WASHINGTON, D.C. - May 20, 2010 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) tonight issued the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 by a vote of 59 to 39.

"I voted for this measure because it is a step in the right direction. This bill will create a strong consumer financial protection bureau that will put a stop to a whole range of predatory financial practices targeting ordinary Americans.

"I am particularly pleased that language requiring commercial banks to spin off their derivatives operations remained in the bill in its original form as reported from the Senate Agriculture Committee. This is a very important part of the bill and I hope it remains in the conference-reported bill.

"I am disappointed, however, that other amendments in line with Chairman Lincoln's provision were not included. In particular, Senator Cantwell's proposal to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act was not even considered. I was one of eight senators to vote against financial deregulation in 1999 that did away with Glass-Steagall. Reconsidering this issue had a place in this debate. Also, Senators Brown and Kaufman offered an amendment that would have dramatically reduced the size of the largest financial institutions. Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated.

"The problem in the financial sector, as with so many areas of our economy, is that the ground rules and oversight have been lax. Too many in the financial industry put profits ahead of people. As a direct consequence, tens of millions of ordinary Americans have lost their jobs, their homes, and, their livelihoods. This legislation will help restore some balance to our financial sector."

###

Saturday, May 29, 2010
Where: City Cemetery at 1625 Rockingham Road, Davenport, Iowa
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Cost: Free
The event honors ancestors who were German American immigrants to the region over a century ago. The celebration is free and open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs. Master of Ceremony is Mayor Bill Gluba. The program begins at 9:30 a.m. with bagpipe music by Derek Grant. Guest speaker is former Mayor Mark Schwiebert. The celebration also includes the German and American National Anthem sung by Henry Storjohann and Dale Dammann. Central High School's ROTC will present the Honor Guard. The program will end with an Volley Rifle Salute. Taps will be performed by John Adams of Davenport American Legion Post 26.  The event is sponsored by The American/Shleswig-Hostein Heritage Society; The German American Family Club of Iowa and Illinois; The German American Heritage Center; The German American National Congress (D.A.N.K.) Quad Cities Chapters; The German American Pioneer Society of Scott County, Iowa; and The Schuetzenpark Gilde.

Washington, DC - May 20, 2010 - Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) participated in a follow up hearing today examining the response of Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to the problem of sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. As Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Braley questioned NHTSA Administrator David Strickland and President and COO of Toyota USA, James Lentz.  Braley's opening statement, as submitted for the record, is attached.

"At our February hearing, I raised questions about the work of Exponent, which Toyota hired to conduct an analysis of its electronic throttle control system with an unlimited budget, and about the financial relationship between Toyota and Exponent and its predecessor, Failure Analysis Associates," Braley said in an opening statement submitted to the record. "Unfortunately, it appears that Exponent has failed to conduct a comprehensive investigation of Toyota's electronic throttle control system, and has instead focused its time and resources on attempting to discredit the work of Southern Illinois University Professor David Gilbert, who testified at our last hearing that he was able to induce sudden unintended acceleration in a Toyota vehicle without the vehicle's computer recording the event through a diagnostic trouble code.

"I'm seriously concerned about Toyota and Exponent's ongoing failure to conduct a credible investigation of Toyota electronics, and by reports that Toyota may have sought to develop a PR campaign to discredit Dr. Gilbert and Sean Kane, who also testified before the Subcommittee in February."

Video of Braley's opening statement, as delivered, is available here.

Video of Braley's questioning of Toyota USA President and COO James Lentz is available here.

Video of Braley questioning NHTSA Administrator David Strickland is available here and here.

# # #



Davenport, IA, May 20th, 2010:  Effective May 20th, all three Davenport Public Golf Courses will be rolling back greens  fees a decade!  The special will only last until June 30th, so reserve your tees times today at Emeis Golf Course, Duck  Creek Golf Course, or Red Hawk Golf & Learning Center!

For questions regarding event, please contact 563-326-7812 or www.golfdavenport.com

Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, with jurisdiction over tax policy, today made the following comment on an Associated Press "fact check" report that the Administration's tax credit purported to help small businesses afford health insurance for their employees won't help some of those small businesses, despite portrayal of the tax credit as broadly available.

"Small business owners have been told to expect help right away, and now some of them are starting to do the math and finding out the help isn't for them.  The authors of the health care reform bill should be clear with people that the tax credit is limited and that only a pretty narrow category of small business owners will see any benefit.  Also, this tax credit, for those it will help, is available for only two more years after the health exchanges are up and running in 2014.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in 2016, only three million small business employees out of 159 million Americans with employer-sponsored private coverage would actually benefit from the small business tax credit for health insurance.  That's less than two percent of those with employer coverage benefiting."

The text of the Associated Press "fact check" story follows here.

FACT CHECK: Tax cut math doesn't add up for some

May 20, 2010 - 03:08 AM US/Eastern
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Zach Hoffman was confident his small business would qualify for a new tax cut in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.

But when he ran the numbers, Hoffman discovered that his office furniture company wouldn't get any assistance with the $79,200 it pays annually in premiums for its 24 employees. "It leaves you with this feeling of a bait-and-switch," he said.

When the administration unveiled the small business tax credit earlier this week, officials touted its "broad eligibility" for companies with fewer than 25 workers and average annual wages under $50,000 that provide health coverage. Hoffman's workers earn an average of $35,000 a year, which makes it all the more difficult to understand why his company didn't qualify.

Lost in the fine print: The credit drops off sharply once a company gets above 10 workers and $25,000 average annual wages.

It's an example of how the early provisions of the health care law can create winners and losers among groups lawmakers intended to help?people with health problems, families with young adult children and small businesses. Because of the law's complexity, not everyone in a broadly similar situation will benefit.

Consider small businesses: "The idea here is to target the credits to a relatively low number of firms, those who are low-wage and really quite small," said economist Linda Blumberg of the Urban Institute public policy center.

On paper, the credit seems to be available to companies with fewer than 25 workers and average wages of $50,000. But in practice, a complicated formula that combines the two numbers works against companies that have more than 10 workers and $25,000 in average wages, Blumberg said.

"You can get zero even if you are not hitting the max on both pieces," Blumberg said.

Hoffman used an online calculator to figure his company's eligibility. At least three are available: from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which helped write the legislation; from the progressive Center for American Progress; and from the National Federation of Independent Business, which is seeking to overturn the law in federal court. All produced the same result.

"I think (the administration's) intentions are good, but the numbers and applications don't come out to what they intend," said Hoffman, part owner of Wiley Office Furniture, a third-generation family business in Springfield, Ill.

The Treasury Department, which administers the new credit, did not dispute the calculations.

"The small-business tax credit was designed to provide the greatest benefit to employers that currently have the hardest time providing health insurance for their workers?small, low-wage firms," said Michael Mundaca, assistant secretary for tax policy. "Small employers face higher premiums and higher administrative costs than large firms and in many cases cannot afford to provide coverage."

Small business owners are a pivotal constituency in the fall congressional elections, and Democrats are battling to win them over. Major benefits of the health care law?competitive insurance markets, more stable premiums and a ban on denying coverage to those in poor health?don't take effect until 2014. But the health care credit is available starting this year.

It can be a boon for smaller companies paying lower wages. Betsy Burton, owner of The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, estimates that she will get a credit of roughly $21,000 against premiums of about $67,800. She has 11 full-time equivalent employees averaging $26,100.

"What it means is that I can afford to carry this insurance and insure people's families," said Burton. "I was afraid that we were fast approaching a time when I would have to choose between insuring my employees and closing my doors."

Burton believes offering health insurance is the right thing for an employer to do?and also makes good business sense because it helps her retain valued employees. Except at the beginning, she has provided coverage for most of the 33 years the bookstore has been in business.

Slightly more than a third of companies with fewer than 10 employees offered coverage in 2008, down about 10 percent since the start of the decade, according to an Urban Institute analysis.

Hoffman, the furniture store owner whose business missed out on the credit, says he understands that lawmakers writing the health care legislation had a limited amount of money to work with. But his company's premiums rose 15 percent this year, and it's a struggle to keep paying.

To get the most out of the new federal credit, Hoffman said he'd have to cut his work force to 10 employees and slash their wages.

"That seems like a strange outcome, given we've got 10 percent unemployment," he said.



WASHINGTON - May 20, 2010 - Senator Chuck Grassley said today that changes proposed today by the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, to its conflict of interest policies for federally funded medical research would be an important step in the right direction.

The NIH has drafted new regulations in response to investigations by Grassley and others that showed that researchers failed to accurately disclose their financial relationships with industry.  The proposal announced today is now open for public comment for 60 days under the federal rulemaking process.

"Disclosure of financial relationships and the resulting accountability have been sorely lacking in federally sponsored research," Grassley said.  "I've worked for greater transparency through legislative reform and administrative changes.  I've urged the NIH to flex its muscle and use the power of its grants, which are prestigious and sizeable, to bring about transparency.  Enforcement of current requirements has been lax, and the federal agency has failed to send a message to grantees that accountability in this area matters."  The NIH awards approximately $24 billion a year in grants for medical research.

Quad Cities, USA - Living Lands & Waters (LL&W) is seeking approximately 800 to 1000 volunteers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri to take part in a first-ever, multi-state clean-up of the upper Mississippi River.  The event will take place Saturday, June 19, 2010 with a goal of  involving  volunteers in 22 cities from Saint Paul, Minnesota to St. Louis, Missouri.  LL&W is also needing site coordinators for each location,  boats and drivers, and supply donations.

Over the past 12 years, LL&W has removed more than six million pounds of trash through clean-up efforts along the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois and Potomac rivers.  LL&W has also coordinated flood clean-up efforts after Hurricane Katrina and the historic floods in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. LL&W Founder and President Chad Pregracke calls the Great Mississippi River Cleanup "We've been able to host  over 440 community cleanups over the years and this is the biggest effort we've ever done."  Pregracke adds, "This has been needed for a long time, and we're so very excited to be coordinating this important effort."

Living Lands & Waters is a 501(c) (3) environmental organization established in 1998 and headquartered in East Moline, Illinois. Besides Community River Cleanups, LL&W conducts Big River Educational Workshops, the MillionTrees Project, Riverbottom Forest Restoration and the Adopt-a-River Mile program.

The Great Mississippi River Cleanup will remove debris; such as tires, barrels, propane tanks, appliances, plastic bottles and even a message in a bottle or two from the shorelines and islands of the upper Mississippi River.  For more information about what LL&W has pulled from America's rivers and our needs in this massive cleanup visit www.livinglandsandwaters.org.

####

Senator Chuck Grassley issued the comment below about his vote with a bipartisan group of senators to continue debate on S.3217, the Financial Stability Bill.

Background Information:

Grassley has offered a number of amendments aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the bureaucracy and industry, including the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, credit-rating agencies and Congress itself.  He won passage of his amendment to establish for employees of credit-rating agencies the same whistleblower protections he secured for corporate employees after Enron, and the Senate approved an amendment he cosponsored to remove the conflicts of interest that compromise assessments by credit-rating agencies.  Grassley also won passage of his amendment to strengthen the hand of Inspectors General throughout the federal bureaucracy to fight fraud, abuse and mismanagement.  Grassley's IG amendment was adopted by a vote of 75 to 21, and responded to language in the Dodd bill which would have undermined the independence of Inspectors General at five federal agencies dealing with the financial system.

Grassley Comment:

"There was opposition from Republicans and Democrats to shutting down debate because there are important amendments that should be considered but that could have been shut out by this procedural move.  For example, there was an amendment to protect small businesses from unfair overreach by the new bureaucracy created in this bill.  There's an amendment to make big banks pay for the new consumer agency, rather than taxpayers.  There's an amendment to protect private consumer information.  There's an amendment to make sure ATM fees are proportional to the cost of the service.  There's an amendment to make the hedge-fund registration requirement more effective.  There's an amendment to keep taxpayers from being played in a new derivatives market should cap-and-trade climate legislation be pushed through Congress by the current majority.  It wasn't responsible to shut down this bill at this time given the stakes for consumers and taxpayers and everything that's been learned about the lack of accountability with regulators and industry leading up to the financial crisis of 2008."

ROCK ISLAND, IL (05/19/2010)(readMedia)-- Thirty-three Augustana students will spend 11 days this summer in Rome, Italy, studying and visiting a variety of sites including St. Peter's Basilica, the Pantheon and Jewish Quarter. The group will also visit The Vatican and attend an audience or formal meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. The trip to Rome is the final requirement for a class called Faiths in Dialogue, which focuses on both historical and ethical issues within Christianity.

The program started in 2006 as an opportunity for students to participate in an international experience outside of their normal coursework schedule and is open to students of all majors. Every two years, students can sign up for the upper-level religion course during the spring term and then culminate their class work with a trip to Rome.

Students participating from your area include :

  • Owen Engstrom from Sherrard, IL. Engstrom is a sophomore majoring in political science.
  • Edwin Fonseca from Moline, IL. Fonseca is a junior majoring in business administration management and accounting.
  • Josephine Swanson from Rock Island, IL. Swanson is a sophomore majoring in biology.

"I hope that as a result of the experience, students will have a deeper understanding of various religious traditions-their own as well as those of others-and will think seriously about a wide variety of issues," said Dr. Lee, professor and chair of the Department of Religion. This will be the third summer that Dr. Lee has taken Augustana students on the Rome program.

Lee enjoys many of the historical and cultural aspects to the trip, but says his favorite part is the students. "I enjoy spending time in conversation with students in the wonderful rooftop garden atop the very traditional family-owned hotel where the group stays," said Lee. "It's an incredible privilege to spend time in Rome with Augustana students."

Melissa Shore, a junior communications studies major, is excited about returning to Rome to study. "This trip offers the opportunity to experience Italian culture, Roman Catholic traditions and get a glimpse into the ancient Roman world," said Shore. "I jumped at the chance to return to Rome because I will have a greater understanding of the sites that we visit because of the readings we have done in class."

Over the past ten weeks, students have been examining the diversity within Christian ethical thought and addressing challenges raised by cultural, philosophical and religious pluralism through writing and discussion. They have also been studying ancient Roman emperors, many of the previous Popes, and reading a variety of documents published by the Roman Catholic Church. The coursework is designed to provide students with a firm foundation of knowledge about Rome before leaving so they will have a richer experience while studying abroad.

The students leave May 25th and return to the United States on June 4.

About Augustana: Founded in 1860 and situated on a 115-acre campus near the Mississippi River, Augustana College is a private, liberal arts institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The college enrolls nearly 2,500 students from diverse geographic, social, ethnic and religious backgrounds and offers more than 70 majors and related areas of study. Augustana employs 287 faculty and has a student-faculty ratio of 11:1. Augustana continues to do what it has always done: challenge and prepare students for lives of leadership and service in our complex, ever-changing world.

May is National Bike Month and during this time I encourage Iowans to explore, exercise, enjoy the weather and take advantage of all benefits of riding your bike.  As the thousands of Iowans who participate in RAGBRAI every year already know, cycling can be extremely rewarding.

Since 1956, May has been recognized as National Bike Month.  And during this month we also recognize Bike to Work Week.  According to The League of American Bicyclists, the national organization for cyclists, more than half of the U.S. population lives within five miles of their workplace.  Unfortunately, many Americans are deterred from commuting by bike because they are not aware of all of the benefits - and the benefits of biking are many.

Not only is biking an enjoyable and efficient mode of transportation, but it can also be an important part of a healthier lifestyle.  In fact, employees who are more active tend to be more alert, take fewer sick days and are often more productive.

Children are also encouraged to join along in the excitement and fun of bike riding.  Introducing a bike routine in a child's daily activities has shown to boost morale and inspire healthy living.  Lack of physical inactivity is one large factor contributing to the growing epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States and biking to school or with friends and family can help reverse this dangerous trend.

Biking to work and school can also have a positive impact on our environment and the air we breathe.  It is efficient, economical and ecological - helping to reduce your carbon footprint and relieve traffic congestion while also saving you money on gas.  Automobiles are the largest source of air pollution in the United States and according to the League of American Bicyclists, on short auto trips, an average car would emit 3.6 pounds of pollutants into the atmosphere for every mile of the trip, while a bike has zero emissions.

In order for Americans to make the decision to leave their car at home and bike instead, it is important that our streets, intersections and trails are designed to be easy and safe to use.  As it is, Iowa leads the nation in Rail to Trail conversions and has over 1,200 miles of extensive, interconnected multi-use trails - but there is even more we can do.  That is why I introduced the Complete Streets Act, which promotes the design of streets that are safe for all that use them.  And in the wellness portion of the health reform bill that was signed into law earlier this year, we included community transformation grants to encourage healthier living and create safe spaces to exercise and get outdoors.  When people have access, the possibilities for improving healthy living are endless.

For more biking tips, a step-by-step guide on how to organize a bike to work event in your area, or safety tips, please visit www.bikeleague.org.  For a list of bike trails in Iowa please visit www.bikeiowa.com.

###

Pages