Warner & Kaine Announce Over $4 Million Federal Funding for Clean Water Improvements Across the Commonwealth
Sep 21 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $4,352,000 in federal funding for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund (VCWRLF). The VCWRLF offers low-interest loans to local governments in order to support efforts to address emerging contaminants that pollute Virginia’s clean water supply. This federal funding will help manage the VCWRLF in order to better support local initiatives to protect water quality and public health for Virginia residents.
“Clean, safe water is essential for the health and safety of every Virginian,” said the senators. “We’re glad this federal funding will help promote efforts to improve and protect water quality and public health.”
The funding is awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Capitalization Grants for Clean Water State Revolving Fund and is available through the bipartisan infrastructure law.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported efforts to improve clean water access across the Commonwealth. Last year, the senators announced over $46 million in federal funding as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law to replace lead water lines and ensure safe drinking water throughout Virginia.
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $100,000,000 in federal funding to the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority to design and build the Franconia-Springfield Bypass, a critical bridge that will alleviate congestion on one of busiest railways in Virginia. Once completed, the project will allow Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express trains to seamlessly cross over two freight rail tracks, preventing delays and expanding capacity for additional service.
“Passenger rail is a vital connector for so many Virginians—carrying people to their work, their families, and their travel plans,” said the senators. “We’re thrilled to see this funding make rail safer and more efficient for Virginians by addressing a critical chokepoint in a vital location, alleviating congestion for hundreds of Virginians every single day.”
The funding is awarded through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program, and made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law and the FY2022 government spending bill, both strongly supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported efforts to improve long and short distance rail options across Virginia. Last year, they announced a historic $58 million investment in the Raleigh to Richmond (R2R) rail corridor. For two decades, the lawmakers worked to secure the support and funding necessary to extend the Silver Line to Dulles International Airport, after Kaine helped broker the deal between Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), WMATA, the Commonwealth, and local governments to construct the Silver Line while he was governor. Sens. Warner and Kaine have also been vocal advocates for the completion of the Long Bridge project, which seeks to address a chokepoint across the Potomac River. They worked to pass the Long Bridge Act, which authorized critical land transfers that allowed construction of the project to move forward. Passed in November 2021, the bipartisan infrastructure law represented the largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak, and nearly tripled funding for the CRISI Program.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s private meeting with senators:
“There has never been a more important time for the United States to stand with our allies in support of Ukraine, and President Zelenskyy’s meeting with senators today bolstered the bipartisan momentum to continue our efforts. We’ve spent years rebuilding NATO after the former president launched it into chaos – we absolutely cannot undo that work and weaken this critical alliance by reneging on our commitments now. President Xi and autocrats around the world are watching.
“Russian military capabilities have been decimated for years to come by its ill-considered and illegal invasion of Ukraine. Walking away now would undermine the progress in securing Ukrainian independence, undercut NATO, and embolden authoritarian regimes around the world.”
Warner, Kaine & Colleagues Urge Biden Administration to Strengthen Protections Against “Junk” Insurance Plans
Sep 19 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in calling on the Biden Administration to swiftly enact and continue to strengthen a proposed rule to limit the availability of short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans, which are commonly referred to as “junk plans.” Junk plans provide inadequate coverage and deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
In July, following pressure from Sens. Warner, Kaine, and their colleagues, the Biden Administration released new draft regulations to roll back a 2018 Trump Administration effort that made junk plans more widely available to consumers. Since 2018, these plans have continued to proliferate. However, they are not required to adhere to important standards, including protections for people with pre-existing conditions and coverage for essential health benefits like maternity care or mental health services. Once finalized, the Biden Administration’s rule will restore a 90-day limit on the use of junk plans, instead of the current four-year maximum, so they can only be used on a temporary basis as intended, such as when people are transitioning from one plan to another.
In a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Department of Labor Acting Secretary Julie Su, and Department of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the senators urged the Biden Administration to swiftly enact the proposed rule, continue to strengthen protections, and increase transparency on junk plans to protect Americans from this inadequate coverage.
“We applaud your efforts to protect Americans who may have been duped into these junk plans, and urge the Biden Administration to swiftly finalize the rule and bolster our collective efforts to expand access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage,” wrote the senators. “With this new proposal, the Biden Administration is taking action to better protect consumers and promote access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance.”
In addition to expressing support for the Biden Administration’s proposed rule, the senators urged administration leaders to take further measures to protect consumers as they finalize the new rule on STLDI plans, including cracking down on the practice of “stacking,” or repeatedly enrolling the same consumer in junk plans across different issuers. The senators also called on the Biden Administration to bring greater transparency to junk plans through disclosure and reporting requirements and to consider additional protections for individuals shopping for coverage during the annual Open Enrollment period, which is set to begin November 1.
“For too long, junk plans were able to proliferate unchecked, resulting in increased exposure to financial harm for consumers. By finally limiting the duration of these plans and providing better protections for consumers, we are helping ensure that when families spend their hard-earned dollars on health insurance, they get the high-quality coverage they deserve,” concluded the senators.
Joining Sens. Warner, Kaine, Baldwin, Sanders, and Wyden in signing the letter were Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Peter Welch (D-VT).
A full version of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Secretaries Becerra, Su, and Yellen:
We write in support of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury’s (collectively, the Departments’) long-awaited proposal to address short-term limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans. In 2018, the previous administration sought to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by expanding access to STLDI plans that can deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions and fail to provide adequate health care coverage when Americans need it most. While STLDI plans have their purpose, such plans provide junk coverage when compared to high-quality, comprehensive coverage. We applaud your efforts to protect Americans who may have been duped into these junk plans, and urge the Biden Administration to swiftly finalize the rule and bolster our collective efforts to expand access to affordable, comprehensive health coverage.
In 2018, regulations issued by the previous administration rewrote the definition of STDLI coverage, allowing these plans to expand their term of coverage from three months to 364 days with the option to renew for up to three years. Unlike marketplace plans, STLDI plans are not required to comply with consumer protections that limit out-of-pocket costs or coverage of essential health benefits, including mental health services, treatment for substance-use disorder, prescription drugs, and maternity care. Furthermore, these plans engage in discriminatory practices, such as retroactive coverage rescissions, medical underwriting, and lifetime and annual caps, which were commonplace before the ACA. Since 2018, many consumers shopping for coverage may not have understood that they were buying a plan that puts them at risk for pre-existing conditions and coverage gaps.
With this new proposal, the Biden Administration is taking action to better protect consumers and promote access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance. We appreciate the Department’s efforts to hold true to a definition of “short-term” that is just that – short term. STLDI policies were originally intended to temporarily fill gaps in coverage while people transition between jobs or when students were required to disenroll from student health coverage over the summer months. As such, we believe these plans should be strictly limited to three months without the option for extensions.
We also strongly support the proposal to prevent insurance companies or brokers from repeatedly enrolling the same consumer in STLDI coverage, a practice known as “stacking,” and request that the Administration do more to prohibit stacking of STLDI plans across different issuers. In addition, as we continue to ensure that Americans have access to affordable coverage, it is critically important for Congress, state regulators, researchers, stakeholders, and federal departments to understand the true impact of the junk insurance market on the ACA marketplaces and other forms of high-quality coverage. As a part of this rulemaking, we strongly urge the agencies to implement policies that would bring greater transparency to these products including disclosure and reporting requirements for intermediary entities such as brokers, associations, and lead generators.
Finally, we urge the Administration to consider additional protections for individuals who may be shopping for coverage during the ACA’s annual Open Enrollment (OE) period.
Fraudsters, always looking for opportunities to take advantage of consumers, are enrolling individuals into plans without their consent, and numerous studies have documented the use of deceptive and misleading marketing to lure consumers into junk plans. We urge the Departments to proactively work with state insurance commissioners to address misleading marketing practices. High-quality insurance coverage is now more affordable than ever before thanks to the enhanced premium tax credits passed as part of the American Rescue Plan Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as the Administration’s efforts to fix the “family glitch” which eliminated the subsidy cliff that impacted over five million Americans. It is our responsibility to ensure that the OE period, which is set to begin on November 1, is as successful as possible in promoting access to high-quality, affordable coverage.
For too long, junk plans were able to proliferate unchecked, resulting in increased exposure to financial harm for consumers. By finally limiting the duration of these plans and providing better protections for consumers, we are helping ensure that when families spend their hard-earned dollars on health insurance, they get the high-quality coverage they deserve.
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner Delivers Remarks on Confirmation of Mike Casey to Director of National Counterintelligence and Security Center
Sep 15 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, spoke on the Senate floor to celebrate the confirmation of Michael C. Casey to serve as Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.
“Mike’s understated style, compassion, intelligence, and deep knowledge of security and intelligence issues has been essential to the Committee’s smooth and bipartisan functioning for many years,” said Sen. Warner on the floor of the U.S. Senate. “So it is with a mixture of both regret and pride that we say goodbye to Mike as he embarks on this new role.”
Sen. Warner’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
I rise today to say a few words about someone who has been an essential part of the Senate community for many years now.
I proud to note that earlier this week [Tuesday evening], the Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination of Mike Casey to serve as Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.
At a time when the U.S. is facing tremendous foreign intelligence and security threats, it is enormously important to have a Senate-confirmed leader at the head of the NCSC, which is charged with protecting against insider threats, supply chain risks, and other counterintelligence issues.
