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Mark Warner

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will hold its regular meeting Thursday, December 20th, 2018, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.

 

Career Opportunity

Guidance Counselor

Brunswick Academy, a Pre-School through 12th grade independent school, seek an experienced Guidance Counselor certified in Guidance or related area for grades 8-12.  Possession of a Master’s Degree in School Counseling, Guidance Counseling, or School Guidance and Counseling from an accredited college or university; possession of or eligible for a Virginia Department of Education professional teaching certificate with a guidance endorsement and at least 3 years experience in guidance or related field.

Job duties include but not limited to the following:

  • Provides academic, personal/social, and career counseling
  • Coordinates comprehensive school counseling program
  • Communicates with parents and agency representatives
  • Coordinates teacher and parent conferences as needed
  • Interprets test data and student records for parents and teachers
  • Scheduling of classes
  • Daily attendance
  • Engaged and on task
  • Performs other duties as required
  • Must have a thorough knowledge of the curriculum, instruction and counseling/guidance theory and practice
  • Communication skills, both oral and written, must be highly developed to meet the diverse needs of the clientele, professional staff and other community agencies
  • Must be able to organize and carry out student activity programs; or any equivalent combination of experience and training which would provide the required knowledge, skills, and abilities
     

Salary discussed during interview session.  Health insurance and 403(b) retirement program available.

Brunswick Academy is an equal opportunity employer and a drug free work place.  Brunswick Academy does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, national origin, race, religion, or sex in employment or education.  Applicants considered for employment must successfully complete the following background investigations/tests: • State Police Criminal History Investigation • Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigation • Tuberculosis Screening/Test.  This position is open until filled.

Please e-mail cover letter and resume to:

Brunswick Academy
Attn:  Kristine Thompson
Guidance Counselor
E-mail:  thompsonk@brunswickacademy.com

WARNER, KAINE BILL THAT AWARDS CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL TO FOUR AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN FOR THEIR WORK AT NASA LANGLEY PASSES SENATE

~ Bipartisan legislation will award Congressional Gold Medals to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden for their groundbreaking contributions ~

WASHINGTON – Today, bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) to award four African American women scientists the Congressional Gold Medal for their work at NASA Langley passed the U.S. Senate with unanimous support. The bill would give this distinction to Katherine Johnson and Dr. Christine Darden and posthumously award the medals to Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. It serves to commend these women for their contributions to NASA’s success during the Space Race and highlight their broader impact on society – paving the way for women, especially women of color, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives, where a companion bill has been introduced.

“These four remarkable women and their contributions to the success of the Space Race remained unacknowledged for far too long,” said the Senators. “We are thrilled that their achievements while at NASA Langley—particularly during a tough period of racial inequality—continue to be brought to light. This recognition will help carve their rightful place in history and inspire a new generation of diverse women to lead the way in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.”

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award in the U.S. It is awarded to those who have performed an achievement that has had an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized in the recipient’s field for years to come.

The Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act will honor:

  • Katherine Johnson, who calculated trajectories for multiple NASA space missions including the first human spaceflight by an American, Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission. She also calculated trajectories for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission to orbit the earth. During her time at NASA, she became the first woman recognized as an author of a report from the Flight Research Division.
  • Dorothy Vaughan, who led the West Area Computing unit for nine years, as the first African American supervisor at National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which later became NASA. She later became an expert programmer in FORTRAN as a part of NASA’s Analysis and Computation Division.
  • Mary Jackson, who petitioned the City of Hampton to allow her to take graduate-level courses in math and physics at night at the all-white Hampton High School in order to become an engineer at NASA. She was the first female African-American engineer at the agency. Later in her career, she worked to improve the prospects of NASA’s female mathematicians, engineers, and scientists as Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager.
  • Dr. Christine Darden, who became an engineer at NASA 16 years after Mary Jackson. She worked to revolutionize aeronautic design, wrote over 50 articles on aeronautics design, and became the first African-American person of any gender to be promoted into the Senior Executive Service at Langley.

The lives and careers of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Christine Darden were featured in the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly. That book was adapted into the 2016 film Hidden Figures, which the Senators showed at a Capitol Hill screening for hundreds of Virginia students last year. In addition, Sens. Warner & Kaine honored Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson by acknowledging their achievements in an official statement that was enshrined in the Congressional Record.

TRUMP SIGNS WARNER & KAINE PROVISIONS TO ADDRESS OPIOID CRISIS INTO LAW

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine celebrated key provisions from their bills to address the opioid crisis becoming law. The comprehensive substance abuse treatment bill, known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, was just signed into law by President Trump after it passed the Senate 98-2 and the House 393-8. The legislation includes four proposals from Warner that initially passed out of the Senate Finance Committee as part of the Helping to End Addiction and Lessen (HEAL) Substance Use Disorders Act of 2018 and three proposals from Kaine that passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee as part of the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018.

“This comprehensive legislation takes significant steps to stem the opioid epidemic that has devastated communities across the Commonwealth. By making necessary improvements to substance abuse treatment and recovery services, we can help save lives. That’s why I’m proud to report that this historic package includes several proposals that I championed to expand telehealth services to ensure more families get the addiction treatment they need,” said Warner.

“This bill is the product of a strong bipartisan effort to tackle the addiction crisis that is taking lives in Virginia and across the country. I’m proud the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act includes my proposals to help ensure job training is incorporated into recovery programs and that the kids who are hurt by this crisis get the resources they need. This comprehensive effort aiming to address prevention, treatment, and recovery is an important step toward solving the addiction crisis,” Kaine said.

Warner and Kaine have worked over the years to move legislation forward to combat the substance abuse epidemic, which in 2017 accounted for more than 72,000 deaths nationwide.The final bill included provisions from four Warner bills to:

  • Expand telehealth services for substance abuse treatment.
  • Make clear how Medicaid funds can be used for substance use disorder treatment through telehealth.
  • Help ensure children suffering from substance use disorders receive the assistance they need through telehealth services.
  • Improve data collection on substance use disorders among Medicaid recipients.

The final bill included proposals from three Kaine addiction treatment bills to:

  • Give states the resources and guidelines to ensure recovery homes are effectively helping residents sustain recovery from opioid and substance use disorders.
  • Incorporate job training into drug addiction recovery programs.
  • Afford schools the opportunity to apply for grants to directly offer trauma support services to students impacted by the opioid epidemic.

Last month, Warner and Kaine voted for a FY19 funding bill that increased funding to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support programs related to the opioid crisis, including an additional $3.8 billion for treatment, prevention and research.

Virginia Delegation Calls on President Trump to Issue Federal Emergency Declaration Ahead of Hurricane Florence

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Rob Wittman (VA-01), Scott Taylor (VA-02), Bobby Scott (VA-03), A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), Tom Garrett (VA-05), Bob Goodlatte (VA-06), Dave Brat (VA-07), Don Beyer (VA-08), Morgan Griffith (VA-09), Barbara Comstock (VA-10), and Gerry Connolly (VA-11), called on President Donald Trump to issue a federal emergency declaration ahead of Hurricane Florence, a tropical storm which was recently upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane and is expected to make landfall somewhere on the southeast or Mid-Atlantic coast Thursday night. Virginia’s congressional delegation wrote to the President in support of a request from Gov. Ralph Northam in advance of the storm’s potentially devastating effects on the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“The health and well-being of my constituents is my top concern, which is why I joined the entire congressional delegation of Virginia to call on President Trump to give full consideration to Governor Northam’s request to issue a federal emergency,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “If this storm continues as predicted, making federal resources available will help us achieve a speedy recovery.”

“A federal emergency declaration would ensure the full availability of federal resources to support the Commonwealth’s efforts to guarantee public safety and rapid recovery from the direct and indirect effects of Hurricane Florence. Thank you for your consideration of Governor Northam’s request. We look forward to working with you, FEMA, and other relevant federal agencies to ensure that the Commonwealth of Virginia has the resources available to ensure the safety of our constituents,” wrote the Virginia Congressional Delegation.

On September 8, 2018, Gov. Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia in preparation for Hurricane Florence, which is projected to have a significant impact on the Commonwealth in the coming days. It is increasingly likely that Virginia will face damaging winds, heavy rainfall, and potentially life-threating storm surge flooding. Many localities have already ordered mandatory evacuations to prevent potential physical harm or loss of life.

The full text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Mr. President:

We write today to express our support for Governor Ralph S. Northam’s request for a federal emergency declaration in advance of Hurricane Florence’s potentially devastating effects on the Commonwealth of Virginia.

As you may know, on September 8, 2018 Governor Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia in preparation for Hurricane Florence, which is projected to have a significant impact on the Commonwealth in the coming days. It is increasingly likely that Virginia will face damaging winds, heavy rainfall, and potentially life-threating storm surge flooding due to Hurricane Florence. Many localities have already ordered mandatory evacuations to prevent potential physical harm or loss of life.

Governor Northam’s emergency declaration ensures a fully coordinated state response to support local recovery efforts. The Commonwealth has activated the Virginia Evacuation Coordination Team for Operational Response to assess the storm’s potential effects and the Virginia Emergency Operations Center is already coordinating the state’s response with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

A federal emergency declaration would ensure the full availability of federal resources to support the Commonwealth’s efforts to guarantee public safety and rapid recovery from the direct and indirect effects of Hurricane Florence.

Thank you for your consideration of Governor Northam’s request. We look forward to working with you, FEMA, and other relevant federal agencies to ensure that the Commonwealth of Virginia has the resources available to ensure the safety of our constituents.

 

 

During U.S. Open, McEachin, Kaine, Capito, Warner, Scott Commemorate Arthur Ashe on 50th Anniversary of Historic Win

WASHINGTON – Congressmen A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Bobby Scott (VA-03) and U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, Shelley Moore Capito, and Mark Warner announced their plans introduce bicameral resolutions to commemorate Arthur Ashe, a Richmond, VA native, on the 50th anniversary of his historic win at the 1968 U.S. Open Tennis Championship. The resolution honors Ashe’s humanitarian contributions to civil rights, education, the movement against apartheid in South Africa, and HIV/AIDS awareness. The 2018 U.S. Open Tennis Championship is currently underway.

