Saturday, June 24, 2017

Meet the BCDCC Elections Committee

Based on Elections Committee Report at the BCDCC Meeting Wednesday, 6/21/2017

Sandra Vantine-Murray, a co-chair of the BCDCC Elections Committee, reported on the establishment and conduct of operations of the newly-formed committee. This committee replaced the original committee of Heidi Hill and Christine Brown, after Christine decided to throw her hat in the ring for the 4th Congressional District seat.

Members of the Elections Committee were drawn from the Honey Hive: Tri-Cities Huddle Network Facebook group. Sandra co-chairs with Jennifer Ruth Keller. The remaining five members are: Barb Chen, Amanda Jenel, Amber Key, Laura Molu, and Ruth Wolberg.

The committee's charter is to identify potential candidates for public office who exemplify the progressive beliefs and values that define our 8th LD, Benton County, and Democratic Party generally. In essence, the committee performs the due diligence that we as individuals often fail to undertake until ballots are due.

The committee’s identification of potential candidates does not constitute an “endorsement” by the 8th LD or BCDCC of any particular candidate. Any person who identifies as a Democrat, is registered as such, and is otherwise qualified, may bring their intended candidacy before the committee, or directly to the executive board. As always, the Executive Board will comply with Washington State Democratic Central Committee (WSDCC) rules for the selection of democratic candidates.

The Elections Committee advices all democratic candidates for partisan office on the requirements and procedures for running for public office.

In addition, the Elections Committee has jurisdiction over voter registration. Working with and through the Organization Committee and PCOs, they are responsible for encouraging, promoting, supporting, and carrying out voter registration efforts.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Establishing a Tri-Cities Immigrant Support Coalition

If you are interested in helping people in our community who are living in fear of deportation or have other concerns as immigrants, please consider attending this meeting.
There is need for a coordinated structure to support immigrants in the Tri-Cities. At this meeting we will
  1. Discuss what the different local groups are already doing to assist immigrants.
  2. Learn about the structure that a group in Walla Walla has in place (they are willing to help establish, and provide  trainings and support for a TC group, for as long as is needed).
  3. Know Your Rights training: Learn about the legality and techniques we need to know if we want to assist  undocumented residents facing possible detention by the ICE?
  4. Follow-up:  determine who from this meeting would like to become the core group for a Tri-Cities coalition; plan next meeting (next steps).
Please help spread the word about this meeting to anyone you think may be interested. We hope to find volunteers  to assist people in fear of deportation, by answering questions (their phone calls), accompanying them when visiting an attorney, etc, and through legislative advocacy.
When: Sunday, June 25, 2pm-5pm
Where: Shalom UCC, 505 McMurray, Richland
Lora Rathbone
Missions and Social Action, Shalom UCC

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Washington State Government Shutdown Looming

With Republicans continuing to block passage of a state budget that fully funds education and essential state services, state government is heading towards the brink of a government shutdown.

The legislature needs to pass a budget by July 1st or the government will halt nearly all of its services. We need to force Republicans to come to the bargaining table so the legislature can come to an agreement on a budget and we can all avoid an unnecessary, costly, and potentially dangerous government shutdown.

More than half of the state's 50,000 employees will be on indefinite stay-home status.

There will be skeleton crews in Public Health Labs to conduct newborn screenings and assess potentially fatal biological threats and chemical exposures.

HIV client services will be suspended.

Sex offenders who are currently on round-the-clock GPS monitoring will cease to be monitored.

Fish hatcheries — home to millions of salmon, trout and steelhead who rely on the Department of Fish and Wildlife to feed them — are slated to close.

Washington State Parks sent notices of possible cancelation to some 10,112 people who have reserved space to recreate in the parks during the first week of July.

State Opportunity Grants for fall quarter will cease to be available to students at universities and community colleges.

And if you're mad enough to shoot someone about this, forget it; No new gun licenses will be issued.

Call your legislators at the legislative hotline – 1-800-562-6000 – and tell them Republicans need to come to the table so we can fund schools and avoid a shutdown.

