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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) sent the following letter to Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) yesterday regarding Sen. Kennedy’s concerns about Louisiana’s Justice Reinvestment Act.

February 19, 2018

 

The Honorable Chuck Grassley

Chairman

U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

224 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C., 20510

 

Dear Chairman Grassley:

 

I write to provide you more detail about my concern, and the concern of many law-abiding Louisiana citizens, with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Act.  The Act is inappropriately named, in my opinion.  It should be called the Louisiana Prisoner Release and Public Safety Be Damned Act.  It has been an unqualified disaster.  

Governor Edwards and I have a fundamental disagreement over Louisiana’s public safety needs.  He believes Louisiana has too many people in prison.  I believe we have too many people committing crimes.  He believes that many of our inmates are simply misunderstood.  I believe that people must be responsible for their actions, including their crimes.  He sees our prison system primarily through the eyes of our prisoners.  I see it primarily through the eyes of those prisoners’ victims.  

Governor Edwards’ prisoner release program charges the Louisiana Department of Corrections and Public Safety (Corrections Department) with the responsibility of deciding which inmates are released.  Louisiana had approximately 35,000 state prisoners in October 2017.  The Corrections Department is reviewing 16,000 prisoners for release.  It has already released 2,000.  At least 76 have been re-arrested.  For example, Tyrone White, a 24-year-old inmate who had been arrested more than 60 times, was released and promptly robbed two roofers at gunpoint.  The police tracked him down after residents saw him pulling on car door handles in Kenner.  In north Louisiana, a Winn Parish man was out of prison for a week before he was re-arrested.  His own mother turned him in.  He had been in and out of jail 10 times since he was 18 years old.  One sheriff basically called the prisoner release program a joke.  No wonder the people of Louisiana are afraid.

I take no pleasure in telling you that a big part of the problem with Governor Edwards’ prison release program is that the leadership of his Corrections Department has a demonstrated record of incompetence, and worse.  This has been widely reported by Louisiana media.  While there are many capable, rank-and-file public servants working in the agency, numerous of Governor Edwards’ senior Corrections Department officials have been indicted or forced to retire, and others are being investigated by the FBI and other law enforcement agents.

Consider the following: 

