District Connection - 2/23/15


Though America's new House and Senate have been very productive working together in Washington this year -- sending to the President legislation such as the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Act, and the Clay Hunt SAV Act -- I confess that I was thrilled to be back home in Georgia this past week, sharing with, listening to, and learning from our friends and neighbors.


In my new role as the only Georgia representative in Congress on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have already gone to work learning from the success of experts here at home. This Committee can impact our district, our state, and our nation in many positive ways. Georgia is an economic powerhouse, and maintaining our state's vast transportation network -- from Hartsfield to Briscoe Field, from I-85 and I-75 to the Savannah Harbor, and from Lake Lanier to the Chattahoochee River -- is one of the best ways to ensure that our economy keeps growing and new jobs keep emerging for hard-working Georgians.

This week I met with three Georgia organizations that have considerable involvement in Georgia's transportation sector: Universal Avionics in Duluth, the Atlanta Regional Commission, and the Georgia Department of Transportation. Their expertise about how federal transportation policy impacts Georgia and their ideas about how to reform the system to serve Georgians better will make a real difference as the legislative process begins in Washington.

Universal Avionics

As you may know, this year, Congress is going to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). We all know that the FAA performs many critical functions to keep our skies safe, but we can improve the regulatory process to eliminate duplicative regulations and streamline those which are necessary but aren't as efficient as they should be. In the upcoming FAA reauthorization bill, I'll continue working with employers in our district and state, like Universal Avionics right here in Duluth, to pinpoint federal requirements that raise consumer costs but don't provide any clear benefits to our airlines, our airline and airport personnel, or the traveling public.

Georgia Department of Transportation

I want to share with you a very interesting statistic that I learned from the great folks at GDOT which showcases the desperate situation that our nation's highway financing system is in. Did you know that in 1971, an investment of $1 million would pave roughly 64 miles of highway? Today, that same $1 million investment will only pave a little over 6 miles of highway. There are many reasons for this skyrocketing cost that government officials can't control -- general inflationary pressure, increasing costs for road paving materials, and higher labor costs, all of which are controlled by the marketplace -- but there is one big reason that government can control; costly regulations.

It is cheaper for the county to build a road than for the state or the federal government to build the exact same road. Why? As you bring more government into the picture, you expand the regulatory structure, and your costs balloon. With a dwindling highway trust fund, I'm looking forward to working closely with GDOT to find ways to reduce the costs that we can and give more power to our state and local leaders to improve our transportation system at more reasonable prices.


On Thursday I had the great pleasure of talking with a room full of 7th District residents at my February in-person Town Hall Meeting. As always, I appreciate everyone who was able to take the time to visit with me, and for all those who weren't able to do so, I hope you can come to a future meeting. As I expected, the conversation that we had on Thursday was both energetic and enlightening, and it's clear to me how well informed the people of this District are about the legislative process. If only we could get citizens from across the country to be as involved and you and your neighbors are, we could have a tremendous problem-solving impact in Washington, D.C., and from coast to coast.


Rocket IT in Duluth is well known locally as a tremendous corporate citizen, and I had the opportunity to visit with its founder and team last week. I went to talk about how decisions made in Washington were impacting their families and businesses. Often, policy conversations on Capitol Hill lack real-world perspective, and that is what small businesses like Rocket IT can provide.

In national news, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recognized Rocket IT's success and citizenship last week, honoring it with its 2015 Blue Ribbon Award. A record number of small businesses competed for this honor this year, and our community should be proud that a national organization is recognizing the hard work and dedication that lives right here in Georgia.


Knowing how much there is to learn from you and how important our partnership is to crafting good federal policy, I say "yes" to as many invitations to visit with you as I can. Sometimes those invitations come from local clubs and organizations. For example, I had a great conversation with the folks at the Kiwanis Club of Duluth and Norcross, where we discussed everything from working towards a balanced budget, to providing regulatory and tax relief for our job-creators, to moving closer to energy security.

Other times, those invitations come from employees in our area. For example, I had the pleasure of speaking with an employee group from State Farm last week. You may not know, but State Farm is already one of the largest employers in our district, and I'd like to see them bring even more jobs to our area soon.

And finally, I often receive invitations from local cultural organizations, like I did on Sunday afternoon when I had the pleasure of attending the Vietnamese Community of Georgia's Tet celebration in Norcross, ringing in the Year of the Sheep. You may not realize it, but there are over 16,000 Vietnamese-Americans living in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, many of them first and second generation Americans who came to this country seeking the freedom and liberty that were denied them in their homeland. Just drive around the 7th District and you'll see how Vietnamese-Americans are adding to our economic and our cultural growth and are integral to our community's success.

If your business or community group has expertise to share with me or would simply like to spend some time together having a conversation about the issues that are important to you, please contact my office at (770) 232-3005 or by email at woodall@mail.house.gov and my staff would be happy to schedule a visit.


This week the House is expected to pass two important education bills: H.R. 5, the "Student Success Act," and H.R. 529, a bill to expand and improve 529 education accounts for America's kids. These measures have been thoroughly vetted by the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, respectively, and they are going to help parents, students, teachers, and our country have a better educated workforce for years to come. I look forward to sending these bills to the Senate and eventually to the President's desk.