WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, helped secure key provisions of the funding bill that Congress is expected to vote on soon.
“Louisianians send big chunks of their paychecks to Washington, and I work as hard as I can to ensure our state doesn’t stand alone when we face challenges like historic hurricanes. This year, I’m pleased to say that, should this funding bill pass, our state will receive $1.3 billion in loan forgiveness for interest owed on New Orleans’ storm protection system. Additionally, the executive branch must submit a proposal for a new federal courthouse in Lake Charles, and key water infrastructure projects could now move forward.
“This year’s funding package invests in protecting our people, preserving our coasts and supporting Louisiana’s economy as we recover from the pandemic. It protects Louisiana jobs through the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act and by bringing a National Center of Excellence for Liquefied Natural Gas to Louisiana to increase training in this growing field. Finally, this package will safeguard Louisiana wallets by stopping the IRS from sending taxpayer dollars to dead people and fraudsters,” said Kennedy.
Lake Charles courthouse
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, Kennedy secured language to require the General Services Administration and the federal courts to submit a plan to Congress for building a new courthouse in Lake Charles, Louisiana following the severe damage Hurricane Laura did to the Edwin F. Hunter, Jr. U.S. Courthouse.
“I saw firsthand how Hurricane Laura wrecked Lake Charles, and I’ve been fighting for a new federal courthouse since then. I’m glad to see the federal courts there get the green light they need to rebuild as the Lake Charles community keeps recovering from a wicked hurricane season,” said Kennedy.
Protecting jobs by keeping the U.S. competitive
After introducing the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, Kennedy announced a historic bipartisan agreement to include the AIM Act in the government funding bill.
“More than ever, foreign competition demands we protect American jobs by keeping the U.S. competitive in global industry. Investing in next-generation refrigerants will create thousands of jobs, save billions of dollars and safeguard the environment, all of which matter deeply to Louisianians. I’m grateful to have worked with Chairman Barrasso and Sen. Carper to champion the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act and bring American production into the future,” said Kennedy.
For the first time, the funding package includes a provision for a 15-year phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons at a national level, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. The legislation gives U.S. companies the certainty they need to make the investments necessary to lead the world in the production of next-generation coolants. It will create jobs, save Louisiana jobs and ensure the U.S is the world leader in this emerging global market.
Establishing the National Center of Excellence for Liquefied Natural Gas in Louisiana
Kennedy successfully negotiated a provision in pipeline infrastructure reauthorization (PIPES Act) legislation that locates a newly established National Center of Excellence for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in Louisiana. The center will promote and facilitate training, education and research and development in the burgeoning field of liquified natural gas. Louisiana will see the construction of this LNG National Center of Excellence within two years.
Stopping taxpayer money from going to dead people
The government funding bill includes the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act, which Kennedy introduced to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not wasted on paying government benefits to dead people or to fraudsters.
“Every so often, Washington actually saves taxpayer dollars instead of watching that money circle the bureaucratic drain. Today, the Senate is set to pass the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act as part of the government funding bill. Now, we are closer than ever to ensuring taxpayer dollars work on behalf of hardworking Americans instead of fraudsters who take advantage of flaws in the system,” said Kennedy.
The Social Security Administration maintains the most complete federal database of individuals who are reported to have died. However, only a small number of federal agencies have access to this official list, and most federal agencies rely on a slimmed down, incomplete and less timely version of the death information.
In addition, most inspectors general lack access to the complete death information. As a result, many federal agencies make erroneous payments to people who are actually deceased.
The Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act provision in the funding bill would allow federal agencies access to the complete death database, require agencies to use death data to curb improper payments and improve that death data so that federal payments are made accurately.
Developing water resources
The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) set to pass with the funding bill authorizes several Army Corps of Engineers projects throughout Louisiana. These projects invest in the state’s flood control, hurricane protection, navigation and conservation efforts.
