Monday, January 31, 2011

Shapiro Richards

As most suburban Philly politicos will have heard by now, County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel announced today that he won't run for re-election. The current Democratic ticket has State Rep. Josh Shapiro and Whitemarsh Township Supervisor Leslie Richards.

I think those decisions were made rather quickly. Why? There is a hastily compiled website at www.shapirorichards.com. It links to Richards existing county commissioner campaign site. Shapiro's link is to his state rep campaign site. It this were something planned far in advance their website would look better the first day or so it was up. I can't find any information on when the URL was purchased. The logo is fairly basic (their last names in red with a blue star between them and their first names written in very small blue letters above the last names).

This will be an interesting race.

Schwartz Reception

Allyson Schwartz hosts an annual reception to thank her campaign volunteers and supporters. This year's event was held this evening. I didn't volunteer on her campaign and don't think I gave her any money either but the event was free so I crashed it. When I was there an assortment of candidates were around -- Councilman Bill Green (At Large), candidate Sherrie Cohen (At Large City Council), possibly Andy Toy (At Large City Council, not sure if that was him). There were probably others that I didn't recognize (I go by name tags to avoid mistaken identity). The food was good; I can vouch for the meatball sandwich. The bartender said he was going to cut me after after my second water refill (it was a joke). (If I had known my train would get stuck on the tracks on the way home I wouldn't have had so much to drink). Schwartz made brief remarks, introduced by former Congressman Bob Borski. Schwartz acknowledged the Democratic losses in the last election, and noted that she also lost her seat on the Ways and Means Committee. She noted the number of people who call her office wanting to take advantage of the new health care reforms, for example, putting children in their early 20s on their insurance policy.

It was a nice event.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

White House Interns from PA

from the inbox:

The White House Internship Program announced today the participants for the spring 2011 session. The program’s mission is to make the White House accessible to future leaders all around the nation and cultivate and prepare those devoted to public service for future leadership opportunities.

A White House Internship provides a unique opportunity to gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills. Interns work in one of several White House departments, including the Office of Cabinet Affairs, the Office of the Chief of Staff, the Office of Scheduling and Advance, the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Health Reform, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Management and Administration, the Office of White House Counsel, the Office of Energy and Climate Change, the National Economic Council, the Office of Presidential Correspondence, the Presidential Personnel Office, the Communications Department, the Domestic Policy Council, the Office of the First Lady, and the Office of the Vice President.

Additional information about the White House Internship Program is available here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/internships/. The application for the Fall 2011 White House Internship will be posted on January 31, 2011.


People on the list with PA connections:

Graboyes, Madison Hometown: Dresher, PA; New York University, NY
Kaufman, Evan Hometown: Bryn Mawr, PA; Indiana University-Kelley School of Business, IN
Mesco, Guenevere Hometown: Albuquerque, NM; University of Pennsylvania Law School, PA
Myrtetus, Maryrose Hometown: Bensalem, PA; Vassar College, NY
Rodrigo, Manishi Hometown: Alpharetta, GA; Temple University-Beasley School of Law, PA
Shimm, Avram Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA; Claremont McKenna College, CA
Truong, TuongVan Hometown: Philadelphia, PA; Temple University, PA

SEPTA Love Train

from the inbox:

Did Cupid’s arrow strike your heart while you were riding on SEPTA? Did you find bliss on the bus or romance on the rails? From January 28 through February 10, riders who found new romance or re-connected with old flames on a SEPTA bus, train or trolley can submit their “moving” tales, photos and videos to the SEPTA Love Stories website, www.septalovestories.org. The public will vote for their favorite stories from January 28 through February 11 and the 14 couples with the most loved submissions will win an invitation to ride on the Mural Arts “Love Train” - a specially decorated Market-Frankford Line six-car train, attend a VIP champagne reception and view a screening of the Love Letters documentary - all on Sunday, February 13. The reception and screening will be held at SEPTA’s 1234 Market Street headquarters.

During the Love Train tour Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter will officiate at wedding of a young couple. To win two tickets to the pre-Valentine’s Day event, visit www.septalovestories.org or www.SEPTA.org. Complete contest details and instructions on how to upload stories and vote for your favorite SEPTA love story are also available on the website. To purchase tickets and learn more about the Mural Arts Love Train, visit http://muralarts.tix.com.

An Open Note to Mattel

Dear Mattel,

I don't have a problem with Barbie dolls and really like the animated Barbie videos. However, I'm not sure this is an appropriate slogan on a Barbie tote bag marketed to kids: "A plastic boyfriend is fun to toy with"

Samantha Jones would love it but it doesn't look good hanging in the toy section of Target, between Skipper and My Little Pony.

Another Bucks Co Commish Appointee

Three years ago I wrote a blog post pointing out that in the previous 20 years all new Bucks County commissioners had been appointed not elected:

It has been twenty years since Bucks County elected a new county commissioner. While it’s true that the three county commissioners face re-election every four years, all of the men and women who have taken office since 1987 were initially appointed, not elected. They have been re-elected every time they ran, but all were initially appointed. Current commissioner Charley Martin was appointed in 1995 to fill out Andy Warren’s term when Warren resigned to take a position at PennDOT. Warren was initially elected in 1979. Current commissioner Jim Cawley was appointed in 2004 to fill out Mike Fitzpatrick’s term when Fitzpatrick resigned after being elected to Congress. Fitzpatrick was appointed in 1994 to fill out Mark Schweiker’s term when Schweiker was elected lieutenant governor. Schweiker had been initially elected in 1987. Current commissioner Sandy Miller was appointed in 1991 to fill out Lucille Trench’s term when Trench resigned to join the Crime Victims Compensation Board. Miller and Trench are the only Democrats mentioned here. Miller is the niece of former county commissioner Adolph A. Andrews who was in office in the later 1960’s and early 1970’s, and she is now the longest serving commissioner in Bucks County history.


In the intervening time Bucks County voters did break with tradition and elected Diane Marseglia in Nov, 2007. This month there was another vacancy on the county board of commissioners when Jim Cawley was sworn in as lieutenant governor. Robert T. Loughery has been appointed to fill out his term, which runs through the end of this year.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Anne McCaffrey's Local Connections

What else can you do on a snowy day? I was reading up on my of my favorite authors, Anne McCaffrey (Mary T. Brizzi's 1986 Anne McCaffrey). She mentions that McCaffrey lived in Upper Montclair, NJ as a girl, including a stint at Girl Scout camp. As an adult she performed in or directed performances at the Wilmington Opera Society (her then husband worked for DuPont). Those who fondly remember the Harperhall series (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums) might be interested to know that Masterharper Robinton was modeled on Frederick N. Robinson of Pennsylvania's Lancaster Opera Workshop.

Who knew!

Obama on NASA Day of Remembrance

from the inbox:

Statement by the President on NASA Day of Remembrance

Fifty years ago, a young President facing mounting pressure at home propelled a fledgling space agency on a bold, new course that would push the frontiers of exploration to new heights. Today, on this Day of Remembrance when NASA reflects on the mighty sacrifices made to push those frontiers, America’s space agency is working to achieve even greater goals. NASA’s new 21st Century course will foster new industries that create jobs, pioneer technology innovation, and inspire a new generation of explorers through education – all while continuing its fundamental missions of exploring our home planet and the cosmos.

Throughout history, however, we have seen that achieving great things sometimes comes at great cost and we mourn the brave astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice in support of NASA missions throughout the agency’s storied history. We pause to reflect on the tragic loss of the Apollo 1 crew, those who boarded the space shuttle Challenger in search of a brighter future, and the brave souls who perished on the space shuttle Columbia.

Through triumph and tragedy, each of us has benefited from their courage and devotion, and we honor their memory by dedicating ourselves to a better tomorrow. Despite the challenges before us today, let us commit ourselves and continue their valiant journey toward a more vibrant and secure future.

Assorted Articles and Statements on the Brouhaha in the State House Today

There was a big todo in the State House today.

John Micek at the Morning Call's Capitol Ideas blog summarized it as:

State House Democrats ...
... stormed out of a meeting of the chamber's Rules Committee this afternoon, enraged Pennsylvania-capitol over changes in the chamber's operating rules that reduce the amount of minority representation on legislative committees and restrict how amendments can be offered on the House floor.