  1. Longtime Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola warden Burl Cain resigned in 2016 amid a cloud of controversy.  Mr. Cain hired a company to build a recycling plant at Dixon Correctional Institute for the state and then signed a personal contract to broker similar deals for the company.  Mr. Cain also is accused of going into business with the family and friends of prison inmates.  The Corrections Department later decided that arrangement was fine – partly because it wasn’t sexual - but said it might forbid similar arrangements in the future.  An audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office found that Mr. Cain’s family stayed for free and ate for free in homes owned by the state.
  1. Mr. Burl Cain’s son, former Avoyelles Correctional Center warden Nate Cain, was indicted in 2017 on 18 fraud charges for inappropriately charging $152,000 to a state credit card.  He also faces an obstruction of justice charge.  According to an arrest warrant, Nate Cain and his wife, Tonia, also a prison Corrections Department employee, ordered prison employees to buy things for their personal use with state credit cards.  Investigators later seized a camera, Bose headphones, TVs, clothing and an airsoft gun wrapped as a Christmas gift from their home.  The state also spent nearly $80,000 building an almost 4,000-square-foot home for the Cains before construction halted amid questions about why state bid laws had been circumvented.
  1. Mr. Burl Cain’s daughter-in-law, former Avoyelles Correctional Center business manager Tonia Bandy Cain, was indicted in January 2017 for malfeasance in office, theft of $25,000 or more and injuring pubic records.  Mrs. Cain is accused of trying to cover up more than $30,000 in missing concession sale funds by ordering the shredding of documents.  She was indicted on further charges in August 2017 for inappropriately charging $152,000 to a state credit card.
  1. Mr. Burl Cain’s one-time subordinate, former Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola supervisor Sidney Davis, was arrested last year for using prison employees’ club funds to buy alcohol, La-Z-Boy recliners, a sound machine and other questionable items, including nasal spray.  He told investigators that the purchases were an accident.
  1. Another one-time subordinate of Mr. Burl Cain, Shirley Whittington, pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud for stealing $115,000 from a fund that was supposed to be used to create recreational opportunities for prison employees and their families who live on prison grounds.  She used the money to shop online.  The theft went on for years.
  1. A Louisiana newspaper described Governor Edwards’ Corrections Departments’ staff chart as a genealogical exercise because so many relatives of Mr. Burl Cain and Governor Edwards’ Corrections Department Secretary James “Jimmy” LeBlanc have been on the department’s payroll.
  1. Mr. Gary Shotwell was deputy warden when Secretary LeBlanc was warden at Dixon Correctional Institute.  Mr. Shotwell and the husband of LeBlanc’s niece later got slices of $6.3 million in work on a building renovation the Corrections Department Secretary should have put out for bid but didn’t after Mr. LeBlanc became Governor Edwards’ Correction Department secretary.  The niece’s husband got the design portion of the project.  Mr. Shotwell got the construction portion.
  1. Under Mr. LeBlanc’s leadership as secretary, inmates convicted of violent crimes and sex offenses were allowed to repeatedly leave prison to play music at nursing homes and interact with children at a park.  The trips stopped once the media reported on them.
  1. A Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office report found that the Corrections Department often loses track of inmates within the prison system.  The Legislative Auditor found that 11% of the inmates reviewed by the auditor could not be found at the prison listed in their files.  For example, the agency thought an inmate in prison on an attempted murder conviction was at an Evangeline Parish jail for months when he was actually at another facility some distance away.
  1. The same Legislative Auditor’s report found that Governor Edwards’ Corrections Department consistently struggles to calculate accurate release dates for the inmates.
  1. Governor Edwards’ Corrections Department spent $3.6 million on an updated inmate tracking system.  The department used the new system for six weeks and then abandoned it.
  1. Col. Mike Edmonson oversaw the State Police arm of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.  Col. Edmonson allegedly abused his position to avoid paying numerous expenses.  He got free housing and food and got state employees or inmates to walk his dog, maintain his son’s car and drive his wife around the state, including to concerts.  Hotel rooms were provided to State Troopers during Mardi Gras season in New Orleans while they helped with law enforcement.  Col. Edmonson allowed friends to stay in some of those rooms instead.  At the same time, he tried to sneak through an unconstitutional, $300,000 retirement boost for himself and a colleague.
  1. Under Col. Edmonson’s leadership, State Troopers took a road trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon at Louisiana taxpayer expense. They charged the taxpayers overtime for their sightseeing.  Col. Edmonson later called the side trip irresponsible.  However, phone records – that he tried to erase - showed that he traded friendly text messages with the troopers during their excursion.
  1. Three Louisiana State Troopers have been accused of claiming a massive amount of overtime they did not work, as a result of an undercover investigation by a New Orleans television station.  The television series, titled “State of Unrest,” included footage of troopers allegedly abusing a traffic law enforcement program by writing a full shift’s worth of tickets in a relatively short period of time.  One trooper was paid $240,000 in 2016, $147,000 of which was overtime. 

 

These are just a few of the reasons why the safety of the people of Louisiana is at risk because of Governor Edwards’ prisoner release program. 

Thank you, Chairman Grassley, for your leadership.

                                                     

Sincerely,                                      

 

John Kennedy

U.S. Senate

 

 

 

cc: The Honorable Dianne Feinstein

      The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch

      The Honorable Lindsey Graham

      The Honorable John Cornyn

      The Honorable Michael S. Lee

      The Honorable Ted Cruz

      The Honorable Ben Sasse

      The Honorable Jeff Flake

      The Honorable Mike Crapo

      The Honorable Thom Tillis

      The Honorable Patrick Leahy

      The Honorable Dick Durbin

      The Honorable Sheldon Whitehouse

      The Honorable Amy Klobuchar

      The Honorable Christopher A. Coons

      The Honorable Richard Blumenthal

      The Honorable Mazie Hirono

      The Honorable Cory Booker

      The Honorable Kamala Harris

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) this week introduced a bill, the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, to provide much-needed certainty for businesses in Louisiana and other states on the worldwide transition towards next generation coolants.  The legislation represents a bipartisan effort that brings together the manufacturing industry and environmental groups to preserve jobs in Geismar, St. Gabriel and the rest of the nation.  Action is needed to ensure that the U.S. remains competitive as businesses embrace new innovations.

Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) joined Sens. Kennedy and Carper as original cosponsors.

At issue are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that are used as coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners.  The hydrofluorocarbon industry employs 593,000 workers in the U.S. and generates annual sales of $206 billion.  Because of changing global policy, countries are moving away from using hydrofluorocarbons.  The legislation will ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to ensure a smooth phasedown of the manufacturing of hydrofluorocarbons in the U.S. in order to support the next generation technologies.

There are two plants, Honeywell in Geismar and Mexichem Fluor Inc. in St. Gabriel, in Louisiana that are impacted by the evolving technology.  This legislation will preserve Louisiana jobs at Louisiana plants.

"On the surface, this bill seems more complicated than high school chemistry, but really it’s pretty simple.  It’s about jobs.  And it’s about protecting the investment by Louisiana companies in new technologies and protecting Louisiana jobs,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “This bill gives a $206 billion U.S. industry the clarity it needs to invest, transition and protect American jobs.  It’s not often that Democrats, Republicans, industry and environmental groups come together to agree on anything, but we are all in agreement on this one.”

“Our bipartisan AIM Act continues support for American development and manufacturing of next-generation HFC-alternatives, while also protecting our environment and helping the U.S. meet its obligations under the amended Montreal Protocol – a true win-win,” said Senator Carper. “After more than a decade of work to support domestic manufacturing of HFC-alternative products, our efforts are clearly paying off with American companies leading the world in this growing industry. While we’ve been creating jobs right here at home, we’ve also been helping our country, and the world, phase down HFC products and limit their contribution to human-caused climate change. As other nations start making similar investments, now is not the time to pull on the reins and stymie the economic growth being created by American ingenuity.  I am proud to work with Senator Kennedy and my other bipartisan colleagues to continue to build on our successes and work across the aisle to provide a cleaner planet for the generations to come.” 

“American manufacturers are leading the way in using new technologies to develop environmentally-friendly substitutes for hydrofluorocarbons,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This legislation helps workers in Louisiana and creates jobs here at home.”

“I am glad this bipartisan effort will take a real step towards addressing climate change,” said Senator Coons. “Phasing down hydrofluorocarbons will not only have a positive impact on the environment, but will also benefit U.S. companies that have invested in developing environmentally friendly alternatives by providing market stability for their next generation products. This is proof that we don’t have to choose between protecting the environment and growing the economy, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure the bill is signed into law.”

“America’s manufacturing industry is an integral part of our economy and has long been a source of pride as well as quality, good-paying jobs,” said Senator Collins.  “This legislation will accelerate the phasedown of harmful pollutants with next-generation, environmentally safe coolant alternatives while boosting job growth, increasing innovation, and attracting future investments.”

“HFCs are a serious threat to our environment that the world must come together to take on,” said Merkley. “With this bipartisan proposal, we can bring a commonsense approach to phasing out HFCs and boost our efforts to avoid climate chaos.”

“The Louisiana Chemical Association commends Sen. Kennedy for his leadership and we look forward to working with him on this important legislation,” said Greg Bowser, President of the Louisiana Chemical Association. “Investments in manufacturing of the next-generation solutions have resulted in hundreds of long-term, sustainable jobs in Louisiana, as well as thousands of manufacturing jobs during the construction of these large-scale manufacturing plants.  I encourage leadership to take action on the phasedown of HFCs by passing the AIM Act, and support continued innovation in this growth sector.”

“We commend Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Cassidy for their leadership in introducing the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act,” said Rajeev Gautam, President and CEO, Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies.  “Honeywell strongly supports HFC phasedown as an essential initiative for American competitiveness.  Decisive action at the federal level is critical to supporting economic growth and job creation at home and the success of exporting U.S. innovation abroad.”