The position has been vacant since the end of the last administration, so as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I’m glad that we’ll now have a Senate-confirmed leader in place to lead efforts to protect against foreign threats… protect U.S. critical infrastructure… and advance the counterintelligence and security mission.
But while I can recognize that this development is good for our national security… it is also a tremendous loss for the Senate Intelligence Committee, where Mike Casey has ably served as staff director for the last eight years.
He began his service 28 years ago in the House of Representatives, eventually joining the staff of the House Armed Services Committee before Senator Feinstein lured him over to the upper chamber to serve as Staff Director for the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2016.
I’ve worked closely alongside Mike ever since. He was an indispensable part of the three-and-a-half year Russia investigation… working alongside his counterparts in what was then- the Committee’s Republican majority to produce the Committee’s bipartisan and definitive report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 Presidential election.
That was a task which he embraced with the dedication and thoroughness for which Mike is known. Even though the Committee’s staff generally prefers to do their work quietly and behind the scenes, they never buckled or wavered, despite unprecedented media and political scrutiny. The result of that work speaks for itself, and is a testament in no small part to Mike’s leadership as staff director.
Mike’s understated style… compassion… intelligence… and deep knowledge of security and intelligence issues has been essential to the Committee’s smooth and bipartisan functioning for many years.
I am convinced at this point that Mike knows virtually everything and everyone in the intelligence community, which, as my colleagues can imagine, is an enormous asset in making sure that the Committee is able to conduct our bipartisan oversight work in a robust fashion.
So it is with a mixture of both regret and pride that we say goodbye to Mike as he embarks on this new role.
As Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, Mike will face many of the same challenges with which we have wrestled on the Intelligence Committee.
The truth is, national security is no longer simply about how has the most planes, ships, tanks, and guns. It’s also about artificial intelligence… quantum computing… 5G… cybersecurity… fusion energy… and all of the other innovations that our fueling both our economic and our national security... because whoever leads in technology will have an edge in the national security competition of the future.
And that is not the only challenge that awaits Mike as he embarks on this new chapter… as he’ll be charged with helping to implement badly-needed reforms to our security clearance systems… so that we can do a better job of protecting our nation’s secrets from further unauthorized disclosures… while also making sure that our intelligence agencies are able to quickly and efficiently hire and retain the best and the brightest workforce.
So, while Mike Casey might be leaving my staff… it’s safe to say he won’t be leaving my speed dial.
We’ll miss you, Mike.
And remember: don’t screw it up.
Thank you, Mister President.
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote to President Biden, urging the Administration to boost the federal government’s tech workforce in order to address the challenges of rapidly advancing AI, building on previous government initiatives to draw in engineers, product managers, and other digital policy experts to revamp the government’s approach to technology. In his letter, Sen. Warner stressed the need for a similar arrangement specifically targeting AI.
“It is clear to me that we will not be able to meet the need in this rapidly advancing field without a diverse and representative group of talented minds,” Sen. Warner wrote. “These individuals should possess technical knowledge, but also a keen understanding of the social impact of AI.”
He continued, “Your administration has taken a number of practical and important steps to advance the safe deployment of AI technologies. To supplement these efforts, I urge you to use your existing authority to bring the best and brightest minds to the table to help our nation grapple with the wide-ranging impact that AI will have on our society. I look forward to working with you on this endeavor.”
Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has been a leading voice in the Senate calling for increased efforts into appropriately regulating and addressing the threats of AI, while still harnessing its full potential. Sen. Warner engaged directly with AI companies to push for responsible development and deployment. Last month, he sent a series of letters to major AI companies urging them to take additional action to promote safety and prevent malicious misuse of their products. In April, Sen. Warner called on AI CEOs to develop practices that would ensure that their products and systems are secure. In July, he also pushed on the Biden administration to keep working with AI companies to expand the scope of the voluntary commitments.
Additionally, Sen. Warner wrote to Google last month to raise concerns about their testing of new AI technology in medical settings. Separately, he urged the CEOs of several AI companies to address a concerning report that generative chatbots were producing instructions on how to exacerbate an eating disorder.
Text of the letter can be found here and below.
Dear President Biden,
I write today regarding the need to bolster our Federal workforce and build capacity within the government to address artificial intelligence (AI). Already, excellent work related to AI is happening across the Federal government – from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to the National Institutes of Health – but given the work that needs to be done, we undoubtedly need more expertise and more capacity. The rapid advancements in AI technologies underscores the need to build a robust knowledge base within the Federal government to grapple with AI applications across various sectors of our economy and society. Given the speed of innovation in this space, I urge you to use the powers of your office to launch a new initiative focused on bringing the best and brightest minds into government service to meet the challenges and harness the benefits of AI.
In recent years, we have seen successful examples of innovative initiatives that bring talented individuals together within the Federal government to serve the public and solve some of our government’s most pressing needs. For example, 18F has brought together a team of designers, software engineers, strategists, and product managers to collaborate with federal agencies in order to improve and modernize government technology. Similarly, the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) has brought together engineers, product managers, and digital policy experts to be paired with leading civil servants in order to impact our government’s approach to technology and address some of the most critical government services. What these initiatives have in common – and what I believe we must focus on in a similar initiative for AI – is bringing together a group of bright minds, with diverse backgrounds and experiences, to lend their expertise to the federal government on issues of national importance.
It is clear to me that we will not be able to meet the need in this rapidly advancing field without a diverse and representative group of talented minds. These individuals should possess technical knowledge but also a keen understanding of the social impact of AI. Furthermore, a dedicated group of individuals focused solely on AI can help the federal government think through the opportunities to harness AI technologies to meet federal objectives while also working collaboratively with agencies to guard against AI-generated risks within their purview.
Your Administration has taken a number of practical and important steps to advance the safe deployment of AI technologies. To supplement these efforts, I urge you to use your existing authority to bring the best and brightest minds to the table to help our nation grapple with the wide-ranging impact that AI will have on our society. I look forward to working with you on this endeavor.
Sep 13 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD) led a group of colleagues in a letter to Anne Milgram, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), expressing support for the agency’s new engagement on a potential special registration for telehealth but sharing serious concerns over the agency’s proposed rules on the future of prescribing controlled substances via telehealth. Despite efforts by Sen. Warner to ensure continued access to telehealth services following the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), the DEA’s rules as proposed would drastically affect patient care.
Joining Sens. Warner and Thune in this letter are U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).
At the start of the pandemic, the DEA acted swiftly to take advantage of exceptions detailed in the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act that allowed the agency to waive in-person requirements for prescribing controlled substances in the case of a Public Health Emergency (PHE). With the expiration of the COVID-19 PHE earlier this year, however, the DEA announced a proposed rule detailing their plans for prescribing these medications via telehealth going forward that would limit the ability of doctors to prescribe controlled substances without an in-person visit and place unnecessary requirements on care providers. The proposed rule would only allow a 30-day supply of a schedule III-V non-narcotic medication prior to an in-person medical evaluation, and would not permit any initial supply for schedule II or schedule III-V narcotic medication.
The senators wrote, “Although we appreciate the limited flexibilities proposed by the rule, they are insufficient to meet the health care needs of our constituents and the needs of the providers who care for them. We support the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) extending the full set of telehealth flexibilities through November 2023 and are encouraged by the upcoming public listening sessions on the proposed regulations. We urge the DEA to consider feedback from health care stakeholders and apply the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure patients maintain access to care through telehealth, while still minimizing diversion and fraud.”
Highlighting the difficulty patients have scheduling in-person appointments, the senators continued, “We have concerns about our constituents’ ability to obtain in-person appointments within 30 days of starting a new medication, and the potential consequences to their health of starting a new medication and abruptly ending it should they not be able to obtain such an appointment. It takes on average 26 days to schedule a new patient appointment with a health care provider. Therefore, a 30-day supply could result in patients going without their medication while they wait for an in-person appointment or will turn to higher-acuity and higher-cost settings of in-person care to meet this deadline, such as emergency departments.”
The senators also called attention to a rule Congress created as part of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act that requires the DEA create a registration for telemedicine practitioners who would not be subject to mandatory in-person medical evaluations. The goal of this special registration is to allow medical evaluations over telehealth more broadly, which the senators state this DEA rule does not accomplish.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, tremendous progress was made to ensure that patients could receive care without interruption. Reinstating these hard limits on telehealth would be taking a step backwards, and have serious impacts on the care options for thousands of patients. Sen. Warner has consistently led efforts to expand telehealth accessibility, introducing legislation to expand telehealth services and repeatedly calling on congressional leadership to extend telehealth services after the end of the pandemic.
A copy of the letter is available here and text is below:
Dear Administrator Milgram:
On behalf of our constituent patients, health care providers, and pharmacists, we’re writing to share strong concerns with the notice of proposed rulemaking on the future of controlled substances prescribing over telehealth. Although we appreciate the limited flexibilities proposed by the rule, they are insufficient to meet the health care needs of our constituents and the needs of the providers who care for them. We support the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) extending the full set of telehealth flexibilities through November 2023 and are encouraged by the upcoming public listening sessions on the proposed regulations. We urge the DEA to consider feedback from health care stakeholders and apply the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure patients maintain access to care through telehealth, while still minimizing diversion and fraud.
