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WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today joined Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and fellow lawmakers in reintroducing bipartisan legislation to improve underserved states’ ability to successfully compete for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards.

“States like Louisiana use FAST grants to help small businesses succeed, but the program’s assistance is not reaching communities that rely on these resources to spark innovation. The FAST Fix Act would prioritize applicants in historically underserved areas in Louisiana and elsewhere. I’m proud to partner with Sen. Risch to see this through,” said Kennedy.

“The FAST Partnership Program is not sufficiently focused to reach the underserved states it’s intended to benefit. The FAST Fix Act will make commonsense changes to the program application process to ensure research and development grants reach states like Idaho to galvanize our continued growth and success,” said Risch.

The FAST Fix Act would reform the Small Business Administration’s Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program to encourage federal research and development grants to be awarded to small businesses and universities in states that have historically lacked SBIR and STTR awards. This bill would encourage more awards to commercialize ideas, compete in the global marketplace and create local jobs.

Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) also co-sponsored the legislation.  

Background: The FAST Partnership Program provides one-year funding to organizations to develop SBIR/STTR outreach and training programs to help facilitate more awards in their state. Special consideration is intended for entities in states that have historically lacked awards. But under the one-size-fits-all application process, the federal government gives equal consideration to all applicants for the FAST program, regardless of their SBIR/STTR award history. As a result, the program is not penetrating the very states it is intended to serve.

The FAST Fix Act would increase competition for FAST grants in each state and give priority to applicants located in historically underperforming states to ensure more SBIR/STTR awards are distributed to underserved areas.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today reintroduced the Continuing Coverage for Preexisting Conditions Act to keep in place legal protections for people with preexisting medical conditions. 

“Americans deserve affordable and effective health care, not bureaucratic rationing. Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides on Obamacare, my bill would allow Americans with preexisting health conditions to keep their coverage. As Democrats push to socialize medicine, I won’t stop defending Americans’ right to choose and retain their private health insurance,” said Kennedy. 

The Supreme Court continues to consider arguments about the constitutionality of Obamacare, and Democrats blocked Republican-led efforts to protect Americans with preexisting conditions at least five times in the 116thCongress. This legislation would ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions keep their coverage even if the court rules that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. The bill would also protect individuals who receive private coverage through the health insurance exchanges that Obamacare established.  

The bill text is available here

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $19,623,422 from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide relief for destruction caused by Hurricane Laura. 

“Hurricane Laura devastated our state, damaging tens of thousands of homes and causing billions of dollars of damage. These funds will help get our state back on its feet and provide much-needed help to those who suffered.”

The funds were a result of a cost share adjustment, and were awarded for the following purposes:

  • $10,156,500 for debris removal to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury
  • $3,842,204.50 for Emergency Protective Measures to the Jefferson Davis Electric Cooperative
  • $2,833,659 for debris removal to the City of Sulphur
  • $1,669,785.80 for Emergency Protective Measures to the Louisiana Department of Military
  • $1,121,273.44 for debris removal in Beauregard Parish

MADISONVILLE, La. – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $35,432,883 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the form of a Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG) and Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG).

“The coronavirus pandemic has closed schools, shuttered businesses and given many Louisianians a hard road to walk. As we help our neighbors struggling with depression and other mental health or substance abuse challenges, it’s good to see this $35 million invested in making communities healthier. No one in Louisiana should feel they have to face their trials alone,” said Kennedy. 

The MHBG grant totals $11,975,406. These funds will help offer community-based mental health services to individuals struggling with mental illness.

Another $23,457,477 has been allocated through the SABG. This grant will aid communities in enacting substance abuse prevention and treatment activities.

Watch Kennedy’s comments here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action and Federal Rights, made opening comments during the subcommittee hearing examining the relationship among amicus briefs, freedom of speech and association and transparency. Key comments include:

  • “We're here today to look at the connection of money in our federal judiciary. The debate over money in politics is not new, but I think the partisan, I'll call it bickering, in Congress over the Supreme Court and other federal benches has almost reached a fever pitch. During the last administration, I personally witnessed an unprecedented—unprecedented—level of vitriol leveled at Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Their confirmation proceedings at times became circuses without a tent.”
  • “Other nominees for federal judgeships have also been targeted, and nominees have been targeted for their personal beliefs, including their belief with respect to human life and when it begins. I hope that in this Congress we can do better, and I mean that sincerely. 
  • “Our First Amendment has to be honored, and that's something that I hope we can talk about today. People have a right in America to express their opinion. You're not free if you can't say what you think. You're just not.” 
  • “ . . . we do live in a cancel culture, and I think we do need to be careful that you can technically say someone has a First Amendment right, but—if they're canceled for exercising it—they really don't.” 

Video of Kennedy’s statement is available here, and video of his questioning witnesses is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today introduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act to allow news publishers, including the struggling newspaper industry, to collectively negotiate with digital platforms such as Google and Facebook.

“Newspapers are locked in a life-or-death struggle with tech giants like Google and Facebook, and it’s not a fair fight. Local papers have continued to deliver news despite declines in circulation, but readers are losing out at as their options for news coverage evaporate. This bill will support the independence of local papers by giving news publishers the power to collectively negotiate with digital platforms like Google and Facebook. Google and Facebook aren’t just companies—they’re countries, and we can’t tolerate tech giants’ strangling their print news competitors,” said Kennedy.

