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Public Statements

In a New Year, Public Service Matters

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This is the first in a series of columns by Senator Jay Rockefeller on 2012 legislative accomplishments.
December 30, 2012

West Virginians and people across our country are frustrated with Washington. Understandably so.

Because as the fiscal cliff has shown us, there are serious implications for our nation when partisan politics outweigh problem-solving.

I share the frustration because I came to the Senate with public service in mind -- and I've been here during more productive times, when public policy has achieved real good for West Virginians.

Turning vision and determination into action for others should be at the heart of everything we do as public servants. And we have been able to enact positive change over the years, in areas I'm deeply proud of.

Like the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP -- which has provided health coverage to millions of America's children, including tens of thousands in West Virginia. In more than 10 years, CHIP has helped give more than 37,000 kids in West Virginia and nearly 8 million children nationwide the healthy start they deserve.

We've also been able to make a difference for our veterans -- by providing health care through many veterans' centers and clinics throughout the state, helping those with the unseen effects of war get the treatment they need, and supporting their education through the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Since 1996, a program I authored called "E-Rate" has increased the number of schools connected to the Internet from 14 to 92 percent nationwide. To date, our state has received around $186.8 million from this program, which helps place a world of opportunities at our students' fingertips -- like the third-graders in Charleston I visited who connected by video with NASA astronauts.

For our workers, especially coal miners, I've been proud to make progress in the fights for safety, health coverage and greater retirement security. In 2010, as part of the health reform law, we improved the Black Lung program -- which currently provides health care and income support to nearly 50,000 individuals across the country, one in five of whom are West Virginians -- by making it easier for miners and their families to qualify for benefits.

Even in the tough political environment of 2012, we worked past the hurdles, found common ground and passed legislation to create jobs, strengthen our infrastructure and support our veterans.
Much work remains, but I'm always heartened by the forward progress we're making, and I always see in the New Year another opportunity to call on the power of public service -- and the good I know it can do.


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