WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today thanked her colleagues in the Senate for unanimously agreeing to pass legislation to improve and extend programs in U.S.-affiliated islands, the Omnibus Territories Act of 2013 (S. 1237).
“Today’s political climate is frustrating, and it certainly isn’t an environment where any of us are able to get much across the finish line,” Murkowski said. “That makes the Senate’s passage of the Omnibus Territories Act on Wednesday night all the more satisfying. Disagreement is easy to find in Washington. This legislation, which extends some policies from the Consolidated Natural Resources Act, improves other existing programs and sets up studies designed to continue to improve the quality of life for U.S. citizens and nationals in the island territories, was something the entire Senate agreed deserved passage. That’s no small feat.”
S. 1237, of which Murkowski is a co-sponsor, was first introduced a year ago. It features several provisions that will positively impact U.S. citizens living in the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), including:
- Extension of the CNMI-only work visa program through 2019;
- 300 percent increase in LIHEAP funding for the USVI, helping to respond to the shutdown of their oil refinery and subsequent increase in electricity prices;
- Amends the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 to give preference to U.S. citizens and nationals in Guam for housing programs;
- Orders the Government Accountability Office to report on the effects of increasing the minimum wage in American Samoa;
- Requires the Office of National Drug Control Policy to develop a biennial Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy with an emphasis on the borders of Puerto Rico and the USVI.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Murkowski is the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.