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IRS lifts innocent spouse time limit PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 13:38

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today made the following comment on the Internal Revenue Service’s announcement that it has eliminated the two-year limit for filing innocent spouse claims.  The innocent spouse provision helps to protect the spouses of tax evaders who didn’t join in or didn’t know about the tax cheating.  Grassley is a senior member and former ranking member and chairman of the Finance Committee, with jurisdiction over tax policy.  Grassley was a member of the National Commission on Restructuring the IRS, which laid the groundwork for the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998.

 

“Those of us behind the IRS overhaul enacted in 1998 never intended to put a deadline on innocent spouses.  We were trying to help innocent spouses as a matter of fairness.  These taxpayers never should have been put in the position they were put in by the IRS.  It’s very good news that the agency has seen the light regarding congressional intent and innocent spouses deserving relief.”

 
Living Lands & Waters Needs Skilled Volunteers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Natalie Linville-Mass   
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 13:34

Davenport, IA /July 25, 2011 – Living Lands and Waters (LL&W) is in the process of building a new floating classroom and they need some help to finish their work on this project in time for the upcoming school year.  So, on Wednesday, August 3rd they’ll be shipping out of Alton, IL in order to get to the Quad Cities in time for the upcoming Annual Barge Party on Thursday, August 11th.  During this voyage, they’d like to bring any skilled carpenters, plumbers, HVAC, electricians to help with the final pieces of this build out.  Volunteers on this trip will be provided with lodging, food and transportation and the chance to experience the Mississippi from a truly unique vantage point.  “We really appreciate all the help we’ve gotten to this point and felt we could give our volunteers a unique and fun experience by joining our crew for a week on our trip north,” said LL&W founder Chad Pregracke.      

Several area union carpenters and skilled tradesmen are currently volunteering their time around the clock to get this classroom barge to the point where it is now.  There’s just a tremendous amount of work to make this dream a reality.  The 150-foot long barge will feature a handicapped-accessible classroom, which can host up to 60 students at a time, as well as sleeping quarters for an 8 person Living Lands and Waters crew.  Carpenters District Council of St. Louis and Local Electric Union 57, Local Union 4 Quad City area carpenters have already donated well over $100,000 in lab or to this project.” “It’s a good project. It’s a unique project with a lot of educational potential that will hopefully live on forever.  It’s great that they’re using so many recycled materials where ever possible.  The handrails are skeletal plates from John Deere, reused barge joints have been reconfigured for this project and the pine ceiling is from reclaimed wood that otherwise would have been destroyed”, says Roger Mouser, project manager and part of the Carpenter’s Union out of St. Louis.   

If you’re interested in volunteering for this project, please contact Ashley at our office at (309) 496-9848 or email her at Ashley@livinglandsandwaters.org.  “We are excited to bring students out here and physically show them how much trash there really is and also teach them about the many job opp or tunities that most people aren’t aware of on the river”, says Ashley Stover, LL&W Crew Member and Programs Coordinator.

Teachers interested in exploring a workshop for their students should contact Tammy Becker at LL&W:   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 309-496-9848. “We have had over 1,600 teachers in our Educational Workshops dating back to 2003.  This will create an opportunity for thousands of students to experience the river first hand” said LL&W founder Chad Pregracke.   The floating classroom was made possible by the generous support of five of LL&W’s long-term partners:  Cargill, ADM, Caterpillar, AEP River Operations and Ingram Barge Company.  

Chad Pregracke started Living Lands & Waters in 1998 as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the beautification and restoration of America’s major rivers and to the education of people about environmental issues. From his single boat beginning, LL&W has grown to an internationally known organization with a fleet of barges and workboats.  LL&W engages thousands of volunteers each year in river cleanups, hands-on environmental education workshops, the Great Mississippi River Cleanup, Adopt-a- River-Mile programs and the Million Trees Project. 

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Braley Statement on the Passing of Chuck Manatt PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kira Ayish   
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 13:27

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement on the passing of Chuck Manatt:

“Chuck Manatt was a great man, a great Iowan and a great American. Today, my thoughts are with his family and the many friends he leaves behind. His imprint on American politics and the lives of everyone he touched will never be forgotten.”

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Governor Quinn Signs Legislation to Boost State’s Nuclear Safety Program PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Laurel White   
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 13:26

Investment Will Keep Illinois on the Cutting Edge of Nuclear Safety

SPRINGFIELD – July 23, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today announced the signing of legislation that will bolster Illinois’ world-class nuclear safety program. The new law increases fees paid by Exelon to fund upgrades to remote monitoring systems at each reactor site, hire additional nuclear safety experts and update vital nuclear safety equipment.

“ Illinois continues to be a national leader in nuclear safety,” said Governor Quinn. “After reviewing Illinois’ nuclear safety programs, we have identified needs for updated equipment, as well as increased personnel in several key areas. This investment will further strengthen that program, and ensure Illinois continues to lead the nation with the best nuclear safety program.”

Governor Quinn proposed and led passage of House Bill 1723, which was sponsored by Rep. Thomas Holbrook (D-Belleville) and Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), to ensure the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has adequate resources to operate the state’s nationally-recognized nuclear safety program. Eleven nuclear reactors currently operate in six locations in Illinois. The new law increases fees paid by Exelon, which operates all 11 reactors, to support upgrades to IEMA’s Remote Monitoring System (RMS) and specialized response equipment, and increases the agency’s staff of nuclear safety experts.

Illinois’ annual per-reactor fee has been $1.75 million since 2003. House Bill 1723 increases that fee to $1.9 million per reactor, providing an additional $1.6 million annually to support Illinois’ nuclear safety programs, with no additional consumer costs attached to the legislation. The new funds will enable IEMA to fill approximately 12 staff positions, including nuclear safety scientists, health physicists, computer experts and lab assistants.

The legislation also includes a one-time capital infrastructure fee of $3.6 million to be paid over three years for a major upgrade of the computer system that supports Illinois’ unique RMS and other essential safety equipment. The RMS collects critical data from inside and around each reactor plant and transmits that information to IEMA’s Radiological Emergency Assessment Center in Springfield. During an incident at a nuclear plant, the information would be analyzed by IEMA’s reactor and environmental analysts in order to develop action recommendations to protect the public.

“This investment will enable us to modernize technology and critical components of our Remote Monitoring System, which will ensure that we continue to receive the independent, real-time information that is essential for protecting public safety and the environment,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken.

More information about the RMS and IEMA’s other nuclear power plant monitoring and emergency response programs is available on IEMA’s website at www.iema.illinois.gov.

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Senate Approves Bill to Stop Abuse of Government Charge Cards by Federal Employees PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 22 July 2011 23:00

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate this afternoon passed legislation sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Senator Susan Collins of Maine to require federal agencies to put new safeguards and controls on government charge cards used by federal employees.  The bill also would require penalties for violations.

The Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act, S.300, was approved in April by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.  Lieberman is the Committee Chairman, and Collins serves as Ranking Member.

“This bill is about accountability,” Grassley said.  “The public trust has been violated by abusive use of government charge cards.  The federal bureaucracy needs to improve the way it manages the use of these cards.”

“This legislation would impose common sense controls on the users of government charge cards, which allow federal workers to purchase goods and travel in a timely and cost-efficient manner. In any economy, but especially the one we are now in, there is no room for waste, much less fraud or abuse. These safeguards will make all users of federal charge cards accountable for their use,” Lieberman said.

“This bill would require agencies to ensure that purchase and travel cards are used only for approved spending to take action for misuse of cards.  While purchase and travel cards have been important tools in meeting the government’s procurement needs in a timely and cost-efficient manner, their use often has been subject to some malfeasance and inappropriate purchases by individual card holders.  American taxpayers get the bill for these federal credit cards and they deserve complete assurance that their money is going to legitimate business purposes,” Collins said.

The senators’ effort to codify new controls and penalties responds to outrageous accounts of purchases made with government charge cards, as well as independent analysis which found inadequate and inconsistent controls within government agencies.  At issue are purchase cards, which are used by authorized federal employees for small-scale items needed for official business, such as office supplies, as well as travel cards, which are issued to federal employees to pay for official travel expenses.  When purchase cards are misused, taxpayer money is wasted.  When travel cards are misused and the bills aren’t paid, the government risks losing millions of dollars in rebates.

Grassley has put the spotlight on problematic use of these cards for the last decade, first at the Department of Defense and then also at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Forest Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, and elsewhere.

Over the years, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has documented fraudulent, questionable and overly expensive purchases made by federal workers with government purchase and travel cards, including kitchen appliances, jewelry, gambling, cruises, and even the tab at gentlemen’s clubs and legalized brothels.

Below is a summary of the reform legislation.  The Senate previously passed the measure, in 2009, but it was never taken up by the House of Representatives.

Summary of the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act  

The bill would require all federal agencies to establish certain safeguards and internal controls for government charge card programs, and to establish penalties for violations, including dismissal when circumstances warrant.  The bill would also increase oversight by providing that each agency Inspector General periodically conduct risk assessments and audits to identify fraud and improper use of government charge cards. These reforms are based on the experience of Senator Grassley and other members of Congress, the GAO, and agency Inspectors General in investigating the weaknesses in agency policies and procedures that have lead to instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in government charge card programs.  

The required safeguards and internal controls include:  

  •  ·          performing credit checks for travel card holders and issuing restricted cards for those with poor or no credit to reduce the potential for misuse  
  •  ·          maintaining a record of each cardholder, including single transaction limits and total transaction limits so agencies can effectively manage their cardholders  
  •  ·          implementing periodic reviews to determine if cardholders have a need for a card  
  •  ·          properly recording rebates to the government based on prompt payment, sales volume, etc.  
  •  ·          providing training for cardholders and managers  
  •  ·          utilizing effective systems, techniques, and technologies to prevent or catch fraudulent purchases  
  •  ·          establishing specific policies about the number of cards to be issued, the credit limits for certain categories of cardholders, and categories of employees eligible to be issued cards  
  •  ·          invalidating cards when employees leave the agency or transfer  
  •  ·         establishing an approving official other than the purchase card holder so employees cannot approve their own purchases
  • ·         reconciling purchase card charges on the bill with receipts and supporting documentation
  • ·         reconciling disputed purchase card charges and discrepancies with the bank according to the proper procedure
  • ·         making purchase card payments promptly to avoid interest penalties
  • ·         retaining records of purchase card transactions in accordance with standard government record keeping polices
  • ·         utilizing direct payments to the bank when reimbursing employees for travel card purchases to ensure that travel card bills get paid
  • ·         comparing items submitted on travel vouchers with items already paid for with centrally billed accounts to avoid reimbursing employees for items already paid for by the agency
  • ·         submitting refund requests for unused airline tickets so the taxpayers don’t pay for tickets that were not used
  • ·         disputing unauthorized charges and tracking the status of disputed charges to proper resolution

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