Accomplishments During the 114th Congress (2014-2016)
Bringing more federal resources to the San Gabriel Valley is one of my top priorities. This is why I partner with federal agencies to ensure that we have access to federal programs and funding that could benefit our region. I am proud to have worked with these agencies and the President’s Administration on the following initiatives.
Provide More Resources for the San Gabriel Mountains: Since the designation of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in October 10, 2014, which I worked to establish with the Obama Administration, tangible benefits have come to our region. In fact, as a direct result of the designation, the Monument received $6.5 million in federal funding along with $4 million in philanthropic donations. The additional funding resulted in the hiring of new staff that includes a Monument Manager, Partnership Coordinator, and Volunteer Coordinator. It also led to the implementation of new initiatives such as the Field Ranger program. This program now employs 10 new Field Rangers who are trained in conservation education, which provides a guided experience for visitors.
The Forest Service also conducted extensive graffiti removal and cleanup efforts in the San Gabriel Canyon, which resulted in the collection of 280 tons of trash. We have seen improvements in popular locations like the Oaks Picnic Area, which received new bathrooms and trashcans, interpretive signs with multiple languages, as well as safer and more accessible paths to the East Fork River.
Another significant development is the creation of the Monument Transportation Plan. This plan will make the San Gabriel Mountains more accessible to people without vehicles, while reducing traffic. In September 2016, the Forest Service established a pilot shuttle program that takes visitors from the Arcadia Gold Line Station to Chantry Flats during the weekends. The program is temporary, but has already shuttled hundreds of eager hikers. As the Forest Service continues to solicit input on the Monument’s Management Plan, I will work closely with the Forest Service and advocates from the 40 plus member community collaborative to ensure that this National Monument is a success.
Establish a Veterans Clinic in the San Gabriel Valley: My priority is to bring a veterans health clinic to the San Gabriel Valley. For more than seven years, veterans in the San Gabriel Valley have been forced to make long trips to health centers outside of our region to obtain treatment for service-connected injuries and trauma. With the help of a dedicated committee of Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, community leaders, and the City of Pasadena, we are making progress towards establishing a veterans health clinic in our region. Together, these organizations have raised $300,000 to help with the initial costs of setting up the clinic. I am currently working with the City of Pasadena and the Department of Veteran Affairs to find a suitable location, and we look forward to opening the clinic in the near future.
Open Two Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs): I fought to bring two full-service SBDCs to the San Gabriel Valley – located at Pasadena City College and the University of La Verne. SBDCs are administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) in conjunction with colleges or universities, and they are considered the SBA’s most effective program. Any individual who wants to start or expand their small business can work with SBDCs to craft a business plan or a feasibility study. They can get assistance in marketing and most importantly, find financing to get their businesses off the ground. These services are confidential and they are free.
The two SBDCs in our region have provided over 5,000 hours of consulting to nearly 1,700 clients, helped create 240 new jobs, and launched 70 businesses. Additionally, the Pasadena City College SBDC is expanding its services to two satellite locations in the area, which means more convenience and easier accessibility for our entrepreneurs in the area. I will continue to fight to ensure that our SBDCs are adequately funded by the federal government.
In Congress, I have introduced and passed legislation that are important to my district and our country. Given the challenges of passing individual pieces of legislation into law, I found creative methods to include my priorities in larger legislative vehicles or must-pass legislation. The following are bills that I have introduced or have passed into law this Congress. For a comprehensive list of bills I introduced this Congress, please click here.
- CREED Act Becomes Law: Last year, I reintroduced the Commercial Real Estate and Economic Development Act, or the CREED Act. I worked for years to pass this bill since it would help small businesses expand their access to capital by extending the Small Business Administration’s 504 Loan Refinancing Program. In 2012, this program was first established to help small businesses obtain funding through refinancing during the economic crisis. It was a success because it helped 2,700 businesses refinance nearly $7 billion in old, expensive debt. However, the program was allowed to expire after one year of operation. I believe this program was a resource for so many small businesses while it added no costs to our government. That’s why I introduced the first version of the bill in 2013. Finally in December of 2015, after much negotiation with House and Senate leadership, this legislation was included in the Omnibus spending bill of 2015 and signed into law by President Obama. The program went into effect in June 2016. This means that small businesses can now visit their local lenders and Certified Development Companies (CDC) to learn more about whether they are eligible for this refinancing option.
