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Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

By Mr. REID:

S. 234. A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to permit certain retired members of the uniformed services who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Armed Services.

Sen. Harry Reid

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Mr. President, I rise today on behalf of our Nation's disabled veterans to once again discuss an end to an unjust and outdated policy known as ``concurrent receipt.'' For the past 122 years, this practice has prevented veterans from receiving the full benefits earned through years of service and personal injury in defense of our Nation. The law requires that a retired disabled veteran reduce their retirement pay dollar-for-dollar by the amount of any disability compensation received, in many cases wiping out retirement pay altogether. This is simply wrong.

I have worked over the past decade to fight to change this outdated policy and commend the progress Congress has made on behalf of our Nation's veterans. In 2002, I was pleased that Congress passed a measure known as combat-related special compensation, or CSRC, allowing for disabled retired veterans to receive payments that are the financial equivalent of concurrent receipt. In 2003 I was pleased that Congress enacted a 10-year phase-in of concurrent receipt for military retirees whose disability is 50 percent or greater, and in 2004, Congress eliminated the 10-year waiting period for those veterans with 100 percent service-related disability. Moreover, in 2008, concurrent receipt eligibility was expanded to include those who are 100 percent disabled due to un-employability and extended equivalent financial payments to those who are medically retired or have retired prematurely due to force reduction programs. Most recently, in 2012, I was pleased to offer an amendment to the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act ensuring that our combat-disabled military retirees receive proper combat-related disability and retirement benefits by eliminating the ``glitch'' in the CRSC formula that can actually cause a reduction in their compensation amount when the VA increases their disability rating. While I am proud that the 10-year phase-in period for veterans who are rated 50-90 percent will finally come to fruition this year, I still believe that Congress has fallen short of meeting the commitment of providing full concurrent receipt to all of our Nation's heroes. This is unacceptable and that is why we have to take care of the hundreds of thousands of disabled veterans who still need our help.

For me, this is a simple matter of fairness. No other Federal retiree is forced to forfeit their retirement--only our disabled military retirees. Veterans' disability compensation is recompense for pain, suffering, and lost future earning power caused by a service-connected illness or injury. Few retirees can afford to live on their retired pay alone, and a severe disability only makes the problem worse by limiting or denying any post-service working life. There is no reason to deny veterans who have served their country honorably the right to the full value of their retirement pay simply because their service also led to disability.

Today I reintroduce the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2013 in order to eliminate all restrictions to concurrent receipt. I hope my Senate colleagues will join me in supporting this bill. We must take action now and support the veterans who have given so much to our grateful Nation. This is the right thing to do.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2013''.

(a) Extension of Concurrent Receipt Authority to Retirees With Service-Connected Disabilities Rated Less Than 50 Percent.-- (1) Repeal of 50 percent requirement.--Section 1414 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by striking paragraph (2) of subsection (a). (2) Computation.--Paragraph (1) of subsection (c) of such section is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraph: ``(G) For a month for which the retiree receives veterans' disability compensation for a disability rated as 40 percent or less or has a service-connected disability rated as zero percent, $0.''. (b) Clerical Amendments.-- (1) The heading of section 1414 of such title is amended to read as follows:

(a) Amendments To Standardize Similar Provisions.-- (1) Qualified retirees.--Subsection (a) of section 1414 of title 10, United States Code, as amended by section 2(a), is amended-- (A) by striking ``a member or'' and all that follows through ``retiree')'' and inserting ``a qualified retiree''; and (B) by adding at the end the following new paragraph: ``(2) Qualified retirees.--For purposes of this section, a qualified retiree, with respect to any month, is a member or former member of the uniformed services who-- ``(A) is entitled to retired pay (other than by reason of section 12731b of this title); and ``(B) is also entitled for that month to veterans' disability compensation.''. (2) Disability retirees.--Paragraph (2) of subsection (b) of section 1414 of such title is amended to read as follows: ``(2) Special rule for retirees with fewer than 20 years of service.--The retired pay of a qualified retiree who is retired under chapter 61 of this title with fewer than 20 years of creditable service is subject to reduction by the lesser of-- ``(A) the amount of the reduction under sections 5304 and 5305 of title 38; or ``(B) the amount (if any) by which the amount of the member's retired pay under such chapter exceeds the amount equal to 2\1/2\ percent of the member's years of creditable service multiplied by the member's retired pay base under section 1406(b)(1) or 1407 of this title, whichever is applicable to the member.''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on January 1, 2014, and shall apply to payments for months beginning on or after that date.

