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Governor Quinn Signs Laws To Reduce Disability Parking Abuse PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 23 July 2012 13:38
New Laws Increase Penalties for Unauthorized Use of Handicap Placards

CHICAGO – July 23, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed two new laws that will crack down on unauthorized use of handicap parking placards. The laws will help those with a disability find parking and help municipalities crack down on abuse that raises costs for taxpayers. The governor was joined by legislators, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and disability advocates from across Illinois.

“People who rely on handicap parking should not be victimized by those who would use fraudulent placards,” Governor Quinn said. “These laws will ensure more fairness and fight fraud across Illinois.”

House Bill 5624, sponsored by Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park) and Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest), increases the initial fine for unauthorized use of a disability license plate or parking decal to $600 (up from $500), and doubles the initial fine for creating or possessing fraudulent disability plates and using a genuine disability placard in the absence of the authorized holder ($1000, up from $500). The new law also imposes an initial fine of $1000 on a physician or other specified healthcare professional who knowingly falsifies a certification for a person who does not have a disability to entitle him or her to a disability license plate or parking decal. The legislation was developed following numerous reports of abuse.

The legislation ends, effective in 2014, the full parking meter fee exemption for those with disability placards and allows the Secretary of State to issue a new meter-exempt decal to people with disabilities who meet certain requirements and who are unable to access or operate a parking meter. Fraud and misuse of this broad exemption have resulted in lost revenue and decreased parking availability for people with disabilities in municipalities across Illinois.

House Bill 5056, sponsored by Rep. John D’Amico (D-Chicago) and Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero), establishes tougher penalties for the improper use of a deceased person’s handicap placard. The law makes the new offense a Class A misdemeanor with a minimum fine of $2,500 and mandatory revocation of the offender’s driving privileges. It also raises the fine for a second conviction of misuse of a disability placard from $750 to $1000 and allows the Secretary of State to suspend or revoke driving privileges. The Secretary of State may also revoke or suspend the driving privileges of an offender who violates a similar local ordinance against improper use of disability placards. This bill is an initiative of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Traffic Safety. The Secretary of State oversees 600,000 disabled-parking placards and 82,000 handicap license plates statewide.

“It is against all the laws of human decency for an able-bodied person to deprive a person with a disability of using a disability parking spot. I commend Governor Quinn for signing this important legislation,” said Secretary of State Jesse White.

Both laws passed the General Assembly overwhelmingly and are effective Jan 1.

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Secretary Vilsack Announces Proposed Rule to Help Utilities Assist Home and Business Owners' Energy Conservation Efforts PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Dawn Bonsell, Pennsylvania USDA PIO   
Monday, 23 July 2012 13:18

As Harrisburg, Penn., temperatures reached 93 degrees on Tuesday and continued to climb throughout the afternoon, it seemed an appropriate time for Secretary Tom Vilsack to announce a new proposed Federal Rule that could help rural homeowners and entrepreneurs save on their utility bills and create jobs in rural areas. The new energy efficiency effort will make federal loans available for rural electric cooperatives to re-lend to electric cooperative customers throughout America who want to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient. The partnership demonstrates a new "pathway to prosperity" according to Secretary Vilsack, and is "a reminder of President Obama’s commitment to stronger rural communities, a stronger rural economy, and strengthening rural values."

The Secretary unveiled the details of the plan during a meeting with the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association in downtown Harrisburg—a meeting attended by over 50 residents and businesses. The electric cooperatives, which distribute electricity in rural areas, will manage the loans and will collect payments on utility bills, allowing customers to spread out the loan payments. Homeowners and businesses will be able to seal air leaks and replace inefficient heating and air-conditioning systems through the program.

In addition to helping homeowners and businesses, the energy efficiency program will also create jobs for contractors who retrofit homes to make them more energy efficient and will help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

USDA Rural Development is accepting comments on the proposed Rule for 60 days. To find out more, click here.  To hear audio of the Secretary’s announcement, click here.

 
Protecting the Whistleblowers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 23 July 2012 12:33

Protecting Whistleblowers

Friday, July 20, 2012

The value of whistleblowers to the public good, and the need to protect whistleblowers, is clear as ever.  Whistleblowers within federal government agencies have courageously and patriotically stepped forward to point out waste, fraud and abuse of tax dollars.  A famous whistleblower decades ago said whistleblowers are guilty of "committing truth."  We're all better off for the truth whistleblowers commit, and they deserve our respect and support.

Click here for audio.

Here is the text of the address:

The value of whistleblowers to the public good, and the need to protect whistleblowers, is clear as ever.

Without whistleblowers, the public probably never would have known about the operational tactics in the federal government's Fast and Furious program that might have led to the murder of United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.  That's why Congressman Darrell Issa and I have asked the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to clarify his remarks to employees about reporting concerns within the agency.  His ominous comments are likely to chill whistleblowers from reporting legitimate problems and undermine very necessary efforts to make improvements in the agency.    The message sent by the acting director of the ATF is unacceptable.

Another federal agency - the Food and Drug Administration - is also demonstrating the kind of intense retaliation whistleblowers can face.  The FDA started an aggressive campaign more than two years ago to spy on protected, personal email messages of certain agency employees.  Then the FDA retaliated against these agency whistleblowers after they raised concerns to Congress about the safety of drugs and devices approved by the FDA.

What the FDA has done has serious implications for the right of federal employees to make valuable protected disclosures about waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or public safety to Congress or anyone else.  This kind of communication is protected for good reason.  The scope and tone of the surveillance effort reveals an agency more concerned about protecting itself than protecting the public, which ironically is the agency's mission.  I will continue to dig in and pursue information and accountability from the FDA.

Finally, this week the Judiciary Committee, where I serve as Ranking Member, held a hearing on improving forensic science in the criminal justice system.  I renewed my request for information from the FBI about the scientific integrity of its crime lab, and from the Department of Justice about its review of past prosecutions.

The Department of Justice is conducting an expansive review of criminal cases where defendants may have been wrongly convicted because of flawed forensic work in the FBI crime lab following investigative reporting by The Washington Post that indicated that "sloppy" and "unreliable" work may have led to the incarceration of hundreds of innocent people.  This review needs to avoid mistakes made by a previous task force, so that the forensic science system in this country is as good as it can be.

Today's problems in the FBI crime lab follow improvements made 15 years ago, after a crime lab scientist named Dr. Frederic Whitehurst risked his career to come forward with allegations about wrongdoing in the FBI crime lab.  At that time, the scientific integrity of the lab and thousands of prosecutions that relied on evidence it processed were in question.  Dr. Whitehurst was retaliated against by the FBI, as well.  Ultimately, after a lengthy fight, Dr. Whitehurst's disclosures resulted in an independent investigation that recommended lab changes, including accreditation by an outside body.  Today, again, work needs to be done to safeguard the integrity of the FBI lab.

I stand up for whistleblowers through legislation to empower and protect them, and through congressional oversight of the federal agencies they legitimately, and importantly challenge.  A famous whistleblower decades ago said whistleblowers are guilty of committing "truth."  We're all better off for the truth they commit, and they deserve our respect and support.

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Gun Viiolence PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Simmons   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:52
All of us are shocked and saddened by the terrible events we have seen unfold today in Aurora, Colorado.

One can only imagine the pain the victims and their families are going through and the heartbreak they will experience in the days ahead. The commitment you and I have made to make sure reckless gun violence doesn’t impact more people’s lives has special meaning today.

Let's carry forward mindful of the profound human consequences of our work together.

Sincerely,

Ginny Simmons, Second Chance

 
H.R. 1639 Reaches 210 Cosponsors Only Eight More to Reach a Majority PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kyle Whalen   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:51

Washington, DC-With the addition of Representative Heath Shuler (D-NC-11) and Representative Nan Hayworth (R-NY-19), the Traditional Cigar Manufacturing and Small Business Jobs Preservation Act of 2011 (H.R. 1639) now boasts the strength of 210 Representatives behind it. The bill, along with its sister bill in the Senate (S. 1461), seeks to curtail proposed FDA regulation of premium cigars.

Representative Shuler, a former NFL quarterback, as well as Representative Hayworth, a doctor, ophthalmologist, and assistant clinical professor, both knows the effects of tobacco and why premium cigars, which are only made with whole tobacco leaf, are vastly different from cigarettes and other tobacco products.

With the FDA’s proposed new jurisdiction, they would have the ability to completely alter the way premium cigars are blended, produced and sold, even going as far as having the ability to take the word “cigar” out of advertisements and ban walk-in humidors. This, in the opinion of the IPCPR, is the demonization of completely legal and non-addictive product and could seriously harm the industry.

“The FDA has the potential to take away a choice that is completely my own. The level of control that the FDA could dictate would have a devastating impact on the way brick and mortar cigar stores sell their celebratory products. Small business and the jobs we provide are the backbone of America and more regulations from FDA on the products we sell benefit no one,” said Craig Cass, owner of Tinder Box and Tobacco Trader in Charlotte, North Carolina as well as the 2nd Vice President of the IPCPR.

Rob Roth, owner of Nice Ash Cigars & Lounge in New York and a member of the New York Tobacconist Association as well as an IPCPR board member had this to add “As we continue our outreach, more and more congressmen and women are realizing the effect that this legislation would have on small mom-and-pop tobacconists all throughout this country. These bills in the House and Senate are simply standing up for small businesses.”

Deliberations in the House and Senate continue. To get involved, go to www.ipcpr.org.

This article was written by Kyle Whalen. Kyle is the Public Relations Manager for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . More information can be found online at www.ipcpr.org.

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