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Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

By Mr. CRAPO (for himself and Mr. Craig):

S. 1325. A bill to amend the Act of July 3, 1890, to provide for the granting to a State of a parcel of land for use as an agricultural college and to proscribe the use of earnings and proceeds thereof; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Sen. Michael D. Crapo

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Mr. President, today, with my colleague from Idaho, Senator Craig, I rise to introduce a bill to amend the Idaho Admissions Act of July 3, 1890 to permit Idaho to administer Morrill Act lands and the proceeds there from in accordance with contemporary investment standards.

The State of Idaho has been working to update its management of endowed assets received as part statehood from the Federal Government to ensure the maximum long-term financial return to the beneficiaries. Key to endowment reform is the implementation of contemporary investment principles that require asset diversification to reduce the risk of loss and that permit a trustee to deduct reasonable costs of administration of the assets normally incurred by a prudent fiduciary. Of the Federal grants to Idaho as part of statehood, only the Morrill Act limits investments in bonds of the United States or Idaho and precludes deducting reasonable administrative expenses incurred by the trustee. This bill would allow the State of Idaho to administer the Morrill Act assets under the same fiduciary standards now applicable to all of Idaho's other federally granted endowments.

Additionally, a broad group of state, Federal, and private interests, including the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the State of Idaho, United Dairymen of Idaho and Allied Industry, College of Southern Idaho, the Idaho Cattle Association, Idaho Wool Growers, the Idaho National Laboratory, and Federal agencies have joined together in developing plans for the Idaho Center for Livestock and Environmental Studies to serve as a premier center for research and education in dairy and beef science. The important mission of the center is ``To enhance the quality of life for the citizens of Idaho, the Pacific Northwest, and the Nation by furthering the educational and scientific mission of the University of Idaho and its public/private partners, by providing a state-of-the-art animal research facility capable of large-scale research that provides sound scientific results and educational opportunities intended to: protect our air, land and water, improve the welfare and productivity of our livestock, encourage the efficient use of energy and capital, and enhance workforce and economic development.''

The University of Idaho, as a partner in the project and beneficiary of the Morrill Act endowment, is well positioned to utilize endowment assets to both continue to carryout the educational purposes and maintain the underlying real estate endowment while contributing to the project. However, modernization of the management of endowed assets needs to occur in order for such a worthy project to move forward.

That is why the legislation Senator Craig and I are introducing today will provide more flexibility while allowing for the allocation of management expenses in the same fashion as other State endowments, expand investment authority to match other State endowments, and provide for the use of the earnings from management of the sale of endowed lands to be used for the acquisition, construction, and improvements for the operation of research farms for teaching and research purposes.

I ask that my colleagues act on this measure in a timely manner.

By Mr. SANDERS:

S. 1326. A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to improve and enhance compensation and pension, health care, housing, burial, and other benefits for veterans, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Sen. Bernard Sanders

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Mr. President, today I am introducing the Comprehensive Veterans Benefits Improvements Act of 2007.

The purpose of this bill is to address many of the long-standing benefit and other policy issues that are a priority to the national veteran service organizations and millions of their members all across our country. The legislation tracks many of the recommendations made in the Independent Budget, IB, for fiscal year 2008. The IB, as it is known, is ``the collaborative effort of a united veteran and health advocacy community that presents policy and budget recommendations on programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Labor.'' It is a guide for how this country should treat its veterans. It is written jointly by AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars and supported by over 50 other prominent organizations. I am very happy to have consulted extensively with the Independent Budget authors to craft this legislation.

For too many years veterans' needs have been sent to the back of the line in Congress behind tax cuts for the rich and corporate welfare for multinational corporations. This legislation is one step forward in correcting the shortcomings of the way our current system treats veterans. Instead of turning a blind eye to our veterans' needs as has happened often in recent years, this bill begins to say ``thank you'' with real action.

The Comprehensive Veterans Benefits Improvements Act makes more than 25 separate changes to veterans' programs ranging from disability payments, to insurance premiums, to grants for disabled veterans to adapt their cars to make them easier to use.

We also try to make progress on long standing injustices in the VA and DoD benefit and retirement systems that veterans and their families have fought to correct for years. Among them are:

Category 8 Veterans: In January of 2003 the VA announced that it would no longer allow Category 8 veterans to enroll into the VA health care system. The Administration justified this move on the grounds that these are ``higher income'' veterans. The truth, however, is that these veterans can make as little as $27,000 a year. VA estimates that more than 1.5 million category 8 veterans will have been denied enrollment in the VA health care system by fiscal year 2008. This legislation repeals that ban.

Concurrent Receipt: As the Military Officers Association of America explains, the Concurrent Receipt or Disabled Veterans' Tax issue exists because of a ``19th century law that required a dollar-for-dollar offset of military retired pay for disability compensation received from the VA . . . Retired pay is earned for a career of uniformed service and VA disability compensation is recompense for pain, suffering and lost future earning power due to service-connected disabilities.'' For that reason veterans should receive both payments and not have one offset the other. This legislation would allow veterans to receive both compensation/pension benefits and retired or retirement pay.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation-Survivor Benefit Plan Offset: Under current law, the survivors of veterans who die as a result of service-connected causes are entitled to compensation known as dependency and indemnity compensation, DIC. In addition, military retirees can have money deducted from their pay to purchase a survivors annuity. This is called the Survivor Benefit Plan, SBP. However, if the military retirees dies from service-connected causes his or her survivors will receive a SBP payment offset dollar for dollar by the amount of the DIC payment they receive. Like the offset between military retiree pay and VA disability payments, this SBP/DIC offset unfairly denies beneficiaries the full amount of 2 programs that are meant to compensate for different loses. This legislation repeals the offset between dependency and indemnity compensation and the Survivor Benefit Plan.

Veterans' Claims: We also take a new approach to improving the system for rating claims by creating an agency dedicated to electronically sharing clinical information between the VA and the DoD.

For too long these issues have been ignored by the Congress. It is time for that attitude to change.

This legislation also amends other benefit programs important to veterans.

Over time, Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs have added many benefits and assistance programs for our Nation's veterans and their families. As with many programs, the benefits did not meet all the needs of our veterans and others also have not been updated in many years rendering many of their benefits much less useful. For example, the IB notes the low level of grants the VA gives severely disabled veterans for adapting their cars:

In 1946 the $1,600 allowance represented 85 percent of average retail cost and a sufficient amount to pay the full cost of automobiles in the `low-price field.' By contrast, in 1997 the allowance was $5,500, and the average retail cost of new automobiles, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, was $21,750. Currently, the $11,000 automobile allowance represents only about 39 percent of the average cost of a new automobile, which is $28,105.

This legislation increases this car grant amount to $22,484 and adjusts this amount automatically each year using an average retail car cost index established by the Secretary.

This is not the only example of a veterans' benefit being chipped away by inflation. When we look at assistance family members get for burying a loved one we find that the current benefits have not kept up with inflation. As a result, the current benefit of $300 only pays for a small fraction of the costs of a burial. The legislation I am introducing today increases the plot allowance from $300 to $745 and expands the eligibility for the plot allowance for all veterans who would be eligible for burial in a national cemetery, not just those who served during wartime. This section also contains a provision to adjust these payments annually.

This legislation contains many other similar corrections and updates, bringing benefits into the 21st Century so that these programs are meaningful again.

These are not controversial proposals. These changes are the least we can do to show our appreciation for those who sacrifice for their country.

This legislation is attempting to strengthen the current VA system so that it can fully provide for those veterans already in the system and those thousands more returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and all over the world that will soon come to the VA for care.

This is just the beginning; one part of a larger effort to honor our veterans and their service. We here in Congress have so much more to do to care for our veterans such as improving mental health care for veterans, Traumatic Brain Injury treatment, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment, transition assistance, polytrauma care, caring for homeless veterans, and eliminating the waiting lines and claims backlogs at the VA. As a parent of a fallen soldier told our Committee, these veterans have survived the war, now ``[w]e've got to help them survive the peace.''

We have much work to do in the Veterans Affairs Committee and I look forward to working under the leadership of Chairman Akaka and the other colleagues on our Committee and in the Senate to make sure that meaningful and substantial veterans' legislation is passed this year.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

(a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``Comprehensive Veterans Benefits Improvements Act of 2007''. (b) Table of Contents.--The table of contents for this Act is as follows:Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

(a) Enrollment.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall permit each veteran described in paragraph (8) of section 1705(a) of title 38, United States Code, who presents for enrollment in the system of annual patient enrollment required by such section to enroll in such system for purposes of the receipt of care and services as specified in such section. (b) Effective Date.--This section shall take effect on October 1, 2007.

(a) Report on Number of Veterans Wrongfully Misclassified.--Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to Congress a report setting forth the number of veterans who were catastrophically disabled who were wrongfully misclassified as not being catastrophically disabled by reason and for the purposes of the administration of the amendments made by title I of the Veterans' Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-262). (b) Reclassification of Veterans Wrongfully Misclassified.--The Secretary shall reclassify as catastrophically disabled each veteran who was catastrophically disabled but was misclassified as not being catastrophically disabled by reason and for the purposes of the administration of the amendments made by title I of the Veterans' Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996. Each veteran shall, upon such reclassification, be entitled to such benefits under the laws administered by the Secretary as any other veteran who is catastrophically disabled, including priority of eligibility of enrollment as a so-called ``category 4 veteran'' under the patient enrollment system of the Department of Veterans Affairs under section 1705 of title 38, United States Code. (c) Prohibition on Collection of Copayments and Other Fees for Hospital or Nursing Home Care.--Section 1710 of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) by redesignating subsection (h) as subsection (i); and (2) by inserting after subsection (g) the following new subsection (h): ``(h) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, a veteran who is catastrophically disabled shall not be required to make any payment otherwise required under subsection (f) or (g) for the receipt of hospital care or nursing home care under this section.''. (d) Effective Date.--Subsection (b) and the amendments made by subsection (c) shall take effect on October 1, 2007.

(a) Repeal.--Section 1725(b)(2) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking ``if--'' and all that follows and inserting ``if the veteran is enrolled in the system of patient enrollment established under section 1705(a) of this title.''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by subsection (a) shall take effect on October 1, 2007.

(a) Pilot Program.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall carry out a pilot program that provides for screening for lung cancer of veterans with a high risk of lung cancer. (b) Elements.-- (1) In general.--The pilot program under subsection (a) shall include such programs and activities as the Secretary considers appropriate to permit the Secretary to make a comprehensive assessment of the feasibility and advisability of various approaches for expanding the program within the Department of Veterans Affairs in order to conduct screenings of veterans for lung cancer on a wider scale. (2) Consultation.--The Secretary shall carry out the pilot program in consultation with the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program and such other public and private entities as the Secretary considers appropriate for purposes of the pilot program. (c) Report.--Not later than 2 years after the commencement of the pilot program under subsection (a), the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on the pilot program. The report shall include-- (1) a description of the programs and activities under the pilot program; (2) the comprehensive assessment of the Secretary described in subsection (b)(1); (3) recommendations, if any, for legislation necessary to implement on a wider basis a screening program for lung cancer of veterans; and (4) such other matters as the Secretary considers appropriate in light of the pilot program. (d) Authorization of Appropriations.-- (1) In general.--There is hereby authorized to be appropriated for the Department of Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2008, $3,000,000 to carry out this section. (2) Availability.--The amount authorized to be appropriated by paragraph (1) shall remain available until expended.

(a) Repeal.-- (1) In general.--Section 5304(a) of title 38, United States Code, is amended to read as follows: ``(a)(1)(A) If an election is in effect under section 1413a of title 10, United States Code, with respect to any person, no pension or compensation under this title shall be made concurrently to the person based on the person's own service or concurrently to the person based on the service of any other person. This subparagraph shall not apply to the extent the person waives any applicable retired or retirement pay under subparagraph (B). ``(B) A person to whom subparagraph (A) applies who is receiving any applicable retired or retirement pay may file with the department paying such pay a waiver of so much of such pay as is equal to the amount of the pension or compensation to which subparagraph (A) otherwise applies. To prevent duplication of payment, the department with which any such waiver is filed shall notify the Secretary of the receipt of such waiver, the amount waived, and the effective date of the reduction in pay. ``(2) The annual amount of any applicable retired or retirement pay shall be counted as annual income for purposes of chapter 15 of this title. ``(3) In this subsection, the term `applicable retired or retirement pay' means retired or retirement pay paid under a provision of law providing retired or retirement pay to persons in the Armed Forces or to commissioned officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or of the Public Health Service.''. (2) Clerical amendments.-- (A) The heading for section 5304 of such title is amended by striking ``Prohibition against'' and inserting ``Provisions relating to''. (B) The item relating to section 5304 in the table of sections at the beginning of chapter 53 of such title is amended by striking ``Prohibition against'' and inserting ``Provisions relating to''. (b) Conforming Repeals.-- (1) In general.--Section 5305 of title 38, United States Code, and section 1414 of title 10, United States Code, are each repealed. (2) Clerical amendments.-- (A) The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 53 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking the item relating to section 5305. (B) The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 71 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by striking the item relating to section 1414. (c) Conforming Amendments to Combat-Related Special Compensation.-- (1) Compensation only available to existing claimants.-- Section 1413a of title 10, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(j) Section Only To Apply to Retirees in Payment Status on October 1, 2007.--No payment under this section shall be made to an eligible combat-related disabled uniform services retiree for any month beginning after September 30, 2007, unless the retiree has an election in effect under this section for all months during the period beginning on October 1, 2007, and ending on the last day of the month to which the payment relates.''. (2) Clerical amendments.-- (A) Subsection (f) of such section is amended to read as follows: ``(f) Revocation of Election.--The Secretary concerned shall provide for an annual period (referred to as an `open season') during which a person with an election in effect under subsection (a) shall have the right to revoke such election. Any such election shall be made under regulations prescribed by the Secretary concerned and, once made, shall be irrevocable. Such regulations shall provide for the form and manner for making such an election and shall provide for the date as of when such an election shall become effective. In the case of the Secretary of a military department, such regulations shall be subject to approval by the Secretary of Defense.''. (B) Subsection (b)(2) of such section is amended by striking ``sections 5304 and 5305 of title 38'' and inserting ``section 5304(a)(1) of title 38''. (d) Other Conforming Amendments.-- (1) Section 5111(b) of title 38, United States Code is amended to read as follows: ``(b) During the period between the effective date of an award or increased award as provided under section 5110 of this title or other provision of law and the commencement of the period of payment based on such award as provided under subsection (a) of this section, an individual entitled to receive monetary benefits shall be deemed to be in receipt of such benefits for the purpose of all laws administered by the Secretary.''. (2) Sections 1463(a)(1), 1465(c)(1)(A), 1465(c)(1)(B), and 1466(b)(1)(D) of title 10, United States Code, are each amended by striking ``or 1414''. (3) Subparagraphs (A) and (B) of section 1465(c)(4) of title 10, United States Code, are each amended by striking ``sections 1413a and 1414'' and inserting ``section 1413a''. (e) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on October 1, 2007, and shall apply with respect to payments of compensation or pension and retired or retirement pay made on or after that date. No benefits are payable by reason of the amendments made by this section for any period before October 1, 2007.

(a) Fifty Percent Increase in Certain Rates.--Subsection (k) of section 1114 of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) by striking ``$3,075'' and inserting ``$4,613''; (2) by striking ``$89'' both places it appears and inserting ``$134''; and (3) by striking ``$4,313'' and inserting ``$6,470''. (b) Twenty Percent Increase in Certain Other Rates.--Such section is further amended-- (1) in subsection (l), by striking ``$3,075'' and inserting

(a) Minimum Rating of Disability for Hearing Loss Requiring a Hearing Aid.--Section 1155 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: ``The minimum rating of disability under the schedule adopted under this section for a veteran for a disability consisting of hearing loss for which the wearing of a hearing aid or hearing aids is medically indicated shall be a rating of 10 percent.''. (b) Presumption That Hearing Loss Is Service Connected.-- Section 1112 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(d) For purposes of section 1110 of this title, and subject to section 1113 of this title, if tinnitus or hearing loss typically related to noise exposure or acoustic trauma becomes manifest in a veteran who, during military service, performed duties typically involving high levels of noise exposure, the tinnitus or hearing loss shall be considered to have been incurred in or aggravated by such service, notwithstanding that there is no record of the disease during the period of service.''. (c) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on October 1, 2007. No benefit is payable by reason of the amendments made by this section for any period before October 1, 2007.

