Mar 20, 2010

State Lawmakers are working to protect us from the Federal Government

Written by Roberta Biros

The Federal Government seems out of control. There are things going on in Washington DC right now that make us feel helpless. There are deals going on inside the beltway that don’t seem to take the concerns of Pennsylvanians into consideration. It is partially our fault for having elected Senators and Representatives that don’t care about us or our needs, but national politics is sometimes “too big” for some locals to feel attached to. I’m one of those people. I work hard to retain the ear of my state legislators (some of them), but when it comes to our Senators and Representatives in Washington DC, I’m left with a feeling that they “live in DC now” and they don’t have a sense of what their constituents in the area are thinking.

Let us take a look at the key issues on the national news THIS MORNING. If you tune in to Fox News today, Saturday, March 20, 2010, you will find ONE gigantic story topping the headlines. That topic is Health Care Reform. Let us talk about that subject first.

Health Care Reform

Like many of you, I’ve received numerous email messages and phone calls urging me to contact my Congresswoman (Kathy Dahlkemper) to urge her to vote Yes OR No for Health Care Reform. If you attempt to call the Congresswoman’s office, however, you never get an opportunity to talk to her. In some cases you can’t even get through to the office because of the high volume of calls. It is difficult to feel attached to the issue when you can’t even have an educated debate regarding the topic.

We see that many are making the trip to DC in an effort to protest one side of the issue or the other, but not everyone has the time or money to make a trip like that. We are left back at home watching the discourse from a distance on TV or over the internet.

In the end, we are all left with the feeling that Health Care Reform will be decided through backroom deals and super secret payoffs. What WE have to say doesn’t really matter in the long run.

Closing Guantanamo Bay in exchange for military tribunals

Another issue that is at the top of the headlines is a possible “horse trade agreement” headed by Lindsey Graham that will close Guantanamo Bay in exchange for military tribunals. It is another example of politicians making backroom deals that WE have no control over. Lindsey Graham thinks that he can make a deal, but Eric Holder still stresses that he “believes in civilian trials”. Lindsey Graham may think that he is making a “gentlemen’s agreement”, but I would argue that there is no such thing in Washington DC.

What are our Legislators doing to protect us from the deals in Washington DC?

Using the two examples above, it is important that Pennsylvanians understand that they DO have a way to fight back against the deals in Washington. Our way to protect ourselves against “deal making” is to count on our State Lawmakers. Here are a few examples of state legislators that are pushing to protect us from Washington DC deals:

Health Care Reform Protection from Harrisburg

HR 562 – Introduced by Rep. Karen Boback (R)*

HR 562 is a House Resolution memorializing the Congress of the United States in its health care reform decisions to apply the American Cancer Society's guidelines for breast cancer screening. Rather than following the USPSTF recommendation against teaching women breast self-examination and recommendation against routine mammograms for women 40 to 49, HR 562 requests that Congress apply the recommendation of the American Cancer Society (suggesting continued annual screening).

HR 562 may seem silly to some in that it is extremely specific, but it attempts to send a message to Washington DC regarding a very specific concern. It illustrates that our only way to combat the Universal Health Care Reform legislation may be by picking it apart one item at a time.

HB 2179 – Introduced by Rep. Curt Schroder (R)*

HB 2179 is a House Bill with a broader goal. HB2179 is a House Bill which attempts to amend the PA Constitution by adding the following clause: "No law or program shall be enacted requiring citizens of this Commonwealth to participate in a health care system and no law or program shall:(1) prohibit a person from or penalize a person for making direct payment to a health care provider for tendering health care services;(2) prohibit or penalize the purchase of health care insurance from a privately owned health care insurance company; or (3) penalize a person, employer or health care provider for declining to participate in a health care system.

This bill is specifically designed to protect us from the unconstitutional elements of the Health Care Reform legislation that is being pushed through Washington DC.

What do they mean?

These pieces of legislation illustrate that there are elected representatives in Harrisburg that are actively attempting to protect Pennsylvanians from the actions of Washington DC. If we can’t fight DC, we can atleast retain protection from their poor decisions. In the case of HR 562, we can send clear messages to to DC regarding a specific issue (breast cancer screening). In the case of HB 2179, we can attempt to protect ourselves in the case that our specific messages aren’t heard.

Guantanamo Bay and Civilian Trials Protection

HR 110 -- Introduced by Rep. Dan Moul (R)*

HR 110 is a House Resolution that urges the United States Congress not to transfer any detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp to Pennsylvania.

HR 622 – Introduced by Rep. Michele Brooks (R)*

HR 622 is a House Resolution memorializing the United States Department of Justice and United States Attorney General Eric Holder to not hold the trials for those individuals accused of being the masterminds behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the citizens of the United States of America in Pennsylvania.

What do they mean?

These pieces of legislation attempt to send a message to Washington DC that explain that Pennsylvanians don’t agree with the direction that DC is going. They make simple statements like “we don’t want your detainees” and “we don’t want your 9/11 trials”. We many not have the ability to control the decisions in DC, but we can send a clear message that we don’t want to be a part of their actions.

Wrapping it up

These are just a few examples of how Pennsylvanians can have a voice in Washington DC. While you may not be able to state your concerns personally to your Senators and Congressmen and women, you we still have the ability to voice our concerns through your state lawmakers. While Congresswoman Dahlkemper may not return my calls, I know that I will receive a response from State Representatives like Curt Schroeder, Karen Boback, Dan Moul, and Michele Brooks. You don’t believe me? Well, try it for yourself. I may not reside in Representative Brooks district (although I am from her County), but that doesn’t stop her from responding to my questions. I don’t live anywhere near Curt Schroeder’s district, but he has responded to my email inquiries personally (and I might add that he did so more quickly than my own legislators).

Here is some advice. If you find that YOUR legislators aren’t listening, find ones that do. The legislator that represents my district (Representative Mark Longietti from the 7th in Mercer County) is responsive to my questions and he is a nice fella, but he doesn’t support the issues that are important to me. As a concerned citizen that actively pushes for government reform, transparancy, and accountability, I’ve found it necessary to seek legislators that “think the way that I think” and that “support the issues that are important to me”. If you are finding yourself frustrated with your elected officials, take steps to fix the problem . . .

(1) work to vote out the lawmakers that don’t represent your values
(2) seek out and support lawmakers that DO represent your values (where ever they may be)

* NOTE: Representatives Karen Boback, Curt Schroeder, Dan Moul, and Michele Brooks are all included in the Directory of Fiscal Conservative Pennsylvania State Legislators. If you are looking for legislators that support good government, you might want to start with this list.


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