Portman Delivers Results for Ohio in First Year of the 116th Congress
During the first year of the 116th Congress, Senator Portman continued to deliver results for Ohio, just as he did in the previous Congress. He delivered on his promise to combat the ongoing drug crisis in the country by securing enactment of his Combating Meth & Cocaine Act to give states more flexibility to use federal opioid funding to address the resurgence of meth and cocaine. He worked to create more jobs and economic opportunity for Ohioans, including those living in rural areas by encouraging infrastructure and broadband development. He worked to strengthen retirement security by spearheading passage of the SECURE Act in December. And he worked to open markets for American farmers, workers and manufacturers by helping lead efforts to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which passed the House in December and is poised to pass the Senate this month. Those are just a few of the many examples outlined below.
In the first year of the 116th Congress, 21 of Portman’s bills and three of his amendments were signed into law. In total — during his nine years in the Senate — Portman has successfully enacted 172 of his legislative priorities into law, including 126 bills as well as 46 amendments. He has introduced more than 400 bills; more than 300 of which have been bipartisan.
Creating Economic Opportunity & Retirement Security for Ohio Families
When Senator Portman ran for the Senate in 2010, he campaigned on a jobs plan, a key component of which was tax reform. He promised to help lead an effort to reform our tax code and provide relief to families and small businesses. In the 115th Congress, he delivered on this commitment, and Portman has seen firsthand how Ohio companies are responding by creating more jobs, increasing wages, paying bonuses, making additional investments in plants and equipment, and expanding health care and retirement benefits. In addition to tax reform, Portman worked on a number of measures to help create jobs, level the playing field for Ohio workers, and make Ohio businesses more competitive.
- Strengthening Skills Training & Workforce Development. Portman, who is the co-founder of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus continued his strong support for expanding skills training to help close the skills gap and ensure that Ohioans are ready for the jobs available today. As part of his efforts, Portman joined Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) in introducing the bipartisan JOBS Act which will make high-quality and rigorous short-term job training programs more affordable by expanding access to Pell Grants for low-income students. Portman has toured Ohio meeting with community colleges, educators, workforce development officials and others to receive input and highlight the importance of this bill, which is supported by the Trump administration and was included in its budget request. Portman is working to include the measure as part of congressional efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.
- Portman introduced the bipartisan Go To High School, Go To College Act, which will make college more affordable for low-income students by letting them earn college credits while still in high school, funded through the Pell Grant program. The legislation will create the College in High School Federal Pell Grant Pilot Program, which will build upon the Department of Education’s Experimental Site for Dual Enrollment.
- For his efforts to strengthen Career and Technical Education, Portman was awarded the National Education Service Award from the National Association of Community Colleges in February 2019.
- Ensuring a Secure Retirement for Hardworking Americans. Portman believes that every American should have the opportunity to save for a safe, secure retirement. In February 2019, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) selected Portman to lead the committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy.
- Portman helped spearhead Senate passage of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, which was approved as a part of the final FY 2020 funding bill and was signed into law on December 20, 2019. The SECURE Act includes reforms sponsored by Portman designed to help more Americans save for their retirement, including marquee provisions to encourage small businesses to offer retirement plans to their workers, ensure millions of part-time employees can access 401(k) plans, and increase the age for required minimum distributions from 70 and a half to 72. The SECURE Act also includes Portman’s Retirement Security Preservation Act, which would reform pension nondiscrimination laws to prevent more than 450,000 Americans from having their pensions frozen in January. Additional provisions in the bipartisan Retirement Security & Savings Act, which Portman introduced with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), are also included in the SECURE Act.
- Enactment of the SECURE Act paves the way for Senate action on Portman’s bipartisan Retirement Security & Savings Act, a broad set of reforms designed to strengthen Americans’ retirement security by addressing four major opportunities in the existing retirement system. (1) allowing people who have saved too little to set more aside for their retirement; (2) helping small businesses offer 401(k)s and other retirement plans; (3) expanding access to retirement savings plans for low-income Americans without coverage; and (4) providing more certainty and flexibility during Americans’ retirement years. The measure includes more than 50 provisions to accomplish these objectives. It has received widespread support from key stakeholders. While the recently-signed SECURE Act includes a number of provisions of the Retirement Security & Savings Act, this broader retirement measure will do more to reform our outdated laws to help Americans save more for their retirement.
- In August 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan Retirement Security Preservation Act to protect the retirement security of American workers in closed defined benefit plans. The bill modernizes the pension nondiscrimination rules that apply to these single-employer pension plans to protect more 450,000 older, longer-serving workers from having their benefits frozen by the end of the year through no fault of their own. This legislation was included in the final FY 2020 funding bill and signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- Encouraging Broadband & Infrastructure Development in Rural Areas. In December, the Senate passed Portman’s legislation – the Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands (RURAL) Act – to preserve jobs and encourage infrastructure development by expanding tax-exempt cooperative organizations’ access to government grants and assistance, including rural broadband grants and FEMA disaster relief. This legislation provides certainty for co-ops looking to utilize government resources to provide critical services to their members, such as broader access to high-speed internet or repairs to the electrical grid. This legislation was included in the final FY 2020 funding bill and signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- Promoting Opportunity Zones to Help Revitalize Struggling Communities. Portman fought to include “Opportunity Zones” in the final tax law, and it has the potential to boost investments and jobs in struggling communities throughout Ohio. The state of Ohio designated 320 low-income census tracts across the state as Opportunity Zones, which allows investors and companies to defer paying capital gains taxes on investments in exchange for committing to invest that additional money into Opportunity Zones long-term, for 10 years or more. Money invested through this program may be used to start new businesses or invest in existing ones. In February 2019, Portman participated in an Opportunity Zone roundtable hosted by the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Cuyahoga County will benefit from Opportunity Zone designations. Portman participated in an Opportunity Zone and Tax Reform roundtable with the Uptown Consortium in June 2019. Hamilton County is poised to benefit from Opportunity Zone designations. In August 2019, Portman participated in a roundtable on Opportunity Zones in Columbus, Ohio hosted at Gravity, a new development in Franklinton that features apartments, offices, restaurants and event space, which will also benefit from Opportunity Zone designations.
- Expanding Markets for Ohio Farmers & Small Businesses. As a former U.S. Trade Representative, Portman continues to be a leading voice in the Senate on trade policy, working to ensure a level playing field for American workers and create more jobs for Ohio farmers and small businesses. This year, he worked to advance those priorities in a number of ways, including:
- Portman has taken a leading role in rallying Congress to approve the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was approved by the House in December and is poised to pass the Senate this month. The agreement will strengthen our economy and support American workers, farmers, and manufacturers. Portman supports the more modern USMCA to the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in part because it includes new and enforceable environmental and labor standards, a new section on digital trade, expanded opportunities for agricultural trade, and new opportunities for auto jobs in America.
- In July 2019, Portman sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging him to remove proposed tariffs on 96 products because of the harmful impact it will have on U.S. importers, manufacturing, and the economy. These same tariffs were removed from the list during the last supplemental trade action proposed by the administration.
- In February 2019, Portman introduced the Trade Security Act, legislation that will reform Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to better align the statute with its original intent as a trade remedy tool for the president and Congress to respond to genuine threats to national security. In keeping with the original intent of Section 232, this bill makes common-sense reforms that require the Department of Defense to justify the national security basis for new tariffs under Section 232 and increase congressional oversight of this process.
- In addition to his work on the Leveling the Playing Field Act for Ohio steelworkers, Portman has continued to fight to protect manufacturing jobs in the state. In June 2019, Portman testified before the International Trade Commission (ITC) to fight on behalf of Ohio Whirlpool workers against unfair trade practices. Portman is continuing his efforts to level the playing field for Whirlpool and its 10,000 Ohio workers, including the more than 3,000 workers at Whirlpool’s largest American factory in Clyde, Ohio. The plant had been hurt by unfair washing machine imports by Samsung and LG.