By Mr. CARDIN (for himself, Mr. Schumer, Ms. Mikulski, and Mrs. Gillibrand):

S. 247. A bill to establish the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, New York, and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot Counties, Maryland, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin

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Mr. President, as we start Black History Month, I rise today to discuss a national hero that I have spoken about many times on the Senate floor. 2013 is a particularly remarkable year for Harriet Ross Tubman in that March 13, 2013 will mark the 100th anniversary of her death. This noteworthy anniversary makes it all the more appropriate for me to talk about Maryland's Harriet Ross Tubman and her dedication to justice, equality and service to this country. It is also why it is important for Congress to take action this year on The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park Act that I am reintroducing today.

In my career, I have spoken on the Senate Floor, at events in Maryland, in meetings with constituents and with my colleagues about Harriet Tubman's legacy. While I hope each opportunity I have taken to discuss the life of this remarkable woman helps raise awareness about her importance to the history of our great Nation, my ultimate goal is to properly commemorate her life and her work by establishing the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and, in working with my colleagues from New York, also establish the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, NY.

For the last 5 years I have championed the legislation I am reintroducing today. I appreciate the active support and work my cosponsors of this bill, Senators Mikulski, Schumer and Gillibrand have put into advancing this bill through the Senate. We all share a deep appreciation for how important establishing these parks is to preserving the legacy of this remarkable historical figure in American History but also to how important these parks will be to the communities where they will be located.

I also greatly appreciate the support this legislation has received in the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee. In the last Congress, the bill was reported out of committee with bi-partisan support including the support of Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Murkowski. I look forward to working with the Committee's new Chairman, the Senior Senator from Oregon in reporting this bill quickly for the full Senate's consideration.

The establishment of the Harriet Tubman Historical Parks has been years in the making and is long overdue. The mission of the National Park Service has evolved over time from not only preserving natural wonders across the U.S. for recreational purposes but also commemorating unique places of significance to historical events and extraordinary Americans that have shaped our nation.

The woman, who is known to us as Harriet Tubman, was born in approximately 1822 in Dorchester County, MD and given the name Araminta, Minty, Ross. She spent nearly 30 years of her life in slavery on Maryland's Eastern Shore. She worked on a number of different plantations on Maryland's Eastern Shore and as a teenager was trained to be a seamstress. As an adult she took the first name Harriet, and when she was 25 years-old married John Tubman.

In her late twenties, Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849. She fled in the dead of night, navigating the maze of tidal streams and wetlands that, to this day, comprise the Eastern Shore's landscape. She did so alone, demonstrating courage, strength and fortitude that became her hallmarks. Not satisfied with attaining her own freedom, she returned repeatedly for more than 10 years to the places of her enslavement in Dorchester and Caroline counties where, under the most adverse conditions, she led away many family members and other slaves to freedom in the Northeastern United States. She helped develop a complex network of safe houses and recruited abolitionist sympathizers residing along secret routes connecting the Southern slave states and Northern Free States. No one knows exactly how many people she led to freedom or the number of trips between the North and South she led, but the legend of her work was an inspiration to the multitude of slaves seeking freedom and to abolitionists fighting to end slavery. Tubman became known as ``the Moses of her people'' by African-Americans and white abolitionists alike. Tubman once proudly told Frederick Douglass that in all of her journeys she ``never lost a single passenger.'' She was so effective that in 1856 there was a $40,000 reward offered for her capture in the South. She is the most famous and most important conductor of the network of resistance known as the Underground Railroad.

During the Civil War, Tubman served the Union forces as a spy, a scout and a nurse. She served in Virginia, Florida and South Carolina. She is credited with leading slaves from those slave states to freedom during those years as well.

