2012 Press Releases

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WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Senate passed Congressman Sam Farr’s (D-Carmel) bill to establish Pinnacles National Park in California.  The bill, H.R. 3641, the Pinnacles National Park Act, brought forward by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the Senate, previously passed the House of Representatives in July. It now heads to the President’s desk for his expected signature.

The bill elevates the 26,000 acre Pinnacles National Monument into a National Park.  Pinnacles National Park will be the 59th National Park created by Congress and the first since 2004.  

“The Pinnacles is a special place and I am proud to have worked with Senator Boxer to elevate it to a National Park,” said Congressman Farr.  “Often referred to as the missing novel in our National Park’s library, this treasure will finally take its rightful place on the shelf next to Yosemite, Yellowstone and all of our other wonderful parks. Today is a great day not just for California but for all Americans, who will want to now come visit this geological and ecological wonder.”

Established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, Pinnacles National Monument is the 11th oldest National Monument in the United States.  The area draws its name from the volcanic spires that were formed by the eruption of the Neenach Volcano over 23 million years ago.

The Pinnacles system is home to 149 species of birds, 49 mammals, 22 reptiles, six amphibians, 68 butterflies, 36 dragonflies and damselflies, nearly 400 bees and many thousands of other invertebrates. 

The monument is also home to 30 endangered California condors. Since 2003, the Park Service has been a part of the California Condor Recovery Program to re-establish California condors at Pinnacles.

The legislation moved quickly through Congress because of its broad, grassroots support due to the positive impact it would have on the surrounding communities.  It is supported by Monterey and San Benito counties, including their respective Chambers of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureaus.  Ken Burns, director of “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” also supports the legislation.

“The Central Coast is ready to welcome visitors to this national treasure,” said Congressman Farr. “From exploring caves, to viewing springtime wildflowers, to hiking through spire-like rock formations, visitors and families can participate in activities that leave lasting memories.  It is truly worthy of National Park status.”

The legislation also renames the Pinnacles Wilderness within the National Monument as the Hain Wilderness.  Schuler Hain was a conservationist who lead the effort to establish Pinnacles National Monument in 1908. 


Washington, DC - Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) released the following statement today after a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut: 

“As a father and a grandfather, my heart goes out to the families affected by today’s tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.  I join with all Americans in prayer for the young lives that were loss in this horrific event at Sandy Hook Elementary.  

“In the coming days, many will say that we should not politicize this tragedy by using it as a platform for a tough discussion on gun control.   However, we must ignore those calls because to do so would be the real politicization of this violent act.

“No longer can we simply turn away from these mass shootings and hope that one day they will end.  Instead, we must have a real and frank discussion on the role of guns in our society.  Congress and the states must pursue meaningful gun control laws that prevent weapons from getting into the hands of individuals who would commit these horrendous crimes. “Our nation and the children of Sandy Hook Elementary demand that we have that discussion now.”


Congressman Sam Farr (D-Carmel) praised the announcement that Monterey Peninsula College (MPC) will receive up to $1.85 million over the course of five years to continue the TRiO Math/Science Upward Bound Program, which seeks to encourage low-income and first-generation high school students to pursue math and science majors in college and eventually careers in the field. 
The six week academy simulates the college environment by having students from all over the United States live at the University of California, Santa Cruz and study marine biology through classes in marine biology, mathematics, communications, foreign language, and computer skills.  The program goes beyond preparing the students for academic success by having students also attend a personal development class to increase their understanding of themselves, others and the college experience. 

“The youth of today will determine our world of tomorrow,” said Congressman Farr.  “It is more essential than ever for our young adults, and future leaders, to be knowledgeable about the increasingly important fields based in science and math so they can be key players in our future economy.  I am delighted that this grant seeks to accomplish this by enabling MPC to aid disadvantaged youths in gaining access to a college education and open the doors to a valuable career.”

Since 2008, the program has repeatedly surpassed the expectations of what allotted funds are intended to achieve.  More than twice the number of students the program was funded to serve actually enrolled.  Each year of the program, between 98 and 100 percent of these attendees stayed for the entire session, an amount which surpassed the goal of an 80 percent retention rate.  After the students completed the program, more than 89 percent of attendees went on to enroll in a postsecondary school, a quantity which exceeded the goal by 9 percent.  Finally, at least 90 percent of students then stayed in college, a rate which drastically exceeded the goal of 60 percent. 

“Since its inception in 1990, TRiO Math Science Upward Bound has been a dynamic part of Monterey Peninsula College Student Services,” said MPC TriO Director Laurence E. Walker, dean of Student Services.  “MSUB strives to deliver outstanding STEM services to underrepresented high school students, while promoting careers in math and science.  Unique in its delivery of services, MSUB provides hands-on learning, academic support, exposure to professionals and a residential college experience. For over 20 years, MSUB has served this outstanding population, helping students make the transition to higher education. 

In my twenty-five years as an educator, I am constantly inspired and rejuvenated by the “good work” of our TRiO professionals who year after year foster the personal growth and academic success of low-income, first-generation college students. TRiO Works!"

With this grant, underprivileged teens will continue to receive the support and experience they need in order to drastically increase the possibility of studying science and math at a postsecondary school. 

