Archive for April, 2008

Donnelly: “Healthcare a Human Right”

April 30, 2008

(The following article was published in Michigan City’s News Dispatch)

Since opening its doors in February, the new federally qualified HealthLinc clinic, 710 Franklin St., has put some 700 people on its active patient list, also logging some 800 patient visits.

On Monday, with a flock of dignitaries on hand, Beth Wrobel, HealthLinc chief executive officer, presided over a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the beginning of Cover the Uninsured Week.

Mayor Chuck Oberlie’s proclamation stated the problem: “839,704 Hoosiers or 13.7 percent of the state’s population do not have health insurance coverage.”

What’s more, he said, in 2006, between 3,000 and 4,000 children and between 11,000 and 13,000 adults in La Porte County had no insurance.

Lacking health insurance can mean minor illnesses turn into major ones because care is delayed. In addition, one serious ailment or accident can “wipe out a family’s bank account.”

Moreover, he said, “uninsured people live with sickness and die younger than those who are covered.”

Mary Hill, Indiana’s deputy health commissioner, quoted Martin Luther King in her presentation: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, said, “Basic health care is a basic human right.”

He said health care “changes lives. You are helping to change lives today. One-half of bankruptcies develop from medical bills.”

Donnelly has more federally qualified clinics in his district than any other Indiana congressman, Wrobel said.

Dr. Mark Jacobi, a pediatrician with Health-Partners Medical Group, holds a degree in public health as well as his medical degree. He has spent years as an advocate for children and families. He had just returned from Washington, D.C., where he regularly lobbies for health care for families and children.

“I am very interested in the delivery of health care for children,” he said after the Monday ceremony. “It is an exceptionally important matter.”

The clinic represents one way to provide health care to children, he said, but other delivery systems exist, including universal health care.

Dr. James Callaghan, St. Anthony Memorial president and chief executive officer, noted the new clinic “grew out of the Open Door,” Michigan City’s non-profit clinic for the poor.

The Open Door will continue as a fundraising organization for those who cannot pay the minimum fee at HealthLinc and those who need assistance with prescriptions.

Gene Diamond, regional CEO of the Northern Indiana region for the Sisters of St. Francis Health Services, which owns St. Anthony and other hospitals, said HealthLinc is an example of a public entity (the federal government) and a private entity (Open Door Health Care) getting together to serve the poor.

“What happened today is an example of people getting together to serve the truly needy,” he said.

St. Anthony has provided laboratory and imaging testing for Open Door patients, as well as in-patient services, when necessary.

Under the new system, the hospital still will not be reimbursed for services for the uninsured, said Marc Espar, HealthLinc site director.

Fees will be based on federal poverty guidelines, with the minimum fee coming in at $15.

Callaghan and Diamond know desperately poor families and individuals might have trouble paying even $15. Espar said local entities have been helpful in covering some of those fees.

HealthLinc is staffed full time by Dr. John Kelly, an internist, as well as by one full-time and two part-time nurse practitioners.

Espar said he is convinced the hospital will benefit in the long run because the clinic is committed to preventive health care.

“We hope to keep patients out of the hospital’s emergency department,” he said.

Puckett Gives Away Free Gas

April 29, 2008

4-28-08 Media Advisory: Puckett for Congress/St. Joe County Republican Gas Giveaway

–To ease the burden of the “Donnelly/Pelosi Gas Premium” for St. Joe County Residents, as well as to lay out Puckett’s Common Sense Solutions Plan to lower the price at the pump TODAY—

WHO: Luke Puckett and the St. Joe County Republicans

WHAT: Luke Puckett/St. Joe County Republican Party Gas Give-away. The first 50 people to arrive will receive 5 free gallons of gas courtesy of the Puckett for Congress campaign and the St. Joe County Republican Party. Luke will also be revealing his common sense solutions plan for IMMDEDIATE & LONG TERM lowering prices at the pump. The Puckett for Congress campaign will be holding similar gas giveaways at various gas stations located throughout the 2nd district this week.