As you know, the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 (“Ryan Haight Act”) offered seven exceptions to the in-person medical evaluation requirement when providers are engaged in the “practice of telemedicine;” a public health emergency is one such exception, and we’re grateful the DEA moved swiftly to utilize that exception during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, we are concerned that the proposed rule undermines the gains made during the PHE that saw expanded access to critical health care services through telehealth
Initial supply: Prior to an in-person medical evaluation, the proposed rule permits a DEA-registered prescriber to provide an initial 30-day supply of a controlled substance for non-narcotic schedule III-V medications. We have concerns about our constituents’ ability to obtain in-person appointments within 30 days of starting a new medication, and the potential consequences to their health of starting a new medication and abruptly ending it should they not be able to obtain such an appointment. It takes on average 26 days to schedule a new patient appointment with a health care provider. Therefore, a 30-day supply could result in patients going without their medication while they wait for an in-person appointment or will turn to higher-acuity and higher-cost settings of in-person care to meet this deadline, such as emergency departments.
Despite the 180-day grace period after the end of the PHE, new and existing patients will be seeking in-person appointments simultaneously in a health care system that is already burdened by a shortage of health care providers. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 163 million Americans live in Mental Health Care Health Professional Shortage Areas. Approximately 8,200 additional psychiatrists would be needed nationwide just to remove this shortage designation. Nationwide averages also obscure the variation among states and territories; for example, Arizona has only 8.5% of its psychiatric health care needs met and would need 227 psychiatrists to meet 100% of these needs. And beyond mental health care, 100 million Americans live in Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas, with more than 17,000 primary care providers needed at a minimum to remove the designation.
Medical societies representing health care providers and their patients nationwide have encouraged a window of longer than 30 days for an initial prescription in order to provide enough time to obtain an appointment: the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Psychiatric Association recommend 180 days, with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) urging no less a 90-day maximum when the provider believes it is appropriate. In addition, the AMA and the AAMC recommend that existing patients have one year to fulfill the in-person appointment requirement.
Provider safety: The proposed rule requires the prescribing provider to report their physical address at the time of the telemedicine appointment. Health care providers have shared they sometimes do telemedicine appointments from their home and have safety and privacy concerns with their home address being on the prescription. We urge you to allow providers to use the business address of their DEA registration.
- Referring providers: The proposed rule requires that an in-person medical evaluation be performed by a DEA-registered provider before a referral to another DEA-registered provider who would be permitted to prescribe a controlled substance over telehealth. We are concerned that individuals without adequate in-person access to a DEA-registered provider will see their health care treatment options limited should they be referred to a specialist for a telehealth appointment, or instead a second in-person medical evaluation would be required with a DEA-registered provider prior to seeing a specialist, which would increase costs to the patient and the health care system as a whole. We urge you to work with health care providers to ensure patients do not encounter any truly unnecessary barriers to care.
- Prescribing practitioner: The proposed rule requires a referring provider to specifically include the name and National Provider Identifier (NPI) of the prescribing practitioner to which the referring prescriber is referring the patient. In practice, patients are often referred to a group practice where they see whichever specialist has a first available appointment. Or, referrals may not have a provider indicated at all, as the patient often has to explore insurance network coverage and new patient availability. This requirement may prevent patients from receiving the legitimate health care services they need.
Recordkeeping: Finally, we have heard widespread concerns about additional recordkeeping and other administrative burdens required from providers and pharmacies. This additional administrative burden will strain an already exhausted workforce could also deter providers from being able to provide this care. Stakeholders have shared that existing recordkeeping requirements should be sufficient for the purpose of DEA being able to combat diversion and fraud, and we encourage you to work with providers on the least burdensome path forward.
In addition to the PHE exception to the Ryan Haight Act discussed above, Congress also created a “special registration” exception, not as an option for DEA to utilize but a requirement to do so most recently in the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (“SUPPORT Act”). We do not believe this NPRM fulfills DEA’s obligation to create a special registration.
Congress envisioned this special registration to allow certain health care providers to be cleared and registered to use their clinical judgment when a medical examination can be done over telehealth for the purposes of a controlled substances prescription. DEA envisioned this to be the case, as well: in the preamble to Ryan Haight Act implementation regulations, DEA wrote:
“Special registration for telemedicine—a practitioner who is engaged in the practice of telemedicine within the meaning of the Act is not subject to the mandatory in-person medical evaluation requirement of 21 U.S.C. 829(e) (although such practitioner remains subject to the requirement that all prescriptions for controlled substances be issued for a legitimate medical purpose.”
Although we appreciate DEA not requiring a special registration for the initial prescriptions currently proposed, we are concerned that the proposed rule does not include the special registration directed to be created by Congress and even envisioned by the DEA. However, we are pleased to see DEA recently indicate further consideration of a special registration process that would allow clinicians to prescribe a controlled substance via telemedicine without an in-person visit. We appreciate the continuation of the comment process via public listening sessions, and encourage the DEA to review and incorporate stakeholders’ feedback in future rulemaking related to telemedicine prescribing.
In addition to allowing qualified health care providers to determine when a medical evaluation over telehealth is appropriate, a special registration would also provide a framework to evaluate the appropriateness of certain prescribers having the ability to prescribe over telehealth medications not covered by the post-COVID-19 proposed rule, namely Schedule II medications and Schedule III-V narcotic medications.
Health care providers across the board continue to ask for a special registration process that would provide a pathway for certain providers to provide more care involving controlled substances over telehealth than the proposed rule allows, and we implore DEA to follow its statutory requirements under the Ryan Haight Act and the SUPPORT Act and do just that.
Thank you for your consideration of these concerns, and we look forward to continuing to work with you on these important issues.
Sep 12 2023
WASHINGTON– Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $17,259,239 in federal funding to improve infrastructure at airports across Virginia. The funding was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s 2023 Airport Improvement Program (AIP) Grant Program, which funds airport infrastructure projects such as runways, taxiways, airport signage, airport lighting, and airport markings. In 2023, Virginia’s regional airports have already received $56,828,185 through the AIP.
“Our regional airports are critical for economic development in our communities,” said the senators. “We’re glad this federal funding will help improve safety and reliability by upgrading infrastructure at airports across the Commonwealth.”
The funding is distributed as follows:
- $4,875,000 for the Winchester Regional Airport to reconstruct its apron.
- $4,018,500 for the Leesburg Executive Airport to rehabilitate its apron, which Kaine recently announced in a visit to the airport.
- $3,401,884 for the Danville Regional Airport to rehabilitate its apron.
- $3,348,877 for the Manassas Regional Airport to reconstruct the taxiway.
- $951,500 for the Accomack County Airport in Melfa to construct a taxiway and light, mark, or remove non-hazardous obstructions like nearby buildings and towers in its airspace.
- $600,748 for the Lee County Airport in Jonesville to improve safety at the airport by installing navigational aids (NAVAIDS) and a runway vertical/visual guidance system, reconstructing airfield guidance signs, and rehabilitating lighting on the runway.
- $62,730 for the Mountain Empire Airport in Smyth County to reconstruct or replace the airport’s lighting vault, which houses the regulators, controls, and other equipment necessary to power and control airfield lighting systems.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported Virginia’s airports. Earlier this year, the senators announced federal grants of over $44 million and $6 million to enhance airport safety and capacity. Sen. Kaine has also introduced legislation to address aviation workforce shortages by supporting the education, recruitment, and development of pilots, aviation maintenance workers, and aerospace manufacturing workers.
Warner & Kaine Applaud Nearly $940,000 in Federal Funding to Support Those Recovering from Substance Use Disorder in Southwest Virginia
Sep 11 2023
WASHINGTON– Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $939,669 in federal funding to help people in recovery from substance use disorder rejoin the workforce in Southwest Virginia. The funding was awarded by the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Investments Supporting Partnerships in Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) Initiative, which provides funding across Appalachia to address the substance use disorder crisis.
“In addition to expanding access to substance use treatment programs, it's critical that we're helping individuals recovering from substance use disorders access the resources they need to succeed,” said the senators. “We’re glad this funding will help more Virginians across Southwest Virginia get the job skills and support they need to enter or renter the workforce.”
The funding is distributed as follows:
- $500,000 for the YWCA Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia in Glade Spring to provide access to family resiliency and recovery-to-work supports, including workshops on health and wellness, soft skills and entrepreneurship, personal finance, housing, career coaching, teen and adult parenting, and nutrition and cooking.
- $439,669 for Mountain Empire Community College Foundation in Big Stone Gap to grow their Project Amelioration Program, which helps individuals with substance use disorder in Dickenson, Lee, and Wise counties gain hands-on job training, financial education, and life skills training. The program also offers counseling services, social services, and employment assistance.
Sens. Warner and Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, have long supported those recovering from substance use disorder. The senators announced $1.4 million in federal funding to expand access to mental health care across Virginia.
Sep 11 2023
WASHINGTON – Ahead of a Tuesday oversight hearing in the Senate Banking Committee with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced legislation to require publicly traded companies to disclose information regarding workforce management metrics, including investments made in skills training, workforce safety, and employee retention.
“Workers are the most valuable resource a company can have, but without a clear set of standards for reporting, the investment that public companies make in their personnel are next-to-impossible to track,” said Sen. Warner. “This legislation will help provide a clearer picture of how public companies are managing, supporting, and investing in their workers – factors that significantly influence a company’s ability to innovate and compete.”
