Arizona Republican Party Rejects Bid to Close Primary

By Christopher Herring

During a contentious debate, the Arizona Republican Party’s executive committee rejected a proposal to close future primaries to independents.

Although there are good faith arguments in favor of limiting participation to Republicans only, the perception, and most importantly, the financial cost, outweighed any potential benefits.

In 1998, voters approved a measure that allowed independents to vote in the primary of any recognized party. Now part of the Arizona Constitution, the law initially conceived by a Republican controlled legislature, would likely be defended by the Arizona’s Attorney General’s office, greatly increasing the financial cost and risk to an already budget strapped political cycle where every dollar counts.

A significant obstacle to the party is the notion that Republicans support the rule of law and the Arizona Constitution. Suing the state to not administer its constitution isn’t the best headline for the party. Another significant challenge would be that the state party would have to show a severe burden is caused by independents voting in Republican primaries. Specifically that independents voting changed the ideological outcomes of elections in a manner significant enough to overturn the will of the voters to keep the primary open. In the most recent elections, independents have not voted in high numbers in party primaries and the case can be made that Arizona Republicans are more conservative than they have ever been on fiscal and social issues. Proving a severe burden would be a large task for the party’s attorneys.

In fact, every scenario discussed to close the primaries were fraught with risk. Whether it was a lawsuit, assuming the financial obligation of administering the entire primary, or funding a lawsuit to close the primary, the cost would be shouldered by all Republicans with no guarantee of success and a likelihood of failure.

The singular criticism surrounding the partially open primary is the moderating effect it creates on Republican elections. Although independents are growing in America and in Arizona, Republicans continue to enjoy a significant voter registration advantage over the Democratic Party and continue to hold onto every major statewide elected office. Judging by the lack of moderate or liberal Republicans holding statewide offices, it is difficult to prove that the small number of independents are gaming the Republican primary.

If there is a real fear in closing the primary outside of costs, it is alienating Arizona’s right leaning independents. In fact, as independents continue to grow, the Republicans cannot simply ignore their growing influence but must be continually active in persuading them that their principles are aligned with traditional party beliefs. Many independents describe themselves as conservatives but simply don’t want the label of Republican.

The state executive committee made the right call to not divert resources away from the continued march of winning elections and enacting conservative policies by embarking on long and expensive lawsuits with no guarantee of success. Arizona’s Republican Party consists of a diverse group of voters, fighting for conservative principles that make our lives better every day. The Party, under the leadership of Robert Graham, should continue to focus on what it is doing well, winning short term victories and building long term relationships to enhance the Republican brand in Arizona.

Christopher Herring is the President of the Maricopa County Young Republican Professionals and member of the Arizona Republican Party Executive Committee.

AZGOP Chairman Robert Graham’s Sacrifice Means Victory

By Daniel Stefanski

A hearty thanks to AZGOP Chairman Robert Graham for working through another executive board meeting! Today, it sounds like the board voted against funding a lawsuit for closing Republican primaries. As it should have been, Robert allowed the motion to be voted on, and the representatives of the precinct and state committeemen did what they felt was in the best interest of the Arizona Republican Party and election victories in 2015 and 2016.

And for all the heartache by a select few over the closed meeting today, it was not closed to those who were duly elected in previous elections. Want to sit in and participate in future state party executive meetings that may be closed to observers? Run for election for one of those positions next time around. The process isn’t being obstructed. It’s being followed to the letter of the law.

Robert Graham voluntarily signed up for a non-paid job with round-the-clock hours, but he did not sign up for a job that featured lies, distortion and people from his own party working against future Republican victories to serve their own self interests. Before this meeting, Robert did not fight against the resolution to close our primary. Rather, he expressed his opinions and waited for the process to carry itself out. While false allegations that Robert was carrying out other interested party’s wishes swirled around prior to today’s meeting, it is now a fact that the AZGOP executive committee voted within their rights and responsibilities to table the closed primary funding proposal.

Though one will never come, I think Robert Graham is owed an apology for the way he has been treated and maligned by people who claim to be in the same party as him.

And to make up for an apology that will never come, I think Robert deserves thanks and encouragement by all those who appreciate the 2014 victories he was very instrumental in helping to achieve. We who were involved in the 2014 campaigns know how hard the State Party worked throughout the entire cycle.

Robert and the Arizona Republican Party have pledged to stay neutral in primaries, and they have remained faithful to that promise. The AZGOP has also always upheld the party platform during Robert’s tenure as chair. Those who claim that Robert is attempting to pave a path for any individual primary contender are doing so without any factual basis. Robert is not going to pull any favors for any candidate in a contested primary election, and he’s not going to lead the AZGOP towards an ideological potion that does not adhere to the entirety of our platform. Activists may “want” him to do their work for them in a contested primary election, but he’s just not going to do play favorites. So to save everyone’s time, let’s support our primary candidates and await the time when the AZGOP will be waiting for the Democrats with guns a-blazin’ after the winning Republicans make it past their primaries.

