What to Do If You Are Push Polled

DesMoinesDem has written a useful diary at DailyKos about how to deal with push pollsters.  As is pointed out in this article grab a pen (or your keyboard) and begin making notes.  If you are in Pennsylvania contact me[PAprogressive(at)gmail(dot)com] and we’ll expose the dirty tricksters.

A push poll is one designed to test a candidate’s message or to plant unfavorable misinformation about an opponent.  For example, a call will ask you if you would vote for a candidate for president who had a dark skinned child.  Then it would ask you if you were aware that John McCain had a black daughter?  This one was actually done to McCain byt he Bush campaign in 2000.  John and Cindy McCain have an adopted daughter from India who they took in because she was born with a cleft palate.  Cindy McCain found her in India and brought her here to have an operation.  They then adopted the girl.  The implication of the push poll was that McCain (remember this poll was done in heavily racist South Carolina) had a child out of wedlock with a Black woman.

If you receive poll calls please make notes and share your experience.  Any registered user can publish your own article in the “diary” section three days after registering.  

Mugabe’s Campaign of Terror

Robert Mugabe, once the savior of Zimbabwe, is now the unheralded leader of a campaign of terror and horror as he clings to power in his African nation.  Friday’s sham of an election went through despite a campaign of terror and violence against the opposition which was so brutal its leader withdrew from the election to save the lives of his supporters.

Some 10,000 of them were reportedly tortured and murdered by Mugabe’s forces.  People supporting the opposition were beaten for hours on end and denied food rations unless they surrendered their voting cards.  What a miserable choice to have to make in a country nearing failed state status:  starve or sacrifice your right to vote.

Simple sanctions cannot do enough to express the world’s outrage at the recent electoral violence.  Zimbabwe must be expelled from the United Nations and the severest trade, financial, and arms sanctions possible imposed on his illegitimate regime.  All aid to the country should be shut off and all international ambassadors recalled.  No nation should recognize his government or his legitimacy as leader of Zimbabwe.  The international response to Mugabe’s reign of terror must be as brutal as his actions.  The first step must be his exclusion from this week’s African Union meeting.  He must not be permitted to represent his country.  

The Politics of Animal Cruelty

This is a guest column by Walter Brasch.  He is joining The Pennsylvania Progressive as a contributing writer.  There is a three day waiting period for posting after registration so I am publishing this for him.

Squabbling Over the Pigeon Bill:

Pennsylvania Legislature Won’t Be Able to Soar Like Eagles Until It Shoots Down Animal Cruelty

by Walter Brasch

           Dave Comroe stepped to the firing line, raised his 12-gauge Browning over and under shotgun, aimed and fired. Before him, a pigeon fell, moments after being released from a box less than 20 yards away. About 25 times that day Comroe fired, hitting about three-fourths of the birds. He was 16 at the time.

           “It’s not easy to shoot them,” he says, explaining, “there’s some talent involved. When a live pigeon is released, you have no idea where it’s going.”

           Where it’s going is usually no more than five to ten feet from its cage. Many are shot on the ground or while standing on top of the cages, stunned by the noise, unable to fly because of being malnourished, dehydrated, and confined to a small space for hours, often days.

           Nevertheless, even with “expert” shooters on the line, only about one-fifth of the pigeons are killed outright, according to Heidi Prescott, senior vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States. About a tenth of the birds usually escape. But about two-thirds are wounded.  

“There really isn’t much you can do for a wounded pigeon except put it out of its misery,” says Comroe. Prior to an order in 2002 by the Court of Common Pleas in Berks County, most of the wounded were picked up by trapper boys and girls, some as young as eight years old, who killed the birds by stomping on their bodies, hitting them against structures, stuffing them into sacks, and dumping them, some still breathing, into large barrels. Some also wrung the birds’ necks or ripped them from their bodies. Since that order, the “trappers” are at least 18 years old and have gone “high-tech”; they now use garden shears to sever a bird’s head.

           Trappers can’t get all of the birds. Hundreds at a large shoot will fly to surrounding areas and remain untreated as long as several days to die a painful death, says Johnna Seeton, Humane Society police officer. Pigeon shoot organizers do their best to keep observers from the scene, and don’t allow volunteers to pick up and treat wounded birds unless they fly off the property, even if there’s no shooting at the time. “We have only been able to rescue a few birds,” says Seeton.

