MICHAEL BILIRAKIS, Republican Congressman from Tarpon Springs in Florida's Ninth District, was first elected to Congress on November 2, 1982 and has been reelected to each succeeding Congress. In 1982, at the urging of friends, associates and residents of the newly-formed Ninth District, Mike accepted the challenge of his first Congressional race. He credits strong traditional values, close family ties and avid community involvement for his victories in 1982 and in subsequent reelections. In his terms in Congress, Mike has carried those personal values to the national forum, protecting Social Security, Medicare and federal retirement programs; expanding access to quality health care; promoting disease research; improving education; strengthening our national defense; ensuring congressional accountability; and supporting a balanced federal budget.
Mike's committee assignments in the 108th Congress include membership on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where he serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, and as a member of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Mike is also Vice-Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and a member of the Oversight Subcommittee.
Mike authored the Organ Donation Improvement Act, which is designed to increase the number of donated organs available for transplantation. The bill, H.R. 3926, was signed into law on April 5, 2004. In prior Congresses, Mike authored numerous bills that have become public law. For example, Mike was the lead congressional sponsor of the Nurse Reinvestment Act, which was enacted in the 107th Congress and has helped increase recruitment of new nurses and improve retention of existing nurses. Mike's other initiatives include legislation to improve research into a myriad of children's health issues; legislation to protect nursing home residents from being targeted for eviction when their facility decides to withdraw from partici [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
Bilirakis, born on July 16, 1930, has a wife Evelyn and two children.
Bilirakis holds a JD from University of Florida, 1963. He attended George Washington University 1959-1960. He also holds a BS in Engineering from University of Pittsburgh, 1959.
Bilirakis had various professional experience, including:
Aerospace Contract Administrator
Geophysical Engineer, Offshore Oil Exploration
United States Air Force, 1951-1955
American Judicature Society
American Bar Association
Florida Bar Association
West Pasco Bar Association.
No elected office prior to U.S. Congress.
MICHAEL BILIRAKIS, Republican Congressman from Tarpon Springs in Florida's Ninth District, was first elected to Congress on November 2, 1982 and has been reelected to each succeeding Congress. His committee assignments in the 108th Congress include membership on the Energy and Commerce Committee, where he serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, and as a member of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Mike is also Vice-Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and a member of the Oversight Subcommittee.
In recognition of his efforts on behalf of veterans, Mike has received many national awards, including the L. Mendel Rivers Award of Excellence from the Air Force Sergeants Association, the Inspirational Leadership Award from the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award. In 2004, he received the VFW's Congressional Award for his outstanding service to the Nation's veterans.
In the past, Mike has served as Chairman of the Task Force on the Elderly and has been a leader in the fight against infant mortality. He has also held memberships on the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, the Immigration Reform Caucus and the Congressional Task Force on POW/MIAs. He is a co-founder of both the Military Veterans Caucus and the Hellenic Caucus.
For more than a decade, the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has served to raise awareness of domestic violence and to address violent crimes against women and their children, including rape and spousal abuse. Since the enactment of VAWA in 1994, the rate of domestic violence has diminished in the United States. However, despite making great strides in breaking the cycle of violence, much work remains to be done.
Domestic violence affects women, men and children of all racial, social, religious, ethnic, and economic groups in the United States. The month of October has been recognized as an appropriate month for activities furthering awareness of domestic violence and to honor the dedication and success of those working tirelessly to end domestic violence and the strength of its survivors. To commemorate this occasion, the House of Representatives approved the Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act by an overwhelming vote on September, 28, 2005. This important legislation would reauthorize and strengthen VAWA programs and activities on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. For the first time ever, the bill seeks to ensure that VAWA programs are administered in a gender-neutral way, providing an avenue for assistance for male victims of violence.
The Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act also would address the problem of violence against children and youth by including programs for college campuses and assistance to youth who are themselves victims of violence. The bill would focus on effective prevention programs targeting children who have been exposed to violence and young families at risk for violence. In addition, the bill would help aliens subjected to domestic violence to secure their rights to stay in the country and seek shelter from those who batter them by allowing them to self-petition for permanent resident status. The bill also would authorize gr [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
Source: Candidate Website (10/02/2004)
The Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act also would address the problem of violence against children and youth by including programs for college campuses and assistance to youth who are themselves victims of violence. The bill would focus on effective prevention programs targeting children who have been exposed to violence and young families at risk for violence. In addition, the bill would help aliens subjected to domestic violence to secure their rights to stay in the country and seek shelter from those who batter them by allowing them to self-petition for permanent resident status. The bill also would authorize grants to improve train [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
Every day you share your personal information about yourself with others, and it usually is so routine that you do not realize you are doing it. If you are like most American consumers, you may be growing increasingly concerned about the security of your personal identification and financial information, and rightly so -- the crime of identity theft has risen sharply in recent years. Recent thefts of consumer data from information brokers and financial institutions only have served to heighten these concerns.
Congress already has enacted one law designed to curb identity theft. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act (Public Law 108-159) gives consumers the right to one free credit report per year and access to their credit scores. Since identity theft can lead to the destruction of a victim's personal credit history, having the ability to access credit information is critical to monitoring any unauthorized charges or accounts. The FACT Act also makes it easier for consumers to limit unsolicited offers of credit, dispute information in their credit files, and block fraudulent information in their credit reports.
In addition, several bills have been introduced in the 109th Congress to protect individuals' personal information. Many of these have been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, of which I am Vice-Chairman. The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection has held three hearings on this issue since the beginning of 2005. I fully anticipate that my Committee will craft legislation this Congress to curb identity theft and to impose strict regulations on information brokers.
Efforts also are being undertaken by federal agencies to raise awareness of this problem. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the lead federal consumer protection agency, is spearheading the "OnGuardOnline" campaign to help computer users be on guard against Internet fraud and secure their computers. OnGuardOnline is based on practices fo [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
Gang violence has risen sharply in the United States in recent years and is no longer confined to the so-called "inner city." The DOJ estimates than more than 25,000 gangs and over 750,000 gang members are active across the United States today. Major cities, small towns and rural areas alike have been subjected to violent gang activity, and for many young people, gangs offer an alluring opportunity to "belong" to a group of their peers.
The Children's Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act also would strengthen efforts to assist local law enforcement in targeting and prosecuting violent criminals who are associated with street gangs. The bill would authorize funding for joint federal, state, and local gang investigation and prosecution efforts and create stricter penalties for gang members convicted of violent activities.
Our nation's children and communities deserve the strongest protection possible. Children should not have to fear the atrocities being committed by sexual predators and violent gang members. The Children's Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act is an important step in our nation's fight to protect them.
Americans are the most generous and compassionate people in the world. This fact was underscored by the outpouring of support -- financial and otherwise -- following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The national tragedy prompted Americans young and old to open their hearts and provide nearly $1.1 billion to date to help the victims. While these acts of giving have been reported and lauded around the world, they served as just another example of the willingness of Americans to help a friend or neighbor in need.
And that need is great -- over one million people require meals, shelter, financial assistance, and other essential services as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The American Red Cross, which has raised approximately $827 million for relief, estimates that it will need more than $2 billion to meet its costs for the emergency needs of Hurricane Katrina survivors, a sum 20 times greater than the relief provided by the Red Cross for all hurricanes in 2004. The Salvation Army has raised $185 million to help meet victims' needs and is spending in excess of $1.5 million per day in food alone, but cannot forecast how much will be needed before all is said and done. The United Way, a national network of more than 1,350 local branches, has raised approximately $20 million to offer assistance to displaced victims throughout the United States.
Many of Hurricane Katrina's victims will require long-term assistance in various forms, and it is difficult to estimate how much will be needed to provide those services to them. This is to say nothing of Hurricane Rita, which devastated towns in eastern Texas and western Louisiana just a few short weeks after Hurricane Katrina, or of the ongoing needs that many vulnerable Americans have as a result of personal circumstances. These long-term needs will exceed the immediate assistance available through charitable organizations. In fact, our nation's charities are facing a crunch at a time when need is great and our fell [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
For 10 years, Mike served as the Chairman of the Health Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over much of the health-related legislation introduced in the House of Representatives. As Subcommittee Chairman and now as Vice-Chairman of the full Committee, Mike is a vocal advocate for medical research and a national leader on health reform. He was also instrumental in the passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. As Subcommittee Chairman, he not only helped draft the House version of the Medicare bill but was also chosen to be one of the few members appointed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. And although Mike is thrilled to have legislation that he has worked on so tirelessly passed into law, he recognizes that his work is not done as his Committee is responsible for overseeing the implementation of this historic new benefit.
Mike has played a leading role in protecting Medicare from bankruptcy, ensuring the safety of our drinking water, improving the quality of our food supply, modernizing the drug approval process, and expanding access to affordable health insurance. He also worked to secure enactment of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act. It's not surprising that National Journal's Almanac of American Politics has called him one of the most "legislatively productive" members of Congress.
During the 108th Congress, in addition to authoring and securing enactment of the new Medicare law, Mike helped craft legislation which the House approved to prevent rising medical liability insurance premiums from harming patient care. He also authored the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act to improve patient safety and reduce medical errors. Although the House and Senate approved the measure, final action was not taken on the bill before the 108th Congress adjourned. Mike will continue to pursue the enactment of patient safety legi [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
As Subcommittee Chairman and now as Vice-Chairman of the full Committee, Mike is a vocal advocate for medical research.
Cancer has affected most of us in some way. We have either had it ourselves or have known loved ones or close friends who have experienced one of its many forms. We have seen the suffering cancer causes. We have heard the cries for help from those who have it. Too often, we have watched helplessly as they have lost hope and succumbed to this dreaded disease.
There is good news to report. According to the National Cancer Institute's Annual Report to the Nation on Cancer, Americans are less likely to get, and subsequently die, from cancer than we once were. Overall cancer rates have declined over the past decade, while overall survival rates have risen. Death rates from all cancers combined have been decreasing for more than a decade. These rates have dropped for 11 of the top 15 cancers in men, and eight of the top 15 cancers in women.
I am pleased that Congress has played an important role in national cancer-fighting efforts. While serving as the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, I helped lead the charge to double federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the cutting-edge research conducted by its National Cancer Institute. My Committee helped renew numerous cancer research programs. We also helped write a law to ensure safe and accurate mammograms for women and to establish a grant program to help cancer patients coordinate their health services and obtain the best possible medical care.
I also helped add important preventative benefits, such as screenings for breast, cervical, colon, and prostate cancer, to the Medicare program. I also have introduced legislation (H.R. 370) to allow individuals to designate that part or all of their federal income tax refunds be used for biomedical research at NIH.
More needs to be done, however. The progress we have made over the past several [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
Mike worked to secure enactment of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act.
Port security is a very important issue for the 109th Congress. U.S. ports handle 95% of our nation's overseas trade by volume, more than six million cruise passengers annually, and support mobilization and deployment of the U.S. Armed Forces. They are critical assets and must be protected from threats.
This issue is receiving greater attention in the wake of the U.S. ports sale to Dubai Port (DP) World, a United Arab Emirates-based company. After serious concerns about the acquisition were raised and congressional action was threatened, DP World voluntarily decided to give up control of U.S. ports which were part of the deal. The company announced that it intends to sell the U.S. port terminal assets it acquired under the deal within four to six months to an "unrelated" U.S. buyer yet to be determined.
In the last several weeks, several legislative proposals on the DP World acquisition and port security in general have been introduced in the U.S. Congress. The House of Representatives recently approved H.R. 4939, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, which contains a provision which expressly prohibits DP World from purchasing an American subsidiary company that is involved in the operations of certain U.S. ports. The bill has been forwarded to the Senate for future action.
As a member of the Congressional Port Security Caucus, I am concerned that Congress provides the proper means so that our ports will not be vulnerable targets for terrorist attacks. The Caucus, which identifies port security concerns and makes legislative recommendations to Congress, works to raise awareness of port security issues so that Congress may take actions necessary to protect our nation's seaports from potential terrorist activity.
The Coast Guard, which is the lead federal agency for maritime homeland secur [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
On May 11, 2005, I was on the floor of the House of Representatives casting a vote when the House Sergeant of Arms and U.S. Capitol Police began evacuating the entire Capitol campus due to an aircraft that had entered the restricted airspace around Washington D.C. Thankfully, this tense situation ended up a being a false alarm. However, the Capitol Police and other law enforcement officers who stepped up and assisted Members of Congress, our staffs, and the thousands of visitors during the evacuation deserve praise for a job well done.
As we celebrate National Police Week, it is important that we honor the thousands of law enforcement officers -- and other first responders -- who place themselves in harm's way to ensure the safety of our nation and her citizens. Police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and countless other first responders always have been held in high esteem, no more so than in the post-9/11 world in which we live. Who will ever forget the images of the heroic police officers and firefighters who risked everything, including their own lives, to save people fleeing from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that fateful September morning? We cannot forget, we should not forget, and we must not forget.
The House of Representatives once again proved its commitment to America's first responders by approving H.R. 1544, the Faster and Smarter Funding for First Responders Act, on May 12, 2005. This bill, approved by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 409 to 10, is designed to target homeland security funding to the areas with the greatest threat of potential terrorist activity. H.R. 1544 would require the First Responder Grant Board to help prioritize grant applications based on threat, vulnerability, and consequences of a terrorist attack. This will help states like Florida, which has an enhanced risk for terrorism because of our many ports and waterways, tourist attractions, and large cities.
The bill also would re [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
The Coast Guard, which is the lead federal agency for maritime homeland security, including port security, faces the challenge of managing its increased responsibilities to protect the U.S. [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
Mike was instrumental in the passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. As Subcommittee Chairman, he not only helped draft the House version of the Medicare bill but was also chosen to be one of the few members appointed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. And although Mike is thrilled to have legislation that he has worked on so tirelessly passed into law, he recognizes that his work is not done as his Committee is responsible for overseeing the implementation of this historic new benefit.
In November 2005, the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform issued its recommendations for changes to the tax code. The Administration and Congress are reviewing the Panel's suggestions and examining different options for reforming the tax system. Recent debate has focused on the idea of replacing the current income tax system with a flat tax or a consumption-based tax such as the "fair tax," although there are several solutions that have been advanced to address the problems taxpayers encounter.