WHERE: Marathon Station, 111 East Ireland Road, South Bend.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 29th, 3:00 pm.

WHY: To ease the burden of the “Donnelly/Pelosi Premium” that St. Joe County Residents have been paying at the pump since Donnelly and the Democrats seized power, as well as to inform local residents of Luke’s plan to lower the prices at the pump TODAY.

Luke Puckett television ad

April 26, 2008

Immigration reform requires bold, creative thinking

April 24, 2008

(Article published Apr 24, 2008 in the South Bend Tribune)

Immigration reform requires bold, creative thinking

KARL HARDY

The advent of the presidential primary season has been the occasion for the question of immigration reform to recede, somewhat, from national prominence. Commentators noted how even during the later GOP debates the issue was only briefly discussed, if mentioned at all. In Indiana, attempts to pass immigration-related legislation have failed, collapsing as backers sought to distance themselves from embarrassing racially-charged comments made in support of Senate Bill 335.

Concerns over immigration-related matters may take a back seat during the remaining months before the November elections. But there does appear to be broad-based agreement on the need for reform that will compel legislative action.

Such reform must necessarily come from federal, as opposed to state or local level, legislation. Immigration involves federal policies regarding the treatment of undocumented workers, border security as well as consideration of the increasingly global and integrated nature of the economy. As such, attempts by state legislators to circumvent the unambiguously federal nature of immigration issues are misguided.

The subject of immigration is complex; it demands consideration of historical, economic, cultural and other factors in what must be a responsible, comprehensive policy change. To address immigration in a piecemeal fashion that deals with but one aspect — “enforcement” — while neglecting other facets is to oversimplify and, ultimately, exacerbate the situation.Certainly, it is both reasonable and responsible for the federal government to ensure the security of our national borders. It follows that, towards this end, an enforcement mechanism be in place. But in order to realize the best chance of effectively securing our borders, any enforcement mechanism must be constructed as part of broad reforms that acknowledge the realities of today’s world. “Enforcement only” attempts have failed; Border Patrol funding has grown exponentially in recent years while the undocumented immigrant population has continued to grow and public alarm has increased.

Reforms must recognize the importance of immigrants to the health and well-being of our domestic economy and should demonstrate an appreciation for the tacit acceptance of undocumented laborers that existed for many years. It is because of this unspoken but understood historical reality that there are now millions of undocumented individuals and families living and working inside the United States.

The relatively recent shift in attitudes towards the topic of immigration comes as a direct result of several factors beyond the control of immigrants themselves. Understandable public distress at the uncertainties and disruptions associated with a globalizing economy that is fundamentally transforming the labor market and fears linked to the perceived threat of terrorism are among the most salient changes in circumstances that have contributed to the public’s renewed focus on immigration issues.

Sadly, American history is fraught with examples of ugly, vicious treatment of immigrants who are cynically made into scapegoats for social problems. It is always convenient to dehumanize and blame an individual or group in a subordinate social position that hinders their ability to defend themselves. Perhaps most disturbingly, a limited minority continues to advance stances toward immigrants that can only be described as racist and xenophobic — attacks that are, to some degree, encouraged by a short-sighted enforcement-only legislative debate.

Developing comprehensive immigration reform will surely entail bold, creative thinking on the part of our elected officials. Worthwhile legislation will unavoidably include a procedure by which existing undocumented individuals and families are afforded a reasonable opportunity to either pursue U.S. citizenship or “guest worker” status.It is in everyone’s interest that the overwhelming majority of individuals and families who are now living and working as undocumented immigrants can feel safe, respected and valued for their contributions to our society. It is in no one’s interest that these same individuals and families should be afraid for their livelihoods or look upon both law enforcement officials and members of the general public with fear, mistrust or any general sense of antagonism.

