As the 117th Congress is now in full swing, legislation is being reintroduced and work is underway on needed policy changes. Following is a brief overview of important legislation I am working with fellow senators to reintroduce this Congress.
Work continues with a bipartisan group of senators to update and reintroduce the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA). This legislation further facilitates our nuclear competitiveness. ANIA ensures the research conducted at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) continues to contribute to and empower the long-term viability of diverse domestic energy resources and keeps us at the nuclear innovation forefront.
Advancement of the bipartisan Department of Energy National Labs Jobs ACCESS (Apprenticeships for Complete and Committed Employment for Specialized Skills) Act to address looming personnel shortages due to a rapid retirement-eligible workforce within the energy sector, like at INL, is important. This legislation would help fill high-demand positions at INL and other national labs through apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, with focus on programs that serve veterans, young people and individuals with barriers to employment.
To ensure effective and efficient administration of justice for Idahoans, fellow Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and I reintroduced legislation (S. 23) to establish a third federal district judgeship in Idaho. Representatives Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) introduced its counterpart in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Idaho Congressional Delegation is also working to advance legislation to split the Ninth Circuit Court into two circuits to realign the United States Courts of Appeals into more efficient, manageable circuits.
Work is in progress with stakeholders to determine the best path forward to reintroduce the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments, which expands coverage of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to include victims in Idaho among states impacted by exposure to fallout from nuclear weapons testing. In February, we lost J Truman, whose advocacy was instrumental in this effort. I continue the push to expand RECA in his honor, as it is past time for Idahoans and our neighbors to receive the compensation they deserve.
Senator Risch and I joined our Senate colleagues from Oregon in introducing S. 435 to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program through September 2022. The SRS program is a critical funding stream for Idaho’s rural communities, home to large federal land tracts. Idaho counties received nearly 19.3 million in Fiscal Year 2020 to help fund essential services.
Work continues to reintroduce the Hearing Protection Act, which reclassifies suppressors to regulate them like a regular firearm. This legislation ensures individuals in Idaho could have adequate hearing protection needed while hunting and participating in other recreational shooting sports.
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Montana), Committee Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and I introduced S. 344, the Major Richard Star Act, bipartisan legislation to provide combat-injured veterans with less than 20 years of military service their full benefits. An estimated 42,000 veterans, including hundreds in Idaho, could benefit from this change.
Efforts continue toward reintroducing the Bring Our Heroes Home Act to provide a more efficient process for accessing records needed for recovery efforts for missing servicemembers. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, 358 Idahoans are still missing.
These highlights represent just the start of efforts underway to enact policies important to Idahoans. Many legislative provisions are being refined and introduced. Please continue to bring federal policy concerns to my attention.