Grassley re-introduces bill to apply health care reforms to White House and administration leaders, and equitably in Congress

WASHINGTON - January 26, 2011 - Senator Chuck Grassley today renewed his effort to apply the health care reform law to the President, Vice President, cabinet members, top White House staff, and the congressional staff who worked for passage of the massive overhaul enacted in March 2010.

Previous legislative initiatives by Grassley to establish accountability in Congress and the administration were rebuffed, both in 2009 and 2010, by the Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate.  "As a result, the health care reforms driven by President Obama and Senator Reid do not apply to President Obama and top administration officials or to the powerful congressional leadership staff who helped to make the overhaul the law of the land," Grassley said.  "The message to grassroots America is that health care reform is good enough for you, but not for us."

Grassley said that now that a new Congress has started, Senate leaders have another chance to make things right and should act immediately to pass his Health Reform Accountability Act.  "Until the health care overhaul is repealed and replaced with reforms that have broad-based support, the majority leadership in the Senate and the administration ought to make sure they are required to live under the health care law they put on the books."

Grassley started his accountability effort in September 2009, when the Finance Committee, where he served as Ranking Member, was acting on its reform proposal.  Committee members approved a Grassley amendment to have members of Congress and all congressional staff obtain their health insurance through the same health insurance exchanges where health plans for the general public would be available.  After the bill left committee and during the closed-door reworking of the legislation in the Senate Majority Leader's office, Senate committee and leadership staffs were exempted from the requirement.

In December 2010, when the carve-out was discovered, Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn offered an amendment to restore the requirement for all congressional staff and also to statutorily require the President, the Vice President, top White House staff and cabinet members to get their health insurance through the newly created exchanges.  The amendment did not apply to federal employees in the civil service.  The Grassley-Coburn amendment was never brought up for a vote.  The legislative fix also was not included in the final manager's amendment, controlled by the Senate Majority Leader, on Christmas Eve, when the Senate passed the legislation that ultimately became law.  Grassley made another attempt to have the special carve-out removed during Senate consideration of the health-care reconciliation bill in March 2010.  Again, he was rebuffed.  Grassley filed the same free-standing legislation introduced today immediately following final passage, but it has never been brought up by the Senate Majority Leader, who controls the calendar and Senate businesss.

Grassley said the motivation for his initiative is simple:  public officials who make the laws or lead efforts to have laws changed should live under those laws.  "It's the same principle that motivated me to pursue legislation over 20 years ago to apply civil rights, labor and employment laws to Congress," Grassley said.

That previous Grassley crusade met success in 1995, when President Clinton signed into law Grassley's Congressional Accountability Act.  Before then, Congress had routinely exempted itself from major laws, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Veteran's Employment and Reemployment Rights at Chapter 43 of Title 38 of the U.S. Code, and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1989.  All 12 of those laws now apply to Congress, thanks to Grassley's reform legislation.

Today, Grassley also is working to make sure Congress lives up to the same standards it imposes on others with legislation such as his Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act.

As far as the health care law, as it stands today, because of the amendment Grassley included in the Finance Committee bill, at least members of Congress and their personal office staffs will be required to obtain their health insurance coverage through the newly created health care exchanges, when the law takes full effect in 2014, instead of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.

In March 2010, the White House announced that the President planned to participate in the health insurance exchanges in 2014.  Grassley said at the time that the move effectively endorsed his legislation.  "I appreciate it, but the principle of living under the law shouldn't be voluntary for political leaders."

The companion bill to the legislation filed today by Grassley was introduced last week in the House of Representatives by Representative Michael Burgess of Texas.  It's H.R.360.

 

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CHICAGO - January 26, 2011. The Office of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn today issued a statement in response to the Illinois Appellate Court decision regarding the 2009 capital bill:
"The administration intends to appeal the Appellate Court's decision and to seek an immediate stay from the Illinois Supreme Court.
"The Illinois Jobs Now! capital program is an important part of Governor Quinn's plan to put Illinois back to work. Capital bill projects are putting thousands of people to work in every corner of the state, while supporting local businesses, improving our infrastructure and increasing energy efficiency.
"While the administration's request for a stay is pending with the Illinois Supreme Court, capital projects already in progress will continue as scheduled. We would expect the Supreme Court to rule on the request for a stay in the very near future."
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WASHINGTON - January 26, 2011 - Senator Chuck Grassley is an original cosponsor of a bill by Senator David Vitter of Louisiana which permanently eliminates the automatic pay raise for members of Congress that exists in current law.

