Throughout 2018, I worked with my colleagues and President Trump to accomplish a great deal across Kentucky – from Paducah to Pikeville. We legalized industrial hemp, opening new doors of opportunity for farmers. We bolstered funding for our military and our veterans. And we helped protect families from the scourge of the opioid epidemic and the terrors of human trafficking.
My most important responsibility is representing you as Kentucky’s senior Senator. Hearing from families like yours, I’ve continued to make delivering for you a national priority, and I’d like to share with you just a few examples of my work.
In the Farm Bill, we protected crop insurance, extended nutrition programs, and deployed rural broadband. Importantly, the bill also included an initiative I wrote that legalized industrial hemp, one of my biggest legislative priorities for 2018, that will help Kentucky farmers explore the full potential of this versatile crop.
Since President Trump was elected, I’ve prioritized the confirmation of brilliant judges to our federal courts. In fact, the Senate confirmed the most circuit court of appeals judges in a president’s first two years since the creation of the modern circuit courts system in 1891. We persevered through the intimidation tactics of the far-left to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And three talented Kentuckians I recommended were confirmed to federal district courts in our state.
In August, I attended the opening of the Olmsted Locks and Dam on the Ohio River near Paducah. As one of its leading advocates from the very beginning, I helped secure the federal resources to construct this massive public infrastructure project.
To continue vital cleanup work performed by over 1,000 Western Kentuckians, I directed resources for the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant and its workers. In April, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry visited the site and expressed his support for the Department of Energy’s environmental cleanup responsibilities.
Partnering with local officials, including Lyon County Judge-Executive Wade White, I have helped lead the federal fight against Asian Carp. We bolstered the national response and directed U.S. Fish and Wildlife to focus its efforts combating the carp in Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.
This October, the Rough River Lake community successfully ended its struggle with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps attempted to charge homeowners outrageous administrative fees for decades-old surveying mistakes made by the federal government, but I blocked them and required the government to reimburse anyone who already paid.
Hearing about Louisville’s needs, I shepherded through legislation that allowed for the study of the city’s aging flood control system and secured funding for Louisville’s Printing House for the Blind.
When Senate Democrats stripped a tax provision protecting Berea College – which provides tuition-free education – I ensured the school can continue helping many students from low-income households in Appalachia afford their degrees.
Passage of a landmark opioids law boosted our comprehensive efforts to combat opioid addiction. Included in the bill was my CAREER Act, which was developed with treatment professionals and business leaders to help promote long-term sobriety for individuals in recovery through a stable job and reliable housing. In addition, I supported Montgomery and Powell counties’ inclusion in the “High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas” (HIDTA) program, bringing increased coordination, equipment, and technology to help law enforcement stop the flow of drugs.
Communities throughout Kentucky were awarded competitive federal grants, bringing critical resources to projects in our state. I was proud to support many of these applications. For example, Northern Kentucky received a competitive federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for improvements along I-71/I-75. The Department also approved resources to revitalize an important corridor in Frankfort and for infrastructure projects in Owensboro, Murray, and Somerset. The University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research also received grant resources to support the advancement of clean coal technology to help ensure that coal remains an affordable and reliable energy source for years to come.
With Eastern Kentucky communities and organizations like the Appalachian Regional Commission, I’m working to repair the economic damage left by former President Obama’s War on Coal. I’m dedicated to supporting more economic development and infrastructure funding to help this wonderful region.
In response to Pike County leaders’ desire to draw increased tourism to the local economy, we collaborated to extend the whitewater rafting season at Breaks Interstate Park and secured funds to remove trash from Fishtrap Lake. In addition, when Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College nearly lost its ability to offer federal student aid programs, I championed legislation to stop that from happening so students may still access higher education in the region and pursue successful careers.
Last but certainly not least, our Commonwealth is the proud home of military installations critical to our national defense. I secured much-needed assistance for Fort Campbell, Fort Knox, and the Blue Grass Army Depot, helping the men and women serving there keep America safe.
I’m proud of what we accomplished for Kentucky families in 2018. Clearly, the last two years were the most productive of my entire Senate career in moving Kentucky and our country in the right direction. With your continued input, I look forward to serving Kentucky and delivering on more of our Commonwealth’s priorities in 2019.
Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, is the Senate Majority Leader.
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