Rob’s Rundown: Week of September 17-21, 2018

September 24, 2018 | Rob's Rundown

This week, a number of Senator Portman’s key priorities in fighting the opioid epidemic advanced in the Senate.  For example, the Senate passed Portman’s bipartisan STOP Act as well as his bipartisan CRIB Act and a number of initiatives from his bipartisan CARA 2.0 Act with overwhelming support of 99 to 1.  Portman also introduced new bipartisan legislation to expand Americans’ access to treatment for opioid addiction by lifting the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion, saying he would fight for this policy to be included in the final House-Senate opioid package.  In addition to his legislative efforts, Portman participated in an opioid roundtable in Dayton with the Montgomery County ADAMH Services Board, local law enforcement, and the Montgomery County Public Health. Portman also took additional steps forward holding HHS accountable for the safety of unaccompanied minors, introducing the Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act to help ensure these children’s safety and require HHS to run background checks and follow up with sponsors, and authorize additional immigration judges to process cases more quickly. Portman also highlighted his key Ohio priorities included in the FY 2019 Department of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies conference report, which includes funding for the Abrams tanks and Stryker vehicles built in Lima, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Camp Ravenna, and the opioid epidemic. Lastly, Portman received the Order Of St. Volodymyr Medal from from Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret in recognition of his leadership and continuous support of Ukraine. 

For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following: 

Monday, September 17 

Jewish National Fund Honors Portman at The Annual Tree of Life Award Dinner 

Portman was honored with the Jewish National Fund’s Tree of Life Award. The Tree of Life Award is a humanitarian honor given in recognition of outstanding community involvement, dedication to the cause of American-Israeli friendship, and devotion to the peace and security of human life. 

“It was an honor to receive the Tree of Life Award,” said Portman. “It represents so many things I care deeply about—the special bond between the U.S. and Israel, community involvement, and helping others. Throughout my career, I have worked to strengthen the bond between the U.S. and Israel, and I will continue in that effort. Although the rest of the Middle East—and, at times, the world—stand opposed to Israel, I’ll continue working to ensure that, with the United States as an ally, Israel does not stand alone. Like JNF’s vision that made the desert bloom, we should work together for a future where the U.S.-Israel relationship continues to flourish, with ever deepening bonds that come from common values, a common heritage, and a common love for democracy and freedom.”

 

Senate Passes Portman’s STOP Act to Help Combat Opioid Epidemic 

Portman applauded the Senate for passing bipartisan opioid legislation that includes Portman’s bipartisan STOP Act as well as his bipartisan CRIB Act and a number of initiatives from his bipartisan CARA 2.0 Act, which builds on the progress of his Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) that became law in 2016. The measure passed by a vote of 99 to 1. Portman issued the following statement: 

This comprehensive opioids package is designed to help turn the tide of this epidemic, and I’m pleased the Senate passed it in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion,” said Portman.We need to help more people get longer-term treatment to overcome the disease of addiction, and we need to do more to keep deadly fentanyl out of our communities. This legislation will do both. Across Ohio, what I hear as I meet with those on the frontlines of this crisis is that we need to combat the influx of fentanyl if we truly want to overcome this epidemic. That’s why it is so important that the STOP Act is included in this legislation. 

“Passing the STOP Act is a victory in our efforts to combat the newest and deadliest aspect of this opioid crisis: the overwhelming supply of cheap, deadly synthetic drugs like fentanyl. By closing the loophole in our international mail system that drug traffickers have exploited to ship fentanyl into the U.S., we can help law enforcement keep this poison out of our communities. This legislation will give more Americans who are gripped by addiction the chance to live up to their God-given potential. Congress is committing itself to putting politics aside and delivering results for the people we represent, and I look forward to this legislation being signed into law soon.”

 

Portman, Klobuchar Praise Senate Passage of Bipartisan STOP Act to Help Combat Influx of Fentanyl 

Senators Portman and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) praised the Senate for passing bipartisan opioid legislation that includes their bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act – which will stop criminal drug traffickers in countries like China from shipping synthetic opioids like fentanyl into the United States through the Postal Service. The measure passed by a vote of 99 to 1. The House passed the bill by an overwhelming bipartisan margin in June. Following the passage in the Senate, the House and Senate will reconcile the broader opioid bills passed by each chamber prior to sending it to the president to be signed into law. 