Statement released by Mexichem Fluor, Inc.- “Mexichem Fluor, Inc. supports the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act (AIM), which provides for EPA to adopt a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) phasedown in accordance with the schedule in the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer.  This bill will help achieve the important and sustainable objectives of this international environmental agreement.”

“Because other nations are already forging ahead on the HFC phase-down, it is important for the United States to maintain its leadership in the development of climate-friendlier alternatives and for American industry to seize the global economic opportunity in the market for alternative chemicals and products.  Your bill is a critical step in that direction,” said David Doniger, Senior Strategic Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced today that President Donald Trump’s 2019 proposed budget keeps money for coastal and wetlands restoration and preservation in place by honoring the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA).  In previous budget years, GOMESA was proposed for elimination or cuts. 

“After a year of working with President Trump, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, I am pleased to see that they have restored the monetary linchpin of our coastal restoration efforts,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “It is critical that Louisiana and other states along the Gulf of Mexico continue to get a share of the federal revenue from offshore drilling.  We use this money for coastal restoration and preservation.  I want to thank the President for putting Louisiana first.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R. La) announced $1.67 million in FEMA Public Assistance Grants today to help the East Baton Rouge School Board recover from the devastating flooding in 2016.  These funds will help Greenbrier Elementary School repair eight buildings and replace the damaged contents.

“I am happy to announce that $1.6 million in funds have been awarded to the East Baton Rouge School Board to help rebuild after the flood,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “Greenbrier Elementary sustained heavy flooding and needed significant assistance.  This funding will help this school reopen its doors.”

“We appreciate the ongoing support and advocacy of Senator John Kennedy and his role in securing FEMA funding to complete post-flood repairs at Greenbrier Elementary School” said Superintendent Warren Drake. “Greenbrier will be the final school to complete repairs, and Senator Kennedy’s efforts have been vital in assuring the return of all students to a safe and restored learning environment.” 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) issued the following statements today after three Louisiana nominees were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

The committee approved:

•           Kurt D. Englehardt to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit.

•           Barry W. Ashe to be the U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

•           Brandon J. Fremin to be U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana.

“All of these nominees have stellar legal qualifications and will serve Louisiana well.  They’ve tackled tough legal cases with great skill and knowledge,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “I look forward to congratulating them after the full Senate approves them.”

“Confirming good, qualified judges and U.S. attorneys who will uphold the Constitution is one of our top priorities in the Senate, and Kurt Englehardt, Barry Ashe and Brandon Fremin fit the bill,” said Dr. Cassidy. “I’m glad their nominations are moving forward and urge the full Senate to approve them without delay so they can begin serving the people of Louisiana and our country.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R. La.) today introduced bipartisan legislation called the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society Act, also known as the CLASSICS Act, with Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.).  Joining Sens. Kennedy and Coons are original co-sponsors Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Corey Booker (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-T.N.).  Their bill will help close a flawed loophole that leaves some of our most cherished artists out of the federal copyright system.

Currently, federal copyright law does not protect sound recordings made before Feb. 15, 1972.  This has resulted in confusion, litigation and an unfair playing field for iconic artists in Louisiana and across the U.S.  The CLASSICS Act would acknowledge these artists’ contributions by compensating them when digital radio services use their recordings.  The act would bring federal law up to speed with the modern age of music platforms.

 “Artists who made music prior to 1972 are getting a raw financial deal because of an antiquated loophole in our legal system.  Our bill, the CLASSICS Act, will give the recognition and compensation these artists deserve.  Louisiana is the birthplace of jazz.  Artists who contributed to that uniquely New Orleans sound are pioneers who deserve the same copyright protections as everyone else,” said Sen. Kennedy. “I will add that, in my opinion, music made after 1972, with the exception of Meatloaf’s work, isn’t as good as the classics anyway.”

“The music performed and recorded by artists before February 15, 1972, is an important part of our shared cultural heritage.  It’s the music many of us listened to growing up on records and cassettes, and it simply is not fair that when we listen to that music today on digital platforms, those legacy artists are not compensated even though their modern counterparts are,” said Senator Coons.  “I’m pleased to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to introduce the CLASSICS Act and fix this long-standing disparity, and I thank the many different segments of the music industry that have worked hard to achieve this consensus solution.”

