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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act today that was introduced by U.S. Senators John Kennedy (R-LA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) to help veteran entrepreneurs cut costs and enhance their economic opportunity by giving them access to surplus federal property.  This legislation now heads to the President’s desk to be signed. 

The federal surplus property program allows certain non-government organizations to acquire equipment and property that the federal government no longer needs.  This legislation adds veterans to the program’s list of eligible recipients, which already includes minority-owned and women-owned small businesses. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property (NASASP) and the American Legion support this legislation.

“All veterans deserve our utmost respect and support after they return home,” said Sen. Kennedy. “Adjusting back to civilian life can be challenging, and as policy makers, we should try to make the transition as seamless and painless as possible. As Americans, we should support and encourage those veterans who decide to start their own small businesses. This legislation will offer veteran entrepreneurs some well-deserved support. The federal surplus property program is already established, so it’s just common sense that we should allow veterans to qualify for the program.  I’m happy to see this legislation pass in both chambers and make it to the President’s desk.”

“When our Veterans return home from their service, they deserve our full support as they transition back into civilian life, and that includes supporting their efforts to build and manage a small business,” said Duckworth. “Our nation should be doing much more to help our Veterans and I’m pleased the Senate unanimously passed our bipartisan bill to help Veterans expand their business operations, reduce costs, and create jobs across Illinois and around the country. I’m thrilled we were able to work with members on both sides of the aisle to send this legislation to the President’s desk.”

“Last month we honored the sacrifices of our nation’s veterans, and part of that commemoration is committing to help America’s warriors when they return from battle and transition to civilian life. Countless veterans are entrepreneurs and small business owners making contributions to their communities, but many struggle with the costs of starting a new business idea,” said Durbin. “With passage of the Veterans Small Business Enhancement Act, veterans can now use GAO’s federal property surplus program, which can help veterans save costs as they open new businesses and store fronts. This is a commonsense and bipartisan bill, and I was proud to join Senators Duckworth and Kennedy to help pass it in the Senate.”  

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Sen. Kennedy: ‘Congress missed a prime opportunity to fully fund a border wall’

  WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, voted Wednesday to pass a continuing resolution that funds the federal government and reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through Feb. 8, 2019.

 “Congress missed a prime opportunity to strengthen our border security and fully fund a border wall,” said Sen. Kennedy. “Border walls work.  The liberal Democrats in Congress know that, which is why they won’t support it.  Most of them don’t believe illegal immigration is illegal, and they want open borders.  The much-needed border wall funding should have been tied to the ‘criminal justice’ bill that the Democrats so desperately wanted.   I am disappointed, but I take solace in the fact that we were able to avoid a lapse in the National Flood Insurance Program. Five million families depend on the NFIP, and we need to agree on a long-term reform. For now, I will keep fighting to fund the program in order to protect Louisiana families.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today announced the final passage of bipartisan legislation that will require lobbyists to disclose convictions of bribery, extortion, embezzlement, illegal kickbacks, tax evasion and money laundering.  Both the House and the Senate have now voted in favor of S.2896.

S.2896, the Justice Against Corruption on K Street Act, is known as the JACK Act for lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted of tax fraud and bribery.  Abramoff did not have to disclose his criminal history on his registration when he re-registered as a federal lobbyist in 2017.

“The JACK Act will provide much-needed transparency to Capitol Hill.  Corrupt lobbyists need to be brought into the sunlight, especially if they’re wearing $6,000 suits,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Political leaders and businesses need to know who’s sitting in front of them.  Transparency is the best way to clean up the corruption in Washington.  Even cockroaches are scared of sunlight.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today stood up for American families by opposing the First Step Act, which passed the U.S. Senate on a 87-12 vote.  Sen. Kennedy delivered a speech on the Senate floor explaining his opposition to the First Step Act
Sen. Kennedy introduced two amendments that focused on protecting crime victims.  However, the amendments were defeated in the Senate.
Sen. Kennedy’s first amendment prioritized victims’ rights by requiring prison wardens to notify victims before an offender’s early release.  His second amendment promoted transparency by requiring the Bureau of Prisons to track the effectiveness of anti-recidivism programs.
“I voted against this bill because the most important goal of the criminal justice system for American families is justice.  This bill is backwards.  It favors criminals over victims.  It forgets that the ultimate goal is justice.  We’ve seen what’s happened with so-called criminal justice reform in Louisiana.  People are literally getting killed,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Sen. Cotton and I offered very simple amendments that would have put the bill in the right direction by ensuring that victims count and justice prevails.  Unfortunately, those amendments failed, leading to a bill in which the word ‘victim’ isn’t mentioned enough.”
 
