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President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tour Iowa PDF Print E-mail
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Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Friday, 19 August 2011 08:32

President Barrack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack toured Iowa to hear the economic concerns of residents and to tell them about the importance and potential of rural America

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FEATURE – President Obama And Secretary Vilsack Tour Iowa

INTRO: President Barrack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack toured Iowa to hear the economic concerns of residents and to tell them about the importance and potential of rural America.

 

Narrator: Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.

 

Barrack Obama, President: We’ve got small business owners here. We have farmers. We have ranchers. Public servants. Clean energy entrepreneurs. And community organizations from all across rural America. And I’m here because I want to hear from you. And my cabinet wants to hear from you.

 

Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary: You know this is the greatest place in the world to be an entrepreneurial, smart, creative young person, because you can be the mayor of your town in your early thirties. You don’t have to wait to be sixty years old to accomplish something. You can accomplish it sooner.

 

Riley Pagett, National FFA President: To shake his hand and hear him talk about American agriculture and the importance of rural America was just something that all of us today in these jackets hold so true to our hearts.

 

Melissa Gentz, Student , Northern Iowa Community College: We want a future. This is our country. This is important. We want to stay here in rural Iowa where we love it. We can’t do that if we can’t make a living.

 

Vilsack: We are going to get through this difficult time. We will emerge stronger and better and we will continue to be what we were meant to be, which is that beacon of hope around the world.

 
Reported Justice Department review of credit ratings agency PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 19 August 2011 08:27

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today made the following comment on a New York Times report that the Justice Department “is investigating whether the nation’s largest credit ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, improperly rated dozens of mortgage securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis.”  Grassley was a co-sponsor of an amendment during the financial reform legislative debate last year to try to fix a conflict of interest problem at the credit agencies.  He made the following comment on today’s news report. 

“The Senate tried to do something about a conflict of interest problem at the credit ratings agencies. Unfortunately, the House-Senate conference committee downgraded the Senate provision to a study.   It was a missed opportunity.   Maybe a Justice Department investigation will force action on the conflicts of interest problem and accomplish what should have been done a long time ago.”

Following are a statement and press release from the 2010 financial reform debate.

Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Conference Report on Financial Regulation Bill

I’ll vote against the conference report because of concerns about changes made to the Senate bill, which I supported.

First, there’s new spending with a new offset that’s a huge problem.  The new offset uses TARP dollars.  TARP dollars should be returned to the taxpayers and used for deficit reduction, as was promised from the start.  I voted for the Senate version of the banking bill to protect taxpayers from another government bailout of Wall Street, not to put taxpayers on the hook by spending more money through TARP.

The new offset also uses FDIC fees for a budget gimmick by crediting those fees to the FDIC and using them as an offset.

The conference report also waters down important reforms that were in the Senate bill.

I wanted to make the derivatives market transparent.  The conference report weakened the Senate derivatives title, which required that banks receiving federal assistance push out all derivatives trading to separate affiliate operations.  Instead, the conference report allows certain types of derivatives trading by the bank which puts them in a more risky position.

I also wanted to target conflicts of interest with credit rating agencies.  The Senate bill contained an amendment that I cosponsored to break up the conflict of interest where security issuers get to pick the credit rating agencies.  A lack of independent assessment in this area was a major factor in what led up to the meltdown in 2008.  The conference report guts this reform by replacing it with a mere study.

I also wanted to make the Fed open to scrutiny and accountability.  The Senate bill took a step in that direction, albeit way too small of a step.  A lot more should have been done in this area.  For instance, the House version included a full audit of the Fed, and members of the conference could have taken that stronger language.

It’s a bill that most of Wall Street wants passed.  And that’s the last thing Iowans expect in any real reform bill.

For Immediate Release: 
May 13, 2010 

Contact:
Jess McIntosh 202.224.1868 (Franken)
Brian Fallon 202.224.6542 (Schumer)
Courtney Sanders 202.224.6253 (Wicker)
Jill Kozeny 202.224.1308 (Grassley)


Amendment Ending Credit Rating Conflicts Of Interest Passes Senate
Bipartisan Amendment To Wall Street Reform Passes 64 - 35


WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/13/10] – Today, the Restore Integrity To Credit Ratings amendment (S.Amdt. 3991) authored by U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and co-sponsored by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) passed the Senate by 64 to 35 votes, becoming part of the Wall Street Reform bill currently being debated. 

“Today is a major victory for Main Streets all over America,” said Sen. Franken. “We’re cleaning up Wall Street’s dishonest system and replacing it with one that rewards accuracy instead of fraud. My proposal wasn’t conservative, or liberal, or even moderate. It was just plain common sense. That’s why I had the support of colleagues on both sides of the aisle and why we were able to win today.”

“Credit rating agencies were one of the main culprits in the financial crisis,”
said Sen. Schumer. “They adopted questionable practices intended to win over clients, neglected their own internal controls and developed a coziness with clients. Under this measure, issuers will no longer be able to choose a rating agency and directly influence what kind of ratings they can get.” 

“Today, the Senate sent a strong, bipartisan message that conflicts of interest must be removed from the current credit-rating system,”
said Sen. Wicker.  “The current system is broken and is detrimental to a well-functioning marketplace.  I hope this legislation will help facilitate a trustworthy credit-rating system so investors can confidently assess the creditworthiness of certain investments.” 

“The credit-rating agencies are supposed to be independent evaluators of financial companies, but overly cozy relationships with those who they’re supposed to scrutinize have interfered.  This conflict-of-interest amendment is an important reform to help bring about the independent assessment investors deserve.  It’s a matter of market integrity,”
Sen. Grassley said.

The proposal ends the conflicts of interest inherent in Wall Street’s current pay-to-play credit rating system. Right now, banks choose which credit rating agencies will rate the quality of their bonds and other financial products, resulting in the agencies giving away undeserved top ratings to countless sub-par financial products in order to attract business.

Sen. Franken’s Restore Integrity To Credit Ratings amendment is also co-sponsored by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Bernard Sanders (I.-Vt.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). 

It cleans up the system by making sure a bank or financial institution can’t shop around among credit rating agencies to get a product’s initial rating.  The bipartisan proposal creates a board, overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which will assign credit rating agencies to provide initial ratings in order to eliminate inherent conflicts of interest.


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Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Deter Crime and Improve Public Safety Throughout Illinois PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Andrew Mason   
Friday, 19 August 2011 08:20

New Laws Strengthen Local Efforts to Fight Drug Crime, Gang Violence

ELGIN – August 18, 2011. As part of his agenda to protect communities and strengthen law enforcement throughout Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to boost local efforts to fight drug dealing and prevent gang violence. House Bill 1258 allows law enforcement to recover funds spent during the course of a drug investigation, and House Bill 3033 will boost local governments’ efforts to attain federal grants for gang prevention and intervention.

“Every community in Illinois deserves the highest level of public safety, and law enforcement must have the tools to prevent, investigate and fight crime,” Governor Quinn said. “These new laws help ensure that police departments throughout our state have the resources they need to fight drug and gang activity.”

Local law enforcement agencies throughout Illinois spend significant funds each year to investigate drug crime and make drug-related arrests. House Bill 1258, sponsored by Rep. Keith Farnham (D-Elgin) and Sen. Mike Noland (D-Elgin), ensures that the local law enforcement agencies receive restitution from those convicted of drug crimes for investigation and response costs, including funds needed to clean up after drug busts.

Some police agencies had been forced to stop undercover work and other aggressive anti-drug enforcement measures after the loss of federal funding to decontaminate shuttered methamphetamine production labs drove up costs. Under the new law, defendants found guilty of Unlawful Delivery of a Controlled Substance or an associated charge would face mandatory, court-imposed restitution and a fine as part of sentencing. The new law mirrors the existing DUI /Accident Personnel Time Report, which allows the agency to recover the funds paid to their personnel while investigating a DUI crash.        

“Illegal drugs cost our law enforcement agencies thousands of dollars each year to investigate and secure controlled substance manufacturing sites,” Sen. Noland said. “Our emergency response services should not bear those expenses, nor should Illinois taxpayers. It is time for convicted drug dealers to pay restitution for the work and materials that go into gathering evidence and securing sites left behind by manufacturing controlled substances. I am grateful to Governor Quinn for signing this bill, and to Elgin Mayor Kaptain and police officials who have worked with us to make this possible.”

House Bill 3033, also sponsored by Rep. Farnham and Sen. Noland, allows the Illinois Criminal Justice Authority to help train local governments to identify and win grants for gang violence prevention programs.

Both laws take effect Jan. 1.

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Bettendorf Woman's Apricot Pie Takes First at Iowa State Fair PDF Print E-mail
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Written by readMedia   
Thursday, 18 August 2011 12:02

DES MOINES, IA (08/17/2011)(readMedia)-- Norita Solt of Bettendorf took home the blue ribbon in Bruce Piper's Apricot Pie contest judged Saturday at the 2011 Iowa State Fair.

Shelby McCreedy of Atlantic placed second, and Cynthia Murphy of Des Moines took third. Joyce Larson of New Market earned an honorable mention.

For the contest, entrants baked a two crust apricot pie with no other fruit or nuts. The pies were judged on flavor, general appearance, consistency of filling, crust and creativity.

The Iowa State Fair Food Department is the largest of any state fair in the country. Food Department judging is held in the Elwell Family Food Center sponsored by Blue Bunny.

"Nothing Compares" to the 2011 Iowa State Fair, celebrating 100 years of the Butter Cow August 11-21. The Fairgrounds are located at East 30th and East University Avenue, just 10 minutes east of downtown Des Moines, and are open 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. each day of the Fair. Exhibit hours may vary. For more information, call 800/545-FAIR or visit iowastatefair.org.

 
Braley Statement on Early Closure of Iowa Social Security Offices PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Kira Ayish   
Thursday, 18 August 2011 12:00

Service to Seniors Impacted by Reckless Budget Cuts


Waterloo, IA– Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement on the early closure of Social Security Offices:

“Iowa seniors are already seeing the real impact of irresponsible Republican budget cuts.  It’s a sad day when tax bonuses for the rich are extended, yet we restrict seniors’ ability to secure their social security benefits.  Cuts on the backs of our nation’s seniors are the wrong way to fix the deficit.”

In July, Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue announced plans to close Social Security Offices across the country a half hour earlier at 3:30 PM in response to budget constraints.  The cuts stemmed from passage of H.R. 1473, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011, which Rep. Braley opposed on April 14, 2011.  The early closures took effect on August 15, 2011, impacting offices across Iowa and the nation.

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