Freshmen to Watch in the 113th Congress

June 1, 2013, Department, by Val Gelnovatch, Leslie Mozingo

New senators and representatives hold promise for the future of parks and recreation legislation.The 113th Congress has already been labeled as one of the most inexperienced in American history. Not to be insulting, but the facts are in the figures. There are 98 freshmen: 84 new U.S. Representatives and 14 new U.S. Senators (albeit some new to the Senate are former members of the House). Currently, nearly two in five lawmakers (39 percent) in the House have served less than three years. That means junior lawmakers now hold positions it once took years, and sometimes more than a decade, to reach. Many of the “frosh” have also never held elected office before. We’ve reviewed the first six months of the 113th Congress and have picked a few newcomers who may be worth watching.

Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL)
Congresswoman Lois Frankel, a South Florida Democrat, now represents Florida’s 22nd congressional district. She is a seasoned elected official with a reputation as a fierce advocate for natural resources and the jobs and economic opportunities that these resources bring to local economies. After serving 14 years in the Florida State Legislature, where she became the first female House Minority Leader in Florida’s history, Frankel was eventually termed out and went on to serve as mayor of West Palm Beach for eight years. Her congressional district includes 70 miles of coastline in close proximity to Everglades National Park. She believes that a healthy Everglades will strengthen the economy, improve access to parks and help re-establish the ecosystems that were damaged as a result of draining the Everglades. As a result, she is helping to lead the charge for the Everglades’ restoration through her work on the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee  of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. She recently toured Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, within the northernmost portion of the Everglades, with new U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC)
The GOP successfully reclaimed North Carolina’s 8th district from the Democratic Party with Richard Hudson’s victory after he emerged from a five-way primary with 64 percent of the vote. Although only 41, Congressman Hudson is not a newcomer to the Hill. He was formerly the chief of staff for three U.S. Representatives. This knowledge has obviously served him well, as Congressman Hudson was given the Ranking Member position on the House Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Transportation Security. He was the Republican in a bipartisan, two-person interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley following the State of the Union address in January and has been on the world-renowned news network twice since then. A self-proclaimed avid hunter and outdoorsman, Congressman Richard Hudson is unapologetically firm on his position to cut spending and reduce the deficit, which should keep him in the circle of trust as a party favorite.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
A former California state senator, Congressman Lowenthal lists some of his top accomplishments as job creation and environmental stewardship. Now a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, he is using that expertise by becoming an early supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and specifically the State Assistance Program. As legislation (HR 527) was moving in the House that would prevent the closure of the Federal Helium Reserve, Congressman Lowenthal approached NRPA about offering an amendment that would dedicate a certain percentage of the annual revenue generated from the sale of helium specifically to the LWCF State Assistance Program. Unfortunately, the amendment was not offered after Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), an outspoken opponent of LWCF, stated he wanted to report a clean bill. Regardless, NRPA has found an ally in its continuing push for passing LWCF legislation, particularly the State Assistance component.

Rep. David Joyce (R-OH)
Newly elected Congressman Joyce was granted a coveted position on the powerful Appropriations Committee and serves on its Interior; Labor; Health and Human Services; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development subcommittees. All of these have jurisdiction over issues of importance to NRPA and its members. He caught our attention after meeting with NRPA members and staff, when he submitted a request to the Appropriations Committee asking for more funding for LWCF’s State Assistance Program.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren was already grabbing attention before being elected when she took the stage at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and was, according to Politico, “feted as one of the Democratic Party’s brightest stars, a heroine of the progressive left and potential presidential material.” A former Harvard law professor, and now one of 20 women in the Senate (a historic high), Sen. Warren quickly made a name for herself during her first hearing as a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee when she grilled regulators on why they had not taken Wall Street banks to trial. In June, she spoke at a Washington, D.C., fundraising gala for the League of Conservation Votes, a group that reported spending more than $1 million to help elect her. Senator Warren has written numerous articles and nine books, including two national bestsellers, and TIME Magazine twice named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Val Gelnovatch
and Leslie Mozingo are partners at The Ferguson Group, NRPA’s outside lobbying firm.