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Editorial / Op Ed

 

 

 


Tuesday
Feb072017

Editorial - Rising Suffolk County Fees Back Door Tax Or A Behavior Changer?

Administrative fees are a necessary evil. Most people have at one time or another paid a fee to a government agency for things like building permits, licenses, filing a deed or getting a copy of a document. The administrative fee typically covers the cost of the service provided. Historically fees have not been seen as a way to generate income or balance a budget. What has been true historically is not true today according to Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta. 

Legislator Trotta has not been shy in expressing his concern that the Bellone administration has been using administrative fees as a way to generate money to help balance the County’s budget.  According to Legislator Trotta the county has raised fees on recording mortgage records - created a mandatory registry wich includes a $50 residential and $100 fee for business alarms. Last week the Ways and Means Committee discharged a bill that will go before the full legislature this week and is is expected to pass doubling the administrative fee on traffic and parking tickets.

According to Trotta the fees go above and beyond the costs of running the programs. The fees says Trotta are a “backdoor tax” that is being used to pay the costs of police contracts.

Is Trotta correct and does it matter?

It seems that not a day goes by without some governmental entity telling us that their actions are necessary and too often we are told it is for our own good.  Taking money because you can is bad enough, but telling tax payers it is for their own good is too often a false fact.

Recently, County Executive Bellone’s spokesperson Vanessa Baird-Streeter issued a statement to Newsday reporter David M. Schwartz (Bill to double $55 fee on tickets advances in Suffolk), “This fee can be avoided altogether by obeying traffic law, that the way to avoid the administrative fees for parking and traffic tickets is drive according to the law.”  Legislator Flemming (Southampton) in the same article suggested “high fees could help discourage unsafe driving. ‘We have to consider public safety and reduce the carnage we see on highways and roads.” That is one rationale but the reality is many of the people receiving the tickets are working people with little money to spare. They get their tickets as they head out to the store to buy groceries or school supplies, they head home to meet the school bus or to pick up children at day care they are not consciously thinking about breaking rules. Deterence only works when someone is concious of doing wrong. People will be hurt by the additional fees. The question is not whether or not a ticket, which is the punitive part, is warranted it is a question of whether the ticket recipient should be an ATM for county finances. 

Last year the county legislated an alarm program (for residents and businesses served by SCPD) the program Alarm Management Program of Suffolk (AMPS)  was represented as a way to control the number of false alarms requiring a police response. In 2015 the Suffolk County Police Department responded to 97,000 false alarms According to the county close to $2 million dollars was spent responding to false alarms and often times the alarms came from the same address. The fee of $50 for residential alarms and $100 for business alarms is expected to raise as much as $6 million dollars. The intended purpose of the registry is to minimize the number of false alarms and to charge residents who have multiple false alarm calls. The problem is that many if not most false alarms are the result of an unintended action, like leaving a pet roaming around a sensored area. According to safeties.com an unintended result of programs that seek to weed out the false alarms is fewer people using their alarm which may lead to more burglaries. A false alarm is already unpleasant for the great majority of  owners, embarrassing and sometimes frightening.  Maliciously pulling a fire alarm or calling 911 is a different issue. 

One other troubling comment to come out of the David M. Schwartz’s article comes from Ms. Baird-Streeter who said “The fee hike will cover administrative costs associated with issuing the tickets and brings Suffolk in line with a newly approved hike in Nassau County.” Parity with Nassau County is really not the path that Suffolk County residents should aspire to be on.

In January 2017 Legislator Trotta held a press conference during which he proposed capping administrative fees. Trotta contends that the Cuomo tax cap has been successful in keeping costs down for tax payers. A fee cap in Suffolk County would limit the “backdoor tax” that unfairly targets those who are required to use a county service. 

What legislators do does matter. Declining to raise taxes and raising administative fees is not the solution to the County’s fiscal problem. Raising fees on traffic and parking tickets and telling people that if they would only behave is an insult. Suggesting that higher administrative fees will promote safer driving should be backed up with facts. Suffolk County residents NEED to speak up and let their legislators know their thoughts.

Pat

Tuesday
Jan102017

Op Ed NYS Constitutional Convention A Con

 By Anthony Figliola

 NYS Constitutional Convention is Nothing But a Con

This year, one of the most important legislative issues that will confront Albany legislators will be to approve a ballot proposition slated for November 7, 2017, to hold a constitutional convention.  

