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Posts published in March 2014

A health request

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Earlier this week, I did something that I never thought I would do: Ask Sen. Jim Risch for more than $2 billion to fund two federal programs – without choking on my words.

Normally, that would be a tough sell because Risch is one of the leading deficit hawks on Capitol Hill. I was halfway expecting him to lecture me about bulging deficits and how run-away government spending is driving this nation to the brink of disaster.

That was not the case. I was in the nation’s capital as a guest of the American Diabetes Association’s lobbying day on Capitol Hill and I soon found out that he’s a member of the Senate Diabetes Caucus – which is a home run in my view. The senator was engaging, friendly and supportive of the cause.

He listened to the complications I have experienced from the disease, including an amputated toe, blindness and loss of my career, heart bypass surgery and – most recently – kidney disease. Risch has heard those kinds of stories and worse; at least I’m alive to talk about my problems. It is projected that by 2050, one in three people living in the United States will have diabetes. He is well aware of the threat diabetes poses to the nation’s overall health and is equally aware of what Congress can do to prevent this train wreck.

“The National Institute of Health does amazing things,” Risch said at one point. He’s on board with the NIH’s goal of finding a cure for diabetes, and $2 billion is a small price tag for that effort. He also is receptive to the proposals for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ($137 million) and the National Diabetes Prevention Program ($20 million). The millions spent on those worthwhile programs will save billions of dollars in the long run.

Risch clearly gets it on this issue. As one who has struggled with diabetes for the last 14 years, I am thankful that he’s in the U.S. Senate and appreciate there is such a thing as a Senate Diabetes Caucus. That sends a nice signal to the 25 million people in the United States who have this awful disease and the nearly 80 million who have pre-diabetes.

But he isn’t the only friend on Capitol Hill, or even in the Idaho delegation. Senator Mike Crapo also is a member of the diabetes caucus. I didn’t meet with him, but I was greeted by a legislative assistant, Kellie McConnell, who knew the issues and facts before I could present them. For instance, she’s aware that funding for a Special Diabetes Program will run out on Sept. 30 unless Congress takes action.

Her knowledge about the issues tells me that diabetes is high on Crapo’s priority list.
On the House side, Congressmen Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador are not part of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, but they are well aware of the issues.
“Like you, diabetes issues are personal to Congressman Simpson, as he has experienced it with a close family member,” said Nathan Greene, a legislative assistant with the office. “It is an issue that he continues to look to engage in whenever possible.”

Labrador has spoken with me several times about diabetes, and how the numbers are of epidemic proportions among Hispanics. His legislative assistant, Bekah DeMordant, was taken aback by the thought of one in three people having diabetes by 2050. I won’t be part of that world, but she most likely will unless a cure is found.

Ultimately, we cannot count on Congress to wave a magic wand and make this problem go away. The best way to keep type 2 diabetes from spreading like wildfire is for people to take responsibility for their personal choices and their children’s.

But as I learned from my one-day lobbying experience, Congress can support the dynamic research efforts that will lead to a cure and promote prevention. From my standpoint, it’s good to know that Washington is aware and listening.

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Idaho trade with Russia on hold (Boise Statesman)
Army Corps targets birds that target fish (Lewiston Tribune)
Stillaguamish mudslide follow (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow)
UI gets ready for campus guns (Moscow News)
New law dean at UI (Moscow News)
Latah's good with wheeled trash cans (Moscow News)
Canyon fair gets offer from Ford Idaho (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho adds mental data to gun database (Nampa Press Tribune)
Resotration at Clark Fork area may begin (Sandpoint Bee)
Wolf control board bill signed (TF Times News, Sandpoint Bee)
Smith declines Idaho Falls debate (TF Times News)

Legislative Cover Oregon meetings secret (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Stillaguamish mudslide followup (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Regiater Guard, Corvallis Gazette Times, Pendleton East Oregonian, Ashland Tidings)
Benton ranks best in state health (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Nanotech firm buys into Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
KF schools plan bond campaign (KF Herald & News)
Polk County halves sheriff patrols (Salem Statesman Journal)

Stillaguamish mudslide followup (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Longview News, Port Angeles News)
More Hanford land may be open to public (Kennewick Herald)
Small landside destroying homes near Longview (Longview News)
Sequim museum may close (Port Angeles News)
Microsoft releases Office for Apple iPad (Seattle Times)
Boeing will cut jobs, but whose? (Seattle Times)
Health system changes collection company (Tacoma News Tribune)

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Boise downtown traffic pattern may change (Boise Statesman)
ACLU lawsuit stops Medicaid cuts for now (Boise Statesman)
Pullman considers plan for College Hill (Moscow News)
Pullman schools to require more credits to graduate (Moscow News)
Lewiston high school renovation has problems (Lewiston Tribune)
Spring chinokk fishing in Clarkston area (Lewiston Tribune)
Stillagaumish mudslide search continues (Lewiston Tribune)
9th circuit judge rules for bighorn sheep plan (Lewiston Tribune)
Lawsuit over wrong-house police raid (Nampa Press Tribune)
Sayer says new incentives law a 'game changer' (Pocatello Journal)
Negative ads hitting in 2nd district race (TF Times News)

Stillaguamish mudslide search ongoing (Portland Oregonian, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Extension okayed for Cover Oregon deadline (Portland Oregonian, KF Herald & News, Corvallis Gazette Times, Pendleton East Oregonian)
New OSU-crafted wristbands measure pollution (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Eugene debates site for Whoville homeless (Eugene Register Guard)
KF PUD still ldebating leadership (KF Herald & News)
Pot dispensary rules under review in Jackson (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Signal nears end of wolf OR-7 (Medford Tribune)
Salem Health, OSHA connection reviewed (Salem Statesman Journal)
Cover Oregon kept meetings secret (Salem Statesman Journal)

Stillaguamish mudslide search ongoing (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Port Angeles News)
Dispute over PUD recall, attorney (Longview News)
Port Angeles may get new school leader today (Port Angeles News)
World Vision reverses again on gay married hires (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune)
Grandview reviews cost of lawsuit over deaf student (Yakima Herald Republic)

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Idaho Air National Guard might move to Mtn Home (Boise Statesman)
Wolf pups watched by biologist (Boise Statesman)
Stillaguamish mudslide: more victims (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Nez Perce assessor argues with URS estimates (Lewiston Tribune)
Syringa may face judicial injunctions (Moscow News)
Pullman develops priority list for year (Moscow News)
Balukoff campaigning in Palouse (Moscow News)
Sheriff lists problems with enhance carry (Nampa Press Tribune)
Price of sugar down, costs up (Nampa Press Tribune)
Fired women's b-ball coach returns to work (Pocatello Journal)
Sandpoint looks at timing for widening bridge (Sandpoint Bee)
State plans for road work in Magic Valley (TF Times News)

Stillaguamish mudslide: more victims (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Medford Mail Tribune, KF Herald & News, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Pot dispensaries opening (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Lane sheriff's deputies at issue on contract (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath moratorium on pot dispensaries (KF Herald & News)
Jackson dog rabies policy increases licenses (Ashland Tidings)
Pot dispensary shut in Medford (Ashland Tidings)
Federal bill allowing Hermiston ag station move (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Evaluating economic effects of seniors (Portland Oregonian)
Boarding house draws complaints at Salem (Salem Statesman Journal)

Stillaguamish mudslide: more victims (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Port Angeles News, Longview News)
Employment growth at Tri-Cities (Kennewick Herald)
PUD sets executive pay rules (Longview News)
Many applicants for new marina panel (Port Angeles News)
Pot still banned for soldiers (Tacoma News Tribune)
Grandview suit over deaf student continues (Yakima Herald Republic)

Transparency and the ACA

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

The Affordable Care Act is a grand promise. Basically it’s a complicated insurance mechanism that’s designed to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, including those who rely on the Indian health system.

But one thing the ACA is not: Transparent.

This is a critical flaw because we are near another major deadline — March 31 — and some six months into the Act’s implementation and there is not one official scrap of information reporting how well Indian Country is being served. We don’t know how many folks across the country have signed up for Medicaid or how many have purchased insurance or how many individuals have policies that were purchased by tribes as sponsors.

Why does this matter? Because policy is being implemented on assumptions, not data. We don’t know what we don’t know.

This we do know: March 31 is an odd deadline. It’s the day when open enrollment ends for most Americans, including Native Americans who are not tribal members. But that deadline does not apply to American Indians and Alaska Natives who are tribal members. Then a monthly enrollment is possible. (I know, confusing, right?)

Native Americans still can receive a life-time exemption from the insurance mandate. Fill out a simple form and mail to get a certificate that could be included in your next tax return.

But we also know that the individual exemption is not enough. The Indian health system is underfunded and third-party billing — money from private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, and other programs — is the only way funding will improve. Like it or not, Treaty or not, the Congress is not going to pay for Indian health through appropriations. The $6 billion budget for the Indian Health Service shows the agency collecting more than a billion dollars from Medicaid and only $90,307,000 from private insurance. So there is a lot of room for growth. Again, if folks sign up, the Affordable Care Act is a different course from appropriations; it’s a money stream that’s automatic.

We also know that Indian Country has some of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, roughly one in three people. So every new insured American Indian and Alaska Native adds resources to the Indian health system (and especially medical care that is purchased outside of Indian health facilities).

This week there is a last minute push to get people in Indian Country to sign up. On Monday there was a national Tribal Day of Action sponsored by the White House. And in Montana, the state’s Insurance Commissioner, Monica J. Lindeen, has been traveling to the state’s reservations and urban Indian centers to sell the plan.

But it’s hard to know how well those efforts are working. There are too many questions: How many people signed up early? What’s the goal? Where is the transparency?

Early Affordable Care Act numbers are found in Washington state. Ed Fox, who directs health services for Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe of Washington, said the Washington Health Care Authority released preliminary figures to tribes for consultation. These are early numbers and will change, but they are an open important look in a state where the Affordable Care Act is working.

Some key findings: Washington probably ranks first in the nation in Medicaid “take-up” for the newly eligible. Some 6,000 or so of the newly insured Native Americans were enrolled by urban programs or tribes, and one-third with state worker assistance, and one-third a bit uncertain (possibly by someone with assistance or on their own). Washington also shows some 7,000 Medicaid re-certifications. (more…)

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Treefort Music nearing profotability (Boise Statesman)
Parking garages move toward auto-pay (Boise Stastesman)
Stillaguamish mudslide toll hits 14 (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Lewiston High plan released (Lewiston Tribune)
More building activity in Pullman (Moscow News)
Supercomputer arriving at UI (Moscow News)
Nampa district, common core tests (Nampa Press Tribune)
New apartment group planned (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho Youth Ranch plans second Nampa store (Nampa Press Tribune)
Big game hunting rules changed a bit (Pocatello Journal)
Otter signs bill to nullify federal gun laws (Pocatello Journal)
Sandpoint Arts Alliance shuts down (Sandpoint Bee)
Library bond ahead for Boundary County (Sandpoint Bee)
Rancher at Hailey kills wolf (TF Times News)

Cities deciding whether to hold off on pot (Eugene Register Guard)
Stillaguamish mudslide toll hits 14 (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune, Pendleton East Oregonian, KF Herald & News)
PUD at Klamath may dissolve (KF Herald & News)
Liquid gas terminal okayed for Coos Bay (KF Herald & News)
Mt Ashland Ski borrows to stay afloat (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Pot store at Medford closes (Medford Tribune)
Loren Parks contributes big to Barreto, H58 (Pendleton East Oregonian)
New critics of Salem Civic Center plans (Salem Statesman Journal)

Stillaguamish mudslide toll hits 14 (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Port Angeles News, Longview News)
Hanford Reach expansion concerns (Kennewick Herald)
Pot options other than smoking (Longview News)
Troubled Seqium museum seeking help (Port Angeles News)
Group Health ending employment plans (Spokane Spokesman)
McMorris Rodgers on campaign finance issues (Spokane Spokesman)
World Vision will hire same-sex marrieds (Tacoma News Tribune)
Possible replacement high school at East Valley (Yakima Herald Republic)

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Conservatives on pot legalization (Lewiston Tribune)
Reviewing new ed budget (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pumpers see resolution for Rangen call (TF Times News)
Senators touring INL (TF Times News)

Mudslide at Stillaguamish kills 8 or more (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Health insurance still eludes some in Oregon (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Concerns about flood insurance in Oregon (Eugene Register Guard)
Ashland may try temporary pot ban (Medford Tribune)
Jacksonville city hall may mov to old courthouse (Medford Tribune)
Oregon 35th for toxic releases (Salem Statesman Journal)

Mudslide at Stillaguamish kills 8 or more (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Longview News, Port Angeles News)
Difficulties ahead for pot businesses (Longview News)
Flood insurance difficulties (Yakima Herald Republic)

Gridlock explained quickly

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Not all columns herein need to be lengthy to make a point. To prove ‘tis so, just consider this brief set of facts from the National Journal’s vote ratings of members of Congress.

“For the third consecutive year, no Republican Senate member had a more liberal voting record that ANY Democrat. No Democratic Senator had a more conservative score than the most liberal Republican.

“In the (435 member) House, just 10 Democrats had a more conservative score than the most liberal Republican. Just five Republicans were more liberal than the most conservative Democrat.”

Put another way, there are nearly no ideological crossovers anymore. Democrats are “liberal” - Republicans are “conservative.”

For three decades - the Journal started this annual survey in 1982 - it was the norm to find a handful of ideological crossovers in the Senate. Even more in the larger House. Now, the norm is “purity.”

No more middle ground in which to seek compromise. No middle ground in which to exchange positions. No more middle ground. Period!

With those findings, you’re going to have a breakthrough? You’re going to find reasoned solutions to our immense national problems? You’re going to find political leadership?

That’s it. Short and sweet.

Gridlock explained in 60 seconds.

The outsider run

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Last week a veteran of Idaho Republican politics pitched to me a simple case for a big reason the outsider candidates – insurgent or Tea Party-aligned by other verbiage – are unlikely to do well in the May primary elections.

The idea is that many pro-Republican voters do not self-identify as Republicans.

They may consider themselves “conservative” (a slippery term these days, but employed in self-definition) and may vote for Republicans, but they don't really consider themselves part of the party. These people are individualists and by inclination not joiners. Many of them may decline to sign a paper identifying themselves as Republicans.

And that could impair the base of support for the insurgency campaigns, such as for Russ Fulcher for governor and Bryan Smith for Congress. The self-identified Republicans may be more establishment in temperament, may be more willing to sign the paper (as may some Democrats who become “primary Republicans”) which may help people like current Governor C.L .”Butch” Otter and Representative Mike Simpson toward re-election.

There's certainly good reason for taking this line of argument, which seems to be accepted wisdom among many Idaho Republican leaders, quite seriously, as at least some people associated with the insurgency campaigns certainly do.

One reason is that in 2012, when the Republican primary was closed to declared party members only, insurgent candidates (mainly for the legislature) did poorly at the polls.

Another, more subjective reason but evidently quite real, is the description of the insurgent base by other Republicans as “a herd of cats” - the standard description, and often spoken in frustration. It makes sense. These are, after all, people who don't like to organize, aren't big on strong commitments to groups (their most in-common complaint, after all, is against government and regulation generally) and aren't notably trusting of political types. (more…)