“Big Tech and other corporations use subcontracting and outsourcing to hide their total number of workers. The result is that too many workers are invisible under current disclosure requirements,” said Sen. Brown. “The Workforce Investment Disclosure Act will finally shed some sunlight on how companies outsource and subcontract their workers and allow the public to scrutinize what these companies are doing to invest in their workers.”
Since the start of his tenure in 2021, Chair Gensler has stated disclosure of these workforce metrics would be a priority of his agenda, but a rule making this a requirement has yet to be proposed. The Workforce Investment Disclosure Act would require public companies disclose basic human capital metrics, which have an increasingly high value across industries in our 21st century economy. These metrics include workforce turnover rates, skills and development training, workforce health and safety, workforce engagement, and compensation statistics.
Specifically, the legislation would build on existing disclosure requirements by requiring companies to disclose:
- Demographic information;
- Data on temporary and contract workers;
- Employee turnover rate;
- Employee skills and capabilities;
- Workforce health, safety, and well-being, including findings of harassment or discrimination; and
- Employee compensation, benefits, and incentives.
Sen. Warner, a former entrepreneur and venture capitalist, has long stressed the importance of updating human capital disclosure requirements to reflect the priorities of modern companies. First introducing the Workforce Investment Disclosure Act in 2020, Sens. Warner and Brown have also urged the SEC to implement improvements to their human capital disclosure rules including for part-time employees.
Full text of the bill is available here.
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) praised an announcement by United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ambassador Katherine Tai that the Republic of India will reduce prohibitively high tariffs on U.S. turkey products – an important Virginia commodity.
“For months we’ve urged the U.S. Trade Representative to work to reduce the tariffs that make it difficult for Virginia’s producers to export poultry products to India. Today, we’re proud to report that USTR has finally come to an agreement with India to reduce these retaliatory tariffs. This move will help strengthen the strong partnership between our two nations while generating increased demand for Virginia poultry and supporting economic activity in the Valley,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine.
“The National Turkey Federation applauds the efforts by the U.S. and Indian governments to significantly reduce the tariffs. This move creates an important new market for U.S. turkey producers and will give Indians more affordable access to a nutritious, delicious protein,” said Joel Brandenberger, President and CEO of National Turkey Federation. “NTF congratulates the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the leadership of USDA on this accomplishment, and we thank Senators Mark R. Warner and Thom Tillis for spearheading congressional efforts to ensure U.S. turkey growers are able to effectively compete in this fast-growing marketplace.”
In 2021, Virginia was the sixth largest turkey source in America after producing 14.5 million birds. Turkey production plays a key role in the Commonwealth's poultry industry, which provides a direct economic impact of $5.8 billion and contributes $13.6 billion in economic activity in Virginia.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong proponents of lowering tariffs that harm Virginia poultry producers. In June, ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, the Senators were joined by a number of their colleagues in urging Ambassador Tai to increase market access for U.S. turkey and poultry products. These products previously faced significant barriers to the Indian market due to prohibitively high tariff rates. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner also praised the end of retaliatory tariffs on apples, another major Virginia commodity.
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $16,395,565.20 in federal funding, courtesy of the Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program, awarded to the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation (MBC) to deploy broadband and expand access to high-speed internet throughout Virginia.
The funding will be used to construct approximately 130 miles of new fiber to build eight open-access middle mile fiber segments, the physical high-capacity fiber optic cables needed to connect internet service providers to larger data centers and local networks, which will support service for residential and business customers and provide critical broadband connectivity to 32 industrial and business park sites in 12 Virginia localities across Central and Southside Virginia.
“Access to high-quality, high-speed internet is crucial in the 21st century,” said the senators. “We are proud to have played a key role in creating and passing legislation that continues to deliver substantial funding to Virginia in order to achieve universal broadband coverage across the Commonwealth.”
“We are absolutely thrilled and deeply honored to be a part of this transformative project, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our electric cooperatives, ISPs, and other telecom providers,” said Tad Deriso, President & CEO of MBC. “The substantial infrastructure investment in middle mile fiber by the NTIA and GO Virginia represents a remarkable triumph for rural Virginia, as it paves the way for significant strides in bridging the digital divide and attracting more economic development investments to the region. MBC has a proven track record of executing fiber infrastructure projects on time and within budget, and we eagerly anticipate collaborating with our funding partners, our telecom provider customers, and the communities involved to make this project a resounding success.”
Details on the eight middle mile fiber segments are as follows:
- The South Hill to Kenbridge segment will improve the capacity of the fiber route that supports the marketability and feasibility of the Kenbridge Commerce Center site in Lunenburg County as well as residential and business customers along the route.
- The Blackstone to McKenney segment will support additional broadband capabilities at Fort Barfoot, a Virginia Army National Guard installation near Blackstone, VA for future rapidly mobilized national security operations and the expanding federal and private contractor workforce.
- The Dinwiddie to Prince George segment will enable fiber connectivity for industrial, business, education, and biotech/pharmaceutical clusters in Dinwiddie County, Prince George County, and the City of Petersburg.
- The MAMaC in Greensville County segment supports economic development in Greensville County by providing diverse fiber to enhance the marketability of the 1,600 acre MaMaC Megasite in Greensville County.
- The Heartland Innovative Technology (HIT) Park in Prince Edward County segment will provide new diverse fiber to the recently established Heartland Innovative Technology Park.
- The Sussex Mega Site in Sussex County segment will create middle mile fiber diversity for the Sussex County Mega Site, enhancing the site’s marketability for advanced manufacturing.
- The Heartland Innovative Technology (HIT) Park to Cumberland segment will provide a diverse fiber route from HIT park to the north, to tie into other fiber backbone routes that extend to Ashburn, Culpeper and Charlottesville.
- The Shannon Hill Regional Business Park in Louisa County segment will provide diverse fiber to the 700-acre Shannon Hill Regional Business Park for the park’s targeted industries of manufacturing, data centers, biotechnology, and logistics and distribution.
The Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program provides funding to expand and extend middle mile infrastructure to reduce the cost of connecting areas that are unserved or underserved with current broadband infrastructure. The program was created by the bipartisan infrastructure law (BIL).
Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought to expand access to broadband in Virginia. Last month, Sen. Warner visited Big Stone Gap to celebrate $25 million in funding for the deployment of broadband in Southwest Virginia. These announcements come in addition to over $1.4 billion in previously announced funding for the deployment of broadband throughout the Commonwealth as a result of the bipartisan infrastructure law.
Warner & Kaine Applaud Over $3.5 Million in Federal Funding to Improve Water Infrastructure in Wise County
Aug 28 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $3,586,000 in federal funding for the Wise County Public Service Authority to improve the county’s water system. Currently, Wise County’s water system is unable to provide the minimum working water pressure of 20 PSI under Virginia state code. Wise County has a serious need for upgrades to its water system, and this funding will help upgrade the county’s water infrastructure to ensure the system is up to code. The funding will replace approximately 29,120 linear feet of water line and install 12 gate valves, 10 fire hydrant assemblies, and associated water appurtenances.
“Reliable water systems are critical to protect the health of our communities and support businesses in the region,” said the senators. “We’re glad this federal funding will help Wise County upgrade their water infrastructure.”
The funding is awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Department of Rural Development’s Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant Program, which provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to homes and businesses in rural communities. In addition to the over $3.5 million grant, Wise County will receive a federal loan of $1,202,000.
Warner and Kaine have long supported efforts to improve infrastructure across the Commonwealth. Last year, the senators announced over $46 million in federal funding as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law to replace lead water lines and ensure safe drinking water throughout Virginia.
Warner & Kaine Announce $1.4 Million in Federal Funding to Expand Access to Mental Health Care in Virginia
Aug 25 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,398,428 in federal funding for the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to expand access to mental health care in Virginia. The funding was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Community Mental Health Services Block Grant program. This program allocates funding to states to provide comprehensive, community-based mental health services to adults and children with significant mental health conditions.
“Every Virginian deserves access to high-quality, affordable mental health care,” said the senators. “The last few years have underscored the importance of access to mental health services, and we’re glad this funding will help more Virginians reach the care they need.”
States may distribute funds from this program to local government entities and nongovernmental organizations to provide community mental health services. The funding was made possible by the (BSCA), which the senators helped pass. In Fiscal Year 2023, Virginia has received over $25 million in federal funding through the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant program.
Warner and Kaine have long supported efforts to expand access to mental health care. Warner and Kaine are sponsors of the CONNECT for Health Act, which would expand coverage of telehealth services, including mental health treatment and treatment for substance use disorders. Warner has additionally successfully pressed the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to finalize long-delayed regulations allowing doctors to prescribe controlled substances, including those that treat opioid use disorder, through telehealth. Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced legislation to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals, which President Biden signed into law last year. Last year, the senators announced $1 million in federal funding through the BSCA to expand and enhance the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in Virginia. Kaine has also introduced legislation to support children’s access to mental health care, which was included in last year’s government funding bill that the senators helped pass.
Warner & Kaine Announce $1 Million in Federal Funding for Manufacturing Partnership in Martinsville to Support Medical Device Manufacturing
Aug 23 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $1,000,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for the A.L. Philpott Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP), also known as GENEDGE Alliance, in Martinsville. This funding will help GENEDGE support small and medium-sized medical device manufacturers across Virginia in their efforts to strengthen medical supply chain resiliency and improve product quality by providing the manufacturers increased access to specialized expertise and resources. Specifically, with this funding, GENEDGE will assist the businesses in increasing sales, creating jobs, training more experts in the medical device manufacturing process, reducing risks in the process, providing educational resources, and growing our manufacturing industry.
