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Legislation to Strengthen, Update Whistleblower Protections Clears Committee PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:47

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today said that legislation to strengthen and update the Whistleblower Protection Act unanimously passed the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Grassley is one of the primary authors of the bill, known as the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.  The bill was introduced on April 6.  The legislation is sponsored by Senator Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii and is cosponsored by Grassley along with Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Carper of Delaware, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Chris Coons of Delaware.

"Whistleblowers come forward when it isn’t easy.  They risk their livelihoods to bring the truth to light.  Yet, they are often vilified by their supervisors and coworkers for doing the right thing and revealing fraud, waste and abuse in the federal government,” Grassley said.  “Moving the bill through committee is a step in the right direction, but further improvements, like adding timelines for the Attorney General to address FBI whistleblower retaliation cases, are necessary to make sure these cases don’t languish at the Justice Department, as two have for more than 5 years."

The legislation would:

  • clarify that “any” disclosure of gross waste or mismanagement, fraud, abuse, or illegal activity may be protected, but not disagreements over legitimate policy decisions;
  • suspend the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals sole jurisdiction over federal employee whistleblower cases for five years;
  • extend Whistleblower Protection Act coverage and other non-discrimination and anti-retaliatory laws to all employees of the Transportation Security Administration;
  • clarify that whistleblowers may disclose evidence of censorship of scientific or technical information under the same standards that apply to disclosures of other kinds of waste, fraud, and abuse;
  • codify the anti-gag provision that has been part of every Transportation-Treasury Appropriations bill since 1988;
  • allow jury trials under certain circumstances for a period of five years;
  • provide the Merit System Protection Board with authority to consider and grant summary judgment motions in Whistleblower Protection Act cases for a period of 5 years;
  • clarify that employees protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act may make protected classified disclosures to Congress using the same process as Intelligence Community employees;
  • establish protections for the Intelligence Community modeled on existing whistleblower protections for FBI employees;
  • establish a process within the executive branch for review if a security clearance is allegedly denied or revoked because of a protected whistleblower disclosure;
  • establish Whistleblower Protection Ombudsmen to educate agency personnel about whistleblower rights; and
  • provide the Office of Special Counsel with the independent right to file “friend of the court” briefs, or amicus briefs, with federal courts.

A long-time advocate for whistleblowers, in addition to co-authoring the 1989 whistleblower law, Grassley sponsored changes made in 1986 to the President Lincoln-era federal False Claims Act to empower private sector whistleblowers.  Since the 1986 amendments were signed into law, the False Claims Act has brought back more than $27 billion to the federal treasury, and has deterred even more fraudulent activity. In 2009, in coordination with Senator Patrick Leahy, Grassley worked to pass legislation to shore up whistleblower protections in the False Claims Act that had been eroded by the courts after years of litigation by defense and healthcare contractors.

Grassley is also the author of legislation that would give whistleblower protections to employees in the legislative branch as provided already to employees of the executive branch of government. He recently won approval of an amendment that would give whistleblower protections to employees in the judicial branch.  The amendment was added to a bill considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Rescuing Forgotten Futures: A National Conversation on the education of students in foster care. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:40
Today, as Congress begins the long anticipated overhaul of the nation's education policy known as No Child Left Behind, one vulnerable group of students – too often left out of the debate -- will roar into its center.

In an effort to focus attention on the unlocked potential of these students, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) and Fostering Media Connections (FMC) held a “National Conversation” on foster care and education, linking policymakers in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles with researchers in Chicago and teachers and former foster youth in Sacramento via webcast. The conversation during this unprecedented nationwide event mirrored the themes detailed in “Rescuing Forgotten Futures,” an Action Guide released by CCAI and FMC today, which outlines how everyone from citizens to policymakers can help improve educational outcomes for foster youth.

"Every foster youth deserves a high quality education with an academic mentor and the opportunity to stay in his or her school of origin. With the Senate education committee rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this week, it is important that they include provisions that ensure school stability for foster youth," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who joined the “National Conversation.”  "I have long fought for the right of children in foster care to get the quality education every child deserves, and I will continue to advocate for them to receive the support and guidance they need to have a chance to succeed in the future."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who co-chairs the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth alongside Sen. Landrieu, pointed to the importance of the “National Conversation” in finding answers to the challenges students face in foster care.

“A major issue for young people in foster care is how difficult the system makes it to stay in the same school.  A child might get a new foster placement that’s only a few miles away from where he’s been but have to switch schools because of school district rules.  Finding a way to avoid this upheaval needs to be a policy goal at every level of government.  Discussions like this one can help encourage the debate and bring about a meaningful response,” Sen. Grassley said.  “School life offers valuable opportunities for kids to make healthy, lasting connections, and young people in foster care would benefit tremendously from the chance to do so, especially given the challenging and even painful uncertainty so many of them face elsewhere in their lives.”

For 26-year-old Derrick Riggins, who grew up in foster care and now works on Capitol Hill after working as a CCAI Foster Youth intern, this was especially true.

“Education is one of the most important tools we can provide for children in foster care,” Riggins said. “It is a tool that can be used to open many doors and provide a way out of the child welfare system cycle.”

Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, George Sheldon, pointed to the need for strong inter-agency collaboration between education and child welfare administrations to unlock the very doors Riggins referred to.

“We recognize how critically important educational stability is for kids in foster care, whose lives are already full of disruption, ” Sheldon said.  “We also know that the child welfare system alone can’t guarantee their educational success.  That’s why we are working closely and intensely with our partners at the Department of Education to facilitate the right connections between key state and local agencies to make sure these kids get the consistent and high quality education they deserve.”

Cheryl Smithgall, a Research Fellow with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, one of the nation’s top institutions in research around children’s issues, joined the “National Conversation,” and made clear that improvement in education is directly linked to educational agencies’ ability to focus attention on vulnerable students.

“To the extent that policymakers are interested in the underperformance of schools, they need to be interested in vulnerable children,” Smithgall said. “Research shows that early developmental and educational experiences are critical to later educational success.  As we contemplate child welfare and education policies and attempt to foster greater collaboration between the two systems, we need to think about how best to expose vulnerable children and their parents to high-quality developmental and educational supports as early in their lives as possible, and how to keep those supports in place when transitions occur in their lives.“

Indeed, an amendment addressing the educational needs of students in foster care is expected to be included in Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee’s deliberations, indicating that this sensitivity to vulnerable children will help drive the priorities of the national education debate: the potential in these young people is an undeniable American resource.

The fact is that every day that we allow the educational needs of our foster youth to go unaddressed, is another day of lost potential for our country,” said Kathleen Strottman, executive director of CCAI. “My experience with these youth makes me confident that they are our future doctors, lawyers, business entrepreneurs, and political leaders.  Their voice in today's conversation is but one example of how ready they are to lead us into the future.”

The "National Conversation" also featured Rep. Karen Bass, a former Sacramento teacher who is dedicated to improving the lives of foster youth; Jetaine Hart, a former foster youth and educational mentor for students in foster care; and Derrick Riggins, Madison Sandoval-Lunn, and Christina Miranda who are CCAI Foster Youth Interns. The event was webcast from Consumnes River College in Sacramento, home to the Enriched Scholars Program which is helping dozens of foster youth succeed in community college. Advocates hosted viewing gatherings across the country including Washington, West Virginia and Massachusetts.

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FEMA designation, individual assistance PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 11:55

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Senator Chuck Grassley made the following comment about the decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to make Iowans in Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona and Pottawattamie counties eligible for Individual Assistance in response to damage caused by this year’s Missouri River flooding.  Senator Grassley urged FEMA to reverse its previous position, under which Iowans in these areas would have access to Individual Assistance, in personal meetings with the Administrator of FEMA, W. Craig Fugate, and in a recent letter endorsing Governor Branstad’s appeal to FEMA.

Grassley comment:

“Iowans who lost their homes and businesses in the Missouri River flooding this year deserve to be treated fairly, and this decision is a very significant move in that direction.  It’s only right that Iowa flood victims be treated equitably, compared to the kind of assistance given to flood victims elsewhere, including right across the river from Iowa.  The magnitude and severity of the Missouri River flooding in Iowa merits maximum eligibility for federal disaster relief.”

In addition to flood recovery, Senator Grassley’s efforts continue for flood prevention and control.  Yesterday he testified before a U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing reviewing the 2011 floods and the condition of the nation’s flood-control systems.  He also met one-on-one yesterday afternoon with Brigadier General John McMahon, who is in charge of the Northwest Division of the Corps that handles the portion of the Missouri River in Iowa.

Grassley comment:

“Serious questions have been raised about the way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has managed flows on the Missouri River.  The Corps needs to fully account for its decisions of the last year, and the actions and proposals for the future management of the Missouri River need to be carefully examined to avoid a repeat of what we saw this year.  In addition to securing a long-term fix to make flood control the top priority for Corps management of the Missouri River, there’s an important immediate issue about when to evacuate water being held upstream in order to make room for next year’s runoff, while also allowing time this year for evaluation and repair of dams and water-logged levees downstream.  It’s not possible to complete all of these repairs before winter sets in, so everything possible needs to be done to protect residents along the Missouri River from flooding again next year.”

According to FEMA, there are four ways to register for Individual Assistance:

  1. Call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Operators assist callers seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Help is available in most languages. If an individual has a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY, they can call 1-800-462-7585.
  2. Register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
  3. Register using a tablet or smartphone by visiting m.fema.gov.
  4. For individuals who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), they can call 1-800-621-3362.