           Dave Comroe, now 32 years old, had begun hunting when he was 12 years old. That first year he killed his only deer. Although he has been deer hunting many times, he says he has “only taken a shot once.” He has gone pheasant and dove hunting about a half dozen times.

           “Fathers take their sons out,” he says, noting that hunting is “a “bonding experience.” That “bonding” continued through his teens and early 20s when he went to pigeon shoots. “I went as a spectator,” he says, “and to hang out with my friends.” He was 14 when he attended his first pigeon shoot, and remembers he didn’t compete until a year or two later. Comroe says he competed in five shoots, “but attended 10 or 12 overall,” including two or three at Hegins.

           That shoot, at one time the largest and most controversial in the nation, brought as many as 250 shooters and as many as 10,000 spectators, from animal rights activists to neo-Nazis and skinheads, to the community park every Labor Day. The organizers claimed they only wanted to raise money for the town park. But they refused an offer by the Fund for Animals, which later merged into the Humane Society, to buy traps, clay pigeons, and ammunition for a non-violent event. Confrontational protests, begun in 1991 under the direction of the Fund for Animals, were abandoned two years later in favor of a large-scale animal rescue operation. Each Labor Day, more than 5,000 birds were killed and thrown away.

           The organizers of the Hegins shoot finally cancelled the contests in 1999, 66 years after they began. It had nothing to do with a realization that killing domesticated pigeons is cruel. It had everything to do with a unanimous ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that humane society officers could arrest participants and organizers under state anti-cruelty charges.

           Comroe, a Syracuse graduate and instruction technology specialist, is pleasant, soft-spoken, and definitely not violent. Some who attend pigeon shoots aren’t. Heidi Prescott, who has been to more than 50 shoots, has seen “Children ripping the heads off live birds or throwing them into the air like footballs, adults cheering and laughing when crippled birds flop up and down in pain, and spectators parading around the park with pigeons’ heads mounted on plastic forks.”

           It’s hard to reconcile the compassion seen in Comroe’s eyes with the reality that he calls pigeon shooting a sport. “There’s no pretense about it,” says Comroe, “It isn’t hunting. It’s a sport.” Pigeon shoots, claims the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, “are a traditional and international shooting sport.” But, killing trapped pigeons isn’t a sport, according to the International Olympic Committee which banned pigeon shooting after its only appearance in the 1900 Olympics. The reason why pigeon shooting isn’t recognized as a sport was best explained by the IOC. “It’s cruelty,” it said after thinking about the Olympics’ only bloody “sport.”

           Sensitive to the public outrage, almost every shooter and the organizers of the gun clubs that sponsor the events refuse to talk to the public or the press. But, in private, the shooters claim not only are they sportsmen, but they hold a high moral code. The NRA claims the participants “are law-abiding, ethical shooting enthusiasts, hunters, and sportsmen.” However, there appears to be a different morality for pigeon shooters than allowed under state and federal laws. Like dog fights and cock fights, participants and spectators make money not from the prizes, which are usually belt buckles, trophies, and purses that average $20?$100 per event, but from an extensive underground in gambling. Comroe acknowledges “a lot of money trades hands” at pigeon shoots. In addition to tax fraud, money is also made by the illegal capture, interstate transportation, and sale of pigeons, also a violation of federal laws.

           Pennsylvania is the only state where people openly kill live pigeons in organized contests. Every other state, with the exception of Tennessee, which has no law against it but also no shoots, has either banned the practice by law or by court action, or it is covered under the state anti-cruelty statues. The actions of pigeon shoot organizers “is clearly animal cruelty, and the Pennsylvania legislature needs to finally address it,” says Johnna Seeton. Several bills have failed to gather majority support in either house of the Pennsylvania legislature.

           Current bills in the state legislature not only ban shooting any captive bird at a trap or block shoot, they extends to a little-known practice of tying turkeys to hay bales and then shooting them, often with arrows. In the Senate, SB 1150, introduced by Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh Co.), has languished in committee since November. The Senate Judiciary committee was scheduled to vote on the bill in March, but pulled it to deal with an equally controversial gay marriage amendment. The pigeon shoot bill has not come up for a vote since.

