Saturday, March 29, 2008

An important message from CORE president Dave Parshall re: the future of CORE

From Dave Parshall, March 29, 2008
CORE Alert
Dear Core Member and Supporters,
At the retreat on the 20th of March, the CORE board of trustees and CORE officers met to consider possible future directions of CORE. Please read the CORE Alert I will send out shortly with the list of suggestions that we came up with. These suggestions were presented and discussed at the CORE members meeting on March 27th. No final decision has been made yet. One overriding fact is that for CORE to continue in any form more people must come forward and take a leadership role. In general, more members need to be found and dues need to be reinstated to give members a feel of ownership and to replenish our treasury. Our membership list needs to be updated. We have six months to make a transition to any possible new direction and leadership. By September of 2008, these changes must be in place and a new election held. I and the other officers and board members will be available to help with any new direction the members select. We will not just leave you in the dark.
Our next meeting is April 17th at the STRS building. Please plan on coming to this meeting and bring any suggestions and questions you may have. This meeting will be one of the most important we have ever held! I look forward to seeing a packed room.
Yours truly,
Dave Parshall,
CORE president
Possible Directions for CORE
[Presented at 3/27/08 CORE meeting for future discussion and action]
Introduction: As the election [campaign] for the active educator seat on the STRS Board comes to a close, it is obvious that many of us are worn out after more than four years of service to CORE. Of the current board members and officers, only Chuck Chapman and Ryan Holderman are willing to continue after our September annual membership meeting. The CORE board and officers met and discussed some possible directions for the future of CORE and its mission.
1. CORE can continue as is. For CORE to continue as is, the following will have to happen. Members will have to step forward to serve as either a member of the board of trustees or as an officer. When Dave Parshall and Chuck Angeletti step down, they will remove their names from the incorporation documents. CORE, Inc. will come to an end unless new persons come forward to place their names on this legal document. Dave Parshall and C.J. Myers will remove their names from the CORE bank accounts and mail box rental form. For CORE to continue as is, someone will have to be willing to put their names on these accounts or open new ones. A person will also have to handle CORE's website. Our domain name is registered until October 2008.
2. CORE could continue as an informal Watch Dog Group. We can develop a list of volunteers to attend STRS Board meetings, and send out via e-mail a summary of the meeting they attended. At least 2 persons need to attend each meeting. Each person would need to attend no more than three meetings a year, but as many as possible would be welcomed. Alerts can be sent out as needed. This can happen even if CORE, Inc. ends.
3. As part of suggestion "2" or as a separate volunteer group, former CORE members can continue to lobby for our health care at the Statehouse.
4. CORE can just fold its tent and go into that good night. According to our constitution, CORE's financial funds would be donated to the Healthcare Stabilization Fund.
5. Possible suggestions from members present [at the 3/27/08 CORE meeting].

Want to see how OPERS treats their retirees??

From John Curry, March 27, 2008
(Click on image to enlarge)
This chart will show the subsidy rates that OPERS will pay toward their retirees' and retirees' spouses healthcare with STRS....THERE IS NO COMPARISON!!!!!
Isn't a year's worth of your teaching worth at least as much as a year's worth of driving a county truck or being a secretary in your friendly local courthouse?

June Hughes: Senior Discounts

From June Hughes, March 29, 2008
Subject: Senior Discounts

[Note: In order to retain the live links, I did not attempt to reformat this item for posting; as a result, some of the text may look small. You can try remedying this by holding down your Ctrl key and moving the wheel on your mouse; sometimes this works. Thanks, June, for this info. KBB]

I frequently email companies to compliment them on a product especially the new items. I get coupons in the mail from good companies like Sara Lee, Healthy Choice and so forth. It's worth a try........June
How to Find Thousands of Senior Discounts

These Web sites specialize in good deals for older adults

I have a friend who loves going to movies, but paid full price for months after his 62nd birthday because he didn’t like to think of himself as a “senior.” Once he realized how much money he could save, he changed his mind.

