10/15/13 7:00am
10/15/2013 7:00 AM
JOHN NEEELY FILE PHOTO | Calverton National Cemetery.

JOHN NEEELY FILE PHOTO | Calverton National Cemetery.

While large portions of the federal government remain ground to a halt as federal lawmakers stand across the bargaining table from one another, Calverton National Cemetery has been unaffected since the day the so-called “shutdown” began Oct. 1.

But sometime next week, that could change.

If no deal is reached in Washington, D.C., two-thirds of the staff at Calverton National Cemetery, the country’s largest burial ground for veterans, will be furloughed Oct. 22. In that event, the cemetery’s work force would drop from 100 to just over  30, resulting in delayed interments.

While veterans affairs could be considered a nonpartisan issue — especially compared to Obamacare, the issue at the heart of the shutdown — Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said last week that he doesn’t see the logic in passing legislation that would  before a final deal is made.

“There have been a series of bills Republicans have brought to the floor to reopen a slice of the government,” he said in a conference call Friday with members of the media. “What we say is, ‘Let’s reopen all of the government.’

“Should we allow burials to slow down at Calverton? Of course not. But the answer should be to reopen the entire government. Not pick and choose which parts we want to,” Mr. Bishop said.

The cemetery is funded through the National Cemetery Association, which falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The department is funded in two-year cycles — unlike most departments, which are funded year-by-year — so operations at Calverton, and much of the VA, have so far not been impacted by the impasse to the same degree as the rest of the federal government.

The Calverton cemetery conducts approximately 30 to 40 burials per day on its 1,045 acres, about 800 of which need to be maintained on a regular basis.

Kristen Parker, a spokesperson for the NCA, said that in the event that the shutdown hits national cemeteries, the government would “do whatever it can not to delay a burial. And it would likely be a day or two. Not weeks.”

Funeral homes would be responsible for holding the bodies of deceased veterans while they await their final resting place, according to Parker. In addition, she said, relatives of those who died would still be cared for during any delay in the process.

But many veterans have already had enough. Just after the shutdown hit, a group of vets arrived in Washington to find that they had to remove barricades at the World War II memorial, which had been shut down. And last weekend, Reuters reported that veterans groups took it one step further, removing the barricades and placing them on the lawn of the White House.

“I don’t even know if the government would feel bad [if burials were delayed],” said Frank Bania, who runs Boots on the Ground NY, a veterans group that organizes PTSD support groups, motorcycle cavalcades and other efforts to help veterans.

The former commander of Riverhead VFW Post 2476, Joe Edler, said, “I have a funny feeling this should be settled fast, or else I think they’re going to hurt a lot of veterans.”

If no deal is reached by the end of the month, Mr. Bishop said, the country may not be able to pay out $12 billion in active duty and veterans benefits.

jpinciaro@timesreview.com

10/07/13 1:00pm
10/07/2013 1:00 PM
COURTESY PHOTO | State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) will challenge incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in 2014.

COURTESY PHOTO | State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) will challenge incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in 2014.

State Senator Lee Zeldin, a Shirley resident who lost a 2008 run for Congress and has since served two terms in Albany, will be taking another run at six-time incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) next year, as the Republican has the support of party leaders for the 2014 congressional race.

Mr. Zeldin, 33, announced his candidacy on Monday morning, launching a website along with a video telling voters why he’s seeking higher office. He earned 41 percent of the vote in his 2008 run against Mr. Bishop, before defeating state Senator Brian X. Foley with 57 percent of the vote in 2010.

At a time when a large portion of the federal government is not functioning due to a political gridlock in Washington, D.C., U.S. Army Reserves major and former paratrooper states in the video that “we can end the era of fiscal insanity and D.C. dysfunction.”

Zeldin said on Monday that financial issues such as “out of control debt and spending” concern him as a candidate, and working in public office over the past few years has prepared him in regards to the political process and issues.

But on Monday morning, Mr. Bishop laid the blame for the current impasse at the feet of a faction of the House Republicans, calling it a “manufactured crisis by the Tea Party wing of the Republicans, who have simply taken over.”

Mr. Zeldin will face George Demos in a primary next year. Mr. Demos, a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer, will be entering his third primary in the First Congressional District after earning just 13 percent of the vote in 2012, and coming in second place with 30 percent of the vote in 2010.

Mr. Bishop, who defeated Randy Altschuler in the last two election cycles, said on Monday morning, “It certainly looks as if Lee Zeldin and George Demos are going to have a very spirited primary. As of now, I’m 100 percent focused on doing my job, and look forward to facing whoever comes out of that primary.”

County Republican chairman John Jay LaValle said on Monday morning that Bishop will face his “first real challenge in public office” with the party-backed candidate in Mr. Zeldin, adding that no other candidates had been thoroughly considered to challenge Mr. Bishop.

He also pointed to a recent investigation by the House Ethics Committee into the incumbent congressman that could prove to benefit Mr. Zeldin’s run.

