Jan 152015
 

During the past few years, several states have passed laws restricting the registration of voters, the time available to cast a ballot, and the type of identification needed to do so. These laws have made it significantly more difficult for students, those with disabilities, minorities and elderly citizens to exercise their most basic constitutional right. The governors and legislators of these states claim these laws were passed to prevent voter fraud and protect election integrity. They also say that identification is required for many purposes other than voting, so it is logical to require voters to show a picture ID at the polls. Critics claim the purpose of these laws is to suppress and discourage certain groups of people from voting. They say extensive studies have proven that voter fraud does not exist. That is, unless one considers 31 fraudulent votes out of the one billion ballots cast since 2000 to be enough justification for voter suppression laws that deny many millions the vote. Studies show that about 11% of all Americans eligible to vote do not have the type of identification these states require. Until 2013, these new photo ID laws were prohibited until our Supreme Court invalidated Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, saying there is no longer a need for the protections of this section. Within days and weeks of its decision, several states passed restrictive voter laws that had been judged illegal before the Court’s ruling. Advocates say many people don’t drive cars or have a picture ID, and that poll-tax laws make it illegal to force them to get one in order to vote. They claim these undemocratic voter suppression laws are an anathema to our Forefather’s legacy, saying our efforts should be spent helping Americans vote, not obstructing those who are eligible from doing so.

Pending Legislations:

S.123 & H.R.12 – Voter Empowerment Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current election procedures policy and wish to defeat S.123 & H.R.12

I support requiring each state to make available official public websites for online voter registration; promoting voter registration, such as same day registration and voter registration of individuals under 18 years of age; prohibiting hindering, interfering with, or preventing voter registration; assisting voting for those with disabilities and making grants to eligible states to conduct pilot programs enabling individuals with disabilities to register to vote and vote privately and independently at their own residences including by telephone, and wish to pass S.123 & H.R.12

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Gasoline taxes are our single most important source of transportation revenue and are used to fund the construction and maintenance of our highways and bridges. However, this indispensable revenue is falling behind what is needed to maintain this infrastructure. Since 1933, the federal tax on a gallon of gasoline has remained at 18.4 cents yet the cost of highway construction and repairs has increased 55% during that time. Advocates say we need to index gasoline taxes to the cost of inflation in order to keep up with construction costs, or our transportation infrastructure will continue to deteriorate. These advocates are joined by environmentalists who claim increasing the tax and price of gasoline will make alternative fuels more attractive. Some gas tax opponents claim the gasoline tax is becoming obsolete as vehicle gas-mileage efficiency increases and people drive less. Also, each day more and more electric and fuel cell vehicles replace those paying gas taxes. Gas tax opponents claim these types of vehicles are shifting the burden of highway maintenance onto those who buy gasoline. They say that instead of a tax on fuel consumption as a way of financing road infrastructure, a “vehicle miles traveled” (VMT) tax would charge motorists based on their road usage measured in mileage. A VMT tax would require vehicles to be fitted with GPS units that assign it to the appropriate taxing jurisdiction, record distance traveled, and calculate the amount of tax owed. Higher tax rates could be charged for heavy trucks that cause greater damage to roads. Those who drive in congested areas could also be charged higher rates as an incentive to reduce traffic. However, studies show this proposal would face substantial administration and privacy hurtles. Gas tax supporters say our present system is already progressive since people who drive more miles and those with heavier or fuel-inefficient vehicles tend to pay more taxes due to more frequent stops at the gas pump.

