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In one of the first orders of business of the 112th Congress, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a good government measure I've pursued for more than a decade.

In a move that will pull back the cloak of secrecy that effectively hog-ties the people's business in the U.S. Senate, anonymous "secret holds" will no longer be allowed.

A hold is a request by individual senators to their respective party's leader in the Senate to object on their behalf as a sort of proxy.   Until now, senators didn't have to disclose their identities when placing a hold.  Now, under the reform I co-authored, the Senate is under a binding resolution that automatically will trigger public disclosure of who is behind an objection to legislation or a nomination pending before the U.S. Senate. Specifically, the senator's identity will be published in The Congressional Record within 48 hours. Previously, lawmakers could bear no public accountability.

My reason for ending secret holds is simple: If a lawmaker finds it necessary to delay action on a pending bill or nomination to build consensus, gather more information or argue for a different approach or policy, he or she should have the guts to make the hold public. Requiring a non-negotiable end to the anonymity of holds will bring better, more effective transparency to the legislative process.

A hold is effective because much of the Senate's business operates by unanimous consent.  The reform will still allow each senator to exercise his or her prerogative to withhold consent on legislation or a nomination.  It's important to preserve senators' rights to represent their constituents and work for the best interests of the country.  But now such holds must withstand the light of day. The public has a right to know what their senators are objecting to and why.

In the U.S. Senate, I have championed many reforms in Washington that improve good governance and keep an important distinction in mind.  As stewards of the public purse, lawmakers work in Washington for the people. The people don't work for Washington. That's why I work year after year to hold office holders and the federal bureaucracy accountable.

Today I'm building on a crusade launched more than 20 years ago to bring Congress under the same laws it passes for people on Main Street. President Clinton signed my reform legislation into law in 1995. The Congressional Accountability Act applies a dozen federal workplace, employment and civil rights laws from which Congress routinely exempted itself, 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.

I'm also fighting to end another double standard that flies in the face of integrity and good governance. In the last Congress, the President and Democratic congressional leaders pushed through a sweeping federal health reform law that makes significant changes to the nation's health insurance system. Despite my efforts to ensure the new law would apply to the White House and those who drafted the bill in Congress, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 exempts the West Wing and congressional leadership staff from key elements of the law.

Talk about hogwash. Public officeholders who make the laws that apply to the rest of the country ought to have to taste their own medicine. That's why in January I reintroduced my legislation that would require the President, members of his cabinet and top congressional staff to obtain their health coverage through the same health insurance exchanges as many other Americans when health plans for the general public are made available.  The special carve-out sends an arrogant message to grass roots America:  It says health care reform is good enough for you, but not for us.

Another way I'm working to get Congress started out on the right foot is legislation several other senators and I have reintroduced to stop automatic pay raises for federal lawmakers. Although I helped to block the automatic pay raises for 2010 and 2011, it's time for Congress to swallow a permanent dose of common sense. Workers in the private sector don't have the luxury of receiving an automatic pay raise year after year. Neither should members of Congress. Our bill would require a public roll-call vote in the U.S. Senate before a pay raise is approved.

Making sure Washington lives by the same standards that apply to the rest of the country will dismantle cavalier policymaking that can be arrogant and uninformed. Conducting the people's business with transparency and holding public officeholders to account will help restore public confidence and improve public services. Bringing my Iowa-tested reality check back to Washington week after week sure helps me separate the wheat from the chaff.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Think of the difficult cuts which are being made now as a stepping stone to setting Iowa on track to a solid fiscal future.  The Governor's budget is not a step-by-step manual for eliminating a deficit but rather a starting point for discussion.  It is highly unlikely the budget Governor Brandstad presented on Thursday will be the same one he will sign at the end of the legislative session.

The legislature has three possible responses to our budget deficit: raise taxes, find efficiencies or cut nonessential programing.  This past week I have been asked by a number of special interest groups to increase the sales tax by half a percent because it is "no big deal" and "no one would notice."  The sheer audacity of those making those statements is almost as scary as the actual concept of a tax increase right now.  I wonder if those who believe the state should just keep spending actually understand the pressure many Iowan's feel right now.  Most people can't fill up a tank of gas or buy a week's worth of groceries for less than $50.  The long-term answer is not found in, "simply finding new revenue for the state."

It is a wonder how some politicians can avoid recognizing structural deficits and continue to spend as if the problem will just go away.  I heard on many occasions that we have one billion dollars in unspent money so we can save programing.  This claim is correct, as long as you don't recognized the $1.7 billion in programing you promised to fund with only the $1 billion you claim to have.  Apparently basic math doesn't count when politically, you really want something.

