Letter to the Editor: Challenger wrong about Barletta

I am writing in response to inaccurate claims made by Mike Marsicano about Congressman Lou Barletta in a recent article (Press Enterprise, July 10). As a county commissioner who has worked closely with Lou and his office, I know firsthand that he is making real progress for our communities.

Lou was instrumental in securing a $15 million federal grant for the construction of the Bloomsburg Flood Wall. He brought members of House leadership, including former Speaker John Boehner, to Bloomsburg to tour flood damage and secure support for rebuilding after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. His leadership helped to save nearly 1,000 local jobs.

Lou has conducted dozens of Main Street Tours across the 11th Congressional District, including Bloomsburg, Berwick, Catawissa, Danville, Shamokin, and Mt. Carmel, where he hears from residents and small business owners about what needs to be done in Washington. He always gets his best ideas from people in the real world who make the economy go.

His connection to his constituents is reflected in his work as a Transportation and Infrastructure Committee subcommittee chairman, where he has saved taxpayers more than $3 billion by revamping the way the federal government handles its real estate leases. While bureaucrats in Washington are reckless in seeking to spend every dime they can, Lou has been watching out for the taxpayers of the 11th Congressional District.

And unlike Mike Marsicano, who said “Obama made a good start” with Obamacare, Lou has worked to strengthen seniors’ benefits by working to repeal and replace Obamacare with more affordable options. He continued the fight against the consequences of Obama’s flawed health care law by successfully pressuring the IRS to exempt volunteer fire fighters from the costly Employer Mandate. Without Lou’s leadership, local volunteer fire companies across the country would have been forced to close, risking public safety here at home.

Every time we need Lou, he’s there, and that’s incredibly important to local elected officials like me. I’m proud to support Lou and the work he’s doing for the 11th Congressional District.

RICH RIDGWAY

Bloomsburg

Press Enterprise

Published July 14, 2016

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Letter to the editor: Barletta fighting for change

Originally published in the Daily Item.

I’m writing in response to Richard Yost’s recent letter (“Challengers Emerge,” June 24) which wrongly portrayed Congressman Lou Barletta’s record of service.

In fact, as member of my local volunteer fire department and several volunteer fire services groups nationally, I know first-hand that Lou is fighting for the communities he represents.

I met Lou during a firefighter’s parade in Mechanicsburg in September of 2013. It was then that I brought to his attention that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had been counting emergency services volunteers as full-time employees under Obamacare’s employer mandate.

According to the mandate, volunteer fire companies with 50 or more volunteers had to provide volunteers with health insurance, an unrealistic expectation that would have closed fire departments across the country, or pay crippling penalties.

Several national volunteer fire services groups wrote a letter to the IRS seeking clarity on this issue early in the summer of 2013. I asked for Lou’s help during that parade. He, too, wrote a letter, but the IRS ignored him as well.

Lou didn’t stop there.

He immediately drafted legislation protecting volunteer firefighters and emergency services volunteers from Obamacare’s employer mandate.

 Because of Lou’s leadership on this issue, the IRS eventually relented and issued a new set of regulations consistent with Lou’s bill.

Lou’s efforts prove that he is both responsive to the concerns of his constituents and a strong enough leader to force meaningful change.

He is exactly the type of representative we want fighting for us in Washington.

Robert Timko,

New Cumberland

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Pipeline safety bill with Barletta Amendment signed into law

Rep. Lou Barletta on Tuesday hailed the signing of pipeline safety legislation into law, noting that it included his language that protects the ability of states to use their own inspectors when dealing with federal agencies.

President Barack Obama has signed the Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act, which reauthorizes the pipeline safety program administered by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

“In Pennsylvania, our Public Utility Commission has been trying to arrange an agreement under which we could use our own pipeline inspectors, instead of relying on regional federal inspectors who are not as available or accessible,” Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, said in a news release. “This legislation allows Pennsylvania and other states better flexibility in keeping pipelines safe.”

PHMSA has only five regional offices to serve the entire country, Barletta said. States need to have interstate agent agreements with PHMSA to use their own network of inspectors.

His language requires the Government Accountability Office to study interstate agent agreements to examine their benefits.

Read more here.

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Barletta Statement Regarding Donald Trump’s National Security Speech

HAZLETON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) released the following statement reacting to Donald Trump’s national security speech in the wake of the Orlando shootings:

“As investigators continue to gather information about the horrific terror attack in Orlando, I urge everyone to join me in continuing to keep the victims, their families, and the heroic law enforcement officers and first responders in our thoughts and prayers.

“The first step to combatting terrorists is recognizing the motivating force behind their actions. Sadly, our current leadership refuses to do this. While Donald Trump rightly acknowledges the threat radical Islam poses to our values and freedoms, Barack Obama refuses to even recognize radical Islam by name, much less take proper action to defeat it. He is unwilling to kill ISIS fighters abroad and allowing them to metastasize because of his lack of leadership, and Hillary Clinton represents more of the same.

