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STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - July 17, 2001)

``(i) In computing an annuity under this subchapter, the total service of an employee who retires from the position of a registered nurse with the Veterans Health Administration on an immediate annuity, or dies while employed in that position leaving any survivor entitled to an annuity, includes the days of unused sick leave to the credit of that employee under a formal leave system, except that such days shall not be counted in

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determining average pay or annuity eligibility under this subchapter.''.

    (b) DEPOSIT NOT REQUIRED.--Section 8422(d) of title 5, United States Code, is amended--

    (1) by inserting ``(1)'' before ``Under such regulations''; and

    (2) by adding at the end the following:

    ``(2) Deposit may not be required for days of unused sick leave credited under section 8415(i).''.

    (c) EFFECTIVE DATE.--The amendments made by this section shall take effect 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and shall apply to individuals who separate from service on or after that effective date.

   SEC. 203. EVALUATION OF DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS NURSE MANAGED CLINICS.

    (a) EVALUATION.--The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall carry out an evaluation of the efficacy of the nurse managed health care clinics of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Secretary shall complete the evaluation not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act.

    (b) CLINICS TO BE EVALUATED.--(1) In carrying out the evaluation under subsection (a), the Secretary consider nurse managed health care clinics, including primary care clinics and geriatric care clinics, located in three different Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) of the Department.

    (2) If there are not nurse managed health care clinics located in three different Veterans Integrated Service Networks as of the commencement of the evaluation, the Secretary shall--

    (A) establish nurse managed health care clinics in additional Veterans Integrated Services Networks such that there are nurse managed health care clinics in three different Veterans Integrated Service Networks for purposes of the evaluation; and

    (B) include such clinics, as so established, in the evaluation.

    (c) MATTERS TO BE EVALUATED.--In carrying out the evaluation under subsection (a), the Secretary shall address the following:

    (1) Patient satisfaction.

    (2) Provider experiences.

    (2) Cost of care.

    (4) Access to care, including waiting time for care.

    (5) The functional status of patients receiving care.

    (6) Any other matters the Secretary considers appropriate.

    (d) REPORT.--Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and the House of Representatives a report on the evaluation carried out under subsection (a). The report shall address the matters specified in subsection (c) and include any other information, and any recommendations, that the Secretary considers appropriate.

   SEC. 204. STAFFING LEVELS FOR OPERATIONS OF MEDICAL FACILITIES.

    (a) IN GENERAL.--Section 8110(a) is amended--

    (1) in paragraph (1), by inserting after ``complete care of patients,'' in the fifth sentence the following: ``and in a manner consistent with the policies of the Secretary on overtime,''; and

    (2) in paragraph (2)--

    (A) by inserting ``, including the staffing required to maintain such capacities,'' after ``all Department medical facilities'';

    (B) by striking ``and to minimize'' and inserting ``, to minimize''; and

    (C) by inserting before the period the following: ``, and to ensure that eligible veterans are provided such care and services in an appropriate manner''.

    (b) NATIONWIDE POLICY ON STAFFING.--Paragraph (3) of that section is amended--

    (1) in subparagraph (A), by inserting ``the adequacy of staff levels for compliance with the policy established under subparagraph (C),'' after ``regarding''; and

    (2) by inserting after subparagraph (B) the following new subparagraph:

    ``(C) The Secretary shall, in consultation with the Under Secretary for Health, establish a nationwide policy on the staffing of Department medical facilities in order to ensure that such facilities have adequate staff for the provision to veterans of appropriate, high-quality care and services. The policy shall take into account the staffing levels and mixture of staff skills required for the range of care and services provided veterans in Department facilities.''.

   SEC. 205. ANNUAL REPORT ON USE OF AUTHORITIES TO ENHANCE RETENTION OF EXPERIENCED NURSES.

    (a) ANNUAL REPORT.--(1) Subchapter II of chapter 73 is amended by adding at the end the following new section:``7324. Annual report on use of authorities to enhance retention of experienced nurses

    ``(a) ANNUAL REPORT.--Not later than January 31 each year, the Secretary, acting through the Under Secretary for Health, shall submit to Congress a report on the use during the preceding year of authorities for purposes of retaining experienced nurses in the Veterans Health Administration, as follows:

    ``(1) The authorities under chapter 76 of this title.

    ``(2) The authority under VA Directive 5102.1, relating to the Department of Veterans Affairs nurse qualification standard, dated November 10, 1999, or any successor directive.

    ``(3) Any other authorities available to the Secretary for those purposes.

    ``(b) REPORT ELEMENTS.--Each report under subsection (a) shall specify for the period covered by such report, for each Department medical facility and for each Veterans Integrated Service Network, the following:

    ``(1) The number of waivers requested under the authority referred to in subsection (a)(2), and the number of waivers granted under that authority, to promote to the Nurse II grade or Nurse III grade under the Nurse Schedule under section 7404(b)(1) of this title any nurse who has not completed a bachelors of science in nursing in a recognized school of nursing, set forth by age, race, and years of experience of the individuals subject to such waiver requests and waivers, as the case may be.

    ``(2) The programs carried out to facilitate the use of nursing education programs by experienced nurses, including programs for flexible scheduling, scholarships, salary replacement pay, and on-site classes.''.

    (2) The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 73 is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 7323 the following new item:

   ``7324. Annual report on use of authorities to enhance retention of experienced nurses.''.

    (b) INITIAL REPORT.--The initial report required under section 7324 of title 38, United States Code, as added by subsection (a), shall be submitted in 2002.

   SEC. 206. REPORT ON MANDATORY OVERTIME FOR NURSES AND NURSE ASSISTANTS IN DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS FACILITIES.

    (a) REPORT.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and the House of Representatives a report on the mandatory overtime required of licensed nurses and nurse assistants providing direct patient care at Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities during 2001.

    (b) MANDATORY OVERTIME.--For purposes of the report under subsection (a), mandatory overtime shall consist of any period in which a nurse or nurse assistant is mandated or otherwise required, whether directly or indirectly, to work or be in on-duty status in excess of--

    (1) a scheduled workshift or duty period;

    (2) 12 hours in any 24-hour period; or

    (3) 80 hours in any period of 14 consecutive days.

    (c) ELEMENTS.--The report under subsection (a) shall include the following:

    (1) A description of the amount of mandatory overtime described in that subsection at each Department medical facility during the period covered by the report.

    (2) A description of the mechanisms employed by the Secretary to monitor overtime of the nurses and nurse assistants referred to in that subsection.

    (3) An assessment of the effects of the mandatory overtime of such nurses and nurse assistants on patient care, including its contribution to medical errors.

    (4) Recommendations regarding mechanisms for preventing requirements for amounts of mandatory overtime in other than emergency situations by such nurses and nurse assistants.

    (5) Any other matters that the Secretary considers appropriate.

   

TITLE III--OTHER MATTERS

   SEC. 301. ORGANIZATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE NURSING SERVICE.

    Section 7306(a)(5) is amended by inserting ``, and report directly to,'' after ``responsible to''.

   SEC. 302. COMPUTATION OF ANNUITY FOR PART-TIME SERVICE PERFORMED BY CERTAIN HEALTH-CARE PROFESSIONALS BEFORE APRIL 7, 1986.

    Section 7426 is amended--

    (1) by redesignating subsection (c) as subsection (d); and

    (2) by inserting after subsection (b) the following new subsection (c):

    ``(c) The provisions of subsection (b) shall not apply to the part-time service before April 7, 1986, of a registered nurse, physician assistant, or expanded-function dental auxiliary. In computing the annuity under the applicable provision of law specified in that subsection of an individual covered by the preceding sentence, the service described in that sentence shall be credited as full-time service.''.

   SEC. 303. MODIFICATION OF NURSE LOCALITY PAY AUTHORITIES.

    Section 7451 is amended--

    (1) in subsection (d)(3)--

    (A) in subparagraph (A), by striking ``beginning rates of'' each time it appears;

    (B) in subparagraph (B), by striking ``beginning rates of''; and

    (C) in subparagraph (C)(i), by striking ``beginning rates of'' each time it appears;

    (2) in subsection (d)(4)--

    (A) by striking ``or at any other time that an adjustment in rates of pay is scheduled to take place under this subsection'' in the first sentence; and

    (B) by striking the second sentence; and

    (3) in subsection (e)(4)--

    (A) in subparagraph (A), by striking ``grade in a'';

    (B) in subparagraph (B)--

    (i) by striking ``grade of a''; and

    (ii) by striking ``that grade'' and inserting ``that position''; and

    (C) in subparagraph (D), by striking ``grade of a''.

   SEC. 304. TECHNICAL AMENDMENTS.

    Section 7631(b) is amended by striking ``this subsection'' each place it appears and inserting ``this section''.

   By Mr. HOLLINGS (for himself, Mr. INOUYE, and Mr. DORGAN):

   S. 1189. A bill to require the Federal Communications Commission to amend its daily newspaper cross -ownership rules, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

   Mr. HOLLINGS. Mr. President, I rise to introduce legislation, the Media Ownership Act of 2001, designed to rectify the increasing trend toward consolidation and away from a vibrant exchange of news and information in today's media marketplace. I am joined in this effort by my colleagues, Senators INOUYE and DORGAN, who for years have demonstrated their tireless pursuit of the public interest in the sensible regulation of media ownership .

   This legislation is necessary to stem the tide toward concentration in the broadcast and newspaper industries and force a thorough and reasoned examination of the claims that further consolidation will serve the public interest. While the phrase ``public interest'' may have a vague ring to it, its meaning should be quite clear to the five members of the Federal Communications Commission, which itself observed just a few months ago that it has both ``the duty and authority under the Communications Act to promote diversity and competition among media voices.''

   Notwithstanding that duty, it has come to my attention that the FCC is planning a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to relax or eliminate the newspaper -broadcast cross ownership rule. In addition, I understand that the FCC may consider revising, among other media ownership restrictions, the 35 percent national broadcast ownership cap later this year. I do not believe that those rules should be changed at this time. Others disagree. This legislation will enhance our debate on these issues.

   Locally relevant, independent programmers and distributors of media content are critically important energizers of civic discourse in this country. Indeed, that independence, localism and diversity are what separate our nation from countries where information is not allowed to flow freely. Accordingly, any proceeding to revisit existing ownership rules involving broadcast, print, or cable television must examine the potential impact that undue influence over local and national media outlets may have on our democracy.

   Because Congress understood the difficulty the Commission faces in quantifying democratic values such as localism and diversity, it gave the Commission the explicit and implicit statutory authority and responsibility to establish and maintain ownership caps in the media industry. Pursuant to that authority, the FCC has imposed limits on the ownership of broadcast and cable television properties, and on the cross -ownership within a market between broadcast and cable television stations, broadcast television and radio stations, and broadcast television and radio stations and newspapers.

   These ownership restrictions are based on factors outside the bounds of a traditional competitive analysis, and carry with them the authority to prevent consolidation before it rises to the level necessary to trigger antitrust intervention. for example, in light of the importance of promoting localism and diversity, a higher importance must be ascribed to preserving the balance of power between the networks and local stations than would otherwise be expected under traditional competition analysis.

   The reasons for this are simple, diversity in ownership promotes competition. Diversity

   in ownership creates opportunities for smaller companies, and local businessmen and women. Diversity in ownership allows creative programming and controversial points of views to find an outlet. Diversity in ownership promotes choices for advertisers. And diversity in ownership and the related restriction on national ownership groups preserves localism. And what in turn does this mean? Millions of Americans regularly receive their local news by watching their local broadcast stations or reading their daily newspaper . For these citizens, localism still matters.

   The proponents of increased consolidation, however, claim that the transformed media landscape demands a deregulatory response. In my view, the burden should rest on those who wish to change the rules of the game to justify those changes. If localism and diversity can be preserved in a consolidated marketplace, prove it. Arguments alone are not persuasive.

   Prior to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the top radio station group owned 39 stations and generated annual revenues of $495 million. Today, the top group owns over 1100 stations and generates revenues of almost $3.2 billion annually. This consolidation directly undercut diversity and localism in the radio marketplace. A year before Congress passed the Telecommunications Act, the FCC lifted the rules that prohibited broadcast networks from owning and creating their own television programming. This sanctioned consolidation freed the networks to seek economic stakes in, and ownership of, television programs. As the Washington Post reported last fall in an article entitled, ``Even Hits can Miss in TV's New Economy'', ``Just as supermarket might reserve its best shelf space for its house brands, the networks have begun to favor their in house programs over shows created by others, which are often less profitable in the long term.'' So we see what deregulation has brought us with radio and the market for television programming. Similar consolidation among other major media outlets should only be allowed after a thorough analysis that justifies permitting such concentration.

   The legislation that we introduce today addresses the FCC's lack of enforcement of the newspaper -broadcast cross ownership rule. The FCC's jurisdiction over newspaper broadcast ownership combinations arises from its authority to oversee broadcast communications licenses. In practice, the FCC has applied the rule only when there is a transfer or renewal of a broadcast license. So, if a broadcast station owner acquires a newspaper in the same market, there is no FCC review of the cross ownership until the station's license is up for renewal. If a newspaper owner acquires a broadcast station, however, the rule is immediately triggered because the FCC has to approve the transfer of the station's broadcast license for the transaction to go forward. When the rule was adopted, television broadcast licenses were renewed every three years. Accordingly, even when the FCC did not immediately enforce the rule, the combined entity was aware it would have to come into compliance, either by requesting a waiver, or divesting either the station or newspaper , within a short period of time.

   Today, however, broadcast station licenses are only renewed every eight years, thereby creating a significant loophole in the cross ownership rule, if it is only enforced by the Commission at the time of license renewals. Our bill would require the FCC to review immediately existing cross ownership combinations. The legislation requires a broadcast licensee to inform the FCC when it acquires a newspaper that would place the license in violation of the newspaper -broadcast cross ownership rule. Upon receipt of this information, the FCC could take a range of action under the legislation, including forcing divestiture, or granting a waiver to allow the combination to go forward.

   In addition, our legislation steps up a process whereby we in Congress can scrutinize any alternative that the Commission devises to replace the current media ownership rules, and compare the efficacy of a new cap or ownership measurement system against the current rules, to determine whether a new measurement provides a better mechanism to promote diversity and localism. Accordingly, our bill requires the FCC to provide to the House and Senate Commerce Committees, any proposed media ownership rule changes eighteen months before they become effective. These proposals must be transmitted to the Commerce committees along with clear and ample explanation of how the new formulations will better meet the Commission's public interest obligation to promote competition, diversity, and localism.

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