“Virginians rely on their medical devices every day, and supporting our medical manufacturing industry is critical to ensure patients and providers can access the products they need,” said the Senators. “The pandemic highlighted the importance of ensuring our domestic medical supply chains are strong to improve public health, lower costs, and reduce our reliance on other nations. This funding will strengthen our efforts to do just that. We’re glad these federal dollars will help GENEDGE support small and medium-sized manufacturers across Virginia by training workers, creating jobs, reducing risks in the manufacturing process, and improving the quality of medical devices.”
GENEDGE is a part of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network. In Fiscal Year 2022, the MEP National Network generated $35.80 in new sales growth for manufacturers for every one dollar received in federal funding, which is up $9.60 from Fiscal Year 2021. Last year, Sens. Warner and Kaine announced over $2 million in federal funding for GENEDGE.
WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $25,000,000 in federal funding from the Department of Agriculture awarded to Scott County Telephone Cooperative to deploy broadband and expand access to high-speed internet in Southwest Virginia. Tomorrow, Sen. Warner will join Rural Utility Services Administrator Andrew Berke, members of the LENOWISCO Planning District Commission, and community leaders in Big Stone Gap, VA to celebrate this funding and touch on the importance of bringing high-speed internet to rural communities.
“For almost two decades, dating all the way back to my time as governor, I have stressed the need for access to broadband coverage and high-speed internet in every corner of the Commonwealth, and I was proud to negotiate the bipartisan infrastructure law that has made significant progress on this front,” said Sen. Warner. “Access to fast, reliable, and affordable internet is crucial to ensuring our rural communities grow and thrive, and I’m thrilled that this $25 million investment for Norton, Wise County, and Lee County will help our small businesses, students, and residents stay connected.”
“High-quality internet is crucial to reach services like health care, work, and educational opportunities,” said Sen. Kaine. “Every Virginian, no matter where they live, deserves access to affordable, reliable internet access. I’m glad this funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which I was proud to help pass, will help thousands of Virginians in Norton, Wise County, and Lee County do just that.”
The funding will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network that will provide high-speed internet to more than 17,000 residents, 1,018 businesses, 37 farms and 49 educational facilities in Norton City, Wise County and Lee County Virginia. This funding was awarded though the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, and funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law (BIL).
Sens. Warner and Kaine have long fought to expand access to broadband in Virginia. Earlier this year, the Senators announced over $1.4 billion in funding for the deployment of broadband throughout the Commonwealth. As a key author and negotiator of the BIL, Sen. Warner also previously secured $65 billion in funding to help deploy broadband and decrease costs associated with connecting to the internet, and Sen. Kaine voted for the BIL to help make the funding possible. As part of that funding, Virginia received $5 million to help make a strategic plan to deploy coverage.
Aug 18 2023
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced the inclusion of key Virginia priorities in the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2024 draft funding bills. All 12 bills were passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on a bipartisan basis.
“We are proud to announce that the Senate’s draft government spending legislation for Fiscal Year 2024 includes critical funding that will keep the government open, back record investments in infrastructure and U.S. competitiveness, uplift rural and underserved communities, support servicemembers and military families, provide assistance to miners suffering from black lung disease, and support key industries that are central to Virginia’s economy. We’re also proud to have secured more than $111 million for specific community projects all throughout Virginia as we work to ensure our federal budget meets Virginians’ needs. We hope that our colleagues in the House of Representatives will negotiate in good faith in order to reach a compromise on a final deal that includes funding for these important priorities,” said Sens. Warner and Kaine.
As part of the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process, members of Congress were able to work with the communities they represent to request funding for local community projects, otherwise known as earmarks, in a manner that promotes transparency and accountability. This process allows Congress to dedicate federal funding for specific projects in Virginia. The Senators worked to secure more than $111 million for community projects across the Commonwealth. In addition to battling for these priorities, the Senators will work to ensure funds obtained by Virginia House members also remain in the final spending bills.
More information regarding specific projects in Virginia that will receive Congressionally Directed Spending is available below:
- For projects in Northern Virginia, click here.
- For projects in Central Virginia, click here.
- For projects in the Shenandoah Valley, click here.
- For projects in Southwest Virginia and Southside, click here.
- For projects in Hampton Roads, click here.
- For projects that impact communities in multiple regions across the Commonwealth click here.
The following list includes many provisions championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine on behalf of Virginia that were included in the 12 government funding bills:
Boosting Local Economies: Includes $200 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission and $20 million for the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission to support their work to build economic partnerships, create opportunity, and foster economic development.
Implementing the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022: Includes $11 billion to implement the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine. Funding will allow the U.S. to keep pace with China and other competitors in scientific fields that can power the economy, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, microelectronics, clean energy, and advanced communications. Sen. Warner first introduced the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act in June 2020 along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA): Provides full funding for numerous transportation programs authorized in the IIJA, including $29.5 billion for the National Highway Performance Program, $3.1 billion for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, $245 million for the Rail-Highway Grade Crossings Program, $14.3 billion for the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, and $2.4 billion for the Bridge Investment Program. Sen. Warner was a lead author and negotiator of the IIJA.
Strengthening Transportation and Recreation Infrastructure: Provides $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and $45 million for the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program, which supports multi-purpose trails.
Making Our Communities Safer: Provides $732 million – a $32 million increase from Fiscal Year 2023 – for Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution programs to prevent violence and better support survivors. This legislation also includes over $534 million for Community Oriented Policing Services to support state and local law enforcement and communities in developing comprehensive, evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs based on partnerships between community residents, law enforcement, local government agencies, and other community stakeholders. This includes efforts to address gang and gun violence and improve school safety.
Support for Missing Persons Program: Includes $1 million to help with the nationwide implementation of the Ashanti Alert system. In 2018, Sen. Warner secured unanimous Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that created a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. The bill was signed into law on December 31, 2018.
Investing in Children: Provides $8.7 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which provides financial assistance to help low-income families access child care. This is $700 million more than Fiscal Year 2023. The bill also includes $12.3 billion, $300 million more than Fiscal Year 2023, for Head Start, the national school readiness program. In July, Sens. Warner and Kaine urged the White House to provide additional funding to help stabilize the child care industry. In April, Sen. Kaine introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, legislation that would help ensure families can find and afford child care by expanding access to more high-quality options, stabilizing the child care sector, and helping ensure child care workers taking care of our nation’s kids are paid livable wages. The bill also includes $15 million for the Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health program – a program that Sen. Kaine reauthorized via bipartisan legislation.
Making Higher Education More Affordable: Provides a $250 boost to the maximum Pell Grant in the 2024-2025 school year, raising the maximum award to $7,645. The bill also includes over $1 billion, an increase of $5 million, for programs to strengthen Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.
Supporting K-12 Education: Provides over $18.5 billion for Title I-A grants, which supports school districts with low-income students. This is $175 million more from Fiscal Year 2023. The bill also provides over $5 billion for the primary Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Special Education State grant program, an increase of $175 million from Fiscal Year 2023. In July, Sen. Kaine reintroduced the IDEA Full Funding Act, legislation that would ensure Congress fulfills its commitment to fully fund IDEA through regular, mandatory increases in spending.
Investing in Affordable Housing: Includes $1.5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides fundingto state and local governments for housing construction, and $3.3 billion in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which can be used to support affordable housing, community development, and economic development. Also includes $3.9 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants (HAG), to help families and individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Sens. Warner and Kaine are strong advocates for affordable housing funding each year.
Supporting Nutrition Programs: The bill includes $6.3 billion – a $615 million increase from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to ensure over 6 million women, infants, and children can access adequate nutrition. It also fully funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to serve an estimated 42 million people per month – with no new restrictions on eligibility – and fully funds the Child Nutrition Programs to help serve an estimated 5 billion lunches and 2.6 billion breakfasts to kids across the country.
Fighting Global Hunger: Provides $1.8 billion for the Food for Peace program and $248.3 million for the McGovern-Dole Food for Education program, while the State and Foreign Operations bill provides a $691 million increase in funding for humanitarian assistance programs, including increased investments in addressing global hunger and enhancing food security.
Preventing and Treating Substance Use: Provides $5 billion – an increase of $125 million over Fiscal Year 2023 – for opioid treatment and prevention. This includes $40 million for the Substance Use Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services Block Grant; $20 million for the State Opioid Response grants; $10 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program; and $20 million for NIH opioid research programs.
Fighting the Flow of Fentanyl: Includes $719 million to improve the detection and seizure of fentanyl and other narcotics at ports of entry with new technology and personnel. Invests $105 million in new resources to disrupt transnational criminal organizations and stop fentanyl and illicit drugs at their source. Sens. Warner and Kaine are both cosponsors of the Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act, a sanctions and anti-money laundering bill targeting the illicit fentanyl supply chain. Earlier this year, Sens. Kaine and Joni Ernst (R-IA) led bipartisan legislation to direct increased federal attention to fentanyl trafficking by utilizing the tools of the Department of Defense and involving Mexico as an active partner to combat the fentanyl crisis. That legislation was included in the Senate-passed National Defense Authorization Act.
