Week in Review

It was a busy week. A higher education bill that adds $61 million in grants and loans for Vermont students was signed into law. The Senate gave final congressional approval to a health insurance bill for 10 million children that, unless it is vetoed, will expand Vermont's popular Dr. Dynasaur program. Senator Bernie Sanders chaired a hearing on "green jobs" that looked at the economic pluses of reversing global warming. Also, the Senate agreed to legislation Sanders cosponsored to probe contrac

It was a busy week. A higher education bill that adds $61 million in grants and loans for Vermont students was signed into law. The Senate gave final congressional approval to a health insurance bill for 10 million children that, unless it is vetoed, will expand Vermont's popular Dr. Dynasaur program. Senator Bernie Sanders chaired a hearing on "green jobs" that looked at the economic pluses of reversing global warming. Also, the Senate agreed to legislation Sanders cosponsored to probe contract abuses in Iraq.

Higher Ed The largest increase in student aid since passage of the GI Bill after World War II was signed into law. President Bush had threatened a veto, but thought better of it after the measure wracked up big majorities in the Senate and House. The legislation provides $17 billion in additional college aid, including $34.2 million over the next five years in new Pell grants for students attending colleges and universities in Vermont. Another $26.7 million is allotted for increased loans to Vermont students. Sanders, a member of the Senate education committee, played a major role in pushing for larger Pell grants and for the creation of a loan forgiveness program that also is included in the bill. Loans would be cancelled for college graduates who stay in public service jobs - including nursing, education, and law enforcement - for a decade. To read Senator Sander's interview in the St. Michael's College Defender, click here.

Health Insurance The Senate gave final approval on Thursday to a health insurance bill for 10 million children. In Vermont, it would save health insurance for more than 2,000 children who would lose coverage under new rules announced by the Bush administration. The measure is headed to President Bush, who has said he will veto it. "It is hard for me to begin to understand how this president can be threatening to veto," Sanders said. "We hear a lot about family values. Well, if taking care of our children is not a family value then I don't know what is." You can help. You can sign the online petition and tell the president to sign the bill. To watch Senator Sanders discuss the importance of the Children's Health Insurance Program on the Senate floor, click here.

War Contracts Commission The Senate approved legislation cosponsored by Sanders that would establish an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate U.S. wartime contracting abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The evidence is clear that taxpayers are being ripped off for billions of dollars in no-bid contracts," Sanders said. Added to a Department of Defense policy bill, the amendment creating a Commission on Wartime Contracting would address rampant corruption and other problems with private companies operating in Iraq. The measure also would expand the authority of a special inspector general to monitor all wartime contracts in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. In Iraq alone, the special inspector general discovered that $9 billion in reconstruction funds simply had vanished. The legislation to create the commission was inspired by the World War II-era work of the "Truman Committee." Named for then-Senator Harry S Truman, the committee conducted hundreds of hearings and investigations into government waste and is credited with saving taxpayers more than $15 billion in 1943 dollars. To see more, click here.

Green Jobs The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on "green jobs." One of the witnesses was David Blittersdorf, founder of NRG Systems, a Hinesburg, Vt.-based manufacturer of wind energy measurements systems. His newest venture, Earth Turbines, hopes to bring small wind energy technology to homes across the country. "NRG and Earth Turbines represent only a piece of the growing wind industry, which is becoming a larger source of domestic energy production while producing hundreds of thousands of new jobs," he testified. To watch excerpts of the hearing, click here. To read more about the hearing in the Burlington Free Press, click here.