As this area’s representative to federal government, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly must rise to the challenge presented by the immigration issue. He must have the courage to see beyond the contemptuous actions of some politicians who are willing to fan the flames of public discontent for political gain and instead demonstrate his true commitment to all of the 2nd District’s working families. In particular, Donnelly must stand up for the thousands of immigrant soldiers and their families who depend upon “fast-track” paths to citizenship after serving full tours of duty while war widows face potential deportation.

Some rely upon a “divide and conquer” strategy that seeks to play segments of our community off of one another for private gain. Yet there is much more common ground in the everyday experiences and interests of all working people in the world today — regardless of national boundaries or citizenship status — than what divides them. This is an escapable fact of our globalizing world; we face a choice between cultivating a sense of universal humanitas (Latin for “humanity”) that celebrates our commonalities and continuing to foster preventable conflict that does so much harm to so many.

The people of the 2nd District should urge Donnelly and other elected leaders to validate the sacred trust we place in them by passing responsible, visionary comprehensive immigration reform.

Puckett pitches his plan for health care costs

April 22, 2008

(from the South Bend Tribune)


JAMIE LOO
Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND — Republican congressional candidate Luke Puckett held a rally outside of U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly’s office Monday and talked about his plans for health care.

Puckett said health care needs to be competitive to drive prices down and improve people’s access. The way the system works right now, insurance companies can bid on residents based only on the state they live in, he said.

If the bidding was expanded to include multiple states, he said, costs would go down.

“One of the most important things is to eliminate the frivolous lawsuits,” Puckett said.

Health care costs would go down if there were fewer lawsuits, Puckett said, so hewould fight for tort reform. In England and other parts of Europe, there’s a “loser pay” system, where the loser in a lawsuit pays the costs of the winner, Puckett said, which has brought a decrease in frivolous lawsuits.

The Democrats want to nationalize health care, Puckett said, but people in other countries with nationalized health care, such as Cuba, are trying to come to the United States.

“They’re not building rafts over there risking their lives on a journey to our shores just to come into another nationalized program,” he said. “People are standing in line to get into our country. … Why? Because we have a free market and we need to utilize that free market.”

After the rally, Puckett led a group of supporters to the County-City Building to vote early.

2nd District GOP challenger addresses Nazi gathering

April 21, 2008

From the South Bend Tribune:

SOUTH BEND – Tony Zirkle, Republican candidate for 2nd District congressman, said he is willing to talk to any group that invites him, and that’s why he addressed a weekend gathering in Chicago of the American National Socialist Workers Party.

The occasion was a celebration of the 119th anniversary of the birth of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Zirkle scheduled a news conference for this afternoon to discuss his appearance at the event. He said this morning he agreed to address the group because of its concern about the prostitution of young white women.

According to Overthrow.com, an ANSWP Web site, “Zirkle spoke on his history as a state’s attorney in Indiana, prosecuting Jewish and Zionist criminal gangs involved in trafficking prostitutes and pornography from Russia and the Zionist entity.”

“I cannot believe that in 2008 anyone could think so backwards,” Luke Puckett, another GOP candidate for 2nd District congressman, said in reaction to Zirkle’s comment.

His latest comments are not the first time Zirkle has generated controversy on issues of race. In an interview in early March with the Kokomo Perspective, Zirkle suggested segregating African-Americans in separate states is an issue that deserves to be debated.

Puckett wants Donnelly response to Obama “bitter” comment

April 16, 2008

Article published Apr 15, 2008

ED RONCO
South Bend Tribune Staff Writer


A Republican seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly in November says the freshman congressman should “denunciate” controversial statements made by Sen. Barack Obama.

Obama, D-Ill., was trying to explain problems he had winning over working-class voters, whom he said are frustrated with the economy.

He said: “It’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Obama has defended the sentiment of his statements, but has said he expressed them poorly.

A statement from Republican challenger Luke Puckett said Donnelly has remained “astonishingly silent” on Obama’s remarks.”Donnelly’s refusal to denunciate Obama’s offensive remarks suggests Joe Donnelly believes Hoosiers are bitter people just because they are people of faith, support the Second Amendment, and hold Midwest values,” Puckett said in the statement.

