STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
(Senate - September 18, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 150 (Monday, September 18, 2017)]
[Pages S5802-S5804]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




          STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

      By Mr. McCONNELL:
  S. 1824. A bill to reform the Appalachian Regional Commission, and 
for other purposes; to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr President, for decades, I have supported the 
Appalachian Regional Commission, or ARC, and its mission to invest in 
communities to strengthen economic growth throughout the Appalachian 
region.
  As I have expressed before, however, I have grown frustrated by ARC's 
shortcomings. Last year, the Senate considered an amendment to abolish 
ARC entirely. I voted against that proposal because I believe that the 
Commission still serves an important purpose, but since that time I've 
been calling on ARC to clarify its clouded focus.
  For instance, because of ARC's own rules, the most distressed 
counties in the region can only receive up to 30% of its area 
development funds. In other words, a substantial portion of the 
agency's resources--which should be focused on alleviating poverty--are 
intentionally directed away from the counties most in need of help. 
This has been a criticism leveled against ARC for years. I believe 
that, if ARC serves a valid purpose today, then it is to assist the 
most impoverished counties in the region.
  Moreover, while the other regional commissions are headquartered in 
the areas for which they're designed to serve, ARC maintains its 
primary office right here in Washington, D.C. An expensive office near 
Dupont Circle, far

[[Page S5803]]

away from the people and the communities it serves, is not the right 
place for ARC.
  Today, I will introduce legislation along with my friend and longtime 
ARC champion, Congressman Hal Rogers, to make desperately needed 
reforms at ARC. Our bill is designed to reform the Commission, to focus 
its mission on investing more in the poorest Appalachian communities, 
and to direct ARC's leadership to relocate the organization to the 
region it serves.
  These common-sense reforms will help set ARC on a path toward 
fulfilling what should be its central mission--poverty alleviation--and 
delivering vital assistance to those who need it the most. I hope that 
all of my colleagues will join with me to move this legislation forward 
and provide necessary relief to communities in Appalachia.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text 
of the bill be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be 
printed in the Record, as follows:


                                S. 1824



 =========================== NOTE =========================== 

  
  On page S5803, September 18, 2017, in the first column, the 
following appears: AMENDMENT NO. 1824
  
  The online Record has been corrected to read: S.1824


 ========================= END NOTE ========================= 

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Appalachian Regional 
     Commission Reform Act''.

     SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

       (a) Headquarters.--Congress finds that--
       (1) regional commissions, such as the Delta Regional 
     Authority, the Denali Commission, and the Northern Border 
     Regional Commission, are each headquartered in their 
     respective region;
       (2) headquartering regional commissions within the region 
     affected is a sensible approach to ensure that the 
     commissions are housed in more affordable locations than the 
     District of Columbia, thereby reducing administrative 
     overhead and making the commissions closer and more 
     accountable to the people the commissions were designed to 
     serve;
       (3) the Appalachian Regional Commission (referred to in 
     this Act as the ``Commission'') is not headquartered in 
     Appalachia but in Washington, D.C.; and
       (4) the headquarters of the Commission should be relocated 
     from the District of Columbia to a more affordable location 
     in the Appalachian region so that it is closer and more 
     accountable to the people the Commission was designed to 
     serve.
       (b) Performance.--Congress finds that--
       (1) the Commission was created to help foster economic 
     opportunity and close health and educational disparities in a 
     geographic region of the United States beleaguered by 
     persistent poverty and high unemployment;
       (2) the Commission remains the sole Federal agency focused 
     singularly on economic revitalization in the Appalachian 
     region;
       (3) in 1998, Congress charged the Commission with 
     ``address[ing] the needs of severely and persistently 
     distressed areas of the Appalachian region and focus[ing] 
     special attention on the areas of greatest need'';
       (4) the Commission has long been criticized for its 
     shortcomings in fulfilling this mission, including in--
       (A) a 1999 study titled ``Mountain Money: Federal Tax 
     Dollars Miss the Mark in Core Appalachia'' by Mark Ferenchik 
     and Jill Ripenhoff for the Columbus Dispatch; and
       (B) a 2008 book titled ``Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 
     1945'' by Ronald D. Eller;
       (5) in 2004, the Office of Management and Budget noted the 
     importance of the Commission ``[f]ocusing efforts 
     on...targeting assistance to areas of distress'';
       (6) in 2017, Citizens Against Government Waste 
     characterized the programming of the Commission as 
     duplicative and called for drastic reductions in the budget 
     of the Commission;
       (7) in 2017, the Office of Management and Budget, citing a 
     Government Accountability Office study, concluded that the 
     Commission should be abolished, and that conclusion was 
     reflected in the fiscal year 2018 budget request submitted by 
     the President;
       (8) these recent actions reflect a growing chorus that the 
     Commission should be reformed; and
       (9) therefore, given the long-recognized shortcomings of 
     the Commission, the long-standing criticism of the 
     Commission, and the need to ensure its optimal performance, 
     the time has arrived for the Commission to be reformed.
       (c) Persistent Poverty.--Congress finds that--
       (1) using 1960 data, the Commission (which was created in 
     1965) concluded that there were 214 distressed counties in 
     the Appalachian region;
       (2) in 2017, according to the Commission, there are 84 
     distressed counties in the Appalachian region, reflecting the 
     areas of most persistent poverty in the region; and
       (3) therefore, the Commission should be reformed to focus 
     its attention on the areas of most persistent poverty in the 
     region.
       (d) Area Development Funding for Distressed Counties.--
     Congress finds that--
       (1) according to the study by the Columbus Dispatch 
     referred to in subsection (b)(4)(A), of the 22,169 grants 
     issued by the Commission from fiscal year 1966 through fiscal 
     year 1998, none of the 5 counties that received the most 
     Commission funding was considered distressed, and more than 
     \1/4\ of all Commission spending during that period went to 
     States with few, if any, distressed counties;
       (2) according to author Ronald D. Eller in 2014, ``[the 
     Commission] policies have concentrated resources in a select 
     few `growth centers' in the [Appalachian] region, expanding 
     services to the poor and growing the mountain middle class, 
     but doing little to alter conditions in the most rural 
     distressed counties or to address systemic political or 
     economic inequalities throughout Appalachia'';
       (3) until 1995, the Commission allocated up to 20 percent 
     of its area development grants for use in distressed 
     counties;
       (4) following instructions given to the Commission by the 
     Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of 
     Representatives in 1995, this allocation was increased by the 
     Commission to 30 percent;
       (5) section 7.5(c) of the Code of the Commission (as in 
     effect on the date of enactment of this Act) reflects this 
     1995 policy change and states that the Commission ``will 
     allocate up to 30 percent of Commission area development 
     funds for use in distressed counties'', even though, 
     according to the Commission's public representations, 
     economic conditions in distressed areas of the Appalachian 
     region have not greatly improved since the 1960s;
       (6) given the persistent levels of poverty in the 
     distressed counties in the Appalachian region, more area 
     development funding and emphasis should be devoted to those 
     counties; and
       (7) therefore, the allocation described in paragraph (3) 
     should be increased to 60 percent.
       (e) Grant Expenditures.--Congress finds that--
       (1) section 14524(d) of title 40, United States Code, 
     provides that ``not less than 50 percent of the amount of 
     grant expenditures the Commission approves shall support 
     activities or projects that benefit severely and persistently 
     distressed counties and areas'';
       (2) given the persistent levels of poverty in the 
     distressed counties in the Appalachian region, more grant 
     expenditures and emphasis should be devoted to those 
     counties; and
       (3) therefore, the 50 percent threshold in section 14524(d) 
     of title 40, United States Code, should be increased to 60 
     percent.

     SEC. 3. MISSION OF THE APPALACHIAN REGIONAL COMMISSION.

       Section 14301 of title 40, United States Code, is amended 
     by striking subsection (a) and inserting the following:
       ``(a) Establishment and Mission.--
       ``(1) Establishment.--There is an Appalachian Regional 
     Commission (referred to in this chapter as the `Commission').
       ``(2) Mission.--The mission of the Commission shall be to 
     focus primarily on poverty reduction and economic development 
     in areas in the Appalachian region with the most persistent 
     poverty.''.