“I want to thank the sponsors of the CLASSICS Act for honoring the rich musical heritage of Louisiana by introducing legislation to ensure that our legacy artists are treated fairly by digital music services.  The work of so many icons of American music who recorded before 1972 is part of the fabric of our cultural history and deserves equal treatment under the law,” said Trombone Shorty, New Orleans-based musician, singer-songwriter, producer.  “It’s their recordings that inspired me and whole generations of artists to make music, and I am grateful to all of the sponsors of the CLASSICS Act for respecting their contributions.”

“As a proud California resident and an artist who recorded music before and after 1972, I’m deeply grateful to the Senate sponsors for this important bill that will finally allow artists like me to get paid by digital radio services for our pre-’72 recordings,” said Mary Wilson of The Supremes.  “It’s unacceptable that songs by my group The Supremes like “Stop! In the Name Of Love” or “Baby Love” – both staples of SiriusXM’s “‘60s on 6” station – are treated with less value than our 1976 hit “I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking” and so many others recorded after 1972. With this bill, we are finally giving legacy artists the respect they deserve.”  

The CLASSICS Act is supported by the American Association of Independent Music, the Recording Industry Association of America, Pandora, musicFIRST, the Internet Association, the Recording Academy, SoundExchange, Screen Actors Guild?American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, American Federation of Musicians, the Content Creators Coalition, the Future of Music Coalition, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, the Living Legends Foundation. 

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Sen. Kennedy (R-La.) Gives Floor Speech On The Benefits Of The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act 

The American economy needed a shot in the arm, and that shot in the arm was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.’ 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate today to highlight the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  As a direct result of the bill, more than three million Americans have received wage increases, more generous benefits, and bonuses.

“We’re already beginning to see what meaningful tax relief looks like for middle and working-class Americans,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “In just 47 days, well over three million American workers have received wage increases, benefits increases, and bonuses.  Finally, we are on track to see better than average economic growth.  The American economy needed a shot in the arm, and that shot in the arm was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  I think the outlook for our economy is better now than it has been in 10 years.  I can guarantee you that 47 days from now, for millions of Americans and their families, it will look even better.”

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

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) announced $1.76 million in FEMA Public Assistance Grants to help the Livingston Parish Public School System recover from the devastating flooding in 2016.

“This funding will help the Livingston Parish Public School System rebuild after the flood,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “As we continue to restore our communities, it’s imperative that we work together nationally and locally to make sure that we have the necessary funds available.  Every bit helps.”

“The struggles brought by the Great Flood of 2016 have put the Livingston Parish Public School System in a difficult financial position,” said Livingston Parish Public Schools Superintendent Rick Wentzel.  “With assistance from our Congressional delegation as they carry our concerns to the nation's capital and push for federal funding to support our recovery, we continue to move forward thoughtfully to ensure we meet our goals of educating all students and providing the essential services they need to be successful.”

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined 66 of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate in urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to reauthorize critical funding for community health centers.  There are 35 federally qualified health centers in Louisiana that served more than 375,000 patients last year. 

“Millions of people across the country rely on community health centers to provide quality health care for individuals and families.  These centers provide comprehensive medical services without courting controversy like Planned Parenthood does.  Community health centers are vital to Louisiana families,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “It is imperative that a two-year extension of funding for these centers be included in the government funding bill.”

In addition to Sen. Kennedy, the senators who signed on to the letter include: Roy Blunt (R. Mo.), Debbie Stabenow (MI.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), John Boozman (Ark.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Tom Carper (Del.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Christopher Coons (Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Steve Daines (Mont.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), John Hoeven (N.D.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Angus King (Maine), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Jack Reed (R.I.), James Risch (Idaho), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Tina Smith (Minn.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Mark Warner (Va.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), and Roger Wicker (Miss.).

