January 25, 2006 - E-Newsletter Vol III: Ed II
I hope everyone had a joyous and restful holiday season and that your 2006 is happy and healthy.
Thankfully, I have a number of pieces of good news to report to you from the end of 2005. Congress passed a flurry of bills before the new year, and a number of initiatives on which I worked hard have made it into law. Here’s an update.
In this E-Newsletter:
- 9/11 National Guard Gets Retirement Credit They Deserve
- After a Hard Struggle, Sick and Injured 9/11 Responders Will Keep Assistance
- Good News for NYC Economic Development
- In Light of Eavesdropping Revelations, Civil Liberties Board More Important Than Ever
- Congress Moves to Combat the Horror of Sex Trafficking
- Presidents to Adorn New Dollar Coins
- Honoring Simon Wiesenthal by Increasing Education About the Holocaust
- Taking Action to Protect Queens Residents
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the National Guard was called to duty to secure Ground Zero and assist in the rescue efforts. They were among the heroes who rushed to serve the people of this city in our darkest hour. Despite their tremendous work, hundreds of members of the National Guard who served at Ground Zero were not given full retirement credit for those duties. Until last month.
I worked hard to address this glaring post-9/11 mistake, authoring legislation with Rep. Peter King (R-NY) to give the National Guard their full retirement credit. We eventually determined that the problem could be solved as part of the FY06 Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 1815), and worked closely with Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Rep. John McHugh (R-NY), and the other leaders of the House Armed Services Committee to get it done. As last year drew to a close, the House and Senate passed the authorization bill, and the full retirement credit for the Ground Zero National Guard was included. Retirement credit is the least that our government can do for these public servants, and I am thrilled that their needs have finally been recognized and addressed.
Ever since the president proposed to take back $125 million originally given to sick and injured 9/11 responders, I have fought alongside Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY), New York’s Senators and a united New York Congressional delegation to salvage the money. As I wrote in a previous newsletter, we learned before Thanksgiving that congressional leadership had finally agreed to our delegation’s demands. I can now happily report that it’s official – the 9/11 responders will keep the funds. Before the end of the year, Congress passed the FY06 Defense Appropriations bill, which included a provision preserving the $125 million. Our 9/11 heroes don’t deserve to be forgotten, they deserve the help of their government. I am thrilled by the resolution of this fight, and I am proud of our New York delegation.
When last I updated you, an extension of the government’s terrorism risk insurance program was gaining momentum in Congress. Thankfully, progress continued over the last few weeks of 2005, and we approved a two year extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). Under the continuing and real threat of terrorism, economic development would be slowed greatly without terrorism risk insurance. This is most true in New York City, and particularly around Ground Zero.
The only drawback to the legislation is that the bill signed into law was the Senate’s version instead of the House’s more robust version. Certain strong provisions in the House’s bill – including the creation of a commission and the inclusion of group life insurance coverage – were left out of the final version, but I am working to pass those in the near future.
Nevertheless, it was most important to pass an extension than do nothing at all, particularly after the White House publicly opposed extending TRIA earlier last year. I am thankful that both parties and both chambers of Congress recognized the importance of this bill and moved quickly before it expired at the end of 2005.
Many Americans were shocked and dismayed by news reports at the end of 2005 that the president approved a National Security Agency program that eavesdrops on American citizens without notifying the courts. This is clearly a major civil liberties issue, and it is tailor-made to be reviewed by the Civil Liberties Board that was recommended by the 9/11 Commission and created in 2004's landmark intelligence reform bill. The trouble is that the Board, as created, is rather weak, and the president has mostly ignored it, stalling on funding the board and making appointments to it.
Even before the eavesdropping revelations, I pushed for more civil liberties protections by creating a stronger Board, as envisioned by the 9/11 Commission. Together with my colleagues Reps. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Tom Udall (D-NM), I have introduced legislation to give the Board more teeth. I hope that the spying scandal has made more Members of Congress realize the urgent need for more civil liberties oversight and that we can give the Board more muscle in the near future.
The worldwide scourge of sex trafficking, in which women are often kidnaped and sold into sex slavery, is too often overlooked. Most Americans don’t know that women are even trafficked within our own borders. I have worked closely with my colleague Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) on the End Demand for Sex Trafficking Act, which would target the users of prostitution to reduce demand.
Important parts of our bill were recently incorporated into the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (H.R. 972), which was approved by Congress at the end of 2005. I attended the recent bill signing ceremony at the White House and am proud to see this legislation make it into law. It is important that Congress took action to combat sex trafficking, and I hope that the United States will become a world leader in fighting this human rights affliction.
If you like the state quarters that have been minted over the past seven years, get ready for a new dollar coin. Starting in 2007, the Mint will begin making dollar coins with a U.S. president on one side and with Lady Liberty gracing the back. Congress approved this new coin program in December when we passed the Presidential $1 Coin Act, which Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) and I introduced in 2004.
The current dollar coin features Sacagawea, who will remain on a limited number of coins as the presidents are rolled out over a 10-year period. The presidential coin program is modeled after the state quarters, which have received a tremendous public response and have generated more than $5 billion for the U.S. Treasury. The presidential coins are expected to have twin benefits – on one side they will kick start a sluggish coin program, bringing in an estimated $4 billion to the Treasury. On the flip side, they will teach history to students and collectors. Heads or tails, we win.
I have introduced legislation to increase the federal government’s support for programs that educate Americans about the Holocaust. The legislation would authorize $2 million to bolster Holocaust education programs, many of which are drastically underfunded. The Simon Wiesenthal Holocaust Education Act is named in honor of the famed Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to seeking justice. At a time when the new Iranian president claims that the Holocaust is a “myth,” it is readily evident that education about the Holocaust is still vitally necessary.
In October, several constituents reported to my office that rocks were falling “like rain" from the elevated Amtrak line in western Queens, damaging cars and causing great concern for residents of the neighborhood. Recognizing that this was a life-threatening situation, I took action. I urged Amtrak officials to quickly implement a permanent solution to the problem and invited them to share their plans with Queens residents at a Community Board 1 meeting. I am pleased to report that Amtrak engineers are currently installing a series of steel plates beneath the elevated tracks, which they tell me will prevent any more rockfalls. At my request, Amtrak will install steel plates above the Ditmars Boulevard subway station, as well.
Please feel free to share this email with anyone that may be interested in these issues. As always, I appreciate your comments and invite you to write to me through my website at http://maloney.house.gov.
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress