Weekly Advocacy Update
Monday, October 27, 2008
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND HEALTH CARE
The health care plans of both presidential candidates are being hotly debated by the campaigns. What are their plans? What will they mean to health care providers? What impact could they have on your ASC and its profitability?
As a special opportunity for members, the OAASC and its management firm Strategic Health Care sponsored two teleconferences with the senior health care policy advisors for both the McCain and Obama campaigns.
Recordings of both conference calls are availble FREE to OAASC members.
OTHER ELECTION NEWS
Lawsuits continued to make news this week as first Republican fundraiser David Myhal of New Albany filed a suit in the Ohio Supreme Court that the Republican Party originally filed in federal courts but was found to not have standing. Myhal's suit sought to block county boards of elections from counting any absentee ballots from voters registered after Jan. 1 unless they have first checked a state voter-registration database to ensure there are not mismatches with Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Social Security Administration records. Myhal's involvement led to the recusal of two justices and the calls for others to do likewise. Then on Tuesday, at the request of State GOP Chair Bob Bennett, the suit was withdrawn. Bennett said he hopes to negotiate an agreement out of court.
Meanwhile, Ohio's Republican congressional members sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking him to force Brunner to create the database. Then, on Thursday, Democratic members sent their own letter to Mukasey asking him to stay out of the matter and to "resist partisan calls" for him to intervene.
The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless revived its own 2006 lawsuit, asking a federal judge to block Ohio's voter identification laws from being enforced on Election Day. The group claims that homeless residents would have to vote provisional ballots because they do not have the proper identification and that Ohio counties do not use provisional ballots uniformly.
The secretary of state website was taken offline Monday night after a security breach was discovered. The Ohio State Highway Patrol has been brought in to investigate that incident as well other incidents of threats of harm and death. Later in the week, Gov. Ted Strickland said, "This sort of behavior simply has no place in a healthy democracy ... threatening our public officials or their family members with physical harm has no place in Ohio or America."
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner issued a directive Wednesday that ordered election officials not to uphold any challenges to voters based solely on a discrepancy between the voter's registration form and the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) and/or federal Social Security Administration databases, saying that discrepancies can occur because of data entry error, a blank field for the last four digits of the Social Security number, the wrong number used for the driver's license number and failure to update addresses with the BMV.
In Hamilton County, a special prosecutor was appointed to look into voter fraud after Republican Prosecutor Joe Deters targeted about 40 percent of the ballots cast between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, saying that by using information of government databases, 166 people couldn't not be found and 100 didn't have the same address listed.
Gov. Ted Strickland, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman criticized the campaign tactics of Republicans, saying that they are trying to distract Ohioans from the "real issues" such as the economy.
The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) continues to object to campaign adds chastising lawyer-candidates for "simply performing their sworn duties" in defending specific clients.
As the election nears, more and more polls are being released. This week the Suffolk University poll showed a large lead of 51 to 42 percent for Barack Obama here in Ohio while the Fox News/Rasmussen Reports showed John McCain leading 49 to 47 percent. On Thursday, the latest Quinnipiac Poll said Obama leads McCain 52 to 38 percent here in Ohio and continues to lead in two other key swing states, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Local elections officials held a conference call this week where they predicted one of the largest voter turnouts ever and discussed their efforts to prepare for it. They also warned that results may come late as voters turn to paper ballots to help ease a potential backlog at the voting machines on Election Day. They also expressed confidence that the local boards are able to weed out questionable registrations.
Republican Rep. Matt Dolan (Novelty), in a race to be the next House speaker, brought in close to $1 million, with much of the funds going to the House Republican Campaign Committee. Speaker rival, Rep. Bill Batchelder (R-Medina), brought in not quite $200,000.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) continued his fundraising prowess, bringing in a little over $400,000, followed by Rep. Matt Szollosi (D-Oregon), with $254,000 and Rep. Ted Celeste (D-Columbus), $218,000.
In the race for Supreme Court justice, Republican incumbents, Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Maureen O'Connor, greatly outpaced their Democratic challengers, Peter Sikora and Joseph Russo.
In the race for attorney general, Republican Mike Crites raised more than Democrat Richard Cordray for the first time, bringing in just over $45,000 while Cordray raised $44,176 in the last 20 days. Cordray, however, has about $1.8 million left in his campaign account, while Crites has about $58,000.
Former State Rep. John Widowfield (R-Cuyahoga Falls) admitted to the Ohio Elections Commission that he improperly used campaign funds on Ohio State University football tickets and asked that the case be referred to the Franklin County prosecutor so it can be wrapped up quickly.
A union that claims membership of tens of thousands of workers at casinos and race tracks across the country said Ohio would be better off conducting a competitive auction of gambling licenses rather than pass State Issue 6 which would put a single casino in the state in Clinton County under a specific owner.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) announced its opposition to State Issue 5, the referendum that would cap the Ohio payday loan industry's annual interest rate at 28 percent, saying "government has no business tracking Ohioans' personal financial decisions and credit choices."
Whether or not State Issue 5 passes, Ohio Department of Commerce Director Kimberly Zurz said it appears that licensees under the old Check Cashing Loan Act will still be able to engage in high-interest lending - at least temporarily until existing licenses expire.
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner certified that supporters of State Issue 5, the payday loan referendum, had turned in sufficient petition signatures to appear on the November ballot. The group also ended up with enough valid signatures in 58 counties. It had originally only qualified in 33 counties, missing the mandated 44 county threshold necessary to put the issue on the ballot.
Gov. Ted Strickland said that he supports passage of State Issue 3, a constitutional amendment that affirms citizens' private water rights.
HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Ohio stands to receive $245.8 million out of the $5.1 billion released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for FY09. This is nearly a 150 percent increase of FY08. Eligibility criteria and benefit levels for FY09 were announced by the Ohio Department of Development's Office of Community Service and can be found online at energyhelp.ohio.gov.
The Rehabilitation Services Commission (RSC) said that it helped a record number of Ohioans with severe disabilities find or retain employment in Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2008.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office and the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction received a two-year, $100,000 federal grant to improve the Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) program. They said that in 2007 alone, VINE was used almost one million times to check on the custody status of Ohio inmates or receive notification of changes in custody status.
The Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission reviewed the final results from a statewide survey of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys, which confirmed broad support in the legal community for remedies in lieu of jail time for non-violent drug offenders even as the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the Council of State Governments begin talks to assess whether the council will work with the state on prison overcrowding.
The Parole Board recommended against clemency for death row inmate Gregory Bryant-Bey who was convicted of a 1992 stabbing death in Toledo. He is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Wednesday, Nov. 19.
The state awarded another $77 million in historic preservation tax credits to 48 recipients, which are expected to leverage another $464 million in private investment in urban renewal and other redevelopment projects. Of these, 22 are for FY10 and 26 are for FY11.
Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) and House Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering) warned the Third Frontier Commission of potential problems if the approval process for the tax-funded awards continues to be "politicized" by the recent decision to allow an internal group of Strickland advisors and appointees to review awards. They said the process had been deliberately set up to limit the selection process to outside reviewers with no direct ties to the administration. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, one of members of the internal group, defended the process, saying it was "a common sense approach."
Even as the national economy continues to falter, Ohio successfully sold $375 million in bonds for road and bridge construction projects, a record-high transaction that Treasurer Richard Cordray said would help restore confidence in the municipal bond market.
The State Board of Education named Marilyn Troyer, Ph.D. interim state superintendent, effective Nov. 1 and continuing until the new superintendent, Deborah Delisle, begins. Delisle is to start no later than Dec. 1.
The School Employee Health Care Board (SEHCB) debated extensively a proposed blanket ban on the use of all tobacco products on school properties and at gatherings by all persons at all times.
Ohio's unemployment rate fell slightly in September to 7.2 percent after hitting 7.4 percent in August, with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) attributing the decline to "normal fluctuations in educational employment this time of year." The national rate held steady at 6.1 percent.
Ohio is one of only 10 states selected to receive technical support from General Motors Corporation (GM) to advance the state's E-85 infrastructure by helping determine the optimal locations for E-85 pumps.
The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) approved the issuance of up to $625,000 in Air Quality Revenue Bonds to assist in the financing of a geothermal heating system at the Maumee Youth Center - the first ever assistance approved by OAQDA for a geothermal system.
A new report from Environment Ohio, "The Power of Efficiency: Opportunities to Expand the Economy, Save Money and Reduce Pollution in Ohio," shows how other states have used energy efficiency programs to delay the need to build new power plants, reduce pollution, create jobs and strengthen the economy.
Members of Ohio's congressional delegation ranked at both ends of the spectrum in the latest National Environmental Scorecard released by the League of Conservation Voters. The scorecard ranked the members on their positions on 11 Senate votes and 13 House votes. Without exception, Democrats drew rankings above 75 percent, while Republicans ranked below 40 percent.
A new report from the Environmental Working Group says that drinking water along the Ohio River has been contaminated by a chemical used to make Teflon. The chemical is linked to higher levels of cholesterol.
President Bush signed into law the "Stephanie Tubbs Jones Gift of Life Medal Act of 2008" that would award a Congressional medal to organ donors.
The Social Security Administration said that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income monthly benefits will increase 5.8 percent in 2009 - the largest increase since 1982.
Sen. John Carey (R-Wellston), chair of the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee, and that committee's Ranking Minority Member Sen. Capri Cafaro (D-Warren) looked ahead to the lame duck session, agreeing that the committee will look at legislation addressing county law libraries. Carey also said the committee will pick up consideration of Rep. Tom Brinkman's "transparency in government" bill, HB420. Carey indicated no plans at this time to hold any informational hearings on recent action by the administration to close a $540 million shortfall in the FY09 budget.
SB366, introduced by Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), seeks to ensure that a requirement for sex offenders to live more than 1,000 feet from any school applies retroactively, following an Ohio Supreme Court decision that struck down the retroactive application.
Sen. Jeff Jacobson (R-Dayton) announced that he is resigning his Senate seat at the end of October to take a job in the private sector, finishing a legislative career that began in the Ohio House in 1992. He is term limited. Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) has said they will fill the vacancy yet this year but Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering), who is running for the seat in the November election, has said he wants to fill out his term as House speaker.
Testimony from the administrator of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the directors of Ohio EPA and the departments of natural resources, agriculture, insurance and administrative services wrapped up the final hearing of the bipartisan Regulatory Reform Task Force. The group now turns to writing up its recommendations.
It may be early 2009 before Ohio's first-time homebuyers are able to turn to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) for down-payment assistance. When the program returns there will be changes including requiring new homeowners to take education classes on homeownership. In addition, the agency is seeking new partners for its "swap agreements" - a number of which were with Lehman Brothers. Swap agreements allow the agency to partner with an institution on bond interest payments, with OHFA paying the fixed rate to the institution while the institution agrees to pay the bond's variable rate.
The Ohio Supreme Court is proposing watershed changes to the way civil service is carried out in the state, proposing to allow clerks of court to transfer responsibility for the service of case filings to the originating party rather than initiating service themselves, saving counties major time and labor. Comments on the changes will be accepted until Nov. 18.
The Ohio Supreme Court clarified the standard for medical malpractice cases, confirming that damage claims against doctors and provider facilities can have no standing in court without an "affidavit of merit" by an expert witness for the plaintiff.
Ohio's pension funds continue to monitor the impact of the country's financial upheaval on its investments, saying that they are "invested for the long run." However, there have been short-term losses. The Nov. 12 meeting of the Ohio Retirement Study Council will hear from its independent investment firm about the impact.
Thomas Noe, the Lucas County coin dealer convicted of theft, embezzlement and fraud in the investment scandal at the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, is set to return to Ohio soon to begin his 18-year state prison sentence. He has been in a federal prison since his conviction on unrelated charges of illegally funneling money to President George W. Bush's 2004 election campaign.
Nancy Dragani, Ohio's Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director, was elected president of the National Emergency Management Association.
The Ohio Anti-Poverty Task Force met to lay out its next steps as it pursues developing a set of long-term recommendations for Gov. Ted Strickland to end poverty in the state. Five new workgroups, based around populations living in poverty, will be formed. In addition, at least 20 "regional conversations" will be held around the state between Jan. 20 and Feb. 13, 2009 to engage those who can't get to Columbus to discuss their concerns.
The Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA) received national accreditation for its public safety preparedness and record of response to disasters from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program.
Tax Commissioner Rich Levin filed an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court that seeks the reversal of an appeals court ruling that said the commercial activities tax or CAT cannot be applied to food wholesalers and retail grocers. A separate filing by a business consortium also asks for a reversal of the appeals court ruling. Levin argued that the high court had, in the past, ruled that "a tax imposed on the privilege of doing business is not a tax imposed on an underlying component of such business."
The Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to deny a request for phone-service pricing flexibility by Embarq and Verizon, saying it could mean prices for basic phone service will increase every year.
2008 -- Provided by The Hannah Report - A Publication of Rotunda, Inc. & Hannah News Service