“I am so proud to introduce a House Resolution honoring the life, legacy, and leadership of the great Arthur Ashe,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “Ashe’s contributions to American history continue to make his fellow Richmonders proud – just as we were on the historic day 50 years ago.”

“Virginians will always be proud of what Arthur Ashe accomplished on and off the court,” Kaine said. “He set an example of how to be a leader, and 50 years after his historic win, he deserves this recognition.”

“As an avid tennis player, I’ve always been a fan of Arthur Ashe. Not only was he an incredible athlete, but he was also a great humanitarian and an advocate for many important causes. He built his legacy both on the court and through the many other efforts he championed around the world, and I’m excited to sponsor this resolution honoring that legacy,” Capito said.

“Although most remember Arthur Ashe as a fierce competitor on the tennis court, he was also an activist and an incredible force for racial and social justice,” said Warner. “This much deserved tribute honors him for using his platform to be a champion for all.”

“This bicameral resolution will further solidify the legacy of Arthur Ashe by honoring his legacy both on and off the court. As Virginians and Americans, we are inspired by his achievements,” said Scott.

Arthur Ashe was the first African-American man to win the singles title at the U.S. Open and to be ranked number one in the world. Click here for full text of the resolution.

WARNER & KAINE ANNOUNCE NEARLY $900,000 TO HELP HOMELESS VIRGINIA VETS RE-ENTER THE WORKFORCE

~ Federal funds will go to community programs in Henrico, Hampton Roads, and Roanoke ~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced that three Virginia organizations will receive $891,303 in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Labor to help homeless veterans re-enter the workforce.

The funds – in the form of three competitive Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) grants – include $227,263 for Total Action Against Poverty in Roanoke Valley, Inc.; $355,050 for STOP Inc., in Hampton Roads; and $308,990 for River City Comprehensive Counseling Services in Glen Allen, Va.

“Virginia’s veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to fight for our nation. Now, we need to fight for them and help ensure that they have the resources they need to succeed and thrive after completing their service,” said the Senators. “These grants will provide homeless veterans with counseling and a variety of career services in order to help them re-integrate into the workforce.”

HVRP funds are awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards; local public agencies and nonprofit organizations; tribal governments; and faith-based and community organizations. Homeless veterans may receive occupational skills training, apprenticeship opportunities, and on-the-job training, as well as job search and placement assistance. Grantees under the HVRP program will coordinate their efforts with other federal programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care program.

Sens. Warner and Kaine both have long records of advocating for the nation’s veterans through the appropriations process and legislation they have championed to reduce veteran homelessness, improve job training opportunities for veterans, and expand access to veterans’ health care.

WARNER & KAINE INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN RESOLUTION DEDICATING THE WEEK OF MAY 6 AS PUBLIC SERVICE RECOGNITION WEEK

~ Virginia is home to one of the highest concentrations of federal employees in the country ~ 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of Senators in honoring the critical work of federal, state, county, and local government employees and members of the uniformed services by passing a bipartisan resolution designating May 6-12, 2018 as Public Service Recognition Week. Virginia is home to one of the highest concentrations of federal employees in the country, with more than 170,000 individuals that are part of the federal workforce, along with more than 115,000 additional active duty and reserve military personnel.

“The Commonwealth’s servicemembers and civilian personnel alike are dedicated public servants who so often go above and beyond to ensure our country is operating safely and efficiently,” the Senators said. “We hope this small gesture will help highlight the important work that these exemplary federal employees do every day, often with little recognition, to improve the lives of Americans.”  

“Every day, our nation’s public servants devote themselves to serving their fellow citizens. They include local first responders, uniformed military serving in harm’s way, and federal employees protecting our borders, curing disease and maintaining the integrity of our financial markets,” said Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “However, the public seldom hears about their successes or the innovative ways in which they are improving service to the American people. This bipartisan resolution is a terrific expression of our thanks and appreciation.”

For over 30 years, Public Service Recognition Week has been hosted by the Public Employees Roundtable to help honor federal, state, county and local government employees who are critical to the day to day success of our communities and nation. This year marks the 34th anniversary of Public Service Recognition Week. Clickhere for more information about events and ways to celebrate Public Service Recognition Week.

Sens. Warner and Kaine were joined in cosponsoring the bipartisan Public Service Recognition Week Resolution by a group of 20 cosponsors, including U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), James Lankford (R-OK), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Angus King (I-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Gary Peters (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

VA, WV SENATORS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO RENAME DEPT OF AGRICULTURE AS ‘DEPT OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT’

~ Bipartisan legislation would recognize Department’s focus on increasing economic opportunities in rural communities ~

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced bipartisan legislation that would rename the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The change would accurately reflect theDepartment’s increasing focus on improving the quality of life of more than 45 million Americans living in rural areas. The Department already provides significant financial resources and technical assistance to rural communities in the form of loans, loan guarantees, and grants that help support economic development in these areas. Renaming the agency would help highlight its mission of providing rural communities with access to critical infrastructure, broadband, telecommunications connectivity, capital, healthcare, and other essential resources.

“President Lincoln called USDA ‘The People’s Department’ because, dating back to its founding in 1862, it has always been the primary government entity charged with boosting economic development in rural communities. But at the time of USDA’s creation, nearly half of all Americans lived on farms, compared to just 2 percent today,” said Sen. Warner. “This bipartisan bill would highlight the USDA’s ongoing efforts to help rural communities thrive and underscore that part of its mission is increasing economic opportunity in rural America.”

“USDA plays an instrumental role in improving the lives of millions of Americans living in rural areas—especially in states like West Virginia,” said Sen. Capito. “The department has provided West Virginians access to increased broadband connectivity, improved health services, and critical infrastructure, and remains an important partner in these and other efforts. Renaming USDA will make it possible to recognize the agency’s role in creating more economic opportunity in rural communities, as well as its increasing role in rural development.”

“Today, the Department of Agriculture does more than provide assistance to farmers, it provides residents in rural areas in West Virginia with financial and technical assistance to confront the challenges many areas currently face,” said Sen. Manchin. “That’s why I believe the Department should be renamed and known for the services it should be focusing on, such as improving access to critical infrastructure, broadband, telecommunications connectivity, capital, healthcare, and other essential resources. Last year, I co-chaired the Appalachia Initiative where I discussed ways to address the challenges the rural communities in West Virginia face. This legislation will help shine a light on the Department of Agriculture’s vital work to ensure rural America does not get left behind.”

“USDA plays a critical role in promoting infrastructure and economic development in rural America. Too many rural communities lack clean drinking water, reliable broadband internet, and adequate health and transportation resources,” said Sen. Kaine. “The rural development mission of USDA is just as important as its agriculture, food safety, and nutrition missions and should be reflected in its title.”

President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress in 1862 that established the United States Department of Agriculture. Currently, USDA is made up of 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees who serve the American people at more than 4,500 locations across the country and abroad. The Department is the federal agency in charge of meeting the needs of farmers and ranchers, promoting agricultural trade and production, working to assure food safety, protecting natural resources, fostering rural communities and ending hunger in the United States and internationally. In 2012, USDA commemorated its 150th anniversary.

“Rural communities are a key pillar of America, however, they are often challenged by geographic isolation and persistent poverty. For the residents of rural America that continue to feel left behind in today’s economy, The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Act of 2017 offers a renewed focus on the economic matters specific to their community. BPC Action hopes this step by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) will better focus federal efforts around conditions in rural America and produce pragmatic solutions such as those recommended by BPC’s Appalachia Initiative,” said Michele Stockwell, Executive Director of BPC Action.

“The National Cotton Council greatly appreciates the work and support of Sen. Warner to help address economic challenges facing the cotton industry and broader concerns in agriculture and across rural America.  We support the Senator’s efforts to highlight the critically important role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in providing rural development support and economic opportunities in our rural communities,” said Reece Langley, VP of Washington Operations of the National Cotton Council.

"America's turkey farmers appreciate Sen. Warner's support for the rural communities that supply our farm inputs and where many of the facilities that process the turkeys we raise are located. This effort to rename the Department of Agriculture "the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development" reinforces the importance of rural development in the mission of the Department and to rural communities. The National Turkey Federation thanks Sen. Warner for working to ensure the communities where our families, friends and neighbors work and go to school have access to the infrastructure and resources needed to thrive and grow" said Joel Brandenberger, President of the National Turkey Federation.  

“Historically, Rural Development programs have not been a priority within the Agriculture Department, regardless of political party in charge. We believe renaming the Department would elevate the Rural Development mission area and better reflect the importance of these programs for rural communities across the country,” said Robert A. Rapoza, Executive Secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition.

Sens. Warner and Manchin, along with Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), are co-chairs of the bipartisan Appalachia Initiative, a task force convened with the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) to find pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to Appalachia’s challenges. Last year, they released a report with a set of bipartisan recommendations to boost economic growth in Appalachia. Sens. Warner, Capito, and Manchin, along with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), have also introduced bipartisan legislation to expand economic opportunity in Appalachia.

The text of the bill can be found here.

WARNER, KAINE CALL FOR FEDERAL INVESTMENT IN LOCAL PUBLIC SAFETY AND COMMUNITY POLICING

~ Senators ask appropriators to fund federal program that helps local law enforcement bolster community policing ~

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of Senators in a letter to congressional appropriators requesting a minimum of $225.5 million in federal funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program to help local law enforcement bolster community policing efforts. While February’s bipartisan budget agreement established how much money should be provided for local law enforcement efforts, leaders of congressional appropriation committees are ultimately in charge of deciding how that funding is allocated. The Senators requested at least the same level of federal funding as was appropriated for COPS in the last fiscal year.

“The COPS Hiring program represents a fiscally responsible solution to ensure that our communities remain safe….When officers establish a presence on their patrols using community policing principles, they can develop positive relationships with the communities they serve.  In turn, these relationships increase law enforcement’s ability to solve local crimes and resolve public safety problems,” the Senators wrote.  “This program plays an essential role in our federal government’s support for local law enforcement and should therefore receive the highest possible level of funding.”

The COPS program was designed to advance public safety by addressing the full-time officer needs of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.  COPS provides funds directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new and/or rehire career law officers, and to increase crime prevention efforts.

Since its inception, the COPS program has been responsible for putting 129,000 additional police officers on the job in 13,000 local communities across the country, including 48 police officers in Virginia in the last five years alone.  

The program has deep support among major law enforcement organizations, including the National Association of Police Organizations, Fraternal Order of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.  

Other Senators joining Sens. Warner and Kaine in signing the letter include Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Doug Jones (D-AL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Senator Moran and Senator Shaheen:

As you consider funding levels for Fiscal Year 2019, we urge you to fund the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program at a minimum of $225.5 million, the amount appropriated for the program in FY 2018.  This program plays an essential role in our federal government’s support for local law enforcement and should therefore receive the highest possible level of funding.

The COPS Hiring program represents a fiscally responsible solution to ensure that our communities remain safe; the Brookings Institution found it to be “one of the most cost-effective options available for fighting crime.” When officers establish a presence on their patrols using community policing principles, they can develop positive relationships with the communities they serve.  In turn, these relationships increase law enforcement’s ability to solve local crimes and resolve public safety problems.  This proactive approach to policing prevents crime from occurring, saving taxpayers the high societal costs associated with crime, incarceration, and services for victims.

Since its creation, the COPS Office has assisted over 13,000 of the nation’s 16,000 jurisdictions with over $14 billion in funding to hire approximately 129,000 additional officers. In FY 2017, the COPS Hiring Program granted over $98 million to 179 law enforcement agencies to hire, preserve, or rehire 802 full-time law enforcement officers.  There were heightened restrictions for funding requests in FY 2017, leading many communities to forego applications, but still over 3,000 officers were requested, representing close to $410 million in funding. The $225.5 million requested is a small fraction of the $1 billion appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and less than the $298 million previously appropriated in FY 2010.

We are supported in this request by law enforcement organizations including the National Association of Police Organizations, Fraternal Order of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.  We appreciate the hard work and leadership that you have shown on these issues. Ongoing crime and violence in our cities continue to demonstrate the vital need for increased police protection in our communities.  Therefore, as you determine the funding levels for this program, we ask that you support funding for the COPS Hiring Program at the highest possible level.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

WARNER & KAINE ANNOUNCE FEDERAL FUNDING TO HELP REDUCE VETERAN HOMELESSNESS IN VIRGINIA

~ More than a half million dollars awarded to help reduce veteran homelessness ~

WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) announced today that the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) are awarding $693,962 in federal funding to Virginia housing authorities to help homeless veterans and their families find affordable and stable housing.

“Those who have worn our nation’s uniform deserve to know that their country will take care of them when they return home,” said the Senators. “These federal dollars will help ensure that these heroes have the support they need to find safe and affordable housing.”

The selected Virginia housing authorities and funding amounts are listed below:

  • Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority—$35,369
  • Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$34,821
  • City of Virginia Beach—$39,161
  • James City Council Office of Housing & Community Development—$29,164
  • Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$35,663
  • Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$39,661
  • Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$6,858
  • Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority—$24,043
  • Virginia Housing Development Authority—$53,293
  • Arlington County Department of Human Services—$161,556
  • Fairfax County Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$121,507
  • Loudoun County Department of Family Services—$56,249
  • Office of Housing Development of Prince William County—$56,617

This funding was granted through the HUD-VASH voucher program, which is a collaborative effort between HUD and the VA that uses targeted vouchers to offer permanent supportive housing opportunities to veterans experiencing homelessness. On March 23, 2018, the Senators voted in favor of the omnibus bill that fully funds homeless prevention programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, including HUD-VASH

WARNER, KAINE ANNOUNCE $1 MILLION IN SCHOLARSHIPS FOR CYBERSECURITY STUDENTS AT ODU

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,000,000 in federal funding from the National Science Foundation to support high-achieving students with demonstrated financial need as they pursue the cybersecurity program at Old Dominion University (ODU).
 
“Ensuring students have the support they need to pursue careers in cybersecurity is critical to building our federal workforce and defending the nation’s economic and national security,” the Senators said. “We are thrilled that ODU and the National Science Foundation are partnering to help make that a reality for more students.”  
 
The funding will provide up to 18 scholarships for students in the cybersecurity program as well as additional mentoring and program activities.
 
As Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has been a strong voice for protecting the integrity of our election systems, introducing bipartisan legislation to bring accountability to online political adsand secure our elections. He is also the author of bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would provide states and local government funding to counter cyberattacks. As cofounder of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, Warner has been a leader in calling for the protection of consumers’ personal information and timely disclosure of data breaches, authoring legislation to hold credit reporting agencies accountable for such breaches.
 
Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also co-chairs the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus and has become a leader in the Senate on policies to prepare students for careers in cybersecurity.  Last year, key provisions of Kaine’s DoD Cyber Scholarship Program Act of 2017, which would improve and expand an existing DoD scholarship program for students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity fields, were included in the committee-passed Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The DoD Cyber Scholarship Act creates a jobs pipeline from Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) to the Department of Defense.

Expanding Medicaid Will Aid Schools, Governor Says

By Sophia Belletti, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner are urging the General Assembly to expand Medicaid, saying such a move would free up money to help schools.

On Thursday, the two Democrats sat down with more than 20 teachers, faculty and parents from Richmond Public Schools and surrounding counties to discuss how this would work.

Last week, Northam introduced a new state budget proposal that includes Medicaid expansion and takes a slightly different approach to spending that could shape the debate when lawmakers return for an April 11 special session.

The special session was called because legislators couldn’t reach an agreement on the budget during their regular session. The House of Delegates wants to expand Medicaid, the health-care program for low-income Americans. The Senate opposes that idea.

Because the House’s Medicaid expansion plan would be funded with federal dollars and a new tax on hospitals, budget writers had more money to spend on public education and other services. The Virginia Education Association estimates the House budget allocated $169 million more to K-12 schools than the Senate version.

“We have had the opportunity since January 2014 to expand Medicaid, to give approximately 400,000 working Virginians access to quality and affordable health care,” Northam said at Thursday’s meeting at Albert Hill Middle School. “Morally, it’s the right thing to do in Virginia. No individual, no family, should be one illness away from being financially alive.”

The House version of the budget would increase state aid to $5,617 per student next year and $5,690 in 2020. In the Senate version, state aid per pupil would be $5,583 in fiscal year 2019 and $5,589 in 2020.

“It’s budget time in Virginia, and we, the General Assembly, did work in a bipartisan way,” Northam said. “All of this happened because of folks coming from both sides of the aisle. The most important bill we haven't finished this year is our budget.”

Warner said the commonwealth faces same challenges he encountered as governor in 2002-06.

“Gov. Northam has inherited a challenge that has been around for the last six or seven years,” Warner said. “That is the question of when we talk about education, we also have to talk about health care.”

People at the meeting pointed to numerous funding issues in education, including outdated resources, dilapidated school buildings and overcrowded classrooms. They also said schools don’t have enough full-time staff members such as guidance counselors and nurses,

Northam asked teachers who had full-time nurses at their school to raise their hands. He then asked teachers who did not have full-time nurses. The response was split 50-50.

Rodney Robinson, a social studies teacher at the Virgie Binford Education Center, said the lack of guidance counselors and nurses caused some schools to lose accreditation.

“Instead of just being a teacher, we’re now being a social worker, the counselor,” Robinson said. “If we can get those (guidance counselors and nurses) back in the school systems, I can guarantee you’ll see more teachers in those harder-staffed schools because there is less work burden on them.”

Melinda Lawson, an eighth-grade English teacher at Albert Hill, echoed Robinson’s frustration.

“For Richmond, we have a very difficult time creating 21st-century learners when we don’t have the resources to do so,” Lawson said. “I’ve been in this building for 14 years, and I’ve worn many hats in this time. We’re always trying to get there, and everyone else seems to be where we’re not, and we’re aspiring to get there.”

Northam said “providing a world-class education” is a priority for his administration.

“There is power in every child, and we need to make sure every child in Virginia reaches their maximum potential,” he said.

WARNER SPONSORS RESOLUTION TO HONOR BUFFALO SOLDIERS

 ~ Bipartisan resolution honors contributions of African-American soldiers who served in the United States Army following the Civil War ~

WASHINGTON –  In celebration of the achievements and contributions that African-Americans have made as part of Black History Month, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner cosponsored a bipartisan resolution to honor the “Buffalo Soldiers,” African-American soldiers who served in the United States Army following the Civil War and made invaluable contributions to the fabric of our nation’s history.

Following the conclusion of the Civil War, the United States Army allowed African-Americans to serve in segregated units. Two of these units, the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry, produced the “Buffalo Soldiers.” The soldiers received their nickname from Native Americans as a testament to their fearlessness in battle. In spite of being allocated inadequate resources and facing prejudice, the Buffalo Soldiers earned more Congressional Medals of Honor and had the lowest desertion rate of any unit in the Army. Five of those Medal of Honor recipients hailed from Virginia – Isaiah Mays (Carters Bridge, Va), Fitz Lee (Dinwiddie County, Va), Henry Johnson (Boydton, Va), Clinton Greaves (Madison County, Va), and Benjamin Brown (Spotsylvania County, Va).

