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Senators Question President’s Authority to Issue Immigration Directive PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 08:27
WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley is leading a group of senators  in questioning the directive announced last week by President Obama to grant deferred action to illegal immigrants and asking for a full accounting from the President of his legal authority to issue such a directive, how the executive action will be implemented and administered, and the cost to taxpayers.

In a letter sent to the President this afternoon, the senators asked for written responses to a list of detailed questions and a briefing from the administration officials who will be responsible for the program.   They described their concerns about President’s circumvention of Congress in issuing the directive and questioned the impact of allowing work authorizations for illegal immigrants at the same time young Americans face record-high unemployment rates.

Grassley’s letter was signed by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mike Crapo of Idaho, James Risch of Idaho, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, John Boozman of Arkansas, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, David Vitter of Louisiana, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John Barrasso of Wyoming, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Click here for a signed copy of the letter.

 
US Forest Service adds four heavy helicopters to support wildfire suppression PDF Print E-mail
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Written by U.S. Forest Service   
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 13:08

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2012 - U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today announced the agency is adding four heavy helicopters to the aviation firefighting fleet.


“The addition of these helicopters to our aviation fleet will increase our ability to respond quickly and aggressively to fight wildfires and protect lives and property,” said Tidwell. “We will continue to mobilize our firefighting assets when and where they are needed as we respond to a very challenging wildfire season.”

The helicopters will be available this summer for large fire support and initial attack to any location in the United States.

The U.S. Forest Service successfully suppresses about 98 percent of the approximately 10,000 wildfires that occur each year on National Forest System lands. 

Two of the heavy helicopters are S-61s owned by Siller Helicopters of Yuba City, Calif.; one is an S-64 Skycrane owned by Erickson Air Crane of Central Point, Ore.; and one is an S-70 owned by Firehawk Helicopters of Leesburg, Fla. 

Helicopters are used primarily for dropping retardant or water during wildland fires, supporting the actions of firefighters on the ground.  The additional helicopter assets will strengthen the agency’s capability to respond effectively to fire activity during the summer wildfire season.

The Forest Service can respond vigorously to wildfire with an array of assets that includes more than 15,000 USDA and Department of the Interior firefighters (about 70 percent from the Forest Service) and up to 950 engines, 14 large airtankers, eight Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, one very large (DC-10) airtanker, 300 call-when-needed helicopters, and a mix of type 1, 2, and 3 helicopters.

On June 13, the agency awarded exclusive use contracts for seven "Next Generation" airtankers. Three will be operational in 2012 and four in 2013.  This is the first step in implementing the Large Airtanker Modernization Strategy, which was submitted to Congress in February and recommends 18 to 28 large airtankers.

The Forest Service uses many tools for wildland fire suppression including accelerated restoration efforts that include thinning and other fuels treatments. Restoration of National Forest System lands are critically needed to address a number of threats to the health of forest ecosystems, watersheds, and forest dependent communities. 

This year, as in the past, firefighting experts will continuously monitor conditions and move assets as necessary to be best positioned and increase initial attack capabilities.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

 

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Veterinarian Proposes Law Recognizing Pets’ True Value PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 12:24

A veterinarian is asking anyone who will listen – legislators, judges, fellow pet owners – if the loss of a pet is akin to the loss of furniture, a computer or a car.

Kenneth Newman, a 33-year veterinarian and author of Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge (www.meetmeattherainbowbridge.com), has proposed a law that answers his question. Gracie’s Law recognizes the emotional bond between pet and owner by entitling the owner of a pet killed through an act of malice or negligence to $25,000 in damages.

“It’s time we change the laws to more accurately reflect what pets mean to the average American,” says Newman.

Gracie’s Law would not supersede current laws, he says, which entitle owners to the property value of their pet. And it would not replace criminal prosecution for acts of malice. And owners who decline a recommended veterinarian procedure to save a pet would not be held accountable under the law, he says.

Newman’s dog Gracie was killed in April 2008 when a negligent driver backed up 25 yards without looking, crushing Newman and Gracie between two vehicles. The vet escaped with a broken leg; Gracie saved his life, he says.

“An attorney looked me in the eye and said that my dog was a piece of property, that I wasn’t entitled to anything for the dog, and that this was a simple broken-leg case,” he says.

In every state, he says, laws view pets as property. Owners are entitled to no more than replacement value; no law takes into consideration the loss of companionship, grief, or pain and suffering.

Newman says that doesn’t jibe with Americans’ attitude toward their pets. According to an American Animal Hospital Association survey, 90 percent of owners consider their animals part of the family. Other findings:

• 52 percent of Americans would rather be stranded on a deserted island with their pet than with another person.

• 83 percent call themselves “Mommy” or “Daddy” in reference to their pet.

• 59 percent celebrate their pet’s birthday.

