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September 2009

Archives for September 2009

Families lose Kid’s Care but Find Other Options

Here in Arizona, the state subsidized “Kids Care for Parents” health coverage program is ending this week.  Hundreds of Arizonans will lose their state subsidized health coverage. The “Kids Care for Parents” program is being cut from the state budget and lawmakers hope to save about $7 million a year.  Sounds just like every other health-care horror story, doesn’t it?

But people DO have other options when they lose their health coverage.  KGUN News in Tucson reports on just such an option.  The Pima County Access Program (not to be confused with Arizona’s Medicaid System, AHCCCS) provides an interesting alternative.

What is the Pima County Access Program (PCAP)? Program Director Michal Goforth describes the program this way;

“If you could think about a medical discount program for the uninsured, it’s like Costco. You buy a membership and you receive highly discounted prices”.  And what you get for a 40 dollar annual membership may surprise you. This non-profit team of about 10 employees who negotiates with local hospitals and doctors to lower prices on procedures and set caps on medical expenses.  “I’m telling you that this is a very creative program in our community,”Goforth said.

PCAP utilizes the services of local medical centers like El Rio and Marana Health Services.  PCAP has contracts with the county and local hospitals to perform health screenings. They are also a traditional non-profit organization, so they also receive donations.  They are also expected to receive some federal funding in the near future.

So despite what the agenda driven politicians tell you, there are other options out there.  You might have to do a bit of work to find them.  Is this the final answer to the challenges that we all face when it comes to affordable health coverage?  The issue is too complex to find a one-size-fits-all solution.  But this is a good place to start.

Kudos to KGUN news for doing their due diligence on this story and finding some real world solutions, sans the political machine.

Please check out PCAP at www.pcap.cc or call them at (520) 694-0418.

Expanding health insurance won’t lower health care costs

By Byron Schlomach 
Goldwater Institute
President Obama and Senator Max Baucus are proposing a radical expansion of health insurance, but selling it as health care reform. Unfortunately, expanded insurance coverage is likely to worsen the real problem in health care: the high and rising prices of care.

Since World War II, Americans have become increasingly dependent on others to pay their medical bills. These third-party payers include Medicaid and Medicare, and employer-provided pre-paid health plans (what we call insurance). In 1954 federal tax law codified standard practice at the time and exempted benefits from taxation. This allows employers to avoid payroll taxes while employees avoid income taxes.

The last 50 years have shown us that neither patients nor providers are particularly frugal when others are paying the bill. In 1960 patients directly paid half the total health bill and medical prices were relatively the same as in 1935. By 2006 patients paid an eighth of the health care bill and medical prices had more than doubled in relative terms.

In this country, where health providers price as if cost is no object (and for patients with insurance, it mostly isn’t), a heart bypass might cost $140,000. Travel overseas and you can get the same procedure for $24,000. It makes a difference when providers compete on the basis of price.

The goal in health care reform should be to find the least painful way to transition back to having patients be responsible for their own health care bills. Good policy would: 1) Put all health expenditures on an equal income tax footing, 2) Encourage people to save for health eventualities through expanded health savings accounts that allow for truly catastrophic health insurance policies, 3) Allow a nationwide insurance market without mandated coverage, and 4) Require posting of medical service prices so consumers can know the price of the services and procedures they want to buy before making the purchase.

To truly address this nation’s health care cost crisis, we have to get at the root of the problem. These policy changes would help bring costs down by reversing the price is no object mentality and encouraging providers to compete for business.
Byron Schlomach, Ph.D, is director of economic policy at the Goldwater Institute.

Guns, Bars & A Blast from the Past

Mark DesimoneRemember this Democrat? This is Mark DeSimone, former Democratic state legislator from legislative district 11 who resigned after being busted for a domestic violence dispute with his wife. Well he’s back in the news again. This time as an example of what’s supposedly wrong with Arizona’s latest law upholding the 2nd Amendment.

Apparently, DeSimone doesn’t like the new law which allows law-abiding citizens to wear their firearm into a bar. DeSimone owns the Hidden House Cocktail Lounge in Phoenix and has posted signs that will NOT allow patrons to carry their firearms into his lounge.