"These brave Americans were among the first to answer the call to service at a time when African-Americans frankly weren’t treated as full members of our society,” said Warner. “We owe a debt of gratitude to the Buffalo Soldiers, and this resolution is an important way to honor their service to the United States.”

The resolution was introduced by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

The text of the Senate resolution follows and can also be viewed here

CONGRESS PASSES WARNER MEASURES TO IMPROVE CARE FOR MEDICARE PATIENTS

~ Bills heading to the President’s desk include bipartisan efforts to improve health outcomes for those living with chronic conditions ~

WASHINGTON — Today, a package of bipartisan healthcare provisions introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, were included in a funding bill passed by Congress and signed by the President. Among the five bipartisan legislative proposals is the CHRONIC Care Act, legislation aimed at improving health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries living with chronic conditions.

“It is no surprise that this package of cost-effective, evidence based proposals received broad bipartisan support,” said Sen. Warner. “These commonsense fixes will streamline the way Medicare patients living with chronic conditions receive care, helping those with diabetes or renal disease access high quality and affordable healthcare services.”

Bipartisan legislation passed by Congress today includes:

  • Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act– This bill will permanently reauthorize and strengthen Medicare Advantage Special Needs plans to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries with chronic conditions or other significant health needs have continued access to quality care that is tailored to their personal needs. It also expands telehealth services offered through different providers of care that will benefit seniors in rural areas and increase access to primary care services and telestroke care. In addition, it extends the proven “independence at home” model that allows seniors to receive care from primary care teams, thereby decreasing hospital readmissions and allowing seniors with multiple chronic conditions to receive care in their own home.
  • Medicare Home Infusion Therapy Access Act– This bill will create a transitional reimbursement for Medicare home infusion services. While legislation sponsored by Sen. Warner to restructure the way Medicare beneficiaries who need intravenous medication receive their infusion treatments from the comfort of their home has already passed Congress, this bill properly aligns the change in payments with the new benefit, avoiding a four-year gap during which patients would have challenges securing these life-saving treatments. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.
  • Dialysis Access Improvement Act– This bill will allow dialysis providers to seek outside accreditation from organizations approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to participate in the Medicare program, streamlining the accreditation process for dialysis facilities and improving access for Medicare patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.
  • Protecting Access to Diabetes Supplies Act– The bill will strengthen patient protections included in the Medicare National Mail Order program for Diabetic Testing Supplies (DTS), ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries are able to continue accessing familiar diabetes supplies and test systems through DTS. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.
  • Medicare Orthotics and Prosthetics Improvement Act– This bill will apply accreditation and other standards for orthotics and prosthetics, such as prosthetic limbs, under Medicare, helping to guarantee access to quality products for beneficiaries. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives.

State Legislators Ask Congress to Improve Interstate 81

By Logan Bogert, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – More than a dozen members of the Virginia General Assembly urged their counterparts in the U.S. Congress on Tuesday to fund improvements in safety and congestion on Interstate 81, which runs from Tennessee to the Canadian border.

The state lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine as well as to U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Morgan Griffith and Barbara Comstock, whose congressional districts include I-81.

The letter was signed by three state senators (Charles Carrico, Creigh Deeds and Mark Obenshain) and 14 state delegates, all from the western part of the state. Fifteen of the legislators are Republicans, and two are Democrats. They asked Congress to support several bills to improve I-81.

“I have been and will continue to be a strong advocate for common sense solutions for our pressing safety problems on I-81,” Obenshain, a Republican from Harrisonburg, said in a press release. “We are coming together as a bipartisan group of Senators and Delegates urging our Congressional delegation to fight for funding for I-81.”

Obenshain has two bills on this issue before the General Assembly:

  • Senate Bill 561 would direct the Department of Transportation to conduct a pilot program to establish zones on I-81 where tractor trucks would be required to travel in the right lane. SB 561 has been referred to the Committee on Transportation.
  • SB 971 would direct the Commonwealth Transportation Board to develop an I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan that may include tolling heavy commercial vehicles to finance the improvements. SB 971 has been referred to the Committee on Rules.

Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, who also signed the letter, has proposed creating a joint subcommittee to study the possibility of adding lanes to I-81 between Wytheville and Bristol.

“There are real safety problems that need real solutions,” Obenshain said, “and I am confident that these legislative proposals will present these solutions.”

KAINE, WARNER, MCEACHIN, CONNOLLY, BEYER, SCOTT ASK TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO LISTEN TO LOCAL VOICES AGAINST OFFSHORE DRILLING

Legislators: You said “’Local voice matters.’ We couldn’t agree more.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Representatives Donald McEachin, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, and Bobby Scott sent a letter to the Trump Administration requesting that Virginia be exempted from its offshore drilling proposal, citing local concerns over the risks to tourism, the watermen’s industry, and the country’s Naval operations.

The Virginia legislators cited Secretary Zinke’s announcement that drilling off the Florida coast was taken “off the table” after listening to “local and state” voices, and asked that the Trump Administration take similar concerns from Virginians just as seriously. Virginia’s coastal leaders -from the Democratic mayor of Norfolk to the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach and the current Governor and Governor-elect of Virginia - have all voiced opposition to drilling off of the Virginia coast.

“As Members of Congress from Virginia, we request you remove the Virginia offshore area from your proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. We note your willingness to listen to local voices in Florida with grave concerns over the risks of offshore drilling there. We ask that you likewise consider local opposition in Virginia’s coastal communities as well as opposition from its Governor, Senators, and House members to a new five-year plan at this point,” the group said.

The full text of the letter appears below.

Dear Secretary Zinke:

As Members of Congress from Virginia, we request you remove the Virginia offshore area from your proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. We note your willingness to listen to local voices in Florida with grave concerns over the risks of offshore drilling there. We ask that you likewise consider local opposition in Virginia’s coastal communities as well as opposition from its Governor, Senators, and House members to a new five-year plan at this point.

The statement from your office announcing the removal of the Florida offshore stated, “Local voice matters.” We couldn’t agree more.

While many states have long histories of energy production, states like Florida and Virginia have robust economies based on other sectors like tourism, aquaculture, outdoor recreation, deepwater port commerce, and especially Department of Defense infrastructure. Florida is home to some 20 DOD installations, while Virginia’s coastal area alone has more than a dozen across every service branch, including Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval installation. While it is within DOD’s mandate to work with Interior, any look at a map displays vast offshore areas in which drilling could conflict with military activities. In a time of relatively stable prices and booming oil and gas production elsewhere, the risks outweigh the benefits.

Opposition to offshore drilling is an opinion broadly shared by communities on the Virginia coast, including by the Democratic mayor of Norfolk and the Republican mayor of Virginia Beach. In fact, the city council of Virginia Beach (Virginia’s most populous city) actively voted to shift its prior support for offshore drilling from supportive to neutral, then from neutral to opposed.

We hope you will take opposition from Virginia coastal communities as seriously as you took the concerns from Florida residents and elected officials.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

WARNER & KAINE SECURE FINAL PASSAGE OF BILL GRANTING RECOGNITION OF VIRGINIA INDIAN TRIBES

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner secured final passage of the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017. Once signed by the President, the legislation will grant federal recognition of six Virginia tribes: the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond. Many of these include descendants of Pocahontas’ Virginia Powhatan tribe. Kaine and Warner worked with Democratic and Republican colleagues to ensure that the bill made it through to final passage. These tribes had received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but had not received federal recognition, which will grant the tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government.

U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives from Virginia have pushed for federal recognition since the 1990s, with Senators George Allen and John Warner first introducing this legislation in the Senate in 2002. Kaine and Warner introduced this legislation in the Senate in the 113th and 114th Congresses, and Warner had introduced it in prior Congresses.

“This is about Virginia tribes that were here and encountered the English when they arrived in [Jamestown] in 1607, the tribes of Pocahontas and other wonderful Virginians. They are living tribes, never recognized by the federal government for a series of reasons. . . . It's a fundamental issue of respect, and fairly acknowledging a historical record, and a wonderful story of tribes that are living, thriving and surviving and are a rich part of our heritage. This is a happy day to stand up on their behalf,” Senator Kaine said on the Senate floor ahead of passage.

“We and some of the folks who are in the gallery today were not sure this day would ever come, but even here in the United States Congress and the United States Senate, occasionally we get things right. And boy, oh, boy, this is a day where we get things right on a civil rights basis, on a moral basis, on a fairness basis, and to our friends who are representatives of some of the six tribes who are finally going to be granted federal recognition, we want to say thank you for their patience, their perseverance, their willingness to work with us and others,” Senator Warner said on the Senate floor ahead of passage.

This version, which originated in the House of Representatives and was introduced by Virginia Congressman Rob Wittman, passed in the House unanimously in May.

Congressman Wittman said, “Today we have taken a critical step forward in correcting the Federal Government’s failure to recognize the ‘first contact' tribes of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Decades in the making, federal recognition will acknowledge and protect historical and cultural identities of these tribes for the benefit of all Americans. It will also affirm the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Virginia tribes, and help create opportunities to enhance and protect the well-being of tribal members. I want to thank Senators Kaine and Warner for their support to give these tribes the recognition they have long deserved.”

Once signed by the President, federal recognition will allow Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. Further, it would allow tribes to:

  • Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
  • Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
  • Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care.

These tribal leaders were in attendance in the Senate Gallery for the vote:

  • W. Frank Adams, Chief, Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe
  • Stephen R. Adkins, Chief, Chickahominy Indian Tribe
  • Wayne B. Adkins, Chair of VITAL
  • Dean Branham, Chief, Monacan Nation
  • Lee Lockamy, Chief Nansemond Indian Tribe
  • Frank Richardson, representing Chief Anne Richardson, Rappahannock Tribe
  • Gerald A. Stewart, Assistant Chief, Eastern Chickahominy Indian Tribe

WARNER, WARREN INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO HOLD CREDIT REPORTING AGENCIES LIKE EQUIFAX ACCOUNTABLE FOR DATA BREACHES

~ Bill would establish cybersecurity inspections, impose mandatory penalties, and compensate consumers for stolen data ~

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced today the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act to hold large credit reporting agencies (CRAs)—including Equifax—accountable for data breaches involving consumer data. The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) more direct supervisory authority over data security at CRAs, impose mandatory penalties on CRAs to incentivize adequate protection of consumer data, and provide robust compensation to consumers for stolen data.

In September 2017, Equifax announced that hackers had stolen sensitive personal information – including Social Security Numbers, birth dates, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and passport numbers – of over 145 million Americans. The attack highlighted that CRAs hold vast amounts of data on millions of Americans but lack adequate safeguards against hackers. Since 2013, Equifax has disclosed at least four separate hacks in which sensitive personal data was compromised.

“In today’s information economy, data is an enormous asset. But if companies like Equifax can’t properly safeguard the enormous amounts of highly sensitive data they are collecting and centralizing, then they shouldn’t be collecting it in the first place,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill will ensure that companies like Equifax – which gather vast amounts of information on American consumers, often without their knowledge – are taking appropriate steps to secure data that’s central to Americans’ identity management and access to credit.”

“The financial incentives here are all out of whack – Equifax allowed personal data on more than half the adults in the country to get stolen, and its legal liability is so limited that it may end up making money off the breach,” said Sen. Warren. “Our bill imposes massive and mandatory penalties for data breaches at companies like Equifax – and provides robust compensation for affected consumers – which will put money back into peoples’ pockets and help stop these kinds of breaches from happening again.”

The Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act would establish an Office of Cybersecurity at the FTC tasked with annual inspections and supervision of cybersecurity at CRAs. It would impose mandatory, strict liability penalties for breaches of consumer data beginning with a base penalty of $100 for each consumer who had one piece of personal identifying information (PII) compromised and another $50 for each additional PII compromised per consumer. To ensure robust recovery for affected consumers, the bill would also require the FTC to use 50% of its penalty to compensate consumers and would increase penalties in cases of woefully inadequate cybersecurity or if a CRA fails to timely notify the FTC of a breach.

The Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act is supported by cybersecurity experts and consumer groups:

“U.S. PIRG commends Senators Warren and Warner for the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act. It will ensure that credit bureaus protect your information as if you actually mattered to them and it will both punish them and compensate you when they fail to do so,” said U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director, Ed Mierzwinski.

"This bill establishes much-needed protections for data security for the credit bureaus. It also imposes real and meaningful penalties when credit bureaus, entrusted with our most sensitive financial information, break that trust," said National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, Chi Chi Wu.

"Senator Warner and Senator Warren have proposed a concrete response to a serious problem facing American consumers,” said Electronic Privacy Information Center President, Marc Rotenberg.

"This bill creates greater incentive for these companies to handle our data with care and gives the Federal Trade Commission the tools that it needs to hold them accountable,” said Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America, Susan Grant.

Sen. Warner has been a leader in calling for better consumer protections from data theft. Following the Equifax data breach, Sen. Warner asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine whether credit reporting agencies such as Equifax have adequate cybersecurity safeguards in place for “the enormous amounts of sensitive data they gather and commercialize.” He slammed the credit bureau for its cybersecurity failures and weak response at a Banking Committee hearing with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton last year. Similarly, in the aftermath of the 2013 Target breach that exposed the debit and credit card information of 40 million customers, Sen. Warner chaired the first congressional hearing on protecting consumer data from the threat posed by hackers targeting retailers’ online systems. Sen. Warner has also partnered with the National Retail Federation to establish an information sharing platform that allows the industry to better protect consumer financial information from data breaches.

To view a fact sheet about the legislation, click here. The bill text can be found here

WARNER & KAINE ANNOUNCE MORE THAN $1.3MILLION TO SUPPORT FIRE DEPARTMENTS IN VIRGINIA

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,357,959 in federal funding for nine Virginia fire departments through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The funding for nine fire departments in Concord, Chilhowie, Fairfax, Gasburg, Glade Spring, Kenbridge, Lovingston, Newport News, and Norton will be awarded through FEMA’s Assistant to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program.

“This federal funding will provide fire departments with critical support to enhance training operations and purchase life-saving equipment that will help keep Virginians safe,” the Senators said.

The following Virginia fire departments will receive funding under the AFG program:

  • The Concord Volunteer Fire Department will receive $64,762 to purchase vehicle extrication equipment;
  • The Town of Chilhowie Fire & EMS Department will receive $60, 313 to purchase portable and mobile radios;
  • The City of Fairfax Fire Department will receive $136, 182 to support training operations for firefighters;
  • The Gasburg Volunteer Fire Department will receive $46,116 to purchase an air compressor and fill station equipment;
  • The Glade Spring Volunteer Fire Department will receive $38,096 to purchase an air compressor and fill station equipment.
  • The Kenbridge Fire Department will receive $54,739 to update its source capture exhaust system technology;
  • The Lovingston Volunteer Fire Department will receive $142,381 to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus equipment;
  • The City of Newport News Fire Department will receive $404,600 to purchase power lift cots and stretchers and;
  • The City of Norton Fire Department will receive $320,358 to purchase self-contained breathing apparatus equipment and face pieces.

The primary goal of FEMA’s AFG program is to enhance the safety of the public and firefighters by providing direct financial assistance to eligible fire departments, nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Services organizations and State Fire Training Academies for critically-needed resources. 

SEN. WARNER ASKS FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION TO PROBE EQUIFAX DATA, SECURITY PRACTICES & CUSTOMER SERVICE RESPONSE AFTER RECENT HACK

~ Asks FTC to exercise existing authority to probe data breach ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Banking, Budget and Finance committees and cofounder of the bipartisan Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, today asked the Federal Trade Commission to examine the recent cyber hack of credit reporting agency Equifax. Last week, Equifax publically disclosed a breach which exposed sensitive personal information of 143 million Americans.

Sen. Warner requested an FTC investigation into the lapse in Equifax cybersecurity practices, and questioned the company’s widely-panned response to consumers potentially impacted by the breach. His letter asks the FTC to examine whether credit reporting agencies such as Equifax have adequate cybersecurity safeguards in place for “the enormous amounts of sensitive data they collect and commercialize.” 

Sen. Warner has been a leader in calling for better consumer protections from data theft. In the aftermath of the Target breach that exposed the debit and credit card information of 40 million customers, Sen. Warner in 2014 chaired the first congressional hearing on protecting consumer data from the threat posed by hackers targeting retailers’ online systems. Sen. Warner also partnered with the National Retail Federation to establish an information sharing platform that allows the industry to better protect consumer financial information from data breaches.

Sen. Warner has been working to develop bipartisan legislation to create a comprehensive, nationwide and uniform data breach standard requiring timely consumer notification for breaches of financial data and other sensitive information.

The text of the letter may be found here

WARNER, ISAKSON INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN BILL TO PRESERVE PATIENT ACCESS TO HOME INFUSION SERVICES

~ Bill would create a temporary transitional payment for home infusion services ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), members of the Senate Finance Committee, today introduced bipartisan legislation to create a temporary transitional reimbursement structure for Medicare home infusion services.

A version of legislation introduced by Sens. Warner and Isakson last Congress to restructure the way Medicare beneficiaries who need intravenous medication receive their infusion treatments from the comfort of their home was included in the landmark 21st Century Cures Act last year. However, the Cures bill did not properly align the change in payments with the new benefit, leading to a four-year gap during which patients would have challenges securing these life-saving treatments. This legislation ensures that patients receiving home infusion treatments maintain their access to these services until policies from the 21st Century Cures Act are implemented in 2021.

“Home infusion is a safe and effective alternative to inpatient care for many patients,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill expands on the progress made on 21st Century Cures by creating a transitional payment system that will allow Medicare to continue paying accurately for the drugs, while also protecting patients’ access to important services. This commonsense fix will help the Medicare program provide high-quality, lower-cost care, benefiting both patients and taxpayers.”

“Infusion therapy delivered in the home setting is the most desirable, convenient and by far the most cost-effective. We made important progress for modern medicine in the 21st Century Cures Act, and the home infusion therapy legislation that Senator Warner and I included in that bill makes a real difference for patients who need safe and effective treatments,”said Sen. Isakson. “Home infusion technology is a tremendous contribution to quality health care, and this legislation builds on the Cures Act to help ensure home infusion remains accessible.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), David Perdue (R-GA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

“This bill builds upon previous legislation so Medicare beneficiaries can receive infusion treatments at home,”Sen. Grassley said.  “This is an option that Medicare beneficiaries sought, and it’s a common sense, cost-effective way to provide care.  The private sector recognized this long ago.  Medicare should continue to reflect the modern practice of medicine and offer the best way of meeting a medical need at the lowest cost.”

TheMedicare Home Infusion Therapy Access Act of 2017 would create a transitional reimbursement for Medicare home infusion services. Starting in January 2017, the 21st Century Cures Act changed the payment for home infusion drugs, aligning them with payments for other drugs paid under Medicare’s Part B benefit. The 21st Century Cures Act also created a new reimbursement structure for the professional services associated with home infusion, which is set to take effect in 2021. The four-year gap between the January 2017 drug payment change and the implementation of the infusion services payment in 2021 may threaten the accessibility of home-infusion therapy. This bill would help smooth the transition to more accurate payments for home infusions drugs while also protecting patients’ access to these medications until the new home infusion benefit is implemented in 2021.

Sens. Warner, Isakson, Roberts, Grassley, Cardin, Brown, Portman, and Bennet are all members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare.

