Annual Legislative Report
2013 Legislative Report
Every year, Senator Levin prepares a report summarizing his key legislative activities. You can jump to a topic below by clicking on the link.
FIGHTING FOR WORKERS AND CONSUMERS
Fighting for Fair Trade and a Level Playing Field for U.S. Manufacturing.Continued to fight for the fair treatment of U.S. goods in overseas markets:
- With Japan now a part of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, and given its history of protectionism and one-way auto trade, urged taking an aggressive approach to opening Japan’s automotive market to U.S. autos and auto parts.
- Urged the inclusion of currency manipulation as an enforceable commitment in the Trans Pacific Partnership.
- Continue to urge the administration to press China to comply with the market opening commitments it made when joining the World Trade Organization, particularly regarding automotive manufacturers’ and green technology manufacturers’ ability to participate fully in the Chinese market; its commitment to reduce the rampant intellectual property theft that occurs in China; and China’s unfair auto parts trade practices.
- Weighed in on behalf of U.S. companies pursuing anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations against foreign nations’ unfair exports to the United States.
Protecting American Intellectual Property and Proprietary Information. Introduced bipartisan legislation to deter the theft of American intellectual property and proprietary information in cyberspace. The legislation requires the president to develop a report that includes a watch list and a priority watch list of foreign countries that engage in economic or industrial espionage against the United States in cyberspace and, under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, allows the president to freeze the assets of foreign companies that have been determined to have knowingly benefitted from the theft of U.S. technology or proprietary information stolen in cyberspace.
Fighting for the rights of workers. Protected the right of workers to collectively organize by supporting Senate confirmation of National Labor Relations Board members, which allowed the NLRB to be fully staffed for the first time in a decade.
Combating income inequality. Continued to push for measures that would increase worker pay and combat growing income inequality by cosponsoring two pieces of legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 – the Fair Minimum Wage Act and the Minimum Wage Fairness Act.
Fighting for equal pay for equal work. Continued to fight for equal and fair pay for equal work by again cosponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act in the 113th Congress.
PROMOTING CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY
Exposing High Risk London Whale Trades. As chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, released a report and held a hearing on how global banking giant JPMorgan Chase lost more than $6.2 billion from high stakes credit derivative trades out of London. The investigation showed how JPMorgan knowingly took on risk, hid losses, disregarded its risk limits, manipulated internal risk models, dodged regulatory oversight, and misinformed regulators, investors and the public about what happened. JPMorgan later paid civil fines totaling $1 billion for misstating its financial results, engaging in unsafe and unsound banking practices, and manipulating the credit market. Two traders have also been indicted. In addition, federal regulators clarified that banks may not change their derivative valuation methodologies to hide losses, and that U.S. derivatives requirements apply to a U.S. bank’s foreign branches.
Combating Excessive Speculation. Continued to combat excessive commodity speculation that forces consumers and businesses to pay higher and more volatile energy, food and other commodity prices. As chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, supported a regulation, upheld in 2013 by a federal appeals court, to require registration of offshore commodity pools that prior to the rule were exempt from agency oversight and were often used by mutual funds to speculate in commodities with reduced investor safeguards against fraud, excessive speculation and price manipulation. Also supported the issuance this year of proposed trading limits on speculators after an industry lawsuit stopped prior limits from taking effect.
Fighting for Volcker Rule. Supported the issuance in 2013 of a final rule implementing the Merkley-Levin provisions known as the Volcker Rule to restrict high risk proprietary trading and conflicts of interest at federally insured banks. In light of the misconduct exposed by the London Whale trades, the final rule required banks to maintain documentation showing how their “hedging” transactions were designed to reduce risk and dropped a proposed exception for “portfolio hedging” that would have allowed high risk transactions with little or no correlation to specific assets supposedly being hedged.
Advocating Transparency for Corporations with Hidden Owners. Reintroduced legislation, S. 1465, to require states, when they form a new U.S. corporation, to obtain the names of the corporation’s true owners. Right now, states establish nearly two million corporations each year without asking who is behind them, allowing terrorists, money launderers, tax evaders and others to misuse the corporate structure. In 2013, after G8 world leaders called for disclosing corporate owners, the White House issued an action plan championing legislation like the Levin bill, which has been endorsed by multiple law enforcement groups and is the product of a series of hearings on problems caused by corporations with hidden owners.
Supporting Multinational Corporate Transparency. As chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, supported a new regulation, challenged in court, to require oil, mining and natural gas corporations to disclose the payments they make to U.S. and foreign governments. Disclosing such payments would strengthen investor understanding of corporate activities, further tax compliance in the extractive industries, and discourage foreign corruption. While a federal court invalidated two parts of the rule, which the Securities and Exchange Commission is now revising, G8 world leaders endorsed U.S. efforts, and this year the European Union and Canada took steps to adopt transparency requirements similar to those in the United States.
Halting Government Contracts for Corporations that Abuse U.S. Tax Rules. Successfully fought to preserve a ban on the use of taxpayer funds for contracts with inverted corporations. Congress largely banned this corporate inversion tax gimmick a decade ago, but some corporations have taken advantage of a grandfather clause to avoid paying U.S. taxes while simultaneously receiving billions in federal contracts.
Protecting Investors and Expanding Business Investments. Wrote two extensive comment letters to the Securities and Exchange Commission on implementation of the JOBS Act, which Congress passed in 2012. The JOBS Act removed a longstanding ban on advertising of securities offerings, and Levin’s comment letters suggested a number of ways in which the SEC should appropriately balance the law’s provisions for enhanced business investment opportunity with protections for investors. After comments from Levin and five other senators, the final rule included significantly stronger protections than had been initially proposed, and the SEC continues to consider further investor protections.
Creating Jobs, Getting Our Economy Back on Track and Expanding Economic Opportunities for Working Families
Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits. Worked with Senate colleagues to secure the 48(c) Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support up to $7.5 billion in capital investment for renewable energy, energy storage, and other clean energy technologies under the section 48(c) advanced energy manufacturing tax credit program. The tax credit provides a 30 percent investment tax credit for manufacturing facilities in the following areas – renewable energy, energy storage technologies, advanced transmission technologies, renewable fuels, energy conservation technologies, plug-in electric vehicles and components, carbon capture and sequestration. The Department of Energy awarded $150 million in tax credits under the 48(c) program in December 2013, including $50 million in credits for Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne and GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant.
Center for Automotive Research. Supported the Center for Automotive Research and the Macomb/St. Clair Workforce Development Board in their application for a Make It in America grant of $1,471,800. The Make It in America program is a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership along with the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration and is part of the Obama administration’s approach to strengthening the national economy. The grant awarded in Michigan will support research into the bio-based product manufacturing cluster and its existing and potential relationship to the automotive manufacturing sector, provide specific and specialized technical assistance to firms within the sector, and provide skills training for unemployed, incumbent and new entrants in bio-based materials development with automotive industry applications.
Promoting Alternative Fuel Vehicle Choice. Introduced bipartisan legislation to incentivize the production and use of alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas vehicles and plug-in electric hybrids. Encouraging the production of alternative fuel vehicles will help to diversify our transportation supply while reducing our reliance on imported oil and also reducing carbon emissions.
Velocity, the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator. Supported the Sterling Heights incubator’s $776,000 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The grant will provide for educational programs for local businesses wishing to compete for defense and Homeland Security contracts. In addition, Velocity will also create a $350,000 matching funds program for companies looking to raise seed capital.
Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. Worked with the Michigan delegation, congressional appropriators and the Obama administration to secure funding for FY 2014 for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, which will be built at Michigan State University. MSU is now the home of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, which is currently the most advanced rare isotope accelerator in the United States and is the largest nuclear science facility on a university campus. FRIB is the next generation rare isotope facility and is critical to maintenance of MSU’s preeminence in this field.
Fighting to Increase Funding for Existing SBA Programs. Strongly advocated for continued funding for the Small Business Administration Microloan Program, a vital source of financial and technical support to entrepreneurs and small businesses in Michigan and other states.
Fighting for the Domestic Automotive Industry. Renewed the Senate Auto Caucus with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, with the goal of providing a forum for senators to exchange ideas and work to improve policy on issues affecting America’s auto industry, such as trade, transportation and technology.
Leveling the Playing Field Between Traditional and Internet Businesses. Cosponsored and successfully supported Senate passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act, which will provide tax parity for local brick and mortar stores that are often undercut on prices by large Internet retailers that do not collect sales taxes. This law requires states to provide the tools businesses need to administer the law free of charge, and it contains an exemption for mom-and-pop Internet businesses selling less than $1 million online. Under existing state laws, consumers are supposed to declare and pay sales taxes they owe each year on Internet purchases, but in practice, very few people actually do so. This legislation will help states more effectively collect revenues and enforce existing laws without raising taxes on anyone.
Establishing Strong Leadership to Help Homeowners. Urged President Obama to nominate a permanent head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. After five years of temporary leadership, the Senate confirmed Rep. Mel Watt as the first permanent head of this important agency. Watt has signaled a strong commitment to changing FHFA policies to better assist homeowners facing foreclosure and to help make homeownership affordable and accessible.
Supporting Recovery and Investment in Detroit. Identified numerous existing sources of federal funding programs to support Detroit and advocated these programs be used to help it emerge from bankruptcy. As a result, the Obama administration announced more than $300 million in funding – some existing funds, some new funds, and some private funds – to help Detroit hire more police officers and firefighters, improve bus and transportation services, and remove blight.
Removing Blight and Revitalizing Neighborhoods. Supported efforts to reduce blight statewide especially in Detroit. In 2013, $100 million in federal funds were redirected to fight blight across Michigan with more than half of that funding targeted to Detroit.
Niowave. Supported Niowave’s loan application to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The $3 million incentive will help the company build a medical radioisotope facility in Lansing and create 120 jobs.
Tech Town. Supported Tech Town’s grant of $800,000 from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families to support its SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) City of Detroit program. Tech Town will use this funding to partner with the Jefferson East Business Association, the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation, and the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance to provide technical assistance and training to area businesses.
Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy. Secured funding for the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy that was used in 2013 to offer small business grants in the Corktown area of Detroit. The Two James Spirits distillery and the Detroit Institute of Bagels were awarded $50,000 each. This $100,000 in federal funding is part of a total $1.4 million investment by these two companies.
S.S. Badger Car Ferry. Worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Lake Michigan Car Ferry to allow the Badger to continue operating, supporting 700 jobs in the Ludington area, and to eliminate all coal ash by the start of the 2015 season.
AbilityOne. Led bipartisan letter to President Obama asking him to join in commemorating the 75th anniversary of AbilityOne, the nation’s largest employment program for people who have significant disabilities. The AbilityOne law enables the federal government to purchase various products made by thousands of significantly disabled individuals, including apparel and packing medical kits for our troops. Peckham Inc. in Lansing employs approximately 600 people with disabilities to manufacture apparel under Polartec contracts with the Department of Defense. Peckham also operates several call centers for the Defense Logistics Agency at the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center in Battle Creek and a call center for the State Department Passport Services Department in Lansing, which employ approximately 600 more people with disabilities.
National Institutes of Health. Successfully fought to restore one billion dollars of needed funding to the National Institutes of Health that was cut due to sequestration by advocating that Senate appropriators maintain a strong commitment to funding for long-term health research.
Drug Quality and Security Act. Strongly advocated for passage of the Drug Quality and Security Act, which will strengthen the safety of compounded pharmaceuticals and the security of the drug supply chain. This new law was passed in response to deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis in 2012.
Nutrition Assistance for Seniors. Successfully fought to restore critical funding for senior nutrition assistance programs, such as Meals on Wheels, in the Older Americans Act.
Special Diabetes Programs. Advocated for reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program, which provides funding for research on the prevention and cure of Type 1 diabetes; and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians, which gives Indian health programs and tribal communities the resources and tools they need to both prevent and treat diabetes.
Training for Pediatric Doctors. Helped to ensure the next generation of pediatric doctors will continue to have the necessary funding for their training by cosponsoring reauthorization of the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education program, which passed the Senate. Funding for CHGME was also increased in FY 2014 appropriations.
Parity for Mental Health. Actively involved in expediting the Department of Health and Human Services’ long-awaited rules that put into effect the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requiring health insurers to provide coverage for drug addiction as well as mental health treatment equal to benefits for general medical coverage.
Organ Procurement and Transplantation. Led bipartisan letter to the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services urging that CMS consider modification of recertification rules based on best practices in order to protect the organ procurement and transplantation system from measures that might have a negative impact on transplant centers.
NephCure Kidney Network. Supported the NephCure Foundation and the Arbor Research Collaborative for Health’s successful grant application to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. PCORI awarded $640,000 to this collaborative effort to expand the NephCure Kidney Network patient registry, a data repository of patients with primary nephrotic syndrome.
Perinatology Research Branch. Joined with the majority of the Michigan delegation to support Wayne State University’s successful bid to retain the Perinatology Research Branch in Detroit. The new contract is worth roughly $170 million and will ensure this world-class National Institutes of Health-funded research facility will continue to conduct groundbreaking perinatal and maternal-fetal medical research, while also providing critical services to the residents of Detroit through 2023.
Community Health Centers. Supported successful efforts to increase funding for Community Health Centers, which provide comprehensive, quality health care services to medically underserved communities and vulnerable populations.
Michigan Department of Community Health. Supported the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative application to the Environmental Protection Agency to integrate their existing “Eat Safe Fish” campaign into other relevant divisions within MDCH. This $999,292 grant will help MDCH leverage partnerships with healthcare providers, targeting in particular women of childbearing age, subsistence anglers, and the Detroit area. MDCH will also work to develop an online education plan for dieticians and nurses to aid in the distribution of this information.
Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center. Supported the Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center on its successful $739,333 New Access Point grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Bureau of Primary Health Care. Also supported another successful grant application for $1,029,955 from the HRSA. The Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center will serve the rural residents of Marquette, Ontonagon, Iron, and Menominee Counties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Expansion plans have included the establishment of partnerships and internal infrastructure and processes that will ensure financial and long-term viability.
Traverse Health Clinic. After assisting the Traverse Health Clinic in securing status as a Federally Qualified Health Center, supported the clinic in their successful grant application to the Health Resources and Services Administration for their New Access Points program. The clinic provides affordable health care to 2,500 residents of the Grand Traverse area each month.
Adoptions from Guatemala. Convened meeting with Guatemalan ambassador to the United States for discussions on expediting the process for prospective adoptive parents in the United States who have met and bonded with children in Guatemala and have been cleared for adoption but remain entangled in the system.
The Petroleum Coke Transparency and Public Health Study Act. Sponsored legislation in July 2013 that would require the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a study on the health and environmental impacts of petroleum coke. In March 2013, large piles of uncontained petroleum coke stored along the banks of the Detroit River became publicly visible, raising questions about the potential environmental and public health impacts of petroleum coke. The piles of petroleum coke were removed from the banks of the Detroit River in August 2013.
Protecting Children from Lead Paint Hazards. Successfully requested that appropriators provide enhanced funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead hazard prevention program. Appropriators increased funding from $2 million in FY 2013 to $15 million for FY 2014.
Disaster Declaration for Flooding in 16 Michigan Counties. Sent letter of support with Sen. Debbie Stabenow urging the president to make a disaster declaration in 16 Michigan counties impacted by severe flooding from April 16 through May 14, 2013. The counties included were: Allegan, Barry, Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Ionia, Kent, Keweenaw, Marquette, Midland, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ontonagon, Osceola, Ottawa and Saginaw. The disaster declaration made public assistance available for emergency work as well as the repair and replacement of damaged public facilities in the affected Michigan counties.
Emergency Fire Equipment. Helped secure millions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for fire departments throughout Michigan for hiring, training, firefighting equipment, protective gear, and prevention programs that keep our citizens safe. These grants assisted fire departments across the state.
Manistique Public Safety Department. Supported the Manistique Public Safety Department on its successful $20,000 grant application to USDA Rural Development.
Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office. Supported the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office on two successful grant applications totaling $8,000 from USDA Rural Department.
HOUSING AND RECREATION
Metro Community Development. Supported the grant application for Metro Community Development’s Continuum of Care Program Competition through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD awarded Metro Community Development $1.7 million, which renews 19 Supportive Housing Programs in the Flint/Genesee County area and provides funding for three new projects, which directly support homeless individuals and families in Genesee County.
Housing Preservation. Supported successful grant applications to fund housing preservation initiatives in Grand Traverse and Emmet counties. The Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency received $20,000 for each county.
Placemaking in the Arcadia Dunes. Supported grant applications totaling nearly $600,000 to build a scenic overlook in the sand dunes near Arcadia as well as a beachfront park on Lake Michigan. Both facilities will be accessible to people of all needs and abilities and will foster a boost in tourism to the area.
Universally Accessible Space for Children. Supported a successful grant application to create Child and Family Play and Learning Area in Manistee. The space, accessible to children of all ages, needs and abilities, will be the first of its kind in the area and will remain consistent with the city’s strategic plan.
Fishing Pier in Traverse City. Supported a grant to fund the construction of a fishing pier on the Boardman River in Traverse City. The pier will be built in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and will be a boon to the region’s anglers.
Grants to Assist our Nation’s Veterans. Helped secure over $14.9 million in grants for Michigan community colleges and institutions that offer innovative and effective programs aimed at reducing veterans’ unemployment. These grants are primarily run through the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training Program and assisted institutions in the Detroit, Lansing, Saginaw and Grand Rapids regions.
Honoring the Civil Air Patrol. Cosponsored a bill, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent, to award a Congressional Gold Medal honoring the World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol. During WWII, CAP pilots conducted surveillance patrols of and attacks on German submarines off the U.S. coast often with little support or fuel.
JUSTICE AND CIVIL RIGHTS
Prohibiting workplace discrimination. Continued to fight to end discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by again co-sponsoring the Senate-passed Employment Non-Discrimination Act, S. 815, in the 113th Congress.
Exposing Offshore Profit Shifting. As chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, held a hearing exposing how Apple, a leading U.S. multinational corporation: established three Irish subsidiaries with no tax residency anywhere; ran those subsidiaries from the United States; and shifted more than $74 billion in profits over four years to Ireland while dodging payment of U.S. taxes. This and other examples of multinational corporate tax abuse led G8 world leaders in 2013 to call for an end to offshore profit shifting and initiate international efforts to stop multinational corporate tax avoidance. G8 leaders also reached consensus on the need for an international template for multinational corporations to disclose their tax payments on a country-by-country basis.
Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes. Reintroduced the CUT Loopholes Act, S. 268, to close a host of corporate tax loopholes. The bill would increase tax fairness while reducing the deficit by at least $260 billion over ten years. The reforms are the product of a series of hearings by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which Levin chairs.
Cracking Down on Offshore Tax Evasion. Reintroduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, S. 1533, to close offshore tax loopholes and strengthen offshore tax enforcement. Offshore abuses cost the Treasury more than $100 billion in lost revenue each year. The bill, which would raise at least $220 billion over ten years, is the product of a series of hearings by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which Levin chairs. While some provisions from earlier versions of the bill were enacted into law, more is needed.
Targeting Twitter Stock Option Tax Loophole. Exposed how Twitter, after going public, could take a $154 million tax deduction for a stock option compensation expense, which its own books show cost Twitter only $7 million. Also showed how Twitter could use that deduction to avoid paying U.S. taxes for up to 20 years, even while reporting profits to investors. Continued to champion provisions in S. 268, the CUT Loopholes Act, to close this corporate tax loophole by requiring the stock option tax deduction to equal – not exceed – the stock option book expense. By providing overly generous corporate stock option tax deductions, federal tax policy is encouraging corporations to provide excessive stock option pay, fueling the pay gap between executives and workers, and enabling corporations to avoid paying billions in taxes.