"There is definitely a lack of accountability to the American people when members of Congress receive an automatic pay raise without a yes-or-no vote," Grassley said. "If members of Congress think they deserve a raise, they should have the guts to vote publicly for it."

Grassley has consistently worked to stop automatic pay raises for members of Congress since he has been in Congress.  Grassley has also recently been part of the successful efforts to block the scheduled congressional pay raise for 2010 and 2011.

The legislation would eliminate the automatic pay increase and require any provision included in a bill that would increase congressional pay to receive a roll-call vote in the Senate before it can pass. Under current law, members of Congress automatically receive an increase each year based on a cost-of-living-adjustment, unless the Congress takes action otherwise, as it did for 2010 and 2011.

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National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library Post Webcams to Give View of Historic Move
People all over the world can watch real-time progress on website

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (Jan. 26, 2011) - Anyone around the world will be able to watch the progress of the rebuild and move of The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (NCSML) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With two webcams installed near its construction site, viewers can see a snapshot of the progress of the rebuild in real-time. The video programs will be used to illustrate the history of the museum, the relocation, and flood mitigation efforts. In addition to viewing the live action, cameras are also recording the relocation of the building for production of a time-lapse video of the move at a later time.

"Technology is amazing," said Gail Naughton, President/CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. "We have so many friends around the globe who have supported our mission that we wanted to be able to include them in our progress and feel a part of what we are trying to accomplish."

After successfully raising $25 million, the museum and library broke ground and began construction Dec. 15, 2010.  The decision to move and expand the current facility was made last year. According to Jeremy Patterson of Patterson Structural Movers, the 1400-ton structure is thought to be the largest museum ever to be moved in the U.S. It will be moved and elevated three feet above the 2008 flood level. A 30,000 sq. ft. expansion will provide room for additional exhibition galleries, collection storage, a theatre, enlarged programming space, and a Museum Store.

A crew from Patterson Structural Movers of Washington, Iowa, has already begun welding 100 ft. beams to be used in the relocation. Once beams and jacks are in place, the building will move a quarter mile per hour to its new location across the street. The entire move will take 45 to 60 days beginning in May.

On the museum's website, www.NCSML.org, visitors will find a link to the live webcams at the upper right hand corner of the screen. There viewers can check the progress of the museum at their leisure.

Two Arecont Vision cameras have been installed. There is one that provides a south view and is located on the museum's clock tower on Sixteenth Ave. S.W. A second camera is located on a west side utility pole. Both cameras are recording one frame per second.

"The two high-definition cameras were necessary to get a close up view of the museum being moved off its current foundation. Once the building is turned, the west camera will allow for viewing the elevation and positioning on top of the parking garage," said Naughton.

Sound Concepts of Cedar Rapids installed the stationary fixed cameras that communicate to a wireless transmitter. The NCML's Kosek building at 87 Sixteenth Ave. SW, houses the wireless receiver and the NAS (network attached storage) recorder.

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is the leading United States institution preserving and interpreting Czech and Slovak history and culture.

KOHL, GRASSLEY: STOPPING "PAY-FOR-DELAY" DEALS ESSENTIAL TO LOWERING RX DRUG COSTS

Bipartisan effort to speed less expensive generic prescription drugs to market

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Herb Kohl and Chuck Grassley have reintroduced legislation limiting pay-for-delay settlements used to keep lower-cost generic drugs off pharmacy shelves.  Under these pay-off agreements, brand name drug companies settle patent disputes by paying the generic drug manufacturer in exchange for a promise that it will keep its generic version of the drug off the market. Kohl and Grassley's "Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act" will stop this anti-consumer practice by presuming these deals illegal, and giving the FTC the authority to stop them.

