Rob's Rundown: Week of February 27 - March 3, 2017

March 3, 2017 | Rob's Rundown

Monday, February 27

Portman Invites Teamsters Local 416 President Nick “Sonny” Nardi to Attend Joint Session of Congress

On Monday, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced that Nicky “Sonny” Nardi, President of Teamsters Local 416, will accompany him as his guest to President Trump’s Joint Session of Congress:

“Sonny is a good friend and a terrific ambassador for Ohio workers, and I’m pleased that he will be joining me for the Joint Session of Congress,” said Portman. “As a Teamster for the past 35 years, Sonny exemplifies the kind of hard work and dedication that Ohio workers are known for. I’ve been proud to partner with him and the Teamsters on our efforts to protect Ohio jobs and stop retirees from facing pension cuts as large as 70 percent through no fault of their own.  I look forward to continuing to work closely together with him on behalf of the tens of thousands of Ohio Teamsters he represents.”

I look forward to attending the speech tomorrow night, and I want to thank Rob for the invitation.  The Teamsters of Ohio will continue to work with Senator Portman and other members of Congress on jobs, pensions, and the issues our members care about,” said Sonny Nardi, President of Teamsters Local 416, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Ohio D.R.I.V.E., and Recording Secretary of Teamsters Joint Council 41

NOTE: Portman praised the Treasury’s decision last year rejecting the application from the Central States Pension Fund to reduce benefits for its workers by up to 70 percent. Portman, who is the author of the Pension Accountability Act, was vocal in urging the Department of the Treasury to reject Central States’ plan, calling instead on all involved parties to seek out a better solution

Fraternal Order of Police Endorses Bipartisan STOP Act 

Support for Senator Portman’s bipartisan Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act continues to build in Ohio and across the country. On Monday, the Fraternal Order of Police urged support for the bill, saying:

“The legislation will close the loophole and allow CBP to effectively enforce customs laws that will stop the flow of deadly synthetic drugs into our communities from China. Law enforcement is always the first on the scene of an overdose and our members have seen far too many lives destroyed by this terrible epidemic. This bill will help prevent more synthetic drugs being trafficked into our communities.”

Portman introduced the bipartisan bill with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped through our borders to drug traffickers here in the United States. Bipartisan companion legislation has also been introduced in the House. As he did in the fight to get his bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) signed into law, Portman is working to pass the STOP Act through Congress so the president can sign it into law. As he raises awareness on the national stage and continues to tour Ohio meeting with those on the front lines of the addiction epidemic, support for this critically important legislation continues to grow.

The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police has also endorsed the bill.  See the full letter of endorsement from the National Fraternal Order of Police here.

Tuesday, February 28 

Portman Statement on President Trump’s Address to a Joint Session of Congress 

Portman released the following statement ahead of President Trump’s address to the Joint Session of Congress:

“Tonight President Trump has the chance to bring a divided nation together and I hope he seizes that opportunity.  I hope he’ll focus on a common-sense agenda to create more jobs and higher wages, help the most vulnerable among us, and restore America’s leadership in the world.

“I am optimistic that by working together we can make progress for the country, especially when it comes to creating more jobs and economic growth.  We have a real opportunity to reform our broken tax code to help create more jobs with better wages, give small businesses regulatory relief, and bring down the cost of living—especially the cost of health care—for middle-class families. President Trump has expressed support for these measures, as well as for priorities of mine like stopping human trafficking and turning the tide of the drug addiction epidemic. I’m ready to work with him, his administration, and anyone else, Republican or Democrat, toward solutions that address these issues.”

Portman reacted to the speech in a video posted on social media.

Wednesday, March 1

Portman Introduces the Pension Accountability Act to Protect Ohio Retirees in Troubled Multi-Employer Pension Plans 

Portman introduced the Pension Accountability Act to help protect Ohioans from having their hard-earned pensions cut with no say in the process. Portman’s bill aims to give workers and retirees a seat at the table when a looming multi-employer pension bankruptcy may require major pension cuts.

