Thursday, July 3, 2008

Guest Blog from Georgia Congressional Candidate

I am glad to post guest blogs from candidates, so if you are running for office, and would like to post here, send your post to me at amymorton@aol.com. I will post it as you send it. Please welcome to the conversation Doug Heckman, who is running for Congress in Georgia's 7th district:

My name is Doug Heckman, and I am running for U.S. Congress in Georgia’s 7th District. My district includes Gwinnett, Walton, and Barrow Counties, as well as small parts of Newton and Forsyth Counties. I would like to express my sincere thanks to Amy Morton for permitting me to appear on her blog.

Allow me to briefly introduce myself. My wife Pat and I have lived in Gwinnett County for 17 years with our three children. Our family is active at Simpsonwood United Methodist Church. I am a Colonel in the US Army Reserves and a Green Beret; I served in Afghanistan from 2001-2002 and in Iraq from 2006-2007. Additionally, I have an MBA from Duke and have worked in the financial services industry for 20 years. My proven track record of success with my family, military, and business endeavors shows how effective I will be as your Congressman.

Today, I will discuss two issues: the No Child Left Behind Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I will begin with No Child Left Behind.

Education is the silver bullet for so many of our nation’s problems. Our efforts to build a “land of opportunity” can succeed only if our public schools give every child the chance to realize his or her potential. Furthermore, our country’s status as an economic and military power rests on our students’ ability to keep pace with students from every other country. Therefore, our national government must make it the highest priority to help states improve public education.

Our national government must help state governments fully fund our public schools, but the NCLB Act has never been adequately funded. This year’s federal budget for NCLB is $24.5 billion—which sounds impressive until you consider that the Gwinnett County Public Schools alone operate on nearly $2 billion each year. The law requires schools to set benchmarks for improvement like never before, but schools are given no additional funds to help make this happen. Only the very poorest schools receive any federal money at all through “Title I” funds. This situation fails students, hurts teachers’ and administrators’ morale, and makes unreasonably difficult each school’s task of achieving its required “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP).

Many groups of professional educators have submitted plans to improve the NCLB Act, including the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Aspen Institute, and the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. Congress needs to pay attention to what large groups of experts say about education legislation. For instance, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) says it “has long championed the principles underlying the No Child Left Behind Act” but criticizes the Act for sticking to a flawed AYP formula and failing to support educators. The AFT says that the $70.9 billion “short-changed” to the Act since 2002 would help solve many of the Act’s problems. Other organizations offer different criticisms and solutions, but here is the bottom line: Congress must fully fund whatever reforms it passes, or the promise of opportunity will remain un-kept for many students.

On to the next topic: FISA. When the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) became law in 1978, our legislators knew they were exploring territory well beyond our Founding Fathers’ imaginations. The challenge, our legislators knew, would be to safeguard our country in a new age of electronic communications while guaranteeing the civil liberties we had come to cherish over the past two centuries. Legal experts now agree that President George W. Bush crossed the line in 2005 when he authorized surveillance not allowed either by FISA or by Congress’s post-September 11 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF). This year, Congress is considering the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a bill designed to prevent this sort of executive overreach from happening in the future.

I believe Congress should pass this bill for several reasons. This bill clarifies what kinds of surveillance are legal and what court procedures must be followed for the National Security Agency to obtain warrants for surveillance. This bill ensures—as Senator Obama said recently—that “somebody's watching the watchers.” At the same time, it ensures that the NSA can efficiently obtain surveillance and keep America secure.

I also support provisions in this bill which would grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies that unwittingly broke the law when they cooperated with the President’s surveillance programs. These companies should have been more careful in their compliance, but it is now clear that they may not have been reasonably expected to know the President’s programs were probably against the law (as evaluated by most legal scholars, but not all). Our Congress should focus on preventing future mistakes, not punishing past ones committed under questionable circumstances. The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 upholds that focus.

I would like to reiterate my thanks to Amy Morton for hosting me and to her subscribers for reading my blog entry. I also invite you all to help me prepare for the task of serving as your Congressman. It is critically important for a Congressman to represent the interests of his constituents; therefore, I hope you will visit my website (www.dougheckman.com), learn about me, and contact me with your ideas and concerns (Doug@DougHeckman.com). Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you in the coming weeks.

2 comments:

24thIndependent said...

Wow. Doug Heckman hasn't read the FISA Amendments Act, has he?

Look at page 77 of the law. On that page is just one of many instances that set up a system in which NOBODY is watching the watchers - except the watchers themselves.

Under the FISA Amendments Act, the Attorney General of the United States runs the spy operations against the American people, and also has the ability to serve as the ONLY person in all the government to certify that the spying is done in accordance with the law.

Heckman's support for this poorly written, abusive, unconstitutional law does not impress me.

Amy Morton said...

He left me on FISA, too.