(a) Repeal.-- (1) In general.--Subchapter II of chapter 73 of title 10, United States Code, is amended as follows: (A) In section 1450, by striking subsection (c). (B) In section 1451(c)-- (i) by striking paragraph (2); and (ii) by redesignating paragraphs (3) and (4) as paragraphs (2) and (3), respectively. (2) Conforming amendments.--Such subchapter is further amended as follows: (A) In section 1450-- (i) by striking subsection (e); and (ii) by striking subsection (k). (B) In section 1451(g)(1), by striking subparagraph (C). (C) In section 1452-- (i) in subsection (f)(2), by striking ``does not apply--'' and all that follows and inserting ``does not apply in the case of a deduction made through administrative error.''; and (ii) by striking subsection (g). (D) In section 1455(c), by striking ``, 1450(k)(2),''. (b) Prohibition on Retroactive Benefits.--No benefits may be paid to any person for any period before the effective date provided under subsection (f) by reason of the amendments made by subsection (a). (c) Prohibition on Recoupment of Certain Amounts Previously Refunded to SBP Recipients.--A surviving spouse who is or has been in receipt of an annuity under the Survivor Benefit Plan under subchapter II of chapter 73 of title 10, United States Code, that is in effect before the effective date provided under subsection (f) and that is adjusted by reason of the amendments made by subsection (a) and who has received a refund of retired pay under section 1450(e) of title 10, United States Code, shall not be required to repay such refund to the United States. (d) Repeal of Authority for Optional Annuity for Dependent Children.--Section 1448(d)(2) of such title is amended-- (1) by striking ``Dependent children.--'' and all that follows through ``In the case of a member described in paragraph (1),'' and inserting ``Dependent children.--In the case of a member described in paragraph (1),''; and (2) by striking subparagraph (B). (e) Restoration of Eligibility for Previously Eligible Spouses.--The Secretary of the military department concerned shall restore annuity eligibility to any eligible surviving spouse who, in consultation with the Secretary, previously elected to transfer payment of such annuity to a surviving child or children under the provisions of section 1448(d)(2)(B) of title 10, United States Code, as in effect on the day before the effective date provided under subsection (f). Such eligibility shall be restored whether or not payment to such child or children subsequently was terminated due to loss of dependent status or death. For the purposes of this subsection, an eligible spouse includes a spouse who was previously eligible for payment of such annuity and is not remarried, or remarried after having attained age 55, or whose second or subsequent marriage has been terminated by death, divorce or annulment. (f) Effective Date.--The sections and the amendments made by this section shall take effect on the later of-- (1) the first day of the first month that begins after the date of the enactment of this Act; or (2) the first day of the fiscal year that begins in the calendar year in which this Act is enacted.

(a) Increase in Rate.--Section 1311(a) of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) by redesignating paragraph (3) as paragraph (4); (2) by inserting after paragraph (2) the following new paragraph (3): ``(4) The rate under paragraph (1) shall be increased by $228 in the case of the death of a member of the Armed Forces on active duty.''; and (3) in paragraph (4), as redesignated by paragraph (1) of this subsection, by striking ``(1) and (2)'' and inserting ``(1), (2), and (3)''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on October 1, 2007, and shall apply with respect to dependency and indemnity compensation payable for months beginning on or after that date.

(a) Reestablishment.--Section 103(d)(2)(B) of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) in the first sentence, by striking ``age 57'' and inserting ``age 55''; and (2) by striking the second sentence. (b) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on October 1, 2007. No benefit is payable by reason of the amendments made by this section for any period before October 1, 2007.

(a) Commencement of Period of Payment.--Section 5111(c) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph: ``(3) In the case of a temporary increase in compensation for hospitalization or treatment for a service-connected disability rated as total by reason of such hospitalization or treatment, the period of payment shall commence on the date of admission for such hospitalization or date of treatment, surgery, or other activity necessitating such treatment, as applicable.''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by subsection (a) shall take effect on October 1, 2007. No benefit is payable by reason of the amendment made by subsection (a) for any period before October 1, 2007.

(a) Report Required.-- (1) In general.--Not later than 10 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to the congressional veterans affairs committees a report on the adequacy of dependency and indemnity compensation payable under chapter 13 of title 38, United States Code, to surviving spouses and dependents of veterans who die as a result of a service-connected disability in maintaining such surviving spouses and dependents at a standard of living above the poverty level. (2) Elements.--The report required by paragraph (1) shall include-- (A) a description of the current system for the payment of dependency and indemnity compensation to surviving spouses and dependents described in paragraph (1), including a statement of the rates of such compensation so payable; (B) an assessment of the adequacy of such payments in maintaining such surviving spouses and dependents at a standard of living above the poverty level; and (C) such recommendations as the Comptroller General considers appropriate in order to improve or enhance the effects of such payments in maintaining such surviving spouses and dependents at a standard of living above the poverty level. (b) Congressional Veterans Affairs Committees Defined.--In this section, the term ``congressional veterans affairs committees'' means-- (1) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and (2) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.

(a) In General.--Section 1922(a) of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) by inserting ``(1)'' after ``(a)''; and (2) by striking the fourth sentence and all that follows and inserting the following: ``(2) Insurance granted under this section shall be issued upon the same terms and conditions as are contained in the standard policies of National Service Life Insurance, except that-- ``(A) the amount of such insurance shall be $50,000, or such lesser amount, evenly divisible by $10,000, as the insured may specify; ``(B) the premium rates for such insurance-- ``(i) for premiums for months beginning before the effective date of this paragraph under section 301(c) of date of the enactment of the Comprehensive Veterans Benefits Improvements Act of 2007 shall be based on the Commissioners 1941 Standard Ordinary Table of Mortality and interest at the rate of 2\1/4\ percent per year; and ``(ii) for premiums for months beginning on or after that effective date shall be based upon the 2001 Commissioners Standard Ordinary Table of Mortality and interest at the rate of 4\1/2\ percent per year; ``(C) all cash, loan, paid-up, and extended values-- ``(i) for a policy issued under this section before the effective date described in subparagraph (B)(i) shall be based upon the Commissioners 1941 Standard Ordinary Table of Mortality and interest at the rate of 2\1/4\ percent per year; and ``(ii) for a policy issued under this section on or after that effective date shall be based upon the 2001 Commissioners Standard Ordinary Table of Mortality and interest at the rate of 4\1/2\ percent per year; ``(D) all settlements on policies involving annuities shall be calculated on the basis of the Annuity Table for 1949, and interest at the rate of 2\1/4\ percent per year; ``(E) insurance granted under this section shall be on a nonparticipating basis; ``(F) all premiums and other collections for insurance under this section shall be credited directly to a revolving fund in the Treasury of the United States; and ``(G) any payments on such insurance shall be made directly from such fund. ``(3) Appropriations to the fund referred to in subparagraphs (F) and (G) of paragraph (2) are hereby authorized. ``(4) As to insurance issued under this section, waiver of premiums pursuant to section 602(n) of the National Service Life Insurance Act of 1940 and section 1912 of this title shall not be denied on the ground that the service-connected disability became total before the effective date of such insurance.''. (b) Coordination With Overall Limit.--Section 1903 of such title is amended by adding at the end the following new sentence: ``The limitations of this section shall not apply to insurance granted under section 1922 of this title, except that other insurance to which this section applies shall be taken into account in determining whether the limitations of subsections (a)(2)(A) and (b) of section 1922 of this title are met with respect to insurance granted under section 1922 of this title.''. (c) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on the later of-- (1) October 1, 2007; or (2) the first day of the first month that begins more than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(a) Increase in Plot Allowance.--Section 2303 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking ``$300'' each place it appears and inserting ``$745 (as adjusted from time to time under subsection (c))''. (b) Expansion of Eligibility.--Subsection (b)(2) of such section is amended by striking ``such veteran is eligible'' and all that follows through ``, and''. (c) Annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment.--Such section is further amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(c) With respect to any fiscal year, the Secretary shall provide a percentage increase (rounded to the nearest dollar) in each maximum amount of the plot allowance payable under this section equal to the percentage by which-- ``(1) the Consumer Price Index (all items, United States city average) for the 12-month period ending on the June 30 preceding the beginning of the fiscal year for which the increase is made, exceeds ``(2) such Consumer Price Index for the 12-month period preceding the 12-month period described in paragraph (1).''. (d) Effective Date.-- (1) In general.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on October 1, 2007, and shall apply with respect to deaths occurring on or after that date. (2) No cola adjustment for fiscal year 2008.--The percentage increase required by subsection (c) of section 2303 of title 38, United States Code (as added by subsection

(a) In General.--Section 2302 of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) in subsection (a), by striking ``$300'' in the matter following paragraph (2) and inserting ``$1,270 (as adjusted from time to time under subsection (c))''; and (2) by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(c) With respect to any fiscal year, the Secretary shall provide a percentage increase (rounded to the nearest dollar) in the maximum amount of benefits payable under subsection (a) equal to the percentage by which-- ``(1) the Consumer Price Index (all items, United States city average) for the 12-month period ending on the June 30 preceding the beginning of the fiscal year for which the increase is made, exceeds ``(2) such Consumer Price Index for the 12-month period preceding the 12-month period described in paragraph (1).''. (b) Deaths From Service-Connected Disability.--Section 2307 of such title is amended-- (1) by inserting ``(a) Funeral and Burial Expenses.--'' before ``In any case''; (2) in paragraph (1) of subsection (a), as designated by paragraph (1) of this subsection, by striking ``$2,000'' and inserting ``$4,100 (as adjusted from time to time under subsection (b))''; and (3) by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(b) Cost-of-Living Adjustment.--With respect to any fiscal year, the Secretary shall provide a percentage increase (rounded to the nearest dollar) in the amount of benefits payable under subsection (a)(1) equal to the percentage by which-- ``(1) the Consumer Price Index (all items, United States city average) for the 12-month period ending on the June 30 preceding the beginning of the fiscal year for which the increase is made, exceeds ``(2) such Consumer Price Index for the 12-month period preceding the 12-month period described in paragraph (1).''. (c) Effective Date.-- (1) In general.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act, and shall apply with respect to deaths occurring on or after that date. (2) No cola adjustment for fiscal year 2008.--The percentage increase required by subsection (c) of section 2302 of title 38, United States Code (as added by subsection (a) of this section), and the percentage increase required by subsection (b) of section 2307 of title 38, United States Code (as added by subsection (b) of this section), for fiscal year 2008 shall not be made.

There is hereby authorized to be appropriated for the Department of Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2008, $37,000,000 for aid to States for the establishment, expansion, and improvement of veterans' cemeteries under section 2408 of title 38, United States Code.

(a) Increase in Grant Amounts.-- (1) Acquisition of housing.--Subsection (d)(1) of section 2102 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking ``$50,000'' and inserting ``$60,000 (as adjusted from time to time under subsection (f))''. (2) Adaptations to housing.--Subsections (b)(2) and (d)(2) of such section are each amended by striking ``$10,000'' and inserting ``$12,000 (as adjusted from time to time under subsection (f))''. (b) Additional Grant for Acquisition of Subsequent Housing Unit.--Such section is further amended-- (1) in subsection (c), by inserting ``or (e)'' after ``subsection (a)''; and (2) by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(e)(1) In addition to the assistance otherwise provided under subsection (d)(1), the assistance authorized by section 2101(a) of this title shall also include assistance for a veteran for the acquisition by the veteran of a housing unit to replace the housing unit for which assistance was provided under subsection (d)(1). ``(2) The amount of assistance under this subsection may not exceed the maximum amount of assistance available under subsection (d)(1). ``(3) Assistance shall be afforded under this subsection through a plan set forth in subsection (a), at the option of the veteran concerned.''. (c) Annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment.--Such section is further amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(f)(1) Effective on October 1 of each year (beginning in 2008), the Secretary shall increase the amounts in effect under subsections (b)(2), (d)(1), and (d)(2) in accordance with this subsection. ``(2) The increase in amounts under paragraph (1) to take effect on October 1 of any year shall be the percentage by which (A) the residential home cost-of-construction index for the preceding calendar year exceeds (B) the residential home cost-of-construction index for the year preceding that year. ``(3) The Secretary shall establish a residential home cost-of-construction index for the purposes of this subsection. The index shall reflect a uniform, national average increase in the cost of residential home construction, determined on a calendar year basis. The Secretary may use an index developed in the private sector that the Secretary determines is appropriate for purposes of this subsection.''. (d) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on October 1, 2007.

(a) Increase in Amount of Insurance.--Section 2106(b) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking ``$90,000'' and inserting ``$150,000''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by subsection (a) shall take effect on the later of-- (1) October 1, 2007; or (2) the first day of the first month that begins more than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(a) Reduction in Period of Service Requirement for Selected Reserves.--Section 3701(b)(5)(A) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking ``6 years'' each place it appears and inserting ``1 year''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by this section shall take effect on October 1, 2007.

(a) In General.--Paragraph (2) of section 3729(b) of title 38, United States Code, is amended to read as follows: ``(2) The loan fee table referred to in paragraph (1) is as follows:

(a) Review by United States Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit of Adoption or Revision of Schedule of Disability Ratings.--Section 502 of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) by inserting ``(a) Judicial Review.--'' before ``An action''; (2) in subsection (a), as designated by paragraph (1) of this subsection, by striking ``(other than an action relating to the adoption or revision of the schedule of ratings for disabilities adopted under section 1155 of this title)''; and (3) by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(b) Standard of Review of Actions Relating to Schedule of Ratings for Disabilities.--In reviewing pursuant to this section an action of the Secretary relating to the adoption or revision of the schedule of ratings for disabilities under section 1155 of this title, the Court may set aside such action only if the Court finds such action to be arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law.''. (b) Review by Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims of Adverse Findings of Material Facts.--Section 7261(a)(4) of such title is amended by striking ``is clearly erroneous'' and inserting ``is not reasonably supported by a preponderance of the evidence''. (c) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act. The amendment made by subsection (b) shall apply with respect to all cases pending for decision before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims other than a case in which a final decision has been entered before the date of the enactment of this Act.

(a) Disability Compensation.--Section 1104(a) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking ``,with all'' and all that follows up to the period at the end. (b) Dependency Compensation.--Section 1303(a) of such title is amended by striking ``,with all'' and all that follows up to the period at the end.

(a) Establishment of Bureau.--The Secretaries of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense shall jointly establish the DoD/VA Clinical Information Data Exchange Bureau (in this section referred to as ``the Bureau''). (b) Information System.-- (1) In general.--The Bureau shall establish and maintain an information system that facilitates the clinical exchange of computable data within and between the health systems of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. (2) Elements.--In establishing the information system described in paragraph (1), the Bureau shall meet the following requirements: (A) Software requirements.--The system shall utilize computer software-- (i) the source code of which is open source and available in the public domain, (ii) that is nonproprietary, and (iii) that ensures that the electronic medical records in the health systems of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are able to understand all major clinical vocabularies. (B) Patient privacy.--The system shall comply with all appropriate rules, regulations, and procedures to safeguard patient privacy and to ensure data security. (C) Mapping of health information.--The Bureau shall ensure that personal health information available in electronic form outside of the system will be able to be electronically mapped into the system. (D) Maintenance.--The Bureau shall permanently maintain the system, including ensuring that any changes in any major clinical vocabulary are reflected in a timely manner in the electronic medical records in the health systems of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. (c) Cost of System.-- (1) In general.--The cost of the information system established under this section, and the annual costs of maintaining the system, shall be borne equally by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. (2) Fees.--The Secretaries of Veterans Affairs and Defense may charge vendor user fees in order to facilitate the use of discrete clinical vocabularies within the system.

(a) Study.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Secretary of Defense shall jointly conduct a study of the disability ratings systems of the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, including an analysis of-- (1) the interoperability of both systems, and (2) the feasibility and advisability of automating the Veterans Administration Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) to improve the time for processing, and the accuracy of, disability ratings. (b) Report.-- (1) In general.--Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretaries shall submit to the relevant committees of Congress a joint report on the study conducted under subsection (a). (2) Elements.--Such report shall include specific legislative proposals, including the amount of funding, which the Secretaries find necessary to-- (A) ensure that the disability ratings systems of both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense are interoperable and that information contained in both systems can readily be transmitted to and from each of the departments, and (B) automate the Veterans Administration Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), including-- (i) an analysis of the necessary computer software and other technology, and (ii) a schedule for the completion of the automation. (c) Relevant Committees of Congress.--In this section, the term ``relevant committees of Congress'' means-- (1) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate, and (2) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives.

(a) Increase in Amount of Allowance.--Subsection (a) of section 3902 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking ``$11,000'' and inserting ``$22,484 (as adjusted from time to time under subsection (e))''. (b) Annual Adjustment.--Such section is further amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(e)(1) Effective on October 1 of each year (beginning in 2008), the Secretary shall increase the dollar amount in effect under subsection (a) to an amount equal to 80 percent of the average retail cost of new automobiles for the preceding calendar year. ``(2) The Secretary shall establish the method for determining the average retail cost of new automobiles for purposes of this subsection. The Secretary may use data developed in the private sector if the Secretary determines the data is appropriate for purposes of this subsection.''. (c) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect on October 1, 2007.

