Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shapiro and Castor on Comment Please, Jan. 26th

On Thursday, January 26, Montgomery County Commissioners Josh Shapiro and Bruce Castor appeared on "Comment Please, by Univest," which is hosted by Darryl Berger.  The radio program is taped and available on the web, should you care to listen for yourself.

I listened this evening and took notes.  These are rough notes and not a full transcript.  I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

It was difficult to listen and take notes.  Darryl Berger is an exceptional interviewer and interweaves questions and follow-ups into the conversation in such a way that breaking it into specific questions is sometimes tricky.  Both of the commissioners give thorough detailed answers.  A skilled transcriptionist or someone who knows shorthand might be able to catch everything.  I listen on my laptop and type at the same time.  Interviews like this a much more interesting than those where the interviewees just repeat their talking points, but harder to blog about.  If you have 45 minutes it is definitely worth the time to listen. 

DB:  How do you like being a county commissioner?

JS:  it’s great.  Every day is a new challenge.  Great to work with Leslie Richards and Bruce Castor. 

BC:  I don’t like feel like I’m in the minority.  I feel like a partner in the govt.  Richards and Shapiro do that.  Shapiro discovers a new challenge every day; they aren’t new.

CB:  Last commissioners said Castor was not a partnership guy.

JS:  We worked closely during transition period.  We talked about our vision.  We discovered we all three shared a lot of views.  When we came into office we decided to do what the people deserve, run business in a bipartisan way.  Bruce has a lot of law enforcement and public safety experience.  Asked him to work with those areas.  Just in first 3 weeks of administration that has begun to show benefits.   He’s involved in all areas, but has a unique role in public safety.

BC:  The nuts and bolts of govt in last administration had ground to a halt.  Now the election is over.  All of those things I said in the campaign were all true.  Becoming obvious to the three of us, becomes a commonality of purpose.  Everyone has to be honest and faithful and do their job.  There may come a time that an issue comes before us that has a partisan slant.  Hasn’t happened yet.  Right now there are so many commonalities.

DB:  Joint vision?  Bruce spent most of career in courthouse.  Leslie and Josh new to county govt.  Where is commonality?

JS:  We all agree that we want to keep our taxes low, actual workings of govt to be professional and reflect what is great about Montco.  If you look at it, that’s what Commish Castor campaigned on.  We hired best CFO in region, Uri Monson.  He’s uncovered some of the messes that prior administrations have left for us.  Operations of courthouse.  Most folks don’t see on a regular basis.  Many issues untouched or unresolved for many years.  Not because work force isn’t going their jobs.  Haven’t had the kind of leadership to provide that vision.  When we walk the hallways, people know that when one of us talks we talk for that shared vision.  That has not been existent for many administrations.  I’m not worried about voting the opposite way Bruce does.  We will stick to common purpose.  Keep taxes low, services high.  At the end of the day we will make progress.  Folks want us to put aside partisanship and differences.

DB:  Rarely  have minority commissioners felt a full partnership.

BC:  Part of the good vibes come from Josh’s leadership style.  I didn’t know his style.  While he certainly hasn’t told me this, it is similar to the style in the legislature of a committee, with people from both sides.  Talk, listen to each other, craft something we are comfortable with.  Sometimes he will come to me with an idea.  I’ll have a different view and he’ll go with me.  I may know more about what happens on a day to day basis in the courthouse.  But I think this is his style.

DB:  how important to hold people accountable, set tone, does it filter down?

BC:  There’s an excitement in the courthouse.  People are telling me they like what they are seeing.  There’s pride in office.  The govt is set up so roles check up on each other.  Supposed to be bound by laws and rules.  Previous administration had an opportunist and a dishonest chairman.  Chief legal officer was an arm of chairman.  Controller in over her head.  Now we are erasing the bad image.  People doing the job for the people. 

DB:  dysfunction in previous administration

BC:  yes, Dems saw that.  Removed Hoeffel from the ticket.  Got good people.

JS:  We were proud of our victory.  Leslie Richards serving on DVRPC committee; that’s why she can’t be here today.  I don’t spend a lot of time focused on the politics.  The day after the election the politics was over.  For me it was never really about achieving the political goal but winning the seats to be able to effectuate change.  We’re making a difference and that’s what it’s all about.  Neither of us interested in politics.  We want to do our job and do it well.

DB:  [asks Bruce Castor to remove his leather coat since it makes noise and is distracting]  What are the big challenges?

JS:  First priority.  We’re working on a lot of things.  Transition team will make report in 90 days or so.  First priority is finances.  Unfortunate that a county of our means should be struggling.  Partly neglect partly bad decisions.  Bruce said in campaign there were problems.  We said no, not that bad.  Have to say, Bruce was right.  Debt, operating budget not tied to actual operating costs.  Virtually no money in capital budget.  Things are not in good shape.  Take some time to dig out.  Briefed by CFO, getting operational costs under control using zero based budgeting, depts taking cuts.

