As 2015 comes to a close, it offers us a chance to reflect on the work the past year and gain a sense of renewed priorities for the year to come. Legislative achievements can be scarce in the halls of Congress, but this year actually saw several successes on issues important to Alabama.
Empowering States in Education Decisions: In a huge win for states’ authority in education, a bill to finally replace the flawed “No Child Left Behind” policy was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law. The strong “state authority” provisions I introduced and championed were included in the final bill and are now law. These provisions strictly prohibit the federal government from using funding grants or rule waivers to coerce states into adopting its preferred policies, like Common Core.
Funding Our Nation’s Infrastructure: For the first time in a decade, we were able to get a long-term highway bill passed and signed into law. The legislation provides for our nation’s infrastructure for five years while deferring much of the planning and decision-making to states and local governments. It’s Congress’ responsibility to fund transportation infrastructure and make sure the tax dollars you send to Washington come back to benefit you, so I was pleased to get this bill done.
Bolstering National Security: Amid the terrorist threat, Congress took an important step to strengthen security protocols in our visa program. The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act closes gaps in our system to prevent terrorists from exploiting our relationships with other nations to gain entry into the United States. This is just one of many steps we need to take to beef up security and make sure authorities have the tools they need to protect Americans here at home.
On several other important issues, we made progress but fell short of getting legislation passed. Among them:
Halting EPA Overreach: The House voted to put a stop to the Environmental Protection Agency’s aggressive attempt to expand its reach into private lands by seeking to make small ponds, puddles and ditches subject to strict federal regulations. Our bill still awaits Senate action, but, thankfully, the Judicial Branch stepped in to halt this action as it is reviewed for constitutionality.
Defunding Planned Parenthood: I have fought to stop taxpayer dollars from going to the nation’s largest abortion provider since I first came to Congress, and this year I was the last one standing in a “last ditch” effort to cut off these dollars in a government funding bill. In the end, the Senate blocked our efforts. But, I believe highlighting the issue and not allowing the media to ignore it were important. Public funds are much better spent at Federally Qualified and Rural Health Centers that provide an array of services for low income women but do not perform abortions, and I’ll keep working to make that so.
In the coming year, I’ll continue fighting to advance conservative legislation that puts the priorities of Alabamians first.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery with her husband, Riley and their two children.