"Generic drugs save consumers and the federal government money, to the tune of billions of dollars a year. But in order to freeze out competition and delay entry of low cost generic drugs for consumers, brand-name drug companies pay-off generic manufactures to keep their products off the market.  It is past time to put an end to these backroom deals and pass this bipartisan legislation," Kohl said.

"These agreements between generic and brand name pharmaceutical manufacturers are only serving to line the pockets of the companies.  When people across the country are having a hard time making ends meet, this wheeling and dealing simply delays the entry of lower priced medicines into the marketplace, leaving consumers on the short end of the stick," Grassley said.

A compromise version of this legislation passed the Judiciary Committee in late 2009 and was included in the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee last year. Final passage of the bill stalled when the House and Senate failed to agree on an Omnibus Appropriations package last month.

The Federal Trade Commission has estimated that stopping these types of settlement agreements would save consumers at least $35 billion over the next ten years, and provide significant cost savings in the amount of $12 billion over ten years for the federal government, which pays approximately one-third of all prescription drug costs. A recent CBO report estimates that the federal government could save $2.68 billion over ten years, should this bill become law

Despite the FTC's opposition to pay-for-delay patent settlements, two 2005 appellate court decisions have permitted these payoffs.  In the two years after these two decisions, the FTC has found nearly half of all patent settlements involved payments from the brand name from the generic manufacturer in return for an agreement by the generic to keep its drug off the market.  According to a study by Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), health plans and consumers could save $26.4 billion over the next five years by using the generic versions of 14 popular drugs that are scheduled to lose their patent protections before 2010.

Brand-name drug companies and generic manufacturers routinely enter into settlement agreements to end drug patent litigation, but until 2005, none of them included pay-for-delay provisions. From 2000 to 2004, companies assumed such agreements violated antitrust law.  But in 2005, following three courts of appeals decisions that prevented the FTC from taking action on behalf of consumers, pay-for-delay settlements became commonplace. In the four years following these court decisions 63 out of 194 patent settlements had provisions in which the brand name drug company made payments to the generic manufacturer in exchange for the generic manufacturer agreeing to delay entry of generic competition.  In 2009, there were a record 19 pay-for-delay settlement agreements that kept generics off the market.

Last Congress, Kohl served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights. Grassley is the incoming Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee.

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Moline, IL; January 11, 2011 - The Black Hawk College men's basketball team will host an Alumni Celebration at their game versus Carl Sandburg College on Saturday, January 29, 2011.

All former BHC men's basketball players will receive free admission to the 3:00 p.m. game.  Alumni are also invited to a post-game reception at 5:00 p.m. at the River House Bar & Grill, 1510 River Drive, Moline.

For more information on the Alumni Celebration, please contact Assistant Men's Basketball Coach David Burke at burked@bhc.edu.

All BHC men's home basketball games are played at 6600 34th Ave., Building 3, Moline.  Their complete schedule can be found online at www.bhc.edu.

 

 

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Amana - A flirty bridesmaid who has a thing for the groom, an over-the-top wedding planner and an unsolved murder would spell disaster for any other wedding. But, in The Old Creamery' s production of Marriage Can Be Murder, it only brings on more laughs.

Marriage Can Be Murder, by James Daab opens Friday, Feb. 11 at the Ox Yoke Inn and runs through Feb. 27. The cast consists of Old Creamery regulars Kamille Zbanek of Ely; T.J. Besler of Manchester; Tom Milligan and Deborah Kennedy of East Amana; Jackie McCall and Sean McCall of Marengo; and Nicholas Hodge of Marion.

The evening includes a savory Ox Yoke Inn meal with choice of entrée, beverage and dessert. Performance times are 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 5 p.m. on Sundays. Seating begins half an hour prior to performances. Cost is $40 per person for dinner and the show and includes all gratuity and tax. Because the action takes place during dinner, there are no " show only" tickets available.

For reservations, call the Ox Yoke Inn, Amana at 800-233-3441. It' s sure to be a wedding you' ll never forget!

The Old Creamery Theatre Company is a not-for-profit professional theatre founded in 1971 in Garrison, Iowa. The company is celebrating 40 years of bringing live, professional theatre to the people of Iowa and the Midwest. We thank KGAN and Fox 28, our 2011 season media sponsor.

