Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Libertarian Party Qualifies Ten Candidates for GA Statewide Offices

Ten Libertarian Party candidates for statewide office and two candidates for State House races will appear on this November's General Election ballot. Unlike the Democrats and Republicans, who qualify in April to select their candidates via primary in July, the Libertarian Party of Georgia nominated candidates via convention without cost to the taxpayers on April 24, 2010.

The 2010 slate of candidates for the Libertarian Party of Georgia includes:

U.S. Senate - Chuck Donovan
Governor - John Monds
Lieutenant Governor - Dr. Rhonda Martini
Secretary of State - David Chastain
Attorney General - Don Smart
State School Superintendent - Kira Willis
Commissioner of Agriculture - Kevin Cherry
Commissioner of Insurance - Shane Bruce
Commissioner of Labor - William Costa
Public Service Commission (District 2) - Dr. James Sendelbach
State Representative for District 51 - Brooke Nebel
State Representative for District 59 - Brad Ploeger

Kira Willis Official for a Spot on the November General Election Ballot

Stresses Accountability, Budget Management, and Community Choice

Kira Willis announced her official candidacy as the Libertarian Party candidate for State Superintendent of Schools. Willis, a veteran teacher of 17 years stresses that Georgia voters need a choice other than the status quo.

She emphasizes accountability for all stakeholders involved in children’s education “Accountability is not only for teachers but also for students, parents, educational systems and politicians,” said Willis.

She believes that what was once a partnership between the school and home has become a disenfranchised blame game. She says “As State School Superintendent, I want to help mend the bridge between the school and the home.”

Willis promotes effective spending within schools and school districts and opposes spending for committees and jobs where there is no student contact. She also opposes federal money that is tied with federal mandates, stating, “Tell the Feds to keep their money and their mandates that come with it.”According to Willis, all that the funds will do is create more positions that have little or no student contact, while teachers are expecting 40 students in each classroom.

Willis also proposes to eliminate what she calls the “testing frenzy”. 

In a statement earlier this week, Willis said that reducing tests to a biannual basis will save about 60 million dollars in printing alone. “We need that money to go to the students, not to printing a test.”

Willis promotes community choice through genuine local control of education. “We need to give the schools back to their communities!” According to Willis, stripping control of education from the local communities and giving it to the State and Federal government was a disservice to the students and to the school community. “Communities should decide whether they should have a technical track. The communities should decide whether Integrated Math is viable. It is not the State’s job to mandate these things.” By reinstituting genuine local control and school choice, Willis believes that students will achieve higher levels of learning.

Brad Ploeger Files Qualifying Papers for Georgia House District 59

Candidate Renews Call for Cooperation and Progress.

Grant Park Resident Brad Ploeger today officially qualified with the Secretary of State to run for Georgia House of Representatives District 59.

This afternoon, Brad Ploeger filed the paperwork to appear on the ballot in the November General Election with the Secretary of State. “Today I reaffirm my pledge to the citizens of the District, that if elected I will do my best to faithfully and ethically represent all of the people and communities that make up the 59th District. I am committed to finding common ground and partnering with all those who are willing to work together to build a better tomorrow for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren,” announced Ploeger. "I will be a voice of reason who puts Georgia families ahead of partisanship, because it should not matter if an idea is a Democratic idea or a Republican idea, what is important is if it is a good idea for Georgia," added Ploeger.

The campaign gathered signatures from more than 2,000 residents in order to appear on the ballot in November. “Joey and I have been very encouraged by the support we have received since this campaign began,” said Ploeger. “It has been wonderful meeting individuals from all the diverse neighborhoods of the District, but it has also been a sobering experience. Georgia and our community face significant challenges. We must work hard to create more jobs, get more value from our tax dollars, and ensure that our children receive the very best education we can provide,” stated Ploeger.

About Brad Ploeger

Ploeger attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He lives with his partner Joey in Grant Park. They attend Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Midtown. Ploeger is deeply involved in the community and works to provide low-to-moderate income seniors with safe and secure housing. This is his first campaign for public office.

About Georgia House District 59
House District 59 has approximately 35,000 registered voters. The district is one of the most diverse in the State of Georgia and includes portions of the Midtown, Old Fourth Ward, Sweet Auburn, Grant Park, Summerhill and Polar Rock neighborhoods of intown Atlanta.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Westmoreland Marks Army’s 235th Birthday, Flag Day

Westmoreland Co-Sponsors Bill Recognizing the Army’s Milestone
Today, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland celebrated the United States Army’s 235th birthday. Westmoreland’s Third Congressional District is home to the Army’s Fort Benning, not to mention the countless number of Army veterans living throughout the district.

