Navigation

While DC Delays, States Move Forward on Health Care Reforms

While DC Delays, States Move Forward on Health Care Reforms

Thursday, January 28, 2010

PERMALINK: http://www.progressivestates.org/node/24486

ELECTION RESULTS

Oregon voters approved two initiatives that increase taxes on high-income residents and businesses--a strong endorsement of fair tax policies and a stinging rejection of the anti-tax, slash-public-services movement.  Given that this follows a series of voter and legislative movements supporting balanced approaches to deficit reduction, we will have a full analysis of the Oregon vote and progressive revenue options this Monday.

Valuing-Families

By: ENZO PASTORE

While DC Delays, States Move Forward on Health Care Reforms

As Congress delays moving forward on the passage of comprehensive health care reform, progressive state leaders from across the country have been demanding passage of reform as critical for families across the nation.  But that doesn't mean they are waiting; state leaders are moving forward, laying the groundwork for how national changes should be implemented, and creating the momentum for other meaningful health care reforms in their states.

Public Options and Universal Coverage:  In Iowa, SB 2092 would establish the Iowa Choice Exchange -- a form of the public option -- to serve as an information clearinghouse where businesses and consumers could compare health insurance policies.  This would be combined with IowaCare Plus, which would subsidize health care for working families fully up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) with help up to 400 percent of FPL for buying more restricted health insurance.  Sen. Jack Hatch (Des Moines) emphasized the reality that "We cannot do this without a fair and appropriate partnership with the federal government."

Connecticut, building on the enactment of their comprehensive health care reform plan SustiNet in July 2009, will be moving forward to phase it in by 2016.  By 2014, it is estimated that 98 percent of Connecticut residents will be insured with a comprehensive benefits package.  Sustinet will give every patient a medical home, ratings will not be based on age, gender or health status, and coverage will be guaranteed for chronic or pre-existing conditions.  Other new coverage and insurance reforms include:

  • Vermont's HB 510 would establish “Green Mountain Care,” creating a public health coverage option with sliding scale premiums and cost sharing.
  • Missouri's Universal Health Assurance Program (HB 1641), which would provide for a publicly financed, statewide insurance program, was introduced on January 13th.  If passed, the program would provide timely access to health services for all residents, adequate funding for health care, and lower health care spending through streamlined administration and uniform payments.
  • California's Universal Health Care Act (S.810) -- approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee this week - would enact a single-payer health care system for the state and create a commission to decide how to pay for the plan and then submit the funding plan to voters through a ballot initiative.
  • Maine's LD 1620 would eliminate annual and lifetime benefit caps from private insurance policies.

Implementing Federal Reform:  Other states are establishing the framework for implementing whatever reforms are enacted by Congress:

  • A bicameral concurrent resolution in Washington state would create a joint select commission to study the implications of health reform implementation to coordinate policy discussions between the state’s legislative and executive branches to identify dedicated resources, establish clear authority and accountability, a detailed timeline, a critical path analysis, resources and analysis of needs, and a communication strategy.
  • A similar Joint Select Committee to study Maine’s role in the implementation of federal health care reform received unanimous (13-0) approval by the Joint Committee on Insurance & Financial Services.
  • The Texas House has established a House Select Committee on Federal Legislation, with a specific emphasis on implementing health care reform efforts.  The chair will be Representative John Zerwas and the Vice Chair will be Rep. Garnet Coleman, who also serves as co-chair of the Progressive States Network Board.

Prescription Drug Campaigns:  States across the country are also moving to introduce reforms to cut the costs of prescription drugs, many based on models from PSN’s Multi-State Agenda Rx Reforms campaign.  Bills have been introduced in Arizona and Iowa while other states likely to introduce reforms include Alaska, Hawaii, New York, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin, with bill introductions possible in a number of other states.

More Resources

Tell a Friend About This

Increasing-Democracy

By: CHRISTIAN SMITH-SOCARIS

States Act to Limit Judicial Ruling Allowing Corporations to Spend Directly to Elect or Defeat Candidates

Portending a sharp increase in corporate political spending, the Supreme Court has ruled (Citizens United v. FEC) that corporations enjoy the same speech rights of citizens when it comes to advocating the election or defeating political candidates.  Elected officials, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have denounced the ruling as striking at the heart of our democracy by putting corporations on an equal footing with real people when it comes to basic constitutional rights.  Progressives who are trying to counter the oversized influence of giant corporations on our democracy have long viewed the granting of full first amendment rights to corporations as the moment when these creations of the state would end up rampaging on the political scene like Frankenstein's monster.  That day has now arrived and a forceful response is being pursued by policymakers at all levels of government.

