Business & Economy
Ongoing questions on federal loan to Fisker Automotive Corporation PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 14:28

Monday, July 23, 2012

Grassley, Thune Continue to Seek Answers on Federal Loan to Luxury Car Maker

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. John Thune today continued their pursuit of information about the Department of Energy’s selection of a luxury automaker –described as “troubled” in various media reports -- for a $529 million federal loan for advanced technology vehicles manufacturing.  The federal government made part of the loan to the Fisker Automotive Corporation, then froze the remaining portion, raising questions about whether the company was vetted properly in the first place.

Grassley and Thune have sought answers from the Energy Department about the loan.  So far, the Energy Department has not provided much of the requested information.  Grassley and Thune today wrote to the Fisker Automotive Corporation, seeking much of the same information they requested from the Energy Department.

“The taxpayers deserve an accounting of what went wrong with the Fisker loan and whether the Administration misled the public about the economic benefits of the loan,” Grassley said.  “The riskiness of loans to companies that may or may not be able to pay them back deserves scrutiny.  The taxpayers can’t and shouldn’t have to subsidize these decisions.”

“There continues to be more questions than answers when it comes to the Obama administration’s decision to loan Fisker Automotive $529 million of taxpayer funds,” said Thune.  “Taxpayers deserve to know what went wrong and why this loan was approved in the first place.  Although taxpayers have already lost millions on bad Obama administration loans, this administration continues to ignore our basic questions on how these risky bets were made.”

The senators’ letter today to the Fisker Automotive Corporation is available here.  The senators’ June 25 letter to the Energy Department available here.  The senators’ initial letter to the Energy Department is available here.  The Energy Department’s response is available here.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required the creation of a direct loan program from the federal government to car companies through the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing incentive program.   Fisker’s two planned vehicles would sell for more than $100,000 and about $50,000.  The high retail prices seem to indicate the vehicles would be out of reach for most Americans, thereby seeming like a questionable choice of investment for a federal program.  Also, the senators questioned whether the company’s vehicle production in Finland diminishes the goal of developing advanced vehicle technology to create jobs in the United States.


Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to Keynote the Iowa Farm Bureau's 2012 Economic Summit PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by USDA Communications   
Monday, 23 July 2012 13:51

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2012 - TOMORROW, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will keynote the Iowa Farm Bureau's 2012 Economic Summit. The Secretary will discuss the ongoing drought, USDA's efforts to assist producers, and the innovation and resilience of rural Americans in tough times such as these. He will also discuss some of the strengths shared by producers and rural communities that better position us to face this drought now than in years past - new technologies, lower debt, and the continuing strength of export markets.


As of July 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 1,297 counties across the country as disaster areas. According to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report, 88 percent of our nation's corn and 87 percent of our soybeans are in drought-stricken areas.


At President Obama's direction, USDA has announced a number of measures using existing authority to help producers impacted by drought. On July 11 USDA announced a final rule to simplify the process for Secretarial disaster designations; reduced the interest rate for Farm Service Agency Emergency Loans, lowering the current rate from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent; and reduced the payment reduction for Conservation Reserve Program lands that qualify for emergency haying and grazing in 2012, from 25 to 10 percent.  Today Secretary Vilsack announced additional measures to create more flexibility within USDA's major conservation programs - allowing additional emergency haying and grazing on more Conservation Reserve Program lands and other conservation lands for drought-stricken producers. Secretary Vilsack also today sent a letter to crop insurance companies asking them to voluntarily defer the accrual of any interest on unpaid spring crop premiums by producers until November, an extra 30 days.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

12 p.m. CDT

WHAT: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will deliver keynote remarks to the Iowa Farm Bureau's 2012 Economic Summit

WHERE: Iowa State Center Scheman Building

Iowa State University

Ames, IA




USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

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In Iowa`s Interest: Tapping the ADA Generation Workforce PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Monday, 23 July 2012 13:36

By Senator Tom Harkin

At a recent field hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in Cedar Rapids, a new generation of Iowans living with disabilities described their high expectations to succeed in the competitive labor market.  This group of young people, whom I refer to as the “ADA Generation,” are inspiring and motivated.  The strategies they shared should serve as a national model of what can be done to increase the employment participation rate for all individuals with disabilities.

Emilea Hillman of Independence is only 24 years old, but she is already an entrepreneur and owner of Em’s Coffee Co., a café where she employs six people.  After spending months developing a business plan and navigating the challenges that face any new small business owner, she opened the shop in 2009.  Em, who has an intellectual disability, uses various techniques to help her in remembering orders and now has a loyal customer base.

