The Wire

  • HudsonAlpha technology director to present at Google Cloud conference

    Excerpt from a HudsonAlpha news release:

    HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology Technology Director Katreena Mullican has been invited to present at the Google Next ‘18 conference in San Francisco, Calif, July 24-26.

    Google Next is an international conference where more than 10,000 developers, technology leaders, and entrepreneurs come together to have a collaborative discussion about the Google Cloud Platform.

    Mullican has more than 20 years of experience in architecting Linux, virtualization and hybrid cloud solutions. As HudsonAlpha’s Cloud Whisperer, Mullican brings her expertise in automation of on-prem composable and public cloud infrastructure for scientific applications and workflows to the Institute.

    “HudsonAlpha is one of the top sequencing centers in the world, so it’s my job to think outside the box to design hybrid platforms appropriate for our sequencing and research workloads,” said Mullican.

    Mullican will participate in a Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Cloud Talk Tuesday at 1:00 pm in the South Hall to discuss how HudsonAlpha uses the composable HPE Synergy platform for an on-premises Kubernetes cluster that can scale to Google Cloud Platform.

  • Tabitha Isner claims Russia hacked campaign website — ‘Russian meddling in U.S. elections continues to be a real and immediate threat’

    Excerpt:

    Late Thursday afternoon, Democratic congressional hopeful Tabitha Isner issued a press release claiming “incidents of ‘brute force attacks’ on her campaign’s main webpage.”

    “When investigating the source of these attacks, the website administrator discovered over 1,400 attempts to login to the website as an administrator in the past week,” the release from campaign manager Megan Skipper said. “Of those 1,400 attempts, 1,100 came from Russian I.P. addresses. Russian meddling in U.S. elections continues to be a real and immediate threat.”

  • Doug Jones on Trump-Putin press conference, walk-back: ‘I was stunned at his comments,’ ‘I really wish the president would not take this so personal’

    Excerpt:

    Thursday during his weekly media conference call, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) criticized President Donald Trump for comments he made earlier in the week during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

    Jones expressed his disappointment in Trump, and described his handling of the situation as a “great disservice to this country.”

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.

475

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.

507

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.

451

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

(Pixabay)

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.

500

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

(Pixabay)

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.

482

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.

450

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.

441

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.

457

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.

469

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.

419

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

(Pixabay)

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.

402

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

(YHN, Pixabay)

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.

489

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.

459

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.

531

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.

524

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.

510

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

Defending religious freedom

(Pixabay)

Each year, during Holy Week, Christians gather in the pews to remember the death and crucifixion of Jesus and celebrate his resurrection. As we retell the story of the Passion and celebrate Easter, we count our many blessings and profess our faith as Christians.

For many Americans, Easter marks a time of reflection and celebration spent with family members. It can be easy to take for granted our freedom to practice our beliefs freely. Unfortunately, in other parts of the world, people of minority religious backgrounds are in danger of being persecuted for their beliefs. Alarmingly, many of them live in fear of openly professing their faith.

494

As we know all too well, Jesus Christ himself was persecuted and unjustly died for his religious beliefs. We should be guided by his teaching that injustice toward any individual, no matter their beliefs, should not be allowed to continue.

Recently, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an organization promoting religious freedom and raising awareness on the worldwide persecution of Christians and other religious groups, published a startling report revealing the influence that persecution of religious minority children has on obtaining a quality education. No child should ever be turned away from an education simply for following their faith.

Even more troubling, as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Islamic extremists hold power in parts of the Middle East, Christian churches and holy sites are being desecrated and Christians themselves are being forced from their homes, attacked, captured, killed, and even beheaded. While much progress has been made in the fight against ISIS, these shocking stories of injustice reiterate a need for action.

In response to this growing threat, the House passed H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017, to support entities, including faith-based organizations, that are serving victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed by ISIS and other terrorist organizations.

Additionally, the bill encourages foreign countries to add information about suspected perpetrators of terror attacks to their security databases. By addressing the source of these attacks, we can better protect Christians and other religious minorities being attacked for their beliefs. The passage of this legislation was a positive step for religious freedom across the globe.

I have always made it a priority to bring attention to the heartbreaking reality of religious persecution that takes place around the world. While things may appear comfortable on our own soil, we must keep in mind that the problem of religious persecution around the globe is sadly getting worse, not better.

We must also remember that the issue of religious freedom is about more than just Christians. The ability for people to exercise their faith without fear of retribution is key to a stable democracy, recognized by our founding fathers nearly 250 years ago. Our national interests are best served when the world is stable and individuals are not deprived of basic freedoms. As Ronald Reagan said, “A government which does not respect the rights of its own people and laws is unlikely to respect those of its neighbors.”

This Easter, in addition to your regular reflections, I urge you to stop and say a special prayer for our brothers and sisters who are under attack across the globe for their faith. I also encourage you to say a prayer for our country and our leaders, that we may realize this worldwide struggle and move forward to bring about true change that preserves the freedom of religion around the globe.

From my family to yours: Happy Easter and may God continue to bless our great nation.

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

Bill funds ‘active shooter’ training for local law enforcement, school faculty and staff, and students

(YHN/Pixabay)

For much of the year, the safety of our students rests in the hands of the faculty, staff, and resource officers at our schools.  Without a shadow of a doubt, the people who know best how to protect our schools are the teachers, parents, administrators, police officers, and students in their own communities.

In February, the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida resonated throughout our communities, highlighting a disturbing trend of individuals who clearly show signs of grave mental instability falling through the cracks.

Sadly, this incident likely could have been avoided had there been better oversight at every level of law enforcement. From the top down, we failed these students by not heeding the warning signs and working together as a team to ensure our students’ safety.

461

In response to this incident, the House recently passed the Student, Teacher’s Officer’s Prevention (STOP) School Violence Act, which Bill  to help identify and prevent school violence before these tragic events occur.

First, the STOP School Violence Act provides funding for training to prevent student violence, including training for local law enforcement officers, school personnel, and students in the event of an emergency.  This training would be designed to give students and school personnel the ability to recognize and respond quickly to warning signs of violent behavior and would include active shooter training.

Second, the bill provides funding for technology and equipment to improve school security.  This includes the development and operation of anonymous reporting systems, as well as the installation of metal detectors, locks, and other preventative technologies to keep schools secure.

The legislation also authorizes funding for school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams for school personnel to respond to threats before they become real-time incidents.  Recognizing the warning signs of violent, threatening behavior and having the proper resources to address it on the front end can prevent these tragedies from ever occurring.

Finally, the STOP School Violence Act provides funding to support law enforcement coordination efforts, particularly the officers who already staff schools.  From the federal level all the way down to our local law enforcement, we need to ensure there is accountability and communication when handling violent behavior.

Many of our local schools are already reevaluating their security measures and taking additional steps to promote a safe learning environment for our students.  Our students’ safety and security should always remain a top priority, and I believe it is imperative that our local schools have the most appropriate resources in place in the event of an emergency.

As we look for ways to prevent these terrible tragedies, I am open to additional solutions to address the underlying issues that cause these events to occur.  That said, I remain steadfastly committed to upholding the individual right of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.  Millions of Americans should not have their Second Amendment rights infringed upon due to the bad actions of a few individuals.

Rather, I believe we should focus on addressing mental health issues and combatting the role of violence in our modern culture, such as the prevalence of violent video games that normalize this behavior for our young students, and promoting commonsense solutions that will address the larger issues of mental health so that those with mental illness do not fall through the cracks.

There is still work to be done to ensure each child’s safety and well-being while attending classes. However, I am proud that we have taken this action in the House to promote a safe, secure learning environment for our children.

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

(Image: File)

Tax Reform Will Grow the American Economy

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) speaks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) speaks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Last week, the House took a big step toward long overdue tax reform when we passed our budget for Fiscal Year 2018. The budget is important because it opens up the process by which we can bypass a Democrat filibuster and pass tax reform with 51 votes in the Senate.

If you read last week’s column, you know that the unified Republican tax plan will benefit working families by lowering tax rates, increasing the standard deduction, expanding the child tax credit, and simplifying the entire tax code. Under our plan, most Americans would be able to do their taxes on a single, small postcard.

For me, the top priority of tax reform is to make things easier for working families who deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets instead of sending it to the federal government. That will remain my main goal throughout the process.

At the same time, tax reform also allows us to level the playing field for small businesses and promote economic growth. When the American economy is stronger, American families are stronger. Many things have changed since we last had tax reform in 1986. Unfortunately, for the most part, the way we tax businesses has not.

With this in mind, our tax reform plan strives to help small businesses, which are the backbone of the American economy. Most small business owners and job creators say that the current confusing and burdensome tax code is one of the biggest challenges they face.

Under our plan, the top tax rate applied to the business income of small and family-owned businesses conducted as sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations would be 25%. This is significantly lower than the top rate these businesses pay today. Most Americans work for these Main Street businesses, and lowering the small business rate will produce a boom of economic activity and more American jobs.

Our plan also calls for a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 20%. Our current corporate tax rate is the highest in the industrialized world and has resulted in businesses shipping jobs and revenues overseas. This is why lowering the corporate rate is a key part of President Trump’s economic agenda.

As another way to help spur economic growth, our plan would allow businesses to deduct 100% of the money they spend on capital investments for at least the next five years. This will incentivize businesses to buy heavy machinery and equipment that is necessary to really jumpstart our economy.

Importantly, our plan also focuses on leveling the playing field and closing loopholes that only benefit the well-off and well-connected.

Another key piece of our plan centers around bringing jobs and businesses back to America. We want to move from the current “offshoring model” that has been a disaster for American workers toward an “American model” that encourages more companies to do business in our country.

We do this by ending the current tax code’s disincentive for companies that want to bring wealth they have earned overseas back to the United States. Foreign profits already accumulated offshore will be subject to a low, one-time tax. This will bring money flowing back into America.

By creating a more business-friendly tax code, more jobs will be created and greater opportunities will exist for the American people. Again, a stronger economy leads to a stronger America where everyone benefits.

Of course, our tax reform plan must still go through the legislative process and changes will likely occur. I also want your feedback to hear what concerns or ideas you have regarding our tax reform plan. You can find the plan online at FairAndSimple.gop.

1

What’s Next for Alabamian’s Health Care

Congressman Bradley Byrne (YouTube)
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1)

Last week was a hectic and monumental week at the U.S. Capitol. As we prepared to mark the 7th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, President Trump was pushing the House to pass his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Known as the American Health Care Act, the bill would have repealed Obamacare, ended the government mandates, cut taxes, lowered premiums, reduced the deficit, and transferred control over health care from the federal government to the individual states.

I was ready to vote in favor of the bill and support President Trump’s agenda. Unfortunately, the bill did not have the support needed to pass, and it was pulled before a vote was ever held. I was certainly disappointed by this outcome because I want to repeal and replace Obamacare with something that actually works.

Some Democrats, like former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, used this occasion to celebrate and claim victory. Despite their jubilation, Obamacare is still on a collision course with disaster. So, while they may want to celebrate now, Obamacare still must go.

President Trump has indicated that he wants to move the focus from health care to other issues, like tax reform, and I think it is important we continue moving forward with our conservative, pro-growth agenda. That said, we cannot give up on our efforts to bring relief to the American people when it comes to health care.

In fact, just last week, the House succeeded in passing two separate bills focused on improving our nation’s health care system.

The first bill, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 416 to 7. The bill updates the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 to restore competition in the health insurance industry by ensuring application of federal antitrust laws.

I have long believed that increasing competition is key to fixing our health care system and lowering costs. By ending a special-interest exemption in law, we can rein in insurance company practices, increase competition, and lower prices for consumers.

The second bill, the Small Business Health Fairness Act, is all about helping our small businesses lower health care costs for their employees. The bill empowers small businesses to band together through association health plans to purchase health insurance. This will allow them to increase their bargaining power, negotiating for lower health insurance rates on behalf of their employees.

The Small Business Health Fairness Act simply guarantees that our nation’s small businesses are afforded the same opportunities given to large corporations and labor unions. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and it is critical they be able to offer affordable insurance options to their workers.

Additionally, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, has indicated he stands ready to use his administrative power to stabilize the insurance market and give states additional flexibility when it comes to health care. The way Obamacare was written, the Secretary has a lot of control and power, and it is important Dr. Price use that authority.

Ultimately, I expect we will be back debating the repeal and replacement of Obamacare sooner rather than later. In the meantime, we should not stop looking for targeted ways to increase competition, lower costs, and help American families.

Last week’s health care setback is disappointing, but we must move on from this moment and continue working to solve the problems facing our nation. We are going to make America great again, and that requires us to work together for the good of everyone in our nation.

1

Why Obamacare Must Go

“In a death spiral.” Those are the words Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, one of our nation’s largest insurance companies, used to describe the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

When I first ran for Congress in 2013, repealing and replacing Obamacare was a top priority. I introduced a bill to repeal the law, which passed the House but never reached the President’s desk. Unfortunately, with President Obama in the White House, our efforts never succeeded. Even when we finally got a repeal bill to the President’s desk, he vetoed it.

Thankfully, last year’s elections completely changed the dynamics. President Trump is committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare, and Republicans control both the House and the Senate. The stage is set to finally get rid of this failed law.

Why is this so important? Because Obamacare is a fundamentally flawed law that cannot simply be fixed or patched back together. Obamacare has cost the economy $53 billion and an estimated 176,897,428 paperwork hours. Those are funds and time that employers can’t use to hire people and jumpstart the economy.

More importantly, with its government mandates, higher taxes, and increased regulations, Obamacare is hurting hardworking American families. We have seen canceled plans, higher premiums, fewer choices, and increased deductibles.

Believe it or not, former President Bill Clinton might have put it best when he called Obamacare “the craziest thing in the world.” He also pointed out that it has resulted in “people who are out there busting it, sometimes 60 hours a week, wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.”

I’ve heard story after story from people who live in Southwest Alabama who have been negatively impacted by this law. In fact, I have had people come up to me with tears in their eyes to show me their cancellation notice or premium increase letter.

Despite President Obama’s promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep it,” 4.7 million Americans were kicked off their health care plans by Obamacare. Many of these Americans liked the plan they had, only to have the federal government step in and tell them it was not good enough.

Premiums are also skyrocketing. Seven states have seen premium increases of more than 50% in 2017. In Alabama, this year’s premiums on the exchange increased 58% on average for a benchmark plan and 36% for the individual market as a whole. For those with employer-sponsored coverage, individual premiums are up 27% on average nationwide, more than double the average rise in workers’ wages. Deductibles are up an average of 60% since 2010.

Americans are also facing fewer and fewer health care choices, with five states – including Alabama – only having one insurer to choose from. In fact, next year, some counties in the United States may not have a single option on the Obamacare marketplace. At that point, those Americans relying on Obamacare will have nowhere to turn and the law will have failed.

The bottom line is that Obamacare is on a collision course. If Congress were to sit back and do nothing, Obamacare would implode. This would leave millions of Americans with no insurance and the overall insurance market for the rest of us in a dangerous condition. So, Congress must act and rescue the American people from this broken law.

I have pledged to repeal and replace Obamacare since being elected to Congress, and I remain committed to honoring that pledge. Now, under unified Republican government, we have the best opportunity we have ever had to get rid of this failed law and instead provide Americans with the freedom, choice, and control that they deserve.

1

Taking care of Alabama’s veterans

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) delivers the weekly Republican Address (YouTube)
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) delivers the weekly Republican Address (Photo: Screenshot)

I’ve held over 75 town hall meetings since being elected to Congress, and these meetings allow me to get a feel for what issues are most important to the people I represent. At every single town hall meeting, I get at least one question about problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

We have all read different stories about the VA in the newspapers – stories about secret wait lists, VA employees stealing drugs, veterans dying while waiting for care, and doctors overprescribing pain medication.

