COLUMN: A busy first half of 2019
Half of the year has gone by, and it’s been an especially busy start to the legislative year in Washington. As the representative of Colorado’s largest congressional district, there are no shortages of issues facing our communities, and here are a few that I have been focused on thus far.
First and foremost, I have continued to work on behalf of the more than 50,000 veterans living in Colorado’s Third Congressional District. It’s critical to ensure that those who served receive the care they deserve. I have introduced several bills to help veterans to include the Veterans Reimbursement for Emergency Ambulance Services Act, the Dental Care for Low-Income Veterans Act, and the Private Cemeteries Honoring Veterans of Next of Kin Act.
I also reintroduced a resolution expressing the importance of the USS Pueblo, a U.S. Naval ship which has been moored in a North Korean river and used as a propaganda tool for over 50 years. It’s incredibly important to honor the crew who were held captive for 11 months and to return the Pueblo back home. I hope the North Koreans view this as a unique opportunity to show a measure of goodwill as the U.S. and North Korea continue to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
In line with serving veterans, is the need to ensure our military readiness remains high so that we may continue to enjoy the many blessings this country has to offer. This year, I joined with the Colorado delegation in asking that the Department of Defense (DoD) reestablish Colorado as the headquarters for the U.S. Space Command. Colorado has been a long-time leader in the aerospace and military industries and moving the headquarters to Colorado will ensure that the state continues that role. I have also introduced legislation that protects the DoD’s sole High-Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS) in Gypsum and was glad to have an amendment included into this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that had broad bipartisan support. This site offers world-class training for rotor-wing aviators before they go to combat zones, and it is critical to protect the facility and training to ensure military readiness.
Another issue that must continue to be addressed, specifically for rural communities, is better planning and building out of high-speed internet infrastructure. Broadband isn’t just a luxury in the 21st Century, it is a necessity. Unfortunately, many families, students and businesses in rural areas still don’t have the same access to high-speed internet as their urban counterparts. A recent study by the FCC showed that in Colorado, Denver County is the only county where residents have 100 percent access to high-speed broadband. For residents in other areas, there is a huge disparity. In Conejos County for instance, less than 10 percent of residents in rural areas have access. To address this, I have introduced the RURAL Broadband Act. This bill would help ensure federal funds supporting broadband build-out are going to areas where there is currently no broadband access. In some cases, we have seen duplicative investments in rural broadband infrastructure, which limits the reach of federal resources. It is important to make sure bureaucracy doesn’t stand in the way of bringing internet to the communities that need it most.
Anyone who lives in or has visited Colorado knows the value of our public lands. As a lifelong resident of Colorado, I share this sentiment and was especially proud to vote in support of the Natural Resources Management Act, which was signed into law earlier this year. This bill permanently reauthorized of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has greatly improved access public lands in Colorado, like the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The bill also included bills I introduced, the Fowler and Boskoff Peaks Designation Act which renamed two mountains after Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff, two extraordinary mountaineers, and the Every Kid Outdoors Act, which will extend free access to public lands to 4th grade students across the country.
Lastly, there is still a strikingly high number of lives that continue to be taken because of prescription and illegal drug overdose. I recently held a town hall meeting in Custer County to hear from the residents there on how the federal government can better help law enforcement and community health care facilities. From curbing drug flows at the southern border to ensuring our medical professionals have adequate resources, there are plenty of opportunities for Congress to continue working on behalf of the victims of opioid overdose and I will continue to ensure the best solutions are put forward.
Looking past the political noise in Washington is never easy, but I continue to focus on behalf of Colorado’s Third Congressional District. I look forward to visiting with communities across the district in the August district work period and bringing their concerns back to Washington, D.C. as we look forward to the second half of 2019. As always, I value input on the many issues facing our country. For the latest updates and to give your input, please visit my website at www.Tipton.House.gov.