Calls for repeal of health care law provision that hurts businesses

February 10, 2011

Washington, DC - Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) signed on to a bill that would help small businesses across the country by repealing a burdensome provision of the health care law, which was added by the Senate. The Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act will repeal the unpopular "1099" provision.

As a result of the so-called "1099" provision in the health care law, starting in 2012 small businesses will be required to submit 1099 forms for vendors that provide basic day-to-day operations, including office supplies, phones, shipping and other minor expenses. The Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act, sponsored by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), will repeal this provision to make sure small businesses can focus on creating jobs.

"Small business owners are making touch choices every day, fighting to keep their businesses afloat. This is no time to hit them with new burdensome regulations," said Rep. Braley. "This provision increases the cost of doing business and puts an unfair burden on business owners when they can least afford it. I know that small businesses are the engine of our economy - they are the job creators in so many communities in Iowa and around the country. And I want to make sure they can stay focused on creating jobs."

Last year, Rep. Braley supported a similar provision to repeal the "1099" requirement as part of the Small Business Tax Relief Act. The "1099" provision was not included in the House version of the health care bill that Rep. Braley supported last Congress, but was later added into the Senate version of the bill which was then passed and signed into law.

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DES MOINES, IA (02/10/2011)(readMedia)-- State Treasurer Michael L. Fitzgerald is providing free pencils to Kindergarten teachers across Iowa through the Prepare for Basics Program. Fitzgerald understands that Kindergarten Round-Up is an integral part for both children and parents which is why he is providing the materials free of charge. "Our schools have the right idea when it comes to putting the children and parents at ease," Fitzgerald said. "They know that inviting families to check out their school six months before the school year begins will help kindergarteners prepare for their big transition. We offer the pencils as a small gesture of support for our schools." In addition to the pencils, this free program will provide information about College Savings Iowa, the state-sponsored 529 plan created to help Iowa families save for future higher education expenses.

College Savings Iowa lets anyone - parents, grandparents, friends and relatives - invest for college. Iowa taxpayers can deduct up to $2,865 in contributions per beneficiary account from their adjusted gross income in 2011.* Investors do not need to be a state resident and can withdraw their investment tax-free to pay for qualified higher education expenses including tuition, books, supplies and room and board at any eligible college, university, community college or accredited technical training school in the United States or abroad.** For more information about College Savings Iowa, visit www.collegesavingsiowa.com or call 1-888-672-9116.

Elementary principals interested in taking part in the Prepare for the Basics program are recommended to register on-line by visiting www.treasurer.state.ia.us and clicking on the financial literacy tab. To guarantee timely arrival, materials should be requested at least two weeks in advance. They will be delivered directly to the participating schools. Supplies are limited, so early registration is advised.

*Adjusted annually for inflation. If withdrawals are not qualified, the deductions must be added back to Iowa taxable income.

** Earnings on non-qualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax on the earnings, as well as state income taxes. The availability of tax or other benefits may be contingent on meeting other requirements.

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WASHINGTON --- Thursday, February 10, 2011 --- Senator Chuck Grassley is asking for an explanation of the "big divide" between the stated policy of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Wall Street watchdog's actual practice in communicating and cooperating with the Justice Department on securities fraud cases.

Grassley said that recent comments by the SEC Director of Enforcement at a securities industry conference, "sound the alarm for anyone concerned about the SEC being overly cozy with those it should be investigating, to the point of not only committing to its own cooperation, but also providing information about the intentions of the Justice Department.

Grassley said the public deserves to know "what kind of arrangement there is between the SEC and the Justice Department on behalf of the securities industry."

In November, the SEC Director of Enforcement, Robert Khuzami, said "there is going to be earlier and more frequent collaboration between us and Justice" about whether there's criminal interest, "so defense counsel can have as much information as possible."

However, a new SEC enforcement manual says that "it is the general policy of the Commission not to comment on investigations conducted by law enforcement authorities responsible with enforcing criminal law."  The manual even instructs SEC staff to decline to identify which criminal authorities should be contacted to learn about a possible parallel criminal investigation.

"All the promises of financial regulatory reform ring hollow if the administration is allowing the top enforcement official at the SEC to relay to potential targets of an investigation exactly what the Justice Department has in store for them," Grassley said.

In letters to SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Grassley asked for copies of written guidance on collaboration and communication between the SEC and the Justice Department, a detailed description of the nature and extent of communications between the agencies in the Goldman Sachs and Pequot matters, and written responses to additional questions.

