Fix those Locks!
White House Commits to Soo Locks Renovation!
1000-foot long Laker ships loaded with Minnesota Iron Range iron ore and other products from our region make their way from Lake Superior through the Soo Locks and into the rest of the Great Lakes chain toward the St. Lawrence seaway.
Vital to our national economy and our national security, the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan are the gateway through which 13 percent of our annual Gross National Product - much of it Iron Range iron ore and other Minnesota products - move from Lake Superior through the Great Lakes chain and up the St. Lawrence Seaway. As we have repeatedly pointed out to the President, the Department of Homeland Security has concluded that an unexpected closure of the locks for six months or more would throw the Nation into another great depression and cost some 11 million people their jobs.
Now, our bipartisan pleas to the President to get behind $625 million in desperately needed repairs and upgrades for the Locks appear to be getting through. At a rally in Michigan last week, he promised to get the project moving. And in return, I joined Democrats and Republicans from across the Great Lakes region in a letter promising to help secure all the support necessary here in Congress.
This map shows the strategic importance of the Soo Locks as the one and only link between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes chain leading up to the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Homeland Security study further concluded that within six weeks of an unexpected closure at the Soo Locks, 75 percent of all U.S. steel production would cease. The steel shutdown would reverberate through the supply chain, closing down Iron Range mines and the production of automobiles, farm equipment, appliances and products necessary for our national defense. And there would be a $1.1 trillion decrease in economic activity.
So the stakes are high, and the President has promised to get the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moving to fix the Soo Locks. I, for one, will support him all the way – and join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in holding the Administration's feet to the fire to make certain it gets done.
We will keep you posted as events proceed. Meanwhile, I want to hear your thoughts. Feel free to contact any of our offices listed below or send me an email.
Nolan Bill Encourages Charitable Volunteer Drivers to Keep Going
Volunteer charitable drivers make a life changing difference by helping those in need get to the places they need to go.
We need to fix the federal tax code to ensure a fair shake for volunteer drivers – especially those in rural areas – who help needy military Veterans, seniors, low-income residents, those with disabilities and folks on Medical Assistance get from place to place. So I’ve introduced the Volunteer Driver Tax Appreciation Act to do just that. Our bill, which is also cosponsored by Congressman Collin Peterson, would equalize the charitable rate (14 cents) with the rate allowed for business travel, which for 2018 is 54.5 cents.
In short, our bill would simplify tax reporting requirements so volunteer drivers would no longer need to report reimbursements of up to 54.5 cents as income if they receive a 1099 federal tax form. Under present law, volunteer drivers must report any reimbursement above 14 cents per mile as income from non-profit organizations like the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency here in the 8th District.
The current rate is too low. It’s unfair, it discourages charity, and it doesn’t reflect the true cost when volunteers use their own vehicles to provide others with rides to the hospital, the VA clinic, the grocery store, the senior center or countless other places they need to go.
The simple fact is that we need to encourage volunteer drivers to continue to make a real difference for people in need. According to the National Volunteer Transportation Center, every year some 55,000 charitable drivers provide more than 5 million rides averaging about 12 round trip miles each. They make these remarkable contributions without much recognition or fanfare. This simple fix to the tax code is a way to show our gratitude for their hard work and dedication.
Under GOP Tax Bill, Richest 1% of Americans Walk Away with the National Treasury
Phil Hands, editorial cartoonist for the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, pretty much nails the GOP tax bill in three panels.
A majority of Americans have already figured out that the so-called Republican tax “reform” plan primarily benefits the richest one percent of people least in need while shortchanging middle class working families who need a tax break the most.
According to the latest NBC News – Wall Street Journal poll, more than half of those interviewed turned thumbs down on the GOP measure. They’re well aware that the big winners are millionaires, billionaires and wealthy multinational corporations who reap the lion’s share of a $1.5 trillion tax cut working families and future generations will pay for.
Or to put it another way, most folks now understand that the rich are scoring a shiny new Mercedes while the middle class gets the hubcaps.