           The history in the House of Representatives to enact legislation has been more contentious. In 1994, the year after State Police arrested 114 persons at the Hegins pigeon shoot, the House of Representatives voted 99?93 to ban all pigeon shoots. Supporters, however, needed 102 votes, a majority, for passage. Subsequent bills have been blocked by the Republican leadership, aided by Democrats from the more rural parts of the state.

           In the House, HB 2130, introduced by Rep. Frank Shimkus (D-Lackawanna), is also stalled in the Judiciary Committee. Rep. John Pallone (D-Armstrong), chair of the subcommittee on crime and corrections, said in February he would “convene hearings [on the bill] at the earliest convenience.” There have been no hearings. Pallone says he just doesn’t think a law is necessary, “because we do have animal laws relative to domestic and wild animals.” Heidi Prescott disagrees.

           “Although the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rightfully termed these shoots ‘cruel and moronic’ and allowed humane officers to prosecute participants for animal cruelty, this narrow procedural ruling did not stop live pigeon shoots,” says Prescott. The Humane Society, she says, “has tried in court to apply the cruelty law to shoots, but without success so far.”

           Pallone says the bill, now with 51 co-sponsors, one-fourth of the House membership, an abnormally large number of co-sponsors for any piece of legislation, “is not a legislative priority.” Rep. William DeWeese (D-Waynesburg), majority floor leader, sets the legislative priority. According to insiders in the House, DeWeese, like Pallone, vigorously opposes legislation to ban the state’s pigeon shoots. Pallone claims that “it couldn’t be any further from the truth” that DeWeese is blocking the bill from coming to the floor and has influenced the subcommittee. DeWeese, who has been in the House 32 years, twice before voted against bills that would ban pigeon shoots.

           Records filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State reveal that DeWeese’s campaign committees have accepted significant political contributions from organizations that oppose the ban on pigeon shooting. State records reveal that his committee has received $750 from the Flyers Victory Fund, the political action arm of the Pennsylvania Flyers Association, an organization of about 300 members who are dedicated to promoting live pigeon shoots. His campaign committees the past four years, according to Department of State records, have also received $6,500 in contributions from the NRA Political Victory Fund.

           When Sen. Roy Afflerbach first introduced an amendment in 1998 to ban pigeon shooting, only about five senators supported it but, says Afllerbach, “the Senate has come a long way since then.” A poll of Senate committee members, conducted in February and March, revealed a majority of committee members, including both the committee chair and minority chair, support the bill. An informal and confidential poll of House committee members in March revealed that 14 of the 29-member House committee would probably vote for the bill; nine were undecided and only six were firmly opposed.

           “It does not require any courage to shoot a pigeon launched from a box, and it shouldn’t require much more for a legislator to decree that it is wrong to do so,” says Prescott, who is acknowledged even by opponents as one of the most effective lobbyists in the state capitol. But, Prescott is facing a formidable opponent.

           “Banning pigeon shoots would be a first step in advancing [the] agenda [of animal rights activists], and they won’t stop there,” wails an alarmist message on the NRA website. “It’s the first step in an agenda that would prohibit all hunting,” NRA spokesperson Rachel Parsons told the Pittsburgh City Paper in February.

           “That’s a ridiculous argument, and nothing less than a scare tactic,” says Karel Minor, executive director of the Humane Society of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Roy Afflerbach, who grew up on a farm, says he hunted “from the time I was old enough to walk into the field.” He says, “We grew up with a reverence for life, and never shot anything that we couldn’t eat, that gave us sustenance for life.” Opposing pigeon shoots “is not a firearms or hunting issue, but an issue of violence and animal cruelty, the mass killing of animals and birds solely to award prizes,” says Afflerbach, now president of the Afflerbach Group after serving four years in the state House of Representatives, 12 years as a senator, and as Allentown mayor.