In 2007, Grassley and Senator Arlen Specter spelled out in a comprehensive report the SEC Inspector General's failure to investigate credible allegations by former SEC attorney Gary Aguirre that his supervisor pulled punches in the investigation because of one witness' political clout.  The former SEC Inspector General left his position the same day the Grassley-Specter report was released.  Last year, the SEC finally obtained a $28 million dollar settlement from Pequot and paid Aguirre years of back pay in a settlement related to his termination.

The SEC drafted its enforcement manual response to the recommendations in the August 2007 Grassley-Specter report.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today made the following comment on a report released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, "Reduction Targets and Strategies Have Not Been Established to Reduce the Billions of Dollars in Improper Earned Income Tax Credit Payments Each Year."  The report says the IRS continues to report that 23 percent to 28 percent of EITC payments are issued improperly each year. In Fiscal Year 2009, this equated to $11 billion to $13 billion in EITC improper payments.

"This is an outrageously high improper payment rate.  It's higher than Medicare's improper payment rate.  The taxpayers can't sustain a failure rate of one-fourth and on the way to one-third.  For more than eight years, the IRS hasn't made a dent in this problem.  It's more than enough time to figure out a way to fix it.  The report says the IRS doesn't have the resources to go after all of the improper payments in this program. This is a good indication of how the IRS is poorly equipped to handle the huge new responsibilities of health care reform. If the IRS can't handle its existing responsibilities, it won't be able to handle its new responsibilities under health care reform.  Maybe if the White House focused more on what's already owed, it wouldn't need to propose tax increases, such as the one on employers to pay for unemployment benefits just disclosed this week."

Thursdays at the Figge returns to the Figge on Thursday, February 17, 2011 with the special lecture "The World's Most Perfect Servant: The Pullman Porter Company and the African-American Experience," presented by Peter A. Hansen in conjunction with the current exhibition "Tracks: The Railroad in Photographs from the George Eastman House Collection" and Black History Month.  Mr. Hansen is the editor of the scholarly journal Railroad History and will travel from his home in Kansas City to Davenport by train for this lecture.  This lecture will be held at 7:00 PM in the Figge Auditorium.

The porters of the Pullman Company served as bellmen, concierges, housekeepers and more in the railroads' sleeping cars, yet their role in the American consciousness is even harder to define.  Were porters "the world's most perfect servants," as Pullman's advertising boasted, or a symbol of racial oppression? Icons of gracious travel or underpaid victims? More than 40 years after the Pullman Company went out of business attitudes about its frontline employees reflect our continued ambivalence.  This lecture will offer insights on the Pullman porters, their work, and their role in the modern civil rights movement.

Thursdays at the Figge on February 24th will feature a performance of Railroad Songs and Stories by Roald Tweet, professor emeritus of English at Augustana College and host of WVIK's Rock Island Lines, and musician Chris Dunn.

Thursdays at the Figge in March will feature "Artists and Writers," a series of talks by English professors from area colleges and universities on the unique relationship between literature and art.

Thursdays at the Figge programming in February also include a guided gallery tour at 6 PM and live music by Buddy Olson. The café and bar open at 5 PM for dinner and drinks and the museum is open until 9 PM. All programs are included with admission to the museum and all college students and faculty receive free admission after 5 PM every Thursday night.

Tracks and its educational programming are funded in part by the Riverboat Development Authority, Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Asks President, Speaker for a plan to avoid raising debt ceiling

Washington, DC - Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner asking them to provide a plan to avoid raising the debt ceiling. Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner has stated that the U.S. will reach its debt limit sometime in April or May - and Speaker Boehner has indicated that the House will take a vote on raising the debt limit soon.

"Our national debt is around 14 trillion dollars and growing. That's unacceptable," said Braley. "Voters across the country spoke loud and clear last November - they want us to get spending under control. The President and Speaker are giving Congress and the American people a false choice - vote to raise the debt ceiling or vote to shut down the government. I know there's a better way. We must put forward a common sense, middle-of-the-road plan to bring down our debt and avoid having to make this false choice in April or May. That's why I hope the President and Speaker Boehner will propose a plan to avoid this scenario.

"I know, and the American people know, that we will have to make tough choices and tough cuts. I look forward to this process and to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get our spending under control. But I cannot accept a situation where we kick the can further down the road. If we don't stop borrowing and spending now, when will we?

