Mar 18 2015
(Washington, DC) – Today, United States Senator Dean Heller spoke on the Senate floor about his amendment to S. 178, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. More specifically, Heller’s amendment ensures that Department of Homeland Security personnel are properly trained to prevent human trafficking.
REMARKS AS PREPARED:
Mr. /Madam President,
I rise today in support of the bill that’s currently pending before us, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.
I commend the senior Senators from Texas and Minnesota for coming together in a bipartisan fashion on this vitally important human rights legislation.
Because this is such a bipartisan bill and frankly a non-partisan issue, I am frustrated that we are at an impasse on moving this bill forward with an open debate.
Let me repeat, this is a non-partisan issue, and I encourage my colleagues across the aisle to move forward with an open debate on this vitally important human rights legislation.
Every day, countless innocent victims are bought and sold into modern-day slavery here in America.
All too often, many of these victims are children. As a father of four and a grandfather, I believe every child should have the opportunity to grow up in a loving and safe environment.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for too many children.
Recognizing this is an important issue, my home state of Nevada has taken action over the past several years, not only to assist victims of trafficking, but also to ensure these victims have the opportunity to seek compensation from their traffickers.
Given Nevada’s unique location, especially southern Nevada, this is a crime that is all too prevalent within my home state.
Just to give you an idea, two years ago, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department reported that 2,144 sex-trafficking victims under age 18 were “rescued” in Las Vegas since 1994, which is an average of 126 per year. That’s one person every three days that was rescued.
More than half of these victims were from Nevada and the rest had been trafficked through the state.
While Nevada has taken important steps forward in providing restitution for victims of trafficking, much more needs to be done to stop this crime from occurring in the first place.
All too often, trafficking is a crime that is hidden in plain sight. But it occurs in every single state.
That is why it is vitally important to recognize the warning signs of someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, as well as those who are committing these crimes.
I am pleased to see this underlying bill recognizes this need, especially for local law enforcement, health providers, and first responders.
The bill, however, fails to recognize the important role our nation’s ports of entry play in our nation’s domestic and international transportation system and the opportunity they provide for human trafficking.
This is why I filed an amendment to this legislation to ensure that victims of human trafficking and perpetrators of this crime will not be able to pass through such places without additional law enforcement awareness.
My amendment simply requires the Department of Homeland Security to train TSA, CBP, and other relevant department personnel to effectively deter, detect, and disrupt human trafficking.
Recognizing the different needs of states and the critical role of local law enforcement in combatting human trafficking, it also allows DHS to provide training materials to any state, local, or tribal government or private organization in order to establish a human trafficking awareness training program.
Finally, this amendment requires DHS to keep records of the number of human trafficking cases reported or confirmed and report these numbers annually to Congress. That way, we can measure progress in our efforts to end human trafficking.
Instead of creating another layer of bureaucracy, my amendment simply complements and enhances the current efforts by DHS to equip its personnel with effective strategies to combat human trafficking at our nation’s ports of entry and other high-risk areas.
Earlier this year, I was pleased to see similar legislation pass the House of Representatives with unanimous support.
I think most of us can agree that the issue of human trafficking is not a partisan issue; it’s a human rights issue. Whether you’re a parent, a sibling, a child, or a relative, this issue is real.
This is why I was so pleased to see this chamber come together in a bipartisan manner to bring this bill to the floor.
Once again, I only hope that we can come together and move this debate forward.
As I tell Nevadans back home, I came to Washington, DC to work. I work with Republicans and I work with Democrats.
There are issues that we may at times have to agree to disagree on, but moving forward on a bipartisan bill like this one should not be one of them.
We need to do all that we can to end this disgraceful and disgusting crime once and for all.
We should move forward in providing much needed help to these victims – including children.
Now there is more work to do on this bill and ways to make it a better product through the amendment process, but we should be moving forward instead of stalling out.
I hope that I have the opportunity to call up my amendment and would urge my colleagues to support my amendment so we can ensure that DHS personnel are properly trained to prevent the serious threat of human trafficking.
Help is almost there for these victims. I hope that we can come to a resolution today to move forward on this bill.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing titled, “Legislative Presentation of Veterans of Foreign Wars,” introducing fellow Nevadan and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Commander John Stroud. Following the introduction, Heller asked Commander Stroud about his assessment of the care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as specific issues facing Nevada veterans.