           “Only the most extremist hunters would defend launching, shooting, and then dumping animals into a trash bag as hunting or as a sport,” says Heidi Prescott. Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, agrees. Pigeon shoots, he told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “are not what we would classify as fair-chase hunting.” Rep. Shimkus told the Scranton Times-Tribune, “I do not support gun control,” and vowed to “never allow this bill to go forward if it had to do with gun control.” The bill specifically excludes legitimate hunting activities.

           Karel Minor says his organization became involved “because reasonable hunters,” including those on his board of directors, “deem pigeon shooting is so far out of the mainstream.” Reasonable hunters, he says, realize that “it’s cruelty in order to make money from shooting animals that are catapulted.”

           If Pennsylvania hunters are really worried, says Heidi Prescott, “they can look at other big hunting states?like New York, Texas, Montana, West Virginia, and Michigan.” These states, says Prescott, “have outlawed captive bird shooting, but hunting continues unaffected.”

           While the NRA is expending considerable time and resources to block the bills, most of the state’s sportsmen’s organizations, says Afflerbach, “recognize that this ‘sport’ is indefensible.” The 4,000-member Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania (USP) has not devoted resources to trying to quash the bills; only a one-line notice in a list of bills USP opposes indicates that organization opposes the ban on pigeon shoots.

           There were about two dozen shoots during the past year at the Pikeville Gun Club, Strausstown Gun Club and Wing Pointe in Berks County, as well as one at Valley View in Schuylkill County and Erdman in Dauphin County. At each shoot, more than 1,000 pigeons are killed and thrown away.

           Dave Comroe no longer goes to pigeon shoots. “It’s not too exciting for me,” he says. “It’s not something I’m interested in. It’s not my thing,” he says. His “thing” is competitive trapshooting. Comroe now kills inanimate clay pigeons made of tar and pitch, hitting about 96 percent from the 16 yard line, occasionally busting a perfect 100 to earn championships.

           Heidi Prescott and the 11.6 million members of the Humane Society, about 7.3 million more than the NRA, wish the few hundred Pennsylvanians who are active pigeon shooters would follow Comroe’s example and stop participating in the cruelty of pigeon shoots?either voluntarily or by force of law.

           [Dr. Brasch attended and reported on five pigeon shoots. An award-winning syndicated columnist, he is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University and president of the Pennsylvania Press Club. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush (November 2007), available through amazon.com and other bookstores. You may contact Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu or through his website at: www.walterbrasch.com.]

 

Legislature Meets Through Weekend Working on Budget

Our state legislators are working overtime this weekend along with an army of lobbyists feverishly working the hallways trying to influence budget compromises.  The fiscal year for Pennsylvania ends at midnight Monday night.  Failure, once again, to pass a budget by then will, again, result in furloughs of state employees.

This has become a bad habit as Republicans continue stonewalling Ed Rendell’s budgets.  This year the argument is primarily over a 6% increase in state funding for schools.  State funding for both K-12 and college have been repeatedly cut in Harrisburg, especially as new mandates are ordered and as a percentage of costs.  A 6% increase is a small first step in reversing this trend and alleviating property tax burdens on home owners and renters.  

The other sticking point is additional investment.  Republicans who display large anti-debt posters on their office windows are perverse to the accumulation of any state debt for economic expansion and capital projects.  Unless we are willing to invest in our communities through state funding we will suffer economically.

Update:  Republicans walked out on negotiations Friday.  I suppose they felt having a stormy weekend off to go to the beach was more important than coming to an agreement on the budget.

English, Gerlach Vote For Big Oil

Americans United For Change is targeting several Pennsylvania incumbents for their bad votes in Washington.  Here’s what have to say about Phil English (PA-03) and Jim Gerlach (PA-06):

Rep. English Sides With Big Oil Against Working Families Struggling With Gas Prices

Vote Shows English Out of Touch With Needs of Pennsylvanians

(Washington, DC June 27) – As gas prices soar and families struggle to make ends meet, Rep. English (R-PA) last night voted against legislation to lower gas prices and end profiteering by Big Oil barons and energy speculators.

