Whitehouse and Manchin Touring Global Warming’s Impact on RI

From the Whitehouse press office:

 Sens. Whitehouse and Manchin to See Effects of Climate Change in RI

Providence, RI – In June, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined together for a colloquy on the Senate floor to discuss the effects of climate change and the importance of coal in America’s energy portfolio. During the course of their discussion, the Senators agreed to visit each other’s states to learn more about the effects of climate change in Rhode Island and the importance of coal in West Virginia.

Their first visit will be in Rhode Island tomorrow. The Senators will hold a media availability at 10:00 a.m. on Pier 3 in Galilee, Narragansett to discuss the purpose of the trip and take questions from reporters. Pier 3 is located next to the Block Island Ferry. Parking will be available across the street behind the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) coastal resources building, 304 Great Island Road, Narragansett, RI.

A detailed itinerary for the rest of their day is below. Reporters interested in attending any of these stops should RSVP back to this email.

Itinerary:
8:00 a.m. – Senators visit the NOAA Tide Gauge in Newport, where sea-level rise has been measured for decades. Location: Coasters Harbor Island, 1397 Perry Rd, Newport.
8:30 a.m. – Senators visit BioProcess Algae, a local business that is converting carbon pollution into products such as animal feed and biodiesel. Location: 45 Highpoint Ave, Portsmouth.
10:00 a.m. – Senators hold media availability near commercial fishing docks in Narragansett, RI. Location: On Pier 3, next to the Block Island Ferry and across from the DEM building at 304 Great Island Road, Narragansett.
10:30 a.m. – Senators depart Pier 3 for a fish trawl survey aboard the DEM’s research vessel. They will be accompanied by representatives from the commercial and recreational fishing community and will be briefed on how changes in ocean conditions affect fish populations.
1:30 p.m. – Senators meet with local experts from the University of Rhode Island’s (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography and the RI Coastal Resources Management Council for a briefing on the effects of climate change in Rhode Island. Location: URI Bay Campus, Challenger Room, 215 South Ferry Road, Narragansett.
3:00 p.m. – Senators tour Roy Carpenter’s Beach, a working class community of small beach cottages that is being forced to retreat from the shoreline due to severe erosion. Location: Roy Carpenter Beach Road, South Kingstown.
3:45 p.m. – Senators visit the Ocean Mist and Tara’s Tipperary Tavern, two local bars that are in danger of washing out to sea due to erosion. Location: 895 & 907 Matunuck Beach Rd, Wakefield.

Senator Whitehouse will visit West Virginia on Wednesday, October 22. Details for the West Virginia visit will be available soon.

Lead Abatement: It’s a Good Thing and Whitehouse Knows It

From the Whitehouse Press office:

 Providence Receives $3.9M in Federal Funding for Lead Safety

Providence, RI – Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline announced that Providence’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has received $3.9 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to protect city residents from the hazards of lead-based paint in their homes.

The funding will be used as part of DPD’s Lead Safe Providence Program, which coordinates existing city services to mitigate lead hazards in Providence’s low-income communities. The funding will support the building or renovation of 250 safe, healthy, and sustainable housing units in the city.

“Lead poisoning is a preventable tragedy that dramatically impacts a child’s ability to learn and has a significant cost for schools and our society. Without this federal funding, fewer parents would be able to protect their children from lead hazards that may be present in their homes. Too many children and families right here in Rhode Island remain at risk. We must be proactive and continue to invest in the health and development of our children,” said Senator Jack Reed, who was awarded the 2014 National Child Health Champion Award by the National Center for Healthy Housing and the Rhode Island Childhood Lead Action Project. Earlier this year, Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, successfully restored $15 million in federal funding for the CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

“Rhode Islanders continue to deal with the toxic legacy of lead paint. In 2013, over 1,000 Rhode Island children under the age of six, including more than 400 in Providence, were diagnosed with lead poisoning,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who, while serving as Rhode Island Attorney General, took legal action against lead paint companies over the risk they presented to the public. “I applaud Mayor Taveras on his efforts to respond to the health risks from lead paint, and I am grateful to see federal funds helping to keep Rhode Island families healthy and safe in their homes.”

“Lead hazards have been on the decline since Rhode Island passed crucial lead-paint legislation, but there is still much work to be done to bring our state into compliance. Lead paint poses a significant health risk to Rhode Islanders, and children in particular, and this funding will go a long way to making homes across our state safer for everyone,” said Congressman Jim Langevin.

