The fight for the federal RESTORE Act legislation is going on behind the scenes now that the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have named their representatives to the transportation conference committee.
The RESTORE Act legislation that guarantees 80 percent of the fines collected from the April 2010 BP oil leak — an amount that could reach $20 billion — would be distributed for coastal restoration to the five states along the Gulf of Mexico is written into both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate versions of their transportation funding bills.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., is the only member of the Louisiana delegation on the conference committee. But Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, who led the fight for the RESTORE Act on the House side, and others are saying they will still be heavily involved.
“I will continue meeting individually with the conferees to let them know about the importance of the RESTORE Act to the Gulf Coast and the country, and work to ensure that it is in the final bill so it becomes law,” Scalise said in a prepared statement. “It’s only fair that the lion’s share of BP Clean Water Act fines are dedicated to the Gulf Coast states still recovering from the impacts of the disaster…”
The House version of the bills is a 90-day extension to transportation spending while the Senate has a two-year plan. But the House bill also contains a mandate to move forward with the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposed to run from Canada to Texas about which critics have expressed environmental concerns.
The first official conference meeting is not until May 8, after a one-week congressional recess.
For his part, Vitter has said he will fight to ensure the RESTORE Act and the RAMP Act, which is in the House bill, are included in the final legislation.
The RAMP Act, sponsored by Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, is intended to set aside more dollars for dredging and harbor projects, including for Louisiana waterways.
Rep. Bill Cassidy is hosting a jobs fair Thursday at the Baton Rouge Marriott hotel.
The jobs fair will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the hotel, at 5500 Hilton Ave. Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is scheduled to speak at 11 a.m.
The fair will focus on job opportunities for veterans and those in “generations X, Y and Z,” according to a press release.
More than 40 companies and government agencies with job vacancies are scheduled to participate. This includes companies and agencies in the manufacturing, industrial contractor, petrochemical, medical and military sectors, among others. There also will be career development experts from local colleges and universities and the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Representatives of the U.S. and Louisiana Veterans’ Affairs departments will be able to guide veterans through their job and small business programs.
“This fair will connect local residents with employers who are looking to hire people immediately,” Cassidy said in a prepared statement.
Although known more for his urging of expanded oil-and-gas drilling onshore and offshore, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., recently was named the “Conservationist of the Year” by the Baton Rouge-based Center for Coastal Conservation.
The center is a political action committee that supports recreational fishing. The center stated in a press release that Vitter’s efforts on his Billfish Conservation Act and the “Rigs to Reefs” push to have oil platforms officially designated as essential fish habitats.
“Making sure our fisheries are properly managed will remain a priority, along with restoring the Gulf Coast,” Vitter said in a statement. “I live in the ‘Sportsman’s Paradise,’ it’s natural to support our close-knit relationship with the marine resources that make our state so great and unique.”
Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, had an opinion piece published in The Washington Times that pushed for an overhaul of the federal Medicare program.
Fleming, who is a physician, also took sharp aim at President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law. Fleming argued that the full repeal of “Obamacare” is the first step toward a revamp of the Medicare program that provides insurance coverage to senior citizens.
He argued that Medicare could run out of funding as early as 2017 without intervention.
Our next step is to reform the patchwork health-care system, starting with the reintroduction of market-based principles into the Medicare system,” Fleming wrote. “Health-care costs will never be brought down to sustainable levels until we restore market forces. Price controls do not work.”
Jordan Blum is chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@the
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