Click here or the photo below to watch Sen. Kennedy’s floor speech.

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today that the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) today is putting the planks of his reforms into place by using federal income tax data for the verification of Medicaid recipients’ eligibility.  Sen. Kennedy is hopeful that the data will prevent the state from wasting millions more dollars on ineligible Medicaid recipients.

Sen. Kennedy filed the Income Verification Act of 2018 in November to reduce fraud in taxpayer-funded government assistance programs by requiring states to use federal tax information to verify income eligibility.  A report issued earlier this year by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office found that the state likely wasted up to $85 million on ineligible Medicaid recipients.  A new report released today uncovered even more waste because of LDH’s failure to verify household size, taxpayer filer status and all types of income.

“The waste of taxpayer money in the Medicaid program is breathtaking,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “LDH should have been checking Medicaid eligibility from day one instead of just throwing millions of dollars in the dirt, but I’m glad someone’s finally seen the light.  I congratulate LDH on taking a cue from my bill and using readily available information to make sure even more money isn’t wasted.  Sometimes you have to legislate common sense.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today that the City of Baker School System received a $5 million grant from FEMA for improvements at Baker High School.  The school was damaged by flooding in 2016. 

“While our teachers and students are the heart of our schools, they need the right buildings and resources to teach and learn,” said Sen. Kennedy. “It’s been more than two years since Baker High School was flooded.  These repairs and improvements to the school are long overdue.”  

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) introduced an amendment Thursday to the First Step Act.  The amendment addresses gaping loopholes in the legislation that currently allow violent criminals and sex-offenders to qualify for early release programs.  This amendment prioritizes the rights of the victims by requiring prison wardens to notify victims before an offender’s early release.  It also includes a measure to track the effectiveness of anti-recidivism programs.

The National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and several organizations dedicated to victims’ rights offered their support for this amendment.

“The First Step Act is a violation of American public safety, but this amendment addresses some of the major shortfalls in the legislation,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “This is not a criminal justice bill.  It is a prisoner release bill.  We should be protecting victims of crimes and not the offenders who committed the crimes.  I don’t think the bill represents justice, but I think our amendment will fix some of the issues with the legislation.”

"I'm pleased that major law enforcement groups support our amendments to exclude violent felons and sex offenders from early release, notify victims before criminals are released, and to measure whether the First Step Act works,” said Sen. Cotton. “Next week, the Senate will vote on these amendments. I urge my colleagues to support these changes to ensure that no violent sex offenders can be eligible for any type of early release.”

Click here to view the summary of the amendment.  The full text of the amendment is available here.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) spoke on the Senate floor this week about the devastating impact of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ so-called criminal justice reform program on crime victims and, in particular, one Louisiana family.

“I am so sorry that a family lost a child to the reckless actions of a drunk driver.  I’m even more sorry that the drunk driver served a minimal amount of time in prison because of Gov. Edwards’ criminal release program.  This is just one example of how this program is failing families across Louisiana, and it should serve as a warning,” said Sen. Kennedy.

Gary Prince, of Loreauville, wrote to Sen. Kennedy about his devastation after his son’s killer was released early from prison through Gov. Edwards’ program.  Prince’s son, Jordan, was just 18 years old when King Ellis, whose blood alcohol level was double the legal limit, drove the wrong way on Highway 90 near New Iberia and crashed into Jordan’s car.  The head-on collision killed Jordan, who had just graduated from high school. 

Ellis served just 18 months of his 15-year prison sentence.   He received an early release despite being arrested on Medicaid fraud charges while in prison.

Here is an excerpt of Mr. Prince’s letter to Sen. Kennedy:

“My son was a good kid!  He had a bright future!  He wanted to follow in my footsteps and become a machinist … My family deserves better than this.  I want you to know that when I say my prayers at night, I pray for a better Louisiana.”

 

 

Letter from Gary Prince to Senator Kennedy

 

Dear Senator Kennedy,

My name is Gary Prince and my youngest son Jordan was killed by a drunk driver in May of 2015. He was only 18 years old and had just graduated high school 12 days before this accident. The man that killed him was driving the wrong way on Highway 90 near New Iberia and crashed into my son head on. His blood alcohol level was .16 which is twice the State's legal limit. He was sent to jail on March 23, 2017 with a sentence of 15 years which 8 years was suspended. Because of John Bel Edward's Justice Reinvestment Initiative, this person that killed my son was released on September 11th of this year. He served only 18 months in jail! This blows my mind!

Because the blood alcohol level was not high enough (below .20) his offense was considered a non-violent offense which made him eligible for early release. There is a state law (RS 14:32.1) which states that anyone convicted of DUI w/vehicular homicide with a blood alcohol level of .15 or greater has to spend a minimum of 5 years with or without hard labor without the benefit of early release or early parole.

This was not taken into account for this criminal!

I just wanted to tell you that I listened to you on The Moon Griffon Show yesterday and I feel the same way you do. I am terrified of the direction that my State is heading in! I do love Louisiana, but we need change and we need it fast!

My son was a good kid! He had a bright future! He wanted to follow in my footsteps and become a machinist! I've worked hard all my life in the oil business and I pay my taxes! I feel that my family deserves better than this! I want you to know that when I say my prayers at night, I pray for a better Louisiana. A Louisiana that is governed by someone that cares about its’ people and steers it towards a brighter tomorrow and not by someone who opens up terrible wounds and horrible memories like the ones my family has all because of dumb decisions!

I really hope that you consider running for Governor in 2019! We need this craziness in Baton Rouge to end!

Thanks for Listening!

With Warmest Regards,

Gary L. Prince

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today on his decision to vote against the Farm Bill.

“Our farmers are an integral part of our country’s history and economy, but unfortunately this bill has become about more than supporting our farmers,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Too much of this bill is devoted to irresponsible food stamp distribution that fails to help people realize the dignity of work.  I could not support this bill because it does not contain stronger work requirements for food stamps.  I am disappointed at this missed opportunity to reform the SNAP program, and I am more disappointed in the failure to negotiate a more fair and effective Farm Bill for our farmers.”

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in introducing the WALL Act, legislation that will fully fund the border wall along the southern border.  Their legislation is the first bill that will fund the wall by identifying specific funding sources.  

 

We can certainly afford the construction,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “This legislation will save taxpayers $33 billion simply by ensuring that the taxpayers’ generosity isn’t wasted.  If you want to receive food stamps and other benefits, then you should prove your citizenship.  If you cross the border illegally or overstay your visit to this country, then you should pay a stiff penalty.”

 

 “President Trump has called for a border wall and I agree,” said Sen. Inhofe.  “As a former builder and developer in south Texas, I know border security is national security and we need to do more to deter the growing numbers of unauthorized immigrants coming across our borders.  That’s why I’ve outlined specific ways to fund the border wall by assessing penalties on illegal immigration and closing loopholes that allow unauthorized immigrants to receive federal benefits.  We’re going to build the wall through reforms that that protect the integrity of hardworking American citizens’ tax dollars.  It’s that simple.”

 

“The primary responsibility of the federal government is the defense of our nation, which includes strong border security,” said Sen. Rounds.  “The WALL Act will provide full funding for construction of a physical barrier along our southern border to protect against illegal immigration and stop those who wish to do us harm, such as terrorists, gang members and drug dealers, from entering the United States from the south.  It pays for the wall by closing existing loopholes that allow illegal immigrants to receive federal benefits and increasing fines for illegal border crossings and visa overstays.  By funding the wall through increased fines, we prevent any risk of dipping into Department of Defense (DoD) funding, which is already stretched thin.  I thank Chairman Inhofe for his leadership on this effort and I look forward to advancing this proposal in the Senate.”

  

“I have long called for building a wall as a necessary step in defending our border and stopping the flow of illegal immigration into our country,” said Sen. Cruz.  “The overwhelming majority of Texans and Americans want to see the border secured.  The WALL Act would fully fund the border wall by closing existing loopholes that provide illegal immigrants with federal benefits and tax credits, without affecting the benefits and tax credits used by Americans.”

 

This legislation will fully fund the president’s $25 billion border wall while providing specific ways to pay for it:  

 

  • Require a work-authorized Social Security Number (SSN) to claim refundable tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Child Tax Credit: 
    • Currently only the child needs a SSN, not the parent benefiting from the refundable child tax credit.  The WALL Act would require the parent to have a valid work-eligible Social Security Number.
    • Before 2003, the Social Security Agency did not distinguish between work-eligible and non-work eligible SSNs.  Therefore, there are individuals benefiting from the EITC they are not authorized to receive because they are non-work eligible. 
    • Require welfare applicants (food stamps, TANF, HUD, etc) to verify citizenship:
      • Currently someone only needs to “declare” citizenship and provide a SSN to receive some of these benefits.
      • The WALL Act enhances citizenship verification prior to granting benefits using E-verify and require a work-authorized SSN for eligibility.
      • Increasing the minimum fines on illegal border crossers and establishes minimum penalty for visa overstays. 

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