“We must enable news organizations to negotiate on a level playing field with the big tech companies if we want to preserve a strong and independent press. This bipartisan legislation will improve the quality of reporting and ensure that journalists are able to continue their critical work. Our media outlets need a fighting chance when negotiating for fair treatment by the digital platforms where so many Americans consume their news,” said Klobuchar.

At issue is whether the playing field for delivering news content is uneven. The majority of Americans now get their news from Google or Facebook, which control most digital advertising revenue. These companies ultimately decide what their users read—whether the content is clickbait, political commentary or quality news stories. 

This legislation will empower news publishers to compete more fairly by granting them immunity from federal and state antitrust laws for 48 months while they negotiate together with digital platforms. 

The bill text is available here.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joined Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and fellow senators in introducing the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which protects child welfare providers from being discriminated against for acting in accordance with their deeply held religious beliefs.

“Faith-based child welfare providers are an essential part of caring for some of the most vulnerable children in our communities. I’m deeply saddened to see some government officials punish foster services for their sincere religious beliefs. That discrimination comes directly at the expense of boys and girls who are waiting for loving, healthy homes. No government agency that discriminates against people based on their faith—which goes against the interests of foster children—deserves taxpayer dollars,” said Kennedy.  

“In South Carolina and across the country, faith-based foster care providers support the 400,000 children in our foster care system who—through no fault of their own—have nowhere else to go. At a time when religious freedoms are under assault, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act is a necessary protection for those who are living according to their convictions. I am grateful my colleagues are standing with me to protect this most fundamental right,” said Scott.

The bill prohibits federal, state and local government agencies that receive federal adoption assistance funding from discriminating against child welfare service providers based on the providers’ unwillingness to take action contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.

This would include all agencies that receive funding under Part B (Child and Family Services) or Part E (Federal Payments for Foster Care, Prevention and Permanency) of Title IV of the Social Security Act.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), James Risch (R-Idaho), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) also co-sponsored the legislation.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Heritage Action and Family Research Council support the bill.

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) introduced companion legislation in the House. 

WASHINGTON – Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) and fellow lawmakers today reintroduced the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2021 to permanently repeal the federal estate tax, commonly known as the “death tax.” The Death Tax Repeal Act would finally end a punitive tax that has the potential to hit family-run farms, ranches and businesses upon the owner’s death.

“The death tax is lethal to many family-run businesses and farms. Louisianians shouldn’t lose a legacy of family work to a punishing, illogical tax burden. By ending the death tax, we can make it easier for families to pass their farms and businesses to the next generation,” said Kennedy.  

“I’ve fought hard to repeal the onerous and unfair death tax since I came to Washington, including by leading the effort in 2017 to protect more farm and ranch families from it. Family-owned farms and ranches, like those in South Dakota, can bear the brunt of this tax, which oftentimes makes it difficult and costly to pass these businesses down to future generations. Agriculture is our state’s top industry, which is why I remain committed to removing roadblocks for these family businesses, and we can start by repealing the death tax once and for all,” said Thune.

Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (F-Fla.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) also co-sponsored the legislation.

This bill is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, National Federation of Independent Business, National Association of Manufacturers, Family Business Coalition, Family Business Estate Tax Coalition, Policy and Taxation Group, Associated General Contractors of America, National Taxpayers Union and many others.

Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced $3,826,928 from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for acquisition and elevation projects in Denham Springs, La. and Iberia Parish.

“This is great news for the city of Denham Springs and Iberia Parish, which have been struck by floods far too often. I look forward to seeing these elevation projects completed and these communities one step closer to flood recovery and damage prevention,” said Kennedy.  

In Denham Springs, this grant will elevate 10 buildings to a foot above base flood elevation. FEMA is funding 86% of this project, as the agency prioritizes flood mitigation.

A FEMA grant will also fund the elevation of 15 structures in Iberia Parish, covering 83% of the cost of the project.

Kennedy is a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which has jurisdiction over the National Flood Insurance Program.

WASHINGTON – The Senate voted today on Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) amendment to ensure that Small Business Administration (SBA) assistance cannot go to individuals found guilty of felony rioting within the last 15 years. Senate Democrats voted against the measure, blocking it by a vote of 48-50.

“Without order, there can be no justice. We shouldn’t be taking resources away from hardworking small business owners and giving those taxpayer dollars to criminals who have been duly convicted of felony rioting. Free speech is as American as baseball, but violence as a part of protest is illegal in our country,” said Kennedy.

By mid-April of 2020, lockdowns and capacity restrictions had either temporarily or permanently reduced the number of small businesses in operation by 44 percent.

Violent protests and riots then further damaged small businesses already struggling under the pandemic. One in 20 U.S. protests between May 26 and Sept. 5 involved rioting, looting and similar violence, resulting in 47 fatalities. During the summer of 2020, riots caused over $1 billion in damage to cities across the country, making that time the most expensive period of riots in America’s history.

Under the Trump Administration, individuals who have been arrested or convicted of a felony in the last year, or were convicted of financial assistance fraud in the last five years, were deemed ineligible for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

The Biden Administration discontinued this safeguard so that individuals with prior non-fraud felony convictions are now able to access PPP funds.

Kennedy’s amendment would prohibit the SBA from providing assistance such as PPP, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and other small business assistance to anyone who has been convicted of a felony during or in connection with a riot or civil disorder that occurred during the past 15 years.