Passing the STOP Act is a victory in our efforts to combat the newest and deadliest aspect of this opioid crisis: the overwhelming supply of cheap, deadly synthetic drugs like fentanyl,” said Portman.By closing the loophole in our international mail system that drug traffickers have exploited to ship fentanyl into the U.S., we can help law enforcement keep this poison out of our communities. This legislation will give more Americans who are gripped by addiction the chance to live up to their God-given potential. I want to thank Senator Klobuchar for her leadership on this issue, and I look forward to this legislation being signed into law soon.”

 

Portman on the Senate Floor: With 72,000 Lives Lost Last Year, Action on the STOP Act is Critical 

Portman again delivered remarks on the Senate floor highlighting the need to enact his bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act to help combat the growing influx of dangerous synthetic opioids in our communities. The Senate approved comprehensive opioid legislation tonight that includes a number of Portman’s priorities, including the STOP Act, a number of provisions from his bipartisan CARA 2.0 Act, and his CRIB Act, among others. 

Said Portman in his speech: “It’s not a moment too soon. 72,000 lives lost last year, not just statistics. These are people with hopes, dreams, and families. We need to help those gripped by addiction break free from its grips. We need to give law enforcement the tools they need to stop these poisons from infiltrating our country and commit ourselves to additional resources at the federal level that can help our states, local communities, and the private sector respond. The comprehensive opioid legislation that we’re voting on today, including the STOP Act and more, will help do just that.” 

A transcript of his remarks can be found here and a video can be found here.

 

Tuesday, September 18

 

Portman, Durbin, Cardin, Brown Introduce New Legislation to Lift IMD Exclusion, Help More Americans Get Treatment for Addiction 

Senators Portman, Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced new bipartisan legislation to expand Americans’ access to treatment for opioid addiction by lifting the Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) exclusion.  The IMD exclusion is an arcane, decades-old policy that prohibits states from using federal Medicaid dollars to pay for treatment at residential mental health or substance abuse facilities with more than 16 beds.  This policy limits access to treatment, hampers behavioral health parity, and prevents many Americans from getting the help they need. The senators’ bipartisan bill would lift this outdated cap, covering all substance-use disorders, so more Americans can access treatment services at these inpatient facilities. The text of the measure is here

“Lifting the IMD exclusion is one of the most important things we can to do expand access to treatment right now for those who truly need it,” said Senator Portman.  “I’m pleased that the House and Senate are taking action to combat this opioid epidemic, but we should not let this opportunity pass us by without finally resolving this IMD issue once and for all.  This new legislation represents a thoughtful, bipartisan solution that will expand access to treatment while targeting the cost, and we will push for its inclusion in the final House-Senate opioid package.”

 

Portman Praises Senate Passage of Funding for Abrams Tanks and Stryker Vehicles 

Portman announced that the FY 2019 Department of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies conference report that passed the Senate includes $1.5 billion in funding to upgrade 135, or 1.5 brigades worth, of 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 conference report also includes $265 million for upgrading Stryker Vehicles to increase troop survivability and mobility, enough to complete 82 hull conversions.  Earlier this year, Portman led a letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) urging them to increase the authorization for funding for modernizing Stryker Vehicles in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Portman released the following statement: 

“This funding supports our troops both at home and around the globe, and passage of this bill continues our efforts to rebuild our military.  The newest Abrams tank is a vital investment for our soldiers to meet the realities highlighted in the latest National Defense Strategy and they have already started coming off the line at Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima. This is important for our armored formations and for Lima and its irreplaceable workforce.” 

“I am also pleased that this bill provides additional resources to upgrade the hulls of 82 Stryker vehicles.  These hull improvements are an investment in our soldiers and will better protect them from the current threats on today’s modern battlefield.   I’m hopeful this funding will provide longer-term stability to the industrial base and ensure our soldiers have timely access to the most capable and survivable vehicle coming off the line. I look forward to the president signing this into law in the coming weeks.”