 

February 5, 2018

 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell                        The Honorable Charles Schumer

Majority Leader                                                        Minority Leader

United States Senate                                               United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510                                          Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:

We write to express our concern over funding for community health centers, which expired on September 30, 2017.  We strongly urge you to reauthorize this funding immediately.

Community health centers serve a vital function, providing affordable health care to our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.  They provide quality medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care to more than 27 million patients, including 330,000 of our nation’s veterans and 8 million children, at over 10,000 sites nationwide.  By offering preventative care, treating chronic conditions, and working to fight the opioid epidemic, community health centers are not only greatly improving the health and well-being of those they serve, they are also saving significant taxpayer dollars.  

Without extension of the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), community health centers will lose seventy percent of their funding.  This will result in an estimated 2,800 site closures, the loss of 50,000 jobs, and approximately 9 million Americans losing access to their health care.  Moreover, community health centers operate as small businesses and require a level of predictability to operate and respond to the needs of their communities.  Since the expiration of the CHCF, community health centers have not been able to adequately plan for everything from staffing needs to securing loans for capital projects. In addition, the expiration of the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education program threatens the ability of health centers to meet their workforce needs.

For more than fifty years, community health centers have experienced strong bipartisan support.  In fact, twenty bipartisan senators cosponsor legislation which reauthorizes funding not only for community health centers but also for the National Health Service Corps.

We look forward to working with you to reach a bipartisan agreement to fund the community health center program and enable our community health centers to continue providing high quality and affordable care to those in need.

 

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Sen Kennedy: ‘We can start by cutting off payments to corpses.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced the Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People Act.  This common sense, bipartisan legislation will remove bureaucratic hurdles that are allowing billions of dollars in improper payments to be made with taxpayer money.  The Social Security Administration alone made $9.8 billion in improper payments in 2015.  Stopping these improper payments will safeguard money for senior citizens.

Joining as cosponsors are Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.).  In the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) have introduced companion legislation.

“It’s pretty simple: Don’t pay dead people.  Taxpayer dollars are precious.  They’re almost as precious as a newborn baby.  We need to be wise stewards of those dollars, especially when we’re struggling with the federal debt so much that we may have to change the Treasury Department’s name to the Debt Department,” said Sen. Kennedy.  “One simple fix would be to stop paying dead people.  An Algiers woman was just indicted for collecting almost $300,000 in Social Security payments meant for her mother who’s been dead for nearly 10 years.  That money never should have been sent in the first place.  This goes beyond party politics, and it needs to stop.”

“Year after year, we have heard about a fundamental set of problems with how government agencies keep track of deceased individuals,” said Senator Carper.  “This legislation would take a number of common-sense steps to fix those problems and, in return, curb hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, in improper payments to people who are ineligible for federal benefits because they are dead.  Simply put, we need to sharpen our pencils and stop making the kind of expensive, avoidable mistakes that lead to wasteful spending and make our agencies and programs vulnerable to fraud and abuse.  I look forward to working with Senators Kennedy, McCaskill and Peters, and our colleagues in the House and Senate to advance this bill and prevent improper payments to dead people in the future.”

Improper payments continue to increase each year despite previous efforts to reduce them.  Federal agencies spent $132 billion on improper payments in 2015 alone.  The Carper-Kennedy bill would give agencies that provide or administer federally funded benefit programs access to death information maintained by the Social Security Administration, among other improvements.

Key provisions in the bill include: 

  • Allowing Federal Agencies Access to the Complete Death Database. Under current law, only federal agencies that directly manage programs making beneficiary payments have access to complete death data.  The Act allows all appropriate federal agencies to have access to the complete death data for program integrity purposes, as well as other needs such as public safety and health.
  • Requiring Use of Death Data to Curb Improper Payments. The Act would require that federal agencies make appropriate use of the death data in order to curb improper payments.
  • Improving the Death Data. The legislation would establish procedures to ensure more accurate death data.  For example, the bill requires the SSA to screen for “extremely elderly” individuals.  This is in response to a 2015 Inspector General Report that identified 6.5 million individuals currently listed as being older than 112 years of age as still alive.

 

 

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