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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in introducing the Foreign Extortion Prevention Act (FEPA) of 2023 to criminalize foreign officials’ soliciting bribes from Americans or U.S. businesses.

“Bad actors in other countries try to extort Americans and U.S. businesses all the time. The Foreign Extortion Prevention Act would criminalize those who demand bribes from Americans and level the playing field by making foreign officials follow the rule of law,” said Kennedy. 

This bill would protect U.S. firms from corrupt foreign officials because such officials often demand bribes as a prerequisite for doing business in their countries. The FEPA would make such demands illegal, which would ensure that U.S. companies remain competitive in international contexts. 

Under the FEPA Act, penalties for soliciting bribes would include a fine of up to $250,000 or three times the value of the bribe (whichever is greater) and a prison sentence of up to 15 years.  

The FEPA would: 

  • Commission the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute foreign officials who request or receive a bribe from a U.S. individual or corporation, or from any person while in U.S. territory.
  • Require that the DOJ issue an annual report that summarizes major enforcement actions, analyzes the effectiveness of efforts to shield U.S. businesses from bribery demands and addresses foreign governments’ efforts to prosecute people who solicit bribes from Americans.

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Extension Act of 2023 to prevent the NFIP from expiring on September 30, 2023. 

The legislation would extend the NFIP for one year, until September 30, 2024.

“No one knows the feeling of having their home or business destroyed by bad weather like Louisianians. I am introducing this bill to make sure every homeowner in my state can sleep peacefully knowing that the NFIP won’t end in the middle of hurricane season,” said Kennedy.

Of the 5 million Americans nationwide who rely on the NFIP, roughly 500,000 are Louisianians who need the program to protect their businesses and homes.  

Text of the NFIP Extension Act of 2023 is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $1,061,619 in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant for Louisiana disaster aid. 

“Many Louisianians are still recovering from Hurricane Ida, and I am grateful that this $1 million will help provide a temporary facility at Chackbay Elementary for the community,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $1,061,619 to the Lafourche Parish School Board for preparing the old Chackbay Elementary School as a temporary facility as a result of Hurricane Ida.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today urged the U.S. State Department’s Ambassador-at-Large in the Office of International Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussain, and Douglas Hickey, the U.S. Ambassador to Finland, to renew concerns over the Finnish government’s second prosecution of Dr. Päivi Räsänen and Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola.

Finnish Christians continue to be the targets of prosecution from Finland’s government for expressing their sincere religious views in a non-violent manner. In response to the prosecution, the Finnish court of appeals has scheduled a hearing for August 2023.

Despite Räsänen and Pohjola's being acquitted, overzealous prosecutors will once again have the opportunity to convict the Christians for expressing their orthodox beliefs. . . . This is the worrisome situation that Dr. Räsänen and Dr. Pohjola now face—come August, these Christians will once again be put on trial for expressing their beliefs,” said Kennedy.

“Imprisoning Räsänen and Pohjola would have chilling consequences for free speech everywhere. It is bad enough that police investigated Räsänen and Pohjola for months, while their theology was questioned and their public statements scrutinized—going all the way back to a pamphlet they published in 2004. These actions alone damaged their reputations and placed immense stress on their families. Taking the next step and condemning these Christians to prison would send the message that Finland does not permit certain religious viewpoints and put the citizens of countries with similar laws on notice. A guilty verdict would chill free expression in Finland and elsewhere by creating an atmosphere of self-censorship,” he explained.

Today’s letter raising concerns about the pending re-prosecution of these Christians is here

Kennedy voiced concerns over this prosecution with the U.S. State Department and has repeatedly urged the department to engage the Finnish government over its refusal to accept the acquittal of Räsänen and Pohjola.

According to the State Department this May, the U.S. embassy in Finland will continue to engage on this issue with Finnish officials and religious communities.

Background:

Räsänen and Pohjola were unanimously acquitted of criminal liability for expressing their religious beliefs on March 30, 2022, and the court ordered Finnish prosecutors to pay nearly $67,000 in legal fees. The Finnish government, however, appealed the acquittal.

Kennedy originally wrote to the State Department in March 2022 to raise concerns about Finland’s prosecution of non-violent expressions of faith. The prosecution of Räsänen and Pohjola occurs while Europe continues to witness anti-Christian hate crimes and hostility toward Christian-led organizations throughout the continent.

Kennedy’s March 2022 letter is available here, and his December 2022 letter is available here.

The State Department’s May 2023 response is available here.

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $2,559,957 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Louisiana disaster aid.  

“Hurricane Ida dealt Plaquemines Parish a tough blow, and I am glad to see this $2.6 million go towards recovery efforts for Louisianians,” said Kennedy. 

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $2,559,957 in federal funding to Plaquemines Parish for debris removal from Hurricane Ida. 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, today introduced the Promoting New and Diverse Depositories Act, which would direct the prudential regulators to conduct a study on the barriers that depository institutions face when attempting to enter the banking market. The bill would also require a strategic plan to promote more new applicants for bank charters, especially minority depository institutions and Community Development Financial Institutions. 

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is the lead co-sponsor of the bill.

“Small banks and credit unions often provide loans to small businesses and other job creators, especially in rural areas that large banks often forget about. I introduced this bill to make it easier for community lenders to give Americans more options for accessing credit and making the most of their hard-earned money,” said Kennedy.

Federal regulators include the Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the National Credit Union Administration and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

Community banks and credit unions play key roles in America’s financial markets and support huge swaths of the U.S. economy. They are also a major supplier of credit to agricultural producers and businesses, including during times of economic stress when the need for credit is most acute.

In 2023, however, there are 4,161 fewer banks in the United States (4,672 total) than there were in 2005 (8,833). That represents a nearly 50 percent decline. Of the banks active today, only 70 have been established since 2010.

In 2001, there were 164 minority depository institutions (MDIs). The number of MDIs reached its peak at 215 in 2008 and declined to 147 in 2022. 

Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives, which has already passed the legislation.

Text of the Promoting New and Diverse Depositories Act is available here

Watch Kennedy’s full remarks here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) urged New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell to be transparent in her search for the next chief of the New Orleans Police Department in a speech on the Senate floor today. Kennedy asked Mayor Cantrell to host a press conference so the people of New Orleans can review the semi-finalists who remain under consideration for the position.

Key comments from Kennedy’s remarks include:

“New Orleans is special. It’s special to the world, special to America, special to me. I used to live there. . . . But my city, Madam President, has hit a rough patch. Crime is strangling a free people nowhere more than in the city of New Orleans . . . Last year, New Orleans was the murder capital of the world.”

 . . . 

“But we're not just taking it lying down, Madam President. We are right now looking for a new police chief. And we need a good one. We need a tried and tested police chief who has experience in a big city. And we're in the process of picking a police chief.”

. . .

“Our new police chief has to be confirmed by our city council. But more importantly than our city council—as important as our city council is—our new police chief has to have the confidence of the people of Louisiana and the good people of New Orleans.

“Our mayor, as is her right, has decided to handle the selection of a new police chief herself. She has appointed an outside third-party group to quarterback the selection of a new police chief. That outside third-party group says it has done a nationwide search. It had 33 applicants for police chief, apparently. We don't know this for a fact. Most of them were not interviewed. Six were.

“And that's all we know. That's all we know. It’s one of the most important, maybe the most important, selections in municipal government in the last decade in New Orleans, and our mayor has shared nothing else with us. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.”

. . .

“So, Madam President, I say to my mayor of New Orleans, with all the respect I can muster: Please, Mayor. Please, Mayor. Please, with sugar on top, call a press conference. Tell us who has applied. Tell us who didn't make the cut. Tell us why they didn't make the cut. Tell us the criteria that you and your team used, without an interview, to eliminate them. Tell us who the six remaining semi-finalists are. Give us their names.

“Let us hear from them.  Give us time to look at their record. Give us time to ask fair, but tough, questions. Let us make this decision together because we're all going to have to live with it.

“Please, Mayor. Please reconsider your position. Let's do this together.”

Watch Kennedy’s full remarks here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, today introduced the Protecting Investors’ Personally Identifiable Information Act, which would protect information that could reveal the identity of American investors. The legislation would prohibit the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring brokers to submit investors’ personally identifiable information to its Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT).

Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Katie Britt (R-Ala.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) are original cosponsors of the bill.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) has authored companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Investors trust the U.S. stock market with their savings and their privacy, but the SEC’s Consolidated Audit Trail would expose every American investor’s Social Security number and personal data to malicious hackers. The CAT is unconstitutional, and it hoards personal information it doesn’t need. My bill would make sure that the SEC only houses information it needs, and only while it needs it. As long as hackers and foreign enemies keep targeting Americans, the government shouldn’t endanger their personal information by creating one great, big, centralized target for bad actors,” said Kennedy. 

“The federal government has two huge problems when it comes to cyber security: they collect way too much personally identifiable information (PII), and they have a poor track record of protecting the information from hackers. This is why I introduced the Protecting Investors’ Personally Identifiable Information Act in the House, which will help prevent a breach by restricting the SEC’s ability to collect this data in the first place. Among its provisions, the SEC would only be able to request this data if investigating or enforcing violations of federal securities law. Thank you, Senator John Kennedy, for introducing the Senate companion to my bill,” Loudermilk said.

The SEC’s CAT will be fully operational between 2024 and 2025, making it the largest government database of its kind. The CAT will collect all customer and order information for equity securities and listed options, including data that might be considered personally identifiable information.  

The SEC is implementing the CAT despite concerns from investor protection groups and the securities industry and in the wake of vulnerabilities that recent cyber-attacks have revealed at federal agencies.  

This bill would prohibit the SEC from requiring market participants to submit investors’ personally identifiable information to the CAT. Under this legislation, the SEC can obtain personally identifiable information related to investors only by requesting it on a case-by-case basis. Companies and investors trading on the U.S. stock exchanges would need to fulfill the SEC’s request for this information within 24 hours, though additional time may be requested.  

The bill would also require the SEC to delete personally identifiable information once the agency resolves the investigation or issue that required that information. 

The CAT is a sitting duck that makes every American investor and retirement saver’s personal and financial information an easy target for Chinese hackers. We thank Senator Kennedy for his leadership in protecting America’s mom-and-pop investors by introducing this important legislation to remove their personal and financial information from the CAT,” said American Securities Association CEO Chris Iacovella.

Text of the Protecting Investors’ Personally Identifiable Information Act is available here

Watch Kennedy’s questioning here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today questioned witnesses in the Senate Appropriations Committee on the bipartisan Affordable Insulin Now Act of 2023, which he and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) introduced this March. Their bill would cap the price of insulin for all patients, including those who are uninsured, at $35 for a 30-day supply.

Key moments from the committee exchange include: 

We need to stop nibbling around the edges. We need to be smart enough to figure this out. And the cost? I think it can be done for $250 million a year, and I'm not talking about taking out a reverse mortgage on Alaska and borrowing more money. I'm talking about finding it in our budget,” said Kennedy.

The federal budget is 6,000 billion dollars every year—and we can’t find $250 million to cap the price of insulin? Let's do it right,” Kennedy concluded.

Background on the Affordable Insulin Now Act:

More than 14 percent of Louisiana’s adult population has been diagnosed with diabetes, and more than 30 percent of adult Louisianians are pre-diabetic. 

Louisiana alone spends an estimated $5.7 billion a year on direct medical expenses for those who are diagnosed with diabetes. By ensuring that insulin is affordable, the long-term cost of care for patients will decrease over time as more Americans are able to prevent complications including heart disease, kidney disease, strokes and other diagnoses. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical costs and lost work and wages for people with diagnosed diabetes total $327 billion yearly, and the American Diabetes Association has asserted that diabetics account for $1 of every $4 spent on health care in the U.S.

A national study projected that improving access to insulin for uninsured patients could help avoid complications of diabetes and deaths related to the disease. As a result, the health care system could save substantial amounts of money on providing care to uninsured diabetes patients.

The Affordable Insulin Now Act of 2023 would:

  • Require private group or individual plans to cover one of each insulin dosage form (i.e., vial, pen) and insulin type (i.e., rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting) for no more than $35 per month.
  • Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a program to reimburse qualifying entities for covering any costs that exceed $35 for providing a 30-day supply of insulin to uninsured patients.
  • Be fully paid for by an offset and not add to the federal deficit.

Kennedy’s efforts to save taxpayer money by defraying insulin costs include:

  • In August 2022, Kennedy introduced an amendment to President Biden’s inflation reduction Act to cap insulin costs.
  • In June 2022, Kennedy penned an op-ed outlining the benefits of making insulin affordable for diabetic Louisianians.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $68,407,820 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Louisiana disaster relief efforts.

“Many Louisianians are still suffering from the aftermath of Hurricanes Laura and Ida. I’m grateful to see this $68.4 million investment ease some of the issues these storms caused,” said Kennedy.

The FEMA aid will fund the following:

  • $42,025,248 to the Jefferson Parish Public School System for mold remediation related to Hurricane Ida.
  • $8,442,373 to the Calcasieu Parish School Board to repair damages resulting from Hurricane Laura
  • $4,362,618 to the Terrebonne General Medical Center for mold remediation related to Hurricane Ida.
  • $3,323,505 to the Housing Authority of Lafourche Parish for mold remediation at 24 housing units related to Hurricane Ida.
  • $2,109,381 to the Greater Lafourche Port Commission to repair damages resulting from Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,697,150 to the city of Hammond for emergency protective measures required by Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,548,964 to Lafourche Parish Water District #1 to repair damages resulting from Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,495,293 to Jefferson Parish to repair damages to drainage pump stations resulting from Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,225,349 to Lafourche Parish to repair damages to Leeville Boat Launches and Pier resulting from Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,159,324 to Terrebonne Parish to repair damages to inmate facilities resulting from Hurricane Ida.
  • $1,018,616 to the Winn Parish Police Jury for permanent road repairs resulting from Hurricane Laura.