Voting to Ensure Equal Pay for Equal Work
In early August, I backed a comprehensive measure that will help end the discriminatory practice of paying a woman less than a man for performing the same job. The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1338), approved by a 247 to 178 vote, will strengthen the landmark Equal Pay Act and close the loopholes that have allowed some employers to avoid responsibility for discriminatory pay.
It is unacceptable that many women still get paid less for performing the same job as a man. A woman's paycheck should be based on performance and merit, not as a result of an employer's prejudice.
Although the wage gap between men and women has narrowed since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, gender-based wage discrimination remains a significant problem for women in the U.S. workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women only make 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. In addition, African American women only earn 66 cents on the dollar while Hispanic women earn 55 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. The Institute of Women's Policy Research concluded that this wage disparity will cost a woman anywhere from $400,000 to $2 million over her lifetime in lost wages.
The Democratic Congress has taken important steps to stop the practice of discriminatory pay. Last year, the House approved the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, legislation that rectifies a recent Supreme Court decision that has made it harder for workers to pursue pay discrimination claims.
The Paycheck Fairness Act builds on Congress' commitment to ensuring that all Americans are paid equally and fairly for the work that they do.
Hosting a Veterans' Roundtable with VA Under Secretary Tuerk
On August 15th, William Tuerk, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs of the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA) and I, hosted a roundtable meeting to discuss the Miramar Satellite expansion of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
I was honored to welcome Under Secretary Tuerk to my district as he shared plans for the Satellite cemetery with our veteran leaders. We have been working for an expansion of Fort Rosecrans for a decade, and I am gratified that the Under Secretary is responding to our call for honorable burials for all veterans in San Diego and Imperial Counties.
The Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery currently only has columbarium niches for cremated remains, with no room for ground burials. MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Miramar has been identified as the location for the expansion of Fort Rosecrans, and the land-use agreement between the Department of the Navy and the VA was recently finalized. The VA is working to create an overlap between services provided at Fort Rosecrans and the opening of the Miramar Satellite for burials, now expected to be August of 2010. At the roundtable meeting, Tuerk provided an update on the development of the Miramar satellite.
I appreciate the VA's responsiveness to my concern about Ft. Rosecrans' potential closure before the Miramar Satellite is ready for burials, forcing families to bury their loved ones at Riverside National Cemetery, more than 2 hours from San Diego. My priority is to ensure that every veteran has a burial option near their family. I will continue to closely monitor the progress of the Miramar Satellite, which is projected to provide burial capacity beyond the year 2040.
Announcing Funding for Arts Educators
I recently announced a U.S. Department of Education grant awarded to the Imperial County Office of Education. This first year $313,736 grant will be used in twelve Imperial County School Districts to fund professional development for K-12 classroom and arts educators. One of 24 grants awarded nationally, the near one million dollars over three years will provide Imperial Valley Schools the opportunity to improve arts instruction while improving students' academic achievement.
I am extremely pleased to announce this grant. With funding for education and especially the arts dwindling nationwide, this grant is an important investment in our educators and our children.
The grant funding will be used to train classroom teachers to create lesson plans that include sequential art graphic novels (commonly known as comic books). This approach allows students to explore drawing, while positively impacting student learning outcomes and simultaneously benefiting the student's use of the English language and mathematics. Teachers will participate in five day summer institutes, Saturday workshops and in class coaching.
As a former educator, I understand the importance of providing teachers with opportunities for professional development. Teachers are charged with the most important job: educating future generations, and they must be given support in their work. This grant is a step in the right direction.
Joining Latino Leaders to Help Seniors Obtain Stimulus Checks
On August 20th, l provided the keynote welcome address at the Stimulus Payment Check' Pro-bono Event. The Hispanic Association of Professional Services' (HAPS) hosted this event to provide application assistance to local seniors and minorities who may not have filed taxes and have not obtained their Stimulus Checks.
I am honored to join HAPS in helping Americans obtain their stimulus checks. When Congress passed this legislation, we wanted to ensure that every American would benefit from the Stimulus Package, and now it's our job to make sure seniors and minorities receive their checks ASAP.
Jorge Hernandez, CEO of HAPS, added, "This is a great opportunity for HAPS to give back to the community after all these years of receiving support from our people. I would also like to thank the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service for giving us the opportunity to prove to the Hispanic community that we are committed to help when help is needed."
HAPS is a non-profit association, formed by Certified Income Tax preparers and Immigration Consultants who host roundtable meetings once a week. HAPS' principal objective is to promote professional education in the Latino community. They work with many government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Franchise Tax Board, to provide practical seminars and workshops that help inform community members of benefits and opportunities that are available to them.
Announcing the Extension of MTS
Shuttle Service to Chargers Games
On August 7th, 2008, I hosted a press conference announcing the recent Federal Transit Administration (FTA) decision to allow the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) to temporarily provide shuttle services to and from Chargers games. Their decision will be reassessed during the next two months. Jim Steeg, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the San Diego Chargers, and Paul Jablonski, Chief Executive Officer of MTS, joined me at the press conference.
I am relieved that FTA has decided to allow MTS to provide shuttle services for the next few months, and I will continue to fight to ensure that this decision becomes permanent! MTS shuttle services offer many advantages to the public, including reducing traffic congestion, lessening air pollution and providing transportation for the public at-large, not just for pre-arranged, private groups. The FTA should be in the business of encouraging public transit as a viable alternative to automobile use, not discouraging it by creating arbitrary barriers to prevent transit agencies from offering service.