“Children deserve a healthy home free from the serious danger of lead poisoning and these federal funds will help protect children and families from the hazards of lead paint,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “I will continue working with my colleagues, Mayor Taveras and other local officials to ensure our communities have the resources they need to remove lead paint from homes and improve the health and well-being of Rhode Island families.”

“With the support of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s lead abatement program over the past 15 years, our city has addressed the hazards of household lead paint in 1500 units for Providence children and their families,” said Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. “These additional funds allow us to continue the work to improve the well-being, educational potential and life prospects of all residents. I’m grateful to the congressional delegation for their efforts on our behalf.”

The funding comes in the form of two grants from HUD programs designed to help cities reduce risks from lead-based paint and other housing-related environmental hazards. Providence has received $3.5 million from HUD’s Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration program, which assists cities with the highest incidence of lead-based paint to implement programs to protect residents. The City has also received $400,000 in supplemental funding from HUD’s Healthy Homes program, which helps cities to coordinate their response to housing-related hazards.

RI Delegates Announce Funding for Prevention of Dating Violence

From the office of Sheldon Whitehouse:

Delegation Announces $791,000 in Federal Funding to Help Combat Teen Dating Violence

Providence, RI – Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline announced $791,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for a study on teen dating violence, which will be conducted at Rhode Island Hospital and will focus on aggressive attitudes among middle school-aged boys.

Rhode Island Hospital and Klein Buendel, Inc., a technology research company, will use the funds to study the effectiveness of web-based games and videos in limiting aggressiveness among 8th grade boys. Researchers will also examine how to foster better communication between boys and their parents; previous studies have shown that parental involvement can be a significant risk factor for dating violence. Test subjects will be drawn from the greater Providence area. Findings from the study will be reported to DOJ’s National Institute of Justice for use in research and programming on teen dating violence.

“Significant progress has been made in preventing domestic violence and going after offenders. Yet, recent high profile events remind us that domestic violence continues, so we still have a long way to go. These federal funds will help educate more young people about the need to end domestic violence and sexual assault and advance gender equality,” said Reed, who helped pass the Violence Against Women Act.

“I am happy to see federal funding coming to Rhode Island to research this serious problem,” said Whitehouse, who wrote a provision in the re-authorization of the Violence Against Woman Act (VAWA) to help reduce teen dating violence. “Too many women are subjected to violence as teenagers, and often at the hands of the young men they are dating. Better understanding its causes will help us reduce future incidence of violence and keep our kids safe.”

“Violence begets violence, and early signs of aggression can be an indicator that the pattern could continue in later years. By focusing on young men and addressing these violent behaviors early on, this program aims to stop the cycle of abuse before it starts,” said Langevin. “Teen dating violence is an all-too-common occurrence, and I applaud the Department of Justice’s efforts to identify and address its root cause.”

“Intimidation, stalking, and violence are unacceptable and especially alarming when they are part of our children’s relationships,” said Cicilline. “Families and communities need the information and training to stop teen dating violence and I commend Rhode Island Hospital for advancing these important efforts.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine percent of students across the country have reported being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year.

Sheldon Whitehouse Focuses on Mental Health

From the Whitehouse press office:

Washington, DC – Today, President Obama hosted a National Conference on Mental Health at the White House to discuss ways to help the millions of Americans who struggle with mental health conditions and substance use disorders.  U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a strong advocate for legislation to improve care coordination for mental health patients, was with former Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) among the invited guests at today’s conference.

“For too long, Americans suffering from mental-health conditions have been misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and poorly treated,” said Whitehouse.  “We’ve made great strides to improve care for these individuals in recent years, particularly through the mental health parity law championed by Congressman Kennedy, but there is still more we can do.  I look forward to working with President Obama and his Administration on this important issue.”

Over the past several years, Senator Whitehouse has emerged as one of the leaders in Congress on mental health issues.  He strongly supported Congressman Kennedy’s Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, and in 2010 Whitehouse and Kennedy teamed up to introduce the Health Information Technology (HIT) Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act.  That bill would have made federal HIT incentives available to behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment providers who are currently ineligible to receive incentives available to a majority of medical professionals and facilities.  Whitehouse has continued working on that legislation since Kennedy’s retirement, and plans to reintroduce an updated version of it later this year.

Senator Whitehouse has also been working to amend the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Program to enable federal support for the training of mental health providers at children’s psychiatric hospitals, like Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island.

