The Leahy Letter -- January 26, 2011

Senator Leahy Responds To The State Of The Union

(Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Senator Leahy walks with Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama following the State of the Union

Yesterday, President Obama delivered his second State of the Union address outlining a plan to 'win the future' through investments in innovation, education, infrastructure, and responsible government. Senator Leahy was a member of the President's bipartisan escort committee and sat amongst his colleagues from both parties to listen to the President's remarks. Following the speech, Senator Leahy said, "The President set forth wise priorities with a proper sense of urgency. He also helped heal the nation with his deeply moving call for civility and respectful debate. Mindless political point-scoring, demonizing and ‘my way or no way’ obstructionism are ‘luxuries’ the American people can no longer afford, let alone stomach."

To read Senator Leahy's full reaction to the State of the Union address, please click here.

Senator Leahy Champions
Truck Weight Exemption For Vermont

John Mitchell and Bryan Cairns of Champlain Oil Company show Senator Leahy a six axle tractor trailer used during the now-expired pilot program.

Senator Leahy joined with Senator Susan Collins of Maine yesterday in introducing a bill to exempt Vermont and Maine from federal truck weight restrictions on their interstate highways. Senators Leahy and Collins partnered on the Appropriations Committee to create a one-year pilot program allowing heavier trucks on interstates in Vermont and Maine for a single year and studying the impact of their program on safety, infrastructure durability, and energy use, among other relevant issues. Senator Leahy has heard from many Vermont truckers, business owners, and state and town officials who support extending the pilot program because of the economic and safety benefits they saw when the trucks were on the interstates. The program expired in December, and legislation by Senators Leahy and Collins was derailed when an overall budget bill was blocked from receiving a vote.

Senator Leahy points out that lower interstate truck weights in Vermont and Maine not only burden communities  but also put the two states at a competitive disadvantage. “The higher truck weight standards in surrounding states create problems in Vermont when those trucks have to detour through our small towns on local roads,” said Leahy.  “The hodge podge of disjointed rules that has evolved in our region does not work for anyone, especially the communities that have had to absorb the added traffic.  By now, neighbors like New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Quebec all have permanent exemptions from federal Interstate weight limits.  That means heavier trucks must travel over our smaller roadways, creating traffic and safety concerns and taking a toll on our already overburdened roads and bridges.  The Vermont pilot program has proved itself, and it’s time to make it permanent.” The new bipartisan bill proposed by Senators Leahy and Collins will permanently allow Vermont and Maine to set the appropriate weight limits on their interstate highways in the future and avoid the safety concerns associated with heavy truck traffic rumbling through Vermont's downtowns.

Senator Leahy Joins State Leaders
In Supporting State Innovation In Health Reform

Last week Senator Leahy joined Governor Peter Shumlin, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch  at the Vermont Statehouse to announce the introduction of federal legislation giving states more flexibility to implement their own health care reforms. The Vermont Legislature recently heard Dr. Hsiao's report which provided a detailed examination of the health care system in Vermont and outlined possible proposals aimed to improve this system by lowering costs and expanding coverage. The Vermont Congressional Delegation's new State Leadership in Healthcare Act -- a Sanders-Leahy bill in the Senate and a Welch bill in the House -- would allow Vermont and other states to collect federal funding to implement health reform in their own way beginning in 2014, instead of waiting until 2017, as the new health care reform law currently allows. The federal legislation would allow Vermont and other states the choice to go above and beyond what the federal health care law does by devising their own reforms. To read more about this event click here.

Senator Leahy Offers Highlights
Of Judiciary Committee Agenda For The 112th Congress

On Tuesday, January 11, Senator Leahy delivered remarks at the Newseum in downtown Washington, DC, highlighting key priorities for the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 112th Congress. In the wake of the tragedy in Tucson, Senator Leahy in his speech also urged greater civility in public discourse.

