Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update
House Passes Historic Energy Security Legislation
At the end of the first session of the 110th Congress, I was proud to join a majority in the House to pass an historic and sweeping bill to put us on a path toward energy independence. This measure was approved by a vote of 235 to 181 and will strengthen our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, lower energy costs, create economic growth and new jobs, and begin to address global warming.
With the price at the pump skyrocketing to $3.52 per gallon here in San Diego County, Congress has now taken swift and comprehensive action to build an energy independent future for America.
Americans are ready to lead the world on clean alternative energy. Americans are ready to declare energy independence from foreign oilto strengthen our national security, grow our economy, reduce energy costs, and end global warming.
For too long, Washington has drug its feet and denied the problem. It has let oil companies and foreign governments call the shots. The 110th Congress is taking America in a new direction. Our energy security plan is about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, relying instead on clean, renewable sources here in the United States, on American ingenuity, and on our entrepreneurial, can-do spirit.
The cornerstone of the "Energy Independence and Security Act" increases the fuel efficiency of vehicles to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. This is the first increase in a generation and is supported by environmentalists, labor groups and the automobile industry. This provision will save American families $700 to $1,000 per year at the pump with $22 billion in net annual consumer savings in 2020. Here in California, this provision will create 19,900 jobs and save families $2.53 billion at the pump in 2020.
* Lowers consumer energy costs. The bill requires for the first time that 15 percent of our electricity come from renewable sources, saving consumers here in California from $1.28 billion to $1.35 billion in 2020. It also will save consumers $440 billion through landmark new energy efficiency standards through 2030 for a wide range of products, appliances, lighting and buildings.
* Creates new jobs. The bill will create new jobs, with the investment in renewable energy through tax incentives for solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal technologies and cutting-edge energy research, creating good paying jobs in rural communities across the country through an historic commitment to biofuels, training workers for 3 million new "green" jobs over the next 10 years and making small businesses leaders in renewable energy.
* Strengthens our national security by reducing oil consumption by more than 4 million barrels a day in 2030, through the CAFE standard and an historic commitment to American-grown biofuels.
* The bill overall will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 35 percent of what is needed by 2030 to save the planet.
This bipartisan legislation has earned strong support of leaders in the business, labor, faith and environmental communities across the nation.
Making Toys Safer and Protecting Consumers
Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill to make toys safer and protect consumers. The Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act was unanimously approved by a vote of 407 to 0.
Our legislation responds to the toy safety crisis, creates the toughest lead standard in the world for children's products and helps consumers know when products are recalled.
The "Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act" bans lead beyond a minute amount in products intended for children under 12, mandates third-party testing of children's products, and requires mandatory safety standards for products like cribs and high chairs.
The legislation also requires new labels to aid in the recall of children's products and prohibits companies from exporting products that have been recalled or violate product safety rules.
Finally, the legislation strengthens the currently underfunded and understaffed Consumer Product Safety Commission. The bill significantly increases CPSC resources to hire additional staff and for laboratory renovations, including $20 million to modernize the testing labs. The legislation also creates a new power for the CPSC to immediately share information about dangerous products with the public and ensures state public health agencies are kept informed.
For too long, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has failed to protect the American consumer. The bill we passed will help give the commission the tools it needs to keep us safe.
Helping Veterans Survive the Subprime Mortgage Crisis
I recently introduced a pair of bills to address the needs of veterans during the ongoing subprime mortgage market crisis.
The current VA home loan program is irrelevant because fees for the loans are too high and equity requirements are overly restrictive. As a result, veterans are forced to turn to the commercial mortgage market, which is risky and volatile. Loan products in this market offer non-traditional features that have recently led to the rise in delinquency and foreclosures in the subprime market among the veteran population.
H.R. 4884, the "Veteran Home Loan Guaranty Improvement Act," will make home loans more accessible to veterans by easing restrictions on the home loan guaranty programs administered by the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA). The bill eliminates the equity requirements for refinancing in response to declining home values which prohibit many veterans from qualifying for the benefit. The bill also reduces the VA guaranteed home loan funding fees to one percent and eliminates the funding fees for veterans seeking to refinance a home loan.
H.R. 4883 will prohibit foreclosure of property owned by a servicemember for one year following a period of military service.
For many of our returning servicemembers and veterans, the stress of what they have gone through in war is still prevalent when they return home. Unfortunately, for many of these heroes, subprime loans are the only option when they do not have the best credit score, and more often than not, their low credit score is a direct result of their service to our country. These bills protect veterans from predatory lending, increase opportunities for homeownership, and provide protection from foreclosure for a whole year after military service. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the new year to address the negative impact the recent subprime foreclosures have had on our veterans and servicemembers.
Announcing Grants for St. Vincent de Paul Village, Inc.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded multiple "Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance" grants to St. Vincent de Paul Village, Inc. These grants, which total over $4 million, will be distributed to the Village and ten other local organizations to help fight homelessness.
Father Joe and St. Vincent de Paul provide a friendly, helping hand in our community, and they deserve all the support we can give!
In 1950, St. Vincent de Paul started as a small center handing out peanut butter sandwiches to needy San Diegans, and the operation grew from there. In 1982 Father Joe Carroll took over leadership of the center and slowly increased the level of service. St. Vincent de Paul currently provides customized care, including three meals a day, child-specific education and care, job training and placement, and medical and dental care. The St. Vincent de Paul Village is dedicated to helping our neighbors in need break the cycle of homelessness and poverty by promoting self sufficiency.
