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Town Hall meetings prove successful

By By Jo Bonner
As you may know, I held 14 town hall meetings last month in all six counties of Alabama's First District. I would like to thank the many of you who came out to one or more of these meetings to visit with my staff and me. It was certainly good to see both familiar faces and meet so many new ones.
While some of you had concerns and questions of a personal nature, there were several issues that seemed to be raised in almost every meeting.
The topic of most interest seemed to be the Medicare prescription drug plan, which went into effect January of last year and has been more successful, more beneficial, and cheaper than first envisioned.
More than 38 million seniors have drug coverage today, and polls consistently show that 80 percent of those seniors enrolled are satisfied with their plan. In Alabama's First District, 81 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have enrolled in the program.
We have seen monthly premiums, which were projected to cost $37, average just $22, down from a monthly average of $23 last year. Seniors, on average, are saving $1,200 a year on their prescription drug bill. In fact, the most recent estimates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show that net Medicare costs are $189 billion lower than originally predicted when the benefit was created.
Many of you also voiced concerns on the non-binding Iraq resolution passed by the House last month. This resolution expressed disagreement over the president's troop surge plan. I certainly agree with so many of you who told me you felt this resolution sends the wrong message to our troops, their families, and our enemies.
I voted against this resolution, which doesn't have the force of law, provides no alternate strategy, and is silent with regard to our country's ongoing efforts in fighting the global war on terror.
The American commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, who just received an overwhelming vote of confidence when he was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, has expressed his belief that this type of resolution will encourage our enemy.
He assured us that in order to succeed in the mission to secure Baghdad – all of the additional 21,500 troops ordered by the president are "essential." He said he "would not be able to do his job" without these additional forces.
To vote in favor of this demoralizing and destructive resolution would have been a vote to make the jobs of the 140,000 brave men and women fighting in Iraq even more difficult.
At many meetings, I heard concerns over the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States each day.
Many of the 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here have burdened our health care institutions, our education systems, and welfare programs, while many others are not contributing to the betterment of our society as a whole, not learning English, not assimilating into our communities, and not paying taxes.
For far too long, we have allowed illegal aliens to come and go across our borders with little recourse, if any, and we have allowed too many employers to provide an incentive for illegals to enter our country by knowingly hiring them.
During the last Congress, the House passed an immigration bill that reformed the outdated immigration and naturalization system; however, the Senate bill was notably different.
In a nutshell, it is my firm belief that we must stop illegals from coming into the United States in the future – not enhance their ability to enter the country and "fast track" their path to citizenship.
Additionally, a gentleman in Satsuma raised concerns over identity theft, and in the coming weeks, I will dedicate this column to that important topic.
These town meetings were just the first series of town meetings for the year, and I plan to continue holding telephone town hall meetings throughout the year as well.
Airbus Opens Mobile Engineering Center
Last week, I was honored to join U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and a host of other state and local dignitaries at the grand opening ceremony of the Airbus Engineering Center at the Brookley Field Industrial Complex. This high-tech facility demonstrates that Alabama is quickly becoming recognized as a center of aerospace excellence.
Currently the center employs 32 aerospace engineers with an average annual salary of $75,000. At full capacity, the office will employ 150 engineers – a number that could expand should Northrop Grumman and EADS be awarded the contract to build the Air Force's next generation of refueling tankers.
This newest Airbus facility is responsible for interior design work on the new A350-XWB commercial jet, which includes the cabin interiors, lavatories, and galleys.
Without a doubt, the people of Mobile – as well as throughout Alabama's 1st District – are excited about our future. We are full of pride for the achievements that have brought us together, and we are full of hope for the opportunities that are on the horizon.
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.