On its face, a convention makes sense given the many issues that have stalled in Albany’s black hole of bureaucracy over the years. The problem with this philosophy is that it ignores the history of past conventions and the powerful role that politics played in the process.

History has shown that a con con is nothing more than a carbon copy of a typical legislative session.  In short, it’s a $335 million plus workforce development initiative for the politically connected. 

Many good-government groups who have pushed for ethics and campaign finance reform in New York are keen to support a convention, because their efforts over the years have been thwarted by the culture of the status quo. Many reformers naively accept the premise that seizing on a possible vote for a New York Constitutional Convention (e.g., vote slated for November 7, 2017) will force the state legislature’s hand to pass meaningful reforms. In theory, it makes sense, but the one variable that will dilute this purist approach is politics. The same people who are impotent on the issue of reforms are the same folks who will set the rules, select candidate delegates and ultimately run the convention.

History shows us that while some worthy policies were developed and ratified by the voters, much of the conventions were riddled with rigged agendas and uncontrolled costs. It is important to note that in past conventions, elected officials, including state legislators, have served as delegates at the convention. These pols essentially “double dipped”, collecting two salaries that significantly boosted their government pensions.

Let’s not forget the lobbyists who love the idea of a conclave, so they can charge their clients another fee to represent them at the convention.  The 1967 convention charged taxpayers more than $45 million ($335 million in today’s dollars) and very little was achieved that could not have been accomplished through a statewide referendum.

Constitutional conventions are not cost-effective. Not only are the politically connected delegates well paid, they get to hire staff. There are 189 delegate spots and they all need help. Administrative, legal, and research are just some of the staffing positions that have been filled in past conventions. Then you add per diems, food, transportation, lodging, and printed materials to the bottom line. You can even hire a special consultant or two.

Historians and legal scholars will point to the 1894 convention that brought us the “Forever Wild” amendment, which protects the Adirondacks from development or the 1938 convention that authorized public funds for low-income housing, all of which were important pieces of legislation. Other conventions in 1915 and 1967 produced nothing for the voters.

Legal scholars have also argued that a conclave could develop critical judicial reforms, such as streamlining the court system and adding an amendment that would guarantee legal aid in civil cases.  These proponents have an opportunity every year during a regular legislative session to educate the public, in order to galvanize support for specific constitutional amendments to be brought to the voters.  

In developing the convention rules, many supporters have stated that there will be checks and balances in the rule making process that will give the power to the people.  History has proven that nothing could be farther from the truth. 

It has been almost 80 years since a convention has produced any constitutional amendments, because politics has been the poison pill.  

There is a less costly and more effective approach to changing our constitution and that is the public referendum process, which has successfully amended the constitution more than 200 times.  In fact, the constitution has been amended seven times in the last few years using this process, which included the voters approving casino gambling. 

Voters seeking good government solutions can’t afford the luxury of another convention.

About the Author

Anthony Figliola is Vice President of Empire Government Strategies and co-author of “Patronage, Waste and Favoritism – A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions.”

Monday
Aug082016

Op-Ed Expanding Long Island's Hiking And Biking Trails

 

Expanding Long Island’s Available Trails for Biking and Hiking

Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

On the East End of Long Island, we are blessed with so many natural treasures, including our world-renowned parks and beaches, many of which are connected through our scenic biking and hiking trails. Long Island’s trails are an important part of our local community and economy. Trails connect our community and visitors to our beaches, parks, local farms, festivals, wineries, restaurants, and other destinations, and provide an option of healthy recreational activity for residents. In addition to improving quality of life and livability, trails help protect our environment through conservation and by reducing traffic and pollution.

In Congress, I have been working to help grow our increasing network of trails here on Long Island through the Rails to Trails Conservancy, an effort that began well over 30 years ago. In 1983, Congress acted through the National Trails Systems Act to authorize the preservation of decommissioned railroad tracks for the creation of recreational trails for bicycling and hiking. The law allows railroads to donate or sell unprofitable rail lines for the purpose of preservation to local governments or nonprofits for the creation of a trail. This landmark law came in response to public concern over the large amount of abandoned railroad tracks being left behind by the struggling railroad industry following deregulation through the 1980 Staggers Rail Act and the subsequent discontinuation of unprofitable routes. In the early 1980s, between 4,000 to 8,000 miles of unprofitable rail lines were abandoned each year. The Rails to Trails Conservancy has made great progress in protecting and preserving our land for recreation and transportation purposes, which in turn helps grow our economy and improve our quality of life and environment. Back in 1986, after this law was enacted, there were only 250 miles of rail to trail conversions. Now, as a result of the National Trails Systems Act, there have been more than 21,000 miles of rail to trails conversions. We must continue this progress.

