The Wire

  • WATCH: Blount County football fans join together in prayer before game

    After it was announced earlier this week that Blount County Schools would no longer allow student or volunteer-led prayer over the intercom before games, fans were worried that their prayer would be silenced.

    However, if Friday’s Locust Fork High School game was any indication, prayer in Blount County will continue.

    In a video posted on Twitter, the crowd of students and fans can be seen banding together to use the designated pregame moment of silence to fill the stands with the Lord’s Prayer.

  • Mike Rogers on Kavanaugh: ‘It is Doug Jones’ job to represent the majority will in Alabama when he casts his vote in Washington’

    Friday during an appearance on Birmingham’s Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Aunie Show,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) weighed in on the current controversy surrounding U.S. Supreme Court associate justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and how his colleagues in the U.S. Senate are handling the confirmation process to date.

    During the segment, Rogers responded to a question about his House colleague Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) calling on Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) to vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation if Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford did not step forward and announce her intentions to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    The Calhoun County Republican agreed with Byrne and suggested Jones “represent the majority will” of Alabamians.

  • Ivey, Byrne showcase ‘old-fashioned’ courthouse rally as GOP poised to take Monroe County

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    MONROEVILLE – During Alabama’s transition from Democrat to Republican that began in the 1990s and was capped off in 2010 with the GOP finally gaining control of all the branches of government in Montgomery, the local government in Monroe County was one place that was able to resist that trend.

    However, the politics of the state could finally be catching up with one of Alabama’s most historic counties.

    In a setting that had the feeling of being a throwback to the heyday of political rallies staged by the likes former Gov. “Big” Jim Folsom and former Congressman Frank Boykin, the Monroe County Republican Party hosted a rally featuring Gov. Kay Ivey and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) on the lawn of the old Monroe County Courthouse that is thought to be the inspiration for the courthouse in fictitious Maycomb, Alabama, the scene of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

    The goal of the event was to energize GOP voters headed into the midterm elections and flip major local offices in Monroe County, including district judge, sheriff and probate judge, currently held by Democrats to Republican.

Rep Byrne: Setting our funding priorities

(Rep. B. Byrne/Facebook)

I know this may be hard for you to believe, but there was a major, bipartisan victory in Congress last week that failed to gain any of the attention it deserved. I want to highlight some of the progress we made last week and explain why it should matter to those of us back in Alabama.

Last week, both the House and the Senate passed a funding bill that covered three very important parts of our government: military construction and veterans services, energy and water development and Legislative Branch operations.

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I am pleased to see us passing targeted funding bills instead of waiting until the last minute to pass a massive omnibus funding bill. Over the last few years, the House has been able to pass funding bills only to see the process stall out in the Senate.

Thankfully, since Alabama Senator Richard Shelby became Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the process has actually been moving again in the Senate. This has allowed us to focus on passing the smaller funding packages that are targeted toward our priorities.

So why is this funding bill important? Obviously, funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is important for our state, given the large number of veterans that call Alabama home. The bill includes the largest dollar amount in funding for the VA in our nation’s history. This means the VA will have the resources necessary to take care of our veterans, hire high-quality employees, and cut back on the claims backlog.

There have been serious issues at the VA over the last few years, so I am pleased the funding bill dedicates more for the VA inspector general. This money will allow for stronger accountability at the VA as we work to make sure no veteran is left behind.

The bill also includes funding for military construction programs in Alabama and across the country. As we work to rebuild our nation’s military, we must not forget about our military infrastructure. This funding includes money set aside for military housing programs. If we are to retain the best and brightest in our military, we need to ensure they have first-class facilities.

Next, the funding bill sets aside funding for the Army Corps of Engineers. Those of us in Southwest Alabama know the important work the Corps does on a daily basis to keep our waterways open and navigable. This is important to those of us who like to spend time on the water for recreational purposes, but it is especially important for our economy since so much of our commerce is conducted on waterways.

Just consider the Port of Mobile and the important commerce that goes in and out of that Port each day. Under this funding bill, the Corps will receive $7 billion for navigation projects, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and to help with flood prevention and restoration projects. This money is very important for our country, but especially important for our state.

Finally, the bill funds our nation’s nuclear security strategy by dedicating money to support our nation’s nuclear weapons and the Navy’s nuclear reactors. The bill sets aside money to ensure nuclear weapons do not fall into the wrong hands and funding to prevent against cyber attacks. Our national security must always be the top priority.

As you can see, this commonsense government funding bill is good for our country and Alabama. I was pleased to see it pass the House on a strong vote of 377 to 20, and I hope we can keep up the positive momentum to continue getting the job done for the American people.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Byrne: Look at the facts about the booming American economy

(Rep. Bradley Byrne)

When you turn on the TV or log onto your computer these days, you are bombarded with negative news stories about the latest s0-called scandal from Washington.

I’ve said it before, but I believe it is so true: we need to tune out the noise from the national news media and look at what is actually happening. The U.S. military is being rebuilt, and our communities are becoming safer. But, nowhere is the positive direction of our country more apparent than when it comes to the economy.

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The American people are thriving under a strong economy that is providing promising opportunities for American families. Thanks to lower taxes, fewer regulations, a stronger focus on fair trade, and a less invasive federal government, the American economy is truly booming. Just consider some of the numbers.

The August jobs report found that 201,000 new jobs were created in the United States and the unemployment rate sits at a low 3.9%. At the same time, the report found that wages increased at the best rate since 2009.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is at the lowest point in almost 49-years. Surveys have found that consumer confidence has reached its highest level since October 2000. And, second quarter growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) increased to 4.2%, the best performance in nearly ten years.

The economic gains are also reaching populations that have generally lagged behind during other economic booms. For example, youth unemployment has hit the lowest level in 52-years. The unemployment rates for African Americans and Hispanics are also at or near record lows.

Here in Alabama, we are experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history. New businesses continue to locate in our area, and Alabama workers are seeing more money in their pockets.

Right here in Southwest Alabama, our communities are experiencing economic growth, and the growth is not just confined to the larger cities.

For example, I recently visited Provalus in Brewton. This is a high-tech company bringing good-paying jobs to the people in Escambia County. I also stopped by Sterling Packaging in Monroeville recently. This company moved from Canada to Monroe County due to our great economic climate and a dedicated workforce. These are just two examples from rural Alabama where new businesses are opening and providing opportunities for Alabama families.

The economic gains show that our conservative, pro-growth policies are working, but there are other priorities we must address to ensure we continue to grow and create opportunities for Americans. Health care remains at the top of the list. We need to make sure our health care system works and is affordable for Americans. Here in Alabama, a top health care priority that directly impacts the economy is saving our rural hospitals. Without a hospital, communities won’t be able to attract new industry.

Also on the list is passing a new Farm Bill that supports our farmers. Agriculture remains the top industry in Alabama, so having a strong, fair Farm Bill is so very important. A big part of the Farm Bill this year is a focus on expanding rural broadband. This is vital to the economic success of rural America.

We know the government does not create jobs, but we can help promote job growth with the right policies. These are just a few tangible ways we can keep our foot on the gas and fully unleash our economic potential.

At the end of the day, we should not let some talking head on television tell us how terrible our country is today. Instead, simply look at the facts about the booming American economy.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Byrne: ‘I refuse’ to allow the midterm elections to stop Congress from addressing the priorities of Americans

(Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)

The House returns to session this week after the month-long August District Work Period, and there are many important legislative items that need our attention.

August was a busy time back in Southwest Alabama listening to the people I have the honor of representing. I appreciate all those who took time to visit my office, attend a town hall meeting, or host me at their business. I look forward to taking back all I learned to Washington as we address the range of issues before us.

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Midterm elections for every House seat and one-third of the Senate seats will occur in November, and elections traditionally slow down legislative action in Washington. That said, there are many priorities that require our attention, and I know many of us are committed to getting the job done.

Our biggest priority is passing government funding bills for the next fiscal year. Government funding expires on September 30th each year, so Congress needs to pass funding bills by the end of this month.

