MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama’s senators outlined the state priorities in appropriations packages passed by Congress.
The legislation, which makes up the 2020 fiscal year budget, was signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said one of the packages contains the following provisions impacting Alabama:
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies:
- The final bill retains the $25 million increase for Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations (WFPO) for a total of $175 million, with a $70 million set-aside for certain projects.
- Includes $20 million for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Building and Facilities improvements for seafood safety to support FDA’s Dauphin Island Lab.
- Contains $5 million for the Rural Water and Waste pilot.
- The bill includes language specifying that Rural Water and Waste Disposal program account that projects utilizing iron and steel shall use iron and steel products produced in the United States.
- Includes $5 million to combat cotton blue disease, $3 million for advanced poultry production technology development, $1.5 million for alternative technologies for poultry waste utilization, $1.2 million to study harmful algal bloom impacts on aquaculture, an additional $1 million for shrimp aquaculture research, and $1 million to explore salmonella exposure in livestock at Auburn University. Auburn will also continue to partner with Agricultural Research Services for training and workforce development of scientists for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility.
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $1 million increase for Cogongrass Management.
- Farm Service Agency: Report language is included that directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to modify its regulations so that producers of farm-raised fish are eligible for death losses under ELAP and that bird predation and disease be deemed eligible loss conditions.
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: Maintains FY2019 funding for the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program.
Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies:
Corps of Engineers:
- $378 million recommended in the Construction account for a Regional Dredge Demonstration Program in the central Gulf of Mexico. Mobile Harbor would be eligible for these additional funds.
- Includes a new regional dredge demonstration program for the Central Gulf Coast which will explore innovative ways of executing dredging in a logical and sequenced manner to seek efficiencies, cost savings, and minimize disruptions to critical construction and maintenance dredging requirements across the nation.
- $50 million above the budget request in the Operation and Maintenance account for Donor and Energy Transfer Ports. Funds will benefit Mobile Harbor.
- $10.975 million for Coastal Inlets Research Program in the Operation and Maintenance account and report language recommending additional funding to establish a multi-university-led effort for connecting terrestrial and coastal models and to continue work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Water Center in Tuscaloosa on protecting the nation’s water resources.
- Includes $16 million for Aquatic Nuisance Control Research in the Operation and Maintenance account for research and development related to harmful algal blooms.
Department of Energy:
- $230 million for a new program to demonstrate Advanced Reactors and an additional $55 million for Advanced Reactor Technologies, including $20 million for the industry-led Advanced Reactor Concepts program.
- $25 million for the EPSCoR program and requested language regarding biennial implementation of grant solicitations.
- Funding to support the Department of Energy’s National Carbon Capture Center in Wilsonville, consistent with the cooperative agreement.
- $56 million for Academic Alliances and Partnerships within the National Nuclear Security Administration, and report language encouraging new centers of excellence in materials research.
- $30 million for the Delta Regional Authority, including $15 million for flood control, basic public infrastructure development, and transportation improvements.
- $175 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, including $16 million for a program of industrial site and workforce development in Southern and South Central Appalachia, of which $13.5 million is for Southern Appalachia.
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies:
- Fish and Wildlife Service Asian Carp – Provides $25 million, an increase of $14 million, to combat Asian Carp and enhance efforts in sub-basins of the Mississippi River, which includes key areas of Alabama.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Technical Assistance Grant Programs – For the two programs for rural technical assistance, one increased to $17.7 million, which is a $2.7 million increase, and a new program is funded at $13 as requested.
- Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program - $115 million is included, equal to the fiscal year 2019 enacted level.
- Use of Iron and Steel – The bill continues a general provision to ensure that EPA requires the use of American iron and steel in State Revolving Fund projects.
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies:
- $41.7 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
- Includes $45 million in NIH for chronic disease centers; and
- $50 million for NIH biomedical research facilities.
- $6.44 billion for National Cancer Institute (NCI), an increase of $299.4 million, including $200 million in targeted funding for NCI competitive grants.
- $832.9 million for NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, an increase of $26.5 million.
- $578.1 million for Clinical and Translational Science Award, an increase of $18.4 million.
- $500 million for the All of Us precision medicine study, a $161 million increase.
- $25 million in targeted funding for the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act.
- $3.8 billion in opioid funding, including $1.5 billion for State Opioid Response Grants.
- $3.9 billion for mental health programs, an increase of $328 million.
- $50 million in funding for Medical Student Education for states with highest projected physician shortages, including $15 million for supplemental grants and $35 million to fund the remaining 2019 applicants.
- $1.3 billion, an increase of $20 million, for Career and Technical Education state grants.
- $30 million in continued funding for Department of Labor Workforce Opportunities for Rural Communities in the Delta Regional Authority and Appalachian Regional Commission regions.
- Funds three military construction projects totaling $84 million in Alabama:
- Includes $38 million for an Aircraft and Flight Equipment Building at Redstone Arsenal;
- $12 million for a National Guard Readiness Center in Foley; and
- $34 million for Enlisted Transient Training Barracks in Anniston.
