Jan 152015
 

Traffic citation cameras, now used in more than 600 American cities, are mounted at street intersections to photograph drivers who run red lights. These motorists are then mailed a citation once the photo has been reviewed. It is estimated that each of these cameras will generate more than 500 citations every year, creating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for city governments and camera manufacturers. Citations can cost drivers more than $300, of which camera manufacturers typically receive a large percentage. Proponents say it is an effective way to improve driving safety since many serious accidents result from speeding or occur at street intersections. Some claim these intersection accidents have decreased after red light cameras were installed, while others say that there are indications the opposite is true. Studies have shown these devices cause rear-end accidents at intersections in which they operate. A Los Angeles study showed a tripling of these types of accidents in 20 of the 32 intersections studied. Another study by a New Jersey town which recently banned these cameras claimed t-bone accidents increased 400% in camera-covered intersections. Red light camera systems are also being used to ticket cars that exceed the speed limit. One two-day operation in Virginia ticketed nearly 6,000 drivers, with 90% of these citations for speeding. Opponents believe local governments exploit these devices by enforcing arbitrary low speed limits, and citing drivers who run red lights at intersections with short yellow light intervals. They claim the real reasons for these cameras are to increase local revenue and reduce police personnel. Critics contend that in cases where a photo does not clearly identify a driver’s face, these cameras violate our constitutional protections because they shift the burden of proof from the government to the driver. They say police officers should not be replaced with a device that eliminates an officer’s presence, interpretation and discretion. Privacy advocates also warn these cameras are a threat to our civil liberties because they encroach on our right to privacy. In 2012 alone, states received nearly $800 million from the federal government to install these camera systems. While 24 states and Washington, D.C. allow them, nine states have banned them. Nationwide, the number of communities using red light cameras has decreased about 6% since 2012.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current red light camera policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to eliminate federal funding for red light camera systems

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to prohibit the use of red light camera systems

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Since 9/11, our government has asked us to individually plan and prepare for surviving emergencies such as hurricanes, tornados, power outages or terror attacks. Even so, surveys show less than half of our adult population has made any such preparations. Emergency preparedness plans include storing enough water, food and fuel to last several days or weeks. Preparations may also include plans to shelter in place, evacuate unsafe buildings, access nearby shelters, and administer first aid. Some worry we are totally unprepared for a disaster on a national scale, particularly a worldwide catastrophe which could preclude us from getting help from other countries. The worst such disaster could be a nuclear, impact or volcanic winter resulting from a nuclear missile exchange, an asteroid or comet impact, or a super volcano eruption. The aftermath of any of these events would likely be much the same –the loss of several growing seasons due to years of extremely cold weather. Some wish to begin accumulating enough grain for such an emergency and storing it near population centers. They claim creating and maintaining a strategic grain reserve, as we have done with petroleum, is the solution to our catastrophic protection problem. Opponents claim such an effort is impractical because it is too expensive to purchase, store and secure food –which also needs to be regularly rotated. They claim individual households are more effective that the state for such efforts. However, others believe preparations on this scale could only be accomplished by government effort. They also say a strategic grain reserve would act as a hedge against volatile food and animal feed prices.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current catastrophic preparedness policy

I support identifying a legislator, and/or establishing a DR long-term campaign, to create and maintain a strategic grain reserve with the capacity to feed the majority of Americans for several years

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created after 9/11 to secure air travel. However, it often seems that the policies of the TSA and the conduct of its employees make more news than the crimes it is charged to prevent. Scanners that are too revealing, alleged sexual assaults, racial profiling, and insensitivity while searching the elderly, young, and people with disabilities are only some of the reasons TSA officers are criticized by angry passengers. The TSA has also wrongly prevented or delayed many passengers from boarding flights. Officials say these isolated incidents are comparatively few and that sometimes there are errors on the no-fly list that bar passengers from boarding. TSA supporters say it is performing a monumental job well, considering the number of passengers it needs to inspect each day. Other critics claim the TSA has squandered the $900 million training and deployment of an estimated 3,000 “behavior detection” officers (BDO). BDO teams wander the airports watching as passengers are searched at checkpoints and are charged with making judgments as to the passenger’s reactions to the treatment they receive. Critics claim this program is discriminatory in nature, extremely ineffective, and often targets those who are perceived to be Arab Americans. The Government Accountability Office states the “available evidence does not support whether behavioral indicators can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.” Instead, it recommended that this funding be “directed to programs that have demonstrated their effectiveness.”