Thanks as well to everyone who sacrifices their time to serve at the AZGOP and on the executive committee!

Let’s work for some more GOP victories in 2015 and 2016! Who’s with me?!

The Time To Rescue Sexually Abused Children Is Now!

By Paul Boyer

Thousands of children in Arizona are waiting to be rescued and it will not happen for most of them unless we act.

In Arizona, we know of 15,000 IP addresses (the Internet Protocol labels assigned to each computer device) belonging to people who are trading and downloading child pornography. A significant number of these videos and images consist of infants and young children being raped, tortured, and sexually abused. Some of them even include “how to” instructions on how a grown man can rape a three-year-old and groom him or her for years of abuse.

Statistically, 50 to 70 percent of those who download and trade child pornography are considered “hands on” offenders who are actively molesting and abusing children.  Meanwhile, 60-65 percent of the images intercepted in Arizona are of prepubescent children, while infants make up nine percent of victims.  Because of these very young ages, most victims cannot or do not report the abuse.

As the House Education Chairman, I care deeply about good education policy. But for the children who cannot sleep at night for fear of sexual abuse by child predators, no education policy, however well designed will help them. They desperately need law enforcement to rescue them from their abuser.

I have just introduced legislation that would enable the state to equip, train and hire 10 to 15 full-time investigators and forensic examiners for the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force. House Bill 2517 has 79 co-sponsors and uses $5 million of state lottery money – $4.5 million to equip, train and hire full time investigators and forensic examiners, and $500,000 to help victims.

Every state that has passed similar legislation was experiencing budget struggles, and Arizona is no different.

Last year, we appropriated an additional $60 Million to create the new Department of Child Safety making it an $834 million funded agency after realizing there were 6,600 uninvestigated cases of children in harm’s way. With nearly three times the amount of uninvestigated cases of children being raped, tortured and sexually abused, how can we not act now?

National studies show the average offender has between 14 – 23 victims before law enforcement catches them, which is why ICAC investigations are so critical. While Arizona has tough sentencing laws for those who prey on children, there are currently only four full time investigators in the state to proactively look into this depravity, and just a handful of part-time investigators from various agencies.

Right now, those investigators are focusing on triaging leads to locate “hands on” predators. With hundreds of new leads of child pornography coming in every month, they cannot keep up with current leads. This means less than two percent of known child exploitation cases are being investigated. We need to act and we need to act now.

Let the 52nd Legislature be known as the one that acted swiftly to rescue kids when it was in our power to do so.

Republican state Rep. Paul Boyer represents Legislative District 20 in Phoenix and Glendale.

Guest Opinion: The New Reefer Madness: A Very Bad Idea

Marijuana

By Seth Leibsohn

Since just the beginning of this year, local media—both television news and print—have publicized and promoted at least 10 stories on the effort to legalize recreational marijuana use in Arizona. Two bills are being sponsored in the state Legislature and an initiative aimed at our  electorate for 2016 is being drafted. Little has been said or written as to why all of this is a very bad idea for our state and our country. But it is just that, a very bad idea.

Almost every argument in favor of legalization is, quite simply, wrong. At the economic level, we are told the revenues from legalization would boost our state budget and help solve our deficit. That was a promise made by the pro-legalization movement in Colorado, which predicted $40 million a year for school construction and $30 million for general state funds from marijuana taxes in the state. But, as the non-partisan Tax Foundation found, the numbers thus far have come nowhere close, making it “unlikely to even meet that $40 million need each year, leaving nothing for enforcement costs.”

Ask any governor of any state if they would rather keep all the revenue from alcohol and tobacco taxes or all the monies alcohol and tobacco abuse costs the state, and you’d get the same answer: The costs of substance abuse to each and every state are never even close to covered by the revenues generated by the taxes on those substances. As President Barack Obama’s former senior advisor on drug policy, Dr. Kevin Sabet, has put it, “[S]ocietal costs that accompany increased marijuana use will significantly outweigh any gains in tax revenue. Our experience with alcohol and tobacco shows that for every one dollar gained in taxes, 10 dollars are lost in social costs.”

Criminalizing alcohol and tobacco would be nearly impossible and equally ill-advised at this point. I am not advocating that at all. But adding one more dangerous substance to the list of already too many legal and dangerous substances is pure madness. The debate as to whether marijuana is more or less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco is irrelevant. We need, rather, to understand that marijuana is just, plain dangerous; and adding one more dangerous product (regardless of degree of danger) is more than a bad idea; it is public policy malfeasance.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported just last year that marijuana use by adolescents is associated with everything from increased risk of depression and anxiety to psychosis. And, it “exacerbates the course of illness in patients with schizophrenia.” Marijuana use is also associated with impaired school performance and increases the risk of dropping out of high school. In lay terms, marijuana damages the brain, especially the teen brain. Society has made tremendous strides in marginalizing and thus decreasing the use of cigarette smoking—which negatively affects the lungs and hearts of smokers. It is curious, then, that more and more are now turning toward legalizing a product that not only damages the lungs (like cigarettes), but also the brain.