Over the past 18 months, I have been working as part of a bipartisan coalition in Congress to protect our parks and expand our growing network of trails. Beginning last year, and on a bipartisan basis, I have been working to secure funding for Rails to Trails projects to continue the preservation of discontinued LIRR tracks for the use of bicycle and hiking trails. Also, in December of 2015, Congress passed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act (H.R. 2029), which successfully saved the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) after the previous Congress had allowed this program to lapse. This important legislation protected critical funding that is used to preserve parks, beaches, trails, and other outdoor recreation sites through the LWCF. Through grants targeted at the local level, the LWCF has funded over 75 parks in Suffolk County alone. Additionally, within the 2015 Surface Transportation Bill, I acted on a bipartisan basis to help secure $835 million in annual funding, which will increase to $850 million by 2020, for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), key funding to improve walkability and bicycle access on Long Island. In 2014 alone, the First Congressional District received $4.8 million in federal matching funds through this program, which is used to construct new recreational trails and bike lanes, and to maintain and improve the ones already on Long Island. This funding also supports the Safe Routes to School Program, which helps school districts repair cracked sidewalks, unsafe intersections, and bike lanes that local students rely upon.

It is important to protect and preserve our natural resources and aid our growing network of trails on Long Island. There is much more work still ahead and I will continue my work in Washington, DC to lead the effort.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, represents the First Congressional District of New York.


Monday
Jun202016

Op-Ed Improving Water Quality On Long Island

Improving Water Quality on Long Island

Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

On the East End of Long Island, we have been blessed with an abundance of natural resources that are important to our life and culture. Water quality, specifically, requires a renewed focus and commitment by Long Islanders. Water quality on Long Island has suffered severely from issues such as pollution, overdevelopment and various critical remaining infrastructure needs. Our congressional district is unique in many ways, including the fact that it is almost completely surrounded by water. 

In Congress, I am a member of the Long Island Sound Caucus. Fortunately, on a bipartisan basis, I was able to successfully reverse a proposed 22% cut in funding for the Long Island Sound that was proposed by the President. Additionally, working with Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY), we joined together to introduce bipartisan legislation in the House, the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act (H.R.2930). This important bill would ensure the Sound receives the resources needed by authorizing $65 million in funding per year through 2020 for a water quality and shore restoration program. To further protect the Sound, I have continued to oppose the misguided plan to dump Connecticut’s dredged waste into this critical waterway. The Long Island Sound should not be a dumping ground for any questionable waste dredged out of Connecticut rivers, which is why I support phasing out all open water disposal of dredged waste into the Sound.

Last month, Congress secured a new law that authorizes $26.5 million in funding for the National Estuary Program, which includes two nationally recognized estuaries on Long Island: the Long Island Sound and Peconic Estuary. This funding not only helps address the urgent and challenging issues related to nitrogen, harmful algae blooms, and flooding or wetland loss, but also supports other local conservation projects to restore local beaches and protect wildlife. I’ve also been advocating in Congress for more of a focus on the Great South Bay because it’s an economically and ecologically critical body of water facing similar issues. It’s important that this waterway is properly maintained and not forgotten.  

There is also a need to make important reforms to ensure the highest quality of drinking water for Long Islanders. Working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act Compliance and Awareness Act (H.R.4470). This legislation, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, would put in place a procedure to notify residents if concentrations of lead in drinking water are above federal requirements. It would also create a strategic plan for communities nationwide to prevent any future drinking water crisis, such as the one in Flint, Michigan. I have also been working to advance legislation that would provide funding to upgrade water infrastructure on Long Island. The House should act immediately to pass the Sustainable Water Infrastructure Investment Act (H.R. 499), bipartisan legislation that I cosponsor, which would provide municipalities with access to new streams of financing to rebuild critical water infrastructure for high quality drinking water and sewage treatment.

