Campaign Updates

Breakfast with Bradley Byrne

Posted on August 20th, 2014


FAIRHOPE  ̶  Wednesday morning at Julwin’s Restaurant, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) sat down with members of the Gulf Coast Newspapers’ editorial staff to speak about goings-on in Alabama’s First Congressional district and Baldwin County.

Byrne was born in Mobile and graduated from University Military School (now known as UMS-Wright). He served in the Alabama State Senate from 2003 until 2007, and served as chancellor of the Alabama Community College System from 2007 until his resignation in 2009.

Byrne and his wife Rebecca live in Fairhope with their four children and are members of St. James Episcopal Church.

In Dec. 2013, Byrne defeated Tea Party-backed candidate Dean Young to become the congressman for Alabama’s First district, following the resignation of former Rep. Jo Bonner. Byrne was sworn in Jan. 8, 2014, and is a member of the House Armed Services and Natural Resources Committees.

Byrne began by saying he was enjoying spending the congressional summer recess traveling across his congressional district, especially visiting hospitals and medical facilities.

“A lot of these small community hospitals are the life blood for the towns and cities they are a part of,” Byrne said. “I’ve been touring several of these places and listening to their problems, so we can try to find a way to help them be able to better serve their local communities and stay economically viable.”

Byrne then took time to answer a series of questions posed by GCN staffers, as seen below:

Q: What is a realistic timeline for the beginning and completion of the I-10 Bridge Project and what sort of positive impact will it have on the Eastern Shore?

A: I think that five to ten years is the right timeline. I’m an optimist, so, of course, I want to say five but it a pretty unique project and it could take some time for everything to fall into place. In terms of the potential impact it could have on the Eastern Shore, I’d say this project is as big for the Eastern Shore as it is for Mobile. The population for the region is growing and that connector is very important for the movement of people and things across the bay. As more industries come into the area, it will also become vital for commerce, so this bridge has the potential to be a game changer for the entire region.

Q: Along with Rep. Scalise (R-LA), you’ve fought hard this term to lessen restrictions on red snapper fishing in the Gulf. Has there been any further progress on this matter and what do you plan to do in the future to help combat these limits that have strained charter boat and tourism revenues?

A: There have been a number of things I’ve done and will continue to work on regarding this issue.We amended the reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens act (the primary law governing fishing in federal waters). We were hoping for a vote on that before this recess, but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is still scoring the bill. I’ve been working with leadership for both the House and Senate to help push the CBO to finish the scoring faster. Assuming we get it scored soon, the House should have it up for a vote in September, and we feel good about the Senate taking action on the bill since Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is the chair of the committee it will go through, and the voters in her state have said they really care about this issue, so we think it will prod her to take action. Red snapper fishing brings in untold amounts of tourism and commercial fishing revenues into the entire Gulf region, so the longer it takes to have action on these changes, the more damage it does to all of the Gulf Coast economies.

Q: What, if anything, are you doing to help secure more funds and support for the continuation of the Beach Expressway from the new I-10 Interchange to I-65?

A: I’ve been in some discussions about that and we’re continuing to have conversations. The biggest question we’re trying to answer is how we can get both federal and state funds to help offset the cost to the county and the taxpayers. There have been some issues with getting revenue from state and federal gas tax money and we’re working on that. Some people have suggested using RESTORE Act funds to offset some of the expenses, but we aren’t holding our breath on that money coming in any time soon. I can say that there is a good sense of consensus and unity with all of the parties involved in this project and when coupled with the fact that the expressway can also serve as another hurricane evacuation route, it makes it easier for us to try to get funding from these various entities.

Q: What do think could be a potential timetable for funds from the RESTORE Act to start flowing in? How would those funds best be utilized?

A: I hate to say it, but we have to look at the lengthy amount of time it took to see any type of meaningful payout after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. BP is an enormous company with lots of money to pay lots and lots of lawyers. This ongoing legal battle won’t get to the end of trial phase until the beginning of next fall, and the appeals could go on for a much longer time even after that. What I would hope is if we get through the trial phase, we would get to the negotiated settlement phase and pray that BP would rather settle the case than have to drag it out for years and years in the courtrooms. Unfortunately, to some extent, the government doesn’t have control over the length of this process; BP wants to see how long they can drag it out. A number of Gulf Coast legislators, including myself, sit on the committee that has oversight regarding this situation and the RESTORE Act, so we will continue to use what tools we have to make sure BP pays its fair share and helps rebuild our local economies after the damage the oil spill brought.

Q: How has the ebola outbreak affected national policy on medical issues, including preventative care and border control?

A: Ebola is just one of a number of communicative diseases that challenge us being able to maintain the health and safety of Americans. As the world gets smaller due to easier travel and technology and people are in more contact with one another, these sorts of things are able to spread more quickly. Thankfully in this country, we have modern technology and excellent health care systems to keep diseases like this under control, but we need to figure out what we can do for these other countries so that we can make sure these outbreaks are not moving across national lines.

Q: With your placement on the Natural Resources committee, you have insight into the federal government’s management of our nation’s public lands. There are a number of natural features here in south Alabama that could be threatened, places like the Tensaw Delta. Would you support making some of these areas potential national or state parks? Why or why not?

A: If you go up Alabama 225, you’ll ride along and eventually see a place called Byrne’s Lake, named after one of the members of my family. I grew up in the Delta and spend a lot of time there whenever I’m here. Issues involving our environment and natural resources here are important to my constituents, and me. I think the state has done a good job with the Forever Wild program in helping to protect the Delta. I’m in favor of working to expand the Forever Wild land, which is already around 80 percent or so controlled by the Forever Wild program. People may not realize that most of the Delta is publicly owned, not federal. I am reluctant to relinquish state and local control over this beautiful part of our landscape and ecological heritage. There may be things the federal government can help us do, short of designating it a national park, and I’m all in favor of using any resources we can from them to try to make sure that place is there for generations to come.

Q: What are your plans for the remainder of this legislative session and for the next Congress?

A: I’m hoping to continue the work we’re doing on red snapper fishing. I’m going to continue to fight to get funding and support for the littoral combat ship building that would take place in Mobile if its agreed upon by the powers that be. I’m pushing hard on the administrative side for taking the I-10 birdge to the next level, and I’m having a meeting with the Secretary of Transportation next week to discuss that very issue; I’m not going to let it stay stuck. Once we get funding, I don’t want to hit any administrative road blocks, so I’m trying to nip those issues in the bud now.

I’m also concerned with the ongoing budget negotiations within the Congress. It’s hard to vote for continuing resolution after continuing resolution because it feels like we are kicking the can down the road. I want us to avoid doing something foolish that hurts the national economy.

With regards to the Armed Services Committee, it looks like problems abroad are getting worse, not better. We’ll be looking into the President’s authority to act in Iraq. There’s the ongoing dispute between Russia and Ukraine which is a big cause for concern. Long term, I think we need to be cautious about China’s aggressive actions pushing into the South and East China Seas. Our border with Mexico has also become a major security issue. If a five-year-old girl can walk across and not be stopped, so can a terrorist. Working to strengthen our border will definitely bolster our national security.