His full blog post includes video of the event so you can see for yourself.

Mark Scolforo at Phillyburbs has another good article.

PoliticsPA weighs in.

A few individual state house representatives have issued statements. Here are some of them.

Steve Santarsiero:
"Today House Majority Leadership turned their back on both our governor's and our president's calls for civility and bipartisan debate with a proposal to change House rules in a way that will stifle substantive debate on amendments and further limit the minority party's participation in House committees.

"Our scheduled debate on meaningful government reforms was halted abruptly by Speaker Sam Smith and Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who were unhappy with a number of amendments filed by me and my Democratic colleagues. These amendments, which are intended to strengthen the reform proposals, are a key tool – and one of the few – that the minority has in the legislative process.

"So to strong-arm Democrats into pulling all amendments, the Republican leadership, in a closed-door meeting, has proposed changing the House rules as follows:

· Reducing from 10 to 9 the number of Democrats on every committee (the proportion is currently 15-10 which is a 60-40 ratio despite the fact that Democrats comprise 45 percent of the chamber). This is little more than a misuse of the majority's power and, if anything, anti-reform.

· Allow for motions to table amendments, so that the majority can effectively stifle substantive debate on amendments.

"At best, this behavior is ironic given Governor Corbett's call for civility and government reform; at worst it's a disturbing power grab.

"In either case, the citizens of Pennsylvania have called for and deserve a General Assembly that is more transparent, open and accountable.

"I urge my Republican colleagues – and especially those from my home county – Bucks County – to vote their conscience and oppose their leadership's proposed rules changes."


Pam DeLissio:


"For the past eight weeks that I have been in office, I have been impressed with the reform objectives and efforts being discussed and worked on by members of the House, until today’s events when the Republicans made a series of decisions that eroded the very core of what constitutes democracy," DeLissio said.

"I was appalled and dismayed that the submission of Democratic amendments to reform-oriented good government bills was perceived as 'obstructionist.' My own amendment, to House Bill 103, prohibited public officials and public employees who had influenced the awarding of state contracts to a business or its affiliates becoming employed by that same business or entity before two years had elapsed.

"In addition to reducing the number of Democratic members on House standing committees, the Rules Committee also resolved to adopt a process by which amendments could be tabled independently of a bill.

”It is distressing that today's actions undermine the House Speaker’s Reform Commission efforts from several years ago and threaten to return to a style of conducting business that produced investigations, convictions and indictments of members of the House," DeLissio said. "I came to Harrisburg for the purpose of being a voice for the people I represent -- but now my voice, and therefore my constituents' voices, may be heard only when convenient."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Committee of 70 Council Candidates' Site

The Committee of 70 has put together a great website on candidates for Philadelphia City Council. For those who need a scorecard (and that would be everyone interested in city politics), here it is: http://www.seventy.org/OurViews_Council_Districts_and_Candidates_at_a_Glance.aspx

Interactive Regional Census Map

DVRPC has made available an interactive U.S. Census Data Profiles map. You can easily zoom around the region and review demographic information. Very cool.

SOTU World Clouds

Fast Company has compiled a word cloud of the President's State of the Union address last night, comparing it to last year's SOTU and Michelle Bachmann's response. ("State of the Union address shows Obama thinking about people," by Kit Eaton)

In contrast, NPR has posted "The State of the Union in your words," showing word clouds of what people heard by various demographics. A common theme: salmon.

To see exactly what the president said, a transcript is available online.

Vastly entertaining for word geeks and politicos.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Personal Finance Classes at Roberts Vaux High School

In an example of community involvement with education, the Brewerytown / Sharswood Community Civic Association has sponsored personal finance instruction in the Roberts Vaux High School. Telestrat Education, a local firm that offers continuing legal education classes, primarily in accounting and finance, donated their time, to do initial instruction and to train classroom teachers to continue the effort. Telestrat founder Reuben Advani said, "Most people agree that a widespread lack of financial understanding contributed to the recent financial crisis. An overriding lesson from the crisis is that personal finance education must begin at an early age. It ranks as high as reading, writing and arithmetic. This program lays the foundation to inspire and influence America's youth to take control of their financial future."

The classes, taught to Juniors and Seniors, have been well received by the faculty and students. "Our students have not only excelled academically through this program, but learned real world finance skills that will be useful throughout their lives,” says Margie Goodwin, School Based Instructional Specialist.

“We are always looking for ways as a community to help our youth and schools. Financial literacy has been a goal of mine for awhile,” said Adam Lang, Chairman of the BSCCA Business and Economics Committee. “When by chance I met Reuben at a government budgeting forum, I knew this was the guy to help our goal come to fruition.”

The pilot lasted for three months. There are plans for future courses which will expand on the material as well as offer a real world investing game for the students to compete with each other individually and as a group against other classes.

Singer Announcement

from the inbox:

Close supporters of Stephanie Singer (D), candidate for Philadelphia's City Commissioner, gathered today with members of the press to hear Singer's official announcement entering the City Commissioner's race. ." Singer's father, who worked to protect Voting Rights in Mississippi during the 1960's, stood by her side as she gave her announcement speech.

"If you elect me Commissioner, I will be a crusader against corruption," Singer said. Singer also proposed ending over 35 years of abuse in Philadelphia elections by calling to end the elected office of City Commissioner.. "I will take the politics out of our elections by getting rid of elected Commissioners and putting Philadelphia elections in the hands of nonpartisan professionals."

Singer continued, "The City Commissioners Office is responsible for registering voters, educating voters, and conducting elections. That office should be protecting every Philadelphian’s right to vote. Instead, that office is part of the problem. That office is the root of the problem. Voters are sick and tired of the corruption, waste and disenfranchisement."

Schwartz Named to Foreign Affairs Committee

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz was appointed today by the House Democratic Conference to be the newest member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Committee is chaired by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and the Ranking Member is Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA).

The Committee on Foreign Affairs has jurisdiction over the protection of American citizens abroad, oversight of foreign assistance, national security developments affecting foreign policy, strategic planning and agreements, war powers, treaties, executive agreements, and the deployment and use of United States Armed Forces.

“I am honored by the opportunity to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee and I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the important issues facing our nation and our leadership around the world,’’ Schwartz said. “As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I will fight for effective foreign policy and strong, positive economic and political relationships with our allies around the globe. Both our national security and our future economic prosperity demand serious and informed engagement by the Committee and I welcome being a part of these discussions and decisions.”

“Congresswoman Schwartz has worked hard to strengthen our relationship with the international community in the service of our national interest, and to pursue more effective and efficient foreign assistance programs,” said Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Rep. Howard Berman. “I look forward to continuing to work with her to meet these important goals.”

Schwartz has a substantial record working on foreign affairs. Since the 109th Congress, Schwartz has served as member of the bipartisan House Democracy Assistance Partnership (HDAP). As a member of this select group, Schwartz traveled with the Commission extensively and has participated in the critical work of promoting and supporting the development of democratic governments around the world.

Specifically, Schwartz worked to focus on peer-to-peer partnerships with emerging democratic legislatures to assist in the development of the fundamental building blocks of legislative government: oversight, transparency, accountability, effective legislation, and responsiveness to constituents. As a member of HDAP, Schwartz took an interest in the nation of Georgia and formed the Congressional Georgia Caucus to strengthen our bilateral ties with an important emerging democracy.

Schwartz has also vigorously pursued policies designed to strengthen Congress’ bipartisan support for the State of Israel and is a member of the Democratic Israel Working Group and the U.S.-Israel Security Caucus.

In addition to this new prominent committee assignment, Schwartz will continue to serve as Vice Ranking Member on the Budget Committee, where she has distinguished herself as an outspoken critic of deficit spending. A strong proponent of fiscal discipline and a balanced federal budget, Schwartz believes the nation must reduce our enormous national debt and redirect our policies to meet the priorities of American families.

The Pennsylvania Congresswoman will also continue to serve as Vice Chair of the New Democrat Coalition, a coalition of 43 members of the House who are dedicated to the prosperity and security of American families and businesses. Schwartz is considered a champion for economic development, particularly in areas of health care, biotechnology and technological innovation.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Two Pennsylvanians Guests of First Lady at SOTU

The list of official guests of the First Lady at the State of the Union address has been released. Two Pennsylvanians are among those included:

Brandon and Julie Fisher (Berlin, PA)

Brandon Fisher is the owner of a small business, Center Rock, in Berlin, Pennsylvania that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. Last summer, Center Rock manufactured the drill bits and other equipment used to find and rescue the 33 trapped Chilean miners. The technology enabled a considerable shortening of the rescue timeline. Brandon and his wife, sales director Julie, spent 37 days in Chile working to drill the rescue shaft. Brandon, along with some of the Americans involved in the Chilean mine rescue efforts, met the President in October 2010.



Brandon Ford (Philadelphia, PA)

Brandon, a junior at West Philadelphia High School, is a leader of the West Philly Hybrid X Team which includes students from an after school program at the West Philadelphia High School Academy of Automotive and Mechanical Engineering. West Philadelphia is a public high school serving one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Brandon and the Hybrid X team recently entered two cars in the Progressive Automotive X PRIZE competition, a global challenge that sought to deliver production-ready highly fuel efficient vehicles. As high school students, they successfully went head to head with corporations, universities and other well-funded organizations from around the world, even advancing to an elimination round with their Ford Focus that got an official 65.1 MPGe. Brandon is also one of a group of students who entered the Conrad Foundation’s Spirit of Innovation Awards with their proposal for an Electric Very Light Car. He and 4 other students spent many hours writing the proposal and graphic for the contest. Brandon is a dedicated and hard working team member; for example, last week he worked with the team Tuesday, Thursday, all day Saturday, and then on Sunday participated with the team in a MLK Day of Service activity. He also plays varsity football for West Philadelphia High School. Brandon and the West Philly Hybrid X team attended the President’s September 2010 “Change the Equation” event.

Constitution (Center) Rock!

It's a living document; it likes to party. The Constitution Center has started a new blog Constitution Daily.

One of the first entries announces a State of the Union viewing party, complete with bingo, quizzo, cash bar, and prizes. Show up Tuesday, Jan 25th at 7:30. Sounds like a good time.

The blog itself looks to be lively:

"No online site will have better experts, stronger analysis, or more timely insights on the increasingly critical role the Constitution plays in public discourse than our blog, Constitution Daily,” said David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center. “And the best part is that our 21st century format will create a public forum where anyone can engage in a meaningful conversation about constitutional issues.”

Constitution Daily features posts written by the staff of the National Constitution Center , as well as accomplished authors, scholars, and partners. During the blog’s alpha phase, special guest bloggers included: author and contributor to CNN and The Daily Beast John Avlon; Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times Adam Liptak; Dr. Rogers M. Smith, the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania; and Geoffrey R. Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at The University of Chicago and a Visiting Scholar at the National Constitution Center.

Some of the most viewed posts have included an analysis of the historical accuracy of the popular TV show “Boardwalk Empire” by Prohibition expert and author Daniel Okrent; Pennsylvania First Lady Marjorie O. Rendell’s opinion on the role of education in the civic health of our nation; video commentary on the Wikileaks issue by TIME magazine’s Managing Editor Richard Stengel; and a post connecting the Phillies’ acquisition of pitcher Cliff Lee to the Constitution (through the lens of Major League Baseball’s anti-trust exemption).

Stephanie Singer To Announce for City Commissioner

According to my inbox, tomorrow morning Stephanie Singer will formally launch her campaign for city commissioner. This is not the Philadelphia city council but the Philadelphia city commission, a three person board that oversees elections. Singer has a PhD in math and, according to Philadelphia Weekly (Aaron Kase, "Candidates for city commission speak up," 1/05/2011):

Also ready to campaign is Stephanie Singer, Democratic 8th ward leader. Singer, 46, is a data strategist for Athenian Properties, a real-estate services company based in Center City. Fed up with the Commission’s refusal to post any useful information online, Singer created her own website to display election results, campaignscientific.com. She also sued the Commission to get results up in a more timely manner.

Read more at http://www.votesinger2011.com/

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stephanie Cutter at the White Board

Stephanie Cutter takes the lead in the latest installment of the White House White Board video series. In "The Costs of Repealing Health Reform," Cutter presents data on how much a family of four can expect to pay in premiums, depending on their income level, then flips the board to show how many jobs could be lost if the Affordable Health Care Act is repealed. Red and blue graphs on one side, green and orange on the other. All in just over 5 minutes. Worth a watch.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shapiro Bill to Eliminate Legislative Surplus

from the inbox:

State Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, announced today that he intends to introduce legislation to statutorily eliminate the legislative surplus and circulated a memo to his colleagues asking for co-sponsorship of his legislation.

In December, the General Assembly audit, completed by independent auditors from Ernst & Young and unanimously approved by the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission, found that the legislature ended the 2010 fiscal year with a $188,554,281 legislative surplus. The audit recommended that Pennsylvania adopt a policy to limit the legislative surplus.

“Most states have policies in place to either prohibit legislative surpluses or to limit them,” said Shapiro. “I believe we should eliminate the legislative surplus in Pennsylvania and, given the challenging fiscal climate we face as we prepare for the upcoming budget, we ought to use the current surplus to address the needs of Pennsylvanians.”

Shapiro’s legislation would eliminate the surplus completely but includes a provision to allow for limited emergency spending authority by the legislature in the event the budget cannot be passed by the June 30 deadline, and only if authorized by the speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate.

The audit documents can be viewed online at www.pahouse.com/Shapiro.

More on Affordable Care Act in PA

from Friday's inbox:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced that 216,666 Medicare beneficiaries in Pennsylvania, and three million people nationwide, have received prescription drug cost relief through the Affordable Care Act. To date, three million eligible beneficiaries who fell into the drug coverage gap known as the “donut hole” during 2010 have been mailed a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate check.

“For too long, many seniors and people with disabilities have been forced to make impossible choices between paying for needed prescription medication and necessities like food and rent,” said Secretary Sebelius. “The Affordable Care Act offers long overdue relief by lowering prescription drug costs each year until the donut hole is closed.”

Eligible beneficiaries who fell into the coverage gap during 2010 are continuing to automatically receive rebate checks. These checks are only the first step in how the Affordable Care Act will reduce prescription drug costs for beneficiaries in the donut hole each year until it is closed in 2020. Starting this year, eligible beneficiaries in the coverage gap will receive a 50-percent discount on covered brand name medications while in the donut hole. In addition, in 2011 Medicare will begin paying 7-percent of the price for generic drugs during the coverage gap.

Also today, Secretary Sebelius released a new video message on the new benefits the Affordable Care Act provides in 2011 for people on Medicare. You can watch the video message here.

The closing of the donut hole is just one of the ways seniors benefit from the Affordable Care Act. In addition to savings on prescription drugs, the law provides new benefits to Medicare beneficiaries when they visit their doctor starting this year:

* As of January 1, 2011, Original Medicare no longer charges out-of-pocket costs for the “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam and, for the first time since the Medicare program was created in 1965, Original Medicare now covers an annual wellness visit with a participating doctor, also at no cost.

* In addition to these annual wellness visits, most people with Medicare can now receive critical preventive services, including certain cancer screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies, for free.

* Also this year, the Affordable Care Act will provide qualifying doctors and other health care professionals providing primary care to people on Medicare a 10-percent bonus for primary care services. This will help ensure that those primary care providers can continue to be there for Medicare patients.


People with Medicare can learn more about these new benefits, search for participating doctors in their area, and find other helpful information by visiting www.Medicare.gov

Additionally, the Affordable Care Act makes Medicare stronger and more secure for all beneficiaries. These provisions under the new law increase benefits to beneficiaries and help to extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by 12 years.

* An analysis issued by the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that under the Affordable Care Act, average savings for those enrolled in traditional Medicare will amount to more than $3,500 over the next 10 years. Savings will be even higher – as much as $12,300 over the next 10 years – for seniors and people with disabilities who have high prescription drug costs. Total savings per beneficiary enrolled in traditional Medicare are estimated to be $86 in 2011, rising to $649 in 2020. For a beneficiary in the donut hole, estimated total savings increase from $553 in 2011 to $2,217 in 2020.