“I join soldiers and veterans in my district and around the country in celebrating the Army’s 235th year of defending our nation and our freedom,” said Westmoreland. “Every day, soldiers put on the uniform and demonstrate personal strength, courage and dedication. They keep our nation strong and help protect liberty for future generations.”

Westmoreland co-sponsored a bill in the United States House of Representatives that recognizes the Army’s birthday.

Created by the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and first led by George Washington, the United States Army is a key part of the Armed Forces of the United States and has the best-trained and most-respected soldiers in the world. Numbering over 675,000 Active Duty and Army Reserve soldiers, the Army protects and defends freedom and democracy.

Also, the Army’s birthday falls on Flag Day, a holiday to commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States.

“The American Flag is a constant reminder of the freedom we enjoy and the sacrifice of so many men and women who have given their lives for our country,” Westmoreland added.

The American flag was adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, after the original 13-star flag was first raised by colonists to show their independence from Great Britain. Additional stars have been added 27 times between 1777 and 1960.

“Today is a good day to pause and remember how blessed we are to live in a great country like the United States of America, and how many folks over the years have given so much to defend our nation,” concluded Westmoreland.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Georgia's New Budget Depends on Extended Federal Help, Senate Set to Take up Legislation This Week

Georgia is among 30 states that have built their state budget assuming that enhanced Medicaid funding will be available through next June, when our budget year ends. Georgia's budget, as recently signed by the governor, includes nearly $750 million of these federal funds, also known as FMAP. "Georgia would realize only half of this amount if Congress allows the funding to expire on December 31, 2010, as scheduled," said Tim Sweeney, the Georgia Budget &Policy Institute's senior healthcare analyst.

"Thanks to the increased federal help granted as states' unemployment rose and Medicaid caseloads increased, Georgia has not made major cuts to Medicaid eligibility levels or to the reimbursement rates paid to healthcare providers serving Medicaid patients," said Sweeney. Rates already fail to cover providers' full costs.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives stripped the extended FMAP funds out of a bill to extend a variety of Recovery Act provisions. The Senate now has the opportunity to restore this temporary extension to stabilize the states a little longer as their economies slowly recover.

"If Congress does not extend enhanced FMAP then Georgia's new budget will be seriously out of balance when the new fiscal year starts July 1," said the Institute's executive director, Alan Essig. "But this would be just the beginning."

Georgia lawmakers are using enhanced FMAP to offset spending that would otherwise have come from state sources, as the Recovery Act intends. If, instead of finding additional state revenue, lawmakers cut the Medicaid program to save $375 million, the state would also forgo more than $650 million in federal funds that are in the state's Medicaid base budget (a total of $4.7 billion of federal funds are the base budget, not shown in the chart above).

This $1 billion loss would represent nearly a 15 percent loss to Georgia's Medicaid program. A deficit of this magnitude requires significant new revenues or devastating cuts to provider reimbursement rates, patient eligibility, covered services, or all of the above.

Although Georgia lawmakers have not indicated precise alternatives to finding revenues, budget proposals discussed in the recent legislative session indicate that across-the-board cuts to Medicaid provider reimbursement rates of at least 20 percent would be needed if lawmakers do not add new revenues.

"Cutting Medicaid reimbursement rates 20 percent likely would result in hospitals closing, many doctors and other healthcare providers denying service to Medicaid patients, and further trouble for local communities that depend on their healthcare sector for jobs," said Sweeney.

If Congress does extend FMAP temporarily, it serves the dual purpose of giving Georgia lawmakers time to put new state revenues in place as federal Medicaid funds expire next June. Extending FMAP is crucial to Georgia's ability to weather the Great Recession and avoid crippling cuts to the healthcare infrastructure of the state.

"We urge Governor Perdue to work closely with our congressional delegation to assure they extend enhanced FMAP funding, thereby protecting Georgia's healthcare sector and our citizens' health and security," said Essig. "If Congress eliminates these funds prematurely, it will hurt our healthcare sector and local economies that depend on it. Georgia is not out of the woods yet."

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Send Letter to State Attorneys General On New Outreach and Education Efforts to Combat Medicare Fraud

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder today sent a letter to state attorneys general urging them to work with HHS and federal, state, and local law enforcement officials to mount a substantial outreach campaign to educate seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries about how to prevent scams and fraud beginning this summer. The outreach campaign is another step in the ongoing work of the Health Care Fraud Prevention Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a cabinet-level initiative launch by HHS and DOJ in May 2009.

