10.30.09

The Leahy Letter - October 30, 2009

Senator Patrick Leahy's Update from the Nation's Capital

Leahy Sharpens Focus
On Health Insurance Competition and Efficiency

As health insurance reform continues to dominate Congress' attention, Senator Leahy is continuing to sharpen the focus on two reform pillars: competition and contracting runaway costs in the current system. This week, Senator Leahy held a hearing in the Judiciary Committee about how best to combat health care fraud. Following the hearing, Senator Leahy and others introduced a bill to provide additional resources for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute health cost fraud.

Senator Leahy is also working to improve competition and consumer choice by eliminating the health insurance industry's exemption from federal antitrust laws. Senator Leahy will offer his Health Insurance Industry Antitrust Enforcement Act, to repeal the exemption and prohibit the worst forms of anticompetitive behavior, as an amendment to the Senate health insurance reform bill. Repealing this exemption and creating a public option will increase competition and result in more choices for consumers. Leahy introduced the bill in September and convened a hearing on the issue.

Visit the Vermont Voices on Health Insurance Reform page for up-to-date details on legislation before Congress and to learn about Senator Leahy's latest work on health insurance reform.

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Vermont Gains $69 Million
To Launch Smart Grid Technology

Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders, and Congressman Welch

Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch announced this week that Vermont will receive $68,928,650 in federal support to launch Vermont's Smart Grid technology. The money will go to a project designed to lower the burden of peak power demands on utilities, which will in turn lower prices for consumers. Vermont's success in winning this funding can be attributed to the collaboration between the Delegation and Governor Jim Douglas's administration and included a meeting the Delegation held earlier this month with Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu. To read more about the Smart Grid project or about energy legislation currently being considered by Congress, click here.

Above (left to right): Congressman Peter Welch, Senator Bernie Sanders, Secretary Chu, and Senator Leahy meet in Leahy's office on October 7.

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Leahy Doubles Down On Biologists' Efforts
To Solve Bat Disease Crisis

In a bill that won final approval last night, Senator Leahy secured $1.9 million in response to the outbreak of "white nose syndrome" in bats in Vermont and the Northeast. An estimated 400,000 bats have been killed in Vermont over the last two winters by the epidemic. Bats play a crucial role in crop pollination and controlling flying insect populations and Vermont has become an epicenter of the crisis. Click here to read more.

Hate Crimes Legislation Signed Into Law

On Wednesday, Senator Leahy attended a signing ceremony at the White House for the National Defense Authorization Act, which included the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Senator Leahy successfully negotiated bipartisan agreements to ensure the inclusion of the hate crimes measure, which was a long-time priority of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, as an amendment to the defense bill. Click here to read more about how this bipartisan legislation will broaden federal hate crimes law to include crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

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Leahy Wins Renewal
Of Foreign Investors Program,
Harnessed For 100s Of Vermont Jobs

This week the President signed into law the 2010 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act conference report which included a three-year extension of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center pilot program. Since the program's establishment in 1993, Senator Leahy has been a champion for the program, which is responsible for the creation of tens of thousands of jobs and more than a billion dollars of capital investment in states and communities across the country. You can read more about how this program will continue to bring more jobs to Vermont and help Vermont's businesses by clicking here.

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News You Can Use

On October 21, the Defense Department announced plans to provide Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay ($500 per month) to service members who had their enlistment extended or retirement suspended due to Stop Loss between September 11, 2001 and September 30, 2009. Those eligible have from now until October 21, 2010, to submit applications to their respective services:

Air Force: http://www.afpc.randolph.af.mil/stoploss
Army: https://www.stoplosspay.army.mil
Marine Corps: https://www.manpower.usmc.mil/stoploss
Navy: Send email to NXAG_N132C@navy.mil

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Lilly Ledbetter Keynotes
13th Annual Economic Women's Conference

Senator Leahy speaks at 13th Annual Economic Women's Conference

Above: Senator Leahy introduces Lilly Ledbetter at his 13th Annual Women's Economic Opportunity Conference at Vermont Technical College in Randolph. Ledbetter was the inspiration for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act which will help workers hurt by blatant pay discrimination.