In lieu of a post on issues concerning Maryland I wanted to post some letters, specifically form letters, I found in my collection of stuff from Maryland politicians. Not all the letters are completely true in facts, so judge them for yourself
Letter #1 (about Iran & terrorism)
US Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about policy toward Iran. I have heard from many Marylanders on this important issue. I appreciate your taking the time to write.
Iran remains a serious national security challenge to the United States. This undemocratic regime provides arms and funds to terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Iran continues to target Israel and is a source of regional and global instability. In fact, the U.S. State Department says that Iran’s “extensive involvement in supporting terrorism puts it in a class by itself.”
Iran also has admitted to conducting small-scale experiments to create plutonium. This is further evidence that Iran’s nuclear research has been directed at developing a weapons program. I am glad to see President Bush working wirh leaders from the European Union (EU) to negotiate an end to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Earlier this year, I was hopeful that on-going talks would have positive results when Iran promised to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. However, despite a resolution from the United Nations Security Council threatening economic and diplomatic sanctions, Iran keeps refusing to suspend its uranium program.
It is certainly too early to start thinking about using force against Iran. I believe the Bush administration and the international community should continue to work diligently toward a diplomatic solution to the crisis. U.S. allies rely too heavily on crude oil bought from Iran for the threat of sanctions to be credible. But, Iran has no refineries and so must import gasoline. This means strong sanctions on gas sales to Iran might provide the leverafe needed to force Iran to stop its nuclear program. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and the Senate Intelligence Committee I will continue to follow this issue very closely.
Again, thanks for sharing your views with me. Knowing of your views will be very helpful to me as the Senate considers this issue. Please let me know if I may be of assistance ib the future.
Letter #2 (about death penalty)
Kumar P. Barve, Majority Leader of the House of Delegates
Thank you for your correspondence to discuss your thoughts about the repeal of the death penalty. I appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts on the issue.
As you may know, legislation to repeal the death penalty has been introduced in previous sessions of the Maryland General Assembly. House Bill 949 would repeal the death penalty and is currently before the House Judiciary Committee, of which I am not a member. If HB 949 comes for a vote before the full House of Delegates, I will vote in favor of repeal.
Thank you again for sharing your perspective with me. Please stay in touch as this issue moves forward.
Letter #3 (overview of legis. session)
MD Sen. James Brochin, 42nd legislative district
Perhaps more than any other session I was able to incorporate what I believe as common sense solutions into major public policy issues that confront Marylanders.
One of Governor O’Malley’s goals for this session was to repeal the death penalty. My belief is that the death penalty is an important tool for prosecutors when going after serial killers. As a result, I offered an amendment (which was adopted) that rejected the Governor’s repeal, but instead prohibits the death penalty in cases where there is only one eyewitness testimony.
Another issue debated during session was lawful presence. For the last ten years, Maryland has allowed illegal immigrants to obtain Maryland driver’s licenses without having to show that they are in this state or country illegally. I think this practice is unconscionable. In fact, this is how one of the 9/11 hijackers obtained his Maryland driver’s license. The House of Delegates position was amnesty for all 250,000 people who have received Maryland driver’s licenses without having to show they are in this country illegally. I simply cannot accept amnesty. It’s not fair that people who have filled out the paperwork and waited their time to become citizens get supplanted by those who sneak over the border to enter this country illegally. I co-sponsored a Senate bill to require documentation verifying that an individual is either is a citizen, or is lawfully present in the United States prior to the MVA issuing a driver’s license. I also negotiated a compromise on behalf of the Senate that said beginning June 1, 2009, if you can’t show lawful presence, then you can’t get a Maryland driver’s license. In addition, the 250,000 people who entered the country without showing lawful presence have until July 1, 2015 to obtain lawful presence or their license will become invalid.
Despite these compromises, there were other bills and issues which I believe were just as important. I co-sponsored a bill which passed by one vote in the Senate which stated if you live in Critical Areas (1,000 feet from the Chesapeake Bay) and your septic tank is failing, you need to get it upgraded. Six percent of the nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay comes from failing septic systems. This legislation, along with the upgrades in our wastewater treatment plants (which I supported four years ago), should continue the progress we have made in reversing the damage to the Bay, and shoud continue the re-growth of our underwater grasses.