* The Affordable Care Act establishes a new Innovation Center that will research, develop, test, and expand innovative payment and delivery arrangements to improve the quality and reduce the cost of care provided to patient with Medicare, Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage. Innovations that are found to work can be rapidly expanded and applied more broadly—helping to transform the health care system into one that provides better care at lower cost.
* The Affordable Care Act contains important new tools to help crack down on criminals seeking to scam seniors and steal taxpayer dollars. The law strengthens the screenings for health care providers who want to participate in Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP, enables enforcement officials to see health care claims data from around the country in a searchable database, and strengthens the penalties for criminal wrongdoing. The reduction in waste, fraud, and abuse returns savings to the Medicare Trust Fund to strengthen the program into the future. Seniors are encouraged to contact 1-800-MEDICARE to report any solicitations of personal information or suspected fraud, waste, or abuse, or go to www.StopMedicareFraud.gov.

For more information on how the Affordable Care Act benefits seniors, visit www.HealthCare.gov.

Note on American Opportunity Tax Credit

from the inbox:

Yesterday, the Department of Treasury released a new analysis of the benefits of extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which was a key piece of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010. The analysis shows that as a result of the extension of the AOTC, 372,000 families in Pennsylvania will receive $856 million – an average of $2300 per family to help pay for college.

Recent analysis from the Department of Treasury also shows that thanks to the payroll tax break – another key piece of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Reauthorization and Job Creation Act – tens of millions of American workers are already seeing the boost in their paychecks. In Pennsylvania alone, 6.7 million people will see $4.8 billion in tax relief this year.

For an interactive map outlining the state-by-state benefits of the tax relief law and a White Board video of Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee explaining the major pieces of the law, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/taxes/tax-cuts

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Promises Kept: Obama's First Two Years

A new report, Promises Kept, outlines the accomplishments of the first two years of the Obama administration. The six page pdf provides details on Obama's campaign promises and presidential actions. Here are some examples:

REBUILDING OUR ECONOMY

RECOVERY ACT
The Recovery Act represented the largest infrastructure investment since
President Eisenhower, the largest education investment since President
Johnson, and the largest clean-energy bill ever. It has saved or created as
many as 3.7 million jobs across America while creating a foundation for
future growth.

WALL STREET REFORM
Wall Street reform empowered consumers and investors, put a stop to
predatory lending practices, brought shadowy Wall Street trades into the
light, and ended taxpayer-funded bailouts.

MIDDLE-CLASS TAX CUTS
The Recovery Act reduced taxes for 95 percent of working families,
putting more money in the pockets of Americans who need it most.
President Obama also worked to prevent a middle-class tax increase,
while extending vital unemployment benefits for Americans who lost
their jobs through no fault of their own.

PA Consultants Scorecard for 2010

Campaigns & Elections Magazine posted its annual "consultant's scorecard" list -- of consultants, their clients, and whether they won their election or not. As in previous years I went through the list and pulled out Pennsylvania elections. I won't guarantee the list is complete; apologies in advance for errors or omissions. Readers are encouraged to review the full national list on C&Es website.

Here's the PA data (links provided more or less on a whim -- if I skipped your firm and you want a link send me the URL):

Abbreviations:
W = Won general election (with no competitive primary, or vendor
wasn’t involved in primary)
L = Lost general election (with no competitive primary, or vendor
wasn’t involved in primary)
W/W = Won a competitive primary and the general election
W/L = Won a competitive primary, but lost the general election
W/W/W = Won a primary, a run-off and the general election
Wp or Lp = Won or lost the primary
RO = Run-off, election hadn’t taken place by press time
TC = Race was too close to call as of press time
I-E = Client was an independent expenditure or issue advocacy effort
that was not, or may not have been, affiliated with any candidate
campaign.
Ws or Ls = Won or lost special election
(in) = Incumbent
(open) = Race was for an open seat

ORGANIZATION/CLIENT WIN/LOSS

Abacus Associates/D - Polling
Pennsylvania State Education Association for: I-E
Joe Sestak (open), PA, U.S. Sen. L
Dan Onorato (open), PA, Gov. L

Adelstein | Liston/D-Media
Margo Davidson(in), PA, state Rep. W
Tom Houghton (in), PA, state Rep. L
Steve Santarsiero (in), PA, state Rep. TC
Rick Taylor (in), PA, state Rep. L

Advantage, Inc./R-Phones
Pat Toomey (open), PA, U.S. Sen. W

American Viewpoint/R - Polling
Lou Barletta, PA, H11 W
Tim Burns, PA, H12 L
Tom Marino, PA, H10 W

Anzalone Liszt Research/D - Polling
Jason Altmire (in), PA, H04 W
Bob Brady (in), PA, H01 W
Mike Doyle (in), PA, H14 W
Mark Critz (open), PA, H12 Ws
Kathy Dahlkemper (in), PA, H03 L

Arena Communications/R - Direct Mail
Pat Toomey (open), PA, U.S. Sen. W

Ayres, McHenry & Associates, Inc./R-Polling
Lou Barletta, PA, H11 W
Tim Burns, PA, H12 L
Mike Kelly, PA, H03 W
Tom Marino, PA, H10 W
Mike Fitzpatrick, PA, H08 W

Bates & Mills Consulting/D -
Direct Mail, General Consulting
Kevin Haggerty, PA, state Rep. Lp

The Campaign Group, Inc./DGeneral/
Media Consulting
Joe Sestak (open), PA, U.S. Sen. W/L
Bryan Lentz (open), PA, H07 L
Doug Pike, PA, H06 Lp
Dan Onorato (open), PA, Gov. W/L

Campaign Solutions/Connell Donatelli, Inc./R -
Internet
Lou Barletta, PA, H11 W

Devine Mulvey/D - Media
Chris Carney (in), PA, H10 L
Kathy Dahlkemper (in), PA, H03 L
Tim Soloboy (in), PA, state Sen. W
Dan Demarco, PA, state Sen. L

Dover Group (www.doverstrategygroup.com)/DMessaging,
Direct Mail, Online, General
Anthony Hardy Williams (open), PA, Gov. Lp
Chris Doherty (open), PA, state Sen. Lp

Engage/R - Media Consulting
Lou Barletta, PA, H11 W
Pat Meehan (open), PA, H07 W

Front Porch Strategies/R - Telephone Contact Services
Dave Argall, PA, H17 L
Tim Burns, PA, H12 L
Mike Kelly, PA, H03 W
Glenn Thompson, PA, H05 W
Matt Gabler, PA, state Rep. W
Daryl Schaffer, PA, state Rep. L

Global Strategy Group/D - Polling
Arlen Specter (in), PA, U.S. Sen. Lp
John Callahan, PA, H15 L
Mark Critz (open/in), PA, H12 Ws/W
Patrick Murphy (in), PA, H08 L
Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee –

Gold Communications/D - Direct Mail
Adam Ravenstahl (open) PA, state Rep. W
Pam Snyder, PA, state Rep. L

Grove Insight/D - Polling
John Callahan, PA, H15 L
Mark Critz (in), PA, H12 W
Paul Kanjorski (in), PA, H11 L
Bryan Lentz (in), PA, H07 L

Hammond & Associates/R - PAC Fundraising
Tom Marino, PA, H10 W

HSP Direct/R - Direct Mail Fundraising,
Online Fundraising
Pat Toomey (open), PA, U.S. Sen. W
Rick Santorum’s America’s Foundation PAC –

Impact Politics/D - Online Campaigning/Fundraising,
General and Media Consulting
Anthony Williams (open), PA, Gov. L

James R. Foster & Associates, Inc./R - Direct Mail
Keith Rothfus, PA, H04 L
Lou Barletta, PA, H11 W
Michael Fitzpatrick, PA, H08 W
Mike Kelly, PA, H03 W
Thomas Marino, PA, H10 W

Josh Nanberg/D - General Consulting
John Toth, PA, state Rep. L

Kimberly A. Morewood Consulting/R -
Political Consulting
Jean Craige Pepper (open), PA, Lt. Gov. L

Mammen Group, Inc./D - Direct Mail
Manan Trivedi, PA, H06 W/L

Message & Media, Inc./D - General Consulting,
TV and Radio, Electronic Advertising, and Direct Mail
Mike Doyle (in), PA, H14 W

New Media Campaigns/N - Internet
Mark Critz (in), PA, H12 W
Bill DeWeese (in), PA, state Sen. W
Mike Gerber (in), PA, state Rep. W

OnMessage Inc./R - Media
Pat Toomey (open), PA, U.S. Sen. W
Tom Corbett (open), PA, Gov. W

