Well.From the beginning, I have been telling you all that the so called “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” is neither protective nor affordable to patients.We can keep the same PPACA abbreviation and call it what it is:The Profiteering Protection and Affordable Cruelty Act. Although I read the whole darn thing, I lack a background in law or politics.As the specific corporate protections emerge from this convoluted mess, I have to say I didn’t foresee some of them.I knew it would be bad, just not all the details of said badness.
The latest in our story of woe?Insurers and some employers have discovered an irresistible loophole that allows skimpy policies covering only a few outpatient services.The key phrase is “minimal essential coverage”, previously defined in federal law under the IRS Act of 1986.I noticed some folks had conflated that term with “essential health benefits”, but EHB are mandated items on state Exchange policies starting in 2014.No plan will be allowed to put lifetime or annual dollar limits on coverage, but outside of the Exchanges, other details of minimal essential coverage are minimally described.
I think I was fooled by the ACA’s opening paragraphs allowing insurers to temporarily restrict annual limits on essential health benefits until 2014.I missed the absence of any requirement to offer those benefits at all, at any date, except on the Exchanges.Insurer can’t restrict annual dollar amounts of those benefits if they are offered. In a stunning twist on catastrophic coverage, it is possible for insurers to cover only the required preventive services and omit the catastrophes.You can get your colonoscopy “free” if you have a non-grandfathered plan, but any follow-up surgery is entirely on you.
Chalk up a win for the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners & the Alabama Veterinary Practice Owners Association (aka... the "Greedy Vets Club"). Aided by Senators Paul Bussman and Del Marsh, they were successful in killing legislation to protect non-profit spay & neuter clinics in Alabama.
Through our efforts, we hope to insure a stable future for those who currently are invested physically and financially in the profession, as well as the promise of future careers to those who come after us.
It's not about saving lives and taxpayer dollars; it's about padding profits.
Here is some good news yesterday though:
Protection for police & rescue animals: HB259 makes it a crime to harass, assault, injure, cause the death, or attempt to harass, assault, injure, or cause the death of a police animal or search and rescue animal.
Penalties for animal cruelty increased:HB27 raises the penalty for animal cruelty from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor and creates the crime of aggravated animal cruelty as a Class C felony.
Senator Hank Sanders was the lone NO vote. WTF was that about?
Because HB188 failed to pass the Senate, the ASBVME could force the non-profit clinics to close. The legislature asked them to hold off after last year's bill also failed to pass and give the legislature another opportunity to pass an acceptable bill.
So the question now becomes: what will the board do now? After all, we have the Greedy Vets Club busily counting cash and lobbying to have the clinics closed. On the other side, the clinics have the support of the AVMA and Alabama citizens.
Saturday, June 1 at 11:00 am
120 Madison Ave., Montgomery
Yes, this was the site of the August 2010 meeting with 350 attendees and broken air conditioning. At that time the place was called the Madison Hotel. The name has changed, let's hope the DoubleTree fixed the AC.
That's not the only similarity to that infamous meeting.
Nancy Worley has had a busy weekend. She started Friday, when she informed the Executive Board of the Alabama Democratic Party that "we're broke, broke, broke" She continued, somewhat disingenously,
Worley said she and the board must be more financially accountable. But Worley said that she was kept in the dark by Kennedy about the party's financial condition.
Really? In the dark? What about the meeting on March 29 in which then Chairman Kennedy presented a proposed budget that the Executive Board overrode, doubling the travel budget and approving the hiring of a new employee; a meeting Ms. Worley attended and at which she is quoted saying
"If ... any person -- is going to dictate how money is spent, than we are a Democratic Party that is not a democracy"
I received a telephone call today, similar to one that several of you have reported in the past. For background, let me say that occasionally, maybe once a week, I have received calls on my cell which show "Unknown" in the "caller" window. When I answer, there would be no one there. But today, I was blessed!
The phone rang...I glanced at the "caller" window..."Unknown!" I answered and a female voice said, "May I speak to Mr. Norman Boyd?"
I told her that before she speaks to anyone, I want to know why I keep getting these calls with "Unknown" in the window.
