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By Randy Pierce
United States Representative Nikki Budzinski passed through the Metro-East earlier this month as part of her observance of 100 days since she was sworn in for the office she was elected to last year and during the visit in this area, she shared information concerning the progress she has been making as a new member of Congress.
Including a stop in Collinsville on Monday, April 10, Budzinski initiated this tour of many communities in her Illinois district to inform the public and press about the federal legislation she has been involved in as a sponsor.
On Thursday, April 6, she participated in a “fireside chat” held at the Doubletree Inn in Collinsville, along with another Congressional representative from Illinois, Mary Miller from the 15th district, which is further upstate. This event was hosted by an economic development group promoting the region that is known as Greater St. Louis Inc.
Budzinski’s geographically asymmetrical 13th Congressional District goes toward the southwest from the Champaign-Urbana area to include Springfield, where she is originally from, then slightly further west before extending south through Carlinville and into Madison County where it takes in all of Glen Carbon, Maryville west of Illinois Route 159 and nearly all of Collinsville except for its southeast corner before also including Fairview Heights and much of O’Fallon.
Serving on the House of Representatives committees focusing on agriculture and veterans’ affairs, her two top choices when asked for her preference, Budzinski said she selected the former because this is a Congressional “farm bill” year, something that comes up every half or full decade, and she is aware of how important this industry is to her constituency.
In conjunction with her concern about agriculture, Budzinski said she has worked with colleagues on a bi-partisan bill called the Next Generation Fuels Act which, when fully materialized following its anticipated passage, will provide support for family farmers in that it will lead to the increased use of ethanol in gasoline, meaning an expansion of market sources for local corn growers.
This legislation would also offer the auxiliary benefits of lowering gasoline fuel costs for consumers and decreasing carbon emissions, therefore providing more environmentally conditions as the processes set forth within it grow and expand.
The same bill, Budzinski continued, additionally includes provisions for increased crop insurance protection, something she feels is important in this area of the nation which is subject to flooding and other adverse weather conditions that can interfere with agricultural productivity.
Other aspects of the “next generations” bill provide support for agricultural education and research programs in colleges such as Southern Illinois University Edwardsville along with a component helping to ensuring that those in need of nutrition are able to have access to healthy food.
Budzinski, who earned election to her position as a Democrat candidate, also feels much enthusiasm for the federal Leverage and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs Act which she said was originally introduced by her predecessor, Rodney Davis, but has undergone a significant “tweaking” by her prior it being introduced in cooperation with a Republican representative from Ohio.
The LEAP Act provides a small business tax credit of $1500 for any employer who hires a pre-apprentice or apprentice status individual which she feels will help facilitate ways for people to find well-paying jobs without having to get a four-year college degree.
“I believe we need to create more opportunities,” Budzinski said, “for people to get the certifications and training to get into the workforce,” creating a “win-win” outcome because participating businesses will have an easier time filling vacancies with qualified people.
Still another positive to result from this bill, when and if it passes the House and Senate and is signed by the president, is that there will be less student debt otherwise incurred by more costly higher education expenses for those who can instead get the apprentice-type training for the jobs where it is applicable.
Budzinski said she is optimistic about the future of the LEAP Act bill because of its bi-partisan support and sponsorship.
Closely associated to that concept is what can be found in the Rural America Health Corps Act, also sponsored by Buzinski with bi-partisan backing. She foresees it as being beneficial for veterans’ clinics, hospitals and health care facilities because it is designed to help those entities recruit and retain qualified employees while further reducing levels of student loan debts.
This in turn will help also to implement a greater focus on behavioral health matters, something of great interest and need where military service veterans are involved. United States 12th Congressional District Representative Mike Bost is chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee of which Budzinski is a member.