Looking for Senior Discounts? Start Here

  1. The very best senior discount is FREE, right? Start your senior discount search by checking out the free offers and deals that Lee Seats has found for you in Freebies.
  2. Find shopping, travel, hotel and restaurant discounts, plus links to other offers, from Erin Huffstetler, Guide to Frugal Living.
  3. If you don’t mind telling people that you qualify for senior discounts, can be a good resource for saving on thousands of products and services including airlines, car rentals, travel, sports, recreation, shopping, restaurants, national parks, medical services, pharmacies, museums, and much more.
  4. Senior
  5. Free to Join. 1000's of pictures & video's of Beautiful Senior Singles
  7. Cell Phones for Seniors
  8. Lots of cell phones designed with seniors in mind. Learn more now.
  10. Senior Airlines Sale
  11. Very Cheap Tickets for Senior Fares Save 65% on Next Trip, All Airlines
  13. The Web site also offers a free weekly newsletter that focuses exclusively on senior discounts. When you log on, search by your city, state, and the category you’re interested in. You’ll see a list that includes names and addresses, the amount of the senior discount, and the minimum age requirement.
  14. The down side to is that to access all these senior discounts you have to pay for membership ($7.95 for Gold and $12.95 for Premuim, details available on the Membership page). But Basic membership, which is free, entitles you to search for discounts in your area to decide if it's worth joining. If you can take advantage of the senior discounts they mention, you'll pay for your membership in no time.
  15. Make your own senior discounts. When you contact any company, don’t be afraid to ask about special offers, closeouts, or additional senior discounts that may be available.

Like my friend, once you see how much money you can save by admitting that you are a senior, you might find that you enjoy searching for your own senior discounts.

Tips from Frank Kaiser in times of a downward economic spiral

March 29, 2008
Suddenly Senior
Read the full article
1. Don't believe everything our government tells you. Just two days before the fifth largest US investment bank, Bear Sterns, collapsed requiring a $29 billion guarantee from the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission declared the company sound.
2. Make certain that the federal government insures your savings. And while your broker insists the stock market is the best place for your money, with today's volatility and the knowledge that, on average, the stock market has performed worse than Treasury bonds for the past nine years, you might sleep better getting out of the stock market for now.
3. Make yourself as debt free as possible, especially high-interest credit card debt. And pray.

Friday, March 28, 2008

STRS Policy Amendment Passed -- at last!

From Dennis Leone, March 28, 2008
Subject: STRS Policy Amendment Passed
At the STRS Board meeting on March 27, 2008, I made a motion – which was seconded by Craig Brooks – to change existing board policy. Previous language stated that the executive director had the authority, unilaterally, “to establish all further policies” as long as such was “consistent with a reasonable interpretation of board policies.” The new language now says the executive director has the authority “to establish all operational procedures and administrative regulations” as long as such are “consistent with a reasonable interpretation of board policies.” This passed 8-0. (Puckett and Hayden were absent.) It is not perfect language, but it is much better than it was before. Setting policy is function of the board. Operations are a function of the executive director.
Dennis Leone