But now, at least one prominent Republican is openly admitting that the GOP tax bill is leaving most American workers out in the cold. In a recent interview with The Economist, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who once said he was “proud” to vote for the bill, put it this way:
|"There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers. In fact there is no evidence whatsoever that money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.” (Sen. Rubio)|
Senator Rubio might have added that the Republican tax bill will actually raise taxes on nearly half of all middle class families by 2026 according to a detailed analysis by the New York Times, with about a third of middle class families paying higher taxes beginning this year.
Meanwhile, the bipartisan Joint Economic Committee has estimated that some 73 million taxpayers with incomes between $10,000 and $50,000 will collectively pay $2.9 billion more in individual income taxes beginning in 2027.
And that’s not to mention that the Republican plan sets the stage for massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to pay for a plan that gives 80% of tax relief to the richest one-percent of Americans and multi-national corporations that send good-paying jobs overseas. That’s one big reason why AARP and the National Committee to Preserve and Protect Social Security and Medicare – two of the Nation’s strongest advocates for seniors – strongly opposed this Republican measure.
Let's Work Together on a Bill to Help Stop Opioid Addiction and Abuse
Pharmaceutical companies have gone so far as to use CDs like this one to promote the opioid OxyContin to patients and physicians.
You can help open a new front in the battle against opioid addiction and abuse by sending me your comments on our draft bill to ban opioid advertising and marketing. Just visit our website at https://nolan.house.gov/issues/opioid-crisis to review the text, download a copy, and submit comments or suggestions by June 1, 2018.
Specifically, the “Opioid Advertising and Prescriber Prohibition Act” I plan to introduce early this summer would ban direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical company advertising of opioid drugs and opioid receptor antagonists (which are prescribed to treat the side effects of opioids). The measure would also prohibit pharmaceutical companies or their agents from promoting these products to health care providers.
As I pointed out in last week’s Monday Report, while opioid pain killers must continue to be available to patients who need them, carefully monitored by a physician, consensus is growing that it’s time to prohibit pharmaceutical companies from spending billions of dollars encouraging the widespread use of these powerful and dangerous medications through advertising.
The hard cold fact is that over the years, the advertising of opioid painkillers and related drugs to doctors and patients – beginning with OxyContin in the mid 1990’s – has helped bring us to the point where there were nearly 43,000 opioid-linked drug fatalities in the United States every year. Crossing every regional, racial and ethnic divide, opioid abuse is responsible for more deaths in any one year than from breast cancer, vehicle crashes or gun violence.
Iran Deal is Still Good for U.S. and the World
In a nutshell, here’s what the Iran nuclear deal actually does: .
It’s time for the President to stop raising global tensions with bluster and threats to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, even though all reports indicate that Iran is fully compliant and living up to its part of the bargain.
By law, the Administration must decide every 90 days whether or not Iran is fulfilling its obligations under the pact, which was negotiated with the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. Basically, the deal eases economic sanctions against Iran in return for a freeze on its nuclear development.
Here’s the key fact about the agreement, and the reason I voted for it back in 2015: America’s top objective must be to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Prior to the Iran Deal, Iran possessed the capacity to build a bomb in a matter of weeks. Now that timeframe has been greatly extended by removing two thirds of Iran’s centrifuges for processing uranium, along with 98% of its uranium stockpile.
As I have pointed out many times before, this agreement is not based on trust, but instead on what many experts term the toughest and most verifiable nuclear verification and inspection process ever negotiated in the international community. And if Iran does violate the agreement, our option to use military force is still on the table. In short, the Iran nuclear deal remains a victory for diplomacy, and our world is safer for it.
Paying Walter Mondale’s Generosity and Mentoring Forward, We Are Offering Summer Internships in Our Duluth Congressional Office
UMD student Elizabeth Frandle did great work interning in our Duluth office during the Spring semester.
As a young man, I benefitted greatly from then Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale’s willingness to give me and many others a chance to work in one of his offices and learn the art of public policymaking from the inside. His mentoring and friendship have meant a great deal to me over the years, and I love to pay his generosity forward by inviting 8th District college students to a summer or a semester working with my staff and me on behalf of the folks we are so proud to represent.
