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This Week In Washington: Fighting For The MED, Credit Scores And Honoring The Fallen


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Just a reminder, my 9th District Office Issues Meeting that had to be rescheduled because of last week's weather will now be held on Friday, February 12, 2010 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m in my Memphis District Office. Light refreshments will be served, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Fighting for Increased Funding for The MED

Thursday is the one year anniversary of President Obama signing into law the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization. I voted for this bill that not only provided health insurance to many of our nation's needy children, but also included provisions that help The MED. As County Commissioner, I cast the deciding vote to create The MED. The MED has always been near and dear to my heart for the care they provide. Since coming to Congress, I have worked to do everything possible at the Federal level to ensure that The MED continues to provide care for our citizens.

Prior to the enactment of CHIP, The MED was legally unable to collect Medicaid reimbursement for those indigent patients it treated from Arkansas and Mississippi. I am proud to say that the passage of CHIP and the inclusion of the provision referred to as the "Cohen Amendment," now permit the struggling medical center to finally begin collecting the millions of dollars it loses every year on the treatment of out-of-state patients.

The MED has begun receiving reimbursement from Arkansas, and is working with the state of Mississippi to begin accepting payment from that state, as well.

While this is good news, there is still much more work to be done to get The MED what it needs to continue its vital role in our community. Speaking before the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday morning, I shared with my colleagues the impact that closing The MED would have not just on Memphis, but the entire Mid-South and surrounding areas.

As I said in my floor statement, because of the cuts to TennCare and the lack of disproportionate share funding for our state, The MED is in danger of closing. While Hawaii's disproportionate share funding was addressed in the Senate-passed health care reform bill, Tennessee's was not.

I will continue to work as I have been with the White House, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebellius, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Congressional Leadership, and other colleagues in Congress to secure a disproportionate share funding solution for the hospital. In January, I personally raised this issue with President Obama during a question and answer session with House Democrats.

Making Football Safer For Young People

Football is a rough sport. There's no denying that. But we need to make sure we're doing everything we can to mitigate the dangers. On Monday, I participated in a House Judiciary Committee forum in Houston, Texas which examined the need for a uniform standard to address head and sports injuries in youth, high school, and college football programs. forum shed light on the fact that no college football conference has developed any meaningful policy to protect players from the damaging effects of concussions or other physical injuries. The lack of any strong standard that colleges, high schools or youth teams could follow has lead to a vacuum in responsibility and accountability by coaches and trainers to their players.

This was the third in a series of hearings on this issue that have been held by the House Judiciary Committee. I've participated in all three hearings at the invitation of Chairman John Conyers (D-MI).

The first two hearings focused on head injuries in the NFL. I was pleased that just days before our hearing in Detroit last month, the NFL announced a number of changes in league policy that were aimed at reducing head injuries and providing for the long-term care of retired players who may have been injured as a result of concussions.

Time Magazine has published an extensive article on the need to enact standards for head and physical injuries

Because of my work in making football a safer sport at all levels of the game, I am honored to be receiving an award from the NFL Players Association for these efforts. Unfortunately, I will be unable to personally accept the award which is being presented this Super Bowl weekend. Congressman Conyers will be accepting the award on my behalf.

Subcommittee Hearing on State Tax Issues

As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, I held a hearing on Thursday on state taxation initiatives. Currently, states levy a tax on income earned or on a transaction occurring within its borders. The taxpayer is liable only if there is a connection between the state and the activities of the taxpayer.

To weather the current economic crisis, state legislatures are looking to their tax codes for new sources of revenue to balance budgets or fund essential services. However, in some cases, state legislatures have used an overly broad interpretation of existing law and legal precedent to impose new taxes. Some of these changes are confusing and have left some taxpayers with unpredictable tax bills

Investing In Transportation to Improve Quality of Life

When it comes to moving boxes and freight, no city in America rivals Memphis's efficiency and effectiveness. However, when it comes to transporting our own citizens, Memphis has a long way to go.

In December, I introduced H.R. 4287, the Enhancing Livability for All Americans Act, which would create the Office of Livability within the U.S. Department of Transportation. This new office will focus on helping communities develop and maintain safe, reliable, integrated and accessible transportation networks that improve the economic and social well-being of residents. I am pleased to report that, as part of the Fiscal Year 2011 U.S. Department of Transportation Budget, President Obama included $20 million to implement key elements of H.R. 4287 -- $8 million will be used to create the Office of Livability, while $12 million will be used for grants and technical assistance to state, local and non-profit organizations.

The Office of Livability will play a vital role in providing the funding and the technical expertise to rural and urban areas, like Memphis, that are working tirelessly to become even more desirable places to live, work and visit. I commend President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for including my plan in next year's budget.

Free Credit Scores

A good credit score means better interest rates on mortgages, bank loans and credit cards, smaller deposits for rent or utilities and even lower insurance premiums. However, even though American's are entitled to a free credit report each year, the score is not included.
I have introduced H.R. 4538, the Fair Access to Credit Scores Act of 2010, would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to require the inclusion of credit scores with free annual credit reports provided to consumers.

Additionally, H.R. 4538 would also call for a GAO study on factors used to determine bankruptcy risk scores -- the number that indicates the likelihood of an individual filing for bankruptcy. Although it has been used for over twenty years to assess risk in lending, few consumers know of this risk score, much less how to adjust it downward.

As the Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee that deals with our nation's bankruptcy laws, I believe that Congress and, most importantly, consumers deserve to know the factors used to determine a bankruptcy risk score, how a bankruptcy risk score impacts consumers' ability to receive loans and the actions that consumers can take to improve their bankruptcy risk score.

H.R. 4538 is supported by the Consumers Union, National Association of Consumer Advocates, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation, National Council of La Raza, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), U.S. PIRG and Center for Economic Justice.

Hosting the Kenyan Speaker of Parliament

This week, I had the pleasure of hosting the Speaker of the Kenyan Parliament, Mr. Kenneth Otiato Marende, during his visit to the United States.

Speaker Marende requested the one-on-one meeting with me to discuss a wide range of issues, including the ongoing progress of re-writing the Kenyan Constitution, trade and economic development opportunities, and the importance of preventing an al-Qaida takeover of neighboring Somalia.

Honoring the Fallen

On Wednesday, I spoke on the House floor to honor the sacrifice of Navy Hospital Petty Officer Second Class Xin Qi who died while serving his country in Afghanistan on January 23, 2010. Petty Officer Qi is the third casualty from Shelby County in the last few months, the second this year, in Operation Enduring Freedom. 13 heroic service members from the 9th District have died in the Middle East since 2002.

Petty Officer Qi was 25 years of age, and is survived by his mother, Zhihong Li, and father, Gang Qi, of Cordova.

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