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Editorial comment

Some questions following yesterday's STRS Board meeting
Kathie Bracy, March 28, 2008
If you were not present at the March 27 STRS Board meeting, you should have been, if only to hear the heated and lengthy exchange that occurred over Dennis Leone's efforts to remove language from the Board Policy Manual that essentially GAVE THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR THE POWER TO ESTABLISH BOARD POLICY.
The most vocal objections to the language change (see Dennis Leone's comments in the post just above this one, "STRS Policy Amendment Passed -- at last!") came from OEA-affiliated Board members Conni Ramser and Mark Meuser (why am I not surprised?) with executive director Damon Asbury seemingly attempting to "justify" the language as it stood, and seemingly attempting to convince everyone within earshot that the executive director would never attempt to actually establish policy (Oh no? Shades of Herb Dyer and the "Old Board" -- many of whom ended up in court with convictions on ethics violations), as it would violate the spirit of Board policy.
Look closely here. Remember back when Damon was quietly slipping credit cards to Board members behind the backs of Board members Dennis Leone and John Lazares (of course they weren't being offered credit cards!) and Dr. Leone found out about it and made those Board members turn them in? Hey, they thought it was just fine for them to have those credit cards -- ethics be hanged! Seems to me one credit card may even have been a leftover from the "Old Board" days! Sleazy stuff going on behind our backs then. Who's to say it hasn't been going on all along and may STILL be going on? Now why would an executive director be surreptitiously trying to do little favors for some Board members and not others? I sure would like to know.
I personally would like to know exactly WHY two Board members -- Conni Ramser and Mark Meuser -- were so vehemently opposed to changing the language in the Board policy previously (and clearly) stating that the executive director is "authorized to establish all further policies, make all decisions, take all actions, and develop all activities as long as they are consistent with a reasonable interpretation of the Board's policies." Since WHEN does the executive director establish ANY kind of policy? That's not his job -- that's the Board's job!! How else could those words be interpreted? Ms. Ramser and Mr. Meuser -- what were you thinking?!! And why were you thinking it?!?
I would also like to know WHY this Board has repeatedly attempted to sweep under the rug Dr. Leone's motion (basically to clean up irregularities in Board policy), which he originally introduced on October 19, 2007. WHY did this Board repeatedly insist on tabling his motion? Doesn't it say something that it was also listed LAST on a very lengthy agenda for yesterday's Board meeting and not even listed as a separate business item, but conveniently and deeply buried under the very last agenda item, "Old Business"? (Not to mention those responsible for placing it there probably figured most, if not all, CORE members would be leaving before the end of the long meeting and wouldn't be around to witness the fireworks.) What could possibly be going on here that they may not want us to notice?
To refresh your memory, here is the motion, as posted November 16, 2007:
Friday, November 16, 2007
Summary of Dennis Leone's motion tabled by STRS Board 10/19/07; to be reconsidered 11/15/07
Motion by STRS Board Member Dennis Leone that was tabled by the STRS Board on October 19 – to be reconsidered on November 15
1. In the event that retirees are employed at STRS, the executive director will ensure that said new employees begin their employment at STRS with zero days of sick leave.
2. Payment by STRS of private/personal legal fees of STRS employees will not occur.
3. The awarding of severance checks, severance payments, or severance benefits to current or former STRS employees will not occur absent a formal approval by the STRS Board, by majority vote, in public session.
4. Remove, from existing Board policy, the language authorizing the executive director “to act for the Board in all matters related to employment and compensation of personnel,” and substitute language stipulating that the executive director is authorized to act for the board “provided that such actions are consistent with Board-adopted policies.”
5. Remove, from existing Board policy – language stipulating that the executive director is “authorized to established all further policies, make all decisions, take all actions, and develop all activities as long as they are consistent with a reasonable interpretation of the Board’s policies,” and substitute language stating that the executive director “is authorized to implement decisions that are consistent with Board policies.” (This change also is needed because other existing Board policy clearly states that the executive director “may not establish compensation or benefits that are not within Board-approved salary schedules or benefit provisions.” A policy containing the words “all further policies” cannot be allowed to supersede this policy.)

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STRS: March Board News Details Retirement Board Actions and Discussions