Streamlining Tax Liens. Continued to champion provisions in S. 268, the CUT Loopholes Act, to modernize the federal tax lien system by moving it from paper-based filings to electronic filings on a national tax lien registry accessible to the public at no charge through the Internet. An electronic registry would save taxpayers an estimated $150 million over ten years according to the IRS and free up a division for other tax work. Tax liens are a principal means used by the IRS to collect funds from tax delinquents. Current law requires tax liens to be filed on paper in more than 4,000 local offices, each with its own formatting requirements. A tax lien registry would standardize the filing process, reduce staffing needs, allow the public to search the registry online at no cost, and enable the IRS to eliminate tax liens more quickly once they are paid.
THE GREAT LAKES
Restoring the Great Lakes. Led effort to help secure funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an inter-agency initiative that works to clean up toxics, combat invasive species, prevent polluted runoff from watersheds, and restore wetlands and other vital habitats.
Cleaning Up Great Lakes Toxics. Helped secure funding for the Great Lakes Legacy Act to remove contaminants at Great Lakes “Areas of Concern.” This funding led to the November 2013 announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency of the completion of the Deer Lake AOC cleanup.
Protecting Against Aquatic Invasive Species. Worked to include a provision in the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act that would authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to implement emergency measures to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from dispersing into the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin. Levin also requested that this provision be included in the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations act. The FY 2014 omnibus appropriations act also provides funding of over $30 million for the Corps to operate the electric dispersal barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and to further evaluate and design a longer-term solution.
Bolstered Research and Technology Development to Fight Invasive Species and Improve Great Lakes Fisheries. Supported construction of a new $7 million, 7,600 square foot laboratory facility at the Hammond Bay Biological Station, which will conduct cutting-edge research on innovative control technologies for sea lamprey and other invasive species. The U.S. Geological Service made this investment decision in 2013, and groundbreaking is expected in 2015 with completion in 2016.
Improving the Great Lakes Navigation System. Led efforts to include several provisions in the Senate-passed Water Resources Development Act to direct more funding to dredging and other maintenance requirements of Great Lakes harbors and channels:
- One provision would increase authorized spending for harbor maintenance projects to $1 billion for harbor maintenance in FY 2014 compared to about $850 million in 2012, and raising authorizations by an additional $100 million every year through 2019 for a total of $1.5 billion per year from 2020 onward. This provision makes progress toward Levin’s Harbor Maintenance Act, S. 218, to increase harbor maintenance funding.
- Another provision would set aside 20 percent of authorized harbor maintenance funds above FY 2012 levels for Great Lakes projects.
- Finally, the bill includes a Levin amendment that clarifies that maintaining the dimensions of harbors and ports is the primary purpose of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which should help protect funding for the Great Lakes.
Securing Funding for Great Lakes Dredging. In the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations act, secured funding of $95 million – an increase of about $11 million from 2013 – for dredging of Great Lakes harbors and channels, operation and maintenance of locks, and repair of breakwaters. Also helped secure an additional $200 million in funding for navigation projects across the country, funding for which Great Lakes projects will be able to compete.
Funding for Emergency Great Lakes Navigation Needs. Worked with appropriators, including entering into a colloquy on the Senate floor with the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, to secure $61 million in supplemental appropriations to address damage to Great Lakes harbors and channels resulting from Superstorm Sandy.
Emergency Dredging to Re-Open the Saginaw River for Navigation. Worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to direct emergency funding of $1.2 million to dredge the Saginaw River, which was needed due to significant sedimentation and shoaling as a result of heavy storms and flooding.
Redevelopment of Harbor at Great Lakes Maritime Academy at Northwestern Michigan College. The Great Lakes Maritime Academy at Northwestern Michigan College is one of six state maritime academies in the country and the only one on freshwater. Over the last five years, NMC has been working with the Army Corps of Engineers, under their Section 107 Small Navigation Project authorization, to complete the redevelopment of their harbor on West Grand Traverse Bay. Since 2008, Levin has secured priority funding for this project three times, having it named in the Energy and Water appropriations bills. As a result, the Army Corps of Engineers began construction in the fall of 2013 on this $2.3 million dollar project.
Watershed Restoration. Helped secure nearly $1,000,000 in funding for dam removal, stream connectivity and habitat restoration in Northern Lower Michigan, improving the region’s ecosystem and contributing to an increase in recreational tourism.
Flint River Restoration. Supported the city of Flint’s successful application for the USDA Forestry Program grant for $400,000 for 2013. This grant will allow Flint to continue planting trees at Chevy in the Hole to help remove contaminants from the area, which is adjacent to the Flint River.
HISTORIC AND NATURAL RESOURCE PRESERVATION
Quincy Smelter. Helped secure funding and assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the Quincy Smelter property from the National Priorities (“Superfund”) listing.
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Successfully urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to administratively expand the boundaries of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which will help improve the sanctuary and protect more historic shipwrecks. In June 2013, NOAA formally proposed the expansion in the Federal Register.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act. Sponsored and secured Senate passage of legislation that would preserve more than 32,000 acres of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as wilderness, while providing important access to the lakeshore’s recreational opportunities and cultural resources.
