The Leahy Letter -- November 2011

Vermont’s ‘Job One’ After Irene –
Help To Repair And Rebuild Damaged Roads, Bridges And Rail Lines --
Crosses The Finish Line

As the second-most-senior member of the Appropriations Committee and a senior member of its Transportation subcommittee, Senator Leahy led in securing funding and key cost-waivers that are Vermont’s top priority in Congress in recovering from Tropical Storm Irene.  President Obama signed the bill that includes this emergency help on Nov. 18.

These cost-waivers will mean tens of millions of additional dollars for road and bridge repair in Vermont.

Senator Leahy said Vermont’s victory was hard-won.  “Back in September some thought this day would never come.  The feeling was that a Congress that’s stuck in the slow gear with the brakes on couldn’t or wouldn’t get it done.  But this bill has been Job One for Vermont ever since Irene, and we wouldn’t take any answer but yes.  On the Appropriations Committee I pressed the importance of this funding and these Vermont waivers.  We got it passed and kept the ball rolling steadily forward.”

He added, “We want to get Irene way, way behind us, and this bill will bring that day closer.  We face many challenges after Irene, but the damage to our roads, bridges and rail lines is the biggest challenge.  Repairing our transportation network is the key to restoring Vermont.  We need these emergency funds and these cost waivers because our small state would be stretched too thin to do all of this alone.”

The bill includes $1.662 billion to replenish the Federal Highway Disaster Relief fund, as well as cost-waiver provisions Senator Leahy secured that will allow Vermont to be reimbursed for more than the current $100 million per-state limit on federal emergency highway repair funds and to be reimbursed 100 percent for emergency repairs beyond the current limit of 180 days. These waivers are crucial as Vermont works to recover as Vermont’s repair costs are expected to exceed the $100 million cap.

National Historic Preservation Award
Given To Vermont And Senator Leahy
For 25-Town ‘Village Revitalization Initiative’

Senator Leahy accepts the Chairman's Award from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for his work to develop the Villiage Revitalization Initiative. From left to right above, Yolanda Chavez of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Paul Bruhn, Executive Director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont; Ann Cousins of the Preservation Trust of Vermont; Senator Leahy and his wife Marcelle; and Milford Donaldson, Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has recognized the Village Revitalization Initiative, a cooperative project among Senator Leahy, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with their prestigious Chairman’s Award for Achievement in Historic Preservation.

The Village Revitalization Initiative is a dynamic partnership funded by the HUD Economic Development Initiative Special Projects Congressional Grants and administered by the Preservation Trust of Vermont, headed by Paul Bruhn. In its first six years, the Initiative has supported 27 projects in 25 different communities in Vermont. An infusion of $2,435,200 in federal funds has bolstered more than $27 million in total project investments.

The Initiative uses targeted federal grants secured by Leahy to leverage a series of village-scaled projects across the state. The small size and scope of many individual projects in Vermont was once a stumbling block for gaining federal funding; grouping the projects into aggregate applications for grant money allows for larger allotments to be disbursed.

Leahy said, “This initiative proves again that historic preservation is not a cost for saving the past, but a wise investment in the future. Vermonters are respectful stewards of our state’s rich heritage. Cookie-cutter solutions are not the Vermont way.”


Sharpening The Focus And Support For Local Farms, Local Food And Local Jobs

Senator Leahy has joined in introducing new legislation to support farmers – a plan that seeks to meet changing production, aggregation, marketing and distribution needs. The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act would reform existing policies to improve the production capacity and profitability of Vermont’s farmers.

The bill would improve crop insurance for small and diversified family farms, invest in vital infrastructure to enable farmers and food businesses to aggregate, and it would support organic farming.

The bill would also remove barriers to institutional purchasing to bring Vermont farms into closer contact with schools, hospitals and other businesses. The overall effects of the bill would be to bring farmers and consumers closer together by condensing local supply chains. This would mean that more of the consumer’s dollar would stay on the farm where it can be reinvested in local jobs and supplies, helping local economies.

Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, said, “Americans want to be able to buy healthy and fresh foods that have not traveled halfway across the country or the globe. This bill leads us in a new direction for farm policy, making it easier for consumers and farmers to partner in local food systems.”

Senator Leahy Leads Committee To Approve Landmark DOMA Repeal

Senator Leahy speaks at a news conference following the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on the Respect for Marriage Act. From left to right, Senator Leahy was joined by Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut, Senator Coons of Delaware, and Senator Feinstein of California.

Another historic step forward on ensuring equality for all Americans was taken on November 10, when Senator Leahy led efforts to advance legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal DOMA and restore equality for all lawfully married couples.  Senator Leahy is a leading cosponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act.

In July, Senator Leahy chaired the first-ever congressional hearing examining effects of DOMA on the lives of American families. Witnesses, including Vermonter Susan Murray, testified about the significant economic harm and disadvantages caused by DOMA, which prevents equal access for same-sex couples to the federal protections afforded to every other lawfully married couple.

Under DOMA, same-sex married couples cannot file joint income taxes or use many of the same tax deductions other married couples enjoy.  Under DOMA, same-sex couples also do not have the benefits afforded under the Family and Medical Leave Act if a loved one falls seriously ill, nor can they obtain the protections of the estate tax if a spouse passes and leaves his or her possession to another.

At the November 10 voting session, Senator Leahy said, “The federal government should not deny recognition and protection to the thousands of Americans who are lawfully married under their state law. We must repeal DOMA to ensure the freedom and equality of all of our citizens.” 


Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693