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Praise for HELP Committee’s Bipartisan Bill to Fix No Child Left Behind PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:46

WASHINGTON—Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), approved a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by a vote of 15-7.  The legislation overhauls the No Child Left Behind Act and ensures that that every child in Iowa and across the country receives a great education that prepares them to succeed in college and a career in the global economy.  Below are comments on the legislation from education leaders in Iowa and around the country.

Chris Bern, President, Iowa State Education Association:

“I commend Senator Harkin’s leadership in conducting bipartisan negotiations around this legislation that will have a significant effect on the quality of education students receive in Iowa’s public schools.”

Karen Rowan, President, Iowa Parent-Teacher Association

“Iowa PTA, on behalf of more than 10,000 parents, teachers, and child advocates across the state, is hopeful that comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will be completed this year. We applaud Senator Harkin and Senator Enzi for their leadership to fix No Child Left Behind, and look forward to working with the Committee to make needed improvements to the bill.”

Tracey Mavis, President, Iowa Head Start Association:

“Iowa Head Start Association is pleased with the results of the HELP committee Bipartisan bill to fix No Child Left Behind.  Senator Harkin has always been a Champion for Children and by his work on this bill shows that he is a driving force for all children. This bill will fix the one-size-fits-all approach created by the No Child Left Behind Act, support great teachers and principals, and ensure that all children receive the best instruction, help ensure that every student graduates from high school ready for college and a career, focus the federal government’s role on the things it does best, while giving states and communities the flexibility they need to address the unique needs of their students and schools.  These changes will help strengthen child education and help move this country forward.”

MJ Dolan, Executive Director, Iowa Association of Community College Trustees:

“Iowa’s Community Colleges support the bipartisan focus of this bill on establishing career and college readiness standards with high quality assessments for students.   We believe this legislation will assist in developing a K-12 educational system where every student has the opportunity to succeed.  Moving forward with a comprehensive reform package will enable the U.S. to remain globally competitive with our international counterparts.  IACCT looks forward to continuing its partnerships with the elementary and secondary education community to end remediation and support students in their pursuit of postsecondary education through innovative and effective partnerships. We hope that Congress moves forward quickly with this legislation.”

Mark Shriver, Save the Children:

“On behalf of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs, I am proud to endorse the Harkin/Enzi Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  This bipartisan legislation provides important reforms for education policy, including a long overdue recognition of the needs of children in rural America.  I urge the Senate to move forward as soon as possible and work with their colleagues in the House to produce a final bipartisan bill.”

Deborah Smolover, Executive Director, America Forward:

"The America Forward Education Coalition is pleased with the Senate HELP Committee's decision to vote a bipartisan education bill out of committee.  This bill is a critical first step in moving education reform forward.  We are grateful to Chairman Harkin, Ranking Member Enzi and HELP Committee Senators who voted in favor of passage for their leadership in the effort to ensure all of our nation's children receive a quality education.  As nonprofit organizations who work as partners to schools in communities throughout the country to improve educational outcomes for our nation's students, we support provisions throughout the bill that incentivize partnerships with effective nonprofit organizations.  We also support competitive funding streams that have been included like Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation and Promise Neighborhoods.  We will continue to work to ensure these vital provisions remain in the bill as it is considered on the Senate floor.  We applaud the Senate HELP Committee’s action to move this bipartisan bill, demonstrating what is possible when we put politics aside and focus on the urgent needs of our country’s students."

Gov. Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education:

“The Senate’s action today is particularly important for the nation’s high schools. Over 40 percent of the nation’s dropouts come from 12 percent of high schools, and, under NCLB, federal education policy did very little to turn around these schools… The bill will help to ensure that the high school diplomas students receive are meaningful—and businesses, parents and the community will know that the diploma is meaningful. Building on the work of states across the country, the legislation calls for college and career-ready standards. By raising standards and holding students to high expectations, the nation will help prepare its students for the competitive future that lies ahead.”

Jason Grumet, President, Bipartisan Policy Center:

“Yesterday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee reached a bipartisan agreement to advance legislation that would overhaul the No Child Left Behind Program. We at BPC commend Chairman Tom Harkin, Ranking Member Michael Enzi and their fellow committee members on their willingness to overcome partisan differences in the service of a greater good, and to demonstrate that consensus between the two parties is still possible… It is imperative that Republicans and Democrats continue to show the type of leadership displayed by the members of the HELP committee. Breaking through the wall of partisanship on difficult issues is vital to ensuring the future health of our country and to addressing the cynicism and discontent with Congress so evident in poll after poll.”

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No Tricks - Get Halloween Treats through the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Karen Austin   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:40

DES MOINES, IA (10/25/2011)(readMedia)-- State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald has a vault full of unclaimed funds waiting to be passed back to its rightful owners this Halloween. Fitzgerald has plenty of treats in the form of unclaimed property waiting to be returned through the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt.

"A few names on our list may give Iowans some great Halloween costume ideas," Fitzgerald stated. "We have the dynamic duo, Batman and a Robin, a Sparrow (but no Jack), three Angels, four Marios (but no Luigi), a few Wolves, a Peter Pan, a Clown, five Wizards, several Potters (but no Harry), and we even have something for Elvis."