 

Portman Praises Senate Passage of New Opioid Funding 

Portman announced that the FY 2019 Department of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies conference report that passed the Senate includes $3.7 billion in new funding to help combat the opioid epidemic, including $232 million in funding for several evidence-based programs authorized by Portman’s Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA) in 2016. Portman issued the following statement:  

“This is good news for Ohio and the millions of Americans who continue to struggle with addiction. I’m particularly pleased that the legislation approved by the Senate today includes $60 million for states to develop an infant plan of safe care to help newborns exposed to opioids and their families, as well as $30 million for drug treatment grants for pregnant and postpartum women. I’m also pleased that there is $36 million for grants to equip first responders with Naloxone.  We are making progress in increasing resources for CARA programs that we know work, and I look forward to the president signing this into law in the coming weeks.”

 

Portman Praises Senate Passage of Funding for Cincinnati NIOSH Project 

Portman announced that the FY 2019 Department of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies conference report that passed the Senate includes funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to complete the site acquisition and construction of new projects like the $110 million NIOSH Facility in Cincinnati. The funding in this year’s bill will be instrumental in allowing for CDC to begin new projects at the beginning of the next fiscal year, when construction on the Cincinnati NIOSH facility is set to begin. 

The funding approved by the Senate today will help ensure that site acquisition and construction of the new Cincinnati NIOSH facility is completed,” said Portman. “The entire community is supportive of the project, which will ensure NIOSH remains an integral part of the city’s growing health care sector while bringing additional jobs to the community. I look forward to the president signing this into law in the coming weeks and will continue to work with local stakeholders, including leadership from the city, NIOSH workforce, and the local building trades to ensure this project’s success.”

 

Portman, Cardin Praise Committee Passage of their Bipartisan Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Act 

Senators Portman, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following statements after the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed their bipartisan legislation, the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Act (S. 1537), which would help sustain populations of migratory birds that face threats to their health and habitats. Their bill promotes long-term conservation, education, research, monitoring, and habitat protection for more than 350 species of migratory birds, including Ohio’s state bird, the northern cardinal, and Maryland’s state bird, the Baltimore oriole. The bill furthers investment in critical conservation programs that have demonstrated marked successes through public-private partnerships and innovative granting and conservation strategies. 

“Hundreds of bird species migrate through Ohio each year, making Lake Erie one of the most popular destinations for birdwatching,” Portman said.Birding contributes more than $20 million to Ohio’s tourism industry and attracts visitors from across the world each year. I am proud to work with Senator Cardin and my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation to protect and conserve these bird populations so that they may be enjoyed by future generations. I applaud the committee for approving this legislation and urge my colleagues to support it when it comes to the floor.”

 

Portman Receives Order of St Volodymyr Medal from Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret 

Portman, co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, received the Order Of St. Volodymyr Medal from from Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret. The award was given to Portman in recognition of his leadership and continuous support of Ukraine. 

“I’m deeply honored to receive the this award from Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret on behalf of the Ukraine Orthodox Church. America stands with the Ukrainian people in their struggle to secure a democratic, prosperous, and independent future for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” said Portman.  “As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and author of several provisions authorizing expanded U.S. military assistance — including lethal aid — and establishing the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, I will continue to do everything I can to help the Ukrainians defend themselves and maintain their territorial integrity.

 

Ohio Leaders Praise Senate Passage of Portman’s Bipartisan STOP Act 

Ohio leaders are praising Senator Portman’s work to pass his bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which is designed to help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders to drug traffickers here in the United States. The measure passed the Senate yesterday by a vote of 99 to 1 as part of a broader opioid package, and passed the House by a vote of 353-52 on June 14, 2018. To see what Ohio leaders are saying about the STOP Act and Portman’s leadership in combating the opioid epidemic, click here.

 

Portman, Blumenthal, Lankford, Carper Introduce Bill to Improve Care & Safety for Unaccompanied Minors, Accelerate Immigration Court Proceedings 

Based on new oversight findings from Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) showing that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could not determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,488 out of 11,254 children HHS had placed with sponsors based on follow-up calls between April 1 and June 30 of this year, U.S. Senators Portman, Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), James Lankford (R-OK) and Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced bipartisan legislation – the Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act (S.3474) – requiring HHS to keep better track of and care for these children.  This measure will both ensure the children’s safety and ensure they appear at their immigration court proceedings. 