For the last two weeks, each department has promoted their programing by saying, "for every dollar you spend with us, you will get seven in return."   If true, with so much return on investment then why are we in debt?  When I ask this question I am quickly informed the state would be further in debt if we didn't fund these programs originally.  By the rationale of this claim, the state would have been $32.6 billion in the hole if we weren't "getting seven in return."  At some point we have to turn on the reality switch.

In these meetings I think about the silent majority: A group which doesn't belong to an association or have a paid lobbyist.  They are a group of Iowans willing to pay taxes with the expectation that those dollars are being used responsibly.  This group is willing to chip-in and help out but they don't want to be used as simply a checking account.

As Iowa begins correcting its budget problem I am growing concerned of Congress's willingness to negotiate plans for three states to declare bankruptcy.  Legislators in these states have offered no roadmap for improving their budgets.  Politicians either refuse to accept the reality of their budgets or spending has become an addiction to them.  Ultimately, taxpayers in states like Iowa will foot the bill for bailing out states with politicians who forgot there is a "no" button right next to the "yea" button.

Senator Shawn Hamerlinck

District 42

SPRINGFIELD, IL (01/31/2011)(readMedia)-- Approximately 20 Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers will be recognized Feb. 5 by the National Guard Bureau Freedom Salute Campaign for their sacrifice and service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The ceremony will be at the Illinois Military Academy at Camp Lincoln in Springfield at 11 a.m.

Soldiers of BEST (Bilateral Embedded Staff Team) A5 returned in October after being mobilized in January 2010 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They joined the Polish Land Forces before arriving in Afghanistan and worked as a joint unit during the course of the mobilization. The Soldiers are from various parts of Illinois and were selected for the mission based on their training and skills.

The Soldiers were embedded with Task Force White Eagle, which saw more combat action than any other Polish unit since World War II. Task Force White Eagle completed 32 operations, including five air assaults and multiple dismounted infiltration missions. Most missions were completed with the help of the Afghan National Security Forces from the Afghan Uniform Police, National Directorate of Security and the Afghan National Army.

The Soldiers assisted the Afghan government to extend its authority across the country, performed security operations and helped stabilize the war-torn nation. The Soldiers also mentored and supported the Afghan National Army and supported Afghan government programs to disarm illegally armed groups.

The Freedom Salute Campaign program is a small way to show these patriotic citizen-Soldiers, their families and employers how much their sacrifice is appreciated. On behalf of the National Guard Bureau, the Illinois Army National Guard will present each eligible Soldier with an encased American Flag, as well as a sequentially-numbered

commemorative coin, certificate of appreciation and lapel pin. Families will also receive items recognizing their support and sacrifice.

The Freedom Salute Campaign is one of the largest Army National Guard recognition endeavors in history. It is designed to publicly acknowledge Army National Guard Soldiers and those who supported them while deployed.

News media attending the event should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony and are required to notify the Public Affairs Office by 3 p.m. Feb. 4 or they will not be granted access onto Camp Lincoln. For more information call the Public Affairs Office at 217-761-3569.


Law Providing State-Level Rights Takes Effect July 1, 2011

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today applauded Illinois Governor Pat Quinn for signing into law the "Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act." The signing ceremony is planned for 4 p.m. central time today.  Couples may begin obtaining civil unions and enjoying the state-level rights and responsibilities of married couples on July 1, 2011.

"Today marks a tremendous step towards equality for all families in Illinois," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "HRC commends Governor Quinn for his commitment to ensuring civil unions became law. Congratulations to Rep. Greg Harris, lead sponsor of the bill, who fought for years to ensure civil unions would become a reality, and thank you to Equality Illinois and the ACLU of Illinois for their tireless efforts on behalf of the LGBT community."

The new law will permit both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into civil unions and receive the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities under Illinois law that are granted to spouses.  Couples who enter into a civil union will not receive any rights or benefits under federal law. Illinois still does not permit same-sex couples to marry.  The law explicitly allows religious entities to choose not to solemnize or officiate civil unions.

