Jul 29 2015
Praises Nevada organizations helping homeless veterans, recognizes there is more work ahead
(Washington, DC) –Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing titled, “Ending Veteran Homelessness.” During the hearing, Senator Heller spoke on the need to further progress on ending veteran homelessness. He also referenced improvements that have been made throughout Nevada and applauded the numerous community organizations making a difference in the lives of veterans struggling with this issue.
Earlier this year, Senators Heller and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Creating A Reliable Environment (CARE) for Veterans’ Dependents Act, a bill designed to ensure children of homeless veterans are also eligible for services provided to that veteran by VA-funded facilities.
Senator Heller’s Remarks as prepared:
Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing today to examine veterans’ homelessness.
At this Committee, we talk a lot about failures with VA health care, ending the VA claims backlog, and improving management at the VA.
But when we look at how well our nation is caring for veterans, understanding how many of these heroes are homeless should be the place we start.
The men and women who served our country and risked their lives should never have to be in this situation.
However, the reality is that Las Vegas at one point was among the worst for veterans’ homelessness.
I think the VA has been focused on this issue and improvements have been made.
But as long as we have one homeless veterans, we must be doing all we can to provide them the resources they need to get back on their feet.
I also believe that this is not solely a VA effort. It is non-profits and organizations in the community that provide invaluable services to help veterans put a roof over their head and stability in their lives so they can be independent in the long-term.
Nevada is lucky to have quite a few organizations in both Southern and Northern Nevada that deserve to be commended for all that they do.
It is also programs like the VA’s 25 Cities Initiative that creates better coordination with community leaders and local elected officials to find solutions to address veterans’ homelessness in a way that fits that city’s needs.
In combination, all these efforts have contributed to a 44% decrease in the number of homeless veterans in Southern Nevada since last year.
I am proud that Las Vegas is part of this initiative, and I hope that it can be expanded to other Nevada cities, like Reno, where over 150 veterans remain homeless this year.
Today I’d like to ask a few questions about how we can continue to reduce veteran homelessness across Nevada and our nation, as well as what we can do to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Jul 22 2015
(Washington, DC) – Today, the bipartisan 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act (S. 1203) passed the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The legislation, introduced earlier this year by Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Bob Casey (D-PA), creates reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to eliminate the disability claims backlog and improve the claims process.
In May, Senator’s Heller and Casey released the VA Backlog Working Group 2015 Report in which the Working Group identifies the progress that has been made on the claims backlog since 2014, which Working Group recommendations have been implemented by the VA and Congress, and what actions must still be taken to fully transition the VA to a 21st century benefits delivery system.
The 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act and the VA Backlog Working Group 2015 Report were endorsed by several Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), including Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).
Three additional bills, introduced by Senator Heller, were included in S. 1203 as passed by committee.
- Filipino Veterans Promise Act (S. 151) – Senators Heller and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced this bipartisan legislation in January to establish a process for all eligible Filipino veterans to receive the compensation they are entitled to for their service to the United States during World War II.
- The Veterans Small Business Opportunity and Protection Act (S. 296) – Authored by Senators Heller and Joe Manchin (D-WV), this legislation expands certain eligibility as a veteran-owned business for surviving spouses and dependents.
- Veterans Affairs Research Transparency Act of 2015 (S. 114) – Introduced by Senator Heller in January, the legislation requires the VA to make taxpayer-funded research for the VA publicly available.
Jun 23 2015
Underscores importance of youth awareness in automotive recalls
(Washington, DC) – At today’s Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation hearing titled, “Update on the Recalls of Defective Takata Air Bags and NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Efforts,” U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) pressed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator Mark Rosekind to implement more aggressive efforts to ensure recalled automotive equipment is replaced. During the hearing, Heller emphasized the need for NHTSA to employ a strategy focused on informing young drivers about automotive vehicle recalls. Additionally, he underscored the importance of sharing data with independent automotive service providers.
As a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, Senator Heller has been highly involved in automotive safety and recall issues.