“In his speech today, Donald Trump cited a number of issues with our immigration system that I have been working to address for more than a decade, including fixing dangerous flaws with our visa system and stopping the flow of Syrian refugees into the United States until we can properly vet them. I was also pleased to hear him discuss this issue in terms of not only national security, but also financial security, as illegal immigration depresses wages for legal immigrants and American workers. We need a Commander in Chief who is unafraid to define threats to our country and put forth the policies necessary to protect the American people, not one who bows to political correctness. Donald Trump has once again made clear that he is committed to securing our borders and fighting Islamic extremism.”

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Rep. Lou Barletta considered one of Donald Trump’s ‘most trusted’ members of Congress

By Bill O’Boyle

WILKES-BARRE — When Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, became one of the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, he went against both the Washington establishment and his own party.

Now, Trump has asked Barletta to write a policy paper on illegal immigration. And a Washington Post story claims Barletta is one of Trump’s “most trusted” members of Congress.

“I was one of the first to come out and support Trump before it was popular,” Barletta said. “As a result, (U.S. Rep.) Tom Marino and I were appointed co-chairs of Trump’s campaign in Pennsylvania. His victory in the Pennsylvania Primary was big for him overall and pivotal in Trump going on to secure the nomination.”

Barletta said Trump’s campaign feels a Pennsylvania victory in the November General Election could mean the difference in Trump winning the White House.

In an email, Jon Anzur, Barletta’s campaign manager, said The Washington Post recently published an article naming Barletta and Marino as two of Trump’s most trusted members of Congress.

From The Post story: “Trump insiders say both men’s endorsements were crucial in helping Trump win Pennsylvania in April. That night, you’ll recall, was Trump’s five-state sweep in the Northeastern primary and seemingly the beginning of the end of the Republican nominating contests.

“Barletta is an immigration hard-liner who likes Trump’s idea to build a wall and Marino, who represents a conservative, more rural section of northeastern Pennsylvania, told the online publication Politico endorsing Trump was ‘one of my life-changing moments.’”

The Post story said “Trump’s early endorsers are playing a pivotal role in helping the nominee expand his appeal in Washington. They even hold weekly strategy meetings with Trump’s campaign (that have become standing-room only) to talk policy and politics.”

Barletta said the group meets weekly with Trump’s top campaign people in Washington.

“When we first started, we could have held those meetings in a phone booth,” he said Monday. “Now, we need a bigger room” as 30 to 40 members of Congress attend the meetings.

“They’re starting to rally around Trump,” he said. “Once it became obvious that he would be the Republican nominee, it became safer to affiliate with him.”

Barletta said he knew endorsing Trump would not be popular with GOP leadership and there could be repercussions.

“And now I’ve been asked to write a policy paper on illegal immigration,” Barletta said. “I will be giving it to him soon.”

Barletta said Trump has not made any promises to him, nor has he asked for any favors.

Barletta said illegal immigration has been his top priority since before he was elected to Congress.

“Nobody in Washington has done anything to address this,” Barletta said. “I believe Trump will.”

Barletta feels Trump appreciates how difficult it was for him to go against Republican leadership.

“I was outspoken,” Barletta said. “My endorsement wasn’t a silent endorsement. I didn’t hide. I spoke out.

“I didn’t just dip my toe in the water — I dove in head first and I know he appreciates that,” Barletta added.

Originally published by the Times Leader.

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Barletta giving Trump insight into illegal immigration battle

Originally published in the Citizens’ Voice.

By Bob Kalinowski

After U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta announced a crackdown on illegal immigration in 2005 while mayor of Hazleton, he felt there were few people to turn to for advice.

He doesn’t want Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to be in a similar position as he continues to use illegal immigration as a central focus of his bid for the White House.

Barletta, R-Hazleton, said he is in the middle of drafting a policy position paper for Trump that will include his own dealings with the hot button issue — from Hazleton to Washington, D.C. — and some advice.

While mayor in 2005, Barletta introduced an ordinance targeting landlords that rented to illegal immigrants and businesses that hired them. A federal judge ruled the law was unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court later declined to hear Hazleton’s appeal.

“I was the first mayor in the country to introduce a bill like that. It brought national attention to the issue and we fought it all the way to the Supreme Court. During that time, there wasn’t many people I could turn to for advice. There was no one I could call or ask for advice at the time. I was out there by myself,” Barletta said Friday when asked about the paper he’s preparing for Trump.

Barletta said he was wrongly labeled “anti-immigrant” by members of the media. When he’d talk about illegal immigrants, reporters made it sound like he was talking about all immigrants, he said.