The good news is that we have finally reached a bit of a breakthrough in the Senate on passing smaller individual funding bills instead of a massive omnibus bill that no one likes. We must get away from these big omnibus bills and focus on passing smaller, targeted bills one at a time.

Thanks to Alabama’s own Senator, Richard Shelby, the Senate appropriations process is actually moving forward, unlike in years past. This is a big victory as we try to fix the broken process and pass responsible government funding bills on time. I’m optimistic we can pass many of the funding bills before the end of September. This is especially important for our military as years of delayed funding has deteriorated our readiness leaving our service members without the resources they need to defend our country.

There is also a lot of talk in the House about doing “Tax Reform 2.0.” I’m sure you remember last year when Congress passed and President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. This year’s tax reform efforts will focus on making many of those tax cuts permanent to ensure taxes remain low for American families.

The House is also waiting for the Senate to act on a package of bills to address our nation’s opioid drug epidemic. The House has passed over 50 bills to help prevent and treat opioid addiction and abuse while ensuring our drug laws are effective in stopping the flow of illegal drugs. The Senate must act on these bills or pass their own. Far too many Americans are losing their lives to opioid addiction each year, and we must act to stop this alarming trend.

While the path forward is not quite as clear, I remain strongly committed to passing an immigration bill to secure our borders, allow for construction of President Trump’s border wall, crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities,” and close loopholes in our current system. Border security is national security, so I am going to keep pushing for the House to pass strong immigration reform.

At the committee level, I will continue working on the Armed Services Committee to advocate for full funding for our nation’s defense and provide critical oversight as we continue to rebuild our military. On the Education and the Workforce Committee, we remain focused on reauthorizing of the Higher Education Act and oversight hearings on Department of Labor policies.

So, despite what you might hear in the media, the remainder of 2018 will be busy for Congress. I refuse to allow the midterm elections to slow us down from our job: addressing the priorities of the American people.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Byrne: Being able to debate about issues ‘fundamental to our country’

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Twitter)

No one can deny that the political climate in our country today is pretty divisive. Protests and outbursts are becoming more and more common. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise when you consider that a certain group now considers themselves “the resistance.”

Given the volatile condition of our politics today, many Members of Congress are no longer hosting town hall-style meetings to meet with their constituents. These events have become too risky as they provide an avenue for “the resistance” to cause problems and create negative attention.

Despite the national trend away from town hall meetings, I continue to believe town halls are one of the best ways to stay in touch with the people we represent. My town hall meetings are always open to anyone and provide for an hour of open dialogue between residents and the person elected to be their voice in Congress.

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While I know some town halls around the country have turned confrontational, I believe that the people of Alabama have enough decency to be able to openly debate and discuss political issues without becoming nasty. I’ve held over 115 in-person town hall meetings since being elected to Congress, and I can count on one hand the number of times someone has been intentionally disruptive or hateful.

Last year, a national news crew from CBS came down to Alabama to cover a day of my town hall meetings. I think they were expecting some hostile moments. At the end of the day, they commented about how nice, friendly and hospitable the people were. I told them that was just how we operate in Alabama.

See, I think being able to debate – and even disagree – about important issues is fundamental to our country. If you look at places like Russia, North Korea and Iran, they don’t allow for open debate and dialogue about issues. It is this type of conversation and the freedom to disagree that makes our country great.

So, over the past month, I hit the road to visit communities across Southwest Alabama to hold town hall meetings. Known as the “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour, I held open meetings in Salipta, Atmore, Brewton, Dauphin Island, Millry, Citronelle, Mobile, Grand Bay, Monroeville, Seminole, Loxley and Spanish Fort.

For me, it is very important to spread out where I hold town hall meetings. Instead of just staying in larger cities, I have made a commitment to visiting communities of all sizes and in each of the six counties that make up the First Congressional District. The voice of the people in the Salipta community of Clarke County matters just as much as the voice of those in Mobile.

During my recent town hall meetings, hot topics were problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, concerns about illegal immigration, issues with the “Deep State” and government bureaucracy, and the need for improvement to local roads and infrastructure. Each town hall meeting was different, but these were some of the overarching themes.

At the end of the day, I refuse to give in to the narrative that we can no longer openly discuss political issues in our country. We need to embrace the diversity of opinions and views, and town hall meetings are a great way to do that.

So, I promise that as long as I am your Congressman, I will continue to hold public, in-person town hall meetings throughout our area to hear directly from the people I represent. Through these meetings, I become a better Congressman, and I think our society becomes a little stronger.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Byrne: ‘Great value’ found in traveling around district, speaking with local leaders

(Bradley Bryne/Facebook)

Each August, the House of Representatives typically enters a period of recess known as the August District Work Period. This is time set aside for Members of Congress to travel across their home districts visiting with the people they represent.

For me, this is incredibly valuable time that I can spend listening to my constituents and gaining a better understanding of the issues impacting our area. Here is just a quick highlight of my August District Work Period so far.

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As you probably already know, I love to hold town hall meetings throughout the First District to hear directly from the people I represent. This August, I am holding a “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour with twelve stops in all six counties that make up the First District. So far, we have held town hall meetings in Salipta, Atmore, Brewton, Dauphin Island, Millry, Citronelle and Mobile. Later this month, we will make stops in Grand Bay, Monroeville, Seminole, Loxley and Spanish Fort. You can get all the details about the town halls online at Byrne.House.Gov/BetterOffTour.

Visiting local businesses and talking with employees is another priority for me in August. For example, I have already visited Olin in McIntosh, the Louisiana Pacific facility in Clarke County, Serda Brewing in Mobile, and Metal Shark Boats and Master Marine in Bayou La Batre, just to name a few. The visits help me learn firsthand how federal issues are directly impacting employers and employees in Southwest Alabama.

A really special opportunity was being able to ride along with UPS to help deliver packages on the Eastern Shore. I dressed up in the full UPS uniform, rode in the truck, and personally delivered packages. It really helped to step in the driver’s shoes and see the difficult work they do every day. I am especially grateful to Chris Dorgan for showing me the ropes.

Just last week, I hosted Chris Oliver, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, down on Dauphin Island for a Red Snapper research trip. As one of the leading federal officials responsible for our fisheries, I welcomed the opportunity to show off the health of the Red Snapper stock in the Gulf, as well as the very impressive research being done locally by the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Also last week, I traveled to the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi to meet with the director and get an update on services for our veterans. As you may know, the Biloxi VA oversees most of our local VA facilities. It was a productive visit as I work to hold the VA accountable and ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.

We had the annual Women’s Forum in downtown Mobile, which is organized by the Community Foundation of South Alabama. We had another outstanding crowd as local women had the opportunity to network and hear from speakers and panelists about issues important to them.

I find great value in holding roundtable discussions to hear directly from leaders about specific issues. With this in mind, we held separate roundtables with local school superintendents, economic developers from our area, and community leaders from Chatom. Each of these roundtables were very informative, and we have more scheduled later this month.

As you can probably tell, this August District Work Period has already been a huge success. The good news is that we are just getting started. I look forward to spending more time around Southwest Alabama throughout August to help me be the best Congressman possible.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Back to school priorities

(Pixabay)

Over the next few weeks, students across Southwest Alabama will head back to school. The start of a new school year always comes with special emotions for students, parents and teachers.

In Washington, I am the only Member of Congress from Alabama who serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over K-12 education. Through this position, I am able to advocate for our local teachers, students and parents.

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When it comes to education policy, my top priority is always to return control and authority to the local level. I do not want bureaucrats in Washington telling teachers back in Alabama how to do their job. It is exactly this kind of top-down, Washington-knows-best mentality that has failed our students for many years.

Each August, I convene a meeting of our local school superintendents to preview the new school year and discuss issues that impact our local students and teachers. We held the meeting last week in Bay Minette, and our discussion was very informative.

Their top concern this year is school safety, and I agree with them. I know our local administrators are taking steps to ensure that every student remains safe at school, and I am committed to working with our local leaders to make sure they have the resources they need.

For example, the House has passed legislation to increase grant funding for school safety programs. We need to set aside more money for school resource officers and other tools to help keep our schools safe.