BC:  One of the things that flows from what Josh is saying, we can’t implement any of the agenda items we think is important because we don’t have any money.  All 3 commissioners have areas of expertise, me with public safety, Josh with public services, Leslie with planning.  We still can’t do anything with capital problems, like radio problem.  The courthouse needs repair.  We can’t do any of those things until finances in control.  There should be some recourse for public.  Pervious commissioners up until a few days before election saying finances fine.  Now after election new commissioners come in and see we don’t have any money.  Our new cfo is heaven sent.  We need cfo’s opinions and ideas. 

DB:  Do you agree?

JS:  Tangible example.  We are all committed for preserving open space.  With this program you match the amount counties put in.  We had a board meeting last week.  Different proposals on the table.  Some wanted us to commit a million or a quarter million.  We could only put in $88K, and that was previously committed.  We couldn’t invest that money because of dire financial situation.  All three of us have said we need to hold off and get things in order. 

DB:  Are you angry about this?

JS:  I vacillate between anger and disappointment, not directed at any one particular person.  We know who’s been in charge over the last decade.  I’m angry as a taxpayer.  It doesn’t take a lot of work to get together and work on this.  We have so many good people working for the county.  There’s so much waste.  Why are we buying technology that’s too expensive when there’s less expensive available.  Sometimes bad decisions, sometimes people just didn’t’ care.

DB:  patronage?

BC:  The glue that was necessary to put things together.  Each had to have positions to give out to their buddies.  Josh much more diplomatic than I am.  I’m outraged at the lies that went on for so long.  When I was elected as part of majority I was isolated and the other two gave jobs to cronies.  The sour grapes works for a while.  Media beat up on me plenty.  Then there began to be corroboration and then the media brought down the Matthews Hoeffel machine. 

DB:  Jim Matthews charged after grand jury.  Is anything actionable right away?

JS:  We appreciate the work of the grand jury.  Any time people work that hard we need to take it seriously.  We are working with District Attorney.  Serious issues – rfp process, the way we govern the roles and activities our employees can have.  We are having work groups review each of the ordinances and make recommendations and any policies that need to be put in place.  It has involved every single office, even the independently elected ones.  We expect to have reports back within next month or so.  Expect we will have action before the board.  We take that seriously and already begun to act on that.  We recognize need for real reform and change.  Not just changing because we’re the new guys but because we need to work more efficiently and effectively.  I think you will see that in first 100 days.

BC:  Those are the two most obvious ones we can work on right away.  Overarching in the report is government was working in a dishonest way.  Immediate thought – how can we legislate honesty in govt.  I asked Josh and Leslie – we should fix those things that are evident and act in best interest of citizens and not legislate honesty.  Lead by example.  When former chairman had county solicitor being his campaign chair, collecting donations and giving out county contracts.  We know intuitively that’s wrong. 

DB:  Did Jim Mathews commit perjury?

BC:  Grand jury only acts on state law not federal law.  Tax issues a federal issue.

DB:  Process still has to play itself out.  Innocent until proven guilty.

DB:  Study county govt and restructure it.  Seems arcane to elect the row officers we do. 

JS:  Certainly something we can look at.  Bruce made some comments like that in campaign.  First we need to get fiscal house in order.  Certainly something we can look at in future.

BC:  Have Home Rule study at some point.  Would like to ask commissioners to appoint maybe 3 people to study issue.  But those guys are doing other things now.  County Solicitor Wynn McGarry, CFO Uri Munson, and COO Lauren Lambrugo.  They are doing a lot.  Maybe appoint a commission to look at it.

JS:  Current system serving county quite well.  As convoluted as the election systems seems (here’s three from each party, vote for two …), having three commissioners is very efficient.  We should look at that at some point.  At state level, we passed …

DB:  what is a jury commissioner?

JS:  Every week we have potential jurors come in.  Jury commissioners handle that.  We have one D and one R.  At state level passed bill saying you can do away with jury commissers, have the ability to do that but not required.

BC:  What Josh said about operating efficiently is true.  One issue is two of us can’t discuss county government without the third.  Sunshine law.  Can be a pain.  Not sure if will support getting rid of jury commissioners.  I think they are of value.

DB:  Have a tax increase.  Castor voted for that.  Small tax increase or reduce services.

BC:  Draconian.  I thought county would go bankrupt if taxes didn’t go up.  Parks and historic sites would have to close.  New commissioners couldn’t revisit it, can’t reopen budget.  I’ve caught some flack for that from party.

JS:  Bruce faced an absolutely awful choice, cut services because of past mismanagement or raise taxes because of past mismanagement.  He stood tall when he could have wiped his hands and said I didn’t create this I won’t be part of it.  Now we can work with programs that matter a lot of all of 3 us.  If I can say this I thought it was ballsy of him.

DB:  Pass through money, from state and fed, now less than before.

BC:  True, and we had to borrow money to make payroll.  We’ll work out way through it.  We’ll provide the best services we can.

DB:  Nice to have different factions working together.

JS:  We look forward to being back on the show, and having Leslie with us.  I look forward to having this level of communication continue.  Everyone’s voices heard.  That’s what people want, people working together for county’s benefit. 

BC:  Thanks for inviting me.

Three More Points on HB 1077

Yesterday I wrote a post about HB 1077, Pennsylvania's version of the infamous Virginia ultrasound bill.  I have three more points to make about it.

1) Patrick Murphy, one of the Democratic candidates for Attorney General, has issued a press release saying HB 1077 is unconstitutional.  The Inquirer published an article today (Pa. House proposes preabortion ultrasound," by Marie McCullough 2/29) with remarks from the bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Kathy Rapp, Murphy, health professionals.

2) Someone asked me to post the names of the State Representatives who introduced it.  The list in on the bill text, but, hey, I try to accommodate regular readers:

I was surprised at some of state reps who signed on to co-sponsor the bill.  

3) Those with delicate sensibilities should skip this point.  Transvaginal ultrasounds are done for various reasons, not all of them having to do with pregnancy.  Some years ago I had one of these medical procedures for a non-pregnancy purpose.  It's extremely uncomfortable and as invasive as you can get.  We shouldn't force someone to have this procedure when it isn't medically necessary.

Getting My Fix

Chris Cillizza writes a political blog for the Washington Post.  It's called The Fix and he sends out email blasts about new posts.  I've been a Fix reader for years.  Cillizza took some time off to write a book but he's back now.  If you've been missing your Fix fix, rest assured, he's still the same nerdy guy we all know and love.

Special Elections Set

from our friends at the Pennsylvania Democratic Party:

Today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered House Speaker Sam Smith to schedule special elections for six vacant House seats on April 24 - the day of the already scheduled primary election. The elections will take place using the 2001 maps.

"This is an important victory for the people of the vacant districts who will finally have proper representation," said Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn. "For more than 100 votes, nearly 350,000 Pennsylvanians have not had a voice in the House. Republicans have tried to delay the elections and silence the voices of Pennsylvanians, but today's ruling is a stinging rebuke to Harrisburg politicians who have picked politics over properly representing Pennsylvania."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

State House III: Paul Drucker, Warren Kampf Rematch

It's a rematch in the 157th state house district.  Democrat Paul Drucker, who won the seat in 2008, but lost it to Republican Warren Kampf in 2010, is challenging Kampf again in 2012.  I can't find a campaign site for Drucker.  Kampf's legislative site is

Local blogger Pattye Benson provides an overview of the race. 

State House II: Babette Josephs

State Rep. Babette Josephs, who represents the 182nd district in Philadelphia, has named Lois Herr as the campaign chair for her re-election campaign.  Herr was a Congressional candidate in Pennsylvania's 16th congressional district.

From the press release:

Progressive Representative Babette Josephs today welcomed Lois Herr as her campaign chairperson. During her diverse career, Ms. Herr spent 26 years in telecommunications management, taught at Elizabethtown College, ran for Congress, served on the boards of numerous corporate, civic and service organizations, operated a farm and wrote two books. She is now focused on supporting progressive women candidates who are dedicated to defending the rights and opportunities of women, improving our quality of life and solving the problems of today.

State House I: Mark Painter in 146th

Mark Painter, who ran for the 146th state house 2 years ago, is back for a rematch with incumbent Tom Quigley.  The 146th Legislative District in Montgomery County includes Limerick, Lower Pottsgrove, Pottstown, Royersford, Upper Pottsgrove, West Pottsgrove, and a portion of New Hanover.

As far as I can tell he doesn't have a campaign website up yet but you can contribute to his campaign on ActBlue.

Chester Co Housing Manager Wins Award

from the inbox:
On Thursday, March 1st in Los Angeles, California, the White House will honor Larry Douglas as one of eleven housing counselors and HUD-approved organizations being recognized as Champions of Change for their hard work, perseverance and dedication to their communities. Larry Douglas has been selected for outstanding commitment and achievement representative of the collective work of thousands of housing counselors across the United States. 
"Housing counselors work tremendously hard, each and every day, to help families realize the American dream,” said White House Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett. “From helping homeowners avoid foreclosure to making sure tenants understand their rights to working with borrowers to restore their credit, the men and women we honor today truly are 'Champions of Change.'"

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.
Housing counseling assistance was developed over 40 years ago at a time of severe disinvestment in housing, unaffordable interest rates, high unemployment and irresponsible lending practices. Today, HUD approves, monitors and supports counseling organizations and tracks their output.  Recent initiatives have extended the number and location of HUD-approved housing counseling organizations and reduced the amount of time and complexity of the process to award HUD housing counseling grants. 
To learn more about our Champions and watch video of the event, go to
Larry Douglas has been the Housing Program Manager for the Chester Community Improvement Project
(CCIP) in Chester, PA for the past 13 years.  During this time, he has provided homebuyer education, pre-and post-purchase counseling, first-time homebuyer counseling, credit & budget counseling, and default and delinquency counseling to individuals and families residing in the City of Chester and Delaware County, PA.  During his time as a certified HUD counselor, he has had the pleasure of counseling and assisting over 650 families to help them fulfill their dreams of homeownership.

Michelle Obama Talks to PA Volunteers

Today (Monday), First Lady Michelle Obama held a conference call with Pennsylvania volunteers.  She spoke for about 10 minutes, expressing her gratitude to those working to re-elect the President, and asking those on the call to keep up the good work.  Those who were signed up for the call could send in questions.  She had time to answer three of them.  Aletheia Henry, who is the head of OFA's Pennsylvania office then spoke for a few minutes thanking everyone for their work and encouraging them to continue volunteering.

Pennsylvania's Ultrasound Abortion Bill

You may  have read about the bill proposed in Virginia that women had to have a transvaginal ultrasound before having an abortion.  Pennsylvania has a similar bill.  It does not spell out that the ultrasound has to be a transvaginal untrasound but that may be understood given the development of the pregnancy when it is done.

HB 1077 seems flawed to me on a number of levels.  In several places the bill states that personhood begins at fertilization.   I'm not sure that is accepted state law at this point.  If the bill passes it could have far ranging implications.  It could, for instance, curtail or outlaw in vitro fertilization, as this process often results in unused embryos.  If those embryos are people can they be created, knowing that some would be discarded?  Would this bill criminalize natural miscarriage?  Would doctors have to report and police investigate natural miscarriages to make sure no actions of the woman or anyone else instigated or hastened the miscarriage?  It's a very slippery slope.

The woman has to be given a printout of the ultrasound which she has to give to the facility performing the abortion, and the facility  has to keep it in her file for at least seven years.  What if the facility closes?  What happens to the files then?

The fee for the ultrasound has to be separate from the fee from the abortion.  So it sounds like this is an added expense. 

Women have to indicate whether or not they chose to hear the hearbeat (if one exists) or view the video of ultrasound and the doctor has to keep this information on file for at least seven years. 

There are exemptions from some, but not all, of the requirements of the bill in the case of rape, incest or medical emergency, but the doctor has to fill out a form on this and keep it in the files as well as report it to the state. 

The identity of the woman is to remain private unless disclosure is "appropriate to carry out the purposes of this act."  What does that mean?
Doctors face a $5,000 fine if they don't follow all the requirements.

If one part of the act is declared invalid the other parts remain.  

I think this bill is hastily written, overly punitive, and regards women as unable to make their own decisions.  It is distressing to see state reps that I had heretofore thought well of signing on as co-sponsors.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

$50 Million to Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp.

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz joined Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter and John Grady, President of Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) today to announce that PIDC will receive $50 million through the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program to spur private sector investment in low and moderate income neighborhoods. Schwartz urged the U.S. Department of Treasury to support this request for PIDC.
PIDC intends to use its NMTC funding to support four main types of investments: supermarket anchored shopping centers, health care services facilities, manufacturing space, and mixed-use developments.

Dunderhead Disses Girl Scouts

There's a lot of lunacy out there right now.  Not Bigfoot or crop circles lunacy but political lunacy.  This latest news item, though, takes the cake.  Illinois Congressman Bob Morris is sending out letters saying the Girl Scouts is an arm of Planned Parenthood and sexualizes young girls, and he wouldn't vote in favor of a resolution celebrating GSA's 100th birthday.  He found his information after "a small amount of web-based research."  (See "Rep. Bob Morris:  Girl Scouts have 'radical policies'," by Anne Gregory, Journal Gazette 2/21/2012).  I haven't heard anything that dumb in a long time.

Don't Mess With My Paper

The Inquirer and Daily News are up for sale again.  Former Gov. Rendell has put together a group of investors that are interested in buying.  A lot of people seem concerned about this. especially since there seems to have been some tampering of news stories regarding this subject.

I have a few qualms about Rendell, but one of his fellow investors is a dealbreaker.  Should that groups buy the papers my household would likely cancel our print subscription (ending a 19 year business arrangement).  I am locked in for a set length of time on my tablet but I can easily set that in a corner to gather dust. 

We have some excellent reports and other staff at the papers.  An independent press is necessary for democracy to flourish.  I don't think a media company owned by that group (or by a particular person in that group) would be very independent.

Keep the Inquirer unfettered.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Call to Honor Religious Freedom

from the inbox:

A diverse coalition of major national religious organizations today issued an “Interfaith Statement of Principles,” calling on the presidential candidates and all candidates for public office this election year to help ensure decency, honesty and fair play in elections by conducting campaigns that honor our nation’s traditions of religious liberty and avoid sowing religious discord.

The statement is available at .

This is a fine idea.  I fully support it.

Weissmann Endorses Murphy

from the inbox:

Today, Former Pennsylvania Treasurer Robin Wiessmann endorsed Iraq war veteran and former prosecutor Patrick Murphy for Pennsylvania Attorney General. Wiessmann, widely recognized for her work in public finance, is a pioneer for women in her field. Prior to running the Pennsylvania Treasury, Wiessmann founded the leading women-owned investment banking firm in the United States and as Treasurer, she made the office a more efficient and transparent steward of taxpayer dollars.

“As the former head of the Pennsylvania Treasury, I know what it takes to effectively lead an independent agency like the Attorney General’s office. Patrick Murphy has the experience, dedication and professional judgment to serve as the highest law enforcement official in the Commonwealth. This office is about leadership. It’s implementing a vision for a better Pennsylvania. Serving in the military during wartime and as a champion of civil and human rights, Patrick has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to public service, to the law and to fighting to create better lives for people he represents. That is why it is with great confidence and enthusiasm that I support Patrick Murphy in his bid to become the Pennsylvania Attorney General.” Wiessmann said.

“As the Congressman in my home district, Patrick served his constituents with passion and diligence. He took the time to understand the issues affecting families in our district and was not afraid to take the lead in national debates. Most important, Patrick takes action when called for and stands for what he believes is right.  He will ably serve our Commonwealth as our next Attorney General,” Wiessmann added.

“Treasurer Wiessmann has made a lasting impact on Pennsylvania, changing the way we protect and invest taxpayer dollars, and she has been a trailblazer for women in her industry, a true leader and public servant,” Murphy said. “Treasurer Wiessmann protected taxpayer dollars and promoted economic growth in a transparent and efficient way. I’m honored to earn her support, and even more honored to call her a friend.”

Growth in Manufacturing

On Friday, the third anniversary of President Obama signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, Congressman Bob Brady, Pennsylvania State Treasurer Rob McCord and Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale held a press conference call to highlight the fact that American manufacturers are creating jobs for the longest stretch since the 1990s.  In the past 30 months, they have added nearly 400,000 jobs across the country.  Instead of cutting jobs or shipping them abroad, American companies are now "insourcing," or bringing overseas jobs back home.

A report on STATE'S economic growth can be found here. [ manufacturing-report

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Schwartz Honored by AMA

from the inbox:

U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz was honored with the American Medical Association’s (AMA) top government service award, the Dr. Nathan Davis Award. Rep. Schwartz has represented the 13th District of Pennsylvania in Congress for four terms and currently serves on the House Budget Committee. She received the award last evening in Washington, D.C. as part of the AMA’s National Advocacy Conference.

“Rep. Schwartz has played a vital role in addressing some of health care’s toughest issues,” said AMA Chairman Robert Wah, M.D. “She has been able to bring together her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to discuss a permanent solution to the Medicare physician payment formula that will help millions of seniors and military families maintain access to health care.”

Rep. Schwartz is one of six honorees chosen this year to receive the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service. The award, named after the founder of the AMA, recognizes elected and career officials in federal, state or municipal service whose outstanding work has promoted the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.

“The Nathan Davis Award provides the AMA an opportunity to recognize government officials who exceeded expectations in order to improve public health,” said Dr. Wah. “Recipients represent various branches of the government and are examples of what can be accomplished when we work together to advance the health and well-being of all Americans.”

Rep. Schwartz was nominated for the Nathan Davis Award by Marilyn J. Heine, M.D., president, Pennsylvania Medical Society and Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., president and CEO, Association of American Medical Colleges. This year marks the 23rdanniversary of the Dr. Nathan Davis Awards.

Preventive Health Services for PA Residents

from the inbox:

Affordable Care Act extended free preventive services to 2,363,000 Pennsylvania residents with private health insurance in 2011
Free preventive care also provided to 1,507,983 Pennsylvania residents in Medicare
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today that the Affordable Care Act provided approximately 2,363,000 Pennsylvania residents with at least one new free preventive service in 2011 through their private health insurance plans. Secretary Sebelius also announced that an estimated 1,507,983 Pennsylvania residents with Medicare received at least one free preventive benefit in 2011, including the new Annual Wellness Visit, since the health reform law was enacted.

Together, this means an estimated 3,870,983 Pennsylvania residents were helped by health reform’s prevention coverage improvements. The new data were released in two new reports from HHS.
 “Americans of all ages can now get the preventive services they need, like mammograms and the new Annual Wellness Visit, free of charge, as a result of the new health care law,” Secretary Sebelius said. “With more people taking advantage of these benefits, more lives can be saved, and costly, and often burdensome, diseases can be prevented or caught earlier.”

Nationwide, the Affordable Care Act provided approximately 54 million Americans with at least one new free preventive service in 2011 through their private health insurance plans. And an estimated 32.5 million people with Medicare received at least one free preventive benefit in 2011, including the new Annual Wellness Visit, since the health reform law was enacted. Together, this means an estimated 86 million Americans were helped by health reform’s prevention coverage improvements. 

The Affordable Care Act requires many insurance plans to provide coverage without cost sharing to enrollees for a variety of preventive health services, such as colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for all children and adults. The law also makes proven preventive services free for most people on Medicare.

The report on private health insurance coverage also examined the expansion of free preventive services in minority populations.  The results showed that an estimated 6.1 million Latinos, 5.5 million Blacks, 2.7 million Asian Americans and 300,000 Native Americans across the country with private insurance received expanded preventive benefits coverage in 2011 as a result of the new health care law.

The report discussing Medicare preventive services found that more than 25.7 million Americans (1,014,420 Pennsylvania residents) in traditional Medicare received free preventive services in 2011. The report also looked at Medicare Advantage plans and found that 9.3 million Americans (670,870 Pennsylvania residents) – 97 percent of those in individual Medicare Advantage plans – were enrolled in a plan that offered free preventive services.  Assuming that people in Medicare Advantage plans utilized preventive services at the same rate as those with traditional Medicare, an estimated 32.5 million Americans (1,507,983 Pennsylvania residents) benefited from Medicare’s coverage of prevention with no cost sharing.

The full report on expanded preventive benefits in private health insurance is available at  The report on expanded preventive benefits in Medicare and other ways that the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare is available at

Monday, February 13, 2012

PA Candidates in DFA Grassroots All Stars

Democracy for American, more commonly known as DFA, is having another Grassroots All Stars election.  Candidates in various states are on their list.  You can pick a name to find someone you know is one of their possibilities, or you can select a state and see who is on their list for that state.  Pennsylvania has five candidates listed, two of them from the Philadelphia area.  Kathryn Boockvar, running for the 8th congressional district, and Dr. Manan Trivedi from the 6th district, are on the list.  Candidates who win Grassroots All Stars elections get a lot of press on DFA social media and some other perks.

New American Divide

You might not have seen it, but the Wall Street Journal had a fantastic article back on January 21.  "The New American Divide," by Charles Murray points out the growing difference between the large segments of the population.  It's not only money that divides us, but those are in lower economic brackets are participating in standard social institutions in far fewer numbers that their more monied neighbors.  The middle class and wealthy are more likely to be married and engaged in religious organizations than the poorer class.  The article also has a Philly angle.  Fishtown is the area Murray selected to represent the unmarried and unchurched.   Other factors Murray looks at are the percentage of adult men working less than 40 hours a week and the correlation between the amount of education a woman has in relation to whether she is married when she has children.  It's interesting, a little alarming, but interesting.

Allyson Schwartz on Prez O's Budget

from the inbox:

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, senior member of the House Budget Committee, issued the following statement today on President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Proposal.
“The President’s budget proposal promotes private sector job growth and strengthens America’s middle class. At the same time, it tackles the deficit responsibly by calling on all Americans to shoulder their fair share of the burden, and in doing so cuts our nation’s deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years.
“As a member of the Conference Committee, I have been a vocal proponent of addressing Medicare physician payment reform by permanently repealing the SGR and paying off the debt to the Medicare program with war savings. In his budget, the President acknowledges that the SGR cuts will never be implemented, which is the first step toward transparent budgeting for Medicare expenditures. Despite support from some Republicans who have been eager to work on SGR, Republican leadership continues to reject this rational solution and thwart efforts to move beyond our fundamentally flawed physician payment system.
“Let's be clear about President Obama's budget: the President knows that for America to lead now, and into the future, we must be economically competitive. That means making smart, targeted, strategic investments in education, infrastructure, energy, and new industries, such as biotechnology.

“I commend the President for maintaining essential investments in medical research, which stimulates the economy and promotes job growth in the biotechnology and health care sectors. The budget also includes needed funding to bolster our health care infrastructure, and ensure access to care by investing in our primary care workforce.

“President Obama’s budget proposal is a long-term economic blueprint that ensures America remains a nation where everyone has an opportunity to succeed if they work hard and play by the rules.”


Attorney General Candidate's Debate at PA Progressive Summit

Attorney General Debate
Pennsylvania Progressive Summit
February 10, 2012n
Arch St. United Methodist Church

Democratic Candidates Kathleen Granaham Kane (former Assistant District Attorney in Lackawana County) and PatrickMurphy (former Congressman from Bucks County).  Moderator:  Michael Morrill of Keystone Progress.

Two minute opening and closing statements.  Questions alternate between candidates, with a 1.5 minute response and a 30 second rebuttal (note:  there wasn’t always a rebuttal).

Caveat:  I was scribbling notes using a book as a desk.  My handwriting is not especially neat at the best of times and after a few days can be tricky even for me to interpret.  Should you see anything that looks out of place, please confirm with the campaign.  As always, I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Blogger’s note:  The catch(phrase) of the day seemed to be, from the Kane campaign:  I’m a prosecutor not a politician.  From Murphy:  I’m a leader who will fight the big fights.  Murphy is a more relaxed campaigner, no doubt due to experience.  Kane seems a little stiff but that might improve over the course of the campaign.  A straw poll vote was taken at the debate; results were announced the next morning, with Murphy the winner.

Opening Statements:

K:  The AG is the chief law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth.  As the Assistant District Attorney of Lackawanna County I prosecuted child sexual abuse, elder abuse.  We need a prosecutor not a politician in the AG office.  The AG needs to know the laws of the Commonwealth.

M:  This is our 4th debate.  We’re at a crossroads.  Our progressive values are at stake.  Some AGs push a right wing agenda, some don’t do much, others do everything possible to make people’s lives better, take on the fights, the right to choose, environmental issues, fight wherever – the street, boardroom or Harrisburg.  Integrity and guts.

Q1:  What have done to help working people organize?

M:  Supported rights of workers every day of my life.  Grew up in NE Philly, father a police officer for 20+ years, have fought for workers’ rights, Free Choice Act, fight for living wage, need a leader to fight for working men and women.

K:  Growing up father worked for Loudon Hill, lost job, then worked as a janitor, became shop steward (?) for AFSCME, spent time in courtroom not Congress, good wages for good people.

Q2:  [quoting specific law], vouchers?

K:  Public school education funding cut, brother is a teacher, crime will go up, between 3:30 and 6:30 crime goes up if kids don’t have something to do, public / private partnership, link education to law enforcement.  Education is cornerstone of community.

M:  The PA Constitution forbids it unless there is a 2/3 vote, need leaders to stand up for education.  Taught at West Point, sister teaches 6th grade.

Q3:  raise social justice issues?
M: Absolutely important to go after crime where it happens, also need to be consumer advocate.  That is my background, fought for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, especially protect seniors, most vulnerable.   
AG is consumer advocate for PA.

K:  AG has 700 employees, 17 offices in 6 regions, crime biggest section.  Consumer protection another part.  Not rhetoric, needs to be reality.  Consumer protection is theft.  Have prosecuted many cases, head of insurance fraud unit.  Need to do more, been a prosecutor.

M:  Co-sponsored CFPB, added amendment to protect seniors

K:  Murphy done well in introducing bills.  I was in the courtroom.  Have the laws but they’ve been dormant.

Q4:  Art 1 Sec 1 Constitution, what does it mean?

K:  All people are equal, justice for all.  Because a prosecutor, because believe in law, right over wrong.  AG last line of justice in that courtroom.  Doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, justice for all.  Prosecuted judges.

M: Treat all equally.  I too have prosecuted cases, in the military and in federal cases.  My opponent thought Corbett did such a good job she wrote him a personal check.  Can give speeches but records needs to be clear. 

K:  Did write a check for Corbett when he was running for re-election as AG.  At least I didn’t vote for George Bush.  I’ve practiced in PA courtrooms.

M:  You wrote a $10K check to Lackawanna Co DA, not the same as an absentee ballot 12 years ago while in the military.

Q5:  Art 1, Sec 28 PA Constitution, pertains to same sex marriage?

K:  I believe in same sex marriage.  Legislator made it political.  19 year career as an attorney, fought for all those years.  Supported Republican as DA because the Democratic candidate had never been in the courtroom.

M:  Need an AG who will fight.  Either believe in values and fight for them or not.

K:  Protect kids against abuse, those are big fights over values.  Office for prosecutor.

Q6:  fracking and HB 1950, local control.

K:  Fracking needs to have full disclosure.  Close loopholes.  No reason chemicals pumped in ground and we don’t’ know what they are.  We need regulations.  Make sure legislators propose right regulations.

M:  HB 1950 set aside that says people have to apply for redress to Public Utility Commission.  Corbett a disappointment on environment.  If put safety in jeopardy should go to jail.  Cases where people intentionally put fracking water in to water.  Should go to jail.  I will be a fighter.

K:  That’s what happens when politics takes over.  Need a prosecutor not a politician.

M:  My opponent supported Corbett for AG re-election.  My record is clear.  Two Democrats in the House supported the Frack Act – Sestak and me.

Q7:  PA constitute vague about AG duties.  Define..

M:  PA AG is people’s protector.  Tough on crime and fight for values we believe in.  Environmental crime.  Consumer protection.  An active AG can make a different in everyday people’s lives.

K:  [cites law on AG duties]:  chief law enforcement officer.  Need to know PA law.  I have practiced them.  Patrick wants to say I’m a bad Democrat.  If you want a politician vote for Patrick.  If you want a prosecutor vote for me.

M:  Not just Corbett.  You can give money to anyone you want but you can’t say one thing and do another.

K:  [jab at Murphy on immigration, referring to a previous debate]

Q8:  women’s health

K:  In courtroom not Congress, protect women who have been raped, found justice for them.  They didn’t care what my politics were or who I wrote checks to.  I’m a pro-choice candidate.

M:  Women have a right to choose, right to privacy.  My actions will reflect that right.  I was invited to speak at NARAL a few days ago.  PA passed a bill that will close 20 out of 22 clinics.  You have to be willing to fight every step of the way.

Q9:  1200 people shot and killed in PA each year.  Illegal handguns.

M:  Fight big fights – take on special interested.  I believe in the 2nd amendment, own a gun.  But not an AK47.  I’ve seen what an AK47 can do to the human body.  It’s not pretty.  In Philadelphia 236 people murdered last year.  Need a leader who will take on special interests.

K:  Been with police, FBI, been to murder scenes.  Make sure programs continue, like Handgun [task force?].  Have a permitting problem in PA.  Need to make sure systems speaking to each other.  Need to know PA laws.  Patrick voted against DC handgun law.

M:  That law wasn’t constitutional.  Have to be consistent.  1 handgun a month.

K:  It only takes one handgun.  Need practical solutions from people have been on the street.

Q10:  Proposed law, NRA can sue localities

K:  need lost and stolen laws to stop straw purchases.  Not an infringement on 2nd amendment.  Bound by law to report a theft.

M:  That bill was outrageous.  Lets NRA sue and get triple damages.  Cities won’t take on NRA.  I’ve been on the streets.  My dad, uncle, cousins are cops.  Been a Judge Advocate General in military.  Prosecuted criminals here and overseas. 

K:  Respect Patrick’s work.  Issue is need to know PA laws.

M:  Went to law school in PA.  Practiced law here for years.  Not just knowing law but fighting laws under attack now. 

Q11: Sandusky.  What would you have done differently?

M:  As a prosecutor took out a high level Navy commander who molested a 7 year girl.  If elected will do a top to bottom review.  If anyone slow-walked that investigation they will have to answer for it.  Need to make sure have secure statewide database and strengthen mandatory reporting and get rid of time limits. 

K:  Testimony of one victim is enough.  Corbett said one victim not enough to bring charges.  I would have investigated promptly.  Have never put a sexual abuse case before a grand jury.  Takes too long.

M:  At 15th and Chestnut St. there is a child advocacy center.  Need more of those.

K:  Would have more if then if there was a $5 fee [missed this] to employ trained doctors and [missed this].  Bill held up.

Q12:  been part of [missed this, but I think it is the case against the Affordable Health Care Act] suit?

K:  No, purely politically motivated.  If elected will take PA out.

M:  I agree

Q13:  HB 934, voter ID

M:  Bill is wrong.  Takes away rights of elderly, college students and others who don’t have ID.  Should fight against voter fraud.  But this basically disenfranchises people.  Extreme right wing agenda.

K:  Violation of civil rights of everyone in PA.  Patrick is right that it’s a suppression.  Affects elderly the most.  Their id isn’t valid or they don’t know where it is.  Who’s next?

Q14:  A Democrat has never been elected in PA.  How to defeat a Republican?

K:  Go toe to toe with the Republican nominee.  He has a law and order record.  Need a Democratic 
candidate with a law and order record.  Even Democrats are voting for the Republican law and order candidate.  Need most qualified.  I’m the only qualified prosecutor in the Democratic primary.

M:  Critically important.  Will put my life and prosecutorial experience against R candidate.  We will take the fight to the GOP.  R candidate is Dave Freed.  Environmental crime, budget cuts, need to let people know.  Fight for progressive values.

K:  Voters want to know how often you’ve been in PA courtrooms.  My record can stand up to Rs.

M:  Four years ago we had a county DA who stood up to Corbett.  Kathleen supported Corbett.  I have a large number of Facebook and twitter followers.  Need grassroots support.

Q15:  Support legislation to prevent AG from running for governor

M:  yes, should have had it four years ago.

K:  yes AG should be the destination not the journey.  Will pledge not to run for governor.

Q16:  Protect citizens from corporate malfeasance. 

K:  Limits on campaign spending and special interest.  I’ve self-funded my campaign $2million.  Shows independent, not beholden.

M:  Process now completely tainted.  Not taking corporate money, supported DISCLOSE ACT.  Can’t self-fund though, but did receive $1.5 million from 2500 donors.  If elected will do everything to change process.

K:  I didn’t take $170,000 in PAC money.  Time to elect Democratic AG, only candidate qualified.

M:  I’m also qualified.

Q17:  Protect non-US citizens.

M:  Immigration a problem, secure borders.  Employers exploit illegal immigrants.  AG cracks down.  Of the 19 soldiers in the 82nd Airborne killed in Iraq, one was not a citizen, here on green card.  Need to do what is right. 

K:  Immigration laws need to be reformed.  I will enforce all of the laws.  Strengthen borders.  Can’t deport everyone.  Need a career path to citizenship.  AG enforces the laws.

M:  Don’t deport everyone.

Q18:  limits on local government, especially environmental regs

K:  If local governments given regulations they wouldn’t have to make their own.  But a farm might be in multiple municipalities.  Need laws and regulations to protect air and water.  State government has regulations needed to protect people.

M:  It is broken.  Marcellus shale is “big footing.”  Now people have to go through PUC.  Need to do what is take sot keep environment safe.  Need an AG who will fight.

K:  Need to make sure any bill passed prevents municipality from complaining.

M:  Justice system gives a voice to everyone.

Q19:  AG serves on pardon board.   What are your qualifications for this?

M:  Case by case basis.  In PA 78% of inmates don’t have a high school diploma.  Now a 2 year wait to get GED.  Need a leader who makes sure legislators understand what bill will do.

K:  Qualification is chief law enforcement official.  Worked with law enforcement.  Need to know PA laws of parole and pardon.  Need to now what crimes have high recidivism rate.

M:  Important to have an AG who understands what works and doesn’t, who will fight.

K:  being on the street with police officers is protecting them.

Q20:  non-violent drug offenders

K:  Usually a possession charge.  Addicts.  Treat root of the problem.

M:  Simple possession in non-violent sense should go to drug court, heroin and meth are serious issues.  Partner with law enforcement and community leaders.  Be proactive, alternative courts. 

K:  time to walk the walk.  Sat through drug court.  Make sure every county had resources for drug court. 

Q21:  AG duty on environment

M:  rights to clean air and water under attack.  Over 3300 violations, over 2000 have direct impact on environment.  Must do everything possible to fight special interests.  Need a leader and fight big fights.

K:  AG’s office has an environmental office, understaffed and under utilized.  Need to be a proactive. 

M:  Let’s look at record.  Zero prosecutions.  Why do they continue to look the other way?

Q22:  If opponent elected how would you feel?

K:  Hope we elect a Democrat.  I believe I’m the best candidate.   Hope we all turn out to vote.

M:  Democrats need to win this race.  Campaigning is not easy.  I believe my skillset is better.  But must come together after the primary.

Closing Statements

M:  Same points used against Bobby Kennedy – too young and inexperienced.  Don’t just prosecute but set priorities for office.  That’s why for first time civil rights laws enforced.  First to admit I’m no Bobby Kennedy.  Ask who will fight the big fights.

K:  next AG will try Sandusky case.  Now you have a choice.  Who will you choose?  Choose a prosecutor who has experience prosecuting sex offenders.  Not just leadership, but need prosecutorial skills.