On September 10, 2015, I was honored to win a special election to represent the 18th District in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. It is hard to believe that it has been almost one year since taking office.
This last year has been an exciting and interesting time to be in politics and government, to say the least. Here are a few of the more memorable events from the year: attending the Pope's first-ever address to a joint session of Congress, Speaker of the House John Boehner abruptly resigning from Congress, the election of new Speaker Paul Ryan, attending President Obama’s last State of the Union address to Congress, and serving as the Illinois chair for Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign.
Beyond these memorable events, there was work to be done and legislation to pass to meet the many challenges facing our country. I was proud to take a leadership role on several key issues, such as serving on the conference committee with the U.S. Senate for the FAST Act—the first long-term transportation and infrastructure bill passed in a decade. We also passed a bipartisan education reform bill to replace “No Child Left Behind,” giving more power to local communities and school districts.
When I was sworn into office, it was a priority of mine to stay grounded to the district and not forget who I worked for. I have returned to my district almost every weekend since my election, and I have not missed any of the 686 roll-call votes.
At home, I regularly look to my constituents for feedback regarding issues we are facing. In May, I held a series of roundtable forums in Peoria, Springfield and Quincy to discuss the tragedy of opioid and heroin addiction. Based on feedback from these forums and from constituents, I went back to D.C. and assisted in crafting comprehensive legislation to help address this crisis and ensure resources are brought to Illinois. On July 22nd, this bipartisan, bicameral legislation was signed into law.
Additionally, throughout the past 12 months, I toured and spoke with countless mental health facilities, hospitals, medical professionals, patients and families who all stressed the gravity of addressing the mental health crisis in America. Because of these conversations, I co-authored the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016, which the House passed on June 6th.
Many legislative accomplishments can occur when constituents are able to share their voice with their elected officials. Whether it’s the members of my Veterans Advisory Board discussing healthcare flaws, or my Agriculture Advisory Board explaining the detriment of excessive government regulations, I will continue to carry these frustrations back to D.C., advocate for their viewpoints and work to translate these discussions into measurable change.
Overall, if I can reflect the values of those who elected me to office, I can best represent the people of central and west-central Illinois in our nation’s capital. It is a privilege to serve, and I look forward to continuing to work hard to build upon our successes. iBi