- In October 2019, Portman joined his Senate colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, asking him to prioritize reducing steel overcapacity. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) created the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity in 2016 the help promote diplomatic engagement on the subject of steel overcapacity. It has created opportunities for the United States to organize coalitions of like-minded countries on the importance of holding countries, primarily China, accountable for overcapacity of steel products.
- Protecting Worker Pensions. Portman continues to lead efforts to reform the multiemployer pension system that, if left unaddressed, will leave tens of thousands of workers and retirees with a fraction of their promised retirement benefits. Portman chaired a recent Senate Finance Committee briefing on the multiemployer pension problem with experts, including the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the federal government entity that insures pension plans. After the briefing, Portman, along with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), issued a joint statement on their shared commitment to working on bipartisan legislation to resolve this issue. In March 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan Pension Accountability Act (S. 833) to help protect Ohioans from having their hard-earned pensions cut with no say in the process. The bill will give workers and retirees a seat at the table when a looming multiemployer pension bankruptcy may require major pension cuts.
- Protecting American Taxpayers. Portman has a long history of working to reform the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and secured key reforms to the agency last year. In June 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Taxpayer First Act, which includes a number of Portman legislative priorities that were included as part of the Protecting Taxpayers Act that he introduced in 2018. The Senate passed the legislation in June 2019 and was signed into law on July 1.
- Specifically, the House-passed bill includes more than a dozen of Senator Portman’s IRS reform priorities that were included in his Protecting Taxpayers Act, including provisions that:
- Preserve the IRS Oversight Board so that Congress can work to reconstitute the Board and have it work in the way it was originally designed to help set the long term strategic direction of the agency;
- Establish an Independent Office of Appeals and strengthen taxpayers’ right to an appeal, including full notice and protest procedures and open access to case files;
- Direct the IRS to develop a comprehensive training strategy for their employees to foster a stronger culture at the agency and reinforce taxpayer rights;
- Require the IRS to issue uniform guidance for the use of electronic signatures (which was also included in Portman’s Electronic Signatures Standards Act);
- Reauthorize streamlined critical pay authority for IRS IT employees to make it easier to hire the best technical staffers needed to overhaul the IRS IT infrastructure;
- Protect low-income taxpayers by permanently authorizing, and authorizing additional funding for, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program;
- Codify low-income taxpayer exceptions from fee waivers and lump sum payments associated with IRS payment plans;
- Direct the IRS to issue procedures for when direct deposits of tax refunds are sent to the wrong account; and
- Modify the IRS’s legal authority to issue a designated summons, or a summons that freezes the statute of limitations for taxpayers, to ensure this enforcement tool is only used for uncooperative taxpayers.
- Ending Government Shutdowns. During the most recent shutdown, which lasted 35 days, Senator Portman reintroduced legislation, which he has introduced the last five Congresses, the End Government Shutdowns Act, which would create an automatic continuing resolution (CR) for any regular appropriations bill not completed by the October 1 deadline. After the first 120 days, CR funding would be reduced by one percent and would be reduced by one percent again every 90 days thereafter until Congress does its job and completes the annual appropriations process. The bill has 33 cosponsors. In October 2019, Portman joined Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) in introducing a revised End Government Shutdowns Act, which would simply create an automatic continuing resolution if Congress fails to pass appropriations legislation by the October 1 deadline.
- Providing Loan Forgiveness for Families of Disabled Children. Families, like the Carducci family of Steubenville, Ohio, who experience the tragedy of a total and permanent disability of their child, should qualify for loan discharge. In April, Portman introduced Domenic’s Law, which was originally part of the Stop Taxing Death and Disability Act. It will both amend the Higher Education Act to provide student loan forgiveness to parents who take out loans for their children and also change the Internal Revenue Code to exempt individuals from the tax liability created by the forgiveness of their student loans in cases of death and disability.
- Supporting Purchase of American-Made Goods. In light of evidence that U.S. federal agencies have granted an excessive number of waivers to Buy American laws in the last few years, Portman reintroduced the BuyAmerican.gov Act, legislation that will establish a centralized online hub to increase transparency and ensure federal agencies prioritize the purchase of American-made goods in compliance with existing law.
- Securing Funding for Key Ohio Economic Priorities. Senator Portman has worked to ensure that Ohio has access to competitive grant opportunities to strengthen efforts to improve the economy and job creation around the state, including the following:
- In June 2019, Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Labor for awarding a $12 million Scaling Apprenticeship Through Sector-Based strategies grant to Lorain County Community College on behalf of the Ohio Manufacturing Workforce Partnership (OMWP). OMWP, in partnership with the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association, works to address the skills gap in manufacturing through the immersion of students and workers in coursework and guided apprenticeships. In October of 2018, Senators Portman and Brown sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor in support of Lorain County Community College’s application for this grant.
- In September 2019, Portman praised the announcement that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $7.5 million Automatic Driving System (ADS) Demonstration grant to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and its consortium, which includes the Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC), The Ohio State University, and DriveOhio. ODOT and this consortium, in partnership with the University of Cincinnati, the City of Youngstown, and the City of Athens, plan to develop a statewide demonstration plan to test and deploy ADS technology. On March 21, 2019, Portman sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in support of ODOT’s application for this grant.
- On August 28, Portman visited TRC – the largest and most sophisticated independent vehicle proving ground in North America – where he saw firsthand how TRC Ohio has become a global leader in advancing new automotive technologies. In 2018, Portman and the Ohio delegation successfully worked with Secretary Chao to change the Obama administration’s automated vehicle policy, which would have placed Ohio TRC at a competitive disadvantage for certain partnerships and funding opportunities that are important to the development of safe and effective regulations for this emerging technology.
- In December 2019, Portman applauded the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) for awarding a $1.6 million grant to the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation (MVEDC) of Youngstown, Ohio, to establish a new Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) in support of small businesses and entrepreneurs. According to the EDA, the grant, to be located near a designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $400,000 in local funds and is expected to help create 200 jobs, retain 55 jobs, and generate $9 million in private investment. In April of this year, Portman sent a letter to EDA Director Ms. Jeannette P. Tomayo supporting MVEDC’s application for the grant.
- In July 2019, Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $2.6 million Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant to the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA). The INFRA Grants program provides dedicated, discretionary funding for projects that address critical issues facing our nation’s highways and bridges. COTA will use the funding to replace diesel buses in its fleet with electrical buses as well as the associated charging infrastructure. In May of 2019, Senator Portman sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of COTA’s application for this grant.
- In October 2019, Portman announced that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for awarding a $1.2 million POWER grant to Rural Action. POWER grants are a congressionally funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America's energy production. These funds will give Rural Action the ability to support Ohio communities along an emerging world-class trail system in their effort to utilize the economic development of that area. Earlier this year, Portman sent a letter to ARC urging the awarding of this grant to Rural Action.
- Portman announced in July 2019 that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $9 million Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant to the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA). The INFRA Grants program provides dedicated, discretionary funding for projects that address critical issues facing our nation’s highways and bridges. NOACA will use the funding to install approximately 2,600 linear feet of sheet steel bulkheads to stabilize Irishtown Bend in the Cuyahoga Ship channel. In May of 2019, Senator Portman sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of NOACA’s application for this grant.
- Portman announced in October 2019 that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded an $836,332 Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grant to Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville, Ohio to construct the Tri-State Gateway Growth Training Center. POWER grants are a congressionally funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America's energy production. This facility will provide job-training to Ohioans seeking to fill today’s in-demand jobs. This includes offering Commercial Driver’s Licenses, National Incident Management System credentials, and technical training for jobs in the growing Ohio oil and gas industry. Earlier this year, Portman sent a letter to ARC urging the awarding of this grant to Eastern Gateway College.
- Portman also announced in October 2019 that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded a $24,500 grant to Washington Electric Cooperative, Inc. (WECI), a member-owned electric distribution cooperative that provides power to more than 10,000 Ohioans across the southeastern part of the state. Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grants are a congressionally funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America's energy production. WECI, in coordination with the Ohio State University and the commissioners of the six counties served by WECI, will use the funds to conduct an initial competitive analysis of market conditions, as well as a market study to determine potential take-rate of service within the service territory. Earlier this year, Portman sent a letter to ARC urging the award of this grant to WECI.
- In November 2019, Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation will award the Regional Transportation Improvement Project (RTIP) $18 million in funding as part of the Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) competitive grant program. This funding will help RTIP, a public agency serving Carroll, Columbiana, and Stark counties, construct a three-mile extension of the existing two-lane US-30 expressway through East Canton. Senator Portman wrote a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in support of the city of Canton’s bid on October 10, 2019.
Combating America’s Opioid Epidemic
No one in the Senate has been more active in the fight against drug addiction than Senator Portman. He continues to lead the national effort to combat the opioid crisis that is devastating communities. As part of his efforts to help Ohio, Portman has worked to help stop the influx of synthetic drugs like fentanyl, expand access to treatment programs that are so critical to an effective recovery, and secure additional funding for evidenced-based Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) programs focused on prevention, treatment, recovery, and first responders. In addition, Portman worked to secure $1 billion in new funding for state grants to fight opioid abuse in the 21st Century CURES Act. He’s also fought for more overall opioid funding, and helped secure more than $4 billion in new opioid funding over the last few years between CARA, CURES and other opioid programs.
- Stopping the Influx of Synthetic Drugs Like Fentanyl. After more than two years of pushing the legislation, Portman’s bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act was signed into law in October 2018 to help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped from China to drug traffickers here in the United States through our own Postal System. Fentanyl – a deadly synthetic drug up to 50 times more powerful than heroin – is now killing more Ohioans per year than heroin, contributing to why drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of accidental death in the state.
- As chair of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Portman has continued to conduct oversight on the failure of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to comply with the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, sending both agencies a letter in April 2019 about its lack of progress. The law required USPS to provide this data on 70 percent of all packages mailed from foreign posts, including 100 percent of all packages mailed from China by December 31, 2018. However, as of January 2020, USPS informed the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that they only obtained data on 81 percent of packages shipped from China and only 65 percent of data on packages from all foreign posts. USPS must begin refusing overseas mail on January 1, 2021 unless it includes advanced electronic data required under the STOP Act that better helps customs officials identify and track illegal drugs.
- In an April editorial from the Toledo Blade titled “Choke Off Fentanyl Supply,” the editorial board praised Senator Portman’s STOP Act and called on the United States Postal Service and the United States Customs and Border Protection on their failure to fully comply with the law’s initial deadlines.
- Portman has delivered more than 60 speeches on the Senate floor about the drug epidemic.
- Securing Federal Resources to Combat the Opioid Crisis & Implement CARA. Senator Portman has worked tirelessly to increase federal funding to combat opioid abuse and make sure that his Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA), which was signed into law in 2016, is fully funded and implemented as quickly as possible. Thanks in large part to Portman’s efforts, key components of CARA to help expand education, treatment and recovery services to help combat addiction have been implemented, fully funded, and more. In fact, in the final FY 2020 funding bill signed into law on December 20, 2019, Portman secured $658 million for CARA grants. Thus far, the state of Ohio has received more than $100 million in CARA funding because of Portman’s efforts.
- In December 2019, a new study published in the journal Health Affairs showed that Portman’s CARA law has led to a 111 percent increase in the availability in rural areas of prescriptions of buprenorphine, a form of medication-assisted treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction. CARA granted physician assistants and nurse practitioners the ability to obtain federal waivers to prescribe buprenorphine. From 2016 to 2019 the number of waivered clinicians per 100,000 population in rural areas increased by 111 percent. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners represented more than half the increase according to the study.
- In March 2019, Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the second installment of State Opioid Response (SOR) grants that includes a $29 million grant to the Ohio Department of Health to address Ohio’s opioid epidemic. These funds will be used to expand access to addiction treatment that works, especially medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with appropriate social supports.
- In April 2019, Portman announced that the Ohio State University (OSU) and its partner universities, the University of Cincinnati, Ohio University, University of Toledo, Wright State University, and Case Western University, will receive a total of $65.9 million in federal funding over the next four years to help address the addiction crisis, beginning with a first installment of $13 million. Ohio is one of four states to receive federal funding through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) HEALing Communities Study. Portman led the entire Ohio delegation in urging HHS to support Ohio’s application and fund this study.
- In September 2019, Portman applauded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for awarding a $4.4 million Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. OD2A is a three-year cooperative funding agreement that focuses on the complex and changing nature of the opioid overdose epidemic and highlights the need for an interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and cohesive public health approach. These funds will support the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in obtaining high quality, comprehensive, and timely data on overdose morbidity and mortality to inform prevention and response efforts.
- Portman announced in September 2019 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had awarded a $5.3 million Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant to Hamilton County Public Health. He also announced that the CDC awarded a $3.97 million Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant to Franklin County Public Health.
- Giving States More Flexibility to Combat Meth and Cocaine. In June 2019, Portman introduced the Combating Meth & Cocaine Act to give states more flexibility to use federal funding to address the resurgence of psychostimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine. Specifically, the bill expands the use of the State Opioid Response Grant funding to address rising use and overdose deaths attributed to the abuse of methamphetamine and cocaine. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- Fighting for Proven Programs that Combat Drug Addiction. Portman has led efforts in the U.S. Senate to support key anti-drug programs that have a proven record of success, like the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Courts, Drug-Free Community prevention grants, and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) grants.
- The SUPPORT Act signed into law by President Trump in October 2018 reauthorizes these programs, demonstrating that they are worth the federal investment. In 1997, Portman authored the Drug-Free Communities Act, which supports evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention programs, and he recently announced 25 new Drug-Free Communities Act grant recipients in Ohio. Fourteen counties in Ohio receive funding or support through Ohio HIDTA, which leads efforts to combat drug trafficking and interdiction activity across the state and coordinates activity in counties that have been overwhelmed by opioids and fentanyl.
- In September 2019, Portman announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded $1.8 billion in grants to help states fight the drug epidemic, including $55.8 million for the state of Ohio. This includes funding HHS through the State Opioid Response Grant (SOR) program, formerly known as the 21st Century CURES Act, which has been used by states to increase access to naloxone and support access to long-term addiction treatment and recovery services.
- Permanently Scheduling Fentanyl-Related Substances. In October 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan Federal Initiative to Guarantee Health by Targeting (FIGHT) Fentanyl Act to permanently schedule illicitly manufactured and deadly fentanyl-related substances. In February 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a temporary scheduling order to schedule fentanyl-related substances that has allowed federal law enforcement authorities to bring criminal actions against individuals who manufacture, distribute, or handle fentanyl-related substances. This scheduling order is set to expire on February 6, 2020. The FIGHT Fentanyl Act codifies DEA precedent to permanently criminalize fentanyl-related substances.
- Supporting Recovery from Addiction. In October 2019, Portman delivered remarks at Ohio’s 2019 Recovery Conference hosted by the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities. The fourth annual Recovery Conference offers education on topics relevant to recovery from a mental illness and/or addiction.
Promoting Ohio’s First in Flight and Space Exploration History
Portman has been a staunch supporter of NASA’s programs in Ohio. In August, Portman accompanied NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a visit to NASA’s Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland and Plum Brook Station in Sandusky to view progress on the agency’s Artemis Program – the agency’s multi-year plan to return American astronauts to the Moon and eventually send manned missions to Mars.
- Renaming NASA’s Plum Brook Station Test Facility After Neil Armstrong. In advance of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Portman introduced legislation to rename NASA’s Plum Brook Station, the agency’s test facility in Sandusky, Ohio, after Neil Armstrong. Plum Brook is part of the NASA Glenn Research Center. It houses unique world-class facilities that conduct critical and innovative ground tests for the international aerospace community. In November, the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee approved the legislation.
- Bringing Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission to Cincinnati. In December 2018, Portman wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and Smithsonian Affiliates Director Myriam Springuel to urge her to bring the Destination Moon exhibit to Cincinnati. He also called Director Springuel to personally advocate for the Cincinnati Museum Center. In June 2019, Portman announced that the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission has chosen Cincinnati for its fifth and final stop. The exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 mission and explores the birth and development of the American space program and space race.
Working to End Human Trafficking
Portman is the author of six federal anti-trafficking laws designed to better serve victims and help law enforcement end this horrific crime, including the high-profile Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) law that is already making a significant difference in combating online sex trafficking of women and children – resulting in the shutdown of numerous websites that knowingly facilitated sex trafficking. In the first year of the 116th Congress, Portman continued his longstanding work to combat human trafficking and help trafficking survivors.
- At the beginning of the year, former Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, announced that Portman would take the helm of congressional efforts to combat modern slavery and human trafficking worldwide.
- In July 2019, Portman reintroduced his bipartisan legislation to crack down on addiction-driven human trafficking. The Protecting Rights of Those Exploited by Coercive Trafficking (PROTECT) Act specifically addresses the use of drugs to facilitate human trafficking and protects vulnerable victims of trafficking. Human traffickers often introduce or exploit drug addiction to control or force victims into prostitution or forced labor. This compounds the trauma experienced by human trafficking victims and undermines recovery efforts for individuals suffering from addiction.
Combating Anti-Semitism & Attacks on the Homeland
Portman has long made clear that there is no place in our society or our country for hatred or religious intolerance of any kind. With mounting threats made against the Jewish community in the United States and Jewish Community Centers in Ohio, Portman came out strong in defense of religious tolerance and stood in solidarity with the Jewish community.
- In September 2019, Portman hosted an Ohio Faith-Based Security Conference to facilitate a conversation with federal and state security experts and stakeholders on best practices for how to prepare, prevent, respond, and recover from potential adverse events. The conference was comprised of a panel discussion as well as presentations focusing on best practices and funding opportunities for implementing security measures to help prevent attacks as well as how to best respond to potential threats. In addition, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Ohio Director of Public Safety Tom Stickrath, and Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Matthew Travis joined the event.
- In February 2019, Portman applauded the appointment of a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, a position at the U.S. Department of State. Senator Portman sent President Trump a letter in May 2018 emphasizing the importance of filling the position to ensure the United States continues to lead global efforts to combat anti-Semitism.
- In 2019, the House and Senate passed Portman’s bipartisan legislation – the Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act. The bill authorizes $75 million annually for five years for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which provides grants to nonprofits and faith-based organizations to help secure their facilities against a potential terrorist attack. Of the $75 million total, $50 million will be available for nonprofits located within high-risk urban areas, and the remaining $25 million will be available for organizations that fall outside of those areas. Under the legislation, funding may be used for target-hardening activities, training for personnel, and any other appropriate activity, as defined by the FEMA Administrator. The president is expected to sign the legislation soon.
- Senator Portman joined colleagues in successfully urging the Senate Appropriations Committee and Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to fund the Nonprofit Security Grant Program at $90 million. In the final FY 2020 funding bill, signed into law by the president, the program was funded at $90 million.
Protecting Ohioans, Honoring Veterans & Making America Stronger
Senator Portman is committed to keeping Ohioans safe and giving our men and women in uniform the resources they need to protect themselves and best complete their mission. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Portman has consistently advocated for rebuilding our military and a more robust and comprehensive American strategy to protect our allies and deter our adversaries.
- Supporting Ohio’s Defense Installations. Portman has worked to increase the range of capabilities for military installations throughout Ohio, and create jobs and opportunity for Ohio’s servicemembers.
- Portman continued his strong advocacy on behalf of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In 2019, Portman championed legislation to authorize $1.7 billion in funding to upgrade 165 Abrams tanks — increasing the rate of production of the newest upgraded Abrams tanks in Lima in order to ensure that our forward-deployed tanks have the most cutting-edge capabilities. The measure also includes $917 million for upgrading Stryker Vehicles. The NDAA passed the Senate in December and was signed into law on December 20, 2019 as part of the FY 2020 NDAA conference report. Portman has made clear he will continue to keep fighting for more funding for Lima.
- In 2019, Portman championed legislation to authorize $120.9 million in funding to finish the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) project located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In August, Portman visited Wright-Patt and met with Air Force leadership who oversee NASIC and the F-35 Hybrid Product Support Integrator. The NDAA passed the Senate in December and was signed into law on December 20, 2019 as part of the FY 2020 NDAA conference report.
- In November 2019, Portman visited the Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station to discuss the importance of YARS to the community and to our country. The focus of the discussion was on the current Wing mission, the potential for upgrades to the C-130 fleet and future vision of the aerial spray mission. In 2018, Portman announced that the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act included $8.8 million to relocate the main gate at YARS to improve security and the flow of people and cargo on and off this busy facility. Portman has long fought for YARS, which employs more than 1,800 people, to ensure it has the resources it needs to perform its mission. The FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act includes the production of four highly capable C-130J’s which Portman will advocate to be assigned to one of our very deserving, hardworking Ohio squadrons.
- Supporting America’s Veterans. Portman has worked in a bipartisan way to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans. This includes the following:
- In December, the Senate approved Portman’s legislation called the Fallen Warrior Battlefield Cross Memorial Act to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from denying veterans the honor they have earned by allowing fallen heroes to be honored at their gravesite with a replica of the Battlefield Cross. The Battlefield Cross is a memorial marker typically consisting of a soldier’s helmet, rifle, identification tag, and pair of boots that serves to honor and respect servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The legislation responds to a 2017 incident at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery (OWRNC) in Rittman, Ohio, where OWRNC administrators infuriated veterans by removing a battlefield cross replica from the cemetery. The replica was replaced soon after Portman and former Congressman Jim Renacci’s (R-OH) office got involved. The entire Ohio congressional delegation backs the measure.
- In April 2019, Portman introduced the Gold Star Spouses and Spouses of Injured Servicemembers Leasing Relief Expansion Act which amends the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to expand existing financial protections for military families’ residential and car leases. The authorization passed the Senate in December and was signed into law on December 20, 2019 as part of the FY 2020 NDAA conference report.
- In November 2019, Portman joined his colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to the United States Department of the Air Force and the Air Force Reserve Personnel Command (ARPC) expressing concern regarding delays in determining veterans’ military pensions and asking for immediate action to ensure that our retired service members receive the benefits they have earned.
- In July 2019, Portman praised Senate passage of the 9/11 Victims Fund Compensation legislation, which he cosponsored.
- In December 2019, the president signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation calling for the posthumous promotion of Dayton, Ohio native Lieutenant Colonel Richard E. Cole. This bipartisan legislation also recognizes the accomplishments, sacrifices, and legacy of Lt Col. Cole, the last of the living Doolittle Raiders until he passed away earlier this year at the age 103. The Doolittle Raiders consisted of 80 U.S. Military volunteers, commanded by Lt Col. James Doolittle, who led the first strike on mainland Japan in World War II, bolstering morale back home and changing the tide of the war in the Pacific. Lt Col. Cole served valiantly as Lt Col. James Doolittle’s co-pilot and together they led the Squadron of 16 Army Air Force bombers from the U.S.S. Hornet to Tokyo.
- Enhancing Border Security. Portman introduced legislation in January 2019 that would establish a $25 billion trust fund to enhance U.S. border security. The legislation would also codify protections for those individuals who, through no fault of their own, entered the United States illegally as children and are currently covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Senator Portman visited the Southern border in McAllen, Texas in July.
- Promoting Electronic Verification of Employment to Stem Illegal Immigration. Portman introduced the E-Verify Act, legislation to require employers to use an electronic employment verification (E-Verify) system in order to stem the tide of illegal immigration. Currently, the E-Verify program is an optional pilot program for most employers, and it has significant limitations—primarily, it does not sufficiently validate the authenticity of the identity documents new employees present to their employers. Senator Portman’s version of E-Verify will validate each new employee’s identity and work authorization status. Federal Reserve economists found that when states have mandated the use of E-Verify, it “reduces the total number of likely unauthorized immigrants who stay in that state by about 10 percent.”
