Archive for April, 2010

Is 2010 a Year for Independents?

April 30, 2010

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

Yesterday Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced he was leaving the GOP to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent as polls continue to show him trailing Marco Rubio badly in the Republican primary. However, those same polls showed that either Rubio or Crist would beat Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek easily in November. But, Crist running as an independent makes a three way race competitive for any of the three candidates.

His move to capture the political center is not the only high profile race in which this is happening. At the state level, both Massachusetts and Rhode Island are seeing strong gubernatorial bids by independent candidates. In both of these cases, the independent candidates are portraying themselves as the candidate who best represents the political middle. In addition, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman toyed with the idea of running for governor as an independent before bowing out in January. In Michigan, former Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz created an exploratory campaign in March to run for governor as an independent.

Massachusetts

Tim Cahill (www.timforgovernor.com), the current Massachusetts State Treasurer, likely dropped his Democratic registration to run as an independent because it would be tough to beat incumbent Democratic Governor Deval Patrick (www.devalpatrick.com) in a Democratic primary. Instead, a three way race between Cahill, Patrick and Republican Charlie Baker (www.charliebaker2010.com) or Christy Mihos (www.christy2010.com) makes this three way race a toss up. Without Cahill in the race, many handicappers believe this is a pick up opportunity for Republicans because of Patrick’s perceived unpopularity. In fact, Republicans still think this is a winnable race as the Republican Governors’ Association (RGA) has created a website (www.thecahillreport.com) to put their spin on the Cahill candidacy.

Rhode Island

Former Republican U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee (www.chafeeforgovernor.com) has also dumped his party label to run for governor as an independent. As in Massachusetts, a three way race makes the general election match-ups very close against Republican John Robitaille (www.robitailleforgovernor.com) and Democrats Patrick Lynch (www.lynch2010.com) or Frank Caprio (www.frankcaprio.com).

Odds of Success

While these candidates are all running as “antidotes” to the two party system, how likely is a victory in a year where most voters have been expressing serious doubt about both parties? While rare, a few independent or third party candidates have won gubernatorial races in the past. In 1990, Lowell Weicker won a three way race in Connecticut after being defeated for re-election to the U.S. Senate as a Republican just two years earlier. In Maine, Angus King was elected in 1994 and Jesse Ventura was elected by Minnesotans in 1998.

However, last year’s gubernatorial race in New Jersey illustrates the more common outcome for an independent run. There, incumbent Governor Jon Corzine was challenged by both the Republican Chris Christie as well as independent Chris Daggett. While Daggett polled close to twenty percent just weeks before the election, he was never perceived as a potential winner in the race and his support evaporated as people decided to choose between the contenders. He ended up with about six percent of the vote.

That is always going to be the challenge for any independent candidate. They need to stay close in the polls to be considered a potential winner to keep raising money. The party candidates can rely on the resources of their party to carry them through to the election. Will Chafee, Cahill and possibly Schwarz be able to do that? We will have to wait for a few more months to find out.

Maximizing the Impact of Testimony

April 9, 2010

One of the first things that I had to do when I first became a lobbyist was help prepare one of our company managers to testify in front of a committee in a state legislature. The task can be especially daunting if the person testifying has never done this before or has been barely exposed to the political process. But like most everything else, over-preparation is the key to success.

First, if you’re going to testify, you obviously need written testimony. This can be a process when everyone involved thinks they are Hemingway. But what is most important is that the person testifying feels comfortable giving it. The key to doing that is to let them speak in their own voice. After completing the initial draft for the manager, I let him take a look at it to give me his thoughts. Having come to understand the issue and lobby on the issue in various states, I thought it was near-perfect. I had touched on all the main points, backed it up with statistics and facts, and came with the requisite “ask” of the committee. But what I failed to remember was that it would’ve been perfect if I was the giving the testimony myself because I naturally wrote it in my own voice. In his review of the draft, he had his edits. And they all reflected his way of not only looking at the particular issue but his way of saying it. He was not a political person and up until this point, had not interacted much with any state legislator. In his own voice, he made the testimony more personal and that is what legislators on the committee responded to. You can have all the arguments and the facts in the world to present your issue but if it is not personal, the legislator is going to keep reading that newspaper while you testify.

Second, if you’re going to testify and maximize the opportunity, it helps to be a so-called “advance man” like they have in any political campaign that scout out locations beforehand for the candidate to see what is needed. Knowing well the location of the committee hearing where you are going to testify is crucial to the comfort level of the person testifying. I had never been at a committee hearing in that particular state legislature before but several weeks before our scheduled hearing when the committee was holding another hearing on the same issue, I thought it would be a good idea for me to see where our manager would be testifying. I invited the manager to accompany me and just by sitting in that hearing and observing, we both learned a lot.

For example, we learned about the size of the committee room, where the Democratic and Republican members sat on the dais, how far apart from the legislators would our manager be sitting when he testified, whether there was an easel to display charts, how crowded the audience would be, and even the noise level and the actual temperature of the room. These might sound like trivial things but they really were not when the goal was to maximize my manager’s comfort level in testifying for the first time in front of twenty-one state legislators at once. And if he already knew the layout of the land beforehand, his prepared testimony and responses to potential questions would more likely be effective.

Lastly, I also learned that the time at which you testify in front of a legislative committee is crucial. On the day that our manager testified, I was able to secure him a spot early in the morning of the hearing when the number of witnesses they had scheduled was expected to make the hearing go until four o’clock in the afternoon. Not only was it important to get my manager back to his facility after his testimony at a reasonable time when he could continue to do the business of our company, it was also important in terms of making his testimony have an impact. You will find when a hearing starts that most, if not all, the legislators are present at the hearing when it first starts but that as a hearing continues especially if it is expected to be a long one, the legislators can start to drift away from the committee hearing room to take care of other business whether it be a meeting with constituents or lobbyists, attend hearings held by other committees they are members of, or making phone calls. Since our manager was one of the first to testify that morning, he had the entire committee as his audience giving the testimony maximum impact. I would not be so sure of this if he had testified instead at three o’clock in the afternoon.

Out of all this preparation for the hearing, our company manager was warmly received by the committee, his personal testimony presented a point of view that had been otherwise ignored, committee members became knowledgeable about the issue and several of them became advocates and supporters of our issue in the legislature. Never underestimate the ways and importance of making anyone comfortable for any type of performance and amazing results happen.

State Reaction to Health Care Reform

April 6, 2010

By Robert A. Holden, Senior Vice President

As the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is implemented, the states are coming to grips with its realities and expressing their concerns. Last month I mentioned that 22 states had proposed constitutional amendments or other legislation that would prohibit an individual mandate to purchase insurance. Since that time, the number of states has grown to 36, with Virginia, Utah and Idaho enacting legislation. Additionally, 16 states have decided to file suit to challenge the constitutionality of the individual mandate under the new federal law. State objections and concerns are not limited to just ideological opposition to the individual mandate. The more imposing challenge for the states, also addressed in the legal challenges, is the massive new requirements on state Medicaid programs. The possibility of large unfunded mandates on top of already stretched budgets has motivated states to address these issues.

14 state Attorneys General (including Florida, Alabama , Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Indiana, and Louisiana) have joined in a suit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to challenge the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, with a 15th, Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, filing a separate lawsuit to do the same. Arizona enacted legislation yesterday to overcome their Attorney General’s refusal to engage in a lawsuit. While it has received more attention, the individual mandate portion of the federal law does not come into effect until 2014. Of more immediate concern to the states are the implementation costs of adding, on average, an additional 25% to the enrollees already receiving Medicaid, in advance of the 2014 deadline.

Under new federal requirements, states will be required to expand their Medicaid eligibility to 133% of the federal poverty limit for currently covered populations, children and their parents, while for the first time establishing eligibility for childless adults. For states that already offer Medicaid benefits at this level, including services to childless adults, there will be relatively few new enrollees. However, 39 states do not currently offer this level of eligibility for Medicaid, and are expecting a considerable increase in enrollees. Based on the potential of covering most of their non-elderly, uninsured population, states like Texas, Utah, and Virginia could see increases of over 50% in their Medicaid enrollees The direct costs to cover reimbursement for new enrollees will be supported by federal matching funds, with the federal share of costs at 100% in 2014, gradually falling to 90% by 2020. Many states are concerned that even a 10% increase in costs will be difficult to sustain under current state budget projections and that administrative costs to accommodate and administer the expanded number of enrollees have not been addressed. Changes in how pharmacy rebates are collected from manufacturers participating in Medicaid are causing concerns for state revenue streams as well. Increases in the rebate percentage will be retained at the federal level, requiring the states to revisit their rebate amounts.

While Medicaid is one aspect of expanding coverage to the uninsured, an additional aspect of this goal under the new law is the establishment of high-risk pool programs to provide insurance access to adults denied coverage due to preexisting conditions. While this program will be phased out in favor of Health Insurance Exchanges by 2014, a high-risk pool is required to be implemented within 90 days. As a result, The Department of Health and Human Services is looking at using existing state high-risk pool plans as foundations to build an expanded federal program. Groups like the National Association of State Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans are lobbying for this policy, pointing out that the federal legislation requires the pools to be set up through non-profit entities and the that the 90 day time frame is too short to create an entirely new entity. Should this occur, the states will have enormous influence on how these programs are managed, even prior to the development of the state exchanges.

States are focused on addressing how they can affect implementation. While the Department of Health and Human Services will fill in many of the blanks left in health care reform, the states will still have a major role in shaping health policy.


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