***

State of Iowa

Federal Disaster Declaration Fact Sheet

October 18, 2011

On June 27, 2011, President Obama issued a major disaster declaration for the State of Iowa triggering the release of Federal funds to help communities recover from Flooding, which occurred May 25, 2011, to August 1, 2011.  This disaster declaration has been amended as indicated below in bold. Details of the disaster declaration and assistance programs are as follows:

Declaration Number:                        FEMA-1998-DR

Incident:                      Flooding                      

Incident Period:                        May 25, 2011, to August 1, 2011

Federal Coordinating Officer:            Michael R. Scott

National FCO Program

Individual Assistance (IA):               Assistance to Individuals and Households.

IA – Designated Counties:                Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, and Pottawattamie.

Public Assistance (PA):                      Assistance for emergency work and the repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities.

PA – Designated Counties:                Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Pottawattamie, and Woodbury for Public Assistance, including direct Federal assistance.

Hazard Mitigation (HM):                    Assistance for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards.

HM – Designated Counties:               All counties in the State of Iowa are eligible to apply for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

OTHER:                         Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the State and warranted by the results of further damage assessments.

***

For Immediate Release

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Grassley urges consideration of Governor Branstad’s appeal to FEMA

 

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today asked the top official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to consider an appeal made by Governor Terry Branstad to make Iowans living in Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Pottawattamie and Woodbury counties eligible for individual disaster assistance.

“It’s only fair that residents of these Iowa counties be eligible for individual assistance, especially considering the latest about the magnitude and severity of the Missouri River flooding,” Grassley said.

In June, the President issued a major disaster declaration in response to the flooding.  Grassley has met personally with FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate this year and pressed for Iowans to receive assistance that is equitable to that provided elsewhere.  Here is the text of Grassley’s October 6 letter to Fugate:

October 6, 2011

The Honorable W. Craig Fugate

Administrator

Federal Emergency Management Agency

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

500 C Street SW

Washington, DC 20472

Dear Administrator Fugate,

I respectfully ask that you consider the appeal that Governor Branstad submitted today for Individual Assistance for Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Monona, Pottawattamie, and Woodbury Counties.  On June 27, 2011, President Obama issued a major disaster declaration for the State of Iowa in response to the record amounts of rain and snowmelt which led to unprecedented runoff in the Missouri River basin during the months of May, June, and July.

It is my understanding that additional information has been gathered since the original request was submitted that clarifies the magnitude and severity of this disaster.  Individual Assistance will be vital in helping Iowans, who have endured prolonged hardship over the past four months, recover.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this appeal.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

 
The First Ever Children's Book Featuring WQAD-Meteorologist Terry Swails Is Now Available! PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Terry Swails   
Monday, 24 October 2011 15:34
The book written by Carolyn S. Wettstone, (a former award winning QC area television anchor) features  “Little” Terry Swails. "Little Terry" and his passion for weather and tornadoes comes to life in a magical action-packed adventure entitled "All I Want For Christmas Is To See A Tornado!" It is a heartwarming tale of a young boy and his dream to see first hand the beauty and majesty of one of nature's most awe-inspiring storms.  Children will ride along with "Little Terry" as he and Santa Claus set out for the Great Plains for an unforgettable experience that changes "Little Terry" forever. The book is also paired with a Terry Swails' Bobble Head who is holding a tornado and will agree with any forecast you give! The book is beautifully illustrated by Quad City native Leo Kelley.

While teaching children about how to safely chase tornadoes, the book is also benefiting local kids this holiday season. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will go toward Genesis Health Systems Flu Free Clinic to provide free flu shots for kids.

This is the second book for Wettstone who co-authored "Un-Natural Disasters: Iowa's E-F 5 Tornado and the Historic Floods of 2008" with Swails published in 2008.  Swails is also the author of "Superstorms: Extreme Weather in the Heart of the Heartland" published in 2004.  Both Swails and Wettstone are storm chasers and most recently followed Hurricane Irene to New York City witnessing her coming ashore onConey Island in August 2011.  They have also chased tornadoes and in 2010 came up against an EF 3 inOklahoma.

Terry and Carolyn will be signing books Friday October 21st at the Community Bank in Wapello, Iowafrom 1-3 p.m.  For more information, Carolyn and Terry can be reached at 309 523 9116 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
Plant a Tree for Gilad Shalit! PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Jewish National Fund   
Monday, 24 October 2011 15:26

Plant a tree for FREE in honor of Gilad Shalit’s release from captivity and send a personalized certificate to the Shalit family!

Gilad Shalit’s long-awaited homecoming is testament to the value that we as a Jewish people place on the sanctity of life and to Israel's staunch dedication to its citizens.

Jewish National Fund recognizes the pain that the prisoner exchange is causing many. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as well.

Send a tree to Gilad Shalit to welcome him home.

Or call 800-542-TREE

Show the world we will not leave anyone behind.

Courtesy of Ronald Lauder and Stanley Chesley, JNF’s Chairman of the Board and President, and its Board of Directors, in celebration of Gilad Shalit’s release after 5 ½ years of captivity.

Limit one per person. Free tree offer expires Sunday, October 23.

Please remember to pass this offer along to friends and family.

 
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