Capitol News from the Office of Senator Richard Burr
Message From Senator Burr
Greetings from Washington! I hope you are traveling to our coasts, mountains, and parks to enjoy the sun and the fun that go with North Carolina's summer weather. In the second edition of my quarterly newsletter, I am highlighting some of the issues in the U.S. Senate directly affecting North Carolinians. These issues include: supporting our military and veterans, increasing access to affordable health care, improving public health emergency preparedness and response, strengthening public education, and comprehensive immigration reform.
In May, I joined U.S. Senator Larry Craig, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on a tour of military cemeteries in Europe and North Africa and I had the opportunity to commemorate Memorial Day at Normandy. As I walked through each military cemetery, it served as a reminder of the great sacrifices our soldiers have made so we may live in freedom in the United States. I want to encourage North Carolinians to visit American cemeteries and monuments in Europe and elsewhere. For more information on the American cemeteries in Europe and Africa, please visit the American Battle Monuments Commission website at http://www.abmc.gov.
Last November, I introduced the Services to Prevent Veterans Homelessness Act to provide services to help keep low-income veterans in permanent housing and prevent homelessness. The legislation would increase veterans' access to assistance for housing, physical and mental health services, health insurance, and vocational and financial counseling. In June, my bill was approved by the Veterans Affairs Committee as part of the Veterans Choice of Representation and Benefits Enhancement Act of 2006.
While I am committed to bringing our troops home as quickly as possible, I believe it is in the best interest of the Iraqi people, the United States, and global security that we remain committed to defeating terrorism and supporting a democratic Iraq. Rebuilding Iraq is not an easy process but anything short of finishing the job will hurt our country and the cause of freedom. It is my hope Iraq becomes a beacon of peace and prosperity in the troubled Middle East region. I am grateful for the sacrifices our troops are making to keep our country safe, and I pray for their safe return. Recently, Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq addressed a joint session of Congress. Prime Minister Maliki is determined and committed to defeating terrorism and creating a free and stable democracy in Iraq.
In July, I introduced the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act to improve our public health and medical preparedness and responses during emergencies and disasters. Cosponsors of the legislation include: Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Bill Frist (R-TN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Ted Kennedy (D-MA). The legislation passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee unanimously. Prior to the introduction of this legislation I hosted a roundtable in Raleigh with former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and North Carolina public health leaders to discuss modern public health security and improved all hazards medical response and just recently I visited New Orleans to meet with health care officials to discuss the lessons they have learned from Hurricane Katrina.
In June I introduced the Helping Sole Community Hospitals Act of 2006. This legislation provides more funds through Medicare to Sole Community Hospitals in order to keep these small rural hospitals open. The hospitals in North Carolina benefiting from the legislation are: Spruce Pine Community Hospital in Spruce Pine; Ashe Memorial Hospital in Jefferson; Roanoke Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie; and Halifax Regional Medical Center in Roanoke Rapids.
I am also working to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act so North Carolina will receive more HIV/AIDS funding. Ryan White CARE Act funding provides medical care, anti-retroviral treatments, counseling, and testing for HIV/AIDS patients who need it most. Currently rural areas are short changed in funding at the expense of large metro areas. North Carolina has approximately 18,900 people living with HIV or AIDS. We currently rank 14th among states with the greatest number of AIDS cases in the nation and yet we continue to be underfunded. I am hopeful the Senate can reauthorize this legislation so more HIV/AIDS patients in North Carolina will receive the quality care they deserve.
In May, the U.S Department of Education selected North Carolina to pilot a growth-based school accountability model under the No Child Left Behind Act. North Carolina is one of only two states chosen to participate in this program. Growth-based models give schools and districts credit for improvements in student achievement by tracking the achievement of individual students from year to year.
The impact of federal judgeships on our legal system should not be underestimated, and I have urged my colleagues to move forward with the confirmation process and ensure an up-or-down vote on judicial nominees. I am hopeful the Senate will give North Carolina judge Terrance Boyle an up-or-down vote. Judge Boyle was nominated by President Bush to serve on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002. He is a distinguished North Carolina federal district court judge with over two decades of experience on the bench. North Carolina is significantly underrepresented on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. States are generally represented on the federal appellate circuits in proportion to their populations. Despite this guidepost, North Carolina -- the most populous state in the 4th Circuit -- can only currently claim one 4th Circuit judge. Confirming Judge Boyle would be a step in the right direction of restoring balance to the court.
In May, the Senate voted on the immigration reform bill. I voted no on the bill because I believe the legislation would grant amnesty to illegal immigrants and because of the fiscal impact it will have on the nation and taxpayers' wallets. I still believe we need strengthened border security and comprehensive immigration reform. As a nation, we have welcomed generations of legal immigrants over the course of our history--immigrants who respect the law and contribute a great deal to our country. The immigration reform package in the Senate addresses increased border security, but also rewards those who have broken the law by granting them a direct path to citizenship. It allows current illegal immigrants to receive the full array of federal benefits, but fails to reform our current immigration policy for those who want to come to America legally.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve North Carolina in the U.S. Senate. My office is glad to help North Carolinians solve problems with the federal government. If you are planning a visit to Washington, D.C. please do not hesitate to contact my office to set up tours of the U.S. Capitol and other sites. Finally, while in DC please stop by my office and say hello.
Constituents may now sign-up to receive The Burr Bulletin, an electronic newsletter dedicated to federal grant news and information. It will serve to announce grant opportunities and key information regarding federal grant programs. To register, go to http://burr.senate.gov/bb.
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