Friday, June 15, 2018

Pallone Demands Answers from HHS on Its Ability to Care for Children in Custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement

June 14, 2018

“I am extremely troubled by reports that ORR is considering housing them in ‘tent cities’ at military bases in Texas”

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) sent a letter today to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar expressing grave concerns about the health and safety of children in the custody of HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). ORR is the department responsible for caring for children who enter the United States without immigration status and parent or legal guardians to care for or take custody of them.

The letter comes as the number of children in the custody of ORR has reportedly surged in recent weeks due to the Trump Administration’s recently-implemented “zero tolerance” policy forcibly separating all minors, including very young children, from their family members. Amid the influx of children in ORR’s custody, new reports claim ORR is considering housing children in “tent cities” on military bases in Texas.

I have serious questions about ORR’s ability to care for these children. In particular, I am extremely troubled by reports that ORR is considering housing them in ‘tent cities’ at military bases in Texas.” Pallone wrote to Azar. “These children are exceptionally vulnerable, and may suffer irreparable harm, in addition to the trauma they have already suffered, if they are not cared for properly.

Reports indicate that HHS shelters are currently operating at 95 percent capacity, housing as many as 11,200 children – a sharp increase from 8,886 in April of this year – and it is unclear whether HHS has adequate staff and resources to provide necessities, such as routine medical and dental care, to all children in its custody.

Pallone is also particularly concerned about the welfare of the very young children in custody who have been separated from their parents and whether ORR shelters are equipped to care for their needs, the amount of time children are being held in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) holding stations, and whether ORR is holding all children in “the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child,” as it is required by law to do.

Pallone is requesting a briefing from HHS for Committee staff no later than June 21, 2018 to explain how the Department is addressing the multitude of custody issues arising from ORR’s involvement in the matter, and a response to a series of questions by July 5, 2018, including:

  • Did the Department of Justice or the Department of Homeland Security consult with ORR or perform any analysis of ORR’s ability to absorb additional child migrants prior to implementation of the “zero-tolerance” policy? If so, please provide copies of this analysis.
  • How does ORR track the minors in its care?
  • Does ORR currently have sufficient supplies and employees or contractors available to care for the physical needs of all very young children in its custody?
  • How does ORR track children released to sponsors to ensure that they may be reunited with their parents or guardians when those parents or guardians are released from custody?
  • Has ORR delayed accepting children into its custody from CBP for any reason, including the availability of shelter beds or capacity? If so, how many children have been impacted?
  • According to reports, a substantial number of children who were previously held in secure custody have been transferred to regular ORR shelters, but have not been released to sponsors because the current director of ORR, Scott Lloyd, has not personally cleared them for such release. Identify the number of children in this category, and explain the process by which Lloyd determines whether to children will be released. How many children are in this category?

The letter is available HERE.

Pallone Blasts GOP on Attempts to Force Offshore Drilling in NJ

Congressman Frank Pallone went to House floor to let Republicans know what New Jerseyans think of their plan to fine NJ for banning #drilling off the Shore.

- Mr. Speaker, House Republicans have taken their appalling assault on New Jersey to new lows.

· The Natural Resources Committee is considering legislation that would penalize states like New Jersey, who have had the courage and foresight to block drilling in state waters.

· What House Republicans don’t realize is that New Jerseyans will never be blackmailed into accepting drilling miles away from our $38 billion a year tourism industry. We know the damage that the BP oil spill did to communities on the Gulf Coast, and we will stop at nothing to prevent it off New Jersey’s shores.

· The Trump administration offered the largest offshore drilling plan ever last year, but even the President understands the true dangers of drilling. We know this because he excluded drilling off Florida’s waters, at the request of his political allies there.

· Republicans understand the risks of offshore drilling yet they are all too happy to subject coastal communities throughout our country to the risks.

· So much for state’s rights.

· Mr. Speaker, New Jerseyans have a long memory and we will never forget this assault on our economy and our way of life.

WATERSPIRIT's Summer Solstice Celebration Wednesday, June 20th 7:00pm - 8:30pm

Sunday, June 10, 2018

BOE Voting Meeting - 5/23/18

I haven't watched this video of the May 23rd, 2018 meeting of the Middletown Board of Education just yet but I intend to do so soon. It's only an hour long so there are no excuses (haha).

You can find the various Agendas for this meeting ..... HERE

Other videos from previous meeting can be found .... HERE

Video: Maguire & Walsh For Township Committee

If you haven't seen this video, you should. Two excellent candidates for Middletown Township Committee and two even better people.

May 21, 2018 Middletown Township Committee Meeting

I'm a little late posting this (it's been a rough month so far), but really all you need to see from the May 21st meeting of the Middletown Township Committee video happened during Public Comments.

During this portion of the meeting Tricia Maguire stood in front of the Township Committee, as a concerned citizen, discuss the township's master plan for redevelopment and the impact that the Village 35 project will have on Middletown.  Ms. Maguire was berated and ridiculed for her comments by the the Township Attorney and others sitting on the dais.     

After Tricia Maguire stepped away from the podium, the next speaker took offense to how Maguire was spoken to and stated how he would never let anyone speak to his wife that way, while pointing at Brain Nelson, the Township Attorney. Our acting mayor, Stephanie Murray then chimed in, excusing Nelson's behavior by stating that Maguire's statement was politically charged and that she was running for office, which in and of itself, is reprehensible on Murray's part.

No one deserves to be spoken to from the dais that way regardless whether or not they are seeking office.  I've witnessed many times in the past, residents being disrespected by our elected (and appointed) officials on the dais, both in person and on video.  There is no excuse for it.

Other buisness included:
  • An ordinance was adopted to fund preliminary expenses relating to the new municipal complex that is being planned. This ordinance appropriates $250K for this purpose.
  • The other 3 ordinances that were introduced at the previous meeting, on May 7 were not brought forward for action.
  • Members of the public came forward to inquire about different aspects of the Village 35 project. The Committee did not answer any direct questions due to pending litigation with this project.
As always you can download a copy of the Meeting Agenda that contains the discussion items and the proposed resolutions and ordinances that were voted on or presented during the meeting. A box around an item is a link, bringing you further into the document to that resolution or ordinance. At the end of the resolution there will be a link bringing you back to the agenda. Attached to this agenda is also the monthly bill list, so that everyone can see how the Township is spending our tax dollars.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Letter: Middletown Elected Officials Censoring & Blocking Residents On Social Media

The expressed opinions or views of this letter does not necessarily represent the opinion of the MiddletownMike blog. 

Dear Editor,

I would like to call your attention to abuse of social media by Middletown Township Committee Members. When social media platforms are used for Township business, or under the banner of the Township Committee, then it is highly inappropriate to censor and block residents from commenting and engaging in dialogue.

I believe Township residents should be aware that Middletown Township elected officials are censoring first amendment rights and that this practice is not permitted. There have been numerous rulings on this issue at a federal and state level; residents should engage with the NJ State League of Municipalities as referenced below to review the bulletin published by them in the last month; and should report abuse of social media by elected officials at all levels to the contact provided.

Kind regards

Pauline Hynes
Middletown, NJ

Pallone & Markey Introduce Bills to Stop Robocalls

June 7, 2018

An Estimated 18 Billion Unwanted Calls Were Placed in the U.S. in 2017

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today introduced the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act (H.R. 6026) in the House of Representatives to stop abusive robocall practices. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced similar legislation in the Senate today as well.

Pallone’s bill would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enact strong consumer protections for authorized calls and empower the FCC with strong enforcement tools to reign in robocallers. The legislation would also ensure that consumers have the ability to stop calls they’d previously authorized, and require incoming calls to have authentic caller identification information before they are delivered to customers.

“There is nothing more annoying than repeatedly getting unwanted calls from people you don’t know and don’t want to talk to,” Pallone said. “Despite previous efforts like the Do Not Call Registry, robocalls are on the rise. The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act will better restrict unauthorized robocalls by providing consumer protection agencies with new tools designed to stop the abusive practices robocallers are employing.”

Last year, an estimated 18 billion unwanted calls were placed in the U.S., which represents a 76 percent increase in unwanted calls over the previous year. The staggering number of unwanted calls are returning huge profit margins for robocallers with every dollar spent by robocallers returning as much as $20 profit—a 2,000 percent profit margin. Though some robocalls are initiated by legitimate companies, robocalls are also used by scammers to steal from consumers, with more than 22 million Americans losing a total of $9.5 billion in robocall scams in 2016 alone.

“Whether at home or on their mobile phones, consumers should not be subject to intrusive and unsolicited calls,” said Senator Markey, the author of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. “While telephone technology has changed, that key goal has not. I am proud to join Ranking Member Pallone in introducing this legislation, clarifying the FCC’s obligation to strengthen the precious zone of privacy and control that has protected consumers from unwanted calls and texts for decades.”

The Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would curb the rise of robocalls by:

  • Amending the TCPA to ensure that the FCC has the authority and the tools to take strong, quick action when they track down robocallers;
  • Allowing consumers to revoke consent they’d previously given to receive calls at any time and in any reasonable manner;
  • Creating a reassigned number database to put robocallers on notice when a telephone number they may have previously been authorized to call has been given to a new customer who hasn’t authorized their call;
  • Limiting the number of robocalls exempted from the TCPA under the FCC’s rules;
  • Requiring calls to have verified caller identification information associated with a call before the call can be put through; and
  • Extending the statute of limitations from one year to four years for callers violating robocall prohibitions.

Section-by-Section available HERE.

Bill text available HERE.

Pallone Announces Forthcoming NIH Study on Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

June 7, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Today, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) released a letter from National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins announcing the agency will ask the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to conduct a study on Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Use Disorder (OUD). The announcement comes in response to a request from Pallone earlier this year asking NIH for a review of all available evidence on the use of MAT for treating opioid addiction.

“The National Institutes of Health and the rest of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are in full agreement about the importance of and continued need for aggressive research and dissemination efforts about Medication Assisted Treatment,” Director Collins wrote to Pallone. “This is the only way to ensure that patients and providers have the knowledge to make fully informed decisions about which treatment options are best for them and their patients.”

Dr. Collins continued, “To address a number of the questions in your letter, NIH will ask the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct a study on MAT for Opioid Use Disorder. Our hope is that this approach will take full advantage of the National Academies’ reputation for independent, expert advice on pressing scientific and medical issues.”

In his letter, Director Collins also announced that NASEM will convene a public meeting with an array of government agencies and stakeholders as part of their comprehensive review of Medication Assisted Treatment for opioid addiction.

“I am grateful NIH and Director Collins accepted my request to conduct a comprehensive review of all available evidence on the use of Medication Assisted Treatment to address opioid use disorders,” Pallone said. “Despite MAT being an invaluable tool in our response to the opioid crisis, misunderstanding and suspicion of this life-saving treatment continues to persist. This review will play a vital role in increasing public awareness and understanding of the lifesaving role MAT plays in treating opioid use disorder. Efforts such as this are important to reversing this tragic epidemic taking the lives of more than 115 Americans each day.”

Medication Assisted Treatment combines the use of medications along with behavioral therapy to treat substance use disorder. For example, medications such as Buprenorphine, Methadone, and Naltrexone are all Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved to treat people struggling with an opioid use disorder.

Read NIH’s letter HERE.

Read Pauline’s letter HERE


Monday, June 4, 2018

WASHINGTON – Following is a statement from APA President Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, on the Supreme Court ruling on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case:

“The American Psychological Association is disappointed in the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Although the court affirmed that gay individuals and couples cannot be treated as social outcasts and recognized the importance of respecting others’ religious beliefs, those beliefs should not be used as a basis to discriminate against and stigmatize members of the LGBTQ community.

“The APA has a longstanding commitment to countering discrimination against any group, since the discipline of psychology is dedicated to promoting well-being and safeguarding against threats to that well-being.

“Research shows that sexual minority individuals exhibit higher rates of physical and mental health problems than do heterosexuals — including depression, substance use disorders and cardiovascular disease. Evidence suggests that the continued stressors experienced by the LGBTQ community as a result of discrimination and stigma are significant contributors to these disparities.

“APA filed an amicus brief in support of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission advising the Supreme Court of the scientific literature showing that homosexuality is generally not chosen and is highly resistant to change; discrimination against sexual minorities is pervasive; and the stigma associated with this type of discrimination can lead to significant health disparities. APA’s brief also explained the basis and need for states enacting anti-discrimination provisions for LGBTQ people, which supports the Civil Rights Commission’s argument that the courts should not permit exemptions from these generally applicable anti-discrimination laws.

“APA is relieved that the Supreme Court reaffirmed that states can prevent discrimination in the marketplace, despite its decision based on concerns unique to this case.

“Public policies contribute to social environments, worsening or alleviating the stigma of being a sexual or gender minority. APA advocates for a supportive climate characterized by policies granting equal rights and prohibiting discrimination, which reduce stigma and stress, thereby serving a protective role for mental and physical health.”

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

Pallone on Latest Facebook Privacy Reports

June 4, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) released the following statement today after new reports disclosed that Facebook gave phone and electronic device makers access to vast amounts of user data:

“It’s deeply concerning that Facebook continues to withhold critical details about the information it has and shares with others. This is just the latest example of Facebook only coming forward when forced to do so by a media outlet. Our Committee is also still waiting for a lot of answers from Facebook to questions Mr. Zuckerberg could not or would not answer at our hearing. The Federal Trade Commission must conduct a full review to determine if the consent decree was violated. Facebook and other data collectors, including these device manufacturers, should be prepared to come before Congress so that we can get a better grasp of the entire data collection ecosystem, and how people’s personal information is being shared and used.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the Energy and Commerce Committee in April following reports that the company allowed third party app developers widespread access to millions of users’ personal information. Following the hearing, Committee Democrats sent hundreds of follow up questions to Facebook. Facebook has yet to respond to the Democrats’ questions.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Memorial Day's True Meaning

Andy Rooney explains the true meaning of Memorial Day, honoring those who did not give their lives, but had them taken.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Appellate Court ruling: No residency requirement for OPRA

May 16, 2018

An Appellate Court ruled today that the right to request records under the state's Open Public Records Act (OPRA) is not limited to New Jersey residents. The ruling upheld a lower court opinion in Burlington County and reversed lower courts in Cape May and Atlantic Counties. The three cases were consolidated for the purpose of the Appellate Court's review.

An excerpt from the 5/16/2018 Appellate Court opinion:

"We conclude that the reference to "citizens" — found in N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 and nowhere else in OPRA — expresses the Legislature's general intent to make New Jersey government records open to the public, rather than expressing an intent to limit access to only New Jersey residents or domiciliaries. Because the more specific provisions of OPRA refer to "any person," and because OPRA is to be construed broadly to achieve the Legislature's over-arching goal of making public records freely available, we conclude that the right to request records under OPRA is not limited to "citizens" of New Jersey."

Today's Appellate Court ruling has statewide application. See NJFOG's website here for background.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Pallone and Doyle on Passage of Senate Net Neutrality CRA

May 16, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Ranking Member Mike Doyle (D-PA) issued the following statements today after the Senate passed legislation to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s order eliminating Net Neutrality:

“I congratulate the Senate on taking a giant step to restore real net neutrality back to the American people,” Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. said. “Beltway insiders and special interests said that we would never get this far, but ultimately the American people understand how important net neutrality is. Now the public will hold those of us in the House accountable for whether we support net neutrality or not. That’s why I encourage my colleagues in the House to listen to the American people, force a vote on Ranking Member Doyle’s resolution, and send it to the President’s desk.”

“The Senate vote is a major step forward in the fight to preserve Net Neutrality – and a great victory for the millions of Americans who use the internet,” Communications and Technology Ranking Member Mike Doyle said. “But the fight isn’t over. We’ve got to get this bill through the House as well in order to overturn the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality. With the Majority Leadership in the House opposed to this bill, the only way to bring it before the full House for a vote is through a discharge petition. Under the rules of the House, a bill must be brought to the House Floor for a vote if a majority of Representatives sign a discharge petition demanding it. I’m filing a discharge petition to force a vote on the legislation to save Net Neutrality, and we just need to get a majority of Representatives to sign it. I’m sure that every Member of the House will want to know where their constituents stand on this issue”