In almost every school shooting, warning signs were there, but they went unreported or officials did not know how to properly respond. I want to change that.

I am also working on legislation that would help make information and research available to all our school officials. This information would help our teachers, counselors, and principals better spot students who are at a high risk of potentially becoming a school shooter.

Another issue important to our schools is career and technical education. I’ve been to many of our local schools and seen these programs firsthand. They work incredibly well, and we need to do more to support them.

I’m pleased to report that just last week President Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act into law. This bipartisan bill passed both the House and the Senate without a single dissenting vote.

Since it wasn’t controversial, the national news media ignored the bill, but it is a monumental achievement that will go a long way toward getting students the skills they need to thrive in the 21st Century economy.

See, career and technical education is all about matching the needs of the workforce with students. Despite what some want you to believe, students don’t need to go to a four-year college to be successful. In fact, many students who go through a career/technical education program go on to make more money than those with a regular four-year degree.

We have more unfilled jobs in our country today than we have unemployed Americans. That’s a good thing, but it means we need to do a better job of training the workforce of tomorrow. By passing this bill, we took a big step in the right direction.

So, as our students head back to school over the coming weeks, I am going to continue advocating for stronger local control over education and fighting for the issues that our local leaders say are important, like school safety and career/technical education.

I wish all our students, teachers, principals, faculty and parents all the best as they kick off a new school year!

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Report from the world’s largest naval exercise

(RIMPAC/Facebook)

Imagine the scenario: a massive earthquake strikes an impoverished island country. It is followed up by multiple aftershocks and a tsunami. Countless lives are lost and thousands more are injured. The United States and partner nations are called in to respond and help get the nation back on its feet.

In this instance, this was a scenario as part of the Rim of the Pacific exercise, also known as RIMPAC, military training exercise in the Pacific Ocean. While this time the scenario was just an exercise, it most certainly could become a reality. The question becomes would our country, as well as partner nations, be prepared to respond.

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That’s where RIMPAC comes into play.  As the world’s largest naval exercise, RIMPAC allows the United States and partner nations to train together and learn more about each nation’s capabilities. Since it was started in 1971 by the United States, Australia, and Canada, RIMPAC has allowed for critical training and relationship-building across the Pacific region.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend RIMPAC this year to talk with our military leadership, observe some of the exercise, and interact with our servicemen and women. As Vice-Chairman of the House Seapower and Project Forces Subcommittee, the trip continued my understanding of the challenges facing our naval fleet, as well as provided a general overview of the overall capabilities of the world’s navies.

The theme for this year’s exercise was “Capable, Adaptive, Partners.” The formal objective was to “enhance the operability of the combined RIMPAC forces across the full spectrum of military operations in the maritime environment.”

Admiral John Alexander, the Commander of U.S. Third Fleet and the person in charge of the RIMPAC exercise, put it best when he said “it’s hard to say no to a friend.” That is why RIMPAC is so important.

This year, RIMPAC runs from June 27th to August 2nd. 25 nations participated this year, bringing 46 ships, five submarines, 17 national land forces, over 200 aircraft, and over 25,000 total personnel. Those numbers demonstrate just how large and impressive this exercise is.

During my trip, we had the opportunity to go aboard both a U.S. and an Australian Navy ship. That speaks to the nature of RIMPAC. It is all about partnerships and gaining a better understanding for each other. The Australians were incredibly welcoming and took great pride in showing off their ship and their ability to successfully operate with U.S. military personnel.

One of the highlights of my RIMPAC trip was being able to meet with some sailors from Mobile, Brewton, Spanish Fort, and Tuscaloosa. In the small time I spent with them, I could tell these were high quality individuals who love serving their country. I made sure to convey our deep appreciation for service and sacrifice.

You see, the U.S. Navy is always impressive, but leading 25 nations in a joint naval exercise underscores just how impressive it is. No other navy in the history of the world has ever done that, but the reasons for doing it are even more important.

We are using our hard power to achieve a soft power goal – attaching each of these countries closer to the United States and creating relationships across our militaries which not only serves us all well in times of peace, as when there is a natural disaster, but just as importantly also lowers the chance of war.

Hopefully the lessons learned at RIMPAC never have to be used, but I have greater confidence in our Navy and our partners following another successful exercise in the Pacific.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Standing up for ICE

(ICE/Flickr)

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, commonly known as ICE, is the federal law enforcement agency tasked with enforcing our nation’s border control, customs, trade and immigration laws. The agency was formed back in 2002 when Congress passed the Homeland Security Act.

ICE has over 20,000 employees, including over 400 offices in the United States and additional offices in 46 other countries. ICE is responsible for enforcement and removal procedures against those who enter our country illegally. They also play a critically important role in cracking down on human and drug trafficking.

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I have deep respect for the work our ICE officials and officers do daily to help keep the nation safe. In 2017, ICE made more than 76,000 drug arrests, arrested 4,818 people in gang-related incidents and stopped 980,000 pounds of narcotics at the border. Similar efforts are already underway this year.

Given the important work ICE does, I am dismayed to see some liberals calling for ICE to be abolished altogether. Instead of supporting these hardworking law enforcement officials, it seems some are truly committed to open borders and reckless behavior.

The “Abolish ICE” movement is not something that just activists are calling for. In fact, several Democrat Senators and Congressmen have also started to call for the law enforcement agency to be shut down. This would be a major mistake that could endanger the safety of the American people.

This is just another example of how the “resistance” movement in our country today seems much more interested in causing problems than solving them. We have serious flaws and issues with our immigration system that need to be fixed and enforced, but the answer is not to simply open our borders.

In an effort to demonstrate strong bipartisan support for ICE, the House held a vote last week on a resolution declaring our support for ICE and their mission. This was a straightforward resolution simply to make sure our ICE officers know the majority of Americans have their back.

I was shocked to see only 18 Democrats vote in support of the resolution. 34 voted against supporting ICE, while another 133 simply voted present. I know there are political differences in our country today, but it is deeply concerning that over 160 Democrats in the House were not willing to say they support ICE and the work they do to keep our country safe.

Despite their opposition, the resolution still passed. I hope all our ICE officers and employees take comfort in seeing a majority in Congress continue to stand up for them and the vital mission they carry out, despite what is often said on the news.

The issue really speaks to the larger problem about the future of immigration laws in our country. I am committed to standing up for the rule of law and ensuring our immigration laws are fully enforced.

To be clear, I support the legal immigration process, but I hear from individuals who have come into our country through the legal process who are incredibly frustrated by the idea that people can break the line, enter our country illegally, and not face any consequences. We must have a process in place that actually works and strongly punishes those who choose to enter illegally.

ICE plays a critical role in implementing and enforcing that process. Without the agency, we would be unable to control the flow of people and products into our country. As I have said before, a nation without borders and the rule of law is destined to fail.

Rest assured, I will keep standing up for ICE and will vehemently fight any efforts to abolish the agency.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Byrne: Americans are better off now

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Twitter)

Two years ago, I joined other Republican House members in unveiling our “Better Way” agenda. The agenda covered everything from national security to tax reform to the economy. It was a bold vision about a different path for America that wasn’t driven by a larger, more powerful federal government. Instead, we advocated for a better way where we got government out of the way and allowed the American people to flourish.

Working with President Trump, we have held true to our promises to the American people. Two years later and with many parts of the agenda in place, we can safely say that Americans are better off now. Our communities are safer. The economy is booming. Our military is being rebuilt. Our “Better Way” is paying off.

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Our communities are safer because we have made supporting law enforcement a top priority. We have passed historic legislation to address the opioid crisis, which is having a horrible impact on communities in Alabama and throughout the country. In addition to better policy, we have invested $4 billion in grants and programs to help combat the opioid crisis.

We passed legislation to devote more resources to school safety, and we have made real progress in the fight against human trafficking. In fact, we have seen a 60 percent decline in online advertising for sex trafficking.

Also, important to keeping our communities safe, we set aside $1.5 billion for physical barriers and technology along the southern border and provided for over 90 miles of a border wall system. Border security is national security.

No one can deny that the American economy is booming. Just consider these numbers: 90% of Americans are seeing larger paychecks under our tax reform bill. 3.7 million jobs have been created since November 2016. There are 6.6 million job openings in the United States as of May 2018, meaning more jobs than job seekers. And, $4.1 billion has been saved in agency regulatory costs by rolling back burdensome government regulations.

One of my biggest concerns during the Obama Administration was the hollowing out of our military. We had planes that couldn’t fly and ships that couldn’t sail. We were not making the continuous critical investment in our military necessary to keep up with our adversaries. Thankfully, those days are over.

We have made the largest investment in our military in 15 years. This means 20,000 new troops, the largest pay increase for our service members since 2010, more training time, better equipment, new ships, and much more.

On the world stage, countries know that the United States means what we say. ISIS is on the run in the Middle East, North Korea has come to the negotiating table, and China is being held accountable for their dangerous trade practices.

Now, I want to make clear that much work remains. For example, we have to keep working to fix our broken immigration system and ensure that our borders are finally secure. We also cannot give up on our efforts to improve health care in our country. Costs remain too high and rural communities right here in Alabama are facing dangerous hospital closures.

But, despite what some on the other side of the aisle and the national news media want you to believe, the American people are better off now than they were two years ago. That is a testament to our pro-growth agenda, but, more importantly, it is a testament to the spirit and drive of the American people.

Want to know more? I encourage you to visit Better.gop to learn more about the various ways the American people are better off now.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. 

U.S. Rep. Byrne: Border security must always come first

(U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr)

If you have turned on your television recently, you have probably heard about the ongoing immigration debate in our country. Here in Congress, it is an issue that has drawn much of our attention as well.

Since being elected to Congress, I have held two top principles when it comes to the immigration debate. First, I do not and will not support granting amnesty to those who are in our country illegally. Second, any immigration reform bill must start with a sincere and tangible effort to secure the border. Until the border is secure, any other immigration efforts would be in vain.

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Recently, the House voted on two separate immigration bills that were designed to help crack down on illegal immigration. One bill, the Securing America’s Future Act, earned my support. The bill included very strong border security provisions, made the E-Verify program mandatory, and satisfied President Trump’s four pillars for immigration reform. Unfortunately, the bill failed by a vote of 193 to 231.

Another bill, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, failed to earn my support. The bill would have created a special pathway to citizenship for over 1.8 million illegal immigrants. The legislation would have unfairly allowed these illegal immigrants to jump in front of thousands who are waiting to come into our country the right way. Thankfully, the bill did not receive the support necessary to pass.

Despite the failure of these two bills, we must not give up in our efforts to secure the border, close loopholes in our immigration system, and ensure our immigration laws are fully enforced. This issue is far too important to the safety and security of the American people.

The immigration issue has also hit close to home with reports that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense are considering housing up to 25,000 illegal immigrants at Navy outlying airfields in south Baldwin County.

I am working with local leaders and my Alabama colleagues to once again fight this flawed proposal tooth and nail. Housing anyone in tents on the Gulf Coast during the heat of summer and the heart of hurricane season would be inhumane and a major mistake. Not to mention that these airfields lack even basic infrastructure, such as running water, housing, or restroom facilities, to provide even basic needs for detained immigrants.

I also believe we need to return these illegal immigrants to their home countries as quickly as possible. It makes no sense to bring them so far away from the border when the ultimate goal is to return them to their home countries.

Another issue that has drawn national attention is the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy, which says that anyone who crosses the border illegally will be prosecuted. I strongly support the policy because we are a nation of laws, and we must enforce the laws.

That said, like President Trump, I do not support separating children from their families at the border. This is why I have co-sponsored a bill from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA) that would allow families to stay together while speeding up the processing and review of asylum cases. The bill would also devote funding to double the number of federal immigration judges and authorize the construction of new temporary shelters close to the border to keep families together.

As we continue to crack down on illegal immigration and ensure our borders are secure, I welcome your ideas and feedback. These are complicated and difficult issues, but they are so critical to the future of our country. We cannot become a country with open borders and no rule of law.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Celebrating our independence

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. On this important day in our nation’s history, our Founding Fathers put their signatures on a piece of paper that not only declared independence from Great Britain, but also declared the essential values that define us as Americans.

This document ignited a sense of American pride with the memorable and historic opening statement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

As I reflect on what these words mean to us as Americans, I am reminded of the great sacrifices of the men who wrote them and those who defend this promise still to this day.

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It is important for us to remember that the Declaration of Independence was just the beginning. The words inked into history set the core principles for American values: bravery, service, sacrifice, optimism, and honor.

From the triumph at Yorktown and the surrender of General Cornwallis to the battles we fight across the world today, brave men and women have answered the call of service and defended these core American values at home and abroad.

It is because of the sacrifices of our servicemembers that Americans can sleep soundly at night knowing their freedoms are protected.

This week, like every year, Americans will don the colors of the flag and remember that momentous day over two hundred years ago when our nation was born.

People across the country will celebrate our nation’s history with fireworks, trips to the beach, barbecues, and family vacations. One tradition I hold dear is reading the entire Declaration of Independence aloud with family and friends, assigning different parts to different people, including children. There is nothing more powerful than hearing the words written in that historic and fundamental document.

When the Founding Fathers got together to compose the Declaration, they came from different backgrounds and upbringings with their own, unique ideas for forming the American government. At such a pivotal time in our nation’s history, they succeeded in setting aside their differences for a common goal to create our own American identity. Who knows where we would be today if they had not worked together and overcome their differences.

Much like then, there are forces at work in our society today seeking to divide us against one another and weaken our national spirit. Regardless of your race, religion, or creed, this Fourth of July, I urge you to look closely at the many ways we are united as Americans, rather than focus on our differences. At the end of the day, we all salute the red, white, and blue and should not let our differences dissolve our core values and beliefs.

That said, do not give up on the American dream. Do not back down from the challenges of today. Do not let anyone tell you that our country’s best days are in the past. We have so much to be thankful for in the United States, and I am confident that we have so much to look forward to.

As we reflect on this renewed sense of American pride, let us look to the future with determination and confidence and keep alive the vision that our Founding Fathers had on that day back in 1776. Happy Fourth of July to you and your family, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

U.S. Rep. Byrne: Supporting Alabama’s number one industry

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Agriculture is our country’s oldest industry. Since the beginning, America’s farmers have worked the land and sustained our communities. Today, agriculture is the top industry in rural America, and it remains the number one industry in Alabama.

As our manufacturing industry continues to grow, I have made a commitment to never forget about the backbone of Alabama’s economy: our hardworking farmers who help feed America. Farming, forestry, livestock and crop production represent more than $70 billion in annual economic output, so it remains imperative that we reinforce programs that sustain and support the agriculture industry.

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Since being elected to Congress, I have always worked to be a steadfast advocate for agriculture and forestry. In fact, one of the first major votes I took in office was in favor of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Four years later, I am proud that we could pass H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill supports our nation’s farmers and foresters by reauthorizing farm programs and directing the nation’s agricultural policy for the next five years.

Among the many important provisions, the bill includes support for Alabama’s cotton and peanut farmers and maintains access to crop insurance. This legislation also improves existing programs to maximize efficiency, reduces waste, and maintains fiscally responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Very important to me, the Farm Bill establishes substantive work requirements for work-capable adults in order to receive SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps. It is important to note that the 2018 Farm Bill does not cut SNAP benefits. Rather, this provision puts more resources toward helping able-bodied adults find jobs and get back to work.

In this economy, there is no excuse for capable Americans to not seek out employment. By encouraging Americans to find and retain jobs, we ultimately lift people out of poverty, strengthen the overall economy, and help save taxpayer money.

Another significant issue facing our rural communities is a lack of broadband access. The Farm Bill authorizes substantial annual funding for rural broadband and requires the Department of Agriculture to establish forward-looking broadband standards.

Finally, this bill helps equip and train the next generation of farmers. The bill enhances access to crop insurance and establishes a scholarship program at 1890 Land Grant Institutions designed to assist students interested in agriculture careers. Many family farms transcend generations, and it is critical that we provide support for up-and-coming farmers to ensure they have the resources they need.

Each year, I travel across Southwest Alabama on my annual “Ag Matters” tour. This tour gives me the chance to visit family farms and forest land throughout Southwest Alabama and learn more about our state’s top industry.

Ultimately, the “Ag Matters” Tour helps me better understand and appreciate the unique challenges facing our local farmers and foresters. Farming is unlike most other industries and dependent on so many external factors, like weather, that are outside the control of the farmers. It is important farmers have the certainty they need to provide the American people with a safe and reliable food source.

As I travel to these family farms and speak with those who work the land, it never fails that the Farm Bill is one of the most talked about issues. This legislation truly has a huge impact on our family farms.

Our farmers and foresters are good stewards of the land, and I am pleased the House could pass this important legislation to ensure that our family farms and rural communities have the resources they need to keep up with the challenges of today.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Fighting the opioid epidemic

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For too long, a problem of epic proportion has been growing outside of the headlines in the United States: the opioid epidemic. The reality is that we can no longer wait to take action. Drug overdose is now a leading cause of death in the United Sates. One hundred seventy-five Americans are dying every day from this crisis. From big cities to small towns, the opioid epidemic has hit our communities hard.

Unfortunately, Alabama has not been spared. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alabama ranks highest in the nation as having more opioid prescriptions than people. Alabama also ranks number one as the highest prescribing state in the nation for opioid pain reliever prescriptions. These statistics are incredibly alarming.

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An opioid is a type of narcotic derived from the opium poppy, which includes drugs such as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. While these drugs are often prescribed in response to injuries and body pains, they can be prone to abuse and addiction.

The reality is many of the people who become addicted to opioids first start taking the drugs legally after receiving a prescription from a doctor. For example, I have heard testimony from athletes who suffer a sports-related injury, undergo surgery, and then become addicted to opioids during the recovery process. In many cases, this addiction can escalate, driving individuals to street drugs like heroin.

Almost all of us have a loved one or know somebody who has been affected by this terrible epidemic. The personal stories are what make this nightmare a harsh reality. Right here in Southwest Alabama, I have heard far too many stories about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. The impacts of this crisis reach far beyond the person suffering from addiction to parents, to children, to brothers and sisters. So many have been hurt.

On October 26, 2017, President Trump announced that his administration would declare the opioid crisis a Nationwide Public Health Emergency. On a strongly bipartisan basis alongside President Trump, Congress is also responding.

In March, the House voted to set aside $4 million toward combating the opioid crisis in the government funding bill for Fiscal Year 2018. We kept up the momentum last week when the House passed over 25 targeted bills to help prevent and treat opioid addiction and abuse while also ensuring our nation’s drug laws are working to stop the flow of illegal drugs.

One such bill that passed the House is the THRIVE Act, which creates a program to provide low-income individuals recovering from opioid and other substance use disorders with a clean, safe, and structured environment following rehabilitation.

Additionally, the House passed the STOP Act, which aims to halt opioids like fentanyl from coming into America from other countries through a loophole at the Postal Service. The majority of opioids arrive to America through the mail from other nations, such as China, Mexico and Canada. So, this legislation represents an important step to help solve the problem.

It is clear that our work to end the opioid epidemic is far from over. However, I was pleased to see such strong bipartisan support for many opioid bills this week as we work to make a real difference on behalf of the American people. You can learn more about the legislation we are working on at www.opioidcrisis.gop.

We cannot and will not sit back and allow the opioid crisis to take the lives of the people we love. We must fight back and ensure Americans get the help they need. I look forward to continuing the work with President Trump to end this epidemic once and for all.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

U.S. Rep. Byrne: Protecting a Gulf Coast tradition

(David Rainer)

Down here on the Gulf Coast, fishing is a way of life for many people. It is a tradition that spans generations and is one way we bond with our family and friends.

In fact, some of my fondest memories happened while casting a reel. I remember my father showing me how to bait a hook and teaching me about the patience of waiting for a bite. I enjoy carrying on that tradition with my kids.

Just in time to celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week, Alabama’s 2018 Red Snapper season officially opened on June 1st. The Red Snapper season is a real boon for our coastal communities, and the impact is felt all throughout Southwest Alabama. The economic impact flows to everything from gas stations to restaurants to hotels.

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Unfortunately, in seasons past, Alabama has felt the full force of Washington when it comes to regulating our recreational fishing. These regulations are based on junk science, yet have a huge impact on when we can and cannot fish.

Anyone who has been fishing in the Gulf over the last few years knows there are more than enough Red Snapper in our waters, and Washington’s methods of stock assessments are sorely out of touch with what is happening.

When it comes down to it, no one understands the needs of our fisheries better than those who cast a reel along the Gulf Coast. The federal bureaucrats in Washington have no business controlling our fisheries when those of us on the coast know what is best for our fishermen.

That’s why, earlier this year, I wrote to the National Marine Fisheries Service to advocate for Alabama’s application for an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP), which would allow the state to set our own season for the next two years.

I was pleased when this EFP was granted by the Department of Commerce on April 20, 2018, securing Alabama’s 47-day Snapper season for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Specifically, the 2018 Red Snapper season in Alabama will run from June 1 through September 3, with Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays open to fishing. The entire week of the Fourth of July (June 30 through July 8) will also be open for Red Snapper fishing.

You see, this is how government should work: take power from Washington and return it to the people who best understand the issue.

I am proud to have helped secure a lengthy Snapper season, which means our fishermen will have adequate time to enjoy a Gulf Coast tradition while our coastal communities will benefit from increased revenue. It is truly a win-win situation for coastal Alabama.

Of course, there were many people who had a hand in securing an adequate season for our fishermen. I thank Senator Richard Shelby for his support and his work to secure the language for the EFP in last year’s appropriations bill. I also appreciate the Gulf Council for their support of the exempted fishing permit pilot program and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship and our other Gulf Coast colleagues for working together to support our fishermen.

Ultimately, it was a total team effort to make this 47-day Snapper season a reality. This is a real victory for all our recreational fishermen as well as our coastal region.

As I have always said, this issue is about so much for than just our fishermen; the Red Snapper season impacts our entire costal community, and I look forward to a safe and fun season.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. 

U.S. Rep. Byrne: Making progress for America

(Pixabay)

These days, it is hard to turn on the television or log onto the Internet without being bombarded with the latest “news” of what is happening in Washington. The media gives far too much attention to names like Stormy Daniels and Roseanne instead of focusing on the wide range of substantive issues being debated in Congress each week.

While it is easy to get distracted by all of the “noise,” it skews the perception of what is really occurring here in Washington. Ultimately, these stories are just a sideshow that end up taking away from the critical work being done for the American people.

What the national news media has not been highlighting are the many ways we in the House are working to promote President Trump’s commonsense, conservative agenda. We are truly getting the work done that the American people elected us to do.

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From national security priorities to historic tax reform, the House is making great progress. Our agenda is working too, which is demonstrated in the lowest unemployment rate in eighteen years.

As a sign of our progress, we recently sent four major bills to President Donald Trump for his signature. These are among the 175 bills that have been enacted into law in the last year and a half.

One of the four bills signed into law last week was the VA Mission Act of 2018, which consolidates the VA’s Community Care Program, opens the VA Caregivers Program to serve all veterans, and provides $5.2 billion to fund the VA Choice Program.

Simply put, this bipartisan bill increases access to care at the VA, including walk-in clinics that may be more convenient and immediate in addressing the needs of our veterans.

We have a duty to provide for the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much to defend our national security, and I am glad we have taken this step to ensure our veterans receive the highest standard of medical care.

Another important piece of legislation signed into law was the Right to Try Act. This will allow terminally-ill patients to take advantage of experimental medical treatments that otherwise may not be available to the public.

This was one of many priorities mentioned in the President’s State of the Union address in January, and I am proud that we could pass this bipartisan legislation and give hope to thousands of Americans suffering from a terminal illness.

Another bill heading to the President’s desk is the Childhood Cancer STAR Act. I am a proud co-sponsor of this important bill, which enhances efforts to identify and track childhood cancer incidences, improves the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors, and expands research opportunities for therapies used in treatment of childhood cancer.