Many adults think marijuana is relatively harmless based on their experiences in high school and college a generation or more ago. But that marijuana is not today’s marijuana. Today’s marijuana is a different drug, with THC levels reaching into the 20 and 30 percent range of potency, as opposed to the one-and-a-half to five percent potency of the 1970s and 1980s. And it is getting stronger by the day as vendors compete to provide ever stronger affects with an ever more potent product.

The quest to legalize marijuana at the state level is also an unconstitutional nullification of federal law—as a range of Supreme Court Justices from Anthony Kennedy to Stephen Breyer to Antonin Scalia agree. It also negatively impacts other states as pot sold “legally” in one state flows across borders and causes problems in neighboring states, thus nullifying those states’ decisions to remain within the law. Indeed, some 44 percent of the marijuana sold in Colorado is sold to citizens of other states.
Despite what many say—either from unfamiliarity with the science or because of a political point of view or because some people simply want to get high legally—marijuana is dangerous. Making it legal will cost society more in financial and human damage than can ever be made up for by the false promise of tax revenue. And it will further destigmatize what every study on marijuana use and stigmatization has shown: the more society explains the dangers of marijuana, the less it is used; the more society countenances it, the more it is used.  Marijuana is illegal not because of bad policy but because it causes a lot of problems—a lot more than we will ever be able to apologize for if we unload this dangerous product on, and in to, more and more of our state’s and nation’s youth, which is—like alcohol and tobacco—where it will end up and do the most damage.

Seth Leibsohn is the host of The Seth Leibsohn Show, airing nightly on KKNT/960 am, and a Senior Fellow with the Claremont Institute.

Don’t Embrace Big Federal Government, Support the Compact for a Balanced Budget

By Nick Dranias

Yes, it’s true. The handful of folks who still oppose states organizing behind the Compact for a Balanced Budget to advance and ratify a powerful federal Balanced Budget Amendment embrace big federal government. Of course, they may not mean to do so. But the truth is that by hugging and holding the political status quo, the Balanced Budget Amendment fear-mongers are in a death embrace with the things they claim they oppose.

Why is that? Simply put, we no longer enjoy the form of federal government the Founders originally created. This is because the Constitution as it currently exists has three fatal flaws, which will inexorably lead to tyranny unless they are fixed with a constitutional amendment.

The first is the federal government’s unlimited borrowing capacity. This enables politicians to promise at no immediate cost anything it takes to get elected. That’s like handing liquor and car keys to a teenager. It guarantees a system crash propelled by mindless spending.

The second is unlimited direct taxation authority courtesy of the 16th Amendment. This empowers politicians to make 49% of the nation pay for anything the 51% want; and also to impose complete economic destruction on political enemies and disfavored policy ideas. If this flaw persists, what the IRS did to conservative groups two years ago is just a small taste of what the future holds.

The third is the unlimited concentration of power over national policy making in Washington, DC courtesy of the 17th Amendment. This amendment removed the states from a position of control over the U.S. Senate. It has enabled the federal government to ratify treaties and laws, as well as populate the federal judiciary and federal agencies, without any respect for state sovereignty. And it allows a growing distant political class in Washington, DC to easily leverage overwhelming national power to crush dissent and policy diversity in the heartland.

These three flaws will cause the federal government to gradually accumulate and centralize all political power over time. Over time, these three flaws will make it impossible for limited government and freedom-oriented elected officials to outcompete elected officials who favor big federal government for votes. Consequently, hugging and holding this fatally flawed system is doomed to produce the opposite of freedom. To mix metaphors, voting people in or out of the federal government under these conditions is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Only a constitutional amendment can fix the three fatal flaws of the Constitution as it currently exists. Nothing else will.

But it is irrational to expect two-thirds of each house of Congress to propose the necessary reform. The numbers did not add up in the 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s, and they just do not add up today. Instead, especially after the last election, there is a much more plausible pathway; that pathway involves organizing three-fourths of the states and simple majorities of Congress behind the necessary reform amendment in a targeted fashion. It means supporting the Compact for a Balanced Budget.

Simply put, the Balanced Budget Amendment advanced by the Compact for a Balanced Budget gives us the best shot of addressing each of the Constitution’s three fatal flaws with fundamental reforms.

To fix the flaw of unlimited federal borrowing capacity, the Amendment imposes an initially-fixed constitutional limit on available borrowing capacity. This limit gives the federal government an additional 5% in borrowing capacity above the outstanding federal debt upon ratification. This 5% cushion allows for a 1 to 2 year transitional period to responsible budgeting and fiscal planning. And there is no doubt the amendment will focus the mind during that transitional period. This is because the debt limit is coupled to a mandatory spending impoundment requirement that kicks-in when 98% of the debt limit is reached. Spending will be limited to available tax and fee cash flow if the debt limit is hit. There is no exception except for the referendum process described below. This one reform guarantees that Washington politicians will immediately lose the ability to promise anything at no immediate cost to get elected.

To fix the flaw of the unlimited centralization of national policy making in Washington, the Amendment empowers a majority of state legislatures to veto any increase in the federal government’s constitutionally-fixed borrowing capacity. To get any additional borrowing capacity above the initial constitutional baseline, simple majorities of Congress will have to refer-out a measure proposing the increase. The proposal will be deemed denied unless it is approved by at least twenty-six state legislatures within 60 days of the referral. With the federal government borrowing nearly half of discretionary spending, this referendum process divides power over national policy making between the states and the federal government in a big way.

Finally, to fix the flaw of unlimited federal taxation authority, the Amendment imposes a tax limit requiring two-thirds of each house of Congress to approve any new or increased income or sales tax. The current constitutional rule allowing for tax increases with simple majorities will be restricted to measures that would completely replace the income tax with a consumption sales tax, eliminate tax loopholes, or impose new or increased tariffs and fees. The reform will divert the pressure for new revenue to the places where special interest pushback will be the strongest, further ensuring that deficits are closed by spending reductions first.

National polling shows that each one of these policy fixes are supported by supermajorities of the American people. With Alaska and Georgia already on board, and at least ten states looking to join the Compact this session, the Compact for a Balanced Budget is an eminently plausible route to the reforms we need to save and restore the Republic.

Indeed, with demographic change threatening the supermajorities needed to get the job done, the Compact for a Balanced Budget may be our last best shot at preventing the federal tyranny that will otherwise inevitably result from the Constitution’s three fatal flaws of unlimited debt, unlimited taxation, and unlimited centralization of power in Washington.

Nick Dranias is President and Executive Director of the Compact for America Educational Foundation. Please visit their website at www.CompactforAmerica.org.

Boehner Re-elected Speaker . . . And You Got Played

David SchweikertBy Rachel Alexander
Townhall

Last week, John Boehner (R-Ohio) easily won re-election as Speaker of the House. Only 25 Republicans defected, with 216 Republicans voting for him. In the days before the election, there was a flurry of emails and activity on social media about the vote, calling on members of Congress to oust Boehner. After the vote, conservative talk show hosts were outraged, denouncing Republicans who voted for him as RINOs and traitors. Even well-loved, conservative members of Congress like Utah’s Mia Love did not escape the anger. Tea Party favorite Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) missed the vote, but said he would have voted for Boehner.

To many, it did not make sense why conservative Republicans would settle for another term of the compromising Boehner, considering Republicans now control both chambers. In Arizona, the most conservative members of the delegation all voted to retain Boehner: Rep. David Schweikert, Rep. Matt Salmon and Rep. Trent Franks. Only Rep. Paul Gosar, who has the lowest American Conservative Union rating of the four, voted against Boehner. Newly elected Republican Rep. Martha McSally of Tucson also voted for Boehner. After the vote, some conservative activists in Arizona started calling Gosar the only true conservative in the delegation. Something wasn’t right. I called Rep. Schweikert to get to the bottom of it.

He told me the vote was largely ceremonial. The real decision was made six weeks ago, at the House Republican Conference. After that, it was too late to persuade most members to change their minds, deals had been made. Anyone who agreed to switch their vote after that could not be trusted based on prior experience. South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney confirmed this in a post on his Facebook page. Two years ago, the Boehner opposition collected signed pledges from enough members of Congress to defeat him. But when it came time to vote, almost half of them changed their minds.

The last minute flurry of emails came from conservative organizations trying to make money by getting conservatives outraged. While it is important these groups raise money, it was a rather sneaky way to do it. By then, it was too late, it was the wrong battle, and provoked fights with conservative members of Congress that could have been avoided.

Conservatives like Schweikert have been trying to remove Boehner for a lot longer than a handful of days last week. He told me he has been working on the ouster for two years. Where was the outcry six weeks ago when the real decision was made? Where were those feigning outrage over the past two years when it came to actually doing the work necessary to get rid of Boehner?

One unfortunate byproduct of the rise of social media, blogs and email is the ability for people to send out emotional blasts about a particular topic as their activism of choice. Instead of GOTV (Get Out The Vote), it is now GOYO (Get Out Your Opinion). Activists have replaced the hard, dull but necessary work behind the scenes with speeches. Unfortunately, there is only so much room at the top for a few national talk show hosts to bloviate.

Replacing Boehner is much more difficult and complex than a last-minute outburst. Getting better leadership is not going to be accomplished with a short and catchy soundbite. It is a deeper, two-fold systemic problem.

The first part of the problem is that no one wants to be Speaker. What most people don’t realize is the primary job of the Speaker is fundraising. The Speaker spends nearly all of their time flying around the country working pricey fundraisers. Most of the names floated around at the last minute as replacements for Boehner could not – or would not – follow through here. Last year, Boehner raised an impressive $100 million. Rep. Mulvaney noted that Gohmert was not a realistic candidate; despite all the media attention he only received three votes. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) got 12 votes, but has a terrible voting record, evenworse than Boehner’s. Boehner is actually the most conservative Republican speaker in 50 years.

Many in the grassroots complain when the NRCC doesn’t spend money on long-shot races. What they don’t understand is there is only limited money to go around, and it is dependent upon the ability of the Speaker to raise it. Unless the grassroots is willing to start writing hefty checks, it is imperative that the Speaker is someone with charisma who doesn’t mind spending a significant period of their life on an airplane.

The second systemic problem is Congress has become so corrupt it is currently impossible to reform it. Senior members of Congress are so entrenched in leadership positions, as chairs of committees and subcommittees, that these “cardinals” retaliate against anyone who dares to challenge the status quo and power structure. A conservative reformer like Schweikert, who actually would make an excellent Speaker, has no chance at the position because he stood up to the old guard. He lost his position on the powerful Financial Services Committee because he bucked party leadership and voted against a debt ceiling increase.

Sadly, new reformers like Schweikert tend to become disillusioned over time, and eventually leave office. If they can hold out, however, eventually the old guard will age out of office.

It was futile to cast a protest vote for someone other than Boehner. It simply enlarged the target on the backs of reform members of Congress. Several who opposed him, including Daniel Webster and Richard Nugent, both of Florida, were immediately stripped of their committee positions, and there are more on the chopping block.

Contrary to talk-show hype, the vote for Speaker did not juxtapose conservatives vs. leadership. It should be more accurately described as emblematic of the reformers vs. the establishment cardinals.

Schweikert may be the smartest member of Congress. He’s also consistently labeled one of the five most conservative members by various organizations, with a 98.67 lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. To label him a RINO over one vote, while letting other Republicans off the hook with much lower scores simply because they did not vote for Boehner, is illogical.

Reforming Congress is like a game of chess. You can’t take out the king instantly, you must set the stage first to take out the king or you will be out of the game. Those who run for office know you rarely win by running for president first, you must first win at a lower level office. Naturally, the same is true for taking out the Speaker, what is so difficult to understand about this? You must chip away the power structure supporting him before you can topple him.

Instead of blasting conservative members of Congress over Boehner, activists should set up meetings with these reformers and ask how they can help with the day-to-day work of cleaning up Congress. It may not be flashy and glamorous, but the flashy and glamorous GOYO approach is not working. Stop being played.

Do the January 8th Victims Justify “Takings” of Private Property?

The Arizona Citizens Defense League expresses its ongoing sympathy to the families of those taken and injured in the December 8th, 2011 attack.

in a 1/8/15 Opinion piece, Ms. Sarah Garracht Gassen of The Arizona Daily Star, presents Patricia Maisch’s idea to a call the murders, a “taking,” rather than a “loss.” We agree. The question is, “should those actions be used as a predicate for more takings of peoples’ rights?”

Ms. Maich asserts that, “It’s such a small goal…that, “every gun sale requires a background check…” No, it is not a “small goal” at all, nor does it involve any “common sense.”

First, the Right To Keep and Bear Arms is a basic fundamental right, according to the Supreme Court’s “Heller Decision.” Firearms are legal, tangible, personal property. Requiring prior government permission to transact them, turns a right into a privilege. It is already a crime to transfer a gun to a prohibited person, per Arizona Law. ( ARS 13-3102. )

Second, it is absolutely impossible to enforce a “background check.” Such rules would only obtain the compliance of those least likely to misbehave, and the non-compliance of those most likely to do so.

Third, using the actions of a disturbed man as a position of cover from which to diminish the rights of others, is disingenuous at best, and evil at worst. The American ideal of justice does not involve the punishment of the innocent for the acts of the guilty.

Fourth, it is not rational to believe that the insane or the criminal will submit to a background check, or that it would stop them from such acquisition. The Tucson and Virginia Tech killers, both PASSED background checks, and the Sandy Hook killer, bypassed the process by an act of murder.

We admire Ms. Maisch’s actions to disarm the attacker that day, and her desire to prevent future attacks. Let us be clear though: a “background check” will not affect the criminal or the crazy. All it does is register every transacted gun. This gives government a fishing license and a fish finder, for every person with an alleged “disability,” such as the retired NY Sheriff who had his 4 handguns seized recently for seeking treatment for insomnia. ( http://dailycaller.com/2015/01/02/veteran-and-former-cop-sues-after-guns-confiscated-because-he-sought-treatment-for-insomnia/ )

U.S. Violent crime rates have been in decline since the 1990’s. (http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/08/us/study-gun-homicide/ ) Far more guns are used in America to prevent crime than to facilitate it, according The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, by more than a 5 to 1 ratio. The news cycle though, is driven more by blood than fact.

