Media

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) filed the Welfare of Our Furry Friends Act (WOOFF) today to explicitly prohibit airlines from putting animals in danger by placing them in overhead baggage compartments.  This bill directs the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) to create regulations to prohibit the storing of a live animal in any overhead compartment of any flight in air transportation and establish civil fines for violations.

A French bulldog died Monday after a United Airlines flight attendant instructed the dog’s owner to place the dog in an overhead baggage compartment during a flight from Houston to New York.  Sen. Kennedy sent a letter to United Airlines Wednesday demanding an official explanation.  

“Pets are members of the family.  Unfortunately, for our pets, they are at the mercy of human beings showing some common sense,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “United Airlines is promising to put special tags on pet carriers to help flight attendants in the future.  I’d rather make it the law that animals aren’t to be treated like an old piece of luggage.”

“Too many animals have died as a result of human neglect and carelessness,” said Sen. Cortez Masto.  “The Welfare of Our Furry Friends (WOOFF) Act is designed to protect the well-being of our beloved family members—our pets – when traveling.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 24 animals died last year while in the care of major U.S. airlines.

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced the Consolidating Losses Associated to Severe Storms Act of 2018 (CLASS Act) to relieve the financial stress that Louisiana school districts are suffering because of the 2016 floods.  Joining as co-sponsor is U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.).

At issue is a penalty that threatens to drastically reduce school districts’ flood recovery funding.  FEMA requires school districts to carry flood insurance on buildings that are in a special flood hazard area.  Penalties are deducted from recovery funds for uninsured buildings that flood.  At least some of the school districts impacted by the 2016 flooding did have flood insurance for buildings located in what they considered to be high-risk areas.  Their recovery funding stands to be slashed multiple times for every single uninsured building that flooded.

The CLASS Act strikes a compromise by applying the penalty deduction to an entire campus instead of to every single building.  This should spare school districts from millions of dollars in penalties.

“School districts incurred huge costs because of the historic 2016 floods,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Not only did campuses flood, but new campuses had to quickly be created.  These school districts are under tremendous financial stress.  This legislation will ensure that they are not unfairly penalized for every single structure that flooded.  Instead, they’ll get a one-time penalty.  They’ll take a lick and be able to move on and rebuild.”

“The NFIP penalty will financially cripple the Livingston Parish school district,” said Livingston Parish Schools Supt. Rick Wentzel.  “Without some type of relief from this terrible interpretation of the Stafford Act, Livingston Parish stands to lose approximately $20 million that would normally be used for educating our students.  Denham Springs High School alone has over twenty buildings that each would be subject to this $500,000 penalty.”

“We continue to be appreciative of efforts being made to consider relief for critical facilities as it pertains to penalties imposed by the National Flood Insurance Program,” said Ascension Public Schools Supt. David Alexander.  “We know that the relaxing of these penalties occurred in recent past disasters for similar school systems.  Our mission is to provide high-quality educational experiences for children and anytime we can allocate funding towards that mission rather than repairing buildings from disasters is a win for everyone in our community.”

“Almost all of our schools that were impacted by the Historic Flood of 2016 had more than one disaster-damaged building on-site, so the CLASS Act will be a tremendous help to our schools that reside in special flood hazard areas,” said Superintendent Warren Drake. “This legislation will allow us to maximize the use of the remaining funds in a way that will benefit our students the most.”

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today after the Louisiana Committee on Parole rejected a medical treatment furlough for convicted murderer Clyde Y. Giddens:

“I am thankful that common sense prevailed and that the Louisiana Committee on Parole prioritized public safety and the victim’s suffering.  Mr. Giddens needs to remain in prison until he dies despite Gov. Edwards’ efforts to free dangerous inmates through his criminal justice reform package” said Sen. Kennedy.  “My prayers are with Earline Bamburg’s family.  I’m sorry that they had to relive this.”

###

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) sent the following letter to the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole regarding convicted murderer Clyde Y. Giddens:

 

March 14, 2018

 

 

Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole

P.O. Box 94304

Baton Rouge, La. 70802

 

Dear Board Members:

I write to oppose the early release of convicted murderer Clyde Y. Giddens.  It is my understanding that Mr. Giddens will come before the Committee on Parole Thursday from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where he is serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of Mrs. Earline Bamburg. 

The only reason Mr. Giddens is even afforded the possibility of freedom is because of the early release measures within Gov. John Bel Edwards’ criminal justice reform program.  He has not earned a second chance.

Mr. Giddens pleaded guilty in 1964 to Mrs. Bamburg’s murder.  Mr. Giddens assaulted Mrs. Bamburg, stabbed her, burned her corpse and hacked off her arms and leg with a saw.  Later, he told a law enforcement officer that he laughed as he used the saw and fed her body parts to a stray dog.  Mr. Giddens said he got a thrill from watching the dog eat the body parts like they were “hamburger meat.”