To protect one of Long Island’s most critical natural resources, I introduced legislation, HR 1887, that would prevent the sale of Plum Island by the federal government to the highest bidder. My bill, which passed the House with strong bipartisan support, would ensure that Plum Island is protected for generations to come. With House passage of this bill, it’s now important that New York’s two United States Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, act quickly to bring this important bill to the Senate floor to pursue a better direction for Plum Island that would allow for continued research, public access and permanent preservation.

Late last year, Congress passed legislation, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act (H.R. 2029), which successfully saved the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) after the previous Congress had allowed this program to lapse. This important legislation provided critical funding for our Long Island waterways, while also providing funding for municipalities through LWCF grant programs. Through grants targeted at the local level, LWCF funding will be used to save beaches, marshes, and streams that keep Long Island water safe and clean, and includes funding for 75 parks in Suffolk County alone. By passing this legislation, Congress also established a permanent tax deduction for conservation easements. This important tax credit will help preserve local land, while giving more certainty to Long Island conservationists on the East End as they strive to protect our water and overall environment.

There is much more work still ahead to safeguard our environment and improve our water quality, and as your Congressman, I will continue to help lead this effort for Long Island.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is also a member of the Long Island Sound Caucus and the Congressional Shellfish Caucus in the House of Representatives.


Monday
May162016

Op-Ed - Lee Zeldin "Caring For Our Veterans"

“Caring for Our Veterans”

Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

As a nation, supporting our veterans must always be one of our highest priorities. These brave men and women, who willingly and selflessly put their lives on the line while defending our country, deserve nothing but the highest quality of life and care once they return home.

According to the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency (VSA), there are 83,254 veterans who live here in Suffolk. With the highest population of veterans by county in New York State, and one of the highest in the entire country, there is a significant need for increased care options for our veterans in Suffolk County.

There are so many options of quality care for veterans, but too often their choices are limited. Quality care can also come at a great expense. In an effort to expand access to care for our veterans, I recently introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress, H.R. 2460, which would ensure that 70% or more service connected disabled veterans are able to receive Adult Day Health Care, a daily program for disabled veterans who need extra assistance and special attention in their day to day lives, at no cost to the veteran and their family by defining the program as a reimbursable treatment option through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). H.R. 2460 has strong bipartisan support in Congress, with over 45 cosponsors, including the entire Long Island Congressional Delegation. My bill would greatly expand this great option of care for veterans on Long Island and across the country. Just last month, on April 20, 2016, the House Veterans Affairs Committee hosted a hearing of the Subcommittee on Health regarding my bill, and on April 29, 2016, the Health Subcommittee held a markup and favorably forwarded my bill to the full committee for final consideration before being sent to the House floor for a vote. Working with my colleagues in the House, and various Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs), I will continue pushing to get this bill passed out of committee in earnest, to allow this bill to come to the House floor this year.

While serving in the New York State Senate, I secured the funding necessary to create the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer Project, a peer-to-peer support program for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). PFC Joseph Dwyer, from Mount Sinai, New York, served in Iraq and received nationwide recognition for a photograph that went viral—showing him cradling a wounded Iraqi boy, while his unit was fighting its way up to the capital city of Baghdad. Sadly, after returning home and struggling with PTSD, PFC Dwyer died in 2008. Created in his honor, the Dwyer Program was initially launched in the counties of Suffolk, Jefferson, Saratoga and Rensselaer. Since 2013, the program has successfully expanded to over a dozen counties across New York. Earlier this year, I introduced bipartisan legislation in Congress, H.R. 4513, that will expand the Dwyer Program on a national level, so that every veteran in the U.S. eventually has access to a peer-to-peer support group. This bill has strong bipartisan support, including the entire Long Island Congressional Delegation. I will continue working together with them in the fight to expand the Dwyer Program.

Additionally, right here on the East End, working closely with Peconic Bay Medical Center (PBMC) and VA, I secured an East End health care facility for veterans and their families at PBMC’s Manorville campus. After so bravely serving our country, this facility provides an important new option for veterans, increasing access to care for veterans who live on Long Island’s East End, while still allowing them to continue receiving other services and ongoing treatment at the VA Hospital in Northport.

There is so much more that Congress can do to improve the quality of life for our veterans. I will continue working to ensure that my bills that previously passed the House are signed into law, including H.R. 1569 to protect the benefits of deceased veterans and H.R. 1187, which would eliminate the loan limit that the VA can guarantee for a veteran. Congress also must continue to reform the VA wherever it under serves a veteran. A series of recent USA Today articles reported that VA supervisors in multiple states instructed their employees to falsify patient wait times at VA facilities. This is a slap in the face to all veterans and those responsible must be held responsible. Just last year, the House took a step forward by passing the VA Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 1994); legislation that I cosponsor that would make important reforms to the VA system, which will providing the necessary resources and flexibility the VA needs to hold poor performing employees accountable. While I believe that 99% of VA employees genuinely care about the work they do and want to help veterans, we must always ensure that the other 1% of those who are not acting in the best interest of veterans are held accountable. Our veterans deserve only the highest quality of care at our VA facilities.

Fighting for our veterans who fought for us has always been one of my top priorities. I will continue my work in Congress to improve our veterans’ quality of care in any way that we can. 

Also, every day, my constituent services team works on cases to help Suffolk County residents. Since entering Congress last year, my office has successfully resolved over 3,150 cases; many of those are veteran cases. If you or your family ever needs help on a federal issue, I encourage you to contact my Long Island office at (631) 289-1097.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, an Army veteran who continues to serve today as a Major in the Army Reserves, represents the First Congressional District of New York. The Congressman serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and two related subcommittees: the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, and the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

Monday
May022016

Op-Ed - Lee Zeldin "A 21st Century Approach To Combating Heroin & Opioid Epidemic"

“A 21st Century Approach to Combating the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic”

Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-01)

Addiction is a heartbreaking disease sweeping across our island, state and nation at a rapid rate and leaving behind a terrible wake of devastation and suffering — taking lives, tearing families apart, and destroying communities. 

As addiction and overdose deaths continue to climb, specifically as a result of the recent rise in heroin and prescription opioid abuse, it’s essential that we take a 21st Century approach to combat this growing epidemic that is plaguing our country and taking hold of our loved ones. Through a three-pronged approach, focusing on treatment, enforcement, and education, we can overcome this crisis.

Increasing funding and accessibility for treatment and recovery services is critically important to assist Americans coping with addiction. Incarceration alone is not the answer. Targeted and individualized treatment programs are essential to solve the addiction epidemic. We must also increase access to affordable treatment and recovery options through healthcare reform to treat addiction as a disease. Unless we systematically restructure our existing healthcare options, individuals will not be able to shoulder the significant financial costs that result from treatment.

Second, we must focus on targeted enforcement to stop the flow of illegal narcotics into our country in order to keep drugs out of our communities and off our streets. Since previous efforts to solely incarcerate low level drug pushers have proven inadequate, we must change our approach to focus the efforts of law enforcement on those individuals in charge of trafficking drugs into the United States illegally. Allowing law enforcement entities to target drug kingpins and international narcotraffickers will destabilize global drug rings, making it easier to eliminate the local impacts of these dangerous drugs, while local law enforcement entities simultaneously target local drug pushers.

Finally, we must provide funding for education and awareness in our schools and local communities to prevent experimentation and addiction. Without properly educating America’s youth on the realities of drug addiction, we will never be able to stem the tide and overcome this reoccurring nightmare. Education breeds confidence. Bringing the dangers of drug addiction out of the shadows and educating all Americans about the dangers of drug addiction is the only proven solution to a crisis of this magnitude. As we have seen with similar health risks, such as smoking and alcoholism, educating the public on the inherent dangers associated with addiction is essential to truly solve this challenge.

There is so much that can and must be done on many different levels to combat the drug epidemic, and over the coming weeks, Congress is expected to take up bipartisan legislation to help fight against this growing crisis through treatment, enforcement and education.

In addition to these legislative efforts on the federal level, I also believe this must be a community effort as well. I have hosted multiple drug task force round tables locally, to bring together local elected officials, law enforcement, health professionals, community groups, parents, concerned residents and recovering substance abusers, to discuss and develop a more localized solution to address this crisis. I look forward to continuing these efforts to combat heroin and opiate abuse.

Congressman Lee Zeldin represents the First Congressional District of New York. The Congressman serves as a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic in the House of Representatives, which focuses on finding solutions, spreading awareness and increasing educational efforts.