Today’s conference at the White House featured appearances by President Obama, Vice President Biden, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, as well as mental health advocates, educators, health care providers, faith leaders, and individuals who have struggled with mental health conditions.  Actors Glenn Close and Bradley Cooper also participated.

The event was a part of the Administration’s effort to launch a national conversation to increase understanding and awareness of mental health.

13,000 People Helped Out of the Doughnut Hole by Sen. Whitehouse

RI Seniors:  Help!  We’ve fallen into the Doughnut Hole and We Can’t Get Out!  Please, Senator Whitehouse, come to our aid!

Senator Whitehouse responds below.

Over 13,000 Rhode Islanders Benefitted from Medicare “Doughnut Hole” Fix in 2012

New Interactive Map Highlights Savings for Each Zip Code in State

Cranston, RI – During a visit with Cranston seniors today to commemorate the three-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts discussed how the health care law is saving money for Medicare recipients in Rhode Island. According to new data, 13,834 Rhode Island seniors saved over $8 million dollars through prescription drug discounts in 2012.

Interactive Map: Click here to see how much your community saved.

Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, thousands of Rhode Island seniors fell into the so-called Medicare “doughnut hole” and were forced to pay the full cost of their prescription drugs. In 2010, Senator Whitehouse successfully fought to eliminate the doughnut hole as part of the Affordable Care Act.

“Over the years, I’ve heard from hundreds of Rhode Island seniors who were hurt by the doughnut hole,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “Seniors should never have to choose between putting food on the table and paying for the medication they need to stay healthy. Fixing the doughnut hole was one of my top priorities when I was elected to the Senate, so I’m proud to see the Affordable Care Act saving Rhode Island seniors millions of dollars every year.”

“While much of the country is still trying to figure out the Affordable Care Act, here in Rhode Island we have been fully committed to ensuring that Rhode Island is a national leader in implementing health reform since the law’s passage in 2010,” said Lt. Governor Elizabeth H. Roberts, chair of the RI Healthcare Reform Commission. “And for Rhode Island seniors who are already benefiting from provisions in the law, such as closing the prescription coverage gap or ‘donut hole’, health reform has improved their lives.”

The doughnut hole exposes seniors to the full cost of prescription drugs after they and their plan spend a certain amount of money ($2,970) for covered drugs in a year, but before they hit catastrophic coverage ($4,750).  The Affordable Care Act closes the doughnut hole in phases over a ten-year period.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, in 2011 and 2012 seniors in the doughnut hole received a 50% discount from the drug manufacturers on all brand name drugs. Starting this year, the federal government will subsidize an additional 2.5% of brand-name drug costs for seniors in the doughnut hole. These subsidies will increase each year until the coverage gap is closed in 2020.

In 2012, Rhode Island seniors in the doughnut hole saved $579 each on average.

This is What Education Funding Looks Like

Good news for the middle schools of the United States, as Sen. Whitehouse champions new legislation to fund struggling middle schools.  

 

Whitehouse Announces Legislation to Improve Middle School Achievement

 

Providence, RI – Today, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed announced the introduction of the Success in the Middle Act, legislation to improve our nation’s middle schools. At the press conference, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Providence School Superintendent Susan Lusi, and Gilbert Stuart Middle School Principal Edward Halpin shared their support for the legislation and discussed its benefits for Rhode Island children.

 

“When children reach high school unprepared, it is often too late for them to catch up,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and lead sponsor of the Success in the Middle Act. “This legislation will help struggling middle schools prepare students for the academic rigors of high school, and put children on the path to college or a career early on.” 

 

“I applaud Senator Whitehouse for leading this effort to target reforms to the middle grades, a critical time when too many kids can fall off track and fall behind. This legislation will provide additional resources to improve our middle schools and help kids reach their full potential and successfully transition to high school, college, and the workforce,” said Reed.

 

“The middle school years can be a difficult, transitional time for children. In Providence, we have put a lot of effort into providing support and services both in and out of school for our middle school students. Senator Whitehouse’s ‘Success in the Middle’ legislation would significantly enhance the ability of communities across our nation to ensure that all students complete the middle grades prepared for success in high school and in the rest of their lives,” said Mayor Angel Taveras.

 

“We are grateful to our Senators from Rhode Island for their ongoing commitment to education, and especially to that of our most at-risk students,” said Providence Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi. “This bill would bolster our efforts to ensure that the critical middle school years are full of strong academics, positive school cultures and supportive structures to ensure student success.”

