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News from Senator Begich; July 29, 2013



July 29, 2013

Begich Fights for Veterans’ Benefits,
Spending Cuts, Strong Alaska Fisheries

The U.S. Senate has been unusually productive in recent weeks, passing immigration reform, keeping rates low for college student loans, tackling a series of budget bills and breaking the logjam on presidential appointees to key cabinet posts.

I’ve worked to capitalize on the progress by cutting federal spending and making sure our veterans receive proper health care and other benefits. I was pleased my bill to close a loophole in federal law to ensure veterans who become homeless as a result of domestic violence are eligible for veterans benefits passed the Senate Veterans Committee last week. In response to complaints, I also requested a Government Accountability Office review of the new management of Tricare, which provides health care benefits to military service members, retirees and their families.

As a new member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I helped cut spending for the State Department and foreign operations by $2.9 billion, while ensuring a national focus on international activities in the Arctic are advanced.

Another effort to cut federal spending comes in legislation I introduced last week to require federal agencies promote bulk purchasing and "strategic sourcing." This sourcing gives federal agencies leverage with their buying power to achieve cost savings on common goods and services. The bill is estimated to save billions of dollars annually.

To help protect one of Alaska’s most important industries - our fisheries - I urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to give Alaskans more time to comment on a proposed halibut catch sharing plan. NOAA proposed granting just two additional weeks for comment on this major harvest plan, yet most affected Alaskans are busy fishing right now. Fishermen should get their comments in to NOAA by Aug. 26.

With Congress adjourning for August next weekend, I look forward to spending most of the month in Alaska, meeting with Alaskans and bringing important visitors to our state to better appreciate Alaskans’ needs.

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Senator Mark Begich



Sharing a laugh - U.S. Sen. Begich shared a laugh with Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young before greeting young Alaskans visiting the Capitol for a Democracy in Action forum.



Upcoming Events

August 12, 2013
11:30 a.m. (Alaska)
Institute of the North Week of the Arctic Workforce Development Panel
Anchorage: UAA ANSEP Building

August 13, 2013
6:00 p.m. (Alaska)
Filipino Community Town Hall
Anchorage: Northwood ABC Elementary School (Asian Cultural Center)

August 21, 2013
3:45 p.m. (Alaska)
Magnuson-Stevens Act Reauthorization Listening Session
Soldotna: Soldotna Sports Center

August 23, 2013
2:00 p.m. (Alaska)
Job Corps Commencement
Palmer: Job Corps Campus

August 27, 2013
12:00 p.m. (Alaska)
Anchorage Downtown Rotary Luncheon
Anchorage: Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center

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Begich Announces Small Business Relief Plan to Simplify Health Care Law

With the goal of helping small businesses more easily provide health care coverage to employees under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), U.S. Sen. Mark Begich announced his Small Business Relief Plan. "As a small-business owner, I know that Alaska small businesses need less bureaucracy and fewer complicated rules - not more," said Sen. Begich. The Small Business Relief Plan (click for fact sheet) consists of five bills and several provisions to make purchasing insurance for small businesses simpler and more affordable. The bills would give businesses time to prepare for the new rules under the ACA, increase competition by allowing small businesses access to multi-state insurance plans, expand and simplify tax credits in the ACA and implement sensible tax deductions for job-creating investments.

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A Tale of Survival - Sen. Begich met with Vernon and Frank Schumacher whose lives were recently saved thanks to the wireless networks that were set up in the Yakatat Bay area by Cordova Networks and Tecore Networks.

Catching up with the Colonel - Sen. Begich met with Colonel Tyler Otten and Major Derek Norton of Elmendorf Richardson Air Force Base to discuss military issues.

Begich Introduces Traditional Food Bill in Response to Rural Communities Demands for Local Food Option

To encourage accesses and consumption of healthy traditional foods, Sen. Begich last week introduced The Traditional Foods Nourishment Act of 2013. "Many Alaska Native traditional foods have been proven to increase physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness," said Sen. Begich. "Traditional foods like wild salmon, migratory birds, moose and berries are fresher, less processed and retain more nutrients. All of which benefit Alaska Natives who may struggle with diet-related problems like heart disease and diabetes. It makes no sense for the federal government to ban food service programs from offering these options. If passed, my bill would allow for food service programs in schools, hospitals, and elder care facilities to serve traditional foods. It’s a simple solution to a problem that is well worth fixing."

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Operation Purple - Sen. Begich sent his staffer Bob Doehl to recognize and thank campers at Operation Purple, a camp at dedicated to children of military service members, for the sacrifices they and their families have endured in having a parent providing for our nation's defense.

Democracy in Action - Sen. Begich met with students from the Washington Workshops Foundation who were in Washington D.C. to participate in the Our Democracy in Action forum.

Begich to Arctic Experts: U.S. Must Lead on Arctic Issues

Sen. Begich continued his efforts in the Senate this past week to redouble U.S. focus on the Arctic by successfully including language in a bill to encourage the Department of State to appoint an Arctic ambassador. The language mirrors legislation in a bill Begich introduced to officially appoint an Arctic ambassador. Sen. Begich also gained critical support for increased Coast Guard activity in the Arctic, including a bill stating the importance of acquiring a new icebreaker to assist with Arctic shipping, fishing, and energy development. Begich praised the progress made to support development in the Arctic during a speech at the 5th Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic on Naval and Maritime Operations but warned the White House to intensify its efforts or get left behind as other countries prepare to stake their claims to Arctic resources.

This week's website features
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Begich Minute: Staying Focused on Our Veterans

Apply to be a U.S. Senate Page

In this week’s Begich Minute, Sen. Begich highlighted his continued focus on veteran’s issues in the U.S. Senate, discussing a roundtable he held with veterans organizations that included Brenda Lutz, a member of the Alaska National Guard.

My D.C. office will sponsor a female page this fall and a male page this spring. The deadline for the fall applications is July 31st - only 2 days away. If you are interested or know someone who would be a good candidate, please visit the link below for more information about the program. Candidates must be Alaskans. Page duties consist primarily of delivery of legislative material within the Capitol Complex, preparing the Senate Chamber for sessions, taking messages for Senators or calling them to the phone, and carrying bills and amendments from the presiding officer's desk.

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