Finally, the President signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which rolls back burdensome regulations from the Dodd-Frank law that negatively impacted our small, community banks and credit unions. Main Street should always come before Wall Street, so I applaud the signing of this important regulatory reform bill into law.

You see, here in the House of Representatives, we refuse to get thrown off course or distracted by what the media portrays as hard-hitting news. Instead, we are staying focused and making progress on national priorities like supporting our veterans and growing the American economy.

As we round out the remaining months in 2018, we will keep our foot on the gas and keep passing bills that improve the quality of life for people in Alabama and across the country.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Alabama Rep. Byrne: ‘We remember the fallen’

(Arlington National Cemetery/Wikicommons)

As Americans, we know all too well that freedom is not free. Each time we bow our heads to pray or speak up for what we believe in, we exercise rights that many across the world do not have. These are just some of the unique freedoms that the brave men and women of the United States military have fought and died to protect.

We are reminded of their patriotic sacrifice each Memorial Day as we pay our respects to servicemembers who have selflessly given their lives to defend freedom and liberty throughout our country’s history.

From the American Revolution to the War on Terror, men and women of all backgrounds have answered the call of service and paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend the United States. These American heroes shall never be forgotten.

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Unfortunately, loss of life does not occur solely in times of war; this past year, we have experienced tragic loss during military training, likely due to the readiness crisis and funding shortfalls. In 2017, nearly four times as many members of the military died in training-related accidents as were killed in combat.

These accidents span from aviation training mishaps in the Air Force to major naval collisions involving the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald. The gravity of these accidents – in the air, on land, and at sea – could have likely been avoided given the proper resources and enhanced military readiness.

It is imperative that Congress take immediate action to give our servicemen and women the proper resources they need to keep our nation safe. That’s why I am proud that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 passed the House with strong bipartisan support last week.

This bill authorizes funding for our military, including the highest pay raise for our troops in almost a decade. The bill prioritizes military readiness and rebuilding the military so that our troops can safely meet current and future threats.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. The NDAA reflects on a century of military service and focuses on the men and women who sacrificed to secure America’s freedoms. While those who served in the First World War are no longer with us, their memories live on in the hearts of younger generations everywhere.

I recently had the distinct pleasure of speaking at the Alabama Blue Star Salute Celebration at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile. This annual event to pays tribute to the Armed Forces and the military heroes who have served our country.

As I addressed the crowd, I was filled with pride to see servicemembers of all ages, many different ranks, across all branches of service, who had come to participate in the event. I was also struck by the young people in the crowd, who may very well represent the next generation of servicemembers.

Heaviest on my heart were the people not in the crowd – the millions of Americans who lost their lives fighting to protect the red, white, and blue.

Memorial Day gives us the time each year to honor our American heroes at memorial services, vigils, and parades. Americans proudly display the stars and stripes in remembrance of the sacrifices paid in service to our country.

John 15:13 says it best, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Thank you to all of those who have served, are serving, or intend to serve in the United States military. Our nation is forever grateful.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

U.S. Rep. Byrne: Appreciation for law enforcement

(NLEOMF/Facebook)

Each day, law enforcement officers leave the safety of their homes not knowing if they will pass back through their own front doors at the end of the work day. They leave their families behind to ensure the safety of our loved ones at schools, in neighborhoods, and on the roadways. There is never enough we can do to show our appreciation for their work.

These men and women often go far beyond their official job descriptions. Even when they are not wearing the uniform, law enforcement officers play a significant role in our neighborhoods, schools, and churches. They even serve as positive role models for our children.

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I have had the chance to ride along with some of our local law enforcement officers and witness firsthand the challenges they face on the job. Law enforcement officers encounter dangers on the job that do not exist in other professions. It shocked me to realize that even a task as routine as a traffic stop can turn hostile, and in some cases, even deadly.

That is why each year we celebrate National Police Week, which gives us an opportunity to reflect on the hard and dangerous work our nation’s law enforcement officers do daily. Police Week attracts people from across the country to our nation’s capital for memorial services, parades, and vigils in honor of our men and women in blue.

Police Week also serves as a time to pay our respects as a nation to those whose end of watch came too soon. I recognized National Police Week by speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives to honor these brave men and women and remember the life of one of our very own who was killed in the line of duty just four months ago.

Mobile Police Officer Justin Billa paid the ultimate sacrifice after being shot and killed while responding to a domestic violence call on February 20th, 2018. In such a time of immense grief, we saw our community rally together to support the family and friends of fallen Officer Billa. The impact of his death was felt throughout the United States, as officers and first responders from across the country traveled to Mobile to pay their respects.

To remember our fallen heroes and honor all of those in law enforcement, the House of Representatives passed several pro-law enforcement bills last week. The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 toughens federal penalties against people who intentionally target law enforcement officers in attacks, including ambushes.

Additionally, we passed the Justice Served Act of 2018, which provides funds to prosecute cold cases that are solved by breakthrough DNA evidence, including backlogged rape kits. This bill will strengthen our criminal justice system by making sure that newly-tested evidence is used to prosecute unsolved cases, thus ensuring violent criminals are brought to justice.

From legislation to prevent attacks on our officers to providing funding for additional resources, we are working to ensure these dedicated individuals have the tools they need to do their jobs and keep us safe.

Let us not forget that we sleep soundly at night due to the sacrifices our law enforcement officers make out on the streets. We owe these individuals far more than our thanks for the services they provide.

I ask you to join me in showing your appreciation for the law enforcement officers in Southwest Alabama for living a life of service. May we honor them each and every day.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

U.S. Rep. Byrne: A standing ovation for teachers

(Rep. Byrne/Facebook)

Teachers hardly get the credit they deserve for the challenging jobs they do every day. Not only do they educate our children, but teachers also provide guidance, support, and serve as positive role models for the next generation. Their efforts and sacrifices should not go unnoticed.

I have dedicated a good part of my life to improving education in our community. From my time on the Alabama State School Board to serving as chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system, I have spent a fair amount of time in classrooms throughout Alabama. As a Congressman, I serve on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over K-12 education.

In each of these roles, I have interacted with the many teachers, support staff, and administrators who keep our schools running. The dedication of these men and women on a daily basis is impressive, though they rarely get the attention they deserve. Without fail, I always leave these visits with a greater appreciation for the work our teachers do and the challenges they face each day.

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Just last week, we celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week, a time when we take extra steps to show our support for the educators who make a living prioritizing our children’s futures. Whether it is simply saying an extra “thank you” or treating a teacher to a special gift, this week is all about displaying our appreciation for the work they do year-round.

Ultimately, teachers educate our students so they may have bright and successful futures. In fact, it is often teachers who make the biggest impression on our young students. Be it teachers in the classroom, coaches on the school sports team, or faculty keeping activities running smoothly, these leaders play a significant role in our students’ lives.

Very few professions can totally alter the course of someone’s life like a teacher can. Personally, this week gives me time to reflect on the meaningful figures I have had throughout my life. I always think of Ms. Kay Ladd, my first grade teacher who taught me how to read. As such an integral part of my childhood, she will be forever in my thoughts as one of the most remarkable women I know.

Another important figure that stands out to me is Colonel Tim Reddy, who taught my four children at Fairhope High School. Tim Reddy was an Army Colonel who taught math and coached the soccer and swim teams. Sadly, Col. Reddy passed away after a battle with cancer. As we look to the future of education, we need to elevate people like Col. Reddy and Kay Ladd who made such a positive impact both in and out of the classroom.

The work I do in Washington is just one of the ways I show my appreciation for our educators. As a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, one of my top priorities is rolling back the red tape and paperwork that burden our teachers. I am always looking for ways to return control of education to the local level, where it belongs.

When Washington plays the middle man, it prevents teachers from doing their jobs and negatively impacts the overall education system. Our local teachers and administrators best know the needs of their own students, and there is no room for the federal government to interfere with day-to-day operations.

