Monday, April 5, 2010

Senator Chuck Grassley today made the following comment regarding the release of the first report on the President's Executive Order on Ethics.

On January 21, 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order that prohibited former lobbyists from serving in his Administration, or recuse themselves from work they did as a lobbyist.  However, the Executive Order included a loophole that allowed former lobbyists to obtain a waiver or recusal allowing them to circumvent the revolving door ban.  White House staff said the use of the waiver or recusal would be limited and transparent.  After questions from Grassley, White House staff said that the waivers and recusals for lobbyists would be in a year-end report from the Office of Government Ethics.

A copy of the report can be found on the Office of Government Ethics' website:  http://www.usoge.gov/directors_corner/reports/rpt_exorder13490.pdf .

Here is Grassley's statement.

"This administration's promise that lobbyists would not have a place in the executive branch is losing credibility.  The report from the Office of Government Ethics shed some sunlight on how many lobbyists were appointed, contradicts the prior statements that lobbyists weren't welcome in the administration, and outlines that the administration has welcomed lobbyists through waiver, recusal and even no check at all.  It's this type of double-talk that breeds cynicism and distrust at the grassroots."

CHICAGO - April 2, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today acted upon 407 clemency petitions. Of the 407 petitions, Governor Quinn granted 147 pardons, authorized 2 persons who had already received pardons to seek expungement of their convictions, and denied 258 petitions.

The 407 clemency petitions acted upon by Governor Quinn are part of the 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 dockets.  Each person granted clemency has recently undergone a criminal background check through the Illinois State Police's Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS).

Since taking office, Governor Quinn has acted on 769 clemency petitions. Governor Quinn has granted 321 pardons, authorized 8 persons who had already received pardons to seek expungement of their convictions, and denied 440 petitions.

For further information on the approved clemency cases, please contact the Prisoner Review Board at 217-782-7274.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Senator Chuck Grassley today released the following comment after learning that Renewable Energy Group idled its facilities in Newton and Ralston, laying off 22 employees, due to the lapse of the biodiesel tax credit.

Here is Grassley's comment.

"Pelosi and Reid were playing with fire when they played politics with the biodiesel tax credit.  They knew 17 months ago that this tax credit needed to be extended.  Instead they made it a part of the political mix for the last year by only including it with controversial provisions.  In February, Senator Baucus and I had a bipartisan solution that would have given biodiesel producers a chance to make it through the political storm.  Unfortunately, the Democrat leadership reneged on our effort and biodiesel workers are now getting Pelosi's pink slips.  It sounds more and more like we were sold a bill of goods when the current leadership said they wanted to turn the economy around with green jobs.  Instead, they are focused on winning political points while unemployment stands at 9.7 percent.  It's time to take action to reduce job losses rather than increase them."

 

For Immediate Release 
What: What: New Non Partisan Process for Nominating Congressmen
When: Tuesday April 6th; 2pm and 7pm 
Where: QC Freight House, Downtown Davenport IA


www.CommonSenseForIowans.com


76% of likely voters said that they feel that Congress is more interested in their careers than helping people.*

Davenport, Iowa (April 2, 2010) - A non-partisan organization called GOOOH (pronounced "go" and stands for Get Out Of Our House) seeks to restore popular sovereignty to the people by replacing the career politicians (and all the special interests that come with them) who have taken over the People's House, the United States House of Representatives.  Many groups threaten to "throw the bums out" or "get rid of all of 'em," but very few have a non-partisan approach let alone a functioning process that ensures a candidate will be representative of their own district and not out of state special interests. 

GOOOH is the non-partisan process that has been in development nationally since 2007 and has the potential to turn the duopoly two party election facade on its head.  Everyday Americans choose their district's GOOOH candidate, not special interest money and national party influence.  A candidate that emerges from the GOOOH process will not accept special interest money and will be bound by a legal contract with the constituency to vote how they voted during the GOOOH process. This innovative approach to engaging the electorate has been showcased in national and regional media such as  The Dennis Miller Show, Lou Dobbs,  The Steve Deace Show on WHO,  Mornings with Andy Peterson on WMT,  Today in Iowa on KWWL, WGN Midday News, Fox and Friends, The 700 Club, MSNBC and many other local television stations.

The nationwide effort to develop and promote GOOOH candidates  is fully explained at www.GOOOH.com.

The public is invited to attend a Test Drive of the GOOOH Process on Tuesday, April 6th.  Training will be provided to each attendee so that he or she may host or help host a GOOOH Test Drive House Party in their neighborhood on Friday April 16th.  The goal is to have over 1800 people test driving the GOOOH candidate selection process in April. The Test Drive, which can last up to two hours, has been described as part Trivia Night, part Speed Dating and part non partisan politicking.  In May the GOOOH process will formally begin in Iowa, with a GOOOH candidate vetted by the people of the respective districts in time to join the ballot by petition in August.  A nationwide branding campaign for GOOOH candidates across America is planned by the GOOOH founders.

The first Test Drive on April 6th, open to all ages, will start at 2:00 pm and the second Test Drive, adults 18+, will begin at 7:00 pm.
Both sessions will be led by Jamie Raney, the state leader of GOOOH in Iowa.

The Test Drive's are happening in downtown Davenport, inside the QC Freight House at Penguin's Comedy Club an ideal locaiton for conversation and fun.
Free parking is available. 
The event is free to the public, with food and drink available for purchase on site.

RSVP's are not necessary, but may be made at www.CommonSenseForIowans.com.

Media inquires are welcome. Advance copies of the GOOOH Test Drive materials are available upon request.
Onsite remotes feasible.

CONTACT:
Jamie Raney, State of Iowa GOOOH Leader?
Ia.goooh@gmail.com
(563) 329-0729

* SOURCE: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/congressional_performance
Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, today made the following comment on the President's recess appointment of two nominees that were pending in the committee.

"A lot of presidents have used recess appointments, but it shows a lot of disregard for the Senate's advise-and-consent role to bypass not just the full Senate, but also the committee of jurisdiction that was in the middle of vetting the nominees in its jurisdiction. Jeffrey Goldstein and Alan Bersin were undergoing the Finance Committee's vetting process.  The vetting was bipartisan, as it has been since 2001 and maybe before that.  Dr. Goldstein was answering my final questions about his prior work at a private equity firm that used offshore blocker corporations in the Cayman Islands to avoid U.S. taxes and his earning of 'carried interest.'  Mr. Bersin was answering questions from both the chairman's and my staff about what appeared to be conflicting information about his documentation and disclosure of various household employees.  In both cases, this due diligence was directly relevant to the positions these nominees will hold.  It's a blow to a 'well-functioning government', to use the President's term, that the President didn't see fit to allow the Finance Committee's due diligence to conclude.  Now that the vetting process has been interrupted, these individuals will take their jobs without the public knowing whether they have experience that bears negatively (or positively) on their ability to serve the taxpayers.  Also, the President should be more precise in his claims of Republican obstructionism.  Finance Committee vetting is bipartisan.  Beyond that, senators have every right to draw attention to an issue of concern by highlighting a nominee. It's something that happened regularly with Democratic senators and Bush nominees, sometimes before a nominee was even allowed to have a hearing in the Finance Committee."

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate tonight rejected an amendment offered by Senator Chuck Grassley to apply the new health care law to the President, Vice President, cabinet members, top White House staff, and the congressional staff who drafted the proposal.

"As a result, President Obama will not have to live under the Obama health care reforms, and neither will the congressional staff who helped to write the overhaul," Grassley said.  "The message to the people at the grassroots is that it's good enough for you, but not for us."

Grassley said congressional leaders have had other opportunities to fix the double standard but have repeatedly opted not to do so.

The health care reform that was enacted on Tuesday includes an amendment Grassley sponsored and got adopted by the Finance Committee, last September, to have members of Congress and their staffs get their health insurance through the same health insurance exchanges where health plans for the general public would be available.  During subsequent closed-door work on a Senate health care bill, Senate committee and leadership staffs were removed from this requirement.

In December, Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn attempted to offer a floor amendment to restore the requirement, but the Senate Majority Leader would not let their amendment come up for a vote.  In addition to Senate committee and leadership staff, the amendment Grassley and Coburn filed during the Senate debate would have made the President, the Vice President, top White House staff and cabinet members all get their health insurance through the newly created exchanges.  It would not have applied to federal employees in the civil service.

Even after the issue was raised through the month of December, Senator Harry Reid's final manager's amendment to the health care reform bill passed by the Senate on Christ Eve still did not restore Grassley's original language, which the Finance Committee approved unanimously.

Grassley said, "It's only fair and logical that administration leaders and congressional staff, who fought so hard to overhaul of America's health care system, experience it themselves.  If the reforms are as good as promised, then they'll know it first-hand.  If there are problems, public officials will be in a position to really understand the problems, as they should."