Are you sitting down, dear reader? Do not read on with Mountain Dew in your mouth! She said, (Go below the fold)
We have one more day of Alabama’s 2013 legislative session, when it is still possible to ward off the ghastly specter of Foreign Law from being forced upon us. Colorado, that means you—stand back, with your Rocky Mountain High and your happy newly-weds. Meanwhile, our beloved state Supreme Court has brought pregnancy and childbirth back to what they think God meant it to be—drug free. No epidurals. That can work well, especially if you have a midwife or a doctor skilled in normal unmedicated birth, but do women want to give up that option? How about no spinal blocks for c-sections? Girlfriends, better practice your breathing! Obstetricians, addiction specialists and anesthesiologists, do I have your attention?
Our story begins back in 2006, when Alabama passed a Chemical Endangerment statute meant to protect children from harm in meth houses. Although it said nothing whatsoever about pregnant women and was never intended to apply to women who become pregnant while addicted or who use a drug during pregnancy, that didn’t stop prosecutors from jumping right in.
I first learned of the problem when National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) contacted me about efforts to challenge the prosecutions of two Alabama women jailed under such misuse of the law. I decided to add my name to amici curiae briefs that explained to the court how dangerous these prosecutions are for maternal, fetal, and child health. I’m proud to be listed right there with the 47 groups and individuals who co-signed, including ACOG (The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), the American Medical Women’s Association, the National Perinatal Association, and NOW-Alabama. Y’all know I’m a good progressive, but ACOG has never been accused of such. What gives?
So what part of "Alabama Republican Party supermajority" does Alabama State Senator Shadrack McGill not understand? The key to a "super" majority in the Senate is that it has the votes to block a filibuster. Every time... unless some party members refuse to go along with the leadership.
That doesn't happen very often in the GOP folks, but in this interview with the Scottsboro Daily Sentinel, McGill lays the blame squarely on those talkative Democrats:
As the Alabama Legislature’s regular session winds down this week, Sen. Shadrack McGill (R-Macedonia) said it’s been a tough session, to say the least.
‘The Senate has been slow moving any legislation out,” said McGill. “Even local legislation has been very slow to pass this year due to the Democratic party filibustering almost everything.”
Odd that the reporter didn't challenge this statement since basic arithmetic (and Senate rules) refute it. Any senator can start a filibuster and the chamber can shut it down by "invoking cloture."
The agreement of a 3/5 majority of the Senate that debate on a given measure shall cease at a specified time. This parliamentary procedure, in resolution or petition form, is used only as a last resort to end a filibuster.
Alabama has 35 state senators, which means 21 votes are needed to invoke cloture. The Senate currently has 23 Republican members: that's why it's called a supermajority. Voting together, they can shut down any Democratic opposition to legislation.
So Democratic Senators may have tried filibusters, but it takes one simple vote to shut them down. And that happens: ask any of the 11 Democratic Senators what this session has been like.
The frustrating process of trying to "organize" Democrats is best described as "herding cats," while organizing Republicans is generally no harder than leading lemmings off a cliff.
So, is McGill saying here that party leadership has broken down and Republicans were supporting Democratic filibusters? That surely would have been big news. Or is he merely yet again putting his ignorance and propensity to blame others on display?
No matter how many unwanted animals might be born - and die in shelters - as a result of their opposition, an Alabama vet group is urging members to day to help defeat HB188. It's a compromise bill that will allow low-cost spay & neuter clinics to continue operating in Alabama. It's supported by the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association and animal welfare groups.
Enter the Alabama Veterinary Practice Owners Association (AVPOA) to oppose HB188. The reason? Money.
In an email sent to members, the AVPOA urges members to contact their senators and ask them to "support Senator Bussman in stopping HB188." It concludes like this:
Every veterinarian in the state of Alabama who values what this profession is, who wants to see it continue to be a proud profession with high standards, and who wishes to pass on a legacy of a quality private practice to a child, or a colleague, needs to contact their senator TODAY and ask them to support Senator Paul Bussman in stopping HB188.
It is imperative that you do this this morning!
All evidence indicates that SB 25 will get stuck in committee. We must kill HB188 in the senate today to stop this attack on our profession.
A quick glance at the AVPOA home page places the part about "passing on a legacy" in more context. The introductory text includes this:
Through our efforts, we hope to insure a stable future for those who currently are invested physically and financialy in the profession, as well as the promise of future careers to those who come after us.
Remember the GOP promise to improve ethics and clean up Alabama's campaign finance system? If not, don't worry about it: neither does the AL GOP supermajority. At least that's how it appears with Senator Bryan Taylor's new bill SB445.