Rep. Newhouse Responds to My Letter Urging a 'No' Vote on the American Health Care Act

Dear Dr. Badalamente,

          Thank you for contacting my office regarding your thoughts on the American Health Care Act.  It is important to hear from constituents as I work in Congress representing the people of Washington’s 4th District.  I sincerely appreciate you reaching out and sharing your views on this important issue.
          I strongly believe Congress must act to improve our health care system and ensure all Americans have access to quality care.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has failed far too many Americans, and this trend continues with fewer and fewer plans available to families across the country as insurers continue to flee the market, limiting options and increasing costs.  Right here in our state, the health insurance market continues to collapse.  The Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) recently announced drastic reductions of choices in the 2018 marketplace, resulting in less than half the number of individual health plans Washingtonians can now buy in and outside the state’s insurance exchange.  Currently, 13 insurers offer 154 plans in Washington state.  In 2018, that number will be cut down to just 71 plans offered by 11 insurers.  These changes will impact tens of thousands of patients in our state.  Chelan, Ferry, Pend Oreille, and San Juan counties will all have only one insurer offering coverage plans on the exchange—that is no choice at all.  Douglas County, right here in Washington’s 4th Congressional District, will also only have one option.  Even more devastating, Grays Harbor and Klickitat counties will have no options at all; zero insurers are offering insurance plans in these counties, both in and outside of the ACA exchange.  This year alone, premiums rose 13.1 percent in our state.  If Congress does not address this issue, premiums, deductibles, and other health care costs will continue to rise and choices for coverage will continue to diminish.  Too many families are being afflicted with skyrocketing costs and limited access to care, which is why I remain committed to providing relief for the American people and to fixing our broken health care system.

          As you may know, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), on May 4, 2017, by a vote of 217-213.  The legislation is now being considered by the U.S. Senate.  I released the following statement upon passage of H.R. 1628 in the House:
“For years, I have been hearing from Central Washington families who lost insurance that they wanted to keep and are now paying more for health care due to the Affordable Care Act.  Their stories of paying higher prices for insurance and higher deductibles with limited insurance options have been the reason I have voted in the past to repeal Obamacare along with its mandate and bureaucratic regulations.  I strongly believe that every American deserves access to affordable health care, and the status quo under the ACA is not working.  Because of my wife Carol’s health, I have largely remained by her side and was unable to be in D.C. for the vote on the AHCA.  I am pleased the process to improve our health care system will continue with action by the Senate and further negotiations with the House.  I will continue to work with my colleagues to keep my promise to reverse the burdens created by Obamacare and restore patient-centered health care.”

          I believe all Americans deserve access to quality, affordable health care.  We owe it to the American people to replace the ACA with an alternative that reduces costs and ensures patients have access to quality care of their choice.  The AHCA eliminates the federally dictated individual and employer mandates established by the ACA, which have driven many consumers from the marketplace or forced them to buy costly plans that don’t fit their individual needs.  I fundamentally believe the federal government should not be mandating Americans to purchase a one-size-fits-all health plan, but rather should encourage Americans to purchase the health plan they deem best fits their needs or those of their family.  The bill also dismantles the vast array of burdensome taxes set down by the ACA.  Instead, the AHCA will help Americans access affordable, quality health care by providing tax credits for low- and middle-income individuals and families so they can purchase insurance in the private market.  The bill also establishes a Patient and State Stability Fund that provides $138 billion to states to design programs that meet the unique needs of their patient populations while helping low- and middle-income Americans afford quality health care coverage.  Additionally, the AHCA enhances and expands Health Savings Accounts so Americans can plan and save for their future health care needs.  By eliminating burdensome taxes and lifting the mandates currently weighing on the shoulders of millions Americans, I believe we can spur a robust market for individuals and families to access the best care they need, cut out-pocket costs like premiums and deductibles, promote access to health care services, and lower costs for Americans.

          There has been an extensive amount of misreporting about the AHCA, particularly regarding the update to the bill known as the MacArthur amendment.  To reduce insurance premiums, the MacArthur amendment provides states with the option to apply for limited waivers from certain federal insurance regulations that increase premiums.  This new flexibility will allow states to design insurance frameworks that are best for their unique populations, providing better care and lowering costs for patients.  States that apply for these waivers must have established a risk-sharing program with the purpose of lowering premiums and other out of pocket costs for patients in the program.  To be clear, under the AHCA and the MacArthur Amendment, insurance companies are prohibited from denying or not renewing coverage due to an individual’s pre-existing condition.  Insurance companies are also banned from rescinding coverage based on a pre-existing condition.  And, insurance companies are banned from excluding benefits based on a pre-existing condition.

          The waiver only applies to the individual insurance market, where approximately seven percent of the country purchases coverage.  It does not apply to the 93 percent of Americans with employer-provided coverage or a government coverage program, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits.  In the rare circumstance when a person who purchases health care in the individual market may be affected by a waiver and charged a higher premium, it would be due to that individual not maintaining continuous insurance coverage.  Under no circumstance could they be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.  Additionally, higher premiums could only be charged to these individuals for a period of one year.  The $138 billion Patient and State Stability Fund includes $100 billion for states to establish these high-risk pools, cut out-of-pocket costs, promote participation in private health insurance markets, increase the number of options available through the market, and develop other innovative risk-sharing programs.  $15 billion is made available to establish a federal risk-sharing program to serve as a secondary buffer for high-cost individuals.  An additional $15 billion is made available specifically to cover costs associated with maternity and newborn care, mental health care, and substance abuse disorders.  Finally, $8 billion is specifically targeted to reduce the premiums and out-of-pocket costs of those citizens with pre-existing conditions who find themselves in the unlikely situation outlined above.

          I was disappointed to see the many outlandish and appalling claims being made about the AHCA, including the dangerous assertion that rape and sexual assault are classified as pre-existing conditions that could prevent an individual from accessing insurance coverage.  This is a patent lie, as no one can be denied coverage, and I am glad the Washington Post rated it false with “Four Pinocchios”:  Various other claims have been debunked or fact-checked as false, including baseless and irresponsible assertions that seven million veterans will lose their health insurance tax credit, that 129 million people with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage, and that the AHCA goes “back to the day when insurance companies could deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.”  Honest public debate should rightly take place in our country when comprehensive reforms are being discussed and considered—but such debates must be made on the facts, not on fear-mongering hyperbole.

          Again, I believe we can do better for Americans struggling with high health care costs, and I will continue to advocate for a system that benefits all Washingtonians and all Americans.  We can protect the most vulnerable amongst us without sacrificing the livelihoods of many in the middle class.  We can strengthen the safety net for those who need it most, aid those transitioning out of the safety net by supporting them with tax credits to purchase affordable care that fits their needs, and make it easier for middle class families to access and acquire the care they desire.

          Over the past several months, I have been meeting and speaking with constituents from all sides of the health care debate, including doctors, nurses, hospital and health district administrators, insurers, patients, and constituents—all who have a variety of perspectives and helpful input.  It is vital we continue to have a dialogue in order to find common ground and solve these problems together.  My door has been, and will always be, open to hear from patients, providers, experts, physicians, and all people of the 4th Congressional District as we continue to have this national debate.  I remain committed to reforming our health care system to ensure current and future generations have access to the care they need, and I greatly appreciate the input of engaged citizens like you.
          I hope you will continue to be in contact as Congress debates the many issues of importance to the country. I also encourage you to connect with me on Facebook and Twitter and to sign up for my e-newsletter for the latest updates on my work to represent Central Washington’s views in our nation’s capital.
          Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns with me—I am always glad to hear from constituents of the 4th District. It is an honor and privilege to serve you in Congress.

Dan Newhouse
Member of Congress


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Are We Living Up to Our Principles?

I have a question for you today: Are we living up to our principles as we work to strengthen our party, win back our political power, and strive to protect and preserve “a more perfect union?” I speak of a union that serves the needs of all people, rich and poor, young and old, black and white and brown and rainbow colored, with us now, and those yet to come.

Our 2016 Democratic Party Platform states that,

“Democrats believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.”

It goes on to say that,

“As Democrats, we respect differences of perspective and belief, and pledge to work together to move this country forward, even when we disagree. With this platform, we do not merely seek common ground—we strive to reach higher ground.”

Now anyone paying any attention at all knows that we are not united. There are factions nationally and locally. I think the perception is that the divide is between "Establishment Democrats," and the "Berniecrats," or what I think of as the liberal/progressive and the even more liberal/progressive factions.

But I believe it's more than that. I believe there's a new energy within the younger generation driving towards a different philosophy of governing -- of creating a more perfect union. These young people have a fire in the belly and there are those in the Party who worry that rather than building up to reach higher ground, those with fire will burn the Party to the ground.

How we harness this new energy, how we deal with our differences, how we treat one another, will determine how successful we are in winning back our political power.

We can start by agreeing to rules of conduct,* which at first blush, seem simple common sense, but are surprisingly difficult to sustain in practice:
  • Model inclusion, respect and fairness in all our actions
  • Be open and above-board in all that we do — no hidden agendas
  • Be courteous, patient and civil
  • Keep emotions in check
  • Respect other’s points of view
  • Assume opponents have positive intentions
  • Don’t take things personally
  • Identify problems, propose solutions
  • Understand before disagreeing, and disagree without being disagreeable
  • Remember we are all neighbors and community members
If we can abide by these rules, and hold ourselves accountable for doing so, I believe it will strengthen our Party, but more importantly, it will make us better people.
*These rules of conduct have come from a variety of sources, including remarks by former President Barack Obama, and from Indivisible Washington.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Rep. Dan Newhouse Responds to My Letter Regarding Russia's Influence in the 2016 U.S. Election

May 31, 2017

Dear Dr. Badalamente,

Thank you for contacting my office about the investigation into Russia’s influence in the 2016 election cycle.  It is important to hear from constituents as I work in Congress representing the people of Washington’s 4th District.  I sincerely appreciate you reaching out and sharing your views on this important issue.
Recently, concerns were raised over President Trump’s firing of James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These concerns are centered on Director Comey and the FBI’s active investigation of potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials’ interference in the presidential election.
You may be pleased to know that despite the firing of Director Comey, the FBI is continuing to investigate Russia’s potential role in last year’s elections and any potential ties between Trump campaign officials and Russia.  Additionally, you will be pleased to know, on May 17, 2017 the Department of Justice (DOJ) appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel charged with overseeing the federal investigation into Russian interference in the election.  Many individuals have asked for a special counsel to be appointed since this investigation began, and Director Mueller is highly respected and has served both Republican and Democratic Administrations.
Additionally, the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are also conducting investigations into this matter as well. I am encouraged by the effort to determine the facts in this matter and determine the extent of Russian interference, and whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.  No one is above the law, and Congress, the FBI, and DOJ will act accordingly when the findings of the investigation are released.
I hope you will continue to be in contact as Congress debates the many issues of importance to the country. I also encourage you to connect with me on Facebook and Twitter and to sign up for my e-newsletter for the latest updates on my work to represent Central Washington’s views in our nation’s capital

Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns with me—I am always glad to hear from constituents of the 4th District. It is an honor and privilege to serve you in Congress.

Dan Newhouse
Member of Congress

The "Financial Choice Act" is a Choose to Lose Act

James Comey Before the Senate Intelligence Committee, June 8, 2017
While the American public has been riveted to the TV as former FBI Director, James Comey, tells us what we already know about President Donald Trump's attempts to "deal" his way out of the Russia collusion investigation, and TV pundits tell us all over again what Comey was asked and what Comey said, and what it all means, etc., ad nauseam, Congressional Republicans have been going about the business of remaking America in their own image; repealing the Affordable Care Act, rolling back environmental regulations, pulling America out of the Paris Climate Accord, instituting a travel ban on mostly Muslim countries, cutting corporate taxes, de-funding Planned Parenthood, making bathrooms "safe again," etc.

Much of what the Republican Congress is doing involves rather arcane law. For example, yesterday, June 8th, while Comey was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House approved legislation to erase a number of core financial regulations put in place by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. The bill’s passage in the House, by 233 to 186, along party lines, is another of the Republican Party’s efforts to erase one of President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishments.

During the campaign, Republicans argued that Hillary Clinton was too close to Wall Street. Now, Republicans are giving a handout to Wall Street while putting everyday investors at risk. A Party led by a president who knows how to "do bankruptcy" apparently reassures Republican Congressional leaders that it's all going to "make America great again." Like it was in 2008.
One of the key provisions of the Republican bill is gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a core creation of Dodd-Frank. The bureau's independence would be removed; it would be placed under the executive-branch, with a director who could be removed at will by the president.

The current Director, Richard Cordray, could be invited to a private dinner with President Trump, just as Comey was, and asked to eat crow. If he claimed to be a vegan, he would be summarily fired, and learn of his termination while watching the Nightly Business Report on PBS, still broadcasting despite Trump's budget cuts to public media.

The House legislation would also strip the CFPB of its authority to police “unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practises.” Under the plan, the agency would lose its oversight of the payday loans market, you know those outfits that charge up to 400% interest, and pray on the most vulnerable members of our society (many of whom, ironically, are Trump supporters).

Also, the Republican plan would revoke the Volcker Rule, a Dodd-Frank provision that bans banks from trading with their customers' savings for their own gain. This effectively shifts the risk from the bank to the consumer and ultimately, the taxpayer. This creates the same moral hazard that almost brought the U.S. economy to its knees in 2007-2008.

The bill would also eliminate the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, which requires brokers to act in the best interest of their clients when providing investment advice about retirement. Although such a requirement might seem intuitively obvious to those of us not earning 6 or 7-figure bonuses, it's a real hindrance to the accumulation of wealth for the Republican constituency.

The bottom line (no pun intended) is that Americans must pay attention to what is actually going on in congress, bills that if enacted into law, will actually impact their health and welfare. Our 4th CD congressman Dan Newhouse voted yes on the Financial Choice Act. Call him (202-225-5816) and express your opinion of his "choice" to abandon his constituents to the wiles of Wall Street.

Then call senators Murray and Cantwell and urge them to vote against this bill. While you're at it, tell them you think Donald Trump should be impeached.