- Standing Up for Ukraine. Portman, who is co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, has continued to be Ukraine’s strongest advocate in Congress. In May 2019, Portman visited Ukraine to meet with newly-elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Ruslan Khomchak, Minister of Finance Oksana Markarova, and other Ukrainian leaders. During his meetings, Portman congratulated the new government on their peaceful, free, and fair elections, pledged continued support from the U.S. Senate, and encouraged them to continue the anti-corruption efforts and structural reforms of the economy and the military.
- For the past three years, Portman has successfully introduced amendments to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that expanded U.S. military aid to Ukraine. These provisions helped build the primary statutory framework for U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. In addition, he has repeatedly written letters, delivered multiple floor speeches, and pressed senior administration officials on the importance of providing meaningful assistance to help Ukraine stand up to Russia’s military aggression, and has praised its recent decisions to provide lethal assistance to the country. The Senate passed FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine to fund additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. The bill was signed into law in December as part of the FY 2020 NDAA conference report.
- In June 2019, Portman praised the Department of Defense’s release of $250 million in security assistance to fund additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. Portman has led efforts in the Senate to ensure these Ukraine security assistance funds were authorized and obligated pending critical defense reforms at the Ukrainian parliament.
- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed Portman’s bipartisan resolution commemorating the fifth anniversary of Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity recognizes the bravery of the people of Ukraine who participated in the Maidan protests and honors the memory of the more than 100 protestors who were killed. Additionally, it encourages Ukraine to continue its progress over the past five years in implementing crucial reforms to strengthen the rule of law and align the country with Euro-Atlantic norms and standards. Finally, the resolution condemns continuing efforts by Russia to destabilize Ukraine and hamstring its efforts at Euro-Atlantic integration. The resolution passed the Senate is July 2019.
- In September, Portman sent a bipartisan letter with his Senate colleagues to the Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, urging the Trump administration to release $250 million in authorized military security assistance for Ukraine. The Senators’ letter came in response to media reports that the administration was holding up the funds, which were authorized and appropriated by Congress on a bipartisan basis. Portman played a role in urging the president to release the security assistance funds when they were held up by the White House.
- Supporting Israel. After getting his bill to help combat the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement signed into law in 2016, Portman continued his longstanding support for Israel, making it clear that if another country wants close economic ties with the United States, they cannot support efforts to weaken the economy of our ally Israel. Last year, Portman supported the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, which allows state and local governments to divest from entities that engage in boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) activities against Israel. He also introduced a resolution with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) expressing support for a democratic, Jewish State of Israel, and opposing efforts designed to delegitimize Israel or circumvent direct negotiations, specifically the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel. The bipartisan measure has 69 cosponsors.
- Holding North Korea Accountable. Portman co-sponsored the Otto Warmbier BRINK Act along with Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) which passed the Senate in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report. This legislation will strengthen and expand mandatory sanctions on foreign banks and companies that facilitate illicit financial transactions for North Korea and hold North Korea accountable for their actions and human rights abuses against Cincinnati-native Otto Warmbier as well as other illegally held prisoners. The bill was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
Promoting Responsible Use of AI and Emerging Technology
As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus, Senator Portman has worked in a bipartisan manner on several key measures to set high-quality standards around emerging technology, including cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. Building upon his bipartisan Hack Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Act and Public-Private Cybersecurity Cooperation Act, both of which were signed into law in late 2018, Portman is now helping lead federal efforts to promote the responsible use of artificial intelligence both inside and outside the federal government.
- Ensuring the Federal Government Has AI Expertise. In September 2018, Portman introduced the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Government Act along with Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI). The legislation is designed to improve the use of AI across the federal government by providing resources to agencies seeking to deploy AI, and ensuring that agencies have governance structures in place to ensure AI is used in a responsible way. Artificial intelligence will have significant impacts on our country, economy, and society. Ensuring that our government has the capabilities and expertise to help navigate those impacts will be important in the coming years and decades. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in November 2019 and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform approved the legislation in December 2019.
- Assessing and Addressing the Rising Issue of DeepFakes. The Senate approved Portman and Senator Brian Schatz’s (D-HI) bipartisan Deepfake Report Act, which will require the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an annual deepfake report. Deepfakes are hyper-realistic, digital manipulations of real content that depict events that did not actually occur. This report will assess the technology used to generate deepfakes; the uses of deepfakes by foreign and domestic entities with a focus on the way this technology can be used to threaten national security and the integrity of U.S. elections; and available countermeasures to deepfakes. In October, the bill passed the Senate, becoming the first deepfake-related bill to pass a chamber of Congress.
- Prioritizing Explainable Artificial Intelligence. The Senate passed Portman and Senator Martin Heinrich’s (D-NM) bipartisan amendment on explainable artificial intelligence in the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment requires the Department of Defense to brief Congress on a number of factors related to its use of explainable AI, including the extent to which the Department of Defense currently uses and prioritizes the use of explainable AI, the limitations of explainable AI, and potential roadblocks to the effective deployment of explainable AI. The president signed it into law on December 20, 2019.
- Developing a National Strategic Plan for AI Research and Development. In May 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) Initiative Act with Senator Heinrich, which will organize a coordinated national strategy for developing AI and authorize a $2.2 billion federal investment over five years to build an AI-ready workforce, accelerating the responsible delivery of AI applications from government agencies, academia, and the private sector over the next 10 years.
- Bolstering Cybersecurity in the Public and Private Sector. In an effort to codify the existing Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams, Portman introduced the bipartisan DHS Cyber Hunt and Incident Response Teams Act along with Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH). This legislation requires that DHS make permanent “cyber hunt” and “cyber incident response” teams to work to help prevent cyberattacks at all levels of government and the private sector, and help mitigate the impact of such attacks when they occur. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- Promoting Stronger Cybersecurity Coordination Between DHS and State and Local Governments. Introduced in June 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to encourage national cybersecurity watchdogs to share information regarding cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, breaches, and resources to prevent and recover from cyberattacks with states and localities who are increasingly targeted by bad actors. The Senate unanimously passed this bipartisan legislation in November 2019.
- Incentivizing & Prioritizing the Recruitment and Retention of AI Experts in the U.S. Military. In response to recommendations from U.S. military experts to ensure that our armed forces make computer science and digital engineering skills a priority for recruitment and training, Portman introduced the bipartisan Armed Forced Digital Advantage Act with Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM). This legislation will modernize the Department of Defense (DoD) workforce by adding a recruitment focus and establishing military career tracks for digital engineering. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- Understanding Current Trends in AI Developments in Both the U.S. and China. The Senate-passed FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act includes Portman and Senator Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) amendment that directs the Secretary of Defense to undertake a comprehensive and national-level review of current trends in AI developments in both the U.S. and China, and an assessment of predicted implications to national security should the current trends continue. It also pushes the Department to consider what types of relationships – in both the public and private sector – they need to develop in order to ensure the U.S. keeps pace with global AI development trends. The president signed this legislation into law on December 20, 2019.
Protecting the Great Lakes & Our Environment
Senator Portman continues to be a leader in the bipartisan effort to protect our Great Lakes and the environment. Whether it is promoting energy efficiency legislation, protecting our national parks, or improving the health of Lake Erie and Great Lakes, Portman continues to deliver results for Ohio.
- Protecting the Great Lakes: Portman, who serves as co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, has a lengthy record of accomplishments in protecting Lake Erie. This Congress, Portman has led the effort in the Senate to reauthorize and fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a results-driven program to address the most serious issues that threaten the ecological and economic well-being of the Great Lakes basin, including invasive species, pollution, and toxic contamination. By fighting to keep the lake clean, protect the lake from dangerous invasive species and harmful algal blooms, strengthen fish and wildlife restoration efforts, ensure that Ohioans have safe drinking water, and much more, Portman has demonstrated his commitment to improving the health of Lake Erie and supporting the tourism, fishing, and recreation industries that depend on it.