Addressing Long COVID Needs: Includes $10 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to support access to comprehensive, coordinated, and person-centered care, particularly for underserved, rural, vulnerable, or minority populations that are disproportionately impacted by the effects of Long COVID. Also includes $5 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish a network of Long COVID Centers of Excellence that can gather, develop and disseminate data regarding evidence-based treatment; educate and train providers on best practices; conduct outreach to affected populations and community organizations; and coordinate access to care. Sen. Kaine has been a strong advocate for helping individuals with Long COVID, including by leading the bipartisan Long COVID Support Act with Sen. Todd Young (R-IN).
Supporting Rural Health: Includes a $12 million increase for Rural Health programs. This includes a $10 million increase in the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program and a $2 million increase for the Rural Health Outreach program, which supports projects that demonstrate new and innovative modes of outreach in rural areas. Also includes $5 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish an Office of Rural Health. Sen. Kaine supported the establishment of this office as a cosponsor of the Rural Health Equity Act, and led a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee in FY23 requesting this funding.
Addressing the Maternal Mortality Crisis: Includes an increase of $10 million for the Implementing a Maternal health and Pregnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) Initiative to combat alarming rates of maternal mortality, as well as an increase of $2.5 million for programs to improve health outcomes during and after pregnancy and reduce disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. Also includes $110.5 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions Safe Motherhood and Infant Health programs, which is a $2,500,000 increase from fiscal year 2023 and more than $1.7 billion for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which is a $10,000,000 increase from fiscal year 2023. Sen. Kaine led a bipartisan letter to the Appropriations Committee asking for robust funding for these programs.
Pandemic Preparedness: Includes $3.67 billion for the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR). This includes a $20 million increase for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to support the advanced development of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and devices for potential serious public health threats, and $75 million to establish a new program in manufacturing and production to ensure that critical resources including medical countermeasures and ancillary supplies are manufactured in the United States.
Increasing Funding for Pediatric Research: Provides $12.6 million to further fund the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act—legislation championed by Sens. Warner and Kaine and named after a child from Loudoun County who died from a brain tumor in 2013.
Supporting the Refugee Resettlement Program: Includes $133 million for refugee settlement to meet the goal of 125,000 refugee admissions for Fiscal Year 2024.
Expanding Home Energy Assistance: Includes $4.075 billion – an increase of $75 million from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides assistance to low-income households to help heat or cool their homes. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for lowering energy costs and have consistently advocated for robust funding for LIHEAP.
Expanding High-Speed Internet Access: Includes $98 million for the USDA’s ReConnect Program to expand access to high-speed broadband to remote underserved areas. Sens. Warner and Kaine have been vocal advocates for expanding broadband. As Governors and Senators, Sens. Warner and Kaine have long supported expanding broadband access in Virginia. During the pandemic, they secured significant funding for broadband through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Sens. Warner and Kaine also joined a bipartisan letter to Senate leadership requesting this funding earlier this year, and Sen. Warner personally secured billions of dollars for broadband expansion in both the American Rescue Plan and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Increasing Military Pay and Compensation: Fully funds the 5.2 percent pay raise for servicemembers, while providing $29.6 billion for housing and $8.4 billion for subsistence – including BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) and BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence—food for servicemembers not living in government quarters).
Economic Support for Underserved Communities: Provides $341 million for the U.S. Department of the Treasury Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund. Sens. Warner and Kaine requested this funding. Sen. Warner has led efforts in Congress to support CDFIs through legislation including the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act and the creation of the bipartisan Senate Community Development Finance Caucus.
Small Businesses: Provides $1.2 billion to the Small Business Administration to help small businesses thrive. This funding will support SBA’s lending programs, which increase access to capital for small businesses, as well as their entrepreneurial development programs, which include services that help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, such as the Small Business Development Center and Women’s Business Centers networks.
Addressing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Delays and Customer Service Issues: Includes $12.3 billion for the IRS, which will enable it to continue to update ancient computer systems, improve customer service, and reduce wait times for refunds and other services. Sens. Warner and Kaine have consistently pushed the IRS to address poor customer service and severe delays within the department.
Support for Miners: Includes $12.19 million for Black Lung Clinics. Sens. Warner and Kaine have actively worked to secure benefits for miners and their families suffering from black lung disease. In July, Sens. Warner and Kaine reintroduced the Relief for Survivors of Miners Act, which would ease restrictions to make it easier for miners’ survivors to successfully claim benefits. In June, the Senators also urged the Biden Administration to issue new silica standards to protect miners across America – a push that helped contribute towards the release of those standards.
Restoring the Chesapeake Bay: Includes $93 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program, the primary federal program that coordinates Chesapeake Bay restoration and protection efforts throughout the Bay watershed.
Strengthening Our Ports: Provides $1.2 billion for the Maritime Administration (MARAD), including $213 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP), which supports the buildout and modernization of our nation’s ports including the Port of Virginia.
Advancing Scientific Discovery: Includes $8.43 billion – an increase of $330 million from Fiscal Year 2023 – for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science sponsors basic research in the physical sciences and supports 22,000 researchers at 17 national laboratories across the country, including Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia.
Protecting our Courts: Provides $11.4 million to improve security of the Walter E. Hoffman Courthouse in Norfolk, Virginia. Sen. Kaine visited the Hoffman Courthouse in 2020 to observe the serious security vulnerabilities firsthand and the Senators have been fighting to enhance its security ever since. The Senators last wrote to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in January 2023 to push for the long delayed security measures.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), sponsors of the bipartisan Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, today applauded a proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to strengthen Horse Protection Act (HPA) requirements, issuing the following statement:
“As the authors of bipartisan legislation to ban the cruel and abusive practice of horse soring, we applaud today’s proposal from the USDA to strengthen the Horse Protection Act and eliminate the use of horse soring at horse shows, exhibitions, sales and auctions.”
Soring is a process by which horse trainers intentionally apply substances or devices to horses’ limbs to make each step painful and force an exaggerated high-stepping gait rewarded in show rings. Although federal law prohibits soring, a USDA Inspector General (IG) report found that some horse trainers continue this inhumane practice.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today urged several artificial intelligence (AI) companies to take additional action to promote safety and prevent malicious misuse of their products. In a series of letters, Sen. Warner applauded certain companies for publicly joining voluntary commitments proposed by the Biden administration, but encouraged them to broaden their efforts, and called on companies that have not taken this public step to commit to making their products more secure.
As AI is rolled out more broadly, researchers have repeatedly demonstrated a number of concerning, exploitable weaknesses in prominent products, including abilities to generate credible-seeming misinformation, develop malware, and craft sophisticated phishing techniques. In July, the Biden administration announced that several AI companies had agreed to a series of voluntary commitments that would promote greater security and transparency. However, the commitments were not fully comprehensive in scope or in participation, with many companies not publicly participating and several exploitable aspects of the technology left untouched by the commitments.
In a series of letters sent today, Sen. Warner pushed directly on companies that did not participate, including Apple, Midjourney, Mistral AI, Databricks, Scale AI, and Stability AI, requesting a response detailing the steps they plan to take to increase the security of their products and prioritize transparency. Sen. Warner additionally sent letters to companies that were involved in the Biden administration’s commitments, including Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection AI, Meta, Microsoft, and OpenAI, asking that they extend commitments to less capable models and also develop consumer-facing commitments – such as development and monitoring practices – to prevent the most serious forms of misuse.
“While representing an important improvement upon the status quo, the voluntary commitments announced in July can be bolstered in key ways through additional commitments,” Sen. Warner wrote.
Sen. Warner also called specific attention to the urgent need for all AI companies to make additional commitments to safeguard against a few highly sensitive potential misuses, including non-consensual intimate image generation (including child sexual abuse material), social-scoring, real-time facial recognition, and proliferation activity in the context of malicious cyber activity or the production of biological or chemical agents.
The letters follow up on Sen. Warner’s previous efforts to engage directly with AI companies to push for responsible development and deployment. In April, Sen. Warner directly called on AI CEOs to develop practices that would ensure that their products and systems are secure. In July, he also pushed on the Biden administration to keep working with AI companies to expand the scope of the voluntary commitments.
Additionally, Sen. Warner wrote to Google last week to raise concerns about their testing of new AI technology in real medical settings. Separately, he urged the CEOs of several AI companies to address a concerning report that generative chatbots were producing instructions on how to exacerbate an eating disorder. Additionally, he has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at making tech safer and more humane, including the RESTRICT Act, which would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries; the SAFE TECH Act, which would reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, online harassment, and discrimination on social media platforms; and the Honest Ads Act, which would require online political advertisements to adhere to the same disclaimer requirements as TV, radio, and print ads.
Copies of each of the letters can be found here.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today urged CEOs of several prominent artificial intelligence (AI) companies to address reports that their chatbots are easily exploited to provide detailed instructions that promote eating disorders. In a series of letters to the CEOs of Open AI, Google, and Snap, Sen. Warner called attention to concerning responses and urged each company to immediately stop disseminating harmful content.
According to a recent study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard and Snapchat’s My AI consistently generate content that promote eating disorders. When prompted, these chatbots provide detailed information on hiding uneaten food from parents, instructions to trigger a gag reflex, and promote “chewing and spitting” as an extreme weight loss method, among other troubling examples.