Since 2015, PSI has been conducting oversight of HHS’ program to place unaccompanied minors with sponsors in this country following reports that HHS placed eight unaccompanied minors with human traffickers who put those children into forced labor in Ohio.  PSI, led by Chairman Portman and Ranking Member Carper, has documented its findings in two reports, one released on August 15, 2018 and the other on January 28, 2016.  PSI learned that no agency takes responsibility for enforcing sponsor agreements to care these children once HHS places children with sponsors.  HHS has started calling the children 30 days after placement.  In April, the Subcommittee learned that out of 7,635 calls made from October-December 2017, 28 children had run away from their sponsors, and HHS could not determine with certainty the location of 1,475 of them.  And now the Subcommittee has recently learned that FY 2018 Q3 results are similar.  From April 1 to June 30, 2018, HHS tried to call 11,254 UACs and their sponsors.  Twenty-five had run away from their sponsors, and HHS could not determine the whereabouts of 1,488 of those children. 

Based on those oversight findings, Senators Portman, Blumenthal, Lankford, and Carper introduced the Responsibility for Unaccompanied Minors Act.  The bill clarifies that HHS is responsible for ensuring these children’s safety.  It requires HHS to run background checks before placing children with sponsors, to make sure sponsors live up to their agreement to care for the children and ensure they appear at their immigration court proceedings, and to notify state governments before placing children in those states.  And it increases immigration court judges so the Department of Justice can process all immigration cases more efficiently.  

“Our goal with this bipartisan legislation is to address some of the problems we’ve found that led to HHS placing eight children with human traffickers and into forced labor in Ohio,” said Senator Portman. “This bill will ensure that we keep track of unaccompanied minors in our country, which will both help protect them from trafficking and abuse as well as help ensure they appear for their immigration court proceedings. These efforts are critical for safeguarding these children and upholding our immigration system. This isn’t a partisan issue.  The problems that exist today began during the previous administration and have continued under this one, and we have a responsibility to get it right.”

 

Wednesday, September 19

 

ABC News Highlights Portman’s STOP Act Approved by the Senate This Week 

On Monday, the Senate approved Senator Portman’s Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act as part of a broader opioid package by a vote of 99 to 1.  The bill will help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl from being shipped from countries like China to drug traffickers here in the U.S. through our own Postal Service.  In an interview with ABC News, Portman discussed his 18-month Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) investigation, which highlighted how easy it is to buy fentanyl online, even though the drug is illegal in the U.S. unless prescribed by a physician: 

“Shockingly easy. We did an 18-month investigation.  We were able to, with undercover help from the Homeland Security Department, find out what’s really happening and sadly traffickers are saying if you send it through the Post Office we can guarantee delivery. And this poison is killing more Americans than any other drug right now.” 

PSI, which Portman chairs, released a shocking bipartisan report in January detailing how drug traffickers exploit vulnerabilities in our international mail system to easily ship synthetic drugs like fentanyl from China into the United States though the U.S. Postal Service. The STOP Act will close the loophole that has allowed this to happen and give law enforcement the tools they need to identify suspicious packages, stop them in transit, test them, and keep more fentanyl from entering our communities.  

The bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives in an overwhelming bipartisan vote.  And with its passage in the Senate, Portman believes the bill will be signed into law soon.

 

In Dayton, Portman Participates in an Opioid Roundtable Discussion With Law Enforcement, Montgomery County Public Health, and the County ADAMH Services Board 

Portman participated in an opioid roundtable discussion with the Montgomery County ADAMH Services Board, local law enforcement, and the Montgomery County Public Health to highlight a three-year, $2 million first responders grant that was made possible through his bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act (CARA). In addition, the Montgomery County ADAMH Services Board received $670,000 in 2017 and $1.2 million in 2018 from the bipartisan 21st Century CURES Act, which Portman helped enact. This grant funds their Treatment Team’s home-based services in partnership with public health as well as Ambulatory Withdrawal Management that is embedded within local emergency departments, agencies, and the mental health crisis center.

