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Bring CEA's Putting Policymakers To Work For You Panel to SXSW 2015


Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Wednesday, August 27th, 2014, 2:51 PM PERMALINK


Friday, September 5th is the last day to cast your vote for the CEA's Putting Policymakers To Work For You panel at SXSW 2015! This pro-innovation regulation panel organized by Michael Petricone of the Consumer Electronics Association will feature four dynamic speakers including himself, ATR's Grover Norquist, Adrian Fenty from Perkins Coie, and Julie Samuels of Engine Advocacy. Don't forget to cast your vote and help make this happen! See here for details.

Photo Credit: 
Andrew Feinberg

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Dramatic Coverage of E-Cigarettes Has Negative Policy and Public Health Implications


Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014, 3:38 PM PERMALINK


Pundits with little concern for public health have developed clickable narratives about e-cigarettes and vapor products that miss the fact that they are an innovation that should be celebrated. The fact that annually, more than 400,000 people die prematurely from smoking tobacco cigarettes is rarely a focal point for articles about e-cigarettes or vapor products. And unlike the latter, tobacco cigarettes can have negative health effects if used as directed.

Perhaps the stories about tobacco cigarettes have grown old since everyone knows they cause deadly diseases. Perhaps the “newness” of e-cigarettes, which have a similar appearance to tobacco ones, makes comparing them an easy task. But to neglect that not a single person has died to date from properly using an e-cigarette or vapor product is a disservice to our duty to celebrate technological innovation.

New technology often hits small bumps in the road, especially when electricity is involved. Take Tesla, for example. This year the company recalled 29,000 wall adaptors for the Model S after a cord or wall outlet caught fire. The recalls occurred in the midst of a federal investigation into three of the cars bursting into flames after running over something on the road. After the investigation, Tesla made modifications to ensure the risk was minimized.

Fortunately for consumers, legislators and bureaucrats weren’t clamoring to tax the products out of existence as a result of the supposed risk of spontaneous combustion. E-cigarette and vapor product consumers aren’t as lucky.

More than 17 states in the past year have tried to impose onerous and unnecessary taxes on e-cigarettes and vapor products. Proposals ranged from adding a 95% wholesale tax in Washington to adding a 5-cent per mL of e-liquid tax in North Carolina. These taxes were on top of the sales tax, which the products are already subject to.

Like the Model S, a few of these products have had improper use issues. But, the dramatization of minor incidents has serious public policy implications. The public is still being introduced to the product, but is now bombarded by headlines at Mashable like “E-Cigarettes Liquid Nicotine: Toxic, Unregulated, and Overhyped” and “Deadly E-Cigarette Explosions Add to Health Hazards of Vaping.” Both headlines employ a common rationale used against market-disrupting products: until there are hundreds of scientific studies concluding the products are absolutely and unequivocally safe, scare tactics (and headlines) will be a popular press coverage tool, despite the negative policy or health consequences.

In Congressional hearings, proponents of more regulations, like Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa.) have used the “fear of the unknown risk” argument to urge for Congressional and bureaucratic action to limit the industry’s growth. But while there isn’t much actually being accomplished in Washington, D.C., at the state level, countless legislators have jumped to action, to the detriment of those looking for an easier and healthier way to quit smoking.

If focus is going to be given to a few mishaps with overheated batteries, perhaps some context is necessary. After all, lithium ion batteries like the ones contained in many vapor products have a storied history that plays straight into the need for dramatization.

Less than 10 years ago, recalls from nearly every laptop manufacturer in the United States were issued when a small number of batteries overheated. No one called for an additional $1000 tax to be tacked onto Apple’s iBooks, or wrote about the toxic nature of computer usage. The failure of a select few products was fairly attributed to the need for technological tweaks in the batteries selected for use, not the utter failure of laptops to provide a safe environment for Internet cruising and gaming. 

The same isn’t true for e-cigarettes and vapor products. Federal regulators and state legislators are pushing for massive tax hikes that will cripple the industry and stymie growth, to the detriment of public health.  That is because vivid news headlines have an influence over public policy.

It’s time the press, pundits, and lawmakers give e-cigarettes a fair shot at helping cigarette smokers quit. To do this, the press needs to tone down the dramatization of product mishaps. Lawmakers should end the needless and illogical efforts to kill the industry with new tax hikes that treat these products as “other tobacco products.” Millions of lives are on the line. 

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PhilTheCapitalistPig

Not to mention Big Tobacco absolutely has their hand in this. This whole situation reminds me of something out of "Atlas Shrugged." More cronyism than you can shake a stick at. Especially while I was living in Kentucky and watching Steve Beshear stand up there with Big Tobacco Execs and pretend that all this heavy-handed regulation of ecigs was about public health.