“When you’re running against an individual who has never served in public office, with no name recognition, that’s one race,” Mr. LaValle said. “It’s another race when individuals like Lee Zeldin – a sitting elected official – steps up.”

jpinciaro@timesreview.com

10/01/13 1:44pm
10/01/2013 1:44 PM
Democrat, Congressman, New York

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop.

The following list of local offices and services impacted by the federal government shutdown was provided by Congressman Tim Bishop’s press office. We will update it as more information, including reports on the Plum Island research facility, becomes available:

Social Security District Office

The office in Patchogue is open to handle urgent issues such as appeals and benefit applications. Applications for a social security number and to replace a social security card (about 100 requests are received per day) will not be processed.

Social Security benefit payments will not be affected, and will be delivered on time.

Army Corps of Engineers

The Superstorm Sandy supplemental appropriations legislation will continue to fund work on Sandy-related construction projects including the Fire Island to Montauk Point Study and the emergency project to stabilize the beach in Downtown Montauk. Impact on Sandy construction projects and other future operations could be affected in the event of a prolonged shutdown.

106th Rescue Wing at Gabreski Air Base

All or nearly all of the 218 “dual status” technicians who had been previously furloughed due to sequestration budget cuts will now be furloughed for the duration of the shutdown.

Calverton National Cemetery

Operations at the Cemetery are fully funded until Oct.15. Should the shutdown continue past that date, approximately two-thirds of the cemetery’s 100 employees will be furloughed, leading to reductions in the number of burials performed and maintenance such as groundskeeping at the cemetery.

Stony Brook University

The direct student loan program will not be affected.

The payment management system at the National Institutes of Health, SBU’s largest source of research funds, will be available, but administrative support will not. Researchers can draw down money from their grants unless the request needs to be reviewed or approved. New grant applications can be filed but they will not be acted upon until the workforce returns.

Federal Wildlife Preserves

Fire Island National Seashore will be closed to visitors. Residents and contractors will still be able to access Fire Island at Robert Moses State Park.

Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley and Morton National Wildlife Refuge in Noyac will be closed.

IRS Facility

The IRS field office and the Taxpayer Advocate Service is also closed, employees are furloughed.

US Customs and Immigration Service

The USCIS field office in Holtsville and the entire agency is operating at full capacity because they are primarily funded by user fees.

10/01/13 1:05pm

The following is a statement released Tuesday by local Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) on the government shutdown in Washington:

“The House GOP has voted to ensure a harmful, and completely avoidable, shutdown of federal government operations beginning today. It is deeply reckless that the House leadership and its Tea Party-dominated caucus have abdicated their responsibility to govern and, instead, have chosen to pursue partisan political goals at the expense of the American people’s interests.

“I share the frustration of my constituents that Congress failed to reach an agreement to keep the government operating. However, having failed repeatedly to overturn the Affordable Care Act through the democratic and judicial processes, the House GOP has taken the government — and potentially the nation’s full faith and credit — as a hostage. Funding the authorized operations of the government and paying our bills is not a concession to Democrats. It’s our job.

“My GOP colleagues should not demand a ransom for simply fulfilling their responsibilities. That is not negotiating or governing in good faith. Giving in to these unreasonable demands would not only jeopardize affordable health coverage for millions of Americans but also further embolden those willing to use destructive tactics to get their way.

“I remain hopeful that there will be a change of heart among my colleagues and the destructive effects of this shutdown will be reversed soon. My offices on Long Island and in Washington will remain open to serve my constituents during this period. It is important to note that Social Security payments, and Medicare and Medicaid coverage are funded through a mandatory appropriations process and will not be affected.”

09/18/13 4:03pm
09/18/2013 4:03 PM
TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | A bird's eye view of Plum Island.

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | A bird’s eye view of Plum Island.

Lawmakers from New York, and one more from Connecticut, pitched a plea to the federal government yesterday, asking the head of the entity in charge of selling Plum Island to sign an executive order to block the island’s sale.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) joined Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Vernon) in calling for the order, writing that – considering recent zoning restrictions placed on the island by Southold Town leaders – a sale “would do virtually nothing to offset the cost” of a National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, which is slated to be constructed in Kansas. Costs of the new facility have reportedly ballooned to $1.2 billion, up from an original $450 million estimation.

At the end of August, the Southold Town Board voted unanimously to split the 850-acre island into three parcels, essentially keeping its existing uses as a research facility while conserving the majority of the untouched island. Also at the end of August, the federal government reaffirmed its decision to move its Animal Disease Research Facility to Kansas in a formal record of decision, also confirming its decision to sell the land to help defray new construction costs.

Despite the zoning restrictions, a Bishop spokesman clarified on Wednesday that while the congressman is not opposed to the sale of someone who would operate it as such, a high bidder with deep pockets could always challenge the town, possibly resulting in an outcome beside what’s currently in mind.

“If it’s sold to the highest bidder, potentially they could challenge the zoning instituted by Southold Town,” said Oliver Longwell, a Bishop spokesman. “It’s not a likelihood, but it’s a possibility.