In addition to Illinois, twelve states plus Washington, D.C. have laws providing an expansive form of state-level relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples.  Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington D.C. provide marriage to same-sex couples under state law.  New York and Maryland recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages, but do not provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples in state. Five other states - California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington - provide same-sex couples with access to almost all of the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Wisconsin provide gay and lesbian couples with limited rights and benefits, not all rights provided to married couples.  An attorney general opinion and subsequent court ruling in Rhode Island resulted in limited recognition of out-of-jurisdiction marriages of same-sex couples. California recognized marriage for same-sex couples between June and November of 2008, before voters approved Proposition 8, which purports to amend the state constitution to prohibit marriage equality.  Couples married during that window remain married under California law, but all other same-sex couples can only receive a domestic partnership within the state. The state will recognize out-of-jurisdiction same-sex marriages that occurred before November 5, 2008 as marriages and those that occurred on or after November 5, 2008 as similar to domestic partnerships.

Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.  For an electronic map showing where marriage equality stands in the states, please visit: www.HRC.org/State_Laws.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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DES MOINES, IA (01/31/2011)(readMedia)-- There are thousands of things to love about the great Iowa State Fair, where "Nothing Compares!" From funnel cakes and Ferris wheels, food on a stick and free entertainment, to premier livestock events, art exhibits and the country's largest state fair food department, the Iowa State Fair has something for everyone. Again this year, Iowans can continue to show their love for the Fair on their tax returns and help the Fair continue the renovation and preservations of the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Look for the State Fairgrounds Renovation Check Off on line 58b of Iowa Tax Form 1040 or on line 14 of Iowa Tax Form 1040A and check off $1 (or more!) to help preserve the historic Iowa State Fairgrounds. Your gift is either deducted from your refund or added to the amount due. Contributions to the Corndog Checkoff are fully tax-deductible.

"The Corndog Checkoff is a simple way for Iowans to show their love for the Iowa State Fair. Funds raised through this program are an important part of the effort to preserve this great institution for future generations," said Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation Executive Director John Putney.

Every dollar donated to the Checkoff is directly allocated to capital improvements. The Corndog Checkoff has raised nearly $1.6 million and has supplemented restoration projects from the Grandstand to Ye Old Mill. In addition, funds generated by the Checkoff have helped improve the campgrounds, parking areas, sidewalks and restrooms.

The Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation is a non-profi t 501(c)3 organization. Since its inception in 1993, the Foundation has generated over $80 million for renovations and improvements to the Iowa State Fairgrounds. For more information on the Corndog Tax Checkoff, please contact the Blue Ribbon Foundation at (800) 450-3732 or email bluerf@blueribbonfoundation.org.

Exercise counteracts anxiety and depression, from Harvard Men's Health Watch

BOSTON–Regular aerobic exercise can bring remarkable changes not just to your body your metabolism, and your heart, but also to your spirits, reports the February 2011 issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch.

Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. Endurance athletes commonly experience the restorative power of exercise, and this has been verified in clinical trials that have used exercise to treat anxiety and depression.

How can exercise contend with problems as difficult as anxiety and depression? There are several explanations, some chemical, others behavioral. The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.

Behavioral factors contribute to the emotional benefits of exercise. As your waistline shrinks and your strength and stamina increase, your self-image will improve. You'll earn a sense of pride and self-confidence. Your renewed vigor will help you succeed in many tasks, and the discipline will help you achieve other lifestyle goals. Exercise and sports also provide opportunities to enjoy some solitude or to make friends and build networks.

Harvard Men's Health Watch notes thatyou should exercise nearly every day. That doesn't necessarily mean hitting the gym. But it does mean at least 30 minutes of moderate activity. And if you need more help with stress, consider autoregulation exercises involving deep breathing or muscle relaxation.

Read the full-length article: "Exercising to relax"

Also in this issue:

  • Meat or beans–which is the better protein?
  • Heart disease and testosterone replacement
  • Ultrasound checks for abdominal aortic aneurysm

Harvard Men's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications (www.health.harvard.edu), the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $28 per year. Subscribe at www.health.harvard.edu/men or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).


Crafts, stories, and new friends - it's all happening at Rivermont Collegiate on Thursday mornings!  Children ages 2-4 (and an accompanying adult) are invited to join us for our free Young Scholars program, held the first Thursday of every month from 9:00-10:00 a.m. Youngsters join the current Rivermont preschool class for story time and crafts, while parents and families are invited to learn more about Rivermont, the Quad Cities' only private, independent, nonsectarian college prep school for preschool through twelfth grade.  Join us to explore the Rivermont approach to learning, see our faculty in action, and enjoy oodles of fun with the preschool class!

The next Young Scholars event will be Thursday, February 3rd from 9:00-10:00 a.m. on the Rivermont campus, located at 1821 Sunset Drive, directly off 18th Street behind K&K Hardware in Bettendorf.  Young Scholars is free and open to the community.  Bring a friend!  We can't wait to meet you!