With that in mind, and if you’re a college student interested in public policy, I hope you will consider applying to be an intern in my Duluth office for the upcoming summer.
Please contact my District Director, Jeff Anderson, at
Jeff.Anderson@mail.house.gov or call our Duluth office at
Our Week in DC
The Bipartisan House Pension Caucus held a briefing on the Multiemployer Pension Crisis last week. Nationwide,1.3 million current and future pensioners in about 130 multi-employer pension plans are in danger of losing their earned benefits because their plans face insolvency over the next 20 years (“critical and declining” status plans). Absent legislative action, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is projecting that its Multiemployer Insurance Program, which provides a basic guarantee for 10 million people, will run out of money by the end of 2025. My Senior Legislative Director Will Mitchell attended the briefing on my behalf. Panelists, Left to Right: Karen Friedman, Pension Rights Center. Michele Varnhagen, AARP, Aliya Wong, US Chamber, Dan Wargo, Local 17 Ironworker (whose pension has already been cut under MPRA).
Our Week in Duluth
The Minnesota Department of Transportation held an update session in Duluth on the Twin Ports Interchange Project last week. This massive infrastructure project is projected to cost about $280 million and is expected to be completed by 2022. The interchange will enhance safety by eliminating blind merges and left exits, replacing aging infrastructure, and improving freight mobility. Nolan Congressional Field Representative Hannah Alstead attended on my behalf.
Mayors from the cities of Duluth and Superior came together to talk about mental health and declare May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Northland Healthy Minds, a collaborative of businesses, organizations, and others around NE Minnesota and NW Wisconsin, helped organize the event. Nolan Congressional Field Representative Hannah Alstead attended on my behalf.
Our Week in East Gull Lake
I had the pleasure to attend a luncheon with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, hosted by the Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. The University of Minnesota has been a vital partner in the efforts to establish a National Loon Center in our district. Pictured here, you can see some of the folks working so hard to build the Loon Center and protect our state bird, from left to right: Molly Zins, Yours Truly, Jim Anderson, Matt Killian, Eric Kaler, Patty Norgaard,
and Carla White.
Our Week in Brainerd
Officials from the St. Cloud VA came up to the Brainerd Clinic to help celebrate the opening of their new addition. The event included a ceremony to honor Vietnam-era veterans and a town hall forum. In this picture, officials from the VA and all of the assembled veterans take part in the ribbon cutting ceremony. My Congressional Field Representative Tiffany Stenglein attended the event on my behalf.
Our Week in Forest Lake
Family Pathways, a non-profit in the southern part of the 8th District, provides Hunger Relief, Aging Services, Youth Services, Thrift Stores and Domestic Violence Services. Their Aging Services division held an “Aging with Grace” Luncheon in Forest Lake, and the guest speaker was retired WCCO News Anchor Don Shelby. He spoke of not backing off of life’s activities as you age, but instead embracing them! Nolan Congressional Field Representative Rick Olseen covered the event
on my behalf.
Our Week in North Branch
GPS 45:93, an East Central Minnesota regional public/private economic development non-profit consortium, hosted a well-attended event called Innovative Approaches to Career Readiness. Presentations highlighted the student-run manufacturing business at the Eleva-Strum School District as well as the many different education paths students can take. Nolan Congressional Field Representative Rick Olseen attended
on my behalf.
Our Week in Eveleth
Members of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) met last week at the local 6860 Union Hall in Eveleth. Nolan Congressional Field Representative Tom Whiteside attended the meeting on my behalf.
Coming Up in Washington
- The Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations process is in full swing this week in Washington. Invited to testify before the House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee regarding funding for issues in Indian Country is Chairman Kevin Dupuis of the Fond du Lac Band.
It doesn’t get any better than this - spring crappie fishing with Mary and our grandson Mitchell produced these beauties. We hope you’re getting out to enjoy some beautiful Minnesota weather after our long winter!