“It’s almost unfathomable that at a time when their constituents are having to choose between putting gas in their cars or food on their tables that Rep. English and Rep. Gerlach would block common-sense legislation that would provide tangible relief and lead the way to a cleaner, more secure energy future,” said Caren Benjamin, deputy executive director of Americans United for Change, the progressive issue-advocacy group behind this summer’s Bush Legacy Tour www.bushlegacytour.com.

continued…

“This is just another – particularly egregious – example of how some members of Congress are putting loyalty to their corporate sponsors and to President Bush’s conservative corporate-driven agenda above the needs of the people they were elected to represent,” Benjamin added.

In lock-step with President Bush and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rep. English and Rep. Gerlach voted against the “Use It or Lose It” bill, which would compel the oil industry to start drilling on the 68 million acres which they are currently warehousing or be barred from obtaining any more federal drilling leases until they demonstrate that they are diligently developing those lands.  

“Clearly, Rep. Gerlach and Rep. English are out of touch with the needs of the people of Pennsylvania,” Benjamin said. “They must be held accountable.”

Americans United For Change is an organization dedicated to amplifying the progressive message, especially on issues such as Social Security, health care, the minimum wage, affordable college, a responsible energy policy and protecting our country.

 

News From Washington

Here are some of the latest press releases from the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation.  I think this is a good way to publish their announcements and get our message out there “unfiltered” by the regular media.  Now that more of our Congressional delegation is sending me their releases this is a good way to collect and publish these messages.

From Allyson Schwartz:

Congress Passes Schwartz’s Resolution Creating National Save for Retirement Week

Washington, D.C. – This week Congress passed National Save for Retirement Week, a resolution authored by U.S. Representatives Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa) and Sam Johnson (R-Texas). Prior to the vote, Schwartz spoke on the House floor to encourage her colleagues to support this important measure recognizing the vital need for American families to plan for retirement, especially given the current economic uncertainty.

Schwartz’s statement follows.

“The resolution before us supports the goals and ideals of National Save for Retirement Week, which this year falls between October 19 and October 25, 2008. I want to thank my colleague, Mr. Johnson of Texas, for working with me to bring attention to the importance of retirement planning for American families.

“We are living in a time when workers are being asked to shoulder an increasing share of the cost of saving for retirement. Even with an employee-sponsored retirement plan and the promise of Social Security benefits, Americans need to put additional money aside to ensure a financially secure retirement.

“For many Americans, saving is becoming an increasingly difficult task as they struggle to meet their everyday obligations. Even in solidly middle-income families, financial resources are stretched thin as parents work to meet other pressing needs, whether it’s purchasing health care coverage, paying for college, buying a tank of gas, or simply paying monthly bills on time.

“Over the past several years, we have seen a dramatic shift in our retirement system. Most workers are no longer eligible for traditional pensions, which provide a predictable monthly benefit throughout retirement. Instead, workers are bearing more of the costs and investment risks of saving adequately for their retirement through workplace defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s or through IRAs.

“As a result, the value of most Americans’ retirement benefits, and the security of their retirement, is now directly linked to their own decisions and the amount of dollars that they save over the years and the balance held in their accounts when they retire.

“The dramatic shift towards individual defined contribution plans is clear. According to Employee Benefits Research Institute, only 10 percent of workers are currently covered by defined benefit plans, compared to 63 percent of workers who are currently covered by 401(k) plans. This stands in stark contrast to the reality of 30 years ago when it was just the opposite, when coverage rates were 62 percent for defined benefits plans and 16 percent for 401(k)s.

“While this shift is empowering American workers to make more of their own financial decisions, many families are finding it difficult to save significantly to meet their retirement needs. It is particularly difficult during a time of economic uncertainty, as we are experiencing today.

“It may be difficult but continues to be vitally important for Americans to prepare for retirement, to think about savings, especially given that half of all workers have less than 25 percent in total savings, whether for retirement or to help them in periods of financial difficulty.

“As our country shifts towards an increasing reliance on individual savings and as families are tempted to dip into their retirement accounts to meet current everyday expenses during this time of high gas and food prices, it is more important than ever that we educate Americans about the pressing need to save even small amounts every year that they possibly can.

“In my district, I have partnered with banks and credit unions and other financial institutions to host seminars to help provide information on how to make educated, financially responsible decisions about personal and family budgets and to help establish a habit of saving for the future.

