After a day of zipping around the packing house on my forklift, moving pork to its intended destination, I like to come home and relax and then see what Ollie Ox has to say at A Bluestem Prairie. Today I was a little shocked and saddened to read that Bluestem Prairie will be on hiatus until June 1. In a short post Sally Jo Sorensen announced:
“After posting at this blog for 2 years, 8 months, we’re feeling the need to spruce up the joint. Bluestem will be shuttered after today until June 1, when the blog will return as a venue for nonfiction essays…”
I and many others across the 1st District will miss her vigilant updates on Congressman Tim Walz and her extensive recaps of the political news in the district. Sally also has kept an eye on the MSM and was not hesitant to remind them to get the facts straight.
This fall I had the privilege to meet the one and only Ollie OX at the annual Turkey Day celebration in Worthington and was honored to be her ‘union goon’ for the day. Although the vultures were circling overhead, we did manage to have some good discussion about blogging and politics.
We look forward to reading her new stuff on June 1 and hope she still has time for birding and gardening.
Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District Congressman Tim Walz drove to the end of the world district today (a few minutes more and he would have been in South Dakota) for a listening session about the economic stimulus package recently passed the the U.S. House of Representatives. One of several throughout the 1st district over the last couple of days, the event in Luverne was well attended. Local elected officials, school administrators, business people from the private sector, ag interests, social workers, organized labor and concerned citizens were there to hear what the congressman had to say and to ask questions and share their concerns.
Congressman Walz was straightforward about the seriousness of the
Congressman Walz making a point.
economic crisis we face as a nation as well as the pros and cons of the stimulus package. He would have preferred more infrastructure spending (as do I) but also touted the fact that the transparency measures are unprecedented. The congressman and his staff received valuable input on projects from the assembled crowd and will use that information to pass on to state government officials who will eventually receive the stimulus money and be tasked with its distribution. They will also use the information gathered today in Luverne and from previous listening sessions to help shape the final look of the stimulus package. The Senate will deal with the legislation next and eventually the two legislative bodies will have to reach an agreement on the final package. Representative Walz says this will all be done by February 15 but there is still time for citizen input. A Bluestem Prairie has a summary of the plan posted here.
I continue to be impressed with the Congressman’s willingness and eagerness to constantly get out and meet with the people he represents. There may be more voters in Rochester and Mankato but he also came to Luverne because he sincerely wants to represent all the people of the 1st District.
Oh, just one more thing. My youngest of five grandchildren, at 11 months, had his first face to face meeting with a congressman. It was a proud moment.
Since I will be dedicating my time to GOTV efforts my ability to provide content on this blog for both of my readers will be curtailed. I do have a number of recommendations for the faithful.
For news and views about southern Minnesota and the 1st CD’s Tim Walz, the first place I go to is A Bluestem Prairie.Ollie Ox keeps the stories coming and provides facts and insight on politics in the 1st CD. Ollie also keeps a watchful eye on the MSM and does not hesitate to tell ‘the rest of the story’.
Some 2.1 million union members, or 14 percent of all union members, are veterans of military service. The AFL-CIO is bringing together union leaders and members who are veterans to speak out to and hold government officials and candidates accountable to the needs of our returning heroes—not only for Labor 2008, but beyond.
The event coincided with similar events in Milwaukee, Denver, Dayton, Ohio; and Charlston, W. VA. WorkdayMinnesota covered the event and has this quote from MN AFL-CIO President Ray Waldron:
Like all working people, veterans are worried about our future and our children’s future. Our country is headed in the wrong direction,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Ray Waldron, who participated in Thursday’s event. “The first-ever union veterans council will bring union veterans together across Minnesota on the issues that matter most to veterans, our families and all working people. And we’re starting by working to elect leaders who will put working people’s concerns first.”
Public News Service Minnesota also has this story and audio with MN AFL-CIO Communications Director Diane O’Brien.
The AFL-CIO will be running tv ads in selected states featuring Jim Wasser, a Vietnam veteran.
The Veterans Council is a welcome addition to the AFL-CIO and will help bring together veterans to focus on issues and to elect reperesentatives( like 1st District Congressman Tim Walz) who will be responsive and accountable to their constitiuencies.
An email from David Wellstone alerts us to the possibility of a compromise and final vote on H.R. 1424, the ”Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008”. From the Wellstone Action website is this description of the bill:
The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act is legislation that would end the practice of insurance companies discriminating against people suffering from mental illness. Sponsored by Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Wellstone’s friend Representative Jim Ramstad (R-MN), the bill would compel insurance companies to treat mental illness the same as physical illness, given the overwhelming scientific evidence that mental illness is a disease every bit as real and serious as physical illness. This practice is often referred to as “mental health parity.”