(a) In General.--Section 3034 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection: ``(e)(1) In the case of any eligible individual who has been prevented from pursuing a program of education under this chapter because the individual has not met the nature of discharge requirement of this chapter, the Secretary of Defense shall, upon application of the individual, refund to the individual the amount determined under paragraph (3) if the Secretary of Defense determines that the nature of the discharge was due to minor infractions or deficiencies. ``(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to an individual if the discharge was a dishonorable discharge. ``(3) The amount determined under this paragraph with respect to any individual is the excess (if any) of-- ``(A) the sum of the amounts described in section 3017(b)(1) of this title with respect to the individual, over ``(B) the sum of the amounts described in section 3017(b)(2) of this title with respect to the individual. ``(4) The Secretary of Defense shall make the payments under this subsection from the funds into which the amounts described in section 3017(b)(1) of this title were deposited.''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section shall apply to discharges after September 30, 2007.

(a) Report Required.-- (1) In general.--Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to the congressional veterans affairs committees a report on the feasability and advisability of the provision through the Department of Veterans Affairs of assisted living benefits for veterans who otherwise qualify for nursing home care through the Department in lieu of the provision through the Department of nursing home care for such veterans. (2) Elements.--The report required by paragraph (1) shall include-- (A) a description of various current proposals for the provision through the Department of assisted living benefits for veterans as described in paragraph (1); (B) an estimate of the costs of the various proposals described under subparagraph (A), and an estimate of any cost savings anticipated to be achieved through the carrying out of such proposals; (C) an assessment of feasability and advisability of the provision through the Department of assisted living benefits for veterans as described in paragraph (1), including an identification of the proposal, if any, described in that paragraph, that would result in the most cost-effective provision through the Department of assisted living benefits for veterans; and (D) such recommendations as the Comptroller General considers appropriate regarding the provision through the Department of assisted living benefits for veterans. (b) Congressional Veterans Affairs Committees Defined.--In this section, the term ``congressional veterans affairs committees'' means-- (1) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and (2) the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives.

By Mr. LEAHY (for himself, Mr. Brownback, Mrs. Feinstein, Mr. Hagel, Mr. Inouye, Mr. Roberts, Mr. Brown, Mr. Voinovich, Mr. Nelson of Nebraska, Mrs. Boxer, and Mr. Akaka):

S. 1327. A bill to create and extend certain temporary district court judgeships; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy

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Mr. President, today I am introducing bipartisan legislation to address the needs of the Federal Judiciary, our coequal branch of Government. This bill would respond to a discrete situation in five States regarding the need for temporary judgeships. In order to adequately address fluctuations in a court's caseload, Congress can authorize a judgeship on a temporary basis. These temporary fixes do not undermine the independence that comes with lifetime appointment to the judiciary because the judges assigned to fill these vacancies, are, in fact, appointed for life, as are all Federal judges. They are temporary in the sense that when these judgeships expire, the next vacancy in the jurisdiction is not filled and the extra judgeship expires.

Last Congress two of these needed temporary judgeships were allowed to expire. One was in Nebraska and the other in California. That was unfortunate in my view since they continue to have high caseloads. This legislation would restore those judgeships by reauthorizing those temporary judgeships to restore the status quo in those two busy districts.

In addition, three districts have temporary judgeships that are close to expiration. Caseloads in Ohio, Hawaii, and Kansas remain at a high level. I support acting to ensure their continuation until we have had the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive review of the judgeship needs throughout the Federal system. I hope to undertake that review next year.

This legislation would extend each of the five temporary judgeships for 10 years. This will allow Congress some flexibility with regard to future judgeship needs.

This measure is supported by the Judicial Conference of the United States and every Senator representing the five States. I thank Senators Feinstein and Brownback, who also serve on the Judiciary Committee, for their work on this legislation.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

(a) Additional Temporary Judgeships.-- (1) In general.--The President shall appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate-- (A) 1 additional district judge for the eastern district of California; and (B) 1 additional district judge for the district of Nebraska. (2) Vacancies not filled.--The first vacancy in the office of district judge in each of the offices of district judge authorized by this subsection, occurring 10 years or more after the confirmation date of the judge named to fill the temporary district judgeship created in the applicable district by this subsection, shall not be filled. (b) Extension of Certain Temporary Judgeships.--Section 203(c) of the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990 (Public Law 101-650; 28 U.S.C. 133 note) is amended-- (1) in the second sentence, by inserting ``the district of Hawaii,'' after ``Pennsylvania,''; (2) in the third sentence (relating to the district of Kansas), by striking ``16 years'' and inserting ``26 years''; (3) in the fifth sentence (relating to the northern district of Ohio), by striking ``15 years'' and inserting ``25 years''; and (4) by inserting ``The first vacancy in the office of district judge in the district of Hawaii occurring 20 years or more after the confirmation date of the judge named to fill the temporary judgeship created under this subsection shall not be filled.'' after the sixth sentence.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

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Mr. President, I am proud to be a cosponsor of Chairman Leahy's bill, S. 1327, which will reestablish temporary judgeships where needed in the district courts and extend other temporary judgeships that are about to expire. The bill will reestablish a 10-year temporary judgeship in the Eastern District of California, where it is sorely needed.

The Eastern District has had a temporary judgeship before, but it expired in the fall of 2004. Even before the temporary judgeship expired, the caseload in the district was already the second highest in the Nation: 787 filings per judge, which was almost 50 percent more than the national average.

Since that time, the situation in the Eastern District has grown even more dire. Average caseloads across the Nation have declined, but in the Eastern District they have increased by 18 percent.

The Eastern District of California now has the highest caseload in the country: 927 filings per judge. That is twice as many cases as the national average.

It is no exaggeration to say that the judges of the Eastern District are in desperate need of relief. They have continued to serve with distinction in the face of the crushing caseloads. Mr. President, two of the court's senior judges still carry full caseloads after taking senior status. Two other senior judges are also continuing to hear cases in the district. There is another reason why it is imperative for the Senate to act now and adopt this bill. In just a few months, there will be a vacancy in the Eastern District when Chief Judge David Levi leaves the bench after 17 years of distinguished service.

It is my hope that Chief Judge Levi's seat can be filled as quickly as possible with a well qualified nominee. But, as a practical matter, it is unlikely that the confirmation process for a new judge will be complete when Chief Judge Levi leaves office.

This will leave the Eastern District with still fewer judges to handle its highest-in-the-Nation caseload. The district will need even more help to ensure that cases continue to be handled with the care, attention, and promptness that are essential to the fair administration of justice.

I view this bill as an important first step toward getting California all of the judges it needs. According to the 2007 recommendations of the Judicial Conference, California needs a total of 12 new judges, more judges than are needed in any other State in the Nation. Four of those judges are needed in the Eastern District alone. By adding a temporary judgeship in the district, this bill will help fill the gap until the Senate acts to carry out the Judicial Conference's recommendations.

I thank Chairman Leahy for taking this important first step toward ensuring that the Federal courts in California have all the judges they need.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye

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Mr. President, I rise today to support this bill addressing the need to extend a number of our temporary judgeships.

My colleagues and I share a common interest in ensuring that the American public is provided with the most efficient court system possible. However, across the nation many of our judicial resources are strained due to our growing population and an increase in the number of caseloads per judge. Hawaii is no exception, and this bill addresses our need to maintain our current number of judgeships. This bill offers a much needed relief to our over-worked courts.

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to share with you my thoughts as to the importance of this legislation.

By Mr. LEAHY:

S. 1328. A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents and to penalize immigration fraud in connection with permanent partnerships; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy

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Mr. President, today I am pleased to reintroduce the Uniting American Families Act. This legislation would allow U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to petition for their foreign same-sex partners under our family-based immigration system. I hope that the Senate will demonstrate our Nation's commitment to equality under the law by passing this measure.

I am pleased to act today in concert with Congressman Nadler, who is introducing this same measure in the House of Representatives. Congressman Nadler has been a steady advocate for these changes, and I commend his efforts to promote fundamental fairness for Americans whose loved ones are foreign citizens.

Under current law, foreign same-sex partners of Americans are unable to benefit from the family-based immigration system, which accounts for the majority of green cards awarded annually. As a result, gay Americans in this situation face the difficult choice of living apart from their partner, or leaving the U.S. to reside together.

This bill provides parity while also retaining strong prohibitions against fraud. To qualify as a permanent partner, potential beneficiaries must be at least 18 years old and in an exclusive, committed relationship with an adult U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, where both parties intend a lifelong union. The couple must prove that their union is not cognizable as a marriage under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Penalties for fraud would be the same as in any other marriage-based case: up to 5 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the petitioner, and possible deportation for the alien partner.

Like many people across the country, Vermonters involved in permanent partnerships with foreign nationals often feel abandoned by immigration laws and restrictions. This bill would allow them, and other gay and lesbian Americans, to become more fully integrated into our society. Promoting family unity has long been a critical aim of Federal immigration policy, and we should honor that purpose by providing all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation the opportunity to be with their loved ones.

The idea that immigration benefits should extend to same-sex couples is not new. Many nations recognize that their respective immigration laws should respect family unity, regardless of sexual orientation. Indeed, 16 of our closest allies--Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom all acknowledge same-sex couples for immigration purposes.

Our immigration laws treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships as second-class citizens. This injustice should be addressed not only on behalf of those individuals but also to promote more broadly a fair and consistent policy for America. I hope that the Senate will act to demonstrate our Nation's commitment to equality under the law.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

(a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``Uniting American Families Act of 2007''. (b) Amendments to Immigration and Nationality Act.--Except as otherwise specifically provided in this Act, if an amendment or repeal is expressed as the amendment or repeal of a section or other provision, the reference shall be considered to be made to that section or provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq.). (c) Table of Contents.--The table of contents for this Act is as follows:Sec. 1. Short title; amendments to Immigration and Nationality Act; table of contents.Sec. 2. Definitions of permanent partner and permanent partnership.Sec. 3. Worldwide level of immigration.Sec. 4. Numerical limitations on individual foreign states.Sec. 5. Allocation of immigrant visas.Sec. 6. Procedure for granting immigrant status.Sec. 7. Annual admission of refugees and admission of emergency situation refugees.Sec. 8. Asylum.Sec. 9. Adjustment of status of refugees.Sec. 10. Inadmissible aliens.Sec. 11. Nonimmigrant status for permanent partners awaiting the availability of an immigrant visa.Sec. 12. Conditional permanent resident status for certain alien spouses, permanent partners, and sons and daughters.Sec. 13. Conditional permanent resident status for certain alien entrepreneurs, spouses, permanent partners, and children.Sec. 14. Deportable aliens.Sec. 15. Removal proceedings.Sec. 16. Cancellation of removal; adjustment of status.Sec. 17. Adjustment of status of nonimmigrant to that of person admitted for permanent residence.Sec. 18. Application of criminal penalties to for misrepresentation and concealment of facts regarding permanent partnerships.Sec. 19. Requirements as to residence, good moral character, attachment to the principles of the constitution.Sec. 20. Application of family unity provisions to permanent partners of certain LIFE Act beneficiaries.Sec. 21. Application to Cuban Adjustment Act.

Section 101(a) (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)) is amended-- (1) in paragraph (15)(K)(ii), by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''; and (2) by adding at the end the following: ``(52) The term `permanent partner' means an individual 18 years of age or older who-- ``(A) is in a committed, intimate relationship with another individual 18 years of age or older in which both individuals intend a lifelong commitment; ``(B) is financially interdependent with that other individual; ``(C) is not married to, or in a permanent partnership with, any individual other than that other individual; ``(D) is unable to contract with that other individual a marriage cognizable under this Act; and ``(E) is not a first, second, or third degree blood relation of that other individual. ``(53) The term `permanent partnership' means the relationship that exists between 2 permanent partners.''.

Section 201(b)(2)(A)(i) (8 U.S.C. 1151(b)(2)(A)(i)) is amended-- (1) by ``spouse'' each place it appears and inserting ``spouse or permanent partner''; (2) by striking ``spouses'' and inserting ``spouse, permanent partner,''; (3) by inserting ``(or, in the case of a permanent partnership, whose permanent partnership was not terminated)'' after ``was not legally separated from the citizen''; and (4) by striking ``remarries.'' and inserting ``remarries or enters a permanent partnership with another person.''.

(a) Per Country Levels.--Section 202(a)(4) (8 U.S.C. 1152(a)(4)) is amended-- (1) in the paragraph heading, by inserting ``, permanent partners,'' after ``spouses''; (2) in the heading of subparagraph (A), by inserting ``, permanent partners,'' after ``Spouses''; and (3) in the heading of subparagraph (C), by striking ``and daughters'' inserting ``without permanent partners and unmarried daughters without permanent partners''. (b) Rules for Chargeability.--Section 202(b)(2) (8 U.S.C. 1152(b)(2)) is amended-- (1) by striking ``his spouse'' and inserting ``his or her spouse or permanent partner''; (2) by striking ``such spouse'' each place it appears and inserting ``such spouse or permanent partner''; and (3) by inserting ``or permanent partners'' after ``husband and wife''.

(a) Preference Allocation for Family Members of Permanent Resident Aliens.--Section 203(a)(2) (8 U.S.C. 1153(a)(2)) is amended-- (1) by striking the paragraph heading and inserting the following: ``(2) Spouses, permanent partners, unmarried sons without permanent partners, and unmarried daughters without permanent partners of permanent resident aliens.--''; (2) in subparagraph (A), by inserting ``, permanent partners,'' after ``spouses''; and (3) in subparagraph (B), by striking ``or unmarried daughters'' and inserting ``without permanent partners or the unmarried daughters without permanent partners''. (b) Preference Allocation for Sons and Daughters of Citizens.--Section 203(a)(3) (8 U.S.C. 1153(a)(3)) is amended-- (1) by striking the paragraph heading and inserting the following: ``(2) Married sons and daughters of citizens and sons and daughters with permanent partners of citizens.--''; and (2) by inserting ``, or sons or daughters with permanent partners,'' after ``daughters''. (c) Employment Creation.--Section 203(b)(5)(A)(ii) (8 U.S.C. 1153(b)(5)(A)(ii)) is amended by inserting ``permanent partner,'' after ``spouse,''. (d) Treatment of Family Members.--Section 203(d) (8 U.S.C. 1153(d)) is amended-- (1) by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``section 101(b)(1)''; and (2) by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``the spouse''.

(a) Classification Petitions.--Section 204(a)(1) (8 U.S.C. 1154(a)(1)) is amended-- (1) in subparagraph (A)-- (A) in clause (ii), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''; (B) in clause (iii)-- (i) by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears; and (ii) in subclause (I), by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage'' each place it appears; (C) in clause (v)(I), by inserting ``permanent partner,'' after ``is the spouse,''; (D) in clause (vi)-- (i) by inserting ``or termination of the permanent partnership'' after ``divorce''; and (ii) by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''; and (2) in subparagraph (B)-- (A) by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears; (B) in clause (ii)-- (i) in subclause (I)(aa), by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''; (ii) in subclause (I)(bb), by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage'' the first place it appears; and (iii) in subclause (II)(aa), by inserting ``(or the termination of the permanent partnership)'' after ``termination of the marriage''. (b) Immigration Fraud Prevention.--Section 204(c) (8 U.S.C. 1154(c)) is amended-- (1) by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears; and (2) by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage'' each place it appears.

Section 207(c) (8 U.S.C. 1157(c)) is amended-- (1) in paragraph (2)-- (A) by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears; and (B) by inserting ``, permanent partner's,'' after ``spouse's''; and (2) in paragraph (4), by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''.

Section 208(b)(3) (8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(3)) is amended-- (1) in the paragraph heading, by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''; and (2) in subparagraph (A), by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''.

Section 209(b)(3) (8 U.S.C. 1159(b)(3)) is amended by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''.

(a) Classes of Aliens Ineligible for Visas or Admission.-- Section 212(a) (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)) is amended-- (1) in paragraph (3)(D)(iv), by inserting ``permanent partner,'' after ``spouse,''; (2) in paragraph (4)(C)(i)(I), by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''; (3) in paragraph (6)(E)(ii), by inserting ``permanent partner,'' after ``spouse,''; and (4) in paragraph (9)(B)(v), by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''. (b) Waivers.--Section 212(d) (8 U.S.C. 1182(d)) is amended-- (1) in paragraph (11), by inserting ``permanent partner,'' after ``spouse,''; and (2) in paragraph (12), by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''. (c) Waivers of Inadmissibility on Health-Related Grounds.-- Section 212(g)(1)(A) (8 U.S.C. 1182(g)(1)(A)) is amended by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''. (d) Waivers of Inadmissibility on Criminal and Related Grounds.--Section 212(h)(1)(B) (8 U.S.C. 1182(h)(1)(B)) is amended by inserting ``permanent partner,'' after ``spouse,''. (e) Waiver of Inadmissibility for Misrepresentation.-- Section 212(i)(1) (8 U.S.C. 1182(i)(1)) is amended by inserting ``permanent partner,'' after ``spouse,''.

