Civic News & Info
In Iowa’s Interest: How My Office Can Help You PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Friday, 18 February 2011 11:32
When Cliff, a veteran from the Vietnam War, sought assistance from my office, his claim had been pending with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for more than three years.  He was suffering from cancer, yet the VA had not approved him for service-connected disability benefits from exposure to Agent Orange.  Due to his declining health, my office asked the VA to expedite his claim.  Cliff received a significant back-payment and was approved for monthly benefits as well.   

Debbie contacted my office because her son Jason was experiencing difficulty getting on the Section 8 housing assistance program waiting list in Des Moines.  Jason lives with a disability and unfortunately applied for the wrong housing program during the application period.  The housing authority told Debbie that Jason must wait until the next year to get on the list.  My office inquired with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – the agency that provides the funds for the Section 8 program – and asked them to consider Jason for their waiting list.  HUD contacted the housing authority, which determined it would be reasonable to add Jason to the waiting list because, due to his disability, he may have been confused about the application packet he picked up.

For nearly 200 years, members of the Senate have been assisting constituents like Cliff and Debbie when they need help dealing with the federal government.  I believe this is one of my most important duties as your Senator.  During my time serving Iowa in the Senate, my office has worked to resolve more than 90,000 cases for Iowans.  The importance of this role cannot be overstated.  

If you are seeking information from the federal government and have not been able to find an answer, my staff may be able to help.  Members of my staff can answer common questions that arise when fellow Iowans apply for benefits or seek services from our government.

Keep in mind, a U.S. Senator and staff cannot force a federal government agency to decide an issue in one’s favor or overturn a decision that is within the law and final.  In both the examples above, the outcome was favorable not because my office intervened, but because these Iowans were due the benefits and services they sought.  My office helped facilitate the processes involved in these cases and thankfully a favorable outcome was reached.  It is also important to note that a U.S. Senator cannot intervene in a matter before the courts, or any decision made by a judge.  If you are experiencing legal difficulty, consulting with an attorney is the best way to assure that your interests are well-represented.   

In most cases, my office will need a signed privacy release form from anyone seeking assistance with a federal agency.  Once the appropriate caseworker on my staff has been engaged and this privacy statement is signed, my office can begin to work on your case.

For more information, or to access a privacy release form online, visit my website at harkin.senate.gov .

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Harkin, Grassley Announces Nearly $775,000 in Funding to Support Driver Safety in Iowa PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Iowa Senators Grassley & Harkin   
Thursday, 17 February 2011 08:25

WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 15, 2011 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced that the State of Iowa will receive $773,175 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The funds are a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) State and Community Highway Grants to support state highway safety programs.  Harkin is a senior member of the Senate panel that funds transportation initiatives.

“Iowans should feel safe when they travel on our highway system,” said Harkin.  “These funds will allow Iowans to continue to drive comfortably and safely across our state.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a division of the U.S. DOT and oversees all safety initiatives on the nation’s highways.  Their mission is to save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce economic costs due to road crashes, through education, research, safety standards and enforcement activity.

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WASHINGTON – February 15, 2011 - Senator Chuck Grassley said today that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has awarded a $773,175 grant to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the funds will be used to support state highway safety programs

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 to carry out safety programs previously administered by the National Highway Safety Bureau.  The agency is charged with improving motor vehicle and highway safety.

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Governor Quinn Names Director of Illinois Emergency Management Agency PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kara Beach   
Monday, 14 February 2011 15:14

Names Illinois State Police Director Jon Monken to Head State’s Disaster Preparedness Agency

CHICAGO – February 14, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today named Jonathon E. Monken as director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). Monken is a decorated military Veteran who since 2009 has been charged with protecting the public’s safety as director of the Illinois State Police (ISP).

“I salute and thank Jon Monken for his service to the Illinois State Police, which he has led with honor and distinction – most recently during a major winter storm,” said Governor Quinn. “His strong leadership on the battlefield and in keeping Illinoisans safe makes him perfectly suited for preparing our state for disasters, and helping us recover from their aftermath.”

A former U.S. Army Captain with the Multi-National Corps-Iraq Civil-Military Relations, Monken served as Executive Officer for the Corps’ staff that coordinated all Civil-Military Operations nationwide in Iraq. As a Tank Platoon Leader, Monken led more than 100 combat missions in the “Sunni Triangle” of Iraq without losing any soldiers. He was awarded the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal with “V” Device for valor. Monken graduated in the top 1 percent of his military class at West Point.

Most recently, Monken led the ISP as they worked around the clock during a major winter storm that affected most of the state. The ISP worked alongside the IEMA, the Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Department of Military Affairs to rescue thousands of of motorists stranded on roads and highways throughout Illinois.

Patrick Keen will serve as the interim director of the ISP. Keen is a more than 25-year ISP veteran and currently serves as Deputy Director for the Division of Administration.

Current Interim IEMA Director Joseph Klinger will resume his role as the agency’s assistant director. Klinger has served as the agency’s interim director since May 2010, when Andrew Velasquez III was appointed by President Barack Obama as regional administrator for FEMA Region V. Klinger has served as the agency’s assistant director since 2007 after working for the state’s nuclear safety program for more than 20 years.

“I thank Joseph Klinger for his strong commitment to ensuring the safety of the people of Illinois, particularly his work to coordinate the state’s response to the recent winter storm,” said Governor Quinn. “I look forward to his continued service to the people of Illinois.”

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is responsible for preparing the state of Illinois for response and recovery from any natural, manmade or technological disasters or acts of terrorism. During disasters, IEMA coordinates with state and federal agencies on response efforts. IEMA, through the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, develops and implements the state’s homeland security strategy and administers federal preparedness funding.

