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Posts tagged ‘Virginia’

White House: Young Are Flocking to Obamacare.


The White House insisted Monday that there had been a “surge” in young Obamacare enrollees, disputing doubts from a Democratic Virginia lawmaker that there wouldn’t be enough millennials signing up “to make this bill work,” reports said.

Retiring Rep. Jim Moran told radio station WAMU in an interview Friday that people under 35 “are less likely to sign up.”

Urgent: Is Obamacare Hurting Your Wallet? Vote in Poll 

“I think they feel more independent,” he said. “I think they feel a little more invulnerable than prior generations. But I don’t think we’re going to get enough young people signing up to make this bill work as it was intended to financially.”

“I just don’t know how we’re going to do it, frankly,” he added. “If we had a solution, I’d be telling the president right now.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney, though acknowledging Obamacare’s “shaky rollout,” brushed aside Moran’s concern, The Hill reported.

Carney asserted instead that there had been “a significant surge in the percentage of young Americans under 35 enrolling.”

“Those numbers are consistent with what we saw in Massachusetts,” Carney said.

“And if you ask the Republicans in Massachusetts who supported and, in one case signed, into law the health insurance reform, which is the closest thing to a model for the president’s Affordable Care Act, they would say that that worked and that there the percentage of young people who enrolled was adequate.”

Harvard economics professor David Cutler, one of the ACA’s architects, has warned that if too few young people are covered, Obamacare won’t be able to offset the costs of insuring older and sicker Americans, sending the new law into a “death spiral.”

The Hill reported that the Department of Health and Human Services said 30 percent of Obamacare enrollees were 34 and under, and announced last week that 3 million individuals had purchased coverage.

The administration originally estimated 7 million consumers would enroll, with 39 percent ages 18-34, The Hill reported.

In Virginia, WAMU reported, more than 40,000 Virginians signed up for Obamacare; only 27 percent of those were young adults.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Cathy Burke

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Virginia Attorney General Won’t Defend Gay Marriage Ban.


 

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring
Virginia will no longer defend its ban on same-sex marriage, the state’s new attorney general, Mark Herring, said Thursday.

Virginia will no longer defend its ban on same-sex marriage, the state’s new attorney general said on Thursday, making it the latest U.S. state to challenge a prohibition on gay marriage.

Attorney General Mark Herring said the southern state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman was part of a long history of opposing landmark Supreme Courtrulings on civil rights.

“This will not be another instance. It is time for the commonwealth to be on the right side of history and the right side of the law,” said Herring, who took office in January along with newly elected Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, after four years of Republican state rule.

Herring told a news conference the same-sex marriage ban violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which provides for equal protection of the laws, and infringed on the rights of families.

Herring’s move underscores the state’s political battles and shifting demographics as Democrats try to cement their hold on the once solidly Republican state, highlighted by the divided reaction to his decision.

Virginia’s legal turnabout is the latest in a series of state-based challenges on the issue. Federal judges recently overturned such bans in Oklahoma and Utah. Indiana is pushing ahead with its own ban.

Herring filed a brief on Thursday in federal court in Norfolk, noting the state’s change of stance in Bostic v. Rainey, a case that challenged Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Herring said the constitutional ban would remain in place and the Norfolk case would go forward, but neither he nor State Registrar of Vital Records Janet Rainey would defend it as constitutional.

The attorney general said his decision was aimed at changing Virginia’s history of opposing landmark civil rights rulings by the Supreme Court. They included those on school desegregation in 1954, interracial marriage in 1967 and allowing women to enter Virginia Military Institute in 1996, he said.

Supreme Court
Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia recognize gay marriage, including eight states where same-sex marriage became legal in 2013. Thirty-three ban gay couples from marrying by state constitutional amendment, statute or both.

Virginia’s reversal follows two major Supreme Court rulings on the issue last year.

One struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. The other paved the way for gay marriage to resume in California. But those rulings did not address whether state bans on same-sex marriage were constitutional.

In 2006, 57 percent of Virginians voted in favor of the constitutional ban. But reflecting the swing in public opinion, a poll released in October by Virginia’s Christopher Newport University showed that 56 percent of likely voters opposed the ban, with 36 percent favoring it.