REMARKS AS PREPARED:
Thank you Chairmen and Ranking Members. I’m honored to have this opportunity to introduce Commander John Stroud today. He has been a friend to me and to my office for many years.
In fact, I have this poker chip he gave me in 2012 to prove it. Only in Nevada would you have a Challenge Coin in the form of a poker chip.
It is very fitting that John was chosen to be the Commander-in-Chief for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Since its inception in 1899, the VFW has served many different purposes for veterans.
While it is most known for advocating for veterans, a VFW post is also a place for members to foster friendship with others who served.
In a state like Nevada, this solidarity among the veteran community rings true.
And within this tight knit Nevada veteran community, Commander Stroud has been one of our most outspoken advocates.
I cannot thank him enough for all that he has done from the start of his service in the U.S. military to today.
Commander Stroud first began his military career in the U.S. Air Force, serving for 21 years, from 1976-1997. This service included a tour in Korea with the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, where he was a Flight Operations Superintendent.
During Commander Stroud’s time in the military, he received:
- Four Meritorious Service Medals
- Three Air Force Achievement Medals
- The Korea Defense Service Medal; and
- The National Defense Service Medal.
But like all of the VFW members we see here today, his service to our country and his fellow service members was not over after his 20 years.
In 1996, Commander Stroud joined the VFW in Las Vegas, and later Hawthorne, Nevada.
And not only did he embrace the camaraderie of joining a post, but he also dedicated himself to serving the VFW in many leadership positions, including Nevada Department Commander from 2006 to 2007.
Commander Stroud has also served on numerous National Committees, including Chairman of the National Veterans Service Committee. He is also a Triple Crown All American Commander Award recipient.
I also want to acknowledge an important person here today—the one who has had to deal with the Commander’s difficult travel schedule—his wife Mary.
Mary has been a committed member of the VFW’s Ladies Auxiliary, which also works to serve our nation’s veterans.
Thank you again Commander Stroud for your service to our nation as a veteran, and as Commander-in-Chief for the VFW.
I look forward to your testimony on how this Committee and Congress can do better to serve America’s brave men and women in the Armed Forces.
Mar 03 2015
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) chaired the Senate Committee on Finance hearing titled, “Fairness in Taxation.” More specifically, Heller voiced his concern over the complexity and cost of the current tax code and questioned the panel about what constitutes fairness in taxation.
(Washington, DC) – Today, United States Senator Dean Heller spoke at the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing titled, “Legislative Presentation of Disabled American Veterans.” More specifically, Heller thanked the witnesses from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) for their hard work in helping veterans after returning home. Earlier today, Heller received the first-ever DAV Outstanding Senate Legislator of the Year award for 2014.
(Washington, DC) – Today, United States Senator Dean Heller spoke at the Senate Committee on Finance hearing titled, “Jobs and a Healthy Economy.” More specifically, Heller addressed the economic situation in Nevada and offered solutions to give the nation a more competitive marketplace.
The Senate Finance Committee is one of the oldest and most powerful committees in the United States Senate. Jurisdiction for the committee is vast as it covers tax, trade, commerce, health, national security, labor, Social Security, and monetary issues. Membership assignments for the committee are coveted by Senators and only reserved for senior members of the Senate.
REMARKS AS PREPARED:
Mr. Chairman, I’d like to begin by thanking you for holding this critical hearing to focus on our nation’s most pressing issue – the economy.
Promoting real economic recovery and creating jobs must be the top priority for Congress, so I am encouraged that the Finance Committee has made this the first issue we address.
The economic recession affected everyone, but in my home state of Nevada, the effects were especially harmful.
Nevada experienced the nation’s highest unemployment rate – nearly 14% at its peak – as well as the highest foreclosure rate and one of the highest personal bankruptcy rates.
Though our situation has improved, Nevada’s unemployment rate unfortunately remains one of the nation’s highest. The recovery has been slow and thousands of Nevada families are still waiting for a true economic recovery they can see and feel in their pocketbooks.
Americans have been told the economy is getting better, but they aren’t feeling the effects, at least not in Nevada.
Though the national unemployment rate has gone down, millions of Americans have dropped out of the workforce entirely.
The fact is that this Administration’s policies have put up barriers to economic growth.
We have an already burdensome tax code that has only become more complicated under ObamaCare.
Businesses continue to face mountains of new federal rules and regulations.
And we have a health care law that makes it harder to see your doctor, makes it more difficult for employers to grow, and raises taxes on the hardworking American middle class.