For several years, MTS has provided express shuttle service from area park-and-ride facilities to Chargers games for thousands of fans. On May 14th, MTS wrote to FTA requesting an advisory opinion, because MTS was concerned that the shuttles might violate FTA's new rule on charter service. On June 4th, MTS received an advisory opinion from FTA Chief Counsel Severn Miller stating that the MTS service would not fall under the definition of charter service. However, seven days later, MTS received a second, contradictory opinion from Mr. Miller. I then wrote a letter urging the FTA to allow MTS to continue providing services. After much deliberation, FTA told MTS that it could continue operating all five service areas (Chula Vista, Mira Mesa, Spring Street, Kearny Mesa and Governor Drive) for two months while FTA reviews the issue.
Supporting Funding for Military Childcare
Last month, I announced that the Fiscal Year 2009 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act includes $8,900,000 for construction of a Combined Childcare and Youth Center at the El Centro Naval Base.
The funding will go towards improvements to the existing child care center. According to the Department of Defense, about half of all military families have one child or more below school age, and in many of these families, both parents work.
When military personnel know their children are getting quality child care, they're more apt to perform better on the job, which augments mission readiness. We must ensure that the needs of military families, including child care, are given top priority.
Digital Television Is Coming. Are You Ready?
Just six months from now, our nation will undergo one of the most significant technological changes in history: the transition to digital television (DTV). On February 17, 2009, full-power television broadcasters will begin airing exclusively digital signals - and analog television sets that are not connected to a digital-to-analog converter box or cable or satellite service will stop working.
The digital television transition will bring our nation great benefits. Some of the channels currently used by analog television stations will be freed up for commercial advanced wireless services. Other channels have been set aside for public safety communications, including a nationwide, interoperable broadband network for public safety, which is a key recommendation of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks (the 9-11 Commission).
The digital television transition will also bring great benefits to television viewers. Digital television will mean more free, over-the-air television channels, in addition to clearer images and enhanced sound quality.
Consumers need to begin preparing for this monumental change now, not only to enjoy the benefits of digital television, but also to avoid losing television service altogether. Families who use analog television sets to receive television service over-the-air, using a traditional rooftop antenna or "rabbit ears," will have to acquire a new digital-to-analog converter box to ensure that their sets can display digital signals. Analog television sets connected to cable or satellite service should not require a new converter box.
This shift from analog to digital television is a major undertaking. Many of those who will be affected are not aware that they need to take action. In June, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) consumer survey found that 35 percent of homes that rely on over-the-air reception and 52 percent of homes with at least one analog television set not connected to cable or satellite service are unprepared for the transition. Those numbers suggest that much work remains to educate consumers. If households are not properly informed and prepared, there is potential for much confusion in February.
At Congress's direction, the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has established a program to help consumers defray the cost of digital-to-analog converter boxes. Every household is eligible for two $40 coupons, each of which can be used towards the purchase of a converter box. Consumers can call 1-888-DTV-2009 or visit http://www.dtv2009.gov to learn more.
Every one of us has a crucial role to play in this transition, and I will continue working to educate my constituents about the steps they should take. Together, we can ensure that the transition marks an important milestone in broadcasting history, not a day of nationwide consumer disenfranchisement and confusion.
Recognizing Dr. Ramon Rodriguez as Citizen of the Month
Last month, I named Dr. Ramon Rodriguez as the 51st Congressional District's "Citizen of the Month" for his positive impact within our region's Veteran community. Dr. Rodriguez currently serves as Chief of Medicine at Pioneer Memorial Hospital, and he was the first VA doctor to serve Valley veterans. The presentation took place at my birthday picnic in Imperial Valley.
I am grateful for Dr. Rodriguez's many years of dedication. Our veterans deserve the best medical care, and Dr. Rodriguez has given them just that. His legacy of leadership will ensure that medical services will continue to expand and improve for current and future generations of veterans. I am also delighted that veterans' services have improved in the Valley and access to care has increased at the new VA Clinic.
As a medical student at University of California - San Francisco, Dr. Rodriguez rotated through Letterman Army General Hospital where he treated soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. Dr. Rodriguez continued his service to veterans at the VA Hospital in Los Angeles and subsequently became the primary physician at the Naval Base in Seeley. He has served the Valley for the past 32 years and has been Chief of Medicine at Pioneer Memorial Hospital since 2002.
Dr. Ramon Rodriguez
Pictured here with me are (from left): Dr. Ramon Rodriguez and his daughter, Dr. Ramona Krutzik
Constituent Mail Bag
As a supporter of Defenders of Wildlife and a constituent who cares about ensuring that endangered species are protected for future Americans, I strongly urge you to do everything in your power to stop damaging changes to the Endangered Species Act that were proposed in August by officials in the Bush Administration.
Congressman Filner replies:
Thank you for contacting me about President Bush's attempts to weaken the Endangered Species Act.
I wholeheartedly agree with you--this law is more important now than ever before! Congress must stop President Bush from placing threatened and endangered animals at increased risk. Rest assured, I will continue to fight against any attempt to limit this important act.
I appreciate your advocacy for our environment and its inhabitants.
Useful Web Site: Library Card Sign-up Month
As Fall approaches, children all over America are preparing to head back to school. As an educator, I believe that one of our most important resources to children and adults is our nation's library system. September is national Library Card Sign-up Month, and I would like to take this time to remind parents of the role that libraries can play in improving all aspects of education. Please take the time to visit the American Library Association and see how easy it is to sign up for a library card and the unlimited opportunities that our libraries provide.