Kalamazoo Superfund Cleanup. Worked with the community and the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that full contaminant removal would be seriously considered in EPA’s feasibility analysis.
Kirtland’s Warbler Initiative. Helped secure $200,000 in funding for Huron Pines, a regional conservation group, to work toward getting the Kirtland’s warbler delisted from the Endangered Species list. The efforts, which have been ongoing for several decades, have paid off. A population of only 167 males in 1987 has grown to over 2,000 today, enough to consider delisting.
Soil Conservation in Northern Lower Michigan. Supported a successful grant application for $56,913 for the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to educate private landowners in Northern Lower Michigan on the best practices for soil conservation.
Resource Conservation in the Upper Peninsula. Supported the Upper Peninsula Resource Conservation and Development Council on their successful grant application for $51,466 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Recreation Passport Grant. Supported Maple Ridge Township on its successful application of a $30,600 Recreation Passport grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Worked with other senators to obtain funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Race to the Top. Strongly supported Michigan’s Race to the Top proposals in letters and telephone calls to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. In December 2013, the Department of Education announced that Michigan will receive a Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant of $51.7 million to improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs throughout the state.
STARBASE. Supported $25 million to continue the STARBASE program and an assessment of various science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs. STARBASE, a STEM program run by the Department of Defense for elementary school students, is designed to excite students about STEM topics through exposure to the technological foundations of national security. STARBASE currently operates 76 locations in 40 states. Michigan has three DOD STARBASE programs: Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, where the program originated in 1991; Kellogg Air National Guard Base in Battle Creek; and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena.
Job Corps. In the face of disruptions in the program throughout 2013, successfully fought for improvements in the Job Corps program including increased enrollment for a program that helps low-income youth who are at least 16 years of age to earn a high school diploma or GED, learn a career, and acquire the skills needed to succeed in life. Cosigned letter to the Department of Labor requesting that 2012 surplus funds (between $32 and $42 million) be used to increase the number of at-risk youth in the program.
Impact Aid. Successfully fought against elimination of components of the Impact Aid program for school districts enrolling military children. Such payments are in lieu of taxes to local school districts for lost revenue as a result of tax-exempt federal property and actions. Those school districts have increased expenditures due to enrollment of federally connected children.
RSVP Mentors for School Children. Supported the Menominee, Delta, Schoolcraft Community Action Agency’s successful application for a $66,968 grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service. The funds will be used to train members of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, whose primary focus will be to mentor 1st and 2nd grade students in a variety of area elementary schools, potentially reaching over 400 children.
Secured Access to Funds for Michigan Transportation Projects. Authored legislation to ensure M-1 Rail and the regional bus rapid transit projects can access federal funding and worked to secure federal funding for these projects. Authored legislation included in the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations act that will allow private funds that are invested to provide light-rail service along Detroit’s Woodward Avenue corridor to be used to meet local match requirements for any connected project such as the regional BRT, which is the next phase of the project. The legislative language provides that the private capital contributions in the M-1 Rail project can be counted toward the local share of a connected New Starts project. This results in a direct and substantial financial benefit to the regional BRT project and citizens of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties.
The Center on Highway Pavement Preservation. Supported Michigan State University’s application to the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a Center on Highway Pavement Preservation. MSU is acting as the lead university of a consortium that includes the University of Texas, University of Minnesota and University of Hawaii among others. This $1,414,052 project will conduct research and develop educational strategies on cost-effective and innovative solutions for highway pavement preservation.
SUPPORT FOR AMERICAN MILITARY AT HOME AND AROUND THE WORLD
Equipment and Support for Troops in Afghanistan. Played a leading role in the enactment of provisions that:
- Authorize funding needed for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund to build the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces so those forces can take over responsibility for securing all of Afghanistan from U.S. and coalition forces by the end of 2014.
- Express the sense of Congress that the president should consult with Congress prior to announcing the size and mission of any residual military presence in Afghanistan after the end of coalition combat operations in December 2014.
- Authorize Coalition Support Funds to reimburse cooperating nations supporting the effort in Afghanistan, but continue limitations on the availability of such funds to reimburse Pakistan until the secretary of defense certifies Pakistan’s cooperation in support of efforts in Afghanistan.
- Authorize $60 million for the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program to enable military commanders to fund small-scale humanitarian projects that help secure the support of the Afghan people.
- Reauthorize the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund to support high-priority, large-scale infrastructure projects that support the civil-military campaign, including the Kandahar electrification project.
Detainee Policy. Played a leading role in the enactment of provisions that:
- Eliminate burdensome restrictions that have prevented DOD from transferring detainees from Guantanamo to their home countries and streamline the procedures for such transfers if the secretary of defense determines that the transfer is in the U.S. national security interest and steps have been or will be taken to mitigate the risk of the detainee reengaging in terrorist activity.
- Extend for one year existing prohibitions on the transfer of military detainees held at Guantanamo to custody in the United States and establish congressional reporting requirements, but no conditions or limitations, on detainees held in military detention at Parwan, Afghanistan, and on the capacity of Yemen to detain, prosecute and rehabilitate Guantanamo detainees transferred there.