     SEC. 4. HEADQUARTERS OF THE APPALACHIAN REGIONAL COMMISSION.

       (a) In General.--Section 14301 of title 40, United States 
     Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
       ``(g) Headquarters.--The headquarters of the Commission 
     shall be located in the Appalachian region.''.
       (b) Implementation.--The Federal Cochairman of the 
     Commission shall take such actions as may be necessary to 
     carry out the amendment made by subsection (a).

     SEC. 5. GRANT EXPENDITURES.

       Section 14524(d) of title 40, United States Code, is 
     amended by striking ``50 percent'' and inserting ``60 
     percent''.

     SEC. 6. AREA DEVELOPMENT FUNDS FOR DISTRESSED COUNTIES.

       Section 14526(b) of title 40, United States Code, is 
     amended--
       (1) by striking ``In program and'' and inserting the 
     following:
       ``(1) In general.--In program and''; and
       (2) by adding at the end the following:
       ``(2) Area development funds.--
       ``(A) In general.--Of the funds made available for each 
     fiscal year for the Area Development Program of the 
     Commission, the Commission shall allocate not less than 60 
     percent for projects in counties for which a distressed 
     county designation is in effect under this section.
       ``(B) Methodology.--The methodology for determining whether 
     a county is designated as a distressed county under 
     subsection (a)(1)(A) shall be the methodology in effect on 
     the day before the date of enactment of the Appalachian 
     Regional Commission Reform Act.
       ``(3) Report.--The Commission shall submit an annual report 
     that describes the allocation of funds, in dollar amounts and 
     percentage of total appropriations, for the Area Development 
     Program to counties described in paragraph (2) to--
       ``(A) the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
       ``(B) the minority leader of the House of Representatives;
       ``(C) the majority leader of the Senate;
       ``(D) the minority leader of the Senate;
       ``(E) the Committee on Appropriations of the House of 
     Representatives;
       ``(F) the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate;
       ``(G) the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of 
     the House of Representatives; and

[[Page S5804]]

       ``(H) the Committee on Environment and Public Works of the 
     Senate.''.
                                 ______
                                 
      By Mr. REED (for himself, Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Brown, Mr. King, Mr. 
        Franken, and Mr. Whitehouse):
  S. 1828. A bill to change the date for regularly scheduled general 
elections for Federal office to the first Saturday and Sunday after the 
first Friday in November in every even-numbered year; to the Committee 
on Rules and Administration.
  Mr. REED. Mr. President, today I am pleased to be joined by Senators 
Klobuchar, Brown, King, Franken, and Whitehouse in introducing the 
Weekend Voting Act. This bill makes voting in Federal elections easier 
and more accessible through one simple change: moving Election Day from 
Tuesday to the following Saturday and Sunday in November of an election 
year.
  We know from surveys and common sense that Tuesday voting stands in 
the way of greater voter participation. In 1845, Congress set Tuesday 
as Election Day because it was the easiest day for farmers--then 
travelling by horse and buggy--to make it to the polls in the course of 
their regular Tuesday trips to bring goods to market. Tuesday voting 
has no such benefit for farmers, or anyone else, in the 21st Century. 
It does, however, force many Americans to choose between their workday 
and family responsibilities, and participation in our democratic 
process.
  According to the Pew Research Center, voter turnout in the United 
States regularly lags behind other developed countries, many of which 
hold elections on one or more days during the weekend. According to 
U.S. Census data, the most consistent reason Americans give for not 
voting is that they are too busy to get away from their daily lives to 
make it to the polls.
  The Weekend Voting Act would give Americans the ability to vote 
during times that make better sense for them. Rather than on a Tuesday, 
polls would stay open during the first Saturday and Sunday after the 
first Friday in November of an election year. States would retain full 
autonomy to continue to offer alternatives to Election Day voting, such 
as early voting or voting by mail, and States are encouraged to give 
special consideration to accommodate weekend religious practices.
  Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to support the Weekend Voting Act 
so that more Americans can take part in our democratic process by 
voting at times that work for them.

                          ____________________