As the 2018 congressional session gets under way, the issues I hear most about from my constituents are the heart of my legislative agenda – confronting the drug epidemic, protecting Social Security, securing the border and preserving our region’s pristine environment.
These are some of the biggest challenges facing Florida and our country, and they require bipartisan cooperation for us to succeed.
As chairman of the bipartisan 29-member Florida congressional delegation, I work closely with members from both parties to address issues from improving services to veterans to protecting our coastal waters to helping the state’s orange growers.
No single party has a monopoly on good ideas. It’s critical that Republicans and Democrats work together to move our state and nation forward.
Specifically, my priority list for this year includes:
Florida’s opioid crisis: The Suncoast is the epicenter of Florida’s drug epidemic. Several important bills are on my priority list, including the Veteran Overmedication Prevention Act to combat drug-related suicides among veterans, the STOP Act targeting the influx of drugs into America and the Family First Prevention Services Act addressing child abuse and neglect due to substance abuse.
Offshore drilling moratorium: The Trump administration’s recent proposals to expand drilling and weaken oil rig safety requirements has highlighted the need for my bipartisan Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act. The bill would extend the moratorium on offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico for another five years until 2027.
Terrorism and border security: The Criminal Alien Gang Removal Act targeting gang members and the Safe for America Act eliminating the diversity visa lottery need to pass Congress. The diversity lottery has allowed individuals linked to terrorism into the country.
Red tide: My proposal to increase funding for red tide research passed the U.S. House last year, and must be included in the next government funding bill. Red tide is currently spreading across the Suncoast and contributed to one of the highest number of manatee deaths in history last year.
Social Security: Preserving and protecting Social Security is one of my highest priorities in Congress, and I am committed to combatting waste, fraud and abuse within the program. I will fight to pass the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act, which I have co-sponsored.
Law enforcement: My Thin Blue Line Act, which increases penalties on cop killers, has been passed by the House and now must pass the Senate. Ambush-style attacks on police have increased in recent years and contributed to 128 law enforcement fatalities last year alone.
Horse slaughter ban: I will push for passage of the SAFE Act, my legislation to permanently ban the killing of horses for human consumption in America. The bill is gaining momentum in Congress and has over 200 cosponsors in the House.
Veterans: I am committed to providing our veterans with the services and benefits they have earned. Congress must pass the VA Care in the Community Act modernizing the VA’s broken medical claims processing system. It also improves the current Choice Program by removing roadblocks to veterans getting timely access to quality care.
These initiatives address serious challenges that deserve the full attention of Congress.
I work for the people of Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties. It is an honor and a privilege to make sure their voice is heard in Washington.
Congressman Vern Buchanan represents Florida’s 16th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties. He is serving his sixth term and is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over Social Security, Medicare, tax policy, international trade, health care and welfare. He was just named the chairman of the Tax Policy subcommittee. To reach him, visit https://buchanan.house.gov/.