Gov. Greitens’ nonprofit gives $250,000 in dark money to right-to-work PAC

Gov. Eric Greitens’ nonprofit just donated $250,000 to a political action committee working to protect Missouri’s right-to-work law.

But where that $250,000 originally came from will likely never be known.

Tracking campaign spending in Missouri is getting more difficult, thanks in part to the emergence of a crop of politically active nonprofit organizations.

Nonprofits aren’t required to disclose their donors. When contributions are routed through a nonprofit to a political campaign to hide the source of the donation, it’s referred to as “dark money.”

Greitens’ nonprofit, A New Missouri Inc., was founded by his political team in February. In the five months since, the organization has garnered controversy as it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting the governor and attacking his political enemies.

On Monday, A New Missouri Inc. donated $250,000 to a political action committee called Missourians for Worker Freedom. The PAC was started by James Thomas III, a Kansas City attorney tied to numerous campaign committees used over the years by Republican political consultant Jeff Roe. In addition to the donation, the governor’s campaign finance director, Meredith Gibbons, is helping raise money for another PAC, called Liberty Alliance.

Both Missourians for Worker Freedom and Liberty Alliance were created to help stave off efforts by labor unions to repeal Missouri’s right-to-work law. They share the same mailing address and phone number.

(Excerpted from Kansas City Star 7/19/17)

Parliamentarian deals setback to GOP repeal bill

Major portions of the Republican bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare will require 60 votes, according to the Senate parliamentarian, meaning they are unlikely to survive on the floor.

The parliamentarian has advised senators that several parts of the bill could be stripped out, according to a document released Friday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. (Read the guidance here.)

The provisions that would likely be removed include polices important to conservatives, such as restrictions on tax credits being used for insurance plans that cover abortion.

Language in the bill defunding Planned Parenthood for a year also violates budget rules, according to the parliamentarian. That guidance is sure to anger anti-abortion groups who backed the bill specifically because of those provisions.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood said it was “obvious” that the defunding provision would be a violation of the reconciliation rules.

“No amount of legislative sleight of hand will change the fact that the primary motivation here is to pursue a social agenda by targeting Planned Parenthood,” the group said.

The parliamentarian has also not yet ruled on a controversial amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would allow insurers to sell plans that do not meet ObamaCare regulations. If that provision were struck, conservative support for the bill would be in doubt.

Republicans are trying to use the budget reconciliation process to pass their healthcare bill with only a simple majority. The provisions deemed impermissible under that process can be stripped if a senator on the floor raises an objection. n a blow to the insurance industry, the parliamentarian has advised that two key market stabilization provisions in the bill would be against the rules. First, the legislation can’t appropriate the cost-sharing reduction subsidies insurers rely on to keep premiums and deductibles low; it can only repeal them.

Additionally, a “lockout” provision requiring consumers with a break in coverage to wait six months before buying insurance also violates the rules, according to the guidance.

The provision was added to the bill to address concerns that people would only sign up for health insurance when they’re sick, if insurers are still prevented from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

(Excerpted from The Hill 7/21/17)

Thousands of Missourians are about to be cut from prescription drug program

More than 60,000 elderly Missourians got a letter from the state last month informing them they were about to be cut off from a program that had helped them pay for prescription drugs.

In May, state lawmakers voted to save $15 million in the state’s $27 billion budget by cutting a state program called MORx.

Those earning between 85 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or up to about $22,000 a year for an individual, had previously qualified for MORx, which covered 50 percent of out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.

Now those 63,000 people are no longer eligible.

Due to the income level of the individuals affected by the recent change to the MORx program,” James Stowe, director of Aging and Adult Services at the Mid America Regional Council said, “they are not eligible for most benefits that would cover this prescription drug cost.” Many of the individuals impacted be the cut will simply stop taking medications that have become unaffordable. He said that could lead them to the emergency room, where medication is administered regardless of ability to pay, or to life in a nursing home.

“In all likelihood, these complications are why the MORx program was established in the first place,” “Not taking prescribed medications is dangerous and expensive,” he said, “and could result in health complications, disability, or death.” 

The MORx program began under Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, back in 2006. It was renewed under Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, in 2011 and again in 2014.

Senior citizens earning less than 85 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $10,000 a year for an individual, will still qualify for MORx and are entitled to state aid for 100 percent of out-of-pocket costs on medications.

(Excerpted from Kansas City Star 7/16/17)

Budget cuts could force disabled Missourians from homes

Some of Missouri’s most vulnerable people may be forced to leave their homes due to roughly $13 million in budget cuts for disabled stay at home programs.

Meanwhile, advocates for the disabled may file a federal lawsuit to challenge those cuts under the Olmstead Act. The act requires states to integrate disabled people into the community as much as possible.

In a statement on the budget, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens said he chose cutting services over raising taxes. His budget cuts an estimated $12.8 million from disabled stay at home programs.

“We don’t believe it will save the state money”, said Julie DeJean. DeJean is the CEO for a group called “The Whole Person” which administers Missouri’s disabled assistance programs for part of the metro area.

The savings in the state budget plan reduces disabled stay at home services from 100 percent of the average nursing home stay in Missouri to 60 percent. But DeJean says more than half of her 1,250 clients may be forced into nursing homes due to the budget cuts. So instead of a 40 percent savings for those people, she says the state is right back to square one paying for nursing home costs with no savings. Additionally, she says many of those people work and pay payroll taxes, sales taxes and in some instances property taxes. She notes the helpers who could lose their jobs also pay taxes.

So DeJean believes when everything is considered, the budget cuts don’t provide real savings and mean a loss of independence for many people.

(Excerpted from KSHB 7/12/17<a/)

Five takeaways from the GOP’s healthcare reboot

It includes a provision key to earning conservative support – A version of the Cruz proposal that was included in the bill would let insurers offer health plans that don’t comply with ObamaCare regulations, as long as they also sell plans that do. Several centrist Republicans have expressed concerns about how this provision would impact people with pre-existing conditions, however, and it’s unclear whether they will accept its inclusion.

Medicaid cuts are largely kept in place – The updated legislation left the deep Medicaid cuts from the first version of the bill essentially unchanged. The legislation would put a cap on federal Medicaid reimbursement for states, dramatically changing the program from an open-ended entitlement. It would end ObamaCare’s increased funding for states to expand Medicaid by 2024, and cut the rate of inflation. Taken together, the bill would cut $772 billion from Medicaid funding over a decade and result in 15 million fewer people enrolled, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The bill includes more money to combat the opioid crisis – Originally, the Senate healthcare bill included $2 billion to help combat the opioid crisis, a far cry from the $45 billion Sens. Portman (R-Ohio) and Capito were pushing for.

The new version has exactly that: $45 billion – The bill keeps ObamaCare taxes on high earners. Republicans reversed from their initial draft and decided to keep ObamaCare’s taxes on high earners. The bill will keep ObamaCare’s 3.8 percent net tax on investment income and a 0.9 percent payroll tax on individuals making more than $200,000. The legislation also keeps an ObamaCare rule that prevents insurance companies from writing off compensation that they pay their executives. The initial draft scrapped all ObamaCare taxes, including those on high earners.

Much of ObamaCare would remain. – The bill probably can’t escape the “ObamaCare lite” moniker. It keeps the structure of ObamaCare’s tax credits to help lower income Americans afford insurance in place, though they would be less generous. A tax on high earners would remain. In short, it’s not a straight repeal of the law.

(Excerpted from The Hill 7/13/17)

A New Missouri Law Creates Steep Hurdles to Discrimination Lawsuits

On July 1, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) signed into law—over the objections of civil rights groups—a bill that makes it much harder for victims of housing or employment discrimination to hold wrongdoers accountable in court. The legislation requires victims to prove that discrimination motivated their boss or landlord to treat them unfairly. Previously, victims of discrimination could recover damages if bias was a “contributing factor.” This allowed victims of sexual harassment or age discrimination, for example, to hold their boss or landlord accountable without direct evidence of bias, such as discriminatory statements. The legislation also places strict limits on the damages that plaintiffs can recover in discrimination suits.
The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Gary Romine (R), owns a business that is currently facing a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination. An African American employee who was fired from Sen. Romine’s furniture rental company claims that his supervisor repeatedly called him the N-word and said, “There will never be two black people working here again.” He also claims that his supervisor engaged in redlining by circling a predominantly black neighborhood on a map and writing “Do not rent to.”

The employee says that his complaints about this discrimination went all the way to Sen. Romine, who did nothing. The company denies the claims, but it has faced three prior complaints at the Missouri Commission on Human Rights for discrimination.
President of the Missouri NAACP Rod Chapel testified before the legislature that the bill was “nothing but Jim Crow”—and his microphone was silenced by leaders in the legislature. Chapel said the bill, along with other recent events in Missouri, means that “everybody’s civil rights are now in jeopardy.”