During my town hall meetings, veterans stand up and put a real, human face on the horrible problems at the VA. I have seen veterans literally break into tears when talking about the lack of timely care or bureaucratic roadblocks. The stories are heartbreaking.

Our veterans deserve better than this. The culture of complacency and lack of accountability at the VA is simply unacceptable.

Now, I know not everyone who works in the VA system is a bad actor. There are certainly people who work tirelessly day in and day out to serve our veterans. Unfortunately, their stories are overshadowed by the widespread challenges.

Ultimately, I think we need to fundamentally reconsider the way we care for our nation’s veterans. These men and women have put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to ensure they receive the care they deserve.

I recently introduced H.R. 1032, the Full Choice for Veterans Act. This short, two-page bill would change the law to ensure every veteran eligible for VA care is also able to seek medical care from private doctors, specialists, and hospitals in their local community.

In other words, my bill would give veterans access to private, local medical care instead of forcing them into the broken VA system. Giving veterans the choice of private care will allow them to receive more timely access to better care.

Congress passed a law a few years ago to create a similar program, known as the Veterans Choice Program. Sadly, the VA put up restrictions that created confusion and greatly limited veterans access to private care. My bill would do away with those restrictions and open the program up to all veterans eligible for VA care.

By doing this, I think we will see two major benefits. First, we will get better and timelier care for our veterans in their local communities instead of forcing them to drive out of the way to a VA hospital or clinic. Second, we will save taxpayer money by cutting back on the bloated VA bureaucracy.

Giving veterans greater access to private medical care is something President Trump talked about repeatedly on the campaign trail, and I hope I can work with his Administration to actually give veterans the choices they deserve.

President Trump’s pick to lead the VA, David Shulkin, was recently confirmed by the Senate, and I stand ready to work with him and his team to succeed where his predecessors have failed in changing the culture of complacency at the VA.

Until the system changes, I will also continue working to ensure the current VA system works for our veterans. If you, or someone you know, is having a hard time navigating the bureaucracy at the VA, I hope you will encourage them to contact my office at 251-690-2811. My staff and I stand ready to help.

There is no group more deserving of timely care and treatment than those who have served our country. By giving them greater choices and access to private care, I think we can do right by our veterans.

1

Alabama Congressman: ‘Now is the time to stand up for Israel, not turn away from them’

The Old City of Jerusalem (Etienne Valois)
The Old City of Jerusalem (Photo: Etienne Valois)
The Old City of Jerusalem (Photo: Etienne Valois)

The United States has no stronger ally than Israel. Our relationship has always been strong, both economically and militarily. Israel plays an especially important role in helping us combat radical Islamic terrorism in the Middle East.

In other words, Israel serves as a beacon of hope, freedom, and opportunity in a very dangerous part of the world. That is why support for Israel has always been a bipartisan priority shared by Democrats and Republicans.

While serving in Congress, I have had the opportunity to visit Israel on multiple occasions to meet with the leaders and discuss the relationship between our two countries. During these trips, the Israeli people always share their deep appreciation for the partnership between our two countries, but they also make clear the fact they face very significant challenges.

For decades now, Israel has been in a long running dispute regarding its very right to exist. The dispute is complicated and deeply personal as it is based on religious, ethnic, and cultural ties. This struggle has resulted in multiple wars and placed Israel in a constant state of conflict.

Given the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel and the sensitivities related to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinian Authority, I was deeply disappointed to see the United Nations (UN) recently pass a flawed, anti-Israel resolution that will only make it more difficult to achieve peace.

Since 1972, the United States has used our position as a UN Security Council member to veto 42 anti-Israel amendments. As the vote grew closer on this most recent resolution, the hope was that the United States would once again use our veto power.

Instead, the United States Ambassador “abstained” from the vote altogether. In other words, the United States turned our back and looked the other way as the UN passed a flawed resolution attacking Israel. This represents a dangerous break in a long-standing and bipartisan policy to protect our sole democratic ally in the region from one-sided resolutions at the UN.

This resolution does absolutely nothing to solve the underlying issues. In fact, it muddies the water and only further complicates what is already a very complex issue. The resolution also failed to make mention of the fact that Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, continues work with the Palestinian Authority and engage in hostile actions against Israel.