Mixed reaction to Virginia’s announcement echoed the political division in the state.

Herring’s predecessor, Republican Ken Cuccinelli, was a vocal opponent of gay marriage. While Herring, a Democrat, also opposed gay and lesbian marriage while a state senator, he said his views had changed once he saw how his vote had harmed many people.

Herring’s stance was also applauded by the Human Rights Campaign, which campaigns against discrimination against gays.

But others said Herring was failing to do his job upholding state law.

“Mark Herring’s decision today not only abandons his first duty, it hobbles this vital legal process. It turns what could have been landmark jurisprudence into a political farce,” said Pat Mullins, head of the Republican Party of Virginia. He called on Herring to resign.

In another Virginia case in federal court, two lesbian couples are suing the state in an attempt to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage. They asked a federal judge in October to certify it as a class-action lawsuit.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.


Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Ian Simpson in Washington and Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Scott Malone, Rosalind Russell, Chizu Nomiyama and Gunna Dickson

© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Indicted McDonnell: I Only Did What Obama Did.


Image: Indicted McDonnell: I Only Did What Obama Did

By Lisa Barron

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s lawyers have filed motions challenging the federal indictment against him on charges of wire fraud, bank fraud, extortion and conspiracy.

The Virginia Republican’s legal team argued Tuesday that what he did was no different than President Barack Obama trading official appointments for political gifts, reports Politico.

“The President routinely participates in corporate events which lend credibility to his major benefactors, invites benefactors to events at the White House, allows his photo to be taken with benefactors, and includes benefactors in policy discussions with senior administration officials,” McDonnell lawyers John Brownlee and Henry Asbill wrote in the motion, filed shortly after the indictment.

“Politics is replete with examples of major benefactors receiving more substantial government benefits than anything suggested here,” they added.

The motion also points out that Obama has appointed some top Democratic fundraisers to key ambassadorships and has made appearances at the offices of major donors, including DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

It goes on to argue that previous Virginia governors have done what McDonnell is alleged to have done but never faced criminal charges.

“Governor McDonnell’s predecessors engaged in indistinguishable conduct, further negating any inference that Governor McDonnell acted with corrupt intent. Virginia law does not limit the amount of gifts that a political official can receive and, in fact, it expressly exempts from criminal prosecution the receipt of gifts with a frequency that gives rise to an appearance of misuse of office,” his lawyers wrote.

“It is consequently routine for Virginia politicians to accept large gifts and donations, and the mere acceptance of such gifts cannot support an inference of corrupt intent,” they said.

The Washington Post’s Editorial Board had its own take on that argument, writing in the newspaper Tuesday, “The ‘Virginia way’ needs some urgent updating; Mr. McDonnell himself said as much before he left office by acknowledging the need for ethics reforms.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe, recently sworn in as governor, has also promised to push for tighter laws. But a bipartisan bill drafted in response to Mr. McDonnell’s troubles is full of half measures and anemic reforms.”

The Post editors concluded, “That’s not good enough. For starters, Virginia needs a muscular ethics commission endowed with the resources and legal authority to pursue real investigations. Virginia needs much stricter limits not just on gifts to politicians and their families but also on campaign contributions.”

“If anything good can come from the ignominy of Mr. McDonnell’s governorship, it should be a state ethics regime second to none,” they added.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell, Wife Indicted.


Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife have been indicted on federal corruption charges

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, says McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted Tuesday. The 14-count indictment includes conspiracy, wire fraud, and other charges.

McDonnell left office earlier this month after four years in the governor’s office. Virginia law limits governors to a single term.

A federal investigation overshadowed the final months in office for this once-rising star of the Republican Party, with authorities looking into gifts he and his family received from a political donor.

In July, McDonnell apologized and said he had returned more than $120,000 in loans and other gifts from Johnnie Williams, the CEO of pharmaceutical company Star Scientific.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take Senate.


Image: WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take SenateScott Brown, left, and Ed Gillespie

By Melissa Clyne

In its bid to gain the Senate majority in the midterm elections later this year, the GOP is crafting its strategy straight from the 2012 Democratic playbook, according to The Washington Post.