Section 214(r) (8 U.S.C. 1184(r)) is amended-- (1) in paragraph (1), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''; and (2) in paragraph (2), by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage'' each place it appears.

(a) Section Heading.-- (1) In general.--The heading for section 216 (8 U.S.C. 1186a) is amended by striking ``and sons'' and inserting ``, permanent partners, sons, '' after (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of contents is amended by amending the item relating to section 216 to read as follows:``Sec. 216. Conditional permanent resident status for certain alien spouses, permanent partners, sons, and daughters''. (b) In General.--Section 216(a) (8 U.S.C. 1186a(a)) is amended-- (1) in paragraph (1), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''; and (2) in paragraph (2)-- (A) in subparagraph (A), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''; (B) in subparagraph (B), by inserting ``permanent partner,'' after ``spouse,''; and (C) in subparagraph (C), by inserting ``permanent partner,'' after ``spouse,''. (c) Termination of Status if Finding That Qualifying Marriage Improper.--Section 216(b) of such Act (8 U.S.C. 1186a(b)) is amended-- (1) in the subsection heading, by inserting ``or Permanent Partnership'' after ``Marriage''; and (2) in paragraph (1)(A)-- (A) by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''; and (B) in clause (ii)-- (i) by inserting ``or has ceased to satisfy the criteria for being considered a permanent partnership under this Act,'' after ``terminated,''; and (ii) by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''. (d) Requirements of Timely Petition and Interview for Removal of Condition.--Section 216(c) (8 U.S.C. 1186a(c)) is amended-- (1) in paragraphs (1), (2)(A)(ii), (3)(A)(ii), (3)(C), (4)(B), and (4)(C), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears; and (2) in paragraph (3)(A), (3)(D), (4)(B), and (4)(C), by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage'' each place it appears. (e) Contents of Petition.--Section 216(d)(1) of such Act (8 U.S.C. 1186a(d)(1)) is amended-- (1) in subparagraph (A)-- (A) in the heading, by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''; (B) in clause (i)-- (i) by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''; (ii) in subclause (I), by inserting before the comma at the end ``, or is a permanent partnership recognized under this Act''; (iii) in subclause (II)-- (I) by inserting ``or has not ceased to satisfy the criteria for being considered a permanent partnership under this Act,'' after ``terminated,''; and (II) by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''; (C) in clause (ii), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''; and (2) in subparagraph (B)(i)-- (A) by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''; and (B) by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''. (f) Definitions.--Section 216(g) (8 U.S.C. 1186a(g)) is amended-- (1) in paragraph (1)-- (A) by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears; and (B) by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage'' each place it appears; (2) in paragraph (2), by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''; (3) in paragraph (3), by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''; and (4) in paragraph (4)-- (A) by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears; and (B) by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''.

(a) In General.--Section 216A (8 U.S.C. 1186b) is amended-- (1) in the section heading, by inserting ``, permanent partners,'' after ``spouses''; and (2) in paragraphs (1), (2)(A), (2)(B), and (2)(C), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears. (b) Termination of Status if Finding That Qualifying Entrepreneurship Improper.--Section 216A(b)(1) is amended by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse'' in the matter following subparagraph (C). (c) Requirements of Timely Petition and Interview for Removal of Condition.--Section 216A(c) is amended, in paragraphs (1), (2)(A)(ii), and (3)(C), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''. (d) Definitions.--Section 216A(f)(2) is amended by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears. (e) Clerical Amendment.--The table of contents is amended by amending the item relating to section 216A to read as follows:``Sec. 216. Conditional permanent resident status for certain alien entrepreneurs, spouses, permanent partners, and children''.

Section 237(a)(1) (8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(1)) is amended-- (1) in subparagraph (D)(i), by inserting ``or permanent partners'' after ``spouses'' each place it appears; (2) in subparagraphs (E)(ii), (E)(iii), and (H)(i)(I), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''; (3) by inserting after subparagraph (E) the following: ``(F) Permanent partnership fraud.--An alien shall be considered to be deportable as having procured a visa or other documentation by fraud (within the meaning of section 212(a)(6)(C)(i)) and to be in the United States in violation of this Act (within the meaning of subparagraph (B)) if-- ``(i) the alien obtains any admission to the United States with an immigrant visa or other documentation procured on the basis of a permanent partnership entered into less than 2 years prior to such admission and which, within 2 years subsequent to such admission, is terminated because the criteria for permanent partnership are no longer fulfilled, unless the alien establishes to the satisfaction of the Secretary of Homeland Security that such permanent partnership was not contracted for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws; or ``(ii) it appears to the satisfaction of the Secretary of Homeland Security that the alien has failed or refused to fulfill the alien's permanent partnership, which the Secretary of Homeland Security determines was made for the purpose of procuring the alien's admission as an immigrant.''; and (4) in paragraphs (2)(E)(i) and (3)(C)(ii), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears.

Section 240 (8 U.S.C. 1229a) is amended-- (1) in the heading of subsection (c)(7)(C)(iv), by inserting ``permanent partners,'' after ``spouses,''; and (2) in subsection (e)(1), by inserting ``permanent partner,'' after ``spouse,''.

Section 240A(b) (8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)) is amended-- (1) in paragraph (1)(D), by inserting ``or permanent partner'' after ``spouse''; and (2) in paragraph (2)-- (A) in the paragraph heading, by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''; and (B) in subparagraph (A), by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears.

(a) Prohibition on Adjustment of Status.--Section 245(d) (8 U.S.C. 1255(d)) is amended by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''. (b) Avoiding Immigration Fraud.--Section 245(e) (8 U.S.C. 1255(e)) is amended-- (1) in paragraph (1), by inserting ``or permanent partnership'' after ``marriage''; and (2) by adding at the end the following: ``(4)(A) Paragraph (1) and section 204(g) shall not apply with respect to a permanent partnership if the alien establishes by clear and convincing evidence to the satisfaction of the Secretary of Homeland Security that-- ``(i) the permanent partnership was entered into in good faith and in accordance with section 101(a)(52); ``(ii) the permanent partnership was not entered into for the purpose of procuring the alien's admission as an immigrant; and ``(iii) no fee or other consideration was given (other than a fee or other consideration to an attorney for assistance in preparation of a lawful petition) for the filing of a petition under section 204(a) or 214(d) with respect to the alien permanent partner. ``(B) The Secretary shall promulgate regulations that provide for only 1 level of administrative appellate review for each alien under subparagraph (A).''. (c) Adjustment of Status for Certain Aliens Paying Fee.-- Section 245(i)(1)(B) (8 U.S.C. 1255(i)(1)(B)) is amended by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''.

Section 275(c) (8 U.S.C. 1325(c)) is amended to read as follows: ``(c) Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage or permanent partnership for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not

Section 316(b) (8 U.S.C. 1427(b)) is amended by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''.

Section 1504 of the LIFE Act (division B of Public Law 106- 554; 114 Stat. 2763-325) is amended-- (1) in the heading, by inserting ``, permanent partners,'' after ``spouses'' ; (2) in subsection (a), by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse''; and (3) in each of subsections (b) and (c)-- (A) in the subsection headings, by inserting ``, Permanent Partners,'' after ``Spouses''; and (B) by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse'' each place it appears.

(a) In General.--The first section of Public Law 89-732 (8 U.S.C. 1255 note) is amended-- (1) in the next to last sentence, by inserting ``, permanent partner,'' after ``spouse'' the first 2 places it appears; and (2) in the last sentence, by inserting ``, permanent partners,'' after ``spouses''. (b) Conforming Amendment.--Section 101(a)(51)(D) (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(51)(D)) is amended by striking ``or spouse'' and inserting ``, spouse, or permanent partner''.

By Ms. COLLINS (for herself and Ms. Snowe):

S. 1329. A bill to extend the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, to provide improved visitor services at the park, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Sen. Susan Collins

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Mr. President, I don't know if the Presiding Officer has ever visited Acadia National Park along the coast of Maine. It is an extraordinary place, a place of special beauty. I rise today to introduce the Acadia National Park Improvement Act Of 2007, with the senior Senator from Maine, Ms. Snowe, as my cosponsor.

This legislation would take important steps to ensure the long-term health of one of America's most beloved national parks. It would increase the land acquisition ceiling at Acadia by $10 million, facilitate an off-site intermodal transportation center for the Island Explorer bus system, and extend the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission.

In drafting this legislation, I have worked very closely with park officials and also with Friends of Acadia, a nonprofit community organization that works hard to support the park.

A little background might be helpful. In 1986, Congress enacted legislation designating the boundary of Acadia National Park. Many private lands were, however, contained within the permanent authorized boundary. Congress authorized the park to spend a little over $9 million to acquire those lands from willing sellers.

While all of that money has now been spent, rising land prices have prevented the money from going as far as Congress originally intended. There are now more than 100 private tracts left within the official park boundary. Nearly 20 of these tracts are currently available from willing sellers, but the park simply no longer has the funds to purchase them. Our legislation would authorize an additional $10 million to help acquire these lands. I wish to emphasize that the lands already fall within the authorized boundary of the park, so we are not talking about enlarging the boundary of the park but, rather, filling in the holes at Acadia.

Our legislation would also facilitate the development of an intermodal transportation center as part of the Island Explorer bus system. The Island Explorer has been extremely successful over its first 7 years. These low-emission, propane-powered vehicles have carried more than 1.5 million riders since 1999. In doing so, they have removed hundreds of thousands of vehicles from the park and significantly reduced pollution. Unfortunately, the system lacks a central parking and bus boarding area. As a result, day-use visitors do not have ready access to the Island Explorer.

My legislation would further facilitate the Department of Interior's assistance in planning, construction, and operation of an intermodal transportation center in Trenton, ME. Mr. President, $7 million for this center was included in the 2005 highway bill at the request of Senator Snowe and myself. This will include parking for day uses of the park center, a visitor orientation facility highlighting park and regional points of interest, a bus boarding area, and a bus maintenance garage. This center, which will be built in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Maine Department of Transportation, and other partners, will reduce traffic congestion, preserve park resources, enhance the visitor experience, and ensure a vibrant tourist economy.

Finally, our legislation would extend the 16-member Acadia National Park Advisory Commission for an additional 20-year period. This Commission was created by the Congress back in 1986, and, regrettably, it expired last year. The Commission consists of three Federal representatives, three State representatives, four representatives from local towns, three from the adjacent mainland communities, and three from the adjacent offshore islands. These representatives serving on this Commission have provided invaluable advice related to the management and the development of the park. The superintendent has found it to be very valuable. The Commission has proven its worth many times over, and it deserves to be extended for an additional 20 years. In fact, it probably should just be made permanent.

Acadia National Park is a true gem of the Maine coastline. The park is one of Maine's most popular tourist destinations, with more than 2 million visitors each year. While unsurpassed in beauty, the park's ecosystem is very fragile. Unless we are careful, we risk substantial harm to the very place that Mainers and, indeed, all Americans hold so dear. In 9 years, Acadia will be 100 years old. Age has brought both increasing popularity and greater pressures on this national treasure. By providing an additional $10 million to protect sensitive lands already within the boundary of the park, by expanding the highly successful Island Explorer transportation system, and by extending the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, this legislation will help to make the park stronger and healthier than ever on the occasion of its centennial anniversary.

I yield the floor.

By Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Levin, Mr. Menendez, Ms. Mikulski, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Durbin, Mrs. Boxer, Mr. Lautenberg, Mr. Schumer, and Mr. Dodd):

S. 1331. A bill to regulate .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

legislator photo

Mr. President, I am pleased to join with Senators Kennedy, Levin, Menendez, Mikulski, Clinton, Durbin, Boxer and Lautenberg in introducing the Long-Range Sniper Rifle Safety Act of 2007, which would regulate a single type of firearm, 50 BMG caliber sniper rifles.

Mr. President, 50 BMG caliber sniper rifles are among the most dangerous firearms in the world. These sniper rifles are capable of bringing down airplanes and helicopters that are taking off or landing, and they can pierce light armored personnel vehicles. They have extraordinary range, up to a mile with accuracy, with a maximum distance of up to 4 miles. Under President Clinton, the State Department suspended all export of these weapons for civilian use in foreign countries. The Bush administration initially changed this rule to allow such sales, but after 9/11 it decided to reinstate this ban.

Yet here in the United States, our laws continue to classify these weapons as ``long guns'', subject to the least government regulation of any firearms. Current Federal law makes no distinction between a .22 caliber target rifle, a .30-06 caliber hunting weapon, and this large-caliber .50 BMG combat weapon. In some States, youngsters who are 14 years old can get .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles, with no limitation on second- hand sales. In fact, anyone who can own a rifle can buy a .50 BMG caliber sniper rifle. No permits. No licenses. No wait.

That is why I am introducing this legislation today, just as I have introduced similar legislation in the last 3 sessions of Congress. The bill would:

Add these uniquely powerful sniper rifles to the list of firearms classified as ``destructive devices'', which would mean they must be registered when purchased or sold;

require the same registration for any ``copycat'' sniper rifles that might be developed in the future with destructive power that is equivalent to the .50 BMG caliber sniper rifle; and

allow people who already possess .50 BMG caliber sniper weapons up to 7 years to register their existing firearms, by implementing a registration process similar to what was used when ``street sweeper'' and other firearms were reclassified as ``destructive devices'' in

This bill would not ban any firearms, including .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles. Instead, it would change the law by treating .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles in the same way we now treat ``street sweeper'' shotguns, silencers, and any rifle with a dimension larger than .50 caliber. It would regulate these weapons, making it harder for terrorists and others to buy these combat weapons for illegitimate use.

This is not your classic hunting rifle. These weapons weigh up to 28 pounds, and have a price tag of between $2,200 and $6,750. And they fire the most powerful commonly available cartridges, the massive BMG, Browning Machine Gun, bullet, which has a diameter of \1/2\ inch and a length of 3-6 inches.

These rounds are almost as big as my hand. The Congressional Research Service says that a .50 BMG caliber cartridge weighs four and a half times more, and has five times more propellant, than the cartridges used in similar midsize rifles, like the .308 Winchester.

This is a weapon designed to kill people efficiently, and destroy machinery, at a great distance. And the distances are frankly astonishing. In fact, this weapon was able to kill a person from a greater distance than any other sniper rifle with a world-record confirmed distance of 2,430 meters, a mile and a half away.

These weapons are ``accurate'' up to 2,000 yards, a distance that means it will strike a standard target within this range more than a mile away. To illustrate what this means, a shooter standing on Alcatraz Island off of San Francisco could sight and kill a person at Pier 39.

And the gun has a maximum range of up to 7,500 yards, meaning that while accuracy cannot be guaranteed, the round can strike a target at this distance. Imagine 75 football fields lined up end to end, a distance of over 4 miles. This means a shooter at the Sausalito marina could send bullets crashing into the San Francisco marina.

In short, these are military combat-style weapons. The .50 BMG cartridge has been used by our forces in machine guns since World War I, and our military has utilized .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles in the gulf war, and now in Afghanistan and Iraq. They can shoot through almost anything, a bunker, bulletproof glass, a 3\1/2\ inch thick manhole cover, a 600-pound safe.

But as the GAO noted in 1999, many of these guns also wind up in the hands of domestic and international terrorists, religious cults, international and domestic drug traffickers, and violent criminals.

In 1998, Federal law enforcement apprehended three men belonging to a radical Michigan militia group. The three were charged with plotting to bomb Federal office buildings, destroy highways and utilities. They were also charged with plotting to assassinate a Governor, and other high-ranking political and judicial officers. A .50-caliber sniper rifle was found in their possession along with a cache of weapons that included three illegal machine guns.

One doomsday cult headquartered in Montana purchased 10 of these guns and stockpiled them in an underground bunker, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition and other guns.

At least one .50-caliber gun was recovered by Mexican authorities after a shoot-out with an international drug cartel in that country. The gun was originally purchased in Wyoming.

Since the GAO report, it was also revealed in a federal trial in Manhattan that al-Qaida received .50-caliber sniper rifles, rifles manufactured right here in the United States. Essam al Ridi, an al-Qaida associate, testified that he acquired 25 Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifles and shipped them to al-Qaida members in Afghanistan.

What sort of damage could these weapons do in the wrong hands? The U.S. Air Force conducted a study, and determined that planes parked on a fully protected U.S. airbase would be as vulnerable as ``ducks on a pond'' against a sniper with a .50-caliber weapon, because the weapons can shoot from beyond most airbase perimeters.

The RAND Corporation confirmed this, releasing a report which identified 11 potential terrorist scenarios at Los Angeles International Airport. In one scenario, ``a sniper, using a .50 caliber rifle, fires at parked and taxiing aircraft.'' The report concludes: ``we were unable to identify any truly satisfactory solutions'' for such an attack.

