2002-11-09 / Community

American Legion Hosts Breakfast For Legislators

American Legion Hosts Breakfast For Legislators

The Queens County Committee of the American Legion hosted a breakfast recently for the elected officials (city, state, federal) from Queens County. It was held at the Broad Channel Post #1404 and was hosted by members of the Little Neck – Douglaston Post #103; Joseph Thomassen PCC, Walter Karas PC and Raymond York PPC.

Queens County Commander John Severa welcomed the legislators: NYS Senator Frank Padavan, Assemblyman Michael Cohen, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Congressman Anthony Weiner, and Republican candidates John Ottulich (26 A.D.), Stacy Kaplan Vila (24 A.D.). He introduced Senator Padavan as the keynote speaker. The Senator, who serves on the Senate Veterans Committee, said that he was glad to see the veterans honor the Flag with the Pledge of Allegiance and the words "under God."

He told the veterans that they have to keep the pressure on the politicians to get the bills they favor passed; "they all know that you vote." He mentioned some bills of importance to veterans: the NYS Pension buy-back bill for state employees who are veterans but had been unable to participate in prior buy-back programs, such as Vietnam and Korean War vets; a supplement to the buy-back bill of 2000 to allow those who retired before 1998 to participate, and a bill which still needs an Assembly sponsor to restore the veterans real estate tax exemption which had been reduced during the Koch Administration. He urged the veterans to keep up the pressure on Senator Schumer and Senator Clinton to allow the Flag Protection Amendment to the Senate floor for a vote.

John Tipping, PNVC, Vice-President of the National Legislative Council and QCC Legislative Chairman, addressed the veterans next. He said that Commander Severa had received an award at the American Legion National Convention for his outstanding work in promoting legislation important to veterans, national security and Americanism.

He urged the veterans to support several bills pending in Congress: English as the Official Language; the Bio-terrorism Research Act; the Jobs for Veterans Act (HR4015); the construction of Veterans Major Medical Facilities (HR4014); the Veterans and Survivors Disability Benefits Act (HR4080); the Arlington National Cemetery Eligibility Act (HR4940). Tipping encouraged the veterans to keep writing to their senators to pass the Flag Protection Amendment noting that former Senator Moynihan has complained to him about all the pressure he was getting from veterans to support the Amendment.

Assemblyman Michael Cohen spoke to the Legionnaires and said that, as a member of the Government Employees Committee, he had endorsed the pension buy-back bill but was discouraged that some of his colleagues opposed it claiming that the pension funds belonged to the public, not the retirees. He reiterated that these funds belong to all active and retired state employees, most of whom had contributed to the fund.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer said that she was proud to have her name appear as co-sponsor on most of the bills favored by veterans. The two candidates for Assembly, John Ottulich and Stacey Kaplan Vila, also told the Legionnaires that, if elected, they would support veteran’s issues.

Congressman Gregory Meeks thanked the veterans for the sacrifices they had made for our great nation and said that he welcomed veterans’ advocacy on behalf of issues that concerned them. He was asked why the United States seems to spend so much on the foreign aid but doesn’t have dollars for the veterans. Meeks responded that we spend less than 1% of our national budget on foreign assistance and that we need to support our allies and friendly countries as this promotes our own interests and national security.

Congressman Anthony Weiner was critical of the FBI for not providing any warning about the 9/11 attacks. Likewise the INS should have had a wake-up call from the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 by foreign terrorists. Instead many more got into our country in the next few years to plan and execute the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. He said that this will change.

He noted that student visas are important and are great, financially, for New York’s colleges but the problem is that there is no follow-up on whether the foreign students are actually studying, nor is there follow-up if they overstay their visas. The colleges, which get federal aid, should enforce the visa policy. He said that he supports a strong military and had voted for the Iraq Resolution.

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