By Adam Schiff
As this year draws to a close, I wanted to update you on some of the issues and legislation I have worked to advance this year.
First, for a long time I have worked to protect the “Rim of the Valley” corridor, passing legislation to authorize the Dept. of Interior to study options for preserving these beautiful natural areas. This year, the Department released a draft report recommending that the park be more than doubled in size. This major expansion would better serve and connect our growing urban population to nature and preserve this open space for future generations. In the coming year, I plan to introduce legislation to make that vision a reality for all Southern Californians.
This year, we have also come closer than ever to establishing an Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast. A fully built-out system is critical to saving lives and protecting infrastructure by providing warning before the next “big one” hits. This year, I was able to secure $6.5 million to construct this critical system and, for the first time, the President has supported funding for the system in his budget. I’m hopeful that we can carry this momentum into the new year and soon have a system ready to warn citizens, first responders, and major infrastructure operators before an earthquake hits.
One of the quality of life issues that I hear most about when I’m talking to my constituents is the excessive helicopter noise in parts of our region. Working in close coordination with Senator Diane Feinstein and Senator Barbara Boxer, as well as concerned homeowners, we convinced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch a dedicated helicopter noise complaint system for all of Los Angeles County. This system allows Los Angeles residents to call a local telephone number to file a complaint, as well as submit a noise complaint online. Although the system still needs work, it is a critical first step towards finding and addressing irresponsible helicopter operators who loiter over residential areas for long periods of time. The system should give us the data we need to take further action to mitigate the noise pollution above our homes.
On the national level, and as the senior Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, our national security is one of my top priorities. For almost 10 years, I have been working to improve our intelligence capabilities, while maintaining our commitment to privacy and civil liberties. In light of the terrible attacks in San Bernardino and Paris, no effort must be spared to go after the scourge of ISIS and defeat it on the battlefield and its scurrilous propaganda.
At the same time, and given the hacking of [Office of Personnel Management] and so many public and private organizations, I worked with my colleagues to draft a bipartisan bill to improve our cybersecurity that passed the House overwhelmingly. The bill would improve the sharing of information about cybersecurity threats so that both the government and private sector can respond quickly to mitigate the types of hacks that have exposed the private information of millions of Americans. The bill includes strong privacy protections.
I also worked this year to pass the USA Freedom Act, landmark legislation to reform the laws governing surveillance to ensure that the government gets the information it needs to protect the public but with no unnecessary intrusion on our privacy. Specifically, the bill ended the telephone record program under which the government was unnecessarily collecting massive amounts of domestic telephone call records and storing them for five years. We have now restructured the program so that telephone service providers maintain their own records, while ensuring that the government can request data quickly when necessary to protect against any threat. The bill included strong new oversight and transparency reforms to ensure that our surveillance efforts are carried out in line with our values and our laws.
Finally, with the 2016 election in full swing, we are already seeing a deluge of secret and anonymous spending across our state and country to influence the outcome of elections. That is why I introduced a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s opinions in Citizens United and similar cases and restore accountability to our campaign finance system.
Even in a Congress known for its dysfunction, there is still room to make progress on issues that are important to our district and our country.
I hope that the New Year will bring a renewed spirit on all sides to work together to confront the challenges we face as we continue to build a more perfect union.
Rep. Adam Schiff represents California’s 28th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.