"In December, I voted against the $850 billion package of Bush tax bonuses for the rich because I know those tax bonuses are such a significant part of our national deficit. Both the President and Speaker Boehner supported them. Now, I want to hear their plan for cutting government spending in a way that doesn't force us to raise the debt ceiling once again.".

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The United States trade representative today said the administration would submit the United States-Korea free trade agreement to Congress "in the next few weeks." The submission would trigger a mandatory schedule for congressional action.  Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa made the following comment on this development.  Grassley is former chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Finance, with jurisdiction over international trade.  He is a senior member of the committee.

"The trade representative's comment today about action on pending trade agreements is very good news, if it's not more lip service.  The rest of the world has been moving forward with trade expansion, while this administration has put the United States on the sidelines, and it's been at the expense of America's workforce.  Employers and entrepreneurs in manufacturing, agriculture and the service sector need new market opportunities to grow businesses and create jobs.  The President's made a commitment to doubling U.S. exports.  That's impossible to achieve on the margins, without trade agreements.  The trade representative said the President intends to submit the U.S.-Korea trade agreement to Congress 'in the next few weeks.'  This is the most specific timeframe the White House has offered on the agreement since reworking it last year.  The White House should hold to this timeframe.  A big, new export market is exactly what U.S. producers need right now.  If and when the agreement comes to Congress, I'll do everything I can to help get it approved."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Senators Ask for Next Steps on Agriculture Competition

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley, along with Senator Patrick Leahy, today asked for the next steps planned for agricultural competition issues by the Departments of Justice and Agriculture.  The two agencies held joint workshops over the last year to learn about the key competition issues facing the agriculture industry.   Grassley and Leahy are respectively Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal antitrust policy.  Both senators are also members of the Senate Agriculture Committee which has jurisdiction over the Packers and Stockyards Administration.

"The agriculture industry has consolidated to the point where family farmers, independent producers and other smaller market participants do not have equal access to fair and competitive markets.  Increased concentration in agriculture will lead to fewer product choices and higher product prices for the American consumer," Grassley said.  "The workshops offered a chance for people involved in the ag industry to voice their concerns and provide comment.  It was a strong signal that the two agencies were communicating about this important issue.  Now, it's time to take another step forward.  I look forward to hearing what the Justice Department and Agriculture Department have in mind.

Grassley is a strong advocate for increased competition in agriculture and has sought to ensure healthy competition in the agriculture industry for all market participants by taking legislative action and conducting aggressive oversight.  The 2008 farm bill included positive steps in market transparency and increased competition, based on legislation sponsored by Grassley, but he has reiterated the need for additional action.

Here is a copy of the text of the letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

 

February 9, 2011

The Honorable Eric Holder                 The Honorable Tom Vilsack

Attorney General                                Secretary

U.S. Department of Justice                U.S. Department of Agriculture

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW          1400 Independence Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20530                      Washington, DC 20250

 

Dear Attorney General Holder and Secretary Vilsack,

We are writing in regard to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) competition workshops which were held throughout 2010.  From March through December 2010, workshops were held in Iowa, Alabama, Wisconsin, Colorado, and the District of Columbia covering seed, poultry, dairy, livestock, and price margins.  In addition, written and public comments were also accepted on these topics.

These workshops brought many of the key players on agricultural competition together and we thank you for this proactive step in beginning a dialogue on vertical integration, buyer power, market transparency, concentration, and retail prices. Producers, economists, academics, and government and elected officials were all able to participate in this process.

With the conclusion of the last workshop on December 8, 2010, we would appreciate an update as to what the DOJ and USDA plans for its next steps.  As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Judiciary, please provide to us an outline of any plans or further action items that DOJ and USDA intend to take in this area.  While making the workshop transcripts and comments available to the public has been helpful, we would also like to know what your Departments have learned from this process and whether any additional follow up is warranted.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request.

Sincerely,

Patrick Leahy                 Chuck Grassley

Chairman                      Ranking Member

Grassley Keeps Pressure on EPA to Focus on Job Creation Instead of Over Burdensome Regulations

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley is continuing to highlight the senseless regulations placed on family farmers and small businesses by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Today, Grassley sent a letter to Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Darrell Issa, to bring to his attention the EPA's attempt to regulate dust.

The EPA has released several policy assessments that would lower the particulate matter standards for dust to levels which would be extremely burdensome for farmers and livestock producers. Whether its livestock kicking up dust, soybeans being combined on a dry day in the fall, or driving a car down the gravel road, dust happens. Producers could potentially be fined for not meeting the particulate matter standards while still practicing good management practices on their soils.

