By Kathleen Rogers

In a close vote, the House recently passed a provision that undercuts one of the most successful environmental programs of the decade – one that requires all bulbs -- including the incandescent -- to achieve higher efficiency levels. The amendment, which was tacked on to the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act of 2012, delays a ban on sales of incandescent bulbs for nine months - from Jan. 1 until the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2012 – turning off the lights on this successful program.

The legislation, if passed by the Senate, will repeal one of those “inside the beltway” success stories that seems near impossible these days--legislation that was drafted with the help of light-bulb manufacturing giants, Philips, General Electric and Sylvania, and with the support of a coalition of efficiency and environmental organizations, including my own, passed by a bipartisan majority of the House and Senate and signed into law in 2007 by Republican President George W. Bush. More unusual was the fact that California and Nevada, then under leadership of Republican governors, swallowed hard and gave up their own state lighting-efficiency legislation, which had faster timetables. They did so because they were persuaded by all of us that creating a single regulatory light-bulb standard for the whole country would support innovation; would help the United States maintain its market share of production; save American households money; create new jobs; and would give industry what it craves much more than the anti-regulatory crowd would have you believe. It seems fair to use the term “dim bulb” to describe those members of Congress who voted to turn back the clock.

It's up to the Senate to rectify this wrong.

Click here to read the full article

Monday, July 25, 2011

Making the Case that Medicaid Works

By Anna Liebenow

You never know what obstacles life is going to put in front of you. When I was 25, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Before I turned 30, I was using a wheelchair. When you have a disability, it takes a fair amount of creativity to make life work. Like millions of other Americans with disabilities, I found a way. I continued to work, volunteer and live my life.

After a few years, my MS progressed to the point where I could no longer get in and out of the wheelchair on my own. I was still the same person and still wanted to contribute something. But without help transferring from my bed to my wheelchair, I couldn’t even get out the door. The world beyond my bedroom would be lost to me, and all I have to offer the world would go to waste.

Click here to read the full article

By former U.S. Reps. Constance Morella (R-Md.) and Bob Edgar (D-Pa.)

August marks the 50th anniversary of the first use of herbicides by United States military forces during the war in Vietnam. From 1961 until 1971, more than 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides were stored, mixed, handled by U.S. troops and sprayed by U.S. airplanes over millions of acres of Vietnamese forest and farmland. The goal of this military operation was to deny cover to the enemy on the ground.

The U.S. government now compensates U.S. Vietnam-era vets for 15 serious health conditions and one birth defect related to exposure to the dioxin that was part of those herbicides.

But some 3 million Vietnamese also suffered health effects, including 150,000 of today’s children with birth defects. Their needs have long been neglected, caught in the geopolitical and scientific conflict that followed the war. The Vietnamese government, several U.S. foundations, and nongovernmental organizations have set up hospitals and small remediation programs, but so far these have redressed less than 10 percent of the need.

But the devastating legacy of Agent Orange, one remaining shadow of that war, is on the way to being resolved in Vietnam – if current trends continue. We may have disagreed on many things in the past, but on a recent trip to Vietnam we witnessed a new spirit of cooperation and partnership among former adversaries. All sides are now determined to alleviate the health and environmental damage from Agent Orange, damage that continues to this day.

Click here to read the full article

By Cindy Pearson and Lois Uttley

The Institute of Medicine, an independent panel of doctors and health experts, has just recommended that insurance companies be told to stop charging co-pays for contraception and several other types of women’s preventive health care in any new health plans. Ending those extra out-of-pocket insurance charges will be good for women’s health and good for women’s pocketbooks.

Medical experts also are urging that insurance companies end co-pays for breastfeeding supports, including rental of breast pumps, and for annual well woman exams, HIV infection screening and counseling for women experiencing domestic violence. Most of the public attention so far, though, has focused on the experts’ recommendations about contraception. No wonder, because the vast majority of women in our country have used birth control at some time in their lives.

Click here to read the full article

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Putting a Face on Medicaid

By Sue Hetrick

Open the newspaper any morning and one story is at the top: Leaders in Washington are negotiating a deal to reduce our nation’s debt and balance the budget. Trillions of dollars and thousands of laws and programs are at stake. While the public looks on, some of the most influential people in our country go back and forth with proposals: President Obama; Vice President Joe Biden; House Speaker John Boehner; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid …. .
And Sue, Micah and Nick Hetrick.

No, we aren’t members of Congress. Nor are we cabinet secretaries or big-time lobbyists. We’re an Ohio family -- I’m the proud mother of Micah, 22, and Nick, 27. Along with representatives of the American Association of People with Disabilities and United Cerebral Palsy, we traveled to Washington this week to show the human face of the policies now under consideration. Our mission was to share our family’s story with officials in the White House and on Capitol Hill in order to protect Medicaid. This program, which has enabled our family to lead a fulfilling, healthy life, is on the chopping block. My family has something to say about that.

Click here to read the full article

By F. Scott McCown

When the legislative session began in January, Texas faced a crisis. The state was short roughly one-fourth of the money needed simply to do what it was already doing. The Center for Public Policy Priorities was part of a broad coalition that pushed for a balanced approach to the problem -- one that used the Rainy Day Fund in combination with targeted cuts and new revenue.

Others pushed for a cuts-only approach that slashed things like the number of teachers and payments to nursing homes. Initially, the House proposed a devastating cuts-only budget. In the end, with a slightly improved revenue projection and various one-time measures, the Legislature largely funded the Senate’s modestly better, but still damaging budget.

Texas is growing twice as fast as the nation. In the most recent decade, Texas’ child population growth accounted for over half of the child population growth in the entire country, making our state’s education system critical to our country’s future.

Contrary to any spin you’ve heard, the Legislature actually cut spending on public education. And the money the state is spending won’t go as far because of enrollment growth and higher costs.

How does Texas turn this around? We’ll need more than a stronger economy to solve our revenue problems.

Click here to read the full article

By Daniella Levine

Save lives or save money for the rich? Feed hungry children or subsidize the oil and gas industry? Stop buying ineffective military equipment or stop paying for job training? These questions are at the heart of the debate over reducing the federal deficit and raising the debt ceiling.

Negotiations are underway between Congressional leaders and President Obama and it’s clear that all parties want to significantly reduce the deficit.

But, there’s deep disagreement over how to achieve that goal. It’s time for Florida’s Congressional delegation to speak up on behalf of a balanced approach that makes prudent spending cuts and generates new revenue by asking a little more from those with the most.

Right now, many in Congress are rejecting any increase in federal revenues. They have embraced only spending cuts, including many that will harm vulnerable people and the economy as a whole.

Click here to read the full article

By Monique Perry Danziger

Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was an anti-corruption game-changer tucked into a historic, comprehensive piece of legislation aimed primarily at overhauling the nation’s financial regulatory structure. Since becoming law, anti-corruption and financial transparency proponents are still waiting for the law to be implemented.

Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act would require oil, gas, and mining companies that must report to the SEC—approximately 90 percent of the major internationally operating oil and gas companies in the world—to disclose payments made to governments for the oil, gas, and minerals they extract. This would be a boon to anti-corruption workers trying to get the records straight when investigating bribery and corruption in developing countries. It also would serve investors looking to make informed decisions about their portfolios.

Click here to read the full article

Lilly Ledbetter
By Lilly Ledbetter and Linda Hallman

Yesterday a sharply divided Supreme Court ignored more than 40 years of established jurisprudence in its Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision, which severely restricts the ability of employees to fight discrimination as a class-action group. In a deeply misguided opinion, the majority ruled that the women of Wal-Mart cannot band together nationwide and stand up as one against the biggest retailer in the world. It's hard to manage the court costs and find the courage to keep going. We only wish the women of Wal-Mart would not have to do that. Yet the high court decided they did not have enough in common to pursue a nationwide class-action suit, a sadly ironic twist for former employees of the great homogenizer of American retail.

The court’s decision was not related to the merits of the case, however, and the women of Wal-Mart are already planning how to proceed next, either individually or in smaller, reformulated class-action cases. In fact, Wal-Mart may rue the day it fought against allowing a single class-action case. The company’s gamble—that if it could throw up enough barriers, the women would quit—is not going to pay off, and the Goliath retailer may soon end up with more Davids than it ever wanted to fight.

Click here to read the full article

By Patricia Brown, RN

It’s summer in Missouri, the peak time for canoeing on clear Ozark rivers.

Starting Memorial Day, I spent a week camping on the Jack's Fork River. Instead of the beautiful peace and quiet I was looking for, I saw inappropriate overuse of the river.

Because my father was born in Larkin "Holler" of Shannon County (I also have other relatives there) I have visited this area almost every year for the last 50 years. About 30 years ago I stopped canoeing there during the summer because the noisy crowds made it like a Worlds of Fun ride.

More recently, I've witnessed continued deterioration, with even more noise, and scenic disruption, from development of buildings, motorboats that zip by within yards of me snorkeling so that I almost inhale part of their waves, and bulldozers taking scoops of rock gravel beach.

My father had a chance to "get rich" gravel mining, but he valued the rejuvenation powers of those rivers and instead taught me to love them as they were -- which now stirs me to action. When I see things like this, or that red Allley Springs Mill in so many magazine photos, I get a sinking feeling that the memory of something precious to me has been made obscene.

The National Park Service is in the middle of drafting a General Management Plan that will guide management of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) -- the Current and Jack’s Fork Rivers -- for the next 20 years. Missourians should know that now is their chance to speak up about the problems confronting this gem of a river system, home to more first-magnitude size springs in one area than anywhere else on Earth.

Click here to read the full article

By Pat Byington

Dr. James McClintock, a renowned University of Alabama-Birmingham marine biologist who has conducted research in Antarctica for more than 25 years, told me the following story.

“You work in a scientific lab in the quietest place on Earth -- Antarctica.

"There’s a Crack! Boom!

"You rush to the window of your remote lab with a number of your fellow scientists, and you witness a glacier 'calving' a chunk of ice the size of a house into the water. Adrenaline permeates the room.

"Ten years ago, that exciting and incredible sight would happen about once a week. It was an event. Something rare.

"Today, at that same lab in Antarctica, the calving glacial ice, the explosive sounds, are a daily occurrence.

"The scientists are almost 'ho-hum' about it, barely lifting their heads to recognize the melting ice."

Such is life in a warming world.

Click here to read the full article

Anne Dunkelberg
Robert Restuccia
By Anne Dunkelberg and Robert Restuccia
Texans count on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) every day. That’s why we need straight answers from elected officials about proposals to gut Medicaid and CHIP.

When our parents can’t live on their own, it’s Medicaid that provides help to keep them at home, or in nursing home care when home care isn’t enough. When our neighbors living with disabilities need wheelchairs, prosthetics and basic supports to stay independent, Medicaid allows them to continue contributing to our communities. And when parents can’t afford private health insurance or lose their jobs, Texas Medicaid and CHIP protect their kids from becoming uninsured by providing the preventive care they need to stay healthy and letting them see a doctor when they get sick or injured.

Medicaid’s federal and state partnership also protects Texas jobs. Clinics, doctors’ offices, hospitals and other health care businesses count on Medicaid for a dependable source of revenue that supports local jobs.

But Congress is considering proposals that put our families, friends, neighbors and local jobs at risk. Making Medicaid a fixed pot of money that doesn’t grow with need -- commonly referred to as a block grant -- or imposing an unrealistic health care spending cap would set arbitrary limits on federal Medicaid investments.

These proposals do nothing to bring down health care costs. Instead, they just shift costs from the federal government to states, and then on to taxpayers, families and charities. They leave states few choices. States can cut off coverage and make kids, seniors, families and people with disabilities uninsured, which is proven to raise premiums for everyone who has insurance and drives up costs when the uninsured are forced to seek expensive emergency room care.

They can cut payments to doctors’ offices, hospitals and nursing homes, but this puts care and jobs at risk. Congress shifting costs to states is just like an employer shifting more of the premium to the worker. Neither really reforms health care costs, they only push the costs to someone else. Either way, we pay.

Click here to read the full article