Republican Party chairmen from the four early nomination states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — joined forces to condemn the efforts by any state to violate national party rules by moving their nomination contests outside of the existing nomination calendar. (more…)
Kris Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state and an attorney who is a pivotal player in the anti-immigration movement. He personally helped write much of the Alabama immigration law that was signed into law last week by Gov. Robert Bentley, a law recognized by both its proponents and opponents as the strongest immigration enforcement law in the country. The law requires police to verify the legal residence of people pulled over for traffic violations, bans the undocumented from attending public universities and criminalizes landlords who knowingly rent to the undocumented.
Kobach envisions bills similar to Alabama’s spreading across the country, and was profiled in a Politico article Monday saying as much: “It’s likely that Missouri will raise its standard up to the Arizona or Alabama level… and there’s a good shot that something might pass in Pennsylvania. It’s hard to predict too far out in the future, but those are probably the two best bets.”
The headline of the Politico article is “Swing states face immigration fight,” but the author, Reid J. Epstein, offers no corroboration for Kobach’s claims, instead merely quoting national-level opponents and proponents of the “attrition through enforcement” laws already in existence.
Carlos Gomez, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, told TAI that a Missouri version of the immigration law in next year’s legislative session is possible but, “it just depends on the community and how they’re going to react.” He points out that Kobach’s ideas met with strong opposition when they were proposed in Kansas and ultimately failed in this year’s legislative session.
Mike Hethmon, a colleague of Kobach’s at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, mentions Florida and Texas (only one of which is a swing state) as states where “you tend to see fairly high-profile… media efforts but [you] haven’t seen the appearance of a legislator who is both willing to focus on the technical issues and keep pushing the issue through multiple sessions.”
But it’s hard to see how Kobach’s claim that his laws will be spreading to swing states is any more substantial than the unfocused efforts of media-focused politicians that his colleague criticizes.
Health services for low-income women and children in Florida took a big hit this year. Millions of dollars that once went to things like prenatal care and family planning services have been slashed in an effort to reduce state spending. Gov. Rick Scott called a handful of new health care projects “special interest waste.” One of the more controversial special interest projects of this Legislature, its network of crisis pregnancy centers, has not lost a dime in state funding since starting up in 2005. #
Crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs, are mostly religious centers aimed at dissuading women from having an abortion. Some Florida centers were even found to distribute inaccurate information about abortion to women seeking help in the centers. #
A summary report of the Florida Pregnancy Support Services Program for 2009-2010 describes it as “a program [that] provides support services to pregnant women in an effort to encourage them to continue their pregnancies to childbirth, whether that is to parent the child or have an adoption plan.” #
The same document states that “the two million dollar funding amount [for crisis pregnancy centers] has stayed constant since 2005-06. In 2007-08, the Legislature changed the funding from non-recurring General Revenue to recurring General Revenue.” #
While the switch from “non-recurring” to “recurring General Revenue” usually indicates the budget line has become a part of the state budget that does not need to be debated each year, this has not been the case. Democrats opposed to the largely GOP-championed centers have challenged those funding amounts for years. #
Besides pregnancy testing and “counseling,” crisis pregnancy centers do not provide much in the way of health care services. Some crisis pregnancy centers have been found to withhold pertinent health information from women seeking help. Most centers have to refer patients to other state-funded programs such as Healthy Start for actual health services. Healthy Start was among the slew of services that lost a lot of funding during this past legislative session. #
The biggest proponent of state funding for these centers has been state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood. Plakon is a founding board member of a crisis pregnancy center in Winter Park called A Safe Harbor. He vehemently defended funding for the centers during challenges to them two years ago. But as The Florida Independent has previously reported, other lawmakers have ties to crisis pregnancy centers, too. #
State Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, tells the Independent that every year for the past few years there has been a challenge to the funding amount for crisis pregnancy centers. ”Republicans kill [the amendments] every time, though,” he says. #
Florida is among 20 states that fund these centers with state money. Some states, such as Missouri, only provide tax breaks for the centers. In Florida, crisis pregnancy centers also receive funds from the sale of Choose Life, Inc. license plates. #
According to the Florida Department of Health, a total of 54 agencies with 82 sites participate in Florida’s pregnancy support services program. #
The first of five abortion-restricting bills passed by the state Legislature was signed into law yesterday by Gov. Rick Scott. #
House Bill 97 removes coverage for abortions in health care insurance exchanges created by federal health care reform. The law provides exceptions for cases of rape, incest and a threat to the woman’s life. #
There were attempts to add broader protections for women in the bill before it went to a final vote. An amendment was introduced by state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, in the House and an amendment was offered by Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, in the Senate that would provide abortion coverage for women who face a “serious health risk” due to the pregnancy. Both attempts failed. #
Florida is among a long list of other states that have passed a similar law. Each are similar to a failed amendment proposed by former U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. This provision to remove funding for abortions stalled the landmark legislation toward the end of negotiations. The amendment did not pass, but states were given the ability to outlaw abortion coverage if they choose. #
Many states have taken advantage of this provision. Some states have even offered less protection for women than Stupak’s amendment did. For example, neither Louisiana nor Tennessee provide exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the woman’s life. Arizona and Missouri only provide an exception when the woman’s life is threatened. #
Scott is expected to sign another four bills aimed at limiting abortion rights in the state. #
KANSAS CITY, MO. — After a Michigan Messenger investigation, Missouri is no longer requiring HIV-positive individuals to sign a document acknowledging the state’s reckless exposure law in order for those persons to qualify for federally funded medical programs.
