WASHINGTON—The U.S. House of Representatives this week approved two bipartisan bills to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, 2020, which contain numerous measures spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Fla. These include Murphy-led measures to fund gun violence research, to help states secure their election infrastructure, to combat harmful algae blooms, to empower the people of Venezuela as they seek to reclaim their country from the regime of Nicolás Maduro, to prevent youth suicide, to protect seniors and other consumers from fraud, to crack down on drug trafficking in Florida and Puerto Rico, to support English-language learners in Florida schools, to support Orlando’s modeling and simulation community, and to help workers save for retirement. The funding bills also included a historic pay raise for service members, something Murphy has long supported.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the two spending bills with bipartisan support, which will now be considered by the U.S. Senate. Current funding for the federal government expires at midnight on Friday.
“Keeping the government open and investing in our defense and domestic priorities is our most basic responsibility as Members of Congress,”said Murphy. “I’m proud to have secured these critical federal investments that will help make our communities safer, our environment cleaner, our elections more secure, and our local economy more prosperous for all. This is why bipartisan cooperation is so important; it’s the only way to get results for the people I represent. From pay raises for our troops to bringing home federal dollars, I will never stop fighting for central Florida families.”
The following are some of the Murphy-led measures that were included in the final bills:
Gun Violence Prevention: the bills include $25 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to sponsor independent research into ways to reduce gun violence. In her first term in office, Murphy led the successful effort to repeal the longstanding ban on federally-sponsored research in this area, and now she has helped secure the funding necessary to conduct this research.
Election Security: the bills include $425 million for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to provide grants to states to help them secure their election infrastructure, the most ever provided for this purpose. The Murphy-led Blue Dog Coalition led the charge in urging congressional leaders to provide enhanced election security funding.
Harmful Algae Blooms: the bills include two Murphy-led measures designed to address harmful algae blooms (HABs), which are particularly problematic in Florida and can be detrimental to human health, water quality, recreation and tourism, and the broader economy. The first measure increases funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to research ways to reduce HABs, while the second measure provides NOAA with $1 million to sponsor a much-needed study on the economic impacts of HABs, both nationally and in hard-hit states like Florida.
Promoting Democracy in Venezuela: the bills include an unprecedented $30 million to fund U.S. efforts to bolster democracy, support independent media, promote human rights and the rule of law, and reveal the failings of the Maduro regime in Venezuela, all of which advance U.S. national security interests. This accomplishment comes on the heels of Murphy and other members of the Florida congressional delegation securing a $3 million increase in funding for this same purpose in the House version of the bill and then urging congressional leaders to provide the highest level of funding feasible in the final version of the bill.
Youth Suicide Prevention: the bills include critical funding for states, communities, and schools to prevent youth suicide, which is now the second leading cause of death among young people in the United States. Earlier this year, the Murphy-led Future Forum secured a $2 million increase for the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention grant program, which funds education and support services for vulnerable students in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, foster care systems, and juvenile justice systems.
Protecting Seniors and Other Consumers from Fraud: the bills include a Murphy-led provision that increases funding for the U.S. Secret Service to combat credit card “skimming,” which involves the installation of electronic devices, typically at gas station pumps or ATM machines, that steal encoded information from debit and credit cards. Orlando is one the cities where credit card skimming is most prevalent.
Combatting Drug Trafficking in Florida and Puerto Rico: the bills include language authored by Murphy and Puerto Rico Rep. Jenniffer González-Colon to combat drug trafficking and related violence in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida. The language directs the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to prepare and publish an updated Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy, which will help crack down on drug traffickers and criminal networks that use Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as an illicit transit route into Florida and other states along the eastern seaboard.
Supporting Programs to Help Students Learn English: the bills include an unprecedented level of funding for the U.S. Department of Education to provide grants to states and school districts to improve English-language programs, as Murphy requested. This funding increase could help pave the way for passage of a bill that Murphy introducedwith Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to amend the current grant formula so that it fully takes into account Spanish-speaking students who relocate from Puerto Rico to Florida or another U.S. state.
Strengthening the Modeling and Simulation Community in Orlando: the bills robustly fund three important Department of Defense accounts that make investments in simulation technology to help service members train for their missions. As co-chair of the Modeling & Simulation Caucus in Congress, Murphy led the effort to preserve funding for these accounts, which the Administration and the Senate had proposed to cut.
Helping Workers Save for Retirement: the bills include the full text of Murphy’s legislation, H.R. 1874, which requires employers to allow long-term, part-time employees to participate in a company 401(k) plan, subject to certain qualifications. Under current law, employers may generally exclude part-time employees when providing a defined contribution plan—such as a 401(k) plan—to their employees. This harms many workers, especially women, because women are more likely than men to work part-time.