ThePoliticalInsider.com/R - Email Fundraising
PA GOP –

Public Opinion Strategies/R - Polling
Dave Argall, PA, H17 L
Tim Burns, PA, H12 L
Mike Fitzpatrick, PA, H08 W
Tim Murphy, PA, H18 W
Keith Rothfus, PA, H04 L
Glenn Thompson, PA, H05 W
Jack Corman, PA, state Sen. W
Jane Orie, PA, state Sen. W
John Rafferty, PA, state Sen. W
Robert “Tommy” Tomilinson, PA, state Sen. W
Lou Barletta, PA, H11 W
Mike Kelly, PA, H03 W
Thomas Marino, PA, H10 W
Pat Toomey, PA, U.S. Sen. W
Patrick Meehan, PA, H07 W
Pennsylvania Senate Republican Campaign Committee for: I-E
Kris Vanderman, PA, state Sen. L

Red Stag Enterprises, Inc./R -
Campaign Management
Lou Barletta, PA, H11 W
Tom Marino, PA, H10 W

SCM Associates, Inc./R - Direct Mail Fundraising
Charlie Dent (in), PA, H15 W
Tim Murphy (in), PA, H18 W

Scott Howell & Co./R - Media
Tom Marino, PA, H10 W

Stanford Campaigns/D - Opposition Research,
General Consulting
John Callahan, PA, H15 L

Steve Brown Direct Marketing/R - Direct Mail
Tom Corbett (open), PA, Gov. W

Stones’ Phones/D - Phones
Joe Sestak (open), PA, U.S. Sen. L
Jason Altmire (in), PA, H04 W
Patrick Murphy (in), PA, H08 L
Allyson Schwartz (in), PA, H13 W
Pennsylvania Democratic Party –
Pennsylvania State Education Association –

VSS/Susquehanna Polling and Research, Inc./R -
Polling
Jim Gerlach (in), PA, H06 W
Mike Folmer (in), PA, state Sen. W
Stewart Greenleaf (in), PA, state Sen. W
Nick Micozzie (in), PA, state Rep. W
Doug Reichley (in), PA, state Rep. W
Chris Ross (in), PA, state Rep. W
PA Business Council –
PA House Republican Campaign Committee –
Republican State Committee of PA –

Wilson Research Strategies/R - Polling
Jim Gerlach (in), PA, H06 W/W
Jim Gerlach (open), PA, Gov. W/L

Winning Connections/D - Voter Contact (Telephone)
Arlen Specter, PA, U.S. Sen. Lp
Paul Kanjorski, PA, H11 L
Matt Bradford, PA, state Rep. W
Joe Sestak, PA, U.S. Sen. L
USAction –
USACTION for: I-E
Patrick Murphy, PA, H08 L

Worden Enterprises/R - Grassroots Development
Tom Corbett (open), PA, Gov. W

Zata|3 Consulting/D -
Direct Voter Contact/Phone Banks
21st Century for: I-E
Cheri Jahn, CO, state Sen. W
Mark Critz, PA, H12 W
Kathy Dahlkemper, PA, H03 L
Charlie Dent, PA, H15 W
Phil Hare, PA, H15 W
Paul Kanjorski, PA, H11 L
Bryan Lentz, PA, H07 L
Patrick Murphy, PA, H08 L
Education Voters of Pennsylvania for: I-E
Joe Sestak, PA, U.S. Sen. L
Planned Parenthood PA Advocates for: I-E
Bryan Lentz, PA, H07 L
Patrick Murphy, PA, H08 L
PA America Votes for: I-E
Dan Onorato, PA, Gov. L
Barbara Bergeron, PA, state Rep. L
Bryan Boughter, PA, state Rep. L
Frank Bovalino, PA, state Rep. L
Matt Bradford, PA, state Rep. W
Jim Casorio, PA, state Rep. L
Margo Davidson, PA, state Rep. W
Frank Dermody, PA, state Rep. W
Charles Dertinger, PA, state Rep. L
Paul Drucker, PA, state Rep. L
Tom Houghton, PA, state Rep. L
Fern Kaufman, PA, state Rep. W
David Kessler, PA, state Rep. L
Brandon Neuman, PA, state Rep. W
Mark Painter, PA, state Rep. L
Steve Santarsiero, PA, state Rep. TC
John Siptroth, PA, state Rep. L
Barbara McIlvaine Smith, PA, state Rep. L
Rick Taylor, PA, state Rep. L
Walt Waite, PA, state Rep. L
Jesse White, PA, state Rep. W
Justin Yaich, PA, state Rep. L
George Zalar, PA, state Rep. L

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Affordable Health Care Act Updates

For those wishing to keep up with recent developments on the Affordable Health Care Act, here are a selection of links:

ABC's The Note: House Dems Highlight Hazards of Health Care Repeal (1/18), excerpt of PA connection:

A panel of witnesses described how health care repeal could hurt them in the future. Stacie Ritter of Lancaster, PA, the mother of twin daughters who have been diagnosed with leukemia, described how she and her husband ended up bankrupt even though they have full insurance coverage. Ritter urged lawmakers to fight against repeal, emphasizing how much the new law meant to her and others.

“You have no idea how much it meant to a lot of people,” she told the panel. “I know you only got to hear the bad because that’s all that the news will play, but believe me it was greatly greatly appreciated.”


Igor Volsky writes "Do As I Say, Not As I Do: 97% Of House GOP Still Holding On To Their Congressional Health Plans" in Think Progress's The Wonk Room (1/18), excerpt:
– REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R-NY): Freshman Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) rejected claims that it was hypocritical for him to receive health coverage that provided the same consumer protections he was trying to repeal for others. “What am I, not supposed to have health care?” Later, he said the reason to have coverage is “practicality. I’m not going to become a burden for the state because I don’t have health care and, God forbid I get into an accident and I can’t afford the operation…That can happen to anyone.” [Hotline On Call, 1/6/11]

Indeed, by 2014, uninsured Americans will be able to enroll in “PRIVATE insurance” through a series of state-based exchanges that will attempt to attract younger and healthier enrollees — like Schock — who could bring down premiums for the entire risk pool. The mandate will require these individuals to purchase insurance so that they don’t “become a burden for the state” once they require medical attention.


Greg Sargent writes "Do Americans really want health law fully repealed?" on The Washington Post's Plum Line (1/18), excerpt:
Two new polls in the former category -- a straight choice -- came out today. Quinnipiac finds that people favor repeal over letting the health bill stand, 48-43. CNN finds that people want full repeal by 50-42.

But when people are offered a broader set of choices, opinion shifts. The Associated Press released a poll this weekend finding that 43 percent want the law changed so it does more, versus only 26 percent who want it fully repealed. A Marist poll last week found the same, with 35 percent wanting the law expanded versus 30 percent who want it scrapped completely.


The White House blog notes that as of today people can designate who they would like to visit them in the hospital:
"There are few moments in our lives that call for greater compassion and companionship than when a loved one is admitted to the hospital. In these hours of need and moments of pain and anxiety, all of us would hope to have a hand to hold, a shoulder on which to lean – a loved one to be there for us, as we would be there for them."

With those words on April 15, 2010 President Obama directed HHS Secretary Sebelius to initiate rulemaking to ensure that hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid respect the rights of patients to designate visitors. The President further advised that the rule should ensure that participating hospitals may not deny visitation privileges based on factors including sexual orientation or gender identity.

Today the new Hospital Visitation Regulations go into effect.


From "Experts doubt claims health care law is a 'job killer'," by David Lightman, Kansas City Star (1/17), excerpt:
Saying that the law is a job killer doesn't necessarily make it one, however, and independent experts say that such a conclusion is at least premature, if not unfounded.

"The claim has no justification," said Micah Weinberg, a senior research fellow at the centrist New America Foundation's Health Policy Program.

Since the law contains dual mandates that most individuals must obtain health insurance coverage and most employers must offer it by 2014, "the effect on employment is probably zero or close to it," said Amitabh Chandra, a professor of public policy at Harvard University.


The House of Representatives Dept of Energy & Commerce has compiled an interactive map showing the impact of repealing the health care reform act by metropolitan area or congressional district.

