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After Financial Reform, Energy Moves Up as Next Major Agenda Item

June 4, 2010 1 comment

With the achievement of financial regulatory reform virtually finished in the Senate, the Senate will now move on to energy as the next big agenda item.  Senate Majority Leader Reid said he wants committee work done on the energy bill before the July 4th recess with floor time for the bill soon after.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) alerted Senate committee chairmen Thursday that he plans to move comprehensive energy legislation in July.

Reid asked the chairmen to recommend legislation to deal with the Gulf oil spill before July 4 so that leaders can include those ideas in the comprehensive energy package.

The BP Gulf Oil Disaster should be seen as a “rock bottom” moment for a nation addicted to oil.  Hopefully, this incident will provide the impetus to pass an energy bill that will move the US to a renewable energy future including a renewable energy supply, a reduction in America’s carbon emmisions, a major push for public transit in all metro areas, and incentives for cleaner cars.  The energy bill will also provide much needed jobs as we transition from a fossil fuel to renewable energy based nation.  Democrats and Republicans should work together to make this future happen.

Financial Regulatory Reform to be Major Agenda Item for April-May Senate Work Period

April 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Fresh off the health care victory, the Senate will now tackle Financial Regulatory Reform, a bill designed to foist tougher rules on Wall Street whose reckless malfeasance almost crashed the world economy last fall.  Sen. Dodd on the Banking Committee already passed their bill, and we are awaiting Sen. Lincoln on the Agriculture Committee to clear derivatives regulation legislation.

Republicans will try to stall this initiative to kingdom come just like they tried to do with health care reform, but this debate promises to be much shorter due to the political danger that some Republicans find themselves in if they are seen as Wall Street flacks.

The Senate plans to finish the financial regulatory reform bill by Memorial Day Recess in late May.  The House of Rep. already passed their version late last year.

Christmas in February!!!

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

First, the stimulus awarded $8 billion to high speed rail projects across the country, and now TIGER grants from the stimulus is awarding $1.5 billion to infrastructure projects across the country like the CREATE freight rail bottleneck fix in Chicago, Moynihan Station Phase 1 funding in NYC, and streetcar projects in places such as New Orleans, Dallas, Tuscon, and Detroit.  Check to see what your community is going to get!

Happy first birthday Stimulus!  May you have many stimulus children.

Ok, back to my indefinite hiatus.

UPDATE: $280 million for public transit projects soon to be announced this year courtesy of a partnership between the DOT, EPA, and HUD.

Party!!!

Corporations (Soylent Green) is People!

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Teabaggers should take note – this is what is considered radical:

In one swoop, the court did away with nearly everything in federal campaign finance law, allowing corporations free reign to inject as much money as they jolly well please into federal campaigns. The decision completes what Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick calls “The Pinocchio Project,” in which the Court transforms “a corporation into a real live boy,” complete with personhood, free-speech rights and the unfettered opportunity to drown the body politic in a tidal wave of perverse incentives.

Shouldn’t people be people?

Heck if corporations are people, can they run for President?  Oh and what’s stopping foreign corporations from endorsing or attacking candidates?

President Obama issued a statement vowing to curtail the Supreme Court decision:

“With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics,” said President Obama in a statement. “It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans… That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision.”

I want this fixed as soon as possible.

So What Could be Next? The Jobs Bill

January 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Far and away the likeliest item to be next on the Senate agenda.  The House already passed their version of the jobs bill back in December and along with the unemployment numbers, the impetus for a jobs bill in the Senate will be strong.  Sen. Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Dorgan (D-ND) are the lead Senators on this issue, and the bill will probably contain infrastructure spending, tax credits for hiring, and perhaps a focus on green jobs of the future.  Some if not all funds to be used for the jobs will come from the already appropriated TARP bailout money.  The House jobs bill contains aid money to states, extension of COBRA benefits, an extension of unemployment benefits, and infrastructure spending.

Fortunately, the jobs bill debate shouldn’t take that long, and I would guess a jobs bill will pass the Senate sometime in January or early February.  I’m sure President Obama would like to tout a jobs bill at his State of the Union and so provide further motivation to finish this bill very early in 2010.

