Congressman Hunter's May Newsletter
As the weather begins to warm in Washington, the House continues to build upon its record of accomplishments this year. In the 115th Congress, the House has passed 598 bills-- 470 of them are stuck in the Senate. The House has also passed 16 Congressional Review Act bills to eliminate some of the most onerous, last-minute burdensome regulations from President Obama’s final days in office. 15 of them were enacted into law.
Over the last year and a half, we’ve also reformed our broken tax code, provided stable funding for our military and rolled back burdensome regulations that have harmed economic growth. Now Congress is turning to workforce development and infrastructure. The House recently passed a bill to reauthorize and reform the FAA, and will soon act on legislation to rebuild our water infrastructure.
April also brought a number of meetings with constituents, San Diego businesses and a visit from 7th and 8th graders from Rancho Christian School.
As we approach Memorial Day weekend, many of us will be hitting the road. As you may know, on April 28, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 1 into law. This legislation aims to raise approximately $5.2 billion annually for road infrastructure in California through an increase in the gas tax and additional fees in connection to vehicle registration. For instance, the per-gallon tax on gasoline will be raised from 18 cents to 30 cents, a 66% increase.
In fact, the average commuter will spend $438 on gasoline taxes this year thanks to SB 1, a $96 increase over last year. Higher gas taxes impose a significant burden on the hundreds of thousands of middle-class families who commute across Southern California each day.
In California alone, gas prices are among the highest in the country due to a recently increased gas tax, high state fees, and unique fuel requirements that limit market supply. While many of the policies that drive California's high gas prices can only be addressed at the state level, at the federal level, instead of imposing higher gas taxes, we should find ways to cut red tape, speed up construction, and work to make valuable tax payer dollars go farther.
Last month, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors met in closed session to discuss its options regarding joining the federal lawsuit filed in March by the Department of Justice against the State of California. The primary issue focuses on SB54, the state law signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year and in effect since January 1, prohibiting state and local police agencies from informing federal authorities in cases when illegal immigrants facing deportation are released from local detention. With this action, the County of San Diego joins municipalities throughout the state, including the City of Escondido, in rejecting California’s sanctuary policies pushed by Governor Brown and the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature. I want to thank the San Diego County Board of Supervisors who voted to support the federal lawsuit against the sanctuary state laws passed by the State of California.
April 17th marked the last time Americans will ever have to file their taxes under the old, broken tax system. Thanks to the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this time next year hardworking Americans across the country will be able to file their taxes in a simple way.
While some may continue to deny the new tax law is helping middle-income families, I continue to hear directly from constituents and businesses in our district who are benefitting. For starters, a typical middle-income family of four in California’s 50th District will see a tax cut of $2,511. This will provide relief for many hardworking families that will be able to keep more of their hard earned money. It also doubles the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child to help parents with the cost of raising children; increases the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples; preserves the mortgage interest deduction to help current and aspiring homeowners and repeals Obamacare’s individual mandate. Moreover, business owners have been able to hire more workers, support their employees through promotions and higher wages, and expand their businesses.
Tax reform is an issue that I have fought for since I was first elected to represent California’s 50th District, and I believe we will continue to see and hear about the new tax code delivering results that increase economic opportunity and financial security for Southern Californians.
Internal Revenue Service
And with this new tax code, you deserve a new Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that truly serves you. That’s why the House continued our work to reform the IRS. After the targeting scandal and e-mail fiasco at the IRS, the House introduced laws to stop IRS abuse like political targeting and ensure that agency employees are held accountable for misconduct.
Recently, I voted for legislation to build on those efforts and dramatically reform the IRS. The House passed H.R. 5445, the 21st Century IRS Act, which takes steps to provide greater accountability, transparency and security for IRS information technology (IT). The House also passed H.R. 5444, the Taxpayer First Act to create an independent appeals process to review taxpayer disputes with an impartial look. Specifically, this bill will permanently authorize the Free File and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs, which provide tax filing assistance to low and moderate-income Americans.
These are common sense steps to redesign the IRS and puts an emphasis on customer service by requiring the IRS to submit a plan to Congress to restructure the agency to improve efficiency, enhance cyber security and better serve taxpayers. This will guarantee that the IRS is living up to its quality service mission and will hold the agency accountable if it fails to meet these standards.
I joined the Uniformed Services League and the United American Patriots to speak about U.S. Army First Lt. Clint Lorance, who is currently serving 19 years in prison for a deadly shooting in Afghanistan. Lt. Lorance was leading a platoon on a patrol when three Afghan men on a motorcycle suddenly approached his troops. Fearing for their safety, Lt. Lorance ordered his men to open fire, killing two of the men. After the incident, Army prosecutors made the determination that Lt. Lorance violated the military’s rules of engagement by not holding fire until there was clear evidence of hostile intentions. The Army argues the individuals were not a threat, but evidence denied to Lt. Lorance’s legal team could prove differently. More importantly, the previously withheld information now confirms that forensic evidence linked DNA found on detonated roadside bombs to the DNA of the Afghan men.
Throughout my career in Congress, I have worked similar cases over time, and Lt. Lorance's case is consistent with irregularities in other cases that have prompted either review or reversal. For this reason, I sent a letter to President Trump asking him to personally review the case and issue a presidential pardon for Lt. Lorance. I will continue to be a vocal advocate for Clint, and I am proud to stand up, even against the odds, for individuals willing to risk their life for our country.
The Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act
On April 18th, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved my bipartisan bill, H.R. 788, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, providing state fish and game agencies more flexibility to use federal funds for the development, expansion and maintenance of public shooting ranges. The Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Conservation Trust fund derives its funding through excise taxes levied on firearm, ammunition, and archery purchases. My bill increases the current cap from 75 to 90 percent of these funds for the creation and maintenance of shooting ranges and allow States to begin work on public ranges with 10 percent matching funds, instead of the current 25 percent. Further, my bill will promote safety training and awareness as well as ensure wildlife conservation funding. I’m looking forward to my bill coming to the House floor.
Hearing from You
As always, I hope to hear from you throughout the course of the year as Congress does its legislative work, in addition to providing effective oversight. Please contact my office with any questions, comments, or concerns.