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WORDS FROM WASHINGTON

Questions & answers

BY DOC HASTINGS

Each month I receive thousands of emails, phone calls and letters from Central Washington residents on a wide variety of issues. I wanted to take an opportunity to share a few of questions that I've recently received.

What is the government doing about rising gas prices?

The only long term solution to high gas prices is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This requires a comprehensive approach that involves: 1) protecting our regional hydropower system, 2) exploring for domestic oil and gas in ANWR and other areas, 3) making investments in alternative fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, 4) expanding nuclear power generation, and 5) promoting conservation.

Why did you oppose the hate crimes bill?

All crimes must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law - period - regardless of the race, gender or religion of the victim. I could not support the hate crimes bill recently debated by the House of Representatives because it would end equality under the law by dividing Americans into different categories subject to different protections. In my view, all victims should have equal worth in the eyes of the law. I have consistently voted to increase funding for law enforcement and supported legislation that gives states and localities greater flexibility in dealing with crime.

Do Members of Congress get special retirement benefits or do they pay into Social Security?

While I plan on receiving Social Security benefits upon retirement, I do not believe public officials should unduly benefit from their years of representing their constituents. That is why I pledged to forego any pension from my service in Congress. However, should they so chose, Senators and Representatives may participate in the same retirement system as all federal employees. Additionally, all Members of Congress contribute to Social Security and are eligible for benefits just like any covered American worker.

I appreciate the fact that so many people who I represent in Congress take the time to contact me. Your input is vital to ensuring that I am best representing the interests of our area. The easiest ways to contact me are through my website at www.hastings.house.gov where you can email me and sign up to receive my newsletters, or through one of my local offices-at (509) 452-3243 in Yakima and at (509) 543-9396 in Pasco.

Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's Fourth Congressional District

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