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Governor Quinn Signs Law to Increase Transparency of Pension Systems PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 18 June 2012 14:44
New Law Improves Pension Systems; State Actuary Will Oversee Certification

CHICAGO - June 18, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law that will increase oversight of the state’s pension systems. Senate Bill 179 creates the position of a state actuary to oversee the five state-funded pension systems to help increase transparency of the systems. After signing the new law, Governor Quinn continued his call for bold pension reform that eliminates the unfunded liability.

“We must restore integrity and accountability to the state’s pension systems and we are headed in the right direction with this new law,” Governor Quinn said. “Now is the time to roll our sleeves up and continue to work together to fundamentally reform our pension system and rescue it from drowning in an ocean of unfunded liability.”

Under Senate Bill 179, sponsored by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne (D-Belleville), the position of a state actuary will be created within the Office of the Auditor General and will report to the auditor general. The actuary will oversee the state’s five pension systems: State Employees Retirement System, General Assembly Retirement System, State Universities Retirement System, Teachers Retirement System and Judges Retirement System. To strengthen accountability and transparency, the actuary will review assumptions, valuations and actuarial practices for each of the systems. The actuary will also help calculate the state’s annual required contributions.

“This is another important step in making the pension systems stable by requiring an independent review of how the systems create their cost estimates,” said Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan.

The new law is designed to ensure that all of the state’s pension systems follow Illinois law when determining future contributions. Currently, each pension system submits a certification plan to the Governor and the General Assembly. Under the new law, the systems will submit their proposals to the Governor, the General Assembly and the new state actuary who will review the plans. The actuary will then issue a report containing recommended changes to the actuarial assumptions. Final certifications will be submitted on Jan. 15. The actuary will also be responsible for conducting reviews of the actuarial practices of the systems.

Governor Quinn continues to work with leaders of the General Assembly on a long-term solution to strengthen and stabilize the state’s pension system. Governor Quinn introduced a plan to reform the pension systems that would eliminate the unfunded liability over 30 years and allow public employees who have faithfully contributed to the system to receive pension benefits.

“Reforming our pension systems is critical to funding vital state programs and paying our vendors on time,” said the bill’s chief co-sponsor, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago). “This law will make sure that all of the state’s pension systems are following the correct process, and I thank Governor Quinn for signing this quickly.”

“We must restore confidence in the state’s pension systems,” said Leader Clayborne. “I would like to thank Governor Quinn for his quick action on this bill that will help us make sure that contributions are being calculated correctly.”

The new law goes into effect immediately.

###

 
Iowa Supreme Court Requests for Further Review PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Iowa Judicial Branch   
Monday, 18 June 2012 14:43

FURTHER REVIEW RESULTS

May 30, 2012

 

The supreme court recently issued an order either granting or denying application for further review in the cases listed below.


DENIED:

 

NUMBER

COUNTY

CASE NAME

08–1930

Linn

Byrd v. State

09–1531

Benton

State v. King

10–0681

Polk

Blackwell v. State

10–1459

Polk

Smith v. HD Supply Water Works, Inc.

10–1492

Polk

State v. Pargo

10–1734

Polk

State v. Phipps

11–0079

Des Moines

State v. Willform

11–0275

Polk

Thomas v. State

11–0361

Pottawattamie

State v. Burnett

11–0429

Buena Vista

State v. Banks

11–0459

Scott

State v. Hoon

11–0462

Linn

In re J.T.J. & J.A.J.

11–0543

Polk

Doe I v. Iowa Bd. of Medicine

11–0744

Dubuque

In re Marriage of Eck

11–0763

Polk

State v. Ramsey

11–0857

Floyd

State v. Cooper

11–0901

Harrison

Donelson v. State

11–0922

Polk

State v. Hughes

11–1152

Clinton

Dierks v. Vatsavayi

11–1160

Pottawattamie

Stump v. State

11–1165

Polk

Miron Constr. v. Poula

11–1177

Polk

Kohlhaas v. Hog Slat, Inc.

11–1248

Harrison

In re Marriage of Ronfeldt

12–0413

Polk

In re Z.C.

12–0454

Polk

In re A.R.

GRANTED:

 

NUMBER

COUNTY

CASE NAME

 

 

11–0085

Guthrie

Hoyt v. Knapp

11–0469

Mahaska

State v. Messer

11–0738

Sioux

State v. Kooima

12–0133

Polk

In re A.B. & S.B.

May 30, 2012


May 1, 2012

April 18, 2012

April 5, 2012

March 13, 2012

February 14, 2012

January 11, 2012

 
Religion Vs. Science – The Debate is Over, Scientist Says PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 18 June 2012 14:38
Scholar Gives 4 Reasons Why Stephen Hawking is Wrong

Large swaths of Americans seem to have drastically different views of how humans came to be, according to a June Gallup poll.

Nearly half of America – 46 percent – agrees with the creationist view that humans are purely the product of God, absent of evolution, within the last 10,000 years. Fifteen percent believe humans evolved independent of God, which is 6 percent more than 30 years ago.

These millions of Americans are pitted on two sides of a conflictwhich has a solution, says engineering physicist Daniel Friedmann, CEO of the aerospace company known for building the space station’s robotic arm and author of The Genesis One Code (www.danielfriedmannbooks.com).

“The creation-evolution conflict is a recurring point of contention in the United States, from the presidential election to what should be taught in schools,” he says. “American science legend Carl Sagan tried to settle this conflict by calling both camps ‘non-overlapping magisteria’ – in other words, science and religion each preside as the source of wisdom over separate domains.”

Friedmann argues that both wisdoms are two sides of the same coin and can enlighten each other. The reason the debate developed in the first place, he says, is because the discoveries of modern science of an old Earth seemed to conflict with descriptions in the Bible of a young Earth.

“People believed both could not be right,” he says. “It had to be one or the other – science or religion.”

But they both agree on the timeline for the development of the universe and life on Earth, Friedmann says. He has developed a formula that converts “Bible time” to years as we know them. When applied to calculating the age of the universe and life on Earth, the Bible consistently matches scientific estimates derived from the study of fossil timelines, the solar system and the cosmos.

His formula -- 1,000 X 365 X 7,000 –was derived from references in religious texts and science. The first number is found in Psalms, which says a year for God is 1,000 years for mortals. The second refers to the amount of days in one solar year. The third comes from scriptural study that indicates one creation day in Genesis equals 7,000 God years.

When those numbers are multiplied in human years, each creation day is an epoch of 2.56 billion years, he says. Using the formula, the biblical age of the universe is 13.74 billion years. Scientific estimates put the universe’s age at 13.75 billion, plus or minus 0.13 billion, he says.

“I have nothing but respect for scientists like Sagan and Stephen Hawking, but I feel that both were wrong about religion to varying degrees, especially Dr. Hawking,” he says. “Last year, Hawking dismissed religion, publicly calling it a ‘fairy tale’ for people who are afraid of death. I think that is a terriblynaive and misinformed view of what millions of people have believed in for more than a millennium.”

These are a few of the reasons Hawking is wrong, Friedmann says:

The Bible and science agree on what happened and when it happened with respect to the formation of the universe and the appearance of life on Earth.

The term “creation days” can be shown from biblical sources to be 2.5 billion years. Using this conversion factor, it is clear that the Bible is correct about timelines we have confirmed through science, including the age of the universe.

If the Bible and science agree on what happened and when it happened, do we really have a conflict? It is time to reexamine and bury the conflict between science and religion.  In fact, Friedmann in his book, shows that religion has answers to science’s three biggest questions.

By continuing this false dichotomy of religion vs. science, we are severely limiting progress and our potential as humans. Nearly 54 percent of the world’s population – Christians, Jews and Muslims – assert the truth of biblical scripture. Recognition of a commonality among diverse cultures, while linked to scientific principle, provides a better chance to advance the understanding of our origins.

About Daniel Friedmann

Daniel Friedmann is CEO of MDA, anaerospace company in Canada, which among other things, specializes in robotics used on the international space station. He has a master’s in engineering physics and 30 years’ experience in the space industry. He has published more than 20 peer-reviewed scientific papers on space industry topics. He is also a longtime student of cosmology and religion.

 
New Book Showcases Father’s Love for his Family PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Author House   
Monday, 18 June 2012 13:42

Author and father Claude Anthony Gossman calls attention to the importance of family

READLYN, Iowa – A father’s love can be powerful. In his new book The Fulfillment of a Dream (published by AuthorHouse) author and father Claude Anthony Gossman tells the story of a father and his love for his family.

When asked about his inspiration for writing The Fulfillment of a Dream, Gossman responded simply, “The ultimate dream of every father is to provide love, security and happiness to his family.”

“The world seems to have forgotten about family values,” he says. As a reminder of these key qualities, he tells the story of the Tom Stone family.

When they stepped onto the bank of the stream, June breathed in a sigh of relief. She saw Jenny and Cheryl sitting on Sandy’s lap as they watched the boys swing out on the swing, drop off into the water in a big splash and swim back to shore for another swing. They would run up on shore and approach the swing on the run, timing their leap just right so that, just as the bag was over the ground, they would leap in the air and catch the bag before it swung away from the bank. The two German shepherds stood on shore and barked excitedly at all of the commotion in the water, but Snooper was in and out of the water as she ran right behind the next boy who ran at the swinging bag. As it swung out, Snooper would leap into the air, following that boy momentarily, disappearing below the surface before she surfaced and paddled over to a nearby swimmer.

The Fulfilment of a Dream is Gossman’s call to arms for families to once again come together as one.

About the Author

Claude Anthony Gossman lives in Readlyn, Iowa. He loves to write books as this is his passion. He dedicates this book to his family: Jeff, Jody, Mark, Carrie and most especially to Candi, who gives her full support to this project. Gossman also dedicates his work to his nine grandchildren.

 
Government-sponsored travel promotion agency raises concerns PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 18 June 2012 13:03

Friday, June 15, 2012

 

Grassley, Colleagues Seek Answers on Spending, Other Practices

of Government-sponsored Travel Promotion Agency

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is among six senators who are asking for information about troubling spending and practices by a government-sponsored travel promotion agency called Brand USA.   Besides Grassley, signers of a letter to the Commerce Department secretary were Sens. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), and Mike Lee (Utah).

Brand USA is a government-sponsored travel promotion agency, created to boost tourism in the United States.  It was formerly known as the Corporation for Travel Promotion, which was created by Congress in 2009.

In order to pay for Brand USA’s funding, Congress levied a $10 tax on foreign tourists.  To date, $25 million incurred from the tourist tax has been distributed to Brand USA.  Brand USA has come under scrutiny for holding lavish parties in London, subsidizing travel corporations’ advertising budgets, a misguided ad campaign, and struggling to meet federal matching funds requirements.

The full text of the letter follows.


June 14, 2012

Via Electronic Transmission

The Honorable John Edgar Bryson                                                    
Secretary
U.S. Department of Commerce                                              
Herbert Clark Hoover Building                                 
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW                                
Washington, DC 20230

Dear Secretary Bryson:

Recent media reports raised serious concerns about the direction and management of the promotional campaign directed by the Corporation for Travel Promotion (Brand USA/Corporation), a public/private entity formed to promote U.S. tourism abroad.  We are concerned about reports of potentially significant waste and misuse of funds at the Corporation.

Congress passed the Travel Promotion Act (Act) in 2010 to “increase international travel to the United States … thereby creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.”  The Act sunsets in 2014 when funding for the Corporation would be provided by industry contribution only.  The Corporation is responsible for spending hundreds of millions of dollars to promote America abroad and must ensure that the highest standards of performance and accountability are met.  Unfortunately, recent reports indicate that the Corporation is allegedly not meeting those high standards.

It is our understanding that in November 2011, the entire Corporation Board traveled to London to attend the World Travel Market, a trade show for the travel industry.  While there, the Board held a meeting in London to discuss marketing strategies and efforts to lobby Congress. Despite the fact that board members traveled all the way to London for the meeting, it was a brief event, beginning at 1:30pm UK time and ended at 3:30pm UK Time.

A related video (https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=2210089064112) shows members of the Corporation Board enjoying themselves at a Brand USA Launch party held at the British National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. The video, also available on the Brand USA website, shows it was a high-end affair held at the Maritime Museum covered in light art projections displaying the Brand USA logo.  Brand USA also provided guests, over 500 VIPs, sushi, champagne and petit fours.

We want to ensure that the Corporation’s administrative and financial matters are fully transparent.  It is our understanding that the Corporation awarded a media consultant, JWT of New York City, an initial ninety day contract.  According to a recent GAO report,[1] the Corporation negotiated a subsequent Master Service Agreement with JWT without first going through the bidding process.  Moreover, the Corporation’s first substantive annual report, due out on May 15th, has yet to be released to the public even though the Department of Commerce (Department) has been reviewing it for weeks.  For a company spending tens of millions in federal funds it is vital that such this information be made available to the public and Congress immediately.

In an effort to gain a clearer understanding of the operations of the corporation and its oversight by the Department, please provide the following:

1) All documents associated with the production of the Launch Party held at the British National Maritime Museum, including all costs associated with the event, menus, transportation, swag given to guests, invoices from contractors, and museum rental charges.

2) A comprehensive list of all Brand USA employees and Board members who attended the World Travel Market and Brand Launch Party at the British National Maritime Museum in London.

3) The salaries and benefits of the top five most highly compensated individuals employed by the Corporation.

4) An itemized listing of all expenses incurred by the Corporation since its founding current through the date of this letter.

5) An itemization of all cash and in-kind contributions made to the corporation current to the date of this letter.

6) Copies of all in-kind advertising contributions made to the corporation including the claimed value for the contribution by the Corporation.

7) In correspondence  dated December 20, 2011, March 2, 2012, March 15, 2012, and May 1, 2012 from Mr. Scott Quehl  at the Department of Commerce to Ms. Lauren Carrico or Ms. Wanda Fischer at the Department of Treasury, Mr. Quehl states, “the Department of Commerce has reviewed the CTP’s request for payment of … and associated documentation received …”  Please provide copies of all documentation referenced in those letters.

8) On March 2, 2012 Ms. Laura Carrico at the Department of Treasury received a letter from Mr. Scott Quehl at the Department of Commerce stating “the Department of Commerce has reviewed the CTP’s request for payment of $15,718,112 and associated documentation received February 1.   Our review concludes that the CTP has received qualifying amounts from nonfederal sources totaling $2,476,884. The Department of Commerce therefore recommends the transfer of $4,953,768 to the CTP. “ Please provide all documentation associated with the review of this request for payment and an explanation of the rationale for the reduction in authorized payments.

9) The number of webpage hits to www.discoveramerica.com identified by country of origin.

10) A detailed and itemized breakdown of all the costs associated with the contract with JWT, including costs associated with retaining talent, the production of videos, and other multimedia items.

11) Copies of print advertisement’s placed overseas by Brand USA and a listing of the publications in which the advertisements were placed or location of outdoor advertising placement.

12) For items 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10 please provide a short justification for the expenses and detail what results you expect from the expenditures and what metrics you will use to measure the success of the expenditures.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to these matters. I would appreciate receiving a response by no later than June 27, 2012. Whenever possible please provide documents and materials electronically.  Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact our offices.

Sincerely,

Jim DeMint
Tom Coburn
Rand Paul
Jeff Sessions
Mike Lee
Charles Grassley

 
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