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December 18, 2019

Trone: Spending bills address broadband, opioids, other issues

Credit: Herald-Mail Media, Mike Lewis

U.S. Rep. David Trone said the new federal spending package approved this week has provisions designed to help places like Western Maryland.

“This is a big deal,” Trone said.

The House passed the $1.4 trillion package in two bills Tuesday.

According to an Associated Press report, the bills include a range of provisions, including a record budget for the Pentagon, some money for the U.S.-Mexico border wall advocated by President Donald Trump and spending increases for a swath of domestic programs sought by Democrats.

The Senate and the White House are expected to approve it. In a telephone interview after Tuesday’s votes, Trone called it “a done deal.”

Trone represents Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, which includes all or parts of Washington, Montgomery, Frederick, Allegany and Garrett counties. He said he advocated for several measures that will address issues in Western Maryland.

One of those issues is improving broadband access in rural areas.

“That’s a real major problem for jobs,” he said.

In September, Trone and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen held a roundtable on rural broadband in Hagerstown. More than 40 business and civic leaders attended. Also at the table were Geoffrey Starks, one of five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission, and Kenrick Gordon, director of the Maryland Office of Rural Broadband.

At the roundtable, the lawmakers heard that the FCC maps are often inaccurate, indicating broadband service in some places that lack it, and showing no service in some areas that have it.

“That’s a problem,” Trone said Tuesday.

The spending package allocates $640 million to expand rural broadband service nationwide.

“This is bipartisan legislation,” Trone said.

Provisions to address the opioid epidemic also have bipartisan support, he said.

He pointed to a provision allocating $10.6 billion for Head Start, stressing that it includes $250 million to address an increase of what are known as “Adverse Childhood Experiences” because of the prevalence of substance abuse.

“Last year there was none — zero,” Trone said.

Adverse Childhood Experiences are potentially traumatic events, such as suffering abuse or neglect, seeing violence in the home or having a relative attempt or die by suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adverse Childhood Experiences have been linked to later problems, from risky behaviors and chronic health conditions to early deaths.

Another part of the spending package allocates $4 million for the CDC to research how Adverse Childhood Experiences increase the risk of future substance use disorders, suicide, mental health conditions and other chronic illnesses.

“When Mom and Dad aren’t on their games, the kids suffer,” he said.

According to a news release from Trone’s office, some other opioid-related initiatives include:

• $5.9 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, including $1.5 billion for state opioid response grants.

• $475.6 million for opioid overdose prevention and surveillance at the CDC.

• $5 million for the National Commission on Combatting Synthetic Opioid Trafficking.

• $101.3 million for the Drug-Free Communities Program, an increase of $1.3 million above FY 2019.

Trone’s office said the spending plan also includes $41.7 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $2.6 billion more than the 2019 enacted level and $7.5 billion above the president’s budget request. The funding includes $2.8 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research.