Weekly Advocacy Update
Monday, January 19, 2009
HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Business and health care leaders announced the formation of Solutions for Patient Safety, a collaborative aimed at improving care quality and reducing costs. With members such as the Cardinal Health Foundation, the Ohio Business Roundtable, the Central Ohio Hospital Council, the Ohio Hospital Association and the Ohio Children's Hospital Association, the initiative will focus on goals such as reducing catheter-associated blood borne infections, methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus infections, and surgical site infections.
As news from the federal government hit his week of the staggering job losses, Families USA released a report asserting that the COBRA program aimed at helping people who lose their health insurance along with their jobs is, in fact, not very helpful. "Squeezed: Caught between Unemployment Benefits and Health Care Costs" says that workers receiving jobless benefit checks would have to spend "an unrealistically high proportion" of those checks to secure interim health care coverage through COBRA.
Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage - a coalition of health, labor, church and social service interests - released a report, "Making Ends Meet: What Can Franklin County Residents Afford to Pay for Health Care?", that says even people who don't fit the standard definition of "poor" have a difficult time paying nominal amounts toward health care premiums. The report calls for sliding-scale premium subsidies, based on personal income level, and a dedicated revenue stream for the subsidies to be drawn from a broad assessment on insurers, providers, employers and workers.
Attorney General Richard Cordray's office said Thursday that Ohio's original settlement of $2.9 million with drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co. over improper marketing of anti-psychotic medication will increase to more than $30 million under a federal case that brought civil and criminal charges against the company. The company will pay a total of $1.4 billion to the 33 states involved in the original claims related to marketing of Zyprexa.
Law enforcement, victims advocates and lawmakers gathered in the Statehouse Ladies Gallery on Thursday to mark January as National Stalking Awareness Month and highlight the efforts of Sen. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron), who introduced a bill in the 127th General Assembly that would have allowed electronic monitoring of stalkers so police could gather a clear evidentiary trail that a stalker was following his victim.
In a conference call Wednesday with the Campaign for Jobs and Economic Recovery, Gov. Ted Strickland said that while the state can certainly use any infrastructure money included in President-elect Barack Obama's economic rescue package, state services will be cut to "unthinkable" levels if the package doesn't include assistance for programs like Medicaid and education.
The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices released a report touting the economic benefits of "creative industries" - i.e. arts and culture facilities - saying they help ensure a ready supply of creative and innovative employees and increase quality of life.
The State Board of Education was sworn in this week with Gov. Ted Strickland announcing his appointments to the board. They included a former postmaster, Dannie Greene, Gallipolis; educator Martha Harris, Cleveland Heights; former Ohio Education Association Executive Director Dennis Reardon, Pickerington; and educator Tracey Smith, Van Wert.
Jennifer Sheets, a partner in the law firm of Little, Sheets and Warner in Pomeroy, was elected to a fourth term as president of the State Board of Education. Deborah Cain was elected vice president.
Wilson Willard III, the founder of W.E.B. Dubois Academy in Cincinnati, a charter school formerly sponsored by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, received a four-year prison sentence for theft and records tampering involving school assets.
The Buckeye Institute, a Columbus-based free-market think tank, has threatened to sue Toledo officials over planning guidelines its says amount to "one-size-fits-all" mandates that are actually an attempt to hamper charter schools. The Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission is recommending Minimum School Facility Requirements (MSFR) that calls prospectively for all K-12 facilities to have large outdoor play areas, media centers and separate classrooms for every subject, among other things. The Buckeye Institute says charter schools have non-traditional students and missions that don't' call for such facilities, and maintains the rules are unconstitutional under state education law.
The nation experienced the fastest rate of job loss since 1975 in the last four months of 2008 with the national unemployment rate rising to 7.2 percent in December - up from 6.8 percent in November. This brought job losses in 2008 to 2.6 million with 1.9 million of those occurring since September 2008. Ohio felt the effects with both the online unemployment compensation system crashing early in the week and the call-in system seeing upwards of an hour wait to get through. As a result, call-in hours have been expanded to accommodate the 10-fold increase in call volume and the online system is now back up.
Emission reduction credits rules that govern the emission trading bank went into effect recently - a move the Ohio EPA believes will spur economic development in areas of the state that are designated "non-attainment" areas with federal air quality standards.
Environment Ohio released a report, "Clean Energy, Bright Future: Rebuilding America through Green Infrastructure," which outlines how Ohio and the U.S. can create and sustain jobs by making investments in clean energy.
Ohio's senior U.S. Senator, George Voinovich, announced that he will not run for a third term in 2010, opening the doors to wide spread interest in the seat by both Republicans and Democrats. On Thursday, former Cincinnati-area Cong. Rob Portman (R) officially threw his hat in the ring. He immediately embarked on a two-day tour of the state and lined up scores of endorsements from the likes of U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-West Chester) and Ohio Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland).
On the Democratic side, possible contenders include Cong. Tim Ryan (Niles) and Zack Space (Dover), Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Attorney General Richard Cordray and Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut.
Penn National Gambling Inc., the owner of a Toledo racetrack and the Argosy riverboat casino in Indiana, has said it is collecting support from Ohio legislators for a proposed ballot measure targeted to the November 2009 election that would change Ohio's seven horse-racing tracks into gambling emporiums.
Democrats succeeded, at least temporarily, in reducing the authority of the Ohio School Facilities Commission to pay out on a loan guarantee that was made to the controversial Cincinnati-area charter school, Harmony Community School, at the first meeting of the Controlling Board where they are now in the majority. The school, which shut down permanently at the end of 2008, had struggled with a history of poor financial management.
The University system of Ohio has entered into an agreement with VMware, Inc. to launch the University System of Ohio Virtualization Program, a purchasing aggregation initiative with the potential of saving Ohio colleges and universities more than $130 million over the next three years.
The Ohio Supreme Court decided to have further discussions on recently approved amendments to the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct that would allow, among other things, declaration of party affiliation and other political rhetoric during judicial campaigns.
Incumbent Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Maureen O'Connor were sworn in Monday for their third and second terms, respectively.
Former U.S. Rep. James Traficant Jr. has chosen not to leave federal prison and report to a halfway house in Youngstown in March. As a result, he will likely serve out his sentence in a federal facility until September. Traficant said he wouldn't feel safe in the facility selected because the director had testified against him in his trial. His request for an alternate facility was denied.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett has backed the current Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan for re-election over contenders including former Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell.
The American Lung Association gave Ohio a failing grade in its annual report on anti-smoking programs and policies, an outcome largely attributed to the state's decision to take more than $200 million from an anti-tobacco foundation's endowment. Last year, the state received a C. Among the four areas examined including funding, smoking restrictions, cigarette tax rate and laws or policies regarding health insurance coverage for smoking cessation, Ohio's only bright spot was an A on smoking restrictions because of the statewide smoking ban enacted in 2006.
The state ran out of money in its unemployment compensation fund, resulting in its borrowing $50 million from the federal government to cover this week's payments. Last November, the state officially requested $550 million to cover it costs for December through February although no funds were needed in December.
The PUCO approved a rider for FirstEnergy to recover fuel and associated purchased power costs on customer's electricity bills, and also established a timeline for the company to set tariff rates in the hopes of stabilizing rates for FirstEnergy customers. This followed FirstEnergy's actions on Friday when it filed a Motion to Stay as well as an Application for Rehearing and an Application for a Fuel Rider as the result of a recent PUCO ruling that involved the tariff for FirstEnergy's utility companies, which included tariffs that would have continued current rate plans. The utility cited inconsistencies with state law and potentially serious financial consequences. The Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel said FirstEnergy's reasons for seeking the rider weren't valid, and that it should have been denied.
2008 -- Provided by The Hannah Report - A Publication of Rotunda, Inc. & Hannah News Service