We Need a Long-term Economic Development Plan
I supported a bipartisan economic stimulus plan, passed in Congress this week, that I hope will help get our economy moving again by putting money in the pockets of working families and small businesses. Approximately 600,000 New Jersey families could receive rebates of up to $1,200 per couple, plus $300 per child as early as mid-May. The President is expected to soon sign it into law.
Nobody should mistake this as a real, long-term economic strategy. I have been an advocate in Congress for enacting forward-looking policies emphasizing economic development and investment in R&D and education. Had Congress and the Administration acted on these priorities in previous years, it is likely we would have had less need to pass such a stimulus plan now.
Moving beyond the stimulus package, Congress should advance an "Innovation Agenda" - one that supports research-based companies in our communities, invests in math, science, and foreign language education, makes permanent the R&D tax credit, and doubles the budget for the National Science Foundation. Such a strategy will help us rise to the challenge of a new and changing global landscape.
Preserving the Americans with Disabilities Act
This summer marked the 17th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), landmark legislation ensuring that individuals would not be discriminated on the basis of disability. Unfortunately, in recent years the Supreme Court has narrowed the scope of this law and created a new set of barriers for Americans with disabilities. Under this narrow interpretation, individuals with diabetes, heart conditions, epilepsy, mental retardation, cancer, and many others have been denied their rights under the ADA because they are labeled as "too functional" to be considered "disabled."
Last week, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing on this issue. There, we heard testimony from Carey McClure, an electrician with muscular dystrophy from Georgia, who was denied a job because of his disability and then denied recourse under the ADA because he was able to perform work tasks. There are many more similar heartbreaking stories.
To address this absurd Catch 22 - where an employer may say a person is "too disabled" to perform a job but not "disabled enough" to be protected under the ADA - I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 3195, the Americans with Disabilities Act Restoration Act of 2007, which would amend the definition of disability so that individuals who Congress originally intended to protect from discrimination, like Mr. McClure, are again covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bill awaits a mark up in the Committee.
Early Childhood Education
The House Committee on Education and Labor held another important hearing last week, when it brought together expert witnesses who highlighted the latest science and research confirming that what children learn and experience during their earliest years of life greatly affects their brain, and thus affects social and academic development. I am a strong advocate for Congressional efforts to invest in early education by working with states to expand access to early programs, enhance program quality, and provide additional support for early childhood educators.
I support universal pre-K education, and believe no child should be denied access because their parents do not have the money for tuition. I hope this hearing helps advance the PRE-K Act, legislation I am cosponsoring that would direct the U.S. Department of Education to award matching grants to states to enhance or improve preschool programs. Passage of the bill would build on the pre-K work in New Jersey and provide new funding to Trenton, Freehold, Franklin Township and Jamesburg.
Member of Congress