Following the Civil War, and the emancipation of all black slaves, Tubman settled in Auburn, NY. There she was active in the women's suffrage movement, and she also established one of the first incorporated African-American homes for aged to care for the elderly. In 1903 she bequeathed the Tubman Home to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Auburn where it stands to this day. Harriet Tubman died in Auburn in 1913 and she is buried in the Fort Hill Cemetery. Fortunately many of the structures and landmarks in New York remain intact and in relatively good condition.

Only recently has the Park Service begun establishing units dedicated to the lives of African-Americans. Places like Booker T. Washington National Monument on the campus the Tuskegee University in Alabama, the George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri, The Buffalo Soldiers at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the National Historical Trail commemorating the March for Voting Rights from Selma to Montgomery Alabama, and most recently the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall are all important monuments and places of historical significance that help tell the story of the African-American experience.

As the National Park Service continues its important work to recognize and preserve African-American history by providing greater public access and information about the places and people that have shaped the African-American experience, there are very few units dedicated to the lives of African-American women, and there are no National Historical Parks commemorating African-American women.

I cannot think of a more fitting hero than Harriet Tubman to be the first African-American woman to be memorialized with National Historical Parks that tell both her personal story and her lifelong fight for justice and freedom starting with her fight against the cruel institution of slavery and work of the Underground Railroad she led to her work in the women's suffrage movement.

I hope that my colleagues will support my effort to honor Harriet Tubman and support passage of my bill to authorize the creation of the Tubman National Historical Parks in New York and Maryland. These parks will hopefully pave the way for the Park Service to develop more National Historical Park commemorating the lives of many other important African-American women in our history.

The vision for the Tubman National Historical Parks is to preserve the places significant to the life of Harriet Tubman and tell her story through interpretative activities and continue to discover aspects of her life and the experience of passage along the Underground Railroad through archaeological research and discovery.

The buildings and structures in Maryland have mostly disappeared. Slaves were forced to live in primitive buildings even though many slaves were skilled tradesmen who constructed the substantial homes of their owners. Not surprisingly, few of the structures associated with the early years of Tubman's life remain standing today. The landscape of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, however, is still evocative of the time that Tubman lived there. Farm fields and loblolly pine forests dot the lowland landscape, which is also notable for its extensive network of tidal rivers and wetlands that Tubman, and the people she guided to freedom, under the cover of night. In particular, a number of properties including the homestead of Ben Ross, her father, Stewart's Canal, where he worked, the Brodess Farm, where she worked as a slave, and others are within the master plan boundaries of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Similarly, Poplar Neck, the plantation from which she escaped to freedom, is still largely intact in Caroline County. The properties in Talbot County, immediately across the Choptank River from the plantation, are currently protected by various conservation easements. Were she alive today, Tubman would recognize much of the landscape that she knew intimately as she secretly led black men, women and children to freedom.

There has never been any doubt that Tubman led an extraordinary life. Her contributions to American history are surpassed by few. Determining the most appropriate way to recognize that life and her contributions, however, has been exceedingly difficult. The National Park Service determined that designating a Historical Park that would include two geographically separate units would be an appropriate tribute to the life of this extraordinary American. The New York unit would include the tightly clustered Tubman buildings in the town of Auburn. The Maryland portion would include large sections of landscapes that are evocative of Tubman's time and are historically relevant.

Harriet Tubman was a true American patriot. She was someone for whom liberty and freedom were not just concepts but values she fought tirelessly for. She lived those principles and so selflessly helped hundreds of other people attain freedom. In doing so, she has earned a nation's respect and honor.

Harriet Tubman is one of many great Americans that we honor and celebrate every February during Black History Month. In schools across the country, American History curriculums teach our children about Tubman's courage, conviction, her fight for freedom and her contributions to the greatness of our Nation during a contentious time in U.S. history. Now it is time to add to Tubman's legacy by preserving and commemorating the places evocative of Harriet Tubman's extraordinary life.

Every year, millions of school children, as well as millions of adults, visit our National Historical Parks gain experiences and knowledge about our Nation's history that simply cannot be found in history books or on the Internet. Our Nation's strength and character comes from the actions of the Americans who came before us and the significant events that shaped our Nation. The National Park Service is engaged in the important work of preserving the places where American history was made and providing a tangible experience for current and future generations to experience and understand. It is one thing to learn about Harriet Tubman from a book, and it is yet a completely different and fulfilling experience to explore, see, listen to and feel the places where she worked as a slave, where she escaped from and where she lived out her life as a free American.

