It’s hard to believe how fast this year went by.
For me and my colleagues in Congress, the year started with a renewed spirit of change. With a unified Republican government, we have made great strides toward keeping our promises to the American people.
Just this year in Congress, I voted more than 675 times, gave 40 speeches on the House floor and helped send over 640 bills to the Senate – not even counting the 13 Congressional Review Acts overturning some of the most damaging Obama Administration regulations.
As a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I voted to bolster our skilled workforce and provide better educational opportunities for students across America. We passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act to bridge the gap between the business community and education in the trades to prepare America’s skilled workforce.
I also hosted higher education roundtables across the district, where I sat down with higher education administrators to discuss their challenges with the federal government. The problems they discussed are ones that institutions around the country are facing, which is why the House Committee on Education and the Workforce recently passed the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform Act.
This historic package of higher education reforms will ensure a limited federal role in higher education, simplify the student aid process, and empower students and families to make informed decisions. With 6 million open jobs in this country, the education and business communities must work together to cultivate a qualified workforce.
I am also an active member of the House Agriculture Committee, where we have been working hard – holding a series of hearings titled “The Next Farm Bill,” which expires next year. We discussed topics from commodity programs to specialty crops to rural infrastructure, and in October, I had the opportunity to visit with farmers across the 12th District, where I heard directly from them about the challenges and successes they have had with the current farm bill.
Looking to next year’s farm bill, I will work to continue to be the best advocate I can be for our Georgia-12 farmers.
In addition to my committee work, I have consistently supported legislation to keep Americans safe at home and abroad. President Trump recently signed the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act into law, which authorizes annual defense spending and provides a pay raise for our troops.
With our district at the forefront of cyber innovation, the NDAA included more than $85 million for military construction projects at Fort Gordon and fully funds cyber operations. The House voted to provide unprecedented levels of support for our American heroes and funds to build the wall. I was also proud to support legislation to stop dangerous sanctuary city policies that shield unlawful and criminal immigrants from federal immigration enforcement.
Not only have we been working hard to protect our nation, but Congress has also made it a priority to fight for policies that grow our economy and get Americans back to work. This year we passed the Financial CHOICE Act, important legislation that will deliver regulatory relief to community banks across America and end taxpayer-funded bailouts, once and for all.
And after 30 years with no major change to our tax code, it was time to put more money back in your pocket and allow businesses to grow and hire our fellow Americans.
As I promised before I was elected, I have continued to fight for our traditional Georgia values, voting for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that restricts abortions after 20 weeks, and the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, which stops taxpayer money from funding abortions.
I also supported the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which grants concealed carry license reciprocity throughout the United States. Just as your First Amendment right to free speech does not change from one state to another, neither should your right to protect yourself or your family.
After 2014 news reports regarding mistreatment of veterans and the unbelievable problems with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress made it a priority to change the way our veterans were treated; 11 bipartisan veterans bills have been signed into law this year, including the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Education and the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. These bills will expand GI Bill eligibility and improve accountability at the VA.
As I look toward 2018, I am reminded of the many successes of this year and of the work still ahead of us. From my family to yours, I hope you have a Happy New Year!
Rick W. Allen represents Georgia’s 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.