- Improve California’s Access to Women’s Business Centers: When the Small Business Committee considered H.R. 207, legislation to reform the Small Business Administration’s flagship Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers, and SCORE programs, I passed an amendment with unanimous support to ensure SBA considers the population density of an area when determining the location of future Women’s Business Centers. This will mean more opportunities for heavily populated areas like Los Angeles County, which is home to more women-owned businesses than any other county in the U.S. I’m proud to say this provision was also included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 passed by the House of Representatives.
- Ensure Equal Access to Federal Contracts: I introduced H.R. 4329, the Transparency in Small Business Goaling Act, because federal contracts are significant and dependable sources of income for small businesses. Yet in 2015, small businesses missed out on at least $16 billion in federal contracting dollars because they were not eligible to compete for overseas contracts. My legislation would remove such exclusions, which would allow them to access more contracts. I’m proud to say that this bill was included in H.R. 4341, the Defending America’s Contractors Act of 2016, which passed the Small Business Committee with unanimous support, and subsequently included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 passed by the House of Representatives.
- Improve Access to Subcontracts: In the Small Business Committee, I successfully passed an amendment that would help small businesses receive their fair share of federal subcontracts. The amendment, which was offered during consideration of H.R. 1481, The Small Contractors Improve Competition Act, requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the new federal government subcontracting reporting system and assess whether it is operating with accurate data. This would help us accurately determine how small businesses are doing in gaining federal subcontracts. The amendment was adopted and the bill passed unanimously by voice vote. The bill was then subsequently included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 passed by the House of Representatives.
- Fight for the Small Business Administration’s 7(a) Loan Program: On July 23, 2015, the SBA’s most successful loan program was close to reaching its $18.75 lending limit. If this limit is reached, banks are no longer able to issue 7(a) loans. This flagship program is designed to give small businesses access to capital through long-term loans in situations where capital cannot be found through conventional bank loans. I fought to provide increase the program’s authorization levels to ensure that it could operate until the end of the fiscal year. I called on House leadership to address the funding gap and ensure our small businesses get the resources that they need. Thankfully, we were able to pass legislation to increase the limit and ensure that the 7(a) program would continue to function.
- Restore Our Voting Rights: I joined House and Senate leaders such as Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) to introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA) of 2015. Two years ago, the Supreme Court gutted core protections in the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. Since then, states and localities throughout the country have passed sweeping laws that disproportionately suppress the voting rights of minorities, the elderly, and the disabled. This bill would restore and advance voting protections for all Americans who want to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
- Reform our Criminal Justice System: I joined leaders in the House to introduce the SAFE Justice Act, which would prioritize federal prison space for chronic and violent offenders, reduce recidivism through enhanced supervision, and increase transparency and accountability in our criminal just system. The bill would also reform our mandatory minimum structure, so that mandatory minimums are only used for high-level drug offenders and organizers of criminal activity, rather than low-level offenders who often face mandatory minimum sentences today.
- Defeating the Opioid Epidemic: The opioid epidemic in this country is nothing short of a crisis, and affects individuals across the nation, and here in the San Gabriel Valley. As a former drug abuse counselor, I know just how devastating the impacts of opioid abuse can be on a person’s life, which is why I was honored to serve as a member of the Conference Committee for the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act of 2016. I am pleased that Congress was able to take bipartisan action to address the opioid crisis and pass comprehensive legislation. The conference report for this bill was agreed to in the House of Representatives by a vote of 407-5, and in the Senate by a vote of 94-1. President Obama signed this bill into law on July 22nd, 2016. Looking ahead, I will continue to fight for federal funding to fully address this epidemic.