The National Park Service is uniquely suited to honor and preserve these places of historical significance and I urge my colleagues to join me in preserving and growing the legacy of Harriet Tubman by establishing the Harriet Tubman National Historical Parks in her honor.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``Harriet Tubman National Historical Parks Act''.

(a) Definitions.--In this section: (1) Historical park.--The term ``historical park'' means the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park established by subsection (b)(1)(A). (2) Map.--The term ``map'' means the map entitled ``Authorized Acquisition Area for the Proposed Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park'', numbered T20/80,001, and dated July 2010. (3) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary of the Interior. (4) State.--The term ``State'' means the State of Maryland. (b) Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park.-- (1) Establishment.-- (A) In general.--Subject to subparagraph (B), there is established the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot Counties, Maryland, as a unit of the National Park System. (B) Determination by secretary.--The historical park shall not be established until the date on which the Secretary determines that a sufficient quantity of land, or interests in land, has been acquired to constitute a manageable park unit. (C) Notice.--Not later than 30 days after the date on which the Secretary makes a determination under subparagraph (B), the Secretary shall publish in the Federal Register notice of the establishment of the historical park, including an official boundary map for the historical park. (D) Availability of map.--The official boundary map published under subparagraph (C) shall be on file and available for public inspection in appropriate offices of the National Park Service. (2) Purpose.--The purpose of the historical park is to preserve and interpret for the benefit of present and future generations the historical, cultural, and natural resources associated with the life of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. (3) Land acquisition.-- (A) In general.--The Secretary may acquire land and interests in land within the areas depicted on the map as ``Authorized Acquisition Areas'' by purchase from willing sellers, donation, or exchange. (B) Boundary adjustment.--On acquisition of land or an interest in land under subparagraph (A), the boundary of the historical park shall be adjusted to reflect the acquisition. (c) Administration.-- (1) In general.--The Secretary shall administer the historical park in accordance with this section and the laws generally applicable to units of the National Park System, including-- (A) the National Park System Organic Act (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.); and (B) the Act of August 21, 1935 (16 U.S.C. 461 et seq.). (2) Interagency agreement.--Not later than 1 year after the date on which the historical park is established, the Director of the National Park Service and the Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service shall enter into an agreement to allow the National Park Service to provide for public interpretation of historic resources located within the boundary of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge that are associated with the life of Harriet Tubman, consistent with the management requirements of the Refuge. (3) Interpretive tours.--The Secretary may provide interpretive tours to sites and resources located outside the boundary of the historical park in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot Counties, Maryland, relating to the life of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. (4) Cooperative agreements.-- (A) In general.--The Secretary may enter into a cooperative agreement with the State, political subdivisions of the State, colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, and individuals-- (i) to mark, interpret, and restore nationally significant historic or cultural resources relating to the life of Harriet Tubman or the Underground Railroad within the boundaries of the historical park, if the agreement provides for reasonable public access; or (ii) to conduct research relating to the life of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. (B) Visitor center.--The Secretary may enter into a cooperative agreement with the State to design, construct, operate, and maintain a joint visitor center on land owned by the State-- (i) to provide for National Park Service visitor and interpretive facilities for the historical park; and (ii) to provide to the Secretary, at no additional cost, sufficient office space to administer the historical park. (C) Cost-sharing requirement.-- (i) Federal share.--The Federal share of the total cost of any activity carried out under this paragraph shall not exceed 50 percent. (ii) Form of non-federal share.--The non-Federal share of the cost of carrying out an activity under this paragraph may be in the form of in-kind contributions or goods or services fairly valued. (d) General Management Plan.-- (1) In general.--Not later than 3 years after the date on which funds are made available to carry out this section, the Secretary shall prepare a general management plan for the historical park in accordance with section 12(b) of the National Park Service General Authorities Act (16 U.S.C. 1a- 7(b)). (2) Consultation.--The general management plan shall be prepared in consultation with the State (including political subdivisions of the State). (3) Coordination.--The Secretary shall coordinate the preparation and implementation of the management plan with-- (A) the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge; (B) the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park established by section 3(b)(1)(A); and (C) the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. (e) Authorization of Appropriations.--There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as are necessary to carry out this section.

