115th Congress Update
Greetings from Florida’s 15th Congressional District! With the start of the 115th Congress, it is truly an honor to serve you, and to welcome those who are new to the district.
This is an exciting time with the start of a new Administration and Congress. Within just a few weeks, we are already dismantling the failed policies of the past 8 years. We have passed legislation to start repealing and replacing Obamacare, protect the unborn, fix our tax code, and reform the process by which federal agencies implement regulations on hard-working taxpayers.
I have also already introduced multiple pieces of legislation to better serve you and all Americans, including measures to help our veterans receive the benefits they have earned, finish the fence along our Southwest border, and enable students to pay down their student loan debt.
Additionally, I am proud to announce that I have returned nearly $650,000 of my Congressional office budget back to the U.S. Treasury since first being elected. I am committed to demonstrating that federal entities can all do more with less and survive on tight budgets, just like the people of District 15.
In order to keep you informed about the work I am doing for you in D.C., below is some information about the bills I have introduced so far this Congress:
The FOSTER Act and Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act
Nearly every day, I speak to or hear about veterans who say they were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, but are unable to receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for their diseases associated with this toxic herbicide because the Department of Defense (DOD) does not acknowledge Agent Orange was used or present in the areas they claim to have been exposed.
In order to help them qualify for VA benefits, I introduced the FOSTER Act and am an original cosponsor of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.
The FOSTER Act would grant presumptive Agent Orange exposure status to U.S. service members who served on U.S. military ships in the waters off the coast of Vietnam or in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa during the Vietnam War and suffer from any of the diseases the U.S. Government has linked to Agent Orange.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act would provide the same presumptive status to those veterans who served on U.S. military ships in the waters off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. These bills will allow veterans to receive VA benefits for their medical ailments associated with Agent Orange.
I will not let the DOD drag its feet on this or allow a “delay and deny until they die” attitude toward our courageous veterans. We must quickly provide our veterans the help and services they deserve.
Finish the Fence Act
Securing our border must be a top priority. It is the first incremental step in improving our immigration system and protecting our homeland. I am happy this priority is shared by President Trump.
Florida alone has the third largest population of illegal immigrants in the U.S.—nearly 900,000. We must put a halt to this ever increasing illegal entry, which is why I immediately reintroduced my Finish the Fence Act. This bill directs the Department of Homeland Security to complete the required 700-mile fence along our Southwest border.
We are a proud nation of immigrants, and even my own great-grandparents were Hungarian immigrants. However, we are also a nation of laws that must be enforced. This is also an issue of national security. ISIS is looking for every possible opportunity and weakness within our security systems to infiltrate and kill Americans, including radicalizing those illegally entering through our porous borders.
Student Loan Repayment Act
Unfortunately, most students today are saddled with extraordinary debt and are entering one of the weakest economic recoveries in history. More than 43 million Americans owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loans, with a repayment delinquency rate of 11.6 percent. That’s more than $150 billion in student loan delinquency, not including interest. This is a serious problem we cannot continue to ignore.
I reintroduced the Student Loan Repayment Act so we can help students pay back their student loans quicker, as well as provide tax incentives to employers who hire individuals with student loans and take part in the employee-employer repayment match program. Overall, this bill is designed to help students become gainfully employed and pay off their loans while employers are benefitted by hiring skilled and educated employees with a vested interest in long-term employment.
As we focus on helping students repay their student loans, improve their credit, and contribute to society, I will continue working with my colleagues on solutions to create jobs and boost our economy.
Zero-based Budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight (ZERO) Act
With our national debt reaching nearly $20 trillion, we must take all measures possible to eliminate egregious government spending and ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. That is why I reintroduced a solution to end out-of-control spending and reduce the federal budget. Entitled the ZERO Act, this bill requires agency and department managers to justify every line item on their budgets each year so we can rein in the waste, fraud and abuse of massive government bureaucracies.
Zero-based budgeting puts every cost on the table to be reviewed for relevancy and effectiveness. It is also used as a tool in the private and public sectors to curb inflation and identify waste. American families and small businesses across District 15 and the U.S. know the best way to balance their budgets is to start at zero. Washington needs to follow their lead.
Protecting Our Children Act
As a father, it's horrific and troubling to know that there are people out there who prey on our children. Currently, private employers who cater to children are forbidden from using polygraph tests when hiring, and thus, are unable to weed out potential child predators from working in their companies.
I reintroduced the Protecting Our Children Act so we can give these businesses more tools to help prevent another precious child from becoming a victim. This bill would amend the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 by providing private employers whose businesses regularly interact with children the option to polygraph test potential employees during the hiring process. These polygraph tests would help identify child sex predators who pose a threat and should not be around our children.
Children are our most precious resource, and we must keep them safe from harm in every possible way.
National Academy of Inventors
Lastly, I proudly reintroduced my bill to grant a federal charter to the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) to further recognize the dynamic role of academic innovation.
This bill will help today’s inventors throughout District 15 and the U.S. continue to develop leading edge technology that focuses on providing a better future for America. Members of the NAI have the great ability to innovate, but without funding or recognition, their inventions are just a dream.
The NAI is a nationwide network of charters hosted at many universities with their main headquarters located at the University of South Florida. I will continue to encourage my colleagues to pass this vital legislation so we can give our students the opportunity to conduct proper research and development to create the new technologies that will keep our nation at the forefront of innovation.
So I may better serve you, I have opened a new office in Lake County in Clermont. If you need help with a federal agency, please do not hesitate to contact or stop by any of my district office locations below:
Clermont Office, Lake County
685 W. Montrose Street
Clermont, FL 34711
Tel: (352) 727-2248
Fax: (863) 648 – 0749
Open Wednesdays and by appointment.
Lakeland Office, Polk County
170 Fitzgerald Road, Ste. 1
Lakeland, FL 33813
Tel: (863) 644 – 8215
Fax: (863) 648 – 0749
Open Monday through Friday.
Plant City Office, Hillsborough County
110 West Reynolds Street, Ste. 101
Plant City, FL 33563
Tel: (813) 752 – 4790
Fax: (863) 648-0749
Open Thursdays and by appointment.
If you would like to request D.C. tour information or to have an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol Building, please call my D.C. office at (202) 225-1252.
As always, please continue to write, call, and email your opinions to my office. I could not effectively represent you in Congress without the advice of my constituents. It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Congress.
May God bless you all, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Dennis A. Ross