Monday, January 22, 2018

Levin, Kildee, Dingell, Lawrence Statement on Fourth Short-Term Continuing Resolution

By Editor & Publisher Jeff Brown.

According to a press release issued at 6:42 PM Monday evening, Congressman Sander Levin (MI-09), Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05), Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) issued the following statement after voting ‘no’ on a bill that fails to include a long-term budget or the priorities of the American people:

“It is unacceptable for Congress to continue funding the government just weeks at a time. Another short-term continuing resolution—the fourth since last October—hurts our military readiness and injects uncertainty into our economy.

“Congress should pass a long-term budget that provides certainty to our military and addresses the priorities of the American people. With so many unresolved and pressing issues, including the opioid epidemic, pension crisis, disaster relief, crumbling infrastructure and protecting DREAMers, Republicans and Democrats must sit down together and reach a compromise. We stand ready to work in a bipartisan fashion to address these issues.

“While Senator McConnell has now pledged Senate action, we need a commitment from Speaker Ryan in the House to work with Democrats on a long-term budget agreement as well as legislation to fix our broken immigration system and protect DREAMers. We oppose another short-term funding bill for these reasons.”


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Government shutdown: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell's statement on impact and what Michigan families need to know.

Photo Purple Walrus Press.

By Editor & Publisher Jeff Brown.

At precisely midnight Friday the federal government shut down and thousands of federal employees will now be placed on furlough.

Saturday, January 20, 2018, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI 12) released the following statement on the federal shutdown outlining the expected impact on Michigan families in the 12th District. According Dingell's office, the Congresswoman will remain in Washington for as long as needed to come to a bipartisan agreement to re-open the government. Dingell is ready to help constituents navigate issues and concerns.

“It is unacceptable that after a year of putting off critical priorities and hurtling from one short-term funding bill to the next, President Trump and the Republicans who control the House and Senate refuse to work to find common ground to meet the needs of the American people. This shutdown is not good for this country and is completely avoidable. There is bipartisan support for legislation that would provide long-term funding for the government, certainty to the military, and address critical priorities including funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program and raising budget caps on non-defense spending, one third of which goes to veterans and national security. This is not a war of words; it is about real people’s lives, and we need to get it done. This is what the American people expect and it is what they deserve.
“Last year, President Trump tweeted that ‘our government needs a good shutdown.’ There is no such things as a good shutdown. Failure to find a bipartisan compromise disrupts the lives of millions of Americans and has a significant impact on our communities and economy. The last shutdown cost the American economy $24 billion. This is unacceptable. We were sent to Washington to govern, and I stand ready to work around the clock to end this shutdown and do the job the American people elected us to do. My office will remain open to help families, veterans, seniors and businesses navigate this situation.”

Read the following Questions and Answers on the anticipated impact of a Federal Government Shutdown as presented in Saturday's press release from Debbie Dingell's office.

Will I continue to receive my Social Security and SSI checks?
During a government shutdown, recipients will continue to receive their Social Security and SSI checks.  However, a shutdown suspends the issuance of Social Security cards.  On a typical day, approximately 60,000 Americans apply for Social Security cards, which they may need to be able to start a job, take out a loan, open a bank account, or conduct other financial transactions.  During a shutdown, no Social Security cards are issued.

Will my mail still arrive?
Yes.  The approximately 500,000 Postal Service employees are exempt from furlough because the Postal Service is self-funded.

Will I still be able to visit the national parks and monuments?
During the 2013 16-day shutdown, national parks, national monuments, and the Smithsonian museums were closed.  However, the Trump Administration has announced that it will work to keep national parks “as accessible as possible” in the event of a shutdown.  Officials have said that the anticipated plan is to keep many national parks open for hiking, wildlife watching, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.  Open-air parks and monuments in Washington, D.C. will remain open.  However, other services that require National Park Service staff, including campgrounds and concessions, will be closed.

