As we ring in the New Year, we also welcome the second half of the 113th Congress. With this New Year comes my renewed focus on doing what I can to strengthen our state and our nation.
Last year, Congress made progress on several of my top priorities, including my jobs bill, my forest health legislation and replacing Obamacare. This year, I am optimistic we will see some of this legislation signed into law.
My bipartisan jobs bill, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act, passed through the House Natural Resources Committee last year and now awaits action by the full House of Representatives.
This legislation facilitates a federal land exchange that will open the third-largest undeveloped copper resource in the world, located near Superior. It will create more than 3,700 local jobs, generate approximately $61.4 billion in economic activity and supply 25 percent or more of the nation's domestic copper. I am hopeful this legislation is enacted this year.
When it comes to wildfires, Arizona and other western states saw some of the worst fires ever in recent years. From the catastrophic damage of the Wallow Fire to the Yarnell Hill Fire, which destroyed homes and businesses and claimed 19 lives, the consequences of these preventable fires are catastrophic.
My bipartisan wildfire prevention legislation, the Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act, passed the House last year as part of a larger forest health package and the Senate already held a hearing on it. Among other things, the bill will expedite the approval process for thinning and grazing projects, and will get the government out of the way so that the private sector can create rural jobs by resurrecting the timber industry.
I am optimistic the president will sign forest health legislation this year, which will help prevent destructive wildfires as well as stimulate our rural economies.
In regard to Obamacare, the media will have you believe that we haven't made any real progress on scrapping this disastrous law. That's simply not true. We made 15 major changes in 2013. These changes include repealing the "1099" paperwork mandate and repealing an unsustainable long-term-care government "insurance" program (CLASS). While this is not the end of the story, these reforms protect American families and businesses as we continue to work towards full repeal of Obamacare and the passage of a patient-centered alternative.
To that end, I joined a group of my Republican colleagues last year in drafting and sponsoring a free-market alternative to Obamacare, the American Health Care Reform Act. Conservatives recognize that patient-centered reforms rooted in free markets are the best way to lower costs and solve problems in our health care system. Next year, I will do everything I can to advance this free-market alternative.
My other priorities for the New Year are my commitments to responsible spending and budgeting and my strong opposition to any immigration bill that doesn't start with border security or that allows lawbreakers to skip ahead of those who are legally waiting for citizenship.
Americans and Arizonans know that the best thing the government can do is get out of the way of job creators and allow individuals to keep their hard-earned money. It is the Constitution and these basic principles that guide my votes and my priorities.
In 2014, I will continue to work with members of both parties to accomplish these goals and to improve the lives of Arizonans.
Gosar, a Republican, represents Arizona's Fourth Congressional District.
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