- Following news in 2017 that the administration proposed to eliminate funding for the GLRI, Portman fought for and secured full funding for GLRI. In February 2018, the administration once again proposed to cut funding for GLRI in the President’s FY 2019 budget request. Portman, once again, fought for and secured full funding for GLRI at $300 million for FY 2019. Earlier this year, he secured an additional $9 million for GLRI in the Senate-passed FY 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies funding bill. The funding, a $9 million increase from the FY 2020 proposed level of $301 million, brings the total amount of Senate-passed funding for GLRI to $310 million for FY 2020. The final FY 2020 funding measure went above that to include $320 million for GLRI, the largest investment in the program since its enactment.
- On July 25, 2019, Portman introduced the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2019 with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and expand funding for the Great Lakes. The GLRI Act will reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is set to expire at the end of FY 2021, for another five years. The bill increases the current authorization level from $300 million to $375 million in FY 2022 and increases funding by $25 million per year until it reaches $475 million in FY 2026.
- Portman’s bipartisan Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act was signed into law by President Trump on January 7, 2019. The legislation will help protect freshwater bodies such as Lake Erie by reauthorizing the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA), which was first enacted in 1998. For almost two decades, the HABHRCA program has served as the federal government’s research and response toolkit for harmful algal blooms.
- In March 2017, Portman introduced the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, which passed the Senate on October 5, 2017. This bipartisan legislation will provide local communities with increased flexibility, including the use of green infrastructure, when complying with Clean Water Act requirements for updates to water infrastructure projects. The bill would also give communities more autonomy as they prioritize and plan for wastewater and stormwater investments. The House passed it in December and the president signed it into law on January 15, 2019.
- Senator Portman worked to include language in the FY 2019 spending bill that has been signed into law to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from dumping dredged material from the Cleveland Harbor into Lake Erie without the approval from the Ohio EPA to prevent contamination. Senator Portman worked to again include this language in the final FY 2020 funding bill which was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- Portman and his bipartisan colleagues urged the Army Corps of Engineers to remain on target to complete the Brandon Road Chief’s Report by early 2019. The Army Corps released its Chief’s Report in May 2019, which recommends ways to ensure that Asian Carp do not enter the Great Lakes and threaten the lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry. The Corps is now working on the Preconstruction, Engineering, and Design for the project.
- In February 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization (GLFRA) Act with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to give the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) the legislative authority to support the $7 billion Great Lakes sport and commercial fishery industry. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- On July 30, 2019, the Senate passed Senator Portman’s bipartisan resolution marking 50 years of environmental progress since the last time the Cuyahoga River caught on fire on June 22, 1969. The Senate resolution describes how the fire spurred important federal environmental action, including passage of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
- Senator Portman’s legislation with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, was included in the Senate-passed FY 2020 NDAA conference report which was signed into law on December 20, 2019. The legislation improves coordination across the federal government in identifying and responding to emerging contaminants like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and cyanotoxins, which contribute to harmful algal blooms (HABs). The bipartisan bill also provides support and resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials.
- In August 2019, Portman attended the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) annual event where he received the 2019 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year award due to his efforts to help advance commerce on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.
- Protecting our National Parks and Ohio’s National Heritage Areas: Senator Portman introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, bipartisan legislation that would help address the nearly $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS). The bill, which has been praised by key stakeholders, will establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” from existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development to fund deferred maintenance projects at NPS sites across the country. Notably, the measure would help tackle the more than $100 million maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national park sites. The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee approved Portman’s Restore Our Parks Act in November 2019 and the legislation now awaits action by the full Senate.
- In March 2019, President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation to provide greater funding certainty to the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area, which spans more than 110 miles between New Philadelphia and Cleveland, and ensure it can continue to draw investment and support local jobs, tourism and economic development in northeast Ohio. Portman’s measure was included as part of a broader public lands package (P.L. 116-9) that was signed by President Trump.
- In March 2019, Senator Portman introduced the National Aviation Heritage Area Reauthorization Act with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to extend the authorization for the National Aviation Heritage Area in for seven years. NAHA spans eight counties throughout western Ohio, with a large presence in Dayton, the home of the Wright Brothers. The bill will provide funding certainty for the site, which is home to more than two million visitors annually, generating $35 million in economic impact and supporting 1,500 jobs in the region. Portman introduced similar legislation in November to reauthorize NAHA through FY 2022. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- Leading in Recycling Efforts: Senator Portman has taken the lead in the Senate to introduce legislation to help educate and promote recycling in communities in Ohio and across the country, which will help increase recycling rates and reduce contamination in the recycling stream.
- In November 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan RECYCLE Act to create a new federal grant program through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help educate households and consumers about their residential and community recycling programs. This legislation has already received widespread praise from recycling groups, key business leaders, and national recycling stakeholders. In the New Year, he will introduce another bill to incentivize upgrades to recycling infrastructure, which will allow waste management entities to more effectively collect and sort recycled material or include additional types of material to recycle so that more material is diverted from landfills and reused.
- Promoting Conservation and Protecting Wildlife: As co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, Portman has worked to protect our natural resources and wildlife both at home and abroad.
- Senators Portman and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced legislation in January to reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (S. 310) to promote the long-term conservation, education, research, monitoring, and habitat protection for more than 380 species of migratory birds. The bill was signed into law as part of the public lands package (P.L. 116-9) by President Trump in March 2019.
- In January 2019, President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan Tropical Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act (TFCA), which reauthorizes a program that has saved more than 67 million acres of tropical forest by allowing developing countries that meet certain criteria to be relieved of debt owed to the United States in exchange for their conservation efforts. In addition, the bill expands these efforts to coral reef ecosystems. To date, the TFCA program has sequestered 56 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of taking 11.8 million cars off the road. The bill was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- In March 2019, Portman introduced the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act, legislation to extend the authorization of a special postage stamp that funds conservation programs. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, since the first of these stamps went on sale in 2011, more than 50 million have been sold, raising more than $5.7 million. This has helped fund 99 projects in 35 countries. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- On February 26, 2019, U.S. Senators Portman and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a bipartisan resolution designating March 3, 2019 as “World Wildlife Day.” The resolution was unanimously passed in the Senate. The resolution supports raising awareness of the benefits that wildlife provides to people and the threats facing wildlife around the world.
- Leading in Energy Initiatives: Senator Portman has been a strong advocate for a comprehensive energy strategy while also protecting our environment. He has continually worked to keep Ohio’s energy sector competitive while promoting energy efficiency.
- In July 2019, Portman introduced the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC) with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). The measure contains important energy efficiency policy reforms that will strengthen the economy and reduce pollution without any new taxes or mandates. Components of the bill were signed into law by President Obama in April 2015 and are already helping individuals and companies use less energy, create jobs, and reduce emissions. Taken together, these bipartisan reforms include common-sense initiatives that will create nearly 200,000 new jobs, save consumers $15 billion annually in reduced energy costs, and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking nearly 13 million cars off the road. It has received widespread praise from business and efficiency leaders across the country. The Senate Energy Committee approved this legislation on September 25, 2019.
- In January 2019, President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation aimed at saving energy and protecting the environment by promoting the re-refining of used oil and other lubricants. Specifically, the bill requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update their 2006 study of the energy and environmental benefits of recycling used oil and develop specific policy options to increase the use of used oil to produce lubricants. The re-refining process, using used oil as the feedstock, is much more energy-efficient than using crude oil as the feedstock. Not only is the re-refining process more energy-efficient, but it also helps protect the environment.
- In June 2019, Portman introduced the Carbon Capture Improvement Act with Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO). This legislation would help power plants and industrial facilities finance the purchase and installation of carbon capture and storage equipment, allowing states like Ohio to continue to utilize our natural resources while reducing our impact on the environment. Specifically, this bill would allow businesses to use private activity bonds (PABs) issued by local or state governments to finance a carbon capture project, storing carbon dioxide that would have otherwise been emitted into the atmosphere.