David Wellstone had this to say:
…the final touches are being put on a compromise between the House and Senate, and we believe that a bill could go to the President’s desk next week. But, if it doesn’t happen then, it’s likely we’d have to start all over again with the new Congress next year.
The Senate and House have passed different versions of the legislation and have been working on settling their differences since the House passed its version in March of this year. 1st District Congressman Tim Walz was a co-sponsor and supporter of this legislation. Representatives John Kline (R-MN2) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN6) were both in the NAY column, continuing their tradition of voting against the best interests of their constituents.
Many business groups have long opposed coverage parity, saying costs could drive up premiums substantially. But one estimate by the Congressional Budget Office concluded the impact would be relatively small: a 0.4 percent premium increase for group health insurance. In addition, the federal employees’ health plan has had a parity policy since 2001; one study found no significant cost increase as a result. Part of the explanation likely lies in the value of treating mental conditions early and avoiding expensive complications and hospitalization later.
Many states already have laws in place that provide some protection for patients struggling with mental illness or addiction. Minnesota has one of the strongest. A federal law would not preempt those laws. What it would do is make sure no one falls through the cracks. Mental disorders are one of the most devastating diagnoses families can face. Their health insurers should work with them –not against them — at this difficult time.
A final call-in day to members of congress will is scheduled for Wednesday, July 9. Stay tuned for details on the call-in!
David Wellstone testifies before Congress in March of this year:
“Eighteen months ago, we began with the simple concept that those who have been serving since 9/11 should have the same opportunity for a first class educational future as those who served during World War II. Today, we have accomplished that goal.”
Senator Jim Webb of Virginia spoke those words on June 26th after the Senate passed the 21st Century GI Bill that was part of the 162 billion war supplemental spending measure. The legislation passed 92-6 with 2 not voting. Today President Bush signed the measure into law and in a press release from the White House the President spins all the positives and thanks numerous people for their work. One line from the press release did raise my blood pressure.
“And I want to thank members who worked hard for the GI Bill expansion — especially Senators Webb and Warner, Graham, Burr, and McCain.”
Graham, Burr, and McCain? This is the same trio that opposed the 21st Century GI Bill and introduced legislation in an effort to sabotage Senator Webb’s bill. GOP presumptive nominee John McCain is now jumping on the bandwagon and trying to take credit despite the fact he was a vocal opponent and didn’t even bother to show up for both of the votes on this bill. McCain has proved that he is consistent in one way-having it both ways!
Ollie Ox at Bluestem Prairie has the press release from 1st District Congressman Tim Walz who has been consistent, vocal and hard working on veterans issues. In the statement he notes that over 20,000 men and women from Minnesota have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The Congressman also offers up the assistance of his Rochester, MN office (507-206-0643) for veterans that are experiencing difficulties with their benefits.
With the passage of the 162 billion Iraq war funding bill last week it appears that the 21st Century GI Bill will become law. The Senate still needs to act on it but the White House has indicated it would sign the legislation. The GI Bill was included in the war funding along with a 13 week extension of unemployment benefits, disaster relief in the amount of $2.65 billion for the Midwest affected by the recent tornadoes and floods, additional money for the construction of military hospitals and some important Iraq policy provisions as noted by Minnesota Central in the comments section.
Senator Jim Webb, co-sponsor of the GI BIll, expressed his gratitude to supporters:
“I would like to again express my appreciation to the veterans’ service organizations, many of whom communicated their support of this bill directly to a skeptical White House, and to the 58 Senate and 302 House cosponsors of this landmark legislation. This bipartisan coalition consistently rejected the allegations of this Administration, and of Senators McCain, Burr and Graham, among others, who claimed that the bill was too generous to our veterans, too difficult to administer and would hurt retention.
“It has now been nearly seven years since 9/11 — seven years since those who have been serving in our military began earning the right for a proper wartime GI Bill. I am looking forward to the President living up to his word, and signing this legislation at his earliest opportunity.” Read the entire statement here.
A Bluestem Prairie covers 1st District Congressman’s statement on the passage of the new GI Bill and also comments about the process of getting the legislation passed:
“Like the final passage of the increase in the federal minimum wage, final approval of the New G. I. Bill came–eventually–at the cost of continuing to fund the war in Iraq. Those who feel that Congress should quit funding the war and pull out immediately will be disappointed with Walz’s vote for another amendment to the bill that continued money for the war in Iraq.”
It has been said that making laws is a lot like making sausage. Well, I work in the meat industry and I would consider that an insult. It is tragic that the continued occupation of Iraq was the price to pay. Just about everybody (416-12) in the House of Representatives will be able to pat themselves on the back for supporting the GI Bill. How many more GI’s will they be making eligible for the benefits?