“I had a productive meeting today with the Montgomery County Public Health, the County ADAMH Services Board, and law enforcement today to discuss how the opioid epidemic is impacting the community of Dayton,” said Portman. “The Montgomery County ADAMH Services Board is making terrific use of the funding they received through the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a bill I authored that became law in 2016. Their comprehensive approach to addressing addiction and its grip on our communities is exactly what is needed to help turn the tide of the opioid epidemic in Ohio. I’m pleased to see that several provisions in my CARA 2.0 bill passed the Senate earlier this week and will expand CARA’s funding levels to strengthen the federal response in combatting addiction. My STOP Act, which also passed the Senate this week, will help on the front end by keeping more synthetic drugs like fentanyl out of Ohio. This problem won’t be solved at the federal level, but I am working to help local groups like the ones I met with today have the support and funding they need to continue their good work.”

Senator Portman has led efforts in the U.S. Senate to provide more resources to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic.  Whether it was authoring the Drug-Free Communities Act to help stand up community-based coalitions to prevent drug abuse during his time in the House of Representatives, enacting signature legislation like his bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act, the Senate passing his Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act to combat the rise of fentanyl, or fighting for additional opioid funding for Ohio, Portman has taken a leadership role in fighting for more effective resources to combat this epidemic. 

Over the past year, much of the additional opioid funding that Portman has fought for has begun to provide direct assistance to those on the frontlines in Ohio.  Portman’s CARA law authorized an additional $181 million annually in discretionary spending for new programs to support evidenced-based prevention, treatment and recovery programs.  The most recent bipartisan funding agreement actually funded these CARA programs at $608 million, much higher than the authorized amount.  Portman’s CARA 2.0 Act would increase these authorization levels further.  In addition, Portman worked to secure $1 billion in new funding for state grants to fight opioid abuse in the 21st Century CURES ActHe’s also fought for more overall opioid funding, and helped secure approximately $3 billion in new opioid funding in the most recent bipartisan funding agreement. 

Pictures from the event can be found here.

 

Thursday, September 20

 

National Leaders Praise Senate Passage of Portman’s Bipartisan STOP Act 

National leaders are praising Senator Portman’s work to pass his bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which is designed to help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders to drug traffickers here in the United States. The measure passed the Senate on Monday by a vote of 99-1 as part of a broader opioid package, and passed the House by a vote of 353-52 on June 14, 2018. To see what national business leaders are saying about the STOP Act and Portman’s leadership in combating the opioid epidemic, click here.

 

Portman, Whitehouse Call on House-Senate Negotiators to Strengthen Opioids Bill With CARA 2.0 Provisions 

Senators Portman and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), lead sponsors of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) and the CARA 2.0 Act of 2018, are urging the inclusion of CARA 2.0 priorities in House-Senate negotiations over major opioid legislation recently passed by both chambers.  In a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and HELP Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), the senators call for Senate negotiators to retain provisions from the CARA 2.0 Act and consider incorporating additional proposals from their legislation in the final version.  The Senate could vote on the final opioids bill as early as next week. 

Every day, an average of 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose,” Portman and Whitehouse write.  “We must take this opportunity to advance a comprehensive approach to preventing and treating addiction while also supporting those in long-term recovery.  The policies laid out in the CARA 2.0 Act should be an integral part of that approach.” 

In particular, Portman and Whitehouse point to the need for CARA 2.0’s sensible requirements for using prescription drug monitoring programs, opioid prescribing limits, and a boost in funding to support the critical work of recovery community organizations—groups vital to any long-term response to the opioid crisis. 

Portman and Whitehouse’s first comprehensive bill, CARA, which was signed into law in 2016, ensures that federal resources are devoted to evidence-based education, treatment, and recovery programs that work.  CARA 2.0 builds on this effort by increasing the funding authorization levels to better coincide with the budget agreement reached earlier this year while laying out new policy reforms to strengthen the federal government’s response to the crisis.  

Beginning in 2014, as part of the process of drafting CARA, Portman and Whitehouse hosted five forums across the country with experts and practitioners from the prevention, treatment, law enforcement, and recovery communities to share best practices in their fields.  CARA authorized $181 million for these evidence-based education, treatment and recovery programs, and were funded at $608 million in fiscal year 2018.  