How will the shutdown affect FEMA natural disaster clean-up efforts?
It’s unclear how ongoing FEMA recovery efforts in Texas, Florida, California, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands from recent hurricanes and wildfires will be impacted.  FEMA staff would still respond to emergencies, but the Trump Administration has not clarified how many workers, if any, would continue with long-term projects.

What is the impact on veterans’ services?
During a government shutdown, all VA medical facilities and clinics will remain fully operational.  However, VA call centers and hotlines cease to function, and Veterans Benefits Administration public contact services are not available.  In addition, the 2013 16-day shutdown stopped progress in reducing veterans’ disability claims backlog, which had previously been progressing at a rate of almost 20,000 claims per week.  In addition, during the 2013 16-day shutdown, many veterans lost access to vocational rehabilitation and education counseling services.

What is the impact on U.S. military personnel?

The Defense Department issued guidance today saying that in the event of a shutdown, “Military personnel on active duty, including reserve component personnel on federal active duty, will continue to report for duty and carry out assigned duties.”  Regarding their pay, the Washington Post reports, “There would be no gap in their pay unless the shutdown lasted past February 1, and otherwise they would continue on the job without getting paid until the shutdown ended or until Congress and the President agreed to cover their costs before it ended.  The last time the government shut down, in 2013, the military remained on the job and legislation to pay service members during the shutdown was signed by President Obama.”

What is the impact on small businesses?
A shutdown halts federal loans to small businesses.  During a shutdown, the Small Business Administration stops approving applications for small businesses to obtain loans and loan guarantees, typically $1 billion per month. During the 2013 16-day shutdown, the SBA was unable to process about 700 applications for $140 million in small business loans.

What is the impact on federal housing loans?
During a shutdown, the Federal Housing Administration stops approving applications for housing loans.  During the 2013 16-day shutdown, the FHA delayed processing over 500 applications for loans to develop, rehabilitate, or refinance around 80,000 units of multifamily rental housing.

What is the impact on medical research?
During a shutdown, NIH shuts down most medical research taking place on its campus in Maryland, prevents the enrollment of patients in NIH Clinical Center studies, and stops reviewing medical research grant applications and making or renewing research grants.

What is the impact on the Centers for Disease Control?
During a shutdown, CDC has to greatly curtail its activities to conduct flu season surveillance and monitoring, promote immunization, support state and local health departments, and update disease treatment and prevention recommendations.

What is the impact on food safety activities?
During a shutdown, the FDA is unable to support the majority of its food safety activities.  The 2013 16-day shutdown sharply curtailed critical FDA food safety inspections of domestic and international food facilities.

Which federal employees keep working during a government shutdown?

When there is a government shutdown, federal agencies are required to classify their employees as either “essential” or “non-essential.”  The employees classified as “essential” continue to work during the shutdown.  However, the employees classified as “non-essential” are put on unpaid furlough.  In the 2013 16-day shutdown, about 800,000 of the 2.1 million civilian federal employees in the executive branch were classified as “non-essential” and furloughed.

Do furloughed federal employees get back pay?
That is up to the Congress and White House.  The precedent has been that furloughed employees are later paid, through enactment of legislation.  For example, that was done in the most recent shutdown in 2013.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell / Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur applaud EPA's decision to reconsider impairment status of Lake Erie

By Editor & Publisher Jeff Brown.

Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur have issued the following statements after news that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to withdraw its approval of Ohio EPA's evaluation of the state's list of impaired waterways. According to a press release from Congresswoman Dingell's office Thursday, January 18, the assessment failed to address the open waters of Lake Erie. According to the release, U.S. EPA had previously accepted both Ohio's and Michigan's assessments even though Michigan had previously designated the open waters of Lake Erie impaired, while, at the same time, Ohio had refused to do so. U.S EPA now considers the Ohio assessment "incomplete" (read full letter here).

“With this change of heart, EPA is finally taking a first step toward protect the drinking water 11 million people in Michigan, Ohio and throughout the Great Lakes region rely upon,” said Dingell, a Member of the Great Lakes Task Force. “Failure to recognize these waters as impaired puts public health and the Great Lakes economy at risk. There is no line of separation in Lake Erie, and it is clear that EPA must take a proactive approach in confronting this challenge facing the entire region.”

