Supporters of the Second Amendment cheered last week when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of individual gun rights in the McDonald v. Chicago case. For the second time in the last two years, the Supreme Court affirmed that state and local governments cannot infringe on an individual's right to keep and bear arms, as the Second Amendment clearly states. As you may recall, Heller v. District of Columbia overturned Washington, D.C.'s gun ban in 2008.
I joined with a bipartisan majority of the House and Senate in signing an amicus, or "friend of the court," brief. The brief asked the Court to hold that the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment. In siding with us, the Supreme Court sends a clear message to politicians at all levels attempting to enact excessive and unnecessary restrictions on gun ownership: the Second Amendment is not open to interpretation.
Though laws passed in Chicago and Washington may seem worlds away from the Second District of Alabama, if local governments are allowed to violate the Second Amendment, then gun rights are threatened across this country. That's why the Supreme Court decision is so important and necessary. Law-abiding citizens can rest assured that their gun rights are indeed guaranteed by the Constitution, and I will always stand firm in defending those rights.
South Korea -- U.S. Free Trade Agreement Working Group Formed
Last Wednesday marked the 3rd anniversary of President Bush signing the Korea -- U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). Three years have passed, and Congress has yet to act on this monumental and important agreement. At the recent G-20 meeting in Toronto, President Obama signaled his desire to reopen negotiations on the KORUS FTA and reach an agreement by the next G-20 meeting in November. To help guide its passage through Congress, I joined with Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA) to form the bipartisan KORUS FTA Working Group.
Congressman Reichert and I, along with three other Members of Congress and South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Han Duk-soo, held a press conference to announce the formation of the group. Our goal is to facilitate dialogue on issues surrounding the trade agreement, disseminate information about what it means for different regions of the country and sectors of the economy, and aid deliberations to swiftly prepare the agreement for congressional consideration.
As the Mayor of Montgomery, I helped bring Hyundai Motors to Alabama's capital city, and the benefits have been tremendous. South Korea has proved to be one of our closest friends and allies, and it's well past time for Congress to pass a trade agreement between our two countries. South Korea is already our 7th largest trading partner and this agreement would strengthen our already-strong partnership and provide a $10 - $12 billion boost to the U.S. gross domestic product. This agreement will help the rest of the country to experience some of the benefits we have already seen in Alabama and create jobs for American workers. I look forward to working with my colleagues to see the KORUS FTA ratified.
Oil Spill Legislation Passes House
Last week, the House approved the SPILL Act without opposition. The bill amends several antiquated maritime liability laws, including the Death on the High Seas Act (1920), the Jones Act (1920), and the Limitation on Liability Act (1851), to ensure that those responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico fairly compensate the families of the victims who died on the Deepwater Horizon platform.
The SPILL Act comes in response to testimony by the families of those lost in the tragic explosion. Their testimony outlined the inadequacies of current laws in responding to the loss of life at sea. As the law stands now, families of workers who die on land are compensated at a greater level than those who die at sea. The legislation passed last week will correct this inconsistency, and ensure that Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon platform, will not be able to limit its liability to the post-accident value of the platform, as it has attempted to do, or claim bankruptcy to avoid its responsibility to the families.
This is just one of many proposals the House will consider in the response to the oil spill. It is fitting, however, that one of our first legislative actions is to support the families who have suffered the most during this ongoing disaster.
As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call our offices in Montgomery at (334) 277-9113, Dothan at (334) 794-9680, Opp at (334) 493-9253, or Ozark at (334) 445-4600. You can also visit the website at www.bright.house.gov to sign up for the e-newsletter. It is my great pleasure to serve you and the entire Second District of Alabama.