Grassley said the motivation for his amendments is simple:  public officials who make the laws or lead efforts to have laws changed should live under those laws.  He offered the amendment that was rejected tonight to the reconciliation bill designed to make changes to the health care reforms that President Obama signed into law today.

"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.  Before President Clinton signed into law Grassley's long-sought Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, Congress had routinely exempted itself.

The Congressional Accountability Act made Congress subject to 12 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.

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 it stands, thanks to Grassley's Finance Committee passed amendment, members of Congress and their personal staffs will be required to obtain their health insurance coverage through the newly created health care exchange.  Members and personal staffs will only be able to use their employer contribution to buy health care coverage in the exchange.  Individuals will receive an age-adjusted contribution from the Office of Personnel Management with which to purchase a plan.

However, because the Senate rejected the amendment offered by Grassley last December and tonight, committee and leadership staff in Congress, as well as the President, Vice President, the President's cabinet and White House staff, will continue to be exempt from many of the reforms facing the rest of the country.

Earlier today, the White House announced that the President planned to participate in the health insurance exchanges that the reform law will begin in 2014.

"This is effectively an endorsement of my amendment to make sure political leaders live under the laws they pass for everyone else, and I appreciate it," Grassley said.  "The principle shouldn't be voluntary for political leaders, though."

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Includes Critical Medicare Reimbursement Language Secured by Braley

Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement today after voting to pass the Senate Health Care bill and House reconciliation package.  Yesterday, Braley and a core group of other Representatives were able to achieve a major breakthrough in Medicare reimbursement policy that secured his vote for the bills.

"One of my biggest priorities has been fighting to fix unfair and inefficient geographic differences, and reform the Medicare system to one that pays Iowa's medical professionals for the high-quality, low-cost health care they currently provide. Just yesterday, we achieved a major breakthrough in reforming our Medicare reimbursement system. I'm proud to say that the House bill will finally fix these inequities, move us to a better reimbursement model that emphasizes quality over quantity, and help recruit well-qualified health-care providers to Iowa.

"This bill will decrease health insurance costs, expand access to quality, affordable health care, improve reimbursements for Iowa medical providers and allow Americans to maintain their choice of health insurance. This legislation will provide much-needed relief for thousands of businesses in Iowa's First District and will reduce our deficit by more than $143 billion over the next 10 years and $1.2 trillion in the 10 years after that. After reading the bill, listening to my constituents and debating the bill's provisions in Congress, I'm convinced this legislation is good for Iowa."

In Iowa's First District, the health care reform package voted upon tonight will:

· Improve coverage for 394,000 residents with health insurance.

 

· Give tax credits and other assistance to up to 156,000 families and 14,000 small businesses to help them afford coverage.

 

· Improve Medicare for 102,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.

 

· Extend coverage to 16,000 uninsured residents.

 

· Guarantee that 6,500 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.

 

· Protect 700 families from bankruptcy due to unaffordable health care costs.

 

· Allow 50,000 young adults to obtain coverage on their parents' insurance plans.

 

· Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 11 community health centers.

 

· Reduce the cost of uncompensated care for hospitals and other health care providers by $54 million annually.

 

# # #

Comprehensive reform increases access to affordable care, makes health insurance companies more accountable and includes historic investment in prevention, wellness

Education reconciliation provisions increase college affordability

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) issued the following statement after the U.S. House passed the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010.  With this vote, comprehensive health reform has passed and will go to President Obama for his signature.  The reconciliation package now heads to the U.S. Senate for consideration next week.  Harkin is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

"With this vote today, the House took a major step forward in the fight to put American families and small business owners?not the insurance companies?in control of their own health care.

"This legislation makes the Senate-passed comprehensive bill even stronger by providing coverage to some 95 percent of Americans.  This will be affordable coverage, which will save thousands of lives and give peace of mind to those who have coverage now, but have a 50/50 chance of losing coverage in the next decade.  It will provide relief from skyrocketing and unstable premiums and holds insurance companies accountable to keep premiums down and prevent denials of care and coverage, including for pre-existing conditions.

"I am particularly encouraged that in passing comprehensive reform, we will, for the first time make an historic investment in prevention and public health to change our current sick care system into a true health care system.  These reforms will truly bend the cost curve and rein in rising health care costs.

"And we provide all of these reforms while also reducing the deficit by $138 billion over next ten years, and by $1.2 trillion more over the following decade; reducing waste, fraud and abuse, paying for quality over quantity of care.