(a) Definitions.--In this section: (1) Historical park.--The term ``historical park'' means the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park established by subsection (b)(1)(A). (2) Home.--The term ``Home'' means The Harriet Tubman Home, Inc., located in Auburn, New York. (3) Map.--The term ``map'' means the map entitled ``Harriet Tubman National Historical Park'', numbered T18/80,000, and dated March 2009. (4) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary of the Interior. (5) State.--The term ``State'' means the State of New York. (b) Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.-- (1) Establishment.-- (A) In general.--Subject to subparagraph (B), there is established the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, New York, as a unit of the National Park System. (B) Determination by secretary.--The historical park shall not be established until the date on which the Secretary determines that a sufficient quantity of land, or interests in land, has been acquired to constitute a manageable park unit. (C) Notice.--Not later than 30 days after the date on which the Secretary makes a determination under subparagraph (B), the Secretary shall publish in the Federal Register notice of the establishment of the historical park. (D) Map.--The map shall be on file and available for public inspection in appropriate offices of the National Park Service. (2) Boundary.--The historical park shall include the Harriet Tubman Home, the Tubman Home for the Aged, the Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church and Rectory, and associated land, as identified in the area entitled ``National Historical Park Proposed Boundary'' on the map. (3) Purpose.--The purpose of the historical park is to preserve and interpret for the benefit of present and future generations the historical, cultural, and natural resources associated with the life of Harriet Tubman. (4) Land acquisition.--The Secretary may acquire land and interests in land within the areas depicted on the map by purchase from a willing seller, donation, or exchange. (c) Administration.-- (1) In general.--The Secretary shall administer the historical park in accordance with this section and the laws generally applicable to units of the National Park System, including-- (A) the National Park System Organic Act (16 U.S.C. 1 et seq.); and (B) the Act of August 21, 1935 (16 U.S.C. 461 et seq.). (2) Interpretive tours.--The Secretary may provide interpretive tours to sites and resources located outside the boundary of the historical park in Auburn, New York, relating to the life of Harriet Tubman. (3) Cooperative agreements.-- (A) In general.--The Secretary may enter into a cooperative agreement with the owner of any land within the historical park to mark, interpret, or restore nationally significant historic or cultural resources relating to the life of Harriet Tubman, if the agreement provides that-- (i) the Secretary shall have the right of access to any public portions of the land covered by the agreement to allow for-- (I) access at reasonable times by historical park visitors to the land; and (II) interpretation of the land for the public; and (ii) no changes or alterations shall be made to the land except by mutual agreement of the Secretary and the owner of the land. (B) Research.--The Secretary may enter into a cooperative agreement with the State, political subdivisions of the State, institutions of higher education, the Home and other nonprofit organizations, and individuals to conduct research relating to the life of Harriet Tubman. (C) Cost-sharing requirement.-- (i) Federal share.--The Federal share of the total cost of any activity carried out under this paragraph shall not exceed 50 percent. (ii) Form of non-federal share.--The non-Federal share may be in the form of in-kind contributions or goods or services fairly valued. (D) Attorney general.-- (i) In general.--The Secretary shall submit to the Attorney General for review any cooperative agreement under this paragraph involving religious property or property owned by a religious institution. (ii) Finding.--No cooperative agreement subject to review under this subparagraph shall take effect until the date on which the Attorney General issues a finding that the proposed agreement does not violate the Establishment Clause of the first amendment to the Constitution. (d) General Management Plan.-- (1) In general.--Not later than 3 years after the date on which funds are made available to carry out this section, the Secretary shall prepare a general management plan for the historical park in accordance with section 12(b) of the National Park Service General Authorities Act (16 U.S.C. 1a- 7(b)). (2) Coordination.--The Secretary shall coordinate the preparation and implementation of the management plan with-- (A) the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park established by section 2(b)(1); and (B) the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. (e) Authorization of Appropriations.--There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as are necessary to carry out this Act, except that not more than $7,500,000 shall be available to provide financial assistance under subsection (c)(3).

By Mr. WYDEN (for himself and Ms. Murkowski) (by request):

S. 256. A bill to amend Public Law 93-435 with respect to the Northern Mariana Islands, providing parity with Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Sen. Ron Wyden

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Mr. President, today I am pleased to introduce, with my colleague Lisa Murkowski, the Ranking Member on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and at the request of the Delegate from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island, CNMI, Gregorio ``Kilili'' Sablan, legislation to amend Public Law 93-435, the Territorial Submerged Lands Act. This legislation would convey to the CNMI the same rights to offshore waters and submerged lands that were conveyed to the territories of Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa nearly 40 years ago.

This bill is non-controversial. In 2005, it was first introduced by then-Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Pete Domenici. A companion measure was introduced in the House of Representatives by then-Congressman Jeff Flake. In the 111th Congress, this bill passed the House as H.R. 934 on a 416-0 vote, and it was reported by the Senate Committee. In the 112th Congress, it again passed the House unanimously, on a 297-0 vote, and a hearing was held in the Senate on its companion measure, S. 590. I sincerely hope that this will be the year this bill is signed into law and the people of the CNMI will begin to enjoy the economic benefits that will result from gaining ownership of the waters and submerged lands adjacent to their shores, just as those benefits are enjoyed by every other State and territory of the Nation.

The CNMI faces huge economic challenges that began with the phase-out of World Trade Organization garment quotas in 2005 and resulted in the departure of garment manufacturing. Gaining ownership of the waters and submerged lands adjacent to the 14 islands of the CNMI would help to stimulate the CNMI's struggling economy by allowing the use and management of these areas for near-shore infrastructure development, the extraction of minerals, energy development, aquaculture and other activities. Currently, under Federal ownership, there are no such activities in these areas because the Federal Government has no history of such near-shore jurisdiction and there is no Federal agency with responsibility for their management.

Congress granted the States ownership of the waters and submerged lands out to three miles under the Submerged Lands Act of 1953. In 1974, Congress granted ownership of these areas to the territories. However, the Covenant which established the political union between the U.S. and the CNMI in 1976 was ambiguous on this matter of seaward ownership. Eventually, in 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the submerged lands and waters off the CNMI's coasts fell under Federal ownership. Importantly, the Court also recognized that Congress had the power to convey these waters and lands to the CNMI. That is what this legislation would do.

The CNMI is the only territory or State that does not have ownership of its adjacent waters and lands out to at least 39les. I urge my colleagues to support prompt passage of this bill to correct this disparity and to assist the CNMI in meeting its economic challenges. I'm not aware of any policy objections to this bill's enactment.

I refer those interested in additional information to Senate Report 111-197. Included in that report is a CBO estimate stating that enactment of H.R. 934, the bill on which the legislation being introduced today is based, would not affect direct spending or revenues.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill and a letter of support be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

(a) In General.--The first section and section 2 of Public Law 93-435 (48 U.S.C. 1705, 1706) are amended by inserting ``the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands,'' after ``Guam,'' each place it appears. (b) References to Date of Enactment.--For the purposes of the amendment made by subsection (a), each reference in Public Law 93-435 to the ``date of enactment'' shall be considered to be a reference to the date of the enactment of this section.

By Mr. UDALL of New Mexico:

S. 259. A bill to assure equity in contracting between the Federal Government and small business concerns, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Sen. Tom Udall

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Mr. President, I have reintroduced the Assuring Contracting Equity, or ACE Act, with a correction to a drafting error in order to ensure increases in contracting goals for service-disabled veteran owned small businesses and qualified HUBZone small businesses. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the issues facing entrepreneurs who do business with the Federal Government and hope that we can ensure that more Federal dollars are getting out to main street.

By Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself, Mr. Schumer, Mr. Whitehouse, Mrs. Boxer, Mr. Menendez, and Mr. Lautenberg):

S. 261. A bill to establish and clarify that Congress does not authorize persons convicted of dangerous crimes in foreign courts to freely possess firearms in the United States; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

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Mr. President, today I am pleased to introduce the No Firearms for Foreign Felons Act of 2013. This bill would close a loophole in current law, by ensuring that people convicted of foreign felonies and crimes involving domestic violence cannot possess firearms. We must close this gap in our laws before it is exploited by terrorists, drug gangs, and other dangerous criminals who threaten our communities.

