Bill to Simplify Public Documents Now Becomes Law

Washington, DC -Rep. Bruce Braley's (D-Iowa) announced today President Barack Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (H.R. 946) into law late Wednesday afternoon. The bill, introduced by Braley, requires the federal government to write documents, such as tax returns, federal college aid applications, and Veterans Administration forms in simple easy-to-understand language, making government more transparent and saving the government millions of dollars.  The bill's final version passed the House by a vote of 341-82. Earlier this week, it received unanimous consent in the Senate.

"The Plain Writing Act requires a simple change to business-as-usual that'll make a big difference for anyone who's ever filled out a tax return or received a government document," Braley said.  "This bill shows what bipartisanship can accomplish when we put aside our differences and work together for the common good. Writing government documents in plain language will increase government accountability and will save Americans time and money.  Plain, straightforward language makes it easy for taxpayers to understand what the federal government is doing and what services it is offering."

Braley visited the VA in Bettendorf on Tuesday to highlight the work already underway at the Veterans Benefits Administration, which is one of few federal agencies to track the use of Plain Language in federal documents. After rewriting just one letter asking beneficiaries to update their contact information in Plain Language, the VBA say responses climb 75 percent, saving the VA approximately $8 million in follow-up costs.

The Plain Writing Act requires the federal government to write new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a "clear, concise, well-organized" manner that follows the best practices of plain language writing.

After the bill passed the House in February, Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) placed a hold on the bill for months, so Braley requested a meeting with him in June. After making minor changes, Bennett lifted his hold and the bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

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WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley said the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has issued new information for Iowans affected by the June 1 to Aug. 31, 2010 severe storms, flooding and tornados.  The deadline for Iowans to register for federal disaster assistance has been extended to November 12, 2010.

 

The deadline applies to registration only.  It is not the deadline for all related paperwork.  Homeowners, renters, and business owners who suffered losses in the June 1 to Aug. 31, 2010 severe storms, flooding and tornados who live in one of the 35 declared counties may be eligible for disaster assistance.  Counties included in the declaration are Appanoose, Black Hawk, Cherokee, Clayton, Decatur, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Franklin, Hamilton, Howard, Humboldt, Ida, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Kossuth, Lee, Lucas, Lyon, Mahaska, Marion, Monroe, O'Brien, Osceola, Polk, Ringgold, Sioux, Story, Taylor, Union, Wapello, Warren, Webster and Wright.

 

Registration should be completed with FEMA online at www.disasterassistance.gov; or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 for the hearing- or speech-impaired. The numbers are available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily, until further notice.  For Disaster Recovery Center information, Iowans should visit www.fema.gov/assistance/opendrcs.shtm.  

It's important for anyone impacted by the storms to register even if no decision has yet been made to submit additional paperwork.  Registration ensures that the person impacted may ask for federal assistance in the future.

 

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Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa today made the following comment on an announcement from H&R Block that it is working to acquire a company in Cedar Rapids that has developed tax software that H&R Block hopes to use in its tax filing operations.

"Iowa has a lot of high-tech expertise, through its employers and universities and community colleges, so I'm not surprised that an Iowa firm developed a product that's attractive to one of the world's largest tax services providers.   If all the necessary approvals go through, I hope this will lead to job creation in Cedar Rapids.   Iowa has an outstanding workforce, and new jobs would be a shot in the arm to the Cedar Rapids community, where people have worked so hard to recover from the floods that caused so much damage in 2008."

MONTICELLO, IA - Camp Courageous Antique Show will be held on Sunday, November 7th at the Berndes Center on the fairgrounds in Monticello. Doors will be open from 9:00 A.M. until 3:00 P.M.  Camp Courageous is seeking dealers and exhibitors to display quality antiques and collectibles.  Food and beverages are available for purchase throughout the day, including pie and ice cream.  A 10'x16' space is offered with four tables for $50.00

Chuck Wolf, a professional appraiser from Maquoketa, will be available to the public throughout the day to assess items for a $5.00 fee (excluding guns, military memorabilia, and Indian artifacts).  Proceeds from this event goes to benefit Camp Courageous, a recreational and respite care facility for individuals with disabilities of all ages.  It is run on donations, without government support, without paid fundraisers, and without formal sponsorship.