To be clear: no solution to the ongoing problems with Israel and the Palestinian Authority is going to come from an international body, like the United Nations, telling them what to do. Any real solution must come from negotiations between the involved parties.

Given the many blunders from the Obama Administration on the world stage, I guess this most recent action should not be all that surprising. But this action is one of the most irresponsible acts ever by an outgoing President. It will be a dark stain on an already disastrous foreign policy legacy.

Last week, as one of the first actions in the new year, the House of Representatives passed a bill opposing the UN’s anti-Israel resolution and condemning the inability of the Obama Administration to stand up for Israel.

This wasn’t a one sided vote. In fact, 109 Democrats joined with 233 Republicans to pass the resolution with over 340 votes. This is a strong message to our friends in Israel that the United States still has their backs.

Now is the time to stand up for Israel, not turn away from them. It is my sincere hope and belief, that under President-elect Trump, the United States will once again stand arm-in-arm with Israel. This bipartisan resolution was an important step in that direction.

1

Byrne: 5 things Alabamians should expect from Congress in 2017

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) delivers the weekly Republican Address (YouTube)
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) delivers the weekly Republican Address (Photo: Screenshot)
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) delivers the weekly Republican Address (Photo: Screenshot)

In 2017, Republicans will have control of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. This is a rare situation that has happened only 16 times the past 100 years.

Under a unified Republican government, there is great potential for important reforms. Here are five areas where I hope to see progress in 2017:

    1. Health Care Relief

    Far too many American families are suffering under the ill-conceived Affordable Care Act. A top priority must be to repeal this disastrous law and begin moving forward with health care reforms that lower costs, boost competition, and spur innovation.

    Our reforms must center on free-market principles that do not put the federal government between a patient and their doctor. Any updates to our nation’s health care law must ensure that people with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable health and strengthen Medicare for our nation’s seniors.

    2. A Stronger Military

    Under President Obama, our military has taken a hit and that trend must be reversed. Despite these funding cuts, we continue to ask our military men and women to do more and more.

    Under President-elect Trump, I am hopeful we will grow our military in a way that helps project peace through strength. This includes building up our Navy’s fleet with an ultimate goal of at least 350 ships. As we grow our military, we must also focus on spurring innovation to ensure we have the most advanced technology and tools available.

    3. Regulatory Reform

    Unnecessary and costly government regulations are making it harder for businesses to grow, resulting in higher costs for American consumers. These regulations impact everything from energy to agriculture to labor laws.

    Some of these regulations can simply be blocked or repealed by the Trump Administration. Others will require action from Congress. President-elect Trump has already suggested that he will remove two regulations for every one regulation introduced. This type of regulatory reform will go a long way toward boosting economic growth.

    4. Immigration Enforcement

    Over the last eight years, the Obama Administration has consistently turned a blind eye to our nation’s immigration laws. Instead of enforcing the laws on the books, they have looked for ways around the law. Well, that will change come January 20th.

    Having a strong immigration enforcement system is critical to our national security, and it must be a top priority. This includes securing our border and halting the flow of illegal immigrants across the border. We must also look at other parts of our immigration system to ensure American workers are being treated fairly.

    5. A Simpler Tax Code

    The current tax code is far too complicated and confusing, and I have long been an advocate for wholesale tax reform that lowers rates for American families.

    Tax reform should make completing your taxes as simple as filling out a postcard sized form. We should also bring down our corporate tax rates, which are among the highest in the world in an effort to spur job creation and keep businesses in the United States. Tax reform is a key part of our efforts to grow the economy.

Certainly, this is not an all-inclusive list and unified Republican government alone will not be enough to achieve these reforms. Under the current Senate rules, most legislation requires 60 votes in order to pass, and Republicans only have 52 Senators. I hope Senate Democrats will agree to work across the aisle to find common ground and advance these reforms.

Our top priority should always be to focus on policies that benefit the American people. By doing that, I believe we can help restore faith in government and make life easier for all Americans.

1