Under current Federal law, people who are convicted in the United Sates of violent felonies like rape, murder, and terrorism are prohibited from possessing firearms. But, shockingly, Federal law does not bar criminals convicted of these same violent crimes in foreign courts from possessing guns. This outrageous loophole for foreign convicts is the result of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Small v. United States.

In that case, the Court analyzed the 1968 Gun Control Act, which states that anyone who has been convicted of a felony ``in any court'' cannot possess firearms. The Court concluded that the phrase only applied to American courts, despite the fact that the Gun Control Act had been applied to foreign felonies since 1968, the year it took effect.

At the time, the Supreme Court was very much aware that its ruling could have serious consequences. As Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his dissent, ``the majority's interpretation permits those convicted overseas of murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, terrorism, and other dangerous crimes to possess firearms freely in the United States.'' But whatever one may think of the Court's ruling, it is now the law of the land.

We must make every effort to close this dangerous loophole and the bill I am introducing today would do just that.

Under this bill, section 921 of Title 18 would be amended to state that ``[the term `any court' includes any Federal, State, or foreign court.'' Similar changes would be made in other sections of the Gun Control Act. Where there are references to ``state offenses'' or ``offenses under state law,'' the bill would expand these terms to include convictions of offenses under foreign law.

In other words, the bill would make it clear that if someone was convicted in a foreign court of an offense that would have disqualified him from possessing a gun in the U.S., then they will be disqualified from gun possession under U.S. law. The only exception will be if there is reason to think the conviction entered by the foreign jurisdiction is somehow invalid.

Under the bill, a foreign conviction will not constitute a ``conviction'' under the Gun Control Act, if either: the foreign conviction resulted from a denial of fundamental fairness that would violate due process if committed in the United States, or the conduct on which the foreign conviction was based would be legal if committed in the United States.

I expect that these circumstances will be fairly rare, but the bill does take them into account and will provide a complete defense to anyone with an invalid foreign conviction. In any event, it is clear that we should not keep in place a dangerous policy which essentially treats every foreign conviction as invalid.

Ensuring that foreign convictions count as convictions under U.S. law is important for a second reason. When someone with a felony conviction is arrested for another crime, the government may charge that person with being a felon in possession of a firearm or may seek a sentence enhancement. However, if a foreign conviction is not treated as a conviction under our law, then the defendant may receive a significantly lower sentence than is appropriate given the number of convictions on his record.

Particularly in these times, America cannot continue to give foreign-convicted murderers, rapists, and even terrorists the right to buy firearms in the United States.

With each passing day, we run a risk that foreign felons are exploiting this loophole in our law. This is unacceptable.

Criminals convicted in foreign courts should not be able to have guns when U.S. law forbids those convicted of the same crimes on U.S. soil from possessing guns. We should not wait for lives to be lost before we act to close this loophole.

I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

By Mr. DURBIN:

S. 262. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide equity for tuition and fees for individuals entitled to educational assistance under the Post-9/11 Educational Assistance Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs who are pursuing programs of education at institutions of higher learning, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin

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The original GI Bill proved to be a landmark initiative for our troops and an outstanding investment in the future of our nation. The Post 9/11 GI bill, signed into law in 2008, built on the success of the original program by providing helpful and hard-earned educational and economic benefits for our newest generation of veterans.

Just as the veterans of WWII were the engine of economic recovery and expansion in the postwar period, the most recent generation of veterans will continue their service to America by reaching their full educational and economic potential through the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

In January 2011, Congress made further changes to the Post 9/11 GI Bill which caps the amount of education benefits for veterans enrolled in private colleges at $17,500 and limits the education benefit for veterans enrolled in public colleges to the amount charged for in-state tuition and fees. That seemed reasonable, but what we have learned is that many veterans are not eligible for in-state tuition. And the cost difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition for public universities can be substantial.

Current law unintentionally burdens a significant number of veterans, requiring them to pay thousands of dollars in out of pocket costs for non-resident tuition and fee rates. These costs add up over the course of a college career--so much so that veterans often drop out of college or transfer to another school, with a significant amount of debt and without an actual degree. But veterans at private schools have their tuition covered up to $18,077.

