The August Agenda
So far in the 116th Congress, I have sponsored or cosponsored more than 150 pieces of legislation. During the month of August, I will profile 31 of these bills – one each day. I am calling this my “August Agenda.” While many of these bills do not garner much media attention, they are important initiatives that can help move our country forward.
Follow along here on my website or on Twitter to see why I support these bills and why I believe they benefit our Northeast Florida community.
Today we celebrate National Beach Day! As Floridians, we are proud of the beautiful beaches and coastal communities that make our state unique, and we must protect our coasts from harmful offshore drilling.
That’s why I introduced H.R. 3585, the BEACHES in Florida Act, which would prevent offshore drilling in the federal waters off the coast of Florida in the South Atlantic, Straits of Florida, and Gulf of Mexico until 2029. Last November, nearly 70 percent of Florida voters supported a state constitutional amendment to ban offshore drilling in state waters that extend three to nine miles off Florida’s coastline. The BEACHES in Florida Act would safeguard the federal waters that remain in jeopardy outside the jurisdiction of this new state prohibition. Read more about the BEACHES in Florida Act here.
The North Atlantic right whale is on the brink of extinction with only 425 left in the wild. We must empower scientists, fishermen, and government to work together to find innovative solutions to rebuild this marine mammal species before it’s too late. The loss of the right whale would disrupt the entire ocean ecosystem – upsetting fish stock viability, tourism, and our coastal economies that rely on healthy oceans.
That’s why I was proud to team up with Congressman Seth Moulton to introduce H.R. 1568, SAVE Right Whales Act, which would create government grants that states, non-profits, and members of the fishing and marine shipping industries can use to fund research and efforts that restore the North Atlantic right whale population. To learn more about the North Atlantic right whale click here.
E-2 visa holders are business owners, job creators, and entrepreneurs. They come to the U.S. to open small businesses that employ Americans and grow our economy. They embody the American spirit that makes this country great. However, our nation’s immigration laws prevent E-2 visa holders from applying for citizenship and only allow the children of E-2 visa holders to remain with their parents until they turn 21.
That’s why I introduced H.R. 2124, the E-2 Visa Improvement Act of 2019, which would allow E-2 visa holders who have been in the country for 10 years or more, and employ two or more American workers, to apply for legal permanent residency. To keep E-2 families together, this bill also allows the children of E-2 visa holders to apply for work authorization and stay in the United States until they are 26. These commonsense changes give job creators, who entered the country legally, employ American citizens and contribute to our economy, stability for themselves, their families, and their businesses. Read more about the E-2 Visa Program here.
It is heartbreaking that twenty veterans take their own lives each day. We must do more to help those with PTSD and other service-connected forms of trauma. Providing service dogs to veterans is a proven therapy for PTSD, but for many, the cost associated with training and raising these animals is too great.
That’s why I introduced H.R. 3103, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act of 2019, which would establish a competitive grant program through the Department of Veterans Affairs for organizations, such as K9s for Warriors in Ponte Vedra, to pair service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD. This legislation would save veteran lives and help our warfighters have the support they need when they return to civilian life. Read more about how service dogs can help our veteran community here.
As a proud supporter of the only democracy in the Middle East, I believe that efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel must not be tolerated. That’s why I recently joined 350 other members of Congress in support of H.Res. 246, a bipartisan condemnation of the anti-Israel movement known as Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS).
Both Israel and the Palestinians must work together to find peaceful solutions. The BDS movement, however, only seeks to harm Israel and undermine the peace process. As a strong supporter of Israel, I will continue to work in Congress to support our ally. Click here to read the resolution.
Here in Florida, our beautiful coastal communities increase our quality of life, attract out-of-state tourism, and provide diverse economic opportunities for local businesses. However, we face a very real threat in the form of sea-level rise. With levels increasing by up to one inch every three years, we must adapt to this reality to protect our businesses, homes, and military assets.
That’s why I support H.Res. 112, which would acknowledge the significance of sea-level rise and the threat flooding poses to our Florida communities.
I also joined the American Flood Coalition, a nonpartisan group of municipalities, elected officials, military leaders, businesses, and civic groups that work together to drive adaptation to the reality of higher seas, stronger storms, and more frequent flooding. We in this group focus on finding solutions that support flood-affected communities and protect our nation’s residents, economy, and military installations. Learn more about the American Flood Coalition here.
