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Public Statements

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. POLIS. I rise today for the purpose of engaging in a colloquy about the importance of computer science in a balanced program of science, technology, education, and math. I thank the chairman for including extensive language in the committee report on STEM education, but I would like to highlight today some specific needs in the critical area of computer science.

More than 1.5 million high-wage computing jobs will be created by 2018--the largest growth area across science, technology, engineering, and math. Yet few computer science classes are available to students; and when they're offered, they're typically only electives. Many States don't have proper teacher certification programs for K 12 computer science and don't clearly connect the certification to content. In recent years, the number of computer science bachelor degrees in the U.S. actually fell from 60,000 to 38,000, even as computer science breakthroughs are transforming our economy.

I have legislation--the Computer Science Education Act--that focuses on this issue, but there are other steps as well. First, I believe it's important that Federal STEM education programs explicitly incorporate the broad definition of science, technology, engineering, and math reported by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. This definition helps make sure that STEM is sufficiently interpreted and not too narrowly to cover just math. Second, to ensure that there's a comprehensive pipeline for science from K 12 all the way through to the workforce, it's essential that NSF and other Agencies identify our Nation's highest STEM-related workforce needs and use that information to prioritize STEM-related subjects in our schools.

I very much look forward to working with the chairman to address these issues as this bill continues to move forward through the appropriations process. I'm grateful to the chair for this conversation and his perspectives on all these critical issues, and I yield to the gentleman from Virginia.

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Mr. POLIS. I thank the gentleman from California for bringing forward this amendment.

This amendment is absolutely critical for Colorado. We have a legal regulatory structure for medical marijuana and for the many businesses and nonprofits that are active in providing patients with medical marijuana, and yet they live under a constant fear, a constant fear of selective enforcement from the Attorney General or from the DEA.

I had the opportunity in the Judiciary Committee to question the Attorney General with regard to this issue, and he acknowledged that the only possible enforcement--because of the large-scale use of medical marijuana in the States where it is legal--would be selective enforcement. And that is a very dangerous precedent and a very dangerous power to hand an Attorney General, the Department of Justice, and the DEA.

I have heard from the other side of the aisle in different contexts many comments critical of the current Attorney General. But regardless of who is sitting as Attorney General, do we want to have an Attorney General that has the ability at any given time to engage in selective enforcement against a large group of people, whomever he or she wants to prosecute?

What if the select enforcement is politically motivated? What if we have an Attorney General that decides he or she doesn't like the Tea Party or doesn't like the Occupy movement? What if they then force the States to give the records that they keep of who has the medical marijuana licenses and then go after the people with whose politics they don't agree? It's a very, very dangerous road to go down, a dangerous power to give to the Federal Government.

This is a very real and important issue. Drug abuse is a terrible problem that plagues our country and plagues Colorado families. We can reduce drug abuse and reduce access to minors of both marijuana as well as other drugs by making sure that we regulate them appropriately.

In Colorado, medical marijuana dispensaries are regularly audited. They are required, under State law, to have video cameras keep track of who comes and goes. Minors are not allowed to enter the premises. It is, of course, the underground illegal corner drug dealer that will sell to the 15-year-old, not the legal State-regulated dispensary.

We have limited law enforcement capabilities, as highlighted by my colleague from California (Mr. Schiff), and to go after patients and their caregivers rather than drug smugglers and Mexican drug cartels does a huge disservice, not only to law enforcement, but also to the many, many victims of the drug war, both from collateral damage as well as those who fall victim to the drugs themselves.

It's critical, at a time when our Nation continues to battle with narcotic use, that our limited resources are focused on the real problem. The real problem is not the 68-year-old cancer patient. The real problem is not the business or the nonprofit that operates under a legal State regulatory system in providing these essential services in our communities in accordance with State and local law.

This amendment is common sense. I hope that colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join in passing this amendment.

And I understand that for many of our colleagues, they don't have legal medical marijuana in their States, and that's fine. No one is saying that they should or they shouldn't. It's up to the residents of each State to decide how they want to treat the criminal aspects of regulating marijuana use.

