Duncan Hunter’s Congressional Report Card

Duncan Hunter’s Congressional Report Card

Animal Protection

Protecting Pets, Wild, Farm & Research Animals: F (source: Humane Society Legislative Fund)

Compassion for Animals Index: F (source: Animal Welfare Institute)

Children

Advocating for Kids: F (source: Children’s Defense Fund Action Council)

Civil Rights

Standing up for LGBT Equality: F (source: Human Rights Campaign)

Voting on Civil Rights Issues: F (source: NAACP – the National Association for the Advanced of Colored People)

Conservatism:

Upholding Conservative Positions: A (source: American Conservative Union)

How conservative is Hunter? .72 (source: Gov Track; 1 = most conservative, 0 = most liberal)

Backing the Full Spectrum of Conservatism: D (source: Heritage Action for America)

Defense

National Security & Defense Issues: A+ (source: Center for Security Policy)

Education

Supporting Public Education & Educators: F (source: National Education Association)

Environmental Protections, Fighting Climate change

Meaningful Action to Protect the Environment: F (source: League of Conservation Voters)

Protecting Water, Wildlife & National Park Funding: F (source: National Parks Action Fund)

Committing to Wildlife & Habitat Conservation: F (source: Defenders of Wildlife)

Federal Government

Decreasing Federal Government, Regulations & Taxes: C (source: Club for Growth)

Decreasing Federal Government, Regulations & Taxes: B (source: Americans for Prosperity)

Cutting Taxes: C (source: National Taxpayers Union)

Food Issues

Keeping Food Healthy, Safe & Affordable: F (source: Food Policy Action)

Advocating for Sustainable Production of Food, Fiber, Feed & Fuel: F (National Farmers Union)

Gun Rights

Restoring Gun Rights, Gun Rights as a Freedom Issue: A (source: Gun Owners of America)

Expanding Background Checks: Fail (source: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence)

Accepted Money ($10,000 – $50,000) from Gun Lobby (source: see above)

Healthcare

Hunter’s Position is that Healthcare is not a Right; Only Access to Healthcare,         Regardless if Affordable, Should be Provided (source: March 12, 2017 Town Hall)

Voted for the American Health Care Act of 2017 (source: congress.gov)

Hunger & Poverty

Reducing Hunger, Poverty in the U.S. & Worldwide: F (source: Bread for the World)

Immigration

Acting on Immigration Reform: F (source: National Hispanic Leadership)

Striving to Cap the Number of Immigrants: A (source: Numbers USA)

International Issues:

Supporting the United Nations: D- source: Citizens for Global Solutions)

Championing Global Environment, Global Health: D- (source: same as above)

Stopping International Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons: D- (source: same as above)

Voting for Peace Issues: F (source: Peace Action)

Reproductive Health

Protecting Reproductive Rights: F (source: NARAL Pro Choice America)

Opposing Legal Abortions; Being Pro-Life: A+ (source: National Right to Life)

Separation of Church & State:

Ensuring Separation of Church & State: D (source: Secular Coalition for America)

Representing the Pro-Family, Christian Point of View: B (source: Christian Coalition)

Trump

“We don’t need a policy wonk as president. We need a leader as president…. I’ve liked Trump since the beginning…. I’m in, and I’ve been in,”(source: Hunter interview with Politico’s Nick Gass on 2/24/2016)

Trump’s Firing of FBI Director James Comey

“that is not impeachable, in my opinion. It’s not obstruction of justice…I give Trump the benefit of the doubt here. Totally” (source: 5/17/2017 piece on insider.foxnews.com)

Workplace Issues

Boosting Fairness & Opportunity in the Workplace: F (source: American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees Union)

Strengthening Social Security, Medicare & Workplace Safety: F (source: The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO)

Women’s Issues

Action taken on Women’s Issues: F (source: American Association of University Women)

Backing Women’s Health: F (source: Planned Parenthood)

Note: When available, lifetime scores were used. When not available the score from the most recent year was used.
Some scores were reported as percentages. If so, these percentages were converted to letter grades as follow: A+ = 100%; A = 90 -99%; B = 80 – 89%; C = 70 – 79%; D = 60- 69%; F = 0 – 59%
Three Bills, which have Passed that Support and Bring Aid to Trafficked Children

Three Bills, which have Passed that Support and Bring Aid to Trafficked Children

Three bills, all of which bear impact on trafficked, as well as missing and exploited children were on the House’s voting schedule for this week… and all were voted on yesterday afternoon with each bill passing the House via a voice vote, meaning we cannot check how Rep. Hunter voted. But here are brief summaries of these bills, each of which is now en route to the Senate, which ought to do good for our nation’s children.