The Merchant Mariners were a group of civilians who volunteered their ships and their lives to supply troops, munitions, and other cargo to the front lines of World War II. Many of these unsung heroes made the ultimate sacrifice, just as their military counterparts did, without any expectation of recognition. In fact, they had higher per-capita casualty rates than any branch of the Armed Services but were not recognized as veterans until 1988.
To give them the recognition they deserve, I have cosponsored H.R. 550, the Merchant Mariners of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2019. This bill would collectively award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Merchant Mariners of World War II, honoring the service and sacrifice of the approximately 4,000 Merchant Mariners who are alive today and the over 8,000 Merchant Mariners who have passed away. To all of the Merchant Mariners: thank you for answering the call of service when our country needed you most. Please read more about this important legislation here.
When an individual carries out attacks like we saw in Dayton and El Paso, we often later learn that they displayed warning signs indicating a propensity for violence. When I was a sheriff, I always said that I never wanted to be the best responder to a mass casualty event; I wanted to prevent it from ever happening.
To help stop these attacks before they happen, I cosponsored H.R. 838, the Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety Act of 2019. This bipartisan bill, similar to my STOP School Violence Act signed into law last year, would develop a national strategy to prevent targeted violence by using behavioral threat assessment at the local level. By providing federal resources and national attention to prevention training, we can better help local communities stop senseless violence from happening in the first place.
When individuals suffer from suicidal thoughts and mental health challenges, they can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. However, the current number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), is far too long and difficult to remember in times of need. In Congress, we’re working to better connect individuals contemplating suicide to mental health professionals.
I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which was introduced earlier this week. This bipartisan legislation designates a three-digit number, 9-8-8, as the new method of reaching the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline.
Each year, over 40,000 individuals die by suicide in the United States. That is more than twice the number of people killed by homicide. When considering gun deaths, 60 percent are the result of suicide. We must continue to support mental health services and eliminate the stigma for those seeking help. The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act is an important step forward. Please read more about this important legislation here.
During my career in law enforcement, I saw firsthand the prevalence of crimes committed with firearms stolen from Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL). According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, over 16,000 firearms were reported lost or stolen from FFLs in 2018.
That’s why I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 2179, the Federal Firearms Licensee Protection Act. This bipartisan legislation would increase penalties for firearm theft from licensed gun ranges and stores. By strengthening penalties for these targeted burglaries and firearm thefts, we can deter weapons trafficking and make our neighborhoods, businesses, and schools a safer place to live, work, and learn. Click here for more gun theft statistics.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. Last year’s tax reform bill made some changes to encourage small business investment and make it easier for small business owners to pay their taxes. Because 90% of small business owners file taxes as an individual - not a corporation - one change allows some small business owners to deduct up to 20% of their income from their taxes. However, this provision expires in 2025.
This tax change has helped launch our small business economy to record highs. For this reason, I cosponsored H.R. 216, the bipartisan Main Street Tax Certainty Act, which would make this tax provision permanent to encourage further investment and provide stability for small businesses for years to come. Click here for more.
Thirty-three years ago, our country shared a collective moment of grief as we witnessed the Challenger shuttle disaster. Among those on the shuttle was Christa McAuliffe, a Social Studies teacher from New Hampshire. She was to be the first teacher in space and was scheduled to teach two lessons from the Challenger during their voyage.
To honor her commitment to education and the price she paid in the pursuit of exploration, I cosponsored H.R. 500. This bill would create a commemorative coin to be sold with all profits going to the FIRST robotics program, which inspires young people to become leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Click here to read more.
Of the 37 million children covered by Medicaid, a small percentage have complicated medical conditions that require specialized or constant care. These conditions present many challenges for families including complex care coordination.
To help improve patient outcomes for children, I cosponsored H.R. 1226, the Advancing Care for Exceptional (ACE) Kids Act. This bipartisan legislation expands access to patient-centered, pediatric-focused coordinated care models tailored to children’s unique needs, which improves care and lowers costs. I am proud that President Trump signed the ACE Kids Act into law earlier this year as part of a broader Medicaid improvement package. Click here for more.