“I have even visited with schools in my district to help reach out to young people in order to emphasize the importance of saving for the future. It is never too early to learn that every little bit we save now will help in the long run.

“So whether you’re a 16-year-old receiving your first paycheck, or a 25-year-old getting your first real raise, or a 45-year-old with a mortgage and two kids, the habit of putting a little bit away every month in regular savings can, with the help of compound interest, add up to a more secure retirement.

“The resolution before us supports and encourages educational opportunities on a national scale and creates a collaborative effort to emphasize the importance of making savings for retirement a priority for all Americans.”

U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz to be

Awarded First-Ever “Gateway to Innovation” Award for Her Leadership on Healthcare

On, Monday June 30, U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz will become the first-ever recipient of the “Gateway to Innovation” award, presented by many of the nation’s premier healthcare providers to members of Congress who demonstrate commitment, leadership and vision in working to improve the quality and affordability of healthcare in the United States.

Schwartz will be presented the award by the Healthcare Leadership Council, a coalition of chief executives of many of the nation’s leading healthcare companies and organizations representing all health care sectors.

U.S. Rep. Schwartz was selected by the Healthcare Leadership Council as an inaugural recipient of the award because of the leadership she had demonstrated throughout her career in public service, from her efforts in the Pennsylvania State Senate to create the Children’s Health Insurance program to her current role as Co-chair of the New Democratic Coalition’s Healthcare Taskforce.  She is a champion in Congress on issues ranging from making health coverage more affordable for working families to pressing for the nationwide development of health information technology to elevate both the quality and cost-effectiveness of U.S. health care.

From Jason Altmire:

ALTMIRE VOTES TO ENCOURAGE

DOMESTIC DRILLING

(Washington, D.C.) — U.S. Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-04) today voted for three bills that would help make America more energy independent and provide relief to Americans struggling with high gas prices. These bills encourage oil companies to drill on the 68 million acres of federal land which they are currently leasing, but have not yet developed; crack down on energy speculators who inflate the price of oil; and provide grants to mass transit authorities in order to reduce public transit fares.

“Let me be clear: I support domestic drilling and believe that the oil companies should immediately start developing the 68 million acres of federal land currently leased to them,” Altmire said. “It is estimated that this land could yield an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil each day, which would nearly double the U.S.’s oil production.  Although this important measure failed to gain the two-thirds majority it needed to pass today, I hope the House will take up this legislation again in July so we can encourage the oil companies to increase their domestic drilling.”

Congressman Altmire is a cosponsor of the “Use it or Lose it” bill (HR 6251), which requires oil companies to pursue drilling on the 68 million acres of federal land they are currently leasing before they can obtain additional federal drilling leases. It is estimated that these 68 million acres of land hold 81 percent of America’s federal oil and gas reserves and could produce 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day. This would nearly double the U.S.’s current domestic oil production and could cut oil imports by one-third. The bill fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass by vote of 223-195.

“It is inaccurate to claim that drilling alone will solve America’s energy problems,” Altmire said. “That is why I also voted today to reign in energy speculators who have driven up the price of oil and to provide grants to local transit agencies in order to lower fares. These bills are the latest in a series of actions taken by this Congress to make America more energy independent.”

The Energy Markets Emergency Act (HR 6377), which passed today by a vote of 402-19, directs the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to curb excessive speculation in energy markets. Experts estimate energy speculators inflate the price of oil by as much as $20 to $30 a barrel.

Finally, the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008, which passed by a vote of 322-98, will give $1.7 billon in grants to mass transit authorities to reduce public transit fares, giving consumers a cost-effective alternative to driving. These grants can also be used to expand transit services and cover escalating operating costs.

From Paul Kanjorski:

KANJORSKI SUPPORTS PASSAGE OF BILL IN HOUSE TO HELP FUND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Kanjorski Co-Sponsored Legislation and Urged Vote

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) announced that H.R. 6052, the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act, which he co-sponsored, passed in the House by a vote of 322-98.  With gas prices now exceeding $4 per gallon – a historic high – this bill would authorize $1.7 billion in grants for mass transit authorities for fiscal years 2008 and 2009 to help promote increased public transportation use.  This funding is especially important as more and more people are using public transportation due to the increasing cost of gas.  According to the American Public Transportation Association, in the first three months of 2008, Americans took almost 85 million more transit trips than in the same period last year.  This legislation was originally brought to Congressman Kanjorski’s attention by the Luzerne County Transportation Authority (LCTA).