To truly grow our economy, there are key issues that deserve the attention of Congress. Americans deserve a cleaner, simpler tax code, trade policies that ensure America’s competitiveness in the growing international marketplace, and health care policies that actually focus on improving access, affordability, and quality.
As a member of this committee, I look forward to working with the Chairman and Ranking Member to move these issues forward.
(Washington, DC) – Today, United States Senator Dean Heller spoke at the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing addressing the rules of the committee in the 114th Congress and pending legislation. Heller specifically spoke about his dedication to implementing all of the bills included in the VA Claims Backlog Working Group that he started in 2013, as well as focusing specifically on the needs of Nevada’s veterans.
REMARKS AS PREPARED:
First off, thank you to the Chairman and Ranking Member for your work in moving forward the Clay Hunt SAV Act. This could very well be the first bill signed by the President from this Congress.
I admire the mothers who came before this Committee last Congress to tell their stories about their sons. It took a great amount of courage, and I hope this bill will turn the tide for all the veterans out there who may be facing this problem.
Secondly, I am honored to be back on this Committee for the 114th Congress. Serving on this committee has always been a priority for me, not only because my father and brother are veterans who served, but also because Nevada has 300,000 veterans.
The veterans organizations in my state are a passionate group of people who are truly dedicated to ensuring their fellow veterans and all future service members are cared for.
And last Congress, after it came to light that veterans were mistreated in VA facilities across the nation, this Committee came together to fulfill our oversight responsibilities and hold the VA accountable.
I was proud to be part of the Committee at such a crucial time and am pleased that Chairman Isakson has committed to continuing this oversight and ensuring the Choice Act is implemented properly for our veterans.
However, our work as a Committee is nowhere near complete. There are many other issues our veterans are facing beyond just appointment wait times at VA health care facilities.
As I have stated during every Committee hearing, I believe the disability claims backlog is one of the most pressing issues our veterans are facing.
The VA made a commitment to end the backlog by 2015 so that no veteran waits more than 125 days for their claim to be completed.
Yet today, in my home state of Nevada, nearly 4,000 veterans are waiting longer than 125 days and the Reno VA Regional Office remains one of the worst in the nation. Across the country, 245,000 veterans are also languishing in the VA’s claims backlog.
That is why, in 2013, I started the VA Claims Backlog Working Group along with Senator Casey so that we could come up with solutions to fix the VA backlog permanently.
Together, the Working Group developed a VA Backlog Working Group Report and legislation, which members of this Committee—Ranking Member Blumenthal, Senator Moran, and Senator Tester—all joined in supporting.
While some of the solutions in this bill were implemented by the VA or passed by Congress, there are many reforms that still need to be made to ensure the claims process moves into the 21st Century.
I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Casey and my other colleagues to reintroduce this bill and report so that the VA has the tools it needs to eliminate the backlog.
I also think this Committee has an opportunity to renew its focus on caring for our women veterans.
Given that the number of women veterans will be increasing in the years to come, the VA must do its part to ensure that VA facilities are meeting their needs.
I have been working with a colleague to address many of the issues facing women veterans through legislation, and I hope it is a topic that this Committee can have a hearing on in the months to come.
Lastly, I remain committed to advocating on behalf of the issues facing Nevada’s veterans, locally.
This includes the availability of rural care, transportation to VA facilities, wait times at the Reno and Las Vegas Medical Centers, construction of new VA clinics in Pahrump and Laughlin, among many other priorities.
Again, we have a lot of work ahead as a Committee to truly keep the commitment our nation made to care for those who served and sacrificed.
And the best part of this Committee is that it has a strong history of bipartisanship, so I look forward to working with members of both sides of the aisle to achieve this goal.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Jan 21 2015
(Washington, DC) – Today, United States Senator Dean Heller asked the following questions at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing titled, “Protecting the Internet and Consumers through Congressional Action.”
(Washington, DC) – Today, United States Senator Dean Heller spoke on the Senate floor, urging his colleagues to support the reauthorization and extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). This legislation provides a safeguard for many industries in Nevada, such as hospitality, tourism, and gaming.
REMARKS AS PREPARED:
I rise to speak on the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program. As a member of the Banking Committee and co-author of the Senate TRIA reauthorization bill, this is a critical issue that I have worked on closely with my colleagues on this for over a year.
Madam President Terrorism is a real threat in both rural and urban areas, North, South, East and West. That’s why I have been so involved in trying to get TRIA extended.
I’ve stated this before but I want to re-emphasize this. In my home state, Las Vegas is considered to be one of the leading international business and visitor destination cities in the world. Southern Nevada welcomes 40 million visitors annually and has a population of nearly two million people. We have 35 major hotels along the Las Vegas strip, many of which have 15,000 occupants at once.
If a terrorist attack were to occur in Las Vegas, our entire state economy would be devastated without TRIA.
But, it’s not just about Las Vegas. In Northern Nevada, our visitor and gaming industry is one of the largest private employers in Washoe County, which includes Reno.
They know that unless they can have access to affordable terrorism coverage, they will have difficulty starting new capital projects and creating new jobs.
TRIA has helped many hotels, hospitals, office complexes, shopping centers, colleges and universities have access to terrorism insurance coverage.
While I was disappointed we could not reach an agreement before TRIA expired at the end of 2014, I’m pleased that this legislation has been brought to the floor so quickly by the Majority Leader.
The bill before us today is a good bill. Yesterday, it passed the House with 416 votes. Let me repeat that – 416 Members of the House, both Democrats and Republicans supported this bill.
I strongly support this bill. I urge all of my colleagues to support passage of this bill today.
Madam President, I yield the floor.
(Washington, DC) – Today, United States Senator Dean Heller spoke on the Senate Floor about his support of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, specifically his support of some public lands provisions. The lands provisions include several Nevada public lands priorities that will grow the Nevada’s economy with mine expansion and development of public land.
REMARKS AS PREPARED:
I rise today to speak in support of some of the public lands provisions that were included in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.
Before I do so, I would first like to recognize the work Senators Levin and Inhofe have put into this bill and their dedication to reaching an agreement with the House so that this bill can move forward on time as it has for over 50 years.
As a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I hear every day about the sacrifices service members make to protect our country.
Passing the authorization bill that helps ensure they have the equipment they need and the resources required to meet the mission they are tasked with is important.
While I am pleased the Senate will be moving forward on this bill, I would like to note that the bill’s reduction in service members’ benefits concerns me. I believe Members should have had the chance to debate and amend this, and I hope the Senate will have that opportunity in the future.
This year, the final defense bill includes several Nevada public lands priorities that will spur economic development and job creation in our state while enhancing U.S. national security. I have been working on many of these proposals since I was first elected to Congress in 2006.
I want to thank incoming Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowksi for her leadership and work on this public lands package.
We have been working together for years on many of the bills included in the package, and I’m glad to see them get across the finish line.
Let me first clarify that just because some of these bills are related to public lands does not mean that they do not have a direct relationship to defense and protecting our national security. My Nevada Copper bill will increase domestic production of copper, the second most used mineral at the Department of the Defense as well as directly benefitting two bases located in the State of Nevada.
Mr. President, as you may know, roughly 85 percent of the land in Nevada is controlled by the federal government. This presents our local and state governments with many unique challenges. Our communities’ economies are directly tied to the way the federal government manages those lands.
They often work closely with me to develop legislative solutions to their problems. Whereas out east, local government can acquire land on their own to build public works projects; out west we unfortunately have to get Congress’ permission.
That is why reducing the federal estate and increasing access to our public lands has been one of my top priorities in Congress, and this package goes a long way towards accomplishing these goals.
It resolves over sixty of these types of issues throughout the west. In total, over 110,000 acres of land will be removed from federal ownership and utilized for mineral production, timber production, infrastructure projects and other community development. In addition, it releases approximately 26,000 acres of current wilderness study areas, which unlocks lands to be used for multiple-use.
It is important to discuss the eight Nevada provisions today, to show my colleagues here the many hoops our western communities have to go through to take the same steps that many eastern communities can accomplish in a day’s time.
The Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act is a jobs bill that I first introduced while in the House but has been held up by Senate gridlock for years.
This bill allows the City of Yerington to partner with Nevada Copper to develop roughly 12,500 acres of land surrounding the Nevada Copper Pumpkin Hollow project site to be used for mining activities, industrial and renewable energy development, and recreation.
Senate passage is the final hurdle to more than 1,000 new jobs at an average wage of over $85,000 per year. The mine will contribute nearly $25 million in property and net proceeds taxes per year that would be distributed to the State, Lyon County, their Schools, the hospital district, and the Mason Valley Fire Protection District.
In addition, Nevada Copper plans to invest $80 million in infrastructure for the mine and processing facilities that can be utilized to support other land uses and economic development. This bill will transform the local economy of the one of the counties in our nation that is struggling most due to the recent economic downturn.