 

The Success in the Middle Act would help disadvantaged middle-grade students reach their full potential by providing federal grants to underachieving school systems. Senators Whitehouse and Reed announced the reintroduction of the legislation at Gilbert Stuart Middle School in Providence, a school that could benefit from passage of the Success in the Middle Act.

 

An earlier version of the Success in the Middle Act was originally introduced in the Senate by Barack Obama before he was elected President, and was then championed by Senator Reed. Senator Whitehouse will introduce a new version of the bill next week when the Senate goes back into session.

Whitehouse Tries to Get DISCLOSE Passed in Worst Congress ever

While being a member of Congress definitely has its benefits, it seems to be a pretty frustrating job these days. Take, for instance, this article by Ezra Klein outlining why this is the worst Congress ever:

14 reasons why this is the worst Congress ever.

Nevertheless, some people are trying to get work done, or at least make it look that way. In fact, some are willing to stay up all night if that’s what it takes to get some attention:

Senate Democrats to Hold “Midnight Vigil” on DISCLOSE Act

If GOP Blocks Effort to End Secret Election Spending, Democrats Will Continue Debating Past Midnight and Ask for Second Vote Tomorrow

Washington, DC – With Senate Republicans threatening to block debate this evening on the DISCLOSE Act, Senate Democrats are sending a clear message that they won’t back down easily. If Republicans succeed in blocking a key procedural vote on the measure today, a group of Democrats have pledged to hold onto the Senate floor late into the night tonight in an effort to bring greater attention to the issue and force a second vote on the bill tomorrow.

The late night “midnight vigil” effort will be led by the members of the Citizens United Task Force, which includes U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Al Franken (D-MN). The group was organized by U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, who will also take part in tonight’s effort.

“We recognize that you don’t win every fight in round one, and this is a fight worth continuing,” said Whitehouse, the lead sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act. “Putting an end to secret election spending by special interests is an essential step in protecting middle class priorities. For that reason, we are committed to continuing the debate on the DISCLOSE Act late into the night and asking for a second vote tomorrow if need be. We can’t let the special interests off the hook after just one round.”

The DISCLOSE Act requires any organization that spends $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report within 24 hours, identifying any donors who gave $10,000 or more. It will require political groups posing as social welfare organizations to disclose their donors and will prevent corporations and other wealthy interests from using shell corporations to funnel secret money to super PACs.

“We are determined to prove that transparency is not a radical concept,” said Udall. “Our bill is as simple and straightforward as it gets – if you are making large donations to influence an election, the voters in that election should know who you are. The American people are blessed with common sense. They know that when someone will not admit to something, it is usually because there is something to hide.”

“This is too important an issue to let it lie quietly,” Shaheen said. “New Hampshire voters were subjected to a flood of negative ads this primary season, many of them fueled by unregulated, secret money. It isn’t right. We need to stand up for accountability and fairness in our politics.”

“Tonight we will debate whether we truly believe in the first three words of our Constitution: ‘We the People.’ The flood of secret money unleashed by Citizens United is drowning out the voice of the people,” said Merkley. “Indeed, those who oppose disclosure are seeking to replace ‘We the People’ with ‘We the Powerful.’ This is wrong in so many ways. It’s way past time to shine a light on the darkness and discover who or what this money really stands for.”

“Coloradans have been inundated with attack ads funded by a small number of people through anonymous groups,” Bennet said. “Disclosure would at least provide information about who is behind these ads and bring accountability that bolsters democracy in our elections. Unfortunately, a minority of senators are poised to block progress on the DISCLOSE Act and prevent necessary transparency in our election system.”

“The DISCLOSE Act will not fix all of the evil effects of Citizens United, but it is certainly a step forward,” said Sen. Franken. “And it will bring much needed sunshine to our political system, which will go a long way toward reducing the number and dishonesty of negative attack ads that further corrode our public dialogue and ultimately threaten our democratic system.”

“We believe that all of the unlimited cash allowed by the Citizens United decision must at least be disclosed,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer. “This legislation seeks to limit the damage of the Supreme Court decision that has given corporations and the very wealthy unprecedented sway over our elections, and represents one of the most serious threats to the future of our democracy.”

Individuals are encouraged to follow the floor debate throughout the night on Twitter, using the hashtag #DISCLOSEVote.