For the past two weeks, Americans have watched petty partisan bickering in Washington, D.C. result in a partial government shutdown. And while that may go on for some time, I am optimistic this new Congress can deliver important victories for Floridians and our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.
I do not blame you if you are skeptical, but beneath the doom and gloom headlines we were able to accomplish a lot during the previous Congress. Now it is time to build on that success. I will introduce more than a dozen bills aimed at making Florida safe, sustainable and thrive, and getting our neighbors in Puerto Rico back on their feet.
One of those bills will allow federal assistance to states that implement red flag laws, which typically enable a family member or local law enforcement to seek a temporary court order to restrict someone’s access to firearms. Those type of state laws could prevent the next school shooter from buying a gun, and we are already seeing the benefits of Florida’s red flag law. My Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act of 2019 will provide resources for Florida to carry out its law while encouraging other states to do the same. It is a commonsense step to build on our successes from last year, which include the STOP School Violence Act and Fix NICs Act.
I will also introduce legislation to improve our public housing and hospitals, and ensure our homeless veterans get the help they deserve. Protecting families and veterans in our community from unsafe and unsanitary living conditions should be a bipartisan priority. My SAFE Hospitals Act will modernize a decades old federal funding formula to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent fairly and our hospitals finally receive equitable federal funding to provide for our state’s most vulnerable.
For the past two years, Floridians faced the twin threats of red tide and blue-green algal blooms. My South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act requires a concrete plan to reduce, mitigate and control harmful algal blooms, with appropriate federal resources to enhance the state’s efforts. I will continues to fight for the construction of the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee as part of the Central Everglades Planning Project and push for funding and executive action to address the state’s underlying water quality and infrastructure challenges. We made tremendous progress last year towards restoring the Everglades, but more must be done to corral the Army Corps’ bureaucracy if we are to complete the mission at a responsible pace.
I will also be introducing legislation that would keep critical protections in place off Florida’s Gulf coast for an additional five years, while also bringing Florida on level footing with other Gulf states that benefit from revenue sharing. Florida’s natural diversity, pristine beaches, and iconic waterways are a driving force behind the state’s economy and quality of life. We cannot thrive if we do not sustain these blessings for future generations.
A thriving economy is crucial to achieving the American Dream. In addition to growing our economy, we must also restore the dignity of work. We cannot simply view Americans as consumers. I will continue to lead the fight against China, begin building a coalition to better target the benefits of tax reform to domestic investment, and continue Florida’s deep relationship with the Department of Defense and NASA.
I will also make sure Florida is not falling behind because of bad federal policies. My Defending Domestic Produce Production Act will level the playing field for Florida’s fruit and vegetable growers who are losing their livelihoods to a flood of illegally dumped agricultural crops from Mexico. I will also continue the fight for small, traditional cigar manufacturers, a quintessential Florida industry, that are on the verge of being snuffed out by egregious federal overreach.
Of course, before some areas can thrive they must rebuild. From rebuilding Tyndall Air Force Base to working with farmers, ranchers and foresters, there must be a sustained federal effort to help Florida’s panhandle recover from Hurricane Michael. I will also continue working with Rep. Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon to help our neighbors in Puerto Rico. Two bills will offer a combination of tax breaks and changes to annual health insurance fees would give American citizens in Puerto Rico the opportunity to begin recovering from decades of mismanagement and a series of devastating storms.
A new year and a new Congress means new opportunities. Some will view divided government as an impediment to action, but I do not. These issues are not Republican issues or Democrat issues – they cross today’s ideological divides. My pledge to you this new year, and new Congress, is to continue to put Florida first.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the senior senator from Florida, was first elected to the Senate in 2010.