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Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 6/29
We are quickly approaching Independence Day and helpful resources are provided below in case your family is looking for a new place to watch fireworks or see a parade. This week's newsletter will also include our recent progress on the farm bill, and provide an update from the U.S. House Floor.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
Celebrate Summer in Minnesota
Looking for events to visit, concerts in the area or where to find the best fireworks near you?
Also in preparation for the holiday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released important information to make sure families stay safe when planning their picnic, cookout or other summer outing.
Blue Star Museums
Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment of the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 1,800 museums across America. Blue Star Museums offers free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day, May 28, through Labor Day, September 3, 2012. For more information, visit http://www.arts.gov/bluestarmuseums
The museums participating in the 7th District are:
- Becker County Historical Society and Museum in Detroit lakes
- Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County in Moorhead
- ITOW Veterans Museum in Perham
New York Mills High School Marching Eagles Band
The New York Mills High School Marching Eagles Band is one of two bands representing Minnesota in the 2012 National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C. The band was chosen by the National Selection Committee who considered and reviewed the band’s performances. “Our program has a tradition of excellence over many years, and this is just a testament to the effort the students give and the support they receive from the district and our community,” said band director Blake Groe.
While in Washington, band members will have the opportunity to attend the Capitol Fourth celebration in front of the U.S. Capitol and featuring the National Symphony. The celebration will also be televised on PBS. My office looks forward to welcoming the band for a Capitol tour during their visit.
Tri Valley Opportunity Council
6/26: I had the pleasure of meeting with the Tri Valley Opportunity Council (Crookston) – Evangelina Alvarez, Ozcker Rodriquez, Sammy Benavidez, Sarita Rodriquez and Denny DeMers (CEO)
Minnesota Artist Creates New Duck Stamp:
First Day of Sale June 30
Now commonly known as "Duck Stamps," Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps are produced by the U.S. Postal Service for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. A portion of sales, 98 cents of every dollar, goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Duck Stamps also serve as a license for migratory waterfowl.
Joseph Hautman (Plymouth) created the 2012 Federal Duck Stamp, with his acrylic painting of a drake wood duck, pictured above. Hautman is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and an avid scientific researcher; he first began entering the Federal Duck Stamp contest as a way to exercise his artistic skills. He is a professional artist and describes his full-time art career as both challenging and fulfilling. Hautman is now a proud four-time winner, after taking top honors in 1991, 2002 and 2008.
MN Private Colleges Week
This week, we celebrate Concordia College in the 7th District as part of Minnesota Private Colleges Week. Concordia College is a recognized leader in global education and often ranks high nationally for the number of Concordia students studying abroad. The new Offutt School of Business combines liberal arts learning and a globally focused business education program. The business school also hosts the Northwest Minnesota Small Business Development Center, where small business owners in the area can meet with consultants who provide training, advice and information in all aspects of small business management and development. A variety of extracurricular activities are available to students including a world-class music program featuring 19 performance ensembles and athletic programs in 22 men’s’ and women’s sports. We are proud to list Concordia among the many fine higher educational institutions, both private and public, that are located in the 7th District.
Farm Bill Update
The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to mark-up our version of the farm bill on July 11. I would have liked us to consider the bill before the Fourth of July recess but I remain confident that if we can work together we’ll be able to move forward and ultimately have a farm bill in place before the current bill expires this fall.
Farm Talk (audio): http://farmpolicy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Collin-Peterson.mp3
On the Floor This Week
Congress Passes Highway Agreement
I am very pleased this week that Congress was able to pass into law three important measures – the reauthorization of the Surface Transportation programs, a year-long extension of student loan interest rates, and flood insurance authorization. It is nice to finally get some of these measures off the table and get some things done.
The 27-month agreement consolidating two-thirds of the surface transportation programs will, among other things, expedite permitting for transportation programs, give states more leeway in spending enhancement funds and is based mostly on the Senate bill. Unfortunately, demands to address the oil pipeline and coal ash regulation were dropped from the conference report. Also included in the agreement is a one-year freeze for student loan interest rates and flood insurance authorization. These actions will prevent student loans from increasing and will extend FEMA flood insurance that were set to expire on July 1.
While these agreements aren't perfect, I am happy that they are paid for. The bipartisan pension provisions in the conference agreement represent an important means for companies that sponsor pension plans to achieve a level of financial stability and certainty. The agreement allows these companies to “smooth” out their pension funding obligations by ensuring that the rates are within a range of the 25 year historical average. This will provide relief for plan sponsors from the wide fluctuations in funding obligations over the next several years. Reducing the funding obligations in the near-term will allow manufacturers to focus on business investment and job creation while still ensuring that their employees will get their retirement benefits.
Statement on Contempt Resolution
Last year I joined many of my colleagues in sending a letter to President Obama expressing concerns about the Fast and Furious program. It was an ill-conceived program that left many unanswered questions. Our letter expressed that these investigations should not be used as a platform for partisan criticism but rather should be an opportunity to get to the bottom of these serious allegations.
After continuing to review the facts, I believe the Justice Department failed to provide access to the necessary documents and continued to stall this investigation. I do not take this vote lightly. I feel that it is the responsibility of Congress to provide oversight of the executive branch and to act when it seems there's an unwillingness to provide answers. Five years ago I also supported contempt charges against Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers for their roles in firing U.S. Attorneys. I believed then, and now, that the American people deserve to know the entire timeline of events and who was responsible for these decisions.