Click the following link to watch a past hearing regarding the Takata Air Bag recalls:
- November 20, 2014: Hearing on Airbag Defects and the Vehicle Recall Process
Last Congress, as the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, Heller helped lead the Commerce Committee’s efforts regarding the General Motors (GM) recall of defective ignition switches:
- April 2, 2014: Hearing on GM Recall and NHTSA Investigation Process
Click here to read a follow up letter Senator Heller wrote to Chief Executive Officer and President of Delphi Automotive, Rodney O’Neal, regarding additional information about the role Delphi played in the General Motors (GM) recall of defective ignition switches.
Jun 02 2015
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at the Senate Committee on Finance hearing titled, “Internal Revenue Service Data Theft Affecting Taxpayers Information.” More specifically, Heller expressed his concern about newly proposed IRS gaming regulations directly to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Heller went on to emphasize the necessity for tools to combat tax-related identity theft and questioned Commissioner Koskinen and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Russell George on how this could properly be executed.
(Washington, DC) – Recently, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) testified at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining regarding two important land bills for the State of Nevada. Both pieces of legislation, the Good Samaritan Search and Recovery Act of 2015 (S. 160) and the Douglas County Conservation Act of 2015 (S. 472) are bipartisan and bicameral. The hearing, coupled with Senator Heller’s testimony, mark important steps in the legislative process towards these bills becoming a reality. Click HERE or on the video below to watch Senator Heller’s testimony.
Testimony as prepared:
Thank you Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Wyden for including my bills that seek to address two difficult public lands issues in Nevada in today’s hearing. Prompt action on these types of bills is extremely important to the well-being of western states.
As you know, the federal government administers roughly 85 percent of the land in Nevada, the highest percentage of any state in the nation. This presents our local and state governments with many unique challenges. Those communities often work closely with the Congressional delegation to develop bills to improve public land management.
Last Congress, I was proud to work with Chairman Murkowski on the public lands package that was ultimately enacted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The eight Nevada bills included in that package were the culmination of nearly a decade of work on public lands bills. I appreciate the Chairman’s leadership on these issues, and I hope my two bills before us today will be the next of these public lands successes.
The Douglas County Conservation Act is grassroots-driven proposal that balances the need to spur economic development while preserving our state’s western character. In 2009, Douglas County embarked on a long process to develop legislation that adjusts federal land ownership and management throughout the county. Over the course of six years, they performed outreach activities, held a series of community open houses, and obtained the input of stakeholder groups and several hundred community members.
Ultimately, the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved framework of a bill and requested that Congress move forward. As a result, Representative Amodei, Senator Reid, and I introduced the bill in February with the support of our entire Congressional Delegation.
The final product jump-starts economic development throughout Douglas County while ensuring the rural character of the Carson Valley remains intact. Specifically, it conveys lands to local governments and the Washoe Tribe for important public works projects. Additionally, it would promote conservation of riparian and bi-state sage-grouse habitat along the Carson River and improve recreation opportunities.
I want to particularly underscore conveyances of flood control management areas and important water resources infrastructure parcels to Douglas County, which are critical to the long-term economic competitiveness of the region. Four flash floods events that occurred in July and August of 2014 ravaged the region, causing nearly a million dollars’ worth of damage throughout the area. The county has started construction on two projects to reduce flood risks and conducted additional studies to identify additional flood risk.
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. These conveyances are critical to the county’s long-term flood control and transportation planning efforts.
This bill was developed from the bottom up, not the top down; the way public lands bills should be written. As a result, it has garnered near unanimous local support ranging from the Washoe Tribe to the local towns and general improvement districts.
My second bill, the Good Samaritan Search and Recovery Act, would solve a long-standing public safety issue in Federal Lands. My friend, Congressman Joe Heck, and I first introduced this legislation in 2013 in response to the tragic stories of Mr. Keith Goldberg and Air Force Staff Sargent Antonio Tucker. Both of these individuals were missing for over a year before volunteer Good Samaritan rescue teams received government authorization to begin searching.
Keith Goldberg, a Las Vegas taxi cab driver, disappeared on January 31, 2012. He was believed to be the victim of murder, but the police were unable to find his remains in the Las Vegas desert. When new evidence pointed towards the Lake Mead Recreational Area, the Goldberg family reached out to a private search and rescue team to look for Keith.
