Jan 20 2006

Congressional representatives visit Clarke constituents

Clarke County Democrat

By Evan Carden

 

Alabama’s U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby said while he differs with President George W. Bush on some issues, he totally supports the president’s efforts to keep the U.S. safe from foreign terrorists.

“Concerning Iraq, the worst thing we could do would be to follow the lead of senators Howard Dean and Ted Kennedy to pull out early,” said the Republican senator during his visit to Jackson last Thursday. “We better wake up. We have a struggle on our hands. I completely support the president’s plan.”

Shelby discussed the controversy surrounding the administration’s wire tapping, the legality of which has recently become a huge issue of debate among members of Congress.

“I don’t think you and I have to worry that our conversations are being tapped,” said Shelby, who is serving his 20th year in the U.S. Senate. “What the National Security Agency (NSA) is looking for is unusual chatter between the U.S. and places known for harboring terrorists. They are listening for anything that may point to or elude to suspected terrorist activities that might threaten us here at home.”

Jackson City Councilman Paul South agreed with Shelby ’s assessment.

“I don’t care if they (the NSA) are tapping phones, as long as it makes it safe for me to walk down the street,” he said.

While Shelby said he agrees with Bush on the efforts to protect American citizens from terrorist attacks, he disagrees with the president’s views on immigration.

“I am for legal immigration, but at the same time I believe we should enforce immigration laws,” he said, referring to Bush’s proposal to give illegal immigrants temporary work status inside the U.S. “There are 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States . How many of those are would-be terrorists? We should do more to secure our borders.”

Senior citizens drug program

The senator fielded questions concerning the federal governments new prescription drug program for senior citizens and the confusion it has caused for many.

“The Idea behind the new drug program is to give senior’s a choice when buying medicines,” he said. “Some parts of it are difficult for many to sort out, when it comes to choosing the plan that is right for them. The program should be designed where seniors can understand it.”

The Economy

Shelby, who serves on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee said he has secured $400 million of earmarked money for Alabama .

He said the money is earmarked to be used in certain ways to ensure it is not wasted.

Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day thanked Shelby for helping secure funds for projects in the region, such as the widening of a portion of U.S. Highway 84 from Monroeville to the I-65 exchange near Evergreen and the inmate transition facility in Thomasville .

“I am not interested in wasting money,” said Shelby . “I am interested in helping you help yourselves.”

He went on to point out that the national unemployment rate is at its lowest point in years and Alabama ’s is at it’s lowest since the mid-1970s.

“One thing I think about constantly is doing no harm to the economy and keeping it strong,” Shelby said. “That includes not wasting money and reducing the national deficit.”

Shelby has been a strong supporter of doing away with the national income tax and creating a flat tax system to replace it, a move he says would put more money in the pockets of American workers.

“I am for smaller government,” he said. “Two-thirds of the federal government’s budget is automatic spending. One-third is discretionary spending. We do harm to our children when we keep borrowing money.”

Education

“The majority of engineering degrees at our universities are being earned by foreign students,” Shelby said, when broaching the subject of education. “We need to revamp engineering programs at Alabama universities. We must learn to spot the talent of our children and develop it.”

Several in attendance brought up the problems with the No Child Left Behind program facing local school systems and the difficulty in meeting all of its requirements in order to continue to receive federal funds.

“I think the program needs some revamping,” said Shelby in his response. “I think we have not funded it enough and it needs to be more flexible. It’s time that teachers be allowed to go back to teaching.”

Law enforcement

Local District Attorney Spencer Walker agreed with Shelby on his assessment that funding and drugs are the largest problems facing law enforcement. He said in recent years, the biggest fight has been the illegal manufacturing of methamphetamine.

Shelby said he will continue to help secure funding for drug enforcement programs. He recently secured $400,000 for law enforcement programs in Alabama .

“Today our kids are exposed to drugs more than they used to be,” said Shelby . “They constantly see it in the media and it is more available to them in today’s society. We must continue our fight by enforcing creating laws and creating new ones that make it more difficult for the importation and manufacture of illegal substances.”