At the time of her brutal death, Mrs. Bamburg was 36 years old.  Her family generously opted against pursuing the death penalty because they believed a life sentence was for life.  Mr. Giddens has repaid their kindness by seeking parole eligibility more than a dozen times.

Gov. Edwards’ so-called criminal justice reform package gave Mr. Giddens an undeserved gift by making limited-mobility offenders eligible for medical treatment furloughs.  According to news reports, Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc has recommended that Mr. Giddens receive a medical furlough.  Mr. Giddens apparently uses a wheelchair.  However, he is well enough to grant news interviews and lie about why he is behind bars.  Just last year, he told The Washington Post that he was in prison for killing a man during a fight.

A life sentence should be a life sentence, especially when the murder victim suffered the type of indignity that Mrs. Bamburg did.  Her family continues to mourn her loss.  They suffer further every time Mr. Giddens makes another grasp for freedom.  They fervently want him to remain in prison.  Their wishes should trump releasing Mr. Giddens purely to save a few nickels on medical expenses.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.

                                                                       

Sincerely,

 

                                                                       

 

John Kennedy

                                                                        U.S. Senate

 

 

 

cc: Gov. John Bel Edwards

      Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc

 

 

###

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) sent the following letter to the president of United Airlines, J. Scott Kirby, demanding an immediate explanation for the number of animals who have died recently in United Airlines’ care:

 

March 14, 2018

J. Scott Kirby
President
United Airlines
233 South Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL. 60606

By email, fax, and U.S. mail

Dear Mr. Kirby:

            I write to demand an immediate explanation for the number of animals who have died recently in United Airlines’ care.  The most recent death involved a French bulldog who was placed in an overhead bin at a United flight attendant’s direction.  The animal subsequently died.

            According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 18 of the 24 animals who died in major U.S. airlines’ care last year were in the care of United.  Another 13 animals in United’s care suffered injuries last year.  For comparison, Delta and American each reported two animal deaths.

            This pattern of animal deaths and injuries is simply inexcusable.  For many people, pets are members of the family.  They should not be treated like insignificant cargo.  Frankly, they shouldn’t be placed in the cargo hold much less an overhead bin.

Thank you, Mr. Kirby, for your prompt attention to this request.  I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Sincerely,

 

John Kennedy

United States Senator

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced the Military Residence Choice Act today to make the frequent relocations required of military families a little easier.  The bill will free the spouses of active duty service members from having to establish new legal residency every time they move for a military reassignment.  Sens. Kennedy and Klobuchar are joined by original co-sponsors Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

 “One of the toughest things for military families is the constant relocation for new assignments.  They usually have to move every few years,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “We can make that upheaval easier and remove a burden spouses of service members currently face by not forcing them to constantly change their legal residency.  This will make everything from filing taxes to buying a car much simpler.”

“Military families give so much to our country and ask for so little in return,” Sen. Klobuchar said.  “This legislation will help cut red tape and ease the burdens associated with the frequent moves military families must make for their service. It would make everything from voting to finding employment easier.”

“Military spouses make many sacrifices alongside the service of their loved ones, including the difficulties that come from continual relocation,” Sen. Cornyn said.  “This legislation would help alleviate stress by making it easier for them to establish residency for employment and voter registration so they can continue to provide for their families and cast their ballot during elections.”

“Behind so many of our brave servicemembers are loving spouses who support them.  The sacrifice military spouses make for this great country often go unnoticed and we owe it to them to do anything we can to make life a little easier,” Sen. Manchin said. “I am proud to be a part of this commonsense, bipartisan bill and look forward to its passage.”

“Frequent moves can present challenges for military families who already sacrifice so much,” Sen. Kaine said.  “This is the latest bipartisan piece of legislation that would help relieve some of that stress by giving military spouses the option to keep their residency after a move to help ease the transition for their families.”

The 2017 Blue Star Families Lifestyle Survey reported 72 percent of military families lived in their communities for two years or less, and a majority of families indicated they are experiencing high levels of stress associated with moving for the military.  In 2009, the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act (MSRRA) gave military spouses the right to retain their state of legal residence after a military reassignment if the couple has established the same residence at the time of their marriage.  The Support our Military Spouses Act will allow military spouses to use the same residence as their spouse after a military reassignment regardless of the couple’s residency at the time of the marriage.  By allowing spouses to select and keep the same state of residency as their partner, the Support our Military Spouses Act will reduce confusion and ease transitions from year to year for these families.    

 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today introduced the Opioid Quota Reform Act of 2018.  This bipartisan legislation will enhance the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) existing opioid quota-setting authority by improving transparency and enabling the DEA to adjust quotas to prevent opioid diversion and abuse.