Regarding in-flight safety concerns, there was considerable debate in 2013 when the TSA announced it might change its rule prohibiting small knives in carry-on luggage. Although it was eventually decided for this ban to remain in place, some wish to permanently prohibit these items from being carried aboard passenger aircraft.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.1583 – Fair, Accurate, Secure, and Timely Redress Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current TSA policy and wish to defeat H.R.1583

I support implementing a redress process for individuals who believe they were wrongly delayed or prohibited from boarding a commercial aircraft or denied a right, benefit, or privilege because they were wrongly identified as a threat when screened against the terrorist watchlist, and wish to pass H.R.1583

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Recently, railway tank cars have been involved in several fiery accidents which have been blamed on excessive speed, driver error, poor track conditions, and substandard railway tankers. Most of the tank cars on our rails today are older, general-purpose tankers known as DOT-111s. For 25 years, the National Transportation Safety Board has warned these cars are inadequate for transporting volatile liquids such as ethanol and Bakken crude oil, saying its steel shell is too thin to withstand puncturing during derailments, and its valves are prone to breaking off during rollovers. Although no injuries were caused by a series of recent fiery oil train accidents in North Dakota, Alabama and Virginia, a runaway train carrying Bakken crude in DOT-111 cars derailed in Quebec, igniting an inferno that destroyed a city’s downtown and killed 47 residents. Statistics show that oil transportation has increased by 4,200% in the 7 years since crude oil reserves were discovered in North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields. In 2013, at least 415,000 carloads of crude oil were shipped by rail, compared to 9,500 in 2008. Currently, there are about 92,000 tanker cars in use but only about 14,000, or 15%, of these are built to the latest safety standards. The Obama administration has proposed new rules which would phase out the use of DOT-111 tankers if they are not retrofitted with better safety features by 2018. These rules would also limit train speeds to 40-mph and would require trains carrying 1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil to give advance notice to states along its route. The estimated cost to make a tanker car about 20% more effective against punctures will be about $30,000. The complete cost to the rail industry of retrofitting the entire DOT-111 fleet is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion. Safety advocates say we should replace these dangerous tankers immediately, not several years from now. They warn the stakes are high enough for lobbyists to try to water-down or delay these proposed rule changes until a new administration assumes office. The rail industry complains that, in addition to the expense, retrofitting older tankers will reduce their capacity by 800 gallons, forcing shippers to deploy more cars. They also claim more time is needed to retrofit or replace the entire DOT-111 fleet.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current railroad tank car policy

Senate Legislation:

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to retrofit or replace all DOT-111 railway tank cars before 2017, limit train speeds to 40-mph, and require trains carrying 1 million gallons of ethanol or Bakken crude oil to give advance notice to states along its route.

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

If trends persist, the world’s oceans are likely to rise at least one foot by 2050, making flooding a big problem for many coastal cities. It is estimated that the average annual losses from flooding in the world’s biggest coastal cities could increase from today’s $6 billion to $1 trillion by 2050. However, if these cities prepare for sea level rise by installing pumps and constructing levees and movable barriers, damages are estimated to increase only $63 billion by that time. The American cities most at risk from sea level rise are New York, Miami and New Orleans. Even after installing flood defenses, it is estimated these cities will sustain about $2 billion in annual flood damages by 2050. Flood predictions for Boston and Tampa Bay are nearly as dire. Advocates say many shorelines are threatened by forces such as sea level rise, more intense hurricanes, coastal subsidence from building massive structures on sedimentary soils, and the destruction of wetland areas. Some say that, rather than build seawalls and other engineered coastal defenses, natural defenses offer the best protection from rising sea levels. They claim it might be more efficient to restore tidal marshes, coastal wetlands, barrier islands and other natural ecosystems that have traditionally served as buffer zones for coastal-dwelling communities. They say “tidal marsh plants are amazing ecosystem engineers that can raise themselves upward if they remain healthy, and especially if there is sediment in the water.” Some scientists claim these natural buffers could keep pace with sea level rise and provide continuing protection.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current sea level rise protection policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to assess the needs of cities most likely to be affected by sea level rise; recommend the best strategies, both engineered and natural, to counteract the effects of coastal flooding in these cities and other shorelines; and to provide matching funds for states to begin deploying these strategies