One need not even search for reports, the weapon's manufacturers admit it. One Barrett .50 caliber brochure says:

[A] round of ammunition purchased for less than ten U.S. dollars can be used to destroy or disable a modern jet aircraft. The compressor sections of jet engines or the transmissions of helicopters are likely targets for the weapon, making it capable of destroying multimillion dollar aircraft with a single hit delivered to a vital area.

And it is not just aircraft. A terrorist using this rifle could punch holes in pressurized chemical tanks, igniting combustible materials or leaking hazardous gases. Or penetrate armored vehicles used by law enforcement, or protective limousines, like those used here in Washington.

No wonder a broad coalition of law enforcement officers and groups, detailing the threat that these weapons pose to our first responders, said:

The fact that these weapons have a range of more than four miles and can take down commercial airliners is reason enough to keep these weapons off our streets. It is of special concern to the law enforcement community that these weapons of war are capable of penetrating our special operations vehicles, tactical equipment and helicopters.

This gun is so powerful that one dealer told undercover Government Accountability Office investigators:

You'd better buy one soon. It's only a matter of time before someone lets go a round on a range that travels so far, it hits a school bus full of kids. The government will

In fact, many ranges used for target practice do not even have enough safety features to accommodate these guns.

Special ammunition for these guns is also readily available in stores and on the Internet. This is perfectly legal. Moreover, ``armor-piercing incendiary'' ammunition, which explodes on impact, can be purchased online, as demonstrated in a ``60 Minutes'' news report. Several ammunition dealers were willing to sell armor-piercing ammunition to an undercover GAO investigator, even after the investigator said he wanted the ammunition to pierce an armored limousine or maybe to shoot down a helicopter.

The bottom line is that the .50 BMG caliber sniper rifle is a national security threat requiring action by Congress. It makes no sense for us to spend billions of dollars on homeland security while we allow terrorists and criminals to get weapons that can serve as tools for terrorism.

The legislation that I am introducing has been carefully tailored, and refines my earlier bills. In fact, it is narrower than my earlier bills, in that it regulates only .50 ``BMG'' caliber sniper rifles, not all .50 caliber rifles.

There is no doubt that the .50 BMG caliber is the most powerful commonly available cartridge not considered a destructive device under the National Firearms Act. It is in a class by itself. And that's why this bill puts .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles into the class of firearms called destructive devices. Because that is where they belong.

Congress would not be alone in treating the .50 BMG caliber sniper rifle as the unique weapon of destruction that it is. My home State of California has regulated .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles since 2004, in a law signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill I introduce would adopt a similar registration system nationwide.

In fact, Congress itself has previously recognized the unique destructive properties of this weapon. Ever since 2000, our DOD Appropriations bills have contained a special restriction on the Department of Defense's ability to sell surplus armor-piercing ammunition for .50 caliber weapons to civilians through its demilitarization program.

This is a weapon that should not be openly available to terrorists and criminals, but should be responsibly controlled through carefully crafted regulation. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``Long-Range Sniper Rifle Safety Act of 2007''.

(a) In General.--Section 921(a)(4)(B) of title 18, United States Code, is amended-- (1) by striking ``any type of weapon'' and inserting the following: ``any-- ``(i) type of weapon''; and (2) by striking ``and'' at the end and inserting the following: ``or ``(ii) .50 BMG caliber sniper rifle; and''. (b) Definition of .50 BMG Caliber Sniper Rifle.--Section 921(a) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following: ``(36) The term `.50 BMG caliber sniper rifle' means-- ``(A) a rifle capable of firing a center-fire cartridge in .50 BMG caliber, including a 12.7 mm equivalent of .50 BMG and any other metric equivalent; or ``(B) a copy or duplicate of any rifle described in subparagraph (A), or any other rifle developed and manufactured after the date of enactment of this paragraph, regardless of caliber, if such rifle is capable of firing a projectile that attains a muzzle energy of 12,000 foot-pounds or greater in any combination of bullet, propellant, case, or primer.''.

(a) In General.--Section 5845(f) of the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. 5845(f)) is amended-- (1) by striking ``and (3)'' and inserting ``(3) any .50 BMG caliber sniper rifle (as that term is defined in section 921 of title 18, United States Code); and (4)''; and (2) by striking ``(1) and (2)'' and inserting ``(1), (2), or (3)''. (b) Modification to Definition of Rifle.--Section 5845(c) of the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. 5845(c)) is amended by inserting ``or from a bipod or other support'' after ``shoulder''.

Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall implement regulations providing for notice and registration of .50 BMG caliber sniper rifles as destructive devices (as those terms are defined in section 921 of title 18, United States Code, as amended by this Act) under this Act and the amendments made by this Act, including the use of a notice and registration process similar to that used when the USAS-12, Striker 12, and Streetsweeper shotguns were reclassified as destructive devices and registered between 1994 and 2001 (ATF Ruling 94-1 (ATF Q.B. 1994-1, 22); ATF Ruling 94-2 (ATF Q.B. 1994-1, 24); and ATF Ruling 2001-1 (66 Fed. Reg. 9748)). The Attorney General shall ensure that under the regulations issued under this section, the time period for the registration of any previously unregistered .50 BMG caliber sniper rifle shall end not later than 7 years after the date of enactment of this Act.

By Mr. REID (for Mr. Kennedy (for himself, Mr. Domenici, Mr. Dodd, and Mr. Enzi)):

S. 1332. A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to revise and extend projects relating to children and violence to provide access to school-based comprehensive mental health programs; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

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Mr. President, it's a privilege to join my colleagues Senator Dodd, Senator Domenici and Senator Ensign in introducing the Mental Health in Schools Act of 2007 to assist the Nation's public schools in providing better access to mental health services for their students.

The need for these services has never been greater. The tragic events at Columbine, Nickel Mines, and Virginia Tech underscore the fact that when left untreated, childhood mental disorders can lead to academic failure, family conflicts, substance abuse, violence, and suicide.

Comprehensive school mental health program should be designed for all students. They should obviously include both identification and referral of specific individuals for treatment, but they should also include programs and services that promote positive mental health and prevent mental health problems for a broader population of students.

Strong mental health, similar to strong physical health, makes it possible for children to develop socially, emotionally, and intellectually. We know that mental illnesses often appear for the first time during childhood and adolescence. One in five children has a diagnosable mental disorder, yet three-quarters of children and youth who need mental health services do not receive them. With proper care and treatment, approximately 80 percent of people with mental illness experience a significant reduction of symptoms and a better quality of life.

Our schools are important settings for recognizing and addressing children's mental disorders. In fact schools often function as the de facto mental health system for children and adolescents. Especially in rural areas, schools are likely to provide the only mental health services available, for children.

Effective school mental health programs reflect the cooperation and commitment of families, students, educators, and other community partners.

However, of the 95,000 public schools in the United States, only half report having formal partnerships with community mental health providers to deliver mental health services.

The services and support provided through these partnerships should be family-centered and community-centered, and should also be culturally and linguistically appropriate.

The goal of the Mental Health in Schools Act is to assist local communities in developing comprehensive school mental health programs that provide a continuum of services for students.

I urge the Senate to join us in supporting schools and communities in expanding their mental health programs to make them more comprehensive, so that our school children across the nation can receive the proper support and services they need in order to thrive in our society and become productive citizens.

I ask unanimous consent the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``Mental Health in Schools Act of 2007''.

Congress makes the following findings: (1) Approximately 1 in 5 children have a diagnosable mental disorder. (2) Approximately 1 in 10 children have a serious emotional or behavioral disorder that is severe enough to cause substantial impairment in functioning at home, at school, or in the community. It is estimated that about 75 percent of children with emotional and behavioral disorders do not receive specialty mental health services. (3) Only half of schools across the United States report having formal partnerships with community mental health providers to deliver mental health services. (4) If a school is going to respond to the mental health needs of its students, it must have access to resources that provide family-centered, culturally and linguistically appropriate supports and services. (5) Effective school mental health programs reflect the collaboration and commitment of families, students, educators, and other community partners.

It is the purpose of this Act to-- (1) revise, increase funding for, and expand the scope of the Safe Schools-Healthy Students program in order to provide access to more comprehensive school-based mental health services and supports; and (2) provide for in-service training to all school personnel in-- (A) the techniques and supports needed to identify early children with, or at risk of, mental illness; (B) the use of referral mechanisms that effectively link such children to treatment intervention services; and (C) strategies that promote a school-wide positive environment.

(a) Technical Amendments.--The second part G (relating to services provided through religious organizations) of title V of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290kk et seq.) is amended-- (1) by redesignating such part as part J; and (2) by redesignating sections 581 through 584 as sections 596 through 596C, respectively. (b) Purpose and Authority.--Subsection (a) of section 581 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290hh(a)) is amended to read as follows: ``(a) In General.--The Secretary, in collaboration with the Secretary of Education and in consultation with the Attorney General, shall, directly or through grants, contracts or cooperative agreements awarded to public entities and local education agencies, assist local communities and schools in applying a public health approach to mental health services both in schools and in the community. Such approach should provide comprehensive services and supports, be linguistically and culturally appropriate, and incorporate strategies of positive behavioral interventions and supports. A comprehensive school mental health program funded under this section shall assist children in dealing with violence.''. (c) Activities.--Section 581(b) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290hh(b)) is amended-- (1) in paragraph (1), by striking ``implement programs'' and inserting ``implement a comprehensive culturally and linguistically appropriate school mental health program that incorporates positive behavioral interventions and supports''; (2) in paragraph (3), by inserting ``child and adolescent mental health issues and'' after ``address''; and (3) by striking paragraph (4) and inserting the following: ``(4) facilitate community partnerships among families, students, law enforcement agencies, education systems, mental health and substance abuse service systems, family-based mental health service systems, welfare agencies, healthcare service systems, and other community-based systems;''. (d) Requirements.--Subsection (c) of section 581 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290hh(c)) is amended to read as follows: ``(c) Requirements.-- ``(1) In general.--To be eligible for a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement under subsection (a) an entity shall-- ``(A) be a partnership between a local education agency and at least one community program or agency that is involved in mental health; and ``(B) submit an application, that is endorsed by all members of the partnership, that makes the assurances described in paragraph (2). ``(2) Required assurances.--An application under paragraph (1) shall assure the following: ``(A) That the applicant will ensure that, in carrying out activities under this section, the local educational agency involved will enter into a memorandum of understanding-- ``(i) with, at a minimum, public or private mental health entities, healthcare entities, law enforcement or juvenile justice entities, child welfare agencies, family-based mental health entities, families and family organizations, and other community-based entities; and ``(ii) that clearly states-- ``(I) the responsibilities of each partner with respect to the activities to be carried out; ``(II) how each such partner will be accountable for carrying out such responsibilities; and ``(III) the amount of non-Federal funding or in-kind contributions that each such partner will contribute in order to sustain the program. ``(B) That the comprehensive school-based mental health program carried out under this section support the flexible use of funds to address-- ``(i) the promotion of the social, emotional, and behavioral health of all students in an environment that is conducive to learning; ``(ii) the reduction in the likelihood of at risk students developing social, emotional, or behavioral health problems; ``(iii) the treatment or referral for treatment of students with existing social, emotional, or behavioral health problems; ``(iv) the early identification of social, emotional, or behavioral problems and the provision of early intervention services; and ``(v) the development and implementation of programs to assist children in dealing with violence. ``(C) That the comprehensive mental health program carried out under this section will provide for culturally and linguistically appropriate in-service training of all school personnel, including ancillary staff and volunteers, in-- ``(i) the techniques and support needed to identify early children with, or at risk of, mental illness; ``(ii) the use of referral mechanisms that effectively link such children to treatment intervention services; and ``(iii) strategies that promote a schoolwide positive environment, and includes an on-going training component. ``(D) That the comprehensive school-based mental health programs carried out under this section will demonstrate the measures to be taken to sustain the program after funding under this section terminates. ``(E) That the local education agency partnership involved is supported by the State educational and mental health system to ensure that the sustainability of the programs is established after funding under this section terminates. ``(F) That the comprehensive school-based mental health program carried out under this section is based on evidence- based practices. ``(G) That the comprehensive school-based mental health program carried out under this section is coordinated with early intervening activities carried out under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. 1400 et seq.). ``(H) That the comprehensive school-based mental health program carried out under this section is culturally and linguistically appropriate.''. (e) Duration.--Section 581(e) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290hh(e)) is amended-- (1) by striking ``may not exceed'' and inserting ``shall be''; and (2) by adding at the end the following: ``An entity may only receive one award under this section, except that an entity that is providing services and supports on a regional basis may receive additional funding after the expiration of the preceding grant period.''. (f) Evaluation.--Subsection (f) of section 581 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290kk(f)) is amended to read as follows: ``(f) Evaluation and Measures of Outcomes.-- ``(1) Development of process.--The Administrator shall develop a process for evaluating activities carried out under this section. Such process shall include-- ``(A) the development of guidelines for the submission of program data by such recipients; ``(B) the development of measures of outcomes (in accordance with paragraph (2)) to be applied by such recipients in evaluating programs carried out under this section; and ``(C) the submission of annual reports by such recipients concerning the effectiveness of programs carried out under this section. ``(2) Measures of outcomes.-- ``(A) In general.--The Administrator shall develop measures of outcomes to be applied by recipients of assistance under this section, and the Administrator, in evaluating the effectiveness of programs carried out under this section. Such measures shall include student and family measures as provided for in subparagraph (B) and local educational measures as provided for under subparagraph (C). ``(B) Student and family measures of outcomes.--The measures of outcomes developed under paragraph (1)(B) relating to students and families shall, with respect to activities carried out under a program under this section, at a minimum include provisions to evaluate-- ``(i) whether the program resulted in an increase in social and emotional competency; ``(ii) whether the program resulted in an increase in academic competency; ``(iii) whether the program resulted in a reduction in disruptive and aggressive behaviors; ``(iv) whether the program resulted in improved family functioning; ``(v) whether the program resulted in a reduction in substance abuse; ``(vi) whether the program resulted in a reduction in suspensions, truancy, expulsions and violence; ``(vii) whether the program resulted in increased graduation rates; and ``(viii) whether the program resulted in improved access to care for mental health disorders. ``(C) Local educational outcomes.--The outcome measures developed under paragraph (1)(B) relating to local educational systems shall, with respect to activities carried out under a program under this section, at a minimum include provisions to evaluate-- ``(i) the effectiveness of comprehensive school mental health programs established under this section; ``(ii) the effectiveness of formal partnership linkages among child and family serving institutions, community support systems, and the educational system; ``(iii) the progress made in sustaining the program once funding under the grant has expired; and ``(iv) the effectiveness of training and professional development programs for all school personnel that incorporate indicators that measure cultural and linguistic competencies under the program in a manner that incorporates appropriate cultural and linguistic training. ``(3) Submission of annual data.--An entity that receives a grant, contract, or cooperative agreement under this section shall annually submit to the Administrator a report that include data to evaluate the success of the program carried out by the entity based on whether such program is achieving the purposes of the program. Such reports shall utilize the measures of outcomes under paragraph (2) in a reasonable manner to demonstrate the progress of the program in achieving such purposes. ``(4) Evaluation by administrator.--Based on the data submitted under paragraph (3), the Administrator shall annually submit to Congress a report concerning the results and effectiveness of the programs carried out with assistance received under this section.''. (g) Authorization of Appropriations and Amount of Grants.-- Subsection (h) of section 581 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290hh(h)) is amended to read as follows: ``(h) Amount of Grants and Authorization of Appropriations.-- ``(1) Amount of grants.--A grant under this section shall be in an amount that is not more than $1,000,000 for each of grant years 2008 through 2012. The Secretary shall determine the amount of each such grant based on the population of children between the ages of 0 to 21 of the area to be served under the grant. ``(2) Authorization of appropriations.--There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section, $200,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2008 through 2012.''. (h) Conforming Amendments.--Part G of title V of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 290hh et seq.), as amended by this section, is further amended-- (1) by striking the part heading and inserting the following:

Sen. Pete V. Domenici

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Mr. President, I rise today with my colleagues Senator Kennedy and Senator Dodd to introduce the Mental Health in Schools Act of 2007. This bill amends the Safe Schools Healthy Students Act to reauthorize projects relating to children and violence and also expands the program to help provide access to school-based mental health programs.

The mental health of our children is as important as their overall physical health. As a Nation, we have repeatedly seen tragic stories related to children whose mental health needs were not met. Recent studies indicate approximately 1 in 5 children have a diagnosable mental disorder and one in ten children have a serious emotional or behavioral disorder that is severe enough to cause substantial impairment in functioning at home, at school, or in the community.

The Mental Health in Schools Act of 2007 provides funding to local education agencies, LEAs, in partnership with their communities to develop and implement mental health service programs in schools. The funding will also be used to provide for in-service training to all school personnel in the techniques and supports related to mental health. It is our belief that these programs have the potential to not only improve access to care for mental health disorders but also to help increase academic competency and improved family functioning.

