The annual Joint Chamber Fly-In had a warm welcome to start in Washington DC. The group headed out into the sunshine to the first round of meetings at the Visitor Center on Capitol Hill. Using our 2016 Federal Priority Agenda, we were able to have a focused conversation as a unified region.
Our first meeting started with breakfast with Jerry White, Legislative Director for Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Shawn Bills, Legislative Director for Senator Patty Murray, and Pete Modaff, Legislative Director for Senator Cantwell. The discussion flowed; covering the topics of higher education and securing the KC-46A tankers for Fairchild Air Force Base. With the election coming up in November, the staffers were pessimistic for an actual reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), or that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would have a vote before November. All agreed that securing funding for health science research is a priority, and were optimistic that this is something that could potentially reach bipartisan agreement.
After breakfast, the group heard from fellow Zag Representative Denny Heck. Representative Heck discussed how collaborative our members from Washington State can be, whether it is focused on the fires that happened in Eastern Washington last summer, to cleaning up Hanford, or the importance of trade to our state. All can come together when it is an important priority.
After Representative Heck, Senator Patty Murray’s staff from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, addressed the current work Senator Murray is working on. Senator Murray and staff have been hard at work on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act with a specific focus on bipartisan areas including reforming the FAFSA form and decreasing campus sexual assault. The group also discussed the need to continue Pell Grant funding for students and the importance of not decreasing or freezing funding.
Next, we heard from Rod Hall, who works with K&L Gates. Rod shared more information on the FAA Reauthorization and that the Senate currently has a bill set to pass this week. However, he too was pessimistic about an actual reauthorization of FAA and thought that our Congress members would only pass an extension after the election.
The delegation then headed out to the Library of Congress to hear from Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers during our luncheon. Representative McMorris Rodgers jumped right into the issues and discussed the need for Graduate Medical Education in our region. The Congresswoman also stressed the importance of reforming our VA Hospitals to meet the growing need for veteran care.
From there, half of the delegation headed to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the other to the Eisenhower Building.
The group attending the DOT meeting had the pleasure of meeting with Under Secretary Carlos Monje. Jr. Monje highlighted the department’s priorities as the Obama Administration draws to an end. He focused on safety, standards and federal regulations that are being developed for automated vehicles, critical freight mobility projects, and FAA reauthorization. He also discussed DOTs “ladders of opportunity” concept: Using transportation policy to improve access to health care and other essential services for people in rural areas.
Monje heard presentations from GSI members on our Federal priorities, including local funding needs for freight mobility and crossing projects, Spokane Transit Authority and the Central City Line, and Riverfront Park bridge improvements.
The second group had the distinct pleasure to meet Don Graves, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the Vice President, and learned more about what the Administration is currently working on with economic development, and the importance for communities to come together if they want to be able to make change happen in their region.
Regional Fly-In partners include Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and West Plains Chamber of Commerce. The Grand Reception is sponsored by Asuris Northwest Health, the DC Luncheon is sponsored by University of Washington, and the Mobile App is Co-Sponsored by Washington State University and Washington State University Spokane. The Chief of Staff Breakfast is sponsored by Umpqua Bank.
Follow the trip with #509dcflyin and #CreateSomethingGreater; read updates on GSI’s Twitter feed @GreaterSpokane, and read wrap-ups here on the blog.