Rob’s Rundown: Week of November 4 – November 8, 2019

November 8, 2019 | Rob's Rundown

Today, Senator Portman delivered the keynote address at the Mental Health & Addiction: Breaking the Stigma Symposium hosted at Walsh University. In his remarks, Portman highlighted his bipartisan legislative accomplishments to provide more resources to combat the addiction crisis through his Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act and the 21st Century CURES Act. Portman also discussed his Combating Meth & Cocaine Act to give states more flexibility to use federal funding to address the resurgence of meth and cocaine as well as his bipartisan FIGHT Fentanyl Act to permanently criminalize fentanyl-related substances. He also met with the Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station (YARS) Commander Colonel Joseph Janik, members of the Wing Command and representatives from the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission to discuss the importance of YARS to the Youngstown community and to our country. The focus of their discussion was on the current Wing mission, potential for upgrades to the C-130 fleet and future vision of the aerial spray mission.

In addition, Portman delivered two separate speeches on the Senate floor. In the first, he highlighted his work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Congressman Bill Johnson (R-OH), the Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House, the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office, and the Ohio Department of Transportation to restore and protect the historic Joseph Barker Jr. House in southern Washington County, Ohio. The Barker House currently sits on property that is owned by the Corps, and efforts are underway to provide for the preservation of the house so that it can be enjoyed by future generations. In the second, he urged his Senate colleagues to pass the bipartisan SECURE Act to help more Americans achieve a secure retirement. The SECURE Act passed the House of Representatives in May with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 417-3. That’s why Portman is urging his Senate colleagues to pass this legislation as soon as possible.

For a more detailed look at Senator Portman’s week, please see the following: 

Monday, November 4, 2019

Portman Op-Ed in Toledo Blade: Let’s Pass USMCA and Help Ohio’s Economy Grow

In the Toledo Blade, Senator Portman wrote an op-ed discussing the importance of passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement this year to modernize the current trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, our largest trading partners. Portman emphasized the economic benefits for farmers and manufacturers in northwest Ohio and across the country. Portman, who recently delivered remarks on the Senate floor highlighting the benefits of USMCA, urged Speaker Pelosi once again to bring the trade agreement up for a vote.

In the op-ed, Portman writes: “In every respect, USMCA is better than the status quo, and it will be particularly good for northwest Ohio. If it is brought up for a vote, I believe it will pass both the House and the Senate. With all the partisanship in Washington, it would be great to pass something that is bipartisan and helps Ohio farmers and workers. There’s no reason to delay passing this important trade agreement.”

Excerpts of the op-ed can be found here and the full op-ed can be found at this link.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

At Committee Hearing, Portman Highlights Importance of FBI Involvement in Combating Intelligence Threat of Confucius Institutes & Need to Stem Flow of Illegal Drugs into the Country

At the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing on threats to the homeland, Portman highlighted the importance of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) being actively involved in combating the influx of deadly drugs across the Southwest border into the United States. Portman recently introduced new legislation – the Combating Meth & Cocaine Act – to give states more flexibility to use federal funding to address the resurgence of meth and cocaine that are coming into the U.S. from Mexico. He also introduced the FIGHT Fentanyl Act to permanently list fentanyl as a Schedule I drug. 

In addition, Portman discussed the importance of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) informing the higher education community about the threat posed by Confucius Institutes which are controlled, funded, and mostly staffed by the Chinese government at U.S. colleges and universities. Earlier this year, Portman and Senator Tom Carpers (D-DE), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), released a bipartisan report detailing the lack of transparency in how American colleges and universities manage Confucius Institutes—which are located at more than 100 American colleges and universities and have received more than $150 million in support from the Chinese government.

A transcript of his remarks is here and a video of his questioning can be found here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Habitat for Humanity Honors Portman for Longtime Dedication to Building Affordable Homes

Portman was named an honoree by Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. at its 30th anniversary gala. The 30th Anniversary Gala honored several individuals and corporations for their outstanding volunteer commitments and dedication to Habitat’s mission.

“Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. makes an indispensable contribution to the District, providing safe and affordable homes for families in need. I want to congratulate them for 30 years of building strong communities,” said Portman. “I am honored to be recognized for my volunteer work as well as my legislation to ensure that Habitat for Humanity affiliates and other nonprofits can receive donated appraisals on the homes they build to ensure they remain affordable. Last year, the president signed my bipartisan legislation into law to make it easier for Habitat to carry out its mission by eliminating unnecessary red tape and freeing up more resources that Habitat can use to help more people. Every time a new Habitat build is completed or a vacant house is renovated, a family is forever changed. I’ll continue to be a partner for Habitat in Washington, and more importantly, on the build sites that have changed so many lives.”

