Senator Tom Harkin
2009 was truly a year for the history books. Over the past 12 months we have faced a severe economic recession and waged war on two fronts. But as we look back, I think 2009 will be remembered as the year we looked our challenges square in the eye and laid down a foundation for a successful, prosperous future. And this, as Congress is on the cusp of passing comprehensive health reform legislation that will extend coverage to millions of Americans while lowering costs and protecting patients from insurance company abuses.
We began in January with the historic swearing in of President Barack Obama, our nation's first African American President. Shortly after, in the face of near economic collapse, we passed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and pulled ourselves back from the brink of depression. This bill, among other things, created and saved thousands of jobs in Iowa keeping teachers in the classroom and police on the streets. We passed the State's Children's Health Insurance (SCHIP) Act, also known as HAWK-I, and extended health coverage to 11,000 Iowa kids.
There are also several pieces of legislation that I was proud to fight for in the Senate that became law in 2009 bills that will make big impacts in the lives of Iowans and people across the nation. These include:
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This law, named for a woman who simply asked that she be paid the same amount as a man for performing the same work, curbs the unfair practice of pay discrimination by restoring civil rights protections for workers. This was the first bill ever signed into law by President Obama and it marked a new era for fighting pay discrimination in this country.
The Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act. This bill will advance collaborative research in paralysis and improve quality of life for people living with paralysis and mobility impairments from any cause including stroke, ALS, spinal cord injuries and others. I started working with Christopher and Dana on this issue 10 years ago, and even though they are no longer with us, there are millions of other Americans who will benefit from their hard work and perseverance.
The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This legislation bans candy and fruit flavored cigarettes, bans misleading health claims such as "light" and "low-tar," requires tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products and empowers the FDA to require changes in tobacco products. The bill will dramatically reduce the number of young Iowans who become addicted to tobacco.
The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. This bill supports those who have insufficient health care coverage or financial resources for coping with the disease, and is the largest federal plan focused exclusively on HIV/AIDS care. It is named after Ryan White, who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion only days after his 13th birthday and died of AIDS five years later.
Funding for important education, transportation, labor, health and rural development projects. In funding our priorities, I recognize that we must spend the public's money wisely, and that's why these bills include funds to expand programs that have proven to be effective and weed out those that have not. I am especially pleased to have secured $7 million for the repair, construction and modernization of Iowa schools. We are not out of the woods by any means.We still have a long way to go and much, much more to accomplish.2009 was a year of hard work and tough choices, but it was also a year that put us on the path towards a healthier, fairer and more prosperous future. Senator Harkin's WebsiteNewsFor JournalistsAbout TomIssuesContact Tom.