The recent killings in France, a country with strict gun control, demonstrate just how well that works. In a crisis, no one was equipped to stop the murderers or help the police.

Ms. Maisch asserts that “the gun lobby…remains deathly effective at confusing guns with freedom.” The Arizona Citizens Defense League IS the Arizona gun lobby, and we have no confusion whatsoever – guns ARE freedom.

We suggest several solutions. First, focus the personnel who would do “background checks,” on known offenders. They are the ones most likely to re-offend. Second, get known, violent mentally ill people the treatment they need. Third, make sure plenty of armed, trained citizens are present in society to neutralize the threat when it occurs. Last: leave us alone.

Charles Heller is Co-Founder and Communications Coordinator for the Arizona Citizens Defense League. You can visit them online at www.azcdl.org.

Surprise! (NOT!) Average Affordable Care premiums going up in 2015

Reprinted from YahooNews.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — Many people covered under President Barack Obama’s health care law will face higher premiums next year, the administration acknowledged Thursday. While the average increases are modest, it’s more fodder for the nation’s political battles over health care.

Officials stressed that millions of current HealthCare.gov customers can mitigate the financial hit if they’re willing to shop around for another plan in a more competitive online marketplace. Subsidies will also help cushion the impact.

It’s currently taking an average of 30 minutes for returning customers to update their coverage.

Premiums for the most popular type of plan are going up an average of 5 percent in 35 states where Washington is running the health insurance exchanges this year and will do so again in 2015, said a report from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Monthly premiums are one of the most important and politically sensitive yardsticks for Obama’s health care law, which offers subsidized private insurance to people who don’t have access to coverage through their jobs. Sharper premium hikes were common before it passed.

The modest average increases reported for 2015 mask bigger swings from state to state, and even within regions of a state. According to data released by the administration, some communities will still see double-digit hikes while others are seeing decreases. Most are somewhere in the middle.

“Prior to the Affordable Care Act taking place, we saw double-digit increases in health care costs in this country,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “Those were routine.”

Many people who go back to the website “will now find that their costs are limited to only 5 percent on average,” he said, “a much lower cost increase than was in place before the Affordable Care Act.”

Even after Thursday’s report, the bottom line remains blurry.

Last year’s report provided average premiums for three types of plans across 48 states — close to a national number. This year’s report has no comparable statistic.

With both chambers of Congress under Republican control next year, the health care law will face even closer scrutiny from opponents still pursuing its repeal.

Nonetheless, industry experts said the picture appears positive for consumers and the administration.

“Benchmark premiums going into year two of the health law are very stable nationally, driven largely by strong competition among insurers,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “How the law is playing out varies quite a bit across the country, with premiums increasing in some areas but actually going down in other places, which is almost unheard of.”

Administration officials said that on the whole, the market for individual insurance has gotten better for consumers.

“In today’s marketplace, issuers are competing for business,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement. “Returning customers may find an even better deal if they shop and save.”

The administration says about two-thirds of current customers can still find coverage comparable to what they have now for $100 a month or less if they shop. That estimate takes into account the tax credits that most consumers receive, which cover about three-fourths of their premiums on average.

Also, 91 percent of customers will have a choice of three or more insurers this year, with each company usually offering a range of plans. That’s a notable improvement from last year, when 74 percent of customers had similar options.

The most popular coverage, known as the lowest cost silver plan, will go up 5 percent next year across the 35 states included in the administration’s analysis. The second-lowest cost silver plan — the benchmark the government uses to set subsidy levels — will go up an average of 2 percent.

Tax credits are based on a person’s income and the premium for the second-lowest cost silver plan in their community. The slow premium growth for the second-lowest cost silver plans is also good news for taxpayers who are subsidizing the program.

Open enrollment season for 2015 is now in its third week and runs through Feb. 15. The next big deadline for consumers is Dec. 15, the date by which new customers must sign up if they want their coverage to take effect on Jan. 1. For current customers, it’s the deadline to make changes and updates that would take effect Jan. 1.

Current customers who do nothing will be automatically renewed in the plan they have now on Jan. 1. But with all the changes in premiums for 2015, administration officials and consumer advocates are urging people to come back and shop.

“For the vast majority of people, if they stay in the same plan, I think they’ll see rate increases in the single digits to high single digits,” said Andy Slavitt, a top HHS official overseeing technology and management issues.

The administration has set a goal of 9.1 million people enrolled in 2015, including most of the current 6.7 million customers.

Arizona Democratic Party Dirty Halloween Trick Could Backfire on Kyrsten Sinema

Arizona Democratic Party Dirty Trick Could Backfire On Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in 2014 After Libertarian Voters Wanted Her Recalled In 2013

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Recently, the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) launched a dirty trick in time for Halloween that comes with no treat for Libertarian voters.  The ADP strategy could have worked a couple of cycles ago, but maybe not this time – particularly when Libertarian Mike Shipley filed recall papers against her last year.  Though the Secretary of State spokesman  said he would not order a recall election in Sinema’s case because the congresswoman is not bound by the state’s recall law, the Libertarian group still wants to invalidate her seat.  In light of the controversial mail out by the ADP, Shipley said: “Don’t underestimate Libertarians because we are here to stay.”

Political dirty tricks happen within both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, but the ADP has sunken to an all new low this time.  It appears ADP’s arrogance with regard to Congressional District 9 underscores their belief that CD9 voters are politically under educated.

According to AZ Central:

“Obviously we prefer Kyrsten Sinema,” said Quinlan. But “our calculation is there are probably a lot of conservative voters who realize (Gammill) is a far more consistent conservative than Wendy Rogers. … We’re pretty much taking (Gammill’s) positions directly from his website and sharing them.”

We implore key swing independent voters of Arizona (now largest voting bloc) to teach Rep. Kyrsten Sinema a lesson specifically in Congressional District 9.  We also implore Sinema’s Latino and Chicano Democratic voting constituents to vote anyone but Sinema and recall to their memory her flip flop on immigration Carlos Galindo exposes repeatedly on his national political talk radio program.  Galindo is a former liberal now registered independent voter of Arizona.

Galindo wrote:

It appears Andiola’s recent departure from Sinema’s employ may have been a forced departure, based on pressure that was placed on Sinema and her congressional office for hiring a staffer who is supportive of an Immigration “advocate” who spews anti-USA rhetoric. Just as important, according to sources, Andiola was a $50,000 a year congressional office staffer allegedly mooching for money to take a trip to Washington with her mom. See screenshot below. 

ADP’s DJ Quinlan is banking on his perception of naïve Republicans believing Powell Gammill is more “conservative” than Wendy Rogers when in fact, Libertarian candidate Powell Gammill is for open borders.  It is also well known how Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema flip flopped on the immigration issue; where she gets tough on immigration on one day — while reversing her view on another day.  Unfortunately and the problem we have with Sinema is voters will not know what they will get with her in light of her many reversals and stances to include criticism with regard to her  exploiting veterans and Latinos.

Make no mistake, our group to include independent registered women, Chicanos, and Latinos want legal immigration reform.  We do not want to be used as political footballs, and while the ADP gave Sinema a free pass to the SB1225 regard, our informed community will not give her one nor will we allow her to forget it.

Originally posted on Somos Independents.

Mesa Activist: Vote NO on all Mesa Bond Issues

Longtime City of Mesa activist and watchdog Gene Dufoe presented this excellent case why Mesa voters should vote NO on all the City of Mesa bond issues. It’s lengthy but well worth the read to become informed.

On Monday, Oct. 5, I spoke at the City of Mesa Council meeting for 3-minutes on why $580,000,000 Utility Revenue Bonds should not be approved at the election on November 4.  The earlier article, as well as this article, are available on the http://votesmartmesa.com/ website.  The earlier article also appeared in the Gilbert Watch on August 22, 2014.  The complete update follows:

A look at why the concentration on the City of Mesa’s Utility Bonds, we need to look at the City of Mesa Budget: FY2014-15 Auditor General Schedules A-G: Schedule A Summary of Estimated Revenues and Expenditures to find why. http://www.mesaaz.gov/budget/ Documents/FY_14_15/Schedule% 20A_Summary%20of%20Estimated% 20Revenues%20&%20Expenditures. pdf

Looking at Interfund Transfers In (Out), we discover Transfers (OUT) of $(173,606,136) for the ENTERPRISE FUND and Transfers (IN) of $85,429,615 to the GENERAL FUND AND $92,164,059 to the DEBT SERVICE FUNDS.  The ENTERPRISE FUND is the business portion of the City of Mesa operations, i.e., the various utility operations run by the city.  This withdrawal from the ENTERPRISE FUND is taking more than $173 million of the current profits of the various utility funds and using it mostly for the current operations of the GENERAL FUND and the DEBT SERVICE FUNDS.  Note that the Property Tax Revenues of $33,440,000 also boosts the DEBT SERVICE FUNDS.  The result is the City of Mesa is taking current funds from the Enterprise Fund to spend immediately.  They are not using that money to responsibly maintain the infrastructure required by Enterprise Fund operations.  Instead, they are asking the residents of Mesa to mortgage our future (and also having our children and grandchildren) to make many of these needed infrastructure improvements with revenue bonds that will last through the year 2044.

