The Leahy Letter -- March 2, 2011
Senator Leahy: Cut Tax Breaks For Oil Giants
...Not Heating Aid For Struggling Households
On February 14, Senator Leahy joined Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch at the Champlain Senior Center in Burlington to discuss the significance of proposed funding cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Congressional Delegation stands opposed to the cuts proposed by President Obama in his budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2012.
The Northeast-Midwest Coalition -- a study group in Congress -- confirmed that Vermont would lose half of its LIHEAP funds under a cut as large as the one proposed by the White House.
Senator Leahy said, "Heat in the winter is not a consumer choice. Heating is a basic necessity."
He outlined a set of priorities he feels are more in line with the needs and wishes of the American people. "Instead of slashing heating cost help for low-income Americans, let’s end the tax breaks for big oil companies. Lavishing these giant corporations with incentives they don’t need simply deepens our deficit and our dependence on dirty fossil fuels. Our focus instead should be on 21st Century clean energy that powers a jobs boom and cuts down energy costs for middle-class families. Heating help for struggling families, or continuing the counterproductive tax breaks for the big oil companies? The question answers itself."
Senate Begins Debate On Senator Leahy's America Invents Act
...Jobs For The 21st Century
This week the Senate began debate on the America Invents Act, bipartisan legislation authored by Senator Leahy. American innovation has a long and rich history, and the U.S. patent system has played a key role in American inventiveness. This is particularly true in Vermont, which has the highest number of patents per capita and where the first ever patent issued was to Samuel Hopkins of Pittsfield.
Senator Leahy has laid the groundwork for the bipartisan bill with six years of hearings, drafting and negotiations. The current patent system has not been updated in nearly 60 years. Senator Leahy recognizes that for Vermont and the United States to remain competitive in the 21st Century global economy, patent laws must be modernized. Senator Leahy is also managing the debate on the patent reform bill which was unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee.
By improving patent quality, reducing litigation expenses, and creating a clearer and more streamlined system, the Leahy reforms will create jobs and ensure that Vermonters and all Americans can continue in the tradition of Samuel Hopkins well into the 21st Century.
For more information on the Patent Reform Act, please click here.
Senator Leahy On Egypt's Revolution
As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, Senator Leahy has closely watched the unfolding situation in Egypt and the mideast, as protestors have taken to the streets to demand freedom and reforms. On the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, Senator Leahy said:
"President Mubarak's departure is an extraordinary, epochal event. After waiting for decades, with many having known nothing but repression and a stagnant economy, the Egyptian people have come together to reclaim their government. We have seen their courage, their perseverance, and the peaceful way they have pursued their aspirations for their country.
"Egypt's military is in charge now. It has the ability and the responsibility to support a process that honors the Egyptian people's yearnings for liberty and opportunity. That will require a credible and transparent transition to the freedom and open society values voiced by the protestors.
"If the military violates the public's trust, and seeks to preserve a system of institutionalized repression and corruption, it would be a blow to our relations with Egypt and may put at risk our longstanding assistance. If the military defends the popular will, it will earn its rightful place in history."
Vermont Center For Emerging Technologies
To Move Into Former Addison County Courthouse
The Vermont Center For Emerging Technologies (VCET) will set up new office space in the former Addison County Courthouse, currently owned by Middlebury College. VCET, which opened in 2005, was formed largely under the direction of Senator Leahy, who secured federal funding to help launch VCET and continues to take an active interest in the Center's work.
VCET's primary objective is to encourage the development of high-tech businesses in Vermont by providing administrative and financial support to viable startups. The Center's move to the space in Middlebury reflects its growth in the past five years. VCET now uses a space on the campus of the University of Vermont and has been scouting for additional office space since this past December, when it sold a property in Colchester to the state for use as a health lab.
On VCET's move to the Courthouse, Senator Leahy said, "Middlebury has been a leader in fostering entrepreneurship in Vermont, and the agreement with VCET forges a partnership that will build new businesses and create new jobs for Vermonters. I commend the college for having the vision and commitment to spur future economic development in Addison County and Vermont."
Senator Leahy Supports Ending Term Limits
On Guaranteed Farm Loans
As the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Senator Leahy last week joined in proposing a bill to eliminate term limits on guaranteed loans from the Farm Service Agency to many borrowers across the nation. The bill will help more farmers and ranchers receive the help they need to maintain their farms and continue to support and expand their operations.
