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Feinstein, Grassley Introduce Bill to Combat Transnational Organized Crime PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 15 April 2013 07:38
Washington (Apr 11, 2013) —Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, today introduced legislation to combat transnational organized crime. The Transnational Drug Trafficking Act of 2013, which passed the Senate unanimously in 2011 but was not considered in the House of Representatives, provides the Justice Department new tools to prosecute foreign drug traffickers.

“Drug traffickers are constantly finding new and innovative ways to avoid prosecution, and we cannot allow them to exploit these loopholes.” Senator Feinstein said. “Congress must provide the Department of Justice with all of the tools necessary to prosecute drug kingpins both at home and abroad.”

“Since drug cartels are continually evolving, this legislation ensures that our criminal laws keep pace.” Senator Grassley said.  “This legislation closes a loophole abused by drug traffickers who intend for drugs to end up in the United States but supply them through an intermediary.”

 

The Transnational Drug Trafficking Act of 2013:

  • Establishes penalties for drug trafficking activity when individuals have reasonable cause to believe that illegal drugs will be trafficked into the United States.  This provision will help the Justice Department build extradition cases on drug kingpins from the Andean countries of Colombia and Peru who often use Mexican drug trafficking organizations as intermediaries to ship illegal narcotics to the United States.
  • Ensures current penalties apply to chemical producers from other countries (including producers of pseudoephedrine used for methamphetamine) that illegally ship precursor chemicals into the U.S. knowing these chemicals will be used to make illegal drugs.
  • Provides a technical fix to the Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act, which increases penalties for the trafficking of counterfeit drugs, by adding a “knowing” requirement so pharmacists can only be held criminally liable if they knowingly sell counterfeit drugs to a customer.

This bill supports the Obama Administration’s July 2011 Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime. 

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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DAV has urgent need for volunteer drivers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Paul Janecek   
Friday, 12 April 2013 09:41

The Disabled American Veterans transportation program is in urgent need of voluntary drivers to drive the local DAV van.  The DAV van carries veterans to the Iowa City VA Medical Center for medical appointments and compensation examinations.

The drivers can expect to spend the entire day performing this volunteer service.  Many drivers have told our people that it is a very rewarding and enjoyable experience.

People who would consider volunteering should know that the van is a 12 passenger vehicle that is maintained by the Veterans Administration and is replaced every two years to ensure the safety of the equipment and the passengers.

Interested people should call the QC Chapter at 563-391-1760 or 563-386-3533 to volunteer or learn more about our program.

 

 
Regulatory Reform Initiative Seeks Sunshine, Accountability and Pro-Jobs Environment PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 11 April 2013 14:30

WASHINGTON – Working to create an environment for private-sector employers to create jobs and to increase transparency, Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Doug Collins are introducing legislation that would end the practice of enacting federal regulations through sue-and-settle litigation.  Grassley is Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Collins is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and leads the Freshman Regulatory Reform Working Group.

The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act responds to the use of consent decrees and settlement agreements in lawsuits against federal agencies to bind executive discretion.  The end result is rulemaking that implements the priorities of pro-regulatory special interest groups and limits the discretion of succeeding administrations.

“Sue-and-settle litigation damages the transparency, public participation and judicial review protections Congress has guaranteed for all of our citizens in the rulemaking process.  And, it’s a tremendous burden on job-creating businesses, especially small businesses,” Grassley said.  “This kind of regulatory litigation also adversely affects the ability of the executive branch to engage in sound and principled decision-making. The goal of this bill is to make sure all citizens, especially those directly impacted by a proposed regulation, have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process and help ensure the procedure and process used to create these regulations are made in the open.  America’s system of lawmaking and judicial review shouldn’t be distorted or manipulated.”

“The Obama Administration has empowered agencies to subvert the legislative process and manipulate the rulemaking system to achieve their pro-regulation agenda. Strong reforms are needed to protect communities and businesses against burdensome regulations that circumvent the rulemaking process.  This legislation sheds light on the regulation through litigation that is crippling small businesses in my district and across the nation. Improving the public participation and transparency protections of the Administrative Procedure Act is vital to preserving the integrity of the rulemaking process,” Collins said.

Sue-and-settle driven rulemaking takes place under schedules that render notice-and-comment requirements a mere formality, depriving regulated entities, the public and the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of sufficient time to have any meaningful input on the content of final rules.

