Press Releases

Saying it will improve soldiers’ quality of life and continue modernizing the Army, Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith is leading efforts to bring the Army’s on-line learning initiative to Fort Lewis as a pilot project.

“eArmyU will ensure that our Army Personnel have access to educational opportunities,” said Smith. “What’s more, it provides a real service to the men and women serving in the Army and will bolster our recruitment and retention efforts.”

eArmyU is an innovative new program announced by Army Secretary Louis Caldera at Fort Lewis earlier this year that expands Army soldiers’ access to education through on-line distance learning. 

eArmyU will offer educational opportunities from a diverse consortium of colleges, universities and technical schools linked by computer technology. “Soldiers would be able to access on-line courseware anytime, anywhere,” explained Smith, “so that deployments overseas would not interfere with progress toward a degree.” Each soldier will be issued a tech package consisting of a laptop computer, printer, Internet access and technical support. eArmy U has a six-year price tag of $550 million with $50 million in FY01. 

On Monday, Smith spoke with Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera to urge Fort Lewis’s selection as a pilot site. “Secretary Caldera was very positive, and he assured me that our proposal would be closely looked at,” said Smith. “He also noted that community support, from county and city leaders to businesses to Fort Lewis personnel, would be an instrumental factor.”

Last week, Smith convened a meeting attended by leaders from throughout Pierce County. Supporters of bringing eArmyU to Fort Lewis include the Port of Tacoma, Lakewood Mayor Bill Harrison, the Washington State Software Alliance, the Frank Russell Company, and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce.
According to the Army, the two or three pilot sites will be selected based on a number of factors including:

An adequate number of qualified soldiers;
An adequate Internet and telecommunications infrastructure; and
Portability: soldiers that are on rotations oversees.
The Army has also indicated that site selection would occur on or about September 8.

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith and HUD Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, Cardell Cooper, announced today two major economic development grants for Washington State.

The City of Tukwila will receive over $4 million in economic development funding for Tukwila Village, a mixed use development between a private developer, the McConkey Development Corporation, and the City of Tukwila.

The project will create a town center featuring a neighborhood public services building, two three-story buildings with office and retail space, restaurants, 24 affordable condominiums, a 214 space parking deck and public plaza. The project is expected to create 181 new jobs.

“This is a good example of the direction economic development needs to go in our area,” said Smith. “The Puget Sound has been blessed with a great deal of economic prosperity, but that economic development has not been spread evenly throughout the region. This funding will help to spread some of that prosperity so that South King County isn’t stuck with airports and garbage dumps for its economic development.”

Specifically, Tukwila will receive a $455,000 Economic Development Initiative (EDI) Grant, as well as $3,630,000 in Section 108 loan guarantees. Section 108 loan guarantees provides communities with a source of financing for economic development, housing rehabilitation, public facilities and large scale physical development projects. The EDI funds will pay for interest during the first two years of the Section 108 loan repayment.

 

Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith will present a donation of $500 to the Des Moines Senior Center on Thursday, August 24th, at 12:00 p.m. at the Des Moines Senior Center.

The $500 is from Smith’s congressional pay raise. Although he voted against the pay raise, it became law. As he has done with past Congressional pay raises, Smith promised to donate it to local community and education programs. The $500 donation will allow the Des Moines Senior Center to purchase new tables for their daily program activities. 

“The Des Moines Senior Center is a vital part of our community, and offers a variety of excellent services to seniors,” Smith said. “I am very pleased to donate part of my pay raise to the Center and look forward to having lunch with constituents at the newly purchased tables.”

The Des Moines Senior Center’s mission is to provide a full monthly calendar of programs, services, drop-in activities, special events, classes, and a hot lunch five days a week.

Today, Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith announced that the House of Representatives passed H.R. 894, “Aimee’s Law”, legislation he has co-sponsored and worked to pass for nearly three years.

“This bill encourages states to keep the most violent and dangerous criminals off the streets,” said Smith, a former prosecutor for the City of Seattle. “I am pleased that the House has finally passed this important bill.”

Last year, the House passed the measure as an amendment to H.R. 1501, the Child Safety and Protection Act, but the Senate has not yet acted on that bill.

H.R. 894 would create a financial incentive for states to hold violent criminals instead of releasing them to commit more crimes. If a state releases an individual convicted of murder, rape, or a dangerous sexual offense involving a child under the age of 14 and that individual then commits one of those violent crimes again in another state, the first state is liable for the costs of apprehension, prosecution, and incarceration.

The bill is named in honor of Aimee Willard, a former student at George Mason University who was raped and murdered in Pennsylvania by Arthur Bomar in 1996. Bomar, who had been convicted of murder in Nevada, was released from prison despite a history of violence. Smith is an original co-sponsor of H.R. 894.

