Wicker Bills Become Law Before Start of New Congress

Policies Promise to Benefit State and Entire Gulf Region

January 7, 2019

As the days dwindled in 2018, legislative activity quickened on several bills I had introduced in the 115th Congress.  Some were passed and signed into law as part of sweeping legislation, such as my bill to help advance precision agriculture technology, which was included in the farm bill, and my bill to streamline vessel regulations, which was included in the reauthorization of the Coast Guard.  Other bills became public law on their own.  Although different in scope, these stand-alone bills had a common denominator: to advance the strengths of our state and region.

A Win for Recreational Anglers 

One of the laws, called the “Modern Fish Act,” is a substantial win for our recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico.  The new law seeks to resolve some of the problems faced by our recreational anglers when trying to comply with the guidelines set by regional fishery management councils.  These guidelines, meant for commercial operations, can severely shorten recreational fishing seasons.

The “Modern Fish Act” is a starting point for fishery management councils to reform their guidelines in ways that do not unnecessarily restrict access to the Gulf for recreational anglers.  It will help generate more accurate data about recreational fishing, prompt a closer look at how fish allocations are determined in the Gulf of Mexico, encourage regional councils to diversify their management practices, and promote the use of technology to understand recreational fisheries better.

Breakthroughs in Ocean Exploration 

Another law I sponsored will harness the power of cutting-edge technology to explore and learn more about our ocean resources.  The “CENOTE Act” stands for “Commercial Engagement through Ocean Technology,” and it is designed to broaden the use of unmanned maritime systems like underwater drones, which are able to navigate the ocean remotely to collect data. 

Mississippians are already working on the research and testing of these systems, and the “CENOTE Act” promises to expand this leadership role even further.  The law recognizes the effect that unmanned maritime systems have on national security, public safety, fisheries management, disaster mitigation, and conservation.  It encourages government, private, and academic entities to form partnerships that will further enhance these capabilities.

More Possibilities at Stennis Space Center 

A third bill signed into law looks to the heavens instead of the ocean, and it also recognizes the importance of strategic public-private partnerships.  My “NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Extension Act” is a critical reauthorization because it allows properties that are not frequently used to be leased to the private sector.  The rent earned by NASA can then help support facility maintenance or other projects.  Stennis Space Center has already shown the value of these leasing partnerships with Rolls Royce and New Cingular Wireless.  I look forward to seeing how this law helps other commercial and academic endeavors grow in Hancock County.

I appreciate the support of my colleagues in the Senate and my friends in the House of Representatives who helped get these bills across the finish line.  They were signed into law by the President in the final days of 2018, but their impact will extend into the new year and well beyond.