The First Congressional District of New York is certainly one of the very best Congressional Districts in America. While a new president and new Congress debate legislation and other policy with a national and international focus, there are also some local priorities that are very important to us all as well here on the east end of Long Island. In this first of a two part op-ed, I will highlight some security, economic, veterans and law enforcement priorities impacting NY-1.
A top priority must always be to secure our communities from threats posed by dangerous individuals and illegal and abused narcotics. We have very real, ongoing homeland security threats within our own borders and we, as a community, must remain ever vigilant. Additionally, from a security perspective, curbing the drug epidemic in Suffolk County includes targeted enforcement to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into our country to keep drugs out of our communities and off of our streets. Much more can be done to keep our district safe, and we must ensure law enforcement personnel have every tool necessary to protect us. We must also address the serious risks posed to Long Island by the rising threat of cyber attacks. Many aspects of life have become computerized and without a substantial boost to cybersecurity capabilities, our local businesses, individuals, and government infrastructure are left vulnerable.
We must also continue to pursue solutions that help grow our middle class and improve the business climate within our district. The high cost of living on Long Island is one of the most commonly shared challenges we face. We must especially do everything possible to make Long Island more affordable for our seniors and young families. This can be assisted through tax relief and efforts to shut-down job killing red tape, such as the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which has recently passed the House. When businesses grow and stay local, they will create more good paying, private sector jobs, expand the middle class, and improve liquidity throughout our local economy. This includes supporting our local farmers.
The agriculture industry is such an important part of our life and culture here on Long Island that has been negatively impacted by red tape, which is why I’ve supported legislation, such as the Young Farmers Success Act. This bipartisan bill would add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which would help our local family farms and the young farmers in our district where the next generation has to choose between taking over the family business or paying their student loans.
I’ve also been outspoken about the need to repeal the death tax, which causes one-third of all family-owned small businesses to liquidate after the death of the owner.
It is also critical that we improve the management of our fisheries by making necessary reforms to our current fishing laws. We must reinvigorate Long Island’s tradition of saltwater fishing by clarifying federal regulations and reducing unneeded restrictions.
Additionally, the local science community, including Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook University, and other facilities, is an important economic factor and serves as some of the largest employers within our district. Efforts to secure funding to continue their great research also serves as a boost to our local economy.
Fighting for our veterans and first responders is also a priority for our district. Suffolk County has the highest population of veterans by county in New York State, as well as one of the highest in the entire country. These brave men and women deserve nothing but the highest quality of life and care. Veterans across New York are now able to receive assistance coping with PTSD and traumatic brain injury through the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Program, a peer-to-peer support program for veterans I established while serving in the State Senate.
We must also do more to ensure every veteran has a roof over their head. No veteran should ever be left homeless. There are also various issues at the VA facility in Northport that need to be addressed. Reforms at the VA from the national level to local level will help ensure no veteran is ever underserved. The VA must be held accountable to Congress, the media and American public, but most importantly, to our veterans.
I will also be working closely with my colleagues to ensure 9/11 first responders, many of whom live in our district, receive timely and proper delivery of health care for illnesses caused as a result of their selfless efforts at Ground Zero in the weeks and months that followed the attacks.
Our security, economy, veterans and law enforcement are some of the highest priorities to focus our local efforts on in 2017 and beyond. While there has been great past progress to write about, what is most important is to identify and tackle the many ways to do even more with each day and opportunity ahead.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) represents the First Congressional District of New York. He serves on the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs committees.
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