But Andrew Lattanner, Donnelly’s campaign manager, said in a statement that he can’t speak for Obama and won’t speculate on what the senator meant.

“I will say, however, that the people of north central Indiana, whether they live in small communities or cities, are, like Joe Donnelly, sincere in their love of the Constitution and their devotion to their personal faiths,” Lattanner said.

Puckett’s campaign also said Donnelly should make it clear whom he’ll support as a superdelegate to the party’s convention in August.

Election experts say the Democratic nomination could be decided by superdelegates, who get a vote at convention by virtue of their status within the Democratic party. Donnelly has told The Tribune in the past that he will cast his superdelegate vote based on a combination of how Hoosiers vote in the May 6 primary, his own judgment and on which candidates visit the state and address the issues he cares about, such as keeping jobs in Indiana and veterans’ needs.

But Puckett’s campaign points to $7,500 Donnelly received from Obama as a sign of Donnelly’s support for the Illinois senator.

That money came in the form of three $2,500 donations from Obama’s Hopefund Inc., a political action committee the Illinois senator established. Two of the contributions were made in October and November 2006, prior to Donnelly’s election.

The third contribution came on Sept. 27, 2007.

The statement from the Donnelly campaign did not address the money received from the Obama campaign.

Donnelly accepts contribution from Obama

April 15, 2008

Rep. Joe Donnelly has thus far remained an uncommitted superdelegate but has reportedly accepted $7,500 from Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign while not yet accepting any funds from Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Does this demonstrate Donnelly’s support for Obama?

For a list of contributions to superdelegates from the Obama and Clinton campaigns, please go here.

ND Study: Undocumented workers an asset to local economy

April 10, 2008

(The following article appeared April 8, 2008 in the South Bend Tribune)

by Pablo Ros

Deporting a single undocumented worker from South Bend would on average cost the local economy a net loss of about $3,000 a month, according to a new study from the University of Notre Dame’s Economics and Econometrics Department.

The report, which can be read online, may be the first cost-benefit analysis of undocumented immigration to South Bend.

Based largely on surveys of Hispanic immigrants who live in South Bend, it provides a breakdown in dollar amounts of their assets and liabilities.

The researchers conclude that contrary to the belief that undocumented immigrants are a drain on the local economy, they are “an essential part of the economy and important for maintaining stability. Immigrants pay taxes, do not use as many government benefits as citizens and often take lower wages for unskilled labor.”

Kasey Buckles, one of two Notre Dame professors who directed the study, said its ultimate purpose is to assist policymakers in making informed decisions.She said its scope is limited to the economic impact of undocumented immigration, which has generated a debate that is political and ethical, among other things.

Abigail Wozniak, who co-directed the research, said the results of the study would be meaningful to cities similar to South Bend that have not traditionally been immigrant destinations.

The overall impact of the 12 million undocumented immigrants on the country’s economy has been the subject of much debate in recent years.

While immigrant advocates have underscored the attributes of the labor, taxes and purchasing power of undocumented workers, others have pointed to a drain in social services and loss of jobs as detriments.Based on an estimate of South Bend’s undocumented population that puts it at or near 3,400, the report concluded that this often neglected and shunned segment of our community on average contributes as much as $10 million per month to the local economy.

Researchers subtracted the total cost of liabilities — the greatest of which was public education — from the added value of assets — which included income from labor, taxes and expenditures.There are a few disclaimers to that figure, however. Researchers found data on investments made by undocumented immigrants in the stock market and other options unreliable, possibly the result of respondents misinterpreting a survey question.

Also, researchers were unable to calculate the costs of medical services used by undocumented immigrants.

But even in a worst-case scenario, the report points out, the overall impact of undocumented immigration on South Bend remains positive, meaning that the dollar value of immigrants’ contributions outweighs the total costs they generate.

Although the study doesn’t express such gains in terms of the total size of the local economy, Buckles said the loss of millions of dollars in monthly capital would inevitably cause it to shrink.