DES MOINES, IA (01/26/2011)(readMedia)-- State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald announced today that the application for the 2011 Robert D. Blue Scholarship is available online at www.rdblue.org. All Iowa residents who plan to attend college in Iowa for the 2011-2012 school year are eligible to apply.

Awards are based on financial need, an original essay, academic achievement and written recommendations. "These scholarships not only help Iowa students financially, but also honor the achievements and potential of the young people of our state," Fitzgerald stated. "Last year, ten outstanding students representing ten counties were chosen to receive awards. Each of the recipients went on to attend a different Iowa college or university."

The Iowa Centennial Memorial Foundation awards the Robert D. Blue Scholarship to Iowa students attending college in Iowa. Governor Blue created the Foundation in 1949 to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Iowa's acceptance into the union. At that time, a scholarship fund was established to encourage the youth of the state to attend Iowa's fine colleges and universities. In 1990, the Foundation officially named the scholarship to honor the late Governor Blue.

Robert D. Blue Scholarship applications are only accepted online through May 10 at www.rdblue.org. The winners will be announced during the summer. Those who would like more information on the Robert D. Blue Scholarship should visit the website, or call the treasurer's office at (515) 281-3067.

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WASHINGTON - January, 26, 2011 - Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), today announced they introduced legislation to create job opportunities for veterans returning home from war and help businesses create jobs.

"These men and women are extremely capable," Grassley said.  "They have a lot of skills to offer in the workplace.  This legislation will clear some bureaucratic hurdles and add a financial incentive to encourage employers to seek out veterans.  These steps are a logical follow-up to my effort to increase the IRS' hiring of veterans.  The IRS saw the value of this pool of potential workers and followed through on increased hiring of veterans.  Other employers, including small businesses, should have similar opportunities."

This Veterans Employment Transition Act, or the VETs Jobs bill, would reward employers for hiring qualified veterans who have recently completed their service in the military with a tax credit of up to $2,400 per veteran.  A previous version of this credit, which was part of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, was designed to help employers hire veterans but expired at the end of 2010.  The new version of the legislation would reinstate the tax credit and make it easier for veterans and small businesses to use.  As a result, servicemen and women who have been recently discharged would be able to provide documentation directly from the Department of Defense without having to go through the tax credit's current certification process

Any veteran who has left active duty in the past five years who has discharge paperwork showing 180 days of qualified active duty would be eligible for the credit. This would include those men and women who were activated by their states as members of the National Guard.  The bill also helps service members market themselves to prospective employers by requiring the military to educate service members about how the credit works

Noting that the unemployment rate for veterans is higher than for non-veterans nationwide, the senators first introduced the VETs Jobs bill last May.  The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other veteran service organizations are strong supporters of the legislation.

The text of the legislation can be found at http://finance.senate.gov/legislation/.

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WASHINGTON - January 26, 2011 - Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to repeal a burdensome tax reporting requirement on small businesses and farms enacted as part of the health care overhaul law last year.

"I had constituent meetings in 24 Iowa counties last week and heard employers say they need relief from costly mandates and regulations that undo any benefit they're supposed to get from the federal government, especially in rural America," Grassley said.  "The tax reporting requirement included in the health care law will cause a lot of hardship for small businesses and farmers when they need to focus on job creation instead."

Grassley signed onto legislation from Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) to repeal the tax reporting paperwork mandate, known as 1099 after the form taxpayers have to submit.  The Small Business Paperwork Elimination Act was introduced on the first day to introduce legislation in the new Congress.  Of the 55 senators co-sponsoring the bill, 14 are Democrats in indication of strong bipartisan support. The President also highlighted the need to repeal what he called this "flaw" in the health care bill in his state of the union address, a significant indication of support for repeal.  An identical measure introduced last year received 61 Senate votes.

The Small Business Paperwork Elimination Act would repeal the health care law's Section 9006, which expands the requirement to submit 1099 tax filing forms for business expenses to include all transactions that total $600 or more per vendor per year. The provision would impact businesses, family farms, churches, charities and local governments.  Numerous groups including the Iowa Farm Bureau and the National Federation of Independent Business, representing small businesses, are urging repeal.

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