David Wessel writes "Health-law repeal hardly a panacea for CEO's concerns," in the Wall Street Journal (1/13), excerpt:
The big-company Business Roundtable is quieter: Many of its members doubt the Obama law does enough to restrain costs, but regard repeal as neither practical nor wise. Wal-Mart, for one, echoes this, saying, in effect: We don't want to go back to where we were.

At the National Business Group on Health, a collection of nearly 300 big employers, President Helen Darling, a former corporate-benefit administrator and Republican Senate staffer, says about executives who call for repeal: "If they really understood it, they wouldn't."

"I don't think we'll get a better solution in the U.S. in our lifetime" she said. "If it gets repealed, or gutted, we'll have to start over and we'll be worse off."


Lastly, from the inbox:
New report: 5.5 million Pennsylvania residents with a pre-existing condition could be denied coverage without new health reform law

Without Affordable Care Act protections, in 2014, 1 in 2 non-elderly Americans could be denied coverage or charged more due to a pre-existing condition

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today released a new analysis showing that, without the Affordable Care Act, up to 5.5 million non-elderly Pennsylvania residents who have some type of pre-existing health condition, like heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis or cancer, would be at risk of losing health insurance when they need it most, or be denied coverage altogether. Across the country, up to 129 million Americans would be at risk.

Under the full range of policies in the Affordable Care Act to be enacted by 2014, Americans living with pre-existing conditions are free from discrimination and can get the health coverage they need, and families are free from the worry of having their insurance cancelled or capped when a family member gets sick, or going broke because of the medical costs of an accident or disease. Repealing the law would once again leave millions of Americans worrying about whether coverage will be there when they need it.

“The Affordable Care Act is stopping insurance companies from discriminating against Americans with pre-existing conditions and is giving us all more freedom and control over our health care decisions,” said Secretary Sebelius. “The new law is already helping to free Americans from the fear that an insurer will drop, limit or cap their coverage when they need it most. And Americans living with pre-existing conditions are being freed from discrimination in order to get the health coverage they need.”

The analysis found that:

· Anywhere from 50 to 129 million (19 to 50 percent) of Americans under age 65 have some type of pre-existing condition. Examples of what may be considered a pre-existing condition include:

· Heart disease

· Cancer

· Asthma

· High blood pressure

· Arthritis

· Older Americans between ages 55 and 64 are at particular risk; 48 to 86 percent of people in that age bracket live with a pre-existing condition.

· 15 to 30 percent of people under age 65 in perfectly good health today are likely to develop a pre-existing condition over the next eight years.

· Up to one in five Americans under age 65 with a pre-existing condition – 25 million individuals – is uninsured.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, in the vast majority of states, insurance companies in the individual market could deny coverage, charge higher premiums, and/or limit benefits based on pre-existing conditions. Surveys have found that 36 percent of Americans who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market encountered challenges purchasing health insurance for these reasons.

A number of protections are already in place thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Insurers can no longer limit lifetime coverage to a fixed dollar amount or take away coverage because of a mistake on an application. Young adults have the option of staying on their parents’ coverage up to the age of 26 if they lack access to job-based insurance of their own, and insurers cannot deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition.

Many uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions have already enrolled in the temporary high-risk pool program called the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which provides private insurance to those locked out of the insurance market because of a preexisting condition. The PCIP program – which has already saved people’s lives by covering services like chemotherapy – serves as a bridge until 2014, when insurance companies can no longer deny or limit coverage or charge higher premiums because of a preexisting condition. There is a Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan available in every State, and more information can be found at www.HealthCare.gov.

In addition to the ban on discrimination against people with preexisting conditions, in 2014, individuals and small businesses will have access to new, high-quality insurance choices through competitive marketplaces called health insurance Exchanges.

The report can be found at www.HealthCare.gov/center/reports/preexisting.html, and more information about the new protections created by the Affordable Care Act and the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan can be found at www.HealthCare.gov.

Thoughts on MLK Day

Pennsylvania, like most states, includes nondiscriminatory language in its legal code. You can’t refuse to hire or rent to someone based on his or her race, disability, religion, national origin, or gender. However, unlike most of the neighboring states, Pennsylvania does not include sexual orientation in that nondiscrimination statement; as of 2009 21 states did, including NJ. In Pennsylvania it is perfectly legal to fire someone solely because he or she is gay, or to refuse to rent to them or serve them for that reason. And that has happened. In 2008 Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, a lesbian, gay, and transgender rights board handled 139 discrimination complaints (Worden, 3/15/2009)

Since the state has been remiss in doing so, a number of local governments have passed their own nondiscrimination ordinance that specifically includes sexual orientation. When complaints are made to organizations like Equality Advocates Pennsylvania or the state’s Human Relations Commission, if the questionable behavior happened in an area that does not have a local ordinance there is no legal recourse.
From an economic standpoint, there may be employers who would not want to open an office in an area that does not offer legal protection to all their employees. For instance:

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies have policies that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, 35 percent of Fortune 500 companies have politics that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and 57 percent of Fortune 500 companies provide health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of their employees. (Infanti, 4/12/2009).


Even so, about half of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered employees hide that fact from some or all of their co-workers (Belser 10/18/2009). They lie about their personal life or do not talk about it at work. Those casual conversations about home and family are not open to them. Living in an area where they could be denied housing solely on the basis on their orientation, if it were known, would no doubt add to their unease.

The 18 local areas with nondiscrimination ordinances in Pennsylvania are: Allegheny County, Allentown, Doylestown, Easton, Erie County, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lansdowne, Lower Merion Township, New Hope, Reading, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, State College, Swarthmore, West Chester, York (“Uniformly,” 12/29/2010). Haverford is currently considering it. In 2009 it was estimated that 80% of the state’s area was not covered by a local ordinance (Fellinger, 4/01/2009) In Hatboro the mayor vetoed an inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance and the town council was not able to override the veto. The Abington Township Board of Commissioners voted down a non-discrimination ordinance last week (Arnosky, 1/14/2011)

What are the objections to such local ordinances? Some are concerned about potential cost. Lansdowne has spent $500 over a three year period (Puglionesi, 1/06/2011). Lancaster County has reported cost concerns but it is the only area to have a “work-sharing” relationship with the state (Radzievich 09/08/2010); the county’s law does not include sexual orientation, although the city’s does. Lancaster County disbanded it’s Human Relations Commission in December, 2010, citing cost concerns, but those coincided with a push to include sexual orientation in the wording (Scolford, 12/24/2010). Others have reservations based on religious beliefs. Others are simply prejudiced against the LGBT community.

Writing this on a day that celebrates the work of a man who worked for equal rights for a minority population, it seems a shame that Pennsylvania cannot offer the same legal protections to all of its citizens.

Sources

Arnosky, Mischa, “Abington says 'no' to human relations ordinance,” Abington Patch January 14, 2011 (http://abington.patch.com/articles/update-abington-says-no-to-human-relations-ordinance)

Belser, Ann, “Job security just one issue for LGBT community – workplace climate also a concern,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 18, 2009

Fellinger, Richard, “Sexual-orientation issue divides House Rep. Eugene DePasquale is a co-sponser of a controversial bill,” York Daily Record April 1, 2009

Infanti, Anthony C, “Discrimination bill affects us all,” Patriot-News April 14, 2009

Radzievich, Nicole, “Callahan proposes human rights panel,” Morning Call September 8, 2010

Scolford, Mark, “Without state law, towns tackle anti-gay bias,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 24, 2010.

“Uniformly ban discrimination,” Daily Review (Towanda) December 29, 2010

Worden, Amy, “PA bill would extend antibias law to gays,” Philadelphia Inquirer March 15, 2009

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Quick Look at Leslie Richards

Some of the county commissioner races are starting to shape. Sort of. In a way. In Montgomery County one of the likely candidates is Leslie Richards of Whitemarsh. She has a website, Friends of Leslie Richards (http://www.friendsofleslierichards.com/ with a good lengthy biography. Richards has a graduate degree in regional planning. She started Whitemarsh Day and has served on the Parks & Recreation Board, planning commission and was then elected to the township board of supervisors.

She's been out and about and held a few events. I've attended two. She makes a good first impression, smart, savvy, good at working a room and making people feel welcome. I look forward to seeing more of her and wish her well in the campaign.