The sue-and-settle problem has occurred primarily in litigation against regulatory agencies over allegations that agency action has been unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed.  Typically, the defendant agency has failed to meet a mandatory statutory deadline for a new regulation or is alleged to have unreasonably delayed discretionary action.  In addition, agency actions are often politically sensitive, especially when the proposed regulation imposes high costs on the regulated businesses.

With sue-and-settle cases, the resulting consent decree or settlement agreement comes as a surprise to the regulated community and the general public and often provides a short timeline for agency action.  The lack of advance notice and minimal time allowed for the proposal and promulgation of regulations allows agencies to undercut the public participation and analytical requirements of regulatory process statutes.  Accelerated timeframes for proposal and promulgation allow agencies to short-circuit review of new regulations by the OIRA.  The incentive to do this is particularly strong when the plaintiff and the agency agree on what the content of the regulation should be, and seek to effectuate that agreement without input from interested parties and the OIRA.

Senators Tom Coburn, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, John Cornyn, Deb Fischer and Ted Cruz are original cosponsors of the reform proposal in the Senate.  Spencer Bachus, Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, and Howard Coble, Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet are co-sponsoring in the House.

The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act would require:

·         Greater transparency. Agencies must publish sue-and-settle notices of intent to sue, complaints, decrees, settlements, and attorneys’ fee awards and report on them to Congress.

·         Greater rights for regulated entities and the public. Agencies cannot propose sue-and-settle decrees and settlements to the courts until parties affected by the proposed regulations can intervene and participate in settlement negotiations and the proposed decrees and settlements are published for public notice and comment.

·         Greater judicial scrutiny. Courts weighing proposed decrees and settlements must assure compliance with normal rulemaking procedures and account for agencies’ competing mandatory duties not within the litigation.

·         Greater accountability. The Attorney General must certify to the court his or her approval of proposed decrees that convert discretionary authorities into mandatory duties.

·         Greater flexibility for new administrations. Courts are allowed to review de novo any new administration’s motion to modify a consent decree in light of changed facts and circumstances or competing duties.

 

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Prairie State Legal Services Announces New Awareness and Outreach Program at Rock Island Main Library, Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Lisa Lockheart   
Thursday, 11 April 2013 14:23

Rock Island, IL: The Rock Island office of Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., has announced a new public benefits help desk resource for individuals who may need information or assistance in navigating the public benefits system.

Available at two locations in Rock Island, the help desk will be staffed by trained volunteers who can provide assistance, general information and guidance with assistance programs for food, cash, medical and disability, also known as SNAP, TANF, Medicaid and SSI/SSDI. Volunteers can also provide help with general township assistance.

Starting April 15, Prairie State Legal Services Help Desk volunteers will be available from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays on the second floor of the Rock Island Main Library, 401 19th Street, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, 630 7th Avenue.

The help desk was conceptualized and developed by Prairie State’s AmeriCorps VISTA as part of a comprehensive public benefits awareness and outreach program.

Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. is a not-for-profit law firm that provides free civil legal services to the poor, elderly and people with disabilities. Prairie State has 12 offices serving 36 counties throughout northern and central Illinois. The mission of Prairie State is to provide or coordinate the delivery of high quality legal services to low-income individuals, families and groups.

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Grassley Unveils Legislation to Lessen Burden on Second and Eleventh Circuit Courts PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 11 April 2013 14:21
WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley introduced legislation to ease pressure on the heavy workloads on the Second and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals, which are two of the busiest circuit courts in the country.

“This bill is a step towards rectifying the great workload disparities between the circuit courts.  It’s a common sense bill and moves judges to where they are needed.  It saves the taxpayers’ money.  It won’t affect President Obama’s current nominee, Mr. Srinivasan. And because the bill would become effective upon enactment, President Obama would still have the opportunity to nominate two of those circuit court vacancies,” Grassley said.

Grassley’s legislation would add a seat to both the Second and Eleventh Circuit Courts and remove three seats from the D.C. Circuit Court.  Currently, the D.C. Circuit has 108 appeals filed per authorized judgeship, the lowest in the nation.  By contrast, the Second Circuit has 425 appeals filed per authorized judgeship and the Eleventh Circuit, the busiest appeals court in the country has 583 appeals filed per authorized judgeship.

If Grassley’s legislation were enacted, the caseload would decrease by 7.5 percent in the Second and Eleventh Circuits. At the same time, even after removing three seats from the D.C. Circuit, the workload of the D.C. circuit would remain among the lowest in the country.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Jeff Flake.

