Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Senator Collins on ThisWeek

Video from Senator Collins' appearance on ABC's ThisWeek:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Senator Collins introduces legislation to stabilize and reform U.S. financial system

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today introduced “The Financial System Stabilization and Reform Act (FSSRA) of 2009” to fundamentally restructure our nation’s outdated financial regulatory system to strengthen oversight and accountability.
“As a former Maine financial regulator, I believe financial regulatory reform is absolutely essential to restoring public confidence in our financial markets,” said Senator Collins. “America’s consumers, workers, savers, and investors deserve the protection of a new regulatory system that modernizes regulatory agencies, sets safety and soundness requirements for financial institutions to prevent excessive risk-taking, and improves oversight, accountability, and transparency. My legislation will fundamentally restructure our financial regulatory system to help rebuild the confidence of our citizens in our economy and restore stability to our financial markets.”

FSSRA calls for the creation of an independent Financial Stability Council (FSC), composed of representatives from existing federal financial regulators which now have the responsibility to oversee portions of the financial system. The FSC will serve as a “systemic-risk monitor,” and would maintain comprehensive oversight of potential systemic risks to the financial system. It would have the ability to propose changes to regulatory policy, working with existing federal regulatory agencies, when systemic risk could emerge due to regulatory gaps or the emergence of risky new financial products. The FSC would also have the authority to close regulatory “black holes” that pose a systemic risk when risky products or activities fall outside the current authority of federal financial regulators. The FSC would also have the authority to adopt rules that ensure financial institutions do not grow “too big to fail,” by imposing different capital requirements, raising risk premiums, or requiring a larger percentage of debt be held as long-term debt.

Additional provisions in the FSSA would:
• Close the credit default swaps loophole to ensure oversight of a financial instrument that contributed heavily to the current financial crisis and the downfall of AIG. This regulatory gap allowed systemic risk to build in our financial system without the oversight and transparency needed to prevent a collapse;• Impose safety and soundness requirements on new investment banks by requiring them to organize under the Bank Holding Company Act. Under the current system, investment bank firms such as the Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers were left unregulated with no agency given the authority to examine the full scope of their operations;• Merge the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) and Office of the Comptroller Currency (OCC) to consolidate and reduce the number of banking regulators, improving the effectiveness of the entire system. This merger was recommended by many experts, and the Treasury Inspector General recently raised concerns about the objectivity and effectiveness of OTS;• Protect the rights of states to regulate the insurance industry.

Senator Collins announces nearly $15 million in VA funding in Maine

Funding for Togus VA Hospital, Augusta, Caribou, and South Paris VA Homes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, announced that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be awarding $14,809,493 in funding to Maine’s VA hospitals and homes. The VA Hospital at Togus as well as the VA Homes in Augusta, Caribou, and South Paris will each be receiving a portion of the funding. The funding will be used for infrastructure upgrades and construction.

The funding is being distributed to Maine through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Senator Collins worked with a bipartisan group of senators to craft the legislation that became law last month. “The quality of VA care is critical to Maine’s veterans. We will always be indebted to them. This funding will help ensure that they receive the very best health care available at Maine’s VA clinics and hospitals,” said Senator Collins.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Collins casts her 4,000th consecutive vote

from the Bangor Daily News:

On Thursday, there was no drama as Collins voted in support of final passage of the Public Lands Act, bringing her record of consecutive votes to 4,000. The Maine Republican also holds the distinction of never having missed a vote during her Senate career.

Collins’ inspiration is another Maine Republican, the late Margaret Chase Smith, who never missed a Senate roll call in 13 years before surgery ended the streak at 2,941.

“One of my goals has been to make sure that Maine is always represented to the extent that it’s humanly possible for me to be present for votes,” Collins said Thursday from Washington.

Read the whole article >>

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Senator Collins announces $485,000 in senior nutrition assistance funding

U.S. Senator Susan Collins today announced that the Department of Health and Human Services will distribute a total of $485,000 in federal senior nutrition assistance to Maine through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Senator Collins led a bipartisan group of senators to craft the legislation that became law last month.

“Eating healthy, well-balanced meals helps to improve the quality of life of all of our seniors. This funding will help those organizations that are dedicated to ensuring that Maine seniors have continued and reliable access to nutritious food,” said Senator Collins.