PhilTheCapitalistPig

The bureaucrats are seeing their tobacco tax receipts decline, so its time to find another goose to cook. It was never about public health, it was always about the almighty dollar. Then on the other hand you have the people in the general public who just want to make sure you can't enjoy yourself if its something they don't personally enjoy.


President of National Black Chamber of Commerce Lambasts EPA Clean Power Plan


Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014, 3:37 PM PERMALINK


Harry Alford, co-founder and president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce published a piece recently highlighting the damage the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan stands to inflict on African-Americans with small businesses and those with low incomes. It is already clear that the Clean Power Plan stands to drastically increase energy costs for all consumers. According to Alford’s piece, enrollment in LIHEAP (the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) has been steadily increasing each year already, even without the burden of the Clean Power Plan. It only stands to get worse if the plan is implemented.

Alford also points out that the Clean Power Plan will destroy many thousands of jobs in one fell swoop, without much promise for creating new ones. With unemployment rates for African Americans already averaging at double the rate for whites, the plan will disproportionately harm many African Americans who are already down on their luck. In closing, Alford ponders, and justifiably so, the investments that African-Americans have made, and how the Clean Power Plan hints at a distinct unwillingness on the government’s part to give back;

“African-American businesses were being created at a steady rate prior to the economic crash in 2008. We have worked to get back to that level of growth, driven by both the desire to both contribute to our own communities and to help rebuild the broader U.S. economy, but not without sacrifices or toil. However, even before any action has been taken by the EPA on their latest proposal, energy costs continue to increase, while the median household income has decreased for African-American families. Our members have invested in their businesses, and in their employees; shouldn't our government be willing to make the same investments in us?”

You can read his entire piece here.

Photo Credit: 
Dan Lurie

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Union, Anti-Union Forces Clash in Fresno


Posted by Center for Worker Freedom on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014, 10:16 AM PERMALINK


VISALIA, CALIF. -- Farm workers will gather in Visalia, California on Tuesday to protest their treatment by state labor officials. 

Workers at Fresno-based Gerawan Farming Inc, led by Silvia Lopez, do not want to be forced to pay three percent of their wages to the United Farm Workers (UFW) union. Last November Gerawan workers held a decertification election, but the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is refusing to count the votes in a flagrant attempt to help the UFW rob the workers of their hard-earned money.

Ms. Lopez will speak at a protest held at the ALRB regional offices in Visalia beginning at 3:00 p.m. today, August 26.  Supporters of the United Farm Workers were also expected to have a presence, though Center for Worker Freedom Executive Director Matt Patterson says he hopes the proceedings will unfold without incident.

"The Gerawan workers have a positive message that they want to deliver peacefully: They just want their votes counted," said Patterson. "We hope the union, and the ALRB, will allow Ms. Lopez and her colleagues to speak their mind."

Lopez is also challenging the ALRB in court, suing individual board members including Genevieve Shiroma, Cathryn Rivera-Hernandez, and J. Antonio Barbosa in Federal District Court for violating her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. 

Lopez attorney Paul J. Bauer explained:

"In order to protect the rights of the farmworkers, we filed a lawsuit in federal court against the ALRB board members and regional director for violating their civil rights.  The farmworkers' due process rights and First Amendment rights are being trampled by a group of people that will stop at nothing to keep the votes from being counted."

Recently U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill allowed the suit to move forward.

Who

Fresno farm workers, their families and supporters

What

Protest rally against the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), led by worker Silvia Lopez

Where

ALRB
Visalia Regional Office
1642 West Walnut Avenue
Visalia, CA 93277-5348

​When 

Tuesday August 26 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Photo Credit: 
goldstardeputy

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Grover Norquist Files Comments With FCC on TWC-Comcast Merger


Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Monday, August 25th, 2014, 4:58 PM PERMALINK


The following comments can be attributed to Grover Norquist, regarding the Comcast-TimeWarner merger: 

"The marketplace is adjusting to consumer demand, the government should not meddle beyond antitrust concerns in a free-market transaction."

Americans for Tax Reform President, Grover Norquist, and Executive Director of Digital Liberty, Katie McAuliffe filed comments with the FCC regarding the TWC-Comcast merger.

