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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Single Payer Health Insurance legislation introduced in RI - here is why:

The League of Women Voters believes that “ The U.S. Health care system should provide a basic level of quality health care at an affordable cost to all U.S. residents. Basic care includes disease prevention, primary care (including prenatal and reproductive health), acute long-term care, mental health care, as well as health promotion and education.  Health care policy goals should include the equitable distribution of services and delivery of care, advancement of medical research and technology, and a reasonable total national expenditure level.”
 House bill 7285, introduced on January 25, and Senate bill 2237, introduced on February 1,swould institute Single Payer health insurance for Rhode Islanders.  This language from the bill describes why the bill is needed.  You can read the entire bills by going to the Secretary of State’s web page ((http://sos.ri.gov/divisions/open-government), selecting “Legislation”, then Bill Status, and typing in the bill numbers.
CHAPTER 95 6 THE RHODE ISLAND COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM 7 23-95-1. Legislative findings.  (a) The general assembly finds the following:
(1) Rising health care costs are a major economic threat to Rhode Islanders:
  Between 1991 and 2014, health care spending in Rhode Island per person rose by over  250% – rising much faster than income and greatly reducing disposable income; and 
 It is estimated that by 2025, the cost of health insurance for an average family of four  (4) will equal about one-half (1/2) of their annual income; and
In the U.S., about two-thirds (2/3) of personal bankruptcies have been medical cost related and of these, about three-fourths (3/4) of those bankrupted had health insurance; and
 Rhode Island private businesses bear most of the costs of employee health insurance  coverage and spend significant time and money choosing from a confusing array of increasingly  expensive plans which do not provide comprehensive coverage; and
 Rhode Island employees and retirees are losing significant wages and pensions as  they are forced to pay higher amounts of health insurance and health care costs; and
The state and its municipalities face enormous other post employment benefits (OPEB) unfunded liabilities mostly due to health insurance costs.) Although Rhode Island significantly expanded health care coverage for its citizens 24 under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is not enough:  Currently, about forty-seven thousand (47,000) Rhode Islanders remain uninsured, and even fully implemented, the ACA would leave forty-two thousand (42,000) Rhode Islanders - four percent (4%) uninsured and many more underinsured - resulting in many excess deaths; and
Efforts at the federal level to repeal or defund the ACA severely threaten the health 29 and welfare of Rhode Island citizens. The U.S. has hundreds of health insurance providers (i.e., multiple "payers") who  make our health care system unjustifiably expensive and ineffective:  Every industrialized nation in the world, except the United States, offers universal  health care to its citizens under a "single payer" program and enjoys better health outcomes for   about one-half (1/2) the cost;
About one-third (1/3) of every health care dollar spent in the U.S. goes towards  administrative costs (e.g., paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, and profits) rather than on actual  health care.
 The solution is for Rhode Island to institute an improved Medicare-for-all style single  payer program:  Health care is rationed under our current multi-payer system, despite the fact that  Rhode Islanders already pay enough money to have comprehensive and universal health  insurance under a single-payer system; and
 Single payer health care would establish a true "free market" system where doctors  compete for patients rather than health insurance companies dictating which patients are able to  see which doctors and setting reimbursement rates; and
 The high costs of medical care could be lowered significantly if the state could  negotiate on behalf of all its residents for bulk purchasing, as well as gain access to usage and  price information currently kept confidential by private health insurers as "proprietary  information;" and
 In 1962, Canada's successful single payer program began in the province of Saskatchewan (with approximately the same population as Rhode Island) and became a national  program within ten (10) years; and
 Single payer would provide comprehensive coverage that will include vision, hearing  and dental care, mental health and substance abuse services, as well as prescription medications,  medical equipment, supplies, diagnostics and treatments; and
Health care providers will spend significantly less time with administrative work  caused by multiple health insurance company requirements and barriers to care delivery and will  spend significantly less for overhead costs because of streamlined billing.
 Rhode Island must act because there are currently no effective state or federal laws  that can adequately control rising premiums, co-pays, deductibles and medical costs, or prevent  private insurance companies from continuing to limit available providers and coverage.
Legislative purpose.  It is the intent of the general assembly that this act establish a universal, comprehensive,  affordable single-payer health care insurance program that will help control health care costs  which shall be referred to as, "the Rhode Island comprehensive health insurance program" (RICHIP). The program will be paid for by consolidating government and private payments to  multiple insurance carriers into a more economical and efficient improved Medicare-for-all style  single payer program and substituting lower progressive taxes for higher health insurance LC003273 premiums, co-pays, deductibles and costs in excess of caps. This program will save Rhode Islanders from the current overly expensive, inefficient and unsustainable multi-payer health  insurance system that unnecessarily prevents access to medically necessary health care.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Opt-Out Voter Registration Makes it out of the Judiciary Committee!

