A View from the Hill: November 2019

U.S. Capitol

Photo courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol

We sailed through summer and are now well into fall. We want to catch you up on a fair amount of action both on and off the Hill.

As you may recall, much of May and June was focused on marking up and passing annual appropriation bills in the House. The House was able to pass 10 of the 12 annual appropriations bills, including the FY2020 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) bill, which funds NOAA and all of its programs. But the appropriations bills stalled in the Senate. As a temporary measure, both chambers passed and the President signed a continuing resolution (“CR”), a measure that extends FY2019 funding levels through November 21st. Congress will need to pass the appropriations bill or another continuing resolution by that date.

Back in the House, we saw Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) introduce the bipartisan Climate-Ready Fisheries Act of 2019, HR 4679, a bill that seeks to manage the effects of climate change on fisheries. Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL), Tom Rooney (R-FL) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) cosponsored the bill. More specifically, the bill directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine what actions have been taken already by fisheries managers and provide recommendations on how to better adapt fishery management decisions and prepare for the impacts of climate change, among other things. You can read Rep. Cunningham’s press release here and the Network’s statement here.

Also in the House, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing and markup for a bill introduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME). Pingree’s Keeping America’s Waterfronts Working Act, HR 3596, provides federal funding through a federal grant program for coastal communities to upgrade their shoreside infrastructure and mitigate rising sea levels, among other things. The Network supports the bill because it compliments our working waterfronts policy position. You can read the Network’s statement here.

And recall that back in the spring, House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife Chairman Jared Huffman (D-CA) announced a national listening tour to hear directly from all the stakeholders in Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization. Huffman noted at the time that he planned to kick off the fall touring the country holding a series of roundtable discussions with stakeholders. Sure enough, the Chairman held two of his anticipated fisheries roundtables, first in Arcata, CA on Saturday, October 5th and the other on Monday, October 7th. Each listening session provided wide-ranging feedback to Huffman from a variety of stakeholders, including commercial and recreational fishermen, environmentalists, seafood dealers and culinary experts, among others. Effects of climate change on fisheries resources, the increasing need for cost-effective electronic data collection systems, the need for increased federal funding for science, and deteriorating shoreside infrastructure were some of the many topics raised during the two events. You can ready Rep. Huffman’s press release here, watch videos from each session through Rep. Huffman’s Facebook page here, and read the Network’s press statement here.

A couple other bills of interest have been introduced recently.

Rep. Huffman (Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, as noted earlier) introduced his Salmon Focused Investments in Sustainable Habitats (FISH) Act, HR 4723, just last month. The bill, cosponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), aims to “improve resiliency of those rivers that play a significant role in supporting healthy salmon populations.” By establishing “salmon conservation areas” and “salmon strongholds,” designating specific federal agencies responsible for implementing the bill’s provisions, and providing funding for salmon river and watershed habitat protection and restoration, the bill will, “focus on protecting the essential habitats that have not yet been degraded and will help support the jobs and economic activity that depend on healthy salmon runs.”

Also just last month, Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced their Ocean, Coastal and Estuarine Acidification Necessitates (OCEAN) Research Act, S 2699. The legislation would reauthorize the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation, and seeks to strengthen investment in research and monitoring of coastal and estuarine acidification by engaging coastal communities and the seafood industry. A joint press release can be found on both senators’ websites, here and here.

So clearly Congress has focused on several fisheries-related action items since lawmakers returned from their annual August break. We expect more activity as we move further into the fall, and the Network will be there every step of the way.

About Rob Vandermark

Rob Vandermark is the executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network.

2 comments on “A View from the Hill: November 2019

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