The legislation is supported by:Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC),  American Association of Heart Failure Nurses,  American Association for Homecare,  American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN),  Amerita, Inc., American Association for Homecare, Appalachian Home Infusion, ARJ Infusion Services, Best Option Healthcare PR, Inc., Big Sky IV Care, BioScrip, BJC Home Care Services Pharmacy, Brooks Home I.V., Inc., CarePro Health Services, CGH Medical Center, Chartwell Midwest Wisconsin, LLC, Chartwell Pennsylvania, LP, Choice CriticalCare Inc., Consortium of Clinical Immunologists (CIIC), Coram, CVS Specialty Infusion, Services, Druid City Vital Care, EMED Technologies, EMZA USA LLC & DeliverIt Pharmacy Inc., Fairview Health Services, Gates Healthcare Associates, Inc., Grifols, Hobbs Pharmacy, Home Health United Xtra Care Pharmacy, Home Parenteral Services, Horizon Healthcare Services, ICU Medical Inc., Infusion Solutions, Inc., Innovatix, INS, Intra Pump Infusion Systems, Intramed Plus, IV Solutions, LLC, John Hopkins Care Group, Kaup Pharmacy, Inc., Lakeland Home, Infusion, Liberty Medical Specialties, Inc., Medical Accounts Receivable Solutions, Inc. (MARs), Medical Alternatives, MK Infusion Pharmacy, LLC., MSD, Nation's Home Infusion, NuCara IV Services, One Source Homecare Services, OptiMed Infusion Services, Option Care, OptionOne Pharmacy, Paragon Healthcare Inc., Pediatric Home Service, Pharmacare Health Specialists, PharmaScript Inc., Preferred Homecare, Premier Infusion Care, Premier Nursing Group, LLC, Premier Point Home Health, Inc., PromptCare Home Infusion, LLC, Redline Specialty Pharmacy, SBH Medical, Ltd., Sentara Home Infusion Pharmacy, Sentara HealthCare, Simfarose Pharmaceutical Specialty, Smiths Medical, Soleo Health, Spectrum Infusion, Inc., TANYR Healthcare, The Immune Deficiency Foundation (IDF), The National Home Infusion Association (NHIA), Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, UnityPoint at Home, University of Iowa Community HomeCare, VGM Group Inc., Vital Care, Inc., and the VNA Home Infusion Therapy Pharmacy.

Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means  (H.R. 3163). The full text of the legislation is available here.

SENS. WARNER, HATCH, WARREN & RUBIO, REPS. PRICE & BYRNE INTRODUCE LEGISLATION PROVIDING RELIEF FOR BORROWERS OF JOINT CONSOLIDATION STUDENT LOANS

~ Bipartisan bill provides remedy for joint consolidation loan quagmire faced by borrowers, including those experiencing domestic or economic abuse ~

 WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), along with U.S. Reps. David Price (D-NC) and Bradley Byrne (R-AL), introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would provide much needed relief to borrowers who previously consolidated their student loan debt with their spouse’s. From 1993 until 2006, the U.S. Department of Education issued joint consolidation loans to married couples. Congress eliminated the program in 2006, but did not provide a means of severing existing loans, even in the event of domestic violence, financial abuse, or an unresponsive partner. As a result, there are borrowers nationwide who remain liable for their abusive or uncommunicative spouse’s consolidated debt with no legal options for relief.

 The Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act would allow two borrowers to submit a joint application to sever their joint consolidation loan, or allow one borrower to submit a separate application in the event that they are experiencing domestic or economic abuse, or are unable to reasonably reach or access the loan information of the other borrower.

 “I first learned about this issue when one of my constituents in McLean contacted my office for help with a joint consolidation loan following a divorce. Her case showed us a reality faced by many Americans who continue to be responsible for these loans despite difficult, and sometimes dangerous, situations with their partners,” said Sen. Warner. “Congress should not turn a blind eye to this oversight. This legislation is a commonsense fix that provides victims of economic and physical abuse or those dealing with an unresponsive partner with a mechanism to relieve themselves from unjust financial obligations.”

 “I am honored to join my colleagues in working toward fixing a policy oversight that leaves people unduly burdened by an old consolidation program,” said Sen. Hatch. “Over the years, I have met many constituents who were unfairly encumbered with a joint consolidation loan with no path for relief. I gladly support this bill that will give affected individuals a way to relieve themselves from unfair debt.”

 “A federal student loan shouldn't shackle someone to a former spouse—particularly in cases of domestic and economic abuse. Congress made the right call when it ended the joint consolidation loan program in 2006, and I hope Congress will pass this bipartisan bill to help more struggling student loan borrowers move forward with their lives and obtain their financial independence,” said. Sen. Warren.

 “This bill is a direct response to my constituent’s experience with a damaging joint consolidation loan. This carefully crafted bill will provide relief to borrowers who are victims of abusive or uncommunicative spouses and allow them to sever their joint financial responsibility. Congressional action to fix this problem is long overdue,” said Rep. Price.

 “This is an example of an unintended consequence that Congress must address. I'm pleased we are able to come together in a bipartisan manner with my House and Senate colleagues to put forward a solution. This commonsense legislation offers a simple fix that provides relief to some Americans caught in a difficult situation,” said Rep. Byrne.

 

“When survivors escape abuse, they should be able to start over without the debts of their abusers. We applaud this bill for creating a solution for those survivors who consolidated loans either in good faith or under duress and are now rebuilding their lives,” said Monica McLaughlin, Director of Public Policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

 “The Action Alliance is pleased to support these efforts to provide victims of domestic and economic abuse with student loan relief. This bill will make a difference for the people who need it, and we hope Congress will move swiftly to enact it,” said Kristine Hall, Policy Director at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.

 “Many survivors of intimate partner violence in North Carolina find themselves burdened with their abuser’s debt after escaping their abusive partner. The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence applauds that our state representative, David Price, is sponsoring this bill so that survivors may be truly free to rebuild their lives,” said Dana Mangum, Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

 “For far too long, many student loan borrowers have been stuck in joint consolidation loans, and this bill ensures that struggling borrowers, including survivors of domestic and economic abuse who previously consolidated their student loan debts, have the opportunity to regain their financial footing. We applaud the sponsors of this bill for their efforts. This bill would benefit many vulnerable student loan borrowers, and we are proud to support it,” said National Consumer Law Center Attorney Joanna Darcus.

 A summary of the bill is available here. The full text of the bill is available here

SENS. WARNER, BLUNT LEAD BIPARTISAN COALITION TO REINTRODUCE INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION

~Bill would help states and localities leverage private funds to build and repair outdated transportation, water, and energy infrastructure~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) led a bipartisan coalition of Senators in introducing legislation to establish a new infrastructure financing authority to help states and localities better leverage private funds to build and maintain the nation’s outdated infrastructure. The Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act helps to address the nation’s alarming investment shortfall in maintaining and improving our transportation network, water and wastewater systems and energy infrastructure. The legislation would provide additional financing tools for states and localities to create new jobs here at home while also increasing our nation’s economic competitiveness.

“As we mark the 5th annual Infrastructure Week, we must think boldly and make real investments in our nation’s infrastructure rather than kick the can down the road with short-term fixes,” said Sen. Warner. “The BRIDGE Act offers a bold, bipartisan solution to help address our infrastructure needs by incentivizing private investment and pairing it with public resources. This legislation will set a clear framework that will help create jobs, expand U.S. commerce and trade, and keep American businesses competitive.”

“Missouri is a transportation hub, and improving our roads, bridges, and waterways is critical for economic growth in our state and across the nation,” said Sen. Blunt. “This bipartisan bill will provide much-needed resources to strengthen infrastructure and help ensure Missouri’s farmers, manufacturers, and small businesses are able to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy.”

The BRIDGE Act is cosponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

America currently spends roughly two percent of its GDP on infrastructure– about half what it did 50 years ago. By comparison, Europe spends around 5 percent, and China spends 9 percent of GDP on infrastructure. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, the United States currently ranks 12th among 144 developed countries in overall infrastructure compared to our global competitors. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers latest estimate shows that in order to close the $2.0 trillion 10-year investment gap, meet future need, and restore our global competitive advantage, we must increase investment from all levels of government and the private sector from 2.5% to 3.5% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025. As of 2012, of the more than 600,000 bridges in the U.S., 24.9 percent were either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. Nationally, our bridges are, on average, 42 years old, and need an estimated $76 billion to repair and replace. Similarly, the average age of the 84,000 dams in the country is 52 years old, and the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that aging and high-hazard dams require an investment of $21 billion to repair.

To help address this funding shortfall for our nation’s transportation, water and energy infrastructure, the BRIDGE Act will establish an independent, nonpartisan financing authority to complement existing U.S. infrastructure funding. The authority would provide loans and loan guarantees to help states and localities fund the most economically viable road, bridge, rail, port, water, sewer, and other significant infrastructure projects.  The authority would receive initial seed funding of up to $10 billion, which could incentivize private sector investment and make possible $300 billion or more in total project investment. The authority is structured in a way to make it self-sustaining over time without requiring additional federal appropriations.

“If we are to improve our nation’s infrastructure, graded a D+ in ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, we can no longer afford to defer needed investment in modernization and maintenance. Under Sen. Warner’s leadership, the BRIDGE Act would make a significant step toward this increased, sustained investment, establishing a new, innovative funding authority designed to attract billions of dollars in private sector investment in our nation’s water, transportation, and energy sectors. Sen. Blunt’s co-sponsorship demonstrates once again that infrastructure is a bipartisan issue that impacts the lives of all Americans. Through the BRIDGE Act, our nation’s infrastructure will receive much-needed additional funding to help narrow the $2 trillion infrastructure investment gap that currently costs every American family $3,400 a year out of their discretionary income,”said Norma Jean Mattei, PH.D., P.E., President, American Society of Civil Engineers

“The 31 national associations and construction trade unions of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) applaud your bipartisan efforts in crafting the Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act. We support your proposal as a means to supplement the core federal transportation investment programs by utilizing an array of financing tools to encourage private sector investment in needed transportation infrastructure improvements. As Congress and the Administration move forward on a rewrite of the nation’s tax code and an encompassing infrastructure package promised by President Trump, the TCC believes a permanent solution to the Highway Trust Fund revenue shortfall should finally be addressed and included in either of these legislative packages. Additionally, all options, including alternative project delivery and finance methods like the BRIDGE Act, to address the nation's infrastructure deficit need to be considered as well. The BRIDGE Act represents an innovative approach that would provide the ability to support nationally and regionally significant infrastructure projects that require innovative financing outside the existing core federal programs,” said the Transportation Construction Coalition, representing 31 national associations and construction trade unions

“Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Mark Warner of Virginia, should be commended for their ongoing effort to strengthen our nation’s investment in critical infrastructure. Their legislation, The Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment Act (The BRIDGE Act), establishes a set of creative tools and incentives to draw private capital off the sidelines and promote effective public private partnerships.  There is at least a $1.4 trillion shortfall in funding needed to adequately support infrastructure needs between now and 2025.  The BRIDGE Act is key to unlocking private investment necessary to support long-term economic growth and a more competitive nation,” said Jason Grumet, President of the Bipartisan Policy Center.