I will always appreciate the unique, pivotal role that teachers play in our education system. It is because of their commitment, guidance, and sacrifice that our children can pave the way to a better future.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Alabama Rep. Byrne: The fight against childhood cancer

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As a father of four, it is difficult to even contemplate a child’s life being cut short due to cancer or another terminal illness. As Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, once stated, “no child should die in the dawn of life.” This powerful statement rang true recently when I met the mother of William the Warrior.

Just one month ago, three-year-old William Marion lost his battle after being diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma. His mother, Jessica Marion, recently visited my office in Washington to share the story of her son’s life and their family’s tragic loss.

Sadly, William is just one of thousands of American children who have been impacted by cancer. Each year, 175,000 children ages 14 and under are diagnosed with some form of pediatric cancer. Thankfully, due to medical innovation, more than 80 percent of children diagnosed in the United States become survivors. However, we must continue to fight for better treatments and for those who are not among the fortunate.

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Jessica brought to my attention H.R.820, the Childhood Cancer STAR Act, and asked for my support. After learning more about the bill and hearing Jessica and William’s story, I happily agreed to add my name as a cosponsor in memory of William and all other children who have lost their lives to cancer.

The STAR Act enhances efforts to identify and track childhood cancer cases, seeks to improve the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors, and expands research opportunities for therapeutics used in the medical treatment of childhood cancer.

It is imperative that we redouble our efforts to end childhood cancer and ensure no more children and families will suffer from this tragedy. While this legislation cannot bring William back, the STAR Act reaffirms my commitment to keep alive the quest for a cure.

The STAR Act is not the first time I have supported live-saving initiatives. Throughout my time in Congress, I have strongly supported efforts to boost funding for medical research and reform the process for approving new medical treatments.

Most recently, I voted in favor of increased medical research funding, which will ensure our doctors and scientists have the resources they need to perform life-saving research. Among many other important provisions, the most recent government funding bill increased funding for the National Institutes of Health by $3 billion, which will continue progress toward finding cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other life-threatening conditions.

Additionally, the House recently passed H.R. 5247, the Right to Try Act of 2018, with my strong support. As you may recall, President Trump discussed the need for “Right to Try” legislation in his State of the Union speech earlier this year. Right to Try allows terminally ill patients to take advantage of experimental medical treatments that otherwise may not be available.

I also strongly supported the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act to improve our nation’s medical research programs and spur medical innovation. It is not often that Congress passes legislation that can actually save lives, but the 21st Century Cures Act can do just that by making some critical updates to our nation’s health programs.

Ultimately, there is no legislation that can take away the heartbreak that comes with losing a loved one to cancer or another terminal disease. However, Congress must continue to make medical research a top priority as we fight to end childhood cancer once and for all.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Byrne: Fighting to save Alabama’s rural hospitals

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These are positive times for many Alabamians. Our unemployment rate is at an all-time low, major manufacturers continue to locate in our state, and the national championship trophy is back in the state where it belongs.

Despite the momentum, our state is certainly not free from challenges. One of the most serious issues facing Alabama hardly ever receives the attention it deserves. I’m talking about the closure of rural hospitals throughout our state.

Hospitals are the backbone of many communities in rural Alabama. In addition to being the top employer in many cases, these hospitals are critical when it comes to keeping local residents healthy. Since coming to Congress, I have visited many of these rural hospitals and seen firsthand the challenges they face.

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Startlingly, since 2011, eleven hospitals have closed in Alabama, and another dozen are in danger of closing in the next two years. Today, the median rural hospital in Alabama is operating at about a minus eleven percent margin and 86% are losing money. You don’t have to be a businessman to realize that is unsustainable.

The impact of a hospital closure on a rural community is profound. It can leave those needing emergency or in-patient care with long – and potentially deadly – commutes to the nearest hospital. Some who need care the most simply have no way to make the burdensome trip to a metropolitan area.

The closure of rural hospitals also hurts our ability to attract new industry to our state. Without hospital access, many modern employers, such as high-tech manufacturers, will refuse to locate to the areas of our state that need investment and jobs the most.

One of the primary issues driving the problem is that Alabama has the lowest Medicare reimbursement rate in the country. Alabama hospitals are reimbursed as much as twenty-one percent below the national average and at rates considerably lower than our state neighbors. Due to a poorly designed formula implemented in the 1980s known as the Medicare Wage Index, the problem continues to compound every year.

Consider this: D.W. McMillan Hospital in Brewton, Alabama, near the Florida border, is reimbursed almost twenty percent less for the exact same treatment as a hospital right across the border in Jay, Florida. It isn’t fair, it makes no sense, and it is devastating for our hospitals.

Much of the positive development in our state has been a testament to a spirit of teamwork. Leaders in Alabama saw the need to transform our economy and work together to attract new businesses. It will take that very spirit of cooperation and teamwork to solve the problems facing our rural hospitals.

When it comes to healthcare, there are a lot of different ideas. Republicans and Democrats have some serious disagreements. It would be easy to retreat to our respective corners and blame the other side for Alabama’s hospital closure problem. But, that’s not productive, and it certainly won’t solve the problem.

In Washington, the entire Alabama Congressional Delegation has been working with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma and Congressional leadership to come up with new and innovative ideas to fix our long-term reimbursement issue. We are committed to thinking outside the box to solve this problem and protect Alabama’s rural hospitals.

However, Congressional action alone won’t solve the problem. The solution will require a total team effort from every level of government, as well as assistance from community and business leaders.

If Alabama is going to continue to move forward, we must address the challenges facing our rural hospitals and ensure Alabamians have adequate access to hospital care. If we work together as a team, I am hopeful this issue can be resolved.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. 

Rep. Byrne: A tax code that works

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

Each April, Americans across the country face great frustration and inconvenience in filing their taxes.

Fortunately, this Tax Day marked the last time Americans would file their taxes under the old tax code. Thanks to passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Americans will now have a simpler and fairer tax code. I was proud to work with President Trump to reform our tax code and make the process easier for taxpayers.

Starting next year, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will bring Americans relief when filing their taxes under a more streamlined, straightforward tax code. However, making the overall filing process simpler and more convenient was just one of the many ways we worked to create a tax code that benefits and works for the American people.

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One of the most important reforms under the new tax code is the doubling of the standard deduction. This provision increases the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. Combined with new lower tax rates, almost every Alabamian should see a tax decrease.

Also important, the new tax code prioritizes American families by doubling the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. It is no secret that raising a family is not cheap; so, this increase provides additional support for families struggling to pay for childcare and other necessary expenses associated with parenting.

To provide even more support for families, the bill preserves the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, as well as the Adoption Tax Credit. Even more, the bill makes improvements to saving options for education by allowing parents to use 529 accounts to save for elementary, secondary, and higher education.

Most people will not have to wait until the next tax season to see the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Already, many hardworking Alabamians are seeing more money in their paychecks each month. That means your hard-earned money is ending up back in your pockets, rather than the coffers of the federal government.

Tax reform has also helped spur overall economic growth. Our bill helps to level the playing field for American businesses, creating new job opportunities and finally causing wages to rise after years of stagnation.

Many businesses have also handed out bonuses and improved benefits to their workforce. Since passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, I have had the pleasure of personally handing out bonus checks at multiple businesses in Southwest Alabama. Trust me, these workers were thrilled with the extra money.

We aren’t stopping now either. The House passed a package of bills last week to help cut down on identity theft and to hold criminals accountable for IRS scams. It is important that these crooks be punished for trying to defraud hardworking Americans, including our nation’s senior citizens.

Equally important, the House also passed bills to make the IRS more efficient, effective, and accountable. The IRS should be a customer-friendly organization that responds to the questions and concerns of the American people.

In the past four months, we have seen tremendous growth right here in Southwest Alabama because of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. From our small business owners handing out bonus checks to our single-income families taking home extra money in their paychecks, evidence shows that allowing Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money is a huge boom for our economy.

As we bid farewell to an old, outdated tax code, Americans can rest easy knowing they have a simpler, fairer tax code to work with in the future.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep Bradley Byrne: The push for a balanced budget

(YHN)

When the 115th Congress kicked off last January, I immediately introduced a bill that I believe is fundamental to the future of our country: a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The premise of a Balanced Budget Amendment is pretty straightforward. The federal government should not be allowed to spend more than we take in, except in extraordinary circumstances like a time of war.