Here is a copy of Grassley’s remarks that were inserted into the Senate Record upon introduction.

 

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
The Court Efficiency Act

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

 

Mr. President,

Today I am introducing the Court Efficiency Act, a bill that will help some of the nation’s busiest courts.  Hopefully, it will also ease some of the tension that arises during debates of D.C. Circuit Court nominees.  I am pleased that Senators Hatch, Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, Lee, Cruz, and Flake are original co-sponsors.

It is no secret that the D.C. Circuit is the least-busy, least-worked appellate court in the nation.  By nearly every measurement taken by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the D.C. Circuit comes in a distant last.  Here are three of the most common measurements using the most recent data available for the 12-months ending September 30, 2012.

First, “Total Appeals Filed.” Total Appeals Filed measures the amount of work coming into the court.  Simply put, it is the total number of appeals that a circuit court received in the last 12 months.  The D.C. Circuit has 108 appeals per authorized judgeship, the lowest in the nation.  To put this in perspective, the Second Circuit is 4 times higher and the Eleventh Circuit, the busiest in the nation, is more than five times as high, with 583 appeals filed per authorized judge.

Next, “Total Appeals Terminated” measures the amount of work the court is accomplishing.  Once again, the D.C. Circuit is by far the lowest in the nation with 108 total appeals terminated per authorized judgeship.  By comparison, the Second Circuit is 4 times higher and the Eleventh Circuit is 5 times higher, at 540 appeals terminated per authorized judgeship.

Finally, “Total Appeals Pending” measures the amount of work before the court.  In other words, it is the number of appeals the court hasn’t yet addressed or the cases that are outstanding.  The D.C. Circuit has 120 appeals pending per authorized judgeship, which means it is essentially tied for last with the Tenth Circuit that has 115.  In contrast, the Second Circuit and the Eleventh Circuit have 343 and 323 appeals pending per authorized judgeship, respectively.

Back during President Bush’s administration, my friends on the other side of the aisle cited the light work load of that court in order to block qualified, non-controversial nominees.  Since that time, the D.C. Circuit Court workload has only continued to decrease.

Considering the imbalance between the workloads of the Circuits, my bill essentially reallocates those vacancies to other circuits that are much busier.  The Court Efficiency Act does four things.  First, it adds one seat to the Second Circuit.  Second, it adds one seat to the Eleventh Circuit.  Third, it reduces the number of authorized judgeships for the D.C. Circuit from 11 to 8.  Fourth, it would become effective upon enactment.

Adopting this bill would be a step towards rectifying the great workload disparities between the circuit courts.  The Court Efficiency Act would ease some of the pressure on the Second and Eleventh circuits.  By moving just one judgeship each to the Second and Eleventh circuits, we would lower each circuit’s respective workload by approximately 7.5%.  This reduction can be accomplished without jeopardizing the D.C. Circuit’s status as the “least-busy Circuit.” Even after the D.C. Circuit is reduced to 8 seats, it would still be roughly half as busy as the Circuit median in appeals filed, terminated, and pending per authorized judgeship.

I would also like to highlight several things that this bill will not do.  First, it would not impact the President’s current nominee to the D.C. Circuit, Mr. Srinivasan, whose hearing occurred earlier today.  Instead, for the remaining three seats, it removes one and reallocates the other two.

Second, the bill would not affect the president’s opportunity to nominate two of those Circuit court vacancies.  It simply reassigns those vacancies to other circuits that are clearly busier.

Third, this legislation will be effective immediately, rather than postponing until the beginning of the next presidential term, as has been in the past.  Immediate enactment will empower the President to quickly act to alleviate some of the heavy workloads of the Second and Eleventh Circuits.

The bill will also save the taxpayer a significant amount of money annually.  Although the bill has not been scored yet by the CBO, this estimate is based on previous estimates offered by the CBO when it has scored judgeship bills.

The last time the D.C. Circuit had 11 nominees was the end of 1999.  I want to move past the disagreements over the D.C. Circuit and shift these judges to circuits where there is a greater need to fill them.

Mr. President, this is a common sense bill.  It moves judges to where they are needed, a significant step in addressing the severe imbalance in the workloads of some of these circuit courts.  It saves the taxpayers money.  It doesn’t negatively impact the D.C. Circuit Court.  It won’t affect President Obama’s current nominee, Mr. Srinivasan.  I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of this bill be printed in the Record.

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