It doesn't matter whether you're a spook, a music icon or a superhero – anybody can have unclaimed property in the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt. The list includes names of individuals from all over the state that have lost track of money or property. "The thought of losing track of one's assets is truly frightening," Fitzgerald stated. "There's no trick involved in the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt – only treats for those who find they have property to claim. My office's goal is to return as much of the property to the rightful owners as possible."

The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt program has returned over $135 million in unclaimed property. More than 314,000 properties have been paid out since Fitzgerald started it in 1983. The money could be from forgotten savings/checking accounts, uncashed insurance benefit checks, IRA funds, lost stock and dividends, gift cards, abandoned safe deposit contents, utility refunds or deposits. When persons do not respond over an extended period of time through regular mailings from banks and corporations, the money is reported to the state treasurer's office.

For more information about the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, please visit www.greatiowatreasurehunt.com. Treasure seekers may also write to State Treasurer Michael L. Fitzgerald, Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, Lucas State Office Building, Des Moines, IA 50319 or correspond by email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Governor Quinn Statement on Trailer Bill to Rate Hike Legislation PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Andrew Mason   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 14:39

CHICAGO – October 24, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today released a statement regarding the trailer bill to Senate Bill 1652:

“Hours before veto session begins, ComEd and Ameren have dropped a “trailer” bill that they claim would be a better bill for the people of Illinois. Unfortunately, this movie still has the same unhappy ending: blockbuster annual rate hikes for consumers and businesses.”

“The bill still guarantees annual rate hikes every year for the next ten years. This bill still guarantees annual profits for utilities at the expense of hard working families and businesses, which will cost jobs. And this  bill still eliminates any real oversight by the Illinois Commerce Commission.”

“Businesses, homes and families will see their electricity bills go up each year for the next 10 years as result of this bill. Legislators have a choice – they can listen to the people of Illinois who've clearly spoken out against this or they can listen to the fairy tales being spun by the two big utilities.”

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Grassley Presses for Accountability in Justice Department Grant Programs, Notes Special Interests That Oppose Reform PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 13:27

Friday, Oct. 21, 2011

WASHINGTON – In an effort to ensure greater accountability in the Justice Department’s distribution of money to grant recipients, Sen. Chuck Grassley offered an amendment to the appropriations bill being debated in the United States Senate that would include an 11-point accountability plan for federal grants administered by the Department of Justice.  The amendment offered Thursday was defeated by a vote of 46 to 54 on mostly party lines.  Grassley said he will continue to pursue the measure, despite the special interests that worked hard to defeat his amendment and protect their continued stream of federal funds.

“We have non-partisan audits showing that taxpayer money is being abused and wasted  in federal grant programs.” Grassley said.  “We need transparency, accountability, and performance from both the Justice Department and individual grantees who are trusted with federal dollars.  It’s a shame we’re wasting taxpayer dollars like this when we can immediately do something to begin to remedy the problem.

“And it’s a shame that something this basic fell on partisan lines when this shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but it just goes to show that reforms to Washington’s spending addiction will be hard to come by, given the continued power special interests have.  It also reinforces the need for the Deficit Committee to come up with big and bold ideas.  The outcome also tells me I need to continue to educate my fellow members about the problems that come from granting money without enough accountability and to consider whether it’s fair to grant taxpayer money to non-profit groups as long as they have their own money parked offshore to avoid federal taxes.”

Grassley said the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the national umbrella group for hundreds of clubs around the country, continued receiving tax dollars while using off-shore tax shelters, paying generous executive compensation and lobbyists’ fees, and simultaneously closing clubs due to an alleged lack of funds.   “I support the mission of the Boys and Girls Clubs.  The local clubs help thousands of children every year,” Grassley said. “However, given our current fiscal crisis, I can’t support federal taxpayer dollars being awarded as grants to those who hold millions of dollars in rainy day funds off-shore.  My amendment doesn’t prohibit charities from investing offshore.  It just says they can’t get federal grants if they invest offshore to avoid taxes on their investment income.  When organizations have funding and resources available to them, it’s not clear why they shouldn’t be dipping into those rainy day funds before seeking federal money.”

A nearly identical version of the accountability package was included as part of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act Reauthorization Act voted out of the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis just last week.  Select pieces were previously approved as part of the Second Chance Act reauthorization this past July.

Grassley also submitted last week a similar plan, along with several other ideas, to the Deficit Reduction Committee.  Grassley’s letter can be found here.

Grassley’s 11-point accountability plan:

o   required the OIG to audit 10 percent of grantees,

o   required mandatory exclusion for those with negative audit findings unremedied after 6 months, with priority placed to those with no past negative audit findings,

o   required reimbursement for funds awarded erroneously to grant recipients that should have been excluded,

o   required a mandatory 25 percent match with no less than 60 percent of the 25 percent constituting cash,

o   prohibited non-profits that hold money off-shore for purposes of avoiding unrelated business income tax from receiving federal grants,

o   capped administrative expenses at 8 percent, limited conference expenditures, prohibited grantees’ lobbying, and

o   required the Office of Justice Programs Assistant Attorney General to certify to Congress annual compliance with these provisions.