“Ohio retirees facing potential pension cuts deserve to have a voice in the process, and this bill fixes that,” Senator Portman stated. “Ohio workers have worked long hours for years, played by the rules, and paid into their pensions for decades. As a matter of basic fairness, they deserve a role in determining how to bring these pensions to solvency.”

“We, as active and retired participants in troubled multiemployer pension funds, appreciate Senator Portman and his staff’s commitment to give us a fair vote on any application for pension cuts,” said Mike Walden, Ohio teamster and Chairman of the National United Committee to Protect Pensions, speaking on behalf of all retirees in troubled multiemployer plans.  “Since the MPRA 2014 was enacted in December 2014, Senator Portman has fought for the participants in these funds to ensure they have a voice and seat at the table, which will help lead to a more fair and equitable solution to all.”

“I’m pleased Senator Rob Portman is reintroducing the Pension Accountability Act,” said Steven Sprague, a 44-year member of the Southwest Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Pension Plan.  “The MPRA’s treatment of unreturned ballots as automatic ‘yes’ votes for any cuts is unacceptable, and this important bill will allow pension participants of multiemployer pensions a fair vote on their earned pensions.”

NOTE: The Pension Accountability Act has no taxpayer cost.  Original cosponsors include Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Deb Fischer (R-NE). The bill improves the Multi-employer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) in two ways:

  • First, for struggling pension plans seeking cuts, it will make the participant vote binding in all situations. This will give the workers and retirees a seat at the table to influence the solvency reforms. Their majority vote will be required for any pension cuts to occur.
  • Second, it will make this vote fair by counting only the ballots that are returned. Unreturned ballots will no longer be counted as a “yes” vote.

Portman praised the Department of the Treasury’s decision last year to reject the application from the Central States Pension Fund to reduce benefits by up to 70 percent.  He was vocal in urging the Treasury to reject Central States’ plan, calling instead on all involved parties to seek a better solution.

Portman, Udall Introduce Bill to Fund Conservation Programs 

On Wednesday, Portman and Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act, legislation to extend a special postage stamp that funds conservation programs. This legislation is being introduced in advance of World Wildlife Day on Friday, which celebrates and raises awareness about wildlife.

“We owe it to our kids and to our grandkids to preserve our planet’s rich wildlife and natural resources for them and for future generations to enjoy,” said Portman. “Reauthorizing this stamp program to help fund conservation—at no cost to the taxpayer—is a step that can raise millions of dollars toward that, and I am hopeful my Senate colleagues will join me and continue this successful program for four more years.”

For more information about the bill, go here.

Thursday, March 2

Senators Portman, Markey, Cornyn and Bennet Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Make Innovative Home-based Primary Care Medicare Program Permanent

Senators Portman, Edward J. Markey (D-MA), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) reintroduced legislation (S.464) to convert the Independence at Home (IAH) demonstration into a permanent, national Medicare program. Independence at Home is an innovative, team-based model that is bringing measurable, high-quality care to patients suffering from multiple debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, congestive heart failure, diabetes and Parkinson’s, while significantly lowering costs for the Medicare program.

Independence at Home empowers teams of doctors, care givers and other health care professionals to coordinate and provide primary care services in the comfort of patients’ own homes, reducing unnecessary emergency room visits and avoidable hospitalizations and readmissions, as well as the costs associated with them.  According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Independence at Home payment model saved more than $25 million in its first performance year alone, an average of $3,070 per participating beneficiary.

The Independence at Home program works, and I've seen that firsthand in Northeast Ohio,” said Senator Portman.It has made a difference by reducing hospital readmissions, preventing costly hospital and nursing home admissions, and, most importantly, keeping our seniors healthy and in their preferred care setting. Our bipartisan legislation would make the program permanent so that it can continue to help, and make it accessible to Medicare beneficiaries in Ohio and across the nation so that it can help more of our seniors.” 

For more information about the bill, go here.

Friday, March 3

Portman Visits Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus and Meet Ohio Jewish Leaders 

On Friday, Portman visited the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus and met with Ohio Jewish leaders to discuss the recent threats to Ohio communities. Portman’s visit came as Jewish Community Centers around the country, including in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, have become the target of bomb threats. Portman has been outspoken against these hateful acts.