• 77°

The first "100 Hours" of Congress concludes

By By Jo Bonner
The majority party last week concluded their agenda for the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress. Two of the final pieces of legislation of this agenda – H.R. 5, the College Student Relief Act of 2007, and H.R. 6, the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 – passed the House.
College Student Relief Act
As you may know, four year public school tuition has risen over 35% in the last five years. H.R. 5 would phase-in cuts in the interest rate charged to undergraduate student borrowers under the Federal Family Education Loan and Direct Loan programs, to 3.4% from July 2011 to January 2012 only. The rate from that point forward would be set at 6.8%.
I believe we must tackle the affordability of higher education – college institutions must be held accountable for their unacceptable rates of tuition increases. However, mandating a reduced loan rate for only six months will not help to reduce the cost of a college degree.
College tuition in the United States is at a historic high. Passing the buck to incoming freshman or their families and eventually on to the American tax payers will not reduce overall tuition costs and will not help students afford a college education.
While I did not vote for H.R. 5, I did support an alternative that would have helped those students most in need while reducing the costs to the taxpayer.
This proposal would have ensured that the neediest graduates – those making less than $65,000 per year – would pay a reduced interest rate, while those making greater than $65,000 would pay the current rate of 6.8%.
Unfortunately, this alternative did not pass the House. However, H.R. 5 did pass the House with a vote of 365-71 last Wednesday.
It is my belief that H.R. 5 offers little student aid benefits, does nothing to encourage a student to attend college, and will not deter colleges and universities from increasing their tuition costs.
The CLEAN Energy Act of 2007
I also voted against the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 because I believe it is a measure that will encourage the United States to become more dependent on foreign sources of energy. The bill passed the House last Thursday by a vote of 264-163.
Last year, Congress passed historic legislation allowing the state of Alabama and other Gulf Coast states to share in royalties generated from oil production in the newly opened deep waters of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
To encourage domestic production and help curb our dependence on foreign oil, 8.3 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico were opened.
H.R. 6 would encourage U.S. dependence on foreign energy by establishing fees for producing and non-producing federal oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico; thereby, discouraging production in the Gulf of Mexico.
The fees collected pursuant to H.R. 6 would be held in reserve by the federal government and would not be shared with any Gulf Coast states.
Instead of allowing more of America's massive energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico to be produced, the House voted to shift energy industry jobs and facilities overseas and to make America more dependent on foreign sources of energy.
The Gulf of Mexico delivers more oil and natural gas to the U.S. markets than any single source, yet only 3 percent of our Outer Continental Shelf is open to production, and now even that may be in jeopardy.
H. R. 6 would also increase taxes on the domestic energy industry thus raising the cost of gas and home heating for every American. In a time when the U.S. is too dependent on foreign energy resources, H.R. 6 discourages new exploration and strengthens our dependence on foreign oil.
Mobile Aerospace Signs Contract with FedEx
Last week, Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd (ST Engineering) announced that ST Mobile Aerospace Engineering has signed a $470 million Passenger-to-Freight (PTF) conversion contract with FedEx Express for its Boeing 757-200 aircraft. The work will be performed at Brookley Field Industrial Complex:
This contract is for the next phase of FedEx Express's freighter fleet, and as Mobile County's largest private employer, Mobile Aerospace will continue to attract highly skilled workers to our area.
I am extremely pleased that the FedEx Corp. has shown such confidence in Mobile Aerospace and its exceptional workforce. It is gratifying to see companies like Mobile Aerospace create good, high-paying jobs that are so important to our local economy.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.