Taxpayer dollars at work: What your U.S. senators from Georgia are doing for the week ending July 21
This summer, GPB News Democracy intern Ambria Burton is following the activities of U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Each week on Fridays, we'll run down a list of activities that follow your dollars back to communities in Georgia.
This week Georgia U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock introduced legislation focused on first-time, first-generation homebuyers; voting; national security and animal shelters. They also shared details on their work to improve Georgia’s airports, the onion industry, and background checks for individuals who work with children.
Sens. Ossoff and Warnock joined a group of Democratic Senators to reintroduce legislation helping first-time, first-generation homebuyers by strengthening housing access.
A July 17 press release stated that the Low-Income First-Time Homebuyers Act will allow “individuals traditionally underrepresented in the housing market to purchase their first home and grow equity twice as fast.”
The LIFT Homebuyers Act offers new homeowners “a 20-year mortgage for roughly the same monthly payment as a traditional 30-year loan.”
Other senators to introduce the legislation included: U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).
Sen. Warnock led a group of members from the Senate and House in reintroducing the Freedom to Vote Act with updates on Tuesday.
The bill would set basic national standards “to make sure all Americans can cast their ballots in the way that works best for them, regardless of what zip code they live in,” per a July 19 press statement.
Updates to the bill reflect local and state election officials’ feedback on ensuring that those in charge of implementing voting reforms can do so successfully. The revisions also “end partisan gerrymandering and help eliminate the influence of secret money in elections.”
Sen. Warnock pushed for Congress to advance the reintroduction of the Freedom to Vote Act.
At a July 18 news conference, he said: “From bad actors making mass challenges to scores of legitimate voter registrations to ongoing efforts by partisan state leaders in Georgia and elsewhere to usurp community control from local election boards, it’s clear that the people’s voices are being squeezed out of our democracy and that it’s impacting our ability to address a whole range of problems facing the American people.”
Sen. Ossoff introduced legislation to strengthen U.S. national security by building a Battle Management Combined Operations Complex at Robins Air Force Base.
The Robins Air Force Base Battle Management Enhancement Act would help improve the Air Force’s national defense strategy and capabilities.
According to a July 19 press release statement, “the Battle Management Combined Operations Center will house three new missions for the Air Force, including E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node squadron operations; Battle Management Control Squadron operations; and a Group Headquarters for a Spectrum Warfare Group.”
Robins AFB’s Battle Management Control Squadron is expected to begin arriving this year and be fully operational by the 2025’s fiscal year, while the first E-11A BACN aircraft arrived at Robins AFB in the spring of this year and is expected to be fully operational by 2027’s fiscal year.
Sen. Ossoff hosted Chabad of Cobb Rabbi Ephraim Silverman to see Israeli President Isaac Herzog's speech to a joint session at Congress, where he acknowledged the relationship between the U.S. and Israel and discussed to rise of antisemitism globally.
The visit comes after the antisemitic protests last month outside of the Chabad of Cobb. Rabbi Silverman responded by leading "his congregation through the trying time with a message of transforming darkness into light," as stated in a July 21 press release.
"It was an honor to host Rabbi Silverman at the U.S. Capitol to hear Israeli President Herzog's joint address," Sen. Ossoff said. "The Rabbi's synagogue was recently targeted by neo-Nazis, and I commend him for his strong and uplifting leadership at this difficult moment for Georgia's Jewish community."
Sen. Warnock also hosted Macon Temple Beth Israel's Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar in Washington to see the speech after the antisemitic demonstrations in Macon last month.
Warnock's statement on Rabbi Bahar: "Her leadership, resilience, and grace after the recent vile antisemitic episode in Macon is a clear reminder why we must actively and urgently combat antisemitism and prejudice in our world."
Sen. Ossoff shared on his website Thursday that he is working to advance agricultural research meant to improve Georgia’s onion industry.
He asked that the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administrations, and Related Agencies appropriate funding “to support an onion genetics and breeding expert position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” per a July 19 press release.
Vidalia onions are at the top of Georgia’s vegetable industry, bringing in more than $150 million annually. A new onion breeder position would greatly benefit growers in Georgia and nationwide.
“The Vidalia onion is one of Georgia’s greatest agricultural treasures,” Sen. Ossoff wrote. “Continuing to research and develop new onion varieties will be crucial for the growth of this flagship Georgia crop.”
Sen. Warnock announced Thursday that Georgia airports will receive over $11 million in federal investments under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Involvement Program from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The latest funding investments come from Warnock’s AIRWAYS Act to bolster Georgia’s aviation industry.
The federal funding includes a $8 million grant for infrastructure upgrades at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta and additional funding for aviation hubs for the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport, Columbus Airport, and Valdosta Regional Airport, per a July 20 press release.
Georgia’s Department of Transportation will administer the grants to the respective airports.
Sen. Ossoff is working to improve background checks for people that work with children in their occupations.
Ossoff's efforts urge Attorney General Merrick Garland to implement the guidelines under the Child Protection Improvement Act, which according to the July 20 press release, establishes “a program at the Department of Justice to provide access to national criminal background checks for people seeking to work or volunteer with after-school, mentoring, summer camp and other programs.”
Though Congress passed the CPIA in 2018, there have yet to be guidelines issued by the DOJ for how the program would work.
In a letter to the attorney general, Sen. Ossoff wrote: “This delay jeopardizes child safety, leaving potential gaps in background screening processes and potentially allowing individuals with a history of abuse or exploitation to slip through undetected. I respectfully request a prompt response to this letter detailing the progress the DOJ has made in issuing the proposed rule and a timeline for its completion.”
Sen. Warnock and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced legislation on Thursday that encourages animal shelter donations by amending the liability protections on good-faith donations.
The Bring Animals Relief and Kibble (BARK) Act aids “local animal shelters in Georgia, including the Paws Humane Society in Columbus, Georgia, that have struggled to meet the needs of their communities due to inflation and lower donation levels,” according to the July 20 press release.
“This commonsense legislation reduces pet store food waste and supports critical shelters that do so much to meet the needs of our community,” Sen. Warnock said.