From STRS Ohio, March 28, 2008
STRS OHIO INVESTMENT RETURNS CONTINUE TO REFLECT MARKET UNCERTAINTY With eight months of the 2008 fiscal year completed, the preliminary total fund return on STRS Ohio's investment assets is -3.6%, compared to the total fund benchmark return through Feb. 29, 2008, of -4.05%. Factors such as high oil and gas prices, coupled with concerns about inflation increasing, a possible recession and credit market issues, are creating significant amounts of volatility in domestic and international markets. STRS Ohio staff believes that economic activity should pick up in May and June, with good growth anticipated in fiscal 2009, which begins July 1.
2009 At the March 2008 Retirement Board meeting, STRS Ohio Health Care Services staff members reported that they are recommending no changes to health care coverage (e.g., copayments, deductibles, coverage limits, etc.) for STRS Ohio health care plans in 2009. Later this year, the Retirement Board will be presented with staff's recommendations for 2009 plan premiums. Premiums change from year to year to reflect enrollees' use of health care services.
BOARD POLICY CHANGE APPROVED Contained within the State Teachers Retirement Board Policies is a policy that defines the responsibilities delegated to the executive director by the board. This policy notes that the executive director must act according to law and within acceptable boundaries of prudence and ethics. At the March meeting, board members concurred that additional language contained in the current policy needed clarification. As a result, the board approved an amendment that authorizes the executive director to "... establish all necessary operational procedures and administrative regulations, make all decisions, take all actions and develop all activities as long as they are consistent with a reasonable interpretation of the Board's policies." The policy had previously stated that the executive director could establish all further policies (versus all necessary operational procedures and administrative regulations). This was interpreted as conflicting with the board's role.
INTEREST RATE FOR DEFINED CONTRIBUTION ALLOCATION CHOICE SET One of the options STRS Ohio members participating in the Defined Contribution or Combined Plan have for their contribution allocation is the STRS Total Guaranteed Return Choice. Unlike other investment options offered by STRS Ohio, the Total Guaranteed Return Choice provides a guaranteed interest rate on contributions and transfers made in a given year. Members who make this choice at the beginning of the fiscal year must allocate all contributions to it for the entire fiscal year. In exchange for this protection against any possible negative returns, participants must "lock-in" their contributions and transfers made during the year for five years. The interest rate is paid on the contributions and transfers until the end of the five-year term. The annual interest rate for each five-year term is reviewed and reset on an annual basis. For the STRS Total Guaranteed Return Choice 2013, which begins on July 1, 2008, the Retirement Board approved a 5% interest rate.
RETIREMENT, INVESTMENT TRANSACTIONS APPROVED The Retirement Board approved the following retirements and investment transactions:
• 207 active members were approved for service retirement; 129 inactive retirements were approved.
• In February, fixed-income purchases totaled $654 million, domestic equity purchases totaled $905 million and real estate purchases totaled $42 million.
TWO INDIVIDUALS QUALIFY FOR RETIREMENT BOARD ELECTION Two individuals have qualified for the 2008 election for a contributing member seat on the State Teachers Retirement Board: Tim Myers of Elida Local Schools and Dan J. Vincent of the Medina County Educational Service Center. Ballots will be mailed to all eligible voters on April 4; voting ends on May 5 at 4:30 p.m. EDT. VR Election Services will administer the election for STRS Ohio. Voters will be able to cast their vote through the return of a mail ballot or by phone or the Internet. The board of tellers and a representative from the Secretary of State's office will meet to certify the election results on Saturday, May 10. Once the results are certified, the winner will be announced. The term for this seat begins on Sept. 1, 2008, and concludes on Aug. 31, 2012.
JOINT OHIO RETIREMENT SYSTEM PROJECT CONTINUES Since January, Health Care Services has been working with other Ohio retirement systems to collaborate as a purchasing group for administrative services for health care plans. In addition to STRS Ohio, the purchasing group includes School Employees Retirement System (SERS), Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) and Highway Patrol Retirement System (HPRS). Collectively, these four systems have more than 375,000 health care enrollees resulting in more than $1 billion in medical expenditures for 2007. The purchasing group goal is to leverage collective buying power, share project expenses and maximize project value.
In February, the purchasing group issued a request for proposals (RFPs) to select a project consultant. The RFP was sent to 17 consulting firms. Seven consultants notified the purchasing group of their intent to submit a proposal. The group plans to select a consultant by May 2008. Once the consultant is selected, work on the plan administrator RFP will begin. The group plans to recommend selection of the new plan administrator(s) for the self-insured programs by summer 2009.
ORSC PLANS ACTUARIAL AUDIT OF STRS OHIO The Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) is required to periodically perform an independent actuarial audit of each Ohio retirement system pursuant to Section 171.04(E), Revised Code. ORSC has notified STRS Ohio that its actuarial audit will take place this year. The audit will include the pension valuation as of July 1, 2007, the health care valuation as of Jan. 1, 2007, and the four-year experience review presented during the January 2008 Board Planning Retreat.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chuck Chapman’s speech to STRS Board, March 27, 2008

I am Chuck Chapman: Life member of OEA and ORTA, with thirty-two years of teaching service. I am Legislative Chair for Medina County RTA.
I am going to digress from my speech for a moment. As I listened to the reports this morning I began to put my self in that place to see how they would affect me. It seems as though should I die before my wife that I would leave her in an untenable position. The cost of health care would make it almost impossible for her to afford.
The Board-approved plan for making the Child Care Center cost neutral by the 2007-2008 fiscal year was approved at the March 17, 2005 meeting.
I am sorry that I have missed several Board meetings, due to illness. I am not aware of the situation with the Child Care Center. Please tell me that it is either cost neutral or is making a profit for the use of our facility.
Let us remember that all of the abuses and careless spending took place with an OEA-dominated Board. It was not until that balance was changed that corrections were made to put the STRS ship back on course. Let us remember, also, that some of those OEA representatives had to face a judge and receive punishment. We cannot afford to go down that road again.
Soon this spring there will be another STRS Board election for an “active educator” seat on the STRS Board. I would like to go on record requesting all active educators to consider voting for Dr. Dan Vincent to fill the active seat on the Ohio STRS Board. Dr. Vincent is not OEA-endorsed, but I can fairly say to you he will approach his seat with an open and inquisitive mind and won’t be afraid to ask “hardball” questions of the STRS administration without wondering if his question(s) will have been endorsed by the OEA.

Vincent deserves vote for STRS Ohio board

Jim N. Reed's letter to the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, March 25, 2008

CORE meeting March 27, 2008

From CORE, March 14, 2008

CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators) will hold its March meeting on Thursday, March 27th at the STRS Building at 275 East Broad Street in Columbus. Parking is free in the STRS parking garage behind the building. We encourage you to attend the STRS Board meeting which usually begins around 9:00 a.m. on Thursday in the meeting room on the 6th floor.

