In 2016, Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20) built on previous years of success in working across the aisle to pass legislation that supports Capital Region job creators, makes our water safer, combats the opioid crisis, provides relief to those living with mental illness, enhances public health, protects consumers, and sets the nation on its clearest path yet to overcoming Alzheimer’s disease. Below is an abbreviated list of bills and other policy measures Tonko introduced and/or shepherded through the Energy & Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives, and which went on to become law.
Making Our Water Safer and Helping Hoosick Falls: In 2016, Tonko led the way to author legislation that will help local schools and public water systems remove lead from drinking water. Provisions of Tonko’s AQUA Act and Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments were included in a larger infrastructure bill passed this month, including a new grant program to replace lead service lines.
Fighting TPP and Bad Deals for the American Worker: For three years, Tonko has served as a chief opponent against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal negotiated in secret and pushed by the White House. In a fight that began in January of 2014, Tonko identified TPP as “NAFTA on Steroids.” In November, he and his colleagues declared victory as the deal was affirmed all but defeated.
Providing Choice to Medicaid Patients: Working with Western New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins, Tonko introduced the Medicaid DOC Act, which makes it easier for patients to know their options and find a doctor online. The bill passed the House unanimously in March and became law on December 13, 2016.
Protecting Consumers from Hazardous Chemicals: Until this year, our nation operated with an outdated and ineffective 40-year-old law that aimed to restrict the use of toxic chemicals. For more than two years, Tonko worked with his Republican and Democratic colleagues in the Energy and Commerce Committee to update and strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in June.
Fighting Opioid Use in the Capital Region: After hosting the White House drug czar for an opioid abuse forum in Albany, Tonko worked with Indiana Republican Larry Bucshon to expand access to medication-assisted opioid addiction treatment, dramatically increasing the range of patients battling substance abuse who providers can treat at once.
Improving Mental Health for Patients, Families and Caregivers: After introducing and passing Timothy’s Law in the New York Assembly, Tonko identified national mental health reform as a top priority when elected to Congress. After years of work with his colleagues on the Energy and Commerce committee, Tonko worked to craft and pass the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. The bill included a Tonko-authored provision to ensure people struggling with substance abuse or mental illness have an easier time finding treatment if they are facing a crisis situation. This was included in the 21st Century Cures Act which President Obama signed into law.
Acting on Alzheimer’s: In 2013 alone, the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s totaled $203 billion – including $142 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. The disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only leading cause of death without a way to prevent, cure, or slow its progression. Beginning an ambitious plan to tackle the disease by 2025, Tonko worked with his colleagues in the House to introduce the HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act which was enacted via regulation by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.
Fighting Online Scalpers: To crack down on online ticket buyers who use computer programs that buy large quantities of tickets to concerts and other major events and resell those tickets on secondary markets like StubHub and Ticketmaster, Tonko introduced the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act with Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn. The House bill was reconciled with a Senate version and is expected to be signed into law this month.