Schwartz Comment on Giffords Resolution

from the inbox:

SCHWARTZ STATEMENT ON RESOLUTION HONORING REP. GIFFORDS AND THE VICTIMS OF THE ARIZONA SHOOTING

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz read the following statement on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives today in support of a resolution honoring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, her staff, and the victims of the tragic shooting that took place in Tucson, Arizona.

“Last Saturday, in Tucson and across the country, so many Americans, including myself, are horrified and deeply saddened by the mass shooting at a congressional outreach event hosted by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

“The senselessness, the violence, and the magnitude of the death and injury was stunning and alarming. This is a very personal tragedy. And, it is a national tragedy. It is tragedy that is heartbreaking and wrenching.

“Members reaching out to their constituents and constituents having the opportunity, formally or informally, to talk with their Representative in Congress is at the core of our responsibilities, and a value we all hold as Americans.

“Even as we mourn, as Americans we cannot allow this to diminish or deter our civic interactions.

“I ask for my colleagues to join together in honoring those killed. My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with their loved ones.

“Gabby is my colleague and friend. I share in acknowledging her commitment to public service and her principled leadership on behalf of her constituents. She has a deep passion for who we are as Americans and for working to find the common ground to meet our nation’s challenges. Her inner strength and determination is serving her well as she struggles to recover. Reports from her doctors have been remarkably positive.

“My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with Gabby, and all those injured, for a swift and full recovery, and I extend those thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of all the victims; Gabby’s staff; and all affected by this senseless shooting.

“I love this country deeply and the values we all share.

“It is my hope that our nation will come together to honor those who perished, and to affirm our commitment to move forward in a way that allows us to voice our differences, and debate the solutions to our challenges while respecting our shared love and dedication to our great nation.”

Obama's Remarks This Evening

from the inbox:

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
At a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona
University of Arizona, McKale Memorial Center
Tucson, Arizona
January 12, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery—

To the families of those we’ve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts. But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight. We mourn with you for the fallen. We join you in your grief. And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.

As Scripture tells us:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.

On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff, and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech. They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders – representatives of the people answering to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns to our nation’s capital. Gabby called it “Congress on Your Corner” – just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.

That is the quintessentially American scene that was shattered by a gunman’s bullets. And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday – they too represented what is best in America.

Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years. A graduate of this university and its law school, Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain twenty years ago, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and rose to become Arizona’s chief federal judge. His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit. He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his Representative. John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons, and his five grandchildren.

George and Dorothy Morris – “Dot” to her friends – were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters. They did everything together, traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon. Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their Congresswoman had to say. When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife. Both were shot. Dot passed away.

A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 2 year-old great-granddaughter. A gifted quilter, she’d often work under her favorite tree, or sometimes sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants to give out at the church where she volunteered. A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better.

Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together – about seventy years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families, but after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy’s daughters put it, “be boyfriend and girlfriend again.” When they weren’t out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ. A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with their dog, Tux. His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers.

Everything Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion – but his true passion was people. As Gabby’s outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits they had earned, that veterans got the medals and care they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks. He died doing what he loved – talking with people and seeing how he could help. Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancĂ©e, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.

And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student, a dancer, a gymnast, and a swimmer. She often proclaimed that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age, and would remind her mother, “We are so blessed. We have the best life.” And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.

Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing. Our hearts are broken – and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness.

Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday. I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak. And I can tell you this – she knows we’re here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.

And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others. We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby’s office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive. We are grateful for the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload. We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives. And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt.

These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned – as it was on Saturday morning.

Their actions, their selflessness, also pose a challenge to each of us. It raises the question of what, beyond the prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward. How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected. We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires. For those who were harmed, those who were killed – they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them. In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners. Phyllis – she’s our mom or grandma; Gabe our brother or son. In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America’s fidelity to the law. In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union.

And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.

So deserving of our love.

And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.” On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life. “I hope you help those in need,” read one. “I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace. May He love and watch over the survivors. And may He bless the United States of America.

Hey There, Mr. Sunshine

Two of the Montgomery County commissioners, Jim Matthews and Joe Hoeffel went out for breakfast on at least a few occasions with county solicitor Barry Miller and Deputy Chief Operating Officer Jim Maza. The third commissioner, Bruce Castor, did not attend and was not invited to do so. The District Attorney is investigating possible violations of the Sunshine Law relating to these meetings. (Phucas. 12/08/2010)

It’s not the first time the county commissioners have been accused of violating the Sunshine Act. Here are examples of previous controversies

In 2000, all three commissioners attend briefings that are closed to the public. The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association said the meetings should be open because, according to the PNA staff attorney, they “involve a majority of commissioners deliberating future action.” PNA says the Sunshine Law is being violated. Commissioners Michael Marino and Ruth Damsker found nothing wrong with it. (Gimpel 1/14/2000)

Later in 2000 Commissioners Jim Matthews and Ruth Damsker met with opponents of a proposed electric plan but didn’t tell power company. Commissioner Mike Marino was not involved. The power company said this violated Sunshine Law. (Ferry 10/23/2000)

In 2004 Commissioners Jim Matthews and Tom Ellis meet with county administrators including county solicitor Barry Miller and chief operating officer Robert Graf. Commissioner Ruth Damsker said this violated the Sunshine Law. “Matthews said at the commissioners meeting Thursday that he ‘chose not to have her there’ because Damsker was not part of the group’s ‘vision’ for the county” (Milewski 8/13/2004)

Later in 2004 Commissioner Ruth Damsker receives short notice of retirement board meeting; she will be on vacation. “If Mr. Matthews and Mr. Ellis want to sit down in their office or after work for a chat and discuss what they want to accomplish – fine,” Damsker read from a prepared statement. “However, when these two commissioners use county personnel and taxpayers’ money to hold a meeting that is private and has no minority party representation, then they have crossed the line. County employees are not employees of the Republican Party. They work for the taxpayers.” (Milewskwi 8/27/2004)

There were no official charges or investigations in these cases. The District Attorney at the time was Bruce Castor. I thought it was fascinating that one of the 2004 incidents involved the same Barry Miller that is involved in the current case.

Sources

Gimpel, Diane Marczely “Montco meetings cut, closed,” Morning Call January 14, 2000.

Milewski, Melissa, “Damsker decries meeting,” Intelligencer August 13, 2004

Milewski, Melissa, “Damsker angered by late notice,” Intelligencer August 27, 2004

Perry, Joseph P., “County officials allegedly broke law,” Morning Call October 23, 2000

Phucas, Keith, “Montco D.A. looks at possible Sunshine violations by commissioners” Main Line Times, December 8, 2010

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Upcoming Events

Two upcoming events that might be of interest:

January 22nd and 23rd the PA Progressive Summit 2011 will be held in Pittsburgh.

The next weekend, January 29th and 30th, Democracy for America will hold a Campaign Academy in Plymouth Meeting.

Forbes Mag: Affordable Care Act Helping Small Business

Rick Ungar writes on the Forbes site (1/06/2011) "More small businesses Offering Health Care To Employees Thanks To Obamacare,"

It starts:



The first statistics are coming in and, to the surprise of a great many, Obamacare might just be working to bring health care to working Americans precisely as promised.

The major health insurance companies around the country are reporting a significant increase in small businesses offering health care benefits to their employees.

Cost of Repealing Affordable Care Act

from the inbox:

Repealing the Affordable Care Act will Hurt the Economy

By Stephanie Cutter

The House Republican Health Care Plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away all the new freedom and control it gives the American people over their health care and gives it back to insurance companies will not only raise costs for individuals and businesses, but it will hurt our economy.

Since the President signed the Affordable Care Act into law last March, the economy has created over 1 million private sector jobs, including the 113,000 private sector jobs created in December announced today. So, at a time when our economy is getting stronger, repealing the law would hamper that important economic progress by increasing costs on individuals and businesses, weakening the benefits and protections that Americans with private insurance are already enjoying, and adding more than a trillion dollars to our deficits.

Opponents’ claim that the law is “job-killing” is in direct contradiction to what has actually been happening in the economy since enactment. In fact, repealing the law would likely slow down the growth of our economy. Here are the facts:

· Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the economy has created over 1 million private sector jobs. The unemployment rate is 9.4%, lower than it was in March 2010—9.7%.

· In the period during and right after the enactment of the law, the economy grew by 2.7%.