Father Joe Carroll said, "I am very happy that HUD recognizes the unique partnership that exists here in San Diego. This partnership consists of ten organizations, including Catholic Charities, the San Diego Youth and Community Services, Volunteers of America, the Salvation Army and Veterans Village of San Diego. These grants are shared amongst these local organizations, which allows us to determine how best to respond to the needs of the homeless and destitute."
St. Vincent de Paul Village, Inc. has been awarded $513,712 for their Family Living Center, $619,024 for Fresh Start, $1,699,096 for Solutions 2/5, $890,000 for Solutions 4, and $402,182 for the Toussaint Academy of the Arts and Sciences.
"This program is extremely important here in San Diego, because one of our greatest challenges has been helping homeless people overcome poverty, sickness and stigma to become productive members of our society. Father Joe has brought opportunities to disadvantaged families and helped many people get back on their feet.
I applaud his efforts, and I know that he inspires everyone to do more!
Announcing FEMA Grants for Imperial County, Brawley, and El Centro
I am happy to announce Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for the Imperial County Sheriff's Department, the Brawley Police Department, and the City of El Centro Fire Department. These grants were issued under the Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program (CEDAP), which provides smaller communities and rural areas with technology and equipment, together with training and technical assistance, to help enhance first responder capabilities.
I am pleased that the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA recognize the vital needs of our community in providing this essential equipment. These grants will go a long way toward keeping us safe and prepared.
The Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program (CEDAP) complements the Department of Homeland Security's other major grant programs to enhance regional response capabilities, mutual aid, and interoperable communications by providing technology and equipment. CEDAP also provides funding for the training required to operate new equipment and to prepare law enforcement and emergency responder agencies in smaller jurisdictions and certain metropolitan areas.
The Imperial County Sheriff's Department has been awarded $11,794 for the TacSight SE35 Advanced Thermal Imager for Law Enforcement. The City of El Centro Fire Department was awarded $30,935.80 for the CEDAP Chemical Detection Kit. The City of Brawley Police Department was awarded $8,499 for a Detection/Deterrence Search and Surveillance System.
As a border community, Imperial County is on the frontlines in the effort to keep our nation safe. These grants and equipment provide our law enforcement officers and emergency responders with the tools they need to protect our community.
Sponsoring a Bill to End Racial Profiling
I am happy to announce my co-sponsorship of H.R. 4611, the "End Racial Profiling Act."
Racial profiling is a divisive practice that strikes at the very foundation of our democracy. When law-abiding citizens are treated differently by those who enforce the law simply because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin, they are denied the basic respect and equal treatment that is the right of every American.
The "End Racial Profiling Act" is designed to track and eradicate racial profiling by changing the policies and procedures underlying the practice. First, the bill provides a prohibition on racial profiling, enforceable by injunctive relief. Second, the receipt of federal law enforcement funding is conditioned on their adoption of effective policies that prohibit racial profiling. Third, the Justice Department is authorized to provide grants for the development and implementation of best policing practices, such as early warning systems, technology integration, and other management protocols that discourage profiling. Finally, the Attorney General is required to provide periodic reports to assess the nature of any ongoing discriminatory profiling practices.
A Bill to Provide Paralympics Programs to Disabled Veterans
Before the end of the First Session of the 110th Congress, I introduced H.R. 4255, the "United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Paralympic Program Act of 2007." This bill authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide grants to the USOC to plan and implement a Paralympic Program for veterans and members of the Armed Services.
Paralympics, sports for the physically disabled, has origins in World War II when the paralympic movement offered sports as rehabilitation for injured veterans. The purpose of the program in my bill is to enhance the rehabilitation and quality of life of current severely-injured service members and veterans and to reduce the chance of secondary medical conditions.
The United States Olympic Committee is well-suited to plan and institute a Paralympic Program for our military and veterans. In 1998, Congress passed the "Olympic and Amateur Sports Act Amendments," which charged the USOC with the responsibility of assisting amateur athletic programs and competitions for athletes with disabilities. Since that time, USOC has led a resurgence in paralympic sports.
When severely injured military began returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the USOC began offering Paralympic Military Sports Camps at its training facilities, including at the USOC training facility in my district in Chula Vista, California. To date, more than 1,200 injured veterans have been introduced to paralympic sports as a result of these training programs. Nevertheless, with so many injured, much more needs to be done.
This legislation also requires the VA Secretary to conduct an outreach program to inform all disabled veterans about the existence of the Paralympic Program and to encourage their participation.
Constituent Mail Bag
We write to you today to ask you to act swiftly to overturn the FCC's Dec. 18 vote to relax media ownership rules.
We have spoken out against media consolidation in every way we know how: attending hearings, writing letters, submitting comments. However, on Dec. 18, the FCC ignored this widespread
public opposition -- just like it did in 2003. The FCC has turned its back on its mission and its mandate. Their decision to let Big Media get even bigger will erode localism, diminish minority ownership, and decrease competition.
Congressman Filner replies:
Thank you for contacting me about media ownership.
I wholeheartedly agree! I am greatly concerned about who is controlling what we are watching. I am disappointed in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) recent decision to loosen media ownership rules, which play an important part in keeping the media marketplace diverse and in protecting a free flow of news and information. Rest assured, I will work with my colleagues to prevent further consolidation of media ownership.
I appreciate your advocacy on this most important issue.
Useful Website: Become a Volunteer Blood Donor
This month, I invite you to help save a life. Every day in the U.S., approximately 39,000 units of blood are required in hospitals and emergency treatment facilities. Blood is traditionally in short supply during the early winter months. For this reason, National Blood Donor Month was created to raise awareness about the need for blood donation.
I hope that you will take the time to visit the American Association of Blood Banks for information on eligibility for donating blood and the location of a blood bank near you. Remember, by giving one pint of blood, you can help save three lives!