“The failure of your company to implement adequate safeguards to protect vulnerable individuals, especially teens and children, from well-established and foreseeable harms is of grave concern, and I urge you to quickly take steps to fix this glaring problem,” Sen. Warner wrote.
The letters raise concerns specific to each chatbot’s troubling responses and highlight the high occurrence and fatality rates of eating disorders. Research from Sen. Warner’s office further showed that leading datasets used for model training include harmful eating disorder content – potentially embedding harmful associations into the most powerful generative models.
“I urge you to immediately take steps to protect vulnerable users from your products by implementing safeguards that prevent your products from providing harmful advice and recommendations related to eating disorders, including securing against prompt injection techniques,” Sen. Warner continued.
The letters also raise concern with the inability of leading generative AI companies to implement adequate safeguards from well-established and foreseeable harms. Each letter concludes with a request for a written plan from each company on their efforts to eradicate these harmful model behaviors.
Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has been a vocal advocate for responsible AI development and deployment. Earlier this week, he wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai to raise concerns about Google’s testing of new AI technology in real medical settings. Last month, he called on the Biden administration to work with AI companies to develop additional guardrails around the responsible deployment of AI. In April, Sen. Warner directly expressed concerns to several AI CEOs – including Sam Altman and Sundar Pichai – about the potential risks posed by AI, and called on companies to ensure that their products and systems are secure. He has also introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at making tech safer and more humane, including the RESTRICT Act, which would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries; the SAFE TECH Act, which would reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, online harassment, and discrimination on social media platforms; and the Honest Ads Act, which would require online political advertisements to adhere to the same disclaimer requirements as TV, radio, and print ads.
Copies of each letter can be found here.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and author of the bipartisan law to invest in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, today released a statement on the one-year anniversary of the CHIPS and Science Act:
“I fought to pass the CHIPS and Science Act because it’s good for our supply chains, our families, and our national security to make semiconductors here at home. In the year since, the law has bolstered innovation, helped America to compete against countries like China for the technology of the future, and created good-paying manufacturing jobs that will grow the middle class.”
Nearly everything that has an “on” switch – from electric toothbrushes and calculators to airplanes and satellites – contains a semiconductor. One year ago, President Biden signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act, a law co-authored by Warner to make a nearly $53 billion investment in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, research and development, and workforce, and create a 25 percent tax credit for capital investments in semiconductor manufacturing.
Semiconductors were invented in the United States, but today we produce only about 12 percent of global supply – and none of the most advanced chips. Similarly, investments in research and development have fallen to less than 1 percent of GDP from 2 percent in the mid-1960s at the peak of the space race. TheCHIPS and Science Act aims to change this by driving American competitiveness, making American supply chains more resilient, and supporting our national security and access to key technologies. In the one year since it was signed into law, companies have announced over $231 billion in commitments in semiconductor and electronics investments in the United States.
Last month, Sen. Warner co-hosted the CHIPS for Virginia Summit, convening industry, federal and state government, and academic leaders for a series of strategic discussions on how to propel Virginia forward in the booming U.S. semiconductor economy.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark Warner joined Sens. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Edward Markey (D-MA), and others to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce its existing regulations regarding consent for receiving telemarketing calls, also known as robocalls. The letter also asks the FCC to issue guidance along the lines of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recent Business Guidance restating the FCC’s long-held requirements for these unwanted telemarketing calls. By issuing guidance similar to the FTC’s, the FCC will assist telemarketers and sellers in complying with these requirements.
“While the consideration of new regulations may be appropriate in some instances, we believe that the FCC’s current regulations already prohibit many of the activities that lead to the proliferation of unwanted telemarketing calls,” wrote the Senators. “Both the regulations issued in 2003 delineating the rules for telemarketers to obtain consent for calls to lines subscribed to the Do Not Call Registry, and those issued in 2012 governing consent to receive telemarketing calls made with an artificial or prerecorded voice or an automated telephone dialing system, clearly set out the types of protections intended by Congress to eliminate unwanted telemarketing calls.”
The Senators concluded, “As Congress instructed the FCC ‘to maximize consistency with the rule promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission’ relating to the implementation of the Do-Not-Call Registry, we respectfully urge the FCC to issue a guidance along the lines of the FTC’s recent Business Guidance restating its long-held requirements for these unwanted telemarketing calls. As inconsistent rules governing the same activity would be problematic, by issuing guidance similar to the FTC’s, the FCC will assist telemarketers and sellers in complying with these requirements.”
Sen. Warner, a former cell phone entrepreneur, has been active in fighting robocalls for many years. He sponsored the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act to give regulators – including the FCC – more time to find scammers, increase civil forfeiture penalties, require service providers to adopt call authentication and blocking, and bring relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers. Former President Trump signed the TRACED Act into law in 2019. In July, he applauded new efforts from the FTC to crack down on spam calls.
In addition to Sens. Warner, Lujan, and Markey, the letter is signed by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Peter Welch (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Angus King (I-ME), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Gary Peters (D-MI). This letter is endorsed by Appleseed, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Electronic Privacy Information Center, National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, National Consumers League, Public Citizen, Public Knowledge, and U.S. PIRG.
Full text of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Chairwoman Rosenworcel:
We are heartened that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering ways to curtail the number of unwanted telemarketing calls—currently over 1.25 billion every month—in a proceeding pending under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). As the Commission recognizes, the continued onslaught of illegal calls threatens the trustworthiness and usefulness of our nation’s telephone system.
While the consideration of new regulations may be appropriate in some instances, we believe that the FCC’s current regulations already prohibit many of the activities that lead to the proliferation of unwanted telemarketing calls. Both the regulations issued in 2003 delineating the rules for telemarketers to obtain consent for calls to lines subscribed to the Do Not Call Registry, and those issued in 2012 governing consent to receive telemarketing calls made with an artificial or prerecorded voice or an automated telephone dialing system, clearly set out the types of protections intended by Congress to eliminate unwanted telemarketing calls. Both of these regulations allow robocalls calls only if the call recipients sign a written agreement relating to calls from a single seller.
Additionally, the FCC’s 2003 regulation for telemarketing calls to lines registered on the Do Not Call Registry requires that the “signed, written agreement” must be “between the consumer and the seller.” This requirement provides two protections. First, it means that the seller, not a telemarketer or a lead generator, or anyone other than the seller, or the agent of the seller, must be party to the agreement with the consumer. Second, it limits the calls that are covered by the agreement to calls related only to the seller that was the party to the agreement. Enforcement of the current limitations applicable to agreements providing consent for telemarketing calls under the existing regulations would eliminate the sale and trading of these consents which have led to the proliferation of unwanted telemarketing robocalls.
Moreover, as many of these agreements are entered into online, current federal law requires specific protections for consumers receiving writings through electronic records in the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (the E-Sign Act). One example of these protections in the E-Sign Act is the prohibition of oral communication as a substitute for a writing. Although telemarketers routinely ignore the requirements of the E-Sign Act, the legislation’s mandate for E-Sign consent before writings can be provided in electronic records in 15 U.S.C. § 7001(c) is fully applicable.
Finally, as Congress instructed the FCC “to maximize consistency with the rule promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission” relating to the implementation of the Do-Not-Call Registry, we respectfully urge the FCC to issue a guidance along the lines of the FTC’s recent Business Guidance restating its long-held requirements for these unwanted telemarketing calls. As inconsistent rules governing the same activity would be problematic, by issuing guidance similar to the FTC’s, the FCC will assist telemarketers and sellers in complying with these requirements. This guidance should also emphasize that the obligations imposed by the E-Sign Act apply when these agreements are entered into online.
We appreciate your work to curb unwanted and illegal robocalls. Issuing guidance that emphasizes the meaningful requirements of current regulations as well as the requirements of the federal E-Sign Act will go a long way to reduce the number of unwanted robocalls. Thank you for your consideration of this request.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today urged Google CEO Sundar Pichai to provide more clarity into his company’s deployment of Med-PaLM 2, an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot currently being tested in health care settings. In a letter, Sen. Warner expressed concerns about reports of inaccuracies in the technology, and called on Google to increase transparency, protect patient privacy, and ensure ethical guardrails.
In April, Google began testing Med-PaLM2 with customers, including the Mayo Clinic. Med-PaLM 2 can answer medical questions, summarize documents, and organize health data. While the technology has shown some promising results, there are also concerning reports of repeated inaccuracies and of Google’s own senior researchers expressing reservations about the readiness of the technology. Additionally, much remains unknown about where Med-PaLM 2 is being tested, what data sources it learns from, to what extent patients are aware of and can object to the use of AI in their treatment, and what steps Google has taken to protect against bias.
“While artificial intelligence (AI) undoubtedly holds tremendous potential to improve patient care and health outcomes, I worry that premature deployment of unproven technology could lead to the erosion of trust in our medical professionals and institutions, the exacerbation of existing racial disparities in health outcomes, and an increased risk of diagnostic and care-delivery errors,” Sen. Warner wrote.
The letter raises concerns over AI companies prioritizing the race to establish market share over patient well-being. Sen. Warner also emphasizes his previous efforts to raise the alarm about Google skirting health privacy as it trained diagnostic models on sensitive health data without patients’ knowledge or consent.
“It is clear more work is needed to improve this technology as well as to ensure the health care community develops appropriate standards governing the deployment and use of AI,” Sen. Warner continued.