“It is more important now than ever before to invest in our public transportation systems.  The passage of H.R. 6052 in the House today signals the need to provide more options for consumers and public transit systems as a result of the skyrocketing gas prices,” said Congressman Kanjorski. “Many transportation systems are feeling the strains from the influx of riders and this bill will provide funding for these systems to improve services and lower fares so that people will not have to drive as frequently.  The House effectively worked together to pass bipartisan legislation directly helping Americans.”

“We at the LCTA applaud Congressman Kanjorski for his support of this bill, and his efforts to ensure its passage in the House,” said Stanley Strelish, Executive Director of the LCTA.  “By increasing funding for public transportation, the LCTA, as well as other public transportation systems, will be able to better accommodate the increase in riders from the rising energy costs.  I thank Congressman Kanjorski for his support and interest in creating an energy independent and environmentally friendly Luzerne County and Pennsylvania.”

As gas prices continue to reach record highs, more Americans are taking public transportation to avoid paying the costs associated with driving a car.  H.R. 6052 would give grants to mass transit systems allowing them to reduce fares for consumers, and improve their own operations.  According to the LCTA, bus ridership has increased over 180,000 trips in the past year from 1,208,322 in 2007 to 1,390,174 in 2008 so far.

Congressman Kanjorski is also working in Congress to ease the pressure of energy costs which is causing financial strain for many American families by developing a long-term strategy to effectively combat these issues:

·       Call for an energy summit

     Last week, Congressman Kanjorski sent a letter to the House and Senate leadership requesting that they convene a bipartisan summit on energy issues before the August District Work Period.  Such an event would provide a forum to address the rising costs of energy, discuss how we can reduce this financial strain, and work to decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

·       Introduce legislation implementing a windfall profits tax

       Congressman Kanjorski recently introduced legislation which would tax oil and gas companies for their windfall profits.  In 2007, the Big Five oil companies reported record profits, with Exxon Mobil making over $40 billion, the largest corporate profit in American history.

·       Halt shipment of oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)

       On May 13, Congress passed legislation, with Congressman Kanjorski’s support, that directed the President to temporarily halt the shipment of about 70,000 barrels of oil a day to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the world’s largest emergency supply of crude oil.  This action – which the President initially opposed but ultimately signed into law – could help reduce gas prices by as much as 24 cents per gallon.

·       Support domestic drilling, including in ANWR

     Congressman Kanjorski supports additional exploration of domestic sources of petroleum to help America reduce its dependence on foreign oil, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.  He also voted to allow natural gas drilling 25 miles offshore and allow natural gas leasing in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic.

·       Encourage the development of alternative energy sources

     Congressman Kanjorski supports and has voted in favor of the development of alternative sources of energy, including wind, solar, and biofuels, as well as the careful expansion of nuclear power.  He also supports transitioning to using cellulosic ethanol to help with energy costs and avoid affecting the price of food.

According to AAA, gas prices have reached a record $4.07 per gallon nationwide, over $1 more than the price from a year ago.  Additionally, oil prices recently climbed to an all-time high record of $138 per barrel.

Roggio Launches New Ad

Sixth District Democratic candidate Bob Roggio is gearing up his campaign launching a new ad, getting support from Bob Casey and beginning house parties.  A recent poll showed Roggio with only 5% name recognition so Casey’s support is important.  I’m so glad to finally see Bob Casey follow through on a promise of support.  Last year he reneged on a similar promise for one of our local candidates (I witnessed him promising the help).

Here is the email from Casey (I’m not sure why they’re calling me “Barbara???”)

Barbara,

Photo: Bob Roggio, Bob CaseyI am writing today in support of my friend Bob Roggio, an outstanding candidate for US Congress from here in Pennsylvania.

Let me tell you why I am enthusiastically supporting Bob’s candidacy and committing myself to helping Bob win in November.

Bob isn’t a typical politician.  He has spent the majority of his life building a business, creating jobs, and providing for employees.  He and his wonderful wife, Jeannie, have raised 3 children and 2 grandchildren in Pennsylvania.

More than anything, Bob is someone who gets the job done.  After retiring from his successful business career, Bob fulfilled a lifelong goal to complete his college education, graduating from Penn State University at the age of 56.  Since that time, Bob has dedicated himself to service and his community.

Bob’s campaign is about new priorities and working together to find common sense solutions.  But don’t just take my word for it, take a few minutes and listen to Bob tell his story and describe the values and principles that he will bring to the United States Congress.

Watch Bob’s Video Introduction

on www.bobroggioforcongress.com

But in order to get him to Washington, we need your help.  Bob is facing a critical fundraising deadline and we need to make sure that he has the resources he needs to get his message out.

Please stand with me and support Bob Roggio’s candidacy today.

This is a momentous election year and I can assure you that Bob is one of the strongest challengers in the country.  I’m looking forward to calling Bob my colleague and working with him to find new solutions, new ideas, and new priorities for America.

Please contribute today.

Sincerely,

Senator Bob Casey, Jr.

…and the video:

…and information on a house party for Roggio:

Saturday, June 28th Events:

7 p.m. – 10 p.m. – Russ’ Roast for Roggio

Details: June 30th is an important fundraising deadline for the campaign, please come out to meet Bob Roggio and hear him speak! We will also premiere Bob’s brand new campaign video! Very casual with Russ Hummel on the grill and drinks.

Location: 538 Gregg Street

Shillington, PA

Cost: None – Suggested donation of $25 – Help make this event a success!

More info: Call Dan Sauder at (610) 736-3264 or e-mail at dan.sauder@bobroggioforcongress.com

Casey Votes to Extend Iraq War

Sen. Robert Casey Jr. voted to provide additional funding for the war in Iraq yesterday.  He was joined by Sen. Arlen Specter in a 92-6 vote for perpetuate the failed war effort.

Congress can end the war in Iraq simply by denying funding.  President Bush’s policy of funding the wars through supplemental appropriations instead of as budget line items makes him vulnerable to Congress’ power of the purse.  Our Founding Fathers, wary of executive branch power, gave this ultimate authority to Congress as a check and balance.  What we have today are lawmakers in Washington too cowardice to exercise this restraint of bad policy.

Elections do matter.  We had a choice in 2006 between Senate candidates and one who would have voted against these war appropriations and one who supported this war.  Why did you vote to perpetuate this war by sending Bob Casey to Washington?

Insurance Department to Gain Regulatory Oversight Over Blues

A new bill passed by the state Senate Banking and Insurance Committee would require oversight of the proposed merged Blues by the state Insurance Department, something which was opposed by Ed Rendell.  The Governor, completely in the pocket of the health insurance industry, does their bidding in Harrisburg and simply yells “how high?” when Highmark and Independence Blue Cross yell “jump.”

The proposed bill also requires additional funding for autism, the trademark advocacy issue for Republican Speaker Dennis O’Brien, capped at $36,000/year.  Under the Family and Business Healthcare Security Act, HR 1660 and SB 300, no such caps on treatments of any medical disorders exist.  The single payer, universal health care bill would eliminate the need for Insurance Department regulation of health insurers because they would no longer exist in Pennsylvania, saving additional tax dollars.  The Governor is fighting this bill tooth and nail.  I hope he doesn’t break any because Highmark could deny him coverage at their whim.

Political Compromise In Temp Judicial Positions

Gov. Rendell is filling four temporary court vacancies under a compromise with Republicans.  The four vacancies on the Supreme Court (one), Superior Court (two) and Commonwealth Court (one) will be split between two Democrats and two Republicans pending the outcome of next years judicial elections.  The victors of those races will then fill the seats permanently.

Jane Cutler Greenspan will sit on the Supreme Court and Robert Freedberg and John Cleland will sit on Superior Court.  Johnny Butler will fill the vacancy on Commonwealth Court.  The Superior Court vacancies are the result of two of the jurists being elected to the Supreme Court last year.