"With the reconciliation package, the Senate is also on track to enact one of President Obama's key education priorities - a move that will make college more affordable and accessible.  The measure eliminates billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies to banks and redirects that money to students and families in the form of increased Pell Grants to low-income college students, putting the priorities of students and families ahead of subsidies to lenders.

"We are on the cusp of history in this country.  I congratulate Speaker Pelosi and House leaders on this historic achievement and look forward to working in the Senate to get a final bill to the President's desk as soon as possible."

For a list of the immediate health benefits of the bill, please click here.

For a list of the key improvements to the bill, please click here.

For a list of the Harkin-led prevention benefits, please click here.

For more details about the education reconciliation proposal unveiled earlier this week, please click here.

WASHINGTON - Chuck Grassley today said that that he will be holding meetings in 25 counties from March 29 - April 6. The visits are part of Grassley's annual meetings in each of Iowa's 99 counties. The Senate will not be in session for a scheduled congressional recess.

"I've met with Iowans in every county, every year I've represented Iowa in the United States Senate. It's this exchange of ideas that gives me important insight directly from Iowans," Grassley said. "Holding a meeting in each of Iowa's 99 counties gives me the opportunity to have an open and honest dialogue with the people I serve in the U.S. Senate."

Grassley's meetings will take him to the counties of Allamakee, Buchanan, Butler, Cerro Gordo, Clay, Clayton, Dallas, Delaware, Dickinson, Dubuque, Emmet, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Howard, Kossuth, Lyon, Mitchell, Osceola, Palo Alto, Warren, Winnebago, Winneshiek and Worth.

Grassley will hold town hall meetings in Aplington, Calmar, Cresco, Estherville, Forest City, Garner, Independence, Indianola, Manchester, Mason City, Northwood, Ocheydan, Rock Rapids, Strawberry Point, Waukee, Waukon, West Bend and West Union.

He will tour and meet with employees at Eaton Manufacturing in Spencer. He will also attend a ribbon cutting for the new Hormel Foods Plant in Dubuque.

He will meet with students at St. Ansgar Community High School in St. Ansgar, Charles City High School in Charles City and Harris-Lake Park Middle/High School in Lake Park.  In addition, he will speak with the Algona Rotary in Algona, and will meet with members of the Chamber of Commerce in Hampton.

Here is detailed information about Grassley's upcoming county visits.

Monday, March 29, 2010

7:30 - 8:30 a.m.- hold Warren County Town Hall Meeting, Warren County Administration Building, Board Room, Second Floor, 301 North Buxton Street, Indianola

9:30 - 10:30 a.m.- hold Dallas County Town Hall Meeting, Maple Street Community Center, 445 Maple Street, Waukee

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

8:30 - 9:30 a.m.- hold Buchanan County Town Hall Meeting, Buchanan County Courthouse, Assembly Room, 210 5th Avenue NE, Independence

Noon - 1:45 p.m.- Attend Hormel Foods Plant Ribbon Cutting, Progressive Processing, LLC, 1205 Chavenelle Court, Dubuque

3 - 4 p.m. - hold Delaware County Town Hall Meeting, Regional Medical Center, Veterans Memorial Event Center, Third Floor, 709 West Main Street, Manchester

4:45 - 5:45 p.m.- hold Clayton County Town Hall Meeting, Strawberry Point Public Library, 401 Commercial Street, Strawberry Point

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

7:30 - 8:30 a.m. - hold Fayette County Town Hall Meeting, Fayette County Courthouse, Assembly Room, 114 North Vine Street, West Union

9:45 - 10:45 a.m. - hold Allamakee County Town Hall Meeting, Farmers & Merchants Savings Bank, Community Room, 201 West Main Street, Waukon

Noon - 1 p.m. - hold Winneshiek County Town Hall Meeting, Calmar Public Library, Community Room, 101 South Washington Street, Calmar

2:15 - 3:15 p.m. - hold Howard County Town Hall Meeting, Cresco Bank and Trust, Community Room, 126 Second Avenue SE, Cresco

5:30 - 6:30 p.m. - hold Worth County Town Hall Meeting, Worth County Courthouse, Magistrate Room, 1000 Central Avenue, Northwood

Thursday, April 1, 2010

7:30 - 8:30 a.m. - hold Cerro Gordo County Town Hall Meeting, North Iowa Area Community College, Muse-Norris Conference Center, Rooms 180 A, B and C, 500 College Drive, Mason City

9:45 - 10:45 a.m. visit St. Ansgar Community High School, 206 East 8th Street, St. Ansgar