According to the story posted by the Associated Press,

“I hate to have to put them up,” Mark DeSimone, owner of the Hidden House Cocktail Lounge in central Phoenix, said of the signs. “It looks scary. It looks to somebody like, should I go in this place because they obviously have a problem with people bringing weapons in.”

DeSimone has signs banning guns next to his liquor license and outside the bar.

He said every bar owner should be concerned about the possible consequences of allowing anyone into a bar with a gun.

“You don’t want people to even have a stick,” he said. “When I take steak knives out (for customers), I look for the ones that don’t have pointy ends.”

We simply find it deliciously ironic to see someone like DeSimone worry about someone else drinking too much and acting crazy.


Munger Nears Gubernatorial Announcement

Southern Arizona businessman, attorney and founder of Imagine Arizona, John Munger, made his last appearance on KUAT-6  Arizona Illustrated’s “Political Faceoff” last night.

Could he be ready to make his announcement for Governor? Having been on tour around Arizona for months, Munger is on the cusp of entering the race.

Here’s the video of his last appearance:

I have to admit, Munger knows his stuff and he certainly sounds like he’s ready to control the debate. That will most definitely propel him into the 1st tier of candidates.

PR: Franks Clarifies “Enemy of Humanity” Comment

Congressman Trent Franks Clarifies “Enemy of Humanity” Comment 

September 29, 2009 – Congressman Trent Franks (AZ-02) issues the following statement today regarding controversy over his remarks made at the “Take Back America” Conference this last weekend in St. Louis, MO: 

“My recent comment regarding President Obama was specifically related to the President’s policies on abortion. For that reason I should certainly have said ‘UNBORN humanity.’ 

“To be clear, my impression of President Obama is that of a man with genuine noble impulses. When I first met him in the White House, he was very warm and civil to me and I certainly tried to genuinely return that civility. I handed him an “Open Letter” at the time, published in Human Events on the day of his inauguration, pleading with him as he was sworn in on the Lincoln Bible to consider the plight of the unborn and to realize, as Lincoln did with slavery, the plight of a forgotten portion of our society even if the Supreme Court has labeled them as less than human, as they did with slaves in the Dred Scott decision. 

“But the fact remains yet today that President Obama has quickly established himself and his Presidency as the most radically pro-abortion Administration in American history.” Franks stated. 

“Since his days in the Illinois State legislature, President Obama has established himself who not only passively, but actively, passionately opposed to protecting the innocent unborn. He even took to the floor of the State Senate to speak against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act — the only Senator to do so — which would have protected living, breathing, crying babies who were born alive as the result of a botched abortion. President Obama fought against a bill that would have given those children medical care instead of leaving them to die in soiled utility rooms. 

“Since then, the now-President Obama has maintained his radical pro-abortion stance. Only three days after taking office, he overturned the Mexico City policy in order to allow taxpayer dollars go to fund overseas abortions. He has subsequently continued to surround himself with the staunchly, overtly pro-choice political appointees, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who had deep ties to the infamous late term abortionist George Tiller, and Science Advisor John Holdren, who has written favorably about forced abortions. The President has also increased funding for the UNFPA, the UN population agency that supports the Chinese ‘one-child policy’ including forced abortions and forced sterilizations, and the Obama Administration has promoted an unlimited right to abortion at a United Nations meeting. 

“These are just a few of the items in President Obama’s expanding pro-abortion resume despite his claim that the issue of when life begins is “above his pay grade.” Similarly, the President’s health care plan, as it stands, will also include hidden taxpayer subsidies of abortion, the largest federal expansion of abortion-on-demand in America since Roe vs. Wade. 

“While I absolutely should have made the meaning of my statement more clear, the facts remain that these radical pro-abortion policies do not have place in a government founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,” and chief among those rights is the right to life. Without that right, no others matter.” 

Note: Congressman Franks’ “open letter” to President Obama was published in Human Events on January 20, 2009, on the day of the President’s inauguration. The article can be accessed here: http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=30329

Is Representative Tom Boone being investigated by the AG’s Office?

A state lawmaker, who also serves as a governing board president and as a self-appointed executive for a related government entity that acts on behalf of up to 21 school districts, is again being accused of conflict of interest violations. These allegations now include violations of open meetings laws, financial accounting irregularities and violations under the state procurement code.  The Attorney General’s Office has issued a written request to Deer Valley and Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) to produce documents by October 13th related to the expanded allegations.  Also included in the letter is a request by the AG for more information about Solar Schools Arizona, LLC., a private entity believed to have a business interest affiliated with VSMG regarding the installation of solar panels on top of schools in Deer Valley and Scottsdale.

On September 8th, at a Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board meeting, State Representative Tom Boone (R-Glendale), who also serves as Governing Board President, was asked by a parent to explain his association with VSMG, where Boone serves as Chairman and CEO.  Boone also appointed himself to serve on the VSMG Board of Management that oversees VSMG.  As a governing board member, Boone oversees the district’s contract with VSMG and was accused of using his role as a state legislator and governing board member to pass legislation that would benefit himself, his family and his business associates.

Boone’s role is attracting attention again because, as the former House Majority Leader and House Appropriations Chairman, Boone was accused in 2006 of other conflicts of interest in a related claim.  But in 2009, these claims have been expanded as more information about his business arrangements has surfaced.

Critics fear that Boone’s roles as a state legislator, governing board president, and board member that oversees his role as an executive for VSMG – a government entity, lack the appropriate oversight as prescribed in state law for a public entity that is funded using taxpayer funds and funds from district employees.

School business officials, teachers’ unions and parents have raised questions about the close relationship between Boone and other former district officials, such as fellow governing board member, Bill Maas, who was a former finance executive at Peoria Unified, and former governing board member and former state legislator, Ted Carpenter.  Allegations were levied against Boone and Carpenter in 2006 for sponsoring legislation that may have been a conflict of interest.

In an article from the Arizona Republic on March 01, 2006, Chuck Essigs, director of the Arizona Association of School Business Officials, said the relationship between Boone and the schools hurts public trust.  “The public wants decisions to be made solely on the basis of what is best for the citizen,” Essigs said. “Once the public feels that decisions are not based solely on that basis, then public trust in government is put at risk.”

When Boone was asked by a parent at the Deer Valley meeting in September about his alleged conflicts, Boone agreed that the appearance of his level of business activity didn’t look appropriate.  “I know it’s a fine line,” Boone said. “Am I concerned about the perception? Absolutely.”

Boone has not filed any conflict of interest statements at the Arizona Legislature since he began serving there in 2002.  He was appointed to the Deer Valley school board in 2007 to replace Ted Carpenter.  Boone had not filed any conflict of interest statements until August 12, 2009, where Boone wrote that “I have or may have a substantial interest in” contracts between VSMG and the school district.  He stated publicly at the September board meeting that the filing of these documents was intended to be ‘retroactive’ to 2007.

Boone has recruited former colleagues from the Arizona State Legislature to work at VSMG, including Michael Bradley, a former House policy advisor and longtime friend of Boone’s who doubles as his campaign consultant.  Boone has also hired Carpenter, Maas and former Paradise Valley Schools administrator Jim DiCello as members of the VSMG Board. Boone, Carpenter, DiCello and Maas are the only four members of the VSMG Board who oversee the business activity of VSMG.  To be eligible to serve on the VSMG board, a prospective member must have worked at one of the other entities that VSMG oversees.

VSMG oversees four other entities that provide financial services for district employees which include insurance, workers compensation, employee benefits and school construction services.  IGAs for these entities were discovered on the website for the Maricopa County Recorder under “Valley Schools,” but no IGA was located for the newer school construction services entity, which plans to install solar panels on school district buildings.

The Republic article also stated, “DiCello said the members of VSMG, particularly Boone, were acutely aware that allegations of impropriety could arise from their arrangement.”

“There are some things about this that don’t pass the smell test,” said John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association.

Among the issues raised about Boone have been:

* Bradley, a lobbyist hired by VSMG to push legislation on behalf of VSMG, has also run Boone’s campaigns throughout his political career. Boone facilitated the hiring of Bradley in 2005 and handled payments to the lobbyist through the VSMG procurement arm. Boone said VSMG is only a middleman handling the procurement for the schools that wanted to work together on common goals at the legislature. Boone said he played no role in choosing Bradley, who was allegedly the only lobbyist who returned a bid, and said he gives him no direction.  Boone and Bradley are located in the same office, where Bradley now oversees the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust entity.

* Documents available at the Maricopa County Recorder’s website include the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) from 2005 that details the procurement guidelines under which VSMG operates.  VSMG states that they are exempt from state procurement statutes and have given VSMG the ability to ‘sole source’ goods and services at the discretion of VSMG board members.  As a government entity, VSMG is prevented from exempting itself from the state procurement code.

* VSMG may not have abided by the Open Meeting Law and may have restricted the release of financial information only to the VSMG Board, the Superintendent and the Arizona Department of Insurance.  Requests by members of the public to view public documents related to VSMG were met with a letter by an attorney for VSMG stating that documents will be available on or before October 20, 2009, one week after the deadline set by the Attorney General’s Office.  The letter also states that no further contact should be made to VSMG, but that all requests should be conducted through the VSMG attorney.

* Boone’s wife has been employed by Deer Valley Unified School District for a number of years, which is an alleged violation of state law.  School district policy also says that spouses of employees may not serve on the governing board.  Boone recently co-sponsored legislation in an attempt to amend state statute to reverse this policy.  Boone also has a son who works for the district and a son who works for VSMG.  Maas has a son who works for the Peoria Unified School District in financial services, where Maas also acts as a ‘consultant’ for that department and receives an income.

On Tuesday evening, September 29, the Deer Valley school board will enter into Executive Session to discuss these allegations and to hear from attorneys representing Boone and VSMG.

Tucson City Budget Planning Meeting

I went to the first ever Tucson “Community Key Services Dialogue” meeting tonight.  (subtitled-Working Together to Set City Budget Priorities).  There are some ideas here that have merit and some that well, don’t.  It is important that people do get involved in their community and I am proud of all of the folks that took an evening out of their busy lives and attended this meeting.

It was a evening of lively round table discussion panels, budget pie charts on PowerPoint presentations, city council types and almost as many reporters as “regular folk”.

The evening started with each of 7 tables listing what they liked most about Tucson.  Some of the usual favorites were “our weather”, “our mountains”, “our diversity” and “our small town feel”.  Then each table listed some of the improvements they would like to see. These included improved streets, higher wages, affordable housing, limiting the amount of taxes levied and making our city government more accountable.

Then people got down to work.  Each table was asked to sit down and discuss what services they used now and why; which services we would suggest being kept and how could we pay for those services, and how to pay for programs and services that would insure the growth of Tucson for years to come.

Each round table had their spokesperson come up and share what ideas they had developed while the breathless media rolled tape.  Some of these ideas included:

Investing in Energy Technology, A light rail system, more hi-tech jobs.

Improving the city’s website. Make Tucson wireless.

A 1% pay-cut per every $10k  of income for all city employees.

Hiring a community organizer (at $35K) to rally neighborhoods.

Have government handle the city’s infrastructure and have residents handle social issues.

Promoting volunteerism by utilizing the unemployed.

A city tax on gasoline.

A luxury tax.

A tax on fast food.

This was the first of several “town -hall” meetings that are scheduled.  Seven more meeting are scheduled for the month of October.  Details are found here.  I have to give the city officials credit for reaching out and looking for input from our community.  Like them or not, the ideas that have been presented to city officials are what they will use to move Tucson forward.  City manager Mike Letcher and friends are listening.  Better make sure that your voice is being heard by them and we hold them accountable.

From a mutual friend who attended the meeting, she posted on FB:

Each table had a facilitator and several council members and the manager were all there. They wanted to stop construction or at least up the impact fees on all those rich ba……ds who buy new houses. someone said we needed more multimillionaires so I said we could advertise for some on Craig’s List. They want free concerts, free wifi, and more investment in neighborhoods because that is the backbone of society. One guy wants to annex the foothills and everyone though that was a terrific idea until I explained that then we would have to provide services so we’d probably end up negative cash flow. Then someone said to raise the sales tax AND the property taxes. Another said to raise the fees on water and utilities so I told her they had already done that in July.

Again, make sure that YOU get to a meeting.

Is your privacy worth $100?

By Nick Dranias
Goldwater Institute
Confidentiality appears to be guaranteed by the Census Bureau when you fill out one of their mandatory surveys. But when it comes to sharing your private information with the federal government, the only real guarantee is that there isn’t one. 

The Patriot Act provides the legal authority for Homeland Security to gain access to confidential Census Bureau data through The National Center for Education Statistics. But that authority isn’t restricted to crafting education policy.

