Letter to Editor: Harris Says Nay on Community-Based Healthcare and Spousal Impoverishment Protections

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1st District Representative, Andy Harris, voted against the bi-partisan, healthcare bill H.R. 3253 (5 Republicans and 4 Democrat co-sponsors). This bill — the Empowering Beneficiaries, Ensuring Access, and Strengthening Accountability Act of 2019 — would extend a number of provisions within the Medicaid program that serve to make the program more effective.

This bill would extend the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration (MFP), which helps states rebalance their Medicaid long-term care systems by transitioning people with chronic conditions and disabilities into community-based care, through FY 2024. In addition, this bill would clarify that state Medicaid fraud and abuse control units are authorized to investigate abuse and neglect of Medicaid patients in board and care facilities, as well as patients receiving Medicaid-funded care in non-institutional settings.

Additionally, this bill would extend spousal impoverishment protections for seniors who receive long-term care in their homes or community settings through March 31, 2024.
Finally, this bill would; extend the Community Mental Health Services Demonstration Program thru 2021, fund the Medicaid Improvement Fund, and prohibit drug manufacturers from blending drug prices, a practice which lowers rebates to consumers.

The vote was 371 YEA, and 46 NAY. Harris voted NAY.

For more information on H.R. 3253 go here

Christopher Koch
Easton

Letter to Editor: Should He be Impeached?

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If you strike the king, you must kill him.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1843; also attributed to Niccolo Machiavelli

There can be no doubt that Donald J. Trump is unqualified by character and temperament to be President of the United States. There is little doubt, based on his words and actions in public – at rallies, on television, on twitter and elsewhere – that he has committed offenses that might properly be defined as “high crimes and misdemeanors” – a quaint constitutional phrase that has no precise definition.  The report of the Special Counsel, Robert S. Mueller, has documented these words and actions in excruciatingly painful detail.

Many of his 2016 campaign staff and members of his administration have been indicted and some have been convicted of various felonies, including   perjury, violations of campaign finance laws, receiving and using information stolen from US intelligence agencies by foreign operatives, and meeting with agents of foreign, perhaps hostile, governments. Investigations continue into his personal and corporate finances and it is possible that additional evidence of serious crimes may be disclosed when this financial information becomes available.  Congress should continue vigorously to pursue these investigations.

What shall be done? The Department of Justice has a policy of long-standing, to which Robert Mueller adhered, that a President cannot be indicted or tried for a federal crime. This policy does not have a basis in federal law nor has it been tested in a court, but it remains the policy. It might be tested. But according to this policy the only constitutional remedy for a felonious President is impeachment. The twenty-fifth amendment provides a different remedy for a President who is judged, by his or her own administration, to be incompetent due to physical, mental or emotional disability.

The founders wisely made impeachment an extremely difficult and therefore rarely attempted process. They clearly did not want the President to be removed for “mal-administration” – i.e. disagreement by Congress with his or her governmental policies

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a few months ago that impeachment should be based on overwhelming evidence, irrefutable facts, and bipartisan consensus. I agree with her.  In the current circumstances that would imply a large, bipartisan, majority in the House of Representatives and a necessarily bi-partisan 2/3 majority in the Senate. A partisan vote of impeachment in the House followed by a partisan acquittal in the Senate would not remove the President, it would result in further rancorous division in the country, and it would enable the President and his supporters to claim – without cause – that he had been “vindicated.”  

Twice in our nation’s history the House of Representatives has impeached the President and a trial has been conducted in the Senate. In 1867 President Andrew Johnson was acquitted by one vote, decisively cast by Senator Edmund G. Ross of Kansas who believed that the President should not be removed for purely political disagreement. Ross gained a place in John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage for that vote. In 1998 President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House on a narrowly partisan vote; the vote in the Senate to convict – again, narrowly partisan – failed to attain even a simple majority. In 1974 President Richard Nixon, sensing that there was a bipartisan consensus for his impeachment, resigned from the Presidency rather than face impeachment.  

In the current situation, the bipartisan consensus that impeachment requires may be attained as investigations continue. In the meantime, the majority in the House of Representatives is not helpless. There are several proposals – short of a vote of impeachment – that have been suggested. They should be explored and debated. But in my opinion impeachment by the House of Representatives should await a bipartisan consensus – or be postponed until the people’s vote in November, 2020.

