Monday, May 24, 2010

Senators Klobuchar, Cornyn, Grassley and Brown Introduce Bill for Safe Disposal of Medication, Helping Keep Unused Prescription Drugs from Teens

Legislation promotes take-back programs to collect and destroy unused, unwanted, or expired medications

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation today to provide patients with safe and responsible ways to dispose of unused controlled substances.  Patients currently seeking to reduce the amount of expired or otherwise unwanted prescription drugs in their homes have few disposal options, increasing the risk that teenagers will gain access to them.  The Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 seeks to reduce that risk by permitting individuals and long-term care facilities to deliver unused drugs for safe disposal, and promoting the development and expansion of drug take-back programs.

"Parents know that keeping unwanted prescription drugs in their homes increases the risk that young people will find them, but current law provides them with few alternatives," Klobuchar said. "By making it easier for people to dispose of controlled substances they no longer need, we reduce teens' access to these drugs and help curb teen drug abuse."

"Abuse of prescription medications is a serious problem.  But because of overly restrictive federal laws, most people currently lack a safe option for disposing of dangerous medications.  This legislation writes some common sense back into the law by allowing responsible drug take-back programs to accept any person's unused or unwanted medications," said Cornyn.

"The abuse of prescription narcotics such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives is currently the fastest growing drug abuse trend in the country," Grassley said.  "Many legitimate users of these drugs often do not finish their prescriptions, and, as a result, these drugs remain in the family medicine cabinet for months or years because people forget about them or do not know how to properly dispose of them. It's important that we encourage people to dispose of their old or unwanted medicines so that these drugs don't fall into the wrong hands."

"It's critical that we treat prescription drug abuse like the dangerous epidemic it is," Brown said. "This legislation will make it easier for parents and facilities to dispose of controlled substances before they are abused. It is an important step in our fight against prescription drug abuse."

Up to 17 percent of prescribed medication goes unused, and if improperly disposed, may contribute to drug diversion and environmental problems. The bill would allow consumers to give controlled substances to specially designated individuals for disposal, such as law enforcement officials or pharmacists. It also would allow long-term care facilities to dispose of certain prescription drugs on behalf of their residents.

Keeping outdated prescription drugs in the home leaves drugs readily accessible to children and teens. Teenagers now abuse prescription drugs more than any other illegal drug except for marijuana, and the majority of teens who abuse these drugs get them for free, usually from friends and relatives and often without their knowledge.


WASHINGTON - Chuck Grassley today said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Rural Development has awarded 12 loans totaling $565,963 and 12 grants totaling $521,526 to Iowa through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

"REAP funding helps promote the use of safe, renewable energy which will lessen our dependence on foreign oil," Grassley said.  "That's good for Iowa and it's good for America."

The Office of Rural Development will distribute the funds as shown below organized alphabetically by town.  All funds are being used to purchase and/or install energy efficient grain drying systems.

· Kerrigan Bros. in Afton will receive a $49,801 loan and a $49,801 grant

· John Hayek in Clutier will receive a $42,919 loan and a $42,919 grant

· WE Inc Grain Dryer Project in Fonda will receive a $42,486 loan and a $42,486 grant

· Todd Christians in Kanawha will receive an $88,874 loan and a $44,437 grant

· Benton Grain Company in Keystone will receive a $49,941 loan and a $49,941 grant

· Craig Hupfeld in Liscomb will receive a $47,510 loan and a $47,510 grant

· Marcydu, Inc. in Monticello will receive a $40,215 loan and a $40,215 grant

· Carl Ries in Monticello will receive a $45,938 loan and a $45,938 grant

· S & J Lawler, Inc. in Ogden will receive a $49,550 loan and a $49,550 grant

· Clark Yeager in Ottumwa will receive a $49,245 loan and a $49,245 grant

· Richard Homan in Remsen will receive a $33,584 loan and a $33,584 grant

· Ronald Schnoor in Stockton will receive a $25,902 loan and a $25,902 grant

According to the USDA, REAP funds are used to promote investments in renewable energy, such as bioenergy, geothermal, hydrogen, solar, wind and hydro power, and energy efficiency projects.

Each year, thousands of local Iowa organizations, colleges and universities, individuals and state agencies apply for competitive grants from the federal government.  The funding is then awarded based on each local organization or individual's ability to meet criteria set by the federal entity.


WASHINGTON - Tuesday, May 18, 2010 - Senator Chuck Grassley has asked government regulators and industry for information related to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Grassley has asked for an accounting of how the federal Minerals Management Service responded to previous critical reports from the agency's Inspector General; conflicts of interest on the Interior Department board charged with examining safety procedures for offshore drilling; the government's handling of the regulation that requires written certification that blowout preventers are capable of shearing drill pipes in emergency situations; communications between BP and Transocean that may shed light on why the oil rig exploded; and how operating under the flag of foreign governments may shield industry from regulation.

"I'm asking some of the countless questions about what's behind the Gulf Coast oil spill on behalf of the public and taxpayers," Grassley said.  "It's a matter of accountability and understanding how the system works, or doesn't, going forward, especially with regard to the regulators' cozy relationship with industry."

Grassley said he's conducting his review as part of his constitutional responsibility for oversight and as Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance, which has jurisdiction over the oil-spill liability trust fund and tax incentives for deep water drilling.

Click here to read Grassley's letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Click here to read Grassley's letter to BP Chairman and President Lamar McKay.

Click here to read Grassley's letter to Transocean, Ltd. President and CEO Steven Newman.

Click here to read Grassley's letter to Halliburton Co. Chairman, President and CEO David Lesar.


WASHINGTON - May 18, 2010 - Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, founder and co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, this week said the direct experiences of youth in the foster care system continue to be critical to improving policies that help foster youth find permanent, loving homes and smooth the transition of those who "age out" of the system.

"You can read all the studies in the world, but nothing compares to hearing from someone who's lived the experience," Grassley said.  "Congress has to continue listening to foster kids and the people who work with them, then we need to act to improve whatever isn't working.  We also need to listen to federal, state and local care providers.  Youth in foster care are in the educational system as well as various social services programs.  Everyone needs to communicate well, or kids might fall through the cracks."

Grassley highlighted the individual experiences of foster youth at a special event on Capitol Hill.  The caucus hosted a preview of an upcoming Porch Productions documentary "From Place to Place," which follows six young people as they "age out" of the foster care system.  Then the senators held a roundtable discussion with leading child welfare researchers, advocates, policy makers and young people from foster care.

The event focused on the challenges and needs of the half a million youth in foster care and provided a forum for discussing policy recommendations to improve the foster care system and better serve the youth in care.

Moderating the discussion was Gary Stangler, executive director, Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.  Stangler is the co-author of the book "On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System," which dedicates a chapter to Reggie Kelsey, an 18-year-old from Des Moines who aged out of the foster care system and died in 2001.  His death prompted advocacy for foster youth and improvements of services in Iowa.

The event was the latest in a series to highlight May as National Foster Care month.  Last week, Grassley and the caucus co-chairman, Sen. Mary Landrieu, hosted a policy briefing covering recommendations in areas such as employment, housing, financial security, education, mentoring and permanency to improve the experiences and outcomes of youth in foster care. The panelists included researchers, child welfare experts, and alumni of the foster care system.

In 2008, Congress passed and the President signed legislation Grassley initiated to make major updates to foster care laws and dramatically increase adoption into permanent, loving homes.  The law - Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act of 2008 -- also broke new ground by establishing opportunities for states to extend care and help "aged out" kids with education and vocational training.  Monitoring implementation of this law is another focus of the Senate caucus.


WASHINGTON- Chuck Grassley today said that the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $6,106,608 to Iowa through the Natural Resources Conservation Service's (NRCS) Wetlands Reserve Program.

These funds will be used to add 75,000 acres to the approximately 2.2 million acres already enrolled in the program throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

"I'm glad to see the USDA encourage stewardship and help Iowans preserve their wetlands," Grassley said.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the NRCS provides technical and financial support to landowners in efforts to restore wetlands.  The NRCS seeks to encourage long-term wetland functionality and use as wildlife habitat.

Each year, thousands of local Iowa organizations, colleges and universities, individuals and state agencies apply for competitive grants and loans from the federal government.  The funding is then awarded based on each local organization or individual's ability to meet criteria set by the federal entity.


WASHINGTON - Chuck Grassley today said that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has awarded competitive grants totaling $3,146,657 to the state of Iowa, Iowa cities and Iowa businesses through the Freight Rail Security Grant Program, the Port Security Grant Program, the Intercity Bus Security Grant Program, the Buffer Zone Protection Program, the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program, the Driver's License Security Grant Program and the Emergency Operations Center Grant Program.

"The federal government has a responsibility to defend the homeland," Grassley said. "This funding will help prevent future emergencies and protect Iowans."

DHS will distribute the money as shown below ordered alphabetically by town.

Through the Freight Rail Security Grant Program:

· Iowa Interstate Railroad, Ltd. in Cedar Rapids will receive $100,000

Through the Port Security Grant Program:

· Davenport Fire Department in Davenport will receive $200,000

Through the Intercity Bus Security Grant Program:

· Royal Charter, Inc. will receive $20,627

· Windstar Lines, Inc. will receive $273,353

Through the Buffer Zone Protection Program:

· Iowa will receive $200,000

Through the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program:

· Iowa will receive $452,000

Through the Driver's License Security Grant Program:

· Iowa will receive $800,677

Through the Emergency Operations Center Grant Program:

· Benton County Emergency Management Commission will receive $500,000

· Ames will receive $600,000

The Freight Rail Security Grant Program encourages sustainable, risk-based efforts to protect travelers and surface transportation infrastructure from acts of terrorism and other emergencies.

The Port Security Grant Program provides grant funding to port areas for the protection of critical port infrastructure, particularly from attacks using explosives or non-conventional threats that could cause major disruption to commerce.

The Intercity Bus Security Grant Program funds sustainable protection of travelers and intercity bus systems from acts of terrorism. 

The Buffer Zone Protection Program provides funding to increase preparedness of departments responsible for the security of communities near critical infrastructure and key resources.  These include chemical facilities, financial institutions, nuclear and electric power plants, dams, stadiums, etc.

The Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program funds initiatives carried out by states, territories, and local and tribal governments designed to improve communication and cooperation during collective emergency response.

The Driver's License Security Grant Program advances public safety by improving the security of state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards.

The Emergency Operations Center Grant Program identifies and corrects weaknesses in current emergency response programs.

Each year, thousands of local Iowa organizations, colleges and universities, individuals and state agencies apply for competitive grants from the federal government.  The funding is then awarded based on each local organization or individual's ability to meet criteria set by the federal entity.


WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley today said he has introduced legislation with Senator Mark Begich of Alaska to waive copayments for telehealth and telemedicine visits for veterans.  Last year, thousands of Iowa veterans enrolled in Care Coordination Home Telehealth, Clinical Video Telehealth and Teleretinal Imaging telehealth programs in Iowa.

"Telehealth has been a blessing for thousands of our veterans, but we want to make sure that thousands more aren't missing quality health care because of a co-payment.  Telehealth has been shown to reduce costs for the VA, all while providing improved services.  It's a win-win," Grassley said.  "Our veterans deserve to know that they can get the health care they are entitled without breaking the bank."

The legislation would waive the required copayments - sometimes up to $50.00 per visit - associated with a telehealth visit.  Waiving the payments would lessen the burden on veterans and encourage more veterans to take advantage of telehealth programs.

The Telehealth program allows the Department of Veterans Affairs to bring health care closer to the veterans who need it.  Telehealth has been especially important to veterans in rural areas and older veterans who have difficulty getting to appropriate clinics to manage their health care.

The Veterans Health Administration Telehealth programs have demonstrated reduced hospital admissions and clinic and emergency room visits, and contributed to an improved quality of life for our veterans.


Q&A with Senator Chuck Grassley

Oversight of Government Bailout

Friday, May 7, 2010

Q: How exactly is the claim made that General Motors paid back a multi-billion dollar taxpayer-supported government bailout loan "in full, with interest, ahead of schedule, because more customers are buying vehicles."

A: Here's what's happened and, unfortunately, the reality doesn't match the rhetoric.  As part of the government bailout of the automakers, the taxpayers had loaned GM around $20 billion by May 2009.  After GM declared bankruptcy in June, the Treasury Department loaned GM another $30 billion.  Then, to help GM emerge from bankruptcy, the Treasury Department struck a deal with GM that contained three components -- a $7 billion loan, $2 billion in preferred stock and 61 percent of GM's common stock -- in exchange for the original $50 billion in loans.  The deal translated into the taxpayers paying roughly $41 billion for the GM common stock.  Today, when GM says it paid its loan "in full," it's talking only about the newer $7 billion loan, not the original $50 billion in taxpayer loans.  And, the repayment money came from a $17 billion escrow account that was created with the $41 billion in tax dollars used to buy GM common stock.  The escrow was for expenses, and GM needed permission from the Treasury Department to use the money.  The way that GM repaid the newer $7 billion loan was with the TARP money in that escrow account, not earnings.

The taxpayer bailout of GM still stands at around $40 billion.  Taxpayers won't get back that money unless GM's stock price goes up enough to repay the $40 billion.  Will that happen?  No one knows, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in March that, in the end, taxpayers will lose around $30 billion on GM.

Another question is why the Treasury Department allowed GM to repay the $7 billion, seven-percent loan out of escrow and gave permission to take the final $6.6 billion out of escrow free and clear, but did not require that a $2.5 billion, nine-percent loan that GM owes to the union health plan be repaid?  You'd think the higher interest rate loan would be paid first.  And, with $6.6 billion left over in the escrow, GM could have paid both loans.  When I asked the Treasury Secretary during a Senate hearing, he didn't have a good answer.

Q: What can be done about it?

A: I hope one lesson that's been learned by the Treasury Department is to tell it like it is.  Overall, the effort to collect the bailout funds is speculative at best.  So far, since coming out of bankruptcy, GM has lost billions.  Beyond that, the way the agreement was set up with the Treasury Department, GM now has access to the remaining $6.6 billion in the escrow account without any strings attached.  GM said publicly that it didn't need the escrow money.  If that's the case, then the extra $6.6 billion should be returned to the taxpayers right now.  The most important lesson from all of this is that it doesn't make sense for the federal government to own private businesses.

WASHINGTON - Katelyn J. Flynn, daughter of Sandy and Joel Flynn of Davenport, has just finished spending the spring semester in Washington, D.C. working as a legislative intern for Chuck Grassley. Flynn is a graduate of Bettendorf High School.  She is a junior studying English at Olivet Nazarene University.

"Interning in my office in Washington, D.C. is a valuable experience for any student who wants to get a first-hand look at how the Senate works," Grassley said. "Interns play an important role and are given the chance to take full advantage of their surroundings.  An internship is a unique opportunity for students to gain professional experience that will help them in their future endeavors."

"My internship this semester has been a memorable learning experience of limitless value for me.  I have had wonderful opportunities to learn from Grassley.  Working in this office has been very inspiring.  I feel that my hard work has been a reward in itself, and has not only taught me a lot about politics and work ethic, but I have learned the most about myself.  I have been challenged in ways that have taught me what my strengths and weaknesses are.  The people I met and worked with, the lessons I learned, and the memories I made are all unforgettable," Flynn said.

College students interested in becoming interns for Grassley in Washington, D.C. or any of his state offices should visit Grassley's website at


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WASHINGTON -Chuck Grassley this week continued his efforts to protect those who stand up to blow the whistle on wrong doing, even when it's unpopular, for fear of retaliation.

Grassley and Senator Ben Cardin filed an amendment to the banking bill that would make the employees of Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations - such as Moody's Investor Service, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch Ratings - eligible for protection under whistleblower protections signed into law in the Corporate and Auditing Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency Act of 2002.

"People who know of wrong doing should feel comfortable to come forward without fear of retaliation," Grassley said.  "Providing whistleblower protection to credit rating agency employees is another way to shore up public trust in our financial system and help prevent history from repeating itself by ensuring those who know of problems feel free to speak up."

Grassley secured the provisions in the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law after the fall out of several Enron-like scandals led to a crack down on corporate fraud and abuse.  The provisions made federal whistleblower protections available to employees of publicly traded companies for the first time ever.