Congressman Lynch's Lunch Bucket Bulletin - 12/5/2017

Dec 5, 2017

Link to Congressman Lynch's Lunch Bucket Bulletin - 12/5/2017

December 5, 2017

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter, where I will be sharing updates on what Congress is considering on the House floor, legislation I’ve introduced or cosponsored, as well as reports on issues and events of importance to the families of the 8th Congressional District.

Last week, the Senate passed a Republican tax plan that would give massive tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy at the expense of the middle class, working families, and senior citizens. The House passed similar legislation three weeks ago, and the next step for Republicans is to meet and reconcile any details that differ between the two bills. We know one thing: the Republican plan will hurt the middle class and those who need help most.

Massachusetts residents would be especially hard hit by this plan, which would eliminate the federal tax deduction for paying state and local taxes (SALT). Among residents of the 8th District, more than 130,000 tax returns claim the SALT deduction for an average of around $15,000. Another major fault in the proposal is the limitation on the mortgage interest deduction. Under the House bill, only the interest attributable to the first $500,000 of mortgage debt will be deductible. Due to the high cost of housing in Massachusetts, many local families will see their tax exposure rise significantly.

The Republican tax plan is also harmful to senior citizens. The plan would cut $25 billion from Medicare in 2018, hurting seniors and individuals with disabilities across the United States. The House plan would also eliminate the medical expense deduction for those who spend more than 10 percent of their income on medical expenses. This is a nightmare for seniors, who on average spend nearly 20 percent of their income on health care expenses.

We should be working together in Congress to come up with a tax plan that benefits the middle class and hard-working families. Instead, Republicans are helping corporations and the wealthy by trying to jam this destructive plan through Congress. I promise to do everything in my power to stop this plan from becoming law and will continue to fight for the hard-working families in my district and across the country.

Over the last two months, we have learned about allegations of misconduct by powerful men in almost every industry, including in Congress. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable and it must have career-ending, life-altering consequences for the perpetrators. The system for handling these allegations in Congress is arcane and does little, if anything, to support the brave victims who come forward. We also recently learned that more than $17 million in taxpayer funds have been used to settle complaints related to workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment, since 1997.

Congress is taking steps to change this system, beginning with passing a resolution last week that mandates sexual harassment training for all members of Congress and employees. This is a small but important first step as we begin overhauling the current system. We must be able to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, empower victims to tell their stories, and, hopefully, prevent these incidents altogether.

We also face an ongoing opioid addiction crisis, particularly here in Massachusetts. A recent 60 Minutes investigative report detailed how a law passed in 2016 has hindered the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ability to crack down on suspicious narcotic shipments and keep drugs off our streets. The law – the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act – made it harder for the DEA to deny, revoke, or suspend the registration of a controlled substance distributor in order to prevent imminent danger to public health and safety. To make things worse, Congressional leadership pushed the law through by sleight of hand, relying on procedures typically used for noncontroversial matters like the naming of a post office.

At a time when Americans are dying by the thousands from this devastating disease, there is no excuse for passing laws that make it easier for narcotics to land on our streets. In October, I introduced a bill that would repeal the 2016 law and restore the DEA’s ability to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments. I recently discussed the importance of this repeal with WBZ's Jon Keller. While recent statistics show our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic are making an impact, we cannot be satisfied with only slowing down rates of death. We must instead double down on the effective and proven initiatives that are saving lives.

I have also been taking steps to address concerns from residents across the 8th Congressional District who have experienced increased airplane noise since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented new flight plans in and out of Logan Airport. MASSPORT received more than 30,000 airplane noise-related complaints in the first half of 2017, which was nearly double the number of complaints received during the same period in 2016. Complaints came in from 78 communities across Massachusetts, including many towns and cities in the 8th District, such as Hull, Hingham, Milton, and Boston.

In October, I introduced the Air Traffic Noise and Pollution Expert Consensus Act of 2017, which would require the FAA to sponsor an Expert Consensus Report on the health effects of airplanes flying over residential areas. With the results of this report, we hope to have the data we need to compel changes in current flight paths so residents can regain the quality of life they once had in their homes and neighborhoods.

In November, in response to constituent concerns about the safety and environmental impacts of the Weymouth Compressor Station, I introduced the Natural Gas Pipeline Public Health Protection Act. This bill would suspend construction and expansion of natural gas facilities in communities with unsafe air pollutant levels. Back in July, I met with Dr. Curtis Nordgaard to conduct a site visit near the Weymouth Compressor Station, where his certified independent testing showed that the area surrounding the site tested at unsafe levels of hazardous pollutants, such as benzene and formaldehyde.

There are similar communities across the country that are already exposed to unsafe levels of air pollutants and will be at increased risk of exposure once nearby natural gas facilities are built or expanded. The Natural Gas Pipeline Public Health Protection Act would suspend construction and expansion of natural gas facilities in communities where certified independent air quality testing has revealed violations of the Clean Air Act. This is not complicated: if the air quality in a community already violates federal standards, we should not be adding toxins to the air.

I also continue to monitor situations in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, and North Korea. While ongoing rhetoric is causing tense foreign relations with many countries around the world, I promise to do everything in my power as a U.S. Representative to improve these relations and bring a thoughtful and informed opinion to all foreign policy decisions.

Thank you for keeping in touch with our office and for keeping me informed about the issues that are important to you and your family.

Happy Holidays, God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.

Thank you,
Congressman Stephen F. Lynch