Republicans are casting a wide net to pick up the six seats needed to secure a majority, putting up viable candidates in a plethora of states where they hope to capitalize on President Barack Obama’s dismal job performance ratings as well as the national furor over Obamacare.

“The key to the Republican strategy is making the next tier of seats [and recruits] as large as possible since a few candidates will flame out, some incumbents will prove tougher to beat than they appear, and the national political environment could shift several times between now and November,” the Post notes.

Republicans need to win six new seats to flip the current Democratic majority of 55-to-45. In the current political climate, they are expected to gain between four and seven seats, according to the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. 

States where the GOP can prevail include Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Virginia, and possibly Minnesota. Five of the vulnerabilities stem from retirement announcements by Democratic senators Max Baucus of Montana, Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and South Dakota’s Tim Johnson.

Midterm elections are historically unkind to the sitting president’s party. Add to that the hysteria over a botched healthcare law rollout and millions of Americans receiving notices of canceled insurance plans and it’s a recipe for an ouster.

According to the Wall Street Journal, five states Obama won in 2012 — Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Virginia, and New Hampshire — are now considered vulnerabilities.

In Virginia, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie should be “a very credible contender who can raise considerable money,” according to the Rothenberg Report, and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown trails New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen by just three points and he hasn’t even announced whether he intends to run.

“I’d be more worried if I were a Democrat than if I was a Republican,” Rothenberg Report editor Stuart Rothenberg told the Journal. “The Republicans’ prospects in the existing targets are improving because of the president’s approval ratings, and they are continuing to put other races on the board.”

By offering voters strong GOP alternatives in a variety of states, even those historically blue, Republicans hope that hijacking the Democrats 2012 strategy proves to be a winner.

“One thing’s for sure,” political columnist Chris Cillizza writes in the Post. “If they make it over the top this November, Senate Republicans should send their Democratic counterparts a nice thank you gift for showing them the way.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Obama’s War on Coal Will Harm Economy, Do Little for Environment.


Image: Obama's War on Coal Will Harm Economy, Do Little for EnvironmentA billboard carries a message for the coal industry near Wheeling, West Virginia.

By Andrea Billups

Coal-mining states like West Virginia and Kentucky are facing huge job losses and many Americans will see a rise in electricity costs due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations that critics call President Obama’s “war on coal.”

Specifics on the stringent new regulations on coal are expected to be finalized sometime next year, and existing coal-fired power plants will likely be shuttered around the country in an effort to appease environmental concerns.

Economist Nicolas Loris, who studies energy, environmental and regulatory policy at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, said the regulations will deliver a blow to the economy and raise costs for consumers, while doing little to improve the environment or reduce carbon emissions.

“It’s going to significantly cripple our economy,” Loris said. “It will reduce household income as people are forced to spend more money on their energy bills. Anyway you shake this it’s a no-win for our economy.”

The proposed regulations would put limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants, limit emissions from new plants, and set rules that would force those plants to use “commercially feasible” clean-energy technologies — standards that West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin described as “impossible” to achieve.

The goal, according to Obama, would be to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and end what the president has described as “limitless dumping of carbon pollution.”

“Sadly, instead of moving our country forward like he once promised, the president has decided to turn the lights off in states like West Virginia,” Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito said in a statement blasting the proposal.

Loris said once the regulations are published, the opposition will likely grow.

“Now that it’s starting to become a reality and the war on coal is really coming, I do think you’ll see more opposition,” Loris told Newsmax.

Kentucky’s two senators and five Republican congressmen last week filed a friend-of-the-court brief to a challenge in the Supreme Court to the EPA’s authority to regulate coal plants.

The brief, filed in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, asserts that the EPA overstepped its authority in its application of a 2007 Supreme Court decision that allowed it to regulate greenhouse gases as hazardous pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

Calling the EPA move a “power grab,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky said, “The president and the EPA have been misusing the 2007 ruling and subsequent regulations on automobiles to overregulate new and existing coal-fired power plants out of business, thus escalating their war on coal and Kentucky jobs.”

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky went further, saying the case was “an egregious example of the EPA’s violation of the law in pursuit of its overzealous, anti-coal agenda. The ability to create laws is the purview of Congress and the EPA has clearly overstepped its authority.

