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I did a really, really great thing the other day. I took about thirty minutes out of my day, walked over to the local early voting station near my office, stood in line with people of all ages from Monroe County, Indiana, and I voted.

With only four days to go, I want to encourage everyone to remember that the politicians we elect at the local, state, and federal levels, aren’t just spokesmen or women, or celebrities. They actually make and enforce the laws that affect our daily lives. Because of this, please don’t just judge a candidate by whether he or she is a Republican, Democrat, Independent, or other third-party candidate. Look at each candidate’s record on issues such as consumer safety – and VOTE!!

For example, the President of the United States doesn’t just make decisions about War and Peace (as if that isn’t enough). The President also oversees every federal agency, including the State Department, the FDA, the Commerce Department, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Ect. Each of these agencies have what is called, "rule making authority," meaning that they can pass federal administrative rules which iterpret the purpose of the agency and all the things they regulate, such as clean air or water, or federal highway standards for automobile safety.

This is important because each of these agencies make the rules which govern their respective industries. For example, the Food & Drug Administration has jurisdiction over, you guessed it, our food and our prescription drugs. Likewise, the Department of Agriculture has jurisdiction over our food supply. Whomever is elected President will have the authority to appoint key people in these various federal agencies. We should all hope that whomever these appointments may be, they are people who are not only competent, but believe in the importance of consumer protection and consumer safety. I say this because, for the past eight years, the current administration has done everything in their power to not only reduce safety standards set by government agencies, but to also attempt to reduce the ability of consumers to bring legitimate claims for injury when they are harmed by dangerous or defective products.

The President will also make appointments to the U.S. Justice Department and all federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. These Judicial appointments will have a profound impact on how our laws are enforced, and interpretted. Likewise, the Presidential appointment and policy decisions with the Food & Drug Administration will have lasting impact on food and drug safety, as well as what level of accountability we consumers can hold companies to when they negligently manufacture and market defective products.

Also, members of Congress, be they Senators or members of the U.S. House of Representatives, control what federal legislation gets passed. They not only vote on the federal budget, or issues that make the news like the recent "bailout bill." Congress can also pass legislation that either strenghens or weakens consumer protection laws. Also, the United States Senate provides the vital function of confirming (or not cofirming) the President’s nominations for his Cabinet and all Judicial Appointments.

The same is true at the state level, where individual state Governors control the executive branch. Indiana has various statewide agencies that mirror the federal government, and it is the Governor who controls public policy within the framework of that system. Likewise, our state legislature often votes on laws that can either strengthen or weaken consumer safety. Therefore, it is equally important to know as much about the politicians running for statewide office as it is those running for Congress or for President.

For example, two years ago, I attended a reading of a Indiana House bill that would have inadvertently prevented families whose children suffered from lead poisoning from bringing claims against landlords who did not remove lead paint from old rental units. Thankfully, the State Representatives amended the bill before it became law so that it didn’t have such disasterous an impact.

Finally, local political races have just as much impact or more on our lives. For example, most local judges are elected officials. I cannot imagine a more important job than being a judge. Our local judges make incredibly important decisions every day that directly impact the lives of the people who live in our communities, such as criminal sentencing, child custody disputes, and countless other matters. Also, other members of our county government are responsible for the appropriation of millions of dollars of tax revenues for the day-to-day operations of local government. They are also responsible for makig decisions about improving our local infrastructure, such as maintaining our roads and bridges.

Even races further down the ballot have lasting impacts on our communities. For example, every county in Indiana has school board races this year. However, I would bet that most people won’t know the names of as single school board candidate, even though it is the local school board that probably has more of a direct impact on families with school age children than any other political race this year.

So, get involved, get informed, and GO VOTE!!!!!

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