Trump faces the same problem, Barletta said.

Barletta said he started saying “illegal alien” instead to differentiate from legal immigrants.

Barletta was one of Trump’s first supporters in Congress. The congressman said many have talked tough on illegal immigration, but it’s mostly just bluster. He said Trump seems to be the real deal and that’s why Americans are rallying around him.

“The American people are angry,” Barletta said. “If it wasn’t for Donald Trump bringing this issue up, we wouldn’t be having a national discussion.”

Politicians are afraid to deal with illegal immigration but it’s a winner at the ballot box, Barletta said.

When Barletta proposed the ordinance, the city’s population was majority Democrat and had become nearly 50 percent Hispanic, yet he won re-election as mayor in 2007 with 89 percent of the vote, he said.

He acknowledges the issue helped propel him to Congress as well.

It could help put Trump in the White House, Barletta said.

More than a decade after his proposed ordinance, Barletta says illegal immigration has only gotten worse.

He said he’s proposed bills in Congress to penalize so-called “sanctuary cities” and crack down on foreigners who overstay travel visas, but there is little will in Congress to act.

A Trump presidency and a Republican Congress might finally make progress on the issue, Barletta said.

“I endorsed Trump early on before many were even thinking of doing it, so I developed a relationship with the campaign and the Trumps and I am going to do all I can to make him president,” Barletta said.

Barletta said he meets with Trump’s campaign weekly and plans to deliver his paper to them next week. Whether Trump follows the advice is to be determined, Barletta said.

“I won’t be offended if he doesn’t want my advice,” Barletta said.

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Guest Editorial: Attack on electrical grid could cripple economy

By Rep. Lou Barletta (PA-11)

It was like something from a Hollywood movie, but it was real. At about 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 23, a computer in an electricity distribution center in western Ukraine seemed to take on a life of its own.

While a helpless worker watched, the cursor on the screen moved by itself and clicked on a box that opened a series of circuit breakers — a move that would take the entire power station offline.

When a dialogue box appeared asking for confirmation of the command, the ghostly cursor moved again and completed the action. Reaching frantically for the mouse, the worker tried to abort what was happening, but the computer was being controlled from elsewhere. In all, about 30 substations were taken out of commission and 225,000 customers were suddenly cut off from the power supply. It marked what is believed to be the world’s first successful cyber-attack on a nation’s power grid.

What happened is ominous because it reminded us that we should not believe ourselves immune to such an attack, even in the United States. A cyberattack on the power grid could leave millions of residents and key physical locations without power for an extended period of time. It is a discouraging fact that unlike every other hazard we are likely to face, from hurricanes to earthquakes and chemical attacks to space weather, there is no specific planning scenario to help state and local governments prepare for an extensive blackout.

This prompts a blizzard of questions: How long will the power be out? How many people will be impacted? What backups need to be in place to protect our citizens?

With this in mind, I hosted an April hearing on the consequences of a massive, coordinated attack on the electrical grid, in my role as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management.

We asked our witnesses from the Department of Energy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to provide the realistic timeframe for which we should be prepared for the power to be out. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was clear, saying, “Planning needs to be measured in weeks.” The other witnesses agreed.

As a former mayor of my hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, I know that localities will be on the front lines during a widespread, lengthy outage and will be tasked with handling much of the response. While our subcommittee witnesses tried to assure us that there were numerous efforts underway to help prepare state and local governments for the unthinkable, the mayors and local elected officials I frequently talk to feel they do not have all the information they need to prepare for such a catastrophe. We must be ready to deal with disruptions in telecommunications, water and waste treatment, healthcare delivery, financial services and transportation.

There is no question that good communication is vital during the reaction to a disaster, but it is also critical when crafting a response strategy in advance. Since I believe that all disasters are local events, it is important that we tie in localities with states and the federal government so that the greatest coordination can be achieved. All levels of government must cooperate and anticipate all types of disasters.

The FBI and the Homeland Security Department are hosting briefings for local governments, law enforcement, and energy companies to discuss and develop strategies for mitigating risk and providing better defense. In addition, I have been meeting with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. These national organizations have committed to identify initiatives that cut across all levels of government and create plans we can put in the hands of officials at the state and local levels.

Some pre-planning has already been undertaken, such as exercises conducted by NERC and PPL — one of the largest electric utilities in the nation. At our hearing, PPL President and CEO Bill Spence told of regular internal exercises and external drills with other utilities to practice their responses to various disaster scenarios. By extending this training by linking up state and local officials to the utilities, relationships will be formed, information will be shared, and efforts will be maximized.

If the goal of terrorists is to collapse our economy, then shutting down our electrical grid is where they would start. Most troubling is the possibility that a cyberattack would be accompanied by a physical terrorist attack, a scenario that promises true havoc, panic and loss of life. The great challenge is that the threat continues to evolve, which only means that we are forced to evolve with it and be prepared for it.

