U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) secured a number of critical resources for Kentucky in a government funding bill that passed the Senate today. This legislation now goes to a Conference Committee to finalize the differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill.
The provisions Senator McConnell secured in the bill include the following:
· a measure to combat the infestation of Asian Carp in both Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in Western Kentucky;
· funding for the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) pilot program, which will provide $25 million to Kentucky for economic development activities in communities with abandoned mine sites;
· a provision to direct the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to encourage grant recipients to provide more transitional housing opportunities for individuals transitioning from substance abuse treatment back into the workforce; and
· language that allows haulers of coal, livestock, grain, and other agricultural products to continue to use the Julian M. Carroll Purchase and William H. Natcher Parkways in Western Kentucky to move products efficiently to market.
“Every single day, Kentuckians from across the Commonwealth contact me with their concerns. As Senate Majority Leader and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I am able to ensure that these issues – both large and small – are part of the national discussion. Kentucky continues to punch above its weight in Washington, and I am proud to be a strong voice for my constituents in the Senate,” Senator McConnell said.
Senator McConnell’s provision directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to focus its efforts on combatting the serious threat of Asian Carp in Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The legislation also provides $11 million dollars — a $600,000 increase from last year’s enacted level — for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to control Asian Carp in both lakes and the larger Mississippi and Ohio River Basins.
“With passage of the Senate bill today, we are one step closer to sending federal resources to combat the spread of Asian Carp in Western Kentucky. The invasion of these Carp is severely affecting tourism, the Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake communities, and the multi-billion dollar fishing industry in Kentucky. Not only are these fish a danger for the local economy, but they are also a safety hazard for anglers and boaters,” Senator McConnell said. “As Senate Majority Leader, I fought to secure these critical resources for our Commonwealth that will help ensure the Asian Carp crisis in Kentucky’s waters becomes a national priority. I am proud to stand with Congressman James Comer (KY-01), Lyon County Judge/Executive Wade White and Marshall County Judge/Executive Kevin Neal to address this important issue, and I would like to thank them for their continued leadership.”
Senator McConnell secured $115 million for the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) pilot program, $25 million of which will go to Kentucky for the development of projects on land previously used to mine coal that will help support economic development in Eastern Kentucky. In 2015, Senator McConnell worked with Congressman Hal Rogers (KY-05) to establish this pilot program, which has led to many successful economic development projects in coal communities.
“This funding, which is welcome news for Kentucky, will help communities reclaim abandoned coal mines in hopes of spurring economic development in the region by supporting tourism, recreation, and workforce training,” Senator McConnell said. “Congressman Rogers and I continue to champion growth and new jobs in Eastern Kentucky, and we are proud to ensure these communities have a strong voice in Washington.”
Senator McConnell included a provision to help address some of the challenges associated with the opioid and substance abuse epidemic in Kentucky and throughout the nation. His provision directs HUD to encourage Community Development Block Grant recipients to provide funding to organizations that administer housing services for recovering addicts transitioning from treatment to the workforce. The total funding provided in the bill for the Community Development Block Grant program is over $3 billion – Kentucky would receive a portion of those funds, which could then be used for this purpose.
“Kentuckians who find themselves trapped in the cycle of addiction often need assistance to find stable living and employment, which are vital to their long-term recovery,” Senator McConnell said. “The Senate’s action today supports this crucial part of recovery by instructing HUD to encourage grant recipients to use these critical resources to support individuals transitioning from treatment back into the workforce until they can secure a permanent housing arrangement. As long as I serve in the Senate, Kentucky communities suffering from high instances of substance abuse will have an ally in Washington.”
This provision builds on Senator McConnell’s work to combat the scourge of opioid and substance abuse in Kentucky and throughout the nation. Earlier this year, he introduced the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery through Effective Employment and Reentry (CAREER) Act, which helps address the devastating impact of substance abuse on America’s workforce. The CAREER Actalso encourages expanding transitional housing options for recovering addicts until they arrange a living situation. Further, it gives states more flexibility to invest federal career and training services to support individuals transitioning from treatment to the workforce. Earlier this year, Senator McConnell also helped secure more than $4.6 billion to comprehensively address this scourge by directing resources towards prevention, treatment, and enforcement efforts. This is the largest funding response to the substance abuse crisis to date.
WESTERN KENTUCKY PARKWAYS
Senator McConnell inserted a provision to address federal vehicle weight limitations on the William H. Natcher and Julian M. Carroll Purchase Parkways in Western Kentucky. In 2015, Senator McConnell worked with Representative Brett Guthrie (KY-02) to designate the existing Natcher Parkway between Owensboro and Bowling Green as a future spur of Interstate 65 in an effort to help spur economic development in the region. The Purchase Parkway between Calvert City and Fulton will become part of Interstate 69.
Because both parkways have received federal interstate designation, they will be subject to federal weight limitations, which could affect haulers of coal, livestock, grain and other agricultural producers who use these roads to move products to market. The provision Senator McConnell inserted in the bill prohibits the U.S. Department of Transportation from using funds to enforce federal vehicle weight limitations on Natcher and Purchase Parkway, thus, allowing haulers of these items to continue to operate on these highways.
“The Natcher and Purchase Parkways are vital to the continued economic development of Western Kentucky, and I was proud to use my role as Senate Majority Leader to deliver on behalf of the Commonwealth,” Senator McConnell said. “These parkways are critical routes used by Kentucky farmers, coal companies, and small-business owners to get their products to market in a more cost-effective manner, and my provision will allow them to continue to use the parkways to do so. I’d also like to thank Congressmen Brett Guthrie and Jamie Comer for their leadership in the House on this issue.”
The legislation passed today now goes to a Conference Committee to finalize the difference between the Senate and House versions of the bill.