WASHINGTON, DC – The House and Senate both unanimously passed Congressman Sam Farr’s (D-Carmel) Marine Debris Act to combat the growing problem of ocean trash. The Marine Debris Act allows for permanent funding of the Marine Debris Program in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which seeks to address the adverse impacts of trash in the ocean. The legislation was included as part of H.R. 2838, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act. The bill is now at President Obama’s desk and is expected to be signed into law.  

“From the tsunami that impacted Japan last year to Hurricane Sandy that struck the east coast, we have seen a noticeable increase in the amount of debris in our oceans,” said Congressman Farr. “These disasters only highlight the problem, every year 14 billion pounds of trash are added to our oceans, endangering aquatic wildlife and threatening coastal communities whose economies rely upon the ocean. This act allows for the continued funding of a program that protects this vital resource and ensures its long-term health.”

The growing threat of marine debris has a detrimental effect on aquatic ecosystems.  It damages habitats, provides a vehicle for invasive species and kills wildlife through ingestion or entanglement.  Over 267 marine species are impacted by marine debris. Estimates suggest that up to 100,000 marine mammals are killed each year by marine debris. Marine debris also poses an ongoing threat to endangered species and recovery efforts. 

Additionally, there is an economic cost associated with marine debris.  It damages local economies dependent upon healthy beaches for tourism, damages marine vessels and creates numerous obstacles for the fishing industry.  

The Marine Debris Program conducts research and develops solutions to these growing problems caused by ocean trash – both man caused debris and natural occurring, debris that results from storms like the Japanese tsunami or Hurricane Sandy. 

In addition to providing a mechanism for continued funding, the act also alters the definition of marine debris to include all trash that ends up in the oceans, even if it originated on land.  This is in contrast to the previous definition that only included debris that originated from a boat or other marine vessel.

“If we are going to provide sound stewardship of the world’s largest trust, then we must fully understand the nature of the problem,” said Congressman Farr.  “As our society has grown more dependent on disposable items, the oceans have become a dumping ground for our waste. Trash that endangers the health of our oceans does not differentiate whether it arrived in the ocean from a boat or not.  We must begin to understand that choices we make here on land have impact our oceans as well.”



WASHINGTON, DC – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that people with Medicare have more high quality choices and the performance of Medicare Advantage plans is improving. HHS also released the 2013 quality ratings for Medicare health and drug plans on the web-based Medicare Plan Finder. During Medicare Open Enrollment, people with Medicare can use the star ratings to compare the quality of health and drug plan options and select the plans that are the best value for their needs for 2013.

"In 2013, people with Medicare will have access to a wide range of plan choices, including more four and five star plans than ever before," said Secretary Sebelius.

In 2013:

  • People with Medicare will have access to 127 four- or five-star Medicare Advantage plans. These plans currently serve 37 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees, and may attract more with their improved quality ratings. In 2012, people with Medicare had access to 106 four or five star plans, which served only 28 percent of enrollees.
  • People with Medicare will have access to 26 four or five star prescription drug plans, which currently serve 18 percent of enrollees. This is an improvement from 2012, in which 13 four or five star plans are serving only 9 percent of enrollees.

Medicare plans are given an overall rating on a 1 to 5 star scale, with 1 star representing poor performance and 5 stars representing excellent performance. Users of the Plan Finder will also see a gold star icon designating the top rated 5-star plans, and a different icon for those plans who are consistently poor performers.

As a result of provisions in the Affordable Care Act, Medicare is doing more to promote enrollment in high quality plans and alert beneficiaries who are enrolled in lower quality plans.  Now, persons with Medicare enrolled in consistently low performing plans (those receiving less than 3 stars for at least the past 3 years) will receive notifications to let them know how they can change to a higher quality plan if they choose to do so.  In addition, 5-star plans are rewarded by being allowed to continuously market and enroll beneficiaries throughout the year.  In 2012, thousands of people with Medicare took advantage of this opportunity to join a top performing plan.

The Affordable Care Act also added new benefits to Medicare, including in the Medicare Advantage program.  The health care law phases out the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap also known as the “donut hole.” In 2013, people with Medicare who reach the “donut hole” will receive approximately 53 percent off the cost of brand name drugs and 21 percent off the cost of generic drugs.  Medicare beneficiaries will also continue to benefit from Medicare-covered preventive services at zero cost-sharing, including a yearly Wellness visit.

At the same time that quality is improving and benefits are increasing, premiums in the Medicare Advantage program are remaining steady.    Since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 through 2013, Medicare Advantage premiums have fallen by 10 percent and enrollment is increasing by 28 percent.  The average estimated basic Medicare prescription drug plan (PDP) premium is projected to hold steady from last year, at $30 for 2013.

Medicare Plan Finder users can search for MA and Prescription Drug Plans being offered in their areas by inserting their home zip code. The Medicare Formulary Finder is also available online to help people with Medicare find local plans that cover their specific medications. Both Finders and other helpful Medicare tools are available at www.medicare.gov.

For details about the 2013 Part C and D Plan Quality Ratings released today, please visit http://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Prescription-Drug-Coverage/PrescriptionDrugCovGenIn/PerformanceData.html.

Medicare Open Enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. For more information about Open Enrollment, please visit http://www.cms.gov/Center/Special-Topic/Open-Enrollment-Center.html?redirect=/center/openenrollment.asp.