Committee Approves Portman’s Bipartisan Bill to Improve Transparency of Federal Spending

Portman announced that the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved his bipartisan Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2019 favorably out of committee. Portman introduced this bipartisan bill with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to make information about how the federal government is spending taxpayer dollars more accessible to taxpayers. The legislation will improve government transparency by requiring federal agencies to publish easily understandable justifications for their budget requests on a single, central website each year. Congressional budget justifications are plain-language explanations of how agencies propose to spend money that they request from Congressional appropriators. The materials would also be posted on each agency’s website. The legislation now awaits action on the Senate floor.

“Ohioans and all Americans should be able easily evaluate how the federal government is spending their hard-earned tax dollars,” said Portman. “This bipartisan legislation will improve federal government transparency by requiring federal agencies to publish their annual budget justifications on a centralized website. I’m proud that the committee approved this important legislation and I hope the full Senate will pass it soon.”

Portman Announces Transportation Department Grant of $18 Million to Extend US-30 in Stark County

Portman announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation will award the Regional Transportation Improvement Project (RTIP) $18 million in funding as part of the Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) competitive grant program. This funding will help RTIP, a public agency serving Carroll, Columbiana, and Stark counties, construct a three-mile extension of the existing two-lane US-30 expressway through East Canton. Portman released the following statement applauding the announcement:

“This is great news for Carroll, Columbiana, and Stark counties and I want to thank Secretary Chao for her support and Stark County Commissioner Richard Regula for his tireless efforts to bring these improvements to the region’s infrastructure. This grant will help complete the important expansion work that the city is undertaking and boost opportunities for economic growth and job creation,” said Portman. “Opening access to the trucking industry on Route 30 is critical for the safety conditions and growing energy industry in the Marcellus and Utica shale region in Northeast Ohio.”

Committee Approves Portman, Schatz, Gardner, Harris Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Federal Government’s Use of Artificial Intelligence

Senators Rob Portman, Brian Schatz (D-HI), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has approved their bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Government Act, legislation that would improve the effectiveness of the federal government by ensuring that the government’s use of AI and automated processes are ethical and accountable, and that the government has the necessary technical expertise to successfully use AI.

“Artificial intelligence will have significant impacts on our country, economy, and society,” said Senator Portman, Co-Chair of the Senate AI Caucus. “Ensuring that our government has the capabilities and expertise to help navigate those impacts will be important in the coming years and decades. I’m pleased the committee has approved this bipartisan legislation to ensure our government understands the benefits and pitfalls of this technology as it engages in a responsible, accountable rollout of AI, and I urge my colleagues to support it when it comes the floor for a vote.” 

As Congress Nears November 21 Deadline, Portman Calls for Action on Legislation to End Government Shutdowns

Portman discussed his efforts to end government shutdowns and urged his colleagues to join him in passing legislation to do so. As chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Portman released a bipartisan report detailing the combined costs of the past three federal shutdowns. These three shutdowns, totaling 54 days of partial or full government closure, caused furloughed workers to lose a combined 56,938 years of productivity, and cost taxpayers at least $4 billion in back pay and other associated costs. The report was the result of a nine-month investigation by the Subcommittee, which started in the wake of the most recent government shutdown in winter of 2018 —which was also the longest shutdown in American history. During the most recent shutdown, which lasted 35 days, Senator Portman reintroduced legislation which he has introduced the last five Congresses, the End Government Shutdowns Act. This Act would permanently prevent further government shutdowns by enabling automatic continuing resolutions that maintain government funding at current levels, in the event that an appropriations bill or an existing continuing resolution elapses.

A transcript of his remarks is here and a video of his questioning can be found here

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Portman, Cardin Introduce Hospice Care Improvement Act to Address Lack of Transparency in Hospice Care

Portman and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced new legislation – the Hospice Care Improvement Act – to address the lack of safety protocols and transparency in hospices across the country. Following the release of reports (found here and here) in July from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighting specific instances of patient harm in hospices and a lack of transparency to highlight potential patient abuses and facility deficiencies, this legislation would act on recommendations from HHS, patients, and industry experts to ensure patient safety. 