Pending legislation: None

I oppose reforming current gasoline tax policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to index gasoline taxes to inflation

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to replace the current gasoline consumption tax with a vehicle miles traveled tax

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Our nation’s roads, bridges, dams, schools, electrical grids and water treatment facilities are old and unable to meet the needs of our growing population. Many of the structures we depend upon for safety, travel and commerce are functioning at maximum capacity or beyond their expected lifetime. Our water treatment facilities need $200 billion for improvements if they are to continue delivering enough clean water to our population, and keep our waterways clean. Our schools need $300 billion for safe and modern classrooms in order to prepare our children for the global economy. Insuring the safety of all our nation’s bridges will cost over $300 billion during the next 10 years. Our electrical transmission system needs to be upgraded to a smart grid and buried underground for protection. Improvements to airports, ports and railways are also on the list. During the past 30 years, we have spent less than 3% of our GNP on infrastructure improvements. Many people say we should not just wait for power black-outs, bridges to fall and dams to burst. They believe now is the time to begin these improvements. Low borrowing rates mean the cost of funding the repair and renovation of our decaying infrastructure is as cheap as it has been in nearly 80 years. It is estimated that it will cost about $3.5 trillion or about $350 billion annually during the next 10 years to bring our infrastructure up to a state of good repair. Besides immediate and future benefits to society, these renovation projects will also create many jobs and significantly boost our economy. It is estimated that 13 million jobs will be created for each trillion dollars spent on infrastructure improvements.

Pending Legislation:

S.4 – Rebuild America Act

I oppose reforming current infrastructure policy and wish to defeat S.4

I support investments in transportation corridors that promote commerce and reduce congestion; updating and enhancing the U.S. network of rail, dams, and ports; investing in critical infrastructure to reduce energy waste and bolster investment in clean energy jobs and industries; investing in clean energy technologies that help free the United States from its dependence on oil; modernizing, renovating, and repairing elementary and secondary school buildings to support improved educational outcomes; investing in the nation’s crumbling water infrastructure to protect public health and reduce pollution; invest in U.S. infrastructure to address vulnerabilities to natural disasters and the impacts of extreme weather, and wish to pass S.4

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

We may vote for our President and Vice President every four years but the Electoral College decides who will win these elections. Electoral College members are independently selected by the state they represent. The number of electors in each state is equal to the number of its members of Congress. However, as we discovered several elections ago, winning the popular vote does not guarantee a candidate victory. It is estimated that at least 1 million more Americans voted for Al Gore than voted for George Bush in the 2000 presidential election. Electoral College supporters claim this system gives smaller states a bigger voice in federal elections. Opponents say the Electoral College was created to protect the country from an uninformed populace – which is certainly not the case in today’s Internet age. They claim the Electoral College is undemocratic, outdated and unnecessary.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current Electoral College policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to enact a long-term campaign to amend the U.S. Constitution to abolish the Electoral College

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Corporate welfare is a nickname that compares government subsidies to corporations with welfare payments to the poor. It is used to describe government subsidies of money, tax breaks or other favorable treatment for selected corporations. Studies show that about $100 billion was allocated in the federal government’s budget for all types of corporate welfare in 2012, not including tax loopholes or trade barriers. Two of the largest recipients of this aid are oil and agricultural corporations. During a time of record oil prices and record profits among oil companies, Congress gave subsidies to oil companies worth $30 billion over the past five years. These companies receive subsidies for oil exploration as well as for the exhaustion of oil and gas wells. Critics say that besides wasting billions in revenue for our Treasury, these subsidies have led to a reckless search for oil in fragile environments like the deep floor of the Gulf of Mexico. They claim the 2010 catastrophe at the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig can be directly linked to oil-friendly legislation over the last 20 years.

For many decades, agribusiness corporations have also been receiving corporate welfare. Our government provides unlimited crop insurance subsidies to many large and small farms, guaranteeing payment for damaged crops and low crop prices. Taxpayers pay two thirds of these insurance premiums as well as most of the claims resulting from a disaster. As a result, crop insurance is the most costly and least equitable component of the farm safety net, costing twice as much as direct payments and other subsidies. Some policyholders annually receive more than $1 million in premium support. More than 10,000 policyholders receive more than $100,000 in subsidies each year. Because there are no limits on these subsidies, the largest 1% of policyholders receives about $227,000 while the bottom 80% receives about $5,000 each year.

