COLUMN: A Productive Year Ahead in Congress
It is an honor to represent the people of Colorado's Third Congressional District, and with the second session of the 115th Congress underway, I am focused on continuing to advance legislation to build economic opportunities for hardworking Colorado families, protect our nation's public lands, and guarantee safe and healthy communities.
In 2017, my colleagues and I made it our goal to give the American people a tax code that will allow them to keep more of their hard earned money. With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act now officially the law of the land, the vast majority of taxpayers will keep more of their hard-earned paychecks, giving them the opportunity to put that money away for college savings, get caught up on some bills, strengthen a rainy day fund, or take a long-awaited vacation. It is now time to accomplish even more for the American people.
By creating a tax code that makes the United States more competitive in the global economy, we are already seeing scores of American companies giving their employees pay raises and bonuses. Bank of Colorado, for example, recently announced that they will be giving out a special bonus of $1,000 to their associates.
In 2018 we need to build upon this critical success for the American people.
This year, I will continue my work on the House Financial Services Committee to create opportunities to increase access to financial services products for all Americans and create a fairer regulatory structure for community banks. In 2017, we passed 76 bills out of the committee, 36 of which were passed by the full House.
I am incredibly proud to be a part of one of the most productive committees in the House, and I look forward to continuing that productivity in 2018 by working to pass important reforms, like my Making Online Banking Initiation Legal and Easy (MOBILE) Act, out of the House.
Families in rural America face many challenges, but one of their greatest obstacles may be lack of access to a physical bank or credit union. The MOBILE Act would make it easier for people to open a bank account on their mobile devices, providing the necessary tools to save money securely, pay bills in a timely fashion and better plan for their financial needs.
I will also continue our important work on the Natural Resources Committee with the commitment to protect Colorado's public lands, ensuring that historic sites, cultural treasures, and breathtaking natural areas are accessible and available for generations to come.
Last year, I introduced the Bureau of Land Management Headquarters Relocation Act, which would direct the Department of the Interior (DOI) to submit a strategy for relocating the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management from Washington D.C. to a Western state. Land management decisions should be made by the people who know the land best, and moving the BLM out of Washington would be a good step to making sure that happens. There have already been conversations within DOI about reorganizing the department, with the possibility of moving agency headquarters out West. I will continue to be engaged in these conversations and work to make sure western voices have a seat at the table during land management discussions.
The issue of water rights has been a consistent focus throughout my time in Congress, and I will continue to work to stop the federal government from trampling states' water rights. I will continue my fight for the rights of ski areas, ranchers and farmers through my Water Rights Protection Act. This bill has already passed through the House as part of the Gaining Responsibility on Water Act (H.R. 23), and it is time for the Senate to act so that we can permanently protect privately held water rights from federal interference.
Of course, I am dedicated to creating a viable energy future for Colorado and the nation. My Planning for American Energy Act, which will set the United States on a path to developing an all-of-the-above energy strategy, was recently passed out of the Natural Resources Committee and I look forward to seeing it passed out of the House.
Outside of committee work, I remain committed to serving our nation's veterans. I recently introduced the Veterans Improved Access and Care Act of 2017, which would expand access to medical care for American veterans and take important measures to reduce wait times within the VA health care system. No veteran should wait days for the health care they have earned, and I am working to get this legislation across the finish line as quickly as possible.
Another issue at the front of my mind is the nationwide opioid abuse epidemic. In 2017, the president rightfully directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency, and in the House we have passed several pieces of legislation to help combat addiction. One of these bills, the INTERDICT Act, which will help U.S. Customs and Border Protection better detect the transport of illegal synthetic opioids across U.S. borders, was just signed into law this week.
As we work to develop additional solutions in the bipartisan heroin taskforce in Congress, I will continue to engage with impacted families, law enforcement officers, and health-care providers. We must continue to prioritize putting an end to this heartbreaking crisis once and for all.
There is a lot of work to be done in 2018, so we have already hit the ground running to ensure a productive year ahead. If there is anything that you would like me to prioritize, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or my staff. I am here to serve you.