For Katie & The Bacas
This weekend, Americans across the country are participating in a National Day of Service to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On Monday, as we celebrate his birthday, we will also observe the second inaugural of our first African American President.
But before President Obama is sworn in for his second term, I want to let you know about two bills -- inspired by brave New Mexico families -- that he signed into law at the end of his first.
Earlier this month, President Obama signed the Burn Pits Registry and the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection acts into law.
Katie's Law, as we know it at home, is now a national piece of legislation that will encourage every state to expand DNA collection efforts from serious criminal offenders to help solve post crimes and prevent future ones.
The bill was named in memory of Katie Sepich, a New Mexico State University graduate student who was murdered in 2003 by an offender who perpetrated heinous crimes against women. Since that time, Katie's mom and dad have dedicated their lives to making sure their daughter's tragic death resulted in meaningful action
Jeff Bingaman and I worked with the Sepich family to get this bill enacted, and our success is a credit to their work and determination.
The president also signed into law the Burn Pits Registry Act, a bill I authored to help service members who developed serious illnesses following exposure to open-air burn pits, which were used to dispose of waste and trash, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
National Guardsman MSgt Jessey Baca and his wife Maria of Albuquerque were the driving force behind this effort. Jessey has battled cancer, bronchiolitis, PTSD and numerous other ailments believed to be connected to his contact with toxic burn pit fumes while deployed in Iraq.
Because of the strong advocacy of the Bacas and other military families, medical professionals and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials will begin to understand to what extent air pollution caused by burn pits has led to serious illnesses, like MSgt Baca's.
Most importantly, veterans around the world will now be able to receive better care and the answers they deserve after serving our country so bravely.
Which brings us back to this weekend; MSgt Jessey and Maria Baca are in town as my special guests for the President's swearing-in ceremony, and to join fellow military families at the Commander In-Chief Ball on Monday.
As we begin a new Congress, I look forward to working on legislation that makes a difference for families in New Mexico, like Katie's and the Bacas.
On this historic MLK Jr. weekend, I'll be thinking of their efforts and service to our nation.