Bill Britt at the Alabama Political Reporter has the scoop this morning:
It seems that Mr. Taylor has found a way to backdoor PAC-to-PAC transfers for some organizations and eliminate any muscle that others might have.
It also appears to give utility companies the ability to provide unlimited amounts of money. The Republicans promised that they would bring about campaign finance reform. But the reforms passed by the GOP have been questionable in scope and enforcement. Now, Taylor seems ready to deal a further deathblow to real reform.
The whole article is appalling.
Among other things, Taylor's bill:
Allows legislative caucuses to accept political contributions and seems to exempt them from the rules regulating PAC to PAC transfers.
Forbids any entity from acting as a "pass-through" for political contributions if it appears to exist solely to conceal the identity of the original donor. Britt calls this the "True Republican PAC Get Even With AEA” section.
That may be, but it's a self-inflicted wound for AEA. As we've already noted, the AEA's bet on Bentley was a bad ROI for education and that shady network of PACs it used during that election only served to highlight the need for more transparency in campaign financing.
Allows public utilities to make unlimited contributions to any candidates but those who are standing for PSC slots.
This last one is totally the most egregious power grab of the session. Remember what's been going on with the PSC and the rate review requested by member Terry Dunn? He's the guy that Speaker Mike Hubbard rebuked for taking his job too seriously.
But Dunn has persisted, and perhaps some of Alabama's utilities are worrying that he might derail the gravy train. It's a good plan: why worry about PSC oversight when you can simply buy off the legislature with unlimited campaign contributions?
Just in case you think this stupid bill will go nowhere, think again. After flying through committee (with no public hearing, it seems), it passed the Senate yesterday is headed to the House.
Looks as though the initiative's supporters were pretty persuasive:
The new rules are meant to regulate and encourage the spread of urban gardens on vacant property by making it possible to set up food stands to sell some of the produce on site as long as you're well away from schools and parks.
The new guidelines also allow for the expanded use of beekeeping. Beekeepers can now keep up to 10 hives per acre inside the city.
he comprehensive plan will set out a 20-year policy and strategic framework for the City of Birmingham. Guided by an overall vision that embodies the unique personality, culture, and heritage of our community, the planning process will establish a set of goals, policies, strategies, and implementation actions to achieve the plan’s vision for Birmingham’s future. This will be the city’s first full comprehensive plan since 1961. It’s our opportunity to set a new course for Birmingham in the 21st century.
This specific part of the plan will help address the problem of "food deserts" within the city. Those are areas that lack larger grocery stores or farmers markets, so residents have little access to high quality, fresh, affordable foods. This contributs to poor overall health as well as the obesity crisis in Alabama. We have the 4th highest obesity rate in the country.
Hopefully, this new initiative will improve quality of life for many Birmingham residents by:
Giving them more food choices and easier access to healthy foods.
Offering moneymaking opportunities where residents can sell their excess produce.
Helping build community ties and pride, as has happened at the West End Community Garden.
The once overgrown piece of property doesn't just serve as a planting ground. Shambulia says she's seen it build a stronger community.
"I've seen community members become a little bit more mindful about their yard space. We've seen community members actually start gardens. We definitely experienced children, you know having a safe space, an open space to come and play and work and be safe. Safe spaces for seniors to go," she said.
Kudos to the City of Birmingham and the committed community organizers and residents who are doing this important work.
(Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III. Bless his heart. - promoted by countrycat)
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected Alabama's appeal to consider the state's 2011 "show me your papers" anti-immigration law, formally known as HB 56. As a refresher, Alabama's anti-immigrant law made international news for its Draconian "self-deportation" provisions, including targeting the immigration status of schoolchildren.
From a political, economic, and moral perspective, the Alabama law and its "self-deportation" vision are a demonstrated failure that should serve as a cautionary tale of how not to conduct immigration policy. Yet despite the widespreadcriticisms and negative attention received by the law, not everyone has learned the lessons from Alabama's failed "self-deportation" experiment. In fact, Alabama's very own Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) - an enthusiastic supporter of HB 56 - wants to bring the failures of Alabama's immigration approach to the nation. At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Senator Sessions welcomed his allies from the anti-immigrant movement: Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary of State, the advisor behind Mitt Romney's "self-deportation" strategy and the author of the Arizona and Alabama "show me your papers" laws; and Mark Krikorian, head of the anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the intellectual author of the "self-deportation" strategy. Evidently unaware that this strategy may well have cost Romney the election, Kobach went on to remind listeners that "self-deportation is not some radical idea. It is simply the idea that people may comply with the law by their own choice."
Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America's Voice:
It's truly remarkable that after all the backlash from the failure of the 'self-deportation' approach in both the 2012 elections and in his home state, Sessions is still pursuing it as a matter of national policy. If immigration reform fails and the 'self-deportation' proponents win, the GOP can certainly thank Sen. Sessions and his anti-immigrant allies for sealing the deal with Latino voters - negatively - for a generation.
As New York Times editorial writer, Lawrence Downes, writes in a new blog post:
What's the deal with Alabama? Besides HB56, which tries hard to outdo Arizona's SB1070 as the nastiest state immigration law in the country (and in many ways succeeds), Alabama has a United States Senator, Jeff Sessions, who is among the loudest of the die-hards now doing all they can to block, stall or kill immigration reform in Congress.
Evidently, Senator Sessions wants to do for the people of America what his state's anti-immigrant law has done for the people of Alabama. It's up to the rest of the country to tell Senator Sessions 'no thanks.'
(Great recap of the Alabama Young Democrats Convention, thanks! - promoted by countrycat)
The Alabama Democratic Party has a history rich in intraparty rivalry. For a long period of its existence, as former Lieutenant Governor Baxley articulated at the 2013 Alabama Young Democrats Convention, the Alabama Democratic Party has had its in-house challenges.
Bringing his audience back into the political past, Baxley spoke about an era when the “Democratic Party” was really not one party, but two. He reminisced of the age when the States’ Rights Dixiecrats battled the Loyalists, the latter of which the long time Democrat counted himself a member. Baxley reminded the audience that a voter in 1948 could not vote for Truman by “pulling the Democratic lever.” Instead, the ballots of straight ticket voters would be counted in favor of Strom Thurmond, the Dixiecrat Presidential candidate. Our political past, Baxley explained, is important to remember because it helps us wade the waters of the political present.
Party changes can be positive or negative; it depends on the dedication of the individuals involved to embracing and reflecting truly progressive, Democratic ideals, and to actually represent the special interest group they were elected to: the people of the state of Alabama.
If this dedication is, as Baxley believes, the cornerstone of beginning positive change for the Alabama Democratic Party, then the people of the state seemingly have little to fear. Members of the non-profit the Alabama Democratic Majority, headed by recently resigned Chairman of the ADP Mark Kennedy are focused on registering and educating voters, mobilizing currently inactive voters, and supporting local and national grassroots campaigns in order to win elections all with an eye on furthering the values of the Democratic Party.
In the afternoon training session of the Young Dems Convention, Lou Willie and Leanne Townsend of the ADM were on hand to speak about voter registration, and strategies and goals for turning Alabama blue in 2014. Other notable speakers were on hand, including Beth Clayton, President Emeritus of the Alabama College Democrats, Kristian Cosme, Chair of the Young Democrats of America’s LGBTQ Caucus, and numerous members of the Regional and National Young Democrats of America’s executive boards.
As the website for the ADM, demmajority.com, emphasizes: Alabama is at a crossroads. This is clear. The mere fact that Democrats, once the controlling party of all statewide politics (in the pinnacle of the age of Yellow Dogs), and are now a nonfactor proves this; that the ADM staff is composed of many Kennedy loyalists from the old ADP makes it even more clear.
Alabama is at a crossroads, so action has to be taken. Alabama must turn blue again, despite the challenges the Party faces. Many are taking up that banner. Many are doing their part to help Alabama succeed. That is what Bill Baxley meant by dedication, and that is what will help Democrats in Alabama win elections.
Corporate welfare... aka... legalized blackmail.... is alive and well in North Alabama. Here's the latest sorry chapter: three businesses at the swanky Bridge Street development in Huntsville are now closed and owe more than ten thousand in back taxes.
The city isn't the only entity left high and dry:
Bayer Properties, the company that manages Bridge Street, refused to comment on the closings or the taxes owed to the county, but Madison County Tax Collector Lynda Hall says this is the first time in over a decade her office may be forced to seize property from the businesses and hold a public auction.
Watercress closed overnight leaving patrons with gift cards wondering how they will get a refund. The answering machine inside the darkened restaurant does not give any indication the business is closed. Tax collectors have attempted for over a week to reach the business owner who has not returned their calls or ours.