The earlier paper discusses how the Utility Revenue Bonds are paid from the revenues i.e., the monthly water, waste water, electric, natural gas, and solid waste (garbage) utility bills, so they do not effect the direct tax burden.  However, paying utility bills comes out of the same pocket as paying any other bill.  This year’s City of Mesa rate increases on July 1, 2014, over the prior year are as follows:

•  Electric rates increased by 2%,
•  Natural Gas rates increased by 3%,
•  Water rates increased by 7%,
•  Wastewater rates increased by 7%, and
•  Solid Waste rates increased by 6.9%.

The Secondary Property Tax also increased from $22,105,000 last year to $33,440,000 this fiscal year.  That is an average 51% increase per household.

The only other City of Mesa Interfund Transfers (OUT) is $(7,038,653) from the IMPACT FEE FUNDS and the only other Transfers (IN) is $3,051,115 to RESTRICTED FUNDS.  Impact fees are assessed for new construction and are intended to go toward building the infrastructure for that new construction; however, the City Council has voted to use impact fees to bolster the General Fund and satisfy Debt Service.

According to Ryan Wimmer of the Mesa’s Office of Management and Budget, on July 1, 2014, the authorized, but not yet sold, bonds total $219,668,000 of which $72,213,000 are Utility Revenue Bonds.  A total of $580,000,000 is on the November 4, 2014, ballot is divided as follows:

•  Water System Revenue Bonds-$315,700,000;
•  Wastewater System Revenue Bonds- $178,200,000;
•  Electrical System Revenue Bonds-$27,000,000; and
•  Gas System Revenue Bonds-$59,100,000.

The bonds shall be payable solely from the revenues of the City’s utility systems, bear interest not exceeding 10% per annum and pay principal over not more than 30 years from the date issued.  The last utility revenue bonds, Series 2014, were for only 24 years.  If these utility revenue bonds are funded in the same manner as those previously authorized and sold, these bonds will be repaid over the coming years with interest-only payments for the most of the years of the bonds with the principal be paid in the last year or two of the bond life.  This will mean that the total interest repaid will be significantly more than the initial bond principal.  All of this when the Enterprise Fund is currently making a profit of more than $173 million annually.

From the “Moody’s assigns Aa2 rating to City of Mesa, Arizona’s Utility Systems Revenue Bonds, Series 2011” dated 13 May 2011, the following is quoted, “In fiscal 2010, $84.4 million was transferred from the Utility (Enterprise) Fund to the General Fund revenues.  Near term transfer amounts are forecasted to remain stable at $83.6 million.”  However, that did not happen as will be discussed in the next paragraph.  Since that time:

The Secondary Property Tax has increased from $14.1 million in FY10/11 to over $33 million in FY2014/15,

The Enterprise Fund transfer to the General Fund and Debt Service has increased from $83.6 million to over $173 million in the current year,

The stated bond indebtedness has increased from $1,354,816,963 on July 1, 2011, to $1,710,800,000

That is an increase of nearly $356 million in debt in three years.  And the City of Mesa, still has $219,668,000 of taxpayer-approved bond authorization, not yet sold, and now the City of Mesa is requesting approval for an additional $580,000,000 in Utility Revenue Bonds.  If the four  Revenue Utility Bond issues pass and considering the already approved bonds, not yet sold, that will be an addition to the current debt of nearly an additional $800 million.

In summary, since July 1, 2011, the debt of the City of Mesa has ballooned from nearly $1,356 Million ($1.356 Billion) to nearly $1,932 Million ($1.932 Billion) and we are being asked to approve $580 Million in new revenue bonds for a total indebtedness of 2,512 million ($2.512 Billion) or nearly double that we owed in July 2011.

Not only will that be an a major increase of the debt, but combining the lengthening of the bond life with the current City of Mesa approach to the repaying of Utility Revenue Bonds with interest-only payments for the first twenty-nine or thirty years and then paying the BALLOON principal payment(s) in the last year or two of the now 30-year bonds, the utility rates will continue to dramatically increase.  Note that the life of the Revenue Utility Bonds have increased from 18 years in 2009 to 24 years in 2014 and now 30 years for the new bonds to be voted on in November 3, 2014.

In a economy growing better than three years ago, the City Council is not properly protecting the interests of the City of Mesa residents.  Now, the City Council and Mayor Giles, as the newly-elected mayor, needs a wakeup call.  Note that Mayor Giles, earlier served in the City of Mesa City Council from 1996 to 2000.

We strongly urge a NO VOTE on all four of the bond issues.  It is time for the City of Mesa to cut all but the absolutely essential services and for repayment schedules to be part of any future bond authorizations and get back to pay-as-we-go management.  We need to pay for the City’s needs without drastically increasing taxes or utilities.

Gene Dufoe, interested citizen of Mesa

Mr. Dufoe is a retired Boeing engineer/manager who possesses the following degrees:  BSAE, MSAE, and an MBA with an emphasis in Finance.