Cases involving pet owners’ bonds are increasingly showing up in the courts, Newman points out:

• Matrimonial law: Attorneys have experienced a 23 percent increase in pet cases, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. This includes custody battles over pets, veterinarian bills and visitation rights. Harvard now has a course dedicated to pet law.

• The North Carolina Court of Appeals: While the plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit was denied, animal activists applaud a judge’s willingness to at least hear a case involving a Jack Russell terrier that died while undergoing tube feeding at a state facility.

• Texas justice: On Nov. 3, 2011, Fort Worth's 2nd Court of Appeals ruled that value can be attached to the love of a dog. That overruled a 120-year-old Texas Supreme Court case, which held that plaintiffs can only recoup the market value of their pets.

• Largest award: In April, a Denver judge awarded Robin Lohre $65,000 for the death of her dog, Ruthie. Lohre had accused Posh Maids cleaning service of negligence for allowing the dog to get outside, where it was hit by a car. Newman notes this sets a new precedent for pet value, but that such uncapped awards may threaten affordable veterinary care.

To read Gracie’s Law and copy it to share, visit meetmeattherainbowbridge.com, click “image gallery” and scroll down.

About Kenneth Newman DVM

Kenneth Newman graduated from Purdue University with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1979, and has since been a practicing vet. He experienced a badly broken leg and the death of his Labrador retriever Gracie due to the negligence of a driver in April 2008. Since then, he has proposed and advocated Gracie’s Law, which recognizes that pets are more than common property. Newman lives with his wife and their son, as well as several pets.

 
Ninth Circuit response on Maui judicial conference PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 19 June 2012 12:23

Grassley, Sessions Criticize ‘Unapologetic’ Response From Ninth Circuit About Maui Judicial Conference

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued the following statement today in response to a letter from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals defending the planned million-dollar judicial conference at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa in the Hawaiian tropics:

“We have received a reply from the Ninth Circuit regarding its fourth planned Hawaii conference in nine years. We remain deeply concerned about the conference’s overall costs, as well as the lavish recreational schedule, given that the event is subsidized by taxpayers. We will closely review the letter, but it appears Circuit officials remain defiantly unapologetic about the conference’s scale, location, and itinerary in our current hour of financial crisis. They show no indication of changing their financial behavior in the future.”

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Governor Quinn Signs Law to Increase Transparency of Pension Systems PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 18 June 2012 14:44
New Law Improves Pension Systems; State Actuary Will Oversee Certification

CHICAGO - June 18, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law that will increase oversight of the state’s pension systems. Senate Bill 179 creates the position of a state actuary to oversee the five state-funded pension systems to help increase transparency of the systems. After signing the new law, Governor Quinn continued his call for bold pension reform that eliminates the unfunded liability.

“We must restore integrity and accountability to the state’s pension systems and we are headed in the right direction with this new law,” Governor Quinn said. “Now is the time to roll our sleeves up and continue to work together to fundamentally reform our pension system and rescue it from drowning in an ocean of unfunded liability.”

Under Senate Bill 179, sponsored by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne (D-Belleville), the position of a state actuary will be created within the Office of the Auditor General and will report to the auditor general. The actuary will oversee the state’s five pension systems: State Employees Retirement System, General Assembly Retirement System, State Universities Retirement System, Teachers Retirement System and Judges Retirement System. To strengthen accountability and transparency, the actuary will review assumptions, valuations and actuarial practices for each of the systems. The actuary will also help calculate the state’s annual required contributions.

“This is another important step in making the pension systems stable by requiring an independent review of how the systems create their cost estimates,” said Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.

The new law is designed to ensure that all of the state’s pension systems follow Illinois law when determining future contributions. Currently, each pension system submits a certification plan to the Governor and the General Assembly. Under the new law, the systems will submit their proposals to the Governor, the General Assembly and the new state actuary who will review the plans. The actuary will then issue a report containing recommended changes to the actuarial assumptions. Final certifications will be submitted on Jan. 15. The actuary will also be responsible for conducting reviews of the actuarial practices of the systems.

Governor Quinn continues to work with leaders of the General Assembly on a long-term solution to strengthen and stabilize the state’s pension system. Governor Quinn introduced a plan to reform the pension systems that would eliminate the unfunded liability over 30 years and allow public employees who have faithfully contributed to the system to receive pension benefits.

“Reforming our pension systems is critical to funding vital state programs and paying our vendors on time,” said the bill’s chief co-sponsor, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago). “This law will make sure that all of the state’s pension systems are following the correct process, and I thank Governor Quinn for signing this quickly.”

“We must restore confidence in the state’s pension systems,” said Leader Clayborne. “I would like to thank Governor Quinn for his quick action on this bill that will help us make sure that contributions are being calculated correctly.”

The new law goes into effect immediately.

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