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Lt. Governor Simon testifies in support of College Choice Reports PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kathryn Phillips   
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 08:49

Legislation to help shine light on Illinois’ higher education institutions

SPRINGFIELD – May 1, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon submitted written testimony to the Senate Higher Education Committee today in support of House Bill 5248, Amendment 2. The legislation, approved 7-0, will require public and private colleges and universities to publish annual “College Choice Reports” with key student and institutional data.

The College Choice Reports could contain information such as degree and certificate completion rates, net costs, debt loads and job placement outcomes. Much of the suggested data is already collected by the Illinois Community College Board and Illinois Board of Higher Education, but HB 5248 will ensure it is published in an easy to find and digestible format.

“Future undergraduates will be able to access College Choice Reports online to comparison-shop among institutions,” said Simon, who helped draft the legislation following her Complete College Tour of the state’s 48 community colleges. “Think of this new tool as a consumer report, guiding parents and students toward high-quality, affordable higher education investments.”

Upon passage of HB 5248, Amendment 2, higher education stakeholders will convene a committee to determine the style and content of the reports by January 1, 2014. Public and private degree-granting institutions will publish their first College Choice Report by January 1, 2015. Simon, as chair of the Joint Education Leadership Committee of the P-20 Council, will monitor the committee’s progress.

The General Assembly, with guidance from the P-20 Council, recently revamped the elementary and high school report cards which have been required for more than a decade. The College Choice Reports will build on these resources, Simon said.

HB 5248, sponsored by Sen. Kimberly Lightford, now moves to the Senate for a vote.

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Fraudulent Practices May be Used to Circumvent Protections of H-1B Visa PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 08:42

Grassley Concerned that Fraudulent Practices May be Used to Circumvent Protections of H-1B Visa

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley is pressing the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security to look into possible improper use of B-1 visas by certain companies looking to import cheaper foreign labor.

In a letter to Department of State Secretary Hillary Clinton and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Grassley cited a Seattle Times story that outlined questionable practices by The Boeing Company in using the B-1 visa instead of the H-1B visa to bring in workers from Moscow.  The story said that officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection interviewed several arriving individuals and found that their stories about what they would do in the country did not correspond with the terms of their visas.  The Customs and Border Protection agents turned away these workers, but it has been reported that despite Boeing not changing its practices an additional 250 Russian contract engineers have entered the United States to work with the company.

In his letter, Grassley reiterated his concern that the “B-1 in Lieu of H-1B” program was being abused to bring in foreign workers without the protections of the H-1B visa program.  Grassley first raised questions about the program to Clinton and Napolitano on April 14, 2011.  The State Department indicated it was working with Homeland Security to “consider removing or substantially amending” the Foreign Affairs Manual.  The Department of Homeland Security suggested it would work to “develop guidance clarifying the scope of activities permissible in the B-1 business visitor classification.”  At this time, nothing official has been done to remedy the situation.

Here’s a copy of the text of Grassley’s letter.  A signed copy can be found here.

 

April 30, 2012

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

 

The Honorable Janet Napolitano

Secretary

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

245 Murray Lane, Mailstop 0150

Washington, D.C. 20528-0150

 

Dear Secretary Clinton and Secretary Napolitano:

I write again to express my concerns about the B-1 visa program, particularly the so-called “B-1 in lieu of H-1B” policy, and seek your cooperation to determine if some companies are abusing this avenue to bring in cheaper foreign labor.

Last April, I wrote to both of you about the “B-1 in lieu of H-1B” policy, and asked that the policy, which is included in the State Department Foreign Affairs Manual but omitted in Homeland Security guidance, be reconsidered.  To date, nothing on this issue has been done, despite a fairly positive response from the State Department that they were working on “removing or substantially amending the FAM.”

I remain concerned about fraudulent actions that some companies may be taking in order to get around the requirements and U.S. worker protections of the H-1B visa program.  While my previous letter on this issue focused on a lawsuit pending against Infosys, it has come to my attention that The Boeing Company (“Boeing”) may have employed similar tactics to bring in foreign workers.

According to a report in the Seattle Times, 18 Russian engineers arrived in Seattle on October 14, 2011, with B-1 visas.  Officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) interviewed the arriving individuals and found that their stories about what they would do in the country did not correspond with the terms of their visas.  Records provided by the Seattle Times to my office reveal the following notes between the foreign nationals and CBP officials (who took statements under oath in a sworn affidavit):

·         One individual admitted that, prior to her trip, she was told by her company (Nik, Ltd.) that she would perform the same work in the United States as she did in Russia.  This person admitted that she would be working alongside Boeing employees.  She also said she was instructed by her company not to state that she would be working in the United States.

·         One individual stated that he was invited by Boeing and presented an invitation letter to attend training, but admitted that it “was not the whole truth.”

·         Several individuals admitted that they intended to work at Boeing five days a week, eight hours a day.

·         One individual stated that the letter he presented to the U.S. Consulate in Moscow was not entirely correct in its context, and that he would be working, not training.  When asked by the CBP officer if an American could perform the work, he stated that “Boeing needs to hire one” and that “it was his belief that it was cheaper to hire Russian engineers.”

·         One individual told officers that he would not do any hands-on work at the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington, but later, under oath, he admitted that he would.

It was apparent to CBP officers that these foreign nationals were not traveling to the United States to receive or provide training; attend a conference, meeting or trade show; be a speaker, lecturer, or researcher; or perform sales or sign contracts; which are the types of activities appropriate for a B-1 visa.  It’s my understanding that all 18 B-1 visa holders were turned away on October 14, 2011.  In light of the report and the CBP documentation, I was dismayed to read earlier this month a follow-up story in the Seattle Times stating that Boeing has not changed its practices, and that about 250 additional Russian contract engineers have entered the country to work with Boeing.

Given these reports and my ongoing concern about this issue, I ask for your help in answering the following questions about Boeing and the use of B-1 visas:

1.      How many B-1 visas has Boeing petitioned for in the last five years?  How many have been approved and how many denied?

2.      How many B-1 visa holders, other than those encountered by CBP on October 14, have been turned away at a port of entry in the last five years?

3.      What other previous trips had each of the 18 workers (from October 14, 2011) made to the United States?  Under what visa classification and for how long were their previous stays in the United States?

4.      How often, if at all, does the Department of Homeland Security conduct site visits of companies that regularly receive B-1 visitors?  Has or will the Department of Homeland Security conduct an on-site review or I-9 audit of Boeing?  If not, why not?

5.      In light of the recent reports about certain companies using B-1 visas to circumvent other employment visa programs, are CBP officers receiving updated guidance on how to handle B-1 visa entries?  Are consular officers receiving guidance or training to detect fraud by B-1 visa applicants?

It’s my hope that your Departments will provide as much information to my office as possible about this matter, including any other relevant information not requested in this letter.  In doing so, we can work together to ensure that companies are abiding by the law and not ignoring American workers at home who may be able to do these high skilled jobs.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

 
MOTHER’S DAY GIFT IDEAS TO FIT ANY BUDGET PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jenna Kendall   
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 08:30

Top Outdoor-related gifts to make Mom a happy camper

Springfield, MO ---(May 1, 2012)---It’s almost Mother’s Day and time to thank Mom.  Show your appreciation for all the home-cooked meals, love and advice no matter what your budget is.  Make her day an extra special memory even better than flowers that she is sure to love.  Celebrate Mom with one of these great gift ideas.

Bass Pro Shops® Collectible Sterling Silver Charm Pendant
Mom will love this keepsake for years to come.  This Bass Pro Shops Collectible Sterling Silver Pendant is the perfect attachment to a charm bracelet, necklace, zipper pull and more. Featuring the familiar Bass Pro Shops logo, this charm comes with a jump ring for easy attachment to anything you want to embellish. It’s the perfect zipper pull for your fishing vest or jacket, and you’ll want a second one to attach to your favorite fishing hat! Item number 38-615-300-01 $14.99USD. Available at www.basspro.com

NEW Natural Reflections® Umbrella 13'' Waterproof Boots for Ladies - Paris
Shoes are a woman’s best friend.  Look great and stay dry with our chic umbrella boot designs! Featuring a print of Parisian landmarks, these fun, fashionable rain boots have waterproof rubber uppers, adjustable straps with gussets for easy on/off, removable EVA insoles for extra cushioning, and durable rubber outsoles. Color: Paris. Imported.   Product Color: Paris.  Item number 38-747-078-45.  $39.99USD.  Also available at www.basspro.com

Deep Woods 16-Piece Dinnerware Set
Mom can experience the rustic charm of the wilderness everyday with the Deep Woods 16-piece Dinnerware Set! This authentic set is made of stoneware and fired at high temperatures for durability. Each piece features an embossed nature design and is finished with a reactive glaze for a striking effect. This set includes four 10.5'' dinner plates, four 8'' salad plates, four 6'' cereal bowls (28 oz.), and four 14 oz. mugs. All pieces are dishwasher and microwave safe. Imported. Item number 38-955-166-7.  $49.99USD.  Available at www.basspro.com

Natural Reflections® Moc Slippers for Ladies – Black
Our Moc Slippers are styled just for ladies, with a leather upper featuring fleece-like lining for extra warmth and comfort. Easy when in a hurry and easy to slip out of too! Soft and flexible outdoor non-skid sole Mom will use everyday. Color: Black. Imported. $24.99USD.  Available at www.basspro.com

