Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to travel across our state and meet with Ohioans from all walks of life, from veterans to teachers to business owners, workers, farmers and families. They told me about the problems they are facing in their lives and what Washington can do to help.
And while I was happy to see how much progress we are making in the Buckeye State, it was also apparent to me that the federal government isn’t living up to its responsibilities—either by holding back progress through inefficient practices, or by not doing enough in the places action is needed.
This month started with a water crisis in Toledo resulting from toxins caused by harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. This is an issue I’ve been working on for several years. I recently authored the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013. Even in this time of divided government and gridlock, I was able to guide this legislation through the Senate and the House, and in June, President Obama signed it into law.
For the first time ever, this legislation ensures federal agencies prioritize monitoring and mitigation efforts of harmful algal blooms in fresh water bodies such as Lake Erie.
I am hopeful that my legislation will help to ensure that events like the one we saw in Toledo become a thing of the past. Of course, for folks who were out of water during the recent crisis, they needed help immediately. So my staff and I loaded up the back of our cars with bottled water and headed to the city. When we arrived, I was moved by the hundreds of other Ohioans who had come to Toledo to do what they could, no matter how small, for their friends and neighbors.
While algae poses a threat to our freshwater economy that we must address, Ohio’s manufacturing sector is thriving. Over the past few weeks, I’ve held townhalls with employees from companies around our state, including Navistar, Honda, and Arcelor Mittal Steel. At each one, I heard a similar message. Ohio workers can compete with anyone, anywhere on a level playing field. What they need from Washington is better representation on the world stage and less red tape from DC.
That means opening up new markets to our goods. When products stamped Made in America are sold in stores from Beijing to Berlin, American workers benefit. We also need to make sure that the regulations Washington is imposing are worth their costs. I have introduced bipartisan legislation that would require a more comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of proposed new rules to ensure that the federal government doesn’t hold back job creators.
Lastly, I had the distinct privilege recently of honoring fifteen airmen, sailors, and soldiers who gave their lives in conflicts ranging from World War I to the Vietnam War as they finally received the military funeral they had earned. I joined members of the Missing in America Project — an organization dedicated to ensuring that veterans whose remains go unclaimed receive a proper burial—at a ceremony at the Dayton National Cemetery to ensure these brave men are never forgotten.
To help with this cause, I have introduced the Honor Those Who Served Act of 2014, which would expand the definition of persons eligible to request headstones or markers furnished by the Department of Veterans Affairs for unmarked graves for our nation’s veterans.
As a state and a nation, we face challenges. But in my role as your United States senator, I am fortunate to see examples, every day, of Ohioans who are addressing those challenges and making the world a better place. I will continue to do my part to ensure that the federal government is an ally, rather than a stumbling block, in their efforts.
Sen. Rob Portman represents Ohio in the Senate and is a guest columnist.