The new year is a time to look back on the accomplishments of 2019 and look forward into the new year. Reflecting back on 2019, I’m really proud of the work my team and I have done in Congress to help Ohioans and their families.
Despite the partisanship and media focus on impeachment, we’ve quietly been working hard on both sides of the aisle to find solutions to real challenges facing Ohioans. In all, President Trump signed more than 50 of my bipartisan legislative initiatives into law, on issues ranging from helping people save for retirement to the drug crisis that has gripped Ohio.
In 2019, I continued to take the lead in the Senate in tackling the addiction epidemic. Over the past few years, I’ve worked to pass laws like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which has been used to help expand education, treatment and recovery services. I pushed to ensure CARA has the resources it needs to make a difference, securing a record $658 million in funding for CARA grants in 2020.
In addition, my bipartisan Combating Meth and Cocaine Act was recently signed into law for 2020, allowing grant funds allocated to combat opioid addiction to also be used for treatment and recovery services for new threats like crystal meth and cocaine — psychostimulants that are surging across our state.
We made some progress in passing legislation to improve health care access. For example, in April, the president signed into law my ACE Kids Act to improve health outcomes and care coordination for children with complex medical conditions on Medicaid, and it’s already starting to make a difference.
I successfully fought for Ohio’s defense installations and our military families, too. In the passed National Defense Authorization Act, critical Ohio installations like Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton and the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima got the resources needed to complete their important missions. That includes $1.7 billion to produce needed Abrams tanks and $523 million to produce armored Stryker vehicles at JSMC, plus $394 million to upgrade existing Stryker vehicles. This ensures that our men and women on the front lines have the best and most lethal equipment.
Wright-Patt, the largest single-site employer in Ohio, continues to expand its important role in safeguarding our national security with my strong support. It will receive nearly $121 million to finish upgrades to its National Air and Space Intelligence Center, which provides vital intelligence to our country’s leaders about threats from the skies. On top of all these important initiatives, our service members will see a 3.1 percent across-the-board pay raise — the largest in a decade.
I’m also proud President Trump recently signed into law the SECURE Act. This bipartisan retirement legislation included provisions I authored to help more Americans save for their retirement by encouraging small businesses to offer retirement plans to their workers, ensuring millions of part-time employees can access 401(k) plans, and increase the age for required minimum distributions from 70 1/2 to 72.
Our successes in 2019 weren’t just about passing laws. I’ve worked with my colleagues to conduct proper oversight so we know our laws are being enforced. As Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, I held hearings on important issues like Chinese influence at U.S. colleges, the cost of federal government shutdowns, and foreign talent recruitment schemes used to steal U.S. technology. As a result of this oversight, I’m introducing bipartisan legislation soon to offer solutions.
These are only a few of our legislative accomplishments in 2019. I encourage Ohioans to visit portman.senate.gov for a more in-depth look at our wins for our state. While I’m pleased to have achieved a lot in the last year, there is lots more to do. In 2020, I will continue to be an independent voice for Ohio promoting good policy outcomes for our state.
That will include working to pass my bipartisan JOBS Act, which will expand access to Pell Grants so Ohioans can afford shorter-term job training programs that will get them meaningful, good-paying jobs. I’ll work to pass my FIGHT Fentanyl Act, which will permanently criminalize fentanyl-related substances so that law enforcement can keep these dangerous synthetic opioids out of our communities. We must do more on retirement security, which is why I’ve introduced the Retirement Security & Savings Act. Finally, I’m working to ensure the Senate passes the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which will expand markets and level the playing field for Ohio workers, farmers, and small business owners.
I’m confident that we can continue to make progress on these and other issues in 2020. My top priority will continue to be delivering results for Ohio.
Rob Portman is a U.S. Senator from Ohio. You may contact him through his website, www.portman.senate.gov/public/