“The average time served for rape is currently only five and a half years,” Smith said. “The woman who is raped by a criminal after he gets out of prison suffers life-long consequences. This legislation will also place consequences on criminals and the states who prematurely release them.”

Two years ago, a Tacoma woman testified before a congressional committee in support of the legislation. Mary Vincent was brutally attacked in California by a violent criminal and suffered serious lifelong consequences. Ms. Vincent moved to Gig Harbor and then Tacoma. After she heard that her attacker had been released from San Quentin after serving only eight years, she barricaded herself in her house and became anorexic and bulimic. In February of 1997, her attacker killed a Florida woman. Ms. Vincent testified at her attacker’s sentencing, and he was sent to death row. Ms. Vincent is one of the many victims and victims’ rights advocates, including Marc Klaas whose daughter Polly was kidnapped and murdered in 1993, who has come out in support of this legislation.

It is also endorsed by a broad group of organizations, including the National Fraternal Order of Police , Mothers Against Gangs, The Women’s Coalition, the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, and Kids Safe.

Saying that it fails to meet the needs of seniors, Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith will oppose the Republican prescription drug proposal today.

“This plan fails on four critical fronts,” explained Smith. “It does not guarantee prescription medicine access for all Medicare recipients, it does not adequately control the spiraling costs of prescriptions medicines, the cost is unpredictable, and it is extraordinarily confusing to patients.”

Providing prescription drug benefits to seniors has risen to the top of Congress’s to-do list in recent months. Several weeks ago, the Republicans wrote a plan and introduced H.R 4680. While the Democrats have a competing plan, the House leadership will not allow a vote on the alternative plan during today’s consideration.

“I know how important it is that seniors have access to the medicines they need to stay healthy,” Smith said. “At the same time, we must ensure that we enact a common sense policy that solves problems instead of just reacting to poll numbers. I am concerned that this bill won’t do a thing to help our seniors.”

Smith says that both access and cost control are important. “This bill fails on a critical front: does it provide all Medicare recipients with access to prescription drug coverage? The answer is no,” he said. 

Under the legislation, seniors would enroll in an individual plan offered by a private insurance company. However, private insurance companies have testified to Congress that they are unwilling to offer these individual plans. “We continue to believe that the concept of so-called drug-only private insurance simply would not work in practice,” said Charles Kahn, the President of the Health Insurance Association of America, which is a group comprised of 294 insurance companies.

Scott Serota, the acting President of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, added, “This idea [a private sector drug benefit] provides false hope to America’s seniors because it is neither workable nor affordable.”

The reliance on private insurance companies to offer individual plans does not guarantee coverage for seniors, Smith notes. “We don’t know how many, if any, insurance companies would offer these drug-only plans to seniors and if they would be offered everywhere in America or just in certain regions,” he said. “Instead, Congress should pass legislation that provides a prescription drug benefit under the Medicare program, which serves all of our nation’s seniors.”

Nor does the proposal work to contain the spiraling costs of prescription drugs. “As we aim to provide access to prescription drugs, we cannot forget to also enact measures to contain costs,” Smith said. “This proposal would have seniors purchase individual plans, instead of incorporating any competitive or pooling mechanisms to keep costs down.”

Smith continued, “I don’t support government-mandated price controls on prescription drugs, but we do need to utilize purchasing power and competition to keep drugs affordable, both for seniors and for the Medicare program that will be subsidizing the drugs. I support pooling Medicare recipients and allowing several prescription drug plans to compete for their business. That will help keep costs down.”

Although the Republicans estimate the plan will cost $40 billion over five years, the costs are actually unpredictable because the subsidy to insurance companies can be flexible and the government could be required to offer plans if no insurance company opted to enter a particular region.

“Right now, we have a surplus forecasted, and I think using a portion of those funds to provide a prescription drug benefit to Medicare patients is money well spent,” Smith said. “However, the cost estimate of this plan, I believe, is unrealistically low, and if we’re going to maintain a balanced budget and pay down the debt, we need to be honest about the true cost of our policies.”

Costs to seniors are also unclear. Premiums, deductibles, and benefits could vary widely, and insurance companies may raise them far above the current estimates in order to make offering an individual plan financially worthwhile.

Finally, Smith points out that any prescription drug benefit should be easy to understand and non-bureaucratic. “Once again, the Republican plan falls short,” he said. “This proposal creates a new government agency, and seniors will have to find private drug insurance and deal with a patchwork of different plans, benefits, and availability. We should instead offer all seniors a good prescription drug benefit package as part of Medicare.”

Smith would have supported a Democratic alternative. “The Democrats came up with an alternative plan, which is not perfect in my view, but still better than the Republican plan,” he explained. However, House Leadership did not allow a vote on this proposal.

The Republican proposal is expected to narrowly pass the House this afternoon, but prospects in the Senate are unclear.