Friday, May 15, 2009

Greening our Schools

Yesterday, I voted in favor of legislation that will improve our public schools, create clean energy jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower energy costs for taxpayers. The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, which passed the House on a vote of 275 to 155, will invest in our schools in order to boost our economy now and help prepare our children for the jobs of the future.

This bill uses federal dollars to begin transforming America’s aging schools while at the same time putting our nation back to work. This is a smart investment that leverages the power of the new green economy to inspire a new generation of workers. This measure reduces operating costs of schools allowing our struggling districts to devote more money to educating our students. This is the perfect time to inject these federal dollars into our local school districts. Green will be the engine that turns our country’s economy around. There is no better way to set a course for a greener future than investing in our kids.

I was able to sponsor an amendment that will encourage school districts to link their green construction efforts with curriculum that explains the new technology to students at the school. The amendment, which I sponsored with my friend Congresswoman Giffords (AZ-8), passed on a vote of 334 to 97.

The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act could provide over $6 billion in federal funds to upgrade school buildings to make them more energy efficient and more reliant on renewable sources of energy. The State of Missouri will receive approximately $97,833,000 in funding. Locally, the approximate allocations for Missouri’s Fifth District School Districts would be:

Center: $322,000
Grandview: $494,000
Hickman Mills: 1,165,000
Independence: $977,000
Kansas City: $7,855,000
Lee’s Summit: $405,000
Lone Jack: $17,000
Raymore-Peculiar: $161,000
Raytown: $596,000

Total for Fifth District: $12,295,000

The bill also generates long-term savings for schools by reducing energy expenses. Green schools reduce pollution by using about 30% less water and energy than conventional schools, and emit almost 40% less harmful carbon dioxide.

This bill is common sense. It saves money for our schools, creates jobs and helps us educate our students better. At the same time, it modernizes our schools and prepares our workers for a new, clean energy American economy.

According to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute, this legislation’s construction funding would support as many as 136,000 new jobs – many in areas that will give workers the valuable skills they need to excel in a clean energy economy. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

High Priority Projects now online

Reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs is required September 30, 2009. During the reauthorization process, I have an opportunity to include requests for High Priority Projects (HPP) to improve the transportation infrastructure in Missouri’s Fifth District.

To be more transparent in this important national policy and to ensure that projects that receive funding in this surface transportation authorization act result in tangible transportation and safety benefits, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure requires that Member-designated High Priority Projects be available online.

My requests can be found here >>>

More recognition for the Green Impact Zone

Van Jones has been on a crusade to, in his words, "green the ghetto" by killing two birds with one stone: reducing poverty and saving the environment — exactly the goals of the Green Impact Zone.

Recently Mr. Jones, who headed the non-profit “Green for All” was appointed as President Obama's special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation. Jones now has an opportunity to implement his vision and once again cited the efforts underway here in Kasnas City as a model program the nation should be watching. This time, he used an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition to highlight our initiative.

Listen here >>>

Friday, May 01, 2009

Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights passes House

On Thursday, the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009 (H.R. 627) which I Chairman Barney Frank (D-NY), and Subcommittee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) cosponsored, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 357-70. This comprehensive credit card reform legislation is aimed at leveling the playing field between credit card companies and consumers and abolishes industry abuses that are unfair, deceptive and anti-competitive.

I was sorry to see this important legislation die in the Senate last year and proud that it is one of the first pieces of legislation passed in this new Congress. In this economy, when far too many are relying on their credit cards for survival, we cannot tolerate abusive and unfair practices that exploit these difficult times.

First came the housing crisis, then the crisis in the financial institutions. The next shoe to drop is the credit card crisis. Yesterday’s action helps give teeth to the meeting the President held last week with the major Credit Card companies at the White House. Specifically, the bill protects cardholders against arbitrary interest rate increases, empowers them to set limits on their credit and requires card companies to fairly credit and allocate payments. It also prohibits charging fees just to pay a bill by phone, charging over-the-limit fees unless a consumer opts-in in advance or issuing credit cards to minors.

It is issuing credit cards to minors I have been particularly concerned about. The average college student has more than $3,000 in credit card debt on four or more credit cards. It is a horrible way to begin adult life and has contributed to the average age of bankruptcy continuing to get younger. I am pleased this bill tries to safeguard our young people.

Greensburg was amazing

My thanks to everyone who spent 11 hours on the bus Saturday to travel to Greensburg. As we were leaving one of the residents of the town came up to me and said, “This just feels right.” Indeed it did. The commitment they have to green was inspiring, and I think the only downside to the trip was that those who participated returned even more eager to start working than they were before.

I would like to extend a very special thanks to Mayor Dixson, the city administrator and school superintendent for hosting our group and spending the afternoon with us.

Truly, it was a helpful trip.

Councilwoman Cindy Circo, who was on the trip along with Council Members Jan Marcason and Sharon Sanders Brooks, wrote a great article about the trip and pictures on her blog. Please take a moment to visit the Councilwoman’s blog site found here >>>

Q&A on Swine Flu

This week, the world began to feel the impact of the H1N1 “Swine Flu” and I wanted to pass along some frequently asked questions and answers from the Centers for Disease (CDC). These answers are particularly important in light of CDC confirmed today that a woman in Platte County contracted the same swine flu virus that has sickened at least 141 people nationwide. In scary times like these, having accurate information is key.

The case is Missouri’s first confirmed incidence of swine flu. The woman is in her 30s and recently traveled to Mexico, where the virus is thought to have first emerged.

What is swine flu?

HIN1 Influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.

Is this H1N1 flu virus contagious?

CDC has determined that this H1N1 influenza A virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 flu in people?

The symptoms of H1N1 flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with H1N1 flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with H1N1 flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

How does H1N1 flu spread?

Spread of this H1N1 influenza A virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Can I get H1N1 influenza from eating or preparing pork?

No. H1N1 influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get H1N1 influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

How can someone with the flu infect someone else?

Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

What should I do to keep from getting the flu?

First and most important: wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Are there medicines to treat H1N1 flu?

Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these H1N1 influenza viruses. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).

How long can an infected person spread H1N1 flu to others?

People with H1N1 influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possible for up to 7 days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

How long can viruses live outside the body?

We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks. Frequent handwashing will help you reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?

There is no vaccine available right now to protect against H1N1 flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?

If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or school if ill. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. We recommend that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.

What should I do if I get sick?

If you live in areas where H1N1 influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you may want to contact their health care provider, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting