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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today on the death of former legislator Thomas Alcade Casey.  Sen. Kennedy and Casey served in the Roemer administration together.

“Tom was one of the kindest and most decent people I have ever known, in or out of politics.  I worked with Tom in my first job in government with Gov. Buddy Roemer.  Tom was Executive Counsel, and I was Special Counsel.  He was very patient with me and taught me a lot.  Thinking of Tom with his meticulous notes on his assortment of legal pads and his consistent good humor makes me smile.  Tom loved the law, loved his state, loved his city, and, especially, loved his family.  He also loved his church.  He was the consummate gentleman.  If Tom’s not in Heaven — and I believe he is — the rest of us don’t have a chance.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced the passage of the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act, which will help children who are fighting cancer to live longer and healthier lives.  Every day, 43 children are newly diagnosed with pediatric cancers.  Tragically, 12% will die prematurely.  Sen. Kennedy is a co-sponsor of this bi-partisan legislation which will provide resources to improve the quality of life for those impacted by childhood cancer, expand public access to child-focused treatment and advance pediatric cancer research.

“As a father, my heart goes out to families grappling with pediatric cancers.  They need every bit of support that we can give them.  I am proud to say that The Childhood Cancer STAR Act has passed the Senate by unanimous consent.  A cancer diagnosis is the worst medical news a parent can hear.  We’ve made a lot of progress in helping children with cancer survive, but our work won’t be done until every single child beats cancer,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “This bill will go a long way toward providing comfort and assistance to those children and families battling childhood cancer.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement after voting against the Omnibus bill:

“I could not vote in favor of a $1.3 trillion dollar spending bill when this country already is $21 trillion in debt.  We are spending billions of dollars every year just in interest on federal debt.  It’s like using a credit card to keep the lights on at the Capitol.  Any family knows how fiscally dangerous it is to use a credit card to pay the mortgage instead of cutting the household budget.  Soon, you’re making the monthly minimum payment and drowning in debt,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “There was an easy solution to this mess.  The Senate could have been allowed to amend the budget bill in order to reduce wasteful spending.  Instead, we were kept in the dark and fed manure like victims of mushroom management.  There was no communication and no collaboration.”

 

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Last Thursday—before reports of a breach of 50 million Facebook users’ dataKlobuchar and Kennedy began calls for CEOs to come before the Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today called on the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley (R-IA), to hold a hearing at which Senators can publicly question the CEOs of technology companies. The bipartisan letter follows reports that Cambridge Analytica misused the data of 50 million Facebook users. Last week—before the breach—Klobuchar and Kennedy began calls for the technology companies to come before the Judiciary Committee.

“Major social media platforms store an enormous amount of data and have a user base larger than all of the major broadcasting companies combined. The remarkable innovation that these companies have championed has changed how we share and collect information. In the process, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have amassed unprecedented amounts of personal data and use this data when selling advertising, including political advertisements. The lack of oversight on how data is stored and how political advertisements are sold raises concerns about the integrity of American elections as well as privacy rights,” the senators wrote.

“A hearing featuring testimony with CEOs would provide the Committee the opportunity to hear an update on the progress of these companies' voluntary measures to combat attempted foreign interference and what is being done to protect Americans’ data and limit abuse of the platforms, as well as to assess what measures should be taken before the next elections. It is for these reasons that we request that you announce a hearing of the Judiciary Committee at which Senators can publicly question the CEOs of technology companies.”

The letter can be read in its entirety below.

Dear Chairman Grassley:

We write to express serious concern regarding recent reports that data from millions of Americans was misused in order to influence voters, and to urge you to convene a hearing with the CEOs of major technology companies -- including Facebook, Google, and Twitter -- regarding the security of Americans’ data in light of this significant breach.

Reports indicate that private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users -- representing nearly a quarter of potential U.S. voters in 2016 -- was taken to conduct sophisticated psychological targeting for political ads in order to influence voters. The reports further indicate that Facebook knew about this breach more than two years ago and failed to acknowledge it and take swift and meaningful action. 

While Facebook has pledged to enforce its policies to protect people's information, questions remain as to whether those policies are sufficient and whether Congress should take action to protect people's private information. The Committee considered similar cybersecurity issues in an October hearing featuring testimony from the former chairman and CEO of Equifax. We believe that the Committee should revisit these issues in light of recent events and upcoming elections.

Important questions also remain unanswered about the role of these technology companies in our democracy. Major social media platforms store an enormous amount of data and have a user base larger than all of the major broadcasting companies combined. The remarkable innovation that these companies have championed has changed how we share and collect information. In the process, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have amassed unprecedented amounts of personal data and use this data when selling advertising, including political advertisements. The lack of oversight on how data is stored and how political advertisements are sold raises concerns about the integrity of American elections as well as privacy rights.

Senators from both parties have called for more transparency and accountability from social media platforms in their efforts to guard against interference by foreign actors. Testimony before this Committee and others from current Administration officials, as well as former officials from the Administrations of President George W. Bush and President Obama, has made clear that the threat of foreign interference continues to exist, and that these foreign powers will make similar attempts to interfere in future elections. 

It is our view that Senators on the Judiciary Committee should have the opportunity to question the CEOs of technology companies about these critical matters. While this Committee's Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism convened a hearing with witnesses representing Facebook, Twitter, and Google in October of 2017, we have yet to hear from the leaders of these companies directly. A hearing featuring testimony with CEOs would provide the Committee the opportunity to hear an update on the progress of these companies' voluntary measures to combat attempted foreign interference and what is being done to protect Americans’ data and limit abuse of the platforms, as well as to assess what measures should be taken before the next elections.

It is for these reasons that we request that you announce a hearing of the Judiciary Committee at which Senators can publicly question the CEOs of technology companies. We would be happy to discuss this matter with you further and we appreciate your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

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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.”

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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.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued the following statement today about the passing of Saints and Pelicans owner, Tom Benson:

“My prayers are with Tom’s wife, Gayle, and their family during this difficult time.  A true New Orleanian, Tom Benson ensured the survival of the Saints and the Pelicans through hard work, perseverance, and passion.  He’s left a lasting legacy.”

 

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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.

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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

 

 

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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

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