Investing in effective mental health treatment can mean the difference between a child's success and failure in school and in society. The most effective mental health care must be tailored to the child's and family's needs, and must be accessible and available when and where they need it. Children and their families' needs often cross multiple systems. Communities need sustainable tools to link or integrate those systems to meet those needs.

We must recognize that children do not have to remain neglected when it comes to their mental health. The future of children's mental health care is very promising. Programs promoting mental health work, and when they do, the resilience of a child can grow while diminishing the challenging behaviors associated with mental health problems and emotional disturbances. It is important to recognize that as a Nation and as a society, we have come a long way in understanding mental illness and its impact on children and adolescents. Research has made extraordinary leaps forward, giving us a better understanding of the disorders and the evidence-based treatments, services and supports that build resilience and facilitate recovery for children and adolescents.

We have seen over and over again that not offering effective mental health care has many ramifications, not the least of which is violence, substance abuse and poor academic performance. Much more is required of us as a Nation to secure the whole health and well-being of our future, our children and youth. Now is the time to begin a national debate on mental health care and its importance to our children. I think the bill we are introducing here is a great start and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this important legislation.

By Mr. KERRY:

S. 1333. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to strengthen the earned income tax credit; to the Committee on Finance.

Sen. John Kerry

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Mr. President, today I am introducing the Strengthen the Earned Income Tax Credit Act of 2007. Congressman Pascrell is introducing the companion measure in the House. Since 1975, the EITC has been an innovative tax credit which helps low-income working families. President Reagan referred to the EITC as ``the best antipoverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.'' According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the EITC lifts more children out of poverty than any other government program.

It is time for us to reexamine the EITC and determine where we can strengthen it. It should not have taken Hurricane Katrina to show what Census data has proven--- some Americans are not benefiting from our economic recovery. The poverty rate for 2005 was 12.6 percent, basically the same as the rate for 2004. In 2005, there were 37 million men, women and children living in poverty. One-quarter of all jobs in the United States do not pay enough to support a family of four above the poverty level.

Hurricane Katrina affected many individuals who were already faced with difficult economic situations. Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama are the first, second, and eighth poorest States in the Nation respectively. The income of the typical household in these three States is well below the national average. In the hardest hit counties, 18.6 percent of the population is poor, compared with a national average of 12.5 percent.

Time after time, the Republican controlled Congress passed tax cuts which are skewed towards those with the most. In 2003, some of the 2001 cuts were phased-in at a faster rate and this did not include adjustments to the EITC. The Urban Institute, Brookings Institution's Tax Policy Center, reports that households with incomes of more than $1 million a year, the richest three-tenths of the population, receive an average tax cut of $118,000. These individuals do not have to worry about how they will have to pay for a roof over their heads or enough food for their families. We should not be focused on extending tax cuts which help those who do not have to worry about living pay check to pay check.

We need to help the low-income workers who struggle day after day trying to make ends meet. They have been left behind in the economic policies of the last 6 years. We need to begin a discussion on how to help those that have been left behind. The EITC is the perfect place to start.

The Strengthen the Earned Income Tax Credit Act of 2007 strengthens the EITC by making the following four changes: reducing the marriage penalty; increasing the credit for families with three or more children; expanding credit amount for individuals with no children; and permanently extending the provision which allows members of the armed forces to include combat pay as income for EITC computations. By making these changes, more individuals and families would benefit from the

First, the legislation increases marriage penalty relief and makes it permanent. In the way that the EITC is currently structured, many single individuals that marry find themselves faced with a reduction in their EITC. The tax code should not penalize individuals who marry.

Second, the legislation increases the credit for families with three or more children. Under current law, the credit amount is based on one child or two or more children. This legislation would create a new credit amount based on three or more children. Under current law, the maximum EITC for an individual with two or more children is $4,716 and under this legislation, the amount would increase to $5,306 for an individual with three or more children. The poverty level for an adult living with three children is $20,516. In total, 37 percent of all children live in families with at least three children and more than half of poor children live in such families. Under current law, an adult living with three children who is eligible for the maximum EITC with income equivalent to the phase-out income level would still have income below the poverty level. Under this legislation, an individual with three children and who is eligible for the full credit amount would be lifted above the poverty level by the amount of the credit.

Increasing the credit amount would make more families eligible for the EITC. Currently, an individual with three children and income at and above $37,783 would not benefit from the credit. Under this legislation, an individual with children and income under $40,582 would benefit from the EITC.

Third, this legislation would increase the credit amount for childless workers. The EITC was designed to help childless workers offset their payroll tax liability. The credit phase-in was set to equal the employee share of the payroll tax, 7.65 percent. However, in reality, the employee bears the burden of both the employee and employer portion of the payroll tax.

Under current law, an individual without children and income just above the poverty level would owe more than $800 in Federal income and payroll taxes in 2007, even with the EITC. This calculation is based on just the employee's share of the payroll tax. If you include the employer's share this individual would owe more than $1,600 in taxes. The decline in the labor force of single men has been troubling. Boosting the EITC for childless workers could be part of solution for increasing work among this group. Increasing the EITC for families has increased labor rates for single mothers and hopefully, it can do the same for this group.

This legislation doubles the credit rate for individual taxpayer and married taxpayers without children. The credit rate and phase-out rate of 7.65 percent is doubled to 15.3 percent. For 2007, the maximum credit amount for an individual would increase from $428 to $855. The doubling of the phase-out results in taxpayers in the same income range being eligible for the credit.

Fourth, the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004 included a provision which would allow combat pay to be treated as earned income for purposes of computing the child credit. This provision expires at the end of the year. This legislation makes this provision permanent. There is no reason why a member of the armed services should lose their EITC when they are mobilized and serving their country.

This legislation will help those who most need our help. It will put more money in their pay check. We need to invest in our families and help individuals who want to make a living by working. We are all aware of our fiscal situation and we should legislate in a responsible manner. It is a time for shared sacrifice. We cannot keep adding to the deficit, but we cannot leave the poor behind.

I ask for unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``Strengthen the Earned Income Tax Credit Act of 2007''.

(a) Reduction in Marriage Penalty.-- (1) In general.--Section 32(b)(2)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (relating to joint returns) is amended-- (A) by striking ``, 2006, and 2007'' in clause (ii) and inserting ``and 2006'', and (B) by striking clause (iii) and inserting the following new clauses: ``(iii) $3,500 in the case of taxable years beginning in

By Mr. DODD (for himself, Mr. Voinovich, Mr. Conrad, Mr. Kerry, Mr. Byrd, and Mr. Brown):

S. 1334. A bill to amend section 2306 of title 38, United States Code, to make permanent authority to furnish government headstones and markers for graves of veterans at private cemeteries, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd

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Mr. President, I rise today to introduce a bill that will restore the rights of veterans and their families to receive an official grave marker from the Department of Veterans' Affairs in acknowledgement of their service to this Nation. I am pleased to be joined by Senators Kerry, Voinovich, Conrad, Byrd, and Brown as original cosponsors. This legislation addresses a serious, and easily remedied, inequity that exists for veterans who passed away during the period between November 1, 1990, and September 11, 2001.

There is an inscription in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, at Omaha Beach, commemorating those Americans who perished in the World War II battle there, that reads:

This embattled shore, this portal of freedom, is forever hallowed by the ideas, the valor and sacrifice of our fellow countrymen. Their graves are the permanent and visible symbols of their heroic devotion and their sacrifice in the common cause of humanity. These endured all and gave all that justice among nations might prevail and that mankind might enjoy freedom and inherit peace.

Monuments like this, or like the many spectacular memorials right here in Washington, DC, serve as a reminder of the service, dedication, and sacrifice of our Nation's veterans. They are a tribute not to the suffering and darkness of war, but to the tremendous courage of those who served so that, as the inscription says, ``mankind might enjoy freedom and inherit peace.'' And in a small way, the markers placed at veterans' gravesites serve as a similar reminder for the friends and family members who visit a loved one's grave.

Until 1990, the family of a deceased American veteran could receive reimbursement for a VA headstone, a VA marker, or a private headstone. However, I regret to say, in the name of cutting costs, measures were taken to prevent the VA from providing markers to those families that had purchased gravestones out of their own pockets.

In my view, this constitutes a serious injustice; one that we must correct. It is shocking to me that veterans who passed during those 11 years are denied an official grave marker, and yet that is the effect of current law.

We owe it to these brave men and women to honor their service to this country. We have seen too many instances in which our veterans have not been accorded the respect they deserve. The accounts that have surfaced about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the consistent underfunding of the Veterans Health Administration shine an unpleasant spotlight on the ways in which we have fallen far short of our obligations to our Nation's veterans. And now, how can we deny veterans the simple honor of recognizing their service with a graveside marker?

This body first endorsed a provision restoring the right of every veteran to receive a grave marker as early as June 7, 2000, as part of the fiscal year 2001 Defense Authorization bill. This body approved this language again on December 8, 2001. But it was not until December 6, 2002, that legislation was signed into law as part of the Veterans Improvement Act, allowing VA markers to be provided to deceased veterans retroactively. Unfortunately, however, when the bill went to a conference with the House of Representatives, this benefit was inexplicably applied retroactively only to September 11, 2001, rather than to November 1, 1990, the date at which the new VA regulation came into effect.

In my view, to arbitrarily deny veterans who passed away during that 11-year period is unconscionable. Their service to our Nation was no less dedicated than the service of those who passed away before and after that period. It is an insult to their memories and to the families and friends who loved them.

This legislation is quite simple. It merely allows all veterans who have passed away since 1990 to be provided with official VA grave markers and it repeals the expiration of the VA's authority to provide these grave markers. The VA is supportive of this legislation, which I believe will ensure that all of our Nation's veterans are accorded the respect they are due for their sacrifices. In a report submitted to Congress on February 10, 2006, the VA endorsed both provisions of this legislation, recommending that the grave marker authority be made permanent and retroactive to 1990.

Moreover, this bill is inexpensive. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost of this bill to be just $1 million over 5 years and $2 million over 10 years. Who can argue that this is too high a price to pay to honor our fallen heroes?

We are approaching the 9th anniversary of the passing of Mr. Agostino Guzzo, a Connecticut resident who bravely served in the U.S. Armed Forces in the Philippines during World War II. His family interred his body in a mausoleum at the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford, CT. The family was not aware of the VA's restrictions on grave markers at the time, and was told by the VA that there was no way to receive official recognition.

Agostino's son, Mr. Thomas Guzzo, brought the matter to my attention, and we were able to pass legislation granting Agostino the memorial he deserves. But too many families are still denied such markers. This legislation honors the memory of Agostino Guzzo and all of the veterans who have served their country in war and in peace. Thomas Guzzo's commitment to this issue has not ended. The commitment of this Congress should continue, as well.

I hope my colleagues will support this important legislation.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

(a) Repeal of Expiration of Authority.--Subsection (d) of section 2306 of title 38, United States Code, is amended-- (1) by striking paragraph (3); and (2) by redesignating paragraph (4) as paragraph (3). (b) Retroactive Effective Date.--Notwithstanding subsection (d) of section 502 of the Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-103; 115 Stat. 995; 38 U.S.C. 2306 note), the amendments made to section 2306(d) of title 38, United States Code, by such section 502 and the amendments made by section 402 of the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-461), other than the amendment made by subsection (e) of such section 402, shall take effect as of November 1, 1990, and shall apply with respect to the graves of individuals dying on or after that date.

By Mr. INHOFE (for himself and Mr. Enzi):

S. 1335. A bill to amend title 4, United States Code, for declare English as the official language of the Government of the United States, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Sen. James M. Inhofe

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Mr. President, last year I said that this Nation of immigrants requires an official language. An overwhelming majority of the Senate agreed with me on my amendment to that effect on the immigration bill. I am convinced that official English will command another majority should it receive a rollcall vote in this session. That is why today I am introducing S. 1335 to make English the official language of our Nation.

The English language has played a critical role in establishing the unity of this Nation from its beginning. As I have said before, a common means of communication has created one giant market for goods and labor in our Nation, from Maine to California. A resident of Tulsa can seek work in New Hampshire, Oregon, or Georgia without having to learn a second language. A company based in Oklahoma City can readily sell its products from Portland, ME, to Los Angeles.

In Europe, by contrast, a resident of Berlin cannot look for work in Paris or Warsaw without surmounting considerable language barriers. A German company cannot usually sell its product in Madrid, again, in part, because of language barriers. The European Union is an effort to create a U.S.-like common market in Western Europe. Among other things, Europeans are spending billions of euros to try to replicate what we in America have enjoyed for free these past 230 years.

Recognizing that English is necessary for successful business and a growing economy, the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce recently announced that it is spearheading a multimillion dollar campaign to help about 50,000 of its residents to learn the language. I regret to report that we have spent the last few decades giving away this priceless linguistic unity.

Clinton Executive Order No. 13166 demands that all recipients of Federal funds function in any language anyone speaks at any time, burdening taxpayers with extraneous costs of an enabling policy while providing incentives for immigrants to circumvent learning English and, regretfully, hurt their chances at effective assimilation.

My constituents agree that foreign language ballots deserve no place in an American election. My bill will eliminate these foreign language voting materials and multilingual voting mandates imposed on Oklahoma and other States. Only citizens are allowed to vote in our Nation, and one of the requirements to become a good citizen is to show an understanding of English. Money to provide foreign language ballots would be better spent on such constructive activities as simply teaching people how to speak English.

Not only does my bill repeal foreign language ballots, it is aimed at the entire forest of mandatory multilingualism. My legislation basically recognizes the practical reality of the role of English as our official language and states explicitly that English is our official language and provides English a status in law it has not held before. Making English the official language will clarify that there is no entitlement to receive Federal documents and services in languages other than English and will end the practice of providing translation entitlements at taxpayer expense.

My bill declares that any rights of a person, as well as services or materials in languages other than English, must be authorized or provided by law. It recognizes the decades of unbroken court opinions that civil rights laws protecting against national origin and discrimination do not create rights to government service and materials in languages other than English. While my bill will end federally mandated and funded foreign language entitlement, it certainly still allows for Democratic and Republican activists to offer palm cards and sample ballots in any language they wish--from Cherokee to Chinese--on election day and for individuals to bring along their own translaters to any Federal Government office.

It is important to note that my bill only affects the language spoken by the Government, not the language choices of people speaking among themselves.

Official English is popular even among Hispanics. As I have cited before on the floor of the Senate, in 2006, a Zogby poll found 84 percent of Americans, including 71 percent of Hispanics, believe that English should be the national language of government operations. According to a 2002 Kaiser Family Foundation survey, a poll of 91 percent of foreign-born Latino immigrants agreed that learning English is essential to succeed in the United States.

Allow me to conclude by remembering the founder of the official English movement, U.S. Senator S.I. Hayakawa. The son of Asian immigrants, S.I. Hayakawa became a professor of English, a college president, and, in 1976, a U.S. Senator. Senator Hayakawa became the leader of the official English effort in this Chamber when he introduced an official English bill on April 27, 1981. Senator Hayakawa used to say ``bilingualism for the individual is fine but not for a country.'' While I never served with Senator Hayakawa, I would like to honor his efforts and continue his important work by offering the S.I. Hayakawa Official English Act of 2007, which is S. 1335.

Let me say, it seems so ridiculous that as we travel around the world, there are some 51 countries that have English as their official language, and yet the United States doesn't. I was recently in Ghana, West Africa. They have English as their official language. We don't have it in the United States.

Zambia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe have English as their official language but not the United States. This is something that should be a no-brainer. Of the 80-some percent of the people polled, up to 91 percent want English as the official language, and yet, for some unknown reason, people seem to be catering to some maybe small, radical group that doesn't want it. I think it is time for the majority of the American people to realize this could very well be the reality.

Let me also say, when I had this amendment on the floor before, there were all kinds of objections that came down that didn't have any credibility at all. One of them that came down said: Well, you have all these flags of the various States that have foreign languages; you would have to do away with State flags. This has nothing to do with that. One came down that said: You would no longer be able to use Spanish on the floor of the Senate. It has nothing to do with that. They said: You would be drowning Hispanics. I said: Explain that to me. They said: Well, we have ``no swimming'' signs in the Potomac where the currents are very strong, so people would go in there and they would drown. This is how desperate people are to find something objectionable about something that 90 percent of the people in America want.

So we are very serious about this. We are going to carry on the works of the good Senator from California and hopefully respond to 90 percent of Americans who want English as an official language.

By Ms. SNOWE (for herself and Mr. Bayh):

S. 1336. A bill to provide for an assessment of the achievement by the Government of Iraq of benchmarks for political settlement and national reconciliation in Iraq; to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe

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Mr. President, I rise to speak to the monumental and consequential matter regarding the future course of the United States and our courageous men and women in uniform in Iraq.