CORE meeting attendees generally leave the STRS Board meeting around 11:30 a.m. in order to go to the cafeteria on the second floor to get our lunches. We then take our lunches to the small cafeteria room behind the Sublett Room on the second floor of the STRS building where the CORE meeting will begin promptly at 11:45.

In response to suggestions from membership, CORE is calling for input for agenda items for this March 27th meeting. Please send any agenda item you would like discussed to John Curry ( John will forward your suggestions to CORE President, Dave Parshall. In order to have an agenda in place and printed for the meeting, please send your item no later than Tuesday, March 25th. Any agenda items received after March 25th will be held over to the April CORE meeting.

Dan Vincent is the CORE-endorsed candidate for the STRS Board election (active educator seat) replacing John Lazares, whose term ends this summer. We have sent Dan Vincent campaign flyers to many of you. If you need more flyers, they will be available at the meeting.

We will be discussing how the campaign is going throughout our state. We encourage you to attend and bring a friend to join us to become familiar with our organization. CORE needs new faces and new members. We also need new speakers to address the Public Speaks portion of the STRS Board meeting which immediately follows our CORE meeting.

STRS Board meeting March 26-27, 2008

From STRS, March 19, 2008
The State Teachers Retirement Board and Committee meetings currently scheduled at the STRS Ohio offices, 275 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, are as follows:
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
...9:00 a.m. Disability Review Panel and Final Average Salary Committee (Executive Session)
Thursday, March 27, 2008
...8:30 a.m. Ad Hoc Committee for Retreat Review
...9:00 a.m. Retirement Board Meeting
The Ad Hoc Committee for Retreat Review will meet briefly at 8:30 a.m. in the Hearing Room on Thursday, March 27. The Retirement Board meeting will come to order at 9 a.m. and begin with a report from the Investment Department, followed by a report from the Member Benefits Department regarding health care. The Executive Director's Report is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., followed by public participation, routine matters and any other issues that require the Board's attention. Prior to adjournment, the Board will receive a report from Hudepohl and Associates.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

19 states sue drug company for blocking generic Rx competition

Florida, 18 States Sue Abbot Laboratories for Blocking Generic Prescription Competition
Abbot and French drug company face allegations they blocked generic versions of a cholesterol drug.
Thursday March 20th, 2008
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that Florida and 18 states have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories and French drug company Fournier Industrie et Sante and Laboratories Fournier, S.A., charging the companies with blocking a cheaper, generic version of prescription drug TriCor. The drug, which is used to reduce high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, accounted for more than $1 billion of Abbott’s sales last year. The complaint was filed in federal court in Delaware seeks triple the amount of damages incurred by the state’s public health agencies and individual consumers.
“As Florida and our senior population face ever increasing costs of prescription drugs, we cannot permit drug companies to edge out competition and potentially less expensive generic alternatives,” said Attorney General Bill McCollum.
An investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Antitrust Division and other states revealed allegations that the two drug companies allegedly blocked competition from less expensive generics by continuously making minor changes in the formulations of TriCor to prevent therapeutically equivalent generic substitutions. The states charge that the product switches helped thwart generic competition, allowing the companies to charge monopoly prices for TriCor.
"With rising fuel costs, falling housing values and investment markets in turmoil, Floridians 50+ are facing tough economic pressures," said Lori Parham, AARP's Florida state director. "Using generic medications is an important tool in holding down runaway growth in prescription drug costs. AARP applauds Attorney General McCollum's strong stand on behalf of older Floridians."
The lawsuit also alleges the companies used patents, which they obtained by deceiving the Patent and Trademark Office and improperly enforced and brought a series of patent infringement lawsuits against two generic companies. According to the complaint, Abbott and Fournier filed at least ten lawsuits against two generic companies who were attempting to obtain FDA approval for their generic versions of TriCor. Abbott and Fournier eventually lost or dismissed all of the lawsuits. As a result of the product switches and patent litigation, Abbott and Fournier have successfully thwarted generic competition and denied consumers and state agencies the choice of a lower priced therapeutically equivalent generic.

Flashback to March, 2007: Where was ORTA? Quiet -- as always!

