Wednesday, January 4, 2006
The House of Representatives has adjourned for the year, bringing the first session of the 109th Congress to a close. During this year a number of legislative priorities were enacted into law. The most significant of these achievements include:
• An energy plan for the 21st Century-This comprehensive national energy plan reflects the changing global energy market. It encourages conservation and energy efficiency and fosters the advance of new technologies that make traditional fuels cleaner and make emerging energy sources more reliable and cost competitive. The new energy plan takes a balanced approach that modernizes our energy strategy, protects our unique Northwest hydropower system and will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil by focusing on conservation, renewable energy and efficiency.
• Expanding trade opportunities-Opening new markets and lowering unfair trade barriers is vital to the future of farming and represents the best form of economic stimulus for Central Washington's agriculture based economy. This year, we enacted a trade agreement with the Dominican Republic and the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This trade agreement drastically reduces or eliminates tariffs on American exports to these areas. I am particularly pleased that provisions I worked for to eliminate Central American tariffs on American apples, pears and cherries were included in the final agreement.
• Transportation-I was able to work with local communities to secure funding for Central Washington in the federal highway law. This law allocates money from the Highway Trust Fund, which is where federal gas taxes are deposited. From interchange improvements in Union Gap and the Tri-Cities, to bridge enhancements in Wenatchee, White Salmon and Othello, funds in this law will help make local communities safer and facilitate further economic growth.
• Bankruptcy reform-This common sense plan ensures that those with the ability to pay their debts are held accountable so that everyone else does not pay the price. The law preserves bankruptcy as an option of last resort for those who are truly in need, including those who legitimately need financial protection as a result of a serious medical condition, unemployment or other special circumstances. Financial education is enhanced to help consumers make informed decisions about their personal finances, which will go a long way towards preventing the need for bankruptcies.
I'm proud of the work accomplished by Congress and I look forward to the year ahead.
Congressman Doc Hastings represents Central Washington's 4th District.