Admission for the public is $3.00 and parking is free!  For inquiries or dealer information contact Sharon Roller at Camp Courageous  (319-465-5916 Extension 2200). All proceeds for this event will benefit over 5,100 individuals with disabilities served by Camp Courageous each year.

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From Senator Tom Harkin:

Harkin: Decision to Expand E15 in Vehicles is Welcome Step; Senior lawmaker vows to continue effort for all vehicles, not just new models

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today applauded the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) announcement that it will approve gasoline blends containing up to 15 percent ethanol (also known as E15) for year 2007 and newer vehicles.  Harkin, however, expressed disappointment that a decision has not yet been made on 2001-2006 vehicles and that the agency will deny the waiver for year 2000 and older vehicles and for off-road engines.  In recent months, Harkin has been the lead voice in the U.S. Senate urging EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) to approve E15 for all gasoline vehicles.  

"It is important that we continue our effort to promote biofuels and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.  This is an effort that is good for the environment and for our nation's energy security and one that will grow our economy while creating good, 'green' jobs in Iowa and across the county," said Harkin.  "Today's announcement is a welcome step in this effort - one that has been a long time coming - and I am pleased that EPA and DOE have moved forward and approved E15 for 2007 and newer vehicles.

"In addition to promoting E15 - and even higher percentage blends - for vehicles, there is much more to do as part of our overall strategy to promote and grow the biofuels industry.  I intend to urge action in Congress that will enable expanding markets for biofuels by increasing the number of blender pump stations across the country, increasing flex -fuel vehicles and incentivizing the construction of biofuels pipelines from production states to more populous areas.  I also remain hopeful that the Administration will finish testing soon and announce their decision to approve E15 for use in 2001-2006 vehicles, as well as reconsider its unfortunate decision to deny the waiver for vehicles older than 2000."

As the former Chairman and now senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Harkin has been a long-time leader in promoting the production and use of biofuels as an important part of the nation's energy strategy.  Recent Harkin initiatives and actions aimed at promoting E15 and other biofuels include :

  • On August 4, Harkin led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing an amendment to the pending energy bill to expand the U.S. biofuels market by increasing the percentage of vehicles manufactured for sale in the U.S. that are flex-fuel capable; increasing the number of blender pumps at refueling stations so more consumers can buy fuels with higher percentages of ethanol; and authorizing loan guarantees for renewable fuel pipelines.  More information can be found here.

  • On August 2, Harkin convened a meeting between a bipartisan group of senators and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman to urge prompt approval of E15 ethanol blend for use in all gasoline-fueled vehicles.  At the meeting, Harkin urged for the approval of E-15, as well as E-20, which EPA is also reviewing.  More information can be found here.

  • On June 28, Harkin and six other senators wrote to President Obama urging his Administration to move rapidly to integrate biofuels into the nation's transportation fuel supply.  In the letter, the senators expressed concern that the Department of Energy (DOE) had not yet completed testing of higher blends of ethanol in gasoline, which would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve the use of gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol.  More information can be found here.

  • On June 23, Harkin spoke on the Senate floor expressing his disappointment in EPA and DOE's delay in making a decision on E-15 and calling for an end to the delay.  Audio of that can be found here.

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From Senator Grassley:

EPA E15 Ruling Takes a Step Instead of Leap in the Right Direction

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency decided on a waiver request to allow ethanol to be blended with gasoline at 15 percent, rather than the 10 percent that is allowed today.  Ethanol producers filed the waiver petition back in March of 2009.  A decision was supposed to be made by December of 2009, but it had been delayed again and again.

"While I'm glad to see that at long last the EPA has finally made a decision, I am frustrated that the EPA is approving E15 only for vehicles that are model year 2007 and newer.  The fact is, that covers only about 20 percent of vehicles on the road today," Grassley said.  "The gains, while useful to the industry, are small in comparison to a full and complete waiver for E15 use in all vehicles."

