A 1705 emblem book created for Peter the Great, a 19th-century Buddhist monastic code of discipline, a first edition of Dostoyevsky's "The Possessed" and George Gershwin's song-book were among the treasures uncovered by the 2009 class of Junior Fellows Summer Interns, who located them among the copyright deposits and gifts that have come into the nation's library.

This summer the Library of Congress is once again offering special 10-week paid internships to college students. For a stipend of $3,000, the 2010 class of Junior Fellows Summer Interns will work full-time from June 7 through Aug. 13 with Library specialists to inventory, describe, and explore collection holdings and to assist with digital preservation outreach activities throughout the Library. The focus of the program is on increasing access to collections and awareness of the Library's digital preservation programs by making them better known and accessible to researchers including scholars, students, teachers and the general public.

The interns will be exposed to a broad spectrum of library work: preservation, reference, access standards and information management. The program is made possible through the generosity of the late Mrs. Jefferson Patterson and the James Madison Council.

In addition to the stipend (paid in bi-weekly segments), interns will be eligible to take part in programs offered at the Library. Interns are temporary employees of the Library, and as such are not eligible for federal employee benefits and privileges.

Applications will be accepted online only at USAJobs.gov, control # 1840256, from Friday, March 12, 2010, through midnight, Friday, March 26, 2010.  For more details about the program and information on how to apply, visit www.loc.gov/hr/jrfellows/. Questions about the program may be sent to interns2010@loc.gov.

The Library of Congress is an equal-opportunity employer. Women, minorities and persons with disabilities who meet eligibility requirements are strongly encouraged to apply.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library's rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.

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First of Five Workshops Features Discussion on Competitive Dynamics in the Seed Industry, Trends in Contracting, Transparency and Buyer Power

ANKENY, Iowa, March 12, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today held the first-ever joint public workshop on competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. The workshop, led by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, featured panel discussions on a variety of topics important to America's farmers and ranchers, including competitive dynamics in the seed industry, trends in contracting, transparency and buyer power, and concluded with public testimony.

"In my travels across the country, I hear a consistent theme: producers are worried whether there is a future for them or their children in agriculture, and a viable market is an important factor in what that future looks like," said Vilsack. "These issues are difficult and complex, which is why this workshop today is so important and long overdue."

"Today's workshop provided the Department with an important opportunity to hear from a variety of perspectives and individuals about competition in the agriculture sector," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "We appreciate the importance of this industry to our economy and are committed to enforcing the antitrust laws effectively to ensure fair and open competition that protects both consumers and farmers."

Today's meeting was the first in a series of workshops that will be held over the next several months, the first joint Department of Justice/USDA workshops ever to be held to discuss competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. The goals of the workshops are to promote dialogue and foster learning, as well as to listen to and learn from people involved in agriculture. Additional information about the workshops can be found at http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/workshops/ag2010/index.htm#overview.

A six-person panel of farmers presented their views on competition and regulatory issues. Other workshop panels examined the competitive dynamics of the seed industry; trends in contracting issues, marketplace transparency and buyer power; and agriculture enforcement and cooperation at the Federal and state levels. Following the panels officials received public testimony.

The workshop was held at the FFA Enrichment Center at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) and was attended by several key federal and state leaders, including Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, Congressman Leonard Boswell, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Antitrust Division Christine Varney, Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, and Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster.

Transcripts from today's workshop will be available for review at a later date on the Antitrust Division's Web site. Individuals seeking more information on the workshops should contact agriculturalworkshops@usdoj.gov.


WASHINGTON, March 12, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 funding is available again through three USDA programs to promote increased production of biomass and bioenergy.  The programs are authorized under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (The Farm Bill).

  • Applications for remaining FY 2009 funding under the Biorefinery Assistance Program (Section 9003), which uses loan guarantees to develop, construct, and retrofit commercial-scale biorefineries, must be received by June 1, 2010.
  • Applications are also being accepted for remaining FY 2009 funding under the Repowering Assistance Program  (Section 9004), which provides for payments to biorefineries (that were in existence when the Farm Bill was passed) to replace the use of fossil fuels in their operations with renewable energy from biomass. Biorefineries interested in obtaining funding must apply by June 15, 2010.
  • Those biomass producers eligible under the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels (Section 9005) may also apply to receive payment from remaining FY 2009 funds.  Applications must be received by May 30, 2010.  During the first round, the Department awarded funding to 123 recipients in 34 states to accelerate the production and usage of advanced biofuels.

"The Obama Administration is working aggressively to give our nation's rural communities, farmers, ranchers and producers of biofuels the financial tools they need to help bring greater energy independence to America," Vilsack said. "This funding will help the nation's advanced biofuel industry produce energy from sustainable rural resources, and in doing so create jobs and stimulate rural economies across the nation."

Under Section 9005, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, payments are made to eligible producers in rural areas to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels. Payments are based on the amount of biofuels a recipient produces from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch.  Eligible examples include biofuels derived from cellulose, crop residue, animal, food and yard waste material, biogas (landfill and sewage waste treatment gas), vegetable oil and animal fat. Information on how to apply for payments can be found in the March 12, 2010, Federal Register. Information on how to apply for funding under Sections 9003 and 9004 is also available in the March 12, 2010 Federal Register or by going to http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/fr-cont.html#Rural%20Business-Cooperative%20Service. Funding for these programs is not provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The producer payments are intended to help biorefineries reduce energy costs and fossil fuel consumption - necessary steps toward meeting the nation's energy needs. The following is a list of biofuels producers that have already received funding under USDA's Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels. Recipients of payments less than $500 are not listed.

Alabama

  • Athens Biodiesel, LLC, $2,262.11

Arizona

  • Pinal Energy, LLC, $1,337,529.99

Arkansas

  • FutureFuels Chemical Company, $544,785.84
  • Pinnacle Biofuels, Inc., $20,085.18

California

  • Energy Alternative Solutions, Inc., $4,269.21
  • Imperial Valley Biodiesel, LLC, $1,999.57
  • Imperial Western Products, Inc. $55,105.91
  • Yokayo Biofuels, Inc., $8,308.57

Florida

  • Agri-Source Fuels, LLC, $7,103.50
  • Biofuel Consultants of North America, $2,004.77

Georgia

  • Alterra Bioenergy of Middle Georgia LLC, $530.98
  • Down To Earth Energy LLC, $1,062.62
  • Nittany Biodiesel, $196,949.91
  • The Edge Group, Inc., $8,167.17
  • U.S. Biofuels Inc., $106,208.25
  • American Proteins, Inc., $32,935.57

Hawaii

  • Pacific Biodiesel, Inc., $8,655.92

Idaho

  • Coeur D'alene Fiber Fuels, Inc., $203,769.40

Illinois

  • Blackhawk Biofuels, LLC, $258,309.90
  • Nova Biosource Fuels, Inc., $239,740.09
  • Valley Energy, Inc., $4,717.00

Indiana

  • E Biofuels LLC, $165,980.73
  • Indiana Flex Fuels, LLC, $5,164.00
  • Kingsbury Energy Group, $17,861.00
  • T and M Limited Partnership, $30,702.24

Iowa

  • Central Iowa Energy, LLC, $114,239.69
  • Iowa Renewable Energy, LLC, $216,592.82
  • Maple River Energy, LLC, $9,742.32
  • Renewable Energy Group, Inc., $727,132.93
  • Riksch Biofuels LLC, $10,401.22
  • Sioux Biochemical, Inc., $13,961.87
  • Western Dubuque Biodiesel, LLC, $253,695.87
  • Western Iowa Energy, $298,475.92

Kansas

  • Arkalon Ethanol, LLC, $663,270.50
  • Bonanza Bioenergy, LLC, $266,261.11
  • East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC, $34,500.65
  • Emergent Green Energy, Inc., $1,700.79
  • ESE Alcohol,        $17,688.56
  • Healy Biodiesel, Inc., $5,281.14
  • Kansas Ethanol, LLC,       $690,080.67
  • Nesika Energy, LLC, $104,104.40
  • Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy, LLC, $            824,692.23
  • Reeve Agri Energy Inc., $150,398.26
  • Trenton Agri Products LLC, $130,867.50
  • Western Plains Energy LLC, $848,999.36

Kentucky

  • Griffin Industries, Inc., $17,278.36

Maine

  • Corinth Wood Pellets, LLC, $176,855.44
  • Maine Woods Pellet Company, LLC, $231,291.84

Michigan

  • Hillside Farms, LLC, $793.50
  • Michigan Biodiesel, LLC, $1, 372.22
  • Scenic View Dairy, LLC, $10,219.43

Minnesota

  • Cargill Inc., $269,307.51
  • Chippewa Valley Ethanol Coop LLP, $8,560.08
  • Corn Plus LP,      $182,421.73
  • Fumpa Biofuels, $25,793.57
  • MN Soybean Processo, $565,695.38
  • Riverview LLP, $3,993.54
  • West River Dairy, LLP, $4,874.74

Mississippi

  • Greenlight Biofuels, $18,732.10
  • Scott Petroleum Corporation, $106,190.64

Missouri

  • Global Fuels LLC, $13,748.25
  • Mid-America Biofuels, LLC, $538,101.79
  • Natural Biodiesel Plant LLC, $26,909.55
  • Prairie Pride, Inc., $133,712.70
  • Show Me Energy Cooperative, $35,813.38

Montana

  • Earl Fisher Bio Fuels LLP, $586.66
  • Huls Dairy, Inc., $1,041.68

Nebraska

  • AG Processing Inc., $120,115.61
  • Chief Ethanol Fuel Inc., $1,345,588.16
  • Northeast Nebraska Biodiesel, LLC, $9,264.65

Nevada

  • Bently Biofuels Company, $2,144.76

New York

  • MST Production, LTD, $82,410.75
  • TMT Biofuels LLC, $1,728.06

North Carolina

  • North American Bio-Energies, $4,149.60
  • Piedmont Biofuels Industrial, LLC, $7,710.29
  • Triangle Biofuels Industries, Inc., $9,148.67

North Dakota

  • Archer Daniels Midland Company, $385,062.16

Ohio

  • American AG Fuels, LLC, $923.99
  • Arlington Energy, LLC, $1,699.77
  • Bridgewater Dairy, LLC, $2,028.39

Oklahoma

  • Ecogy Biofuels LLC, $85,057.55
  • High Plains Bioenergy, LLC, $329,457.85

Oregon

  • Green Fuels of Oregon, $643.33
  • Stahlbush Island Farms, Inc., $735.50

Pennsylvania

  • Middletown Biofuels LLC, $17,510.92
  • Soy Energy, Inc. dba Custom Fuels, Inc., $3,382.39

Tennessee

  • SunSoil, LLC, $2,811.54

Texas

  • Beacon Energy (Texas) Corporation, $69,453.37
  • Double Diamond Energy, Inc., $8,711.97
  • New Energy Fuels, LLC, $5,424.50
  • Levelland/Hockley County Ethanol, LLC, $432,305.71
  • Texas Green Manufacturing LLC, $558.14

Vermont

  • Audet's Cow Power, LLC, $757.59
  • Berkshire Cow Power, LLC, $2,107.69
  • David and Cathy Montagne, $586.29
  • Green Mountain Dairy LLC, $918.17

Virginia

  • Chesapeake Custom Chemical Corporation, $12,438.66
  • Red Birch Energy, $6,583.85
  • Virginia Biodiesel Refinery LLC, $23,341.53

Washington

  • Farm Power Rexville LLC, $1,115.41
  • FPE Renewables, LLC, $6,987.32
  • GDR Power LLC, $16,162.98
  • Imperium Grays Harbor LLC, $195,671.27
  • Inland Empire Oilseeds LLC, $8,012.82
  • Qualco Energy, $1,558.79
  • Standard Biodiesel USA Inc., $3,219.96
  • Whole Energy Fuels Corporation, $10,661.75

Wisconsin

  • Badger Biodiesel, Inc., $193,237.25
  • Best Biodiesel Cashton, LLC, $6,149.62
  • Bio Blend Fuels, $1,976.11
  • Buckeye Ridge Renewable Power LLC, $10,518.57
  • Clover Hill Dairy, LLC, $1,371.50
  • Green Valley Dairy LLC, $5,733.51
  • Grotegut Dairy Farm, Inc., $1,066.92
  • Holsum Dairies, LLC, $6,891.98
  • Norm E Lane, Inc., $2,264.82
  • Norswiss Digester, LLC, $11,535.15
  • Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy, LLC, $2,045.72
  • Quantum Dairy, LLC, $1,718.79
  • Stargest Power, LLC, $11,636.27
  • Statz Brothers, Inc., $1,464.80
  • Walsh Bio Fuels, LLC, $6,656.94
  • Sun Power Biodiesel, LLC, $9,050.39

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs through a network of 6,100 employees located in 500 national, state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $130 billion in loans and loan guarantees.

Iowa Recovery Dollars Have Provided Funding For More Than 6,200 Education Jobs

U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced that an additional $127,503,336 is now available for Iowa under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.  To date, Iowa has received $864,657,970 through the Recovery Act. The State recently reported that recovery dollars have been used to provide funding for more than 6,200 education jobs from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2009, while also supporting programs that drive education reform.

"With this application, Iowa provided us with basic information on what is working in their classrooms," said Duncan.  "This data is a critical tool in helping us work together-with students, parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders, and elected officials at every level-to improve education for Iowa's students."

The application required states to provide data that will lay the foundation for reform including:

*       How teachers and principals are evaluated and how this information is used to support, retain, promote, or remove staff.

*       The extent to which the state has a Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems that includes all the necessary America COMPETES Act requirements and how it will implement a comprehensive system by 2011.

*       Whether the state provides student growth data on current students and the students taught in the previous year to, at a minimum, teachers of reading/language arts and mathematics in grades in which the state administers assessments    in those subjects in a manner that is timely and informs instructional programs.

*       The number and identity of the schools that are Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that are identified as persistently lowest-achieving schools.

State applications must describe the state's current ability to collect the data or other information needed for the assurance indicators and descriptors as well as the state's current ability to make the data or information easily available to the public. If the state is currently able to fully collect and publicly report the required data or other information at least annually, the state must provide the most recent data or information with its plan.

If a state is not currently able to fully collect or publicly report the data or other information at least annually, the plan must describe the state's process and timeline for developing and implementing the means to do so as soon as possible but no later than Sept. 30, 2011. The state plan must describe the state's collection and public reporting abilities with respect to each individual indicator or descriptor. The application, requirements, and summary of the requirements can all be found here: http://www.ed.gov/programs/statestabilization/applicant.html <http://www2.ed.gov/programs/statestabilization/applicant.html> .

In addition to the more than $127 million announced today, the Recovery Act has provided $737,154,634 in funding through 10 different programs to the state of Iowa. Prior to today's announcement, Iowa had received:

*       $ 344,836,206 in State Fiscal Stabilization funds through their successful completion of part 1 of the application. The State Fiscal Stabilization Fund program is a new one-time appropriation of $53.6 billion distributed directly to states to:

*       Help stabilize state and local government budgets in order to minimize and avoid reductions in education and other essential public services.

*       Help ensure that local educational agencies (LEAs) and public institutions of higher education (IHEs) have the resources to avert cuts and retain educational personnel and staff.

*       Help support the modernization, renovation, and repair of school and college facilities.

*       Help advance reforms, from early learning through post-secondary education, to benefit students and families.

*       $51,497,022 in Title I funds. The Recovery Act provides $10 billion in additional Title I, Part A funds to state education agencies (SEAs) and local education agencies (LEAs) to support schools that have high concentrations of students from families that live in poverty in order to help improve teaching and learning for students most at risk of failing to meet state academic achievement standards.

*       $130,805,036  in IDEA funds. The Recovery Act provides $12.2 billion in additional funding for Parts B and C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Part B of the IDEA provides funds to state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) to help them ensure that children with disabilities, including children aged three through five, have access to a free appropriate public education to meet each child's unique needs and prepare him or her for further education, employment, and independent living. Part C of the IDEA provides funds to each state lead agency designated by the Governor to implement statewide systems of coordinated, comprehensive, multidisciplinary interagency programs and make early intervention services available to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.

*       $3,344,836  in Education Technology Grants. The Recovery Act provides $650 million in additional funding for Education Technology Grants.  The primary goal of the Education Technology Grants program is to improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in schools. It is also designed to help ensure that every student is technologically literate by the end of eighth grade and to encourage the effective integration of technology with teacher training and curriculum development.

*       $5,715,709 in Vocational Rehabilitation Funds.  The Recovery Act provides $540 million in additional funding for the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) State Grants program. The VR State Grants program provides grants to states to help individuals with disabilities, especially those individuals with the most significant disabilities, prepare for, obtain, and maintain employment.

*       $742,085 in Independent Living Services Funds.  The Recovery Act provides $140 million in additional funding for the Independent Living (IL) programs. The IL programs support services to individuals with significant disabilities and older individuals who are blind to maximize their leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity, and to promote the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society.

*       $791,492 in School Improvement Grants. The Recovery Act provides $3 billion in School Improvement Grants to support the transformational changes that are needed to turn around the nation's persistently lowest-achieving schools by using rigorous school intervention models.

*       $443,632 in McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance funds. The Recovery Act provides $70 million under the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth program to assist States and local educational agencies (LEAs) in addressing the educational and related needs of some of the most vulnerable members of our society - homeless children and youth - during a time of economic crisis in the United States.

*       $196,212,129 in Pell Grants have been awarded to students attending schools in Iowa. Pell Grants are awarded based on student applications, not by state.  The Recovery Act provides $17.1 billion in additional funds for students across the country in need of Pell Grants. The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain postbaccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education. Students may use their grants at any one of approximately 5,400 participating postsecondary institutions. The additional funding allowed the Department of Education to raise the maximum Pell award from $4,731 to $5,350.

*       $2,766,488 in Work Study funds have been awarded to students attending schools in Iowa. The Recovery Act provides an additional $200 million to the Work-Study program, providing colleges and universities with additional funding to provide jobs to students to help with their college and living expenses.

###

Washington, DC - Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) announced today the Department of Education has made $127,503,336 in Recovery Act funds available for the state of Iowa.

"Access to a good education is one of the most important factors in determining whether Iowa's children will have a chance to get ahead," Braley said. "These Recovery Act funds will aid schools across Iowa that are experiencing unprecedented strains on their budgets. As we continue to work our way out of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, it's critical that we continue to give our students and teachers the tools they need to strengthen Iowa's families and communities."

Iowa has already received $864,657,970 in Recovery Act funds. For more information about Recovery Act funds in Iowa's First District, visit http://Braley.house.gov.

 

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WEST DES MOINES, IOWA - March 11, 2010 - Tomorrow the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) will begin a series of workshops to address competition and consolidation within agriculture. Part one of the series is being held in Ankeny, with future workshops hosted in cities around the country. Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), the state's largest grassroots farm organization, encourages the agencies to allow market freedom, innovation and technological advances while protecting farmers from actions that restrict their access to competitive markets.
"The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation commends USDA and DOJ for exploring the competitive environment for today's farmers," says IFBF President Craig Lang. "Our members support strengthening enforcement activities to ensure that mergers andconsolidation from farm gate to food plate don't limit our access to seed, fertilizer, chemicals, markets and transportation. The purpose of monitoring and oversight is to enable fair, open and efficient markets."
"Our members also believe in a free market system and intellectual property rights protection, which help propel the kind of innovation and technological development that benefit farmers and consumers. For these reasons, this investigation and review should proceed in a way that minimizes market disruptions," says Lang.
"USDA and DOJ should also continue to recognize the necessity of farmer cooperatives, which are protected by the Capper-Volstead Act," says Lang. "Cooperatives and producer bargaining associations help put farmers on a more even footing with the large companies that buy their products. They empower farmers and should be allowed to be self-governing and self-regulating as long as they do not violate Capper-Volstead."

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(Kansas City, Kan., March 10, 2010) - Iowa has become the second state in the country to be federally authorized to administer and enforce the federal Lead-based Paint Renovation, Repair and Painting (RPP) program. Wisconsin was the first state to be certified.

The Renovation, Repair and Painting rule mandates training and certification in lead-safe work practices for construction contractors, property managers and others that work in homes and child-occupied facilities built before 1978. Governor Chet Culver has certified Iowa's program as it will be administered by the Iowa Department of Public Health.  States have to certify that their programs are at least as protective as EPA's and provide adequate enforcement.

"Iowa's proactive approach to prevent lead poisoning will allow Iowa citizens to be more aware of the dangers and protect children from lead-based paint hazards in their homes," said Regional Administrator Karl Brooks.

Effective April 22, 2010, anyone performing renovations or repairs for compensation must be trained and certified, and follow lead safe work practices.  Because lead-based paint in the home is a major cause of childhood lead poisoning, the RRP rule places new requirements on property management companies, landlords, contractors, renovators and painters for lead safe work practices to reduce the lead exposure of children.  

Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint, which can be harmful to adults and children. Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes until it was banned for residential use in 1978.

Lead exposure can cause reduced IQ, learning disabilities, development delays and behavioral problems in young children.

Learn more about protecting your family from lead-based paint and EPA's lead program at http://www.epa.gov/lead or by contacting the National Lead Information Center at 800-424-LEAD (5323).

For more information about Iowa's new program, including information on applying for certification or training, contact the Iowa Bureau of Lead Poisoning Prevention at (515) 281-3479 or 1-800-972-2026, or visit the state Web site at  http://www.idph.state.ia.us/eh/lead_poisoning_prevention.asp .

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Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance

Monday, March 1, 2010

Today the Senate starts debate on expiring tax and health provisions.  They are known around here as "extenders."  I'd like to make a couple of points on the process before I get into the substance of the substitute.

What I find surprising is that we are taking up a package, that like last week's exercise, absolutely belongs to the Senate Democratic Leadership.  That is to say we are not taking up a bipartisan package that I put together with Finance Committee Chairman Baucus.  To be sure, some of the structure reflects the agreement my friend, the chairman, and I reached.  But this package is almost three times the size of the package we agreed on.  Virtually all of the additional cost is due to proposals that I would not have agreed to in representing the Republican Conference.  I was under the impression that the Senate Democratic Leadership was genuine in its desire to work on a bipartisan basis, but clearly I was mistaken.  Although the Senate Democratic Leadership was highly involved in the development of a bipartisan bill, they arbitrarily decided to replace it with a bill that skews toward their liberal wing.

So, my first comment to my colleagues, the media, and the public is, don't let this package be mislabeled as the Baucus-Grassley package.  It is not the package my friend Chairman Baucus and I negotiated.  Again, the package before the Senate dramatically differs in cost, balance, and intent from the Baucus-Grassley deal, announced on February 11.

My second preliminary comment goes to the way in which these expiring tax provisions have been described by many on the other side, including those in the Democratic Leadership.  If you rolled the videotape back a week or so ago, you'd hear a lot of disparaging comments about these routine, bipartisan extenders.  From my perspective, those comments were made in an effort to sully the

If you take a look at newspaper accounts of a week or so ago, you'd come away with the impression that the tax extenders are partisan pork for Republicans.  A representative sample comes from one report, which describes the bipartisan bill as "an extension of soon-to-expire tax breaks that are highly beneficial to major corporations, known as tax extenders, as well as other corporate giveaways that had been designed to win GOP support."  The Washington Post included this attribution to the Senate Democratic Leadership in an article last week.  " "We're pretty close," {the majority leader} said Friday during a television appearance in Nevada, adding that he thought "fat cats" would have benefitted too much from the larger Baucus-Grassley bill."

The portrait that was painted by certain members of the majority, echoed without critical examination, in some press reports was inaccurate.  For one thing the tax extenders include provisions such as the deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses and also the deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers.  If you are going to school or if you are a grade school teacher, the Senate Democratic Leadership apparently viewed you as a fat cat.  If your house was destroyed in a recent natural disaster and you still need any of the temporary disaster relief provisions contained in the extenders package, too bad, because helping you would amount to a corporate giveaway in the eyes of some.

The tax extenders have been routinely passed repeatedly because they are bipartisan and very popular.  Democrats have consistently voted in favor of extending these tax provisions.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a very strong statement upon House passage of tax extenders in December of 2009, saying this was "good for businesses, good for homeowners, and good for our communities."  December of 2009 was not very long ago.  In 2006, the then-Democratic Leader released a blistering statement "after Bush Republicans in the Senate blocked passage of critical tax extenders" because "American families and businesses are paying the price because this Do Nothing Republican Congress refuses to extend important tax breaks."

Recent bipartisan votes in the Senate on extending expiring tax provisions have come in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent, and the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004, which originally passed the Senate by voice vote although the conference report only received 92 votes in favor and a whopping 3 against.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, extension of several of these provisions goes back even further, including the Tax Relief Extension Act of 1999, which again passed the Senate by unanimous consent but lost 1 vote on the conference report.

One member on the other side said, "Our side isn't sure that the Republicans are real interested in developing good policy and to move forward together.  Instead, they are more inclined to play rope-a-dope again, my own view is, let's test them."  Another member of this large 59 vote majority exclaimed, "It looks more like a tax bill than a jobs bill to me.  What the Democratic Caucus is going to put on the floor is something that's more focused on job creation than on tax breaks."

Reading those comments I found myself scratching my head.  The only explanation for this behavior is that certain senators decided last week that it serves a deeply partisan goal to slander what have been for several years bipartisan and popular tax provisions benefitting many different people.  The Washington Post article I quoted from earlier includes a statement from a Senate Democratic leadership aide saying that, "No decisions have been made, but anyone expecting us immediately to go back to a bill that includes tax extenders will be sorely disappointed."

You can imagine, that today, a little over a week after these comments, I'm really scratching my head.  We have before us the expiring tax and health provisions that were disparaged just a short time ago.  Have they morphed from corporate tax pork?  Have they suddenly re-acquired their bipartisan character?  Are these time-sensitive items, now expired for more than two months, suddenly jobs-related?

Now, as we begin to debate another, quote, jobs bill, I want to focus on the economy, small businesses, and jobs.

We all agree that our nation is currently facing challenging economic times.  While there have been some signs of improvements such as the recent growth in our gross domestic product, job losses continue to mount and many hardworking Americans are struggling to make ends meet.  According the Bureau of labor Statistics, over 8 million jobs have been lost since our economy officially slipped into a recession in December of 2007.  The unemployment rate is currently at 9.7 percent, which is simply an unacceptable level.

The lack of job creation continues despite aggressive actions taken at the federal level in order to stabilize the economy.  This includes the enactment of TARP and the $800 billion dollar stimulus bill.  However, these bills were all missing a critical ingredient for spurring job creation-substantial tax relief targeted at small business.

In October of 2008, Congress enacted the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700 billion dollar financial bailout bill that we were told had to be enacted immediately  in order to deal with so-called toxic assets to prevent credit from drying up, which would have choked off the lifeblood of the American economy.   What we actually got was direct infusions of cash into the largest Wall Street banks, which was 180 degrees different than what we were told by Treasury.

And later came the bailout of GM and Chrysler using TARP money after the Senate had just voted not to bail GM and Chrysler out.  This inconsistent policy by Treasury created uncertainty in the financial markets and business community.  Moreover, exorbitant bonuses were paid to executives and managers of firms that would have been out of a job if not for Congress, Treasury, and the Federal Reserve intervening.

And how effective was the bailout at improving credit markets?  In October 2009, the Government Accountability Office released a report reviewing TARPs first year performance. The GAO report found credit had improved based on certain market indicators.  However, they were not able to determine how much, if any, was attributed to TARP, as compared to general market forces or other federal actions.

While it is unclear to the extent credit has been freed up as a result of TARP, it is clear who has reaped the benefits of the program.  This past year, many financial firms, including Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase and others who received TARP funds posted record or near record profits.

While Wall Street executives have clearly benefited from TARP, small businesses and their employees have not been so fortunate.  Small businesses continue to struggle to obtain credit in order to expand their operations, purchase inventory, or even to make payroll.

The so-called stimulus bill enacted almost solely by an overwhelming Democratic majority in Congress last February has not spurred job creation. The massive $800 billion spending bill was hastily rushed to the floor with little time to deliberate its merits.

Lawrence Summers, the Director of President Obama's National Economic Council, said the test for stimulus is whether it is timely, targeted, and temporary.  This stimulus bill hit the tri-fecta; it failed on all three.

Through a report issued in January of 2009 by the current chair of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, Christina Romer, the administration predicted that the stimulus would save or create 3.7 million jobs.

We were told by the Obama Administration that if the bill was not passed quickly we would experience unemployment of nine percent.  However, we were also told by the Obama Administration that if the stimulus bill passed, unemployment would not go over 8 percent.

Well, Mr. President, the bill was passed but what did we get for the $800 billion in debt, before interest, that was laid at the feet of our children and grandchildren?  The unemployment rate jumped from 7.7 percent in January -- right before the stimulus was enacted -- to a high of 10.1 percent in October.  While unemployment recently dipped slightly to 9.7 percent, this was not due to job creation, but because millions of individuals have literally given up looking for work.  The Obama Administration also stated that quote "more than 90 percent of the jobs created are likely to be in the private sector."  In all, 3.3 million jobs have been lost since the stimulus bill was enacted, and 3.2 million of those jobs were private sector jobs.  In summary, the Obama Administration was terribly inaccurate regarding its stimulus jobs projection.

At the time the stimulus bill was passed, I raised concerns that the bill was not targeted enough at small businesses and job creation.  However, my point of view lost out and less than one-half of one percent of the bill included tax relief for small businesses.  The money in the stimulus bill to give tax credits to people who buy electric plug-in golf carts, or to pay for rattlesnake husbandry in Oregon, among numerous other ill-advised provisions, would have been better allocated to small business tax relief.   Since the stimulus, small businesses have been bearing the brunt of job losses in our economy.  However, the words of those on the other side regarding the importance of small business to job creation does not match their actions when looking at the paltry amount of small business tax relief that they have provided.  Again, in the jobs bill or stimulus bill or whatever you want to call it that passed the Senate last week, there was only one provision directed solely to small business tax relief.  That was a provision that I support, increased expensing of equipment purchased by small businesses, but it is a very small provision and it only gave small businesses what they've already been getting for the last couple years.

That provision was only $35 million out of a $62 billion bill?the $15 billion that everyone talks about plus the $47 billion for the highway trust fund that is typically not mentioned.  Last year, I introduced S. 1381, the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2009.  My bill would double the amount of equipment that a small business could expense, and it would make those higher levels permanent, instead of just for one year as the Reid bill did.  In my negotiations on a "jobs bill", I sought to include provisions from my small business tax relief bill, but there was no agreement to put small business tax relief provisions from my bill in the bipartisan compromise we reached.  Instead, we were asked to defer those provisions.

According to ADP National Employment data, from February of 2009 through January of 2010 small businesses with fewer than 500 employees saw employment decline by 2.67 million, while large businesses with 500 or more employees saw employment decline by 694,000.

While I am sure many of us disagree about the effectiveness of the financial bailout and stimulus spending in getting our economy back on track, I know we all agree that there has been a lack of job creation and too many people continue to be unemployed.

Because the stimulus bill has so clearly failed what it was supposed to do, which is to create jobs, the Administration and Congressional Democratic Leadership are running away from the word stimulus faster than the triple-crown winning horse, Secratariat. Everything proposed now is called a jobs bill, even if it includes proposals that were always labeled stimulus in the past.  Only 6 percent of Americans believe the stimulus bill created jobs.  That is less than the 7 percent of Americans who believe that Elvis is still alive.

Last week the Senate passed a bill that included a provision designed to increase hiring. This includes a payroll tax holiday for business that hire unemployed workers and a tax credit for the retention of newly hired individuals in 2010.

The payroll tax holiday part of this proposal is likely to spark some modest hiring at businesses at the margins, among those that have seen some improvements in their business, but are on the fence about whether to hire somebody now or wait until later.  However, many businesses continue to struggle and won't hire new employees just because it is the stated policy goal of Congress.  Before a business can hire a new employee, they need to know that that the new employee will generate additional revenue that exceeds the cost of the employee.

The latest survey of Small Business Economic Trends by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) shows that many small businesses may not be in a place that they could afford to hire new employees, even with the payroll tax holiday.

I have here a chart from NFIB with selected components from their Small Business Optimism Index.  While many components of this index improved slightly from December, it is clear that small businesses continue to struggle.

  • A net negative 1 percent of owners plan to create new jobs in the next three months;

  • A net positive of only 1 percent of businesses owners expect the economy to improve. Only 4% of  business owners said it was a good time to expand

  • A net negative 42 percent of owners reported higher earnings

This last component is especially important for businesses when it comes to hiring new employees.  If earnings are declining there is little a payroll holiday will do to spark hiring since the businesses needs to know that the revenue generated from the additional employee will exceed the cost, not just today but in the future as well.

According to the NFIB survey, when businesses are asked what the single most important problem facing their business is, the answer is lack of sales.  But, this is closely followed by taxes and then government regulations and red tape.

I am glad that my colleagues on the other side have recognized that true job creation comes through the private sector and have thus sought hiring incentives through payroll tax relief.

However, this minor tax relief is a drop in the bucket considering the challenges small businesses are facing due to the economy and proposed increased taxes and red tape included in the President's budget -- whether we are speaking about "cap and trade" that will drastically increase their energy costs, health care reform that would mandate small businesses to offer health benefits that will increase the cost of labor, or the call for tax increases on so-called wealthy taxpayers earning over $200,000 that will largely fall on the backs of small business.

If our intention is to increase long-term employment, the last thing we should be doing in this time of economic uncertainty is increase taxes or place additional burdens on those who are  responsible for creating 70 percent of the jobs in our economy --  namely small businesses.

Providing small businesses a payroll tax holiday while intending to impose increased taxes, regulations and mandates amounts to throwing them a few peanuts while taking away their supper.

In recent months, I have spoken at length about the impact of the tax increases set to kick in 10 months from today.  I've examined the impact of these tax increases on small businesses.  Let's take a close look at this impact.

The President and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have proposed increasing the top two marginal tax rates from 33 and 35 percent to 36 and 39.6 percent, respectively; increasing the tax rates on capital gains and dividends to 20 percent; fully reinstating the personal exemption phase-out, known as PEP, for those making over $200,000; and fully reinstating the limitation on itemized deductions, which is known as Pease, for those making over $200,000.  With PEP and Pease fully reinstated, individuals in the top two rates could see their marginal tax rate increased over 15 percent or more.

My colleagues on the other side of the aisle respond that these proposals will only hit "wealthy" individuals and only a small percentage of small businesses fall into this category.  What my colleagues fail to understand is that the small businesses that fit into this group are not static, but consist of different businesses over time that go in and out of the top two tax brackets depending on the market.  Data from the Joint Committee on Taxation, which is the nonpartisan official Congressional scorekeeper on tax issues, shows that 44 percent of the flow-through business income will be hit with the increase in the top two tax rates proposed by the President and Democratic Congressional Leadership.  This hits small businesses particularly hard, since most small businesses are organized as flow-through entities.  It will increase taxes on single small business owners that make more than $200,000 per year, even if they plow all of their income back into their small business to keep paying their workers or hire additional workers.

Increasing taxes on this group punishes their success. It limits their ability reinvest in their company. It prevents them from putting away funds for tough economic times to keep their business afloat.

Government is currently creating a climate of uncertainty where the private sector does not know what we will do next, what taxes will be raised, or what regulatory barriers will be put in their way.

We can start to put some certainty back into the business world by declaring we will not increase taxes on businesses one dime by making the 2001 and 2003 bipartisan tax measures permanent.  But let me be clear, businesses do not want to be certain that the government is going to raise their taxes and make them go through more red tape.  They want to be certain that's not going to happen.  Until then, many will simply sit on the sidelines and not hire more workers.

Moreover, we can directly provide targeted relief to small businesses.  Last June, I proposed legislation to do just that.  I introduced the Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2009 to lower taxes on job-creating small businesses.

Since the Democratic leadership barred any amendments last week, I'm hopeful we'll debate and vote on an amendment offered by Senator Thune.  Many provisions in my bill are contained in the Thune amendment, which I support.

My bill contains a number of provisions that will leave more money in the hands of small businesses so that they can hire more workers, continue to pay the salaries of their current employees, and make additional investments in their business.   This includes allowing flow-through small businesses such as partnerships, S corporations, LLCs, and sole proprietorships to deduct 20 percent of their income, effectively reducing their taxes by 20 percent.  My bill also includes relief for small business owners from the unfair alternative minimum tax.  It takes the general business credits, such as the employer-provided child care credit, out of the alternative minimum tax.  This allows a mom and pop retail store that provides child care for their employees to get the same tax relief that a Fortune 500 company gets when it provides child care for its employees.  My bill would also allow more of the nearly two-million small C corporations to benefit from the lower tax rates for the smallest C corporations.  There are so many small C corporations because they were formed as C corporations before other entities such as LLCs become more widely used.  Among other provisions, my bill would also lower the potential tax burden on small C corporations that convert into S corporations.

The NFIB has written a letter supporting my small business tax relief bill, stating, quote, "To get the small business economy moving again, small businesses need the tools and incentives to expand and grow their business.  S. 1381 provides the kinds of tools and incentives that small businesses need."

I'd now like to talk about an opportunity for true bipartisanship that was killed by the Democratic leadership.  The same day that Chairman Baucus and I released a bipartisan bill that contained significant compromises, behind closed doors Democratic leaders cherry-picked just 4 provisions out of the larger bill that Chairman Baucus and I agreed to.  Those provisions had been agreed to in a meeting of senior members of the other side only while Chairman Baucus and I were negotiating.  I was extremely disappointed to see the Democratic leadership blow up the bipartisan deal that Chairman Baucus and I reached.  To pour a little salt into the wound, the Democratic leadership then prohibited any senator on either side of the aisle from even offering an amendment to improve the bill that he hijacked.

One of the four provisions the Democratic leadership cherry-picked is Build America Bonds.  If it had been just me drafting a bill, I wouldn't have included this provision.  However, in the sake of bipartisanship and compromise in the context of a much larger bill, I reluctantly agreed that putting this provision in the bill would not cause the overall bill to lose my support.  Build America Bonds is a very rich spending program disguised as a tax cut.  Bloomberg reported that large Wall Street investment banks have been charging 37 percent higher underwriting fees on Build America Bonds deals than on other deals.  Therefore, American taxpayers appear to be funding huge underwriting fees for large Wall Street investment banks as part of the Build America Bonds program.

The Democratic leadership has said the Build America Bonds program is about creating jobs, but I want to know whether it's about lining the pockets of Wall Street executives.  Last week, I asked Goldman Sachs CEO a number of questions about these much larger underwriting fees subsidized by American taxpayers.  I expect to have that discussion shortly.

Turning back to the bill being debated this week, the Thune amendment, which incorporates many of the provisions from my small business tax relief bill, provides substantial small business tax relief and should be adopted.

In this bill, I hope that we can all work together toward improving our economy -- not through more government -- but by letting the engine of job creation-small business-keep more of their own money in the form of substantial small business tax relief.

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(Kansas City, Kan., March 10, 2010) - Beginning next month, federal law will require that contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified in the new EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) and follow specific work practices to reduce human exposures to lead.

Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint, which can be harmful to adults and children. To protect against this risk, on April 22, 2008, EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices and other actions aimed at preventing lead poisoning. All contractors must be trained and certified by April 22, 2010.

Landlords, property managers, and their employees are responsible for ensuring compliance with the rule and play an important role in protecting public health by helping prevent lead exposure from their housing units.

Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes until it was banned for residential use in 1978.

Lead exposure can cause reduced IQ, learning disabilities, developmental delays and behavioral problems in young children.

To locate an EPA-accredited training provider or to learn more about protecting your family from lead-based paint, visit EPA's Get Lead Safe web site, http://www.epa.gov/getleadsafe or contact the National Lead Information Center, 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).

For information about Iowa's certification and training program, contact the Iowa Bureau of Lead Poisoning Prevention, 515-281-3479 or 1-800-972-2026, or visit http://www.idph.state.ia.us/eh/lead_poisoning_prevention.asp.

For information about the Kansas certification and training program, contact the Kansas Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Prevention Program, 1-800-865-3233, or visit http://www.kshealthyhomes.org.

Missouri and Nebraska residents can locate an EPA-accredited training provider through EPA's Get Lead Safe web site, http://www.epa.gov/getleadsafe, or by calling the National Lead Information Center, 1-800-424-LEAD (5323). Information is also available from EPA Region 7 by calling 1-800-223-0425.


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For more information go to EPA's Get Lead Safe website:

http://www.epa.gov/getleadsafe

Braley has led two-year effort ensuring thousands of troops receive promised benefits

Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) announced today that members of the Iowa National Guard have finally started receiving long-overdue payments they were promised for extended tours in Iraq. Braley has worked to ensure delivery of Respite Leave benefits for over two years.

 

"The news that Iowa's National Guard members are finally receiving the Respite Leave payments they earned is both exciting and long overdue," Braley said. "Hundreds of Iowa National Guard members bravely served our country and waited patiently to be compensated.  I've been working for over two years now to fix this problem, and I'm thrilled to announce today that these troops are finally being paid for their service."

 

Braley has been leading efforts to fix this back pay problem and ensure that thousands of troops nationwide receive proper compensation. His Guaranteed Benefits for Our Troops Act (HR 1222) was signed into law in October as part of the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act and enables the Pentagon to release the promised benefits.

 

Under Braley's fix, hundreds of Iowa National Guard members will be provided benefits they were promised under the Department of Defense's Post-Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence (PDMRA) program, commonly known as "Respite Leave."  Due to a delay between the announcement of the PDMRA program by the Department of Defense and the implementation of the program by the individual services, thousands of Army National Guard troops across the country did not receive proper Respite Leave compensation.  The majority of affected troops nationwide are expected to be paid by March 19, 2010.

 

Braley first introduced the Guaranteed Benefits for Our Troops Act in July 2008.  It allows the Pentagon to retroactively grant up to $200 per day to affected troops.

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