On May 24, the House Committee on the Judiciary passed H5702 Sub A . This bill allows voters to be registered to vote automatically or to update their addresses automatically when they apply for a driver’s license, unless they opt out.
The League of Women Voters of RI has been lobbying for this action since it was first introduced at the behest of the RI Secretary of State two years ago.
TAKE ACTION TODAY: Call the offices of your state representative and of House Speaker Matiello, to urge a floor vote in the House. Also call your state senator and Erin Prata Lynch, the chair of the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, to urge a positive vote on S770, the matching Senate bill. It has to be voted out of the Senate Judiciary committee with a positive recommendation before it can be heard on the floor of the Senate. All this has to happen quickly before the end of the legislative session, so we all need to act NOW. If you don’t know who your state representative or senator is, you can find out at https://vote.sos.ri.gov/

Monday, March 27, 2017

House 5343

Right to Abortion in Rhode Island

The Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on reproductive rights issues on  Wednesday, March 29, at the rise of the House (around 4:30 p.m.) in the House Lounge.

The most important bill on the agenda is the Reproductive Health Care Act, House Bill 5343, which puts into RI law the right to abortion. There was an article in the latest State Voter about this legislation (Download the issue at the LWVRI website, www.lwvri.org.)

The issue as hand is that there is nothing to guarantee a right to abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned. Momentum is strong for passing the bill this year, but it must be passed in Committee, and then allowed onto the floor of the House for a vote by the full House. Thus, it is important that the Judiciary Committee hear our voices as well as the House leadership—Speaker Mattiello—who has the power to allow or deny all bills to reach the full House.

What you can do:  
  • Come to the State House on Wednesday, March 29, and sign up to testify,
  • Sign in on sheets placed outside the hearing room indicating your position support/oppose and whether you intend to speak or not.  You can also submit written testimony.
  • Or you can just sign up, indicate your support or opposition to a bill, and not speak or submit written testimony.

Planned Parenthood is also holding a Lobby Day session at 3:00 p.m., on March 29, where you will be encouraged to speak to your legislator, and perhaps members of the Judiciary Committee, where the bills are being heard.

     PP will provide quick training including script, etc. and guide people to appropriate legislators

     3:30 p.m.  People can start signing up for testifying.

There will also be other members of the RI Coalition for Reproductive Justice, who can be helpful.

The League supports two of the bills on the Committee agenda:

  • House Bill No. 5343 - by Ajello, et al - Puts into RI law the legal right to an abortion
  • House Bill No. 5830 - by Handy, et al - Repeal the unconstitutional and unenforceable "spousal notification" law.

The League is opposed to:

•     House Bill No. 5100 - by Corvese, et al - would make certain abortion procedures illegal (so-called "dismemberment abortion")

     House Bill No. 5158- by Felella - would prohibit abortion as means of sex-selection.