They spoke out strongly against the FCC interfering or adding any further conditions to the merger. In their comments, they make the case that the TWC-Comcast merger presents neither horizontal nor vertical anti-trust issues, stating that it will not result in any significant loss of competition. They also argue that the FCC has disregarded the limits of its own authority and used public interest to justify adding numerous, excessive, coercive conditions to the merger review, seeming to be aimed toward forcibly equalizing both competitors rather than being aimed at benefiting the consumers. As a final crushing blow to the FCC’s draconian review, they note that TWC and Comcast have already agreed between themselves on many of the FCC’s previously imposed conditions, before the FCC had even shoved itself in the middle.

Read the comments in full here.

Photo Credit: 
Stephen P.D

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Farm Workers to Protest Forced Unionization in California


Posted by Center for Worker Freedom on Monday, August 25th, 2014, 9:44 AM PERMALINK


Silvia Lopez, a single mother who has proudly worked the fields of California's Central Valley for more than 16 years, will be the headline speaker at a protest rally on Tuesday in Visalia, California.

Ms. Lopez and her colleagues at Fresno-based Gerawan Farming Inc. do not want to be forced to pay 3 percent of their wages to the United Farm Workers (UFW) union. Last November Gerawan workers held a decertification election, but the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is refusing to count the votes in a flagrant attempt to help the UFW rob the workers of their hard-earned money.

"We just want our votes counted, we want our voice to be heard. We deserve to know the outcome of this election. We want to know that democracy matters for farm workers, too," says Ms. Lopez, who collected over 3,000 signatures from her coworkers to trigger the decertification election last fall.

"The ALRB members eat the fruit we pick," she added.  "We provide the food for their tables. But they don't think our votes are worth counting?  If they love the union so much, why don't they give three percent of their pay to the UFW!"

Gerawan workers, their families and supporters will gather in front of the ALRB regional office in Visalia on Tuesday, Aug. 26 starting at 3:00 p.m.  Ms. Lopez will begin her remarks at 4:00 p.m. followed by remarks from other workers and supporters.

Ms. Lopez was born in Ensenada, Mexico.  Both her parents and children have worked at Gerawan as well, where they have enjoyed above average industry wages.

Who

Fresno farm workers, their families and supporters

What

Protest rally against the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), led by worker Silvia Lopez

Where

ALRB
Visalia Regional Office
1642 West Walnut Avenue
Visalia, CA 93277-5348

​When 

Tuesday August 26 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

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Why Haven’t More States Reformed Medicaid to Save Money? A Perverse Federal Relationship


Posted by Paul Blair on Saturday, August 23rd, 2014, 2:33 PM PERMALINK


Twenty-seven states including Washington, D.C. have expanded Medicaid under Obamacare over the past three years. New Hampshire was the most recent state to expand the matching-grant program, which is jointly funded by the federal and state governments. Missing from the debate in many states is how to save the safety net by reforming the program, which consumes nearly a quarter of all state budgets.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that under Obamacare, Medicaid enrollment will increase by 30 percent over the next decade at a cost of $574 billion annually by 2024. While reform at the federal level will take a new Administration and Republican majority in the House and Senate, at the state level, reform can be achieved far sooner. Unfortunately, a perverse incentive exists for states to find budget savings elsewhere (if anywhere), instead of through this program. 

The federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for Medicaid services is the formula used to determine the federal government’s share of a state’s Medicaid costs. The rate ranges from 50% to 73%, meaning that for every dollar spent in a state on Medicaid services for an enrollee, the federal government picks up the tab for between 50-73 cents. FMAP is the formula that makes a legislator’s task of saving money on the state Medicaid program complicated.

Because the federal government picks up part of the Medicaid tab, they also get their cut of any dollar saved. A state like Virginia receives 50% from Uncle Sam. In order to save one million dollars for state coffers, they would have to cut/save two million on the program. Mississippi, which receives a 73.4 percent match would have to find $3.8 million in savings in order to save $1 million in state dollars because the federal government gets their match as a percentage of all savings.

There is a perverse incentive to cut any money from state Medicaid programs. As the Mercatus Center’s “The Economics of Medicaid” concluded, “The financial terms facing a state seeking to cut its Medicaid spending are unfavorable. In most cases, a state reducing its spending will cut other programs that are paid for by funds covered entirely by the state rather than Medicaid.”

Click here to read “The Economics of Medicaid: Assessing the Costs and Consequences.” 

Stay tuned to our website for more components of the Medicaid expansion and reform debate in the coming days and weeks. 

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Alaskans Reaffirm Energy Tax Cut in August Referendum


Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Friday, August 22nd, 2014, 3:03 PM PERMALINK


Earlier this week, Alaska voters rejected liberal attempts to repeal Senate Bill 21, The More Alaska Production Act, which was passed in 2013 by a narrow 11-9 vote and gives a tax cut to oil companies in Alaska. If Senate Bill 21 was repealed, previous egregiously high taxes on Alaskan oil producers would be reinstated, placing strain on the companies and killing jobs for Alaskans. The campaign to keep the tax cut won by only 6,800 of 153,000 votes.  While there are still 14,000 absentee ballots yet to be counted, the margin was wide enough on early Wednesday for supporters of the tax cut to call it a win.