Monday
Mar282016

Op-Ed - Lee Zeldin "Helping Stop The Movement Of Foreign Fighters Abroad"

“Helping Stop the Movement of Foreign Fighters Abroad”

Op-ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (NY-1)

Too often in today’s world, we are reminded globally that we must all do more to protect the innocent and defeat those who threaten peace in the name of Islam. The recent terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium, that left over 30 people dead and over 300 wounded, is one more brutal reminder that the threat posed by Islamic terror groups is not just a threat to the Middle East - it’s a threat that is growing all around the world.

Just hours before the attack in Brussels, the House passed my Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act of 2016 (H.R. 4314) with strong bipartisan support in a 371-2 vote. In the wake of the attack, I’ve been continuing the push to advance my bill to help stop foreign fighter travel to protect America’s security at home and abroad. Stopping foreign fighter movement is a top effort of mine and must be a highest priority for our country. 

Foreign fighter movement is a very serious challenge. The horrific terror attack in Paris, France that killed over 100 people was largely carried out by European nationals - many of whom traveled to train and fight in Syria and then later returned to Europe and were able to move across borders without detection. This is why we need improved border security globally and better information sharing between governments.

Under my bill, international border security standards would be established to close security gaps that currently exist that allow foreign fighters to travel internationally. Another important component of my bill is that it would ensure U.S. resources are utilized in the most efficient way possible, focusing on high-risk and medium-risk countries to boost security, while also putting in place a reporting system that would monitor the efforts of foreign governments to combat terrorism and foreign fighter travel. Foreign assistance would be suspended for countries that do not make significant efforts to comply.

The recent terrorist attacks in Brussels remind us that we must confront ISIS’ unlimited ambition with our unlimited resolve. There is no limit to the desire terror groups like ISIS have in waging violent jihad against us. This is an unconventional fight and a never before been read chapter that must end with the cancer boldly, aggressively attacked with unlimited determination and resources from a global community that will not be run out of existence by those who terrorize the innocent.

The Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act is a bipartisan measure to keep Americans safe that was long overdue to not only protect our homeland from terrorism, but also ensure the that we as a country are always prepared to combat the spread of any infectious diseases. Under my bill, a monitoring system would be put in place to screen for infectious diseases to contain and prevent any potential outbreaks. Under my bill, the Secretary of Homeland Security would be authorized to provide the necessary equipment and supplies to mitigate the risk or threat of infectious diseases, which will help quarantine viruses, such as Zika, a disease that continues to spread and was recently declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization.

There are many facets to this effort and stopping the movement of terrorists is essential. Whether we are helping stop the movement of foreign fighters or boosting intelligence and military capabilities wherever appropriate and necessary, America and our allies must win each day on behalf of our families, our countries and the free world. I will continue pushing to advance my Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act until it is signed into law.

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1), is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, and Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade.

Monday
Feb222016

Op-Ed - Lee Zeldin "Counterterrorism To Fight Zika And Other Infectious Diseases"

“Combating Zika and Other Infectious Diseases”

 By Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-01)

The mosquito borne Zika virus has spread at rapid rates across South America, Central America and the Caribbean – infecting individuals in more than 25 countries.

Zika has caused widespread alarm across the global community after Brazil reported a rise in the number of cases of microcephaly, a disease that leads tragically to a baby being born with an unusually small head and brain damage; affecting thousands of small children in Latin America.

The awful birth defects associated with the virus, and the lack of preventative treatments, have resulted in authorities taking drastic measures in several Latin American countries, including El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador, where women are being urged to stop having kids altogether. What is so concerning about the Zika virus is how easily it can spread. The virus is spread not only through a mosquito bite, but also by contact with infected blood or sexual contact. Furthermore, there is currently no vaccine to prevent, or any medicine to treat, the virus. All of these factors have led the World Health Organization to declare the Zika virus a public health emergency.

Confirmed cases of the Zika virus have been popping up across the U.S., including at least 3 confirmed cases here in Suffolk County. Recent estimates show that 200 million Americans live in areas that could see Zika spread through mosquitos during the warmer months.

