Voting Against Virginia: Republican malpractice on MedicaidApril 3, 2017 Thomas Bowman, Co-founder
What would you do if I offered you $2.1 billion dollars if you would give healthcare to 460,000 more people? Obviously you would take it. You would be an idiot not to.
Think of what Virginia could do with another $2.1 billion dollars: no more cutting into bone in our state budgets; no more underfunded universities and public schools; no more underpaid police officers, just to name a few things.
What if I told you that expanding your health coverage and accepting the money would also create 30,000 more high-paying jobs across the state, which would compound the growth in state revenue? No brainer, right? Talk about the art of the deal.
Yet bizarrely, Republicans refuse to accept this deal, to the overwhelming detriment of their own constituents.
Medicaid plays a critical role in the lives of over a million Virginians, providing access to health care for the most vulnerable. It covers one-in-three births in Virginia and half of Medicaid enrollees are children. Two-in-three nursing facility residents are supported by Medicaid and there are home and community-based waivers that support over 46,700 Virginians in a community setting of their choosing.
Medicaid is also the primary payer for behavioral health services in Virginia, which is critical to ensuring people get the mental health and addiction treatment they need (DMAS, “Medicaid at a glance,” 2017).
As you can imagine, this can get pretty expensive. Yet Republicans are leaving Federal money on the table because the expanded Medicaid program came from Democrats.
Republican intransigency means Virginia is foregoing $2.1 billion every budget cycle, or $6.8 million per day.
Virginians are already paying the federal taxes for Medicaid expansion, but because we haven’t expanded it in the state, our money goes to the states that did expand it., like California, Maryland and New York.
Instead, Virginia’s eligibility criteria are among the strictest in the nation, with the Commonwealth being 47th in the nation on per capita Medicaid spending. Our state cannot legally cover any fewer families than it does now because of requirements in the federal Social Security Act.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states can expand Medicaid to cover people making up to 138% of the federal poverty level, or about $16,640 for an individual. The federal government picks up almost all of the cost, gradually phasing down to the 90% traditional cost-share level.
To date, 31 states have expanded Medicaid and about half of those have Republican governors. Giving your residents access to affordable health care should not be a partisan issue, but Virginia Republicans have made it one.
It shouldn’t be a partisan issue because many of the districts that would benefit the most are Republican districts.
A 2014 analysis found that $1.19 billion of the new money would go to new spending in Republican Delegate seats. Of the 30,000 new jobs, 17,880 jobs would go to Republican delegate seats and funnel millions in new education spending to Republican delegate seats.
While the numbers are a couple years old, the data are still valid as the turnover in the House of Delegates has been minimal, with Democrats only picking up a few of these GOP seats (and losing others). As you can see for yourself, the Republican position is untenable and is healthcare malpractice.
Click here for a downloadable PDF of the data.
Keith Oliver thought his prayers for health insurance had finally been answered when he received a card from Virginia’s Medicaid program. But the first time Oliver tried to use it, the doctor’s office told the 30-year-old part-time residential counselor that the card covered only family planning services under the program. “I went to a cookout and burned the card,” he said Monday at a Capitol news conference.
Oliver was among four people to tell their stories of seeking vainly for health insurance and avoiding medical treatment without it, as health care advocates mounted a new offensive aimed at persuading the General Assembly to expand the state’s Medicaid program to uninsured adults and low-income families. “This opportunity isn’t new,” said Anna Scholl, executive director of Progress Virginia, which organized the news conference. “For years, politicians in the Virginia General Assembly have played political games with people’s lives.”
The advocacy group is trying to pressure legislators, especially Republicans in the House of Delegates, to support a budget amendment Gov. Terry McAuliffe proposed to give him the authority to expand the program this year if the opportunity remains under the Affordable Care Act. But House Republicans have already made clear they will reject the governor’s proposed amendment when the legislature convenes Wednesday to consider gubernatorial budget amendments and vetoes of legislation adopted by the assembly this year.
“Virginia can barely support our current program, much less an expansion,” House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, and other Republican leaders said in a statement within hours of the governor announcing his proposed amendment on March 27.Christopher West, Howell’s legislative aide, said Monday that “nothing has changed on our end. Our caucus will reject that budget amendment.”
The political debate has raged since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that Medicaid expansion is optional — not mandatory — for states under the health care law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010. But Oliver and others without health insurance appeared mystified by the legislature’s repeated refusal to expand the program to all Virginians earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, now $12,060 a year for one person or $24,600 for a family of four.
Lauralyn Clark, 53, of Caroline County, is a home-care assistant who was making $8.86 an hour when her husband died two years ago and she lost her health insurance. “The majority of caregivers — and there are 40,000 of us — don’t have health insurance,” Clark said.
**Michael Town was guest speaker at our PCDC meeting on March 19, 2017 **
By Michael Town
Richmond Times-Dispatch Mar 18, 2017
Clean water is a right. It’s necessary for life as we know it.
Clean water is also necessary for quality of life. Each year, countless Virginians and tourists alike take advantage of the recreational angling, swimming and boating opportunities that the Chesapeake Bay and our scenic waterways provide.
Unfortunately, our rivers and drinking water are threatened throughout Virginia, from the far southwest to the D.C. suburbs. Protecting these resources shouldn’t be a partisan fight, and we were fortunate at the General Assembly this year to see broad support from both sides of the aisle to push forward strong water quality safeguards while beating back legislation that would have put clean water at risk across the commonwealth.
One of our most high-profile fights this year was over a bill — sponsored by Sens. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) and Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) and now headed to the governor — that requires Dominion Power to complete full assessments of all of its coal ash storage facilities and outline different options for safe, long-term closure.
Responsible management of these sites is critical. Coal ash is laden with harmful, heavy metals like lead, arsenic and hexavalent chromium. Following large-scale environmental calamities in Tennessee and just across the border in North Carolina where coal ash holding ponds failed, polluting rivers with toxic sludge, the Environmental Protection Agency required utilities to close existing storage ponds and convert to clean, dry storage in landfills at facilities that still burn coal.
Under the reporting guidelines of Senate Bill 1398, Dominion Power will have to identify any ongoing pollution issues, as well as corrective action, and determine whether these sites are vulnerable to extreme weather or erosion. The utility will also have to evaluate responsible, clean closure of these sites by excavating and removing coal ash waste to a lined landfill, and to also look into the feasibility of recycling coal ash into concrete, which can then be used in road construction or in manufacturing building products.
Regulators, lawmakers and citizens will be armed with more information on the dangers coal ash impoundments pose to public health and the environment. This makes it harder for Dominion to do the bare minimum while closing these sites, and legislators have given the sign that they are open to the possibility of revisiting the issue during the 2018 General Assembly once the red flags emerge.
While the outcome is a step in the right direction, we believe it contains one serious flaw.
The original bill cleared the state Senate on an incredible 29-11 margin. The Richmond delegation demonstrated the strong bipartisan support behind this effort with Senate Democrats Jennifer McClellan and Rosalyn Dance voting alongside Republicans Glen Sturtevant, Siobhan Dunnavant and Chase. But before it passed the House of Delegates unanimously, the committee reviewing the legislation removed a vital provision from the bill that would require the state Department of Environmental Quality to only make permit decisions after receiving this information. As the legislation now stands, Dominion could get its permits before giving the state pertinent information about the pollution problems at the coal ash sites.
With the deadline fast approaching for gubernatorial vetoes and amendments, Governor McAuliffe has the chance to address this shortcoming and we expect he will act. State lawmakers need to follow suit when they reconvene in April. Without firm provisions putting the horse before the cart, it’s wholly possible Dominion could still try to pursue Band-Aid solutions at its coal ash sites, a move that would defy the spirit of this bill. Our state agencies need to be able make the right call the first time during the permitting process, not after our clean water has already been compromised.
For too long, under the guise of reliable electricity, Dominion Power has gotten a free pass to pollute in the commonwealth. This General Assembly proved that state lawmakers are sick and tired of it. By weighing in on coal ash closure, McAuliffe has the chance to hold Dominion accountable and also to stand with countless Virginians who depend on clean water, and legislators have the chance to say enough is enough.
If Dominion permanently closes coal ash sites before disclosing and fixing existing pollution issues, or ensuring the sites are at all suited for long-term closure in the face of extreme weather, they are essentially playing Russian roulette with our clean water resources.
We have an opportunity to responsibly address a truly toxic problem in Virginia. House lawmakers can either stand alongside their constituents or with the corporation responsible for creating the mess in the first place.
Michael Town is executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By GRAHAM MOOMAW Richmond Times-Dispatch
Mar 11, 2017
After retiring from her environmental law career, Mary Jo Sheeley spent much of her newfound free time volunteering for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Upset by President Donald Trump’s victory and shaken by the feeling that the things she believes in could no longer be taken for granted, she vowed to stay active.
She marched with hundreds of thousands of other women in D.C., then got together with small groups of other activists to talk about what to do next. “It’s so clear what we need to do,” Sheeley said. “We need to look at what is going on locally. And we need to change the balance of power in the General Assembly.”
Instead of making calls and knocking on doors for someone else, Sheeley, 61, is running for office herself, part of an unprecedented rush of candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates this year fueled largely by opposition to Trump.
Republicans hold a dominant 66-34 majority in the House, but Democrats hope the swell of anti-Trump activism in Virginia, the only Southern state Trump did not win, could lead to a 2017 wave in down-ticket House races as Virginians elect a governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
As of late last week, Democrats said they had candidates running in 43 of the 66 House districts that Republicans currently represent, more than double the 21 GOP districts Democrats contested in 2015. So far, Republicans have five challengers among the 34 Democratic-held districts.
Hoping to channel the energy of women’s marches and Indivisible groups into an anti-Trump wave, Democrats have challengers in all 17 GOP-held districts that went for Clinton.
“I have not seen this before,” said Del. Charniele L. Herring, an Alexandria Democrat and chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, of the phenomenon she described as a “huge organic surge.”
Sheeley, a former environmental lawyer for the state who retired from Dominion Energy, is hoping to go up against Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, a Richmond Republican whose 68th District is among the 17 that favored Clinton. First, Sheeley has to get past two other Democrats, Ben Pearson-Nelson and Dawn Adams, who want the same chance. “They’re awakening parts of people that have always existed but they forgot,” said Adams, a 52-year-old state health official who said she wants to “start bringing some compassion” to a political environment marked by extremism.
Roughly a dozen Republican districts have multiple Democratic candidates who will have to earn the right to try to flip a seat by winning their party’s nomination. That is a previously rare scenario, occurring in just one or two districts per cycle, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
With major filing deadlines still weeks away, the candidate lineup remains fluid. Democratic nominating contests this spring and summer will help to reveal whether the huge field of candidates will produce quality, well-funded candidates who can credibly compete.
‘In for a rude awakening’
Republicans do not dispute the swell of activism on the other side, but they doubt it will easily translate to GOP incumbents being dislodged en masse. “They have no clear message or clear reason for taking their frustrations out on Virginia Republicans,” said Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck. “It seems to be all driven by the national political scene. But I think they’re in for a rude awakening when they see that Virginia voters care about Virginia issues.”
Even if the political playing field has shifted in response to Trump, General Assembly incumbents are notoriously difficult to beat. During the 2015 legislative races, 122 lawmakers sought re-election and not a single incumbent from either party lost, a statistic anti-gerrymandering advocates have used to argue that legislative lines are drawn to protect those already in power.
Republicans have pushed back on the notion that their majority rests on a rigged map. House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox, a Colonial Heights Republican poised to become the next House speaker in 2018, said Republicans win because they know their districts. “They know their folks, and they serve them well. A lot of times in state-level and local-level elections, that’s how people vote,” Cox said in an interview last month after being named the successor-in-waiting to retiring House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford. Despite Cox’s status as the soon-to-be top Republican in the House, he’s facing a Democratic challenge for the first time in decades from Katie Sponsler, a former park ranger turned stay-at-home mom.
With two redistricting lawsuits pending in federal and state courts that could reshape the House map in Democrats’ favor, even small gains for the minority could precede bigger political shifts in the years ahead. Against the backdrop of Virginia’s closely watched governor’s race, both parties will be looking to energize voters wherever they can.
Democratic targets mostly in N.Va.
Though Democrats have said they are prioritizing the 17 GOP-held districts Clinton won, many observers feel that picking up five to six seats is a more attainable goal.
The prime targets are mostly in the Northern Virginia suburbs, including the 2nd District seat coming open after Del. L. Mark Dudenhefer, R-Stafford, who won narrowly in 2015, announced he will not seek re-election this year. Another seat could open in the nearby 50th District if Del. Jackson H. Miller, R-Manassas, wins his bid for Prince William County clerk of court in an April 18 special election.
Virginia political analyst Bob Holsworth said Democratic challengers will face an “uphill climb,” but the mobilized opposition to Trump could lift their chances in low-turnout races that normally favor Republicans. “Democrats really believe that Trump will enable them not to have the kind of dropoff that normally occurs in participation in off-years, especially in Northern Virginia,” Holsworth said.
Progressive groups working outside the traditional party/caucus structure are trying to focus attention on the House races and assist candidates who would not typically draw much party support.
Activate Virginia, an organization founded by a former Bernie Sanders delegate, has worked on its own to recruit candidates and provide basic guidance, connect Indivisible groups — the left’s emerging version of the grass-roots tea party movement — and offer basic guidance and logistical support.
Josh Stanfield, the 30-year-old Yorktown-based activist behind Activate Virginia, said he’s essentially building a “counter-caucus.” “I saw that there was a real opening for normal people that were not connected,” Stanfield said.
Three of the 17 Clinton-friendly Republican House districts lie in the Richmond region’s western suburbs. “I think November obviously shocked a lot of people,” said Schuyler VanValkenburg, a 34-year-old government teacher at Glen Allen High School running against Del. Jimmie Massie, a Republican businessman who has represented western Henrico County’s 72nd District for nearly a decade.
In Henrico’s 73rd District, four Democrats are lining up for the chance to take on Del. John M. O’Bannon III, a Republican neurologist who has faced Democratic opposition just once since taking office in 2001. “I think this movement of people, especially women like me, is not just about resisting. It’s about advancing,” said Debra H. Rodman, a 44-year-old Randolph-Macon College professor running in O’Bannon’s district. O’Bannon’s would-be challengers also include Chelsea Savage, a 46-year-old nurse; Sarah Smith, a 30-year-old state health worker; and Bill Coleman, a 38-year-old IT project manager.
Farther west of Richmond, another Republican seat has opened after Del. Peter F. Farrell, R-Henrico, announced that he will not seek re-election. Farrell’s 56th District is solidly Republican, but Democrat Lizzie Drucker-Basch is contesting the district for the first time since 2009.
Graven W. Craig, a Louisa County trial attorney and the county Republican chairman, announced for the GOP nomination several hours after Farrell disclosed Friday that he plans to retire.
Two Democrats have filed to challenge Del. Riley E. Ingram, R-Hopewell, in the 62nd District. Businesswoman Sheila Bynum-Coleman, who lost to Ingram in 2015, is seeking a rematch, but she will compete with Tavorise K. Marks, a police captain at Central State Hospital, for the Democratic nomination.
The burst of Democratic interest also may bring complications for some Democratic incumbents.
Alex Mejias, a 38-year-old business strategist at a Richmond web development firm, is mounting a primary challenge against Del. Delores L. McQuinn, a Richmond Democrat who has represented the East End-centered 70th District since 2009. He declined to comment on McQuinn’s representation of the district, but said the unusually energetic atmosphere of the Trump era is part of what inspired him to run. “I see competition as something that fuels creativity and innovation and is an essential part of our government working well,” Mejias said. “This campaign is meant to really engage the district.”
Though the strength of the Democrat field is difficult to measure early in the cycle, party leaders say they feel good about what they are seeing. “We feel that we’re on the right track to run a record number of candidates,” said Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker.
Whitbeck, the Republican Party chairman, said his party is taking the “surge in enthusiasm by hard-core progressives” seriously. But Virginia voters, he said, will expect more than a message that he said boils down to “We hate Donald Trump.”
“We’re definitely ready for the fight and are going to relish it,” Whitbeck said. “It’s going to be the biggest battle the commonwealth has ever seen.”
A practical guide For resisting the Trump agenda
Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.
Last month, some former Democratic congressional staffers published an online document called, “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” The guide is a compelling overview on how to influence members of Congress, and while it includes all kinds of useful advice, note what it says at the bottom of page 4: “Calls are a light lift but can have an impact. Organize your local group to barrage your [members of Congress] at an opportune moment about and on a specific issue.”
Let’s not overstate matters: phone calls alone will not get the House and Senate, dominated by radicalized Republicans, to suddenly start acting responsibly. But yesterday offered a proof of concept: GOP members pushed a bad idea, which they dropped quite quickly in the face of public pressure.
This has happened before – some Republicans were open to gun background checks, for example, right up until NRA members started calling members’ offices in droves – and it can happen again. The moral of the story is that Democrats and progressive voters in general need not be angry spectators for the next two-to-four years. The more they get off the couch and remain engaged, the greater their impact will be.
Daily Mirror - U.K.
The world is stuck with Donald Trump as US President, for the next four years at least.
But this map suggests there may be some hope for the future. It was tweeted by Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, and has been receiving a lot of attention. It suggests that, if were down to voters aged 18-25-years-old, Clinton would have trounced Donald Trump in the election.
The data, collected by Survey Monkey, suggests Trump would win just five states and collect only 23 electoral votes whereas Clinton would have 504.
But the major caveat is that this was based on surveys carried out in the weeks running up to the election. So the question is - did young people turnout in numbers and vote as they said they would? According to exit polls carried out by CNN, Clinton took 55% of the vote for those aged 18-29. But overall, turnout for the Democrats was way down. There were 59.1million votes for Clinton, compared with 65.9million in 2012. In comparison, Trump got 59million votes compared to the 60.9million for Mitt Romney in 2012. This explains why polls, almost without exception, got it wrong in predicting a Clinton win.
Cliff Young, president of Ipsos Public Affairs US, said the problem came down to the models the pollsters used to predict who would vote. The models almost universally miscalculated how turnout was distributed among different demographic groups, Young said. And turnout was lower than expected, a result that generally favors Republican candidates. In 2000, when Republican George W. Bush beat Democrat Al Gore, for example, the turnout was about 60 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Eight years later, turnout was 64 percent when Democratic nominee Barack Obama won his first presidential election against Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain.
This year, "whites with lower levels of education came out in greater relative numbers than younger, more-educated and minority voters," Young said. "A point here or a point there can really change an election." Ultimately, missing that shift in the state polls tripped up the predictions.