"The EPA's attempt to regulate dust is just another example of how out of touch the agency is with the grassroots," Grassley said.  "The continued disregard for agriculture hurts the economic viability of rural America and hinders job creation."

Grassley said he wanted Issa, who is bringing to light hundreds of federal regulations that hurt job creation, to be aware of yet another nonsensical regulation that would slow economic development and cause significant costs on the nation's family farmers.

Here is a copy of the text of Grassley's letter to Issa.

February 8, 2011

The Honorable Darrell Issa

Chairman

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

2157 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chairman Issa,

As you know, on January 18, 2011, President Obama signed an Executive Order which required federal agencies to review all regulations, taking into account the costs and excessive burdens they might put on businesses.  A recent Wall Street Journal editorial reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), less than a week after the President signed this Order, stated "that it was 'confident' it wouldn't need to alter a single current or pending rule."  This statement appears pre-emptive of the President's order.

I commend you for scheduling a full committee hearing on Thursday, February 10, 2011 on "Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation."  It is my belief that EPA has long over stretched its bounds, resulting in detrimental impacts to farmers and ranchers across the country.

Last July, I and twenty of my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle wrote to Administrator Lisa Jackson with our continued concerns regarding EPA's actions in its review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).  If approved, the Second Draft Policy Assessment (PA) for Particulate Matter (PM) released on July 8, 2010 would establish the most stringent and unparalleled regulation of dust in our nation's history revising current levels of 150ug/m3 down to 65-85 ug/m3.  Our letter encouraged EPA to consider maintaining the primary and secondary standards, or in the alternative, consider different PM indicators.  We also asked that the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee focus attention on EPA's choice to not adopt a PM10-2.5 standard.  I have enclosed a copy of that letter for your information.

I am concerned that EPA has pre-judged its review of existing and pending rules.  The President has now required that cost considerations on businesses, including farmers and ranchers, be taken into account.  I respectfully ask that when your committee meets on February 10, 2011, that the PA for Particulate Matter be discussed.  This would be an opportune time to further highlight and expose this potential rule which could wreck havoc, particularly in the Western part of the United States.

As I have continually advocated over the years, lowering these PM standards could have devastating and burdensome effects on farmers and ranchers across the country. Excessive dust control measures could be imposed on agricultural operations which would only slow economic development and impose significant costs on our nation's family farmers and ranchers.

As I've often said, only God can determine when the wind blows.  Exposing EPA's potential rulemaking in this area of dust control is critically important to the future profitability of our nation's producers. Thank you for scheduling this important hearing and for consideration of my request.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

ROCK ISLAND, IL (02/08/2011)(readMedia)-- The Augustana College Symphonic Band will travel to Italy to perform four concerts in mid-February. The nine-day tour includes stops in Venice, Florence, Pisa and Rome, in addition to other cities. The concerts will feature both American and Italian music and will be performed for a variety of audiences, ranging from townspeople to college students. This is the first time the Symphonic Band has traveled to Italy to perform.

Grace Drenth is a sophomore from Davenport, IA majoring in psychology.

Luther Hughes is a first year from Silvis, IL majoring in liberal studies.

Gaetano Iaccarino is a junior from Davenport, IA majoring in music general and anthropology.

Audrey Taylor is a senior from Moline, IL majoring in teaching biology.

Anne VanSpeybroeck is a sophomore from Rock Island, IL majoring in liberal studies.

Jennifer Youngs is a junior from Taylor Ridge, IL majoring in psychology.

"We hope that through this cultural sharing of our common love of music that our students will be able to interact and touch the lives of Italians," said Dr. James Lambrecht, director of the Symphonic Band. "This kind of experience enables our students to learn firsthand about Italy, its people, culture,and history-one of the richest in Western Civilization."

The Augustana Symphonic Band will play in a variety of venues; one that is particularly interesting will be the concert in Lucca, a city enclosed by walls in the Tuscany region. The 80-member band will perform at the Auditorium San Romano in Lucca, which used to be the main church home of Napoleon's sister. The elevated box where she attended mass is still standing. Lucca also is the birthplace of the famous Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini. In honor of their host city's history, the band members will perform an arrangement of melodies taken from Giacomo Puccini's final opera, Turandot. This will include the most famous aria"Nessun Dorma," most notably performed by the world-renowned tenor Luciano Pavarotti.

The Symphonic Band will wrap up its tour with a home concert in Centennial Hall at 8 p.m., Saturday, March 12. Admission is free.

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