“EPA’s decision to reconsider the status of the open waters of Lake Erie is right on. There is no magic line between the impaired Lake Erie waters of Michigan and Ohio,” said Kaptur, Co-Chair of the Great Lakes Task Force. “This is simple, Lake Erie should be designated as impaired because it is. This past summer 1,000 square miles of the Lake were covered in green slime – even a child can see the Lake is impaired. The State of Ohio has proven time and again that it has more excuses than solutions.  We hope Governor Kasich and the Ohio EPA will join us in welcoming the U.S. EPA’s input and expertise in helping return our Great Lake to great health.”

In November, 2016, Dingell and Kaptur sent a letter to the EPA urging them to disregard Ohio's determination and designate the waters as officially impaired.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Eastern Michigan defeats Akron in men's basketball 63-49.

By Editor & Publisher Jeff Brown.

The Eagles of Eastern Michigan University downed the Akron University Zips by a score of 63-49 at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti Tuesday night. The 11-7 Eagles  notched an impressive win that puts them in good standing for their up-coming against Ohio University at the Convo Center on Saturday, January 20.

Eastern Michigan's Elijah Minnie scored 22 points and had five rebounds, while teammate Paul Jackson scored 20 points with eight rebounds.

The Eagles offense was strong from the start, shooting 46 percent (21-45) from the floor.

Catch the Eagles at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti on Saturday, Jan 20 as they face Ohio University at 2 pm.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Michigan Representative Debbie Dingell calls town hall to discuss new GOP tax bill

Town Hall, Saturday January 13th, 2018
Photo by Riley G. Bender
By Riley G. Bender: Purple Walrus Press.

Michigan Representative Debbie Dingell led a town hall on Saturday to discuss the recent GOP Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The event was hosted by Taylor, MI Mayor Rick Sollars in the Taylor City Hall. The Trump era tax bill is over 500 pages long and complex (to say the least), with debate around the potential future impacts remaining heated. Among Congresswoman Dingell’s town hall panel were State Representatives Erika Geiss, Darrin Camilleri, Cara Clemente, Ronnie Peterson, Adam Zemke and Yousef Rabhi. Also present on the panel were Senator Hoon-Yung Hopgood; Stephanie Leiser, a tax policy lecturer from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; and Maggie Randolph, Senior Research Analyst from the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation.
Representative Dingell began the discussion by emphasizing the need to place politically charged discussion aside in order to discuss the potential impacts, positive and negative, of the bill on Michigan residents. This sentiment was echoed by Senator Hopgood, who added that the majority of the bill’s impact on the average citizen would not necessarily manifest as a large increase, but that there would be “other implications” including public programs that offer assistance to the community.
Representatives Clemente and Rabhi emphasized the importance of sharing information regarding the tax bill in order to spread awareness and ready the community to make any changes necessary. Perhaps one of the more practical pieces of information shared by the panel prior to the commencement of questions came from Ms. Leiser, in the form of a tax calculator which compares the current tax status quo from 2017 to the changes coming in the 2018 tax year due to the new bill (accessible here).
Lastly, Ms. Randolph highlighted the bill’s removal of the Individual Mandate for health insurance effective January 1, 2019, which previously required all citizens without health insurance to pay a penalty. According to Randolph, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the removal of the Individual Mandate penalty could result in a decrease in individuals with health insurance policies by thirteen million over the next ten years. They predict that this will result in a premium increase of ten percent per year for plans on the marketplace on top of any current trends.
Much of the initial dialogue as well as responses to questions from the audience were taken by Ms. Leiser and Ms. Randolph. While the town hall’s primary focus was toward the new GOP tax bill as a whole, the majority questions from the audience quickly focused the lens of discussion toward the healthcare aspect. The tone was occasionally passionate, but remained respectful and welcoming for members across the community.
Saturday’s town hall was slated as the first of many to come. Details for future events will be available soon.