A Polk Perspective: Poised to meet challenges ahead

January 24, 2017
In The News

Leaving 80 degree weather behind at our home in Kissimmee, I hopped on an evening flight to Washington D.C. recently to embark on a new journey to represent our community in Congress.

I am very humbled and grateful to our constituents for this tremendous honor. My swearing in was a memorable experience for my wife, Amanda, brother Lou, my in-laws Avery and Bart, my parents Lou and Jean watching from Kissimmee and many constituents. I could not help but think in that moment about my long journey from a decade of representing our community in the Florida House and Senate to our arduous and inspiring 16-month campaign, to making history as the first Puerto Rican congressman from Florida.

It was so thrilling and surreal to sit only several feet away as Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stood behind the rostrum and delivered their visions for America to begin the 115th Congress.

There are areas where we have common ground, such as promoting American jobs and goods, infrastructure development, corporate tax reform and caring for our active military and veterans.

There are also areas where fierce debate will be had over equality, voting rights, protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, preserving our environment, reforming immigration, providing greater access to higher education, making child care more affordable, fostering economic recovery in Puerto Rico and reforming our financial sector.

These issues will be even more hotly contested and complex now with President-elect Donald Trump in the mix. I look forward to presenting creative solutions, voting to promote our best interests and bringing our community's voice and values to this national dialogue. 

There will also be major federal challenges closer to home.

I will be focusing on promoting policy and funding to foster growth in our high-paying, high-tech clusters such as simulation programming in East Orange/UCF, sensors manufacturing in Osceola, biotech at Lake Nona, engineering at Florida Polytechnic University and space flight in East Orange/Brevard.

It is critical that our I-4 Ultimate Project and SunRail Phase 2 in South Orange/Osceola get done on time and on budget as well as funding for Phase 3 to connect to Orlando International Airport.

We must ensure our veterans are getting high quality care at our new Lake Nona VA Hospital.

We need to provide further research to combat citrus greening.

We also have infrastructure improvement demands at Orlando International, Kissimmee and Lake Wales Airports, among other important local projects. 

Over these next two years, I will take the same energy, experience and knowledge of our community's needs that I developed during my service in the Florida Legislature and continue to deliver for our region now in Congress. Together we can make a difference and improve the quality of life here in Central Florida and for all Americans.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, represents Florida's 9th Congressional District, which includes eastern Polk County.

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