The DEA is responsible for establishing annual quotas determining the exact amount of each opioid drug that is permitted to be produced in the U.S. each year.  The DEA approved significant increases in aggregate opioid production quotas between 1993 and 2015, including a 39-fold increase for oxycodone and a 12-fold increase for hydrocodone.  Such increases occurred largely because current law directs the DEA to only consider certain factors when setting quotas — like past sales and estimated demand — but not other factors such as the impact of such opioid production on diversion, abuse rates or overdose deaths.  As a result, more than 14 billion opioid pills are put on the market each year — far more than necessary under current medical guidelines and enough for every adult American to have a one month’s prescription of addictive painkillers. 

Recognizing this problem, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked the DEA to evaluate whether changes are needed to its production quota process to address the disproportionate volume of opioid prescriptions issued each year in the United States.  

“Drug overdose deaths have nearly tripled since 1999, and the opioid epidemic costs Louisiana alone about $296 million annually.  Addiction is ripping apart families in every town across Louisiana.  It’s impacting people in every income bracket and stealing lives,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “We have to strike a balance between providing painkillers to people who need them while ensuring that doctors and patients understand how dangerously addictive these drugs are.  All it takes is a simple fall from a ladder to create a lifelong battle with painkiller addiction.  This is an epidemic that requires a battle plan if it’s going to be defeated.”

“Every day, more than 100 Americans die from an opioid overdose.  While we know that there are legitimate uses for opioid painkillers, we also know that these dangerous pills are being over-produced, over-prescribed, and over-dispensed,” said Sen. Durbin.  “The DEA plays an important gatekeeper role over the volume of opioids that can be produced each year.  And while the DEA has taken recent steps to lower opioid quotas, their ability to do so is limited.  Opioid quota reform is needed so the DEA can take important factors like diversion and abuse into account when setting quotas, rather than chasing the downstream consequences of this crisis.  And this bipartisan legislation will allow the DEA to do just that.  But our work is not done.  These quotas should continue to come down, doctors must be more judicious in their prescribing, drug companies must stop misleading the public about their products and we simply must do more to help those who are currently addicted get treatment.”

“We have a responsibility to better address the opioid epidemic, which took the lives of more than 42,000 Americans in 2016, by stopping addiction before it starts,” said Sen. Feinstein.  “I believe this bill strikes the right balance in maintaining access to medications for legitimate medical use and reducing the supply of opioids available to be diverted and abused.  I am confident that this bill can help reduce the astonishing number of drug overdose deaths in our country, and am pleased to be a cosponsor.”

“The opioid crisis will only be beat back if we use every tool possible to fight against it. This legislation is one of those tools,” Sen. Grassley said.  “Improving transparency in setting opioid quotas is critical to curbing opioid abuse while ensuring those who need opioids to treat illnesses and manage pain will still have lawful access to their medicine.  As Chairman of Judiciary Committee and the Narcotics Control Caucus, I care deeply about finding a solution to the opioid epidemic, and this legislation is a step in the right direction.”

In 2016 — after years of dramatic increases to the volume of opioids allowed to come to the market — the DEA heeded calls to address America’s opioid epidemic by reducing nearly all opioid quotas by 25% or more.  This was the first reduction of its kind in over 20 years.  And in November 2017, the DEA again reduced production quotas for nearly all Schedule II prescription opioids by 20% for 2018.  This meant that three powerful, addictive painkillers would see a significant reduction from what was allowed on the market just two years prior.  For example, the reduction resulted in a 31% cut to oxycodone over two years; a 43% cut to hydrocodone over two years; and a 42% cut to fentanyl over two years.  But more work must be done to rein in this epidemic, and the DEA needs more statutory tools to effectively do its job.   

The bipartisan Durbin-Kennedy Opioid Quota Reform Act of 2018 would:

  • Direct the DEA to consider the additional factors of opioid diversion, abuse, overdose deaths and public health impacts when establishing annual opioid production quotas, in addition to the existing statutory considerations such as prior-year sales and research needs;
  • Require the DEA, if it approves any annual increase in opioid quotas, to explain publicly why the public health benefits of the increase outweigh the potential harmful consequences;
  • Reveal trends in manufacturer-level quota increases by having the DEA report anonymized data to Congress on the number of manufacturers that the DEA authorizes to produce opioids each year and how many of those manufacturers’ quotas have increased from the previous year;
  • Enable the DEA to issue more granular quota levels by removing a current provision that blocks the DEA from considering variations in dosage forms when setting quotas; and
  • Require the DEA to identify strategies to better incorporate data collection and changes in accepted medical practice (such as updated CDC Opioid Prescriber Guidelines) in its quota-setting process.

