Rep. José E. Serrano, U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Representative José E. Serrano represents the Fifteenth Congressional District of New York in the Bronx. The Congressman is a senior member of the exclusive House Appropriations Committee and serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science. This prestigious post as top Democrat on the Subcommittee allows Congressman Serrano to help oversee the budgets of multiple agencies, including the Department of Justice including the FBI; the Department of Commerce; the National Science Foundation; NASA; the Legal Services Corporation, and other agencies. Congressman Serrano is also Senior Whip for the Minority Whip operation, a position through which he helps develop strategies to marshal support for party positions and legislation. He is the Dean of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and served as Chair of the Caucus from 1993-94. He is now the most senior Hispanic Democrat in Congress, as well as the longest serving Puerto Rican in Congress.
Early in his tenure in the House, Serrano quickly established a legislative record that reflected, and continues to reflect, his core political values of equal opportunity and fair treatment for all citizens. In particular, Serrano believes that government should work to ensure that the prosperity of our country is shared by the neediest and most vulnerable members of our society- the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and children- in the form of participation in government, educational opportunities, access to housing and affordable health care. As a member of the Committee on Education and Labor in his first term, Serrano authored legislation, signed into law in November 1990, to provide funding for successful school drop-out prevention programs.
During the 102nd Congress (1991-1992), Serrano continued to build on this record of accomplishment by introducing more legislative initiatives along these themes. His Voting Rights Language Assistance Act of 1992, signed into law, mandated that voter materials continue to be provided in different languages. He also introduced the Classroom Safety Act, which would have provided program models and grants to assist local educational agencies in efforts to reduce and prevent violent crime in elementary and secondary schools.
In 1993, Serrano joined the Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for shaping expenditures of discretionary federal funds. Because Appropriations is an exclusive Committee, he was required to give up his seat on Education and Labor. That same year he was also elected by his colleagues to serve as Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) during the 103rd Congress. As Chairman, Serrano’s strong leadership contributed to the passage of several bills of interest to Hispanics and other minorities. During this same period, the CHC helped to defeat of a number of pieces of legislation that were widely criticized as attempts at “immigrant-bashing” and veiled bigotry.
In 1995, when the House Republicans became the majority and reduced the Appropriations Committee in size, Serrano was appointed to the House Judiciary Committee, in which he served on the Subcommittee on the Constitution. The Democratic Caucus re-appointed him to the Appropriations Committee in March of 1996.
As a Member of the House Appropriations Committee, Serrano has managed to secure millions of dollars in federal funding for his Bronx Congressional District. He has directed funding to countless local initiatives, including environmental projects, improvements to Bronx parks, educational programs for disadvantaged students and displaced workers and funding for various local charitable organizations, whose goals range from providing access to the arts to developing small businesses.
Perhaps the most notable of all these projects have involved the environmental restoration of the Bronx River. Serrano has been a tireless advocate for the urban river since taking office, and was an early supporter of naming the river an American Heritage River. Through the appropriations process, furthermore, Serrano has been able to secure millions in funding, as well as technical and managerial assistance from various federal agencies, for Bronx River environmental studies and cleanup projects since fiscal year 1999. In recognition of his long record of successful advocacy on behalf of the river, the Bronx community named Congressman Serrano the Honorary Chairman of the Bronx River Golden Ball in 2003. In 2006, herring were reintroduced to the river in 2006–a species that had been gone from the river for more than 350 years. In early 2007, a beaver was found living in the Bronx River, marking the return of a species that had been not been seen in New York City in more than 200 years.