“That particular form that’s used in case management will be eliminated,” said Michael Herbert, HIV program director for the Missouri Department of Human and Senior Services. “When [Michigan Messenger] called us it gave us an opportunity to re-evaluate policies and procedures and yeah that is something that is not necessarily required.”
Herbert made the comments following an appearance at a Campaign to End AIDS conference in Kansas City, MO in April.
Michigan Messenger reported in March that advocates were troubled by a spike in prosecutions of HIV-positive persons under the state’s HIV specific criminal law. That law requires disclosure of one’s HIV-positive status prior to sexual contact, needle sharing or other behaviors shown to spread the virus. The law also criminalizes biting and was amended in 1997 to make it easier for state officials to criminally charge HIV positive persons for violating the law if they test positive for another sexually transmitted disease. That amendment allowed the state to become the victim in the prosecution, and the mere positive test result was enough to prove the HIV-positive person had engaged in behavior that “recklessly exposed” another to the virus.
During Messenger’s investigation, it became known that HIV-positive people were required to sign a document acknowledging the state’s law and agreeing to abide by it. The document signature was tied to accessing federally funded Ryan White Medical Case Management programs as well as the AIDS Drug Assistance Program which helps pay for the the expensive anti-retroviral medications that control the virus.
Similar documents came under fire in Michigan after Messenger reported that some of the documents did not correctly explain Michigan’s law. As a result, advocates called on state officials to call for the elimination of the documents, and civil rights advocates called for an investigation. The Michigan Department of Community Health sent a letter to local health departments telling them the documents were neither “endorsed or encouraged” by MDCH policies and procedures. The letter from MDCH noted that the documents could lead to stigmatization and undermine attempts to prevent new infections.
Trish Steen, who serves on several planning councils dealing with HIV in Missouri, said the revocations of the documents was an important step in Missouri’s battle against the virus, as well as stigma and discrimination against those infected.
“It’s really just a wasted piece of paper considering the fact the law binds us regardless,” Steen said. “It really is irrelevant. Why does anyone need to sign a piece of paper acknowledging the disclose laws? We are told about the law from the get go (upon diagnosis). The paper only serves to criminalize us as HIV-positive people and adds to stigma after 30 years of epidemic.”
State legislators in Missouri passed a bill yesterday that further restricts cases in which women can receive late-term abortions. Missouri’s restriction is similar to language in Florida’s state ban on public funding for abortion. Across the country, state legislatures have passed similar measures in efforts to restrict abortion access. #
According to the Associated Press, Missouri’s legislation– which will now be sent to the governor to sign– “would remove a general exception for a woman’s health from an existing law against aborting viable fetuses.” If the the governor signs the bill into law, a late-term abortion will only be allowed “when a woman’s life is endangered” or if the pregnancy poses a “serious risk of a permanent physical impairment.” #
This distinction between a serious health risk and one that is “life threatening” or a “serious risk of a permanent physical impairment” was debated during Florida’s recently-ended legislative session. #
Some Florida legislators tried to add language to a ban on public funding for abortions that would allow an exception for women who face a “serious health risk.” Such attempts failed more than once. State Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Nassau, said during a senate committee debate that that such language was “too broad” and could possibly justify exceptions beyond those stipulated in the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment provides exceptions for cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health. #
According to the Guttmacher Institute, exceptions provided in late-term abortion bans are varied throughout the country. #
Florida, for example, provides exceptions to the state’s late-term abortion ban for women who face a threat to their lives and health risks – an exception not consistent throughout the country. #
From the Guttmacher report: #
According to the Associated Press, Missouri’s law also enacts very steep penalties against any doctor violating these restrictions. Doctors found to be in violation could face fines of “up to $50,000” and lose their medical licenses. Hospitals and surgical centers violating the restrictions could lose their state licenses. #