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E-News from Congressman Murphy

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In This Week's Edition of E-News ...

Town Hall Meeting at Greene County Fairgrounds Monday

House Doctors Caucus Urges Swift Action to Save Sarah

Murphy Participates in White House Mental Health Event

Committee Reviewing EPA's Backdoor Regulating

Local RV Maker Visits DC to Discuss Ways to Keep Camper Industry Rolling

Murphy at Local SWPA Events

Town Hall Meeting at Greene County Fairgrounds Monday

Congressman Tim Murphy will host a special Town Hall Meeting at the Greene County Fairgrounds in Waynesburg on Monday, June 10. Parts of Greene County were recently added to the 18th congressional district, and the June 10 Town Hall is an opportunity for Greene County residents to meet Congressman Murphy and discuss issues of importance to them beginning at 6:00 p.m. Monday at the Fairground's 4H Exhibit Building off of Route 21 (Roy Furman Highway) between downtown Waynesburg and I-79. Rep. Murphy's staff will be on hand to assist constituents with federal agency casework. For more information about the town hall or to RSVP, please call (412) 344-5583.

House Doctors Caucus Urges Swift Action to Save Sarah

Many concerned residents throughout Southwestern PA were moved to act on behalf of Southeastern PA resident Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old girl suffering from cystic fibrosis who has been prevented by a federal rule from receiving the adult lung that could save her life. Rep. Murphy, helping to lead congressional efforts on the "Save Sarah" campaign, called on Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to change the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network (OPTN) regulations, which currently prohibit individuals under 12 years old from being eligible for an adult lung transplant.

Sarah, who will turn 11 in August, is on OPTN's priority list for a pediatric lung, but young donors remain rare. Her parents filed an emergency motion on June 5 in a last-ditch bid to save their daughter's life. The injunction would restrain the federal government from enforcing its transplant policy and denying Sarah the life-saving operation she needs.Secretary Sebelius responded to the public outcry by asking for a review of the donor procedures. Some lawmakers had expressed concerns that a study as sweeping as this could take "over a year," endangering Sarah's life in the interim.

"This strikes right at the heart of our fear of what government control of healthcare means. Government should have no role in deciding this little girl's fate. Sarah's doctor made an immediate diagnosis and determination on what was needed to save her life, but HHS would not honor that clinical diagnosis. The result was every loving parent's fear: that a government regulation could stand in the way of their child's life," said Murphy.

On June 5, Rep. Murphy and members of the House Doctors Caucus sent a letter to Secretary Sebelius (click here to read). In his letter to Sebelius, Rep. Murphy called on the secretary to "exercise your existing authority … to suspend policies under review where there is "risk to the health of patients or public safety.'" An HHS review of the policy, wrote Murphy, "cannot be completed in time to help Sarah and other children like her."

Following the congressional efforts, on June 6 a U.S. district judge issued a temporary order placing Sarah on the adult transplant list for a donated lung. A U.S. District Court hearing is scheduled to take place on June 14 to decide the matter.

Murphy Participates in White House Mental Health Event

At the invitation of President Obama, Congressman Tim Murphy participated in the National Conference on Mental Health at the White House on Monday. The conference brought together mental health advocates, educators, healthcare providers, faith leaders, members of Congress, representatives from local governments, and individuals who have struggled with mental health problems with a goal of reducing stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problems recognize the importance of reaching out for assistance. As Oversight Chairman, as well as a psychologist, Murphy participated in the event with an eye towards the cost and effectiveness of federal programs and policies for people with serious mental illness.

In a letter he delivered to the President at the Monday event, Chairman Murphy asked that the White House comply with an April 10, 2013 committee request that the Administration provide an accounting of all programs dedicated to the treatment and research of mental illness, the amount each program receives annually, and the amount dedicated to the treatment of serious mental illness. The next day, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter back to Chairman Murphy promising to provide the requested information.

"We need to get a handle on how much is spent, where it goes, and if federal tax dollars are being used to effectively diagnose, treat, and research mental illness," said Chairman Murphy. "An audit of spending on federal mental health programs enables Congress to make informed decisions so we can fix our broken mental health system and hold agencies accountable if funds are not getting down to the level of helping patients and supporting families."

At an May 22 Oversight hearing to examine federal spending on serious mental illness at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Murphy and committee investigators revealed questionable spending, including $22,500 to commission a painting, more than $80,000 on a staff-directed musical skit, and hundreds of thousands of dollars on questionable conferences (such as "Unleash the Beast")during which individuals with serious mental illness were encouraged to stop taking their medications.

On Thursday, Rep. Murphy discussed the importance of eliminating the stigma of mental health treatment with Laurie Barnett Levine, Executive Director for Mental Health America in Westmoreland County. Through access to therapy and medical treatment, MHA Westmoreland provides support to the mentally ill and their families. Ms. Levine thanked the Congressman for his work to bring mental illness out of the shadows and encouraged him to continue the Committee's work on mental health policy.

Committee Reviewing EPA's Backdoor Regulating

In continuing his oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Congressman Murphy took to the airwaves this week to expose the environmental regulator's selective Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) fee-waiver policy. Under the IRS-like practice, the EPA waives public document fees for environmental advocates while forcing other organizations like the Competitive Enterprise Institute to pay for them. In total, these fees can exceed six figures for nonprofit organizations.

"The American taxpayer should expect, and demand, that the EPA treat everyone equally with regard to these requests," said Congressman Murphy during an appearance on Fox News' "Special Report with Bret Baier."

The EPA practice of giving away informational documents for free to some groups while withholding or charging fees to others was revealed at a May 16 Energy and Commerce hearing in which Murphy and other lawmakers asked the acting EPA Administrator to explain the report from The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which found that since January 2012 the EPA granted fee waivers for 92 percent of FOIA requests sent by major environmental groups. At the same time, the EPA rejected or ignored 21 out of 26 fee waiver requests from other groups (which is an 81 percent rejection rate). The matter is under review by the EPA's Inspector General.

Critics charge the EPA gives groups "preferred customer status" to coordinate friendly lawsuits against the federal government in a procedure known as "sue and settle." An environmental group uses the documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request to file a lawsuit contending the EPA must go further in applying additional environmental regulations. The EPA, rather than engage in litigation, settles the lawsuit and accepts the environmentalists' demands to impose stronger regulations that never are voted on in Congress. The result is billions of dollars in new regulations passed along to consumers in the form of higher electric bills.
Rep. Murphy greets constituents gathered at South Strabane Township Community Day.

In related news, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment and Economy approved the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013. A member of the Congressional Coal Caucus, Congressman Murphy voted to support the measure, which sets standards for reusing coal in a safe, responsible way. Each year, approximately 136 million tons of coal ash are produced by coal-fired power plants supplying half the nation's electricity needs. As much as 45 percent of this coal ash tonnage is safely recycled into drywall, concrete, road beds, roofing material, soil nutrient additives, and other beneficial uses, supporting around 4,000 American jobs, lowering product costs, and substantially reducing the amount of coal ash stored in landfills or impoundments. Without this bill, recycling and reuse of coal ash could stop, increasing the amount of waste sent to the nation's 21 specialty landfills on a yearly basis by 50 percent. The bill now awaits action at the full Committee.

Local RV Maker Visits DC to Discuss Ways to Keep Camper Industry Rolling

A factory in Westmoreland County is successfully producing thousands of campers used by adventuresome American families due in part to global trade.

Ned Collins, president and CEO of Columbia Northwest Inc./Aliner, in Mt. Pleasant Township, Westmoreland County, met with Rep. Murphy this week to discuss how his 65-person company remains competitive because it can import component parts from across the world.

Columbia Northwest makes an A-frame, hard-sided "pop-up"-style camping trailer in addition to more traditional travel trailers. At its Kecksburg plant, Aliner workers assemble the component parts for its recreational vehicles (RVs). Rep. Murphy and Collins talked about issues important to Aliner and the rest of the RV industry.

Manufacturers like those found in the American RV industry are able to compete globally thanks to the existing trade framework known as the generalized system of preferences (GSP). For more than three decades, GSP has provided American companies with tariff-free access to raw materials found only in certain developing countries. With the GSP set to expire this summer, Congress is likely to consider legislation to renew the program. Without GSP's crucial tariff reforms, Aliner's import costs could soar.

Rep. Murphy, a strong supporter of Southwestern PA manufacturers such as Aliner, earned in February 2013 the National Association of Manufacturers Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence. The award goes to Members of Congress who consistently vote for policies "critical to the success of manufacturing in the United States."

Murphy at Local SWPA Events

Congressman Murphy joined residents across Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district this week at local events. The new Simeral Square opened to the public in downtown West Newton on June 1. Residents, neighbors, and visitors gathered to observe the ribbon-cutting ceremony and balloon release of the new plaza where Rep. Murphy offered remarks and presented Downtown West Newton Inc. Simeral Square project coordinator George Sam with an American flag.

In his remarks, Rep. Murphy mentioned the importance of cooperation between federal lawmakers and local planners in making projects like Simeral Square a reality. Simeral Square, located next to the Youghiogheny River, provides residents and visitors views of the river and access to the Great Allegheny Passage Trail. The project emerged from austere beginnings. This former brownfield has been redeveloped into a community park to be used for numerous outdoor activities throughout the summer and fall. Simeral Square is named for the Simeral family, early pioneers who settled in West Newton to operate a trading post and ferry service, conferring on the borough the original name of "Simeral's Ferry."

Later in the day, Rep. Murphy participated in South Strabane Township Community Day, an annual event offering auctions, food booths, raffles, games, and a DJ, at Bill Bell Park. Congressman Murphy greeted Township residents, many of whom asked for an update into congressional oversight of the IRS and EPA. Rep. Murphy has worked with South Strabane's Supervisors in the past to support municipal projects. As a result, South Strabane has enjoyed a rapid spurt of development, with additional commercial projects such as the Zediker Corridor currently in the planning stage.

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