August Congressional Update
August 4, 2008

Dear Friend,

It is a pleasure to update you on my work in Congress.  This pass week my colleagues and I in the House of Representatives passed two pieces of legislation that would improve product safety and veterans’ benefits.  Also included in this E-Newsletter are important reminders about the upcoming Digital Television Transition and the upcoming deadline for claiming your rebate check.  Please read below for more information on all of these issues.


CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY REFORM


As you know, keeping our families and children safe has been a top priority for this Congress, especially given recent concerns regarding imported products ranging from children’s toys to prescription drugs.  Millions of products are imported from around the world, including China, every year and Congress has been working to ensure that products entering the United States do not contain harmful chemicals.  On July 30, 2008 the House of Representatives passed the conference report on H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act of 2007.  This bipartisan conference agreement would authorize $626 million for the Consumer Product Safety Commission in fiscal years 2010 through 2014.  The measure also permanently bans three types of phthalate chemicals used in products intended for use by children because of links to potential developmental problems.  In addition, the bill would enhance recalls, prohibit the sale of recalled products, and would speed up public warnings for dangerous products.  Lead levels would also be lowered to the lowest level technically feasible in products for children under the age of 12, and the bill would enhance toy safety requirements.  For information regarding product safety, recalls, or to report an unsafe product, please contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission at: www.cpsc.gov.


MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, VETERANS AFFAIRS, and RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS


On July 31, 2008, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6599, the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations for FY 2009, by a vote of 409 to 4.  This bill provides $118.7 billion for military construction and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), $3.4 billion more than the president's request. The measure provides $40.7 billion for VA health programs and $5 billion for VA hospitals and other medical facilities. H.R. 6599 also appropriates $500 million for medical and prosthetics research, as well as $3.8 billion for mental health care for veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries.  This funding for the VA is critical to the 545,000 veterans in New Jersey and those veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  In addition, the military construction portion of the bill would increase spending on military construction by 18 percent, providing $11.7 billion, which will go towards base closing expenses, as well as construction and improvements to family and military personnel housing.

Are you ready for the Digital Television (DTV) Transition?

On February 17, 2009 all TV broadcast stations will begin broadcasting exclusively in digital format.  If your analog TV is not connected to cable or another video service and instead receives a picture via “rabbit ears” or a rooftop antenna, it will stop receiving local broadcast TV signals as of February 17, 2009.

In order to continue to receive broadcast signals for your analog TV, you will need to do one of the following:
• Purchase a digital converter box to use with your current TV (Federal government coupons to subsidize the purchase of converters are available at www.dtv2009.gov on a first-come, first-serve basis);
• Purchase a new digital TV; or
• Connect your analog TV to the service provided by your local cable company or another video service provider.

If you do not subscribe to cable and would like to continue to use your analog TV, you will need to purchase a digital-to-analog converter.  The federal government is helping to offset the cost of these converters by providing discount coupons.  The program, now in effect, allows each household to apply for up to two coupons, each of which provides a $40 discount off the price of a converter.  The converters are expected to retail anywhere between $40-$70.  The coupons will be good for 90 days from the date of issue and can be used at electronics retail stores.  To request a voucher either call the Coupon Program 24-hour hotline at 1-888-DTV-2009, or visit https://www.dtv2009.gov .

For more information on the broadcast DTV transition, please check out the following websites:
• http://www.dtvanswers.com/
• www.dtv.gov
• www.dtvtransition.org
• www.getreadyfordigitaltv.com

In addition, please also keep a look out for updated information on the DTV transition on your upcoming PSE&G Newsletter.

DEADLINE FOR QUALIFYING FOR REBATE CHECKS APPROACHING

As the summer comes to a close, most individuals that filed their tax returns in April, by now should have received their economic stimulus rebate checks that were sent out this spring and throughout the summer via direct deposit or by mail.  However, there is $47 million in unclaimed rebates in New Jersey because not everyone has filed their 2007 tax returns yet.  These individuals must file their 2007 tax returns by October 15, 2008 to ensure their rebate checks are received. 

As a reminder, anyone can qualify for a rebate check of up to $600 if they pay taxes or earned at least $3,000 in 2007, including through Social Security or veterans' disability benefits. Individual filers with an income of more than $75,000 or couples with an income of more than $150,000 will receive only a partial rebate.  Remember, even if you do not normally file a tax return, you must file a 2007 tax return in order to qualify for the rebate check.  If you have any other questions regarding rebate checks, please visit www.irs.gov

Thank you for taking the time to read my E-Newsletter.  I look forward to continuing to update you about my work in the United States House of Representatives.

Sincerely,
Congressman Albio Sires Signature
Albio Sires
Member of Congress

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