All that prevented the rescue team from discovering the body was the bureaucratic red tape of the Park Service, which refused to allow them to search the area without a permit and a $1 million insurance policy. After the family spent six months finding an insurer and raising the money to buy the policy, Keith’s body was found within two hours.
Similarly, Staff Sergeant Antonio Tucker’s family suffered a similarly frustrating ordeal. Staff Sergeant Tucker was stationed at Creech Air Force Base, when he went missing on June 23, 2012. He was believed drowned. Like the situation with Keith Goldberg, a search team offered to look for Staff Sergeant Tucker but was blocked by the Department of the Interior. When the team finally got authorization to search around a year later, they found the body within two days.
No more families should have to go through what the Goldberg and Tucker families had to endure. This bipartisan common-sense legislation that expedites access to public lands for search and recovery organizations has been thoroughly vetted in Congress. It has had multiple hearings between the House and Senate, garnering no significant opposition. Last month, it passed the House by a vote of 413-0. I am confident it can garner similar overwhelming support in the Senate. Let’s get it done.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. I look forward to working together to move these bipartisan proposals through the Committee, and ultimately through the full U.S. Senate.
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on the Senate floor during a colloquy in support of the USA Freedom Act. This legislation ends bulk data collection practices currently used by the government under section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and carefully balances the privacy rights of Americans’ and the needs of the intelligence community as it works to keep the country safe. Heller is an original cosponsor of the legislation introduced earlier this year.
May 07 2015
Supports Efforts to Modernize the Endangered Species Act
(Washington, DC) – Recently, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) testified at the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works hearing titled, “Fish and Wildlife Service: The President’s FY2016 Budget Request for the Fish and Wildlife Service and Legislative Hearing on Endangered Species Bill.” The hearing addressed Heller’s legislation, S. 112, the Common Sense in Species Protection Act of 2015. During Heller’s testimony, he emphasized that the Endangered Species Act is out of date and ineffective and discussed a legislative effort (S. 1036) to improve sage-grouse conservation. Heller’s legislation balances the need to protect wildlife and the environment, while allowing for reasonable economic development. Click here or on the video below to watch Senator Heller’s testimony.
REMARKS AS PREPARED:
Thank you for holding today’s hearing on my legislation, the Common Sense in Species Protection Act, and the many other important Endangered Species Act-related bills on today’s agenda. I am supportive of many of these proposals; they are common-sense reforms that will help modernize the Endangered Species Act and ensure environmental laws serve both wildlife and our local communities.
Growing up in Nevada, I know being good stewards of the natural treasures our nation has been blessed with is an important part of our way of life. Hunting, camping, and horseback riding were big parts of my upbringing and still are activities my family and I have enjoyed doing together.
It is important to me that we have effective environmental laws that balance the need to protect wildlife and the environment while allowing for reasonable economic development. I want my grandkids, their kids, and their grandkids to be able to enjoy the beauties of rural Nevada just like I have.
Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act is a prime example of a law that has proven to be out of date and ineffective. Since the last time it was reformed over thirty years ago, it has had less than a two percent recovery rate. I know these days you get medals for just participating, but when I was in school, two percent was definitely not a passing grade. It is clear the law is not serving wildlife or our western way of life well.
While not a cure all, my bill is a simple reform aimed at modernizing the ESA and making the listing process more transparent.
When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes a listing decision, it not only aims to protect the species, it also affords some protection to the ecosystems that those species rely upon. They frequently make what is called “critical habitat” designations, which are lands that are essential for the conservation of a species.
Activities on these lands are heavily restricted. In states like Nevada, where mining, ranching, energy production and outdoor recreation all serve as a central component of our local economy, these restrictions can be devastating.
My bill does not take away the Interior’s authority to limit these types of activities. It simply requires the Department of Interior to report the full economic impact of any proposed critical habitat designation to the public before it can make a decision. Specifically, rather than the very limited economic analysis they currently conduct, the Service must determine the effect a designation would have on property use and values, employment, and revenues for state and local governments.