The Recovery Act provides $325,000 for congregate nutrition services provided at senior centers and other community sites in Maine and $160,000 for home-delivered nutrition programs that are delivered to low-income seniors at their homes.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stimulus package increases criminal justice grants

from the Portland Press Herald:
The federal stimulus package approved by Congress includes a major increase in the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, federal law enforcement funding that has been sharply cut in recent years.

The state's Justice Assistance Council is scheduled to meet Monday at 1:30 p.m. at the Department of Public Safety in Augusta to take public testimony on how Maine's $9.6 million share should be spent.

The state is likely to propose spending the funds on computer upgrades that would allow different sectors of the criminal justice system to communicate and access one another's databases, said Maine Department of Public Safety Commissioner Anne Jordan.

If courts, prisons, prosecutors and police communicate better, then offenders will get more appropriate bail conditions and probation requirements. A prosecutor would know if a person charged with domestic violence had previously failed to complete a batterer's intervention program, Jordan said, or a police officer would know if a drug suspect is already out on bail in another county.

Read the whole article >>

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nearly $70 million in weatherization funding for Maine


Weatherization reduces home heating bills by an average of 32%

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced that the State of Maine will be receiving a total of $69,240,015 in federal funding for weatherization and energy efficiency. The funding is being distributed to Maine through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Senator Collins worked with a bipartisan group of senators to craft the legislation that became law last month.

Of the total, $41,935,015 will be for weatherization while $27,305,000 will be designated for the State Energy Program.

“One of the most effective and immediate ways we can help people stretch their energy dollars is through weatherization,” said Senator Collins. “It is estimated that low-income Mainers spend at least 14 percent of their income heating their homes. Experts estimate that every dollar spent insulating walls and attics, sealing drafty doors and windows, and repairing and replacing outdated or faulty heating equipment generates about $2.72 in savings over the life of a home. During this time of economic crisis, it is good to see that this weatherization funding will help create savings for the citizens who need it the most.”

According to the Department of Energy, on average, weatherization reduces home heating bills by an average of $358 per year.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Senator Collins votes against cloture on Omnibus Bill

U.S. Senator Susan Collins released the following statement after voting against cloture on the Omnibus Appropriations bill. This $410 billion bill bundles together nine separate spending measures:

“Our nation faces a tough economic recovery. At such a critical time in our nation’s history, it is imperative that taxpayer dollars are spent carefully and effectively. The Omnibus Appropriations bill does not meet that basic test.

“While this bill contains important funding for many worthwhile programs, its overall size is excessive since it would increase discretionary spending by eight percent over last fiscal year’s levels, far above the rate of inflation. Even more troubling, because it was drafted last year, the bill does not take into account the funding recently approved in the economic stimulus package. As a result, it contains excessive and in some cases duplicative funding for many agencies and programs that already received significant funding boosts in the economic stimulus law. I am concerned that this duplicative funding will lead to wasteful and unnecessary expenditures, particularly since most of the money must be spent within the next six months prior to the end of the fiscal year. That is why I supported an amendment that would have sent this legislation back to the Appropriations Committee where this spending could have been reconciled with the funding in the stimulus package. Unfortunately, that amendment failed.

“At this time of economic crisis, I do not believe that it would be fiscally responsible to support this Omnibus Appropriations bill.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Senator Collins announces Justice Assistance Grant funding

Funding to help support drug/gang task forces

Today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced that law enforcement agencies in Maine are eligible to receive $9,608,065 in federal funding in Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne/JAG) program. The funding is being distributed to Maine through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Senator Collins worked with a bipartisan group of senators to craft the legislation that became law last month.
A portion of the funding will be distributed directly to the State of Maine while the remainder will be distributed to local cities and towns.

The Byrne/JAG program gives local law enforcement agencies additional funding to support drug and gang task forces as well as other law enforcement programs.

"This is critical funding that will keep our streets safe," said Senator Collins. "The Byrne/JAG program is a tried and tested program that has served us well for more than two decades. Maine's law enforcement agencies have made great progress in their ongoing, collaborative, multi-jurisdictional approach to combating drug trafficking and violence in our state. Particularly at a time when a risk of adverse economic conditions may lead to increased crime, this funding will support our nation's finest in their efforts on the front lines, where they risk their lives daily keeping Americans safe."