H.R. 1808 the “Improving Support for Missing and Exploited Children Act of 2017” aimed to update the Missing Children’s Assistance Act so that it specifically includedchild sex trafficking and sextortion” as one form of child exploitation and was more in line with the, “best practices currently utilized at the state and local levels to recover missing and exploited children” (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr1808/text, https://policy.house.gov/legislative/bills/hr-1808-improving-support-missing-and-exploited-children-act-2017). The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is the primary federal agency impacted by the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, supports the passage of this bill (http://www.missingkids.com/home). The fact sheet from the House Education and the Workforce Committee, one of the Committees that reviewed this bill, is available at: http://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=401643

H.R. 1809, the “Juvenile Justice Reform Act”, due to the complexity of its subject matter – juvenile justice, is rather long and detailed but it puts forth new requirements for evidence based strategies, state plans, the federal government to align with state and local jurisdictions, etc… and allocates more monies – $1.1 billion from 2018-2022, to be exact – “to the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to operate programs to reduce juvenile justice delinquency, assist runaway and homeless youth, and locate missing children. An additional $500 million is authorized to be spent in the years after 2022” (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr1809/summary). There are aspects of this bill that some juvenile justice experts may find disagreement with but it is a bill that has received bi-partisan support. Detailed information and fact sheets on this bill can be found at: https://democrats-edworkforce.house.gov/download/juvenile-justice-re-authorization-fact-sheet-, https://policy.house.gov/legislative/bills/hr-1809-juvenile-justice-reform-act-2017,http://edworkforce.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=401533, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-115hrpt111/pdf/CRPT-115hrpt111.pdf, http://publicleadershipinstitute.org/model-bills/public-safety/juvenile-justice-reform-act/, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-115hrpt111/pdf/CRPT-115hrpt111.pdf). A text of the bill can be viewed at: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr1809/text.

H.R. 2473, “Enforcing Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2017” “directs the Attorney General to provide training to prosecutors on investigating and processing cases with a trauma-informed and victim-centered approach, and encourages state to provide appropriate services to victims of trafficking. The bill also requires reports on the implementation of state safe harbor provisions and on how to improve mandatory restitution procedures for victims of trafficking in federal courts…. The bill also requires the Attorney General to report on these efforts and instructs the National Institute of Justice to develop comprehensive methodologies in analyzing trends of human trafficking in the U.S.” (https://policy.house.gov/legislative/bills/hr-2473-put-trafficking-victims-first-act-amended). The bill itself can be read at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2473/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+2473%22%5D%7D&r=1 and is worth reading.

 

 

One Small Bill that Could Help one Small Child Escape Modern Day Slavery…

One Small Bill that Could Help one Small Child Escape Modern Day Slavery…

Most of us think of slavery as something modernity has eradicated, an unfathomable evil that thankfully is no more – yet the truth is that currently there are more enslaved people than at any other time in history; it is just that slavery looks different from how it did in the past and how we might think of it. Estimates are that there are 27 million people in the world who are enslaved, 13 million of whom are children. Many of these individuals are lured into enslavement through false promises, lies and deception – tales of a better future far away from the individual’s often poorer community or war torn land although some individuals are simply kidnapped and taken away (http://www.alternet.org/story/142171/there_are_more_slaves_today_than_at_any_time_in_human_history; http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/stolen-innocence-human-trafficking-san-diego-county).