The bill would seek to improve oversight and accountability in the nation’s hospices by focusing on improving patient awareness of hospice abuse and by ensuring that hospices remain responsible for the care that they provide to patients.  The proposed bill would publish hospice survey results for patients, increase survey frequency, improve educational materials and opportunities for hospices and surveyors, and establish penalties for bad actors in a manner commensurate with existing penalties for other providers, like nursing homes and home health agencies. Congressmen Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY) are leading the effort on similar legislation in the House.  

The text of the bill is here

“The findings from the HHS OIG report on hospice care abuse across our country are deeply upsetting and unacceptable,” said Senator Portman. “A hospice patient should live out their final days with comfort and dignity, and their families should have the peace of mind knowing their loved ones are receiving the best care. This legislation will provide the oversight needed for hospices and give patients and their families the transparency and accountability they deserve.”

Portman Statement on General Motors’ Sale of Lordstown Facility to Lordstown Motors

Rob Portman released the following statement on the announcement of General Motors’ sale of the Lordstown facility to Lordstown Motors: 

“Since GM first announced its intentions to discontinue Chevy Cruze production, I have pushed hard for the company to do the right thing and bring a new GM product to Lordstown. GM instead chose to sell the facility to Lordstown Motors, which it says is the best option for the future of the plant. I agree that Lordstown Motors has the potential to create some much-needed jobs in the Mahoning Valley with cutting-edge electric vehicle technology, but the chances of that happening are much better if GM invests in this new venture to help ensure its success and a new path for Lordstown. I will continue to work with community leaders to do whatever I can to return the Lordstown plant to its full potential.”

On Senate Floor, Portman Urges Senate to Pass House-Passed SECURE Act to Help More Americans Save for Retirement

Portman urged his Senate colleagues to pass the bipartisan SECURE Act to help more Americans achieve a secure retirement. The SECURE Act passed the House of Representatives in May with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 417-3. That’s why Portman is urging his Senate colleagues to pass this legislation as soon as possible. Several components of Portman’s bipartisan Retirement Security & Savings Act, which he introduced with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), are included in the SECURE Act. The SECURE Act includes a set of reforms designed to help more Americans save for their retirement, including a number of incentives designed to encourage small businesses to offer retirement plans to their workers as well as an increase in the age for required minimum distributions from 70 and a half to 72. The SECURE Act also includes Portman’s Retirement Security Preservation Act, which would reform pension nondiscrimination laws to prevent more than 400,000 Americans from having their pensions frozen through no fault of their own. 

Transcript of his remarks can be found here and a video can be found here.

On Senate Floor, Portman Highlights Work with Corps and Local Stakeholders to Preserve Historic Barker House

Portman delivered remarks on the Senate floor highlighting his work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Congressman Bill Johnson (R-OH), the Friends of the Joseph Barker Jr. House, the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office, and the Ohio Department of Transportation to restore and protect the historic Joseph Barker Jr. House in southern Washington County, Ohio. The Barker House was built around 1828 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.  The Barker House currently sits on property that is owned by the Corps, and efforts are underway to provide for the preservation of the house so that it can be enjoyed by future generations. Portman first visited the house in September 2018 and has actively worked to help preserve this historic home.

Transcript of his remarks can be found here and a video can be found here.

Friday, November 8, 2019

In North Canton, Portman Delivers Keynote Remarks at the Mental Health & Addiction: Breaking the Stigma Symposium

Portman delivered the keynote address at the Mental Health & Addiction: Breaking the Stigma Symposium hosted at Walsh University. The day-long event featured stakeholders from across Northeast Ohio and the country to discuss the response and efforts on the ground in communities across the country to the growing crisis of addiction, mental health, and psychiatric needs.

“I enjoyed participating in this year’s Breaking the Stigma Symposium, discussing my work at the federal level to ensure that state and local organizations have the resources they need via my bipartisan CARA and CURES grants. Our communities are in crisis right now as more and more Ohioans of every age suffer from addiction. I’m proud of the work that our community leaders are doing here in Canton and around the state to help turn the tide on this addiction crisis,” said Portman. “I will continue to work with local communities and organizations across Ohio to help ensure they have the support and funding they need to continue their good work.”  

Portman Visits Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station, Discusses Current Wing Mission with Commander

Portman met with the Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station (YARS) Commander Colonel Joseph Janik, members of the Wing Command and representatives from the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission to discuss the importance of YARS to the Youngstown community and to our country. The focus of their discussion was on the current Wing mission, potential for upgrades to the C-130 fleet and future vision of the aerial spray mission.

