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Public Statements

Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update

Location: Washington DC

Congressman Bob Filner's
Congressional Update

September 2005

In this Issue:

* Protecting Children from Predators
* Continued Environmental Protections
* 40th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act! (Video)
* Hot Bill: H.R. 23 Merchant Mariners
* Citizens of the Month
* Crime Fighter of the Month
* Constituent Mail Bag
* Cool Web Site: Hurricane Relief

Protecting Children from Predators
Recently, I joined with law enforcement officials for a joint press conference to discuss the impact of the Jessica Lunsford and Sarah Lunde Act. This bill, which I introduced with Congressman Rahm Emanuel establishes a secure electronic monitoring of sexual predators through the Global Positioning System (GPS).

The bill is named after 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford and 13-year-old Sarah Lunde, who fell victims to sexual predators and were brutally murdered. Similar programs are already underway in some states. GPS tracking will provide law enforcement with the real time location of the offender within 10 feet of their location. My bill authorizes $30 million for this purpose and directs the Attorney General to provide a report to Congress detailing the effectiveness of the program.

There are nearly 400,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, many are able to slip through the cracks and become lost to law enforcement officials. A 2003 investigation found that the state of California could not account for 33,000 registered sex offenders. While some lead normal lives, many go on to commit other terrible acts.

Sexual predators attack the most innocent and vulnerable population of our society- our children. Unfortunately, studies show that many sex offenders repeat their crimes when they are released from prison. We must do more to ensure our children's personal safety and security from these repeat sex offenders.

Continued Environmental Protections
In late July, I joined my fellow Democrats in Congress to applaud the elimination of a provision in the recently-passed energy bill that would have exempted manufacturers and distributors of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) from liability for contaminating water resources.

The provision was being considered as a part of H.R. 6, the federal energy bill. It included no federal funds and would have prevented cities, counties and other local agencies across the country from filing lawsuits to recover clean-up costs of contaminated water systems. Of particular significance is the exemption that would have shifted an estimated $29 billion in clean-up costs to local taxpayers.

MTBE is a chemical additive placed in gasoline to reduce automobile emissions and improve air quality. The production of MTBE by manufacturers and distributors has caused the additive to spread into groundwater systems and contaminate drinking water supplies. The EPA has determined that MTBE is a potential carcinogen. The potential human health risks have been a cause of major public concern.

This provision would have unfairly placed the financial responsibility to clean up contaminated water systems in the hands of taxpayers. This is wrong. Manufacturers and distributors of hazardous MTBE need to be held accountable and should not be shielded from the liability--nor should the burden of cleaning up be placed on local governments. Eliminating this erroneous provision is a major win in the fight to protect the public health and safeguard our water resources.

40th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act
In August, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965-one of the most effective and crucial civil rights laws ever enacted. It worked to end techniques that had been used for decades to deny millions of Americans the right to vote.

In 1961, I joined the Freedom Rides and was arrested and imprisoned for my participation in the effort to end segregation in America. As a young teen, I was drawn early to the rousing speeches and inspiring writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The thousands of marches, boycotts, sit-ins and freedom rides led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

During the 1960s to secure this most basic right involved the efforts of many brave Americans across the country. The cost was high: church burnings, bombings, shootings, and beatings.

The Voting Rights Act provided extensive protections by prohibiting any voting practice that would abridge the right to vote on the basis of race. Any "test or device" for registering or voting was outlawed, effectively abolishing poll taxes and literacy tests. It provided for criminal and civil sanctions against persons interfering with the right to vote.

The Voting Rights Act also required state and local political divisions with a documented history of discrimination to submit any potential changes to their voting laws to the U.S. Attorney General or to federal judges for "pre-clearance" or approval before the laws take effect, thereby ensuring that the federal government has the essential ability to prevent discriminatory voting laws. Unlike other parts of the Voting Rights Act, the "pre-clearance" provisions expire in 2007.

Thanks to the successes of the Voting Rights Act, today there are 81 members of Congress of African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American descent, and thousands of others in elected offices around the country.

We must honor the legacy of all who died in the struggle for civil rights. We must renew our commitment to remove obstacles to the right to vote. I am committed to protecting the right to vote, and will work to reauthorize and strengthen those sections of the Voting Rights Act that will expire in 2007.

Click the above picture to watch the video of my participation in a civil rights project!

Hot Bill: H.R. 23 Benefits for WWII Merchant Mariners

My bill, the "Belated Thank You to the Merchant Mariners of World War II Act" (H.R. 23) has 220 co-sponsors! In addition, Senator Ben Nelson has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The purpose of this bill is to correct an injustice that has been inflicted upon a group of World War II veterans, the Merchant Mariners, and to compensate them for their service. World War II Merchant Mariners suffered the highest casualty rate of any of the branches of service while they delivered troops, tanks, food, airplanes, fuel and other needed supplies for the war. Their chance of dying was extremely high. Enemy forces sank over 800 ships between 1941 and 1944.

Unfortunately, these brave men were denied their rights under the GI Bill. All who served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard were recipients of benefits. Only the United States Merchant Marines were excluded. They became the forgotten service. Four decades went by before they were given a "watered down" GI Bill of Rights.

It is impossible to make up for over 40 years of unpaid benefits, which caused them to miss out on education benefits and home loans. The average age of Mariners is 81. A monthly tax-free benefit of $1000 to them and to their widows will give them a measure of security in their later years.

Citizens of the Month
I am proud and honored to name Dr. Carroll Waymon, the Vice President of the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club, as the August "Citizen of the Month".

Dr. Waymon has been a long time community activist and has participated in many causes to help people, including free educational seminars to help find shelters for the homeless. Dr. Waymon has also assisted several West African groups to immigrate to the U.S., find jobs, locate affordable housing, and obtain first class health care. Not stopping there, Waymon also organized voter education and registration drives in his community.

He is an impeccable role model for the community. Dr. Waymon makes dreams come true for families who might otherwise have never had a chance to come to America.

Crime Fighter of the Month
I have selected the Earl B. Gilliam Association as the August "Crimefighter of the Month" for their leadership and commitment in safeguarding human and civil rights.

The Earl B. Gilliam Association has been instrumental in fighting for fair sentencing laws for African Americans and all people of color. They provide weekend law school courses that assist individuals who normally can't afford legal counsel to mount a proper course of courtroom defense at a minimal low cost fee.

Their mission includes leading the battle to fight local and state wide bills, initiatives and candidates whose approval or election would be detrimental to the aspirations of African Americans.

The Earl B. Gilliam Association has been at the forefront of providing legal assistance and is tireless in fulfilling its mission of providing a helping hand to those in need!

Constituent Mail Bag

From San Diego:
I am writing to ask you to vote for H.R. 3132, the bi-partisan "Child Safety Act of 2005." As your constituent, and as a citizen concerned about sex offenders living in my community in the communities across America, I believe it is time we stand up to truly protect our children.

Please support our children, and help make our communities safe.

Congressman Filner replies:
Thank you for contacting me about our criminal justice system, I could not agree with you more-- we need to protect our community from sexual predators!

You will be happy to know that I have been working with the San Diego Congressional delegation to obtain additional funding for the San Diego Country Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Task Force. In addition, I have introduced a bill with Congressman Rahm Emanuel to help local law enforcement officers track sexual predators through a Global Position System (GPS).

I will support H.R. 3132, the Children's Safety Act of 2005, as you requested.

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