Both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have warned that the new law does not comply with federal requirements and could jeopardize federal funding for the Missouri Human Rights Commission. HUD said the law raises “several extremely serious and fundamental concerns” and warned that one provision could be viewed as “an attempt to insulate the state and its political subdivisions from any liability whatsoever for any violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act”—the implications of which reach far beyond the housing context. HUD criticized the limit on plaintiffs’ damages, which are “necessary to make a victim of discrimination whole.”

(Excerpted from Center for American Progress 7/12/17)

Trump Has Secretive Teams to Roll Back Regulations, Led by Hires With Deep Industry Ties

President Trump entered office pledging to cut red tape, and within weeks, he ordered his administration to assemble teams to aggressively scale back government regulations.

But the effort — a signature theme in Trump’s populist campaign for the White House — is being conducted in large part out of public view and often by political appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts.

Most government agencies have declined to disclose information about their deregulation teams. But ProPublica and The New York Times identified 71 appointees, including 28 with potential conflicts, through interviews, public records and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Some appointees are reviewing rules their previous employers sought to weaken or kill, and at least two may be positioned to profit if certain regulations are undone.

The appointees include lawyers who have represented businesses in cases against government regulators, staff members of political dark money groups, employees of industry-funded organizations opposed to environmental rules and at least three people who were registered to lobby the agencies they now work for.

At the Education Department alone, two members of the deregulation team were most recently employed by pro-charter advocacy groups or operators, and one appointee was an executive handling regulatory issues at a for-profit college operator.

The Interior Department has not disclosed the correspondence and calendars for its team. But a review of more than 1,300 pages of handwritten sign-in sheets for guests visiting the agency’s headquarters in Washington found that appointees had met regularly with industry representatives.

Over a four-month period, from February through May, at least 58 representatives of the oil and gas industry signed their names on the agency’s visitor logs before meeting with appointees.

The EPA also rejected requests to release the appointment calendar of the official leading its team — a former top executive for an industry-funded political group — even as she met privately with industry representatives.

(Excerpted from ProPublic 7/11/17)

Congressional plans for Medicaid would have outsize impact on rural, elderly Missourians

A new study shows the percentage of rural elderly Missourians who are dependent on Medicaid services is twice that of urban elderly residents.

The research titled “Medicaid’s Role for Seniors Living in Small Towns and Rural Areas” from Georgetown University’s Rural Health Policy Project reveals 18 percent of aging citizens in the state’s rural communities are on the federal health program versus nine percent in metropolitan areas.

Because nearly one-in-five rural seniors in Missouri are dependent on the federal program, they’ll be disproportionately impacted by healthcare overhaul legislation in Congress. There are two bills – one that passed the House, and one under consideration in the Senate.

Although both have been presented as repeal and replace measures to do away with the Affordable Care Act, both of them also severely restrain spending for traditional Medicaid. The House and Senate plans would replace the current open ended funding with a fixed rate for each enrollee, which is known as a per capita cap.

Further, both measures would shrink the program over time by pegging annual growth to lower inflation rates. The annual rate of inflation for Medicaid is 4.4%. But the House bill ties the program to overall medical inflation of 3.7% while the Senate plan is tethered to the standard inflation rate of 2.2%.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated these changes will lead to an $840 million cut to Medicaid in the House bill, and a $772 million decrease in the Senate measure.

Either option would limit federal responsibility and shift responsibility for financing the growth of the program to the states, which Alker says will have a devastating effect.

“There’s no way that any state can absorb that kind of cut without having to rollback services. We would also expect they may have to make cuts in other areas of their state budget as well.”

Medicaid is the largest source of federal funding for all states. In Missouri, the program accounts for nearly a third of the state’s $27.7 billion budget.

51% of Medicaid funding comes from the federal government, while the federal match is $1.72 for every $1.00 spent by the state. The legislature previously passed a law requiring medical providers to pick up 32 percent of the Missouri’s Medicaid costs.

Alker thinks the state is going to be faced with some tough decisions if the current Republican plans are enacted.

“Missouri’s governor and legislature will face really tough choices. They’re going to have to either raise taxes, or they’re going to have to start cutting their Medicaid services. They might have to start trimming away at some of the benefits, or rollback some of the population that are eligible today. Or they may have to cut rates to providers.”

Cutting rates to providers could adversely affect small towns and rural areas where hospitals are financially stressed. Missouri is one of seven states where Medicaid is disproportionately important to seniors living in those areas.

(Excerpted from MissouriNet 7/10/17 )

World aligns against Trump policies ranging from free trade to climate change

The growing international isolation of the United States under President Trump was starkly apparent Friday as the leaders of major world economies mounted a nearly united opposition front against Washington on issues ranging from climate to free trade.

At a gathering of the Group of 20 world economic powers — normally a venue for drab displays of international comity — there were tough clashes with the United States and even talk of a possible transatlantic trade war.

The tensions were a measure of Trump’s sharp break with previous U.S. policies. They were also a warning signal of Washington’s diminished clout, as the leaders of the other nations who gathered in Hamburg mulled whether to fix their signatures to statements that would exclude Trump or to find some sort of compromise. Two European officials said they were leaning toward a united front against Washington.

Some of the clearest divides had to do with climate change after Trump’s decision to pull the United States from the Paris climate accord.

(Excerpted from Washington Post 7/8/17

The Trump administration’s anti-woman agenda seeks to deny women access to vital health services and stifle their economic security. That agenda—no longer aimed solely at women in the United States—is now transcending borders

The Trump administration’s anti-woman agenda seeks to deny women access to vital health services and stifle their economic security. That agenda—no longer aimed solely at women in the United States—is now transcending borders. Whether it’s the elimination of funding for vital women’s health programs, expansion of the Global Gag Rule, or failure to appoint an ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, President Donald Trump has made it clear that women’s health and livelihoods are not even being considered as this administration develops its policy priorities.

The failure to consider women will have consequences. Women make up half of the world population and contribute to the greater good of our societies and the global economy. Their health, well-being, and ability to thrive are directly linked to world peace and security. The president’s anti-woman agenda not only hurts women here in the United States; it also hurts women in other parts of the world.
Trump is exporting his anti-woman agenda across borders in the following ways.

A budget that eliminates funding for health and development programs

Last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was pressed by senators on both sides of the aisle about the massive cuts to international programs in Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2018. Under the proposal, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) would experience drastic funding cuts—a total of $11.5 billion, or 29.1 percent of their combined current budgets. This is the largest proposed cut for any cabinet or department in the budget.

Unfortunately, these cuts may disproportionately harm women and girls abroad. The cuts to USAID’s budget seep into programs focused on ensuring access to global health, education, and peacekeeping. Funding for development assistance and food aid would be eliminated altogether. USAID has played a critical role in advancing women’s economic empowerment, security, health, and rights worldwide. The agency has helped women and girls access health services and education, participate in local and international economies, escape poverty, be included in peacemaking processes during times of conflict, and break down barriers to fully participate in society. USAID has also had a key role in preventing and responding to gender-based violence.
The president’s budget proposal for international family planning and reproductive health is particularly ghastly, considering evidence showing that women’s access to educational opportunities and economic security is intertwined with their access to family planning and reproductive health care. President Trump’s budget request eliminates all funding for international family planning and reproductive health. President Barack Obama’s FY 2017 budget requested a total of $620 million for these programs, including $35 million for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), which plays a pivotal role in ensuring access to an array of sexual and reproductive health services, maternal health care, and emergency care for women in conflict-afflicted areas.
Funding for the UNFPA was withheld by President Trump earlier this year. The administration applied the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, a prohibition on foreign assistance to any organization that supports coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization, to justify eliminating the U.S. contribution to the UNFPA.

It should be noted that the UNFPA’s programs have been evaluated by the U.S. government in the past, and no evidence of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization has ever been found. Blocking this funding would not only affect the ability of women and young people to access sexual and reproductive health care through UNFPA-supported programs, but it would also cripple the UNFPA’s work in the most resource-constrained settings of more than 150 countries.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, eliminating U.S. funding for these vital programs would result in 3.3 million more abortions—the majority of which would be performed unsafely—15,000 more maternal deaths, 8 million more unintended pregnancies, and 26 million fewer women and families receiving services around the world. This funding is a lifeline for women in need of family planning and reproductive health care in the developing world. By eliminating it, women and girls would be robbed of their human rights and the ability to make decisions about their futures and plan their families.
The problems don’t end there. In addition to slashing funding for programs serving women in the poorest parts of the world, the Trump administration also expanded one of the most draconian policies aimed at violating women’s human rights and eliminating access to reproductive health care.

(Excerpted from American Progress 7/6/17)