For additional information about Rivermont Collegiate or the Young Scholars program, contact Cindy Murray at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or murray@rvmt.org and visit us online at www.rvmt.org


As the winter storm heads our way I thought these tips might help you beef up any storm preparation stories you are working on.  Email me back if you have any questions.


Be Safe!

Missy Lundberg

State Farm Insurance


What to have in your vehicle

In addition to the just-in-case items you should always have in your vehicle, such as jumper cables, tire-changing tools, flashlight and a first-aid kit, be sure to carry these winter essentials:

·       Cell phone and charger

·       Blankets

·       High-calorie, non-perishable food

·       Extra clothing (wool socks, gloves, hats)

·       Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water

·       Road salt or cat litter to help with traction

·       Camping shovel Ice scraper and brush

·       Tow rope

·       Brightly colored flag or cloth to tie to your antenna

If you are stranded

If a winter storm strands you with your vehicle, stay calm and follow these tips:

·       Pull off the highway (if possible), turn on your hazard lights and hang a distress flag from an antenna or window.

·       If you have a phone, call 911 and describe your location as precisely as possible. Follow any instructions from the dispatcher.

·       Remain in your vehicle so help can find you.

·       Run your vehicle's engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. Open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

·       Exercise a little to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion and sweating.

·       Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.

·       Don't waste your vehicle's battery power. Balance electrical energy needs? lights, heat and radio?with supply.

·       At night, turn on an inside light when you run the engine so help can see you.

The American Cancer Society's Discovery Shop in Cumberland Square invites you to bargain shop for a cause! Sunday, February 6th will be our annual super clearance sale EVERYTHING in the store will be half price.

Mark you calendars and stop in to grab all of the bargains that you can find and be back home long before the big game starts. We are clearing out the floor to make room for all of the new and beautiful donations that we have recently been receiving. With the new things that we will be putting out on the floor starting Monday, February 7th the bargains will continue long after the game is over.

The Discovery Shop is an upscale resale shop selling gently used items donated by the community and staffed by over 100 volunteers. All clothing is cleaned and ironed before it is sold and dry cleaning is donated by Burke's Dry Cleaners. Proceeds go to the American Cancer Society for cancer research, education, patient services and advocacy.

Donations are accepted anytime the shop is open and a tax receipt is always available. Hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 am to 5 pm., Thursday from 10 am to 7 pm., and Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Grassley: Proposed Dust Rules Would Cause Significant Harm to Rural America

WASHINGTON - Senator Chuck Grassley is pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to make a good faith effort to review industry comments, studies, and economic analysis on the impact of proposed rules on dust.  Grassley this week sent a letter to administrator Lisa Jackson expressing his concern that excessive dust control measures would slow economic development and impose significant costs on family agriculturalists.

Grassley said that President Barack Obama's recent directive for each agency to review its rules and regulations with an eye toward economic harm should help bring to light the detrimental impact these rules could have on the rural economy.  Instead, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Environmental Protection Agency stated "that it was 'confident' it wouldn't need to alter a single current or pending rule."

"The EPA's attitude toward the President's directive is unfortunate.  Once again, the agency seems completely oblivious to the huge impact the rules and regulations it releases have on the general public and agriculture in particular," Grassley said.  "It defies common sense that the EPA would regulate that a farmer must keep the dust from his combine between his fence rows."

The EPA currently is considering approval of the Second Draft Policy Assessment for Particulate Matter (released on July 8, 2010).   If approved, the most stringent and unparalleled regulation of dust in the nation's history would be placed on rural America.  The current levels of 150ug/m3 would be revised down to 65-85 ug/m3.

Here's a copy of the text of the letter Grassley sent to Jackson.

January 25, 2011

The Honorable Lisa Jackson


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20460


Dear Administrator Jackson,

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 impede on businesses.  A 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."

Last July, I and twenty of my colleagues wrote to you with our continued concerns regarding EPA's actions in its review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) as required every five years under the Clean Air Act.  I would like to stress again that 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.

As I have continually advocated over the years, lowering these PM standards could have devastating and burdensome effects on farmers and ranchers across the United States. 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 agriculturalists.

I recognize the release of the final Policy Assessment has been delayed, but may be released at any time, but I am not aware if EPA also intends to delay release of the proposed rule, release of which was originally planned for February 2011.

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 strongly encourage EPA in good faith to review industry comments, studies, and economic analysis as they become available on this critical issue.

Thank you for consideration of this request.


Chuck Grassley