North Star Newsletter: Avoiding the Fiscal Cliff

Senator Al Franken
2013-01-16 11:27:29
North Star Newsletter | January 2013 Avoiding the Fiscal Cliff On New Year's Day, Congress finally came together on a package to avert the fiscal cliff crisis, which we had been working to address for much of 2012. I voted for the package because it contains a number of critical provisions, including tax cuts for working Minnesotans and a continuation of unemployment benefits for so many Americans who are looking for work. It was also crucial to me that Minnesotans benefiting from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security were protected. There are some provisions I don’t like, particularly those in the extension of the Farm Bill: cuts in energy and conservation, and the gutting of the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program. But I'll continue working to pass a five-year Farm Bill as soon as possible so that Minnesota's agriculture community has the support and certainty it needs. While this wasn't a perfect bill, I knew that no bill would have 100 percent of what I wanted, and I will continue to fight for the priorities that best serve Minnesota. Keeping Our Kids Safe at School Last month's tragic shootings at an elementary school in Connecticut have sparked a national conversation about school safety unlike any our country has ever had. In recent years, we've seen far too many acts of violence in our schools, and sadly, Minnesota has not been immune to these tragedies. We need to take action in order to make sure our schools are safe. I believe that we need to take a comprehensive approach to improving school safety. Earlier this month, I held a roundtable in Eagan with a number of school officials, government leaders, and mental health experts to hear what I can do in Congress to address this problem. I got a lot of helpful input, and I plan to continue listening to Minnesotans before Congress debates this issue so I can make sure Minnesota's needs are met and our schools are as safe as possible. Protecting Minnesotans from Stalking Apps Millions of Americans carry their smartphones with them everywhere they go, and those phones give them access to an incredible variety of services, from driving directions to local restaurant reviews – and a lot more. But many people don't realize that the law currently allows smartphone companies and app providers to track and share their location with third parties without their permission. Even scarier, I've heard harrowing accounts from Minnesota women who have been stalked by their abusers using GPS-enabled "stalking apps." I've introduced legislation that would ban these "stalking apps," and require all smartphone, app, and wireless companies to get your consent before collecting or sharing your location. Last month, my bill cleared a key hurdle when it was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. I'm going to keep fighting to have it passed into law, because I believe that every American has the fundamental right to control their privacy and who has access to their location. Helping 10,000 Minnesotans This month, I'm thrilled to announce that – with a little help from my staff – I've successfully closed the constituent cases of more than 10,000 Minnesotans who have reached out to my office for help. In many cases, I've heard from Minnesotans who have run into trouble trying to navigate federal agencies, and just need a little help getting the attention of the right people. For example, you might need help getting your Social Security Disability benefits, or you may be having difficulties receiving your federal income tax return. If you are having trouble solving a problem with a federal agency, my office may be able to assist you by working with the agency within existing laws or regulations. Getting things done for my constituents is one of the most rewarding parts of being a senator, and one of my most important responsibilities. If you need help working with a federal agency, please visit my website or call my office at (651) 221-1016. To unsubscribe from these newsletters, please visit the unsubscribe page here: franken.senate.gov/

North Star Newsletter | January 2013

On New Year's Day, Congress finally came together on a package to avert the fiscal cliff crisis, which we had been working to address for much of 2012. I voted for the package because it contains a number of critical provisions, including tax cuts for working Minnesotans and a continuation of unemployment benefits for so many Americans who are looking for work. It was also crucial to me that Minnesotans benefiting from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security were protected.

There are some provisions I don’t like, particularly those in the extension of the Farm Bill: cuts in energy and conservation, and the gutting of the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program. But I'll continue working to pass a five-year Farm Bill as soon as possible so that Minnesota's agriculture community has the support and certainty it needs.

While this wasn't a perfect bill, I knew that no bill would have 100 percent of what I wanted, and I will continue to fight for the priorities that best serve Minnesota.

Last month's tragic shootings at an elementary school in Connecticut have sparked a national conversation about school safety unlike any our country has ever had. In recent years, we've seen far too many acts of violence in our schools, and sadly, Minnesota has not been immune to these tragedies. We need to take action in order to make sure our schools are safe.

I believe that we need to take a comprehensive approach to improving school safety. Earlier this month, I held a roundtable in Eagan with a number of school officials, government leaders, and mental health experts to hear what I can do in Congress to address this problem. I got a lot of helpful input, and I plan to continue listening to Minnesotans before Congress debates this issue so I can make sure Minnesota's needs are met and our schools are as safe as possible.

Millions of Americans carry their smartphones with them everywhere they go, and those phones give them access to an incredible variety of services, from driving directions to local restaurant reviews – and a lot more. But many people don't realize that the law currently allows smartphone companies and app providers to track and share their location with third parties without their permission. Even scarier, I've heard harrowing accounts from Minnesota women who have been stalked by their abusers using GPS-enabled "stalking apps."

I've introduced legislation that would ban these "stalking apps," and require all smartphone, app, and wireless companies to get your consent before collecting or sharing your location. Last month, my bill cleared a key hurdle when it was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. I'm going to keep fighting to have it passed into law, because I believe that every American has the fundamental right to control their privacy and who has access to their location.

This month, I'm thrilled to announce that – with a little help from my staff – I've successfully closed the constituent cases of more than 10,000 Minnesotans who have reached out to my office for help. In many cases, I've heard from Minnesotans who have run into trouble trying to navigate federal agencies, and just need a little help getting the attention of the right people. For example, you might need help getting your Social Security Disability benefits, or you may be having difficulties receiving your federal income tax return.

If you are having trouble solving a problem with a federal agency, my office may be able to assist you by working with the agency within existing laws or regulations. Getting things done for my constituents is one of the most rewarding parts of being a senator, and one of my most important responsibilities. If you need help working with a federal agency, please visit my

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