Looking back on 2015

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

Two-thousand-and-fifteen was packed full of major developments for Southwest Alabama. As the year draws to a close, I thought it would be a good time to review some of the highlights.

One of the first votes the House of Representatives took in 2015 was on my bill to repeal Obamacare in its entirety, and instead move forward with patient-centered healthcare reform that isn’t run by the federal government. My bill passed the House by a vote of 296-186.

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Also in February, I introduced the Real Choice for Veterans Act to help increase veteran access to private health care. The bloated veterans affairs bureaucracy is failing too many of our veterans, and I believe we shouldn’t require veterans to remain stuck in this failed system. It’s time we let veterans seek medical care from doctors and hospitals in their local communities.

In March, I hosted a leadership workshop in Mobile for over 500 area high school students. South Alabama head football coach Joey Jones served as our keynote speaker, and I held a town hall meeting to take questions from the students. It was a huge success.

Also in the spring, I introduced legislation designed to reduce the size of the federal government and cut down on unnecessary government bureaucracy. My bill, known as the Sunset Act, would require most federal agencies to be reviewed and reauthorized once every ten years. If Congress fails to authorize an agency, they would cease to exist. This would make government more efficient and accountable.

In June, the House passed a bill that included three of my reforms designed to get a longer Red Snapper season for our fishermen. My provisions would repeal the inflexible quotas, extend state water boundaries for each Gulf state to nine nautical miles, and remove data collection and stock assessments from federal control. I was proud to get these important provisions passed through the House.

In August, I traveled to Israel to visit with our strongest allies in the Middle East. We talked a lot about the Iran Nuclear Agreement and the harmful impact it would have on Israel and the world. When I returned to Washington, I voted to stop the deal from taking effect

Also in August, I held a Conservative Solutions Town Hall Tour to listen to your concerns and ideas. I held over 15 town hall meetings with stops in all six counties that make up Alabama’s First Congressional District. Thanks to all those who came out!

This fall, I was pleased to see the National Defense Authorization Act signed into law. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I worked hard to ensure the bill included authorization to build additional navy ships at the Austal shipyard in Mobile. I remain so impressed by the work done by the men and women who work at our shipyard.

And in December, Congress finally agreed on a long-term highway bill. This is the first highway bill lasting longer than two years since 2005. Having a long-term highway bill in place will allow us to move forward with important highway projects like the I-10 bridge in Mobile, Highway 98 in Mobile County and Highway 45 in Washington County.

All told, in 2015 my office responded to over 16,000 pieces of mail, held over 25 town hall meetings in person, over the phone and online, took part in over 160 events throughout Southwest Alabama, and assisted over 1,000 constituents who were having issues with a federal agency.

We made significant progress in 2015, but more work certainly remains. I’m committed to continuing to fight for our area’s priorities in Congress and pushing for a smaller, more accountable federal government.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.