"The announcement unnecessarily complicates the fuel-supply chain and undermines real progress that a waiver for all vehicles would have provided to America's domestic renewable fuel producers.  It's a matter of both energy independence and jobs," Grassley said.

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From Governor Quinn

CHICAGO - October 13, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today applauded the decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) to waive the limitation on selling fuel that contains more than 10 percent ethanol for newer vehicles.

The waiver specifically allows all 2007 and newer model year cars and light trucks to be able to use up to 15 percent ethanol, known as E15. The decision on whether to allow model year 2001 to 2006 vehicles to use E15 is still under consideration.

"This is an important step that will increase our energy security by relying more on the natural resources grown throughout Illinois. This will protect the environment, expand our economy, support our farmers and create more Illinois jobs. We are hopeful that biofuels will continue playing an even larger role in our energy portfolio. It's the right decision for Illinois and our country to lessen our dependence on foreign oil," said Governor Quinn.

The use of gasoline with 10 percent ethanol is widely available and used in Illinois. The state of Illinois also has one of the largest networks of E85 stations that dispense to certain vehicles designed to burn E85.

The Illinois Jobs Now! capital program that Governor Quinn signed into law last year includes $15 million that will improve water and energy conservation, add value to bio-fuel co-products and by-products, adopt fractionation processes, and utilize corn fiber and cellulosic conversion at biofuel facilities.

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Boat Owners Association Reports Grassroots Efforts

ALEXANDRIA, Va., October 12, 2010 - In the battle to add up to 50% more ethanol to the nation's gas supply without first providing scientific evidence it won't harm boat engines or cause serious safety issues, America's recreational boaters have spoken. Of the over 22,000 Americans who have emailed President Obama in the last thirteen days urging him to stop the EPA from approving the increase, BoatUS reports that nearly three-fourths of those emails are from BoatUS members and other recreational boaters.

"On the very first day there were over 11,000 emails sent to the President that were generated through the http://www.FollowTheScience.org website attributed to BoatUS members and their friends," said BoatUS Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich. "This shows our boat-owning membership is very worried about this issue and wants to see independent testing completed first. We hope their grassroots activism has an impact on this decision."

A wide-ranging coalition of groups behind FollowtheScience.org created the email campaign in anticipation of the EPA's decision ? expected in just a few days ? that is likely to announce the authorization of increased ethanol in the nation's fuel supply.

Why are boaters speaking out so strongly?

Large numbers of boaters have been impacted by 10% ethanol in their gasoline, which was rolled out nationwide a few years ago. A solvent, ethanol can degrade fuel systems and harm boat engines. BoatUS members have reported engine breakdowns, some leading to expensive repairs and potential safety issues. "Boaters have already been left holding the bag once when ethanol was introduced at 10% (E10)," said Podlich. "With no recourse, our members were forced to use a fuel that affected the reliability of their engines."

Working on behalf of over 500,000 members, BoatUS had previously asked the EPA to see the science first. However, to date no independent testing of marine engines with the use of "mid-level" ethanol blends (up to 15%) has been completed. Most boat engine warranties are void when using ethanol beyond the 10% blend level.

BoatUS continues to urge recreational boaters or anyone with gas-powered equipment or vehicles to go to www.BoatUS.com/gov and let President Obama know your concerns about ethanol and ask him to require the EPA to complete testing and get the science first.

BoatUS is part of FollowTheScience.org, a coalition of 46 motor sports, environmental, food and citizen advocate groups asking for "science first" before the EPA allows a new fuel on the market.  BoatUS is also a member of AllSAFE, the Alliance for a Safe Alternative Fuels Environment.
www.Allsafe-fuel.org

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Assistance Center in Western Illinois Awarded 2010 Governor's Cup

SPRINGFIELD - October 12, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today announced 26 projects as 2010 Governor's Home Town Award recipients. The awards recognize the contributions of thousands of Illinois' volunteers for their hard work and dedication towards improving their communities.

"One of our greatest duties is to help those who are in need," said Governor Quinn. "The Governor's Home Town Awards are one small way we can honor those who have selflessly gone above and beyond the call of duty to help those around them and improve their communities."