According to ASCE, 42 percent of our major urban highways are congested, which costs the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually. Currently, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that $170 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis to significantly improve conditions and performance. Virginia received a C- on ASCE’s 2015 Infrastructure Report Card, with key regional infrastructure deemed structurally deficient such as Arlington Memorial Bridge in Northern Virginia.  The same report concluded that Virginians spend a cumulative two full work weeks per year just sitting in traffic.

Other individuals and organizations endorsing this legislation include Sean McGarvey, President of the North America's Building Trades Unions; Ed Rendell, Co-Chair of Building America’s Future and former Governor of Pennsylvania; Chris Spear, President and CEO of the American Trucking Association; Kurt J. Nagle, President and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities; Elaine Nessle, Executive Director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors; Jane F. Garvey, North America Chairman of Meridiam Infrastructure and former Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration; Adrea Turner, Director of Transportation for America; and Jennifer Aument, Transurban Group General Manager for North America.

For more information on key provisions of the BRIDGE Act, click here

Joint Statement from Senate Intel Committee Leaders on Special Counsel Appointment

WASHINGTON –Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today made the following statement on the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel:

“The appointment of former FBI Director and respected lawyer Robert Mueller as special counsel for the Russia investigation is a positive development and will provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence.

“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will continue its own investigation and to the extent any deconfliction is required, we will engage with Director Mueller and our expectation is that he will engage with the Committee as well.”

KAINE & WARNER BILL TO GRANT FEDERAL RECOGNITION OF VIRGINIA INDIAN TRIBES MOVES ONE STEP CLOSER TO FINAL PASSAGE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017, a bill reintroduced in March by U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, cleared its first procedural hurdle with unanimous passage out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.  The legislation would grant federal recognition of six Virginia tribes: the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond. These tribes have received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but have not received federal recognition, which would grant the tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. The legislation will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

“Today’s committee passage brings Virginia’s tribes one step closer to federal recognition,” said Kaine and Warner “Passage of this bill would give these tribes access to educational and health care services and the ability to properly pay respect to their ancestors. We won’t give up until Virginia’s tribes receive the recognition they deserve.”

Federal recognition would allow Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. Further, it would allow tribes to:

  • Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
  • Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
  • Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care. 

KAINE & WARNER TO INTRODUCE RESOLUTION COMMEMORATING TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF VIRGINIA TECH TRAGEDY

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark R. Warner will introduce a Senate resolution commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech tragedy, the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, which claimed 32 lives and injured 17 others. The resolution honors the victims, offers condolences to their families, and recognizes the resilience of the Virginia Tech community in the decade following the tragedy. Kaine was serving as Governor of Virginia when the tragedy occurred.

“As I told members of the Blacksburg community on April 16th this year, ten years later I continue to be in awe of the strength of these families and the entire Virginia Tech community, “said Kaine. “Virginia Tech has set a powerful example of resilience in the face of tragedy, and this resolution recognizes that perseverance and honors the 32 beautiful lives that were lost that day and the 17 individuals who were injured.”

“On that dark day ten years ago and every day since, these families and the survivors have shown incredible courage in the wake of almost unbearable pain and loss,”said Warner. “This resolution remembers those lives lost and recognizes how, in many ways, the huge Virginia Tech community has grown stronger and even closer in the decade since the tragedy.”

Kaine and Warner have long supported improving mental health policy and passing commonsense measures to curb gun violence, including requiring background record checks prior to gun purchases and improving the number and accuracy of records submitted to the national background check system. Last month, Kaine co-sponsored the CDC Research on Firearms Safety or Gun Violence Prevention Act, a bill that would lift the de facto twenty-year ban on research into firearms safety and gun violence prevention at the CDC. 

Earlier today, the Senate unanimously passed Sens. Kaine and Warner’s resolution recognizing the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech tragedy. 

VA MEMBERS URGE CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP TO TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT MINERS BEFORE HEALTHCARE BENEFITS EXPIRE

~ An estimated 10,000 retired coal miners in Virginia are at risk of losing health and retirement benefits in the coming years ~

WASHINGTON – In a letter today, Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, and Reps. Gerry Connolly, A. Donald McEachin, and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (all D-VA) urged Congressional leaders to take action to protect retired coal miners who risk losing their healthcare benefits as part of negotiations to keep the government funded before the end of the week. Last year, Congress reached a deal to extend government funding and retired miners’ health care benefits until April 28th. In March, retired coal miners and their families began receiving letters notifying them of the impending termination of their health care coverage. 

“This nation was built on the backs of our workers. Let us not forsake them. We implore you to immediately pass a permanent health care fix for the miners and commit to working with us to finding and passing a solution for the imperiled 1974 Pension Fund,” the members wrote.

Retired miners are facing uncertainty because the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) 1974 Pension Plan is severely underfunded, still reeling from the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and a series of bankruptcies in the coal industry.

The Virginia Congressional members pressed for the inclusion in negotiations of the Miners Protection Act, bipartisan legislation which would transfer federal funds to shore up the underfunded health insurance and pension plan.

“Anything less is merely an extension of the ongoing uncertainty and agony that these men and women have been carrying for years. Anything less is an unacceptable and tragic failure of this body to keep its word to the men and women who powered our nation to prosperity at the risk of their own health and lives,” the members added.

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.

April 25, 2017

The Honorable Mitch McConnell                              
Senate Majority Leader                                               
The Capitol S-230                                                       
Washington, DC 20510                                              

The Honorable Chuck Schumer

Senate Minority Leader
The Capitol S-221
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Paul Ryan                                          
Speaker of the House of Representatives                   
The Capitol H-232                                                      
Washington, DC 20515                                              

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi  
House Minority Leader
The Capitol H-204
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Ryan, and Leader Pelosi,

As you know, at the expiration of the current continuing resolution, 22,600 of our nation’s retired coal miners will lose their healthcare benefits.  In March, these miners received letters notifying them of this impending termination and, sadly, it is not the first such letter they have received.  

Virginia is home to nearly 10,000 UMWA beneficiaries whose benefits are at risk in the coming years, many of whom will soon suffer the anguish and fear that comes with the loss of these life-saving benefits. 

While the continuing resolution included a four-month extension of benefits, it did so using remaining funds in the existing Voluntary Employee’s Beneficiary Association (VEBA) plans.  The “extension” was essentially a transfer of funds already belonging to these miners.  In fact, it shortened the timeline for 6,500 of these miners who would have otherwise received healthcare benefits through July.  Additionally, the pension fund that these miners and their widows rely on for life’s basic necessities will reach the point of no return this year if Congress does not act to shore it up.

This bill is simple – it is the continuation of a longstanding commitment by our government to lifetime health and retirement benefits for our miners.  The Krug-Lewis Agreement was signed in 1946 at the White House in front of President Truman by UMWA president John L. Lewis and Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug.  While the agreement itself was not drafted in perpetuity, Congress essentially codified the promises made in that agreement by subsequently passing the Coal Act. 

The Coal Act and its 2006 amendments re-committed the government to the health and retirement security of our nation’s miners and their families.  In fact, prior to passage of the 1992 Coal Act, the Dole Commission (appointed by President George H.W. Bush) issued a report stating that, “The UMWA Health and Retirement Funds is as much a creature of government as it is of collective bargaining. There is a line running from the original Boone Report to the present system. In a way, the original Krug-Lewis agreement predisposed, if not predetermined, the system that evolved.” 

The Miners Protection Act is a responsible, bipartisan solution to an immediate problem that is fully offset and has gone through regular order.  As Congress considers a continuing resolution to keep the government running, we fully expect that such a vehicle will include the permanent health care fix for our nation’s retired miners as promised at the end of 2016 and proposed in the Miner’s Protection Act.

Anything less is merely an extension of the ongoing uncertainty and agony that these men and women have been carrying for years.  Anything less is an unacceptable and tragic failure of this body to keep its word to the men and women who powered our nation to prosperity at the risk of their own health and lives. 

This nation was built on the backs of our workers.  Let us not forsake them.  We implore you to immediately pass a permanent health care fix for the miners and commit to working with us to finding and passing a solution for the imperiled 1974 Pension Fund.

Sincerely,                                                                                                                  

Mark R. Warner                                                        
United States Senator            

Tim Kaine
United States Senator

Gerry Connolly
United States Representative

A. Donald McEachin  
United States Representative

Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
United States Representative 

WARNER, COLLINS, SÁNCHEZ, ROE INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN, BICAMERAL LEGISLATION TO ASSIST SMALL BUSINESSES IN OFFERING RETIREMENT PLANS TO EMPLOYEES

~ Only 22 percent of workers at small firms currently have access to a workplace savings plan or pension ~

WASHINGTON— Bipartisan, bicameral legislation to reduce duplicative filing costs for small businesses looking to offer retirement plans to their employees was introduced today in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The legislation was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, and Susan Collins (R-ME), the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee. In the House, the legislation was sponsored by Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-CA), a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, and Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN), a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“As the nature of work continues to change, increasing access to workplace retirement plans is a crucial step in providing a secure retirement to millions of Americans,” Sen. Warner said. “For smaller employers, offering a retirement plan can be expensive and complex, so we should make it easier and reduce duplicative filing costs for them to offer retirement plans and promote retirement security for all workers.”