Big Cedar Lodge – Romance Package
Mom and Dad deserve a relaxing getaway.  Located just 10 miles south of Branson, Missouri on Table Rock Lake and tucked into the wooded hillsides of the Ozark Mountains, Big Cedar resides. This popular vacation paradise – complete with Jack Nicklaus signature golf course and Dogwood Canyon Nature Park- offers cozy accommodations, delicious dining options and first class service.  Guests find all amenities typical of a luxury resort, yet this wilderness lodge is anything but typical. Accommodations at Big Cedar range from a choice room in one of three tastefully appointed lodges to a cozy cottage or a rustic log cabin. You’ll find that lodging includes a fireplace and a Jacuzzi tub or a lovely view of Table Rock Lake. Besides our Top of the Rock nine-hole golf course, we also off a full service marina on Table Rock Lake, horseback riding, bass fishing and trout fishing, and trails suited for walking, biking and hiking. Scenic vistas, refreshing mountain air and Ozark hospitality included – at no extra charge!  Call 1-800-BCLODGE (1-800-225-6343) for more information or to book this package.


About Bass Pro Shops®: Bass Pro Shops® operates 58 retail stores in 26 states and Canada visited by over 110 million people annually.  Bass Pro Shops® also conducts an international catalog and internet retailing operation, American Rod & Gun® wholesale division sells to over 7,000 independently owned retail stores worldwide.  Outdoor World® Incentives also sells Bass Pro Shops® gift cards through over 132,000 retail outlets across America.  The Bass Pro Shops® restaurant division with 26 locations.  The company’s Tracker Marine Group® (www.trackerboats.com) manufactures and sells Tracker®, Nitro®, SunTracker®, Tahoe®, Grizzly® and Mako® boats through Bass Pro Shops® retail stores and over 400 dealers worldwide.  The Resort Group (www.bigcedar.com) includes Big Cedar Lodge® and other resort properties including restaurants and golf courses. For more information regarding Bass Pro Shops® store locations, products or special events, please visit www.basspro.com.  To request a free catalog, call 1-800-BASS PRO.  Follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bassproshops.

 
Braley Stumps for National Kadyn’s Law in Waterloo and Dubuque PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Tuesday, 01 May 2012 14:22

Bill would require states to match new Iowa penalties for passing stopped school bus

Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) visited Waterloo’s Lou Henry Elementary School and Dubuque’s George Washington Carver School today to stump for national legislation strengthening penalties for drivers that illegally pass stopped school buses.  Braley will discuss Kadyn’s Act with students at Northwood-Kensett Elementary School tomorrow.

The bill, “Kadyn’s Act,” was introduced by Braley in March and is modeled after Iowa’s new “Kadyn’s Law.”  The bill and the Iowa law, signed by Governor Terry Branstad in March, are named after Kadyn Halverson, 7, who was struck and killed by a pickup truck as she crossed the street to board her school bus near Northwood, Iowa, last May.  Kadyn’s Law was championed in Iowa by Kadyn’s mother, Kari Halverson, her family, and Kim Koenigs, a local advocate.

Braley said, “When reckless drivers ignore warnings and pass stopped school buses, children’s lives are put in danger.  Toughening penalties for drivers who violate school bus safety laws will save lives and convince more people to drive responsibly around kids and schools.  It’s a common sense change that rises above petty partisan politics.

 

Braley continued, “Thanks to Kadyn, Iowa has become a national leader in school bus safety.  It’s time every state adopt these strict standards so the penalty matches the severity of this crime.”

Iowa’s Kadyn’s Law mandates for first offenders fines of at least $250 and the possibility of jail time of up to 30 days.  For a second offense of passing a stopped school bus within 5 years, fines would range from between $315 and $1,875 with up to one year of jail time.

The federal Kadyn’s Act written by Braley would require states to strengthen their penalties for drivers who pass stopped school buses to the new Iowa standard at a minimum – or face losing 10 percent of federal highway funding each year.

The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services estimates that cars illegally pass stopped school buses 13 million times per year.  An average of 16 children per year are killed by drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.

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Secret Service Releases New Conduct Rules PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 01 May 2012 13:07

Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement after the U.S. Secret Service released new conduct rules.  Grassley has been pressing for an independent investigation of the Colombia prostitution scandal and other misconduct that recently has been alleged.  The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the Secret Service.

“It’s too bad common sense policy has to be dictated in this manner.  New conduct rules are necessary to preventing more shenanigans from happening in the future, and whether these are the best, and most cost effective, rules to stop future misconduct remains to be seen.  That’s why a sheet of paper with new rules doesn’t negate the previous actions, and why it remains necessary to hold the agency and the agents accountable following a complete and independent investigation.”

 
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