No doubt Bayer Properties is just too busy managing the $4 million the city handed over last fall to help it "lure" the Belk department store to Bridge Street from its current location a mile and a half away.
Hey, $4 million is peanuts considering what they wanted from the city in 2010. You see, the developers wanted to attract a "high end department store," but those were all demanding blackmail money. Macy's wanted $20 million and Nordstrom offered to locate here for the bargain price of $12 million. That's no joke, campers. It's also no laughing matter that some in city government thought it was a good idea!
What a deal... collect sales taxes from customers - and keep them:
The plan under consideration calls for the city to give O&S Holdings 50 percent of any growth in sales taxes at Bridge Street. [...] (Mayor Tommy) Battle, though, said Huntsville has never before agreed to share sales tax proceeds with a developer. He pointed out that Valley Bend at Jones Farm and many other large retail projects have been successful without local government subsidies. [...]
But Councilman Will Culver, whose district includes Bridge Street, said he supports the financing plan and hopes the city can find a way to make it happen. "We have to step outside the box and get a little creative," Culver said.
Meanwhile, neighboring counties are wrestling with their own corporate welfare projects. For years, Decatur Mayor Don Kyle has been working to attract a huge retail development called "Sweetwater" that will be partially funded with $40 million in sales tax rebates. Many question the wisdom of this folly, asking the obvious question:
What makes them think the people of Madison will flock west toward Decatur when they have places galore to shop and when the Lollapalooza of upscale shopping districts in north Alabama, Bridge Street, lies just east of Madison on the western edge of Huntsville? You don't even have to get on I-565 to get there.
Why would people in Huntsville make the trek to Decatur to pay 9 percent sales tax on what they can buy cheaper in their hometown?
That's right. If Mayor Kyle has his way, we'll have two corporate welfare developments fighting over the same wallets. Heavens, it's scary to think how "creative" Councilman Culver might get if that happened.
It's time to stop this never-ending cycle. Surely the next developer asking for a hand-out will be CBL & Associates, owner of Madison Square Mall. That's the development that Belk is leaving to move to Bridge Street. The aging complex is losing quite a few tenants and wondering how to revitalize:
Less clear is what the loss of Belk two years from now will mean for Madison Square. Davis said owner CBL & Associates recently hired a consultant who specializes in the revitalization of large shopping centers. Open since 1984, Madison Square has about 1 million square feet of retail space.
Davis said he and Battle have had multiple conversations about the mall's future with Michael Lebovitz, CBL's executive vice president for development. Efforts to reach Lebovitz for an interview were not successful.
Who can doubt that the consultant will first suggest that CBL ask for a nice, fat check from the city? After all, they have some outstanding examples to go by.
But how long before our local governments stop playing along with these scams?
Remember this gem? AL-05 Congressman Mo Brooks told AL.com's George Talbot that taxpayers "should not have to fork out a nickel" to pay for property damage in areas historically vulnerable to storms."At the time, we noted that Brooks' entire district was disaster prone, but now we find out that so is much of Alabama!
Just this past weekend, there were numerous retrospectives about the horrific 2011 tornado outbreak that spawned trails of destruction across Alabama in the space of a few hours. If we were to endure a similar situation, and the state needed to go asking for disaster relief from Washington, how might Congressman Brooks respond?
He hinted about that in January when asked about his opposition to Hurricane Sandy relief:
"We're at a point in this nation where hard choices have to be made, or the federal government is going to bankrupt the American people," he said. "We just can't keep spending money this way."
I'm a firm believer that, when people need help, they get it. And that doesn't matter where they live, who they are, or who they voted for in the last election. I mention that last part because I was sickened by some of the comments in this CNN article that compared donations to Boston bombing victims to the money donated to help the victims in West, Texas.
At the same time, I can understand the resentment of people on the Atlantic coast who survived a truly horrific and historic storm, only to have Congress dither and play politics with relief money. It would be hard to blame their representatives in Congress who might be tempted to deliver a little payback to their recalcitrant colleagues.
But this is worth remembering: we're all in this together. The storm front that hits another state today may hit us tomorrow. The people we helped recover from wildfires will help us after tornadoes devastate our communities. A progressive rallying cry is "People Before Profit," and I agree with that wholeheartedly.
But when it comes to disasters - whether natural or man-made - our slogan should be "People Before Politics."