U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) on Thursday commended the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of a bill to repeal a Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration rule that harms regional transportation planning in rural areas: the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Coordination and Planning Area Reform rule. Rep. Denham was an original co-sponsor on the House version of the bill.
“The repeal of the MPO Coordination and Planning Area Reform rule is a win for the Valley,” said Rep. Denham. “While it works well in other areas, this rule did not take into consideration the unique needs of rural communities like ours and would have complicated a process that is already working well for my constituents.”
Metropolitan Planning Organizations are useful in overlapping urban areas to produce a single long-range transportation plan and maximize efficiencies in America’s transportation system. However, this most recent rule would have forced rural MPOs to abandon decades of regional planning and coordination in favor of forced consolidation with communities with much different needs.
In another matter of interest to the Central Valley, Denham has joined the Congressional Youth ChalleNGe Caucus, a bipartisan caucus dedicated to providing a forum to learn more about the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (NGYCP) and work towards solutions to address the high school dropout epidemic. Denham joins 20 Republican and 26 Democrat members of the caucus, chaired by Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), David McKinley (R-WV) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA).
“The ChalleNGe program offers thousands of at-risk teens who have dropped out of high school with unparalleled opportunities,” said Denham. “Especially following my tour of the Discovery ChalleNGe Academy and seeing how this program fosters critical skills and encourages the youth of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue the conversation of what more we can do to assist future generations in their educational endeavors and life pursuits.”
Denham toured the Discovery ChalleNGe Academy in Lathrop in March, where he met with students, sat in on classes and observed exercises. The Discovery ChalleNGe Academy, which welcomed its inaugural class of 116 cadets in January 2017, is a partnership between the California National Guard and San Joaquin County Office of Education for youth between the ages of 16 and 18, who have dropped out, are at-risk of dropping out or are credit deficient in high school.
The Congressional Youth ChalleNGe Caucus provides an avenue for lawmakers to discuss how to strengthen and sustain the NGYCP as well as seek solutions to assist at-risk teens. Since 1993, when Congress mandated the National Guard to create a federal program to address high school dropout rate, the NGYCP has helped over 131,000 kids who have dropped out of high school by providing the assistance, training and opportunity to earn their high school diploma or GED at a NYGCP academy. Over the course of a 22-week residential phase and at no cost to the young person or their family, students are immersed in a high degree of education while learning life skills, developing discipline and cultivating leadership under the guidance and instruction of the National Guard cadre, teachers, parent volunteers and mentors.
Denham represents California’s 10th congressional district, which includes Stanislaus County and a portion of San Joaquin County, including the communities of Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon. He is the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials and also serves on the House Committees on Agriculture and Natural Resources.