If you strike the king, you must kill him.

John T. Ames
Chestertown

 

Letter to the Editor: Does the Clean Chesapeake Coalition Quack Like a Duck?

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We are all familiar with the old adage “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.”  That is not particularly sage advice when observing the odd duck known as the Clean Chesapeake Coalition (CCC).

The CCC name looks environmental and it quacks a mission statement that sounds environmental, but it looks more like an anti-environmental hog lining up at the Kent County budget trough.  Like a hog, the CCC stirs up a lot of mud and makes a great deal of unintelligible noise, but its real talent is spending our money to lobby against reasonable Watershed Improvement Plans that are designed to protect the Bay.  I do not think the majority of Kent County citizens want that.  The same could be said for the taxpayers of Carroll, Dorchester, Cecil, Queen Anne’s, and Caroline Counties which comprise the remainder of this “Dirty Half Dozen”.

This particular hog is the pet of Commissioner Fithian, who is also the Chair of the CCC.  In past County administrations, the CCC, a pig in  duck’s clothing, had pulled the wool (feathers?) over the eyes of the remaining Commissioners, and was invited to the trough where it rooted up $159,000 in Kent County taxpayer money.  For 2020 they have their snouts out for an additional $17,000.  This is no miniature pig.  The CCC has been at the troughs of 5 additional counties for a grand total of nearly $1,000,000.

There is no way to duck the issue.  An individual (including an elected official) does not need a financial interest in an organization to be in a position where a conflict of interest may arise.  If you are a member of two different organizations, and you are making decisions in one organization that favorably affect a second organization, you have an apparent conflict of interest.  It is generally advised that even the appearance of a conflict of interest be avoided.  Is Commissioner Fithian acting in the best interests of his constituents or of the CCC?  We just don’t know.

With the election of two new Commissioners last fall, one of whom I believe has some agricultural experience, there was some faint hope that the CCC would be recognized for the hog it really is, but alas, this does not appear to be the case, and the Kent County budget, as approved, contains additional CCC funding.  This is even after concerned citizens requested a hearing be held to determine whether CCC has provided any benefits to the County.  No such hearing was held.  Neither did Commissioner Fithian recuse himself from voting on the budget.

But then again, the CCC appears to be a “stealth pig” in the FY2020 Budget.  In previous years, there was a line item for the CCC, but the FY2020 budget has it buried in a line called “Other Conservation of Natural Resources”.  Why?

In the generally transparent briefing given on the budget on June 4, 2019, there was a discussion (slide 17) of increases in the recurring expense category “Allocations”.  This increase totaled about $67,000, but in slide 20, near the bottom was a nearly unreadable line (in the printed version) showing an INCREASE of $8,000 for the CCC.  I suspect that may be on top of the $9,000 they were allocated in FY2019.  In reality, in FY2019 CCC received $17,000, because the Maryland Waterman’s Association turned back $8,000, which was passed along to the CCC.  Do we know a Commissioner that has close ties to both the MWA and CCC?

I know $17,000 is not a significant part of the County’s $50,000,000 budget.  But it is interesting to see the County raising the income tax, while poor-mouthing its way around its embarrassingly low contribution to Kent County Public Schools, as well as declining to provide tax relief for the residents of Chestertown and Rock Hall for County services they are taxed for, but do not receive.  Curiously, the Commissioners find the money to not only continue to feed the CCC hog, but to actually increase its allocation.  In 2018 Wicomico County saw the light and deleted all CCC funding from its $148,000,000 budget as part of cost-cutting measures.

I am old enough to remember Groucho Marx and the quiz show “You Bet Your Life”.  When a contestant said the “secret word” a duck would drop down with a cash prize.  In the Kent County version of the game, called “You Bet Your Tax Dollars”, when the host, Ronnie, says the secret word (I wish the rest of us knew what it was), a feathered pig drops down, and the CCC gets $17,000.

For the record, I do not have school-aged children, nor do I live in Chestertown borough or Rock Hall.

William Herb
Chestertown

Letter to Editor: Our Environment and Federal Legislative Options

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Projections for sea level rise over the next two decades indicate that Rock Hall is the most economically vulnerable in Kent County. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, sea level rise in Rock Hall – known for its waterman heritage and as a relaxing destination for eastern shore tourists — will increase by over 6 inches in the next 15 years. This map shows us that most of Rock Hall Ave up to N. Hawthorne Ave. will be underwater in 2034. This estimate does not include rain from strong storms such as Hurricane Isabel.