Most States Don't Even Have Basic Disclosure Requirements:  As expected, much of the early debate has focused on the ability of the federal government to write new rules which will stem the tide of corporate cash likely to flood the political landscape in the mid-term congressional elections and beyond.  Yet, only 24 states currently prohibit corporations from spending their treasury funds to promote or attack a candidate for state or local office, and many lack the disclosure and disclaimer requirements that serve as a last line of defense for citizen control over our elections.  And even if the federal government does respond forcefully, state and local elections will not be covered in federal statute, meaning that states must act independently to protect their own democratic processes.  Given this, there clearly is an imperative for states to strengthen their campaign finance laws, placing limits on corporate spending where possible and allowing access to information on corporate spending to support or oppose which candidates. 

Using Corporate Accountability to Rein in Spending:  Lawmakers at both the federal and state levels are developing and moving forward with a series of proposals that will seek to directly counter the impact of the ruling by protecting the interests of shareholders, remove tax benefits for political spending, prevent foreign-owned corporations from electioneering, and ban political spending by government contractors, among other things.  These are in addition to measures to strengthen current disclosure and disclaimer requirements.  The first state to act has been Maryland, where Senators Jamie Raskin and David Harrington, and Delegate Brian Frosh have introduced a package with the following measures:

  • Require any corporate executives to obtain a two-thirds vote of the shareholders ratifying the specific expenditure. (This is the same percentage of the shareholders required for mergers and acquisitions.)
  • Prevent "pay to play" corruption (and its appearance) by forbidding state contractors to make campaign expenditures on behalf of political candidates and their campaigns.
  • Mandate that corporations disclose their expenditures to the Board of Elections just as any other campaign expenditure would be reported.

Speaking to the critical need for these reforms Sen. Raskin commented that:

"[a] strong democracy requires a wall of separation between corporate money and public elections, but five justices on the Supreme Court last week took a sledgehammer to that wall.  In Maryland, we are beginning to explore ways to contain the damage of this devastating opinion.  By assuring that corporate political expenditures only occur when two-thirds of the shareholders agree, that all such expenditures are disclosed, that state contractors not participate in partisan campaigns at all and that corporate political expenditures not be tax-deductible, we have started to spell out a program that can be used nationally to make sure that 'we the people' doesn't turn into ”˜we the corporations."

Corporate Transparency in State Budgets as a Tool:  Another key part of campaign spending accountability is making clear how different companies are benefiting from government spending, whether from direct subsidies, government contracts or various corporate loopholes.  State lawmakers working with Progressive States Network on our Corporate Transparency in State Budgets campaign are seeking to make sure that key information on all of that corporate largesse from government is publicly available.  Any time corporations are seen spending money on elections, information on the spending and tax deals they receive from state governments should be instantly available to voters to put any election claims in perspective.

See here for model corporate transparency legislation and a resource page for the campaign.

Challenging Judicial Bias Towards Corporate Power:  In addition to his legislative response, Sen. Raskin and others are also working to generate pressure for a federal constitutional amendment through the website FreeSpeechForPeople.org.  Several other groups are moving in the same direction as well (see here, here and here).  And moving on another track are advocates from the Fair Elections Now Coalition who have brought together over 40 business leaders to denounce the corporate takeover of campaigns and pledge to not engage in political speech with corporate treasury funds.  Members of this coalition are also emphasizing that while these are some basic rules we can lay down to reduce the flood of corporate cash, it is clear that without alternative, clean, funding mechanisms there is no way to free our democracy from the grip of corporate power.

What does the future hold for campaign laws?  Likely more change is coming.  The current court has taken every opportunity (and even created the most recent opportunity) to strike down restrictions on independent expenditures.  In a case argued just yesterday, the DC Court of Appeals made clear that they will strike down the $5000 cap on contributions to political non-profits.  This trend makes it even more important that states develop robust disclosure and disclaimer requirements, restrictions on government contractors, requirements for corporate accountability, and clean elections campaign finance reform.

