North Star Newsletter: Preventing the Next Financial Collapse

Senator Al Franken
2013-05-22 12:33:15
North Star Newsletter | May 2013 Preventing the Next Financial Collapse After the financial meltdown in 2008, I knew I had to do everything I could to protect Minnesotans who lost their jobs, their savings, and their livelihoods from future collapses. With the help of a Republican colleague, I passed an amendment to the Wall Street reform law to end the conflict-of-interest between banks and credit rating agencies—like S&P and Moody’s—that led to the meltdown. Right now, banks can shop around their financial products to the credit rating agencies and “pay-to-play” for AAA ratings. It’d be as if the judges at a figure-skating competition were being paid by a skater for all tens every time. The law I passed requires the SEC to consider my alternative proposal for an independent board to determine which agency rates which products based on the credit rating agency’s expertise, resources, and—over time—it’s track record. It would change the system from “pay-to-play” to “pay-for-performance.” Last week, the SEC held a roundtable to discuss my amendment and I made the case that it’s time to clean up the industry and eliminate the conflict-of-interest, and that the SEC needs to take action now in order to protect Minnesotans and all Americans. Creating Jobs and Growth With New Farm Bill When I go around Minnesota talking to farmers and leaders in rural communities, I hear that they need economic certainty. And the good news is that last week the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a strong bipartisan Farm Bill and this week the full Senate is voting on it. This year I’m very proud to have authored and introduced the energy section of the Farm Bill. That piece will help produce jobs and growth in ag and rural energy—we’re talking wind, advanced biofuels, biomass—the whole nine yards. All these things are great for Minnesota because we’re a leader in this field. They’re also good for the entire country, because they will help wean us off foreign oil and create American jobs. I’m hopeful we will pass this bill in the full Senate—and then the House of Representatives—to give our farmers and rural communities in Minnesota the certainty they need. Upgrading Minnesota’s Water Infrastructure I’m happy to say that, last week, the Senate passed the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act, which provides much-needed upgrades to Minnesota’s waterways and shipping infrastructure. I fought hard to make sure the legislation includes investments in flood protection for Fargo-Moorhead and Roseau, both hard-hit communities that need relief. I also pushed to ensure that the shipping industry in Duluth and the Great Lakes area, an extremely important piece of the national economy, remains competitive. Investing in our waterways infrastructure is good for the state and good for the country. It creates jobs and spurs economic growth, help critical industries—like mining, manufacturing, and construction—stay competitive, and it provides protection from devastating natural disasters. This is a step in the right direction for Minnesota and I hope that the House of Representatives will take up and pass the bill quickly. Breaking the Veterans Affairs Claims Backlog Last week, I introduced a bill that seeks to tackle the VA claims backlog. Right now, the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country are waiting too long to start receiving the benefits they’ve earned from the VA. Currently, nearly 600,000 veterans are caught up in the VA claims backlog. And according to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the average wait time for veterans filing a claim for the first time at the St. Paul regional office is 180 days. That's too long. The bill was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Tim Walz. We worked with Minnesota veterans as well as with local, state, and national veterans groups to determine how best to address the backlog. We have a responsibility to take care of our courageous service members—it’s time to act so our veterans and their families get the benefits they've earned as quickly as possible. To unsubscribe from these newsletters, please visit the unsubscribe page here: franken.senate.gov/

North Star Newsletter | May 2013

After the financial meltdown in 2008, I knew I had to do everything I could to protect Minnesotans who lost their jobs, their savings, and their livelihoods from future collapses.

With the help of a Republican colleague, I passed an amendment to the Wall Street reform law to end the conflict-of-interest between banks and credit rating agencies—like S&P and Moody’s—that led to the meltdown.

Right now, banks can shop around their financial products to the credit rating agencies and “pay-to-play” for AAA ratings. It’d be as if the judges at a figure-skating competition were being paid by a skater for all tens every time. The law I passed requires the SEC to consider my alternative proposal for an independent board to determine which agency rates which products based on the credit rating agency’s expertise, resources, and—over time—it’s track record. It would change the system from “pay-to-play” to “pay-for-performance.”

Last week, the SEC held a roundtable to discuss my amendment and I made the case that it’s time to clean up the industry and eliminate the conflict-of-interest, and that the SEC needs to take action now in order to protect Minnesotans and all Americans.

When I go around Minnesota talking to farmers and leaders in rural communities, I hear that they need economic certainty. And the good news is that last week the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a strong bipartisan Farm Bill and this week the full Senate is voting on it.

This year I’m very proud to have authored and introduced the energy section of the Farm Bill. That piece will help produce jobs and growth in ag and rural energy—we’re talking wind, advanced biofuels, biomass—the whole nine yards. All these things are great for Minnesota because we’re a leader in this field. They’re also good for the entire country, because they will help wean us off foreign oil and create American jobs.

I’m hopeful we will pass this bill in the full Senate—and then the House of Representatives—to give our farmers and rural communities in Minnesota the certainty they need.

I’m happy to say that, last week, the Senate passed the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act, which provides much-needed upgrades to Minnesota’s waterways and shipping infrastructure. I fought hard to make sure the legislation includes investments in flood protection for Fargo-Moorhead and Roseau, both hard-hit communities that need relief. I also pushed to ensure that the shipping industry in Duluth and the Great Lakes area, an extremely important piece of the national economy, remains competitive.

Investing in our waterways infrastructure is good for the state and good for the country. It creates jobs and spurs economic growth, help critical industries—like mining, manufacturing, and construction—stay competitive, and it provides protection from devastating natural disasters.

This is a step in the right direction for Minnesota and I hope that the House of Representatives will take up and pass the bill quickly.

Last week, I introduced a bill that seeks to tackle the VA claims backlog. Right now, the men and women who put their lives on the line for our country are waiting too long to start receiving the benefits they’ve earned from the VA.

Currently, nearly 600,000 veterans are caught up in the VA claims backlog. And according to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the average wait time for veterans filing a claim for the first time at the St. Paul regional office is 180 days. That's too long.

The bill was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Tim Walz. We worked with Minnesota veterans as well as with local, state, and national veterans groups to determine how best to address the backlog.

We have a responsibility to take care of our courageous service members—it’s time to act so our veterans and their families get the benefits they've earned as quickly as possible.

To unsubscribe from these newsletters, please visit the unsubscribe page here: