Thursday Night Potpourri

In no particular order, here are some items which bounce the “bloggable” meter:

Wondering what announcement may come tomorrow (Friday, November 6, 2009) about state worker layoffs?  That’s the deadline date Governor Culver issued for three state employee unions to make a decision about reopening their contracts or they’ll face layoffs. Troy Price, the governor’s press secretary, emailed the following statement to reporters this afternoon and I ask you to pay particular attention to the use of the word “had” in his opening sentence:

“As you all know, the Governor had set a goal of this Friday for hearing back from the unions on whether they are willing to re-enter into contract negotiations.  We wanted to send you a note as some of you have asked about that process.

“As the Governor said last week, he will respect the confidentiality of the negotiating process, and furthermore, under state law, we are not able to make any part of the negotiating process public.  At this point, we cannot provide further comment until either the talks have succeeded or come to an end.  This process could take weeks, but we will let you know when we have something we can share.” — Troy Price, Governor Culver’s press secretary.

Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron, Iowa) spoke today at a DC rally organized by some of the folks in the “Tea Party” movement.  Watch the video“We’re not going to leave this hill ’til we kill this bill,” King said, referencing the health care reform plan slated for a vote in the House this weekend.

The AARP has endorsed the health care reform plan which will be voted on in the House this weekend.  Read comments for the AARP’s Iowa State Director here.  About 400,000 Iowans are members of AARP.  Here’s the AARP news release:

AARP Endorses Affordable Health Care for America Act
DES MOINES, Nov. 5, 2009 — Today AARP announced its endorsement of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) and the accompanying Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act (H.R. 3961).
The Association’s support follows nearly two years of work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to craft a health care reform plan that meets the needs of AARP’s nearly 40 million members and all older Americans.  Among those needs are reforms that strictly curb insurance companies’ discrimination against older Americans and Medicare improvements that strengthen benefits while protecting the program for future generations.

“We started this debate with the twin goals of making coverage affordable to our younger members and protecting Medicare for older Iowans,” said AARP Iowa State Director Bruce Koeppl.  “The Affordable Health Care for America Act meets those goals with improved benefits for Iowans on Medicare and needed health insurance market reforms to help ensure every Iowan can purchase affordable health coverage.”

“We cannot continue to let insurers price older Iowans out of the market, just as we cannot stand idle while thousands of older Iowans are forced to choose between buying their medications or groceries,” Koeppl added.  “We urge members of the House to pass this critical package in the coming days to help fix our broken health care system.”

Among provisions in the Affordable Health Care for America Act and the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act that AARP has been fighting for on behalf of its members and all older Americans are:
•       Protecting and strengthening Medicare for today’s seniors and future generations of retirees;
•       Ensuring seniors can see the doctor of their choice or find a doctor if they need one by improving Medicare’s payments to doctors;
•       Lowering drug costs for seniors by closing the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” and allowing the government to negotiate with drug makers for lower drug prices;
•       Taking steps to reduce waste, fraud, abuse and inefficiency in the Medicare program;
•       Requiring Medicare and insurance companies to provide for important preventive services like screenings for diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis free of charge;
•       Preventing insurers from denying affordable coverage to anyone because of their age or health;
•       Limiting how much your insurance company can make you pay out-of-pocket;
•       Providing affordable health insurance options for those who don’t have insurance; and
•       Providing benefits to help seniors and people with disabilities live in their own homes and communities.

Today’s endorsement marks the first time in this legislative battle that AARP has put its full weight behind a comprehensive health care reform package.  In the coming days, AARP will be educating its members about the health care reform package through its publications, paid advertising and more than five million calls and e-mails to its grassroots activists.

Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Waterloo, Iowa) issued a news release today after this Business Week report.  Read Braley’s statement below:

Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius today in response to news reports that Wall Street executives received shipments of the H1N1 vaccine, while counties across Iowa and America are currently experiencing severe shortages of the vaccine.

“While Wall Street executives have received the vaccine, many Iowans have been denied access,” Braley said. “I am very concerned that our government is looking out for the health and wealth of Wall Street executives while thousands of Iowans are left in the cold. Not only have these companies wiped out our Treasury, now they are wiping out our flu vaccine supply.”

Eleven Iowans, including one adult from Dubuque County and one child, have died this year from the H1N1 virus while thousands more are at severe risk of contracting it. Additionally, Iowa is experiencing a drastic shortage of the seasonal flu vaccine in Iowa.   This shortage has led to the cancelation of seasonal flu shot clinics across Eastern Iowa.

“It is beyond the pale that Wall Street companies have been given the vaccine while thousands of people across Iowa have been told they will not be given the same access,” Braley said. “The vaccine should be distributed based on risk and need, not based on wealth, profession, or zip code.”

Shifting back to state govenrment, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission issued its annual report today.  Read it here.

I took a day off this week and got behind on the blog.  Here’s an important passage to note — the govenror’s deputy chief of staff is leaving and a new communications director will start next week.  Read the details below:

DES MOINES – Phil Roeder, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications for the Governor’s Office, will join the leadership team at the Iowa Department of Education, effective Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009.

In his new position, Roeder will focus on a variety of policy and communications issues, including state funding for K-12 education in the upcoming legislative session, creating urgency for change in education through the implementation of the Iowa core curriculum, and assisting the State Board of Education in promoting innovation in Iowa schools. His position is paid with federal funds and will have no impact on the state budget.

Roeder is a former member and president of the Des Moines school board. He also served as Director of Community Relations and legislative liaison for the Des Moines school district prior to joining the Governor’s Office.

“Phil has played a valuable role in my office, and the Lt. Governor and I thank him for his service,” Governor Culver said. “Considering the tremendous budget challenges facing K-12 education, the importance of a strong state-federal partnership and Phil’s passion for education policy, we cannot think of a better use of his talents during these trying times.”

Judy Jeffrey, Director of Education, welcomed Roeder to the team at the department:  “Phil’s expertise will help us in our mission of change and support for Iowa’s schools.”

Erin Seidler, currently Public Information Officer for the Iowa Department of Economic Development, will serve as the Governor’s Communications Director.

“I want to welcome Erin to the team,” said Governor Culver. “Her experience in public relations and communications will be an invaluable resource to the Governor’s Office. I know she will continue to come to work every day with a genuine commitment to helping us build a brighter future for Iowa.”

Finally, the “tap, tap, tap” controversy.  Governor Branstad met with a small group of conservatives recently.  During the meeting, Branstad mentioned that, as governor, he was unable to get rid of the Department of the Blind (or consolidate it into another agency) because of the “tap, tap, tap of the white canes.”  The Register’s Jason Clayworth blogged about it, with response from new Branstad2010 communications chief Tim Albrecht.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.