- Protect Women’s Right to Choice: I reintroduced H.R. 448, the Women’s Health Protection Act, that would protect a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion. Today, individual states – like Texas and Wisconsin -- enacted restrictive regulations and laws to curtail reproductive health services for women. In fact, states have passed 288 abortion restriction laws since 2010 alone. These regulations impose burdensome requirements on women’s access to reproductive health services while having no connection to our health and safety. My bill would prohibit these types of state-based regulations that impede on our constitutional rights to take effect.
Addressing Mental Health in Our Communities
- End Mental Health Stigma in AAPI Communities: I introduced H.R.5234, the Stop Mental Health Stigma in Our Communities Act, which would instruct the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide outreach and education strategies for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community by partnering with local advocacy and behavioral health organizations that have an established record of serving AAPIs. Studies show that AAPIs are the fastest growing ethnic minority population in the United States, and also the least likely to seek mental health services. The strategies in my legislation would increase awareness of symptoms of mental illness common among AAPI populations, provide linguistically and culturally appropriate interventions, and encourage individuals and communities to use a comprehensive, public health approach when addressing mental and behavioral health.
- Ending Military Hazing in Our Ranks:
In 2011, my nephew, Harry Lew, took his own life after being subjected to three and a half hours of brutal hazing. I was shocked to discover that the problem of hazing in the military was systemic and pervasive, and I have been working ever since to make sure that no other servicemember is subjected to the horrible practice of hazing.
After Harry’s death, I called for the first Congressional hearing on military abuse since 1979. During this hearing, each branch of the military stated that hazing was not a problem, that the policies they have in place are sufficient. But Harry’s death, and the deaths of so many others, proved otherwise. In response to these statements from each of the military branches, I authored an amendment to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that required thorough reports on each branch’s hazing policies. When Congress received these reports, it was clear that the military had unreliable data and a lack of uniform procedure for tracking hazing.
In response to these deficiencies, I authored another amendment to the FY2014 NDAA that required the first ever independent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the anti-hazing efforts of each branch of the military and the Coast Guard. This GAO report concluded that the Department of Defense (DOD) had not fully implemented anti-hazing policies, does not know the extent of current implementation, training for servicemembers is unclear, and hazing tracking systems are incomplete and underdeveloped.
On March 1, 2016, I testified in front of the House Armed Services Committee. I called for stronger anti-hazing policies in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016. I believe Congress should receive annual reports on DOD’s anti-hazing efforts so we can conduct sufficient oversight. Further, DOD must implement department-wide tracking systems that are uniform, comprehensive, and include information on protected classes such as race and religion. Training should be improved for all command levels so that all servicemembers can identify it and stop it when they encounter it. Lastly, DOD needs to evaluate the prevalence of hazing in a meaningful way. It is only with these changes that we can eradicate hazing in the military.
I am pleased to say that all four of these policy recommendations were included in the House-passed version of the FY2017 NDAA, and I sent a letter to the NDAA Conferees to ensure that these provisions are all in the final version of NDAA that will be signed into law.
Honoring our Veterans
- Sierra Madre Post Office: This Congress, I sought to honor our veterans in our community who sacrificed for our nation. Louis Van Iersel of Sierra Madre is a local hero who deserves recognition for his service. I introduced a bill to rename the post office in Sierra Madre after him. An immigrant from the Netherlands, Mr. Van Iersel enlisted in the Army on the very day he arrived in this country in 1917. He didn’t know a word of English, but he knew he wanted to serve. He learned English by working in an Army kitchen and was eventually deployed to France as part of the 2nd Infantry Division during World War I. During the war, he distinguished himself by braving heavy fire to swim across the icy Seine River and eavesdrop on German soldiers, enabling the American troops to take cover and saving 1,000 American lives. For all his efforts, he was awarded dozens of medals, including two French Croix de Guerre and America’s highest military medal, the Medal of Honor. After the war, Sergeant Van Iersel moved to Sierra Madre. He became a citizen, got married, and started a family. But then World War II broke out, and Mr. Van Iersel and his three sons all reported to the Army to enlist. However, the Army turned him away, telling him he was too old to serve. Undeterred, he joined the Marine Corps and served with the 3rd Marine Division in the Pacific. In 1945, he returned home safely and actively served his community until he passed away at the age of 93.
