Monday, May 20, 2013

Organizing for Action in Naples

It's hard to believe I haven't posted on Sparker's Soapbox since my last post in December. In case you're wondering, I've continued my grassroots work to support the legislative agenda we worked so hard for in 2012, through a new group called Organizing for Action.

But before I tell you about that, let me close the loop on Medicaid expansion in Florida, the subject of my last blog post.

In a nutshell, the Florida Legislature tried to do something to help Florida’s uninsured in the session just ended, but ultimately failed.

The House rejected $51 billion of federal assistance to provide coverage for 1.1 million low-income working citizens over 10 years. Wanting nothing to do with federal money, they proposed a $3 billion 10-year plan paid for with state money that would have covered only 115,000 people. Refusing to compromise with the Senate, which would have used the federal money to help the uninsured purchase private insurance, the legislative session ended with nothing done.

Efforts are underway to urge Governor Scott to call a special session to reconsider, but I think it's unlikely. So hospital emergency rooms will continue to treat the uninsured, passing costs along to insurers and ultimately, to us customers.

More on what we'll be doing locally to help the uninsured sign up with the Federal insurance exchanges in weeks to come.

Organizing for Action

Meanwhile, in January, Organizing for Action was formed as a national group to advance the policies that the American people voted for in 2012, like gun violence prevention, comprehensive immigration reform, affordable health care for all citizens, and measures combating climate change.

OFA teams have been forming across the country, including OFA-Naples, which we formed locally.

We in OFA-Naples are working in coordination with OFA-Florida to engage and organize concerned citizens to advocate for issues we care about. Since January, we've held lively monthly dinners bringing like-minded people together in a social setting and sharing presentations on topics including gun violence prevention and the Affordable Care Act.

In March, we began to reach out to the broader Naples community. Chris Straton, a founding member of OFA-Naples, and I wrote a Guest Column for the Naples Daily News on the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, pointing out the good things Obamacare already does. 

OFA-Naples Rallies in Support of Gun
Violence Prevention on April 13
We held rallies in support of gun violence prevention in April, receiving great coverage in the Naples Daily News (articles here and here), and on FOX4 TV (video clip here). 

This Thursday morning, OFA-Naples volunteers and supporters will deliver petitions to Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart's office in support of background checks on gun sales. If you live in District 25 and want to join us, click here.

OFA-Naples' Monika Ludwig
OFA-Naples Comprehensive Immigration Reform Campaign co-lead Monika Ludwig wrote a guest column for the Naples Daily news that was published yesterday. We showcased Monika's article on our new OFA-Naples website and blog! Click here to follow this blog and receive notification of new posts by email. 

This Thursday afternoon, Victoria Kirby, OFA-Florida State Coordinator and I will lead an Update on  the Gang of Eight's immigration reform bill and Action Planning Session. Even if immigration reform isn't you're number-one issue, the meeting will be a great opportunity to meet Victoria and hear first-hand about OFA-Florida. For more information, click here.

Our next OFA-Naples dinner will be on Wednesday, June 19. Click here to request an invitation!

Going forward, I'll be focusing on the OFA-Naples blog. My hope is to inform and educate readers about the President's agenda, providing facts and information you might not otherwise see. I won't hide my politics - readers will know where I'm coming from - but I'll endeavor to write the truth.

Thank you for being a reader of Sparker's Soapbox. I'll be back from time to time, I'm sure. But if you're interested in following me on my new  OFA blog, click here to subscribe.




Friday, December 14, 2012

Florida and Obamacare: let your voice be heard


With the president’s reelection, the call to “Repeal Obamacare” seems to have subsided. So where does Florida stand with the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?

Today was the deadline for states to decide whether to set up their own health insurance exchange or let the federal government do it.  Like 19 other Republican-led states, Florida decided, for now, to let the Feds do it. (They can change their mind at a later date, with approval of the Legislature and the governor.)

Given where we are today, this is probably the best they can do for now. As recommended by Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network), a statewide consumer health advocacy organization:
As a result of Florida leaders' resistance to the ACA and inaction over the past two years, the state has not completed the planning or invested the resources needed to develop and launch a State-Based (or even a Partnership) Exchange by next October. Therefore, a Federally Facilitated Exchange should be established to serve Floridians, at least until Florida demonstrates that it can meet the requirements of the law and run their own Exchange with stakeholder and public input.
States also have to decide whether to expand Medicaid, which is a federal-state partnership, to a federally-mandated level in order to provide insurance for their uninsured.  This is because the Supreme Court declared the provision of the ACA that required states to provide that coverage unconstitutional.

Here’s the deal: If a state agrees to expand coverage by increasing the income limit for the program to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (individuals up to $15,400 and a family of three up to $26,300 based on the 2012 FPL) starting January 2014, the federal government will pay 100% of the cost for the first three years, and 90% thereafter.

If Florida agrees, according to “Obamacare: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Affordable Care Act” in today’s Naples Florida Weekly:
The notion is that over time roughly half of the 4 million uninsured or underinsured people in Florida will join Medicaid, and half will use a health insurance exchange. 
In the program’s first three years alone, the federal government will spend at least $3.2 billion and as much as $4.78 billion while Florida taxpayers pay little or nothing, according to projections by the Florida Hospital Association.  
In a report issued last month, the association strongly recommended embracing the federal plan, “which is estimated to expand coverage to 32 million individuals at a cost of $940 billion over 10 years (2010 to 2019).”
Here are some additional facts from Medicaid Expansion and the Affordable Care Act in Florida, by Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network), a statewide consumer health advocacy organization:

  • The majority of newly Medicaid-eligible Florida adults are employed. They include workers in the areas such as retail, food preparation, tourism/hospitality and other service industries.
  • The health coverage provided to Florida workers under Medicaid expansion would be a fully subsidized employee benefit, worth an estimated $14.3 billion to their employers over 10 years.
  • Expansion will cost the state an estimated $2.1 billion over the next 10 years, increasing the state’s share of the Medicaid budget by only 2%, while drawing down $20.3 billion in federal funds.
  • Medicaid expansion will create an estimated 65,000 new Florida jobs in the first 6 years alone.

The Florida Legislature and governor have to decide whether or not to expand Medicaid in the coming months as they develop the 2014 budget, and already its causing lots of debate – as you would imagine.

The Senate has created a Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and is inviting Floridians’ input on what Florida should do. They’ve even set up a webpage where you can submit your comments.  Here’s what I submitted today:
As a Florida taxpayer and voter, I urge you to fully adopt the Medicaid Expansion limits set by the PPACA so that Florida will receive its share of the Federal funding (100% of the cost of expansion in the first three years, and 90% thereafter) toward the insurance of our uninsured. It's the right thing to do.
It doesn’t have to be long or elegant. Just visit the webpage and tell them why you believe Florida should expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Let your voice be heard.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The President's Plan


Last night at dinner with friends, conversation turned to the apparent lack of progress at the meeting between Tim Geithner, representing the President, and John Boehner on Thursday. One friend commented that he was disappointed in the President's failure to put forward a specific plan, a criticism that has been all over the media since the meeting.

I countered that the President had indeed put forward specifics, and that further, to do anything more would simply be negotiating with himself - a tact he was roundly and appropriately criticized for during the debt ceiling crisis. My friend challenged me to name the specifics and, while unable to do so last night, I followed up with him by email this morning. Here's what I sent:

From the 11/29/12 Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney;
Q    One last thing on this.  You say that the President has put forward specific spending cuts.  Boehner said again this morning that they haven’t seen any plan.  Where do they fall on this when they actually talk in person, what they did last night or what they did on Saturday?  Has the President said that he's put forward spending cuts and he doesn’t plan to put forth any more?

MR. CARNEY:  I'm glad you asked.  This is available not just here but to everyone in the world who has an Internet connection. And I know things are done the old-fashioned way sometimes on Capitol Hill, but I believe they have electricity and Internet connections and they can get this.  This is an 85-page plan that is very detailed -- sorry, maybe 65, going on 70 -- that's very detailed and it outlines -- it's the President's Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction that was submitted in September of 2011.  It is of a piece with his budget that he put forward in February 2012.   
 And in terms of where we are missing specifics is anything specific, politically feasible, or substantial from the Republican side on revenues.  …..
 And here it is: President's Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction.  In part, from the Introduction:
…. the President is putting forward a balanced approach that both asks for shared sacrifice from all Americans and draws from across the budget. This should include additional spending cuts in mandatory programs, modest adjustments in important entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, capping spending on Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), and reforming our tax code so that we ask our biggest corporations and wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. 
Specifically, the President is proposing $257 billion in cuts and reforms to a wide range of mandatory programs from Federal retirement to agricultural subsidies, reform of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, new program integrity initiatives, and getting rid of unneeded Federal real property to reduce the deficit. 
The specifics are in the 67-page document. Just because it’s nothing new, doesn’t mean it doesn't exist.

Why should the President have to put forth ANOTHER plan? The one he put out last year appropriately remains his initial offer, until the Republicans come forward with a specific counter-proposal on both taxes AND spending cuts.

The Republicans may think that continuing to say the President didn’t put forth a plan will make it so, but it doesn’t.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Don't have any regrets


From First Read from MSNBC today: 
According to brand-new NBC/WSJ/Marist polls, Obama and Romney are deadlocked at 48% among likely voters in Colorado, while Obama holds a narrow three-point lead in Nevada, 50%-47%.  
Among the broader sample of registered voters, Obama is up by one in Colorado, 48%-47%, and he leads by six in Nevada, 51%-45%.
And what’s going on in Colorado could signal what happens in Florida and Virginia.
Notice that Obama holds a greater lead among registered voters than among likely voters. That's why get out the vote is so important. 

If we can get some of those supporters who were counted as unlikely voters to actually go to the polls, we can win this thing!  

That's why I'll be spending every waking hour of the day from now until Election Day to get out the vote in my little portion of Florida.

Don't have any regrets. If you were to wake up on November 7 facing four years of a Romney presidency, you would wish you had made the time to volunteer. Go to www.BarackObama.com/events and sign up for a volunteer shift near you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's what each one of us can do

Pundits say we will win Florida ONLY IF we get our supporters to the polls.

An article in Monday's paper put it this way:
"To date, conventional wisdom has been that the turnout race will swing toward the Republicans, that the GOP is fired up about replacing Obama, that Democrats lack the same infectious enthusiasm they had in 2008. But many also are disenchanted by political bickering, contemplating whether to stay home next month out of sheer frustration. Others are angered by new voting laws that, depending on your view, either sniff out voter fraud or disenfranchise minority and poor voters. And some feel hopeless, as if neither candidate can help pull them out of joblessness or poverty. 
"Taken together, those who vote — and those who don't — will help direct the future of our country, deciding whether Florida turns red or blue in 2012."
There's nothing more important than knocking those doors and making those calls, because it's a proven fact that personal contact - especially with those who are undecided or sporadic voters - DOES make a difference.

If each of us makes a difference with just ONE voter, together we could swing the state.

Have you completed a volunteer shift yet? Are you ready to help us get out the vote? Have you visited www.barackobama.com/events or signed up with your local Neighborhood Team on Dashboard?

If you have - thank you! If not, what can I do or say to get you in? Seriously - we need you!

If you live in North Naples, please sign up and attend one of our two Get-Out-the-Vote Training Sessions for volunteers this Sunday.

  • 10AM-12PM - North Naples East Training - Click here
  • 2PM-4PM -      North Naples Training - Click here

If you live anywhere else in the COUNTRY, find an event near you at www.barackobama.com/events.

Learn what you need to know to be the most effective and productive volunteer you can be in the less-than-three-weeks that remain until Election Day.

Friday, October 12, 2012

CHANGE RE: OCTOBER 16 AMENDMENTS FORUM


The location for the Forum on the Proposed Amendments to the Florida Constitution has been changed to accommodate what is expected to be a LARGE CROWD.  The new location is the North Naples United Methodist Church, 6000 Goodlette Road North.  Below is repeated the original Sparkers Soapbox post.

***********************
The League of Women Voters of Florida - and I - recommend a NO vote on all eleven constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature. You can read the League's rationale at www.thefloridavoter.org, where you can also download the League's 2012 Voter Guide for nonpartisan information on statewide candidates and Supreme Court Justices.

To hear both sides of each issue from an extremely qualified group of speakers, attend the Amendments Forum on Oct. 16 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the NABOR Community Center, 1455 Pine Ridge Road (just east of Goodlette-Frank Road). Some "heavy hitters" are lined up as panelists (see the guest commentary by Lydia Galton and Dave Trecker, founding members and officers of the Collier Community Alliance):

  • Former state representative Dudley Goodlette will describe how the amendments come about.
  • Florida ACLU head Howard Simon and Ave Maria president Jim Towey will debate the merits of Amendment 8, which would make public money available for religious institutions, including schools.
  • Carolyn Johnson, statewide manager of Vote Yes for No. 4, and Andrew Dickman, a Naples land-use attorney, will present the pros and cons of Amendment 4, which would cut property taxes, helping homeowners and realtors but stripping tax revenues from local government.
  • Char Wendel, head of Planned Parenthood, will debate Dr. Jaine Carter, a behavioral expert and author, on Amendment 6, which would prohibit state funding of abortions.
  • Ken Ginsberg of Hodges University and Chuck Mohlke, Democratic Party majordomo, will discuss the pros and cons of Amendment 3, which would set a limit on state revenues.
  • Jeff Fridkin, a prominent litigation attorney, will discuss Amendment 5, which would allow the Legislature to overturn Florida Supreme Court rulings by a simple majority vote of both houses.
  • Patrick Neale, a Naples land-use attorney, will discuss Amendments 2, 9, 10 and 11, all involving property tax changes.
  • Jeff Lytle, Daily News editorial page editor, will serve as moderator.

It promises to be an informative evening of political theater!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

11 constitutional amendments on the ballot


thefloridavoter.org
The League of Women Voters of Florida - and I - recommend a NO vote on all eleven constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature. You can read the League's rationale at www.thefloridavoter.org, where you can also download the League's 2012 Voter Guide for nonpartisan information on statewide candidates and Supreme Court Justices.

To hear both sides of each issue from an extremely qualified group of speakers, attend the Amendments Forum on Oct. 16 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the NABOR Community Center, 1455 Pine Ridge Road (just east of Goodlette-Frank Road). Some "heavy hitters" are lined up as panelists (see the guest commentary by Lydia Galton and Dave Trecker, founding members and officers of the Collier Community Alliance):

  • Former state representative Dudley Goodlette will describe how the amendments come about.
  • Florida ACLU head Howard Simon and Ave Maria president Jim Towey will debate the merits of Amendment 8, which would make public money available for religious institutions, including schools.
  • Carolyn Johnson, statewide manager of Vote Yes for No. 4, and Andrew Dickman, a Naples land-use attorney, will present the pros and cons of Amendment 4, which would cut property taxes, helping homeowners and realtors but stripping tax revenues from local government.
  • Char Wendel, head of Planned Parenthood, will debate Dr. Jaine Carter, a behavioral expert and author, on Amendment 6, which would prohibit state funding of abortions.
  • Ken Ginsberg of Hodges University and Chuck Mohlke, Democratic Party majordomo, will discuss the pros and cons of Amendment 3, which would set a limit on state revenues.
  • Jeff Fridkin, a prominent litigation attorney, will discuss Amendment 5, which would allow the Legislature to overturn Florida Supreme Court rulings by a simple majority vote of both houses.
  • Patrick Neale, a Naples land-use attorney, will discuss Amendments 2, 9, 10 and 11, all involving property tax changes.
  • Jeff Lytle, Daily News editorial page editor, will serve as moderator.

It promises to be an informative evening of political theater!