Pending Legislations:

H.R.601 – Permanent Repeal of Oil Subsidies Act

S.446 & H.R.943 – Crop Insurance Subsidy Reduction Act

I oppose reforming corporate welfare policy and wish to defeat H.R.601 and S.446 & H.R.943

I support eliminating subsidies for oil companies and directing the Secretary of the Interior to issue regulations establishing a graduated annual production incentive fee governing federal onshore and offshore lands subject to an oil or natural gas production lease but for which such production is not occurring; prohibiting the Secretary from issuing new oil or natural gas production leases in the Gulf of Mexico under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to a person that does not renegotiate its existing leases in order to require royalty payments if oil and natural gas prices are greater than or equal to specified price thresholds; depositing the prescribed fee assessment into the general fund of the Treasury, and wish to pass H.R.601

I support amending the Federal Crop Insurance Act to immediately reduce crop insurance premium subsidy rates from the higher subsidies provided since the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000, and wish to pass S.446 & H.R.943

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

The term pork barrel spending, also known as earmarked funds, refers to the practice of funding projects that only benefit the constituents of a single legislator. Normally, these projects are not competitively awarded or subject to congressional review. They are usually requested by a single member of Congress to benefit a single local interest. Funding for these pet projects is usually inserted in large omnibus appropriations bills at the last moment. Between 2000 and 2009, our Congress approved earmark spending projects worth about $208 billion. Critics say federal tax dollars should not be spent in a way that does not benefit most taxpayers. One reason these earmarks flourish is that they help create support for passing controversial bills. Lawmakers seldom vote against a measure that helps their own district. Pork barrel supporters claim earmarks are beneficial to many people and provide incentives to help advance important bills that otherwise might not advance. During the past few years, some members of Congress have agreed to not include “special project” funding in otherwise unrelated legislation, but these efforts have been only partially effective. Pork barrel spending attached to the $1 trillion omnibus spending bill which funded the government for most of 2014 included $80 million for Amtrack, a 5% overpayment on Defense Department contracts if the contractor is Hawaiian, Nearly $8 million for the volunteer Civil Air program, and $600k for Mississippi State University to research how to grow trees faster.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current pork barrel spending policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill requiring earmarked funds to be competitively awarded and subject to congressional review

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Many people say that most of the problems with our political system result from the large sums of money needed to finance election campaigns. It is estimated that about $6 billion was spent during the last presidential election. Some have proposed that the funding for these campaigns should be provided by taxpayers rather than special interest groups. Most campaign funds are spent on radio, television and Internet advertising. Critics claim the candidate who airs the most television commercials will win an election regardless of any other factor. Politicians often complain that fund-raising activities now take up more of their time than state business. Advocates claim the public funding of election campaigns would help rid our politics of undue influence, level the playing field between candidates and control the amount of money spent in these contests. Currently, there exists a system for the partial public funding of presidential elections. This system includes a program in which the government matches the first $250 a person contributes to an individual, a party convention and the general election campaign. To receive subsidies in the primary, candidates must qualify by privately raising $5,000 in at least 20 states and agree to limit their spending according to a preset formula. Candidates that refuse these matching funds are free to spend as much privately-raised money as they wish. Those who support public campaign funding say incentives need to be higher in order for more candidates to choose the public funding option.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.270 – Empowering Citizens Act

I oppose reforming current public funding of elections policy and wish to defeat H.R.270

I support establishing a system of public financing for Congressional elections; reforming the system of public financing for Presidential elections including increasing the amount of matching funds for presidential primaries from a one-to-one match to a five-to-one match for contributions of $250 or less from individuals; limiting the total amount of payments to a primary candidate to $100 million, and wish to pass H.R.270

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

A financial transaction tax is a levy on specific financial transactions. Many people have suggested taxing the transactions carried out by our banks, brokerages and other financial institutions. This tax would apply to the sale or transfer of trillions of dollars of U.S. notes, bonds, securities, derivatives and debentures. Financial transaction taxes have been successful generating revenue elsewhere. In 2011, nearly $40 billion was generated in 40 other counties that taxed financial transactions. It is estimated a similar tax would generate at least $50 billion annually if enacted here. Consumer advocates say this small tax on Wall Street would be easy to implement and would reduce harmful market speculation, including speculation on essentials such as food and fuel. They also say that it will bring significant benefits to the U.S. economy by generating much-needed revenue. Critics claim Wall Street speculation has become a house of cards, a game of computer-driven bets on bets with robo-traders carrying out trades at blinding speed. They claim these types of transactions do not give value to our economy, only damage it. They say that a financial transaction tax could generate hundreds of billions of dollars that could be used for the needs of our communities and to help stabilize our economy.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.1579: Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current financial transaction tax policy and wish to defeat H.R.1579

