* Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2013: Defines a “covered civil action” as a civil action seeking to compel agency action and alleging that an agency is unlawfully withholding or unreasonably delaying an agency action relating to a regulatory action that would affect the rights of: (1) private persons other than the person bringing the action; or (2) a state, local, or tribal government. Defines a “covered consent decree” or a “covered settlement agreement” as: (1) a consent decree or settlement agreement entered into a covered civil action, and (2) any other consent decree or settlement agreement that requires agency action relating to a regulatory action that affects the rights of private persons other than the person bringing the action, or a state, local, or tribal government.
* Israel QME Enhancement Act: Directs the president, on a biennial basis, to (1) assess the extent to which Israel possesses a qualitative military edge over military threats to it, and (2) submit a related report to Congress. (Current law requires an assessment on an ongoing basis and a report every four years.) Directs the Secretary of State to report to Congress on: (1) the range of cyber and asymmetric threats posed to Israel by state and nonstate actors, and (2) joint U.S.-Israel efforts to address such threats.
* To eliminate the sporting purposes distinction in the gun laws: Repeals provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and the federal criminal code distinguishing firearms used or suitable for sporting, recreational or cultural purposes from firearms used generally. Referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.
* Marina Operator Tax Obligation Relief Act of 2013: Prohibits the Secretary of the Army from imposing a fee under a lease entered into with a concessionaire for the use of Army-controlled real property at a water resources development project if: (1) the lease is for the operation of a facility making restaurant, gasoline, or marine engine sales in connection with a marina; and (2) the fee exceeds 1 percent of the facility’s gross revenues.
GAINESVILLE — The Christmas shopping trip turned quickly into congressional business when a man approached Doug Collins and, after recognizing him, talked with him for a few minutes about a military veterans issue.
That turned into a call by Collins, a Republican from Gainesville whose 9th District covers north Forsyth, to his office.
“You’re always on wherever you’re at,” said Collins in a recent interview reflecting on his first year in Washington. “That’s fine. We promised accessibility, that we would communicate with the district, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Collins was elected in November 2012 after long primary and general election campaigns. He hit the ground running Jan. 1 and has stayed busy, balancing a flurry of heated issues at the Capitol and national media interviews with visits, appearances and speeches throughout his 20-county district.
“It’s been a good year, a very interesting year,” he said. “One of the things I had promised [the district] was bringing my experience, which I believe was an asset, not a liability. As a freshman, I think we’ve done that.”
Collins sponsored a resolution, the Israel Qualitative Military Edge Enhancement Act, which passed the House earlier this month. The act requires the president to assess every two years Israel’s measurable military edge over threats to its homeland.
Also, during the federal government shutdown, contract chaplains were not being allowed on base to perform services, Collins said.
“That being in my background was something very dear to me,” he said. “We passed a joint resolution that put them back to work.”
Collins served a four-month tour of duty in 2008 as a chaplain with a U.S. Air Force Reserves unit in Balad, Iraq. Collins, a lawyer, also served as senior pastor for Chicopee Baptist Church for 11 years.
He also spent six years in the Georgia legislature, including serving as House floor leader for Gov. Nathan Deal.
When he took office, the 9th District had changed due to redistricting from the 2010 census. The congressman formerly representing Hall and other area counties was U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, who was re-elected to represent the newly drawn 14th District.
State legislative experience “provided a good basis but did not prepare [me] for everything in Washington,” Collins said.
A typical day is full of “committee meetings and, depending on the day, constituent meetings and folks coming by, so there’s always something going on,” he said. “Managing that schedule was one of the biggest differences.
“Procedurally, a little bit more is done on the committee level before it gets to the House floor — as opposed to Georgia, where we did a lot of debating on the House floor and committee,” Collins said.
The congressman usually rises early and works from about 8 or 8:30 a.m. to about 8 or 8:30 p.m.
Between the government shutdown over the federal budget to fallout over health care reform, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have had a busy, and frequently contentious, year.
Collins isn’t shy about his opinions of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.
“It was a bad law. It was written on a failed premise and it will continue to hurt Americans,” he said. “No matter what the president will say ... it is a [law] that will help some at the expense of others.”
Collins also pushed for an amendment in the defense spending bill that would transfer control of Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Department of Defense. The bill passed the House in June and the Senate earlier this month.
Looking to 2014, he said, “We’re very optimistic on issues looking ahead that we have not only carried on but ... continuing to work on the things that are special to the 9th District.”
He said that with a budget deal now in Congress, “we’ll be working through the appropriations process.”
Legislators “are the appropriators, we’re the purse strings ... and that’s the only way we can take back over control of what we feel like is out-of-control spending and the deficit situation,” Collins said.
One big issue in 2014 is funding transportation.
The federal Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act passed in July 2012 by Congress, expires in 2014, with some worrying whether federal dollars can meet infrastructure needs nationwide.
In an April report, the Congressional Budget Office said the “current trajectory of the Highway Trust Fund is unsustainable” and that starting in fiscal year 2015, “the trust fund will have insufficient amounts to meet all of its obligations, resulting in steadily accumulating shortfalls.”
Collins said he believes a water authorization bill before a House-Senate conference committee might serve as a template for the transportation spending bill.
“I do hopefully see us getting [the water bill] taken care of [early in 2014],” he said. “That would give a picture and a blueprint of how to deal with transportation.
“We’re in a position where we need some real reforms in our transportation dollars. Those kinds of issues need to be addressed.”
As for getting back to the district, Collins comes home every weekend to be with family and take part in family events.
Congressional business doesn’t always permit that.
“During the shutdown, I missed two [high school] football games,” Collins said. “I have a senior and a freshmen who were both on the field this year.”
And of course, the work never stops. In visits throughout the district, “we’ve hit every county multiple times,” Collins said.
Between personal appearances and staff trips, the number is approaching 300.
“In our office, it’s people first,” Collins said. “People before paper.”