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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.    

 

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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.

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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.”

 

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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.

 

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WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and U.S. Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) today announced St. Bernard Port, Harbor and Terminal District in Chalmette is receiving a U.S. Transportation Department TIGER grant of $13 million towards the reconstruction of the Chalmette Slip, which was constructed in 1907 and is the only deep-draft calm water slip on the Lower Mississippi. 

“This is great news not just for St. Bernard Parish but for the entire region,” said Sen. Kennedy. “With its location on the Lower Mississippi River, the Chalmette Slip is a gateway to the rest of the nation. The Chalmette Slip also is 111 years old, and its age is showing. One of the wharves is condemned; another is obsolete and unsafe. We need these improvements to create jobs and opportunities.”

“This is great news for New Orleans and Louisiana workers,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This grant will go a long way toward sorely needed improvements.”

“This is great news for St. Bernard Parish, the region and maritime traffic on the River,” said Rep. Scalise. “I applaud the Trump administration for understanding how important and necessary these improvements are to improve maritime commerce on the Lower Mississippi, benefiting not just South Louisiana but the entire country.”

“TIGER grants are direct federal investments in projects that will improve our surface transportation at the national, regional or local level,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

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“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.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today after the Louisiana Legislature’s special session collapsed in an early sine die:

“I commend House Republicans for saving Louisiana families from Gov. Edwards’ tax increases.  This special session was a missed opportunity for meaningful budget reforms, and the fault lies with Gov. Edwards and Democrats for refusing to fully embrace those basic budget reforms,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “House Republicans worked diligently and sincerely toward a compromise but in the end had to stand on principles of fiscal responsibility.  I commend them for doing so.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ special session:

“The state of Louisiana just paid $400,000 to out-of-state artists to turn stainless steel washers into a sculpture at the University Medical Center in New Orleans.  With spending priorities like that, it’s no wonder Gov. Edwards and Democrats are trying to swipe the pay raises and bonuses that Congress’ federal tax reform put into Louisiana families’ pockets,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “In this special session, they are gutting sensible spending reform proposals beyond recognition, are pushing to increase income taxes yet again and are attempting to unravel the income tax cuts accomplished by Congress.  That’s not ‘compromise’ or ‘bipartisanship.’  That’s absurdity.  When you’re spending $400,000 on a sculpture by out-of-state artists while standing at the edge of a so-called fiscal cliff, your budget crisis is just smoke and mirrors.  Louisiana doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. I hope conservatives in the Legislature will stand up and protect the pocketbooks of hard-working Louisiana families.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) urged Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards to fly the flags at state buildings in Louisiana at half-mast Friday to honor the late Rev. Billy Graham.  Below is the text of the letter sent to Gov. Edwards:

March 1, 2018

 

The Honorable John Bel Edwards

Governor

State of Louisiana

P.O. Box 94004

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804

Dear Governor Edwards:

            The flags at federal government buildings will fly at half-mast Friday in honor of the late Rev. Billy Graham.  I respectfully request that the flags at state buildings in Louisiana also fly at half-mast Friday as the Rev. Graham is laid to rest in a coffin built by Louisiana inmates.

            I make this request not because the Rev. Graham was a man of faith, although he was a man of tremendous faith.  Rather, I make this request because the Rev. Graham was America’s conscience for generations of Americans and citizens of the world.  He broadened religious freedom across the globe, encouraged the integration of Little Rock Central High School and upheld America as a bastion of peace and democracy.  He was this nation’s greatest, unpaid ambassador.

So great was the Rev. Graham’s influence that he lied in honor this week in the U.S. Capitol.  He was one of only four private citizens given that great honor.  The last was civil rights leader Rosa Parks.

A fitting tribute would be to lower the state’s flags Friday in honor of this great American.

Thank you, Governor, for your consideration of this request.  

Sincerely,

  

John Kennedy

                                                            United States Senator

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Stop Trafficking in Fentanyl Act.  Doctors typically prescribe fentanyl – a synthetic opioid – in small quantities to terminally ill patients who are in tremendous pain.  Unfortunately, drug traffickers are giving this highly lethal drug to drug abusers, resulting in overdoses and deaths.  Representatives Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) introduced the House version of the bill earlier this Congress. 

Drug traffickers and dealers are mixing fentanyl with heroin to increase its potency, creating an often lethal combination that is causing a skyrocketing of preventable deaths, with more Americans dying in 2016 of a drug overdose than in any previous year.

The Stop Trafficking in Fentanyl Act amends the Controlled Substances Act to reduce the amount of fentanyl needed to invoke the most serious trafficking penalties for an individual trafficking or illegally manufacturing the drug.  Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin and can be lethal even in amounts as small as a grain of sand.  

“What drug traffickers are creating with fentanyl is devilishly deadly.  They’re playing Russian Roulette with people’s lives by mixing heroin with a drug that is even more deadly than heroin itself,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Drug addicts don’t even realize the fentanyl is there because it looks just like heroin.  We are at war in this country with opioid addiction.  This bill puts us one step closer to winning that war and protecting our citizens.”

“Without action, these overdose figures are only going to get worse,” Rep. Rooney said. “Under the current law, the threshold amount to invoke penalties is not appropriate with the strength of the drug.  Individuals who are trafficking and profiting off fentanyl need to be adequately prosecuted in the hopes of stopping the alarming rising rate of fatal overdoses.  The time is now to update our laws to get this incredibly dangerous synthetic drug off of the streets.”

“We are losing too many of our friends, neighbors and relatives to this destructive drug epidemic.  I am proud to join a bipartisan group of my colleagues in introducing this important legislation that will help get fentanyl off the street.  We must respond to this crisis from all sides by improving coordination to reduce the number of drugs available, while also increasing and expanding access to treatment for those who are suffering,” said Rep. Ryan.

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