Monthly update from Senator Tester

By: 
SENATOR JON TESTER

Seven weeks ago, Congress adjourned for its longest recess in recent memory. When they left town with so much unfinished work I vowed to keep working, even if many of my colleagues refused. So as the Senate returns to Capitol Hill, I wanted to give you an update on my past few weeks in Big Sky Country. I’ve been traveling across Montana discussing solutions to our state’s most pressing issues with folks on the ground.
First, I visited the Roaring Lion Fire Command Center in the Bitterroot Valley to thank our firefighters and observe the damage firsthand. This fire has been burning for over a month now and the money FEMA has contributed to help with the firefighting effort will fizzle out with the last flame. That’s why I’ve introduced the Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act and the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act to ensure our firefighters and communities that have been impacted by fires like Roaring Lion access to the funding and resources they need—both to fight the fire while it is burning and help with the recovery after it is out.
Then I presented long overdue medals to three Montana veterans. Thomas Huff, Ronald Sims, and Gorvan LeDuc were exemplars of Montana values, and between them they amassed two Bronze Stars, one Purple Heart, and a total of 25 other medals. But medals are not enough. We have a responsibility to take care of the men and women who took care of us, and right now, many of them are not receiving the care they have earned.
So on behalf of all veterans in Fergus County I sat down with Regional VA Director Ralph Gigliotti and Acting Director of VA Montana Kathy Berger to discuss my concerns regarding veterans’ access to care. The biggest issues facing the VA are a lack of stable, permanent leadership and the inefficiencies of the Veteran’s Choice program. That’s why I introduced The Veterans First Act to address both of these issues and break down the barriers that are keeping our veterans from accessing the care they deserve.
Next I stopped by the Montana Telecommunications Association’s annual conference to talk about my #ConnectMT initiative. It is critical that we expand broadband and access to high-speed internet in Lewistown, so we can stay connected and competitive in a 21st century economy.
But investing in broadband infrastructure isn’t enough; we must also invest in our roads and bridges. So I stopped by an I-15 construction project in Helena—one of the first projects that the new Highway Bill is funding here in Montana. This is the first portion of the $2.3 billion our state will receive over the next five years from the new Highway Bill. I fought hard to pass this bipartisan, long-term Highway Bill because it will create more good paying construction jobs like these across our state.
Throughout my Montana visits I also swung by small businesses, met with students and seniors, and heard from many of you about how we can continue to strengthen our great state. Now that I am back in Washington, I will put those conversations into action, and make more progress on some of the biggest issues impacting our state.
As always, it’s an honor to serve you in the United States Senate.

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