Human trafficking (the modern day term for slavery) is the fastest growing sector of organized crime and is the third most profitable, with profits in the billions of dollars, form of organized crime – drugs being first and illegal arms sales being second. While unpaid labor is a common form of enslavement, prostitution is also a large sector of human trafficking – with women and children comprising the majority of those trafficked for prostitution. Estimates show that in the U.S. per year: 17,500 individuals are trafficked into our nation and per the FBI, roughly 100,000 children are sold for sex. The average age for a child first being trafficked is 12 years and children/teens who have run away from home are intensely vulnerable to being trafficked (since LGBT youth make up a significant portion of runaway teens, LGBT youth are at an even higher risk for involvement in forced prostitution) (http://www.sdyouthservices.org/site/DocServer/Trafficking_in_Children_by_Manolo_Guillen.pdf?docID=141; http://www.npr.org/2010/12/06/131757019/youth-radio-trafficked-teen-girls-describe-life-in-the-game; http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/stolen-innocence-human-trafficking-san-diego-county; http://sdgln.com/news/2010/02/09/sex-trafficking-hits-san-diegos-lgbt-youths; https://oig.justice.gov/reports/FBI/a0908/chapter4.htm).

A natural response to hearing this tragedy is to think that this horror occurs in countries or parts of the U.S. that are far removed from us, yet once again the truth tells a very different story. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) listed San Diego as a “High Intensity Child Prostitution Area” and as a gateway to international sex trafficking (http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/stolen-innocence-human-trafficking-san-diego-county; http://sdgln.com/news/2010/02/09/sex-trafficking-hits-san-diegos-lgbt-youths; http://www.sdyouthservices.org/site/DocServer/Trafficking_in_Children_by_Manolo_Guillen.pdf?docID=141).

Another natural response is to wonder what if anything one can do to help and while the need is colossal, one small thing we can do is to express our support for Representative Susan Davis’ bill H.R. 2268, the “Empowering Educators to Prevent Trafficking Act”. Rep. Davis is from San Diego and has introduced this bill, which would allocate grant monies to the Justice Department to give to school districts that, “establish, expand, and support programs— (1) to train school staff to recognize and respond to signs of labor trafficking and sex trafficking; and (2) to provide classroom curricula to students on how to avoid becoming victims of labor trafficking and sex trafficking” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2268/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.+2268%22%5D%7D&r=1). While these educational programs cannot stop the torrent of trafficking, they could and I believe would help save some children – and that is worth every penny and every dollar.

Rep. Davis’ bill actually has bi-partisan support (5 Republicans are original co-sponsors) and is currently in committee, namely the House Education and the Workforce on which Hunter sits….

Dear President Trump, We want to Stay in The Paris Climate Agreement

Dear President Trump, We want to Stay in The Paris Climate Agreement

To say that The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 is an extraordinary feat is quite possibly an understatement. Not only could The Paris Climate Agreement be the path by which our planet escapes the worst ravages of global warming, The Paris Climate Agreement was also agreed upon by 195 countries and has been signed by 145 of those original 195 nations (http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php). Yet as we all know, one of those original countries might be walking away, which would do great damage to The Paris Climate Agreement and thus our planet.

The overarching vision agreed upon at The Paris Climate Conference was that global warming would be curtailed and a climate-neutral way of life would be established by the end of the century (https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris_en). In order to create this climate neutral future, a “bridge” was deemed necessary – to take us from our current policies to those of this climate neutral future, and thus The Paris Climate Agreement was created to be that “bridge” (Source: see above).

A key benchmark that The Paris Climate Agreement anchored itself to is average global temperature – and so it was agreed to keep the rise in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is .5 degrees below the widely agreed upon point of no return, namely 2 degrees Celsius. In order to achieve this vision, each signatory country provided a national climate action plan, which explained how that country would begin to make progress towards reducing their polluting ways. These action plans were regarded as just the beginning with the expectation that nations would “strengthen” their efforts in the years to come – as without ever more reductions in pollution, the 1.5 degree Celsius mark cannot be reached. (Sources for this paragraph: https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris_en, http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php, http://unfccc.int/focus/indc_portal/items/8766.php).

Now why anyone would actually want to walk away from and threaten The Paris Climate Agreement is rather hard to understand… but then again. Trump’s exact rationale for pulling out of The Paris Climate Agreement is rather dubious as well as unclear – it seems that there is no real reason to do so other than he said he would. Businesses, such as the world’s fifth largest grocery chain (Tesco), jeweler Tiffany & Co., Apple and even Wal-Mart have reached out to Mr. Trump urging him to stay in The Paris Climate Agreement (https://www.ft.com/content/536fb55a-374e-11e7-bce4-9023f8c0fd2e, https://www.good.is/articles/tiffanys-trump-paris-climate; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/opinion/the-business-case-for-the-paris-climate-accord.html?_r=0). Scientists, environmentalists have all done the same – and now it is our turn, for it is far wiser to have the U.S.A. stay in The Paris Climate Agreement and be a lackadaisical member than to truly break our agreement.

