Today’s Congressional odds and ends

miller.jpgCrossing the Miller Bridge: Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, this week introduced Assembly Concurrent Resolution 62, which would name the new northbound span of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge in honor of House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D- Martinez.
“This only begins to convey our gratitude for Congressman Miller’s years of service,” DeSaulnier said. “George has worked tirelessly for the people of Contra Costa, and this nation, for over three decades without seeking the spotlight.”
It’s also sorta poetic, as the bridge would link the Contra Costa County and Solano County portions of Miller’s district.
DeSaulnier notes that Miller, first elected to Congress in 1974, has authored key laws on environmental protection, energy policy, child care, mental health, aid to victims of domestic violence and numerous education reforms. And he’s been an advocate for Contra Costa County’s transportation needs as well, whether pushing for BART extensions or widening Highway 4.
“Many improvements in public transportation and infrastructure in my district could not have happened without the hard work and dedication of George Miller,” DeSaulnier said. “It was Congressman Miller who led the federal-state partnership that met the immense environmental and technical challenges associated with the Benicia-Martinez Bridge.”

mcnerneyportrait.jpgMcNerney to meet with VA secretary: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, has scheduled a July 12 meeting with Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson to discuss the availability of services at the French Camp Outpatient Clinic and maintaining the current level of service at the Livermore Veterans Affairs Medical Center, plus the possibility of opening a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder clinic at Livermore.
McNerney had written to Nicholson last month asking for the meeting because he was concerned the Livermore hospital’s closure might be imminent. He sent a follow-up letter today outlining his concerns about PTSD in light of the Washington Post’s ongoing investigation of insufficient treatment.

eshoo.jpgLawmakers decry passport backlog: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and 42 other California House members wrote today to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, calling for immediate action to eliminate the massive passport application backlog causing hardships for millions of U.S. travelers.
“Our passport system is in meltdown,” Eshoo said. “Despite having two years to prepare for its new security rule, the Bush Administration isn’t even close to being ready to enable Americans to secure the passports they need to comply. This is an urgent problem for Californians and Americans across the country who travel internationally for business and vacation, and it deserves an urgent response from the Administration.”
A new security rule requiring Americans to have passports to travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean took effect on January 23rd, two years after it was first announced. Despite the long lead time, the U.S. State Department now has a backlog of 3 million passport applications, including 500,000 that were submitted over three months ago. Processing time has doubled from six weeks to three months. The State Department has temporarily relaxed the North American air rule until September 30th to let travelers fly from the United States with a valid government-issued photo I.D., such as a driver’s license, as well as proof of having applied for a passport.
Eshoo’s letter recommends opening more passport processing centers across the country and enabling “qualified travelers” to renew their passports on-line. Besides Eshoo, 27 other Democrats and 15 Republicans signed the letter. Local signatories included Miller and McNerney as well as Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.