The Governor's Home Town Awards recipients were chosen by a group of volunteer judges who reviewed and ranked applications based on local need, volunteer participation, use of resources and results. The judges then selected one project from each population category to compete for the coveted Governor's Cup. The Governor's Cup is a traveling silver trophy presented to the community whose efforts were deemed most representative of Illinois' spirit of volunteerism.

The Community for Christ Assistance Center was chosen as the 2010 Governor's Cup award winner. The center serves the Villages of Camp Point, Clayton, Golden and Coatsburg. In 2009, the center sponsored a back-to-school fair where approximately one-third of area students received school supplies ranging from pencils, paper, backpacks and shoes to free physicals, immunizations, dental exams and haircuts.

The projects were judged within their population category as well as within an assigned project category, such as services and mentorship, memorials and monuments, parks and recreation, beautification and sustainability, and history and historic preservation. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) administers the Governor's Home Town Awards Program.

Each of the award-winning communities receives a road sign and plaque recognizing its efforts. The Governor's Cup winner receives the traveling trophy and a unique road sign that proclaims its status as the overall winner.?

The 26 projects recognized represent the work of almost 3,000 volunteers who devoted more than 91,000 hours of their time. Nearly $2.3 million in donated materials or in-kind services were provided and more than $3.1 million in private funds were raised for these projects. A complete list of winners is attached.

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the celebration of National School Lunch Week, October 11- 15, by highlighting Obama administration efforts to improve child nutrition, combat childhood obesity and encourage schools to participate in USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), an initiative that recognizes schools for excellence in nutrition and physical activity.

"National School Lunch Week reminds us how important it is that our children be healthy and active, that they not go hungry, and that they have access to nutritious meals," Vilsack said. "Through our HealthierUS School Challenge, USDA recognizes schools that meet the highest standards for creating and maintaining healthy school environments by promoting good nutrition and physical activity."

The HUSSC is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation. Schools participating in the HUSSC voluntarily adopt USDA standards for food they serve at their schools, agree to provide nutrition education and provide opportunities for physical activity.

In February, the First Lady and USDA challenged stakeholders to double the number of HUSSC schools within in a year and add 1,000 schools per year for two years after that. Schools participating in the Challenge are recognized with Gold of Distinction, Gold, Silver, or Bronze-level certification. As of late September, 841 HUSSC awards have been made to schools. HUSSC certification also includes monetary incentives for schools -$2,000 for Gold Award of Distinction, $1,500 for Gold, $1,000 for Silver and $500 for Bronze.

Next week, USDA will recognize the following schools for meeting the HealthierUS School Challenge:

  • Phoenix Elementary School in Grand Forks, ND for Gold of Distinction certification
  • Krause Elementary School in Brenham, TX for Gold certification
  • Brenham Elementary School in Brenham, TX for Gold certification
  • Central Elementary School in Lewisville, TX for Gold certification
  • Byram Middle School in Terry, MS for Gold certification
  • River Terrace Elementary School in Washington, DC for Gold certification
  • Greene Central School in Greene, ME for Silver certification
  • Leeds Central School in Leeds, ME for Silver certification
  • Turner Primary School in Turner, ME for Silver certification
  • Turner Elementary School in Turner, ME for Silver certification
  • South Hamilton Elementary School in Jewell, IA for Silver certification
  • Adrian Elementary School in Adrian, MN for Silver certification
  • Belwood Elementary School in Calhoun, GA for Bronze certification
  • Fairmount Elementary School in Fairmount, GA for Bronze certification
  • Redbud Elementary School in Calhoun, GA for Bronze certification
  • Sonoraville Elementary School in Calhoun, GA for Bronze certification
  • Swain Elementary School in Plainville, GA for Bronze certification
  • Tolbert Elementary School in Resaca, GA for Bronze certification
  • Horizon Elementary School in Johnston, IA for Bronze certification

USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon salutes the example set by HUSSC schools and underscored the importance of a strong legislation to reauthorize the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

"These programs provide vital nutrition assistance to America's school-aged children and deserve our full support," he said. "Congress has the opportunity to pass improved legislation in time to make important changes to our school meals this very year and future years and we urge them to pass this when they convene again in November."