“In doing so, accountability has been thrown out the window and Kentucky families are left with nothing but frustration and the likelihood of even higher energy costs and more job losses.”

The economic impact of a diminishing coal industry in the United States would be significant, Loris said, adding that employment in the industry is projected to fall by 600,000 jobs by 2023.

“The most immediate result of these regulations will all but put a de facto ban on new coal plants being built in this country,” Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) in Washington, told Newsmax.

“It’s interesting that the administration is hell bent on stopping the use of coal here when we have the lowest emission rates when compared with other countries around the world,” she said.

Consumers should expect to pay more for electricity due to the regulations, according to Sheehan.

“With these closures, and new and incredibly stringent regulations proposed, we expect more people will be put out of work, more coal plants will be closed, and it will surely make electricity more expensive and cause great unreliability,” Sheehan said. “People can expect to see higher prices and also rolling brownouts and blackouts.”

The president’s environment base on the left continues to push for stronger regulations, but his crackdown on the coal industry does little to help the world’s pollution problems, Loris said.

“India and China are building so many coal-fired power plants, increasing greenhouse gas at such blistering clips. These regulations aren’t going to do anything and the amount we reduce in global emissions is going to be negligible,” Loris said.

Loris believes a battle is likely to play out in Congress and the states over what he calls EPA’s overreach.

Loris said members of the House Energy Committee have been strongly opposed to the rulemaking, including some Democrats who have joined Republicans to argue that it’s not the EPA’s purview.

“I think there is a bipartisan recognition that these regulations are going to come at a huge cost,” Loris told Newsmax.

The coal industry is already in dire straits. U.S. coal production declined in 2012 to the lowest level in almost two decades, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Appalachia was hit particularly hard with coal production decreasing by 13.1 percent.

States that feel the hardest blows are the ones likely to fight back to protect workers and revenues.

“I think the war will be fought on two fronts. You’re going to see a lot of legal challenges and I think a lot of state attorneys general bringing litigation forward to say it’s not the role of the EPA, questioning the legality of these regulations,” Loris said. “I think you’re also going to see a lot of grassroots movement once these EPA rules are finalized.

“It’s hard to motivate people because it’s a long and drawn out process, hard to mobilize a fight. But now that it’s starting to become a reality and the war on coal is really coming, I do think you’ll see more opposition, not only in places like Kentucky and West Virginia, but the Midwest. There are so many states where coal provides a majority of the electricity.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Obamacare Failures Show Procurement Reforms Still Needed.


Image: Obamacare Failures Show Procurement Reforms Still Needed

By Courtney Coren

The recent failures of HealthCare.gov have highlighted changes that need to be made in how the government executes technology contracts, which many say is outdated and counterproductive.

While President Barack Obama has promised changes, little movement has been made in that direction, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The Standish Group, an independent information technology firm, found that when it comes to large-scale technology contracts that have been made over the last 10 years only 4.6 percent were successful. A majority were “challenged” and 40 percent “failed,” according to a Standish study.

One of the major problems cited by Standish is that the government tends to negotiate single contracts for projects that private companies would break up into pieces. When it comes to smaller projects, the success rate is almost 55 percent.

The procurement process is cited as another major problem by experts, congressmen, technology executives and former government officials. Troubles with that process were on display almost immediately in the problematic rollout of the Obamacare website in October.

The current laws and rules in place are designed to prevent corruption, but they give government officials very little authority over which companies are hired, how projects are executed, and little power to end a failing contract.

According to the Times, companies with large legal teams familiar with the government contracting process also have the upper hand in winning contracts. Smaller firms, even though they are often on the cutting edge of technology innovation, simply don’t have the personnel or the know-how to scale the procurement process.

The White House Budget office says the Administration is working to reform the technology procurement process, although more changes are still needed.

But Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia noted in the Times piece that the budget office offered no support for a bipartisan bill introduced this year that would have put a single person in each agency in charge of technology projects, and make such projects and the money spent on them more transparent.

Connolly told the Times the budget office “takes the position, as it usually does, that we don’t need legislation to address these issues.”

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