A Look Back at 2015
Helping people is why I came to Congress. It is the motivation behind everything I do. This year, I am honored to have been a part of many legislative initiatives that will truly help my constituents and families across the nation.
Here are my top 10 success stories of 2015:
- 21st Century Cures Act: Over a year ago, the Energy and Commerce Committee took on an issue that affects so many Americans. Something had to be done for the millions of patients and families who are faced with diseases and illness that have no cure or treatments. There are over 10,000 known diseases - 7,000 of them considered rare - and currently there are only 500 cures and treatments. With this legislation, comes hope. The 21st Century Cures Act will accelerate the pace of cures in America by encouraging research and new drug development, modernizing clinical trials, promoting personalized medicine, and removing barriers in the process of developing cures and treatments for patients who need it most.
- OPEN Act: Included in the 21st Century Cures Act, my OPEN Act will help the over 30 million Americans living with a rare disease have safe and effective medications for their condition. This bill will incentivize drug makers and innovators to “repurpose” major market drugs for life-threatening rare diseases and pediatric cancers.
- COVER Act: While it is vital that Veterans receive the care they need, it is equally important to recognize that one size does not fit all when discussing treatments for Veterans. We need to provide Veterans with choices, and easy access to alternative forms of therapies that work best for them. My COVER Act is a bipartisan bill which will establish a commission to examine VA’s current therapy model and the potential benefits in incorporating complementary, alternative therapies. My bill provides a pathway forward that will eventually allow Veterans to have a range of options for mental health treatments such as outdoor sports therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, accelerated resolution therapy, and service dog therapy.
- PROMISE Act: I introduced the PROMISE Act to continue my efforts to promote safety, patient advocacy, and better access to quality care for Veterans. The PROMISE Act will increase safety for opioid therapy and pain management, promote more transparency at the VA, encourage more outreach and awareness of the Patient Advocacy Program for Veterans, and help provide alternative forms of care to address Veterans’ health needs.
- Student Visa Security Improvement Act: This year, I re-introduced the Student Visa Security Improvement Act to further address potential threats to our national security. In 2013, 58,000 student visas were issued, 6,000 of those students have overstayed their visa. It is clear there are significant gaps and vulnerabilities that must be addressed in our student visa program. This important measure would ensure foreign students and exchange visitors enter the country for legitimate purposes. It would provide additional scrutiny for applicants, and put mechanisms into place to ensure students are attending classes in which they are enrolled. We must be able to track all visa visitors, including foreign students, and ensure they are in this country for their intended purpose rather than nefarious activity against U.S. citizens. My legislation will safeguard our universities, communities, and our nation.
We also advanced the SAFE Act to help secure our nation by preventing admission to the United States of any proposed Syrian or Iraqi refugee until the nation’s top security officials certify that the individual does not represent a threat. This bill puts in place a robust, extensive vetting and monitoring process to identify individuals who pose a security threat. It fulfills our promise to the American people that we are working diligently to prevent terrorists from reaching our shores.
- National Defense Authorization Act: The defense of our nation is a top priority, as is ensuring active duty military preparedness and caring for our Veterans. The National Defense Authorization Act is a vital piece of legislation that will authorize necessary funds for the Department of Defense to provide our military with the tools they need to defend our country.
- SGR Repeal: Congress passed legislation to fully repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula within Medicare. This flawed formula would potentially cut physician payments by 21% next year, forcing doctors to exit Medicare, and creating an access crisis for Seniors. This year, we permanently repealed and replaced the formula. Now Medicare will pay doctors based on quality, incentivizing physicians to be as efficient and effective as possible in keeping their patients healthy. Healthier people utilize less health care services, which means lower costs. Congress can now focus on addressing other important reforms within our health care system.
- The Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act: Florida is one of America’s top destinations for tourists. I am proud we have been successful in creating an environment where tourism based business can thrive; more tourism means more jobs. In addition to creating jobs, tourism boosts local businesses, and keeps our communities growing. This year has been an especially exciting one for Florida’s twelfth district. We have seen the creation of an impressive new BMX facility in Oldsmar, the new Sunwest Park in Hudson, and much more. In Florida, we have stayed on pace for over five years with continually increasing numbers of visitors. Brand USA is making this happen, without using taxpayer dollars. Brand USA is a public-private partnership that serves as the nation’s first cooperative destination marketing organization. The organization is charged with growing America’s share of the global travel market, and Brand USA’s efforts have proven to be effective. I have worked hard in our nation’s capital to ensure this trend can continue. My Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act, to reauthorize Brand USA, was signed into law last year. Since then, we have continued to see significant growth in our local economy.
- North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act: The House approved legislation to improve our nation’s energy policies, maximize our energy potential, and protect consumers and families across the nation. We advanced H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and resolutions to counteract EPA overreach. This legislation will help bring us into the 21st century with modern policies to reflect our energy abundance. The judicial resolutions provide for congressional disapproval of EPA overreaching regulation. With these resolutions, we can protect my constituents from rate increases and keep energy affordable for all.
- Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act: Each year in our country, nearly 40,000 babies are born with a congenital heart defect. It is the most common birth defect and the number one cause of birth defect related deaths. As a founder of the Congenital Heart Caucus, I understand the struggles these newborns and their families face. This bill helps give hope to these families. This legislation will bring us one step closer to better treatments and potential cures for congenital heart defects.
It is an honor to serve and so humbling to see these legislative goals come to fruition. I am grateful to my constituents for always providing me the best legislative ideas and to my colleagues for working together in a bipartisan fashion to put the well-being of our country first. 2015 was a year of helping Veterans, patients, local businesses, consumers, and families. I look forward to continuing this work in the new year!
Read this Medium post online here.