With the recent outbreaks and the number of Zika cases among travelers visiting or returning to the United States, it’s only a matter of time before this becomes a wide spread epidemic right here at home. As evidenced with the Ebola virus epidemic in 2013, which decimated populations across Western Africa, if the proper infrastructure and funding is not put into place before an outbreak hits, the consequences can be truly devastating. That is why we must act now.

I recently introduced legislation, the Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act of 2016, H.R. 4314, which passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee with bipartisan support on January 7, 2016. 

One critical aspect of this legislation is that the bill would put in place a monitoring system that would screen for infectious diseases abroad in order to contain and prevent any potential outbreaks. The bill also helps quarantine the virus, authorizing the Secretary of Homeland Security to provide the necessary equipment and supplies to mitigate the risk or threat of infectious diseases, such as Zika.

In addition to screening for infectious diseases, my bill would also establish a plan to close security gaps that currently exist that allow terrorists and foreign fighters to travel internationally, as well as establish international border security standards. Furthermore, a reporting system would be established to monitor efforts of foreign governments to combat terrorism and foreign fighter travel and to suspend foreign assistance to countries not making significant efforts to comply. Moreover, U.S. surplus equipment and supplies would be sent abroad to boost security.

The Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act of 2016 is a measure that is long overdue to not only protect our homeland from terrorism, but also ensure the U.S. is always prepared to combat the spread of any infectious diseases. 

I will continue to push for the full passage of my Counterterrorism Screening and Assistance Act in the House, and urge my colleagues to bring this bipartisan bill to the House floor for a vote. Protecting America’s security at home and abroad remains one of my highest priorities in Congress.

Congressman Lee Zeldin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, represents the First Congressional District of New York.

Saturday
Feb202016

Op-Ed - Trump Another Red Faced Belligerent Guy At the Bar

By Allison Cafferone

At Thursday night’s town hall, Donald Trump tried to walk back some of his outrageous statements from the last debate and soften his remark that the Pope’s earlier comment that Trump was not Christian was “disgraceful.” Based on the South Carolina primary results, however, it appears that no matter what Trump says or does, his followers are going to continue to support him.

For the first time in this election, over the past week, we heard substance from Trump.  That substance was enlightening and if possible that Trump can still shock us, shocking. It allowed us to see beyond the persona of the entertainer and gain insight into Trump’s true political beliefs. 

For the first time we heard more than simple assaults on character and vulgarities meant to evoke emotional responses.  We heard more than mere shouts to “Make America Great Again.”  Up until now, the attacks on Trump have been that he has no real political beliefs; he changes his views to pander to his audience; when asked for particulars, he responds “believe me!”  But at last Saturday’s debate we heard Trump articulate his political beliefs; and we learned that those views and beliefs line up with the furthest left-leaning democrats—the Michael Moore’s of the world.

First, Trump claimed that President George W. Bush knowingly and intentionally lied to the American people by pretending to believe weapons of mass destruction existed in order to disingenuously lead our American soldiers into war.  Speaking about whether he thought Former President Bush should have been impeached, Trump said, “They lied.  They said there were weapons of mass destruction, there were none, and they knew there were none.

Second, Trump adamantly argued the left-wing, Michael Moore talking points that Bush was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.  Addressing Jeb Bush, Trump began yelling, “The World Trade Center came down during your brother’s reign, remember that. That’s not keeping us safe.”  

He continued by interrupting Marco Rubio’s defense of then-President Bush, by again bellowing, “How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center came down…The World Trade Center came down during his reign.  He kept us safe?  That is not safe.  That is not safe.  That is not safe!”

Take away his fancy suit and his name and he’s the red-faced, belligerent guy in the bar that, at best, Republican primary voters are rolling their eyes at and at worst, throwing a punch at—not the one they’re generally wishing would run for president. 

Both the audience and the candidates got under Trump’s skin on Saturday’s debate and he slipped up. It may have been the voters’ only chance to hear what Trump truly believes, beyond what he espouses while shouting, interrupting, and tweeting in the middle of the night.  

Indeed, at Thursday night’s town hall, he appeared to have realized that the American people weren’t so willing to let those comments go and he tried to pull back.  He refused to repeat that Bush had lied in order to send our young men and women to war.  He also tried to soften his earlier remark that the Pope’s comments were “disgraceful” by saying he didn’t really believe that he and the Pope were in a fight. Notably, these softer stances followed the first national poll results showing Trump had lost his lead as the Republican front runner. 

Yesterday, South Carolina voters had their chance to weigh in.  And although the margin of victory did not meet expectations, Trump still walked away with around 33% of the vote.  Soon it will be New Yorkers’ turn.  Their turn to consider whether their political beliefs align with Trump’s. Consider whether he really “tells it as it is” when until the last debate when he lost his composure and strategy went out the window, he had failed to reveal his true beliefs.  Consider whether they believe “telling is like it is” includes changing his stances when he realizes he’s fallen behind in the national polls.  Consider whether they want to cast their vote for a man that tells the nation and the world that the atrocities of 9/11 are the fault of George W. Bush.

Trump has become known as “Teflon Don.”  It seems he can say anything he wants and nothing sticks to him. And he’s proud of that, going so far as to say he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”  He seems to believe—and as of now he appears to be right—that he can manipulate people into voting for him regardless of his beliefs or actions, as long as he can invoke their anger.  

Allison Caffarone is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Legal Writing, Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. Allison.caffarone@hofstra.edu

Wednesday
Feb172016

Op-Ed - Congressman Lee Zeldin - Defending the LI Sound Against President's Budget Proposals

“Defending the Long Island Sound against the President’s Budget Proposals”

Op-Ed Written by Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, NY-01)

Congressman Lee ZeldinLast year, President Obama presented Congress with a proposed budget that completely ignored one of the nation’s most populated and popular watersheds— the Long Island Sound. Here we are now in 2016, President Obama’s final year in office, and we must relive last year’s fight in order to protect our waterways.

Today, the Long Island Sound, which borders the states of both New York and Connecticut, provides a diverse ecosystem with more than 170 species of fish, over 1,200 invertebrates and many different species of migratory birds; however, the Long Island Sound is not just a cultural and natural treasure, but also essential to the everyday economy and livelihood of millions of Long Islanders. The Sound is home to more than 9 million people living in the coastal communities around the Sound, and over 24 million living within 50 miles of the Sound. Revenue generated by the Sound contributes to the overall and much larger Long Island Sound Basin. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the economic value of the Basin’s natural capital is estimated to be anywhere from $17 billion to $37 billion in one year. From activities such as sport and commercial fishing, boating, recreation and tourism, it is estimated to bring in over $8 billion a year for the Long Island region. Furthermore, reports that detail the economic value of the Sound estimate that at least 191,000 jobs stem from this valuable estuary; either directly or indirectly. Moreover, our local schools and colleges work in the Long Island Sound, studying ways to improve its cleanliness and helping to preserve its countless benefits. The Sound is also our gateway to New England and a crucial means of transportation for thousands on any given day.

While the Great Lakes and Chesapeake get special attention in the President’s budget, the Long Island Sound, a true Long Island treasure, is nothing more than an afterthought. This is unacceptable; especially since over the years, the Long Island Sound has suffered severely from issues such as pollution, overdevelopment and the dumping of dredged materials. Currently, restoration for the Long Island Sound is funded at $3.94 million through the Long Island Sound Program; however the Obama administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017 would cut that number by over $1 million. The Long Island Sound will not be able to overcome the many challenges it faces with such a dramatic reduction in essential funding.

Last year, when President Obama proposed a 22% cut to the Sound, I successfully fought on a bipartisan basis to reverse the proposed cut. I’ve also continued to oppose the misguided plan to dump Connecticut’s dredged waste into this critical waterway. Long Island cannot be a dumping ground for any questionable waste dredged out of Connecticut rivers. Additionally, I joined with Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY) to introduce bipartisan legislation in the House, the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act (H.R.2930), to ensure the Sound is protected and restored for generations to come. Our bill proposes $65 million in funding per year through 2020 for a water quality and shore restoration program and additional focus, oversight and coordination of federal activities related to the restoration of the Sound. In addition, I was proud to support $27 million in funding for the National Estuary Program last year to protect Long Island’s natural estuaries, including the Long Island Sound. 

With valuable natural treasures like the Long Island Sound, comes a great responsibility to protect them. We must all work together to ensure our waterways are preserved for generations to come.

 

Congressman Lee Zeldin, a member of the Long Island Sound Caucus in the House of Representatives, represents the First Congressional District of New York. Congressman Zeldin is the lead Republican sponsor of the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act in the House of Representatives.