Support for Military Personnel and Their Families. Played a leading role in the enactment of provisions that sustain pay and benefits and provide support for military personnel and their families by:
- Authorizing $169.9 billion for military personnel, including costs of pay, allowances, bonuses, death benefits, and permanent change of station moves, and health care for service members, retirees, and their families.
- Authorizing funding to support a one percent across-the-board pay raise for all members of the uniformed services, consistent with the president’s request.
- Authorizing $25 million in DOD Supplemental Impact Aid for assistance to local educational agencies impacted by the enrollment of dependent children of military members and DOD civilian employees, and $5 million in Supplemental Impact Aid for schools with large numbers of children of military members and DOD civilian employees with severe disabilities.
- Successfully appealing to TRICARE,the Department of Defense health program, to lift its restriction prohibiting maintenance treatment with FDA-approved medications, such as buprenorphine/naloxone, which block the craving of heroin and prescription opioids, supported by a November 2013 report by the Institute of Medicine and data compiled by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. Played a leading role in enacting legislation that includes groundbreaking new measures to reduce sexual assault and misconduct in the military. Legislation includes a robust package of 36 separate provisions to enhance sexual assault prevention and response in the military, including providing an attorney to represent military victims of sexual assault; making it a crime to retaliate against victims who report sexual assaults; and holding commanders accountable if they fail to establish a healthy command climate where victims can report sexual assaults and other criminal activity without fear of retaliation.
Camp Grayling Military Construction. Supported $17 million for a new barracks facility at Camp Grayling. Camp Grayling hosts more than 10,000 military personnel annually for a variety of training events. Current facilities were constructed in the 1950s and this military construction project is required to provide adequate facilities for the Michigan National Guard and other military personnel who use Camp Grayling each year.
Destruction of Syrian Chemical Weapons. Provided enhanced authority for the Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction program to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile by supplying special transport containers to move the chemical weapons out of Syria and then outfitting the Merchant Marine Vessel Cape Ray with specialized equipment to dilute Syrian chemical weapons in order to render them safe.
Ensuring Access to Critical Training and Testing Ranges. Strongly supported provisions that provide for the withdrawal or transfer of public lands at Twentynine Palms, CA, Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, CA, Naval Air Station China Lake, CA, White Sands Missile Range, NM, and Limestone Hills Training Area, MT, to support critical military training and testing requirements.
Embassy Security. Played a key role in the enactment of provisions that added $75 million in operation and maintenance funding for the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group and Crisis Response Force.
IMPROVED MANAGEMENT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Expanded DOD Laboratory Authorities. Provided enhanced authorities to DOD laboratories, such as TARDEC, that would allow direct hiring of scientists and engineers with bachelor’s degrees as well as veterans, and would allow for additional royalties to DOD researchers for their inventions. Also improved the ability of DOD laboratories to revitalize their infrastructure.
Oversight of Overseas Military Construction. Directed Senate Armed Services Committee staff investigation into U.S. costs associated with our military presence in Japan, South Korea and Germany. Together, those countries account for 70 percent of the roughly $10 billion we spend each year on overseas bases – a figure that doesn’t include personnel costs to pay and take care of our troops and their families. The review found that contributions from our allies are failing to keep up with rapidly rising U.S. costs, increasing the burden on American taxpayers. It also found that allied contributions are increasingly coming as in-kind, rather than cash payments, which makes it harder to monitor how funds are used. In fact, the review found that, in many cases, in-kind payments were spent without proper oversight, congressional notification or approval. In some cases, payments were directed to projects that simply aren’t necessary.
As a result, the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision authored by Levin that changed the law to improve oversight of our overseas spending and to ensure that U.S. taxpayers don’t foot the bill for wasteful or unnecessary projects.
Reducing Wasteful Spending. Played a key role in the enactment of provisions that:
- Directed the DOD to reduce the separate development and fielding of service-specific combat and camouflage utility uniforms and families of uniforms in order to adopt and field a common combat and camouflage utility uniform or family of uniforms for specific combat environments to be used by all members of the Armed Forces.
- Cut $273.3 million from the Office of Economic Adjustment for projects ahead of need.
- Cut $84.8 million from Army ammunition procurement for excess amounts.
- Cut $8 million from defense-wide operation and maintenance for a 2015 BRAC.
Other DOD Oversight Initiatives. Played a key role in the enactment of provisions that:
- Directed the DOD to establish a policy setting forth the programs and priorities for retrograde, reconstitution and replacement of units and materiel used to support overseas contingency operations.
- Directed the DOD to develop an overarching strategy and implementation plan for the military services’ prepositioned equipment program.
- Updated the military services’ strategic plans with performance measures to show clear linkages to the DOD’s overarching goals and objectives as described in the department’s strategic plan for corrosion control and prevention.
- Directed the DOD and Government Accountability Office to review arsenals owned by the United States in order to support critical manufacturing capabilities.
MICHIGAN-BASED DEFENSE PROCUREMENT
M1 Abrams Tank Modernization. Helped secure $439.6 million, including $90 million above the president’s FY 2014 budget request, for M1 Abrams tank modernization efforts. General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights is the prime contractor for the Abrams program and more than 200 Michigan companies serve as suppliers.