- On September 26, 2019, the Senate unanimously passed Portman’s resolution designating October 2, 2019 as “National Energy Efficiency Day.” Senator Portman has introduced this resolution with Senator Shaheen for the past three years (2017, 2018, 2019). The resolution recognizes the economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency and celebrates the support of energy efficiency from a diverse coalition of businesses, environmental and conservation groups, public-private partnerships, and State and local governments.
- In October 2019, Portman announced the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded a nearly $1.5 million POWER grant to Shawnee State University. Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grants are a congressionally funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America's energy production. These funds will support Shawnee State’s Lights Inclusive program which combines shared knowledge, talent, and connections throughout their multi-state networks to create a system that leverages resources for those in recovery. Earlier this year, Portman sent a letter to ARC urging the awarding of this grant to Shawnee State.
This summer, Portman traveled nearly 700 miles along Ohio’s north coast. He saw federally-funded research at Ohio State’s Stone Laboratory at Gibraltar Island, hosted a tourism roundtable in Sandusky, visited ports in Cleveland and Ashtabula to highlight economic development, and held his annual fishing trip and Lake Erie roundtable in Lake County with federal, state, and local water quality experts. He will continue his efforts to make a difference for Ohio and be a leader in Washington in preserving and protecting our environment.
Increasing Transparency and Accountability Within the Federal Government
As Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senator Portman has worked hard to ensure that American taxpayers receive the transparency and accountability they deserve from the federal government.
- Unveiling Lack of Federal Response to China’s Talent Recruitment Plans. In November 2019, Portman unveiled a new bipartisan report that documents how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it. Over the course of an eight-month investigation, the Subcommittee examined seven federal agencies’ efforts to combat the theft of American taxpayer-funded research and technology through Chinese talent recruitment programs. While China has a strategic plan to acquire knowledge and intellectual property from researchers, scientists, and the U.S. private sector, the U.S. government does not have a comprehensive strategy to combat this threat. In a stunning admission during a hearing, Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) John Brown confirmed that the FBI should have taken more rapid and comprehensive action in addressing this issue. In 2020, Portman will introduce legislation to address this issue.
- Revealing Lack of Transparency and Reciprocity from China’s Confucius Institutes. In February, Portman unveiled a bipartisan report that details the lack of transparency in how American colleges and universities manage Confucius Institutes—which are located at more than 100 American colleges and universities and have received more than $150 million in support from the Chinese government. These Confucius Institutes are controlled, funded, and mostly staffed by the Chinese government. The report also details China’s one-sided treatment of U.S. schools and key State Department programs in China, and documents the lack of oversight by the Departments of State and Education of U.S. Confucius Institutes. In 2020, Portman will introduce legislation to address this issue.
- Revealing Total Cost of Recent Government Shutdowns. In September, Portman unveiled a bipartisan report that documents the cost to American taxpayers of the last three government shutdowns and the impacts they had on the economy and core government functions. The largest direct cost of these shutdowns is lost productivity, work not performed by furloughed federal employees. Over the past five years, the federal government has been fully or partially shut down for 52 days, costing taxpayers nearly $4 billion—$3.7 billion in back pay to federal workers who were furloughed and prohibited from going to work, and at least $338 million in other costs associated with the shutdowns, including extra administrative work, lost revenue, and late fees on interest payments. Moreover, the total amount of combined employee furlough days represents an estimated 56,938 years of lost productivity.
The Subcommittee based its cost estimate of nearly $4 billion on the information provided by 26 federal agencies. However, some agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, and the EPA were unable to provide basic information about employee furloughs, including back pay, for certain shutdowns. In addition, some agencies were unable to provide information about additional costs and impacts associated with the shutdowns, so the total cost is likely higher. This raises serious questions about those agencies’ ability to perform effective oversight of its own employees. The report also makes several recommendations, including for Congress to enact an automatic continuing resolution (CR) to permanently prevent federal government shutdowns.
- Highlighting Abuse of Online Regulatory Comment Systems. In October, as Chairman of PSI, Portman released a bipartisan report that documents abuses of the federal government’s online regulatory comment systems and the government’s lack of sufficient response to those abuses. When the online comment system is not safeguarded from abuse, it limits Americans’ ability to engage in the rulemaking process and provide meaningful input on proposed rules being developed by federal agencies. Portman is working on legislation to address the issue.
- Detailing Equifax’s Repeated Failures to Protect American’s Sensitive Information. In March, Portman released a report detailing the repeated failures over years on the part of Equifax, one of the nation’s largest consumer reporting agencies, that led to a devastating data breach in 2017. As a result of poor cybersecurity practices, Equifax failed to adequately protect the sensitive information of more than 145 million Americans, including information on driver’s licenses, passports and Social Security numbers. In July, Equifax agreed to pay up to $700 million to settle consumer claims and federal and state investigations into its 2017 data breach.
- Rebuilding Our Aging Infrastructure. In 2015, Portman got his bipartisan Federal Permitting Improvement Act signed into law as Title 41 of the FAST Act (FAST-41). In 2018 Portman introduced the Federal Permitting Reform and Jobs Act, which would make the FAST-41 improvements permanent and build on his efforts to streamline the permitting process in 2015. In May 2019, Portman chaired a hearing entitled “Oversight of Federal Infrastructure Permitting and FAST-41.” In his opening remarks, he highlighted the need to build on efforts to streamline the permitting process and praised the work of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, which saved infrastructure projects more than $1 billion in avoided delays.
- Modernizing Constituent Services. In August 2019, the Senate passed Portman’s bipartisan Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents (CASES) Act. The legislation will update and streamline the casework privacy release form process used by congressional offices to assist constituents in contacting federal agencies. The CASES Act gives constituents the option to electronically authorize congressional offices to engage with federal agencies on their behalf by modernizing an outdated provision of the Privacy Act of 1974. Under current law, Members of Congress must obtain written authorization from a constituent before taking action to resolve the individual’s case. This bill will help to modernize an outdated and often inconvenient process that can create unnecessary delays in issue resolution. President Trump signed the legislation into law on August 23, 2019.
Fighting for Better, More Affordable Health Care
Senator Portman continued to fight for a better health care system that lowers the cost of coverage, provides access to quality care, and protects the most vulnerable in our society. Health care costs are still too high, and as a result, Ohio families and small businesses continue to see their premiums and deductibles increase.
- Ensuring Affordable Coverage for Americans with Pre-Existing Condition. In April, Portman joined Senate Republicans in introducing the Protect Act, legislation that protects Americans with pre-existing conditions and ensures that they will never be denied health care coverage or be charged more because of a pre-existing condition. The Protect Act amends the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to (1) guarantee the availability of health insurance coverage in the individual or group market, regardless of pre-existing conditions; (2) prohibit discrimination against patients based on health status – including prohibiting increased premiums for patients due to pre-existing conditions; and (3) prohibit insurance companies from excluding coverage of treatments for a beneficiary’s pre-existing condition.
- Creating Competition in the Prescription Drug Marketplace. In March 2019, Portman joined his Senate colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Biologic Patent Transparency Act in an effort to encourage competition in the prescription drug marketplace and put an end to the harmful patent strategies that block new drugs from coming to market. The Biologic Patent Transparency Act would require companies to publicly disclose the web of patents that protect their biologics, making it easier for competitors to evaluate and plan for the development of generic versions of these drugs. It would also discourage late-filed patents and require the FDA to regularly publish information in its “Purple Book” on approved biologics, such as patents, exclusivity, and biosimilarity.
- Cracking Down on High Prescription Drug Prices. In July 2019, Portman joined members of both parties on the Senate Finance Committee in approving the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, bipartisan legislation to crack down on high prescription drug prices. During the committee’s markup, Portman delivered opening remarks outlining his support for the bill.