Today, we are at a profoundly challenging moment in time, and at a critical crossroads with respect to our direction in this war. That sense of urgency was compounded by my recent trip to Iraq this past weekend where I had the privilege of meeting with some of America's bravest and finest serving in Baghdad, including Mainers. I came away believing more firmly than ever that the Iraq Government must understand that our commitment is not infinite, and that Americans are losing patience with the failure of the leadership to end the sectarian violence and move toward national reconciliation.

My visit further underscored the fact that there is not a military solution to the problem, and in the final analysis, the situation requires demonstrable action by the Iraq Government on true political reform and reconciliation. My firsthand experience reinforced that political will and diplomatic initiatives must form the core of our success, and that our goal must be to bring about reconciliation as soon as possible so that all of America's soldiers including those from Maine can return home to their families and loved ones.

None of us arrive at this question lightly. In my 28-year tenure in Congress, I have witnessed and participated in debates on such vital matters as Lebanon, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. And indisputably, myriad, deeply-held beliefs and arguments were expressed on those pivotal matters, some in concert, some complementary, some in conflict. Yet, without question, all were rooted in mutual concern for, and love of, our great Nation. And there was, and should not be today, no question about our support for our brave and extraordinary troops.

It is therefore with the utmost respect for our troops that Senator Evan Bayh and I today introduce a bill which allows them the ability to complete the mission they have selflessly undertaken, while assuring them that their valor shall not be unconditionally expended upon an Iraqi Government which fails to respond in kind.

Before proceeding any further, let me pause to express my deep appreciation and immense gratitude to Senator Bayh for his tremendous leadership and indispensable contribution in forging this welcomed, bipartisan measure. If there ever were a time for us to fashion a way forward, together, it is surely now, and because of Senator Bayh and his tireless efforts we have a measure that represents a significant step in the right direction. I thank him and his staff for bringing this fresh approach to fruition today.

The Snowe-Bayh Iraq bill requires that government to actually achieve previously agreed political and security benchmarks while the Baghdad Security Plan, commonly referred to as the ``surge,'' is in effect, or face the redeployment of those U.S. troops dedicated to that plan.

Specifically, this legislation would require that, 120 days after enactment, a point in time at which our military commanders have stated that they should know whether the surge will succeed, the commander of Multi-National Forces, Iraq would report to Congress as to whether the Iraqi Government has met each of six political and security-related benchmarks which it has already agreed to meet by that time. These six benchmarks are: Iraqi assumption of control of its military; enactment and implementation of a militia law to disarm and demobilize militias and to ensure that such security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the constitution of Iraq; completion of the constitutional review and a referendum held on special amendments to the Iraqi Constitution that ensure equitable participation in the Government of Iraq without regard to religious sect or ethnicity; completion of a provincial election law and commencement and specific preparation for the conduct of provincial elections that ensures equitable constitution of provincial representative bodies without regard to religious sect or ethnicity; enactment and implementation of legislation to ensure that the energy resources of Iraq benefit Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, Kurds, and other Iraqi citizens in an equitable manner; and enactment and implementation of legislation that equitably reforms the de-Ba'athification process in Iraq.

The Iraqi Government must know that any opportunity gained from our increased troop levels in Baghdad is a window that we will soon close if it fails to take urgent action and show tangible results in tandem. If, at the end of 120 days, the commander of Multi-National Forces, Iraq reports the Iraqi Government has not met the benchmarks, then the commander should plan for the phased redeployment of the troops we provided for the Baghdad Security Plan, period.

That is why, under the Snowe-Bayh measure, after 120 days, should the commander report that the Iraqi Government has failed to meet any of the benchmarks listed, he will then be required to present a plan for the phased redeployment of those combat troops sent to Iraq in support of the Baghdad Security Plan and to provide plans detailing the transition of the mission of the U.S. forces remaining in Iraq to one of logistical support, training, force protection, and targeted counterterrorism operations, for examples, those functions set forth in the Iraq Study Group Report, with the objective of successfully accomplishing this change in mission within 6 months of the date of his testimony before Congress. The commander must further indicate the number of troops needed to successfully complete the changed mission and the estimated duration of that mission. As General Petraeus stated in March.

I have an obligation to the young men and women in uniform out here, that if I think it's not going to happen, to tell them that it's not going to happen, and there needs to be a change.

My colleagues may recall that I opposed the surge because I did not, and still do not, believe that additional troops are a substitute for political will and capacity. General Petraeus said last month that a political resolution is crucial because that is what will determine in the long run the success of this effort. I could not agree more. The fact is, America and the world require more than Iraq's commitment to accomplishing the benchmarks that will lead to a true national reconciliation, we must see actual results. The Iraqi Government must find the will to ensure that it represents and protects the rights of every Iraqi.

After our 4-year commitment, Iraq's Government should not doubt that we must observe more than incremental steps toward political reconciliation, we require demonstrable changes. While limited progress has been mad on necessary legislative initiatives such as the Hydrocarbon Law, it is in fact a sheaf of laws and not just a single measure that must pass to ensure that all Iraqis have a share and stake in their government. Chief among these are constitutional amendments which will permit Iraqis of all ethnicities and confessions to be represented at the local level of government. Yet, so far, the review committee has yet to even finish drafts of these critical amendments.

I believe we were all encouraged by the recent ambassadorial meetings in Baghdad and last week's ministerial conference called at the Iraqi Government's request. These diplomatic talks are vital to securing Iraq's border, reversing the flow of refugees, and stemming the foreign interference which exacerbates sectarian divisions. But we also look for the Iraqi Government's leadership in dismantling the militias and strengthening the National Army so that it is truly a national institution that can provide the security so desperately desired by all Iraqis in every province.

We are now 3\1/2\ months into the surge, and our troops have made gains in reducing the still horrific levels of violence on Baghdad through their heroic efforts. Yet it is deeply concerning to me that, mirroring the slowness with which the Iraqi Government has moved on political reforms, their sacrifice remains by and largely unmatched by their Iraqi counterparts.

Last month, Leon Panetta, a member of the Iraq Study Group, wrote the following in a New York Times Op-ED, ``. . . every military commander we talked to felt that the absence of national reconciliation was the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq. As one American general told us, `if the Iraqi Government does not make political progress on reforms, all the troops in the world will not provide security.' He went on to enumerate the progress or, more to the point, the lack of progress toward the agreed upon benchmarks and concluded that `unless the United States finds new ways to bring strong pressure on the Iraqis, things are not likely to pick up any time soon.' ''

In fact, over the past few months, many have come to the realization that political action by the Iraqi Government is a paramount precursor to national reconciliation and stability and, without it, the Baghdad Security Plan is only a temporary, tactical fix for one specific location. And while we are hearing about incremental successes, I agree with Thomas Friedman who said recently in an interview, ``there's only one metric for the surge working, and that is whether we're seeing a negotiation among Iraqis to share power, to stabilize the political situation in Iraq, which only they can do . . . telling me that the violence is down 10 percent or 8 percent here or 12 percent there, I don't really think that's the metric at all.''

To this day, the public looks to the United States Senate to temper the passions of politics and to bridge divides. And if ever there were a moment when Americans are imploring us to live up to the moniker of ``world's greatest deliberative body,'' that moment is upon us.

If I had a son or daughter or other family member serving in Iraq, I would want at least the assurance that someone was speaking up to tell the Iraqi Government, and frankly our government as well, that at my family's sacrifice must be matched by action and sacrifice on the part of the Iraqi Government. I would want to know that the most profound of all issues was fully debated by those who are elected to provide leadership. For those of us who seek success in Iraq, and believe that a strategy predicated on political and diplomatic solutions, not merely increased troop levels, presents the strongest opportunity to reach that goal, let us coalesce around this bill, which will allow us to speak as one voice, strong, together, and united in service to a purpose we believe to be right.

By Mr. KERRY (for himself, Mr. Smith, Mr. Kennedy, and Mr. Domenici):

S. 1337. A bill to amend title XXI of the Social Security Act to provide for equal coverage of mental health services under the State Children's Health Insurance Program; to the Committee on Finance.

Sen. John Kerry

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Mr. President, it is my great hope that Congress will move this year to see that the successful, bipartisan State Children's Health Insurance Program is allowed the opportunity to fulfill its promise to the low-income children of this country. For 10 years it has provided, along with Medicaid, the type of meaningful and affordable health insurance coverage that should be ensured to each and every American. Yet there is much work to be done, and the reauthorization of S-CHIP gives us the opportunity to expand these successful programs to as many of the 9 million uninsured children in the country today, starting with the 6 million that are already eligible for public programs but not yet enrolled.

But we must keep in mind that while expanding coverage to the uninsured is our top priority, it is equally important to ensure that the types of benefits offered to our Nation's children are quality services that are there for them when they need them. When it comes to mental health coverage, that unfortunately is not the case today. Therefore, I am introducing today, along with Senators Smith, Kennedy, and Domenici, the Children's Mental Health Parity Act which provides for equal coverage of mental health care for all children enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Plan, SCHIP.

Mental illness is a critical problem for the young people in this country today. The numbers are startling: Mental disorders affect about one in five American children and up to 9 percent of kids experience serious emotional disturbances that severely impact their functioning. And low-income children, those the S-CHIP program is designed to cover, have the highest rates of mental health problems.

Yet the sad reality is that an estimated two-thirds of all young people struggling with mental health disorders do not receive the care they need. We are failing our children when it comes to the treatment of mental health disorders and the consequences could not be more severe. Without early and effective intervention, affected children are less likely to do well in school and more likely to have compromised employment and earnings opportunities. Moreover, untreated mental illness may also increase a child's risk of coming into contact with the juvenile justice system, and children with mental disorders are at a much higher risk for suicide.

Unfortunately, many States' S-CHIP programs are not providing the type of mental health care coverage that our most vulnerable children deserve. Many States impose discriminatory limits on mental health care coverage that do not apply to medical and surgical care. These can include caps on coverage of inpatient days and outpatient visits, as well as cost and testing restrictions that impair the ability of our physicians to make the best judgments for our kids.

The Children's Mental Health Parity Act would prohibit discriminatory limits on mental health care in SCHIP plans by directing that any financial requirements or treatment limitations that apply to mental health or substance abuse services must be no more restrictive than the financial requirements or treatment limits that apply to other medical services. Your bill would also eliminate a harmful provision in current law that authorizes States to lower the amount of mental health coverage they provide to children in SCHIP down to 75 percent of the coverage provided in the benchmark plans listed in the statute as models for States to use in developing their SCHIP plans.

The mental health community is gathered in Washington today to mark National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day and many of the leading advocacy groups have endorsed the Children's Mental Health Parity Act, including Mental Health America, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, The National Association for Children's Behavioral Health, the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, and the National Council for Community Behavioral Health care.

America's kids who are covered through SCHIP should be guaranteed that the mental health benefits they receive are just as comprehensive as those for medical and surgical care. It is no less important to care for our kids' mental health, and this unfair and unwise disparity should no longer be acceptable. As we debate many important features of the S-CHIP program during reauthorization, I look forward to working with Members on both sides of the aisle to see that this important, bipartisan measure receives the support that it deserves.

I ask for unanimous consent that the text of the bill bill and letters of support be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``Children's Mental Health Parity Act''.

(a) Assurance of Parity.--Section 2103(c) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1397cc(c)) is amended-- (1) by redesignating paragraph (5) as paragraph (6); and (2) by inserting after paragraph (4), the following: ``(5) Mental health services parity.-- ``(A) In general.--In the case of a State child health plan that provides both medical and surgical benefits and mental health or substance abuse benefits, such plan shall ensure that the financial requirements and treatment limitations applicable to such mental health or substance abuse benefits are no more restrictive than the financial requirements and treatment limitations applied to substantially all medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan. ``(B) Deemed compliance.--To the extent that a State child health plan includes coverage with respect to an individual described in section 1905(a)(4)(B) and covered under the State plan under section 1902(a)(10)(A) of the services described in section 1905(a)(4)(B) (relating to early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services defined in section 1905(r)) and provided in accordance with section 1902(a)(43), such plan shall be deemed to satisfy the requirements of subparagraph (A).''. (b) Conforming Amendments.--Section 2103 of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1397cc) is amended-- (1) in subsection (a), in the matter preceding paragraph (1), by striking ``subsection (c)(5)'' and inserting ``paragraphs (5) and (6) of subsection (c)''; and (2) in subsection (c)(2), by striking subparagraph (B) and redesignating subparagraphs (C) and (D) as subparagraphs (B) and (C), respectively. (c) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section take effect on October 1, 2007.

Sen. Gordon Harold Smith

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Mr. President, I rise today with my colleagues Senator Kerry, Senator Domenici and Senator Kennedy to introduce a The Children's Mental Health Parity Act that will have tremendous impact on millions of low-income children who are living with a mental illness. This bill will ensure mental health parity exists in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, SCHIP, which provides health care to our Nation's low-income children.

Mental illness affects about one in 5 American children, yet an estimated \2/3\ of all young people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need. Moreover, children in Medicaid and SCHIP have the highest rates of mental health problems. Despite the prevalence of mental illness among our Nation's children, a large majority of children struggling with these difficulties do not receive mental health care. Without early and effective identification and interventions, childhood mental illnesses can lead to school failure, poor employment opportunities and poverty in adulthood. We also ow that suicide is the sixth leading cause of death among 5 to 15 year olds and the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds. Moreover, in 1999, more teenagers and young adults died as a result of suicide than cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, birth defects, stroke and chronic lung disease combined. Currently, between 500,000 and one million young people attempt suicide each year.

A parent with a son who struggled with a mental illness, I know all too well the indiscriminate nature of the illness and the frightening statistics of its regular occurrence for those we love. That is why ensuring access to care is so vitally important. Yet, our Nation's health care program dedicated to delivering care to children is falling behind. Many States have imposed restrictive limits on mental health services that would not be permissible in Medicaid, including caps on both inpatient and outpatient care, annual cost restrictions, and limits on diagnostic services. These limits are not based on the medical needs of beneficiaries or best practice guidelines and result in coverage that is wholly inadequate for a child with a mental illness.

This is why the introduction of this legislation is so critical. The Children's Mental Health Parity Act would prohibit discriminatory limits on mental health care in SCHIP plans by directing that any financial requirements or treatment limitations that apply to mental health or substance abuse services must be no more restrictive than the financial requirements or treatment limits that apply to other medical services. The bill also would eliminate a harmful provision in current law that authorizes states to lower the amount of mental health coverage they provide to children in SCHIP down to 75 percent of the coverage provided in the benchmark plans listed in the statute as models for States to use in developing their SCHIP plans.

My home State of Oregon had the wisdom and foresight to see that mental health parity was necessary. The Oregon Health Plan, through which SCHIP kids are covered, offers parity with physical health services and a very comprehensive mental health benefit package, A 2004 report by the Governor of Oregon's Mental Health Taskforce found that in any given year, 75,000 children under the age of 18 are in need of mental health services. It also listed as one of the major problems facing the Oregon mental health system is the fact that mental health parity was not, at that time, in effect. That is no longer the case and I look forward to seeing significant improvements in the mental health system in Oregon as a result of the hard work done there.

Although we are fortunate to have mental health parity in Oregon, there are millions children across the Nation that are in critical need of similar care. That is why the introduction of this Federal legislation is so important, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this bill and work towards its swift passage.

By Mr. ROCKEFELLER (for himself, Mr. Smith, Mr. Kennedy, Ms. Collins, Mrs. Murray, Mr. Isakson, Mr. Kohl, Mr. Coleman, Mr. Casey, Mr. Cornyn, Mr. Menendez, Mr. Burr, Mrs. Lincoln, Mr. Graham, Mr. Harkin, and Mr. Cardin):

S. 1338. A bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for a two-year moratorium on certain Medicare physician payment reductions for imaging services; to the Committee on Finance.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV

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Mr. President, I rise today with my friend and colleague from Oregon, Senator Gordon Smith, to reintroduce the Access to Medicare Imaging Act. This legislation would place a 2-year moratorium on the imaging cuts enacted as part of the Deficit Reduction Act, DRA, of 2005, pending the outcome of a comprehensive Government Accountability Office, GAO, study on imaging utilization and payment within the Medicare Program.

Each year, millions of Medicare patients receive medical imaging services, including X-rays, CT-scans, MRIs, and PET scans, just to name a few. Imaging technologies are a critical component of early diagnosis and treatment for many life-threatening conditions, like cancer and heart disease. Medical imaging equipment allows providers to rapidly exchange images across the internet, facilitating greater and timelier physician consultation and improving the quality of care received by patients.

For individuals living in rural or medically underserved areas, such as many parts of West Virginia, imaging technology is particularly important. In West Virginia, access to imaging equipment is a very big deal. Without these technologies, many individuals would be denied much needed treatment and invaluable peace of mind. Sadly, provisions included as part of the DRA leave some of our most vulnerable citizens at risk by jeopardizing their access to these imaging services.