My bill passed the House and the Senate unanimously, and was signed by the President on July 29, 2016. The Post Office will officially be renamed on November 1, 2016.
- Honoring Cpl. Buddy Leland Brower: On September 5, 2016, I presented Cpl. Buddy Leland Brower with the military medals he earned, but never received while serving in the United States Army during the Korean War.
Cpl. Brower explained that at the end of his enlistment in 1953 he was sent to an office, directed to the rear of the room to pick up his orders, and told to go home. Once he arrived back in the country, he was discharged without his awards. After waiting several decades, he finally reached out to Congresswoman Judy Chu for help in obtaining his medals. My office worked with the National Personnel Records Center to retrieve the medals.
During the awards ceremony, I presented Cpl. Brower with several of the awards that he earned, including the Purple Heart.
Making Education Accessible and Affordable for All Students
Help Graduate Students on Student Loans: I introduced H.R. 4223, the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt (POST GRAD) Act. My bill would restore the eligibility of graduate students to receive Federal Direct Subsidized Loans by reversing this provision in the Budget Control Act. At a time when our country is facing a shortage of specialized workers in critical fields like mental health services, school administration, and health services that require a graduate degree, we should be doing everything we can to encourage students to enter these fields, rather than creating additional barriers to higher education.
Provide Resources to Our Teachers: I reintroduced the Equal Access to Quality Education Act creates public-private partnerships between high-need schools and schools of education to train, induct and retain teachers. This will allow K-12 schools with barriers to learning, such as poverty, to partner with schools of education to create a high-quality teacher pipeline. Teachers in this program would be required to attend a residency program that inducts them into the first years of teaching.
Develop Innovative Partnerships to Improve Student Achievement: I reintroduced the DIPLOMA Act which allows states to award grants to local groups that coordinate, integrate and facilitate these types of services aimed at strengthening student achievement. The funds can be used for dropout prevention, family engagement, tutoring, extending learning services, health care and social support.
Protecting Intellectual Property (IP)
- Promote IP Protection through the Creative Rights Caucus: I am a founder and leader of the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus, which serves to educate Members of Congress and the general public about the importance of preserving and protecting the rights of the creative community in the U.S. American creators of motion pictures, music, software, and other creative works rely on Congress to protect their copyrights, human rights, First Amendment rights, and property rights. The Caucus hosts events to inform Capitol Hill about online piracy and advertisement, copyright protection, and highlight the workforce in the film and television industry.
- Modernize the Copyright Office: I released a discussion draft of new landmark legislation designed to modernize and improve the United States Copyright Office. The draft legislation, Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act or CODE Act, addresses the longstanding need for specific reforms regarding the way the U.S. Copyright Office operates. I and Tom Marino (R-PA) plan to introduce the final legislation this year.
Chairing the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC): I continue to lead the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community as the chair of CAPAC. CAPAC is comprised of Members of Congress of Asian and Pacific Islander descent and members who have a strong dedication to promoting the well-being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. CAPAC has been addressing the needs of the AAPI community in all areas of American life since it was founded in 1994.
Like so many, I’ve watched the news with horror as each day, more lives are lost to guns and mass shootings like in Orlando, San Bernardino, Charleston, Newtown, and elsewhere become increasingly common. We are simply not doing enough to keep the most dangerous weapons out of the most dangerous hands. That is why I have supported giving the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the authority to research gun violence so we can fully understand the scope of the problem and what solutions are most effective. It is also why I have supported reinstating the assault weapons ban, instituting criminal background checks for every gun sale, and preventing anyone on the No Fly list from being able to buy a gun.
On June 22, 2016, after years of Congressional inaction as the number of gun deaths increased, I and my fellow House Democratic colleagues said “Enough is enough!” and staged a 25 hour sit-in on the House floor to demand action. We made clear that our thoughts and prayers are not enough anymore. As I held the floor over that day, I spoke out in favor of common sense solutions like H.R. 1217 to require universal background checks and H.R. 1076 to prevent those on the terrorist No Fly list from buying a gun. I will continue to support and call for more legislation until Congress acts to address the 92 lives lost to gun violence each day.
