Legislative Update From Senator Richard Burr

Message From Senator Burr

Wednesday evening the House passed a piece of legislation Senator Casey and I have been working on for nearly 8 years. The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act passed with broad bipartisan support, 404-17.

I am incredibly pleased that the House passed the ABLE Act this week. Families of individuals with disabilities often face overwhelming financial burdens associated with the expensive costs of healthcare, education, housing and transportation. The ABLE Act will make it easier for parents of disabled individuals to invest in their child's future, thereby opening the door to a world of opportunities. More info about ABLE Act can be found here.

USA Today called the ABLE Act "the first major piece of legislation affecting Americans with disabilities in nearly 25 years" and Politico called it the "sleeper hit" of this Congress.  With more than 380 cosponsors in the House and 78 cosponsors in the Senate, the ABLE Act is the most supported legislation in this Congress.

The ABLE Act is also supported by the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, The Arc, Collaborations to Promote Self Determination, the National Disability Institute and the National Fragile X Foundation.

Yesterday, I held a press call with Senator Casey and Down Syndrome advocate Sara Wolff. Sara shared some of her story and why the ABLE Act is so important to her future. Senator Casey and I talked a little about the ABLE Act and the process for getting it to where it is today.

This weekend, the House champions of the ABLE Act -- Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Congressman Pete Sessions, and Congressman Ander Crenshaw -- will be delivering the Weekly Radio Address to highlight the House's passage of the bill. The address will be available starting tomorrow morning here.

I am confident the Senate will swiftly pass the ABLE Act in the coming week.

In other news, I am also pleased to announced that yesterday afternoon the House passed H.R. 4435, a bill that includes legislation I authored known as the Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act (S. 486).  After significant effort earlier in the week, we ensured that my legislation on Hatteras access would be included as part of the larger legislation that the House of Representatives passed.

Interference from outside interest groups and Federal restrictions on beach access have crippled local businesses along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore for years - it has impaired the local community and its economy. This House vote is a win for North Carolinians and tourists from around the country who wish to visit North Carolina's scenic treasures. This has been a long journey that required compromise on both sides of the aisle in order to see it through. I feel confident that my Senate colleagues will swiftly pass this legislation and unlock the beauty of North Carolina's shores. You can read more about the Hatteras Beach Access legislation here. Also, Island Free Press had a great piece breaking down some of the ‘inside baseball' behind the Hatteras legislation, read here.

On Monday, I joined Senator Casey at a Politico Pro Briefing to discuss whether the U.S. is prepared to handle a public health emergency, highlighting the recent Ebola response efforts in West Africa and here as a case study.

You can watch the discussionin full here.

You can read some of the highlights from our conversation on innovation, leadership, and the importance of public-private partnerships when confronting public health crises here.

Finally, I introduced a resolution this week recognizing the heroic acts of the Montagnards, an indigenous tribespeople of Vietnam. My resolution is an historic first in the Senate, which has not previously honored these brave individuals who fought alongside the United States military during the Vietnam War.  It also condemns the Government of Vietnam for its ongoing and reported violations of the Montagnards' basic human rights, including the freedom to practice their faith without fear of persecution.

More than 60,000 Montagnards assisted U.S. troops as interpreters, scouts, and soldiers during the war. After the Vietnam War, the U.S. resettled thousands of Montagnards as refugees to escape persecution from the Vietnamese government. Currently, the largest population of Montagnards outside of Vietnam resides in North Carolina, but Montagnards also resettled in other states, including in California, Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington.  It's time we honored their contributions -- you can read the text of the resolution here.