     House Res. No. 5399 – by McLaughlin - Would recognize a fetus as a human life at the existence of a heartbeat
To view the content of the above bills, go to the RI State website:  http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Legislation/  and insert the bill number under Bill Status.  There is also a place to click for Committee Memberships.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

ACTION You can take

Want to keep up the momentum from the marches?  MoveOn, Indivisible and  the Working Families Party suggest that we all do the following:

Write YOUR congressional representative or senators to tell them what issues you think are most important and what action you want.  Send one card or letter per issue, so staff can make piles supporting each issue.  Better yet, call the representative's office to weigh in on specific bills.  You will probably talk to a courteous staffer who will take down your information.   Congress.gov will tell you what bills have been introduced and also let you find contact numbers for your representatives.  Concentrate on YOUR OWN representative or senators.  Keep the pressure on, as long as it is needed. Talk to your friends and neighbors.  Urge everyone to keep alert!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Who Will Elect the President? The Electoral College System

Many Americans do not realize that the president of the United States is not elected by a popular vote.  As the campaign heats up and we hear more about electoral votes and the race to 270 (half the number of the 538 electors + 1), it's a good idea to review what the electoral college is and how it works. The article below was  adapted from a pamphlet published by the League of Women Voters Education Fund in 1980

Every four years, the Electoral College, a little known feature of our Constitution, enjoys a fleeting movement of fame. About six weeks after the long grind of the presidential election is over, the 538 members of the college meet in their respective states to perform their sole constitutional function: to elect the President and Vice-President of the United States.
But the impact of the college on presidential elections is far greater-and more controversial-than its brief life indicates. For example, many knowledgeable observers of American politics attribute the predominance of two major parties to the winner-take-all feature of the college's state-based system. In all but two states, losing candidates, whether they got two million or two votes, get no electors. (Maine and Nebraska allot two electoral votes to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote; the balance are allocated based on the popular vote by congressional district.) As a result, small parties and less well known candidates seldom have had a chance to affect the outcome of an election directly. The usual effect of so-called "third-force" candidates is to take away votes from one major party candidate in a close race, tipping the results to the other major party candidate. But if a third or fourth candidate does manage to carry at least one state or some electoral votes-and that has happened in four elections since 1900-then he or she may have a huge impact-partly because the House of Representatives gets to choose the President (and the Senate, the Vice-President) if the Electoral College can't produce an absolute majority.
Politicians and pundits disagree as to whether the college favors small states, or whether it gives an indirect advantage to rural areas or to ethnic minority clusters in populous states.They disagree over its value as a preserver of federalism or as an impediment to the principle of one-person, one-vote. All observers agree, however, that every four years the voters of America need to be reminded of the ins and outs of the Electoral College system before they cast their ballot for President.

How It Works

Americans choose their President in a complicated series of steps that have evolved from Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, through various amendments, federal and state laws, political party rules and traditions.
The Constitution authorizes each state to appoint a number of electors equal to the number of representatives plus senators that the state has in Congress. To this total of 435 plus 100, the Twenty-Third Amendment added three for the District of Columbia-the same number of electors as the least populous state-bringing the total of the college to 538 members.
The Constitution is silent on how a state is to choose its electors. In the early years, legislatures adopted several methods: appointment by legislature, election by the people on the statewide basis, or a combination of these methods. But by 1836, almost every state was using a popular vote system.
On election day, when voters in each state go to the polls, each one casts a ballot for the slate of presidential electors who are pledged to support the candidate the voter prefers. These slates have been selected by political parties, through conventions, committees or primaries. When a candidate is not a nominee of a party, the slate is named through a petition filed with the required number of signatures.
In some states, only the names of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates appear on the ballot, masking the fact that voters are choosing electors rather than voting directly for the candidates. In the other states, both candidates and electors are identified.
The winning slate of electors meets in the each state on the Monday following second Wednesday in December, a date set by federal statute. Two ballots are taken, with each elector casting one vote for the President and one for the Vice-President. Electors almost always vote for the candidates to whom they have been pledged. The Constitution, however, does not bind them to do so, and in fact an independent elector is what the Framers had in mind when they first designed the college (see below: Why the Framers Set Up the Electoral College). Since 1789, there have been few so-called "faithless" electors who have not cast their ballots for the candidates they were expected to support. To date, the vote of a faithless elector has never changed the outcome of an election; but concern about the possibility has led more than half of the states to enact laws binding electors. Congress, however, has not acted to restrict electors' freedom to vote as they please; some observers believe Congress does not have the power to do so.
Results of the mid-December vote in each state are sent to Congress to be counted on January 6, in the presence of the newly elected Senate and House of Representatives. If one candidate for the office of President (and one candidate for the office of Vice-President) gets 270 votes-a majority of the total numbers of 538 electors-a President has been elected.
If it is apparent after the November election that no candidate is assured of a majority of electors' votes, the period from the general election to the December vote of the Electoral College may become a time of intense political horse-trading. A candidate who has only a few electoral votes may use those votes as bargaining chips with other candidates in exchange for influence over their policies and appointments. George Wallace's, running for President in 1968, expected to play that role, but when Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, won a clear-cut electoral majority, Wallace's bargaining power was lost.

Election in the House and Senate

The Twelfth Amendment clarifies the procedures for so-called "contingent elections"-those that are thrown into the House and Senate for lack of an Electoral College majority.
The following rules regulate the House's choice of the President:

  • Only the top three vote getters in the electoral college are to be considered.
  • Regardless of its population and number of representatives, each state delegation in the House has only one vote, for a total of 50 votes. The District of Columbia, which sends a nonvoting delegate to the House, has no vote.
  • The state's choice is determine by a vote within its delegation. If that vote is a tie, the state loses its vote.
  • A winning candidate must receive the votes of a majority-26-of states.
  • There is no limit to the number of ballots in the House. If the House fails to choose a President by Inauguration Day, January 20, the Twentieth Amendment requires that the Vice-President-elect, provided that the Senate has chosen one, serves as President until the House makes it choice. The Senate follows these rules in its selection of the Vice-President:
  • The choice is between the top two vice-presidential vote-getters in the Electoral College.
  • Each senator has one vote, for a total of 100 votes (no vote for the District of Columbia).
  • A Vice-President must be elected by a majority-51-of the whole Senate.
If the Senate also fails to elect a Vice-President, the Succession Act of 1948 provides that the Speaker of the House shall act as President until a President is chosen. The law was enacted under authority given to the Congress by the Twentieth Amendment.
Although the procedures for the way the House and Senate vote are set by the Constitution, there are no rules governing how individual members of Congress vote in such contingent elections in the House and Senate. Members are free to vote as they please within their state's delegation. It is conceivable, under these circumstances that the House might select a President of one party and the Senate, a Vice-President of the other.

The Electoral College: Pros and Cons

The Electoral College has been the subject of much discussion over the years. It lacks neither supporters nor critics.
Opponents of the college call it undemocratic. They say it functions in contradiction to the one-person, one-vote principle, by giving each state at least three votes, even though on a straight population basis, some states might be entitled to only one or two. If the choice of President goes to the House of Representatives, where each state has only one vote, the election becomes even further removed from the equality-of-population principle. These critics point out that in a contingent election, the single representative from the least populous state has a vote that carries 54 times more weight than that of a representative from the state of California, the most populous state, with the largest number of representatives. There are seven states with only one representative.
Supporters argue that the principle of one-person, one-vote should not pertain to the Electoral College, just as it does not pertain to the U.S. Senate. They point out that the college was designed to underscore the federal nature of the U.S. government. The college, they argue, recognizes and embodies the delicate balance between the powers of the states and the powers of the central government. Other supporters believe that the apparent bias toward the small states may not be real. Because of the winner-take-all rule, a small margin of victory in California, New York, Illinois or Texas gets a much larger block of electoral votes than could be won by a large popular majorities in any number of small states.
Critics charge that the Electoral College allows a dangerous possibility: the election of a President who has not won in the popular vote. The possibility became fact in the 1888 election. Grover Cleveland received 48.7 percent of the popular vote to Benjamin Harrison's 47.9 percent, but Harrison carried New York state and therefore outpolled Cleveland by 233 to 168 in the Electoral College. In the 1976 election, a switch of 9,245 votes in Ohio and Hawaii would have denied an electoral majority to President Carter despite his 1.5 million-vote plurality. The election of a President who received less than a popular vote plurality is perceived by some critics as a potential constitutional crisis of the first magnitude, an outcome that would not be acceptable to the American people.
On the other hand, supporters of the college assert that it has worked well over the last 53 presidential elections. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is the rallying cry of opponents. Those who think the college has function well and will continue to do so assert that the election of 1888, often used as a horrible example by those who seek change, was a statistical anomaly that is unlikely to occur again.
Over the years, some of those who basically support the Electoral College system, as well as those who think it works badly, have suggested changes in the system by which Americans elect their President. A direct election amendment has been regularly introduced in the Senate.

Why the Framers Set Up the Electoral College

"It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of [the President]. This end will be answered by committing the right of making [the choice] not to any pre-established body, but no men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture. It was equally desirable that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to so complicated an investigation."
Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, No. 68

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Time for Action on Gun Control in Rhode Island is NOW!


In view of the horrific massacre in Orlando, the League asks all Rhode Islanders to contact your legislators today to demand a vote on the bills presented this year that would help to control rampant gun violence.  The LWVRI has testified this year in support of HB 7199 and SB 2835 which would ban high capacity magazines over 10 rounds; on HB 7283 and SB 2730 to keep guns away from domestic violence abusers; and on  HB 7243 and  SB 2761 that would restrict concealed firearms on K-12 School grounds to law enforcement personnel.

Many states including Massachusetts and Connecticut have laws to prevent domestic violence abusers from access to guns. Many States including Massachusetts and Connecticut have banned high capacity magazines. Almost every state including Massachusetts and Connecticut does not allow  concealed carry of firearms on K-12 School property. This is the third year in a row, since the Sandy Hook massacre, that these bills  are being “held for further study” here in Rhode Island.  We urge the Governor, the Speaker and the Senate President to do everything necessary to have these bills voted out of committee.  It is time for the Judiciary Committees to stop hiding behind a pretext of study. In a recent poll, the vast majority of Rhode Islanders said they want a vote.  It is time to respect not only their wishes but their health and safety as well.  We want a vote.

The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island is a member of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence,  an organization that was created by concerned citizens of Rhode Island  in 2013 after the Rhode Island General .Assembly failed to pass common sense gun legislation. With the coalition, we recognize gun violence as a public health issue. Using common sense means and methods, we seek to reduce injuries and deaths from gun violence.

The time to act is now.  Please do your part by contacting your legislators today, before they adjourn without doing anything for another year.

To contact your senator visit this page on the RI government site; for your Assembly person, go here. You can also contact  Senator President Paiva Weed (sen-paivaweed@rilegislature.gov) and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (rep-mattiello@rilegislature.gov).

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March 22 Legislative Hearings: Focus on Gun Safety

This Week’s Hearings: A Busy Time for Gun Safety
On Tuesday, March 22, the House Judiciary Committee will be hearing most of the bills introduced this session related to gun safety.  The LWVRI position on gun safety is based on that of the LWVUS, as follows:

The LWVUS believes that the proliferation of handguns and semiautomatic assault weapons in the US is a major health and safety threat to its citizens.  The League supports strong federal measures to limit the accessibility and regulate theo ownership of these weapons by private citizens.  The Leagues supports regulating firearms for consumer safety.  The League supports licensing procedures for gun ownership by private citizens to include a waiting period for background checks, personal identity verification, gun safety education and annual license renewal.  The license fee should be adequate to bear the cost of education and verification.  The League supports a ban on “Saturday night specials,” enforcement of strict penalties for the improper possession of and crimes committed with handguns and assault weapons, and allocation of resources to better regulate and monitor gun dealers. (Adopted by 1990 LWVUS Convention and amended by 1994 and 1998 Conventions.)

The League will testify in SUPPORT of
House Bill No. 7243  SUPPORT
BY Ajello, Tanzi, Handy, Amore, Almeida
(Provides that only peace officers and persons approved by the school authorities for the purposes of educational instruction officers may carry firearms or other weapons on school grounds.)
House Bill No. 7283 SUPPORT
BY Amore, Lombardi, Ajello, Regunberg, Blazejewski
(Prohibits any person convicted of a misdemeanor offense under §12-29-2 (a crime involving domestic violence) from purchasing, owning, transporting, carrying, or possessing any firearm.)
House Bill No. 7575 SUPPORT
BY Tanzi, Fogarty, Carson, Ruggiero, Maldonado
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO CRIMINAL OFFENSES -- WEAPONS--THE PROTECTRHODE ISLAND FAMILIES ACT {LC4631/1} (Requires the surrender of firearms to law enforcement agencies after conviction of certain domestic violence offenses.)
House Bill No. 7199  SUPPORT
BY Regunberg, Carson, Ajello, Handy, Almeida
(Criminalizes the manufacture, import, possession, purchase, sale or transfer of any ammunition feeding device capable of accepting more than ten (10) rounds.)
House Bill No. 7850  SUPPORT
(Attorney General) by Diaz, Shekarchi, Almeida, Maldonado
(Makes it unlawful to carry a rifle or shotgun in a vehicle or on one's person, visible or concealed, except at one's residence, place of business or land.  This subsection shall not apply to those persons engaged in lawful hunting activity as   provided in chapter 13 of title 20, lawful target shooting within this state or lawfully engaged in any of the activities authorized by §11-47-9.)
House Bill no. 7853  SUPPORT 
Attorney General BY Johnston, Canario
(Provides that no person, entity, or dealer shall sell, loan, transfer or acquire a firearm from any person, entity or dealer with the intent to avoid the application/disclosure process required by
§§11-47-35 or 11-47-35.2.)
Based on our position above, the League will oppose:
House Bill No. 7093  OPPOSE
BY Fellela, Carnevale, Costa, Ucci
(Provides for automatic renewal of a gun permit or license.)
House Bill No. 7541  OPPOSE
BY Ucci, Chippendale, Nardolillo, Price, Corvese
(Allows individuals with concealed carry permits issued by Massachusetts, Connecticut and any other state with a live fire requirement to carry concealed firearms within this state.)
House Bill No. 7680  OPPOSE
BY Nardolillo, Chippendale, Price, Roberts
AMENDMENT PRESERVATION ACT {LC4764/1} (Prohibits the use of state funds, personnel or property in the enforcement of federal firearms laws or regulations.)

The most effective way you can support or oppose these bills is to CALL the office of your legislator and/or the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Cale Keable.
Here are the members of the Judiciary Committee
Representative Edith H. Ajello:   rep-ajello@rilegislature.gov
Representative Joseph S. Almeida:   rep-almeida@rilegislature.gov
Representative Christopher R. Blazejewski:   rep-blazejewski@rilegislature.gov
Representative Dennis M. Canario:   rep-canario@rilegislature.gov
Representative Doreen Marie Costa, Vice Chairperson:   rep-costa@rilegislature.gov
 Representative David A. Coughlin, Jr.:   rep-coughlin@rilegislature.gov
 Representative Robert E. Craven, Sr.:   rep-craven@rilegislature.gov
 Representative John G. Edwards:   rep-edwards@rilegislature.gov
 Representative Blake A. Filippi:   rep-filippi@rilegislature.gov
 Representative Cale P. Keable, Chairperson:   rep-keable@rilegislature.gov
 Representative Carol Hagan McEntee:   rep-mcentee@rilegislature.gov
 Representative Jeremiah T. O'Grady:   rep-ogrady@rilegislature.gov