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Capitol Comments PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck   
Monday, 14 February 2011 08:44

Iowa funds K-12 education through a funding formula referred to as allowable growth.  Think of allowable growth as a percentage of change of the base amount of state aid offered for the education of each student in the state.  In reality, the vote for or against allowable growth is many times more complicated and it is debatable whether or not those who vote on the bills understand the full implications.

Though there are many variables, think of the state as funding roughly $5800 per student who attends our public k-12 schools.  House Republicans have announced, through House File 185, their intentions of funding this amount at 0% allowable growth which means this number will not change.  Senate Democrats in Senate File 166 and Senate File 167 have approved, through the committee process, that this number should be increased by 2%.

A short look at history shows how legislative promises in February failed to come to fruition after school districts certified their budgets in April.  In FY 2009 the legislature approved 4% allowable growth then after the realization of overspending, the Governor cut state expenditures across the board by 1.5% resulting in a$32 million cut to schools.  In FY 2010 the legislature again approved a 4% allowable growth promising schools increases then realized due to over spending they cut the expenditure in May by $31 million and in October of the same year Governor Culver cut state expenditures to schools by another $238 million.  In FY 2011 schools were promised 2% allowable growth in February then cut in May by $156 million.

No matter where you stand on the issue, there is a realistic problem between the funds which are promised and the follow through of the legislature.  In the past four years our schools have had $459.7 million taken away from them resulting in $445.6 million of that spending authority falling on your property taxes.

Each year allowable growth is a political football which offers two weeks of media sound-bites.  Somewhere in the noise you will hear our local school leaders pushing common sense requests.  If the legislature promises something then follow through.  If the legislature mandates something, pay for it.  If the legislature appropriates money in February, make sure it really has the money in May.

While in the subcommittee on the 2% allowable growth bills I asked where the additional $64 million appropriation and backfill $266 million would be coming from.  One of the floor managers of the bill said, “Maybe cash reserve,” and the other gave the most honest answer, “I don’t know.”  While you ponder this issue also take into consideration Iowa’s top three expenditures of Medicaid, school aid and salaries will eclipse total revenues to the state in FY 2013.

Shawn Hamerlinck
State Senate District 42

 
Governor Quinn Salutes Illinois’ Public Safety Workers and National Guard Members PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Andrew Mason   
Monday, 07 February 2011 14:23

Efforts Aided More Than 4,000 Illinois Motorists Affected by Major Winter Storm, Maintained Critical State Services

SPRINGFIELD – February 4, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today thanked the first responders and Illinois National Guard members who assisted more than 4,000 motorists during this week’s major snowstorm. The state’s response effort was coordinated by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) from the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield. Liaisons from the state’s key agencies worked around the clock from Monday afternoon through Thursday afternoon on response efforts.

“I thank the public servants and servicemembers who worked together to ensure public safety and preserve critical state services during this dangerous storm,” said Governor Quinn. “Nearly the entire state was affected by this major winter storm, but by working together we were able to help more than 4,000 people in distress and ensure that essential state services were continued without interruption.”

The state’s combined efforts cleared 16,500 miles of highway and assisted more than 4,000 stranded motorists. The coordinated effort was led by the Illinois State Police (ISP), Illinois National Guard (ING), Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT)

From noon Tuesday through Wednesday afternoon, ISP assisted 3,400 stranded motorists throughout Illinois and handled 270 traffic accidents.

More than 500 Illinois National Guard soldiers and airmen were mobilized Tuesday to assist ISP with response to stranded motorists. Using more than 140 military vehicles, including 114 Humvees, the Illinois Guard assisted more than 200 snowed-in vehicles and assisted ISP with 16 vehicles, six accidents and one ambulance.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police (CPOs) also were activated for storm response duties on Tuesday to provide welfare checks and assist stranded motorists on Illinois roadways.  Nearly 50 CPOs used all-weather vehicles, including more than 50 snowmobiles and ATVs, to rescue or provide assistance to more than 550 stranded motorists during the height of the storm. Conservation police rescued several dozen people including a stroke victim and brought others to warming centers open throughout the state.

Since the storm began, 2,800 IDOT drivers have cleared 16,500 miles of highway throughout the state, utilizing 1,629 trucks. As a result of IDOT’s around-the-clock snowplowing effort over the past several days, roads that were virtually impassable during the height of the storm have improved significantly and continue to improve each hour.

Facility management personnel from CMS ensured that necessary facilities were open, including several 24-hour facilities that offer service to the public, ISP and IDOT locations and headquarters that were critical to the response efforts, and garages to support public agency fleets. The agency's division of vehicles played an important role in the state’s response by delivering fuel to keep plows running and making repairs. Some mechanics stayed overnight in the fleet garages to ensure they could get on the road again to continue assisting first response agencies.

The Illinois Tollway mobilized its full fleet of 183 snow plows to quickly clear the roads and kept its snow operations center open throughout the duration of the storm. The Tollway’s dispatch center handled 1,549 incident calls during the storm and the agency worked with state police to respond to 77 traffic crashes, assist 512 motorists, fulfill 33 requests for service (fuel, tire change, etc.) and tow 133 vehicles.

Other storm-related state efforts included providing updated information about shelters and warming centers, road conditions, interstate access restrictions, and winter safety tips; coordinating with critical facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes, to ensure they had power, water, medical supplies and staffing to remain operational; and tracking power outages throughout the state.

Throughout the winter storm, IEMA continually updated information on www.Ready.Illinois.gov to ensure citizens had access to vital storm-related information. Between Tuesday and Thursday there were more than 2.2 million hits to the state’s preparedness site, more than four times the total number of hits during the month of January.

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