Grassley said an audit of the Government Accountability Office of nine Trafficking Victims Protection Act grants over the last five years found fraud in all nine grants, including more than $1.4 million in questioned costs on a $1.7 million grant.

Violence Against Women Act grants were also susceptible to fraud; 21 of 22 randomly selected grants over 10 years revealed significant fraud and abuse, including one audit where 93 percent of grant funds were questioned by the Inspector General.

So far in 2011, the Inspector General has audited 21 grant recipients with grant funding totaling $54 million and has questioned the use of more than 26 percent of these grant dollars.  If the random audits the Inspector General has conducted were extrapolated to all 3,467 grants DOJ has awarded in 2011, totaling more than $2 billion, that would mean more than $500 million of grants administered could have questionable costs.  “That’s just an extrapolation but it reinforces the need for a higher percentage of grants to be audited, as my amendment would require,” Grassley said.

 

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Governor Quinn and Mayor Emanuel Announce Historic Agreements to Preserve McCormick Place Reforms PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Andrew Mason   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 13:26

Labor Agreements Solidify Chicago’s Position as Most Customer-Friendly Convention and Trade Show Venue in the Country

CHICAGO – October 21, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced agreements with two McCormick Place labor groups that will preserve Chicago’s status as the country’s premier convention destination. These agreements, forged under the leadership of Governor Quinn and Mayor Emanuel in strong partnership with the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and Teamsters Local 727, solidify the reforms enacted last year and end the uncertainty surrounding Illinois’ vital convention industry.

“McCormick Place is a cornerstone of Illinois' economy, and we weren't going to stop working with our labor partners until we delivered the reforms needed to bring more shows and jobs to our state," Governor Quinn said. “These historic reforms will save exhibitors money by giving them the flexibility they need and help to attract even more shows to Illinois, while making sure the many hard-working men and women who support McCormick Place stay on the job.”

“McCormick Place is a major economic engine for the City of Chicago, bringing more than 3 million visitors to the city every year,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I am grateful that labor is our partner in implementing these reforms that will keep thousands of Chicagoans working, save exhibitors money and ensure our city remains a competitive destination and leader in the convention and tradeshow industry.”

Settlements reached with the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and Teamsters Local 727 will end their federal lawsuits challenging some of the reform measures passed into law in 2010. Those reforms were hailed by industry groups who have pushed for years for measures that would keep Chicago competitive with other convention cities.

Under the agreements, the major reforms passed in 2010 will remain intact. The Exhibitors’ Bill of Rights allows show managers and exhibitors to perform their own work in any size booth, using their own ladders or hand tools, cordless tools and power tools. Exhibitors will also be allowed to operate, load and unload their own vehicles at McCormick Place. Additionally, work will also now be able to be done by two-person work crews instead of the three-person crews required prior to the reforms.

MPEA Trustee Jim Reilly says the agreement will help ensure that Chicago keeps pace with its key competitors. “We made changes last year in direct response to what our customers demanded. Now, working in partnership with labor, we have overcome some of the biggest obstacles to our efforts to lure new shows to the city. It is especially gratifying that all of the elements of the Chicago Trade Show industry – the City, the State, the Carpenters, the Teamsters and Freeman and GES - came together and generously contributed to reaching this historic settlement.”

Other reforms, including reduced parking rates, lower food and beverage pricing, enhanced menu options, and free Wi-Fi access, will remain. Show organizers will also be allowed to choose electrical service providers from a list of approved vendors that will lead to cost savings through competitive pricing. In addition, the city of Chicago will complement an existing state program by committing resources to a promotional campaign that will highlight the new competitive measures reached in this agreement with the goal of attracting even more shows to McCormick Place.

“Throughout this process, our goal has been to ensure that McCormick Place continues to set the standard for convention excellence,” said Frank Libby, President of the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters. “This agreement will help our members stay on the job and keep Chicago’s trade show industry healthy for years to come.”

“Our members remain committed to keeping McCormick Place a sought-after venue for conventions from around the country,” said John Coli, President of Teamsters Joint Council 25. “This agreement clears the way for McPier to continue to grow its business.”

“These agreements demonstrate the commitment from the men and women of organized labor to keep Chicago a premiere convention destination,” said Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez. “By working in a collaborative way, we were able to take steps that will benefit the city of the Chicago and the entire region.”

"This is an extremely important sign that all of the key parties involved understand the importance of the trade show industry in Chicago and how critical this agreement is to a successful future,” said Peter Eelman, Vice President-Exhibitions and Communications for The Association for Manufacturing Technology. “Earlier this year, the Mayor and the Governor committed to the trade show community that the positive changes introduced last year would be sustained, and we are pleased to see that all parties have come together to deliver on that commitment."

McCormick Place is the cornerstone of Illinois’ Convention and Tourism industry, supporting 66,000 jobs and generating $8 billion in spending each year. It acts as a magnet for Chicago, attracting millions of business leaders from around the globe who stay in hotels, dine out, shop and experience the city’s world-class culture and entertainment.

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