Improved Recovery Vehicle. Helped secure $186 million, including $75 million above the president’s FY 2014 budget request, for the M88A2 Improved Recovery Vehicle to accelerate modernization of Army equipment and mitigate the risk of lost capability and capacity in the armored and tactical vehicle industrial base. This program is important to BAE and other military vehicle suppliers in Sterling Heights and around Michigan.
Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Supported continuation of Army and Marine Corps technology development plans leading to a competition for a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle that could replace a large number of older, less survivable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles that have been in service since the 1980s. This program is important to General Dynamics Land Systems, BAE and other automotive and military vehicle suppliers in Sterling Heights and around Michigan.
Ground Combat Vehicle. Supported continued technology development of the Army’s next generation armored personnel carrier, the Ground Combat Vehicle. Two teams, one led by General Dynamics Land Systems and the other by BAE, both located in Sterling Heights, were awarded technology development contracts to make competition prototypes that meet the Army’s GCV requirements. TACOM, located at the Detroit Arsenal, has GCV development and procurement management responsibility for what could be a $30 to $40 billion program over the next 15 years or more.
Littoral Combat Ship. Supported continued construction of the littoral combat ship, including $1.8 billion for the program in FY 2014 as requested in the president’s budget. Marinette Marine, just across the Michigan border in Wisconsin, is one of two shipyards building LCS and employs several hundred Michigan residents and relies on many Michigan suppliers. In November 2012, Levin and his wife, Barbara, participated in the ceremonial “keel laying” for USS Detroit, the newest LCS being built at Marinette Marine.
MICHIGAN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
U.S. Army Tank and Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. Helped secure $211.6 million for TARDEC, including $50 million above the president’s budget request. TARDEC is the Department of Defense’s leading laboratory for research and development of advanced military vehicle technologies, including efforts to protect Army vehicles against rocket propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices and explosively formed projectiles; advanced materials for tactical vehicle armor; more efficient engines; fuel cell and hybrid electric vehicles; unmanned ground vehicles; computer simulations for vehicle design and training of Army personnel; and technology partnerships with the automotive industry.
Department of Defense Rapid Innovation Program. Helped secure $175 million to continue the Rapid Innovation Program. The RIP was established by the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2011 as a competitive, merit-based program designed to fund innovative technologies, reduce acquisition or life cycle costs, address technical risks, improve the timeliness of test and evaluation outcomes, and rapidly insert technologies needed to meet critical national security needs.
Funding for the RIP could provide significant opportunities for Michigan companies, universities and other organizations to further research and development efforts with the DOD particularly in the following research areas:
- Delivering nearer-term emerging technologies to current military operations to enhance capabilities in areas such as: electronic warfare; cybersecurity tools; robotics and autonomous systems; spectrum management; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities; reducing soldier load; improving fixed, mobile, and dismounted force protection; and detecting and defeating all forms of improvised explosive devices;
- Contributing to breakthrough technologies for future military capabilities in areas such as: countering weapons of mass destruction; space systems; hypersonics; highly autonomous systems; large-scale data management and manipulation for command and control; and enhancing human performance; and
- Improving the affordability of defense operations in areas such as: advanced manufacturing; reducing the cost and footprint of energy and other logistical items; interoperability across platforms and systems; and innovative prototyping approaches for new platforms and systems.
Industrial Base Innovation Fund. Secured $25 million to continue the Industrial Base Innovation Fund. Manufacturing technology plays a critical role in addressing development, acquisition and sustainment problems associated with advanced weapons programs. This funding helps support DOD’s ability to address specific shortfalls in the defense industrial base to meet short-term surge manufacturing requirements and could provide funding opportunities for many Michigan companies. This program was initiated in FY 2008.
Advanced Vehicle Power and Technology Alliance. Led efforts to continue the growth of the AVPTA, an effort co-led by the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center in Warren, to better coordinate the ground vehicle research and development efforts of the DOD, Department of Energy, industry and academia. Levin included language in the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act authorizing the creation of such an alliance and participated in the first annual AVPTA workshop in Detroit on July 18, 2011, with Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, and other senior officials. DOE made award announcements in September 2013 under the AVPTA program, which included numerous awards totaling nearly $9 million for the University of Michigan, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Michigan State, Delphi and Halla Visteon Climate Control.
Exposing Social Security Disability Misconduct. As chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, supported a bipartisan investigation and hearing exposing how one lawyer in Kentucky engaged in a raft of improper practices to obtain Social Security disability benefits for thousands of claimants, including by manufacturing medical forms, employing suspect doctors willing to conduct cursory medical exams, and colluding with administrative law judges on procedures that broke the rules and improperly favored his clients.
Reformed Senate Procedure to Expedite Consideration of Nominations and Legislation. As a founding member of a bipartisan group of eight senators, drafted and secured passage of changes to the Senate Rules (S. Res 15 and 16), which provide two additional alternatives to the existing rules for the Majority Leader to proceed to the consideration of a measure on the Senate Calendar. It also streamlines procedures relative to going to conference and consideration of nominations.