“Today, I appreciated the productive visit with Commander Janik to receive a current mission brief and discuss the potential for C-130 upgrades as well as the future vision of the aerial spray mission,” said Portman. “I also had the opportunity to go out and see the site where construction will soon begin on a new entry control gate for the base which will be built by funds I secured in the FY 2019 NDAA. YARS has had a significant economic impact on the region, deployed its resources to those in need across the globe, and defended the values we hold dearest as Americans.” 

SOCIAL MEDIA

 

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Medicare rule change will let Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital expand

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has agreed to toss out an old Medicare rule that kept University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland from expanding its bed count.

The rule was intended to keep hospitals that share the same space - such as UH Rainbow and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center - from overbilling Medicare. It kept UH Rainbow from increasing its number of beds beyond its current 244, said a spokeswoman for Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman’s office.

In response to requests from Portman, UH Rainbow, Ohio Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran and others, CMS on Friday released a new rule that lifted the bed cap that affects Rainbow and a few other children’s hospitals. Because Medicare covers such a tiny fraction of children’s hospital patients, CMS said the change will have a “negligible” effect on its payments and letting the hospitals expand wouldn’t give them an economic advantage over other hospitals.

“Given the low number of Medicare claims submitted by these children’s hospitals, which results in a minimal level of Medicare payment to them relative to the payments they receive from other payers, we believe that such a regulatory change would allow these hospitals to address changing community needs for services without any increased incentive for inappropriate patient shifting to maximize Medicare payments,” the new rule said.

A letter submitted to CMS from UH Rainbow President Patti DePompei said the old rule has kept Rainbow from expanding the number of beds it offers to its pediatric patients for more than 20 years. That prevented Rainbow from adding “new inpatient units specifically designed and devoted to cutting-edge medical developments such as cancer immunotherapy;” expanding “the size of its medical education residencies to increase the number of physicians trained to treat diseases and injuries of childhood;" and increasing “its size commensurate with the increased consolidation in the Northeast Ohio region driven by value-based care delivery reforms such as accountable care and population health,” DePompei wrote.

“This critical update will assure Rainbow can better plan for patient needs and the demand for high quality care,” Corcoran added in a plea for the change.

A hospital spokeswoman would not say what type of expansion is in the works, but forwarded a statement from DePompei that expressed gratitude to Portman, Ohio Gov Mike DeWine and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma for supporting a rules change that “opens the path for University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital to move forward with developing strategies to invest and expand the pediatric services that are most important to the community at our flagship hospital.”

Portman issued a statement that thanked Verma for issuing the rule, and said it will "allow for UH Rainbow to continue to grow and support children across Cleveland, Ohio, and the nation. A statement from DeWine called the change “great news for kids’ health care in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.”

(Medicare rule change will let Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital expand. Cleveland.com. November 4)

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Portsmouth Health Department receives $125,000 federal grant

The city of Portsmouth Health Department is now the recipient of a $125,000 Drug-Free Communities courtesy of grant U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. R-OH.

In 1997, Portman authored the Drug-Free Communities Act, advertised as supporting evidence-based, community-oriented drug prevention programs.

Portman’s office states the Drug-Free Communities Act is designed to be optimally effective and accountable by capping the amount spent on administrative and overhead expenses, requiring all coalitions that receive grants to have experience in drug abuse prevention, and to match federal funding with local funds. No other drug prevention program has achieved the same reduction in youth drug use that has been achieved consistently by the DFC program. Portman issued the following statement on grants issued to some 20-plus Ohio anti-drug organizations.

“The Drug-Free Communities program is a proven, evidence-based, and community-oriented program that reduces substance abuse among our nation’s youth,” Portman said. “I authored this legislation more than 20 years ago during my time in the House of Representatives, and it remains today the most effective program for consistently reducing youth drug use.

“I have seen firsthand that prevention is a powerful tool to counteract drug use in our community, and this funding helps youth throughout Ohio make better, more healthy choices. These grants will help those on the frontlines in Ohio combat this crisis as we work together to turn the tide of addiction.”

In addition to Portsmouth, other Ohio organizations to receive funding included the Northern Ohio Recovery Association in Cleveland; the Erie County Health Department; the Cincinnati HOPE Coalition; the YMCA of Greater Toledo; and, numerous others. A health department spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Portsmouth Health Department receives $125,000 federal grant. Portsmouth Daily Times. November 6)

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