This isn’t some sort of far flung idea. When I served in the Alabama State Legislature, we were required to pass a balanced budget each year. It was not always easy, but it was the law. The vast majority of states have the same requirement.

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Balancing a budget is also a common occurrence for families in Alabama and across the United States. Every month, people sit around their kitchen table to figure out how to make ends meet and live within their means. Small businesses must do the same.

The federal government should have to play by the same rules.

To truly enact a Balanced Budget Amendment, we would need to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As a reminder, in order to amend the Constitution, the Balanced Budget Amendment must pass both the House and the Senate by a two-thirds majority and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states, which is 38 out of the 50 states. The only other way to amend the Constitution would be through a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the states.

Recently, the House voted on House Joint Resolution 2, proposing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Despite receiving the support of a majority of us in the House, the bill did not receive the two-thirds majority necessary under the Constitution.

I was deeply disappointed that most Democrats in the House opposed the Balanced Budget Amendment. Despite talking a lot about our debt, they rejected one of the best opportunities to actually restore fiscal sanity in Washington.

Throughout the course of the debate, two important topics were raised, and I wanted to briefly address each of them.

First, despite what my colleagues on the other side of the aisle believe, the answer to our debt issues is not to tax the American people more. We do not have a tax problem; we have a spending problem.

To be clear, the recently passed tax cuts are not to blame for our nation’s debt issues. As the Heritage Foundation recently pointed out, “tax revenue is expected to fall by only 0.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and spending is expected to climb by 3 percent of GDP.” Again, we have a spending problem, not a taxing problem.

Second, the most serious drivers of the national debt are on autopilot. For example, if you eliminated every penny Congress appropriated for defense spending next year, the federal government would still be projected to operate in a deficit.   So-called mandatory spending programs must be reined in, and a balanced budget amendment would finally require Congress to tackle those programs head on.

Now, I know passing a balanced budget would be hard, but I did not run for Congress because I thought the job would be easy. We were elected by our neighbors to make difficult choices and decisions.

So, while our recent effort to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment came up short, I will not let it stop me from continuing to push for a balanced budget that requires the federal government to live within our means, just like the American people.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Congratulating our service academy nominees

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

America’s Armed Forces are made up of young men and women who bravely answered the call of service and have accepted the challenge of defending our great nation.

As a Member of Congress, I have the distinct privilege each year of nominating outstanding young individuals from Southwest Alabama to attend our nation’s military service academies.  This process of nominating the next generation of servicemen and women is one of the most rewarding parts of being a Congressman.

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These nominees are proven leaders in their classrooms and communities who have stood out among the rest of their peers.   This is apparent simply from their choice to serve our nation.  Joining the United States military is a commitment that requires strong character and valor, and I applaud these impressive young men and women for their decision to serve.

To attend most of the service academies, students must receive a nomination from a Member of Congress, the Vice President, or the President.  The admission process is incredibly rigorous with an acceptance rate of less than 20% for each of the academies.

Once students complete their education, they must fulfill a service commitment.  Most of these commitments are at least five years active duty, but the service requirement may be longer for certain specialized fields.

I hope you will join me in congratulating these twelve outstanding individuals from Southwest Alabama who received a service academy nomination this year:

–Zyahn Archibald, from St. Paul’s Episcopal School, received a nomination to the United States Naval Academy.
–Thomas Chandler, from Murphy High School, received nominations to the United States Military Academy, United States Naval Academy, and United States Merchant Marine Academy.
–Jack DeTombe, from Foley High School, received nominations to the United States Military Academy, United States Naval Academy, and United States Air Force Academy.
–Wil Dobbins, from Baldwin County High School, received a nomination to the United States Naval Academy.
–Joshua Gardner, from Fairhope High School, received nominations to the United States Military Academy, United States Naval Academy, United States Air Force Academy, and United States Merchant Marine Academy.
–Justin Ingram, from Spanish Fort High School, received a nomination to the United States Military Academy.
–Bailee Jordan, from Baker High School, received nominations to the United States Military Academy, United States Naval Academy, United States Air Force Academy, and United States Merchant Marine Academy.
–Trae’ Lee, from Escambia Academy, received a nomination to the United States Naval Academy.
–Michelle Roca, from Mc-Gill Toolen Catholic High School, received nominations to the United States Naval Academy and United States Air Force Academy.
–Felix Ronderos, from UMS-Wright Preparatory School, received nominations to the United States Military Academy.
–Abby Warner, from Fairhope High School, received a nomination to the United States Air Force Academy.
–John Marshall Williams, from Fairhope High School, received nominations to the United States Naval Academy and United States Merchant Marine Academy.

To maintain the greatest fighting force on the face of the Earth, we must have outstanding men and women who are willing to serve in the military.  I have no doubt that if selected, these students will be a fantastic addition to our Armed Forces.  As these brave men and women head into the start of their military careers, I wish them all the best in the years ahead.

If you or someone you know would be interested in attending a military service academy, feel free to reach out to my office at 251-989-2664. Eligible applicants must be at least 17 years old, be a citizen of the United States, have good moral character, demonstrate strong leadership skills, and achieve impressive scholastic achievements.

U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope

Funding our government

(Architect of the Capitol, Pixabay)

There is no more important function of the federal government than to provide for our common defense. Unfortunately, for nearly seven years, Democrats have held funding for our military hostage, and as a result, we are facing a serious readiness crisis in our military.

We have planes unable to fly and ships that cannot sail. A lack of proper resources has resulted in a loss of servicemember lives and has made our country ill-prepared to face aggression from dangerous adversaries like China, Russia, and North Korea. This level of vulnerability is unacceptable.

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President Donald Trump signed into law H.R. 1625, the Fiscal Year 2018 government funding bill, which ensures funding for the entire federal government through September 30th. This legislation provides the resources to finally rebuild our military as President Trump and Secretary of Defense Mattis have promised.

The biggest factor in my vote for this bill was the fact that it fully funds our military after years of dangerous budget cuts that crippled our national defense. With this bill, we are finally getting the resources our servicemen and women need to keep our nation safe. I am confident in the Trump Administration’s ability to spend this money in a way that reflects our conservative priorities and rebuilds our national defense.

Importantly, this bill includes many provisions important to Southwest Alabama. Specifically, the bill funds the construction of three Littoral Combat Ships and one Expeditionary Fast Transport, which are constructed right here at Austal USA in Mobile. These ships are critical in our efforts to build a fully capable 355-ship Navy fleet.

The funding bill paves the way for new road projects, like the I-10 Bridge, while also ensuring resources for improvements to the Port of Mobile and necessary expansion of rural broadband initiatives. It includes strong funding levels for vital coastal ecosystem programs and makes critical investments for Alabama’s farmers and foresters.

Fighting illegal immigration remains a top priority, and I am pleased to report that the bill includes $1.57 billion for physical barriers along the Southwest border and provides funding for more than 95 miles of a border wall system. The bill also increases funding for border security and immigration enforcement, putting more “boots on the ground.”

Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions about the funding bill circulating online and in the national news media, and I want to set the record straight.

One such claim is that the bill funds Planned Parenthood. There is not a single penny of funding for Planned Parenthood in this legislation. In fact, the bill includes the Hyde Amendment, which makes clear that no taxpayer money can be used to perform abortions.

Second, the bill does not include a pay raise for Members of Congress. In fact, the bill includes a freeze in pay for Members of Congress, as it should.

Third, the bill does not include any provision to restrict Second Amendment rights. It does include the Fix NICS Act, which is supported by President Trump and the NRA. The provision simply ensures that government officials put required information into the National Instant Criminal Background System (NICS). It does not expand who is ineligible to purchase a firearm or make changes to the current background check process when buying a gun.

To be clear, this was not a perfect bill. I join President Trump in calling on the Senate to change the 60-vote filibuster rule to make it easier to pass funding bills that better meet our national priorities.

In the meantime, I believe supporting this bill was the best option given the circumstances and the critical need to fully fund the United States military.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. bradley