As Todd Stern, Obama’s special envoy for climate change, explained to John D. Sutter, who referenced the conversation in a piece he wrote for CNN, “Think of the Paris Agreement like a big global party…. [I’d] rather see Trump’s America ‘sitting in the corner sulking’ than leaving the party entirely. Because then … the other countries would start to think, ‘all of a sudden it feels like, well, this isn’t a very interesting party’… And then maybe they cancel the party entirely” (http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/04/politics/sutter-paris-climate-one-sentence/index.html).

Whether other countries would doubt the wisdom of The Paris Climate Agreement if the U.S.A. left is uncertain, but it is utterly clear that without the United States cutting its carbon emission global warming cannot be curtailed, as the U.S. is the world’s second biggest carbon emitter  (https://www.statista.com/statistics/271748/the-largest-emitters-of-co2-in-the-world/).

For a list of Fortune 100 companies that signed on to a letter urging Mr. Trump to stay in The Paris Climate Agreement: https://www.c2es.org/docUploads/business-letter-white-house-paris-agreement-final-04-26-2017.pdf

To listen to more on Trump’s decision regarding the Paris Climate Agreement: http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2017/05/11/trump-paris-climate-accord

Let us Urge Rep. Hunter to Support an Independent Commission

Let us Urge Rep. Hunter to Support an Independent Commission

With the events of this week, with Mr. Trump’s tweets from today, it is impossible to have our action item of the day be focused on anything other than the Russia investigation…. So we are following up on this issue but with a twist.

We have already taken action with regards to a special prosecutor (appointed by the Attorney General) and an independent committee (an Act of Congress is required to establish this), we have also followed up on these issues – specifically with regards to an independent committee. The “Protecting our Democracy” Act, H.R. 356 would establish a non-governmental national committee; committee members would be appointed in a bi-partisan manner, to investigate the Russia interference, collusion issue. Please see the blog post from 4/7/17 or type H.R. 356 into the search field on the blog for a review of this bill, which currently is in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

As of May 11th, 2017 this Bill had 199 co-sponsors, 197 of them being Democrats and 2 being Republicans – but they are not moderate Republicans or ones you might have suspected of joining this cause. In fact, these Republicans are far more aligned with Duncan Hunter than with any of us – so let’s try and use this common ground to encourage Hunter to get behind this bill.

First things first, here is a little background on the two Republicans who are supporting the “Protecting our Democracy Act”.

Mr. Walter Jones, from North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District was the first, and for a long time only Republican supporter of the Bill: Jones co-sponsored the Bill on February 16th (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/356/cosponsors?r=1&q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22protecting+our+democracy+act%22%5D%2C%22party%22%3A%22Republican%22%7D). In 2013, Jones was one of the House members who voted for the government shutdown and this year he voted against the recent Budget extension (https://ballotpedia.org/Walter_Jones). Per Ballotpedia, “according to the conservative website RedState, Jones was one of 16 U.S. House members in the “Conservative Fight Club,” a designation meant to describe the “gold standard for conservatives in the House,” (Source: see above).

And indeed, Representative Jones espouses staunchly conservative positions. Per his website:

“America was built upon Judeo-Christian values, and these values should be protected… I have been a steadfast supporter of traditional marriage, the unborn, and the free exercise of religion” (http://jones.house.gov/issue/values)

“There is no issue more sacred to me than life. If we as a nation cannot protect unborn babies, I fear for the future of our country… please know that I am doing everything in my power to fight to ensure that Planned Parenthood no longer receives a penny of taxpayer money” (http://jones.house.gov/issue/my-work-pro-life-cause).

“Illegal immigration is a serious issue for both the state of North Carolina and our country as a whole.  It is imperative that we secure our borders and not reward those who have broken our laws with amnesty. The anti-illegal immigration group NumbersUSA consistently names me as one of the top supporters of anti-illegal immigration enforcement of all 435 members of Congress” (http://jones.house.gov/issue/illegal-immigration). An additional stance related to immigration is that Rep. Jones is in support of defunding sanctuary cities (https://ballotpedia.org/Walter_Jones).