“We are heading into the week when our first tax-free $250 donut hole rebate checks will be mailed out to Medicare beneficiaries who have fallen into the coverage gap. Accordingly, we are especially concerned about fraud and increased activity by criminals seeking to defraud seniors – and we are seeking your help to stop it,” said Secretary Sebelius and Attorney General Holder in the letter. “Building on our record of aggressive action, we will use the new tools and resources provided by the Affordable Care Act to further crack down on fraud.”

In the letter, the Secretary and Attorney General outline education and outreach efforts where state attorneys general could make a big difference. These include efforts to cut the improper payment rate, which tracks fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare Fee for Service program, in half by 2012; a series of regional fraud prevention summits around the country over the next few months; regular health care fraud task force meetings to facilitate the exchange of information with partners in the public and private sector, and to help coordinate anti-fraud effort; HHS’s plans to double the size of the Senior Medicare Patrol and to put more boots on the ground in the fight against Medicare fraud; and a new educational media campaign this summer to educate Medicare beneficiaries about how to protect themselves against fraud.

The full letter follows.

June 8, 2010

Dear Attorney General:

It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you and your staff a few weeks ago. We wanted to send you a letter summarizing our discussions and following up with some suggestions of ways we can work together to protect the American people from health care fraud.

In the two months since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, we have made substantial progress on providing better choices for consumers, tackling health care costs, and holding insurance companies accountable. But while we have been hard at work, scam artists and criminals continue to profit from misinformation about the Affordable Care Act.

Since early April, we have heard increasing reports about seniors being asked to provide their Social Security numbers in order to receive a “donut hole” check under the new law, raising concerns about potential identity theft scams. We have fielded consumer complaints about phony insurance policies, and our Senior Medicare Patrols have been receiving a growing number of calls from people across the country reporting potential fraud schemes.

We are heading into the week when our first tax-free $250 donut hole rebate checks will be mailed out to Medicare beneficiaries who have fallen into the coverage gap. Accordingly, we are especially concerned about fraud and increased activity by criminals seeking to defraud seniors – and we are seeking your help to stop it.

The President has asked us to reach out to you and to other federal, state, and local law enforcement officials across the country to mount a substantial outreach campaign to educate seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries about how to prevent scams and fraud. Some important components of these outreach and education efforts, where you and your staff could make a big difference, are described below.

First, the President has directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to cut the improper payment rate, which tracks fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare Fee for Service program, in half by 2012.

Second, following on the National Health Care Fraud Summit we co-hosted in Washington earlier this year, the President has asked both our Departments to convene a series of regional fraud prevention summits around the country over the next few months. The first summit will take place in Miami on July 16. Other summits will follow in, for example, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Detroit, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.

These summits will bring together top federal and state officials; representatives of federal, state, and local law enforcement; representatives of our agencies; the health care provider community, such as hospitals and doctors; local businesses; the Senior Medicare Patrol; caregivers; and seniors, for a day of panels and training sessions. Your expertise and experience will be instrumental to the success of these events.

Third, at the Attorney General’s request, the Acting Deputy Attorney General has sent a memo to every United States Attorney in the country asking them to convene regular health care fraud task force meetings to facilitate the exchange of information with partners in the public and private sector, and to help coordinate anti-fraud efforts. Most of these meetings will be held quarterly, with some exceptions for smaller districts. All 93 U.S. Attorneys have been asked to put a plan into place and schedule their first meeting by August 16, 2010. We hope that you and your office will take part in these regular exchanges on effective fraud fighting strategies.

Fourth, HHS will be doubling the size of the Senior Medicare Patrol and putting more boots on the ground in the fight against Medicare fraud. Since 1997, HHS and its Administration on Aging have funded Senior Medicare Patrol projects to recruit and train retired professionals and other senior citizens about how to recognize and report instances or patterns of health care fraud. Close to three million Medicare beneficiaries have been educated since the start of the program, and more than one million one-on-one counseling sessions have taken place with seniors or their caregivers. Currently, the Senior Medicare Patrol program funds projects in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Fifth, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in conjunction with the Administration on Aging, will be launching an educational media campaign this summer to educate Medicare beneficiaries about the importance of staying vigilant with their personal Medicare information and getting the facts out about the new law so that scam artists are not able to prey on seniors.

The more we can educate the American people about fraud prevention, the better chance we have to protect taxpayer dollars and the Medicare trust fund. The Affordable Care Act also contains some important new tools and resources that will directly help law enforcement officials crack down on fraud.

As you are well aware, fraud schemes have plagued public and private health care plans for decades. Fraudsters have been stealing billions of dollars a year from Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurers. A year ago, our Departments joined forces to combat fraud in federal health programs. Through the establishment of the Health Care Fraud Prevention Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), we have expanded special anti-fraud Medicare Fraud Strike Forces into seven cities, developed sophisticated new techniques of fraud prevention data analysis, and redirected program integrity resources to fraud hot spots.

Building on our record of aggressive action, we will use the new tools and resources provided by the Affordable Care Act to further crack down on fraud. These include new criminal and civil penalties, enhanced information technology to track and prevent fraud in the first place, and new authorities to prevent bad actors from billing Medicare and Medicaid. HHS has already issued the first set of fraud prevention regulations required under the new health law. These regulations strengthen provider enrollment requirements to ensure we have the ability to better identify, screen, and audit providers and claims.

As we do our part in Washington, we want to work closely with you and other state officials to fight fraud. In that vein, the Affordable Care Act also strengthens state officials’ ability to detect and root out Medicaid fraud. For example, the law provides new access to Medicaid data for the Secretary of HHS that will help both states and the Administration to coordinate anti-fraud activities and gives states greater incentives and flexibility in identifying and collecting Medicaid overpayments. It also helps to promote enhanced information technology to track and prevent fraud, including predictive modeling techniques that can identify abusive or fraudulent billing patterns, audits, and a shared provider database for pre-enrollment screening and post-enrollment anomaly monitoring.

Securing health care coverage, affordability, and choices for Americans requires hard work and vigilance. We stand ready to serve as a resource and partner for you as we work together to fight fraud, implement the provisions of the new health reform law, and strengthen our health care system.


Eric Holder
Attorney General

Kathleen Sebelius

Secretary of Health and Human Services

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Sen. Shafer Calls on Governor to Sign Senate Bill 1, the Zero Based Budget Act

Sen. David Shafer today released the following statement for use at a news conference called by Americans for Prosperity and The 912 Project supporting Senate Bill 1, the Zero Based Budget Act, and Senate Bill 148, the Legislative Sunset Commission Act.


Regrettably, my schedule does not permit to attend the news conference called today by my friends from Americans for Prosperity and The 912 Project. However, I join them in strongly and publicly urging Governor Perdue to sign Senate Bill 1, the Zero Based Budget Act.

Senate Bill 1 ends the system of “continuation” budgeting under which appropriations approved one year are automatically rolled over into next year’s budget under a single line item labeled “continuation.” This system, which effectively hides 95% or more of each year’s budget from public view, makes it difficult to identify spending programs that are no longer needed.

Senate Bill 1 requires ¼ of the budget to be rebuilt from scratch each year, so that over a four year period of time, the entire budget is re-justified.

Senate Bill 1 passed the Senate and House unanimously, with the support of both Democrats and Republicans. Although there was absolutely no opposition to this bill as it moved through the legislative process, some have apparently argued that zero based budgeting will inconvenience budget officials of the Executive Branch, burdening them with additional work. I urge the Governor to reject this outlandish line of thinking, sign Senate Bill 1 and secure for himself a legacy of putting the taxpayer first.

I also join my friends from Americans for Prosperity and The 192 Project in urging the Governor to sign Senate Bill 149, the Legislative Sunset Commission Act. Originally written to require periodic review of occupational licensing boards to determine whether they are still needed, it was amended by the House to extend the same review to virtually all state departments and agencies. I want to thank the broad coalition of organizations who supported one or both of these bills, including Americans for Prosperity, The 912 Project, Americans for Tax Reform, FreedomWorks, Atlanta Tea Party, Tea Party Patriots, Libertarian Party of Georgia and Georgia Conservative Party, as well as numerous district and county conventions of the Georgia Republican Party.

Libertarians urge Gov. Perdue to sign Zero-Base Budgeting Act

This past session was difficult for believers in fiscal conservatism and limited government as the Republican-controlled legislature passed tax and fee hikes to make up for the irresponsibility of the past. However, one of the few good pieces of legislation to pass in 2010 was SB 1, the Zero-Base Budgeting Act.

This legislation, which passed both chambers of the General Assembly without opposition, would require appropriators to review a quarter of the state budget every year to remove waste and ineffective programs (also known as zero-based budgeting) as well as to provide transparency in the budget process.

Gov. Sonny Perdue has indicted that he may veto SB 1 because it will inconvenience staff as they produced the constitutionally required budget.

“At this point it may take an out cry from libertarians and conservatives to sway Gov. Perdue into signing this bill,” notes Jason Pye, Legislative Director for the Libertarian Party of Georgia. “Zero-based budgeting is an absolutely necessary step in ensuring that the bloated budgets of the past, which made these past two years so difficult, from happening again.”

The Libertarian Party of Georgia is encouraging all Georgians, regardless of party, to call Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office at 404-651-7763 and politely ask that he sign SB 1, the Zero-Base Budgeting Act, into law.

The Libertarian Party is Georgia’s third largest political party and the only party in Georgia promoting fewer taxes, less government and personal liberty for all Georgians. To learn more, please visit www.LPGeorgia.com.
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Statement by the President on the Extension of Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Federal Employees

“Last year, I issued a Presidential Memorandum that instructed the Office of Personnel Management and the Secretary of State to extend certain available benefits they had identified to gay & lesbian federal employees and their families under their respective jurisdictions.  Among those benefits were long-term care insurance and expanded sick leave for civil service employees and medical care abroad, eligibility for employment at posts, cost-of-living adjustments abroad and medical evacuation for domestic partners of foreign service members.  In that same Memorandum, I called upon the federal agencies to undertake a comprehensive review and to identify any additional benefits that could be extended to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees under existing law.   That process has now concluded, and I am proud to announce that earlier today, I signed a Memorandum that requires Executive agencies to take immediate action to extend to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees a number of meaningful benefits, from family assistance services to hardship transfers to relocation expenses.  It also requires agencies that extend any new benefits to employees’ opposite-sex spouses to make those benefits available on equal terms to employees’ same-sex domestic partners to the extent permitted by law. 

While this Memorandum is an important step on the path to equality, my Administration continues to be prevented by existing Federal law from providing same-sex domestic partners with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.  That is why, today, I renew my call for swift passage of an important piece of legislation pending in both Houses of Congress—the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act.  This legislation, championed by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, would extend to the same-sex domestic partners of Federal employees the full range of benefits currently enjoyed by Federal employees’ opposite-sex spouses.  I look forward to signing it into law.”

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Readout of the President's Meeting with Governor Brewer of Arizona

The President had a good meeting with Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona at the White House June 3 to discuss a range of critical issues of mutual interest, including the President’s comprehensive plan to secure the Southwest border and the unprecedented resources his Administration has devoted to that effort. The President and Governor Brewer also discussed the President’s decision to deploy up to an additional 1,200 requirements-based National Guard troops to the border and his upcoming request to Congress of $500 million in supplemental funds for enhanced border protection and law enforcement activities as part of that integrated strategy.  The President listened to Governor Brewer’s concerns, and noted that the Administration’s ongoing border protection and security efforts have increased pressure on illegal trafficking organizations through record seizures of illegal weapons and bulk cash transiting from the United States to Mexico, resulted in significant seizures of illegal drugs headed into the United States, lowered the average violent crime statistics in states along the Southwest Border, and reduced illegal immigration into the United States.

Despite the significant improvements, the President acknowledged the understandable frustration that all Americans share about the broken immigration system, and the President and Governor agreed that the lack of action to fix the broken system at the federal level is unacceptable.  As he did at the recent meeting with Senate Republicans, the President underscored that security measures alone won’t fix the broken borders, there needs to be comprehensive immigration reform that includes:  lasting and dedicated resources by which to secure our borders and make our communities safer; holding unscrupulous employers accountable who hire workers illegally and exploit them and providing clear guidance for the many employers who want to play by the rules; and requiring those who have come here illegally to pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and get right with the law.  The President urged Governor Brewer to be his partner in working in a bipartisan manner on comprehensive immigration reform to implement the type of smart, sensible, and effective solutions the American people expect and deserve from their federal government. Regarding Arizona law SB1070, the President reiterated his concern with the measure, including that a patchwork of different state immigration regulations around the country would interfere with the federal government’s responsibility to set and enforce immigration policy.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Libertarian Party National Chair Opposes California Proposition 14

Mark Hinkle, newly elected chair of the National Libertarian Party, and former chair of the Libertarian Party of California, issued the following statement today about California's Proposition 14, the "Top-Two" elections measure:

"Californians, please vote NO on Proposition 14. This is not the change we need. This Top Two system will shut out all but two voices in our November elections, which are the elections that count. Now more than ever, we need more political voices and broader representation on the November ballot, but this proposition will do just the opposite.

"Today, I'm putting out a call to all Libertarians, and everyone who values having ballot choices, to help us fight Proposition 14 in California. The Libertarian Party of California has organized a volunteer effort to make thousands of personal calls to California voters encouraging them to vote NO on Proposition 14. This drive will continue until the June 8 election, and the National Libertarian Party has pledged to give financial support to efforts opposing Proposition 14.

"I also want to call attention to StopTopTwo.org, a website with much more information about the bad effects that Proposition 14 would have. This website was created by Free And Equal, an organization led by Christina Tobin, who is also the Libertarian candidate for California Secretary of State."

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