Consider, if you will, the Center for Advanced Imaging at West Virginia University. This state-of-the-art facility offers the rare integration of clinical imaging with medical research and development. Imaging services are provided for patients throughout the State of West Virginia and bordering rural regions in Ohio, Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Because of imaging technology, trained medical staff at West Virginia University can take a digital image and, within minutes, send a precise copy to a major medical facility in Seattle, WA. There, it can be read by a specialist, who can then return a written report by email. A few years back this was still science fiction, but now it happens every hour, of every day, across the country.

As incredible as these services may seem, and as important as they are to the practice of effective clinical medicine, there is a perception that imaging services also come with an increased cost. Over the past few years, the use of imaging services by Medicare beneficiaries has increased significantly. In fact, MedPAC reported in March 2005 that imaging grew at twice the rate of all other physician fee schedule services between 1999 and 2003. During that time, MRI and CT procedures increased by 15 to 20 percent per year on their own.

In addition to rising costs, MedPAC further reinforced ongoing concerns about potential overuse of imaging services and the sudden increase of outpatient-based imaging in primary care settings. Citing a lack of training and implementation of imaging guidelines, MedPAC called upon Congress to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to define and execute such standards.

Given the MedPAC report, imaging reimbursement became an easy budget target during the reconciliation debate in 2005. On January 1, 2007, as directed by the DRA, payments for medical imaging services delivered in a physician's office or imaging center were capped at a rate not to exceed the rate paid to a hospital's outpatient department. In some instances, this has resulted in a 30-50 percent reduction from previous Medicare imaging reimbursement rates and has created questions as to the long-term availability of these vital services for Medicare recipients.

I believe the $8 billion in imaging cuts were prematurely added to the Deficit Reduction Act in order to meet a budget target and were not based on sound public policy. These cuts represent almost a third of the total savings included in the Deficit Reduction Act, yet they were never debated by Congress. Physicians need imaging technology to ensure the best possible health outcomes for their patients, and they deserve to be fairly compensated for providing their patients access to this revolutionary technology.

The legislation that I am proposing today along with Senators Smith, Kennedy, Collins, Murray, Isakson, Kohl, Coleman, Casey, Cornyn, Menendez, Burr, Lincoln, Graham and Harkin would declare a 2-year moratorium on the imaging cuts included in the DRA so that both the Government Accountability Office and Congress can better assess what payment or policy reforms are necessary to maximize the effectiveness of the imaging technology available to Medicare recipients. The insight garnered from a comprehensive GAO study will be invaluable to Congress. In the meantime, however, we cannot stand by and allow our elderly and disabled to suffer so that we can meet an arbitrary budget target. I urge my colleagues to join with us in supporting this timely legislation.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``Access to Medicare Imaging Act of 2007''.

(a) Moratorium.--No payment adjustment shall be made under subsections (b)(4)(A) or (c)(2)(B)(v)(II) of section 1848 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395w-4) during the 2-year period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act. (b) GAO Study and Report on Imaging Services Furnished Under the Medicare Program.-- (1) Study.--The Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct a comprehensive study on imaging services furnished under the Medicare program. (2) Report.--Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General shall submit to Congress and the Secretary of Health and Human Services a report on the findings and conclusions of the study conducted under paragraph (1) together with recommendations for such legislation and administrative actions as the Comptroller General considers appropriate.

By Mr. REID (for Mr. Kennedy (for himself, Mr. Durbin, and Mr. Kerry)):

S. 1339. A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Higher Education Act of 1965, and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve recruitment, preparation, distribution, and retention of public elementary and secondary school teachers and principals, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

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Mr. President, of all the challenges we face today, one of the most important is creating greater opportunities for the Nation's children to learn and succeed in life. If America is to remain competitive in the global economy, if all Americans are to have access to the American dream, we must ensure that all our children receive a good education.

A good education begins with a good teacher. One of the most significant steps we can take to improve the Nation's schools is to do more to support the recruitment, training, and retention of high quality teachers.

We owe a great debt to America's teachers. Day in and day out, in thousands of schools across the country, they struggle to give our children the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. Our teachers are at the forefront of the constant effort to improve public education. It is their vision, energy, hard work, and dedication that will make all the difference in successfully meeting this challenge.

As Shirley Hufstedler, the Nation's first Secretary of Education, said:

``The role of the teacher remains the highest calling of a free people. To the teacher, America entrusts her most precious resource, her children; and asks that they be prepared, in all their glorious diversity, to face the rigors of individual participation in a democratic society.''

All children need and deserve teachers who can help them succeed. We in Congress must do all in our power to help them do so.

We took a major step toward this goal when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which recognized that all students deserve first-rate teachers to help them reach their potential in school. The law established a goal to guarantee a highly qualified teacher in every classroom by the end of 2006. Few states have reached that ambitious target, and much more remains to be done to achieve success.

Extensive research shows that teacher quality is the most important educational factor affecting student achievement. One recent study showed that having a highly qualified teacher can improve student academic growth by as much as one full year. Another showed that students taught by highly qualified teachers for 3 consecutive years significantly outperformed their peers on academic assessments. A comparison of low-performing and high-performing elementary schools with similar student populations found that differences in teacher qualifications accounted for 90 percent of the difference in performance in reading and math. There's strong evidence that a good teacher can make all the difference in closing achievement gaps for the neediest students in our public schools.

Investing in teacher quality is cost effective and fiscally responsible. A recent study involving 1,000 school districts found that additional dollars invested in more highly qualified teachers resulted in greater improvements in student achievement than any other use of school resources.

Unfortunately, research also shows that high quality teachers are the most inequitably distributed educational resource in the Nation. The most at-risk students are too often taught by the least prepared, least experienced, and least qualified teachers. Students in high poverty schools are twice as likely to be taught by teachers with less than 3 years of experience. Such teachers are less likely to receive the resources and support they need to succeed. Often they leave the profession and further destabilize already struggling schools. By contrast, children of the affluent and the privileged are much more likely to be taught by highly prepared and qualified, expert teachers with broad knowledge and experience in the subjects they teach.

To enable more teachers to receive the assistance they need to improve their instruction, ensure that every child receives a high quality education, and level the playing field for America's students, Congress must act on a comprehensive plan to build and sustain a strong teacher workforce.

That is why today I am introducing the Teacher Excellence for All Children Act of 2007, the TEACH Act. Its purpose is to assist the States and districts in better recruiting, training, retaining and supporting our teachers. Our distinguished colleague in the House, Congressman George Miller, is introducing companion legislation, and I commend him for his leadership on this issue.

The TEACH Act addresses four specific challenges head on:

It increases the supply of outstanding teachers and provides incentives to attract them to high-need schools;

It ensures all children have teachers with expertise in the subjects they teach;

It improves teaching by identifying and rewarding the best teaching practices and by expanding professional development opportunities; and

It helps schools retain teachers and principals by providing the support they need to succeed.

Enrollment in public schools has reached an all-time high of 53 million students, and is expected to keep increasing over the next decade. To educate this expanding population, additional high quality teachers are urgently needed.

Many schools today face a crisis in recruiting and retaining highly-skilled teachers, particularly in the Nation's poorest communities. We now have approximately 3 million public school teachers across the country. Mr. President, 2 million new teachers will be needed in the next 10 years to serve the growing student population. Yet we are not even retaining the teachers we have today. A third of all teachers leave during their first 3 years. Almost half leave during the first 5 years. Over 200,000 teachers leave the profession each year--6 percent of the teaching workforce.

The shortage of highly qualified teachers is especially acute in the fields most essential to America's future competitiveness, and particularly affects low-income students. A third of all math classes in high-poverty high schools are taught by teachers who don't have a degree in math, compared to just 18 percent of such classes in low-poverty schools. Over half of all science classes in such schools are taught by teachers without a degree in their field, compared to just 22 percent of such classes in low-poverty schools. Meanwhile, students in other nations are surpassing American students in math and science achievement.

Too often, teachers also lack the training and support needed to do well in the classroom. They are paid on average almost $8,000 a year less than graduates in other fields, and the gap widens to more than $23,000 after 15 years of teaching. Mr. President, 37 percent of teachers cite low salaries as a main factor for leaving the classroom before retirement.

The TEACH Act will do more to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers, particularly in schools and subjects where they are needed most. The bill provides financial incentives to encourage talented individuals to pursue and remain in this essential profession, and it offers higher salaries, tax breaks, and greater loan forgiveness.

To attract motivated and talented individuals to teaching, the bill provides up-front tuition assistance, $4,000 a year, to high-performing undergraduate students who agree to commit to teach for 4 years in high-need areas and in subjects such as math, science, and special education. It also creates a competitive grant program for colleges and universities to recruit teachers among students majoring in math, science, or foreign language.

The TEACH Act will also help deliver access to the best teachers for the neediest students to help them succeed, and will help keep these teachers where they are most needed. In high-poverty schools, teacher turnover is 33 percent higher than in other schools. Clearly, we must do a better job of attracting better teachers to the neediest classrooms and do more to reward their efforts, so that they stay in the classroom. To encourage expert teachers to teach where they are needed, the bill provides funding to school districts to reward teachers who transfer to schools with the greatest challenges, and provides incentives for teachers working in math, science, and special education.

The bill establishes a framework to develop and use the systems needed at the State and local levels to improve teaching and to recognize exceptional teaching in the classroom. It encourages the development of data systems to provide teachers with additional data to inform and improve classroom instruction. It also encourages the development of model teacher advancement programs that recognize and reward different roles, responsibilities, knowledge, and positive results with competitive compensation initiatives.

Too often, teachers lack the training they need before reaching the classroom. On the job, they have few sources of support to meet the challenges they face in the classroom, and few opportunities for ongoing professional development to expand their skills. The bill responds to the needs of teachers in their early years in the classroom by creating new and innovative models that use proven strategies to support beginning teachers. New teachers will have access to mentoring, opportunities for cooperative planning with their peers, and a special transition year to ease into the pressures of entering the classroom. Veteran teachers will have an opportunity to improve their skills through peer mentoring and review. Other support includes professional development delivered through teaching centers to improve training and working conditions for teachers.

Since good leadership is also essential for schools, the bill provides important incentives and support for principals by improving recruitment and training for them as well.

This legislation was developed with input from a broad and diverse group of educational professionals and experts, including the Alliance for Excellent Education, the American Federation of Teachers, the Business Roundtable, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Children's Defense Fund, the Education Trust, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, the National Council on Teacher Quality, the National Council of La Raza, the National Education Association, New Leaders for New Schools, the New Teacher Center, Operation Public Education, the Teacher Advancement Program Foundation, Teach for America and the Teaching Commission. I thank them all for their help and their work on behalf of our nation's children.

The TEACH Act is good for America's children; it's good for America's economy; and it's good for America's future. It is an essential part of our ongoing effort to ensure that ``No Child Left Behind'' becomes a reality and not just a slogan.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the ``Teacher Excellence for All Children Act of 2007''.

The table of contents of this Act is as follows:Sec. 1. Short title.Sec. 2. Table of contents.Sec. 3. Findings.

STATES WITH THE 21ST CENTURY DATA, TOOLS, AND ASSESSMENTS THEY NEEDSec. 401. 21st Century Data, Tools, and Assessments.Sec. 402. Collecting national data on distribution of teachers.

Congress finds the following: (1) There are not enough qualified teachers in the Nation's classrooms, and an unprecedented number of teachers will retire over the next 5 years. Over the next decade, the Nation will need to bring 2,000,000 new teachers into public schools. (2) Too many teachers and principals do not receive adequate preparation for their jobs. (3) More than one-third of children in grades 7 through 12 are taught by a teacher who lacks both a college major and certification in the subject being taught. Rates of ``out-of- field teaching'' are especially high in high-poverty schools. (4) Seventy percent of mathematics classes in high-poverty middle schools are assigned to teachers without even a minor in mathematics or a related field. (5) Teacher turnover is a serious problem, particularly in urban and rural areas. Over one-third of new teachers leave the profession within their first 3 years of teaching, and 14 percent of new teachers leave the field within the first year. After 5 years--the average time it takes for teachers to maximize students' learning--half of all new teachers will have exited the profession. Rates of teacher attrition are highest in high-poverty schools. Between 2000 and 2001, 1 out of 5 teachers in the Nation's high-poverty schools either left to teach in another school or dropped out of teaching altogether. (6) Fourth graders who are poor score dramatically lower on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) than their counterparts who are not poor. Over 85 percent of fourth graders who are poor failed to attain NAEP proficiency standards in 2003. (7) African-American, Latino, and low-income students are much less likely than other students to have highly-qualified teachers. (8) Research shows that individual teachers have a great impact on how well their students learn. The most effective teachers have been shown to be able to boost their pupils' learning by a full grade level relative to students taught by less effective teachers. (9) Although nearly half (42 percent) of all teachers hold a master's degree, fewer than 1 in 4 secondary teachers have a master's degree in the subject they teach. (10) Young people with high SAT and ACT scores are much less likely to choose teaching as a career. Those teachers who have higher SAT or ACT scores are twice as likely to leave the profession after only a few years. (11) Only 16 States finance new teacher induction programs, and fewer still require inductees to be matched with mentors who teach the same subject.

(a) TEACH Grants.--Title II of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1021 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

(a) Increased Amount; Applicability of Expanded Program to Reading Specialist.--Sections 428J(c)(3) and 460(c)(3) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1078-10(c)(3), 1087j(c)(3)) are each amended-- (1) by striking ``$17,500'' and inserting ``$20,000''; (2) by striking ``and'' at the end of subparagraph (A)(ii); (3) by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (B)(iii) and inserting ``; and''; and (4) by adding at the end the following: ``(C) an elementary school or secondary school teacher who primarily teaches reading and who-- ``(i) has obtained a separate reading instruction credential from the State in which the teacher is employed; and ``(ii) is certified by the chief administrative officer of the public or nonprofit private elementary school or secondary school in which the borrower is employed to teach reading-- ``(I) as being proficient in teaching the essential components of reading instruction, as defined in section 1208 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965; and ``(II) as having such credential.''. (b) Annual Increments Instead of End of Service Lump Sums.-- (1) FFEL loans.--Section 428J(c) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1078-10(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following: ``(4) Annual increments.--Notwithstanding paragraph (1), in the case of an individual qualifying for loan forgiveness under paragraph (3), the Secretary shall, in lieu of waiting to assume an obligation only upon completion of 5 complete years of service, assume the obligation to repay-- ``(A) after each of the first and second years of service by an individual in a position qualifying under paragraph (3), 15 percent of the total amount of principal and interest of the loans described in paragraph (1) to such individual that are outstanding immediately preceding such first year of such service; ``(B) after each of the third and fourth years of such service, 20 percent of such total amount; and ``(C) after the fifth year of such service, 30 percent of such total amount.''. (2) Direct loans.--Section 460(c) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1087j(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following: ``(4) Annual increments.--Notwithstanding paragraph (1), in the case of an individual qualifying for loan cancellation under paragraph (3), the Secretary shall, in lieu of waiting to assume an obligation only upon completion of 5 complete years of service, assume the obligation to repay-- ``(A) after each of the first and second years of service by an individual in a position qualifying under paragraph (3), 15 percent of the total amount of principal and interest of the loans described in paragraph (1) to such individual that are outstanding immediately preceding such first year of such service; ``(B) after each of the third and fourth years of such service, 20 percent of such total amount; and ``(C) after the fifth year of such service, 30 percent of such total amount.''.

Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 6601 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

Part E of title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as added by title II of this Act, is amended by adding at the end the following:

Part A of title II of the Higher Education Act of 1965 is amended by striking sections 206 through 209 (20 U.S.C. 1026- 1029) and inserting the following:

Subpart 2 of part E of title IX of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 7901 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

STATES WITH THE 21ST CENTURY DATA, TOOLS, AND ASSESSMENTS THEY NEED

Part E of title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as added by titles II and III of this Act, is amended by adding at the end the following:

Section 155 of the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (20 U.S.C. 9545) is amended by adding at the end the following: ``(d) Schools and Staffing Survey.--Not later than the end of fiscal year 2008, and every 3 years thereafter, the Statistics Commissioner shall publish the results of the Schools and Staffing Survey (or any successor survey).''.

Part E of title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as added by titles II, III, and IV of this Act, is amended by adding at the end the following:

(a) In General.--Part III of subchapter B of chapter 1 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by inserting after section 139A the following new section:

(a) In General.--Subparagraph (D) of section 62(a)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by striking ``In the case of'' and all that follows through ``$250'' and inserting ``The deductions allowed by section 162 which consist of expenses, not in excess of $500''. (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after the date of the enactment of this Act.

The table of contents at section 2 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq.) is amended-- (1) by inserting after the items relating to part D of title II of such Act the following new items: