Environment, vets and economy with Congressman Rick Larsen
With the Nov. 8 election looming, congressman Rick Larsen shared his latest goals with the Journal. Larsen, a Democrat, has been the representative for Washington's 2nd congressional district since January 2001. The district includes all of Island and San Juan counties and neighboring areas on the mainland from Bellingham to Lynnwood.
Larsen said his top priorities for next few years are the environment, our local veterans and the economy.
"I think we're at a point where we need to accept that climate changes is real, that it is man-made, and that we need to take action before it's too late," said Larsen. "The president has negotiated a climate change treaty; here in the U.S., we need to take actions to reduce our use of fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy."
Larsen cited his record of voting for climate change legislation as well as supporting tax credits and subsidies for renewable energy. He has voted in favor of cap-and-trade regulations that use market incentives to reduce carbon emissions; and he supported the EPA retaining the ability to limit power plant emissions.
Larsen said he is working in Congress right now to get a $450 million, 20-year commitment from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to support efforts to restore nearshore habitats around Puget Sound. This will include restoration of estuary and beach habitats to their original, pre-development state. And each year, Larsen says he has supported the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund established by Congress in 2000 to reverse the declines of Pacific salmon and steelhead. The fund supports conservation efforts across California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, and Larsen believes it's an important element in supporting our resident orcas population.
This September, Larsen announced $1.5 million in federal grants awarded to two organizations that work with homeless veterans: the Opportunity Council and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington.
The funds will bring supportive services to veterans and their families.
Also that month, congress passed an annual spending bill containing a section written by Larsen that lifted a decades-old ban that kept the VA from paying for in-vitro fertilization services for veterans wounded in the line of duty.
"About 2,000 veterans have been injured since 2001, with injuries that prevent them from having children," said Larsen. "The cost of IVF is astronomical compared to what some of these young men and women make when they get out of service."
The VA will now cover IVF services for these veterans.
Larsen is currently working on a bill called the "Youth Access to American Jobs Act," which will create a system of grants. These grants are intended to help states create pilot projects to explore better ways of connecting students' high school education to community and technical college education, as well as to two-year apprenticeships.
"We do some apprenticeships well, such as the construction trades, but other industries we don't do as well, like tech-related industries or healthcare," said Larsen. "We need to build a strong, flexible workforce."
Another facet of the economy is transportation. "Transportation means jobs," said Larsen. "Although the San Juan islands don't demand a lot of federal transportation dollars, when they are needed, I believe I've been there for the San Juans." Larsen cites 16 years of his own efforts to gain federal funding for the relocation and reconstruction of Cattle Point Rd., as well as his work to obtain funding and U.S. Coast Guard assistance for replacement of the Deer Harbor bridge.
Larsen also says he's proud of his record of supporting Planned Parenthood, and says he was endorsed by a Planned Parenthood action fund on October 12.
"I have a 100 percent record on voting for reproductive health care," he said. "I'm very pleased with that endorsement."
"These are priorities I've been working on, and they will be my priorities for the next session of Congress as well," said Larsen. "I'm working hard now for the people I represent, and because of that, I believe I've earned the privilege to serve a few more years."