eNews - May 2, 2008
1. It has now been 76 days since the Protect America Act expired
2. Frelinghuysen hails Pentagon decision on mental health
3. Assuring Access to college
4. House Passes Historic Ban on Genetic Discrimination
5. Frelinghuysen opens new Picatinny Emergency Operation Center
6. Stimulus Rebate Payments Begin, Beware of Tax Rebate Scams
7. Frelinghuysen briefs Somerset Business Partnership
It has now been 76 days since the Protect America Act expired
and as a result, the House Majority Leadership has left America at significant risk and potentially blind to new terrorist plots. Our intelligence agencies have lost critical tools that protect our national security and keep us safe at home.
"The House should immediately take up the Senate-passed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) bill," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. "This bill passed the Senate by 68 votes, and it would pass the House with an overwhelming bipartisan vote if House leaders simply gave it the up-or-down vote it deserves."
A bipartisan group of 25 State Attorneys General wrote a letter to House leaders urging passage of the bipartisan Senate bill: "Passing S. 2248 would ensure our intelligence experts are once again able to conduct real-time surveillance. As Attorneys General, we are our states' chief law enforcement officials and therefore responsible for taking whatever action is necessary to keep our citizens safe. With S. 2248 still pending in the House of Representatives, our national security is in jeopardy. We therefore urge the House of Representatives to schedule a vote and pass the FISA Amendments Act of 2007."
Frelinghuysen hails Pentagon decision on mental health
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen this week hailed a change in Pentagon policy designed to encourage members of the Armed Forces to seek care for combat-related stress. "The military recognizes that it must improve psychiatric care for troops who have deployed to war zones. While this change alone will not solve the silent crisis' of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it represents progress."
The Department of Defense announced that seeking mental-health care due to post-traumatic stress will no longer be seen as an obstacle to getting a government security clearance. The announcement Thursday by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is an effort to encourage troops to seek psychiatric counseling for combat stress. He cited an Army inspector general report's findings that troops often forgo mental-health care because they are concerned it could prevent them from getting a security clearance and potentially could damage their careers. Under the new Pentagon regulation, only those who have received court-ordered care or committed a violent act must disclose their recent mental health history.
"This common-sense change has been a long time in coming," Frelinghuysen said. "Our top priority should be to ensure that our troops get all the care they need to treat their wounds, both physical and mental. This new policy should begin to remove an obstacle to treatment."
Frelinghuysen's Defense Appropriations Subcommittee has conducted numerous hearings about the medical care of deployed warfighters and their families. He says there still exists significant factors that work against proper psychiatric for troops.
"The societal stigma attached to psychiatric care will continue to prevent many troops from seeking the treatment they need," he said. "The Department of Defense must continue to find innovative ways to diminish or remove this stigma among its troops. I am committed to ensuring that our military health experts have all the resources they need to tackle this silent crisis."
Assuring Access to college
The House of Representatives Thursday passed legislation designed to bolster the federal college student loan program in light of the credit crunch that has affected financial markets. H.R. 5715 would increase the total amount of federally backed loans that students can borrow and authorize the U.S. Education Department to buy up existing loans to inject additional funding into the market.
"America wins if we maximize the number of families who can help their kids pursue a higher education," said Rep. Frelinghuysen. "We should not allow a squeeze in the credit markets to allow students to be squeezed out of college."
The bill also would free up money to provide larger grants, rather than loans, to low-income math and science students with good grades.
Education Department officials have indicated they need this legislation in place by July, the beginning of the heaviest student borrowing season. The President is expected to sign the bill into law next week.
For further information about student aid, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/index.jsp
House passes historic Ban on Genetic Discrimination
With Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's strong support, the House this week passed an historic bill that bans discrimination against people based on their genetic make-up. The bill makes it illegal to deny insurance or employment to people based on their genetic information. It also bars employers from using such data in hiring, assignment, promotion or firing decisions.
Experts say enactment of the discrimination ban should ease the fears of people who avoid genetic tests or enrollment in clinical trials of new medicines because they fear the results will be used against them.
"This legislation could have immediate health and safety benefits," said Frelinghuysen, a longtime co-sponsor of the measure.
"Researchers have reported that people have declined to participate in clinical trials because they fear genetic discrimination. This bill should now help speed the development of lifesaving medicines, devices and procedures."
President Bush is expected to sign the measure into law in coming weeks.
Frelinghuysen opens new Picatinny Emergency Operation Center
Earlier today, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen joined senior Army leaders in "cutting the ribbon" on a new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Picatinny Arsenal. The 7,000 square foot center will serve multiple purposes for military and civilian organizations. It can function as a developmental battle lab, providing warfighters and first responders with interoperable, world-class technologies to meet America's 21st century security and civil-support challenges. It will also provide training, exercise and real-world operational support to local, state and federal civil authorities, as well as National Guard and civil support responders.