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies:
- Provides funding for the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program.
- Provides funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA):
- Grants-in-aid for airports;
- Contract towers;
- Research for advanced materials and structural safety;
- Research on airfield pavement; and
- Aviation workforce grants.
- Provides funding for Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) INFRA grants.
- Includes $30 million in funding for Alabama’s Appalachian Development Highway System.
- Includes funding for Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) CRISI grants, the Maritime Administration’s Small Shipyard Grant Program, and Port Infrastructure grants, and Community Development Block grants.
U.S. Senator Doug Jones said dozens of his requests to fund priorities for Alabama were included in the appropriations packages. Key provisions supported by Jones include:
- Ending the “Kiddie Tax”: As a result of the Military Widow’s Tax, Gold Star spouses often put benefits in their children’s names in order to collect full survivor benefits. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act significantly raised taxes due on these benefits up to a tax rate of 37 percent, resulting in surprise tax increases of over $1,000 for many families. The inclusion of Senator Jones’ bill to get rid of the Kiddie Tax will restore the previous lower tax rate on these benefits.
- Civil Rights Cold Case bill implementation: $2M has been allocated for National Archives and Records Administration to implement Senator Jones’ Civil Rights Cold Case Collection Act, which was signed into law by the President early this year.
- Funding gun violence prevention research: For the first time in two decades, Congress will allocate $25M for research into the causes of gun violence in America. Senator Jones has supported this effort as a common-sense, bipartisan step to better understand and prevent acts of gun violence.
- Improving maternal and child health: $17M increase for programs to improve maternal and child health through the Health Resources and Services Administration, including an additional $5 million to reduce maternal mortality. Senator Jones has introduced numerous pieces of legislation to support families and increase access to health care for women and children.
- Increasing funding to enforce federal child protection laws: $90M for State Grants and $55.66 million for the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention grants to enforce the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which Senator Jones has introduced legislation to reauthorize in 2020.
- Raising the purchasing age for tobacco to 21: The deal prohibits sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 across the country. Senator Jones joined similar legislation earlier this year.
- Clotilda excavation assistance: $500,000 for the Smithsonian Institution to support excavation, education, and community engagement around discovery of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to arrive in the United States. The bill also expands eligibility for Civil Rights grants under the Historic Preservation Fund to include recently discovered sites of the transatlantic slave trade, including the Clotilda. Senator Jones also recently memorialized the discovery of the Clotilda, which was found near Mobile, Alabama, in a Senate resolution.
- Funding programs to resolve heirs’ property disputes: $5M secured by Senator Jones for a new heirs’ property relending fund program.
- Preventing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease: Preventing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease: $1.72M for the U.S. Geological Survey and $5M to the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to combat chronic wasting disease. As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, Senator Jones has introduced several pieces of legislation to fight the spread of CWD. Also included in the bill was another of Senator Jones’ priorities, the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, which will help state wildlife agencies to conduct important CWD outreach activities.
- Increasing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) funding:
- In addition to securing permanent mandatory funding for HBCUs, Senator Jones has advocated for this bill to also provide $325M—a 15 percent increase—for HBCU discretionary funding next year. Last year, he also secured a 14-percent discretionary funding increase in the omnibus funding bill.
- $10M for HBCU Historic Preservation Fund grants.
- $50M, including $10M for Public HBCUs, for HBCU Capital Finance Loan deferment authority.
- Increasing the maximum Pell Grant award: Students are now eligible for a $150 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award, bringing the maximum award to $6,345 per student.
- Funding wastewater grant programs: $5M for the Household Water Well System Grant Program, which Senator Jones expanded in last year’s Farm Bill to include up to $15,000 for households in rural areas to install and maintain individually owned decentralized wastewater systems.
- Enforcing EPA civil rights protections: $9.554M for enforcement of environmental justice programs under EPA. Earlier this year, Senator Jones called on EPA to better enforce civil rights protections in the environmental justice context.
- Saving miners pensions: The bill shores up the miners pension plan, which is headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis, and ensures that the miners who are at risk due to coal company bankruptcies will not lose their healthcare. There are nearly 6,000 United Mine Workers of America pensioners in Alabama.
- Protecting public transportation funds: The bill includes Senator Jones’ amendment to protect $1.2B in public transportation funds, including more than $7M that was set to be cut for Alabama transit agencies without this amendment.
- Protecting Alabama auto manufacturers from unnecessary tariffs: The bill requires the release of automobile and auto part Section 232 investigation within 30 days, which Senator Jones has called on the Administration to make public.
- Addressing the shortage of pilots and lack of diversity in military service: $3M for the Air Force and Army Junior ROTC to create pilot scholarship programs to increase diversity in military pilot ranks. Senator Jones introduced a bill earlier this year to authorize the secretaries of each military department to create these programs.