Opportunities Loom in Washington for First District

The term New Year brings an assortment of images and ideas to mind.

We think of the famous six-ton Waterford Crystal ball dropped over New York City’s Times Square amid a sea of onlookers and confetti. There are the infamous New Year’s Resolutions that inspire — and often guilt — their participants into personal improvement. There’s also the slate of college football games spattered on and around January 1 accompanied by bantering among each team’s faithful. Lastly, hope exists to move beyond the shortcomings of the previous year into a new year filled with opportunity.

Hope certainly exists in Washington this year for Arkansas’ First District as the 114th Congress convenes. Consequently, I’ve included a few items where I believe that opportunity lies:

First, I will continue pushing the Super Program Amendment (SPA) I introduced in September. This amendment to the U.S. Constitution would prohibit any new spending bill — which doesn’t end within seven years — from increasing entitlement spending or from creating a new entitlement program unless it first receives a two-thirds approval from both the House and the Senate. The fight over this SPA will prove difficult. The U.S. Constitution has only been amended 27 times, and the Bill of Rights occupies the first 10 amendments. However, Washington lawmakers must seriously address our country’s burgeoning $18-plus trillion-dollar-debt, and a good start involves permanent spending controls.

Second, I have a new responsibility within the House Committee on Agriculture, serving as chairman of the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee. This subcommittee is the key House authority for oversight and rule implementation for the farm bill. The 2014 farm bill was the most complex farm legislation ever passed, and I believe this chairmanship will give a voice to the First District’s 22,000-plus farm operators, their employees, and the businesses they directly and indirectly impact.

Third, Congress will continue working on a new Highway Bill. I have the privilege of sitting on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee within the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I), and I will push to have a field hearing within the First District on the importance of U.S. highways to rural America. Committee Chairman Bill Shuster has expressed a commitment to pass this bill, and Committee members must gauge public support on ways to fund it and keep it solvent.

Lastly, I plan to continue pressuring the Fish & Wildlife Service’s indiscriminate Critical Habitat Designations, to work toward permanent funding solutions for our mitigation fish hatcheries, to deal with an onslaught of environmental regulations from the EPA, and to reintroduce my bill known as the SARA Act, which demands improved reporting of sexual assaults aboard passenger aircraft.

Through these legislative priorities, I believe our country can find itself in a better place in 2016 than in 2015. As Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once said, “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”

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