Events in My District
I host several events in my district to help constituents navigate federal resources, collaborate with local leaders and stakeholders, and receive input on how I can best serve my constituents in Washington. The following are events that I have hosted this Congress.
- Introducing Small Business Owners to a New Refinancing Program: This August, I hosted an event in my district to introduce small business owners to the new Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 504 refinancing program. For the past two congresses, I have introduced legislation to re-establish this program, and in 2015, my bill was signed into law. The 504 refinancing program officially went into effect in June 2016, and at my event, small business owners were able to hear from SBA officials and local lenders on how to apply for refinancing, and what type of loans are best for their business needs.
- Voting Rights Forum: One of the most basic and essential rights in our democracy is the right to vote. It is how we ensure our voices are heard. But after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in the Shelby County v. Holder decision, that right became threatened. Without Congressional action, many states began passing voter ID laws or other restrictions that made it harder for immigrants, minorities, seniors, and students to vote. That is why I, along with my fellow California Congresswomen Lucille Roybal-Allard and Linda Sanchez, hosted a voting rights forum in our district. The forum, titled “Protect Your Future: Restore the Vote”, featured testimony from experts on the importance of strengthening voting rights protections and steps Congress can take to ensure every American’s right to vote is protected.
- Small Business Field Hearing on Women and Access to Venture Capital: As the Ranking Member of the Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Access to Capital, I held a field hearing at Pasadena City Hall on the problems that female entrepreneurs face when attempting to access venture capital. We heard from 4 local female venture capitalists and entrepreneurs about their personal experiences in the industry, and what changes could be made on the federal level to work towards closing this access to capital gap.
- Education Roundtable: I met with Administrators, students and trustees of the three community colleges in the 27th district to discuss the challenges schools and students face in the district. This discussion focused on the need for financial aid, how to help underserved populations of students, and the particular challenges the schools face as Minority Serving Institutions.
- Immigration Executive Action workshop: In advance of the President’s immigration actions, I hosted a workshop to prepare area immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. The orientation included private one-on-one consultations in English, Spanish, Chinese Korean, and Vietnamese about how to apply, including what documents they will need and to be careful about scams.
- Workshop offering free tax help to low income families: In cooperation with California State Controller Betty Yee, I hosted an event offering free tax preparation to individuals in households earning $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English language speakers.
- Scam Prevention workshop: In order to help keep constituents safe, I and Assemblymember Ed Chau hosted a workshop on scam prevention with speakers from the Arcadia Police Department, California Senior Medicare Patrol, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs, and the United States Secret Service. The workshop provided constituents with knowledge about how to spot different types of scams and proper prevention techniques.
- Grant writing workshop: Along with South Pasadena Mayor Bob Joe, I hosted representatives from the U.S. Department of House and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Education to share tips and best practices for grant applications so that area cities, school districts, non-profits, and other applicants will have the best chance possible at receiving Federal grants.
- Small Business Tour and Roundtable: I hosted Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet in the district where we toured a local small business and held a roundtable with local entrepreneurs to discuss the role the Federal Government can play in supporting small businesses, particularly minority, women and veteran small businesses.
- Day of Action on Gun Violence: Following the House Democrats’ 25 hour sit-in in support of gun violence legislation, I hosted a National Day of Action on Gun Violence event at the All Saints Church in Pasadena, CA to provide the community a forum to express their support as well. During this event, families and victims affected by gun violence, faith and community leaders, advocates, and community shared their stories and spoke out about why they support legislation to end the violent tragedies that occur every day.
My District Office in Pasadena and Claremont work with constituents each day. During the 114th Congress, my office assisted over 650 constituents with issues that range from getting their tax returns from the IRS, obtaining benefits from the Social Security Administration or Department of Veteran Affairs, receiving their passports in time for travel, and much more. My staff and I are always working hard to assist and resolve issues for our constituents.