Washington Report from Congressman Woodall


I have heard from many of you over the years discussing your desire to see real criminal justice reform, and I am proud to say that last week, the House delivered by passing H.R.5682, the “Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person,” or “FIRST STEP Act,” authored by my good friend Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA) and Representative Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY). This bipartisan bill, which passed by a vote of 360-59, is an example of what Congress can do when we work together for America.

With the mission of reducing recidivism, the “FIRST STEP Act” would provide prisoners programing for education, drug treatment, and job skills training and allow those who participate to earn credits for completing programs that can lead to them serving some of the remaining days of their sentences in a halfway house or home confinement. The bill will also prohibit the shackling of pre- and post-partum female prisoners, and it requires inmates to be housed within 500 miles of their families when possible.

This “FIRST STEP Act” is not just a way to facilitate a formerly incarcerated individual’s first step back into society, but it is also the first step of many that Congress will take to address the need for further criminal justice reform. Given President Trump’s support for this bill and his eagerness to sign it into law, I am hopeful the Senate will take it up quickly and get it to his desk. This is a step in the right direction to ensure folks reintegrate back into society and start their new life on the right foot.



The House fulfilled one of its constitutional mandates last week—providing for the common defense—by passing the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This bill, which ensures our men and women in uniform have the training and resources to successfully defend our nation, passed the House with 351 bipartisan votes.  President Trump and Defense Secretary Mattis have called on Congress to help rebuild our military and restore our readiness, and we have answered by providing funding to rehabilitate and replace worn out Army equipment, bolster power in the air and the sea, invest in our missile defense and nuclear deterrent, ensure our warfighters have access to the most innovative technologies known to man, and require the Pentagon to reduce bureaucracy and increase efficiency.   We also voted on over 270 amendments from both Democrats and Republicans to ensure that every American had a voice in crafting our national defense policy.  You can read all about the bill here.



On Wednesday, my colleagues and I on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). This bill doesn’t get much media recognition, but it’s one of the most important bills in Washington for those of us in Georgia because this is the legislation that governs Lake Lanier.

We’ve had some great successes in recent years to protect Lanier—we repealed a paragraph in federal law that would have given Alabama and Florida an opening to change how much water we have to give away to those states; we repealed the 13 year-old prohibition on security cameras on homeowner docks; we have the first complete water control proposal since 1958 (the year the lake was created), which promises to fulfill our water supply needs for decades; and our state has, to date, successfully defended our interests in federal court. You may have also read in the newspaper that Lake Lanier reached its highest level in two years this month — almost a foot above the summer full pool of 1,071 feet. This is all obviously good news for the 5.7 million Georgians who rely on Lanier for drinking water, recreation, and jobs.

That said, I had two requests in this year’s WRDA: (1) reject attacks from neighboring states on Lake Lanier, and (2) ensure sufficient funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP) to keep it on schedule—and we achieved both!  This bill raises the federal funding ceiling for SHEP by roughly the same amount as the state’s contribution, and it’s really important that the federal government fulfill its commitment in the same way the State of Georgia has fulfilled its commitment.  You may be wondering why your 7th District congressman is so focused on making sure SHEP is successful.  That’s easy—our ports are not only some of the biggest and busiest in the country—they also support tens of thousands of jobs in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties.  These ports are the gateway to international commerce for our local businesses, and we have competition all over the country—from Jacksonville, to Charleston, to Los Angeles, and Seattle—and we have to make sure our state is in the driver’s seat and remains the #1 state to do business.


As you may have already heard, Congress and President Trump worked together last week to move the needle forward on fulfilling another long-held promise to the American people by passing S. 2155, the “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act” – a bill to overturn and loosen a number of the strict regulations that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) imposed on many of our small financial institutions.

Without question, a larger, systemically important financial institution – a huge bank like Wells Fargo, Citibank, or Bank of America – should face a different level of regulatory scrutiny than a local community bank and credit union, none of which contributed substantially to the 2008 financial crisis. But Dodd-Frank did a poor job of making the distinction between our larger and riskier financial institutions and our local lenders, and for too long, that failure has hurt both families and our economy. In fact, members on both sides of the aisle in Congress have acknowledged Dodd-Frank’s shortcomings by supporting dozens of bills both in the House Financial Services Committee and on the House floor to amend sections of the law. And last week, the House passed S. 2155, which will improve access to much needed capital for consumers and small business, work to safeguard our most vulnerable consumers from financial fraud and theft, bolster capital formation, and provide protections for student borrowers just to name a few of the bill’s provisions that I believe will work to benefit most all Americans.

S. 2155 is truly the result of bipartisan and bicameral efforts and negotiations, and I want to take this opportunity to commend the respective members and committees for all of their hard work on this legislation. You may recall that the House last year passed H.R. 10, the “Financial CHOICE Act,” but unfortunately, the Senate chose not to take it up as they didn’t have the 60 votes it needed to pass. While S. 2155 might not be as comprehensive as H.R. 10, I am pleased that approximately half of the bill was comprised of legislation that originated in the House, and I certainly believe that it is a step in the right direction for American taxpayers and our economy.