Category: Mindy Finn

Lieberman Calls for Federalization of Nuclear Security

November 29th, 2001 in Connecticut, Fall 2001 Newswire, Mindy Finn

By Mindy Finn

WASHINGTON – In an effort to prevent terrorists from using nuclear power plants as nuclear weapons, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman introduced legislation yesterday that would federalize security around at nuclear power plants.

Lieberman noted that nearly half of Connecticut’s electricity comes from nuclear power, making it one of the states most dependent on nuclear energy.

“Considering our dependence on nuclear energy, we owe it to the people of Connecticut and the rest of the nation, as well as the nuclear industry, to take every necessary step to keep this technology safe and available, “Lieberman said.

The bill would establish a federal nuclear security force within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Members of this force, like the forthcoming federal airline security force, would face background checks, training requirements and proficiency reviews. The legislation calls for the force to be in place within 270 days of passage.

To the nuclear energy industry, however, “this proposal is a reflexive political response to a problem that does not exist,” said Joe F. Colvin, the president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry’s Washington-based policy organization.

Colvin said he opposed the bill because the industry “is and has always been committed to ensuring the safety and security of its facilities.” Nuclear security professionals are already subject to strict hiring standards, FBI background checks and other appropriate reviews, he said.

But Rep. James Maloney, D-5th District, responding to Colvin’s statement, said, “Sounds very much like what the airlines had to say about their security systems before Sept. 11.”

Maloney said he has co-sponsored companion legislation that Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., has offered in the House and strongly supports Lieberman’s bill, which would complement his legislation to establish a civil support team in every state.

In addition to federalizing security, the proposed Nuclear Security Act, introduced by Lieberman and Sens. James Jeffords, I-Vt., Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., would use mock terrorist teams to test a facility’s preparedness in dealing with terrorism.

It would also create stockpiles of potassium iodide, which Markey, in unveiling his bill, called “the Cipro of nuclear exposure.”

Lieberman said the bill would also include a provision to treat victims of nuclear incidents by requiring the NRC to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide potassium iodide stockpiles to the people at schools, hospitals and other public buildings in close proximity to nuclear plants.

“There are thousands [of people] who meet that definition in Connecticut,” he said.

Lieberman said he has been working with the NRC for more than seven years to develop an emergency supply of potassium iodide. He serves on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the NRC and the commercial nuclear power industry.

Lieberman said he is troubled but not surprised that the industry opposes his bill. But America doesn’t want to look back and ask, “Now, how did that terrorist attack happen?” he said.

Lieberman and his co-sponsors are now going to look for Republican co-sponsors to help the chances of passage.

Lieberman Lectures on Charitable Choice to Jewish Convention

November 20th, 2001 in Connecticut, Fall 2001 Newswire, Mindy Finn

By Mindy Finn

WASHINGTON - Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., said Tuesday that though he shares President Bush's desire that more federal funds go to faith-based charities, he wants to be sure faith-based groups don't use their increased strength as an excuse for religious discrimination.

America should have the opportunity to rely on faith-based organizations for "repairing serious holes in our social fabric," Lieberman told more than 250 delegates to this year's General Assembly of United Jewish Communities. But, he added, we need "an agreement that will strike the right balance of inclusion and to harness the best forces of faith in our public life without infringing on the First Amendment or excluding those with different beliefs."

United Jewish Communities represents 189 Jewish federations, 400 independent communities and 700,000 people across North America.

"Al Gore and I both spoke out during last year's national campaign for expanding the place of faith-based organizations at the public policy table in a way that is consistent with the First Amendment," Lieberman, who was Gore's running mate last year, told the delegates.

The House has already approved a bill that would provide federal money to religious organizations that offer social services. It would also prohibit discrimination and require that the government funds not be used to advocate religious beliefs. But Lieberman said that the House bill it does not provide sufficient funds to charitable religious organizations.

Lieberman said he encourages swift approval of a Senate version of the bill, which would allow for Americans to take tax deductions for their donations to faith-based charity organizations even if they don't itemize on their tax returns. When Lieberman joined Bush and Senate colleague Rick Santorum, R-Pa., at a White House meeting last July, he said he "got the impression that President was open to finding a way to do just that."

Unfortunately, Lieberman said, Sept. 11 altered the original schedule for considering the bill, but the need is even more immediate now because "non-profits are being hit hard with everyone giving to the relief effort and· the demand for service is shooting up."

He said he thought it was important to express his support for the President's proposal to use faith-based charities as vehicles for the government's social services to show that it is a bipartisan effort. He said Bush has expressed a desire to get the legislation passed before the end of the year after an economic stimulus package is approved. But Lieberman said he would like to see Congress approve the faith-based charities bill regardless of what it does on the economic legislation, declaring that the charities bill would itself stimulate the economy.

But Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, speaking at the same forum, said he opposed not only the House bill but also any legislation he that expands government funds for faith-based organizations that discriminate against those of other faiths. Nadler said that some people who were invited to the White House conference on faith-based charity recently want to use government money to advance not just charity but sectarian views as well. He said he could foresee fights between religious groups over who gets what portion of federal funds.

As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Nadler said, he has witnessed the "fierce" fights over how to divide the highway money. "Can you imagine the annual political fights between the Baptists, the Episcopalians, the Jews and the Catholics over which religious groups should receive which share of the available federal social service funding?" he asked.

"It is no business of government to decide which is a good or worthy religion or which is not, but if you are giving out public money, those are the kinds of controversial decisions you are going to have to make," he added.

Nadler said that while the intent may be good, "the proposal that passed the House will serve to change the rules of the game and to undermine our fundamental liberties guaranteed to all of us in the Constitution."

"The real objective," he added, "is to eliminate to a very large extent the anti-discrimination laws and the provisions against sectarian activities with federal funds."

Nadler asked, "Do we need legislation that would exempt all these so-called faith-based programs from our civil rights laws?"

Lieberman, however, contended that "faith can be a great and enduring source of values-a powerful inspiration to live a good life, and we know many faith-based and charitable and service organizations are capitalizing on this potential and helping to rekindle and transform live."

A Typical Day in the Not-So-Typical Life of a Conn. Congresswoman

November 16th, 2001 in Connecticut, Fall 2001 Newswire, Mindy Finn

By Mindy Finn

WASHINGTON - A flash of color in a sea of black, brown, gray, and the occasional navy blue suit, a string of pearls in a collection of ties, Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-6th Conn., takes her seat next to the chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Human Resources, clad in bright purple, yet still appearing conservative, for that morning's hearing.

The topic of the hearing, called by the subcommittee Johnson used to chair, before her appointment as chair of the Health subcommittee, is teen pregnancy prevention. Welfare reform passed in 1996 expires in 2002, and the committee wants to explore what role preventing teen childbearing in particular out-of-wedlock births plays in reducing the amount of families in need of benefits.

The hearing set to begin at 10 a.m., begins in predictable Congressional fashion, ten minutes late. When Johnson emerges from private quarters into the lobby of the office, she appears frustrated from the morning's meetings: "We've already had two big problems here this morning," Johnson says-Johnson's work-day began two hours earlier with a couple of breakfast meetings with a group of citizens working in the health care industry.

Johnson continues to lament over the morning's meetings while she moves swiftly to the door to make the hearing; she has invited a constituent to testify this morning. When she opens the door from her office to the hall of the Rayburn House office building, she almost collides with two women who are eager to introduce themselves, not by their names, but as nurse practitioners. They relate to Johnson as fellow friends of the fight for adequate health care for Americans and have apparent appreciation for the Congresswoman.

Unscathed, Johnson picks up her disgruntled commentary about the morning's meetings; she doesn't miss a beat even while scurrying towards the elevator that will take her down to the hearing. Upon arrival, she walks through a back meeting room to stage a greeting with her guest, RoseAnne Bilodeau, from New Britain, Conn. Bilodeau, executive director of the Pathways/Senderos program, established to prevent teen pregnancy, cooperates beautifully. As Johnson approaches, she gets up, stands close, shakes hands, and engages in chitchat, creating a Kodak moment for the eager photographer waiting to snap a picture for the Waterbury Republican-American.

Time for business: Johnson takes her seat at the committee table next to chairman of the Human Resources subcommittee, Rep. Wally Herger, R-2nd Calif.--the seat she used to occupy-and begins to absorb the contents of the white binder, prepared by staff, waiting for her arrival. Nancy, who looks oblivious to the testimony being delivered by the current witness, reads, underlines, and takes notes for herself. She looks up once to laugh at a dose of humor offered by the witness. John McManus, majority staff director for the human resources subcommittee, said of Johnson, "She reads everything we give her in a detailed way and takes copious notes."

Johnson, with her personal blackberry (a pager that can also receive e-mail) within checking distance at all times, keeps her nose buried in her papers until the witness concludes his speech and questioning can begin. Was she even listening? Maybe, maybe not. But, contained in her questions, are key statements and descriptions made by the witness. Nancy, never a lawyer but sounding like one, pleads her case that the Pathways/Senderos program is a model for other communities to duplicate and such programs should be the organizations to receive government funding. "We need to reach down to younger children; we can't wait 'till they are teenagers," she says.

It's 11 a.m. when the second panel of witnesses, including Bilodeau, gets their turn to speak. Each witness not only thanks Chairman Herger, but also Congresswoman Nancy Johnson, for giving them the chance to speak at the hearing on preventing teen pregnancy. Herger turns the job of introducing Bilodeau over to Johnson. When Nancy comes to the part of describing what Bilodeau represents, she has to take a few deep breaths; tears are coming to her eyes. "I'm sorry, I got a little emotional," said Johnson. It's just that the woman has changed so many kids' lives, she said. "We can do it; we can," she declared to no one person in particular, then quickly collected herself, containing composure and directing her eyes back to her notes.

The three members of Congress still in attendance at the hearing are sitting back in their chairs, one of them staring off into space, the press and other members of the crowd appear to be fighting off sleep, and Johnson balances studying and listening to the witnesses. Yet, Johnson, the only woman on the subcommittee, in a room adorned with paintings of historical politicians, all male, does relinquish 30 seconds of her time to freshen up her lipstick-members of Congress must always look professional. McManus says, "People don't think of her as being a woman, just a very able colleagueáShe is very well-respected by her peers."

It is 12:30 p.m. when the hearing comes to a close. Johnson's statement criticizing one of the witness's pregnancy prevention programs sparked some tension for a few moments, but the mood in the air is merry-for some because the hearing went well, for others just because it is finally over.

It's time to head to lunch for many Americans, but Johnson and Bilodeau have an appointment over the phone with reporters from their home state. Johnson will munch through the lunch she brought from home while responding to the relentless reporters for over an hour. A little after 1 p.m., Johnson, or just, "Nancy," as the staff refers to her, emerges from her office to greet another constituent. This time it is a high school student, of the age that motivated Johnson and her fellow Congressmen on the Human Resources subcommittee to arrange the pregnancy prevention hearing that morning.

In Washington for a convention of the National Youth Leadership Council, Johanna Silverio, a Winstead High School junior, has a nervous smile planted on her face, in anticipation of meeting her Congresswoman. She begins to tremble slightly as Johnson reaches out to shake her hand. After the initial introductions, without wasting a minute, Johnson grabs a chance to share her beliefs. She asks Johanna if her school was hesitant to send her to Washington after Sept. 11? Johnson tells Johanna she thinks it is terrible that schools are stopping some student organizations from taking their planned trips to the city; she tells the story of a boy who wrote her a letter to request help in getting his school trip to Washington rescheduled. Johnson says she believes that a parent should make such as decision, not the school.

Despite the two warnings that it's vote time on the House floor-in the form of a green light and a screaming bell-Nancy continues to dominate the conversation. Nancy asks how the convention is going? Johanna says she didn't realize how much work it would be. Johnson says that her niece, who is staying with her this semester, always says, "I didn't know how much work you had to do," but encourages Johanna to maintain her drive. Although Johnson has shown no sign of acknowledgement that the loud and bright vote signals continue to go off, she appears to be making a suave attempt to move on. She offers to speak to Johanna's class. "I remember meeting you in 5th grade," Johanna says but not without blushing as if talking to a movie star. Johnson remembers, "Oh, yeah, it was some women's thing; we were in the gym; that was fun." Johanna's star-struck eyes grow wider.

Johnson finally leaves her office to vote; yet not without first confirming her afternoon schedule with her press secretary, Jennifer Schaming, and turning back around to retrieve an item left behind. It is almost 3:00 and Johnson plans to attend the weekly, classified briefing for all members of Congress on the latest anti-terrorism measures at 3:30.

The vote takes longer than usual because Nancy's colleague, friend, and fellow moderate Republican woman, Rep. Marge Roukema, seized the opportunity to announce her retirement. Nancy laments for almost a minute, but must move on. Schaming says it's back to the office to film the introduction of an educational video for high school students throughout the 6th District. The film, The U.S. Court System and You, is one of the three or four such films, all about a different element of government, that Johnson does every year, Schaming says.

The filming is complete, but it is 5:30 and nearing the end of Johnson's workday, at least at her Congressional office. She will spend the next hour or so returning phone calls, mostly to committee staff and colleagues regarding policy, said Schaming. Tonight will be relatively low-key for Nancy, Schaming says, but tomorrow night she is scheduled to attend an agricultural forum in the [6th] District. Johnson arranged for the leading representative from the USDA in Washington to speak at the forum, to take place in Torrington.

At home tonight, however, Nancy will read constituent mail, edit a newsletter Schaming has been working on, and read the latest health care reports, something she has been know to do until 1 a.m. According to Johnson, just like every night, she will allot 15 minutes to chat with her niece, her only housemate at this point in time.

Congresswoman Johnson, the most senior House member of the Connecticut delegation having come to the house in 1983 and serving her 10th consecutive term was asked how she keeps herself sane with such a rigorous job. Johnson said she must "rigidly reserve some time" to keep herself and her family healthy. "If it means you don't get your homework done, you don't get your homework done. I do lots more homework than most members anyway, so if I know a little less it's not the end of the world. It's me who's driving that," Johnson said. "Nonetheless, I do feel like I need to do certain things and at certain times you just have to say to yourself 'you're not going to do that today,'" Johnson says. Besides attending political events back in the district every weekend, she goes to church with her husband of 43 years every Sunday, does some form of exercise with him for a couple of hours-usually a bike ride, a game of golf, or a hike, and attends to household chores at their New Britain home.

"I purposely do the laundry myself every weekend; I wash; I fold; I iron. I always do that. I'm a big ironer," Johnson said, "Because you have to keep some tactile involvement with the responsibility of life." Johnson adds, "If I don't fulfill my personal responsibilities, in the end I won't be able to have the balanced judgment that is at the heart of good representation."

Giordano Faces Even More Legal Trouble

November 14th, 2001 in Connecticut, Fall 2001 Newswire, Mindy Finn

By Mindy Finn

WASHINGTON - Once upon a time, long before his arrest for sexually abusing two young girls, former Waterbury mayor Philip A. Giordano made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate. Compared to the chain of events occurring since then, his campaign for the Senate last year may seem like old news. Nevertheless; the Federal Election Commission has forgotten neither Giordano nor his failure to file overdue reports.

Giordano for U.S. Senate, the former mayor's campaign committee, didn't file the end-of-the-year report to the FEC that was due on Jan. 31 until March 1 of this year, according to Kelly Huff, an FEC spokeswoman. That was just one day before the status of the report would have changed from "late-filed" to "non-filed," Huff said. But the committee has not yet filed its mid-year report for 2001, which was due July 31 and moved into "non-filed" status on Aug. 30. The campaign could face fines of more than $6,000 for that late report alone.

In non-election years like this one, until campaigns dissolve their committee they must file reports to the FEC biannually. However, in election years they file quarterly, pre-election, post-election reports as well as reports of any $1,000+ contributions received less than 20 days before but more than 48 hours before the election. During election years, the October quarterly report, the October monthly report and the report for the days immediately preceding Election Day are considered election-sensitive, calling for greater fines for "late-filed" and "non-filed" reports than in non-election years.

The Giordano campaign's post-election report for financial activity from Oct. 25 through Nov. 27, which includes the critical final days before the 2000 election, is also "non-filed" according to the FEC. The campaign did not file that report until Feb. 20. The report was due Dec. 7 and would have been a "late-file" ten days later, making it well over two months overdue when filed.

As for the October quarterly report, access to it on the FEC's Web site was unavailable. Huff reported, however, that the report was filed on Oct. 20, five days after the Oct. 15 deadline, making it a "late-file."

Giordano's campaign committee could face civil fines of at least $20,000, depending on how the FEC rules on its filing delays. The commission must decide whether to go beyond administrative penalties and pursue an investigation of wrongdoing.

Furthermore, the campaign received requests for additional information after each of the quarterly filing periods last year. Thomas Ariola, the committee's treasurer, may also face fines for reports that were not filed on time or at all.

The FEC last year instituted a new Administrative Fines Program, under which several factors-the election sensitivity of the report, how late it is filed, the amount of financial activity reported and prior penalties for reporting violations-are considered.

Giordano raised a substantially smaller amount than Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, his Democratic opponent in the Senate race, who won 62 percent of the vote. That actually works in his favor in calculating any fines, which are calculated using the amount of financial activity in the report as a variable according to Huff.

The end-of-the-year report for Lieberman shows that he received net contributions of $780,330.92. and had $1,098,721.61 in cash on hand at the close of the year. By contrast, Giordano's end-of-the-year report shows that he raised only $367,536.74 and had only $9,312.41 on hand.

Huff said she is not allowed to confirm or deny whether the FEC is pursuing an investigation or to talk about any details of an ongoing investigation because of the law's confidentiality provisions. She said, that when the FEC completes an investigation it publicizes its findings. But if there is, in fact, an investigation in the works, she said, it could take years to complete.

"I would say most investigations are resolved in two or three years," said Ian Stirton, spokesman for the FEC. He said some are resolved more quickly, but the campaign committee for Rep. John F. Tierney, D-6th Mass., for the House in 1994, for example, was just resolved this year. The FEC announced the completion of the case in an Oct. 3, 2001 press release.

Although Giordano no longer holds public office and faces more-serious sexual assault charges, he will still "most likely" face FEC fines and is not immune to a detailed FEC investigation, Huff said.

Increased Need for Public Servants – Org. Reaching Out to Co-Eds

November 1st, 2001 in Connecticut, Fall 2001 Newswire, Mindy Finn

By Mindy Finn

WASHINGTON - In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, several University of Connecticut juniors interning on Capitol Hill this fall, say their experience here thus far has not altered their level of interest in government service. Their unshakable perceptions of public service careers, despite the increased threat of terrorism to the U.S., is indicative of a looming problem for the federal workforce, according to a group that is making recruitment of young people to public service its mission.

"We apparently appreciate government workers-but we still don't want to be them," said Max Stier, the president of the Partnership for Public Service, a new non-profit organization created to reinvigorate interest in public service. Former Justice Department attorney and Westport, Conn. native, Samuel Heyman has pledged $25 million to launch the Partnership.

"The need for public servants to be involved in government is greater than it has been in a very, very long timeá We are seeing a true crisis in the public workforce," Stier said in a recent interview. Stier said the only agency that has seen a significant increase in applicants since Sept. 11 is the CIA.

Emily Graner, a junior from the University of Connecticut majoring in both political science and Spanish, said she thinks there is very little recruitment of college students to government service. Graner, who lives in Ledyard, Conn., has been interning in Connecticut Senator Joseph I. Lieberman's Washington office this semester. Graner says she may want to join the Peace Corps after she graduates, but she had to go out and seek information about the program on her own.

Mat Jasinski, a junior political science major at UConn who lives in Ridgefield, Conn., said until time in Washington, "I didn't realize that there were so many public service options out there." Jasinski, an intern in the office of Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4th District, said he never thought about the fact that government workers design highways, keep the air clean and control the water quality.

Lisa Schwartz, a junior business major at UConn from South Windsor, Conn., who is an intern for Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. this semester, said she is determined to work in the private sector. "It is more of an issue of money than anything else. If you pay more, you will get more qualified people," Schwartz said. "That's just a given."

Schwartz said a friend of hers, a fellow UConn business student, received $35, 000 from Price Waterhouse Cooper to pay for her education in her last two years. After graduation, she was required to work for the company for two years at $45,000. "If you work at the GAO, you would get almost half of that," asserted Schwartz. "How are you supposed to live in D.C. on $23,000 a year?" Schwartz asked.

In fact, a spokesperson for the GAO said an entry level financial analyst position at the agency in Washington would pay $30,868 and an entry level auditing position would pay $36,965.

Stier said that studies have shown that lack of information is the one of the main reasons students are not interested in government service. "Government has not been active or proactive in informing people about these opportunities." Stier said any career that students are seeking in the private sector, "you name it, the government has it."

Stier cites four major reasons that stand in the way of young people seeking and procuring employment in government service, the first being lack of information. Also, young people don't know how to go about getting a job with the government. If they do apply, the process is not easy, efficient, or quick. Finally, the job itself and the pay received are not rewarding enough, he said.

Stier said over 50% of the federal workforce will be eligible to retire over the next three years, including more than 70% of its senior managers, leaving a potential gaping hole in the federal workforce. However, he thinks the situation is not hopeless.

"There is an appetite for this now and if we do our job right and other groups do their job right then we'll have a generation of people that are interested in giving back," he said. "The door is open, but the sale has not been made."

Stier said his organization plans to collaborate with leaders from various communities such as the business, university and youth sectors of the population. The Partnership is a catalyst in trying to solve this problem said Stier. "We alone can't be the recruiter for the federal government, the government is going to have to do the job for itself."

Jasinski, who has always been interested in public service, specifically becoming a lawmaker, said he thinks it's up to the agencies to do their recruiting. "I don't think the school is duty-bound," he said. "The career center's credibility would be impaired if they tried to funnel people off to work for the government."

He added that, "of course, government agencies should be given equal opportunity to recruit on campus."

The Partnership for Public Service has already drafted two pieces of legislation that it plans to push. One would require each agency to appoint a chief human resources officer. The other would make the money students receive from government to pay off their student loans tax-free. The group also plans to do extensive research to learn the challenges the government faces in seeking talented workers.

The Partnership has developed a five-point plan to rekindle interest in public service including improving the perception of government service, launching an education and outreach effort to inform talented students and mid-career workers about government employment options and working with federal agencies to help create a more supportive public work environment that focuses on performance, more like the private sector.

Heyman, who made his fortune as a Connecticut real estate businessman, not only donated the funds to start the Partnership for Public Service, but also helped draw together members of Congress and representatives from the public and private sectors. This board of governors that includes such well-known names such as Senate Governmental Affairs committee chairman, Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn, and committee member George Voinovich, R-Ohio, Senate candidate, Elizabeth Dole, and Disney Co. Chairman and CEO, Michael Eisner.

Lieberman joined the board of governors of the Partnership for Public Service because he chairs the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that has jurisdiction over the civil service, said the committee's director of communications, Leslie Phillips. He also wanted to join because he believes the human capital crisis is a serious concern for the government and wants to be part of the solution to the problem, she said. Lieberman's released his book, In Praise of Public Service, last year. Phillips said that the outpouring of patriotism the Sept. 11 attacks has inspired in the American people heartens the Senator. He believes one way to harness the patriotism is through national service.

Dodd Legislation Addresses Children’s Needs for Coping with Terrorism

November 1st, 2001 in Connecticut, Fall 2001 Newswire, Mindy Finn

By Mindy Finn

WASHINGTON - The day after his first child--six-week old daughter Grace--made her Halloween debut dressed as a calf, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., announced legislation to better deal with the needs of children and to make sure that children are considered in any legislation concerning terrorism, the attacks of Sept. 11 and its aftermath.

"We have to make sure that we anticipate the special, unique needs of children," Dodd said. Dodd's proposal, which would cost the government $50 million per year, is intended to improve the ability of emergency response personnel and child service providers to care for children and ensure that resources are available to handle children's medical and mental health needs.

Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement, "Children face unique risks in the threat of chemical and biological terrorist attacks. As the parent of eight children and grandparent of six, I am well aware that children are not just small adults. We can't treat children the same way we treat adults."

Dodd, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Children And Families, scheduled a hearing for this morning that will focus on the issue of children and terrorism. Dodd and DeWine also plan to send a letter to President Bush requesting that children receive an exclusive portion of the emergency funds made available after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We grew up in the 50's and were taught to 'duck and cover' " to protect against a nuclear attack, Dodd said. "Well, today's threat is just as real, and we can't duck our responsibility to make our children safe."

At the press conference yesterday, Dodd spelled out the four components of his plan, First, the legislation would increase federal funds to train and equip emergency response personnel such as firefighters, police and paramedics, to address the specific medical needs of children. Currently, $18.9 million per year is available through the Health and Human Services Department's Emergency Medical Services for Children program. Dodd would increase that to $45 million.

The second part of the proposal would authorize $15 million for the health care industry to study and determine proper pediatric dosing. Children are simply not smaller versions of adults; their bodies react to drugs differently, Dodd said.

The third piece of the plan would provide grants of about $17.5 million for emergency mental health services for children. These grants would aim to ensure that children directly affected by terrorist acts would be able to receive community-based mental health services.

The final component of the legislation would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide grants to increase coordination and development of bioterrorism preparedness that is focused on meeting children's needs.

Dodd and DeWine are working to get their proposal included in the broader bio-terrorism bill introduced by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Bill Frist, R-Tenn, the only physician in the Senate. Kennedy and Frist have reached an agreement to appropriate at least $2.5 billion more in fiscal 2002 to combat bioterrorism.

Johnson Supports National ID Card

October 25th, 2001 in Connecticut, Fall 2001 Newswire, Mindy Finn

By Mindy Finn

WASHINGTON-Connecticut Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-6th District, says America needs a technically sophisticated national identification card. The card she has in mind would go beyond current picture identification and include biometric information such as a person's fingerprint or retinal scan that could be matched to a national database.

Johnson, in a recent interview with the Republican-American, said the country needs a more foolproof identification system than a Social Security card or driver's license to increase security and find suspected criminals faster. "I think we have to raise the issue whether that [Social Security] number, connected with a picture or a driver's license connected with a picture, is a sufficient identification that you are you. And there are going to be more and more circumstances in which we are going to decide we really do need to know that you are you and you don't just look like you," she said.

Johnson said that a national ID card system has been considered for several years, but that the ease in which the terrorist hijackers falsified identities and boarded commercial airplanes on Sept. 11 has increased the proposal's urgency.

"Modern technology makes it quite easy to get false identification, false driver's license, false passport, false everything," Johnson said. There is an underground industry that sells these papers and does quite well, she said.

Despite her support for the idea, however, Johnson is too busy drafting other legislation, including prescription drug benefits for the elderly to sponsor ID card legislation at this time, said her press secretary, Jennifer Schaming. Schaming added that Johnson also wants to ensure that any bill "doesn't pounce on civil liberties."

Johnson said that she wants to be sure that there is adequate investigation to determine the best identification system. The United States needs to consider all possibilities, the cost of implementing each system and whether universal scanning might cause bodily harm, she said.

"Given the advances in imaging technology and the possibilities if the wrong person is allowed access to the wrong place at the wrong time, we simply have an obligation to know what identity cards do accomplish in other societies. There are many nations that have identity cards. What does it enable them to do that we can't do? Are those things we want to do or care about doing?" Johnson asked.

European countries that have compulsory national ID systems include Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain. Generally the cards are intended to reduce illegal immigration and voting fraud and to serve as proof of eligibility for health care and other government services. The United Kingdom established national identification cards in 1939 to identify aliens but abandoned the cards in 1952. The British government, however, has been considering reintroduction of ID cards in the aftermath of last month's terrorist attacks in the United States.

According to Privacy International, an independent, non-government organization that keeps track of national surveillance systems, about 100 countries have national identification card systems. In Argentina, for example, all citizens over the age of 8 must obtain an identification card and are fined for registering late. In Spain, citizens must carry a "Documento Nacional de Identidad," which proves the bearer's nationality and eligibility for work and for the Spanish health care system.

Rep. James Maloney, D-5th District, said he would support a national ID card that is limited to non-citizens. "Obviously there was no American citizen we know yet involved in these terrorist activities," he said. "All of these were foreign citizens, and I very much believe that we need to improve our identification for purposes of people coming into this country, whether they're tourists or student visas or work visas or whatever circumstance it might be."

He added, however, that he wouldn't "close the door" to expanding the use of national ID cards for all Americans. But before doing so, he would want assurance that the issue had been thought through carefully by members of Congress.

Maloney also said that when dealing with issues that pertain to civil liberties, " I think that the public needs to be heard on the issue. I'd like to have a sense of what my constituents think about it."

"The most valuable thing the United States has, the most valuable possession of this country, is the Constitution," he said. "That is what makes the United States the United States. And whenever we're dealing with issues that come up to touching the Constitution of the United States, I think it has to be very carefully thought through."

The American Civil Liberties Union has consistently and strongly opposed the idea of national identification as an infringement on personal privacy.

Gregory T. Nojeim, legislative counsel of the ACLU's Washington office, said in a past statement that "a national ID card, and national ID systems-sort of the national ID in virtual reality-mark the gravest of threats to personal privacy in the United States."

"Proposals for a national identification card or system have appeared over the years as tempting quick fixes for national problems to one segment of the population or another," Nojeim added in the same statement.

In a newsletter published by the libertarian Cato Institute, Adam Thierer, director of telecommunications studies, said that national ID cards would be a burden and an invasion of civil liberties. "The bottom line is that mandatory national ID cards aren't going to help us catch many bad guys. While the first responsibility of government is to protect our lives and property, we shouldn't rush into giving up some of our freedoms," he said.

"Instead of providing such a meaningful solution, national ID cards will become, at a minimum, an unnecessary nuisance for most citizens," Thierer added. "Worse yet, in extreme cases it could produce massive breaches of individual privacy."

Lawrence Ellison, chairman and chief executive officer of Oracle Corp., has offered to donate the computer software to create databases for the government to help create a national ID card system. But he has said that use of the cards should be voluntary for American citizens.

In a statement, Ellison said that "the single greatest step we could take to making life tougher for the terrorists would be to ensure that all the information in the myriad government databases was copied into a single, comprehensive national security database."

According to Ellison, the cards would contain personal information currently found on driver's licenses and Social Security cards but computer technology such as a retinal, palm or finger prints would connect personal data to an intelligence, immigration and law enforcement database that includes wanted lists from the CIA, the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The ID cards would be used to verify a person's identity, particularly at airports.

Although ID cards should be voluntary for U.S. citizens, he said, they should be mandatory for foreigners, including visitors who are on work and student visas.

On Oct. 17, Ellison said in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News that he had met with Attorney General John Ashcroft and CIA and FBI officials in Washington over the past week to discuss the idea. "We are in the process of putting a proposal together and analyzing what it would take to get something running in a matter of a small number of months, like three months, 90 days," Ellison said. "We think we could put up this technology very, very quickly." Oracle, in Redwood City, Calif., is one of the leading makers of database software. According to Forbes magazine, Ellison is the fourth-richest man in the world, with a wealth of $25 billion.

John Damino, professor of criminal justice at Southern Vermont College in Bennington and a former Albany, N.Y., police captain, said he has concerns over the amount and kinds of information that would be stored on the card.

"My concern is not that you would have a national ID, which would be, I think, a very good idea, but to how much information that we are willing to allow the federal government to collect on us," he said.

"It shouldn't go beyond what normal drivers' licenses collect, except perhaps a fingerprint," Damino continued. But if it goes beyond that, the card would have "the potential to follow us and be big brother, so that's why we need oversight and response to it," he said.

"National ID cards themselves are obviously not an evil," said Swarthmore College political scientist Jeffrey Murer, whose research focuses on European countries where cards are prevalent. "However, past experiences show that the issuance of such cards is demonstrative of expanded state power, particularly police power. The regulation of movement, the pretext for random searches, the connection of the cards to citizenship rights -- these are some of the many aspects which should be considered before the United States rushes into this."

Johnson said civil libertarians get nervous when they hear anything that suggests more restrictions on their lives. "My goal is to diffuse the words 'national identity cards,' so we can discuss the matter and evaluate what is in our interests in terms of knowing who is who and where they are," she said.

Members Move to Makeshift Offices in D.C.

October 23rd, 2001 in Connecticut, Fall 2001 Newswire, Mindy Finn

By Mindy Finn

WASHINGTON-When Connecticut members of Congress returned to session Tuesday, they had to adjust to working under unusual circumstances in makeshift offices.

Some House members and aides managed their business from the second and fifth floors of the General Accounting Office building about a dozen blocks from the Capitol. Other members, including Reps. James Maloney, 5th District, and. Nancy Johnson, R-6th District, worked from home. Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Christopher Dodd worked out of their auxiliary offices in the Capitol building.

Each representative was temporarily assigned two rooms in which to conduct business. They were instructed not to have more than four aides working out of the limited space.

The Senate set up temporary workspace on the sixth floor of the old main Washington Post Office building next to Union Station and just few blocks from the Capitol. Maloney chose to work from his apartment, a walk of about a five to ten minutes from the Capitol complex, and instructed his staff to work out of their homes.

He had sent his legislative director, Tom Santos, to assess the work area at the GAO building early Tuesday morning and, based in part on that assessment, decided it would be more efficient for his aides to work from home, press secretary Betsy Arnold said.

Phone calls to Maloney's Washington office are being forwarded to the district office in Waterbury, but can't be forwarded to the GAO. Arnold said the district office is prepared to handle all calls, and the staff decided that having another telephone number at the GAO for constituents and the press would make things too confusing.

Maloney's chief of staff, Jim Hart, was told the House offices would remain closed on Tuesday during a conference call for all House members on Monday evening . He was also then told that the offices in the GAO were designated as temporary workstations.

Arnold said the computer systems at the GAO were inferior to the ones Maloney and his staff could use at their individual homes.

Johnson isn't letting the displacement from her permanent office slow her down, said her press secretary, Jennifer Schaming. Johnson spoke on the House floor about the National Trails System Act Tuesday afternoon.

"Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, we are still able to get the same quality of work done," Schaming said. "We are going to go full speed ahead today."

Schaming, working from home, said that some staff members are at the GAO offices, but that Johnson is working out of her home on Capitol Hill. She has about 10 staff members working with her there.

Those working at the GAO are trying to get additional equipment to supplement the limited office supplies they have available to them right now. Schaming said they are focused on getting a more portable computer, like a laptop, that they can bring from one work location to another.

"A lot of our job is just communicating with each other," she said.

Schaming said she misses the access to her legislative files, which have the most up-to-date information for inquiring callers. They were left behind in Johnson's office in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Without the files, "I have to call [Johnson's legislative assistants] with 20 questions," Schaming said. She said she was thankful that she doesn't receive many phone calls inquiring about other issues besides the current unusual congressional work conditions, she said.

Schaming said she was confident that her duties as press secretary would not be significantly limited. "I brought my press book with me, which is the key to what I need to do," she said.

"The only thing not usual in our office is that we are not receiving any mail," she said. "Usually our legislative staff spends a lot of time answering mail from constituents."

Schaming was planning to bring the laptop she was working on at home on Tuesday to Johnson's home on Wednesday morning so that she could work more closely with the Congresswoman and other aides.

As for Congresswoman Johnson, she "took her BlackBerry [paging device] and her phone, so she is all set." Schaming said. Arnold said, however: "We are ready to get back."

Maloney Supports Increase in Civil Protection Teams

October 18th, 2001 in Connecticut, Fall 2001 Newswire, Mindy Finn

By Mindy Finn

WASHINGTON - Congressman Jim Maloney, D-5th District, has introduced legislation to increase the number of Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams in the U.S. so that every state including Connecticut can have its own emergency response team.

When the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center occurred and New York emergency personnel had to rush to Ground Zero, Maloney wondered, "Who was covering Connecticut?"

"The answer would be, well, that coverage comes from Boston. But, Bridgeport, Norwalk, Stamford, Danbury and Waterbury are a long way from Boston," he said.

Currently there are 27 teams around the country, with five to be added before the end of the year. These military teams, made up of 22 full-time National Guard members, are "designed to provide support to civil authorities in response to weapons of mass destruction threats or attacks," Maloney said.

Currently, there are two teams assigned to cover New England, one in Natick, MA and one in Scotia, New York.

"It is appropriate that we have a team located in Connecticut, both to help Connecticut and to serve as a back-up for New York and/or Boston," Maloney said. In the event of a weapons of mass destruction attack, the Civil Support Teams would be the Federal Government's first line of defense, he added.

Connecticut is just one of a number of states that does not have a civil support team. "While, 32 teams is a good start, it doesn't go far enough. My legislation calls on the Secretary of Defense to establish at least one team per state and territory," Maloney said.

"The teams are expertly trained to provide a variety of services including coordinating an evacuation or rescue and recovery effort, securing communications, and providing medical supplies. The teams will be trained in the detection and treatment of biological or chemical terrorism, and outfitted with the proper protective equipment for entering a contaminated site. The teams will also be able to provide an assessment of the damage, consultation on logistics, and medical defenses against chemical and biological weapons," explained Maloney.

According to a September 2001 General Accounting Office report entitled Combating Terrorism, the Department of Defense recommends that there should be a response team in every U.S. state, territory, and in the District of Columbia. Maloney's proposal would increase the total number of teams to 55, to also allow for a reserve team.

Each civil support team costs about $5.5 million and Maloney said his proposal would cost an additional $120 million. "Of course $120 million is a lot of money but in the context of the national defense budget, it's a fairly small amount."

"It can cost billions to rebuild an area that has undergone attack," said Maloney.

Maloney said he believes emergency response resources "should be stronger than they are, they should be more extensively trained than they are, and they should be better integrated with state emergency personnel and local emergency personnel. The best way to do that is to have at least one team located here in the state of Connecticut and every other state."

Maloney said he has been pushing for additional teams for several years. Five additional teams are to be created before the end of the year, but the locations where they will be stationed have not yet been announced, he said.

Maloney sent a letter to Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld earlier this year asking that Connecticut receive one of the five new teams.

"There are concerns about specific locations in Connecticut that need and deserve special coverage that such a team makes possible," said Maloney in a telephone interview on Thursday from Waterbury. Maloney returned early to Connecticut this week after the House of Representatives was adjourned suddenly Wednesday so that the Capitol and its office buildings could be examined for any trace of anthrax. This came after the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD, received a letter containing the bacteria.

"If we had a team that was based in Connecticut, that team would be training all the time with our state emergency response people and our local emergency response people," Maloney said.

"Training is half the battle," he said, "making sure that our responders are fully up to snuff with all their technical training and also up to speed with the way in which they would interact with the state police, with the state laboratory, with the state national guard here in Connecticut, with local police departments and the like."

Maloney said he expects his bill, which was introduced Wednesday, will be referred to the Armed Services committee, of which he is a member. Maloney said he would expect his bill to be included in defense authorization legislation which Congress will take up next February.

Rowland Raises Funds for RGA; Bush’s First Since Step. 11

October 17th, 2001 in Connecticut, Fall 2001 Newswire, Mindy Finn

By Mindy Finn

WASHINGTON - For the first time since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush will return to fundraising with an event for the Republican Governors Association on Oct. 25. Connecticut Governor, John G. Rowland, as the newly installed chairman of the governor's association, will serve as host for the evening.

"An Evening with President George W. Bush," will be Rowland's first major event as chairman and the RGA's first fundraiser since they were asked to curtail all fundraising by the GOP a month ago. Governor Rowland replaced Tom Ridge as chairman of the 29-member RGA when Ridge resigned as Governor on Oct. 5 to take over as Bush's director of the Office of Homeland Security. Rowland had been vice chairman of the RGA since last February.

"No one has done more to exemplify and champion those values than Governor John Rowland, to which the people of Connecticut could attest. I thoroughly enjoyed working with John, and I am confident that he will do a tremendous job at the helm of the RGA," said former RGA Chairman Ridge in a statement released by the governor's association.

The event is scheduled to take place at the National Building Museum in downtown Washington. Tickets are $1,000. VIP tickets, which are primarily purchased by corporate donors and give them access to a private section of the reception, are $5000. Executive Director of RGA, Clinton Key, said he is hoping 1,000 contributors will come, but it's hard to predict given recent events.

"As a chance to rally around our President and prepare for the political challenges that lie ahead in 2002, this gathering will bring together the President, our Republican Governors, Administration representatives, and a host of top Republican VIPs," said the invitation letter signed by Connecticut Gov. John Rowland. "This relaxing and informative event will provide you with direct interaction with our GOP Governors to build and strengthen personal friendships and enable you to attend our business sessions where we exchange ideas, discuss policy, and lay the groundwork to build on our accomplishments," says the letter, dated Oct. 1.

The RGA did discuss postponing the event after Sept. 11, but decided to keep the date since the President had already confirmed, although given recent events the president's plans could change at the last minute. "We hope he'll be there, but if not, we'll understand, and the event will go on," said Key.

The RGA uses donations to help Republican candidates. Financial contributors to the RGA become part of the Governor's Club. Membership to the club can be paid through personal, corporate or political action committee contributions, the invitation says. Those who cannot attend or join the Governors' Club can get their names listed in the event program by donating $250 or more. Those who wish to attend must clear a Secret Service security check, the invitation says.

Rowland signed on as vice-chair of the RGA in February with the intention of only holding an executive post for one year, according to Rowland's Director of Communication Dean Pagani. As chairman of the RGA, said Pagani, Rowland spends six to eight hours per week signing off on fundraising events, campaigning for GOP candidates, and coordinating government policy and election policy. He also coordinates with the White House since Bush was a former Republican governor, Pagani said.

The next event on Rowland's calendar for the RGA is the annual conference, Nov. 8-10 in Las Vegas. RGA members will have the option to participate in one of three breakfast conference sessions: energy dependability, transportation infrastructure or workforce development as well as scheduled golf tournaments and a skeet and trap shoot.

The Republican National Committee and its Democratic counterpart had asked party members to hold off on fund-raising for almost a month after the Sept. 11 attacks. The RNC and the Democratic National Committee resumed fund-raising the first week in October.