There is bipartisan agreement that more resources will be necessary to help turn the tide of this epidemic.  The budget agreement passed in February includes $6 billion in additional resources for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to respond to the opioid crisis. 

Read Portman and Whitehouse’s full letter here.

 

Friday, September 21

 

Portman Announces President Will Sign Into Law Funding for Wright Patterson Air Force Base’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center 

Portman announced that President Trump will sign into law the FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act conference report, which will provide $61 million to upgrade the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) located at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Portman had urged the Armed Services Committee’s leadership to authorize the funding, which it did as part of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report signed by the president recently.  The NDAA conference report authorized $182 million for phase one and two of the NASIC modernization effort. NASIC’s main campus facilities are overcrowded and require modernization to meet today’s missions. With significant total force growth that has outpaced their facility growth, NASIC has been forced to utilize antiquated World War II-era facilities on base and temporary structures. This investment in NASIC infrastructure will provide the command with much-needed secure spaces that meet the demands of the growing workforce and the associated information technology requirements of modern facilities. Portman released the following statement:

The mission of NASIC and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is critically important and I’m proud that this funding will help expedite important facility upgrades so that NASIC can continue its important work. I applaud the president signing this bill into law today because these new facilities are critical for NASIC to fulfill its increasingly important intelligence analysis mission for our Air Force and national policymakers.”

Portman Announces President Will Sign Into Law Conference Report that Funds Ohio Priorities

Portman announced that President Trump will sign into law the FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act conference report, which will provide funding for various programs to benefit our men and women in uniform, address our energy and water infrastructure needs, and fund needed improvements and innovations at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve care for our veterans, including programs to combat opioid abuse.  Portman issued the following statement: 

“This bipartisan measure includes a number of my key priorities, and I’m proud that it will benefit Ohio.  Specifically, it provides additional funding for CARA programs to combat opioid abuse at the VA, support Ohio’s defense installations, ensure cleanup at Piketon, and protect Lake Erie. I applaud the president for signing it into law so these resources can quickly head to Ohio.”

Portman Announces President Will Sign Into Law Funding for Camp Ravenna

Portman announced that President Trump will sign into law the FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act conference report, which includes $7.4 million to expand training capabilities at the Ohio National Guard’s Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center with a new automated machine gun range. This funding announcement follows the authorization Portman secured in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report for this investment in Camp Ravenna. Portman released the following statement: 

I am pleased that the president is signing this measure into law because it will help our National Guard units training at Camp Ravenna. A new automated multi-purpose machine gun range will give the Ohio Army National Guard an important, new, and much-needed training capability. It will provide our soldiers a realistic environment to meet their training requirements that currently is not available to them in the state of Ohio. As our men and women in uniform face dangerous threats around the world, it is important they have the necessary training, equipment, and facilities. I look forward to the president signing this legislation into law so these resources can head to Camp Ravenna soon.

 

Portman Announces President Will Sign Into Law Funding for Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant Cleanup

Portman announced that President Trump will sign into law the FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act conference report, which includes $26.8 million above the FY 2018 bipartisan funding agreement and $60 million above the president’s budget request to fully fund cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio. This includes $366.9 million for decontamination and decommissioning of the plant and $41 million for the onsite disposal cell. This funding is needed to maintain current employment levels for the decontamination and decommissioning work after Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced last spring that he would suspend the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) uranium barter program.

“The cleanup and redevelopment of Piketon is critical for jobs, economic development, and the future of Southern Ohio, and I’m pleased that the president is signing this measure into law today. I’m committed to ensuring there are sufficient resources for the cleanup work at Portsmouth and am pleased that Secretary Perry is committed to supporting long term, stable funding for Piketon.  I want to thank Secretary Perry for keeping his commitments thus far, including visiting the site with me last fall, committing to its cleanup, and reconsidering the Obama administration’s decision to end the domestic uranium enrichment demonstration program.  I will continue to work with my colleagues and the administration to ensure this site gets cleaned up and ready for redevelopment.”

