First Year in Congress Full of Wins for Florida and Our Community
Originally published in the Daytona Beach News-Journal on Jan. 1, 2020
Washington, January 1, 2020
As I reflect on this year in Congress, I am confident we hit the ground running. This year was full of wins for this administration, for Florida and for America.
As soon as the 116th Congress began, it became clear that getting anything accomplished would require thinking outside the box — and sometimes across the aisle. Though partisanship seemed to be the norm and something the media loved to highlight, there were still some of us in Congress ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work for our constituents.
That’s why one of the first things I did with my fellow congressmen and women was to create the For Country Caucus, which is made of military veterans, both Republican and Democrat.
Together, we were able to break through gridlock and pass several bills to help our military and their families.
For Country priorities passed in this year’s defense bill included paid parental leave, establishing a Tenant Bill of Rights to address unsafe military housing, repealing the Widow’s Tax for Gold Star spouses and giving our troops a 3.1 percent pay raise — the highest pay raise in 10 years.
I was honored to be with President Trump as he signed these priorities into law at Andrews Air Force Base last month and created our sixth new military branch, the Space Force. Our military — and our country — will be a better, safer place because of these inclusions and I’m confident Florida will benefit from America’s reemergence in space.
Though Congress often seems to be a long way off from making significant headway on major reforms like immigration and health care, there are still many accomplishments we should be proud of which will improve our daily lives.
Legislatively, we’ve had quite a few wins this Congress. I’m proud a few of the 169 bills I sponsored and co-sponsored passed through the House. Here are a few highlights:
‒ The historic United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which will support more than 750,000 jobs in Florida;
‒ South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act, which included my amendment to combat algal blooms and improve the water quality of the Indian River Lagoon;
‒ The Minority-Serving Institutions STEM Achievement Act, which improves STEM opportunities for minorities;
‒ And the Coastal Resilience Research and Education Act, a bipartisan bill leveraging university research at colleges to preserve Florida’s coastline.
Meanwhile, at home
My favorite moments from the past year, though, have been the times when I headed back to sunny Florida to spend time with the people I work for, my constituents.
I’m proud to have been able to work with local officials like State Sen. Tom Wright, State Reps. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Tom Leek and Paul Renner to create solutions to solve our community’s issues. I also enjoyed hosting our local mayors for roundtable discussions on how we can make Northeast Florida a better place to live, work and raise a family.
I was humbled when our community banded together to prepare for Hurricane Dorian, volunteering at shelters and preparing everyone for the storm. I’m proud of transportation forum we hosted with local officials to hear concerns and create solutions for infrastructure issues across our area.
You may have seen me out and about in our district during my “Undercover Congressman,” series, where I spend a day in the shoes of a local business worker in our community.
I delivered your mail as a United States Postal Service mail carrier in Daytona Beach, flipped your pizza at Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizza in Port Orange and hand-dipped your ice cream cones in New Smyrna. I’m looking forward to seeing more of you during future episodes!
In the constituent casework corner, my district staff helped thousands of you navigate the federal bureaucracy, helping veterans receive thousands of dollars from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and assisting some in receiving as much as $5,000 in disability benefits.
Hearing from you about your priorities helps me create legislation. This year, I held interviews with veterans benefiting from service dogs and we’ve taken a leading role in the PAWS Act, which will require the VA to provide grants to service dog training organizations so veterans have dogs as an alternative to excessive medications.
Here’s a snapshot of how we’ve continued the conversation this year:
‒ We’ve responded to nearly 11,000 emails and letters from constituents;
‒ We’ve helped over 1,000 constituents with federal agencies like the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the VA;
‒ To make our team more accessible to you, we launched mobile office hours in Deltona, Mount Dora and Eustis to help constituents navigate the federal bureaucracy.
Serving you in Congress is an incredible honor. I’m humbled every day to represent you and our community. Believe me when I tell you, this is just the beginning. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with everyone I can to get things done. That’s what you expect and that’s what you deserve.