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Cybersecurity refers to the technologies and processes designed to protect computers, networks and data from unauthorized access, including attacks by cyber criminals via the Internet. However, crimes committed by hackers are not the only way sensitive information stored on computers is lost. Many security breaches result from mistakes committed by the users of these computer systems, such as uploading unintended data or unwittingly divulging information used to gain access to their system. Civilian hackers often target the personnel databases of organizations and institutions to steal personal and financial information such as social security numbers, addresses, and bank account numbers. Foreign governments hack our computer systems to steal classified military information and industrial secrets. Cybersecurity advocates say better reporting and communication of hacking events between the government and private sector will help investigations and create strategies that can counter this threat.

Pending Legislations:

S.21 – Cybersecurity and American Cyber Competitiveness Act of 2013

S.1193 & H.R.1468 – Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current Cybersecurity policy and wish to defeat S.21 and S.1193 & H.R.1468

I support a comprehensive approach to prevent, detect and respond to cyber attacks against critical infrastructure such as the electric grid, the financial sector, and telecommunications networks; enhancing the security and resiliency of public and private communications and information networks against cyber attack; establishing mechanisms for sharing cyber threat and vulnerability information between the government and the private sector; enhancing U.S. diplomatic capacity and public-private international cooperation to respond to emerging cyber threats; preventing and mitigating identity theft, and wish to pass S.21

I support requiring commercial entities that acquire, maintain, store, or utilize personal information to take reasonable measures to protect and secure this data, and notifying the FBA if a security breach of personal information involving more than 10,000 individuals occurs; allowing private entities to voluntarily disclose cyber threat information to designated cybersecurity centers or to each other to assist with preventing, investigating, or mitigating threats to information security, and wish to pass S.1193 & H.R.1468

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibited the use or disclosure of an individual’s medical information unless specifically authorized by the individual or the law. Currently, the health records of many millions of Americans are being digitized and converted into electronic form. This will help improve patient care by enabling doctors, hospitals and health insurers to better share and analyze patient records when providing health care. However, these digitized records will also make it easier for researchers, government regulators, and unauthorized persons to access our medical information. The Obama administration has revised HIPAA rules to allow our digitized records to be securely shared by health care providers. To address privacy concerns, it has included provisions that attempt to give patients more control over their own medical information. One of these provisions allows a patient to prohibit a doctor from disclosing medical information to a patient’s insurer if that patient pays for treatment out-of-pocket. Another provision prohibits the sale of protected health information, and the use of it for marketing and fund-raising purposes. Additional HIPPA changes increase penalties and reporting requirements for privacy violations committed by business associates of health care providers who have access to private medical records. In the past, some of these sub-contractors have been accused of privacy breeches while working for health insurers.

Pending Legislation:
S.3351 – Protect Our Health Privacy Act (112th Congress 2011-2012)

I oppose reforming current medical privacy policy

I support improving medical information privacy, including requiring encryption on all portable electronic devices containing protected health information, and wish to identify a legislator who will reintroduce S.3351 – Protect Our Health Privacy Act (112th Congress 2011-2012)

