Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update - June 2007
In this Issue:
*A Congressional "Thank You" for Memorial Day
*Veterans Clinic for the Valley Moving Forward
*Campaigning for "Equal Pay for Equal Work"
*Announcing $731,250 for the Port of San Diego
*Fighting Against Predatory Credit Card Practices
*Introducing the Safety, Efficiency and Accountability in Transportation Projects through Public Inspection Act of 2007
*Supporting Hispanic-Serving Colleges and Universities
*Announcing $680,515 AmeriCorps Grant for the Valley
*Citizen of the Month
*Constituent Mail Bag
*Useful Website: Some Helpful Energy Saving Tips
A Congressional "Thank You" for Memorial Day
Last month, the House of Representatives passed a package of bills that expand veterans' health care and benefits. The action came as the nation honored America's fallen on Memorial Day. I would like to congratulate the members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee for their dedication and leadership on the issues of improving treatment for traumatic brain injury, expanding eligibility for vocational rehabilitation benefits and improving outreach activities to veterans.
1. H.R. 612 - to extend the period of VA healthcare eligibility for health care for combat service in the Persian Gulf or future hostilities from two years to five years after discharge or release.
2. H.R. 2199 - to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide improvements in the treatment of individuals with traumatic brain injuries.
3. H.R. 2239 - to expand eligibility for VA vocational rehabilitation benefits.
4. H.R. 67 - to improve the outreach activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
5. H.R. 1470 - to require the provision of chiropractic care and services to veterans at all VA medical centers.
6. H.R. 1660 - to establish a national cemetery for veterans in the southern Colorado region.
7. H. Res. 392 - to urge Americans as well as people of all nationalities to visit the Veterans' National Cemeteries.
This Memorial Day, Members of the House came together to show our support for our veterans and their families. Our nation has a proud legacy of appreciation and gratitude to the men and women who have worn the uniform in defense of our country and we will work boldly to honor those who are mourning the loss of one of their own and those who have loved ones far from home.
Veterans Clinic for the Valley Moving Forward
I am happy to announce that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has issued a request for proposals for a community based outpatient clinic for veterans in Imperial Valley.
The move is part of my continuing efforts to establish a veterans-only clinic in the Valley this year, significantly improving the medical services available to the county's veterans. As the planning goes forward, I will continue to meet with veterans to assure their views on their health care needs are incorporated into the new facility.
The creation of a veterans-only clinic is long overdue. Veterans are deserving of quality health careand I am pleased the VA is working with me to establish this much needed facility in the community.
The VA is proposing the clinic be located in El Centro or within a five mile radius. The deadline for proposals is July 2, 2007. Interested health care providers should contact Tanya Jimenez, Contract Specialist with the VA, at 562-826-8053..
Campaigning for "Equal Pay for Equal Work"
I have joined with 104 of my colleagues in the House of Representatives in co-sponsoring H.R. 1338, the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill introduced by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.
Every April, we mark the time of year when the wages paid to American women catch up' to the wages paid to men from the previous year. It takes 16 months for a woman being paid average wages to make the same amount as a man paid average wages made in 12 months!
The exact date this year was April 24th. According to the Census Bureau, women still earn only approximately 77 % as much as men did in 2006. African-American women earned 66% on the dollar compared to white men, and Hispanic women earned 55%. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, workering women stand to lose as much as $250,000 over the course of their career because of unequal pay practices.
The Paycheck Fairness Act takes meaningful steps to assist women in negotiation for higher pay, creates strong incentives for employers to follow the law, and strengthens enforcement efforts.
This is a common sense issue that affects all working women and their families. By eliminating unfair treatment in the labor market, we can help families gain the resources they need to ensure that their children have access to a better future.
Announcing $731,250 for the Port of San Diego
I am happy to announce that the San Diego Unified Port District has been awarded $731,250 in grants from the Department of Homeland Security. The money is awarded under the Port Grant Security Program and includes $487,500 for the San Diego Unified Port District and $243,750 for the San Diego Unified Port District Police Department.
The Port Grant Security Program provides financial assistance to port authorities and state and local agencies to improve security for operators and passengers through physical security enhancements. The Department allocated $202 million for the Port Grant Security Program for Fiscal Year 2007.
"The Port of San Diego is pleased that we have received almost 90 percent of what we requested during this round of funding," said Sylvia Rios, Chairwoman of the Board of Port Commissioners. "We are grateful to Congressman Filner for all of his hard work on our behalf."
I am happy to see that the Department of Homeland Security is making continued efforts to secure our nation's critical port infrastructure. I look forward to working with the Department of Homeland Security and the Port of San Diego to ensure the safety and security of our region.
Fighting Against Predatory Credit Card Practices
I am proud to announce my co-sponsorship H.R. 2146, the Universal Default Prohibition Act. Universal default is the popular term for a practice that allows creditors to increase the interest rate on your credit card to the default rate, up to 32.24%, even when you haven't missed a single payment on your card! The practice has been increasing in the past few years, causing a large burden on families already experiencing financial hardship.
These companies should not be allowed to penalize you if you have done nothing wrong and paid your bill on time. This legislation will be a wake up call that credit card companies should review their practices and ensure people are getting a fair deal.
Once a universal default rate has been issued on a credit card, regardless of identity theft or error, the credit card company has no obligation to reduce the interest rate. The company is also under no obligation to notify the cardholder about the increased interest rate. Consumers are advised to carefully review their monthly bills and notify their credit card company immediately of any errors or fraudulent activity.