· Consumer confidence in a range of areas have improved, including retail and food sales by 4%, and auto sales by 7% since the enactment of the law.

· Slowing the growth of health care costs—as the Affordable Care Act does—will have the likely impact of creating more jobs since businesses will have to spend less on health care for their employees. This reduction could create more than 300,000 additional jobs.

· The law widely expands coverage to Americans, thereby reducing the hidden tax of about $1,000 that families with insurance pay each year in additional premium costs to cover the uncompensated costs of the uninsured.

· The law reduces small businesses’ health care expenses by giving them $40 billion worth of tax credits and through the creation of new, competitive state-based insurance Exchanges. Exchanges will enable individuals and small businesses to pool together and use their market strength to buy coverage at a lower cost, the same way large employers do today, giving them the freedom to launch their own companies without worrying whether health care will be available when they need it.

· The law will lower the deficit by over $100 billion this decade and by over $1 trillion in the following decade.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act would have a devastating impact on our economy. In addition to hurting some of the economic progress that has been made over the past ten months the Congressional Budget Office found that repealing the law would add over a quarter of a trillion dollars--$230 billion—to the deficit in the first decade, and more than a trillion dollars in the second decade; increase the number of uninsured by 32 million Americans; increase premiums for large employers; and will force consumers who buy coverage on the individual market to pay more out of pocket for fewer benefits.

In addition, Harvard Economist David Cutler found in a report released today by the Center for American Progress that repealing the law would significantly increase costs and reduce job growth. It will “…revert us back to the old system for financing and delivering health care and lead to substantial increases in total medical spending” by:

· Adding up to $2,000 annually to family premiums and increasing overall medical spending $125 billion by the end of this decade.

· Preventing 250,000 to 400,000 jobs from being created annually over the next decade.

· Suppressing entrepreneurship among workers who may have started new businesses, or sought new opportunities in the economy since they will no longer be free from worrying whether affordable coverage would be available to them in the new Exchanges, when they need it the most.

Again, these facts speak for themselves. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would hurt families, businesses, and our economy.

Read more about how many jobs our economy has created here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/01/07/employment-situation-december

Read the full Center for American Progress report on the economic consequences of repealing the law here: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/01/jobs_health_repeal.html

Goolsebee on December Employment Numbers




from the inbox:

The Employment Situation in December

Posted by Austan Goolsbee on January 07, 2011 at 09:40 AM EST

Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 113,000 in December, capping 12 consecutive months of growth that added 1.3 million private sector jobs to the economy during 2010, the strongest private sector job growth since 2006. The unemployment rate fell 0.4 percentage point to 9.4 percent last month.

The overall trend of economic data over the past several months has been encouraging, due in large part to the initiatives passed by this Administration, but we still have a ways to go. The measures we worked with Congress to pass last month that continue tax cuts for the middle class and extensions to unemployment insurance are vital to sustaining the recovery. The Administration will also continue to focus on actions that the President has recommended to increase growth and job creation, such as providing incentives to encourage businesses to invest and hire here at home, investing in education and infrastructure, and promoting exports abroad.

In addition to the increases last month, the estimates of private sector job growth for October (now 193,000) and November (now 79,000) were revised up. Including today’s revisions, private sector employers have added an average of 128,000 jobs per month in the 4th quarter, the highest quarterly average in almost four years.

Overall payroll employment rose by 103,000 last month. Among the sectors with the largest payroll employment growth were leisure and hospitality (+47,000), education and health services (+44,000), temporary help services (+15,900), and manufacturing (+10,000). Local government (-20,000) and construction (-16,000) were among the sectors that subtracted from the total.

Even though the unemployment rate fell sharply in December, it is still unacceptably high and we need robust employment growth in order to recover from the deep job losses that began over two years ago. The overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically since then, but there will surely continue to be bumps in the road ahead. The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision. Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.

Austan Goolsbee is Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Schwartz Statement on Tucson Shooting

from the inbox:

U.S. Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz (PA-13) issued the following statement today concerning the shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-8) and others at a congressional outreach event hosted by the congresswoman.

"From Tucson to across the country, so many Americans, including myself, are horrified and deeply saddened by the mass shooting at a congressional outreach event hosted by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

"Gabby is my colleague and friend. I respect and admire her commitment to public service and her principled leadership on behalf of her constituents. Her commitment to her constituents is well known and respected. She has a deep passion for building on the unique strengths of the United States to ensure that there is hope and opportunity for all Americans.

"Tonight my heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with her for a swift and full recovery, and I extend those thoughts and prayers to her husband, Mark Kelly; her family; her staff; and those wounded and killed at today's senseless shooting. And, my great hope is that our nation can come together as one to remember the love of America that we all share."

Wessel in WSJ on Debt Ceiling

David Wessel had an article in Thursday's Wall Street Journal, "Before deficit yields to political drama, some stubborn facts." Here is an interested excerpt:

Refusing to raise the debt ceiling won't cut spending or shrink the deficit. "As far as I am aware," former Reagan Treasury official Bruce Bartlett wrote recently, "no other country on Earth has the idiotic policy that the U.S. has of having a legal limit on ... bonds the central government can issue. They correctly recognize that the deficit and the debt are simply residuals resulting from the government's tax and spending policies. It makes no sense to treat the debt as if it were an independent variable." In other words, if you favored extending expiring Bush tax cuts, you favored borrowing more.

Friday, January 07, 2011

December Event on Women's Health

Some newsworthy items got lost in late December. One was a forum on women’s health held on December 15th at WHYY. Over 100 people came out to talk about the new health care reform law and how it will impact women’s health in Pennsylvania. The event was hosted by Raising Women’s Voices of Southeastern Pennsylvania, a coalition of 25 organizations concerned with women’s health, led by Women’s Way.

Questions from the audience were wide ranging but the primary focus was on three issues: maternity care, family planning services, and protecting women’s access to abortion care in the new Pennsylvania health insurance exchange. From the event press release:

In September, 2010, State Senator Don White (R-11) introduced Senate Bill 1399, which would ban private insurance plans sold in Pennsylvania’s state exchange, created under health care reform, from covering even medically necessary abortion procedures. With an estimated 80% of private insurance plans currently covering abortion care, the forum’s host, Raising Women’s Voices of Southeastern Pennsylvania says that banning abortion coverage in the state exchange would leave women worse off than they were before health care reform began.


Let me also note that prenatal care is vitally important to the health of women and babies. As noted on the federal government's website on women's health: "Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do get care." The same site discusses the importance of preconception care, which can help prevent certain birth defects.

Here are some remarks from or about the forum:

Rebecca Foley, Director of Education & Advocacy Initiatives at WOMEN’S WAY: “While women gained many important benefits under the new health care reform law, they also lost critical reproductive health care benefits, and Pennsylvania women have the potential to lose even more. We need politicians to be working to protect and advance women’s health instead of denying Pennsylvania women access to fundamental reproductive health care services.”

State Rep. Tim Briggs: I will tell you that this upcoming legislative session might prove to be a challenging one in terms of the fight for equality in women's health and women's reproductive rights. Republicans, who control the majority in the House and Senate as well as the governor's office, could try to promote legislation that could actually work AGAINST these issues. No matter how difficult the battle proves to be, I and my colleagues will continue to fight for these important issues. As a lawmaker – and a husband and father – I cannot comprehend a state budget that could potentially eliminate funding for vital women's health services, stripping women of the opportunity to receive something as simple as a check-up for their children or for themselves. That is why I will continue to support state-sponsored programs that offer obstetric and neonatal services, and breast and cervical cancer screenings, to name a few, which are vital for the health and well-being of thousands of Pennsylvania women.

State Rep. Josh Shapiro: It is critical that we remain vigilant in our defense of a woman's right to choose and stop legislation in Harrisburg that seeks to undermine womens health and interfere with medical decisions that ought to be made by a woman and her doctor.

State Senator Daylin Leach: "With so many changes related to health care policy coming up in the near future, it is essential that we get the community together to talk about our plans and concerns, I thank WHYY and Raising Women’s Voices for taking the initiative and bringing residents and lawmakers together for a discussion about an important topic that could affect thousands of lives, just in our neck of the woods."

Other elected offiicals participating in the forum include Representative Vanessa Lowery Brown, Representative-Elect Michelle Brownlee, Representative-Elect Tina Davis, and Representative Tony Payton.