- Helping Retirees Keep Their Health Coverage. Portman introduced bipartisan legislation in August 2019 that will extend for five years the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) for retirees who lost their health care coverage — in addition to their pensions and other benefits — when their employers either entered into bankruptcy or laid-off workers due to foreign trade. The HCTC is critically important for many hardworking Ohioans, including as many as 5,000 Delphi salaried retirees in Dayton, the Mahoning Valley, and Sandusky. The HCTC, which is set to expire on January 1, 2020, helps to reduce the cost of maintaining health insurance coverage for a number of individuals that are either receiving TAA benefits or are between the ages of 55-64 years old whose pensions were terminated and are being administered by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. This legislation was included in the final FY 2020 funding bill and signed into law on December 20, 2019.
- Ensuring Children Get the Medical Care They Need. In April 2019, the Senate passed Senator Portman’s ACE Kids Act to improve health outcomes and care coordination for children with complex medical conditions on Medicaid. This legislation will make it possible for healthcare providers to coordinate care, lower costs, and improve quality outcomes for children with complex medical conditions on Medicaid who require specialized care. President Trump signed the legislation into law on April 19, 2019.
- Combating Infant Mortality. In October 2018, Portman sent a letter to Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D. in support of Ohio receiving more than $5 million to fund Healthy Start Programs across Ohio. In March 2019, Ohio received the funding which will provide resources to help reduce the state’s overall infant mortality rate while addressing many of the social determinants of health that adversely affect the women and children of Ohio. Lucas County was awarded $1.1 million, Five Rivers Health Centers in Dayton received $1.1 million, Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati $1.07 million, the City of Cleveland received $950,000, and the City of Columbus received $1.1 million.
- Expanding Bed Counts in Order to Treat More Children. In November 2019, Portman announced that he secured a change in the final Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System rule, which will allow for University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland to expand their bed count. Portman pressed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that, given the limited use of Medicare in children’s hospitals, the Medicare HwH rule was arcane and was holding UH Rainbow back from serving the community. CMS agreed and finalized a rule to lift the HwH rules for children’s hospitals. As a result, UH Rainbow can expand and add additional wards and units to support the growing demand for pediatric care in Cleveland.
- Addressing Lack of Transparency in Hospice Care. In November 2019, Portman introduced the Hospice Care Improvement Act – to address the lack of safety protocols and transparency in hospices across the country. Following the release of reports (found here and here) in July from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighting specific instances of patient harm in hospices and a lack of transparency to highlight potential patient abuses and facility deficiencies, this legislation would act on recommendations from HHS, patients, and industry experts to ensure patient safety.
- Streamlining ACA Employer Reporting Requirements. The Commonsense Reporting Act that Senator Portman introduced in August 2019 will streamline and modernize ACA reporting requirements, ensuring that the Treasury Department has the necessary data to determine availability of affordable coverage, while cutting down on unnecessary paperwork and administrative costs for businesses.
Portman received the American Network of Community Options and Resources’ (ANCOR) Congressional Champion Award in October for his leadership in supporting policies, like his efforts to extend the Money Follows the Person Demonstration Program, that help people with disabilities. ANCOR is a national, nonprofit trade association representing more than 1,600 private community providers of services to people with disabilities.
Helping All Ohioans Reach Their God-Given Potential
This Congress, Portman continued his work to ensure that all Ohioans can succeed in life by removing barriers that would have impeded Habitat for Humanity’s work to provide affordable housing to low-income families and help those with a criminal record from becoming productive members of society.
- Renewing the Second Chance Act. In December 2018, the president signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and strengthen the Second Chance Act, a law that supports state and local reentry programs to reduce recidivism. Then-Congressman Portman originally authored the Second Chance Act with the late-Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and it was signed into law in 2008. Since 2009, more than 850 Second Chance Act grant awards have been made to government agencies and nonprofit organizations from 49 states for reentry programs serving adults and juveniles. As of June 2018, more than 164,000 individuals have participated in these programs. In total, Ohio has received more than $39 million in Second Chance Act grants since 2009, which assist Ohioans re-entering the community with services such as job training, drug rehabilitation, case management and mental health treatment.
- In April 2019, the Senate passed Portman’s resolution to designate April as “Second Chance Month” and honor those who work to remove unnecessary barriers that prevent those with a criminal record from becoming productive members of society. Portman is the author of the Second Chance Act, legislation designed to help break the cycle of recidivism through drug treatment and job training, which makes our community safer, saves taxpayer dollars, and most importantly, helps former inmates fulfill their God-given potential.
- Improving Education Opportunities for Ex-Offenders. In September 2019, Portman announced new bipartisan, bicameral legislation to address a systematic injustice within the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The AOTC is the primary tax credit available to students seeking a higher education; however, students with a prior felony drug conviction are permanently ineligible from using the credit. This backwards requirement makes it more difficult to ensure successful reentry for those who have served their time by limiting their ability to advance their education and pursue a career. The Members’ Eliminating Discrimination and Creating Corridors to Expand Student Success Act (ED ACCESS Act) would fix this inequity by repealing the lifetime ban.
- Supporting Habitat for Humanity. Having volunteered and participated in dozens of builds for more than 20 years, Portman is a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity, which helps provide affordable housing to low-income families. In August 2017, following his successful “Buckeye Build” in 2016, Portman returned to Cleveland to participate in another build and volunteered again on his birthday in December 2019. Portman is also using his platform as a U.S. Senator to help Habitat assist families throughout Ohio and the country. Portman’s Housing Opportunities Made Easier (HOME) Act, legislation designed to ensure that Habitat for Humanity affiliates and other organizations can receive donated appraisals on the homes they build, was signed into law on May 24, 2018. In November 2019, Portman was named an honoree by Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. at its 30th anniversary gala.
- Stopping Preventable Evictions: Portman and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) teamed up to introduce the Eviction Crisis Act to address the national housing crisis crippling millions of Americans who are struggling to rise into the middle class. The bipartisan legislation will shed light on the root causes of the eviction crisis, reduce preventable evictions, and limit the devastation to families when eviction is unavoidable. Stable housing is a vital part of getting people back on their feet. This legislation will help prevent avoidable evictions, reduce homelessness, and make it easier for people to escape poverty by keeping a roof over their heads.
- Helping Families Engage With Incarcerated Family Members. Portman joined bipartisan colleagues in June 2019 to introduce the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act. This bipartisan bill would help families keep in touch with their incarcerated family members, which studies have shown can help reduce recidivism rates and thereby save taxpayer dollars. This targeted legislation would address long-standing concerns about the prohibitively expensive and predatory price of phone calls that incarcerated individuals at correctional facilities across the U.S. are forced to pay if they want contact their family or friends.
Other Portman Accomplishments
In addition to helping lead efforts to create more jobs and opportunity, strengthen retirement security, close the skills gap, combat addiction, end human and sex trafficking, bolster the national defense, and protect our environment, Portman has also been a leader on other issues. Here is a look at some of his other accomplishments over the past year:
- Confirming Judges Who Will Affirm the Constitution. Since 2016, Portman has been proud to support the confirmation of 187 Article III judges, including Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, 50 judges for the United States Courts of Appeals, 133 judges for the United States District Courts and two International Trade Court judges.
- Helping Ohio Constituents. In 2019, Senator Portman and his casework team opened 3,133 cases (as of 12/31/19) to help Ohioans in need. 2,381, or 91.2 percent, of those cases were closed favorably. Throughout his time in the Senate, Portman and his team have opened a total of26,680 cases and have closed 22,072, or 82.72 percent, of those cases favorably.
Senator Portman has fought for all Ohioans and continued to deliver results for them. He helped lead the effort to reform the broken tax code to create more jobs and boost wages. He has led the effort to combat America’s drug epidemic. He has led the effort to help stop online sex trafficking. He has consistently stood up for American global leadership and Ohio’s servicemembers, and much, much more. Senator Portman will continue to deliver results for Ohio in the second half of the 116th Congress.