The letter poses a broad range of questions for Google to answer, requesting more transparency into exactly how Med-PaLM 2 is being rolled out, what data sources Med-PaLM 2 learns from, how much information and agency patients have over how AI is involved in their care, and more.
Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has been a vocal advocate for Big Tech accountability and a stronger national posture against cyberattacks and misinformation online. In April, Sen. Warner directly expressed concerns to several AI CEOs – including Sundar Pichai – about the potential risks posed by AI, and called on companies to ensure that their products and systems are secure. Last month, he called on the Biden administration to work with AI companies to develop additional guardrails around the responsible deployment of AI. He has also introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at making tech more secure, including the RESTRICT Act, which would comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries; the SAFE TECH Act, which would reform Section 230 and allow social media companies to be held accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, online harassment, and discrimination on social media platforms; and the Honest Ads Act, which would require online political advertisements to adhere to the same disclaimer requirements as TV, radio, and print ads.
A copy of the letter can be found here are below.
Dear Mr. Pichai,
I write to express my concern regarding reports that Google began providing Med-PaLM 2 to hospitals to test early this year. While artificial intelligence (AI) undoubtedly holds tremendous potential to improve patient care and health outcomes, I worry that premature deployment of unproven technology could lead to the erosion of trust in our medical professionals and institutions, the exacerbation of existing racial disparities in health outcomes, and an increased risk of diagnostic and care-delivery errors.
Over the past year, large technology companies, including Google, have been rushing to develop and deploy AI models and capture market share as the technology has received increased attention following OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT. Numerous media outlets have reported that companies like Google and Microsoft have been willing to take bigger risks and release more nascent technology in an effort to gain a first mover advantage. In 2019, I raised concerns that Google was skirting health privacy laws through secretive partnerships with leading hospital systems, under which it trained diagnostic models on sensitive health data without patients’ knowledge or consent. This race to establish market share is readily apparent and especially concerning in the health care industry, given the life-and-death consequences of mistakes in the clinical setting, declines of trust in health care institutions in recent years, and the sensitivity of health information. One need look no further than AI pioneer Joseph Weizenbaum’s experiments involving chatbots in psychotherapy to see how users can put premature faith in even basic AI solutions.
According to Google, Med-PaLM 2 can answer medical questions, summarize documents, and organize health data. While AI models have previously been used in medical settings, the use of generative AI tools presents complex new questions and risks. According to the Wall Street Journal, a senior research director at Google who worked on Med-PaLM 2 said, “I don’t feel that this kind of technology is yet at a place where I would want it in my family’s healthcare journey.” Indeed, Google’s own research, released in May, showed that Med-PaLM 2’s answers contained more inaccurate or irrelevant information than answers provided by physicians. It is clear more work is needed to improve this technology as well as to ensure the health care community develops appropriate standards governing the deployment and use of AI
Given these serious concerns and the fact that VHC Health, based in Arlington, Virginia, is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, I request that you provide answers to the following questions.
- Researchers have found large language models to display a phenomenon described as “sycophany,” wherein the model generates responses that confirm or cater to a user’s (tacit or explicit) preferred answers, which could produce risks of misdiagnosis in the medical context. Have you tested Med-PaLM 2 for this failure mode?
- Large language models frequently demonstrate the tendency to memorize contents of their training data, which can risk patient privacy in the context of models trained on sensitive health information. How has Google evaluated Med-PaLM 2 for this risk and what steps has Google taken to mitigate inadvertent privacy leaks of sensitive health information?
- What documentation did Google provide hospitals, such as Mayo Clinic, about Med-PaLM 2? Did it share model or system cards, datasheets, data-statements, and/or test and evaluation results?
- Google’s own research acknowledges that its clinical models reflect scientific knowledge only as of the time the model is trained, necessitating “continual learning.” What is the frequency with which Google fully or partially re-trains Med-PaLM 2? Does Google ensure that licensees use only the most up-to-date model version?
- Google has not publicly provided documentation on Med-PaLM 2, including refraining from disclosing the contents of the model’s training data. Does Med-PaLM 2’s training corpus include protected health information?
- Does Google ensure that patients are informed when Med-PaLM 2, or other AI models offered or licensed by, are used in their care by health care licensees? If so, how is the disclosure presented? Is it part of a longer disclosure or more clearly presented?
- Do patients have the option to opt-out of having AI used to facilitate their care? If so, how is this option communicated to patients?
- Does Google retain prompt information from health care licensees, including protected health information contained therein? Please list each purpose Google has for retaining that information.
- What license terms exist in any product license to use Med-PaLM 2 to protect patients, ensure ethical guardrails, and prevent misuse or inappropriate use of Med-PaLM 2? How does Google ensure compliance with those terms in the post-deployment context?
- How many hospitals is Med-PaLM 2 currently being used at? Please provide a list of all hospitals and health care systems Google has licensed or otherwise shared Med-Palm 2 with.
- Does Google use protected health information from hospitals using Med-PaLM 2 to retrain or finetune Med-PaLM 2 or any other models? If so, does Google require that hospitals inform patients that their protected health information may be used in this manner?
- In Google’s own research publication announcing Med-PaLM 2, researchers cautioned about the need to adopt “guardrails to mitigate against over-reliance on the output of a medical assistant.” What guardrails has Google adopted to mitigate over-reliance on the output of Med-PaLM 2 as well as when it particularly should and should not be used? What guardrails has Google incorporated through product license terms to prevent over-reliance on the output?
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $25,144,014 in federal funding for Virginia Beach to protect critical infrastructure from the impacts of consistent flooding and rising sea levels. The project will fund several upgrades – including stormwater pump stations – to support coastal resilience across the city and along Shore Drive.
“Rising sea levels threaten lives and livelihoods, and also risk the continued strength of our roads and bridges,” the senators said. “We’re glad to see $25 million headed straight to Virginia Beach to further shore up resilience efforts across Hampton Roads, protecting residents from the danger of severe weather, the threat of property damage, and the frustration of flooded roads.”
This grant will protect vital infrastructure in Virginia Beach and along Shore Drive that is being impacted by rising sea levels, higher tidal systems, and stormwater runoff that results in regular roadway floods during normal rain events. This project will include two large stormwater pump stations, an automated tide gate, two significant outfall discharges, collection systems, a rain garden, and canal deepening and widening to alleviate flooding in the community. This project will protect up to a 100-year base flood elevation, mitigate flooding on transportation infrastructure and on 11 Repetitive Loss properties, and provide drainage to 614 buildings.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have consistently fought for more resilience measures across Hampton Roads. As part of the bipartisan infrastructure law (BIL), Sens. Warner and Kaine secured $1.5 million for the Virginia Beach and Vicinity Coastal Storm Risk Management Study. Also through the BIL, they secured nearly $399 million for the Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Project, which will reduce and manage flooding in Norfolk through a system of surge barriers, tidal gates, floodwalls, levees, pump stations, and non-structural measures. In June, Sens. Warner and Kaine visited Norfolk for the signing of the Project Partnership Agreement, which kicked off the formal partnership between the City of Norfolk and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, allowing the project to commence.
This funding was awarded through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant program. The BRIC program provides funding for proactive upgrades to areas at greater risk of damage from hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires.
Statement of U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner on DEA's Consideration of a Rule Allowing Certain Controlled Substances to be Prescribed via Telehealth
Aug 04 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today released the following statement on a notice by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that it will consider creating a special registration process that would allow quality health care providers to prescribe controlled substances over telehealth safely, as they’ve done during the pandemic. Sen. Warner has been a vocal advocate for telehealth and has previously called on the DEA to establish this process.
“Telehealth was a lifesaver for patients during the peak of the pandemic and has since opened the door to uncomplicated and reliable access to a doctor for patients who need it. Given the shortage of mental health providers and the increased need for access to prescribers through telehealth, I’m pleased that the DEA is finally looking into establishing a rule to allow specially trained prescribers to continue administering controlled substances virtually without requiring an in-person visit. This rule will be especially meaningful to patients who rely on medications that treat opioid use disorder, among many others. I encourage prescribers and patients to participate in the DEA’s public comment period and provide their input on this proposed rule.”
Since 2008, Congress has directed the DEA to set up a special registration process, an exception process under the Ryan Haight Act, a law that regulates the online prescription of controlled substances. This special registration process would open up the door for quality health care providers to evaluate a patient and prescribe these medications over telehealth safely, as was done for years during the pandemic.
Sen. Warner, a former tech entrepreneur, has been a longtime advocate for increased access to telehealth. He is an original cosponsor of the CONNECT for Health Act, which would expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities permanent, improve health outcomes, and make it easier for patients to safely connect with their doctors. He previously wrote to both the Biden and Trump administrations, urging the DEA to finalize regulations long-delayed by prior administrations allowing doctors to prescribe controlled substances through telehealth. Sen. Warner also sent a letter to Senate leadership during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, calling for the permanent expansion of access to telehealth services.
In 2018, Sen. Warner included a provision to expand financial coverage for virtual substance use treatment in the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. In 2003, then-Gov. Warner expanded Medicaid coverage for telemedicine statewide, including evaluation and management visits, a range of individual psychotherapies, the full range of consultations, and some clinical services, including in cardiology and obstetrics. Coverage was also expanded to include non-physician providers. Among other benefits, the telehealth expansion allowed individuals in medically underserved and remote areas of Virginia to access quality specialty care that isn’t always available at home.