Fifth District Recap: Jahana Hayes Reviews Her First Seven Months of Term in Congress

WATERBURY — After serving seven months of her first session of the 116th Congress, Fifth District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, D-05, has returned to the Brass City and rest of the Fifth District during Congress’ recess. As a first-term legislator, assuming her office on January 8, she has co-sponsored 165 bills and resolutions and also sponsored and introduced four pieces of legislation.

She introduced her most recent bill, H.R. 3973, the Clean School Bus Act, on July 25 alongside six other congressmen, including Rep. John Larson, D-01, and Rep. Jim Himes, D-04.

The proposed legislation seeks to designate $1 billion to assist school districts nationwide to  replace traditional school buses that use diesel fuel with buses that use electric engines in an effort to reduce students’ exposure to diesel exhaust, decrease asthma-related health incidents, increase overall attendance and provide long-term savings to school districts.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

A member of the House Committee on Education and Labor and of the Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations, Rep. Hayes introduced House Bill 3718 on Thursday, July 11, an act “to address food and housing insecurity on college campuses.”

Classified as the “Closing the College Hunger Gap Act of 2019,” the bill proposes additional steps to measure the rates of food and housing insecurity for the National Post-secondary Student Aid Study on behalf of the Secretary of Education’s office, currently under the jurisdiction of Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Rep. Hayes is working with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-CT, who has co-sponsored a similar measure in the Senate.

Additionally, the bill intends to offer eligible students who have an “expected family contribution equal to zero for the year” recommended consultation for assistance services through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“Both the written and electronic communication shall include contact information for the state agency responsible for administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the state in which the student resides,” the bill reads.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Another piece of legislation created in the House Committee on Education and Labor intends on keeping firearms out of schools. House Resolution 231 aims to restrict the use of federal funds to arm school personnel with firearms.

Introduced by Rep. Hayes on Thursday, March 14, the resolution was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor and the Committee on the Judiciary until Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, CA-12, determined the jurisdiction of the subsequent resolution.

The resolution was made in response to reports that the Department of Education is considering allowing schools to use federal grants to purchase firearms and train school faculty on how to use them.

“Whereas Congress has consistently made it clear that it is unlawful for federal funds to be used for training or arming school personnel with firearms,’’ reads the first line of the resolution, denouncing the claim with legal backing.

The resolution mentions a survey on gun violence in schools that states that of 225 incidents of gun violence in schools between 1999 and 2018, trained armed personnel succeeded in disarming an active shooter only two times.

“A greater prevalence of guns in schools creates undue risk of students gaining firearms and the potential for unintentional shootings,” reads the resolution.

The resolution also references a Gallup poll from March 2018 stating that 73 percent of teachers do not want to carry guns in school and 58 percent believe such a measure would make schools unsafe.

The resolution has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

The rest of Connecticut’s Congressional representatives, Rep. Larson, Rep. Joe Courtney CT-02, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro CT-03, and Rep. Himes have all co-sponsored Rep. Hayes’ bill.

Rep. Hayes, a former Connecticut Teacher of the Year, confronted Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on the issue of using federal funds to arm teachers during a hearing in April, chastising Secretary DeVos for failing to denounce the proposition.

Another bill, H.R. 3221, introduced by Rep. Hayes on Wednesday, June 12, the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Improvement Act of 2019, was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

The bill seeks to amend chapter 13 of title within the United States Code to insert a new section 1311 titled, “Dependency and indemnity compensation allowance for surviving spouses.”

It specifies that an entitled surviving spouse may collect “the monthly rate equal to the amount by which — the amount is 55 percent of the rate of monthly compensation,” as outlined in the bill itself.

Rep. Himes also co-sponsored this bill, which has received bipartisan support from a few Republicans as well.

H.R. 3221 has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

According to GovTrack, Rep. Hayes has missed 33 out of 514 roll call votes from January until July, which amounts to 6.4 percent of missed meetings.

Comparatively to a median value of 2 percent among lifetime records of representatives currently serving, Rep. Hayes’ has tripled the national average in missed attendance within her first session alone.

During the most recent set of votes for July, she missed none of the 84 eligible votes, but missed five out of 136 from January to March, placing her into the 74th percentile; and also missed 28 out of 294 votes from the months of April to June, pegging her at the 92nd percentile.

ProPublica reports that Rep. Hayes was the 47th most absent member of the House of Representatives from the 116th Congress.

“I have been a Member of Congress for more than 200 days,” Rep. Hayes told the Town Times. “During that time, I have missed only three days of voting. Two were due to inescapable weather conditions causing me to be unable to travel to D.C., something everyone who lives in Connecticut is familiar with.

“The third day, and the majority of votes I missed, was due to my son graduating from school. Congresswoman is one of the most important titles I will ever hold, but the single most important one is ‘Mom.’ Family always comes first.”

In April and May, Rep. Hayes has hosted congressional update events in Farmington, Meriden and Waterbury.

Caseworker representatives will host Casework In Your Corner programs to assist Connecticut residents with federal agencies on behalf of her office.

A Casework In Your Corner event will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, August 16, at Cakes & Sweets by Emanuela, 603 Main St., Watertown. 

Another event will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, August 21, at the Thomaston Public Library, 248 Main St., Thomaston.

Those interested in providing comments on policies and issues are invited to leave messages for Rep. Hayes by calling her Waterbury regional office at 203-223-8412 or Washington, D.C., office at 202-225-4476.

Those seeking to learn more about Rep. Hayes’ positions on policies may visit www.hayes.house.gov.

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