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A Weekly e-Newsletter from
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

October 21, 2005

Dear Friends,

On Saturday, the citizens of Iraq turned out by the millions to vote on a referendum on their constitution, which has been officially ratified and will allow democratic elections to take place in the nation on December 15 th of this year. On Tuesday, I spoke on the Senate floor in support of this historic Iraqi vote. It laid the groundwork for Iraq to determine its future in peace. The three groups within Iraq have joined together to form a government and to iron out their differences peacefully. We now have the beginnings of what many thought was never possible in the Middle East - an Arab nation self-determining its future with its people electing representatives and living in peace with its neighbors. Our sons and daughters in the U.S. military have been there steadfastly to fight the insurgents, secure the Iraqi people, and give this chance of liberty and freedom a chance to grow. For us to stay is for liberty and peace and freedom to take root, to grow and to prosper and for an area in the world that for all time has been in turmoil to have a chance for peace.

This week, I also chaired a hearing of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety where I took a moment to thank much of corporate America for its role in ensuring the availability and readiness of Reserve forces and in accommodating the record numbers of Guardsmen and Reservists who have been called into service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of these companies are going above and beyond what is mandated, and I want to give them the credit they deserve.

On a similar note, today I co-sponsored legislation to ease an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruling that places an excessive burden on the record numbers of Guardsmen and Reservists who have been called into service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, our nation has depended on our military Reserves and National Guard like never before in waging the war on terror. I find it unacceptable that our tax code further complicates the lives of these brave individuals through burdensome reporting regulations.

Many employers voluntarily offer "differential pay" when an employee who is a member of the National Guard or Reserve is called to active duty.  These are payments that represent wages the individual would have received if he or she were still performing work for the employer. A 36-year-old IRS ruling requires deployed men and women in the Reserves and the National Guard to make quarterly income tax payments if they receive differential pay from their employers. T he Uniformed Services Differential Pay Protection Act amends the IRS code to treat differential wage payments as a regular payment of wages for tax purposes and retirement plans, eliminating the quarterly payment rule for Reserve and Guard members.

This week, the President indicated he wants a new "guest worker" program to help solve our nation's ongoing problem of illegal immigration. While it seems that the White House is beginning to realize the problem we have, I will not be able to support any form of amnesty because it only encourages more bad behavior. What I want to see is the detention centers we've funded to be built and the additional border patrol agents put out there, and if we find it's still not enough, then we need to approve more. We need to make sure we get our borders secure. This is the number one domestic issue in the state and in the country. Whether it's north Georgia, south Georgia, west Georgia or east Georgia, this is a real burden on our state, and we cannot delay in passing comprehensive legislation in securing the borders.

Georgia received good news this week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reversed its decision to close numerous Farm Service Agencies , including offices in Georgia. I am glad the USDA made the decision it did, because these offices are very important to our farmers and the closures would have had a significant negative impact on agriculture producers around the state.

I would also like to congratulate a great Georgian, Teresa Lasseter, who was appointed the administrator of the Farm Service Agency by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns this week. Teresa's previous work with the FSA and in Georgia on various agriculture boards and issues makes her a great representative from Georgia.

Recently in Georgia, we joined 33 other states in participation in the U.S. Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR). The NSOPR site links information from existing state registries, enabling citizens to access sex offender information with a single Internet search. NSOPR enables citizens to select one or more of the 34 states now linked and query by name, city, county or zip code. The site will provide offenders' name, physical description, address, criminal history and in most cases, a photograph. It is important that our parents are empowered with the tools to keep their children safe. By joining this registry, Georgia has allowed its citizens to know who to look out for in their cities, towns and neighborhoods so they may remain as safe as possible. The registry holds information on sex offenders living in Georgia who have been released from prison, placed on probation, parole or supervised release since July 1, 1996. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there are more than 500,000 sex offenders nationwide.

What's on Tap for Next Week?

Next week, the Senate will debate appropriations for the Department of Labor as well as the Department Health and Human Services.

Sincerely,
Johnny Isakson