November 15, 2006

Tim Bishop On: Tim Bishop On: What Might The New Majority Mean

An Internet joke shows a picture of a child in his grandmother's lap reading. The tot asks, "Granny, do all fairy tales begin with 'Once Upon a Time?'" She replies, "No, dear. There is a whole series of fairy tales that begins with 'If elected I promise'."

For Congressman Tim Bishop, now that his party has seized control in Washington, the coming years are going to be a time of promises fulfilled. Although his first two terms in the House of Representatives have been marked by success on the local level, with officials in other branches of government pleased with his efforts to bring home the Washington bacon, Bishop aspires to even further success.

During his campaign for re-election the congressman expressed frustration that some initiatives had been stymied by partisanship. This week he noted that the House Speaker Dennis Hastert has traditionally ruled in favor of "a majority of the majority," meaning that if most of the Republican members of the house didn't support a bill, it would never make it to the floor for consideration.

"This majority," Bishop said, "has been remarkably unsympathetic to any issue brought up by a Democrat." The partisanship has often led to a logjam. With Democrats in control of the 110th Congress starting in January, "That kind of gridlock is going to come to an end," Bishop predicted. This week, he spoke of just a couple of the proposals he thinks may come to fruition under the new majority.

Right out of the gate, Bishop expects an initiative with the potential for a direct positive impact to his district to pass. During his first and second terms both he proposed tax changes that, if adopted, would make it easier to preserve farmland. Under Republican rule, "they went absolutely nowhere," he related.

The first allows farmers to defer estate tax on land as long as it remains in agricultural use. The second fixes a quirk in the tax code that actually penalizes sellers who sell development rights to municipalities on an installment basis. The buyer may pay the total price tag over time, but under the current law the seller has to pay the taxes the very first year. That presents what Bishop calls a "cash flow disincentive" to those whose land might be preserved.

A pervasive philosophic disagreement relating to estate tax in general stalled the bill, Bishop theorized. Republicans favored repeal of the tax in its entirety, whereas Democrats say that would result in giving the richest two percent of Americans an enormous break. Better to revise the bill where it adversely affects the middle class.

Throughout the campaign the immigration issue has been a hot topic. The congressman expects that the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate and endorsed by President Bush is going to "pass in a heartbeat." The comprehensive reform package addresses what's known as earned amnesty, a years-long program and series of steps an undocumented immigrant must take to achieve citizenship.

"This could have profound local implications," Bishop opined.

Also likely to have an impact down the road is a plan that earmarks $30 million for multi-institutional, multi-disciplined centers to study the environmental causes of breast cancer. The plan boasted a couple of hundred co-sponsors, Bishop pointed out. Still, "The current leadership has not seen fit to bring it to the floor."

In East Hampton, Town Supervisor Bill McGintee was cautiously optimistic about what a new majority in Washington might mean in his bailiwick. Stating he's been pleased by the extent to which Bishop has delivered for the town, the supervisor said he'd like to see more funding for erosion control and beach replenishment come East Hampton's way.

McGintee emphasized that immigration is "a battle way beyond my control." But his office sees the impact of the federal government's failure every day — in illegal housing complaints as well as economic concerns from contractors who feel they are undercut by others who don't pay taxes. "Federal aid should trickle down to the municipalities to pay for the problem they created," McGintee said.

Overall, he believes the Democratic success both in Washington and in taking the governor's seat in Albany bodes well for the town and state and country. "It now becomes an awesome responsibility," the supervisor said, adding, "It's time for everybody to roll up their sleeves and reach across the aisle and work."

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