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta represents Pennsylvania’s 11th District

Originally published by the Carlisle Sentinel.

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Barletta bill aimed at saving taxpayers $500 million a year passes House

A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta that he says could save taxpayers at least $500 million a year was approved Monday by the House of Representatives.

H.R. 4487, the Public Buildings Reform and Savings Act of 2016, would reform the handling of federal office space and real estate. It passed the House on a voice vote and now heads to the Senate for its consideration.

“Within five years, half of all federal leases will expire,” Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, said in a news release. “How we replace these leases has a huge impact on the costs to the taxpayer.

To offer perspective, Barletta said the government leases 100 million square feet of space, which is equivalent to 32 new World Trade Centers in New York. More than half of that is in commercial leased space, he said, costing the taxpayers more than $5.5 billion each year.

The legislation increases accountability and oversight of the agency responsible for securing and protecting thousands of federal buildings.

Barletta said it could result in a 20 percent reduction in lease costs and save taxpayers more than $500 million annually, even without accounting for savings through reductions in space.

The bill also includes language that would give the General Services Administration a better ability, where appropriate, to use public-private partnerships to meet space needs, leveraging private dollars to offset costs.

“When we reduce the amount of office space agencies are leasing, it directly reduces the costs to the taxpayer,” Barletta said. “And, with the large number of leases expiring in the near future, we now have a ripe opportunity to save even more by negotiating better rental rates and concessions.”

Barletta is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management.

Read more here.

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Barletta seeks to control cost of federal disaster responses

(Washington, D.C.) — A Congressman from Pennsylvania is spearheading an effort to ensure that spending for federal disaster responses is both necessary and cost-effective.

Republican Congressman Lou Barletta is the author of a bill to reform disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

He says disaster losses have grown considerably over the last 30 years, with FEMA spending 178 billion dollars for over 1,300 presidential disaster declarations.

However, Barletta says the sheer number of disasters is not alone responsible for the cost.

“75 percent of all declared disasters account for only 7 percent of costs.  In other words, we could eliminate three quarters of all federally declared disasters and barely cut 7 percent of federal disaster spending,” he said.

Barletta’s bill passed the House of Representatives in February. He’s hoping to continue the discussion into ways to make sure federal disaster assistance is delivered quickly and efficiently.

Read more here.

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Barletta bill protecting opioid addicted newborns unanimously passed in U.S. House

WASHINGTON, DC – In a rare unanimous vote, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation from Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) protecting opioid-addicted newborns and their caregivers. The Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act (H.R. 4843), which Barletta authored with Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), requires that states which receive federal funds for child protective services comply with federal law and enact certain guidelines for the welfare of children exposed to opioids. The category of opioids includes a variety of pain medications or other drugs, such as heroin.

The legislation does not seek to persecute the mothers of the children, so as not to dissuade parents from allowing their newborns to access appropriate care. The bill passed the House by a bipartisan, unanimous vote of 421-to-0.

“Every 25 minutes in America, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal. It’s an eye-opening statistic, and the more you consider what it really means, the more tragic it becomes,” Barletta said. “Every 25 minutes, a child enters the world having already been exposed to drugs. Every 25 minutes, a newborn has to pay the price for something he or she was defenseless against. Every 25 minutes, another infant becomes a victim of the national opioid crisis. These are the victims this bill will help protect.”

“Through a number of commonsense measures, this bill strengthens protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure, improves accountability related to the care of infants and their families, and ensures states will have best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe,” Barletta said. “These are commonsense reforms we should all embrace. By working together and advancing this legislation, we help ensure these children, mothers, and their families have the help they need and the care they deserve.”

This legislation would:

— Require the department of Health and Human Services to review and confirm states have put in place policies required under the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).

— Strengthen protections for infants born with illegal substance exposure by clarifying the intent of safe care plans.

— Improve accountability related to the care of infants and their families by requiring additional information on the incidents of infants born with illegal substance exposure and their care.

— Provide states with best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe.

— Encourage the use of information made available through other child welfare laws in verifying CAPTA compliance.

CAPTA was enacted in 1974 to coordinate federal efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. The law provides states with resources to improve their child protective services systems. In order to receive funds under CAPTA, states are required to assure the Department of Health and Human Services that they have implemented certain child welfare policies. Such policies include requiring health care providers to notify state child protective services agencies when a child is born with prenatal illegal substance exposure, as well as requiring the development of a “safe care plan” to protect these newborns and keep them and their caregivers healthy. A recent Reuters investigation revealed some states are receiving federal funds without having the necessary policies in place, resulting in shocking and deadly consequences.

Read more here.

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