A 9-1-1 dispatcher is often the first voice someone hears during a traumatic experience, and their ability to communicate under duress often saves lives. They also make sure that those responding to emergency situations have the information they need to safely and quickly respond to a call. However, dispatchers are not currently recognized as a protective service occupation by the federal government.
That is why I am a cosponsor of H.R. 1629, the 911 SAVES Act, which recently passed the House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act and now moves to the Senate for consideration. This bill would categorize public safety telecommunicators as a protective service occupation and improve federal resources for the invaluable services they provide. Read more about this important legislation here.
One of the toughest challenges we face is when our loved ones are nearing the end of their lives. As concerned friends and family, we hope that their end of life care is as painless and peaceful as possible. That is why I cosponsored H.R. 647, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act. This bill would establish palliative care and hospice workforce training programs, increase awareness of available services, and improve research on how to better provide palliative care.
Here in Northeast Florida, we are lucky to have Community Hospice and Palliative Care, an award-winning center serving Nassau, Duval, and St. Johns counties.
When a servicemember makes the ultimate sacrifice, it is our responsibility as a grateful nation to lay them to a proper rest. That is why I cosponsored H.R. 1019, the Full Military Honors Act of 2019. This bipartisan legislation would allow all Medal of Honor recipients and Prisoners of War to receive a full military honors burial ceremony, regardless of rank.
Click here to read a story showing how important this proposal is to the families of our fallen.
Obesity is reaching epidemic levels in our country, with over 27 million Americans currently considered obese. According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease. Additionally, many different health problems that are covered by Medicare stem from obesity, resulting in approximately $50 billion of excess spending on related conditions every year.
In an effort to provide more comprehensive health care for those living with obesity, I cosponsored H.R. 1530, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act. This bipartisan bill expands the range of obesity treatment options available to Medicare recipients, including intensive behavioral therapy and approved counseling programs outside of primary care providers. To learn more about obesity prevalence in America, please click here.
The best way to alleviate poverty is to ensure that Americans have access to stable employment. That's why I recently cosponsored H.R. 1753, the Jobs and Opportunity with Benefits and Services (JOBS) for Success Act, which would provide families across America and Northeast Florida the resources they need to move off government assistance programs.
The JOBS for Success Act revamps the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to focus our assistance programs on finding work. Among the many critical reforms in this package are additional assistance for low-income Americans, such as personalized work plans and transportation services. The American people do not want a handout - they want to work. Learn more about how legislation helps achieve that goal.
Nearly seven years ago, four Americans lost their lives in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. We must continue to honor the brave Americans who gave their lives that day. That’s why I cosponsored H.R. 587, which would posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to each of these men in recognition of their contributions to the nation.
Killed in the Benghazi attacks were U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. We will never forget you!
Check out this article from a Benghazi hero reflecting on last year's anniversary.
According to the American Mental Health Counselors Association, Medicare beneficiaries are at a higher risk for developing mental health disorders such as depression. Yet, only one in five older Americans receive the mental health services they need.
We must do more to improve access to these services, which is why I cosponsored H.R. 945, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. This bipartisan bill would provide coverage for mental health counselors under Medicare Part B and would make a big difference in the lives of our aging population. To read the full text of the bill, please click here.
Far too often, colleges seek to silence debate and shut out organizations with conservative, liberal, or unpopular opinions. Not only do I believe this is wrong, I also believe that it puts our students at a disadvantage. Rather than creating “safe spaces,” we should encourage lively debates that challenge preconceived ideas. Public colleges and universities should be a shared space of intellectual diversity where those with different opinions can come together to share ideas.
For that reason I cosponsored H.Res. 191, a resolution in support of free speech, thought, and expression at our institutions of higher education. To read more about free speech on college campuses, please click here.
In 2018, Russia attempted to access voting systems in our own state. As we begin another election cycle, we must ensure every state is able to protect its elections from new and evolving cyberattacks. To make sure that all election administrators have the resources to safeguard our elections, I cosponsored H.R. 3412, the Election Security Assistance Act. This bipartisan bill would authorize funds to enhance election technology and make election security improvements in all 50 states. It also gives states the flexibility to meet their own unique election security needs. Unlike other election security bills considered in the House, H.R. 3412 addresses voter registration data, social media disinformation, and does not require states to completely reorganize their electoral process.
As a member of the House Appropriations Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, one of my top priorities is putting an end veteran homelessness. Unfortunately, children of homeless veterans are often overlooked by the VA. For example, existing VA policy for per diem payment calculations to homeless veterans does not consider the costs of providing for their children. To fix this, I cosponsored, H.R. 95, The Homeless Veteran Families Act. This commonsense bill would ensure payments from the VA to homeless veterans include adequate funds for their children. To learn how one local man and his organization are leading the fight against veteran homelessness, check out this article.
Yesterday as we celebrated National Night Out in Northeast Florida and across the county, I joined Congresswoman Norma Torres to introduce a resolution recognizing the importance of this annual event.
As a former law enforcement officer and sheriff, I know firsthand how important it is to develop a sense of trust and respect within the communities you serve. Equally vital in preventing crime, folks must have the tools and knowledge they need to avoid dangerous situations, spot potential warning signs, and contact law enforcement for help. National Night Out helps accomplish these goals, while at the same time promotes the camaraderie necessary to foster a strong relationship between the police and community.
Shockingly, 22 percent of American millennials have never heard of the Holocaust. Even more troubling, 41 percent of all Americans could not identify Auschwitz as a concentration camp. To ensure future generations remember the horrors of the Holocaust, I cosponsored of H.R. 943, the Never Again Education Act. This bipartisan legislation would provide educators resources through grants and online repositories to teach the events of the Holocaust. A society that fails to learn from the past is doomed to repeat it, and it is more important now than ever to impart on younger generations the consequences of hate and intolerance.
Every day, young men and women put off a college education to bravely serve our nation in the Armed Forces. However, when they later leave the military and choose to pursue higher education, many student veterans often face challenges using their education benefits and connecting with other students. That’s why colleges across the country invest in veteran-specific campus resources, such as veteran student centers.
To encourage more colleges to create programs like these, I cosponsored H.R. 1652, the Veteran Education Empowerment Act. This bill would authorize a grant program to help higher education institutions create centers like the Military and Veteran Center at UNF. We owe it to our veterans to set them up for success when they return from their service. This article from UNF tells one story of how their center improves the lives of our student veterans.
Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that confirmed cases of tick-carried diseases are on the rise, predominately Lyme disease, with a 17% increase from 2016 to 2017. Right here in Florida, we encounter five different species of ticks that regularly bite humans. That’s why I cosponsored H.R. 3073, the TICK Act, which helps combat the escalating burden of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases by increasing funding for research, prevention and treatment programs. This bill also reestablishes the Regional Centers of Excellence in Vector Borne Disease and authorizes grants to build Lyme-related public health infrastructure.
Learn more about one Northeast Florida resident’s fight against Lyme disease here.
Having spent a career in law enforcement, I understand the great sacrifices many of our first responders make and the dangers they face in their service. Unfortunately, some officers become severely and permanently injured due to the hazards of the job. That's why I am an original cosponsor of Rep. Bill Pascrell’s H.R. 2812, the Protecting America's First Responders Act. This bipartisan legislation would provide financial stability to public safety officers who become permanently disabled as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty.
Florida is one of the world’s top travel destinations, and millions of visitors each year contribute almost $70 billion to the Florida economy. To encourage more tourism-based economic growth, I cosponsored H.R. 324, the Canadian Snowbird Visa Act. This bipartisan legislation would allow Canadian retirees to be designated as "long-term visitors" and remain in the U.S. up to eight months - two months longer than currenty permitted under law. More time in Florida means more economic contribution to our region!
For more, check out this op-ed by Rep. Elise Stefanik.
Today I would like to discuss my support for H.R. 1903, the Younger Onset Alzheimer’s Act. Nearly 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer's disease, including about 200,000 with Younger Onset Alzheimer's. It is crucial that our fight against Alzheimer's includes all populations and provides resources to all age groups. That’s why I recently joined 139 of my colleagues from both parties in cosponsoring H.R. 1903, which would expand access to Alzheimer's assistance programs to all of those living with this heartbreaking disease - regardless of their age.
The full text of H.R. 1903 can be found here.