The Farm Service Agency provides much-needed financial support to America's farmers and ranchers through direct loans and loan guarantees. The 1996 Farm Bill set term limits on these loans, restricting the number of years an individual or operation could receive financial assistance. Several subsequent bills waived the implementation of this term limit to give flexibility to struggling or growing farms. Congress waived the term limit again in 2008 but this latest waiver expired this past December. As a result of this expiration, more than 4000 borrowers became ineligible for loan guarantees and financial help.
Senator Leahy is concerned that the return of the term limits already is hurting many American farm families. "Thousands of American farmers have lost their financial stability because of these term limits, and many more will become ineligible this year if Congress does not act soon. I am committed to working with senators on both sides of the aisle to make sure that this common sense provision, which has no impact on spending, goes into effect so farmers can count on it."
Senate Judiciary Committee Takes Up Leahy-Authored Bill
To Revise And Extend PATRIOT Act Tools
On February 17, the Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting began debate and amendments -- "markup" -- of legislation by Senator Leahy, the panel's Chairman, to extend expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. The USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2011 would increase oversight, promote transparency, and expand privacy and civil liberties safeguards in current law. The bill adds a new "sunset" -- requirement for periodic review and renewal -- for National Security Letters, and extends through 2013 the sunsets of the roving wiretaps provision, "lone wolf" measure, and Section 215 orders for tangible items, commonly referred to as the "library records" provision.
The bill mirrors a bipartisan agreement reached last Congress to extend the expiring intelligence-gathering authorities, which was backed by the Obama administration.
At last Thursday's business meeting, the committee adopted an amendment by Senator Leahy to extend the deadline of independent audits for surveillance tools. He also introduced an amendment to raise the standard for obtaining records using Section 215 orders. The Judiciary Committee will continue consideration of the bill at its next business meeting on March 3.
Senator Leahy Renews Efforts
To Boost Penalties For Environmental Crimes
Senator Leahy has reintroduced the Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act (ECEA) to hold accountable big oil and other corporations whose actions damage the environment. The bill will strengthen penalties for those companies and protect victims of environmental crime. Senator Leahy first introduced the Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act after last year's explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
More information on Senator Leahy's Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act can be found here.
Vermont's Delegation Score Perfect 100s
On Leading Environmental Scorecard
On February 17, the League of Conservation Voters, a leading environmental advocacy group, released their National Environmental Scorecard for 2010. Senator Leahy was one of 24 senators to score a perfect 100 percent for his efforts to promote a national transition to clean sources of energy, crackdown on pollution and those that spread it, and protect the nation's natural places.
The scores given to members of the Senate and House are based on six different votes on relevant issues. With Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch also garnering perfect scores, the Vermont Delegation's trifecta was the only 'solid green' achieved by any state.
To view the full League of Conservation Voters scorecard for 2010, click here.
Senator Leahy Launches Facebook and Twitter Pages
On February 10, Senator Leahy launched his Government Official Facebook page and simultaneously joined the world of Twitter. Leahy lauds the value of the Internet in improving access to information and communication among people. He believes that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have added further value to Internet communication by encouraging and facilitating discussion of timely and important issues.
News You Can Use: Vermont Regional Passport Office
Opens In St. Albans
Since June 2009, all U.S. citizens have been required to provide a U.S. passport, U.S. passport card or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-acceptable document when traveling through land and sea border points from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The demand for U.S. passports and passport cards has been at historic highs over the past several years and is expected to remain strong.
Last month, with funds secured by Senator Leahy,the State Department opened a new Regional Passport Office on Main Street in St. Albans. With the opening of this facility, Vermont joins the ranks of fewer than two dozen other states with such passport offices.
In its first year, the Vermont Passport Agency will issue U.S. passport books and passport cards on-site to qualifying customers who plan to travel within 14 days or who have life or death emergencies. The State Department projects that the Vermont Passport Agency will issue 15,000 passports, including 2,500 customers served at its public counters.
For more information on the Vermont Passport Agency, or to arrange an appointment click here.
If you have questions or need assistance with the Vermont Passport Agency, please contact Senator Leahy's Burlington office at 802-863-2525 or email Senator Leahy at Senator_Leahy@leahy.senate.gov.
News You Can Use: IRS Free File Program
Now Available To 100 Million Americans
The Internal Revenue Service is making it easier than ever to complete federal tax forms online. The Free File Program makes some of the most highly regarded tax preparation software available to taxpayers who earned less than $58,000 in 2010.
Through the Free File program, taxpayers can prepare and file their federal taxes online at no cost. This public-private partnership is especially timely, as the IRS did not mail paper forms to individual taxpayers this year.
For more information, or to begin the process of filing your taxes through the Free File Program, please click here.
Press ContactDavid Carle: 202-224-3693
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