Work Week with Congressman John Faso
Friday, June 9, 2017
Table of contents

Week in Review

Talking with Our Graduates at John A. Coleman Catholic High School

Graduation season is upon us. Moms and dads are watching their children take the important next step into adulthood and independence. This week I was honored to provide the commencement address to the 2017 graduating class of John A. Coleman Catholic High School in Ulster County. I am confident that these young men and women will go on to achieve their dreams and make our 19th District proud.

Congressional Art Competition Winners Announced

Our 2017 Congressional Art Competition winner for the 19th District is official! Congratulations to Tadgh O’Halloran on his first-place-winning entry, “Statue of Liberty.” The FDR High School (Staatsburg, Dutchess County) junior’s artwork was selected by a panel of local judges. “Statue of Liberty” and other first-place Congressional Art Competition selections will be displayed in the US Capitol for one year. Our runner-up selection went to “Will Smith,” by Otsego County’s Milford Central School sophomore Andrew Brown. Congratulations, Tadgh and Andrew!

The Congressional Art Competition began in 1982 to provide an opportunity for members of Congress to encourage and recognize the artistic talents of their young constituents. Since then, over 650,000 high school students have been involved with the nationwide competition.

National Dairy Month

June is National Dairy Month. The 19th District is home to more than 5,000 farms and nearly 960,000 acres of farmland. Sales from dairy alone are valued at more than $167 million annually. As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I’m meeting with my Agriculture Advisory Committee back home in the district, and listening to our dairy farmers and farming families as Congress prepares the new Farm Bill.

Lyme Disease Discussion at the Cary Institute

In early May I voted for continued funding to the National Institutes of Health as well as support for expanded Lyme disease research and the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group contained in the 21st Century Cures Act. Our district is at the center of the national Lyme disease public health crisis. More than 10 percent of people living in Columbia County have been diagnosed with Lyme disease since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a member of the Lyme Disease Caucus, I provided remarks to the staff of Millbrook’s Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies this week focused on efforts conducted at the federal level to expand research and prevention tools. Afterwards I participated in the Institute’s science roundtable, featuring President Dr. Joshua Ginsberg; Dr. Richard Ostfeld, Cary Senior Scientist and Lyme expert; Dr. Gary Lovett, Cary Senior Scientist and forest health expert; Dr. Christopher Solomon, Cary Scientist and freshwater expert; Holly Talbot, Cary Director of Administration; and Lori Quillen, Cary Director of Communications.

Meeting with Local AARP Representatives

A challenging long-term budget picture for the United States means that Congress must work harder to keep its promises to our seniors. I was encouraged by the productive meeting I had this week with state and federal AARP representatives in which we discussed Social Security, the caregiver tax credit, healthcare, cost of living for seniors and more. Thanks to Beth Finkel, AARP NYS Director; Leo Asen, AARP NYS President; David Certner, AARP Legislative Counsel (not pictured); and David McNally, AARP NYS Director of Government Affairs, for visiting our office.

73rd D-Day Anniversary

As President Ronald Reagan spoke of Europe on the 40th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, we mark the D-Day remembrance as a “day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty.” Thirty-three years later, we continue to recognize the tremendous courage exhibited by those who fought and died to save a continent from Nazi totalitarianism.

Legislative Corner

Faso Supports Legislation to Lift Burdens on Small Banks and Protect Consumers

The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”), the 2010 failed attempt at financial reform, has run its course, done its damage, and left thousands of small banks and struggling middle-class families in its wake. Since the law’s enactment, we have seen the eight largest banks consolidate into just four; but a more staggering and concerning statistic is that we have seen more than 1,900 community financial institutions disappear.

The problems with Dodd-Frank are numerous, but I believe some of the most egregious impositions have been placed directly on middle- and low-income families. Since its enactment, the number of banks offering free checking accounts had fallen from 75 percent to only 37 percent in 2015. But the implications do not end there. The number of unbanked or underbanked people in the US has spiked by more than 3 million since Dodd-Frank became law. With minimum balance requirements quadrupling and average monthly banking fees tripling over the last seven years, we could not afford these negative impacts any longer.

This week I chose to reject the status quo of the last seven years and support the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10). The CHOICE Act ends “too big to fail” and protects taxpayers from reckless Wall Street risk-taking. The legislation also reduces unnecessary regulations on community banks who were not responsible for the 2008 financial crisis, freeing up capital for community investment. The CHOICE Act also increases penalties on Wall Street for fraud and deceptive practices, gives the Securities and Exchange Commission more power to punish bad actors, allows for more accessible capital formation for small businesses, and truly empowers Americans to create wealth and seek financial freedom. The CHOICE Act passed the House by a vote of 233 to 186. Watch my remarks on the House floor in support of the CHOICE Act here.

Faso’s Local Banking Amendment Passes

Too often we see our local, hometown banks subjected to takeover by larger financial institutions. Many of us have seen our local bank branch close, sign removed, and replaced with a national brand. Although these institutions provide important services to our community, I reject the notion that this is the new normal. A diverse, local banking structure is important to the financial well-being of our neighborhoods and, more broadly, our nation. 

One of the many reasons these closures plague the banking landscape of America involves the inability of small lenders to compete with the bigger guys. Included in the CHOICE Act was an amendment I authored to level the playing field between community banks and the larger firms. Specifically, my amendment makes banks with a “mutual holding company” charter, such as the Bank of Greene County, more attractive to investors, thereby better ensuring their longevity in our communities. My amendment passed with bipartisan support and is included in the CHOICE Act that now awaits action in the Senate.

FFMP Update

The Flexible Flow Management Program (FFMP) was an agreement between New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York City that regulated the flow of water from New York City’s reservoirs at the headwaters of the Delaware River. The program was initially adopted nearly 10 years ago and established exact downstream releases for the NYC reservoir system in the Delaware River Basin.

Unfortunately, the FFMP expired on June 1, 2017 after the negotiating parties refused to come back to the table and engage in further discussion. Without all parties agreeing to an extension or permanent agreement, the FFMP is not allowed to continue and requires the involved parties to revert to the 1983 management plan known as “Revision 1.” With the expiration of the FFMP, New York City is not obligated to release more water than established in Revision 1. Thankfully, New York City is voluntarily releasing more than the required amount of water to protect downstream communities and support the ecological health of the river. However, this is not a permanent solution. All parties must return to the table to negotiate a long-term release agreement that serves our constituents in the 19th District and across the Delaware River Basin.

SNAP Fraud and a Stronger Social Safety Net

As a member of the Agriculture Committee’s Nutrition Subcommittee, I have a zero-tolerance policy for fraud in social insurance programs, especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Fraud and trafficking undermine benefits available to the truly vulnerable, including children. This week I took part in a hearing on SNAP technology and modernization to examine the fraud that’s wasting taxpayer money and reducing the effectiveness of our country’s largest anti-hunger program.

Watch the discussion here or click the image above.

Washington Journal Interview

This week I appeared again on C-span’s “Washington Journal” live call-in program to answer your questions on the federal budget, jobs, Lyme disease prevention, infrastructure, and more.

Watch the program here or click the image above.

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