During my tenure in Congress, I have cosponsored many measures to fundamentally reform the tax system, and I remain committed to carefully evaluating every suggestion to make the system fairer and simpler. The time for action is now -- Congress must reform the system and enact sensible tax policy to ease the burden on American families and make April 15th just another spring day.
Millions of Americans visit their local post office each year on April 15th, generally with a single purpose in mind: mailing in their tax returns. Yet there is another date this month which should concern all taxpayers: April 26.
April 26 is Tax Freedom Day, so named not because Americans will avoid paying taxes on that day, but because it is the first day of 2006 in which the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay for its annual tax burden or the cost of government. To put it another way, Americans collectively will have worked the first four months of this year just to pay their tax obligations.
I think most Americans would agree that some degree of taxation is necessary -- after all, the federal government has a constitutional responsibility to provide for the nation's defense, and most people have a reasonable expectation of contributing their fair share to maintain and improve infrastructure, education, and other general government services. However, I don't know of too many people that would argue that average Americans -- including most middle-income taxpayers -- pay too little in federal taxes.
What is more troublesome than the amount collected each year from taxpayers is the nature of the nation's tax system itself. Our current tax code is very cumbersome, and American taxpayers are required to invest a substantial amount of their time filing annual tax returns and dealing with an often unhelpful Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In fact, the 2005 National Taxpayer Advocate Report identifies 21 serious problems encountered by taxpayers. These problems make it abundantly clear that our current system isn't working.
In November 2005, the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform issued its recommendations for changes to the tax code. The Administration and Congress are reviewing the Panel's suggestions and examining different options for reforming the tax system. Recent debate has focused on the idea of replacing the current income [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
Impaired driving (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs) is one of the United States' most often committed and deadliest crimes. In 2004, during the month of December alone, 1,210 people across America were killed in highway crashes involving a driver or a motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .01 or higher. Of those, 1,054 had an illegal BAC level of .08 or above. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows that over 15,000 people died throughout 2004 in alcohol-related crashes. A 2005 poll conducted by the Gallup Organization on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) found that 60 percent of those surveyed who consume alcoholic beverages on occasion have operated a vehicle while impaired.
The State of Florida's statistics are alarming. According to NHTSA, there were a total of 3,244 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2004. Of these, 1,222 (38%) were alcohol-related, and an additional 1,053 (32%) involved vehicle operators with a BAC in excess of .08.
The good news is that the number of impaired driving fatalities in Florida and nationwide is decreasing, thanks in part to efforts to educate the public about the dangers posed by impaired drivers. The MADD poll found that 94 percent of Americans believe that driving under the influence of alcohol is a major highway safety problem, and 87 percent support the use of sobriety checkpoints to check for drunk drivers. The poll also discovered that of all of those surveyed who had encouraged someone not to drive because they thought the person was impaired, three in four (77 percent) were successful.
December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, and as you venture out to enjoy the holiday season, I pray that you will take care to protect yourselves and others from the consequences of impaired driving. Here are a few steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim or perpetrating the crime of impaired driving:
* [Response was truncated to maximum response length of 2000 characters.]
As a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Mike helped secure additional resources for Florida's veterans -- including $44.1 million for a spinal cord injury unit in Tampa and a more equitable resource allocation method implemented by the Department of Veterans Affairs. When Mike was running for Congress, he promised to bring a VA outpatient clinic to Pasco County. By keeping constant pressure on the VA, he was able to fulfill his pledge when the VA outpatient clinic in Port Richey, Florida opened its doors to veterans in September 1985.
Throughout his congressional career, Mike has been a leader in efforts to secure cost-of-living increases for veterans with service-related disabilities. For more than eighteen years, Mike has led the fight to eliminate the offset between military retired pay and VA disability compensation. During the last several Congresses, Mike made progress towards addressing the inequitable offset with the enactment of two special compensation programs. In 2003, he worked to secure the inclusion of a substantial concurrent receipt provision in the defense authorization bill which will provide benefits to more than 250,000 of our Nation's disabled military retirees.
Mike knows that military service doesn't take place in a vacuum, and he strongly believes that our Nation should recognize the contributions made by the families of veterans. Consequently, he has fought to improve the benefits available to spouses and survivors of our Nation's veterans. His initiatives, which have been enacted into law, include providing a monthly annuity to "forgotten widows," allowing a spouse to retain a veteran's final compensation check, providing survivor benefits to the spouses of certain former prisoners-of-war, and allowing older widows to remarry without losing their survivor benefits.
As a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Mike helped secure additional resources for Florida's veterans -- including $44.1 million for a spinal cord injury unit in Tampa and a more equitable resource allocation method implemented by the Department of Veterans Affairs.