From John Curry, March 20, 2008
Subject: *FLASHBACK* One year ago -- March 20, 2007 -- Where was ORTA...another year of silence from an org. that's supposed to represent retirees' best interests!
Things just don't seem to change, do they? There's a big gap between what is right AND what is politically correct, isn't there? The ORTA silence is deafening, isn't it? John
Dennis Leone to Molly Janczyk, March 20, 2007
Subject: Never ORTA Assistance at Board Meetings
Truly, Molly, had ORTA stood up and been counted on so many of the resolutions I presented over the past 19 months, it would have been sooooo helpful. Instead, ORTA sat quiet. It was always only CORE representatives who spoke up to Board members and wrote to them about their unwise decisions.
Where was ORTA to say: You know, Board, you really should review summaries before you vote on big ticket vendor contracts. You know, Board, maybe some of these staff perks should be cut back. You know, Board, it may not be fair to the members if you vote on Damon's contract without it being on the agenda. You know, Board, maybe it's not wise to pay the legal fees of 3 employees when free service is available from the State Attorney General's Staff. You know, Board, it's not a good idea to pay for fax lines, credit cards, and personal long distance phone calls for the homes of Board members. And you know Board, Dennis and John may be right, maybe you should first look at other options before you vote on the Medicare Part B reimbursement issue.
Dennis Leone

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pre-existing conditions....the "gotcha" of the healthcare industry!

From John Curry, March 24, 2008
Subject: Pre-existing conditions....the "gotcha" of the healthcare industry!
Health Care Exclusions Targeted
Courant Staff Writer
Hartford, CT March 21, 2008
As a diabetic, Rita Gould of Killingworth knows all too well the problem posed by "pre-existing conditions" when it comes to health insurance. It cost her a lot of worry and $1,242 a month in premiums.
So it was no surprise that she was among those championing a congressional bill on the matter at a hearing in Hartford Thursday that was co-hosted by the bill's author, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District.
Courtney's bill is meant to reduce the instances in which an insurer can refuse to cover pre-existing conditions — health problems such as asthma, diabetes and cancer that a person had before being insured by that company.
Pre-existing conditions can make it impossible for many people to find or afford insurance. The situation leaves many people uninsured, incurring ruinous medical bills and sometimes postponing or skipping care they should get. The issue is part of the nation's debate over health care reform and has surfaced in the presidential campaign.
"The unnecessarily unfair treatment of individuals suffering from chronic or debilitating conditions by the health insurance industry must end," Courtney said after the hearing. "Over 1 million Connecticut residents suffer from a chronic illness or a debilitating condition, and they need our help," he added.
Gould's problem arose last year when the extension of her retired husband's insurance ran out and she needed a six-month policy to tide her over until she reached 65, when Medicare kicks in. Gould, who was an adjunct professor at Central Connecticut State University, got turned down by various companies, including one endorsed by AARP, and ended up in a statewide pool of last resort, paying the $1,242 a month.
Courtney's bill is aimed at helping people who are moving from one employer's health plan to another or are switching from an employer's health plan to an individual health insurance policy.
"This story has a moral dimension and an economic dimension," said U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat. He was co-chairman of Thursday's "field hearing," which featured six pre-designated witnesses, but did not take testimony from the public.
Andrews and Courtney serve on the House Education and Labor Committee. Andrews is the chairman of the committee's Subcommittee On Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions.
"In a country as powerful and wealthy as this one, where someone who has breast cancer, diabetes or HIV or some other condition, not to get health care coverage because of some arbitrary waiting period is outrageous and needs to be fixed," Andrews said.
The bill (HR2833) would go further than the 1996 federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which put some limits on insurers' restrictions on coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Under the bill, a person changing health plans could be subject to a three-month waiting period under the new plan for coverage of pre-existing health problems, instead of 12 months under current federal law.
Also, an insurer could look back at only 30 days of a person's health record to determine whether there are pre-existing conditions subject to the waiting period, the bill says. Currently a six-month "look-back" is allowed.
Andrews said that about 7.2 million Americans are uninsured because of pre-existing conditions, and the bill could help more than 5 million of them. However, tightening the exclusions of pre-existing conditions will leave insurers with more claims, and they're likely to pass on the added cost by raising premiums.
Contact Diane Levick at

Update on Duane Tron

From the Tron household
March 25, 2008
Dear All:
God is truly good. Duane's heart cath went well today although he is very sore tonight. We were very blessed as the doctor told us that he is experiencing the early stages of hardening of the arteries. No surgery at this time is necessary. We were also told that at this time he does not need stints or angioplasty. What a blessing! The doctor said that we will treat the condition with medication, diet and exercise! Thank you all for your prayers and concerns. It is a blessing that he has spring break this week and will be able to take things slowly to recuperate.
In Christ's Love,
Mary and Duane Tron


Big donors well-known, so why the mystery?

RH Jones to John Curry, March 25, 2008
Subject: Fw: So who is this guy anyway? Would anybody care to help "jog" the memory of their friendly local politician?
John and all:
Charter schools are certainly not a victory for kids. In David Brennan's book, Victory for Kids, Brennan mentioned U.S. Senator George Voinovich -- who was also an Ex Ohio Governor and an Ex Cleveland Mayor. Brennan wrote of George Voinovich in glowing terms.
You may recall the message that I sent out yesterday of the Akron Beacon Journal long story in which the Beacon mentioned Voinoch as a dishonest politican.
I wonder, do birds of a feather flock together?
From John Curry, March 25, 2008
Subject: So who is this guy anyway? Would anybody care to help "jog" the memory of their friendly local politician?

I'm sure that by now most all of you know who David Brennan is ......remember, the guy with the "White Hat" of charter school fame? Well, Ohio Citizen Action did a little investigating of campaign finance statements and found that many of those who received campaign donations (some quite large) from David seem to have developed amnesia when it came time to declare the occupations of their campaign contributors....imagine that! Check out what Ohio Citizen Action found. John
Columbus Dispatch, Sunday, February 17, 2008
One would be hard pressed to find any politico around Capitol Square who doesn't know of David Brennan, the Akron industrialist, philanthropist and Ohio's top charter-school operator. He and his wife gave nearly $200,000 to Republican candidates last year. He wears a conspicuous big white hat and runs a company called White Hat Management. He is chairman of two private holding companies, Brennan Industrial Group and the Brenlin Group, that have helped him earn millions.
He is no longer an active attorney.
But in their 2007 campaign-finance statements, Sen. Keith L. Faber, R-Celina, and Rep. Jim Carmichael, R-Wooster, listed Brennan as a self-employed attorney, while Rep. Mark Wagoner, R-Toledo, listed Brennan's former law firm as his employer.
House candidate Tom Whiston listed Brennan as retired. House candidate Dick Hammersmith left Brennan's employer column blank. Rep. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, called him an "industrialist," which elections officials say is not specific enough.
State law requires that when someone donates $100 or more, the candidate must report that person's proper employer or business. But violating the law has no consequences.
Even for the biggest givers, no part of campaign-finance disclosure is messed up more often than donors' employers, said J. Curtis Mayhew, the Ohio secretary of state's campaign-finance administrator for nine years.
"That's the one where you'll see the most variables from committee to committee," Mayhew said. "There have been times folks have said, 'We didn't report it because they didn't provide it,' even though it's someone everybody knows."
When lawmakers want to increase the campaign-contribution limit, such as in 2005 when it went from $2,500 to $10,000, a common supporting argument is that all money is fully disclosed.
A key part of that disclosure is determining what company a donor is tied to -- not only so the public knows exactly who is bankrolling various campaigns, but also to follow new laws limiting donations from those who get state contracts.
Candidates also can mark "best effort" if they make at least two attempts to learn the donor's identity, one of which must be in writing.
The Dispatch examined all 2007 donations of $1,000 or more to individual campaigns, as a way to limit the sample to contributors who are seriously engaged in the political process or seriously interested in a particular candidate.
Of the 2,139 donations of that size, 16 percent (334) did not list the person's employer. This includes 93 listings of "best effort," 57 instances where nothing was filled in, and several vague entries such as "attorney" or "self-employed."
A common criticism from Mayhew and others is that it's too easy to avoid disclosure. Requiring more proof that a candidate really made a "best effort" or forcing the forfeiture of money if an employer is not determined would put some teeth in the law, he said.
"We do some follow-up, but it's very difficult to nail down," Mayhew said. "All we can do is say, 'Are you sure that's what you want to say?' And most times, they say yes."
More than half of the 2007 "best effort" listings came from House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering. They included John McConnell of Worthington Industries and William Rumpke, president of Rumpke, a Cincinnati waste-management company.
"I was not aware that we had that," Husted said. "That's unacceptable. I take responsibility for it, and we'll go find them and amend the report."
Rep. Armond D. Budish of Beachwood, a top Democratic fundraiser, misfired on the employers of 43 donors, including Morton Weisberg, CEO of the nursing-home operator Multicare Management, and developer Albert Ratner, part of the politically generous Ratner family of Cleveland.
"I don't know why those were blank. I gave that information to my lawyer," Budish said of Weisberg and Ratner. On others, he said, "Unfortunately, when people send in checks, sometimes they don't give us that information."
A day later, Budish said his campaign was filing an amended report to fill in the missing employers.
With the availability of information on the Internet, Catherine Turcer said, there is no excuse for candidates not to report where big donors are employed. The director of the Money in Politics Project for Ohio Citizen Action said the problem lingers because candidates face no real consequences.
"How do you figure out who is affecting policy if you can't figure out who is giving the money?" Turcer said.
How the biggest fundraisers fared
Number of individual contributions over $1,000 where an employer was listed*
Sen. Steve Stivers, R-Columbus: 63 of 63 (100 percent)
Rep. Ted Celeste, D-Grandview Heights: 34 of 34 (100 percent)
Rep. Jay Goyal, D-Mansfield: 34 of 34 (100 percent)
Attorney General Marc Dann (D): 180 of 184 (98 percent)
Rep. William G. Batchelder, R-Medina: 41 of 42 (98 percent)
Rep. Shannon Jones, R-Springboro: 31 of 32 (97 percent)
Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland: 117 of 122 (96 percent)
Auditor Mary Taylor (R): 58 of 61 (95 percent)
John Rabenold, GOP House candidate: 49 of 52 (94 percent)
Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield: 30 of 32 (94 percent)
Rep. Josh Mandel, R-Lyndhurst: 57 of 61 (93.5 percent)
Rep. Matthew J. Dolan, R-Novelty: 83 of 90 (92 percent)
Rep. Tomas Patton, R-Strongsville: 28 of 31 (90 percent)
Gov. Ted Strickland (D): 154 of 179 (86 percent)
Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering: 140 of 203 (69 percent)
Rep. Armond Budish, D-Beachwood: 66 of 109 (60.5 percent)
*Minimum of 30 contributions over $1,000

RH Jones: Advancing Ohio with passage of HB 315

From RH Jones, March 24, 2008
Subject: Advancing Ohio with passage of H.B. 315
To all:
The Canton Repository, as usual, had a wonderful article on March 20, 2008: Ohio: The biggest loser. The article mentioned that with good schools ‘It’s like a good fishing hole. Everyone wants it, he said.’ In other words, Ohio can advance if we look at the progress of those counties that are attracting newcomers. Warren and Media Counties are at the top. Media County has 500 students attending classes in trailers! Good schools are the attraction. And, good teachers, having health care, in their retirement is part of having good schools. That is a “given”.
As in the best fishing holes, in order to spawn growth in Ohio, we need H.B. 315 to pass. It will be part of the boost that keeps and multiplies real jobs in our businesses and factories. For an educated population is the catalyst of business in Ohio. And funneling our scarce tax dollars into the greedy hands of private for-profit schools, and the like, only cuts further into real education that is going on in our public school districts.
Is Ohio open for business? Or do we let those misguided and misinformed groups as those in the OSBA and the OASBO tell our citizens that Ohio cannot afford the modest increase asked of the employers of Ohio’s teachers. Ohio cannot afford not to, if we are to advance.
By the way, the Akron Beacon Journal on Easter Sunday ran an article everyone should read. It is entitled: “It’s time to educate Voinovich” ( written by Dennis Willard. This fine reporter stated: “In your budgets, you limited state treasury dollars going to colleges in return gave boards permission to jack up prices year after year.” And, “The effect of your policies on higher tuition cannot be precisely measured, but Ohio is among the worst states in the nation in the percentage of adults with four-year degrees.” Readers, according to the article, he did no better as mayor of Cleveland as he did as Ohio’s governor.
To all those mathematically challenged individuals who occupy some of our political offices and some prominent positions in business associations: You may have passed Algebra II in high school, but you failed to master the math fundamentals. They are: Good Ohio public schools equal good business.
The above facts were added up by:
RHJones, a retired teacher member of the Ohio STRS

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mandated divestment (AIPAC behind this?) in Colorado

From John Curry, March 23, 2008
Subject: Colorado's PERA "nasty company" list and a forced divestiture move which cost millions of $$ to their public employees
The Colorado legislature mandated divestment (at the strong urging of AIPAC?) and the PERA compiled list of the "nasty companies" can be found by clicking on the link below. I wonder how many millions of dollars that the Colorado public employees lost by doing this divestment? Just as in Ohio, the Colorado divestment didn't apply to the brokerage houses, banks, or private individuals.....just the public pension systems. I call it "forced discriminatory divestment!" I'm sure the Colorado legislators will wrap themselves in the flag and brag to all the Colorado taxpayers about what a fine and patriotic job they did! They won't, however, mention a word about all the millions of dollars that the public pension stakeholders lost in this flag waving experiment with monies that didn't even belong to the State of Colorado but solely to the contributors and recipients of the Colorado PERA. It's easy to spend someone else's money, isn't it?
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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