The people of South East Texas have had quite a year. From hosting the Super Bowl and winning the World Series to surviving Hurricane Harvey and playing in the snow, we never know what will happen next. As we wind down this crazy year, I want to give you a short recap of five of my top priorities from the first half of the 115th Congress.
1. Recovering and Rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I have been continually impressed by our communities' strength and willingness to help a neighbor in need. This willingness to help others, and not let Hurricane Harvey defeat us has shown the rest of the country what it means to be a Texan. There is no doubt we will come back stronger than ever. This is Texas, and it's simply how we do things.
- This week, Congress approved $81 billion dollars in additional disaster funding, including $12 billion specifically set aside for flood mitigation projects led by the Army Corps of Engineers.
- To date, Congress has allocated $99.6 billion in disaster funding for 2017's natural disasters (split between Texas, Florida, California and Puerto Rico).
- My office continues to help constituents follow up with federal agencies for individual assistance from Harvey. If you have any questions related to available resources, please call my Texas office at (281) 446-0242.
H.R. 3940, the Veterans Education Disaster Act (Introduced)
- Provides relief to student veterans who are trying to continue their education, but are denied assistance based on circumstances outside of their control, like natural disasters. This problem rose in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey at Lone Star College in Kingwood.
- Ensures that veterans continue to receive the housing stipends and supply fee payment waivers that they are entitled to receive when they face extended school closures due to natural disasters.
H.R. 3824, the Texas Flood Accountability Act (Introduced)
- Mandate that the Army Corps of Engineers submit a report to Congress within 90 days for all dams, reservoirs, lakes and other water retention facilities in Texas that describes:
- The minimum water capacity that would necessitate a unplanned water release
- The water level that the facility would "top out" or overflow
- Existing plans in place to notify first responders, local officials, and communities of flood emergencies and projected water levels during such emergencies
- Recommendations for infrastructure improvements and dredging for covered facilities needed to prevent future unplanned releases of water
- Existing plans to coordinate among regional facilities during a flooding emergency
2. Simplifying Our Tax Code
This week, the House took historic action by passing the most sweeping, pro-growth tax reform in over 30 years. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act creates a simpler and fairer tax code, giving relief to middle income Americans.
- Lowers the corporate tax rate to 21%; The current rate is one of the highest in the world.
- Makes our country more competitive, creates more jobs, and increases paychecks.
- Doubles the standard deduction and increases the child tax credit.
- A typical family of four earning the median family income of $73,000 can expect to receive a tax cut of $2,059.
A once in a generation achievement, Congress has simplified the outdated tax code and entered reforms to promote domestic and global economic competitiveness.
For more details regarding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, click here: http://bit.ly/2BIsycf
3. Standing Up for Victims of Crime
A lifelong supporter of victims' rights, I have introduced several bills in the 115th Congress to provide crime victims a voice, prevent sexual assault, and fight the scourge of Human Trafficking.
H.R. 479, the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act (Signed into Law)
- In 2015, the DOJ estimated there were as many as 400,000 untested rape kits in the United States.
- Reauthorizes, strengthens, and extends the Sexual Assault Forensic Reporting program to help fight the nationwide rape kit backlog, giving justice to victims of sexual assault.
H.R. 3415, the Megan Rondini Act (Introduced)
- Requires hospitals to have a SAFE - Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner -available 24 hours a day/7 days a week, OR to have a plan in place to get that victim to another nearby hospital with a SAFE.
- The law honors young Texan Megan Rondini who committed suicide after being raped, failed by law enforcement, the University of Alabama, and the hospital. For more on Megan's story, click HERE.
4. Protecting Your Individual Privacy
Across the globe, terrorists are still at large, fighting against the very ideals that we hold true, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We can stay vigilant, but we must not sacrifice personal liberty and privacy on the altar of security.
- Reforms the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a sweeping, secretive government spying program.
- Protects the Constitutional rights of Americans, while giving intelligence agencies authority to target foreign terrorists, criminals and other overseas intelligence targets.
- Ends the warrantless surveillance of American citizens, making liberty paramount once again.
5. Foreign Affairs
As a Senior Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Chairman of the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee, I believe that the primary responsibility of our government is to keep Americans safe. Two of my foreign policy bills have been enacted via Administrative Order in the past year:
H.R. 479, the North Korea State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act of 2017 (Enacted)
- Passed the House of Representatives in April; language adopted and enacted as part of HR 3364
- The rouge nation has conducted 16 ballistic missile tests this year alone. North Korea has now been called out for what it is: a State Sponsor of Terrorism.
- Learn about North Korea's Actions Meriting Designation Since 2008 here.
H.R. 2438, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Terrorist Sanctions Act (Enacted via Executive Order)
- The IRGC is a leading cause of instability in the Middle East through its support of the murderous regime in Syria, its development of ballistic missiles, and its provocative action towards our sailors transiting the region.
- Pursuant to Executive Order 13224, the IRGC has been designated as a terrorist organization, a step that I proposed in my bill H.R. 478 earlier this year.
Finally, in November I announced that I will not seek reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. I am grateful for the honor and privilege to represent you, the best people in America in Texas's Second Congressional District. Thanks to the good Lord, I'm in good health, but it's time for the next step. I am looking forward to spending more time in Texas, especially with my 12 grandkids who have all been born since I was first elected to Congress. I am proud of the work that my office has accomplished: giving crime victims a voice, helping to combat human trafficking, and fighting for our constitutional rights and individual liberty. I will continue this work every day until I retire at the end of this term in January 2019.
I wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. As always, please keep in touch and let me know what issues are most important to you and your family.
GOD and TEXAS,
Member of Congress