As I said before, Copper is the second most used mineral at the Department of the Defense, and is considered an essential mineral for weapons production.
Copper is also the primary mineral from which other strategic and critical metals like Rhenium are derived. A domestic supply of this important resource greatly benefits our national security.
Second – there is a provision in this package that will allow Naval Air Station Fallon to acquire over 400 acres of BLM land for a safety arc for an explosive ordinance handling facility and to construct the much needed family housing at the station. Both of these plans will greatly benefit mission operations and the quality of life for our brave service members serving there. The station first asked for these lands over twenty years ago. I am glad their wait will finally end.
Third – the package includes the Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act, a proposal that has been in the works in Humboldt County for nearly a decade. Just north of the Black Rock Desert, the Pine Forest offers a diverse landscape of sagebrush, aspen and rock formations. Scenic lakes and reservoirs offer world-class trout fisheries.
From the ranchers who make their livelihood on grazing allotments to conservationists’ intent on preserving a rugged landscape, anyone familiar with the place agrees it’s special.
In addition to conserving these areas the bill releases areas from wilderness that needs watershed restoration and treatment due to a high wildfire threat. It also provides for the construction of additional campsites and accommodations for motorized camping.
The initial work on the Pine Forest bill was grassroots driven, transparent, and ultimately supported unanimously by all stakeholders and local governments in this county.
Fourth – the package includes the Elko Motocross and Tribal Conveyance Act, another bill I first introduced in the 111th Congress as a member of the House. This common-sense bill conveys 275 acres of BLM lands to Elko County for a public motocross park. Additionally, it provides 373 acres to the Elko Band of the Te-Moak Tribe for housing and tribal economic development.
Outdoor recreation and tourism are such important parts of life in Nevada. Opening up this land will benefit the residents of Northern Nevada for years to come.
Fifth - this lands package includes the Las Vegas Valley Public Land and Tule Spring Fossil Beds National Monument Act, which is the culmination of several years of effort to conserve the ancient Tule Springs Fossil Beds while providing job creation opportunities and critical civilian and military infrastructure that will be necessary to meet the needs of the Las Vegas Valley.
After working with stakeholders at every level, I am pleased that we can navigate a path forward for southern Nevada.
While serving in the House, I also introduced legislation in both the 110th and 111th Congresses to convey parcels of BLM land to the Nellis Air Force Base, to create an off-highway vehicle park in the Nellis Dunes, and to convey land to the Nevada System of Higher Education to expand educational opportunities for Southern Nevadans.
Those smaller bills were ultimately included in S.973 this Congress, so I am pleased that over six years of work on this Tule Springs legislation will finally become a reality.
The final three Nevada bills included in the lands package are newer proposals, but achieve long-term economic development objectives that the affected communities have long-pursued.
The Fernley Economic Self-Determination Act provides Fernley the opportunity to purchase up to 9,114 acres of federal land within the city boundaries for the purpose of economic development.
Fernley was incorporated in 2001. Since incorporation, the City has been working with private business partners and state and federal regional agencies to develop a long-term economic development plan. These parcels have significant potential for commercial and industrial development, agriculture activities, and the expansion of community events.
Similarly, the Carlin Economic Self-Determination Act allows Carlin to purchase up to 1,329 acres of BLM lands. This city, located in Elko County, is completely landlocked by federal land. Without this legislation, it would be impossible for their leaders to meet the demand for expansion their growing population needs.
Finally, the Storey County provision conveys over 1,700 acres of BLM lands to Virginia City. These properties have been occupied for decades by individuals who purchased them or acquired them legally, yet their continued residency is trespass according to the federal government.
It is a very burdensome oversight by the federal government that must be resolved for the sake of my constituents. They have struggled for years haunted by this error that is the result of no fault of their own.
As you can see, these small public lands proposals are going to make a MAJOR impact on Nevada’s economy. They have all been developed at the local level and signed off on by the local communities
I understand my colleagues concerns that would have liked the opportunity to debate and vote on more amendments to this bill. I too, had filed a number of amendments that I would have liked to see considered and will continue pushing those priorities next year.
Right now, Congress has the rare opportunity to pass this public lands package that enables important mining, energy development, ranching, and timber work to go forward generating economic and employment opportunities for my and other states and local residents. Let’s get the government off these Nevadans’ backs and allow them to do what they do best – creating jobs.