Amtrak

A northbound Amtrak passenger train approaches an underpass in the village of Whitehall in May 2009. Legislation that establishes a procedure for U.S. Customs agents to clear baggage when passengers board trains in Canada, instead of at the border, is among 25 bills that U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, co-sponsored in her first term in office that were signed into law.

Post-Star file photo

A nearly decade-long goal of regional business and tourism leaders to streamline the border crossing process for Amtrak passengers entering the United States from Canada took a major step forward when President Barack Obama signed legislation earlier this month.

The legislation, which established a procedure for U.S. Customs agents to clear baggage when passengers board trains in Canada, instead of at the border, is among 25 bills that U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, co-sponsored in her first term in office that were signed into law.

The Canadian Parliament must now approve the legislation before it can be implemented.

Currently, customs inspectors board trains at the border to conduct inspections, a process that can delay trains, such as those that travel between Montreal and Albany, for up to two hours.

Business and tourism leaders have said the change will encourage more tourism and business travel via Amtrak.

The change is a way to speed up rail service even without investing in track improvements, Garry Douglas, president of Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce, said in 2009.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., first introduced legislation in 2011 which gradually gained bipartisan support.

Another bill Stefanik co-sponsored that became law, the 21st Century Cures Act, includes provisions to streamline the federal Food and Drug Administration approval process for medical devices, and provisions to address Lyme disease, which she identified as a key issue in her first two-year term of 2015 and 2016.

Stefanik co-sponsored legislation to provide the option to classify employers with 51 to 100 employees as large employers under President Obama’s health care law, legislation to establish a “Bill of Rights” for survivors of sexual assault, and legislation to extend the federal college Perkins Loan program.

She co-sponsored legislation to crack down on poaching of endangered and threatened wildlife, legislation to ban plastic micro-beads in cosmetics, and legislation to exempt medals and prize money received in Olympic Games or Paralympic Games from federal income tax.

Stefanik co-sponsored four bills signed into law that address veterans issues, three budget bills and 10 bills commemorating historic events or renaming post offices.

Stefanik, who was re-elected in November, co-sponsored another 34 laws that passed the House but not the Senate in 2015 and 2016.

Stefanik personally introduced 11 laws in her first term, none of which were signed into law as stand-alone bills.

One, to hire outside contractors to process a backlog of Veterans Affairs applications, passed the House but not the Senate.

Several bills that Stefanik introduced or co-sponsored were attached to other legislation that was signed into law. Those include legislation to collaborate with Israel on missile defense research, require congressional authorization to reduce the military land force, repeal employer health insurance automatic enrollment requirement and to provide federal assistance for communities with property damage from ice jams.

Stefanik collaborated on legislation and resolutions with 231 House colleagues in her first term — 147 Republicans and 84 Democrats.

Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, collaborated with Stefanik on 15 bills and resolutions, making him the congresswoman’s most frequent collaborator.

Reps. Timothy Walz, D-Minn., and Grace Meng, D-Queens, with six each, were her most frequent Democratic collaborators.

Follow staff writer Maury Thompson at All Politics is Local blog, at PS_Politics on Twitter and at Maury Thompson Post-Star on Facebook.

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