Noon - 1:15 p.m. - visit Charles City High School, #1 Comet Drive, Charles City

2:30 - 3:30 p.m. - Deliver keynote speech and answer questions at the Hampton Chamber Spring Meeting, Windsor Theatre, 103 Federal Street North, Hampton

4:30 - 5:30 p.m. - hold Butler County Town Hall Meeting, Aplington Community Center, Corner of 10th Street and Parriott Street, Aplington

Monday, April 5, 2010

8 - 9 a.m. - hold Winnebago County Town Hall Meeting, Winnebago County Courthouse, Courtroom, 126 South Clark Street, Forest City

9:45 - 10:45 a.m. - hold Hancock County Town Hall Meeting, Garner Education Center, 325 West 8th Street, Garner

Noon - 1 p.m. - speak with Algona Rotary, Algona Country Club, 400 Country Club Road, Algona

2 - 3 p.m. - hold Palo Alto County Town Hall Meeting, West Bend Golf Course, Club House, 4829 580th Avenue, West Bend

4:30 - 5:30 p.m. - hold Emmet County Town Hall Meeting, Iowa Lakes Community College, Auditorium, Room 16, 300 South 18th Street, Estherville

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

7:30 - 8:30 a.m. - Tour and answer questions from employees at Eaton Manufacturing, Power Division, Hydraulics Business, 803 32nd Avenue West, Spencer

9:30 - 10:30 a.m. - Visit Harris-Lake Park High School, Harris-Lake Park Middle/High School, 905 South Market, Lake Park

Noon - 1 p.m. - Hold Osceola County Town Hall Meeting, Senior Activities Center, 845 Main Street, Ocheydan

2:45 - 3:45 p.m. - Hold Lyon County Town Hall Meeting, US Bank, Community Room, 203 South 2nd Avenue, Rock Rapids

***Senator Grassley will be available for 15 minutes to the press following each of these events. Grassley is a guest of the service clubs, schools, businesses and events. Please contact those organizations with any questions about availability during those meetings.

-30-

In the closing two weeks of session, Iowa's budget problems will take center stage.  The Revenue Estimating Conference's March prediction included $33 million more in revenue coming to the state than their previous December estimate.  Though this can be seen as a sign Iowa's economy has seen its worst days, the additional revenue will not be enough to make up the nearly half a billion dollar hole.

Funding education will be the one overriding budget item which will foster aggressive discourse in the Legislature.  Politicians should engage in aggressive debate over poor decision making practices which resulted in unfunded mandates, unfunded per-pupil promises, unfunded allowable growth and the play of politicians which resulted in this mess.  Politicians created the problem, and politicians should have a healthy debate on how to fix the problem.


If the 10% across-the-board cut is not backfilled and allowable growth is not funded the cost will fall back on local property tax payers.  Money was promised to school districts which was never provided.  Many of you are noticing your local school boards begin to make the difficult decisions of how to fund schools without promised state dollars.  State law requires school districts to ratify their budgets by April 15th and to publish them thirty days prior for public review.  School districts can't wait any longer for funds which the state spoiled away.  They are now facing the difficult task of turning to local property tax payers to keep schools functioning.


Rather than waiting for the state legislature, school districts in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Ankeny and Clinton have already approved substantial tax levy increases.


Last Thursday a new problem in education popped up:  One time stimulus dollars were used to offer additional pay to teachers for training.  Since the Governor's 10% across-the-board cut also cut this teacher quality pay, school boards found they are now on the hook for this pay as well.  Many school districts were notified of this issue after they certified their budgets.  The full breadth these two problems results in nearly $330 million in unfunded mandates falling to the local level by raising property taxes.


Understanding how Physical Plant and Equipment Levy or PPEL, allowable growth, property tax levies, the state sales tax and the 10% across-the-board cut all factor into this problem can be a task in itself.  And I applaud local youth for writing to me on the issue.  I have received many letters from youth frustrated with the fact that programs like art and music may be cut, as well as teacher positions.  I always encourage young Iowans to get involved in government at a local level and I want to thank them for these letters and I strongly encourage their questions and comments.


Another discussion on the Senate floor sparked intense debate this past week.  One section in the Government Reorganization Bill allowed for the sale and lease-back of state owned buildings.  An amendment to ban the authorization of this practice in the future by the Governor and Legislature failed.  It was passed as a way to offer "management flexibility."  This practice has nearly bankrupt New Mexico.


In closing, I received a message on Thursday in a fortune cookie which read, "If a lobbyist asks you to sponsor an amendment which has already failed twice - Run!"


Shawn Hamerlinck
State Senate 42nd District

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