I am introducing the Veterans Equity Act of 2013 to remedy the inequality between benefits for those at a private institution and those at a public school charging out-of-state fees. This bill would allow veterans who are considered non-residents of the state school they attend to receive up to $18,077 in tuition benefits, the same benefit that would be available to that veteran if attending a private institution.

This legislation is supported by American Council on Education, Association of State Colleges and Universities, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Association of American Universities and the American Association of Community Colleges.

I am deeply concerned that some for-profit institutions may be abusing G.I. tuition payments by aggressively targeting veterans for academic programs that may not provide value to students, such as preparation for future employment. The Veterans Equity Act will help more veterans attend public institutions without significant out of pocket costs.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``Veterans Education Equity Act of 2013''.

(a) In General.--Clause (i) of subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) of subsection (c) of section 3313 of title 38, United States Code, is amended to read as follows: ``(i) In the case of a program of education pursued at a public institution of higher learning, the lesser of-- ``(I) the actual net cost for tuition and fees assessed by the institution for the program of education after the application of-- ``(aa) any waiver of, or reduction in, tuition and fees; and ``(bb) any scholarship, or other Federal, State, institutional, or employer-based aid or assistance (other than loans and any funds provided under section 401(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070a)) that is provided directly to the institution and specifically designated for the sole purpose of defraying tuition and fees; or ``(II) the greater of-- ``(aa) the actual net cost for in-State tuition and fees assessed by the institution for the program of education after the application of-- ``(AA) any waiver of, or reduction in, tuition and fees; and ``(BB) any scholarship, or other Federal, State, institutional, or employer-based aid or assistance (other than loans and any funds provided under section 401(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070a)) that is provided directly to the institution and specifically designated for the sole purpose of defraying tuition and fees; or ``(bb) the amount equal to-- ``(AA) for the academic year beginning on August 1, 2011, $17,500; or ``(BB) for any subsequent academic year, the amount in effect for the previous academic year under this subclause, as increased by the percentage increase equal to the most recent percentage increase determined under section 3015(h) of this title.''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply with respect to the payment of educational assistance for an academic year beginning on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.

By Mr. REED (for himself and Ms. Stabenow):

S. 265. A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide grants for community-based mental health infrastructure improvement; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Sen. Jack Reed

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Mr. President, today I introduce, along with my colleague, Senator Stabenow, the Community Based Mental Health Infrastructure Improvements Act.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2011, Rhode Island has the highest rate of serious mental illness among adults in the country. According to this survey, approximately 7.2 percent of adults aged 18 or older in my state have a serious mental illness, above the 4.6 percent national average.

While too often the stigma of mental illness prevents individuals from seeking diagnosis and treatment, thankfully, states like Rhode Island have made strides in meeting this challenge. In Rhode Island, mental health parity laws have been on the books since 2001. Similarly, Rhode Island's Medicaid program, RIteCare, covers mental and behavioral health care for low-income children and families.

Those who need this treatment must have access to it. Community Mental Health Centers play a vital role in helping individuals get the mental and behavioral health care that they need to lead healthier, more productive lives. In 2012, Community Mental Health Centers in Rhode Island treated approximately 45,000 individuals at over 1 million distinct encounters. Next year, the number of individuals treated by Community Mental Health Centers will likely increase, as over 50,000 Rhode Islanders gain access to health insurance.

As more Americans across the country gain access to health insurance, these centers and other providers will see an increased caseload. Yet, many Community Mental Health Centers are in outdated and outmoded facilities that make if difficult to provide the optimal level of care.

The Community Based Mental Health Infrastructure Improvements Act we are introducing today would support the necessary updates and expansions of some facilities, and the construction of entirely new facilities in other instances in order to meet the growing demand.

I am pleased that this legislation has also been included in a broader bill, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, which I joined Senators Stabenow, Blunt, Boxer, Collins, Leahy and Rubio in introducing today, to make other updates to the way Community Mental Health Centers are reimbursed for services. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the critical needs of our mental and behavioral health care delivery system.