The program has been supported by numerous law enforcement organizations including the National Narcotic Officers' Associations' Coalition, National Sheriffs' Association, National Association of Counties, National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Legal Action Center, National District Attorneys' Association, National HIDTA Directors Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major County Sheriffs Association, National Criminal Justice Association, National Alliance of State Drug Enforcement Agencies, Major City Chiefs Association, National Troopers Coalition, State Association of Addiction Services, the National Crime Prevention Council and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Senator Collins receives Navy's Distinguished Public Service Award

Award is Navy’s highest civilian honor

In a ceremony in Washington, DC today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, received the Distinguished Public Service Award from Donald Winter, Secretary of the United States Navy. This award is the Navy’s highest civilian honor. Admiral Mike Miller presented medals and a citation to Senator Collins on behalf of the Navy.

The citation reads; “For exceptionally distinguished service to the Department of the Navy as a member of Congress and the Senate Committee on Armed Services for January 2006 to January 2009. Senator Collins’ selfless devotion to the Nation’s Sailors and Marines ensured they were provided the resources necessary to effectively conduct the Global War on Terrorism. Her courageous leadership, vision, and loyalty to the men and women of the Department of the Navy greatly contributed to their quality of life and helped create the most modern and highly trained fighting force in history. As a Member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator Collins’ tireless advocacy helped maintain the Navy and Marine Corps team at the highest levels of combat readiness to meet the challenges of the 21st century. With grateful appreciation for her outstanding contributions to the Nation and the Navy and Marine Corps, Senator Collins is awarded the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award.”

“I am truly honored to receive this recognition,” said Senator Collins. “Serving on the Armed Services Committee and being an advocate for the men and women who serve in the United States Navy is a privilege. Maine has a long maritime tradition. I am particularly proud of the hard work and dedication of the shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works and the men and women who work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. We are all very proud of the contributions the State of Maine makes to a strong Navy. This award means a great deal to me.”

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Collins named Ranking Member of Financial Services subcommittee


Collins also to serve on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Transportation and Housing, Agriculture, and Interior and Environment Subcommittees

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee today announced the subcommittee assignments for the 111th Congress.

Senator Collins was selected to serve on this powerful committee earlier this year. In addition, she will remain Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and as a member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Select Senate Committee on Aging.

Senator Collins’ subcommittee assignments are as follows:

Financial Services and General Government, Ranking Member

Provides funding for numerous government agencies, many related to financial management and oversight, including:
  • Small Business Administration
  • Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Commodities and Futures Trading Commission
  • Consumer Products Safety Commission
  • Government Services Administration

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies
Determines funding of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and construction under the Department of Defense

Transportation, Housing, and Related Agencies
Provides funding for agencies under the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies
Appropriates for programs in the Department of Agriculture, including agricultural research, food stamps, and rural development

Interior, Environment and Related Agencies
Primarily oversees funding of agencies under the Department of the Interior, including national parks

“As our nation’s financial system is in a crisis, my role as Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government is now more important than ever. I will be afforded a much greater input of how funding is allocated to our nation’s financial regulators. As a former Commissioner of Professional and Financial Regulation for the State of Maine, I welcome the opportunity to reform our country’s financial regulatory system and to determine what funding levels are required. Given the importance of small business to Maine’s economy, I also look forward to ensuring that the SBA has sufficient funds to help small businesses start up, grow, and create good jobs.

“My other subcommittee roles will also allow me to have greater input on funding of priorities that are important to Mainers, such as shipbuilding, transportation infrastructure, and veterans’ care, while also giving me the ability to continue pressing for the elimination of wasteful spending that exacerbates our federal deficit.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Daily Bulldog: Federal stimulus package benefits New Sharon road project

from the Daily Bulldog:
NEW SHARON - Thanks to the federal stimulus package, a construction road project on Route 27 will begin immediately.

The state’s Department of Transportation has listed among its projects to be completed since the federal infusion of funding earmarked for infrastructure upgrades was announced, the resurfacing of a 2.65 mile stretch of Route 27 from the York Hill Road intersection to the intersection of Route 2 & 27.

State Rep. Paul Gilbert, D-Jay, announced today that of the federal recovery package funds sent to Maine, a portion of MDOT’s share would go to the local project.

