Boston Bombings / Gun bill compromises / Gun liability Bill / Plan "B" / Mortgage Forebearance / Small Business lending after disasters / Stein Senior Center
E-NEWSLETTER ~ April 16, 2013
The flags of the Capitol are at half-mast today.
The bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday are a sad reminder that tragedy can strike at any time and any place.
The source of these bombs is still not known, but their orchestration and timing suggest a premeditated desire to do as much damage as possible.
And serious damage was done. At this writing, less than 24 hours after the bombings, three have died; over 100 are hospitalized; many were maimed.
Bombs, guns, planes. The means of death can change; the source can be a foreign conspiracy or one deranged teen.
What remains is this: our hearts go out to Boston; our thanks go to first responders for their swift work; and our faith goes to investigators who will find those responsible and bring them to justice.
In the “new normal” since 9/11, our sensibilities have been heightened (and sometimes distorted), but the American spirit is strong.
Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress
BIPARTISAN COMPROMISES ON GUN BILLS PROMISING SIGN
Congress returned from the Passover/Easter recess last week and it seemed that the prospects for legislation addressing the epidemic of gun violence had improved.
The big news was the bipartisan agreement announced by Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, which would expand requirements for background checks to cover gun shows and online sales (while keeping person-to-person sales private), an improvement over current practice.
Another bipartisan compromise also announced last week got less coverage, but is equally significant: Senators Leahy of Vermont (and Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee) and Susan Collins of Maine agreed to stronger penalties on so-called “straw purchasers” of guns-- i.e., those who purchase guns on behalf of others who cannot pass background checks, or for funnelling to gangs or the underground market.
I am the sponsor of similar anti-gun trafficking legislation in the House, HR 452, because for too long, law enforcement has been begging for better tools to keep guns out of the hands of those who are already prohibited from owning them. You can read more about this and other gun safety measures I am sponsoring here: https://maloney.house.gov/issue/gun-safety
I’m encouraged by these developments, but as the Senate takes up gun legislation for debate this week-- encompassing background checks, gun trafficking, and school safety enhancements-- Americans must keep a watchful eye that amendments offered and voted upon during debate do not weaken this gun safety legislation beyond recognition.
FIRST NATIONAL BILL TO REQUIRE GUN OWNERS TO CARRY LIABILITY INSURANCE INTRODUCED BY MALONEY
For too long, gun victims and society at large have borne the brunt of the costs of gun violence. That’s why I’ve introduced the “Firearm Risk Protection Act” (H.R. 1369), the first bill to require liability insurance of gun buyers nationwide, to shift some of that cost back onto those who own the weapons.
We have a long history of requiring insurance for dangerous, high-risk products-- and no one disputes that guns are dangerous. While many individual states are debating this issue now, it makes more sense for Congress to establish a national requirement to allow the insurance markets to begin to price the risks involved consistently nationwide.
In the wake of tragedies such as Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson, our nation is searching for answers. While I also support bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, improved background checks for gun buyers and defining straw purchases as a federal crime, a market-based approach such as insurance for legally purchased weapons is another common-sense way forward.
H.R. 1369 requires gun buyers to have liability insurance coverage prior to being allowed to purchase a weapon and imposes a fine of $10,000 if an owner is found not to have the required coverage; service members and law enforcement officers are exempt from this insurance requirement.
“PLAN B” CONTRACEPTIVE RESTRICTION OVERTURNED BY FEDERAL COURT
A New York federal judge has overturned restrictions on Plan B contraceptives imposed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in 2011 that require a prescription for those women under age 16 seeking the drug.
This decision is a victory for science and common sense over politics and ideology, and one that all women can celebrate. With this decision, all women will have the access they need and deserve to emergency contraception, regardless of their age, and will allow women to make their own healthcare choices and will help prevent unintended pregnancies. Women – all women – should be granted the fundamental freedom to make their own reproductive choices.
Plan B emergency contraception has already been approved for use by the FDA. Medical experts from the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support allowing all women access to emergency contraception.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit, and they deserve congratulations for achieving this important victory for women everywhere. I urge the Department of Justice not to appeal today’s decision, and I am circulating among my colleagues a letter to DOJ in opposition to an appeal.
HUD MOVES TO EASE MORTGAGE PAYMENTS FOR FHA HOMEOWNERS AFFECTED BY SUPERSTORM SANDY
Last week, I was proud to join U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and Senator Charles E. Schumer for the announcement that homeowners with federally-backed mortgages who suffered damage to their homes as a result of Superstorm Sandy will be granted an extended forbearance.
Homeowners had previously received a disaster forbearance period which expires at the end of April. They will now be permitted to suspend FHA mortgage payments for an additional twelve months, and afterwards, families will be able to sign up for a streamlined mortgage modification that allows them to make manageable payments after forbearance ends in twelve months.
Extended forbearance will bring relief to the nearly 300,000 homeowners in the path of Superstorm Sandy who have experienced financial hardship since the catastrophic storm. This is a creative and innovative policy approach that is deficit-neutral, and allows families to stay in their homes beyond the end of this month.
This program will help rebuild houses, lives and communities.
MALONEY BILL WOULD TEMPORARILY EXPAND CREDIT UNIONS’ SMALL BUSINESS LENDING AFTER NATURAL DISASTERS
We all know Superstorm Sandy caused enormous destruction throughout the Northeast, and wildfires, hurricanes, and tornados have wreaked similar havoc across the country. Federal disaster assistance that flows after each declaration of a disaster is essential but not sufficient to get a region back on its feet.
I’ve heard from many small businesses about their struggle to recover from Sandy. That’s why I will be introducing a bill which will exempt credit union ‘member business loans’ from the normal lending cap for a period of up to five years after a natural disaster declaration.
Exempting these loans from the cap will open up a new source of credit for struggling small businesses and untie the hands of credit unions that want to provide that assistance. Credit unions are key members of the communities they serve and want to be there for small businesses who need assistance recovering from natural disasters. This bill will provide businesses a source of capital to help them rebuild and recover.
Currently, under federal regulations, Federal Credit Unions are each subject to a ceiling of 12.25% of their assets in business loans to their members. Maloney’s bill would exempt loans made in the five years following declarations of federal disasters from that ceiling.
STEIN SENIOR CENTER CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING OF NEW FACILITY ON EAST 23RD
I was delighted to join scores of seniors and local officials at the grand opening of a new facility for the Stein Senior Center in the Uniformed Firefighters Building at 204 East 23rd Street last month.
The facility, funded with a $752,000 Federal Community Development Block Grant, was the result of extraordinary cooperation from all levels of government, especially the New York City Dpeartment of Aging. Stein is one of the city’s best senior centers – a place to meet friends, share a meal, take classes, a center that offers trips, lectures and yoga, and a haven where Alzheimer’s patients can find respite.
It’s hard to believe that a program this valuable could be in danger, but without this federal funding, the Stein Center would have had tremendous difficulty in reopening its doors after losing its lease at its previous longtime location. This elegant new facility will allow Stein to serve a larger group of seniors, hold a greater variety of classes, and offer even better programs. And that’s truly worth celebrating because Stein is needed now more than ever-- especially with the closure of the Community Lounge senior center on East 22nd Street.