The ‘pet projects’ that make up lawmakers are identifying for taxpayer funds

Lawmakers are putting in for police body cams, road repairs, community upgrades – and requests for funds ranging from a yoga program in New Jersey and a science center in Florida, now that a prohibition on ‘earmark’ requests has ended.

House Republicans ended earmarks in 2011 following a series of scandals, but voted to bring them back in March, and the House majority voted to reinstate them. 

Under new reforms meant to stem abuses, the House Appropriations Committee publicly lists members’ individual requests. More than 300 lawmakers have submitted proposals – although some critics of the practice have held back. 

Congressional earmarks are back now that the whole House and the House GOP Conference pushed through changes. Lawmaker requests are now posted publicly on the Appropriations Committee web site

Congressional earmarks are back now that the whole House and the House GOP Conference pushed through changes. Lawmaker requests are now posted publicly on the Appropriations Committee web site

Congressional earmarks are back now that the whole House and the House GOP Conference pushed through changes. Lawmaker requests are now posted publicly on the Appropriations Committee web site

Charlie Crist, who announced this week he is running for governor, is seeking $4 million to renovate and repair the building previously used for the Pinellas County Science Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., a 1950s era building that is currently shuttered. The building’s return to its original purpose would be combined with a water treatment mission.

A number of lawmakers put in for such programs as bridge and highway expansions, body cameras for police, and funds for local community health centers. 

Rep. Donald Payne requested $436,100 for a ‘meditation and restorative yoga program’ in his New Jersey district.

Rep. Richie Neal (D-Mass.) has his hands on the nation’s purse-strings as chairman of the powerful Ways & Means Committee. But he’s also put in spending requests, including $1 million for the Forest Park Horticultural Plan.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) requested $1 million for the Forest Park Horticultural Plan in Springfield, Mass.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) requested $1 million for the Forest Park Horticultural Plan in Springfield, Mass.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) requested $1 million for the Forest Park Horticultural Plan in Springfield, Mass.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut is seeking $350,000 for 'recreational facilities renewal' at St. Martin de Porres Academy in New Haven

Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut is seeking $350,000 for 'recreational facilities renewal' at St. Martin de Porres Academy in New Haven

Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut is seeking $350,000 for ‘recreational facilities renewal’ at St. Martin de Porres Academy in New Haven

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) is seeking $250,000 to expand the Michelle Obama Library in Long Beach

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) is seeking $250,000 to expand the Michelle Obama Library in Long Beach

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) is seeking $250,000 to expand the Michelle Obama Library in Long Beach

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) is seeking $1,750,000 for the 'Japan Institute Building Renovation Project' to expand activities for the public at the Portland Japanese Garden

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) is seeking $1,750,000 for the 'Japan Institute Building Renovation Project' to expand activities for the public at the Portland Japanese Garden

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) is seeking $1,750,000 for the ‘Japan Institute Building Renovation Project’ to expand activities for the public at the Portland Japanese Garden

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) is seeking $83 million for improvements to US-275 east of Norfolk, from Jct N-57 to Wisner, Nebraska

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) is seeking $83 million for improvements to US-275 east of Norfolk, from Jct N-57 to Wisner, Nebraska

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) is seeking $83 million for improvements to US-275 east of Norfolk, from Jct N-57 to Wisner, Nebraska

The master plan ‘offers an opportunity to restore the Walker Grandstand and surrounding amenities ensuring facilities and grounds can once again be utilized by the residents of Springfield,’ he writes.

Almost all fo the requests deal with the health and welfare of the living, but one by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) is for dealing with the dead. She is seeking $1.1 million to buy technology equipment for the Medical Examiner’s office in Spokane, allowing it to ‘modernize equipment.’ 

One thing she wants is a Computerized Tomography (CT) scanner ‘to support regional Medical Examiner and Coroner forensic death investigations.’

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the powerful Appropriations Committee chair, stands a better chance than many of getting her projects funded. She wants $350,000 for ‘recreational facilities renewal’ at St. Martin de Porres Academy. ‘These recreational facilities include building a safer basketball court away from the parking lot where there are some potential safety issues and building a field suitable for students to play various sports including soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey,’ she writes.

Rep. Adrianno Espaillat (D-N.Y.) is asking for $1.5 million for the Charles B. Rangel Center at the City College of New York, named after his longtime predecessor in Congress. 

Rangel himself sought funds for the center named for himself while he was a sitting member of Congress. He was censured by the House in part for his fund-raising efforts related to the Rangel center.

According to a request by Espaillat, who represents Harlem, ‘The Charles B. Rangel Center for Infrastructure Workforce Training will train for construction and operations across multiple infrastructures – transport, energy, communications, water and wastewater, food, health in built environments – with emphasis on digital skills for advanced forms of project management, system supervisory control and operations management.’

Says his request: ‘Experiential and simulation-based curriculum developed with industry stakeholders, extensive lab and remote-learning use of computers, smart phones, digital tools and apps. Coverage of GIS, BIM, SCADA, sensors and sensor arrays, working with data, AI and robotics. Community-based recruitment of trainees. Multi-media learning to facilitate the success of nonacademic learners.’

Many lawmakers’ requests are for a few hundred thousand dollars per project. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) is seeking $83 million for improvements to US-275 east of Norfolk, from Jct N-57 to Wisner, Nebraska.

Rep. Josh Harder (D-Calif.) is seeking $22 million for a water project in Modesto consisting of an irrigation pipeline.

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), who represents upstate New York, is seeking $180,000 to buy defibrillator units for the Newark-Wayne Community Hospital. He wants $140,000 for body cams for police to wear in Syracuse.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) is seeking $407,000 for a Native American and Rural Arthritis Research Center in Oklahoma City. His proposal says Native Americans have the highest prevalence of arthritis and the lowest access to care. He says it is a good use of taxpayer funds because it would address ‘significant health disparities.’

Fox News reported on a $250,000 request by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) to expand the Michelle Obama Library in her state. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) is seeking $1,750,000 for the ‘Japan Institute Building Renovation Project’ to expand activities for the public at the Portland Japanese Garden. 

Rep. Yvette Clarke, who represents parts of Brooklyn, is seeking $1 million for the ‘West Indian American Day Carnival Association’ to establish a Caribbean Cultural Arts Education Program. According to the request, the funds ‘will enhance that as we aim to provide a sustainable cultural approach to enhance historical relevance, cultural stewardship, and knowledge of Caribbean contributions for participants. Students will learn about the background and culture of Caribbean communities and their contributions to the United States.’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seeking $3 million for upgrades at the Embarcadero in her San Francisco district. The funds are to repair a seawall that is ‘vulnerable to seismic risks and increasing flood risks.’

Party leaders have pointed to some of the benefits of earmarks in advancing legislation in a bitterly divided Congress.  

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