Wednesday, December 12, 2007

legislative updates

As an update to a few items written about previously:

SB1, the open records law, passed the Pennsylvania House and will have to be reconciled with the Senate version in January (text of SB 1, read more at

The House also passed a bill funding hazardous waste cleanup which the governor has said he will sign even though he doesn't like it very well. ("House votes on cleanup bill today," by Kori Walter Bucks County Courier Times 12/12

On the federal level, I've followed some legislation relating to veterans' issues. Rep. Patrick Murphy has issued a press release outlining the status of veterans legislation he has sponsored or introduced. The press release is not on his website yet so I include excerpts from it here:

To restore military readiness, improve accountability over contractors and give our troops a raise, Pennsylvania Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-8th District) today voted for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Rep. Murphy, a former Army captain and veteran of the war in Iraq , fought for and successfully inserted several provisions in this piece of legislation to increase oversight, accountability and improve the lives of American servicemen and women. Even before the recent controversies involving contractors in Iraq , Murphy had introduced a measure to increase oversight over contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan . His provision would force the different American agencies in Iraq to establish a “Memorandum of Understanding” deciding the roles of contractors. He also fought for a study of contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan by the Government Accountability Office. Earlier this year, he authored and introduced House Resolution 97 – which in part called for a Truman Commission to weed out waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq . That commission will be established following this bill. Also in the NDAA is the Murphy-supported 3.5% pay increase for our troops and the Murphy-sponsored provisions that will help reservists pay for college and help medically evacuated military personnel afford luggage. The National Defense Authorization Act passed by a bipartisan margin of 370 to 49.


The NDAA, or H.R. 1585, sets the policy for the armed forces, authorizes the budget authority for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy. The bill also authorizes funds for emergency needs, including resetting equipment to restore readiness, equipment to protect our deployed troops, and support for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan during Fiscal Year 2008. The bill also includes $17.6 million for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and the Wounded Warrior Act which was passed unanimously to prevent future Walter Reed-type incidents. The Wounded Warrior Act improves access to quality medical care for wounded service members, cuts through bureaucratic red tape and improves the transition of wounded soldiers from the Armed Forces to the Veterans Affairs system. It also creates a system of patient advocates who fight for proper treatment and establishes a toll-free hot line for reporting deficiencies in facilities.

Provisions Introduced and Passed by Rep. Murphy Call for Increased Accountability over Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan . The Defense Authorization bill addresses the lack of oversight and accountability by requiring that the Department of Defense, the State Department and USAID decide which agency is responsible for each part of every contract and what each agency’s role is in carrying out contracts. The “Memorandum of Understanding” will clarify the roles and responsibilities in managing and overseeing contracts, including tracking and overseeing contractor personnel and maintaining a set of common databases containing information on such contracts. The bill also addresses oversight by requiring that the Government Accountability Office conduct a study of contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan . In fact, it requires the Secretary of Defense, working with the Secretary of State, to issue detailed regulations for private security contractors mandating the appropriate use of force and accountability. GAO is required to report annually on the handling of contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan .

Provisions Introduced and Passed by Rep. Murphy to Improve the Lives of Soldiers:

* The first of these would expand an education loan repayment program to reserve officers as well as expanding the types of educational loans the military would repay. This will help not only improve the lives of soldiers but also with recruitment and retention.

* The second of these adds a commonsense allowance for service members who have been medically evacuated. There have been stories of wounded soldiers being evacuated and having to place their possessions in garbage bags because their allowances could not be used to purchase luggage – this provision would end that senseless prohibition.

Provisions Murphy Pushed for Also in Defense Bill. Rep. Murphy has been pushing for a 3.5% pay increase for our troops, the establishment of a Truman-type Commission to weed out waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq and changes to the rules of engagement and security regulations with contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan . These measures have been included in the National Defense Authorization Act.

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