Tag Archive: New Jersey Citizen Action

Another David vs. Goliath Battle

Suppose you are working a low-paying job and require 50 days off for cancer treatment. If you live in the United States, you’re in the only developed nation that does not require your employer to provide at least some paid sick leave.

Suppose you are a restaurant worker in Trenton and come down with the flu. If you take a few days off to recover, you won’t be paid, and if you’re not paid, you can’t feed your family. What choice do you have? Come into work and spread your germs, or let your kids go hungry.

Although 80% of Trenton’s workers already have some paid sick leave benefits, approximately 13,000 workers – mostly in low-paying jobs – are forced to make a decision on whether to work if they or their child is ill.

Last November, Trenton voters overwhelmingly approved an ordinance extending paid sick leave to nearly all workers.

In a classic David vs. Goliath confrontation, powerful business lobbyists are now trying to nullify the will of the voters.  A Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments on April 16 as to whether this ordinance should go into effect or be postponed indefinitely.

Today, in Trenton, a coalition of groups held a rally and press conference to heighten awareness of this issue.

Players in the Life and Death Game Of The Affordable Care Act

There are about 1.3 million people in NJ without health insurance – people who forgo needed doctor visits, can not afford medicines, avoid surgery, receive short term help in emergency rooms, and die earlier than those insured. One would think that such a large group would have a significant voice in NJ’s approach to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Alas!… no way.

There is the Republican approach which is to “repeal and replace Obamacare” and the Democratic approach which is to implement a NJ health exchange with consumer friendly rules and participate in Medicaid expansion. While political dogma will play a role and there are strong consumer advocacy groups, there is also a handful of high-powered industry lobbying organizations with money and access who will influence the outcome. Governor Christie, who boasts he is not shy about stating his position, has yet to enunciate with any clarity where he stands. Unfortunately, there is little time to meet the deadlines – the first of which is just two weeks after elections, to notify the federal government whether NJ plans to build its own healthcare insurance exchange.

Below are key players and oversimplified explanations of their positions, primarily on the type of health exchange needed for NJ. The players do not always publicize what they are seeking and may take different tacks as matters progress. The devil is always in the details.

NJ Association of Health Plans – NJAHP represents the six NJ health insurers. While members of this group like the idea of adding more patients to their rosters and they support a NJ health exchange, they want a “passive model” based on allowing all NJ insurers to participate under the minimum federal regulations, as opposed to facing additional state requirements which might be more consumer friendly – the “active model.” This disagreement was one of the reasons Governor Christie vetoed Senators Nia Gill’s (D-34) and Joseph Vitale’s (D-19) more progressive “active model” health exchange bill (S551).

Medical Society of New Jersey (doctors) – MSNJ did not support ACA legislation largely because “it did not address the sustainability of the Medicare and Medicaid programs and tort reform.” Doctors in NJ for Medicaid are reimbursed at a low rate of 37 percent of the federal Medicare rate, compared with a national average of 72 percent, and see little advantage in expanding Medicaid. More recently MSNJ has stated support for a NJ health exchange.

NJ Hospital Association – NJHA supports the goal of ACA to create health insurance exchanges. Hospitals receive monies from the State for charity care (this year $665 million) which they always consider insufficient. More patients with health insurance would decrease charity care and increase hospital revenue.

For other players, both pro and con, go beyond the fold.

Congratulations, Jackie Cornell-Bechelli, NJ State Director for Obama’s Re-Election Campaign

With Gov. Chris Christie emerging as Mitt Romney’s most effective surrogate and potentially a consideration for running mate should he get the GOP nomination, it matters more and more who runs President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in New Jersey. And how it’s run.

Today, we learn that Jackie Cornell-Bechelli has been named the President’s State Director for NJ. Jackie put time into Organizing for America (OFA) as NJ State Director after Obama’s campaign morphed into the OFA structure. I’m not a fan of OFA, which always struck me as trying hard to look like a bottom-up organizing effort when it was actually quite the opposite. And not a fan of curtailing DNC’s wildly-successful 50-State Strategy (under which we took the White House, and both Houses of Congress, and many state & local offices) in favor of OFA’s expensive concentration on the fortunes of just one candidate, the President. That said, it makes sense that Obama’s re-election campaign rely on somebody already “in the family” who is both known and appreciated by the Obama campaign structure.

Plus, Jackie Cornell-Bechelli also spent a year as New Jersey Citizen Action’s Political Director, a well-staffed citizen watchdog organization I admire. She leaves that job for the Obama position. For 7 years, she also worked for Planned Parenthood, for which organization every woman I know is grateful.

It’s a struggle to suppress my dissatisfaction with the President’s first term. Well, until I look at the GOP alternatives, particularly the clown car passenger who nearly won the Iowa caucuses last night. And Romney hisself, who has yet to rise above platitude and the reciting of patriotic song lyrics (as one @BlueJersey Twitter follower pointed out, bet we won’t hear ‘ole Mittens recite Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land on the stump).

Congratulations to Jackie Cornell-Bechelli. We’ll be interested to see how she intends to wean New Jersey away from Chris Christie’s idea of the best direction.  

S2664, Verizon’s anti-consumer telecom bill – on hold

Blue Jersey heard from Senator Loretta Weinberg from the State House about an hour ago that the telecom bill pushed by Verizon – S2664 – is being held up and may not be voted on today – and that the bill may in fact undergo substantive changes. We’re hearing from elsewhere that Sen. Sweeney has pulled the bill from consideration for today.

There’s been a howl of protest against this bill and its Assembly companion over the last few weeks, particularly following a combined efforts watchdog report from New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) and Demos that found the bill would result in hikes in the average phone bill, the elimination of key consumer protections.

Sen. Weinberg told Blue Jersey this morning that her offices were blitzed with calls on this bill – encouraged by the coalition led by NJ Citizen Action (NJCA) and AARP- urging a NO vote. The NJ League of Municipalities has also been messaging mayors to oppose the bill. Sen. Weinberg also told us that she got calls from the pro-S2664 forces, a Grover Norquist group that seemed to confuse their own members about the bill.

Quite a few NJ newspapers have had no trouble seeing through the haze:

  • Herald News called the bill, “ill-considered legislation goes too far too quickly and could leave citizens choking in the dust.”

  • Star-Ledger: “legislators shouldn’t strip customers of protections, or a cheap and basic phone service.”

  • Home News Tribune/Courier News: “Does anyone really believe that a Verizon or Comcast, their hands freed by fewer controls, would then offer the same services, or even more, for lower rates? We don’t. The vast majority of consumers don’t. But they’re not the ones pulling the strings in Trenton.”

  • APP urges NJ Senate: “Jam the signal on the telecom ‘choice act.'”

    Full disclosure: Blue Jersey’s running an ad from the coalition opposing this bill; we’d be opposing it even if we weren’t. The coalition is broad; you can read the partners here.

    Reaction from NJCA & more, after the jump …