What we're asking is, for those of you who come from States who don't have legal marijuana, consider that some States might think about it a little differently. Consider that some States have, in fact, authorized dispensaries and authorized a system to ensure that it stays out of the hands of minors, to focus their State law resources on harder drugs and ensuring that minors don't have access to marijuana or other drugs. And consider that that is their prerogative, just as it is your prerogative in your State to continue to approach marijuana usage as a criminal issue.

I call upon my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important amendment, to focus our limited resources and allow legal businesses and legal caregivers to operate without the fear of a DEA agent busting in their door.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. Mr. Chairman, this is a very strange amendment, as my colleagues have pointed out. We are obviously a very diverse country. Some States allow same-sex marriages; others do not. Some have civil unions. My home State of Colorado is currently discussing this issue in the State legislature. It is certainly very contentious, and I wish them well in coming to a speedy resolution.

What this amendment does is simply contravene something that doesn't occur. It talks about funds being used in contravention to the Defense of Marriage Act. There are no such funds. This administration, as the last administration, has followed the Defense of Marriage Act.

Certainly out of political convenience, I would say would that it were, if only this administration had been granting immigration rights or inheritance and survivorship rights to committed same-sex couples that were married in the States that have them; but it is simply not the case.

Now, I understand that there might be fears that perhaps some day a future administration might seek to violate the law in this area, but I think it shows a fixation to try to single out this area. I mean, a future administration or any administration might try to violate the law in any one of any number of areas. But to have a fixation on and support for a government takeover of the institution of marriage is a very dangerous precedent. And I wish my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would help preserve the integrity of marriage in this country and its importance to all families, including mine, and my colleague from Massachusetts and many others.

We do not currently use any funds in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act. There are a number of us in this body who seek to repeal this act. This House as a whole has not repealed this act. It very much has the rule of law. But just like other laws, the administration and the executive branch are charged with implementing that law.

I think it is a bizarre step to single out one particular area of law with many, many, many laws that the executive branch operates under and say we
don't want them to violate this law when there is of course no evidence, no sign, no indication that any administration, Democratic or Republican, has any desire to violate this law.

The decision not to defend this law is unaffected by this amendment. To be clear, if this amendment passes, it has no bearing on the administration's decision not to defend the undefensible, namely, the government takeover of marriage that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle seem to support.

Marriage is a very personal relationship between two people who are in love. And, of course, it's precise definition is up to each State in terms of who they allow and under what conditions they allow to marry. And to have the Federal Government enter this debate is very contrary to the definition of marriage itself and frankly debases the thousands of same-sex marriages that have occurred in this country.

So again, while this amendment would do nothing and certainly wouldn't jeopardize the administration's decision not to defend the undefensible, namely, the government takeover of marriage, I still urge opposition to this measure because I think it is bizarre to single out one particular area or one particular type of marriage that some Members of this body may not personally approve of.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. POLIS. I thank the gentleman from Iowa.

Just for a brief question, the gentleman's home State of Iowa does allow same-sex couples to marry, and I would just like to ask in reference to the first part of your remarks whether your home State of Iowa in any way, shape, or form, whether civilization is in jeopardy or if any of the things that you mentioned in the early part of your remarks have, in fact, hurt your home State of Iowa?

Mr. KING of Iowa. Reclaiming my time, civilization is in jeopardy. It's in jeopardy when you have seven supreme court justices in the State of Iowa who declare that they have found rights in the Constitution that were up to this point ``unimagined.'' If you have justices that find unimagined rights in the Constitution, they are completely unqualified to legislate from the bench or determine what's constitutional and what's unconstitutional; and three of the seven were up for a retention ballot a year ago last November, and they were all three voted off the bench, the first time in the history of the State, partly because people disagreed with the policy they sought to impose by legislating from the bench, mostly because the people in the State understood that you cannot have judges that will find rights in the Constitution that were up to this point unimagined.

Judges that can imagine rights in the Constitution will take your rights away. A President that will change his position, that will not uphold his oath of office to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, that will direct the Department of Justice to work against and the Solicitor General to work against Federal law will turn this thing 180 and use the Federal resources against the will of the people of the United States, and that's the Huelskamp amendment, and I support it.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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