Portman, Brown Announce President Will Sign Into Law Language to Protect Lake Erie 

Sens. Portman and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that President Trump will sign into law the FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act conference report, which includes important wins for Lake Erie. The measure includes language prohibiting the Army Corps of Engineers from dumping toxic material dredged from the Cuyahoga River shipping channel into Lake Erie without the approval from the State of Ohio.  

The measure also includes language requiring the Corps to make every effort to release its Chief’s Report for the Brandon Road Study by February 2019, which Senators Portman and Brown have repeatedly asked of the Corps. This report is crucial to ensuring that Asian Carp do not enter the Great Lakes and threaten the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry.  

“The Cleveland Harbor project is vital to all of Ohio and we must ensure that the dredged material is not inappropriately disposed of by dumping it in Lake Erie without approval by the Ohio EPA,” said Portman. “I’m glad this language to protect Lake Erie will be signed into law by the president and I will continue use every tool available to make sure both the city of Cleveland’s water supply and Lake Erie’s ecosystem is protected. I am also pleased that this legislation also urges the Corps to complete its Brandon Road Study by February 2019, which is crucial to protecting the Great Lakes’ from Asian Carp.” 

Together, Portman and Brown have fought to hold the Corps to its obligation to fully dredge the shipping channel and dispose of the dredged sediment in a way that protects Lake Erie, which is critical to protect the thousands of jobs that rely on the Port of Cleveland as well as the health and ecosystem of Lake Erie. Legislation they co-authored to keep toxic dredged material from the Cuyahoga River out of Lake Erie was signed into law in December 2016. 

In addition, Portman and Brown sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers urging the Corps to complete their Brandon Road Chief’s Report so that federal, state, and local policymakers can determine the most effective measure to prevent further Asian carp movement and protect the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry. Last June, an eight pound Silver carp was found just nine miles from Lake Michigan.

 

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 U.S. Senate passes legislation to fight opioid addiction

The U.S. Senate on Monday passed a package of legislation to address a nationwide opioid abuse epidemic that's become the leading cause of injury deaths in Ohio.

Among other things, it would authorize substance abuse and drug treatment grants, promote development of non-addictive painkillers, and keep synthetic opioids from entering the United States by mail. Both of Ohio's U.S. Senators backed the bill.

Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman authored the bill's provisions to crack down on mail shipments of synthetic opioids by requiring the U.S. postal service to electronically track international parcels that enter the United States, identify suspicious packages, and test them for drugs. An investigative subcommittee that Portman chairs found it's easy to purchase synthetic opioids from sellers in China and have them mailed to the United States.

In a Senate floor speech, Portman said two thirds of overdoses in Ohio are being caused by synthetic opoids like fentanyl, and there was an 850 percent nationwide increase in fentanyl overdose deaths between 2013 and 2017.

"The opioid crisis has continued to tighten its grip around communities across our country, and the emergence of fentanyl has presented a new challenge in turning the tide of this epidemic," Portman said. "Just as we were making progress this more deadly, less expensive scourge has come in to our families, our communities, and our states. That's why we need to take action."

The bill reauthorizes a number of anti-drug programs including the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Courts, Drug-Free Community prevention grants, and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grants, which focus on drug interdiction, Portman's office noted.

The package also includes a measure authored by Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown that allows Medicaid to pay for residential pediatric recovery services provided to babies born addicted to opioids. Brown's "Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies (CRIB) Act" would also clarify that babies can continue to be treated in residential pediatric recovery centers after one year of age.

"Ohio is at the heart of this crisis, and I have worked with my colleagues in both parties and with Senator Portman to pass laws to give Ohio more resources to deal with this crisis. It is important Congress passes this bipartisan legislation to make certain our states and communities are able to fight this epidemic," said a statement from Renacci.

The Senate measure is significantly different from opioid fighting legislation the U.S. House of Representatives passed in June. Negotiators will draft a compromise bill, and both legislative bodies will have to pass it before it can become law.

 

(U.S. Senate passes legislation to fight opioid addiction. Sabrina Eaton. Cleveland Plain Dealer. September, 17, 2018.)

