As we look forward to 2017, I want to take a moment to look back at some of the highlights of the past year.
It was a busy year with over 25 town hall meetings in each of the six counties that make up Alabama’s First Congressional District, in addition to town halls online and over the phone. My office responded to over 6,000 pieces of mail and assisted over 1,400 local residents with issues relating to federal agencies.
Without a doubt, the biggest moment of 2016 was the election of Donald Trump on November 8th. His election represents a fundamental shift away from liberal, big government policies toward new, conservative reforms. No event on the list will likely have as big an impact as this monumental election.
Another big victory for 2016 came in the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act. This bill, which passed with broad bipartisan support, was signed into law on December 13th. The bill brings health research, the drug approval process, and mental health programs into the 21st Century and gives much needed hope to millions of Americans who suffer from various diseases.
Sadly, not all news in 2016 was positive. There were terrible tragedies as the world continues to battle radical Islamic terrorism. The horrible events in Brussels, Nice, Orlando, and just recently in Berlin, highlight the dangerous challenges we face.
There were also tragic incidents where members of law enforcement were targeted, including the sniper attack that claimed the lives of five police officers in Dallas. We should never lose respect and appreciation for our police officers.
We lost many iconic figures in 2016, but none was felt more locally than the loss of Harper Lee in February. Through her writing, the Monroeville native taught us all important life lessons about tolerance and acceptance, and she will be sorely missed.
We made some important progress on local priorities. I worked hard throughout 2016 to stop efforts by the Obama Administration to cut our military, including the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) that we build in Mobile. Despite efforts by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, we held the line and made important progress toward protecting this important program and the jobs at our shipyard. This fight will certainly continue into 2017.
We successfully stood up to efforts by the Obama Administration to house illegal migrant children at Navy airfields in Baldwin County. This was an incredibly flawed idea that would have put the children in bad and dangerous conditions while also placing real burdens on our local communities. Through legislative pressure, we were able to block the proposal.
I was able to have an amendment included in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which would require the Army Corps of Engineers to perform an Oyster Bed Recovery Assessment. The bill was signed into law on December 16th, and this assessment will go a long way toward rebuilding the oyster industry on the Gulf Coast.
Local veterans received good news in August with the announcement that Mobile will finally be getting a new VA clinic. The new, 65,000 square foot clinic will be located off Interstate 10 in Tillman’s Corner.
In June, House Republicans released our Better Way agenda outlining our plans to address health care, the economy, poverty, the tax code, national security, and executive overreach. This bold, commonsense agenda will help guide our work in the new year.
While 2016 brought many victories, there is still much work to be done in 2017. I promise to continue working day in and day out to turn our country around and make life better for the good people of Southwest Alabama.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.