The campaigns for repealing the tax cuts were based mostly on emotion with very little fact: The Vote Yes campaign attacked the oil industry as being untrustworthy and unlikely to keep their promises to Alaskans, and called the tax cut a “giveaway”. Ultimately the facts won, with the Vote No side, supported by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Dem. Senator Mark Begich claims to have an opinion, but offers a weak excuse for his refusal to take a public stance on the issue.)  presenting solid arguments that repealing the More Alaska Production Act would be bad for Alaskans: An over-taxed corporation has to produce less, charge more for their product, and hire fewer people. 

Photo Credit: 
Tori Middelstadt

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Another 2,000 Insurance Policies Cancelled In Colorado


Posted by Greg Campbell on Friday, August 22nd, 2014, 1:48 PM PERMALINK


More than 2,000 more Coloradans had their health insurance plans cancelled as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to a letter from the state regulatory agency to state Senate Republicans.

Following a dust-up earlier this year between Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and the Division of Insurance, Republicans have requested regular updates on policies that are cancelled because they don’t conform to Obamacare or because companies are getting out of the individual insurance market.

Udall disputed the original number of nearly a quarter million cancellations in the immediate wake of Obamacare’s rollout in late 2013, arguing that almost all of those whose plans were canceled were given options for renewing them early.

Emails obtained by the website Complete Colorado showed that Udall’s staff pressured the insurance commission to make that distinction to the point where some staffers felt bullied.

“Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong,” wrote COI director of external affairs Jo Donlin in an email to her colleagues. “They are not wrong. Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people. They want to trash our numbers. I’m holding strong while we get more details. Many have already done early renewals. Regardless, they received cancellation notices.” (RELATED: Sen. Udall Tried To ‘Trash’ Independent Obamacare Cancellation Numbers)

Udall’s critics seized on the exchange as an attempt to cover up Obamacare’s shortcomings. Most vocal is Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who is locked in a neck-and-neck race with Udall.

“Mark Udall has voted with President Obama 99 percent of the time,” Gardner said in a new campaign ad released Thursday in which he address the issue head on. “I just wish that 1 percent [would have] been a vote against Obamacare.”

Gardner goes on to say “Mark Udall lied to the people of Colorado” for saying those who liked their existing plans and doctors can keep them.

Since the ruckus with the insurance commission became public in January, state Senate Republicans have requested regular updates from the insurance commission about continuing cancellations. In March, the commission reported 1,755 cancellations and in June another 2,320. Last week’s total was 2,105.

In all, nearly 340,000 Coloradans received cancellation notices, although not all are because they don’t conform to the ACA; some carriers are leaving the individual insurance market altogether.

The next open enrollment period for Colorado’s state-run health care exchange begins Nov. 15.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Photo Credit: 
Mark Udall

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Farm Workers to Rally Against Forced Unionization Tuesday Aug. 26 at 3:00 PM in Visalia


Posted by Center for Worker Freedom on Friday, August 22nd, 2014, 10:33 AM PERMALINK


Farm workers at Fresno-based Gerawan Farming Inc. do not want to be forced to pay 3 percent of their wages to the United Farm Workers (UFW) union. Last November Gerawan workers held a decertification election, but the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) is refusing to count the votes in a flagrant attempt to help the UFW rob the workers of their hard-earned money. Workers and their families and supporters will hold a protest rally in front of the ALRB regional office in Visalia on Tuesday, Aug. 26 at 3:00 p.m.

 The Center for Worker Freedom has launched a statewide campaign designed to pressure California lawmakers to make the ALRB count the votes at Gerawan. "The ALRB, like its national counterpart, the NLRB, has functioned as a little more than government enforcer for Big Labor,” said CWF Executive Director Matt Patterson. “Does anyone think it is an accident that the ALRB wants to force the union on Gerawan until the election is ‘investigated?’ Or that the Board gives no time-table for when that investigation may be completed?"

 Rally details are below:

 Who

 Fresno farm workers, their families and supporters.

 What

 Protest rally against the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), led by worker Silvia Lopez and organized by the Center for Worker Freedom (CWF).

 Where

 ALRB

Visalia Regional Office
1642 West Walnut Avenue
Visalia, CA 93277-5348

 When 

 Tuesday August 26 from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Photo Credit: 
Tim Evanson

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