I support imposing an excise tax on the transfer of ownership in certain securities, including any share of stock in a corporation, any partnership or beneficial interest in a partnership or trust, any note, bond, debenture, or other evidence of indebtedness (excluding tax-exempt municipal bonds), or derivative financial instruments; imposing a penalty on taxpayers who fail to include a covered transaction on their tax return or information statement; and allowing an individual taxpayer whose modified adjusted gross income does not exceed $50,000 ($75,000 for married taxpayers filing joint returns) a tax credit for the amount of tax paid on covered transactions, and wish to pass H.R.1579

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Social Security deductions taken from the paychecks of working Americans are put into the same account that pays the benefits of those retired. There is no surplus or reserve trust fund in this account. In the past, politicians have used Social Security funds for purposes other than retirement benefits. As of 2012, Congress had borrowed and spent more than $1.7 trillion of Social Security taxes on uses unrelated to retirement benefits. There is concern that there will not be enough money to pay benefits to people that are now working. This is because there are a growing number of Americans receiving benefits and a declining number of workers paying into the system. It has been estimated that Social Security, without outside assistance or benefit cuts, will remain solvent until at least 2037. The possibility of future insolvency could force the eligibility age for full retirement benefits to be raised above the current age of 66. Some say that Social Security must be reformed if it is to be sustainable. Others say insolvency will be deferred once our economy picks up steam and more people get back to work. In order to ensure the survival of this much-needed program, some people want to prevent Social Security funds from being used for other purposes. Still others want to make Social Security a needs-based program that prohibits wealthy Americans from collecting benefits. It has been estimated that this change would save our Treasury about $1.5 trillion each year and make Social Security solvent for the foreseeable future. Opponents say this idea sets a dangerous precedent by excluding beneficiaries who paid into the system, and opens the possibility it could be done to other groups of people in the future as well.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.1713: Social Security and Medicare Protection Act

I oppose reforming current Social Security policy and wish to defeat H.R.1713

I support prohibiting Social Security funds to be used for other purposes; making it out of order in the House or Senate to consider any spending or tax measure whose enactment would cause the surplus for any fiscal year covered by the most recently agreed to budget resolution to be less than such combined Fund surpluses, and wish to pass H.R.1713

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to make Social Security a needs-based benefit system and exclude the wealthy from collecting benefits

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

It is generally accepted that large amounts of money corrupt the election process. Wealthy people, unions and corporations often make campaign donations to gain access to elected officials and influence policy. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is a Supreme Court case that has had a huge effect on our political campaigns. The court ruled that corporations, unions and other entities have the same First Amendment rights of free speech as individuals. It also ruled that campaign contributions are a form of free speech. This decision removed the ban on corporations and organizations from using their treasury funds to support or oppose a candidate. Critics disagree that corporations and unions have the same free speech rights as people. They claim money is not speech and that humans, not corporations, are those who are entitled to constitutional rights. Critics say the infusion of unlimited money into our political process will enable these entities to buy our elections. Surveys have shown that 62% of Americans oppose the Citizens United ruling – and at least 16 states seem to agree with them. These states have backed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.

Pending Legislation:

S.525 – A bill proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people that were taken away by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case and related decisions, to protect the integrity of our elections, and to limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process

I oppose reforming current campaign finance reform policy and wish to defeat S.525

I support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision by declaring that; whereas the right to vote in public elections belongs only to natural persons as U.S. citizens, so shall the ability to make contributions and expenditures to influence the outcome of public elections belong only to natural persons, and wish to pass S.525

 Posted by at 12:00 am