Key provisions include:
· Thanks to a provision negotiated by Kennedy, WRDA directs the Corps of Engineers to accept, without interest, Louisiana’s cost share loan payment for the storm protection system encircling the New Orleans area, provided that the state pays at least $200 million of its debt by Sept. 30, 2021 and pays the remaining unpaid principal balance by Sept. 30, 2023. This direction to the Corps eliminates $1.3 billion of debt that Louisiana would have otherwise owed to the Corps.
· WRDA authorizes $394 million in new construction projects. The Baptiste Collette Bayou navigation channel deepening project in Plaquemines Parish is authorized at a total cost of $44,920,000. The Houma navigation canal deepening project in Terrebonne Parish is authorized at a total cost of $253,458,000. The Port Fourchon Belle Pass channel deepening project in Lafourche Parish is authorized at a total cost of $95,483,000.
· WRDA authorizes the Corps of Engineers to modify the existing federal levee system that protects Shreveport, known as the Red River below Denison Dam Project, by incorporating the Cherokee Park levee segment into the existing federal system. The Caddo Levee District built the segment to meet Corps standards. Once the levee segment becomes part of the federal system, it will facilitate FEMA accreditation.
· WRDA modifies the existing Ouachita and Black Rivers (Arkansas and Louisiana) project for navigation to include water supply as an authorized purpose. The original authorization only allowed the Corps of Engineers to perform work related to navigation. With the new expanded authorization, the Corps can also perform work related to the water supply.
· Within 120 days after its enactment, WRDA directs the Corps of Engineers to provide a report on plans to modify the Calcasieu River and Pass dredged material management plan and supplemental environmental impact statement to allow for expansion of dredged material placement facilities.
· WRDA directs the Corps of Engineers to identify the causes of and “implement measures to effectively detect, prevent, treat, and eliminate, harmful algal blooms associated with water resources development projects.” WRDA also directs the Corps to “undertake program activities related to harmful algal blooms” in seven different areas of the U.S., including Louisiana’s coast.
· WRDA directs the Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of the ongoing feasibility study for the Amite River and its tributaries east of the Mississippi River, Louisiana flood control project, as Congress requires the Corps to submit a favorable feasibility study before authorizing project construction.
· WRDA directs the Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of the ongoing feasibility study for the Upper Barataria Basin Louisiana project for coastal storm risk management.
· WRDA authorizes the Corps of Engineers to assist the Grand Isle Independent Levee District with modifying the scope of the existing Grand Isle beach erosion and hurricane protection project to include periodic beach nourishment in response to erosion.
· WRDA authorizes the Corps of Engineers to assist Jefferson Parish with obtaining a feasibility study for the proposed flood protection project in the Cataouatche sub-basin, which encompasses part of the west bank of Jefferson Parish.
· WRDA authorizes the Corps of Engineers to assist the non-federal project sponsor with obtaining a feasibility study for the proposed flood and storm protection project in the Hoey’s Basin area of the east bank of Jefferson Parish.
· WRDA authorizes the Corps of Engineers to review a project proposal and issue a report to Congress on whether the portion of the Ouachita River levee system from Monroe to Caldwell Parishes should be included in the Mississippi River and tributaries project.
· WRDA authorizes the Corps of Engineers to conduct a feasibility study of a proposed project for flood-risk management in Tangipahoa Parish. A positive feasibility study is the first step in obtaining construction authorization for the proposed project.
· WRDA directs the Coastal Louisiana Ecosystem Protection and Restoration Task Force to submit, within one year after enactment of this WRDA bill, a report to Congress summarizing the activities and recommendations of the task force for conserving, protecting, restoring and maintaining Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem.
· WRDA directs the Corps of Engineers, in collaboration with the heads of other relevant federal agencies, to conduct a comprehensive study of the Lower Mississippi River basin for the comprehensive management of the basin for the purposes of hurricane and storm damage reduction, flood-risk management and floodplain management strategies; navigation; ecosystem and environmental restoration; hydropower production; recreation; and other purposes as determined by the Corps of Engineers.