“The federal government should protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to own firearms…  I have been a consistent voice on behalf of gun owners and have opposed legislation that seeks to chip away at the constitutional rights of Americans” (http://jones.house.gov/issue/second-amendment).

As noted in some of these public statements, deeply conservative groups support Rep. Jones and Rep. Jones supports them (https://rlc.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=4). One of such groups is the Republican Liberty Caucus, which requires members of its caucus to take “The Liberty Compact”, which reads as follows: “I pledge to the citizens of this State, and to the American people, that as their elected representative I will work to: restore liberty, not restrict it; shrink government, not expand it; reduce taxes, not raise them; abolish programs, not create them; promote the freedom and independence of citizens, not the interference of government in their lives; and observe the limited, enumerated powers of our Constitution, not ignore them” (http://rlc.org/frequently-asked-questions).

The second Republican to support the “Protecting our Democracy” Act, Mr. Justin Amash of Michigan’s third District, is also a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus (https://rlc.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=4). Unlike Rep. Jones, Rep. Amash does not have as many publicly available press releases on his conservative positions – but per Ballotpedia, he often votes against Republican bills because they are not conservative enough (https://ballotpedia.org/Justin_Amash). Unlike Rep. Jones or Hunter, Rep. Amash follows more of a libertarian line and unlike Hunter opposed (and seems to still oppose) Trump as President (note: Rep. Jones supported Rand Paul for President) (Source: see above). Rep. Amash is chairman of the House Liberty Caucus, voted No on the recent Budget and Yes on the Health Care bill (Source: see above).

Reps. Jones and Amash clearly know each other as both are members of the House Liberty Caucus and the Republican Liberty Caucus. In addition they have worked together before and have taken a stance in support of looking into Russia allegations, so it is no surprise that the two of them are supporting this Bill (https://amash.house.gov/press-release/amash-and-jones-request-briefing-intelligence-leaks-and-allegations-regarding). A potential bright spot for us is that Reps. Jones and Hunter most likely also know each other and hopefully the elder Jones can have some sway over our Hunter.

Reps. Jones and Hunter both serve on the House Armed Services Committee and both are members of several military focused caucuses. In addition there are five caucuses to which both belong, namely the Immigration Reform, Pro-Life, Textile, House General Aviation and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucuses (https://hunter.house.gov/about-me/caucuses, https://jones.house.gov/about-me/committees-and-caucuses).

So, let us request that Rep. Hunter speak with Rep. Jones about H.R. 356 before deciding against this Bill and let us contact Rep. Jones and ask that he speak with Rep. Hunter, explaining the rationale as to why a conservative Republican would be wise to support an independent commission.

Equality for all, re-introduction of a bill protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination

Equality for all, re-introduction of a bill protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination

There was an important ‘call and response’ that occurred in our Federal Government this week, which intended or not is important to note. Though this is not the exact time-line, here are the ‘call’ and ‘response’. In February a version of Mr. Trump’s executive order on religion was leaked and it showed quite a severe document, ultimately the Executive Order that was signed was a much watered down version – but both the leaked and the actual Oder are the ‘call’; the ‘response’ is the re-introduction of the Equality Act.

For some Mr. Trump’s Presidential Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, signed Thursday (5/4/17), was a victory, for some a small step in the right direction, for others a pointless photo-op and for others a dangerous first step (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/05/05/many-religious-freedom-advocates-are-disappointed-with-trumps-executive-order/?utm_term=.3b1353be8c3c; https://thinkprogress.org/religious-freedom-eo-conservatives-f8a25d8e435a). While creating much a-do the Order does not change any policy but rather reiterates the First Amendment, the Johnson Amendment and encourages the Secretaries of Treasury, Labor as well as Health and Human Services to consider revoking the ACA’s mandate for insurance coverage of contraception (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/05/04/presidential-executive-order-promoting-free-speech-and-religious-liberty).

