Provisions led and supported by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) to strengthen Great Lakes protection, restoration and fisheries programs, and to lower prescription drug costs for Michiganders were signed into law at the end of December as part of the government funding bill for Fiscal Year 2020.
Peters, a member of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, said of the Great Lakes provisions: “The Great Lakes are part of who we are as Michiganders. They provide drinking water to 40 million people, are an economic engine for communities across Michigan and are a vital national resource. That’s why we need to do everything we can to protect the Great Lakes for future generations. I’m glad this bill has been signed into law and includes key provisions I led that will increase critical funding for Great Lakes clean-up and restoration, sustain Michigan fisheries and help pave the way for a new icebreaker.”
Peters said of the provisions to lower prescription drug costs: “When drug companies manipulate prices and availability of medicine to boost their bottom lines, it can force hardworking Michiganders to have to choose between securing the medication they need or paying their bills. That must change. I am encouraged that the bipartisan measures I cosponsored are now law and will help lower prescription drug costs – including for insulin – and increase market competition. I will keep working on commonsense efforts that will reduce prescription drug costs for Michiganders.”
A number of provisions that Peters led or supported in the legislation to support the Great Lakes include:
- Increasing Funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: Peters secured a provision to provide the first increase in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding since the program was established nearly a decade ago. As a result of Peters’ bipartisan efforts with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), GLRI will receive $320 million in the coming year. This is significant especially after President Trump proposed slashing the program by 90% earlier this year. The provision Peters secured in this end-of-year legislation builds on his bipartisan measure that passed the Senate unanimously in October.
- Expanding Resources for Great Lakes Fisheries Programs: The bill includes Peters’ bipartisan legislation introduced with U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to authorize Great Lakes fishery funding and help support effective fishery management decisions. The Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization (GLFRA) Act will enable the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to continue to conduct research to help support the over the $7 billion Great Lakes sport and commercial fishery industries. It also will authorize the Great Lakes Science Center – which helps sustain Great Lakes fisheries and reduce threats such as invasive species and harmful algal blooms. This bill authorizes $15 million each year from Fiscal Years 2020-2024 and gives the USGS Director greater authority to devote money to the Great Lakes.
- Funding the Great Lakes Center of Expertise for Freshwater Oil Spill Research and Response: Peters secured $1.5 million in funding for the U.S. Coast Guard National Center of Expertise for the Great Lakes. Last year Peters got signed into law his provision to establish the Center. The Great Lakes National Center of Expertise will examine the impacts of oil spills in freshwater environments and help develop effective responses. Current oil spill response technologies are primarily designed for saltwater environments. The funding included in the bill will help the Coast Guard plan for and establish the Center.
- Improving Icebreaking Capacity for the Great Lakes: Peters secured $4 million to enable the Coast Guard to establish a major acquisition office to enhance icebreaking capacity for the Great Lakes and provide annual program support. The Coast Guard must have greater capability to carry out icebreaking assignments on the Great Lakes during winters with severe ice coverage to enable maritime commerce and assist with potential emergency responses.
The provisions Peters supported in the legislation to help lower prescription drug costs include:
- Combating Anticompetitive Business Practices: Legislation Peters cosponsored will help combat anticompetitive practices used by some pharmaceutical and biologic companies to block lower cost generic drugs from entering the marketplace. The Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act will help encourage greater competition and help lower costs for consumers.
- Increasing Access to Affordable Insulin: Peters cosponsored bipartisan legislation to speed up approvals of lower-cost and generic insulin prices and help lower costs of the life-saving drug. The Affordable Insulin Approvals Now Act will create a faster path for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and help promote competition and bring lower-cost generics to market sooner. With an over 600 percent price increase over the past two decades, unaffordable insulin has impacted nearly 7.5 million Americans—including Michiganders with diabetes, who depend on daily insulin treatments to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.