Ron Frank, the manager of the Walgreens in Cedar Rapids, described how his company has pioneered efforts for enhancing employment for youth and adults with disabilities.  This local store has partnered with Goodwill of the Heartland to provide a job skills training program, allowing job seekers with disabilities to gain both classroom knowledge of the retail environment and skills necessary for hands-on experience in a retail setting.

As these Iowans demonstrated, young people with disabilities know that they can succeed in the workplace, and the private and public sectors are ready to give them the chance.  But despite those facts, people with disabilities have not begun to see the benefits of our nation’s economic recovery.  Last year, nearly 3 million Americans without disabilities joined the labor force, but over same period, 94,000 workers with disabilities left the labor force.  In Iowa, even with our relatively low unemployment rate in comparison to the rest of the country, individuals with disabilities face barriers to finding jobs.  As Alex Watters of Milford, a young man with a spinal cord injury, said at the hearing, “A talent pool is sitting stagnant due to the overwhelming obstacles in their way.”

As the country celebrates the 22nd anniversary of the ADA this July 26th, I released a report that urges Congress, the Administration, the business community, and society at large to make the issue of disability employment a national priority.  In this report, I call attention to the bad shape that disability employment is in right now, but I also focus on several new factors, which have the potential to reshape employment for people with disabilities.  I am delighted that the new chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), Jack Markell of Delaware, recently announced that he will make boosting disability employment his top priority during his tenure of the leader of NGA.

Although the numbers highlighted in my report are sobering, I think that we are at a turning point for bringing more people with disabilities into the workforce.

For more information about the ADA, please contact any of my offices in Iowa or Washington, D.C., or visit my website at

A PDF version of the article is available by clicking here

Braley Statement on Defense Appropriations Bill PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:42

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement today after voting against a $607 billion defense spending bill:

View photo in message

“While there are parts of the Defense Appropriations Bill that I strongly support – a pay raise for our troops and a provision blocking cuts to the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines, for example – I cannot vote to spend nearly $90 billion to continue combat operations in Afghanistan that began over a decade ago.


“We have accomplished the objectives of our mission in Afghanistan.  Osama bin Laden is dead, al-Qaida has been marginalized, and the Afghan government has been stabilized. It’s time to bring our brave men and women home to their families and focus on rebuilding America.”


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Governor Quinn Signs Law to Increase Transparency PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Nafia Khan   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:01

New Law Improves Access to Public Meeting Information

WHEATON – July 19, 2012. As part of his ongoing efforts to increase government accountability and transparency, Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to strengthen the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The governor was joined at the ceremony, held in the DuPage County building council chambers, by local legislators and DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin. Governor Quinn is committed to restoring integrity to Illinois government.

“This law gives the public greater access to information and activities that impact their lives,” Governor Quinn said. “Increasing government openness and accountability from the statewide level to the local level will make Illinois a stronger, more ethical state.”

House Bill 4687, sponsored by Rep. Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn) and Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), requires public bodies conducting a public meeting to ensure that a copy of the meeting notice and agenda is available to the public for the entire 48 hours preceding the meeting. The measure specifies that public bodies can satisfy this requirement by posting the meeting notice on the Internet. The law also ensures that meeting agendas provide the public with adequate information about the meeting’s actions.

“I applaud Governor Quinn’s ongoing commitment to achieve more openness and greater transparency in Illinois government,” Chairman Cronin said. “By bridging the information gap between government and taxpayers, we make meaningful progress in the effort to restore the trust of our residents and the integrity of state government.”

“This new law will require all entities subject to the Open Meetings Act to provide a certain level of specificity when creating their agendas,” said Rep. Pihos.

"I'm happy we were able to work together in a bipartisan way to close a loophole that didn't serve the public," Sen. Dillard said. "This measure will help the public be better informed about what their local governments are doing."

This legislation was inspired by a court case centered on an Illinois municipality that posted a meeting notice before the meeting but did so in a building that was locked on the weekends and not accessible to the public. This legislation closes that loophole by requiring online posting of meeting agendas that list meeting action items in such cases and which are continuously available. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Since taking office, Governor Quinn has made improving ethics and increasing government transparency and accountability a top priority. In 2011, the governor signed new laws that hold local governments more accountable by requiring them to provide information such as finances, contracts and non-compliances to County Boards. Governor Quinn also launched Appointments.Illinois.Gov, Accountability.Illinois.Gov and Data.Illinois.Gov to bring more transparency to state appointments, contracts and salary information and public data collected by state and federal agencies.


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