 

New federal spending bill contains Ohio goodies

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives last week approved a $147 billion spending package for next year to fund military construction, energy and water projects as well as spending for veterans and congressional operations.

The package passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday by a lopsided margin with support from both Ohio Senators, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown.

On Thursday, it passed the House of Representatives  by a 377 to 20 margin with backing from all Ohio members of Congress, except for Miami County GOP Rep. Warren Davidson, who thought it spent too much money, and Wadsworth GOP Rep. Jim Renacci, who missed the vote to attend  a fundraiser for his U.S. Senate campaign against Brown.

Renacci submitted a statement to the Congressional Record that said he backed the bill because of its "critical funding for a number of Northeast Ohio priorities."

Other Ohio legislators said they were pleased it would include the following projects:

The bill contains money to fund dredging so boats can navigate Cleveland harbor, and language to block the Army Corps of Engineers from dumping the material it dredges from the channel into Lake Erie.

The Army Corps has been engaged in a long dispute with the state of Ohio over disposal of the sediment. The federal entity responsible for harbor dredging contends the material could safely be dumped in Lake Erie, but the state wants it put in a dedicated disposal facility because it fears industrial contamination in the sediment might pollute the lake. 

A statement from Portman called the Cleveland harbor project "vital to all of Ohio."

"I'm glad this language to protect Lake Erie was included in the conference report and I will continue to use every tool available to make sure both the City of Cleveland's water supply and Lake Erie's ecosystem is protected," Portman said.

The bill also includes language that would require the Army Corps to release its long-awaited Brandon Road Study on ways to prevent voracious Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes and threatening its ecosystem by crowding out native fish.

The carp imported from Asia in the 1960s have spread through the Mississippi River water system. An adult silver carp was recently found just nine miles from Lake Michigan.

In a speech on the U.S. House of Representatives floor, Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur said she was grateful that the bill prioritized addressing "the Asian carp threat to our freshwater Great Lakes ecosystem, as well as for funding to keep our Great Lakes ports open to shippers." 

The bill includes $7.4 millon to construct a multipurpose machine gun range at the Ohio National Guard's Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center, as well as $8.8 million in upgrades to ensure the Youngstown Air Reserve Station's main gate meets safety requirements.

"The men and women serving our country at Camp Ravenna and at Youngstown Air Reserve Station deserve the best tools and facilities available as they train for future missions," said a statement from Brown. "This investment will make critical upgrades to those facilities and will provide important support for those who have sworn to protect us."

It also contains $61 million to expand the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in the Dayton area.

"The work done at NASIC is not only vital to our local economy, but also critical to our national security," said a statement on the money from Dayton-area GOP Rep. Mike Turner. "This project cannot afford to be delayed by burdensome red tape, and I am proud that today's bill allows for swift availability of these funds."

The bill includes $400 million for cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Gas Diffusion Plant. Soil and groundwater at the former uranium enrichment facility are contaminated with a variety of hazardous materials.

"Cleanup at the Piketon plant is a priority, as workers continue their efforts to finish the project and ready the site for new investment," said a statement from Brown. "This funding will ensure cleanup can continue and workers remain on the job."

The Appalachian Regional Commission, which helps Ohio and 12 other states stimulate local economies, provide job training and support local infrastructure needs, gets $165 million from the bill.   

"While the Appalachian Regional Commission has already done so much for Ohio, we know there is plenty of work yet to do," said a statement from Brown. "This key investment will help connect Ohioans with jobs, strengthen local infrastructure, and provide greater educational and economic opportunities for the region."   

The bill provided around $2 billion for Veterans Administration infrastructure updates, as well as a $10 million pilot program to finance construction at veterans service organizations that would enhance their delivery of health and wellness services. Niles-area Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan says he fought for and secured the pilot program to provide hospice care tailored to the unique end-of-life care needs of combat veterans. 

The legislation provides $348 million for veterans' opioid treatment and prevention programs, and $52 million to continue to implement opioid safety initiatives outlined as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, as well as to develop programs aimed at ensuring that non-VA providers treating veterans comply with VA opioid safety standards.

(New federal spending bill contains Ohio goodies. Sabrina Eaton. Cleveland Plain Dealer. September 17, 2018.)

 

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