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(Washington, D.C.) – The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved this morning several of U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-NH) longstanding priorities to protect New Hampshire fisheries, support the activation of the Berlin Federal Prison, and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education in the bipartisan Commerce-Justice-Science Fiscal Year 2015 Appropriations Bill. The legislation also calls for Department of Justice (DOJ) criminal and civil investigations into the recent scandal plaguing the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and was approved by a 30 to 0 vote. 

“This bill promotes job creation and economic growth through a smart balance of investments in New Hampshire’s businesses and industries, infrastructure, and science, education and innovation,” Shaheen said. “Taking on priorities such as the full staffing of Berlin Prison to bring jobs to the North Country will pay dividends in the years to come and I am looking forward to seeing this bill move through the full Senate.”

The bill approved today contains $6.8 billion for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), enough to support the full staffing of BOP facilities, including the Berlin Prison. Shaheen has fought for the opening of the prison since its funding became at risk and has continued to be a leader in the fight to fully open the facility. She has repeatedly pressed Congress and the Obama Administration to prioritize funding and has highlighted the economic boost the prison would have on one of the most economically distressed areas of the state. The facility is expected to create 340 local jobs and provide a $40 million economic boost to Northern New Hampshire. 

The legislation also provides funding for DOJ criminal and investigations in response to the recent VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report confirming allegations of mismanagement of VA resources and possible criminal misconduct at VA facilities. Specifically, the appropriations bill calls for a DOJ report to Congress on the investigations within 30 days of the bill’s final passage while providing “resources for [DOJ] criminal and civil investigations into allegations that the VA falsified patient records at one or more of the VA’s 150 medical centers and 820 community outpatient clinics” to help “swiftly and definitively determine whether any current or former VA officials violated the law, and bring any charges that might be appropriate against any responsible parties.”

“The problems at the VA are unacceptable and we need to hold individuals responsible accountable,” said Shaheen, who earlier this week introduced separate legislation that would institute a random auditing requirement for the VA and ban the distribution of bonuses to VA officials who may have been involved in mismanagement. “We need to promptly address and remedy the VA’s problems so that veterans get the timely access to the quality medical care they’ve earned and deserve.”

The funding bill also makes investments to bolster New Hampshire’s fishing industry with a focus on improving fisheries science and supporting small boat fishermen. Additionally, the legislation promotes STEM education, including support toward additional STEM investments, such as FIRST (For Inspiration of Science and Technology) Robotics. Shaheen has been a leader on STEM education efforts since her days as Governor and is a recognized leader by STEM Connector in their 100 Women in STEM. Shaheen co-chairs the Senate STEM Caucus that was launched last year and has been a longtime supporter of efforts that promote programs like FIRST Robotics.

“By making STEM education a priority, we will be making it easier for more schools to give New Hampshire students a competitive edge in the global marketplace and take on the jobs of the 21st century,” Shaheen said.

Additionally, as a result of Shaheen’s efforts, report language was included in this bill to encourage the Department of Commerce to improve coordination between federal and state trade agencies and conduct outreach to small businesses about export control reform.

Shaheen announced earlier today that the Commerce-Justice-Science Fiscal Year 2015 Appropriations Bill also adopts several of her provisions that emerged as a result multiple roundtables with New Hampshire law enforcement and public health and treatment professionals to address New Hampshire’s heroin and prescription drug epidemic.