“Americans simply aren’t saving enough to be able to afford a comfortable retirement. In fact, there is an estimated $7.7 trillion gap between what Americans have saved for retirement and what they will actually need,” said Senator Collins. “When employers provide their employees with access to retirement plans, approximately 80 percent of them contribute. Our legislation will help promote retirement security by making it easier and less expensive for small businesses to establish retirement plans, increasing their accessibility to employees and helping to ensure that those who worked hard for decades do not spend their retirement in poverty.”

The legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate Finance Committee in the 114th Congress.

“Too many Americans simply aren’t putting enough money away to be able to afford a secure retirement. By helping more small businesses provide workplace retirement plans we can give millions of hardworking families more financial peace of mind,” Congresswoman Sánchez said. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan and bicameral legislation to make it easier and less expensive for small businesses to establish retirement plans for their workers. This common sense legislation will help provide greater retirement security to more Americans.”

“With nearly 40 million working families who haven’t saved a dime for retirement, it is imperative we do all we can to help encourage affordable, accessible retirement savings,” said Congressman Roe. “By alleviating duplicative reporting requirements for plan administrators, we are making it easier for small businesses to provide secure retirement plans to their workers and reducing the costs for small business owners who provide retirement plans.”

A 2016 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that only 22 percent of workers at small firms have access to a workplace savings plan or pension, compared to 74 percent at firms with 500 or more employees. For smaller employers, offering a retirement plan can be expensive and complex.

The bill directs the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Treasury Department to allow employers and sole-proprietors participating in retirement plans administered in the same way to file a single aggregated Form 5500, a required annual return that provides important compliance information to DOL and Treasury.

Under current law, despite sharing a common administrative framework, each individual plan is still required to file a separate Form 5500 to satisfy reporting requirements under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code. Today’s proposal will eliminate duplicative reporting by plan administrators, which will reduce costs for small businesses that maintain retirement plans. To file an aggregated Form 5500, the retirement plans would need to have the same trustee, fiduciary, plan administrator, plan year and investment menu.

The self-employed, including sole proprietors and small business owners, are the most likely to establish a retirement savings plan that would benefit from and meet the requirements necessary to file an aggregated Form 5500. According to 2016 survey findings from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, in collaboration with Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement, only one-third of self-employed respondents indicated that they make sure they are saving for retirement.

To provide DOL and Treasury time to implement this change, the proposal has an effective date of no later than January 1, 2021. A copy of the legislative text is available here.

ON 400TH ANNIVERSARY OF POCAHONTAS’ BURIAL, WARNER & KAINE INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO GRANT FEDERAL RECOGNITION FOR SIX VIRGINIA INDIAN TRIBES

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, on the 400th anniversary of Pocahontas’ burial, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine introduced legislation to federally recognize six Virginia Indian tribes, which include descendants of Pocahontas’ Virginia Powhatan tribe. The Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017 would grant the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government.

Coinciding with the anniversary, Upper Mattaponi Chief Ken Adams, Chickahominy Chief Stephen Adkins, and Rappahannock Chief Anne Richardson traveled to England to participate in a series of events to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Pocahontas’ death. On Tuesday, there will be a plaque dedication ceremony at the church where Pocahontas is buried.

“Four hundred years after the death of Pocahontas, our country continues to do a disservice to her descendants by failing to recognize the major role Virginia’s tribes have played in American history and the fabric of our nation,” said the Senators. “These six tribes have treaties that predated the United States, but because of this historical quirk and the systematic destruction of their records, they have been denied federal recognition and the services that come along with it. Congress can fix this injustice by passing our bill and granting these tribes the federal recognition they deserve.”

Federal recognition would allow Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. Further, it would allow tribes to:

  • Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
  • Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
  • Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care.

The bill has passed the House of Representatives in two previous Congresses. Kaine and Warner introduced two previous versions of the bill in the 113th and 114th Congress. Both passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs but never were brought to the floor for a vote.

SENS. WARNER, KAINE URGE PRESIDENT TRUMP TO RECONSIDER CHESAPEAKE BAY PROGRAM CUTS

~ Published reports say Trump has proposed 93% Bay funding cut ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) wrote to President Trump today to urge him to reconsider steep budget cuts within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program. Several recent published reports indicate the Trump Administration will recommend cutting the Bay program from $73 million annually to $5 million. The Senators, both of whom were Virginia governors, each played vital roles managing Virginia’s multi-year, multi-state Bay restoration efforts.   

“The Chesapeake Bay is an essential economic engine in our region, supporting thousands of jobs in the fishery and tourism industries and generating millions in revenue each year. We have worked tirelessly to improve the health of the Bay to ensure that these industries will continue to grow and flourish for years to come,” the Senators wrote. “While we’ve seen real improvements in the health of the Chesapeake Bay in recent years, we are deeply concerned about the potential consequences of such a significant and jarring cut in funding.”

The full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

March 8, 2017

The Honorable Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write today to express our deep concerns over recent reports indicating your Administration is proposing significant funding reductions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to published reports, this includes draconian cuts in the Chesapeake Bay Program – a multi-year, multi-state partnership with the federal government to restore the largest estuary in the United States. We believe these cuts would be incredibly shortsighted and would endanger the years of progress that have been made in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

We are both former Governors of Virginia, and are proud to continue our service in the United States Senate. The Chesapeake Bay is an essential economic engine in our region, supporting thousands of jobs in the fishery and tourism industries and generating millions in revenue each year. We have worked tirelessly to improve the health of the Bay to ensure that these industries will continue to grow and flourish for years to come.

The Chesapeake Bay Program was formed in 1983 in a collaborative effort among Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the federal government. Since then, New York, West Virginia, and Delaware have joined the effort to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay. Through this program, EPA supports the cleanup of the Bay by fostering collaboration among the regional partners and the federal government and coordinating the science, research, and data collection needed to support such an ambitious project. Two thirds of the funding supported by the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program is distributed directly to the states through grants.

Since the implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Program in 1983, we’ve witnessed tremendous improvements in the health of the Bay. The latest “Bay Barometer” report released earlier this year indicated that years of collaboration, funding, and hard work are paying dividends. Among other highlights, the report stated that underwater grasses in the Bay are at record levels and that the blue crab population has made a remarkable comeback in recent years. Continued funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program is essential to making sure we are able to build on this progress.

While we’ve seen real improvements in the health of the Chesapeake Bay in recent years, we are deeply concerned about the potential consequences of such a significant and jarring cut in funding.  To ensure our goal of restoring the Chesapeake Bay, we urge you to include at least $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program in your Fiscal Year 2018 budget request. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

MARK R. WARNER , United States Senator  

TIM KAINE, United States Senator

WARNER, KAINE REINTRODUCE BILL TO HELP “BLUE WATER” VIETNAM VETERANS

~ Bipartisan legislation would require V-A to provide benefits to veterans exposed to Agent Orange ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that thousands of Navy veterans from the Vietnam War – known as “Blue Water” veterans for their service in waters off the coast –are eligible to receive disability and health care benefits they have earned for diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act would clarify the existing law so that Blue Water veterans, who are currently excluded from receiving these benefits, are covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (V-A) if they served within “territorial seas,” or approximately 12 miles offshore of Vietnam. The bill would also make it easier for the V-A to process these veterans’ claims for service-connected health conditions and alleviate a portion of the V-A’s backlog by extending presumptive coverage of Agent Orange benefits to these veterans.

“Virginia is home to many Vietnam veterans who honorably served their country and paid a high price after being exposed to Agent Orange,” said Sen. Warner. “We should not be discriminating against this group of heroes simply because of how and where they served. They fought just as hard, risked just as much, and deserve to get the benefits they earned.”

“Thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans in Virginia are still facing serious health conditions from exposure to Agent Orange and our country needs to ensure they can access the benefits they deserve,” said Sen. Kaine. “I’m proud to continue my efforts with Senator Warner and a bipartisan group of our colleagues to advocate on behalf of Blue Water veterans and I hope Congress will swiftly pass our bill.”

“VVA strongly supports justice for Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans! This bill would complete the obligation to those who served in the bays, harbors, and territorial seas of the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975 by recognizing exposure to the toxin Agent Orange and ensuring eligibility for all related Federal benefits that come with such presumption under the Agent Orange Act of 1991,” said John Rowan, National President and CEO of Vietnam Veterans of America.

“The VFW strongly agrees with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that it is arbitrary and capricious for veterans who have served aboard ships in the coastal waters of Vietnam to be denied presumptive benefits associated with Agent Orange exposure. For this reason, we support your legislation which would end this injustice and ensure Blue Water Navy veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve,” said Raymond Kelley, Director of VFW National Legislative Service.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam to remove jungle foliage. This toxic chemical had devastating health effects on millions serving in Vietnam.

In 1991, Congress passed a law requiring the V-A to provide presumptive coverage to Vietnam veterans with illnesses that the Institute of Medicine has directly linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, in 2002, the V-A decided that it would only cover Veterans who could prove that they had orders for “boots on the ground” during the Vietnam War. This exclusion prevents thousands of sailors from receiving benefits even though they had significant Agent Orange exposure from drinking and bathing in contaminated water just offshore.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have been pushing for the V-A to soften its position on benefits for Blue Water veterans. Last year, they wrote to the department requesting the V-A to reconsider the unnecessary burdens it has placed on this group.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the legislation is sponsored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Gary Peters (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was previously introduced in the 114th Congress.

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