The First Lady actively supports the HUSSC with innovative Let's Move! initiatives, including Chefs Move to Schools, a collaboration that links chefs with nearby schools, and most recently with the Recipes for Healthy Kids competition, launched in early September. This competition brings together chefs, school nutrition professionals, students and parents who work in in teams to develop nutritious, delicious, kid-approved recipes for use in schools. Recipes must be submitted by Dec. 30. Winners will have a chance to compete in a national cook-off and $12,000 in prizes. For more information, please visit www.recipesforkidschallenge.com.

Improving USDA's child nutrition programs on behalf of nearly 32 million kids across the nation is a top priority of the Obama Administration. Strengthening the Child Nutrition Act, which authorizes USDA's child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign. This legislation will serve as a down payment in battling hunger and food insecurity while providing critical resources to raise a generation of healthy children. To learn more about the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign, visit www.LetsMove.gov.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the child nutrition programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.


'Grow. Evolve. Become.'

(Bettendorf, IA - October 12, 2010)    Brown Mackie College - Quad Cities will host Education Day on Saturday, October 23, 2010. Grow Your Life. Evolve Your Mind. Become Your Vision.  Learn about targeted education for future careers; convenient "one course a month" day, afternoon, and evening schedules.  Meet the president, faculty, staff, students, and have the opportunity to tour classrooms and labs.

Education Day is open to the public and there is no charge to attend. To register online, visit brownmackie.edu/EducationDay.

EVENT:  Brown Mackie College Education Day:  'Grow Your Life. Evolve Your Mind. Become Your Vision.'

DATE:    Saturday, October 23, 2010

TIME:     10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Where:   Brown Mackie College - Quad Cities
2119 E. Kimberly Road
Bettendorf, IA 52722

For additional information about Education Day at Brown Mackie College - Quad Cities, contact Ann Sandoval at (563) 344-1500 or visit http://www.brownmackie.edu/pr.aspx?ID=BMC2233.

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Brown Mackie College - Quad Cities is one of 25 school locations of the Brown Mackie College system of schools (www.brownmackie.edu), which is dedicated to providing educational programs that prepare students for entry-level positions in a competitive, rapidly-changing workplace. Brown Mackie College schools offer bachelor's degree, associate's degree, certificate, and diploma programs in health sciences, business, information technology, legal studies and design technologies.

Iowans who lost work as a result of the summer floods now have until the first week of November to file for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), state/federal officials announced today.

DUA was made available as part of the Presidential Disaster Declaration resulting from the severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes of June 1 through Aug. 31, 2010.  DUA provides weekly benefit payments to those out of work due to the disaster, including self-employed persons, farm and ranch owners, and others not covered by typical unemployment insurance programs.

The filing deadline is Nov. 1, 2010, for residents who live or work in one of the following counties: Appanoose, Black Hawk, Cherokee, Clayton, Decatur, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Franklin, Hamilton, Howard, Humboldt, Ida, Jackson, Jasper, Jones, Kossuth, Lee, Lucas, Lyon, Mahaska, Marion, O'Brien, Osceola, Polk, Ringgold, Sioux, Story, Taylor, Union, Wapello, Warren, Webster, and Wright.

The filing deadline is Nov. 4, 2010, for residents of Monroe County, which was added to the declared counties in late September.

"This is not regular unemployment compensation, but a program to help people who lost their jobs or cannot work because of the disaster," said the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Tom Hall, the federal coordinating officer for the Iowa recovery.

DUA claims can be filed at any Iowa Workforce Development Center. Individuals applying for DUA need to provide proof of past earnings, such as business records or bank statements and their most recent income tax form, at the time they file their claim.

In addition to assistance filing a DUA claim, Iowa Workforce Development Centers offer reemployment services, including testing, counseling and placement. Job search and career information also is available through Iowa Workforce Development's Web site at www.iowaworkforce.org.

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