The law was amended in 2002 to authorize access by other federal agencies to NCES data for “investigation and prosecution of terrorism,” which is broadly defined. 

The only thing keeping Homeland Security away from your confidential Census Bureau data in the NCES’ possession is the requirement that the Attorney General apply for a court order before it can access it. But the court’s only function is to confirm the application shows “the information sought” is “relevant” to “investigating or prosecuting” a laundry list of federal offenses. This is a far lower standard than the test of probable cause required for criminal search warrants. Unless someone botches the application, the court’s only real power is to verify it was signed.

The bottom line is that not much stands between Janet Napolitano and your confidential census data. Fortunately, you risk no more than a $100 fine for each question you do not answer; and it is unlikely you will be fined more than once. So the question to ask yourself is whether your privacy is worth $100–or whether the Census should be reformed to ask the only question the U.S. Constitution actually authorizes: “How many people reside in your household?”
Nick Dranias holds the Goldwater Institute Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for constitutional government and is the director of the Institute’s Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Center for Constitutional Government.

“Sloppy Joe” List Really Isn’t That Messy for the GOP

Last Thursday, Espresso Pundit’s Greg Patterson broke a story about the release of a list of “Joe’s” who have patronized a valley VIP prostitute ring known as the Desert Divas. The story on this actually went public when the Phoenix New Times wrote an article back on February 12th that seemed to go nowhere.  Thursday that list of “Joe’s went public. Patterson explains that hew was able to walk into the Phoenix Police Department’s office of public records and obtain the list in a CSV file and it’s now online for the whole world to see.

Once Patterson posted the list at Espresso Pundit, he left it at that. (He even turned comments “off.”)  The Phoenix New Times was quick to jump on his story and also posted a link to the list and spun the story as a heads up to valley wives who may want to see if their hubbies were on the list.

Until now, no names have been mentioned in writing. Saturday, I received several phone calls informing me that two well-know political operatives show up on the list. I verified this myself.

Since Saturday, I’ve sat on the story after hearing that Dennis Welch of The Arizona Guardian was not going to publish. Well, Welch went public on Sunday. Sean Noble also picked up on it today and even reprinted Welch’s article on his blog, Noble Thinking. And one of our own, “GOP Cannon” posted his/her take on it earlier today. So now I’m going to chime in on the story and what I know.

The first name which may come as a surprise is that of Charles Jensen, the founder and President of Politics on the Rocks. I spoke with Charles on the phone and he catagorically denied any involvement or association with Desert Divas or any prostitute or prostitution ring. According to Jensen, he rented one of his properties to someone he won’t identify earlier (in 2007) who probably was a client of the Desert Divas. That means that the list was actually based on addresses given to law enforcement by the Divas. That address was tied back to the owner, Charles Jensen, who did not reside there. When I spoke with Charles on Saturday, he said that he was obtaining legal counsel in order to chase down the actual evidence provided by the Diva to Phoenix PD (probably a police report or transcrpt). That attorney will also likely go after anyone who attempts to libel Jensen. So the key to the Jensen’s innocence hinges on whatever evidence the Phoenix PD used to create their list of “Joe’s.” I happen to believe Jensen and think that one of his renters was the “Joe.”

The other name that shows up on the list is lobbyist, G. Michael Williams of Williams & Associates. I spoke with Williams Saturday night and he knew nothing of the list and catagorically denied it. It even appears that Williams and Associates  may not have even been at the address shown on the Diva List at the time that the alleged incident took place.

Having spoken to both gentleman, it appears that this is all a matter of mistaken identities tied to the addresses where the supposed acts took place. I’m going to take both men at their word especially since they appear to have alibis and attorneys.

Will this taint the GOP brand here in Arizona? I tend to doubt it. I also agree with the earlier post by GOP Canon. There are probably individuals in the GOP who will take advantage of this perception of a scandal and use it as leverage to advance their position of power in the party. That’s sophomoric, unethical and disgusting and it needs to stop.

Munger & Imagine Arizona on KUAT Tonight

Please tune in to KUAT – Channel 6 tonight at 6:30 PM as John Munger of Imagine Arizona will square off on Arizona Illustrated’s “Political Faceoff.”

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