Introducing the Safety, Efficiency and Accountability in Transportation Projects through Public Inspection Act of 2007
On May 24, I introduced H.R. 2485, the Safety, Efficiency and Accountability in Transportation Projects through the Public Inspection Act of 2007. If passed, the bill would ensure that public safety is protected, transportation funds are not wasted and projects are delivered in a timely manner. This bill would require public employees to perform the inspections on all state and local transportation projects.
On transportation projects, the construction inspector is the eyes, ears and voice of the public. Inspectors ensure that construction and seismic standards are met, that projects meet safety requirements and that the materials used will stand the test of time. In short, inspectors are there to ensure that the public gets what it pays for and that public safety and public interest are protected.
I am concerned that outsourcing of inspection work causes conflicts of interest that have led private inspectors to cut corners and overlook problems that threaten public safety, increase costs and delay projects.
When the construction inspection function is outsourced to a private company, there is no longer a representative of the public on the job site. In this circumstance, one private company is charged with the task of inspecting the work of another private company. This creates multiple conflicts for the private inspector. First, the private inspectors' primary obligation and responsibility is not to the public, but to the success and profitability of their companies. Because the private construction company whose work they are inspecting on one project may be a business partner on a future project, private inspectors may also feel pressure from the company to take steps that ensure larger profits for both firms.
There are many examples in which public safety has been threatened by the use of private inspectors, including Boston's "Big Dig" (where a concrete slab from a tunnel ceiling fell and killed a woman), the L.A. Redline subway (Hollywood Blvd. collapsed), the 8-805 Interchange in San Diego (10,000 defective welds on a seismic retrofit), and the Connecticut I-84 project (hundreds of drains that lead nowhere).
My bill will address these concerns.
Supporting Hispanic-Serving Colleges and Universities
I am happy to add my support to House Resolution 451, the Next Generation Hispanic-Serving Institutions Act, introduced by my colleague, Congressman Ruben Hinojosa.
The legislation will strengthen Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) by establishing a long-overdue competitive grant program to expand graduate degree opportunities at HSIs. Current law provides support for only two-year and four-year institutions, leaving out graduate programs.
I believe that we must provide graduate educational opportunities for the increasing number of Hispanic students who are interested in further education. If we do not invest in advanced education and training for this emerging population, we put our nation's economic foundation at risk.
Currently, only 4% of master's degrees are earned by Hispanics, 3% of doctoral degrees, and 5% of first professional degrees. This bill would help to increase the number of under-represented Hispanics in the fields of teaching, science, engineering, medicine and technology that require advanced degrees. The bill has 40 Members of the House as co-sponsors.
I am working closely with Congressman Hinojosa to bring this bill to the House of Representatives and to pass it as quickly as possible!
Announcing $680,515 AmeriCorps Grant for the Valley
It is my pleasure to announce that the Imperial County Office of Education has received a $680,515 AmeriCorps grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The grant will support 71 AmeriCorps members who will provide tutoring and mentoring, and will recruit volunteers for the after school reading activities and community service.
The grant announcements came during the first-ever AmeriCorps Week, a nationwide recognition to thank the 500,000 men and women who have served in AmeriCorps since its inception and encourage more Americans to get involved. The AmeriCorps members have provided more than 637 million hours of service to local communities.
AmeriCorps members are meeting local needs and strengthening our communities. I am proud the Valley will receive this grant and thank all those who have answered the call to service by joining AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps is a national service program that engages Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to meet critical needs in education, the environment, public safety, homeland security and other human needs. Its members serve in hundreds of nonprofit and faith-based organizations in rural and urban communities throughout the nation. They tutor and mentor youth, build affordable housing, teach computer skills, clean parks and streams, run after-school programs, help communities respond to disasters and recruit and train volunteers.
In addition to the grant, the Corporation is setting aside funding to pay for AmeriCorps Education Awards for members serving in this program. After completing a full term of service, AmeriCorps members receive $4,725 that they can use to pay for college or to pay off student loans. Interested individuals can learn about available opportunities and apply by visiting www.americorps.gov.
Citizen of the Month
I am proud to honor Tom Cannell as Citizen of the Month for the month of May. Tom has been an active resident and advocate for over 20 years in our community. Most recently, he was named West Shores Chamber Man of the Year in recognition of his lifelong dedication to the community. Tom has been a tireless volunteer at the local Youth Center and is active in organizing the local Christmas and 4th of July Festivities. His long-term vision brought him to encourage the District to purchase an extra 450 acres of land for water treatment, in order to plan for future expansion and growth.
Tom has been an instrumental figure and volunteer in Salton City and I am honored to make him my May Citizen of the Month!
Constituent Mail Bag
From El Centro
Dear Representative Filner:
Act now to protect our nation's waters. Two Supreme Court decisions and ambiguous federal agency guidance are putting our waters at risk of pollution and destruction.
Congress signaled its intent 30 years ago when it passed the Clean Water Act that it intended the Act to broadly protect our nation's waters, not just those you can float a boat on. Since then, industry has managed to hack away at the scope of the Clean Water Act protections through legal challenges, and the courts have recently contributed confusion.
The confusion and regulatory burden now placed on the federal agencies and public make it imperative for Congress to act NOW to clarify its intent that the Clean Water Act should broadly protect the nation's waters by passing the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 (H.R. 2421).
Congressman Filner replies:
Thank you for contacting me about H.R. 2421, the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act.
I wholeheartedly agree! The Federal Government must ensure that our waterways are clean and pristine. This law would push back against polluters' attempts to weaken protection for our nation's lakes, rivers and streams. I have co-sponsored H.R. 2421 as you requested. Rest assured, you can count on me to support legislation protecting our environment!
I appreciate your advocacy on this important issue.