Additionally, it requires the Service to exclude areas from critical habitat designations if the benefit of keeping it in multiple-use far exceeds the benefits a restriction would have for wildlife.
Access to all lands, particularly public lands, is vital to Nevada’s character and economy. Restricting the multiple-use of those lands in a nontransparent and irrational fashion is not an option for Nevadans who rely heavily on them for their livelihood. Whether it is the greater-sage grouse, the long-eared bat, the lesser prairie chicken, or any other species the agency is making a decision on, it is critical that at a minimum we add this simple, commonsense step to the process.
Before I conclude, I’d like to briefly touch on Senator Cory Gardner’s Sage-Grouse Protection and Conservation Act. I will let him discuss the details of his bill, but as an original cosponsor, I want to underscore the importance of this measure to the State of Nevada.
The Fish & Wildlife is expected to make a decision on whether to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse under the Endangered Species Act this fall. Should it get listed, our rural way of life and our local economies would be devastated. All grazing, hunting, recreation, mining, and energy production on over 19 million acres of public lands in Nevada will come to a screeching halt.
Given the threat of a listing, the eleven western states home to sage-grouse have been working diligently on state specific conservation plans. These plans specifically aim to address each state’s unique threats to sage-grouse while protecting their local economies. It is an important tool available to states, and Interior has said they play a major factor in their listing determination.
The Sage-Grouse Protection and Conservation Act is important to those efforts because it helps states implement their plans and gives them time to show results.
In Nevada, the plan implements a conservation credit system, an innovative solution that will fund important conservation projects that benefit that sage-hen and create regulatory certainty regarding conservation of the species, which is important for our economy. In short, users of the land, for example the mining industry, pay into the system when they affect areas that could be habitat, and the state can utilize those dollars to implement habitat restoration like cheat grass removal, pinyon juniper thinning, and riparian area rehabilitation.
In Nevada, over 80 percent of habitat is on public lands. The sage-grouse does not care if a private land owner, the state, or the federal government owns the land it inhabits. It is extremely important Nevada is able to use the dollars generated by this system wherever it’s needed most, regardless of political boundaries. This bill gives us that flexibility.
Two weeks ago, Secretary Jewell announced that the Service was going to reverse course on a proposed threatened listing of the Bi-State Sage Grouse, located on the California/Nevada border. This decision was the result of years of collaborative work between the states, federal agencies, ranchers, and other local stakeholders on the conservation of key habitat and reductions of threats to the bird.
It truly shows when everyone works together we can take steps to sustain wildlife without devastating our local economies with burdensome restrictions. With a chance to prove success, I think the eleven western states can do the same with the greater sage-grouse.
Thank you again Senator Inhofe for the opportunity to testify before the committee, and for the opportunity to shine a greater light on these common sense pieces of legislation.
May 07 2015
(Washington, DC) – This morning, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the VA Backlog. Click here or below to view the clip.
Yesterday, Senators Heller and Bob Casey (D-PA) released the VA Backlog Working Group 2015 Report, as well as introduced the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act. Click here for more information regarding yesterday’s rollout.
May 06 2015
(Washington, DC) – Today, Chairs of the VA Backlog Working Group, U.S. Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Bob Casey (D-PA), along with Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), held a press conference to release the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act, comprehensive legislation designed to create a system that can withstand surges in disability claims without generating another veteran disability claims backlog.
The Senators also released the VA Backlog Working Group 2015 Report in which the Working Group identifies the progress that has been made on the claims backlog since 2014, which Working Group recommendations have been implemented by the VA and Congress, and what actions must still be taken to fully transition the VA to a 21st century benefits delivery system. Click here for more information regarding today’s rollout.
You can click here or below to watch the video of Senator Heller at today’s press conference.
Apr 23 2015
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at the Senate Committee on Finance Subcommittee on Health Care hearing titled, “A Fresh Look at the Impact of the Medical Device Tax on Jobs, Innovation, and Patients.” More specifically, Heller highlighted Nevada’s need for pro-growth policy rather than burdensome taxes, like the Medical Device Tax, which stifle economic development and deter medical innovation.