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So What Could be Next? Financial Regulatory Reform

December 30, 2009 1 comment

Sen. Dodd (D-CT) is in charge of shepherding the financial regulatory reform bill in the Senate and on this issue, it looks like he’s making some progress.  The Huffington Post reports that Sen. Dodd’s negotiations with Sen. Shelby (R-AL) are going well, and the bill seems to have bipartisan legs with an unveiling of a bipartisan bill by the end of January and markup possibly coming shortly thereafter.  If negotiations are fruitful, that will virtually assure quick passage of this highly needed bill in order to prevent what happened back in late 2008 when the financial system was in near collapse requiring (unpopular) federal TARP bailouts to prop up the major financial houses.

Still, there are points of contention including the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a priority for President Obama.  We’ll have to wait and see what a compromise (if any) will look like in late January.

Transportation Reauthorization, Elements of Climate Bill May Become Part of New 2010 Jobs Bill

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Add another item on the Senate agenda.  With unemployment at 10%, the White House and the Congressional Democratic Leadership are looking to a jobs bill to help get Americans back to work.  The contents of the jobs bill is still a mystery, but we might be seeing  the inclusion of the transportation reauthorization bill and elements of the climate bill as well as a tax break for each new hire for employers.

The possible addition of the transportation reauthorization would certainly be a boon for jobs although its inclusion is still up in the air.  According to the New York Times, the House Transportation Reauthorization bill – named a reauthorization because every 6 years, Congress guides and funds the trajectory of the nation’s transportation future – contains $337 billion for highways, $100 billion for transit, $13 billion for miscellaneous transportation initiatives, and $50 billion for high speed rail.  Usually, the transportation reauthorization bill focuses on roads, roads, and more roads  Now, the multimodal outlook and bipartisan nature of this transportation reauthorization bill has transit advocates excited, but how to pay for this bill is up for debate.

The transportation reauthorization bill will also push for Complete Streets – a concept that streets should be for all modes of transportation such as walking, biking, and transit and not just a monopoly for the automobile:

The streets of our cities and towns are an important part of the livability of our communities. They ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. But too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams.Now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to complete the streets. States, cities and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.

Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

A balanced view of transportation is certainly change we can believe in, and I hope the transportation reauthorization can be part of the jobs bill.  This bill will also create many new jobs because of all the new infrastructure that has to be built, designed, and constructed.

Other possible elements of the jobs bill include a tax break for each new employer hire and elements of the climate bill such as a focus on green jobs.  But is a tax break for each new hire a good idea?  Some say it could help the economy by giving incentives for employers to hire while others think that the crummy state of the overall economy will dampen hiring regardless of any tax credit:

Advocates argue that such incentives would be more effective this time around not only because of design, but also because of timing. In 1977, hiring was already on the upswing, whereas economists expect today’s job market to decline a bit more and then stagnate for months.

“Now is a better time than ’77 was because we’re closer to the bottom of a recession,” said Daniel S. Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas, Austin, who helped create the 1970s plan. “This could help an uptick proceed more rapidly.”

But critics of the idea argue that businesses hire based on actual demand for their products, and a minor subsidy for adding an employee will not make up for the collapse in demand across the broader economy.

“Why would a business hire a new worker?” Bill Rys, tax counsel to the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business industry group, said. “They’re hiring because they need to do work. Unless you have work to do, it’s still an expense.”

Both Democrats and Republicans seem to be warming to this idea, but we’ll see where this idea goes.

On green jobs, Sen. Cardin (D-MD) suggested adding elements of the climate bill into the jobs bill:

Cardin said that the climate change bill could serve as the jobs bill by providing incentives for Americans and businesses to invest in green technologies.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get better job growth in America,” Cardin said. “Too many people in my state and around the country can’t find jobs.”

A focus on building green energy sources and retrofitting buildings to become energy efficient will help create new, green jobs of the future.  Because of the unemployment rate, the jobs bill could catapult to become the next major debate after health care reform.