More Resources

Tell a Friend About This

Growing-Economy

By: ALTAF RAHAMATULLA

Move Your Money: Investing Public Money in Local Banks and Credit Unions to Spur Growth

In an effort to stimulate local economic growth and free up credit markets, New Mexico Sen. Tim Keller and Rep. Brian Egolf introduced HB66, which would require the state to give preference to community banks and credit unions to manage the state's general fund operating cash depository account.  Currently, Bank of America holds the $1.4 billion account

Rep. Egolf explained that he was particularly motivated by Move Your Money, an exciting campaign that encourages individuals to transfer their money from banks that are "too big to fail" and begin using smaller community banks that are much more likely to reinvest those funds in the community.  The initiative is additionally a rebuke of the reckless actions of major financial institutions that led to the recession and the vast sums of government dollars that have flowed to these companies since the downturn began.  As Sen. Keller explains, "[r]ight now national banks benefit from our state's taxes, every dollar of our state funds we deposit with local banks is another dollar available for New Mexican businesses and working families' mortgages and small business loans."

Strengthening Pension Fund Accountability:  In a similar vein, Sen. Keller has also introduced SB18 to reform New Mexico's Investments Oversight Committee.  Partly in response to pension scandals and other instances of corporate abuse, Sen. Keller intends to prevent corruption and promote good government by strengthening accountability mechanisms.  To do so, the bill would ensure that the decision-making power of the Oversight Committee is not centralized in the executive branch and mandates that public members, to be appointed by various legislative officials, join the board.  The bill would additionally create an Alternative Investment Advisory Committee that would provide recommendations and review certain assets and investment choices of the state's retirement board.

Other States Moving Money:  New Mexico is not alone in recognizing that investing in local banks and credit unions foster growth and assist working families:

  • Officials in Lake Oswego, Oregon plan to invest $1 million in local banks.  The city's Finance Director, Ursula Euler, commented, "[i]t was really just an idea to show our support and goodwill toward the local economy and we wanted to balance that with an investment decision."
  • In his State of the City Address, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg outlined a plan to invest $25 million in tax revenue in local credit unions:  "With Albany’s approval, we’ll also strengthen neighborhood-friendly credit unions, which reach out to customers who may have never had a bank account... It’s a relatively small amount of City resources, but it will have a big impact by allowing credit unions to make more loans to more low-income families."  This idea was originally proposed by the One City/One Future collaborative, who presented several innovative development and economic policy suggestions for New York City in their report, A Blue Print for Growth That Works for All New Yorkers.

The initiative is not likely to harm major financial institutions, but would have substantial impact as an engine of local growth.  State lawmakers should explore the prospects of investing state funds in community banks and credit unions as a means to spur development, create jobs, assist state residents, and take proactive steps towards shoring up battered economies.

More Resources

Tell a Friend About This

Research Roundup

Show Us the Stimulus (Again) - Some states are making dramatic improvements in websites designed to disseminate information about their share of the $787 billion ARRA recovery act, but others are still failing to make effective use of online technology to educate taxpayers about the impact of economic stimulus spending, according to this new Good Jobs First report.   However, only three states - Kentucky, Maryland and Wisconsin - juxtapose the geographic distribution of spending with patterns of economic distress or need within the state.

Policies to Aid State Fiscal Recovery:

  • Bonds and the Recovery ActGood Jobs New York released a report today explaining how the Recovery Act's new and expanded bond programs are contributing to economic recovery and where opportunities exist for public input.
  • States Can Opt Out of the Costly and Ineffective “Domestic Production Deduction” Corporate Tax Break - Twenty five states are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue due to a federal corporate tax break known as the "domestic production deduction," which mainly benefits large, profitable, corporations. With many states facing budget problems due to the weak economy, this report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argues they can ill afford any unjustified revenue losses.

The Three Faces of Work-Family Conflict: The Poor, the Professionals, and the Missing Middle - Americans report sharply higher levels of work-family conflict than do citizens of other industrialized countries, largely because public policy does so little to help working families, according to this Center for American Progress report.  Part of the obstacle to building coalitions for work-family reforms is that public discussions too often focus on higher-income professional women, without a more comprehensive discussion of integrated policies to address the needs of "welfare-to-work" parents, middle-income parents and professionals.   A range of policies are needed to address these conflicts for families at all income levels.

The State of Opportunity in America - is an assessment of the country's progress in achieving opportunity for all by the Opportunity Agenda.  It shows that the increase in unemployment in the recession has been significantly higher for African Americans and Latinos, that women are far more likely to live in poverty than men, and that racial and ethnic gaps in educational attainment persist.  The report suggests use of Opportunity Impact Statements to better evaluate how public expenditures affect inequality and more direct programs to address that inequality of opportunity.

The Role of Human Services in Job Creation and Fiscal Recovery:

  • Cutting Early Childhood Programs Worsens Fiscal Problems - States will save money and stimulate their economies, in the short and long run, by protecting funding for effective pre-kindergarten and home visiting programs, according to a new issue brief by the Partnership for America’s Economic Success.   Such programs reduce the costs of holding children back grades for developmental delays and reduce costly health care complications for new parents.  Also, because child care and pre-k professionals tend to spend much of their earnings locally, their jobs provide strong stimulus for the economy as their wage dollars move multiple times throughout their communities.
  • Extending the TANF Emergency Fund Would Create and Preserve Jobs Quickly and Efficiently - The federal government moving quickly to extend TANF Emergency  Fund support is critical to maintaining state programs that subsidize jobs keeping many low-income parents at work, according to this Center on Budget Policy and Priorities report.

Poverty and Hunger Around the Nation:

  • The Suburbanization of Poverty: Trends in Metropolitan America, 2000 to 2008 - By 2008, suburbs were home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country, with Midwestern cities and suburbs experienced by far the largest poverty rate increases over the decade, according to this report by the Brookings Institution.   Based on increases in unemployment over the past year due to the recession, Sun Belt metro areas are also likely to experience the largest increases in poverty in 2009.  This shift in the geography of American poverty to the suburbs increasingly requires regional scale collaboration in order to effectively address the needs of a poor population.
  • Food Hardship: A Closer Look at Hunger - 18.5 percent of U.S. households did not have enough money to buy food in the past 12 months, according to a new report from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). This is the first-ever report analyzing food hardship for metropolitan areas and congressional districts.
  • Poverty Elimination Strategies That Work by the Heartland Alliance provides a tool kit in creating solutions to fundamentally address poverty, including housing action coalitions, transitional jobs programs, community-centered health clinics, car donation programs, adult literacy programs and many others.

Corporate Campaign Spending: Giving Shareholders A Voice - The Brennan Center for Justice has released a policy report on how corporate law can be changed to protect shareholder rights with regard to corporate political spending.

Ensuring that Provisional Ballots are Counted - Project Vote has released a policy brief and model legislation regarding best practices for provisional balloting.  Provisional ballots have been termed "placebo voting" by some advocates because poor practices have meant that in many states very few of these ballots are ever counted.  This is the first in a coming series of election policy briefs from Project Vote in 2010.


Please email us leads on good research at research@progressivestates.org

Resources

While DC Delays, States Move Forward on Health Care Reforms

Progressive States Network - State Leaders Weigh in on Final Health Care Reform Bill
Progressive States Network - State Public Health Insurance Plans are Models for National Health Reform
Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan - Connecticut Healthcare Partnership
Progressive States Network - Rx Reforms to Address Budget Deficits and Ensure Quality of Medications

States Act to Limit Judicial Ruling Allowing Corporations to Spend Directly to Elect or Defeat Candidates

Citizens United v. FCC
The New York Times - Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit
Maryland Corporate Campaign Package Press Release
Fair Elections Now
Free Speech For People
Public Campaign - Clean Elections Overview
Progressive States Network - Corporate Transparency in State Budgets 

Move Your Money: Investing Public Money in Local Banks and Credit Unions to Spur Growth

Drum Major Institute - New York City Moves the Money
Move Your Money - Will New Mexico Move Its Money?
Newsweek - Break Up the Banks Yourself
One City One Future - A Blue Print for Growth That Works for All New Yorkers

Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Executive Director
Nora Ranney, Legislative Director
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Director
Fabiola Carrion, Broadband & Green Jobs Policy Specialist
Enzo Pastore, Health Care Policy Specialist
Altaf Rahamatulla, Tax & Budget Policy Specialist
Christian Smith-Socaris, Election Reform Policy Specialist
Julie Bero, Executive Administrator and Outreach Associate
Mike Maiorini, Online Technology Manager

Please shoot us an email at dispatch@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

Progressive States Network - 101 Avenue of the Americas - 3rd Floor - New York, NY 10013
To unsubscribe: Click here