“This is a way to get the administration on record about whether they believe a public sale is required by law, as the General Services Administration is contemplating now.”

Supervisor Scott Russell said he supported the letter to the head of the Office of Management and Budget, Sylvia Burwell, adding that the notions of selling the island and opening a new animal research facility should not be one in the same.

“The issue of Plum Island and its future should be separate and distinct from the construction of the NBAF facility,” Russell said. The construction of the Kansas lab, he said, “doesn’t mean NBAF has to pursue all research under that one roof.”

06/26/13 4:00pm
06/26/2013 4:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm officiated at the first gay marriage on the North Fork outside Riverhead Town Hall on July 28, 2011. There, Theresa Claudio (left) and Nancy Zaharick of Mastic were wed.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to extend federal benefits to married gay couples Wednesday in what same-sex marriage supporters have called a ”historic victory” for gay rights.

The 5-4 decision invalidated a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented same-sex couples from getting numerous health, retirement and tax benefits that were available to heterosexual couples.

The court also dismissed a case involving California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state. That decision leaves in place a lower court’s ruling that will invalidate that voter-approved mandate, making same-sex unions legal in California again.

The court’s rulings were hailed by elected leaders as an important step toward equal rights for citizens of all sexual orientations.

“The Supreme Court has confirmed that equal protection under the law for all Americans means having the ability to marry the person you love,” said Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton). “This decision is also a victory for the families who will now be able to access the benefits and rights accorded to married partners by the federal government if they are legally married in a state.”

Mr. Bishop, whose daughter is in a same-sex marriage, has long been an opponent of the legislation and is a member of the House LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community) Caucus.

New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also praised the decision as a “victory for the quintessentially American principle of equal justice under the law.”

For Cutchogue residents Alan Santos and Michael Buckley, who became the first legally married gay couple in Southold Town in 2011, the decision was an “encouraging” step.

Mr. Buckley said news of the decision cut into the television show he was watching Wednesday morning.

“It felt different to be married [in 2011],” he said in an interview. “Now that we have federal recognition, it feels even more different … I think it’s a great day.”

Mr. Buckley said he and Mr. Santos, who are considering retiring and moving to the South, will feel more comfortable knowing that they have federal benefits as they get older.

Mr. Buckley said there is still a long way to go; the couple said some of the states to which they would considering moving still won’t recognize their marriage as legitimate.

But the Supreme Court’s decision will open up the path for more discussion and more cases on this issue, he said.

“I’m shocked and proud that this happened during my lifetime,” he said.

psquire@timesreview.com

06/25/13 8:00am
06/25/2013 8:00 AM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop discussing various issues with members of the Times/Review Newsgroup’s editorial board Monday.

Immigration reform and its anticipated effect on the local agricultural work force was among the many topics discussed during a Times/Review editorial board meeting with Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) Monday morning.

“Currently the [immigration] system, from almost every vantage point, is broken on Eastern Long Island,” Mr. Bishop said. “It has to do with access to a work force that our economy demands.”

About 60 percent of local farm workers are undocumented, Mr. Bishop said. Nationally, the number is 75 percent.

The congressman said he supports a comprehensive immigration reform bill pending on Capitol Hill.

“It would fix the visa system for farm workers,” he said. “The workers would basically have the status they need to come here and work.”

But the prospects for Congress passing such sweeping legislation are uncertain at best, the congressman added.

“It is the right thing to do and the Senate has worked very hard at it,” Mr. Bishop said. On the other hand, he said chances that a bill will make it through the House of Representatives “grow dimmer every day.”

If the bill dies in the Senate, the congressman said he would support a piece-by-piece approach to solve individual concerns, such as the workforce problems the agricultural market faces.

Other topics of discussion included increased boarder protection (the interview occurred before news broke that the Senate had approved such a bill), the recently defeated farm bill, and the Common Core program designed to set minimum education standards across the country. The Common Core effort is aimed at ensuring that high school graduates are fully prepared either to continue their education in college or find employment.

While saying the implementation of the Common Core standards has been “chaotic,” he praised states for coming together to press the issue.

“I think it’s admirable and it shows real leadership on the part of the governors,” Mr. Bishop said.

It’s less of an issue in New York, which has high education standards, he added, but in some states “it’s a sea change.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

04/29/13 6:30pm
04/29/2013 6:30 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | From left: John Turner from Huntington/Oyster Bay Audubon, Randy Parsons from The Nature Conservancy, Congressman Tim Bishop, Charles Rothenberger from Save the Sound.

Environmental groups from both sides of the Long Island Sound  hosted a public meeting in Orient Monday on protecting Plum Island’s undeveloped areas.

Group for the East End and the Save the Sound organization from Connecticut were  joined by Congressman Tim Bishop and dozens of concerned community members at Poquatuck Hall to address the future of the island.

Reporter Cyndi Murray blogged from the meeting. For a recap click on the link below.