Unlike this Presidential Order, the Senate and House bills re-introducing the Equality Act would do a great deal. Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon, along with 45 co-sponsors (43 Democrats, including Feinstein & Harris, along with 2 Independents) introduced the bill (S. 1006) into the Senate and Representative David Cicilline from Rhode Island, along with 194 co-sponsors (193 Democrats along with 1 brave Republican – Rep. Ros-Lehtinen from Fl) introduced the bill (H.R. 2282) into the House (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1006?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22S.+1006%22%5D%7D&r=1;https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/2282?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.+2282%22%5D%7D&r=1). Due to having been introduced on May 2nd (this past Tuesday) the text of the bills is not yet available (Source: see above). However, Senator Merkley and Representative Cicilline are the authors of the 2015 bill (note that the 2015 Senate and House bills were the same), which the current bills are said to be re-introducing, thus we will look at the past version, called the Equality Act, to understand the current bills.

In brief the Equality Act would have added Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Jury Selection and Service Act thus enshrining the protections of LGBT individuals (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mara-keisling/the-equality-act-is-the-l_b_7851266.html). Even though most Americans support LGBT rights – the Public Religion Research Institute conducted a poll and found that 70% of Americans supported a bill like the Equality Act (http://www.hrc.org/blog/equality-act-reintroduced-with-unprecedented-corporate-support) and LGB rights, as evidenced by opinions on same sex marriage (I am not including support for same sex marriage as evidence for the support of Trans rights): per Gallup 68% of Americans were in agreement with same sex marriage (http://www.gallup.com/poll/1651/Gay-Lesbian-Rights.aspx), per the Pew Research Center 78% of liberal, 66% of moderate and 29% of conservative Americans were in favor of marriage for all (http://www.pewforum.org/2016/05/12/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/) and even though same sex marriage is the law of the land there is no federal law protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination, meaning that discrimination still exists.

In fact, per the Pew Research Center, 21% of LGBT individuals reported experiencing workplace discrimination in 2013 (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/11/04/as-congress-considers-action-again-21-of-lgbt-adults-say-they-faced-workplace-discrimination/) and a survey by The Human Rights Campaign found that “nearly two-thirds of self-identified LGBTQ Americans report experiencing discrimination” (http://www.hrc.org/blog/equality-act-reintroduced-with-unprecedented-corporate-support). In 31 states, “LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are” (http://www.hrc.org/blog/equality-act-reintroduced-with-unprecedented-corporate-support) meaning that “currently over half of all LGBT Americans live in jurisdictions where they can be denied service, employment or housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity” (http://www.eqca.org/equality-act/). Thus, an Act of Congress to ban discrimination against LGBT individuals is still needed.

The Equality Act of 2015 explicitly prohibited discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation (being Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual) and/or gender identity (being Trans-gender) in the following seven areas: employment, housing (renting or purchasing), public accommodations (think restaurants, shops, all forms of transportation – taxis, buses, trains, planes, etc… -, places of entertainment, etc…), credit (mortgages, credit cards, loans), education, jury service and all federally funded programs. This Act expanded the definition of public accommodations and because this Act was being added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 it would have brought that expanded definition of public accommodations to all groups of individuals protected by the Civil Rights Act. In addition, the Act brought the issue of someone’s sex into the Civil Rights Act, which in theory would lay the groundwork for an incarnation of the Equal Rights Act (aka Women’s Rights) to possibly one day, maybe, who knows, get passed. Because this Act was being added to these already existing Acts (as noted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Jury Selection and Service Act) no new religious exemptions against LGBTQ individuals could be created. Finally, this Act would have made discrimination against someone due to her or his gender identity both a crime of sexual discrimination and gender identity discrimination (Sources for the whole paragraph: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1858/text?r=16; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mara-keisling/the-equality-act-is-the-l_b_7851266.html).

A more concise overview of the bill is provided by The Human Rights Campaign: “The Equality Act creates clear, consistent protections to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment ensuring that LGBTQ employees are hired, fired, and promoted based on their performance. In addition, the bill provides protections from discrimination for LGBTQ people in housing, credit, and jury service. The bill would also prohibit discrimination in public accommodations and federal funding on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity” (http://www.hrc.org/resources/business-coalition-for-equality).

Finally, the business world has shown once again that they have a better read on the pulse of American society than the conservative right and the current Republican Party – 90 or so large businesses stood with the Human Rights Campaign in supporting the re-introduction of the Equality Act on May 5th. These businesses represent every state, nearly every letter of the alphabet (V,Y and Z are not in the mix), a wide range of industries – from Monsanto, to Microsoft, to Air BnB and Gap – and include San Diego’s very own Qualcom. For a list of corporations supporting this bill go to: http://www.hrc.org/resources/business-coalition-for-equality (note this is a list of corporations that supported the bill in 2015, it is easier to read than the 2017 list and to the best of my scanning, all the businesses are the same; but for the sake of accuracy, go to:  http://www.hrc.org/blog/equality-act-reintroduced-with-unprecedented-corporate-support to see the businesses supporting the bill in 2017).