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

The practice of collecting, profiling and selling personal information gathered from Internet users is very common. Consumer profile lists are often one of the most valued assets of a retailing or marketing firm. Google and Facebook have been criticized for compiling detailed profiles of their users. Often, firms use “learning algorithms” to determine which ad to display on someone’s computer screen, or to predict one’s buying habits. These formulas can be used to create a digital picture of a viewer to infer race, gender or sexual orientation. Critics claim this technology has “the potential to eclipse longstanding civil rights protections in how personal information is used in housing, credit, employment, health, education and the marketplace.” They say algorithm data can also be used to discriminate and to make judgments, right or wrong, about who is likely to show up at work, pay their mortgage on time, or require expensive medical treatment. Using collected information to target ads, Wal Mart is said to be using algorithms to determine whether a woman is pregnant without her divulging that information. Data collectors claim they provide a beneficial service and that collecting consumer data is protected by our First Amendment. Advocates believe that collecting data about our online behavior in an invasion of our right to privacy. They believe that only consumers should decide whether their profiles are collected, personalized or sold.

Pending Legislation:

S.418 – Do Not Track Online Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current online data collection policy and wish to defeat S.418

I support regulations that establish standards for the implementation of a mechanism by which an individual can indicate whether he or she prefers to have personal information collected by providers of online services, including by providers of mobile applications and services; and rules that prohibit such providers from collecting personal information on individuals who have expressed a preference not to have such information collected, and wish to pass S.418

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are aircraft either remotely controlled by a pilot on the ground or autonomously flying a pre-programmed mission. Most people are familiar with the military version of this technology from our Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Soon all nations will support fleets of military drone aircraft. Many people have also noticed this same technology being used in surveillance and reconnaissance here at home. Local and federal law enforcement agencies are rapidly increasing their use of domestic drones. Manufacturers selling drones to these agencies are considering arming these remote-controlled aircraft with nonlethal weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers and tear gas. Online retailer Amazon has even applied for permission to use drones to deliver packages. Anyone can purchase and legally fly a drone in most parts of the country. Among other things, drones are used for search and rescue missions, photography, spotting wildfires, monitoring crops and patrolling our borders. The FAA predicts that by 2018 there will be over 7,000 drone systems in operation, creating 70,000 new jobs. Colleges are now offering degrees in drone piloting. However, advocates say these developments may not be good news to those who value their privacy. They claim police drone programs need oversight to ensure they are only used for emergencies, with a warrant, or when they have probable cause. Furthermore, they say that images recorded by drones should only be stored if they are needed for an investigation or as evidence. The FAA has designated drone test sites in Alaska, Nevada, New York, Texas, North Dakota and Virginia. It has plans to allow widespread use of domestic drones beginning in 2015.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.1262 – Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current domestic drone policy and wish to defeat H.R.1262

I support prohibiting any person or entity from using a drone system for law enforcement or intelligence purposes without a warrant, except in emergencies; ensuring the civil operation of small drone systems is done in compliance with privacy principles; allowing a lawsuit against a governmental entity for persons injured by these prohibited acts, and wish to pass H.R.1262

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Geolocation is the term used to detect and record the exact location, in latitude and longitude, of where a signal-emitting device is located. Although these devises are usually cell phones, geolocation information can also be collected by using IP addresses and Wi-Fi signal strength. Many marketing companies track a consumer’s geolocation when they are near stores to send ads selling products or services. About a year ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled a complaint about a free mobile phone flashlight app which had been downloaded by tens of millions of consumers. This app also secretly collected and transmitted user’s personal information, including geolocation and unique device identifiers, to third parties. The FTC barred this company from misrepresenting its data collection, use and disclosure practices and required users to “opt in” before their information is collected and used. Critics say this is an example of how far marketers will go in their quest for consumer’s personal information and how important it is to protect our right to privacy. Geolocation technology has also been used by law enforcement agencies which have placed GPS tracking devices on suspect’s cars without a warrant. Police agencies say this is no big deal because they already receive cell phone tracking data from telephone companies. They claim this tool is needed to fight crime. Privacy advocates worry geolocation technology could be used to analyze the movements of whole populations in search of “suspicious” behavior.

Pending Legislation:

S.639 & H.R.1312 – Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act

I oppose reforming current geolocation policy and wish to defeat S.639 & H.R.1312

I support criminalizing the surreptitious tracking of individuals by private parties and requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant prior to collecting geolocation information, and wish to pass S.639 & H.R.1312

 Posted by at 12:00 am