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Political News

Virgil Goode

Please share your thoughts on any matter that you believe is important. You may write to Congressman Virgil Goode, 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D. C., 20515-4605; or telephone the Washington office, 1-202-225-471 1, or toll-free to the Danville office, 1-800-535-4008.

Honorary Elk

On May 24, 1997, Lieutenant Governor Donald S. Beyer, Jr. was recognized as an honorary member of the Improved, Benevolent, Protective Order of Elks of the World. He received this award at the Elk's annual state convention held in Hampton.

Memorial Day

Over the last week and a half, we have observed the traditional Memorial Day on May 30th and the Monday Memorial Day holiday. Over this week and a half, some in the news media questioned if Americans still know why we have a national day of observance, known as Memorial Day. Some people that they interviewed did not know; they saw Memorial Day as the traditional start of the summer vacation season. It's a shame that we have lost some of our focus on the men and women who have given their lives in the wars that this nation has fought. From an historical perspec-tive, last year the United States government proclaim-ed Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of the Memorial Day holiday. It was on May 5, 1866 that Waterloo first observed Memorial day, in honor of those killed in the Civil War. Memorial Day in the northern states was coordinated by an organization of Union vete-rans of the Civil War until after World War One when the American Legion took over this duty. Today, Memorial Day honors the men and women who died in America's wars, and, in recent years, the observance has been extend-ed to include civilians who lost their lives in these wars, as well. Memorial Day was observed on May 30th for years until 1971. In 1968, Congress adopted legislation shifting the dates of certain holidays to give Americans a greater number of three-day weekends. That law took effect in 1971, and the Memorial Day holiday now falls on the last Monday of May.
Even though many Americans use this three-day weekend to kick off their summer vacationing, millions of others attend parades and other ceremonies in which veterans and their supporters march in support of the patriotic fervor that led our forces into battle. Perhaps the largest of these ceremonies is the one held at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. It was on March 21, 1921 that Con-gress approved a resolution, providing for the burial of an unidentified American soldier, following a custom adopted by other allied countries after World War One. The unknown solider chosen from World War I was brought to the United States from France. The casket lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda until Armistice Day, November 11, 1921, when the casket was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. By another act of Congress in 1956, unknown soldiers from World War Two and the Korean Conflict were honored with interment at Arlington on Memonal Day, 1958. Then, on Memorial Day, 1984, an unknown solider from the Vietnam conflict was interred alongside those who fell in previous wars. As America looks next to July Fourth when we will celebrate the day that the United States gained its independence almost two-and-a-quarter centuries ago, we must never forget the men and women who have given their lives to preserve and protect our nation. Next week, the House and the Senate will be trying to reach agreement on the supplemental appropriations bill dealing with flood relief and other issues and on the budget resolution reached previously by each body.

Adopting children who are in foster care will be easier, if a bill apptoved-by the House last week is passed by the Senate and signed by the President. Often citizens who want to adopt children talk of the lengthy procedure that they have to go through. In the case of adopting children who are in foster care, a lengthy process can deprive the child of several years of the on-going, secure family setting that is most conducive to healthy nurturing and development. Debate on the bill showed that since 1984, the number of children in foster care has risen by 80 percent in the past 13 years; the number today is nearly 500,000. To promote adoption of children who are in foster care, states would be rewarded for increased adoptions: a state would get $4,000 for each foster child and $6,000 for each disabled child who is adopted, above the number adopted in the previous year. The way that child welfare has been nm has been aimed toward re-uniting the family at any cost. That even includes seeking to re-unite children with biological parents who have been found to have abused or abandoned the children. This bill no longer presses states to make reasonable efforts to keep children with their biological parents if a court has found that the parents have neglected or abused their children. Another bill that the House considered last week was opposed by many of us who believe that it is up to Congress to set an example. The issue was a proposal to increase spending for almost all of the committees of the House this year. The total increase would be $15 million. Some examples: Ways and Means Committee, $826,000; Judiciary Committee, just over $1 million; Agriculture Committee, $249,000; and the Banking Comniittee, $257,000. While some in the House argued that these comniittees need additional money to accomplish the work that they are doing this year, others of us argued that if we are going to control spending in America, if we are going to call on Americans to cut back and make do with less, then we in leadership positions should set examples by cutting out every ounce of waste that we can. A third issue before the House last week was a bill to require able-bodied people who live in public housing to perform eight hours of community service each month. The bill included exemptions for those who are elderly or disabled. I supported this bill, because I believe that it is reasonable to ask those who live in public housing to give something back for the assistance that they get. Also, when people volunteer their time, skills often come to light; when these skills are identified, the person can be trained, enabling him or her to become a productive, self-supporting individual. One bill that will be coming up will have an impact in every city and county. A Congressman from Oregon has introduced legislation that would require the Postal Service to work with communities when it wants to move, close, relocate or alter a post office. If this bill is approved, the Postal Service would have to talk with the community and take into account the impact that the conununity feels would occur if the Postal Service were to make its change.

Bipartisan work by the leaders of Congress and the White House has produced a plan to balance the budget and offer some cuts in taxes that many in the Fifth District have been talking about for some time.
The plan that has been discussed is only an outline at this time; most of the details remain sketchy. However, one of the principle matters addressed is keeping the Medicare trust fund solvent. Medicare is one program that most all favor. It is the safety net that guards senior citizens, assuring them that their basic health needs will be provided for. Under the budget plan, spending on Medicare is slowed by $1 1 0 billion dollars. Those who worked on this plan report that this action will keep Medicare solvent for another ten years.
While this is good news for those who rely on Medicare, it is important for us to be diligent and work for a bipartisan approach to extending the security of Medicare beyond 2008 when the baby-boom generation begins to reach retirement age. Such a full fledged effort should be undertaken now, so that our seniors and our country will not be put through a crisis just as the new century is beginning.
Tax relief in two areas is a major part of this budget package. Cuts in the capital gains tax will help to boost investment in the United States. By lowering the amount of money that companies and individuals pay on their capital gains, those companies and individuals will be able to invest in shoring up their businesses, starting new companies or expanding their operations. All of this leads to the creation of jobs and helping to make some existing jobs more secure.
The other area of tax cutting that will benefit many in our area is a reduction in estate taxes. The budget package proposal is expected to double the amount of money or property in an estate that is exempt from taxation when a person dies. This approach should enable a lot of families to keep small fan-ns and small businesses in tact, allowing them to be passed on to future generations, instead of having to break them up in order to pay taxes.
While the framework of this budget agreement sounds promising, there are many details that have not been worked out or announced yet. It is important to watch for those details to be certain that the package meets the test of reaching a balanced budget by 2002. Balancing the budget remains a top priority of voters in the Fifth District.
On another topic, the Washington office is now linked with an e-mail address.

Transportation and Education for the Disabled

In statements in the House of Representatives and the Congressional Record during the last week, Fifth District Congressman Virgil Goode discussed two issues that are important to the Fifth District of Virginia: transportation and education for the disabled. In one speech, Goode stressed the importance of the proposed STEP 21 program to the district. Goode pointed out that Virginia, like many other states, sends more gasoline tax dollars to Washington than it get back. In the current fiscal year, said Goode, it is estimated that Virginia will get back only 81 cents out of every dollar in gas tax that it pays. Under STEP 21, Virginia and every other state will receive at least 95 cents on the dollar. As has been mentioned in a previous newsletter, the Congressman told his colleagues in the House that increased funding for transportation in Virginia will mean that the Fifth District will be able to boost its transportation network, a network that is critical to increasing economic opportunities throughout the district. The transportation funding legislation comes up later this year in the Congress, and Goode says that it is important to keep the needs of Virginia and the Fifth District before the House. In the other statement in the Congressional Record, Goode commented on the debate on the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1997. The bill passed the House on an almost unanimous vote. The goal of the Act is to offer local school districts more flexibility and authority in educating and disciplining children who have disabilities. The spending level is maintained, while seeking to make certain that the federal dollars spent on educating those with disabilities actually gets to the classroom, instead of being diverted to administrative costs or tuition to enroll the disabled in private schools. In his statement Goode recalled that school administrators and local school board members in his home of Franklin County had told him of the dilemma that they face in working to comply with existing rules under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. These local officials are sincere in their commitment to provide an education to every young person that they serve, whether that person is faced with a disability or not. The Congressman went on to say that this bill will give these dedicated local officials some relief and will begin to meet the commitment to the level of funding that Congress made to states and localities when IDEA was enacted. Goode also believes the bill will help classroom teachers who work to educate disabled students, in that these teachers will be involved in developing the educational plan for teaching their students, instead of having to follow someone elseÕs guidelines. Goode did find one section of the Act troubling . That section keeps the requirement that local districts have to continue the education of a disabled student, even if that student has committed egregious misconduct . Because the student is covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a school system must continue to pay for a such studentÕs education. I believe, said Goode, that if the studentÕs conduct is such that it merits expulsion then the states and their local school districts should be able to make that decision. The Congressman concluded by saying that while this bill does not answer all the concerns about educating those with disabilities, it offers improvements and gives schools greater flexibility, promotes cost-sharing between state and local agencies and recognizes the role of teachers.

Since May 15,1997

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Copyright © 1997 Piedmont Area Journal. All rights reserved.
Revised: June 5, 1997.