The campaign season is finally over. It was spirited this year and the ads were nonstop. And most of us probably won’t miss it.
I’m grateful to the people of Ohio for giving me the opportunity to continue representing them in the United States Senate, and I will continue to work hard to earn that trust.
In my first six-year term, with our country and our government divided along party lines, I was able to get a lot done. Forty-five of my bills were signed into law on everything from protecting Ohio jobs from unfair trade, to addressing the heroin epidemic, to reducing red tape to get building projects underway. These measures are making a difference for working families in Ohio.
I think part of the message Ohioans sent this year is that they want Washington to cut through the partisan gridlock and get more things done to help get the economy moving, reduce health care costs and better protect the country.
With a new president, we now have a fresh start and an opportunity to do just that.
But we don’t need to wait until next year to make more progress. There are some critical priorities we can accomplish right now, before the end of the year, and I’ve already hit the ground running to try to tie up some loose ends for Ohio before year end.
Ohio has been hit hard by the heroin epidemic, and one thing important to our state is getting the Administration to implement the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, which I authored and President Obama signed into law late this summer. It’s the first comprehensive addiction policy reform in 20 years, and it modernizes the federal governments’ response to this addiction epidemic. It will help save lives.
I’ve already secured a down payment of $37 million in the short-term funding bill passed before the election. Now we need to ensure that the law is quickly implemented and funded into the future.
I’m also working to finish a number of legislative initiatives before the end of the year, such as protecting the pensions and health benefits our coal miners have earned.
Right now, more than 20,000 retired miners may lose their retiree health coverage at the end of the year if we don’t act. I’m sponsoring legislation called the Miner’s Protection Act, which would keep pension plans solvent and ensure that there’s no interruption of health benefits. These miners worked hard; they played by the rules; they earned their pension and their benefits.
On April 20, the Senate passed energy efficiency legislation I authored that would create nearly 200,000 new jobs, save consumers $16.7 billion in energy costs, and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 20 million cars off of the road. The House has passed its own version of the legislation, and now we need to resolve the differences between the two versions and get this bill signed into law.
Another bill we passed this Spring was legislation I authored to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of our National Parks, and to establish public-private partnerships to strengthen our park system for the next 100 years. The Parks are a national treasure but they are in trouble. They face a $12 billion backlog of maintenance projects, and more than $1 billion of that backlog is for projects in Ohio. My legislation would set up an innovative new public-private fund to reduce the backlog and ensure that we preserve our National Park sites for future generations. The House and the Senate have passed different versions of this legislation, and we need to come to an agreement on this bill as well.
I am also working to save taxpayers millions of dollars annually by reforming the way the government manages federal property. The federal government has excess land and underused buildings that cost billions of dollars every year to maintain. My bill that would stop waste by expediting the sale of abandoned and vacant property in order to get it off the books in the most effective and efficient way. I am hopeful this legislation will pass by the end of the year.
For the past year, I’ve been leading a bipartisan investigation into the scourge of online sex trafficking. Our investigation led us directly to Backpage.com, the primary online sex marketplace that has been involved in hundreds of reported cases of sex trafficking, including child exploitation. Despite their refusal to cooperate, our investigation has uncovered Backpage’s practice of editing advertisements to conceal evidence of criminal activity. In early December we will hold a hearing and unveil the results of our investigation.
These are just a handful of issues I’m working hard on to close out the year. The bottom line is this: my focus in the United States Senate will continue to be on delivering results. That’s what we want in Ohio.
Rob Portman is a United States senator from Ohio.