The Opioid Quota Reform Act of 2018 is supported by the National Association of City and County Health Officials, National Association of Counties, Trust for America’s Health, Safe States Alliance and National Safety Council.

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) filed the Open Internet Preservation Act today to protect consumers by preventing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from slowing down and controlling web content.  The legislation also creates transparency by requiring ISPs to make public their terms of service.  The House companion of this bill was introduced last year by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

“Some cable companies and content providers aren’t going to be happy with this bill because it prohibits them from blocking and throttling web content.  They won’t be able to micromanage your web surfing or punish you for downloading 50 movies each month.  This bill strikes a compromise that benefits the consumer,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “If the Democrats are serious about this issue and finding a permanent solution, then they should come to the table and work with me and Rep. Blackburn on these bills.  Does this bill resolve every issue in the net neutrality debate?  No, it doesn’t.  It's not a silver bullet.  But it's a good start.”

“Sen. Kennedy brings leadership and focus to this discussion of preserving a free and open internet.  I appreciate his work and his attention to this issue.  Title II 1930s era regulation was a heavy handed approach that would stifle innovation and investment.  This legislation will go a long way toward achieving the goal of protecting consumers,” said Rep. Blackburn.

 

###

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced an amendment to S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, that makes it easier for consumers to protect their credit and fix mistakes in the wake of the Equifax security breach.

The amendment tasks the Big Three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and Transunion – with developing an online portal for consumers to check their credit reports and credit scores for free.  Consumers would be able to easily freeze their credit if they find suspicious activity.  They also would be able to find and fix mistakes as well as opt out of having their data shared or sold to third parties.

“The Equifax security breach impacted nearly 150 million people.  The credit reporting agencies know what you’re buying and what you owe on your mortgage.  The least they can do is help you protect yourself from identity thieves,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “This online portal will allow you to look at your credit report 50 times a day if you want to.  It will also allow you to freeze your credit if you suspect someone’s stolen your credit card.”

“Credit reporting agencies operate totally in the dark. They sell personal data about consumers, often get it wrong or leave it exposed to hacks, and then charge people to fix the agencies’ mistakes,” said Senator Schatz. “Our legislation would give consumers control of their own personal information and hold reporting agencies accountable for their own mistakes.”

 

###

“It is time to swing the pendulum back towards simple, sensible regulations.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate this morning about the need to unburden community banks and credit unions from the weight of unfair regulations through the S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act.  Sen. Kennedy also offered an amendment to help consumers take charge of their credit reports and credit scores.

S. 2155 seeks to stop the damage that the Dodd-Frank law is inflicting on community banks and credit unions that are being punished for the 2008 financial crisis even though they were not responsible for it.  Dodd-Frank has driven community banks and credit unions out of business, made it difficult for many people to have checking accounts and stifled small business loans.  In Louisiana, Dodd-Frank has created banking deserts that are sending people to payday lenders and pawn shops for simple financial transactions.

Sen. Kennedy worked with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) to ensure that S.2155 goes even further in protecting consumers by addressing the problems with credit reports revealed by the Equifax security breach.  Their bipartisan amendment tasks the Big Three credit reporting agencies with creating a website for consumers to get free access to their credit information and easily opt out of third parties obtaining that data.

Click here or the photo below to watch Sen. Kennedy’s full speech. 

Dodd-Frank Damage: “It’s been almost eight years since Dodd-Frank took effect.  In that time, well over 1,700 community banks have consolidated, merged, or shut their doors forever.  That’s an average of one every three days.  In my state of Louisiana, out-of-control compliance costs have led to banks boarding up their windows.  That means that now, in at least 15 communities, folks do not have access to a bank or a credit union.”

Small Banks Help Communities: “Studies have shown that when a bank branch shuts its doors, on average, the number of small business loans made in that community falls by 13%.  The experts say that neighborhoods can take more than eight years to recover.  Now, multiply that by the 10,000 branches that have closed across this country and the figure is breathtaking.  It doesn’t take an economist to see that the ultimate costs of Dodd-Frank on our communities have been job losses and economic decline.”

Kennedy Protects Consumers: “I’ve been working closely with my colleague, Sen. Schatz, on a bipartisan amendment to protect consumers.  Americans shouldn’t have to spend months fighting to correct inaccurate information on their credit report when they didn’t consent to have it collected in the first place.  They shouldn’t be penalized because a credit reporting agency like Equifax can’t keep their data safe.  Our proposal would require that the “Big Three” credit reporting agencies work together to create an online portal that gives consumers free access to their credit report and credit score.”

Sensible Regulations: “I believe that it’s time to swing the pendulum back towards simple, sensible regulations, and the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act is a vital step in the right direction.  Dodd-Frank was like using a sledgehammer to go after a gnat.  All this reform package is suggesting is that we should try a flyswatter.”

 

###