Republican Healthcare Bill Take Two

Republican Healthcare Bill Take Two

The new and improved Republican healthcare bill adds an amendment to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) bill put forward in March, which did not make it to a vote due to insufficient support. If you would like a refresher on what the AHCA entailed, see the post from March 8th or search AHCA.

Due to this amendment, States would be allowed to waive the essential health benefits rules within the ACA (aka Obamacare) one of which requires insurance companies to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions. So this means that if a State so chose, people with pre-existing conditions who do not receive insurance from their employer/spouse’s employer would be at the mercy of the insurance company in terms of having access to insurance and since insurance companies are for profit institutions, either no policies or exceptionally high premium policies would be offered to those with a pre-existing condition (http://www.npr.org/2017/05/01/526436036/president-trump-promotes-revised-version-of-gop-health-care-bill; http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-obamacare-101-preexisting-conditions-20170502-htmlstory.html).

If a State chose to waive the essential health benefits rules then the State would need to provide some type of subsidized high risk insurance program/plan – and this is part of what Speaker Ryan in referencing when he states that there are, “’layers’ of protection for the sick in the bill” (http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/331632-gop-bill-hung-up-on-pre-existing-conditions). However, “the law would impose no adequacy test on these programs. Before Obamacare, many states offered high-risk pools, which were intended to provide subsidized insurance to high-cost patients who insurers would otherwise be unwilling to cover at an affordable price. The problem was, covering these patients is very expensive, and public funding to subsidize the pools routinely proved to be insufficient to cover the number of people who needed such coverage. As a result, pools often featured very high pricing (unaffordable to many would-be participants) and waiting lists to participate. The Republican plan would likely lead to the return of this dysfunction” (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/no-republican-healthcare-bill-does-222356142.html).

Another “layer” that Speaker Ryan is referencing is that the AHCA requires that if someone has a pre-existing condition, is currently on insurance and never has a lapse in coverage then that person cannot be terminated from her/his insurance plan due to her/his pre-existing condition. However if someone has a lapse in insurance then future insurance companies can deny that person coverage or charge that person high rates. Since most people experience lapses in insurance coverage at various times in life – due to job changes, financial stressors, etc… this is not actually a true “layer” of protection.

In addition, states “could get rid of the ban on charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions… House Speaker Paul Ryan said… that this would all give states greater flexibility, that a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all health system doesn’t work for America” (http://www.npr.org/2017/04/27/525918227/new-health-care-bill-needs-moderate-republicans-support-what-do-they-want). What exactly is cookie-cutter about ensuring that all Americans can access affordable insurance regardless of his or her body’s well-being is not exactly clear, but it is indeed a good sound bite and rallying cry. Another privilege insurance companies would receive from this amendment to the AHCA is that they would also be allowed to offer fewer benefits i.e. cover fewer medicines, procedures, etc… (http://www.npr.org/2017/05/01/526436036/president-trump-promotes-revised-version-of-gop-health-care-bill).

A final aspect of the AHCA amendment is that it would get rid of what is called community rating – community rating is the system by which insurance companies determine premium prices using a person’s age and geographical location. Terminating community rating would return the insurance industry to setting premium rates based on an individual’s health – both pre-existing conditions and current health, for example one’s body mass index: “A 2013 report from the provider eHealth Insurance found that people with BMIs in the ‘obese’ category paid 22 percent more, on average, than those in the ‘normal” range’ (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/why-bmi-big-fat-scam) and “an insurance company has started giving customers another reason to slim down by being one of the first in the nation to offer discounts to customers who keep a low body-mass index (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/17385151/ns/health-fitness/t/shrink-your-bmi-your-insurance-bill/#.WQlaKbhtiiA).

But have no fear, for, “President Trump is promising great things from this health care bill. He said it would lower premiums, increase competition and protect people with preexisting conditions beautifully, as he put it” (http://www.npr.org/2017/05/01/526436036/president-trump-promotes-revised-version-of-gop-health-care-bill).