Among the items at the top of Senator Leahy's to-do list for the Judiciary Committee are strengthening resources for law enforcement to protect American taxpayers from fraud; protecting Americans' security while also protecting their privacy; updating laws related to electronic communications and law enforcement; and safe guarding American intellectual property by updating the nation's patent laws and countering online infringement. To read Senator Leahy's remarks in full, please click here.

The first Judiciary Committee hearing of the new Congress, this morning, highlighted how Senator Leahy's Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act has helped the government recover billions of taxpayer dollars, and looked ahead to what further improvements can be made to existing law to counter fraud. Senator Leahy, along with Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, introduced the Patent Reform Act of 2011, legislation that will create and protect American jobs without adding to the nation's deficit. For more information on the Patent Reform Act of 2011, please click here.

Senator Leahy Praises Governor Shumlin's Support
of the EB-5 Regional Center Program

Senator Leahy recently praised Governor Shumlin for including the EB-5 Regional Center Program in his jobs plan for Vermont. The Regional Center Program is a Federal immigration program that facilitates immigration through investment. In return for permanent residency in the United States, and in addition to many exacting requirements, a foreign investor must not only invest a substantial amount of capital in an American enterprise, but must also demonstrate that the investment created 10 American jobs. The State of Vermont is the only designated regional center in the United States that is administered by the state government.

Foreign investment in Vermont through the Regional Center Program has led to millions in capital investment in Vermont projects, and has created hundreds of jobs for Vermonters. The Program has the potential to fund new and diverse projects going forward to bolster Vermont's economy. Senator Leahy has championed this program in the Senate, partnering with Vermont to make the state a national leader in creating jobs with the program. Strong oversight and solid business practices have helped this program flourish in Vermont, and Senator Leahy looks forward to working with Governor Shumlin to support Vermont's entrepreneurs who seek capital investment through the Program.

Vermont Delegation Honors Service Academy Nominees

On January 2, the Vermont congressional delegation welcomed nominees to the nation's Service Academies to the Statehouse for a celebration of their significant achievements. Senator Leahy, joined by Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch, visited with the Vermont high school students and their families and commended them for their interest in and commitment to a career of national service.

This year, the delegation nominated 29 students for appointments to the Academies. For a complete list of this year's nominees, please click here. Vermonters nominated by members of the delegation include applicants to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Congressional nominations are required for applicants to the prestigious academy programs. Students offered appointments will receive full scholarships and can graduate as commissioned officers in the military.

Vermonters interested in pursuing Service Academy nominations can find more information here .

TRICARE Dependent Coverage Extension
Provides Protection To Military Families

Children and dependents who are under 26 and are not eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance will now receive extended coverage under the TRICARE military health insurance program. Senator Leahy was an original cosponsor of S. 3201, a stand-alone bill mandating this additional protection for military families. The provisions of the bill were included and adopted in the recently signed 2011 National Defense Authorization Act. Now military families and their dependent children will receive the same health insurance protections as those accorded by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to civilian families covered by private insurers. This extension of TRICARE benefits will be retroactive to January 1, 2011. For more information about how this change to TRICARE may affect you and your family, click here.

Senator Leahy Sworn In For A Seventh Term

(Photo: Ron Sachs) Senator Leahy, accompanied by his wife Marcelle, is sworn in by Vice President Biden in a re-enactment ceremony.

On January 5, Senator Leahy was sworn in as a member of the new Congress. Vice President Biden officiated over the swearing in ceremony which took place in the Senate Chamber. Senator Leahy is Vermont's senior Senator and the longest-serving member of Congress from Vermont.  To read more about Senator Leahy's work in the Senate, click here.

News You Can Use: New Drug Free Communities
Support Program Funding Available

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recently announced the availability of new Drug Free Communities (DFC) Support Program funding. Community-based coalitions that are focused on addressing youth substance use can apply for grant funding before March 18, 2011. To learn more about this grant program and funding opportunity please click here .

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693