legislation originally written by the bipartisan team of Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

Additionally, fully automatic weapons are subject to highly restrictive regulation and any device that essentially turns a semiautomatic weapon into an automatic weapon should be treated similarly. I agree with President Trump's decision to direct the Department of Justice to ban bump stocks.

Finally, we should also seriously consider raising the age for purchase of semiautomatic firearms to age 21 as well as other measures to better protect schools and other potentially vulnerable locations.

Community Building with Habitat for Humanity

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a dedication in Valatie for two new homes built by Columbia County Habitat for Humanity (CCHFH). These homes were built to be energy efficient in order to significantly decrease maintenance and upkeep costs. The new homeowners worked hard to qualify for Habitat’s assistance and the homes are a wonderful addition to the community.

On Thursday, I met with the Executive Director of CCHFH Brenda Adams to discuss additional ways we can work together to improve our communities. Much of the loan financing originates with the US Department of Agriculture and I’ll be working with Habitat to examine how we can streamline the application process. 

Habitat for Humanity is also strongly in favor of my legislation to require a comparable negligence standard for construction projects utilizing federal funds. My legislation, which was recently reported out of the House Judiciary Committee, would preempt any state law not utilizing comparable negligence.  New York is the only state that has such a law and state leaders of Habitat have informed me that this requirement is jeopardizing their ability to secure insurance covering volunteer workers on projects like this one in Valatie. I will continue to advocate for reforms which will lower taxes and make it easier to do business in Upstate New York. 

Learning more about Coast Guard Operations in NY

The Coast Guard plays a critical role managing the waterways in and around New York. I spent Wednesday morning learning more about the Coast Guard operations on the Hudson River on the cutter Penobscot Bay as guest of Rear Admiral Steven Poulin. Coast Guard ice cutting operations are vital during winter months to keep the river open to commercial traffic between Albany and New York City. Admiral Poulin and I also discussed a range of issues regarding the Coast Guard’s role in navigation safety and homeland security in the Hudson Valley.

Hudson Valley Duck Producers

I took a tour of Hudson Valley Foie Gras to learn more about their poultry business. HVFG specializes in a variety of high-end duck and chicken products, and along with fellow Sullivan County producer La Belle Farm, the companies combine for $60 million in annual gross sales. The companies employ hundreds of workers in the area.

As part of our discussion, HVFG also raised the ongoing negotiations regarding DACA. The company employs a number of workers who have registered in the DACA program and I reiterated my view that Congress needs to enact legislation to provide eligible DACA recipients with permanent US residency.

Three Upstate Hospitals Benefit in Bipartisan Budget Deal

The bipartisan budget deal included an extension of the Low-Volume (LV) Hospital Adjustment program, which benefits three hospitals in the 19th district. Aurelia Osborn Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta, Catskill Regional Medical Center in Sullivan County, and Cobleskill Regional Hospital in Schoharie County all qualify for assistance under the LV program.

The LV program assists these hospitals in providing quality care in medically underserved areas. I’m glad the bipartisan budget deal addressed this important issue and I look forward to finding other ways to assist hospitals in delivering high quality care.

Ames Volunteer Fire Department Monthly Breakfast
It was a pleasure to attend the Ames Volunteer Fire Department monthly breakfast in Montgomery County. The Fire Department, led by Chief Shawn Bowderman, has tremendous community support as evidenced by the overflow crowd.

Additionally, FEMA has recently opened the grant process for Fire Prevention and Safety Grants. These grants are awarded to departments for educational projects designed to promote fire safety. The application process is open until March 16th and additional information is available here.

Working with Local Leaders and Organizations in our Fight Against Opioids

In our Kingston office, I met with representatives of Catholic Charities to learn about their efforts in Ulster and Sullivan counties to help individuals that are battling with opioid addiction. The organization was recently awarded a 2-year, $4 million grant by the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services as part of the federally funded State Targeted Opioid Response Project. They will be using the grant to assist those in hard-to-reach areas of Sullivan and Ulster Counties who are in need of treatment and recovery support.

Thursday, I hosted a call with nearly two dozen representatives from county health departments and non-profit treatment programs throughout the 19th District. We discussed how federal funding impacts our local response to the opioid epidemic and identified where gaps still exist and need to be addressed. Among the things I learned are the gaps in care which occur for those incarcerated in local jails. I will be continuing to work with these leaders and ensure that they have the resources and support necessary to fulfill their mission.

Spurring Technological Advancement to Address Climate Change

I joined my colleague Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) in introducing the bipartisan Challenges and Prizes for Climate Act of 2018 to spur innovation in key areas to combat climate change. The legislation, which utilizies existing federal prize authority, encourages public-private partnerships, pays only for performance, and accelerates technology and market development.

Increased efficiency and continued technological innovation in clean energy will help the U.S. economy grow in the coming decades. We should do all we can to incentivize progress and assist the private sector economy in innovating and inspiring technological changes which will reduce the impact of climate change. This legislation is a step in the right direction in terms of incentivizing real progress through public-private partnerships. I was happy to join Rep. Lipinski in introducing this bi-partisan legislation.

I am pleased to see the Audubon Society expressed their support for this innovative bill and will continue to find ways to spur technological advancement to address our changing climate.

Local Ingredients Make Great Local Products
I visited Taconic Distillery in Dutchess County to learn more about their business and the process of creating their spirits.

Taconic Distillery is part of a rich tradition of Upstate food and beverage producers who utilize local ingredients to create high quality products. Taconic uses locally grown grains, along with fresh spring water from their farm.

Tax Filing Season Approaching

Tax filing deadlines are approaching. The Volunteer Tax Assistance (VITA) program and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offer free tax help to those who need assistance.

The IRS website has more information on these services, including a site locator so you can find a convenient location to visit along with phone numbers to utilize.

Improving Rail Safety
Last week, I chaired a hearing of the Rail Subcommittee and asked a representative of Amtrak about the difficulty of implementing new technological safety measures. The committee received an update on installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) which all passenger and freight lines are supposed to install by the end of 2018. We heard progress in this regard, but I remain concerned about passenger rail and the slow progress on PTC in some areas. I will continue to remain focused on this important issue.

Watch our exchage during a hearing of the Transportation Committee.

Upcoming Mobile Office Hours
Are you in need of assistance from a federal agency? Or have you been in contact with a federal agency and need an advocate? My office will be holding mobile office hours at Amenia Town Hall at 4988 Route 22, Amenia, NY on February 28th from 11 am - 1 pm.

A member of my staff will able to assist you with veterans benefits claims, social security inquiries, or any other casework issue you may have. You can contact my district office in Kingston at (845) 514-2322 for any questions or concerns.

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