Frelinghuysen praised the people of Picatinny for their vision in constructing this new facility which will have real military and civilian applications. "This EOC will soon become another asset Picatinny has to offer to the Department of Defense, other Federal agencies, the State of New Jersey and our regional community," he said.
Scheduled to begin operations in mid-2008, the EOC will consist of more than 40 permanent operator workstations, arranged on a large main operations floor with a fully networked 13-by-33-foot state-of-the-art video wall. Overlooking the main operations floor are four additional command rooms. Each will be capable of operating as an autonomous EOC with its own secure voice, video and data communications systems.
The EOC is fully re-configurable and expandable, with independent network communications and back-up uninterruptible power supply and generator power. The facility's audio visual and information technology infrastructure is robust enough to support a surge staff of more than 100 operators during multi-agency exercises and real-world events.
Stimulus Rebate Payments Begin, Beware of Tax Rebate Scams
The Internal Revenue Service this week started to transfer economic stimulus payments to thousands of New Jersey residents.
Whether a taxpayer opted for direct deposit determines how soon the payment will arrive. The first cycle of paper checks will be mailed starting May 9.
Economic stimulus payments will be issued according to the last two-digits of the main filer's Social Security number. For joint filers, the payments will go out based on the person listed first on the return. Payments will be made by either direct deposit or paper check, consistent with how people filed their 2007 tax return.
Paper checks will also go out based on Social Security number. For Social Security numbers ending in 00 through 09, the paper checks will be mailed starting May 9 and will continue through May 16.
For further information, visit:
The IRS has warned taxpayers about fraudulent schemes involving use of IRS tax rebates. The most recent schemes are:
Some people have received phone calls about the economic stimulus payments, in which the caller impersonates an IRS employee. The caller asks the taxpayer for their Social Security and bank account numbers, claiming that the IRS needs the information to complete the processing of the taxpayer's stimulus payment. In reality, the IRS uses the information contained on the taxpayer's tax return to process stimulus payments, rather than contacting taxpayers by phone or e-mail.
An e-mail claiming to come from the IRS about the "2008 Economic Stimulus Refund" tells recipients to click on a link to fill out a form, apparently for direct deposit of the payment into their bank account. This appears to be an identity theft scheme to obtain recipients' personal and financial information so the scammers can clean out their victims' financial accounts. In reality, taxpayers do not have to fill out a separate form to get a stimulus payment or have it directly deposited; all they had to do was file a tax return and include direct deposit information on the return.
For further information visit: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=155682,00.html
Frelinghuysen Briefs Somerset Business Partnership
Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) on Monday briefed members of the Somerset Business Partnership (SBP) and vowed to work to stop the Democrat-authored "largest tax increase in American history."
"New Jersey's families and businesses are already taxed too much," said Frelinghuysen. We must prevent the House Majority Leadership from squeezing the further them with the largest tax hike in American history."
House Republicans forced several votes last month in an attempt to stop the Democrat-authored tax increase during consideration of the rule for H.R. 5719, a tax bill scheduled for consideration on the House floor. Republicans sought to use a proposal from Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) - the Tax Increase Prevention Act (H.R. 2734) - to stop the $683 billion tax increase passed by House Democrats in March as part of their FY 2009 budget proposal.
"This massive tax increase, which will take more money out of the pockets of every single New Jersey taxpayer," said Frelinghuysen. "It represents a great threat to our economy, particularly at a time when families and small businesses are already struggling with soaring gas prices and other hikes in the cost of living. "
Frelinghuysen told the gathering at the Bridgewater Marriott that he has written to the bi-partisan Congressional leadership, asking them to put aside partisan differences and to work together to lower gasoline and oil prices.
"The American people are deeply concerned about the direction of gasoline prices and our economy," he said. "We owe it to them to eliminate the political finger-pointing, recognize the ongoing crisis and work together to provide workable, affordable, effective solutions."
He also said that he encouraged the Leadership to expedite consideration of his legislation, H.R. 5768, "The Commodities Futures Trading Commission Improvement Act" - legislation designed to increase transparency and accountability in energy commodities markets.
Frelinghuysen also updated the SBP on the ongoing Route 22 Sustainable Corridor project. Through his work in Congress, he has secured $3.92 million in this year's Omnibus Appropriations bill for a total of $7.92 million in appropriations for the program. The project will redesign an 8-mile section of Route 22 in Bridgewater Township and Somerville Borough to ease traffic congestion, improve vehicular and pedestrian safety and contribute to Somerset County's economic growth.