Read the whole article >>

Senator Collins announces $328,938 for four Maine fire departments

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, today announced that the Department of Homeland Security has awarded $328,398 in grant funding for four Maine fire departments. The funding is provided through the “Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program,” or FIRE Act.

“The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program is an extremely critical source of funds for our fire and rescue personnel,” noted Senator Collins. “This grant will help provide Maine’s critical first responders with the equipment and skills to better serve their communities.”

The Springfield Fire Department will be awarded $137,750 in funding through the Vehicle Acquisition program. The program helps local departments purchase equipment such as pumpers, brush trucks, tankers/tenders, rescue vehicles, ambulances, quints, aerials, foam units, and fireboats.

Additionally, funding will be distributed to three other Maine fire departments through the Operations and Firefighting Safety Program, which consists of training, equipment, wellness and fitness, and modifications to the departments’ facilities.

• Wiscasset Fire Department will receive $77,900
• Prospect Volunteer Fire Department will receive $41,088
• Hermon Fire Department will receive $72,200
Senator Collins strongly supported the creation of the FIRE Act Grant program. These grants are awarded to fire departments across the United States to increase the effectiveness of firefighting operations, firefighter health and safety programs, emergency medical service programs, and Fire Prevention and Safety programs, and to purchase new fire equipment.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

MPBN: Two Maine Health Centers to Get Stimulus Funds

from MPBN:
Maine's congressional delegation says two health centers in Maine will be receiving more than $2.5 million in stimulus funds. In a release today in conjunction with President Obama, Maine Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, and Representatives Mike Michaud and Chelie Pingree announced that $2,590,713 will be provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the health centers, which include the City of Portland's health center in Portland and the Penboscot Community Health Center in Bangor.

First stimulus project comes to Maine

U.S. Senator Susan Collins released the following statement in response to the news that the Maine Department of Transportation has identified the first project to receive federal money distributed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Senator Collins worked with a bipartisan group of senators to craft the legislation that became law earlier in the month.

Maine DOT has prioritized the improvements to the 24-mile stretch of the northbound I-295, between Brunswick and Gardiner, as the first project to use this funding.

"I am pleased to see the state distribute this money quickly. The purpose of the stimulus is to get the money into the economy quickly by, among other things, beginning work on important transportation infrastructure projects. This will help create and save the jobs of our skilled and dedicated workforce. It is vital that we get these projects underway as soon as possible, and I look forward to seeing more of these stimulus funded project announcements soon."

In addition, as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Collins, along with Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-D CT) will participate in a hearing next week that will examine how the federal government will account for the billions of dollars expected to be spent over the next two years as a result of the economic stimulus package and help ensure that strong accountability measures are in place and that the spending is as transparent as possible.

Among those scheduled to testify at the hearing, which will be held on Thursday, March 5, is Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Senator Collins said: "We have witnessed the collapse of the housing market, the unraveling of our nation's financial institutions, and the evaporation of trillions of dollars that were invested in the stock market and in people's retirement accounts. It is critical that we work to turn this economy around and create and save jobs, but do so with transparency and accountability. I opposed releasing the remaining TARP funds last month because the initial funds lacked the transparency and accountability that was needed to ensure that taxpayer dollars were spent wisely. I was appalled to learn that the financial institutions that benefited from the initial TARP funds were either unable or unwilling to publicly release information about how TARP dollars were spent. We cannot afford to make the same mistake with the economic stimulus package.

Senator Collins' committee's inquiry will focus on ensuring that appropriate measures are taken to prevent cost overruns as agencies enter into contracts to spend ARRA funds, that strict oversight of contractor performance occurs, that grant conditions are met, and that fraud is promptly prosecuted.

The Committee will also look at the challenges of presenting quick and accurate information about how the funds are being spent so that taxpayers may follow the process and determine if their money is being spent wisely and effectively.

The ARRA calls for a range of new and existing assets to help ensure the money is spent appropriately and efficiently. The bill provides extensive new funding for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Inspectors General (IGs) in the federal agencies charged with distributing stimulus funds. The bill also creates a new Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, headed by a presidential appointee, to coordinate and conduct oversight of stimulus spending across-the-board and provide regular reports to Congress and the public.

Furthermore, a new federal website, Recovery.gov, will allow the public to track where all the money is going, including disbursements at the state and local level, for an unprecedented level of transparency.