Another issue, on which I cast two critical votes, permitted a judge the authority to seize guns from a domestic abuser who has a temporary or final protective order against them. While I continue to believe in the inherent right to self-defense, I do not believe guns and domestic abusers are a proper mix. Too much bloodshed in those critical days and hours after a domestic violence situation erupts. With the help of this legislation, we can hell put an end to this unnecessary violence.
On the education front, I again, with the help of the University of Maryland System, stopped Morgan State from shutting down Towson University’s MBA program. Towson University’s MBA program is now the largest in the Baltimore Metropolitan area, and I believe it is an asset to all of Baltimore and the employers who hire our young adults.
On the elementary school level, I worked closely with Towson Families United to help Towson to get a new elementary school, which will open in the fall of 2010. I also worked with the parents and the school supporters in the Loch Raven area to stop an ill thought addition to Loch Raven High. Rest assured I will continue to work with this County Executive and the next County Executive to acquire land to build a new high school to alleviate overcrowding at Dulaney, Towson, and Loch Raven High Schools.
This job is always a challenge, and continues to be rewarding. It is an honor and a privilege to be your Senator, and I deeply appreciate the confidence you have bestowed upon me. If there are any thoughts or issues you wish to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact me at 410-823-7087.
I look forward to seeing you this Summer.
Letter #4 (about the stimulus)
US Rep. John Sarbanes
Thank you for responding to my recent constituent survey on how to strengthen the economy. These are such important times and it is critical to hear from individuals who actively follow the proceedings of Congress and their government.
This week, after significant consultation between the President and bipartisan leaders in Congress, we passed the Americab Recovery and Reinvestment Act. I strongly supported this measure because I believe it will stimulate our economy in the near term, assist working families that arw struggling to make ends meet, and set the stage for long term economic growth.
First, this measure will put Americans to work rebuilding our nation’s critical infrastructure — roads and bridges, public transportatiob, water and sewer systems, and public schools. But the 21st Century, our electronic infrastructure is just as important for economic success as our physical infrastructure. This is why the recovery package provides resources for broadband deployment, so all regions of our country can enjoy the economic growth that accompanies high speed Internet access. It also provides grants to relieve congestion on our electrical grid and commits us to digital health records so we can reduce cost and help more Americans access care. There are investments we have put off for much too long. By taking action now, we will save or create jobs for three million Americans, strengthen our nation’s economic backbone, and allow commerce to flow more freely to all parts of our country. We are literally building stronger communities and a more secure America.
Some have criticized this package because they believe it includes too much spending. It is a fair concern and I do not take the investment of this amount of taxpayer money lightly. But throughout our nation’s history, and ever since the New Deal helped to ease the crush of the Great Depression, there has been general consensus among economists and policy experts that targeted government spending is an effective form of stimulus in an economic downturn. That we are using this spending to rebuild the infrastructure upon which our long term economic competitiveness depends is a further benefit.
I also acknowledge that tax cuts for working Americans can help ease the pinch by allowing families to keep more of their hard earned money. If tax cuts are effectively targeted, they also encourage consumer spending. That is why the package:
- provide a tax relief to 95 percent of American workers through a refundable tax credit of up to $400 per worker
- offers a $250 credit to disabled veterans, social security recipents no longer in the workplace and federal retirees
- increases the earned income tax cut (EITC) and expands the child tax credit
- creates an “American Opportunity” education tax credit for individuals seeking a college education
- increases the homebuyer tax credit passed last year and eliminates the repayment requirement for all homes in the first half of 2009.
To assist small businesses in creating jobs and spur investment H.R. 1 [the stimulus bill]:
- allows businesses to write off of losses incurred in 2008 against taxes assessed over the previous five years;
- extends the increased bonus depreciation and small business expensing for any investments in new plants and equipment in 2009;
- allows tax credits for hiring recently dischsrged unemployed veterans and youth.
Ths action we have taken will be a desperately needed “shot in the arm” for our ailing economy but we also need a long term strategy that will ensure America’s prosperity for future generations. One example of where we can take bold steps to address economic, national security, and environmental policy priorities is the energy sector. It is more important than ever for America to adopt an aggressive strategy to develop alternative forms of energy. Only by ending our addiction to oil will we be able to retain our competitive advantage as a nation and ensure a promising future for our children. Just as growth in information technology served as the driving for e behind the economic boom of the 1990′s, the development of green technology and green jobs will spur tremendous growth and offer long-term relief to the American economy by making us less dependent on energy from volatile areas of the world.
Again, I appreciate you taking time to participate in the survey and I look forward to maintaining this dialogue as Congress considers future measures to put our nation back on track. I will continue to keep you updated on this situation and, more generally, my work in Congress. If you would like to find more detailed information about the recovery package, you can go to www. recovery.gov — a site established by the Obama Administration dedicated to transparent and accountable government. If you would likw to sign up to see more direct updates from my office, please sign up for the Sarbanes Standard at http://www.sarbanes.house.gov
Letter #5 (against troop increase in Iraq)
Rep. John Sarbanes
Thank you for contacting me about President Bush’s plan to escalate the American military presence in Iraq. I appreciate hearing from you about this important issue and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
As you’ll see from my attached statement, I am opposed to the President’s proposed plan for Iraq and I voted in favor of H.Con.Res. 63, a resolution disapproving of the deployment of more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq. This measure passed the House on February 16, 2007 by a vote of 246 to 182, representinf another step in the steady and deliberate effort to change course in Iraq and get our troops out of harm’s way.
Again don’t hesitate for contacting me about this important issue. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.
Statement to the US House of Representatives on H.Con. Res. 63 (sources: http://capitolwords.org/date/2007/02/15/H1674-5_iraq-war-resolution/, & http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2007-02-15/html/CREC-2007-02-15-pt1-PgH1674-5.htm)
Madam Speaker, the resolution we are debating today is simple and direct. It declares strong support for our troops on the ground in Iraq and opposition to the President’s decision to send an additional 21,000 men and women into harm’s way. I wholeheartedly endorse the resolution and pray that the President will heed its call. Most agree now that it was a mistake to invade Iraq. Hearings in the Senate and the House are stripping away the last thin veneers of justification for that fateful decision. They are offering compelling evidence that the administration sacrificed wisdom, judgment, and conscience in favor of shock and awe.Many of us sense a similar impulse at work in this administration’s dealings with Iran. Let us serve notice, this Congress will not allow the administration to pursue yet another ill-fated mission. Madam Speaker, bringing our troops home from Iraq is no longer a whispered prayer; it is now the clarion call of the American people.One year ago those proposing a new direction in Iraq were labeled as unpatriotic and marginalized in the national discourse. But we have come a long way. Elections do matter. On November 7, the people in my district in Maryland and across the Nation sent a strong message.The next day Secretary Rumsfeld resigned. Shortly thereafter the Iraq Study Group issued its report sharply criticizing the war. And in the next few days the United States House of Representatives will pass this resolution signaling stiff opposition to the administration’s proposal for a troop surge in Iraq.To those patriotic Americans who have been relentless in their call for an end to the war, know this: collective voice has been heard. In my home State of Maryland, nearly 400 men and woman have died or been wounded in Iraq.Two days ago, one of my constituents reminded me that the war is no longer being measured in time, but in lives. To the families who have sacrificed so much and who have suffered the ultimate loss, do not fear for a moment that a change in our policy in Iraq, that the effort to stop the escalation and begin drawing down our troops in any way dilutes the value this country places on the service of your loved ones.History will treat harshly those policymakers at the highest levels who let ideology trump sound and informed judgment. It will fairly criticize politicians who have exploited this war for partisan gain. But it will reserve only pride and lasting gratitude for the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform amidst this sad tale of bungled intelligence and ill-advised policy. They alone are untarnished.Madam Speaker, I have never been to the war. Never kissed my wife and children goodbye, wondering whether I will ever see them again. Far from the harsh reality in Iraq, I am blessed with the sweet ebb and flow of life’s daily routines.But like many Americans who witness our soldiers dutifully pushing forward every day under impossible circumstances, I am ill at ease. I know that the current policy in Iraq will only lead to more pain for many families and for our country. Madam Speaker, the American people are tired, they are tired of rhetoric, they are tired of promises to put politics and partisanship aside when all they see is bickering and recrimination. Let’s give them hope. Let’s send a powerful message contained in this resolution, but let’s not stop there. Let all of us, the President, the House, the Senate, have the decency and dignity of purpose to put differences aside and work every day, beginning this day, to bring our troops home to their families, to their communities, and to a Nation that stands humbled by their sacrifice.
Letter #6 (About Obamacare: This letter was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense)
Rep. John Sarbanes
Sometime in August 2009 seemingly (exact date unknown)
As you know, health care reform is front and center on the national policy agenda. As a member of the Health Subcommittee of Energy and Commerce Committee, I have been fully engaged in the health care debate since the beginning of the year. On July 31st, my committee reported a comprehensive health reform bill (H.R. 3200) to the full House of Representatives. The bill will be considered on the House floor this fall, which gives members of Congress and the public time to discuss and debate the bill’s key elements. Your input is very important to me as this process continues.
I believe we have a good bill, which will address the public’s chief complaints about the current system. Of course, any time we undertake major change, it is natural for people to feel sone anxiety. Sadly, those who want to keep the status quo are exploiting people’s apprehension by spreading false information on the internet and in television ads. They are distorting the intentions of Congress and the content of health care reform legislation. That is why I am writing you to set the record straight on what is and what is not in the bill.
An American System
First I want to be clear that this proposal is not a radical attempt to eliminate private health insurance in favor of a government-run system. It does not seek to replicate the Canadian, British, French, or any other health system. The proposal I supported in the Energy and Commerce Committee will create a uniquely American health care system that builds on what works and fixes what doesn’t. If you like your doctor and your current plan, you can absolutely keep them if this propsal becomes law.
Value for Your Money
This bill takes a measured approach designed to ensure that you get high qualty care in return for the hard-earned premiums you pay each month. The bill will prohibit insurance companies from increasing your rates for pre-existing conditions, gender, or occupation. It will cap annual out of pocket expenses and do away with lifetime limits on how much insurance companies will cover. And it will do away with co-pays and deductibles for preventive care.
More Choices and More Affordable Coverage
For those who do not have health insurance, are looking to change plans, or are worried that they will lose their coverage because their job, there will be a new framework in place to give you options. The bill creates a health insurance exchange where individuals can choose from multiple plans and benefit from access to the kind of group rates that only large employers can offer now. This approach will also make health insurance more “portable” and give Americans the assurance that they can continue to receive health care if they change jobs, are laid off, or simply don’t like the plan offered through their employer.
A Public Option to Create Healthy Competition
Along with the many plans offered in thw exchange by familiar private insurers, there will also be a public health plan option that will offer some long-overdue competition for the private health insurance industry that currently has a stranglehold on the system. Enhanced competition in the health care market will reduce cost, promote innovation and provide recourse for those who are currently without coverage. The “public option” makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, it has been widely characterized as a “government takeover.” This has been flatly refuted by the Congressional Budget Office, which projects that the public plan will draw approximately twelve million participants by 2019. That’s large enough to help influence best practices and push private insurers to provide consumers with quality service, but at 4% of the total population of our country, it’s about as far from a “government takeover” as you can get.
Having discussed some of the things the bill will do, I would like now to talk about some of the things it will NOT do:
- It does not require anyone to enter into a government-run health care plan.If you like your doctor and your current plan, you can absolutely keep them if this proposal becomes law. For those who want to study other plans, it will give you more choices at lower ratex than individuals can get in the current market.
- It does not attempt to “ration” care.Nothing in the bill empowers any government official to prohibit private health coverage of particular medications or treatments. It does funs scientific research that will empower doctors to make decisions about what workd beat for their patients and improve care.
- It does not provide subsidies for undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance.The bill explicitly states “Nothing in this statute shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”
- The bill will not cause employers to “dump” their workers into the the public plan option. Some worry that large and small businesses will have an incentive to terminate coverage for their employees and dump them into the public option. In fact, these employers will have plenty of reasons to continue coverage. For example, small businesses are largely exempt from the coverage mandate in the bill and those that are obligated will have access to tax credits to help with their expenses. Large businesses will need to keep offering coverage in order to compete for workers in the market. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office projects that by the Year 2019 only about 4% of the population — about twelve million people — will be in the public plan.
A bill of this importance will not be rushed through Congress. Since January, the three House committees of jurisdiction have held more than 20 hearings on all aspects of the health care system. These committes released a discussion draft in June, introduced a formal bill by July, and each conducted through markups of the bill. The full House is likely to take up the bill in the fall and the Senate must follow suit. Differences between the House and Senate bills must be reconciled by a conference committee.
I hope this information is useful to you as the Congress continues to make progress on health care legislation. I believe it is possible to make intelligent reforms to our health care system that expand coverage and improve quality of care. I also believe there are many areas where we can reduce cost by eliminating waste and making our system more efficient. The status quo is unsustainable for our economy and I am convinced that long term security will be elusive until we fix our health care system. If you have access to the internet and would like more information about the health care reform bill, please visit the Energy and Commerce website at