Why? The level of heat trapping gases in our atmosphere now (C02 among them, caused by the burning of fossil fuels) are warming our earth, and that is causing severe changes to our climate globally which is affecting us locally. A group of volunteer international scientists making up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change delivered a report which recommends a 50% reduction of greenhouse gases in 12 years to avoid the demise of civilization as we know it. This may sound extreme, but there is a scientific consensus according to NASA: 97% of scientists are convinced, global warming is real, caused by an increase in greenhouse gases, and human activity is causing this increase.

It has gotten to the point where we can already see it happening around us. Data scientists from First Street Foundation and Columbia University have done peer-reviewed housing market research and found coastal properties in Maryland are losing $555.7 million in relative appreciation, a decrease in property value due to shore line erosion.

We are volunteering for Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) because this climate crisis is the biggest challenge facing humanity today. CCL Chestertown and Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible are co-hosting a public panel discussion on June 1, at the Kent County Public Library from 12:30- 2:30 pm in Chestertown. It will focus on proposed Federal legislation and other solutions in order to help Kent County citizens understand what they can do to act on this problem.

For example, there is a bipartisan bill which has been introduced in the House of Representatives called the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act which places an increasing fee at the point of fossil fuel extraction and returns all revenue neutrally back to households. It does not take money from government nor does it give money to government.
This market signal should create an innovative environment to find alternative energy sources. Both Democrat and Republican leaders support this kind of legislation as an immediate way to reduce the carbon emissions that are changing our climate. The bottom line is, we need to tell our members of Congress what we think should be done about this crisis.

The Climate Leadership Council has put out a statement signed by 3,000 US Economists including four former Chairs of the Federal Reserve who support this kind of legislation. One of those economists, Dr. Adalbert Meyer, Associate Professor of Economics and Chair of the Department of Economics at Washington College will be on the panel for our discussion.

Additional local perspectives will be provided by Greg Farley, the Director of Sustainability at Washington College; Nick DiPasquale, the Policy Advisor for Shore Rivers; and Scott Budden, President of Orchard Point Oysters Co. We will also be looking at other proposals such as the Healthy Families and Security Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Van Hollen; and the Clean Energy for America Act, co-sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin. A representative from Congressman Andy Harris’s office will be at the event to listen and learn.

The panel is free and open to the public. We hope you will join us for this robust discussion to develop the political will we need to change the tides of our future.

Hope Clark, Chestertown
Cora Dickson, Rock Hall

Letter to the Editor: Conversations With Charity and Civility

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Dave Wheelan, founder and publisher of The Talbot and Chestertown Spy was criticized this week on social media for publishing a piece by David Montgomery, the contents of which offended many people, including us. Rather than respond to Montgomery directly through The Spy’s comments section, some contributors vilified Dave Wheelan publicly. We find such action highly questionable. Challenging Montgomery is reasonable, in fact appropriate, but castigating the publisher of a sound publication which provides a forum for news and opinions is misguided. Social media provides a welcome opportunity for all of us to express our opinions protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but it is not a substitute for good journalism. We support The Spy publications, the founder and publisher and the exercise of rights to free speech.

Charity and civility go hand in hand. In today’s caustic and fractionated environment when words are weaponized through all forms of media, it’s particularly important for us to be mindful and gracious. In the face of opinions we oppose and even find offensive or hurtful, we can still be charitable. We can also choose not to engage, but if we choose discourse over silence, let us be respectful and civil with a tone that engenders positive feelings, not one driven by fear and antagonism.

Richard Marks and Amy Haines

Letter to the Spy Publisher: A Response from David Montgomery

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Dear David,

I had no idea that you would have such an emotional reaction to my POV on the Colorado shootings, and had I known I would without hesitation have chosen a different topic. But having written it without such knowledge, I stand behind what I wrote, and I have added links to studies supporting my views. Perhaps your feelings have prevented you from reading what I actually wrote, and led you to paraphrase my article in a misleading way. You claim I stated “that one of the murderers, who had been questioning his gender identity at the time of the crime, was the result of our society ‘brainwashing teens into gender dysphoria.’” Only the last 5 words are mine.

If you are implying that I think all teens confused about their gender are potential mass murderers, I am offended more by your lack of respect for my intelligence than anything else. Having expressed my outrage more than once at suggestions that all “white nationalists” are mass murderers, I am not likely to make the same mistake in causality myself.

Do I think that the massive propaganda machine legitimizing the desire to change sex is harmful, and that it added to the impulses that made this boy and girl into killers? Indeed, I do. Capable researchers have published studies that reveal a link between peer and social media pressure and gender dysphoria. That is a matter of fact to be discussed not suppressed.

You clearly disagree with me that great harm is done by teaching that changing one’s physical sex is healthy and therapeutic. That is no reason to prevent me from offering my opinion, which has its own scientific support, any more than you would prevent me from stating my opinion that the scientific basis for claims of imminent climate catastrophe is weak.

Moreover, I never said or thought that the shooters were themselves evil, for their gender confusion or for their murderous intentions. That is not for me to judge.

What I actually wrote is: “The clear evil is in the politicians, “educators,” fashionable psychologists and institutions that are brainwashing teens into gender dysphoria. Teenagers, confused by hormones, immaturity and no doubt family and social pain, are being told that their all too common emotional distress comes from being the wrong sex and that they can solve their problems by changing their dress, bathroom access or biology. It doesn’t work, and creates the even worse problems seen in this event.” By deleting my column, you made it impossible for readers to judge my meaning for themselves.

What I identified as evil are the institutions telling teens that their wishes to have been born with a different biology are healthy and need to be fulfilled. I am convinced that adding the suggestion that “you are the wrong sex” to the sometimes overwhelming stress of puberty and the mismatched timing of hormonal and intellectual development can make life more than a teen can handle. Some choose suicide, many suffer impaired mental health, and in this case two chose mass murder. Perhaps if I had written that rather than the shorter “creates the even worse problems seen in this event” you would have understood me better.

What I find most strange is where you draw the line on what is permissible speech. I’m sorry, this is not even close to “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” In Canada or the Netherlands, I realize, I could be put in jail for “hate speech” for writing this column. That is one reason why I am so thankful to live in the USA.

You say that my words were doing harm. In my opinion, being silent on the tragic consequences of driving our youth into confusion about gender also does immense harm. The question is not what is comfortable but what is true. Though truth may be one, agreement on what is true only comes from listening to statements that cause discomfort. Your and some readers’ attacks on me certainly hurt my feelings, but the reassurance of others that my column was reasonable comforted me.

Your standard seems to be the same “safe space” guarantee that has become notorious on campuses. Perhaps you should add a “trigger warning” to my Points of View. I have become accustomed to prejudice based on my race, gender and age, to insults directed at my religion, and to lies about what I have said and done. I did not and do not expect protection from any of this. Why do we accept the idea that some are so privileged that they should hear nothing but praise?

I am also distressed and puzzled, not for myself but for the readers of the Spy, by your statements about what the Spy supports. Do you mean to say that after suggesting I write about candidate Buttigieg’s appeal to Christianity to support his homosexual lifestyle, you would censor me if I stated my belief that marriage is an institution (or sacrament) ordained by God to unite a man and a woman for life? That is what is said in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and was the universal teaching of Christian churches for almost two thousand years, but it is also termed hate speech in many venues. You should clarify where censorship starts in the Spy.

Unless you do intend to silence all views but your own on these issues and to leave standing the regrettable charge that I am a purveyor of hate speech, I hope you will publish this response to your attacks on me in full.

Respectfully,

David Montgomery

Letter to Editor: Jay Jacobs Got it Right with “War on the Shore” Report Description

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Del. Jay Jacobs did set the record straight with regard to his War on Shore report description. He couldn’t have said it better. Some background is necessary. The Oyster Futures Workgroup was assembled from diverse cultural stakeholders. To which Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) was a participant. The OFG reviewed scientific models and made policy recommendations to the MDDNR with regard to the Choptank River complex. MDDNR accepted those recommendations.

This past legislature session saw CBF sponsoring a bill HB-298 that cut the knees off this groups time consuming hard work and rendered their time-consuming hard work useless. As a member of the Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) CBF sponsored legislation each of the last 3 years that went behind the back of this culturally diverse group. Simply put, CBF felt it can act on its own, because it does not have control this multi stakeholder group created to advise on complex oyster issues.

The oyster mega-sanctuary network was sold to the seafood industry as a cure all. These sanctuaries would act as breeder reactors, naturally producing vast number of larvae that would spill over repopulate the oyster bars throughout the bay. Ten years later we have not seen any hard-scientific evidence of a signal or trigger that this phenomenon ever took place.

If CBF really wants to support Maryland’s oyster harvesting heritage then they should stop engaging in activities that promote the singling out of a culture and class of people for perpetual persecution.

Jim Mullin
Maryland Oystermen’s Association

Letter to Editor: Harris’ Vote Weakens Pre-Existing Condition Protection

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1st District Representative, Andy Harris, voted against H.R. 986, a bill which would have repealed an executive action by President Trump that weakened health insurance requirements designed to protect patients with pre-existing conditions.

Harris has been consistent in his desire to strip pre-existing conditions protection from health insurance policies, a position which can be catastrophic for those citizens with pre-existing health conditions. Harris’ solution, as he has repeatedly voiced in the past, is to place all patients with pre-existing conditions into a high risk pool of insured, thereby allowing them to be charged higher premiums. T

his position fails to understand that insurance works best when the insured pool is large and diverse and all share in the risks of being ill. What senior citizen does NOT or WILL NOT have a pre-existing condition? One republican friend, nearing retirement, told me “Just try hang on until you reach 65 and then Medicare will kick in” That my friends is not a sound health care policy.

Let’s face it, the only group that Harris’ plan protects is the insurance industry.

Harris voted with his republican minority in the House by voting NAY. Fortunately, the bill passed with 230 (228 democrats and 2 republicans) voting YEA and 183 (all republican) voting NAY, mostly along party lines. A Nay vote was a vote to further weaken health insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

What is House Bill H.R. 986?

This bill would repeal an October 2018 guidance issued by the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) related to “State Relief and Empowerment Waivers” under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The guidance loosened restrictions of Section 1332 state innovation waivers, which became available to states in January 2017 under the ACA, by expanding the definition of coverage to include short-term plans and allowing existing state legislation about enforcing Obamacare satisfied the waiver requirement.” www.countable.us

For more information on this Bill go here

Chris Koch
Talbot County 

Letter to Editor: Harris Votes Correctly to Potentially Lower Future Generic Drug Prices

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Voting with the majority, 1st District representative, Andy Harris, voted twice with the entire House of Representatives to advance House Bill H.R. 1520 and H.R 1503. The first Bill passed the House with 420 Yeas and 0 Nays. The second Bill passed with 422 Yeas and 0 Nays.

What is House Bill H.R. 1520?

This bill — the Purple Book Continuity Act of 2019 — would require that the FDA proactively determine the reference product exclusivity for each licensed biological product (or biosimilar) listed in the Purple Book. It also would direct the FDA to solicit public comments regarding the type of information that should be contained in the Purple Book and transmit a report to the Congress within three years after the date of enactment.

This bill would also impose a private-sector mandate requiring biological product manufacturers to provide the FDA with certain patent information when that information is shared with biosimilar product manufacturers.

Finally, this bill would specify that the Purple Book should be published to the FDA’s website and updated regularly.

For more information on this click here.

What is House Bill H.R. 1503?

This bill — the Orange Book Transparency Act of 2019 —  would increase access to lower-cost generic drugs and bolster competition within the generic drug marketplace to help reduce drug costs by ensuring that patents listed in the Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations Publication (aka the Orange Book) are valid and relevant to the approved product. It’d also strengthen requirements surrounding the removal of invalidated patents from the Orange Book.

Specifically, this bill would:

  • Clarify the types of patents listed in the Orange Book (and require the removal of invalidated patents);
  • Require a list of applicable exclusivities for listed drugs;

  • Create a private-sector mandate requiring drug manufacturers to promptly submit a patent withdrawal or removal to the FDA for patents found invalid by the Patent Trial and Appeals Board or another court; and

  • Empower the FDA to: 1) add additional patents to the Orange Book if necessary, 2) promptly remove patents from the Orange Book which are found to be invalid, and 3) reconsider the types of patents listed in the Orange Book within one year of enactment.

For more information click here.

Christopher A. Koch
Easton

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