Researchers were not able to quantify other liabilities, such as crime and the loss of jobs. While undocumented immigrants generally take jobs others don’t want, the study points out, “there are still individuals who will suffer a loss of their job from less expensive competition.”The results of the study are based on two anonymous surveys administered in 2007 to about 120 congregants of St. Adalbert Parish in South Bend who were undocumented.

The survey sample is likely representative of the local Hispanic undocumented community, the study says.

Buckles told me she was surprised by a finding that the amounts of money immigrants send to families back home are not as high as she expected, averaging about $54 per month.

That seems to support the finding that only 46 percent of those surveyed said they would seriously consider someday returning to their country of origin permanently, she said.

Wozniak told me she was surprised by the study’s finding that a majority of undocumented workers pay taxes. The average total taxes paid by those surveyed is nearly $300 per month.The study was funded through the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns.

Buckles said it was published in the undergraduate journal “Beyond Politics: An Undergraduate Review of Politics of the University of Notre Dame.”

Donnelly responds to LWV on FISA, civil liberties

April 6, 2008

(The following was passed along to DW from a reader who is also a member of the local League of Women Voters. The original letter-to-the-editor follows Donnelly’s response.)

April 3, 2008

Dear Ms. Plencner,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about revisions to the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). I value your views, and your input helps
me to better represent the people of Indiana’s Second District in Congress.

My top priority as your Congressman is to ensure that our country is
equipped to prevent and respond to threats against American interests, both at home and abroad. Nothing is more important to me than protecting our nation from those who would do us harm.

As you know, the 1978 FISA law governs the domestic collection of foreign intelligence. Last summer, our intelligence agencies disclosed that a large backlog of FISA court warrant requests had formed because the law had not adequately been updated to take into account technological advancements. In addition, the decision by a federal intelligence court judge that even some foreign-to-foreign communications require FISA review further underscored the need to modernize existing surveillance law.

On August 4, 2007, I joined the House of Representatives in passing S. 1927, The Protect America Act, which the president signed into law the next day on August 5. S. 1927 was designed to temporarily allow the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to collect electronic surveillance of individuals reasonably believed to be outside the United States without a FISA court warrant. If the subject of the requested surveillance was located inside the United States, the FISA court was required to review and authorize the request before any surveillance was conducted. This six-month law, temporary by design to allow in-depth debate and the careful crafting of a responsible and permanent update to FISA law, expired on February 16, 2008.

On February 14, I voted to extend the temporary law for another 21 days to allow Congress and the President more time to complete an update of FISA law. The extension failed to pass the House and following that vote, I voted against a motion to adjourn for the upcoming Presidents’ Day recess because I felt that Congress needed to stay in session until we could bring the FISA matter to resolution. Although the Protect America Act has expired, America has not been left in the dark. Existing surveillance warrants authorized under the expired law will remain valid through August, and law enforcement and intelligence officials still possess all the tools they did prior to last August as the permanent, 1978 FISA law is still in effect.

As you probably know, one contentious issue has been whether Congress should provide existing immunity protections retroactively to telecommunications companies that may have cooperated with President Bush‘s now defunct warrantless surveillance program. To date, the full House has not considered any legislation providing retroactive immunity.

I believe Congress and the president should put aside their partisan differences and get down to the business of crafting a new FISA law for the 21st Century that provides the necessary tools to the intelligence community to keep American secure, while also safeguarding our civil liberties.

Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue. Please do not hesitate to write, call or email me again if I can ever be of assistance. Also, if you would like to receive regular updates on my actions on your behalf in Congress, sign up for my e-newsletter, The Donnelly Dispatch, at http://donnelly. house.gov.

Sincerely,
Joe Donnelly
Member of Congress

:::::
VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

As reported in The Tribune, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, voted to allow a vote on a resolution to extend the Protect America Act. Although the measure failed, the House will likely revisit this issue in the future.

We, the board of the League of Women Voters of South Bend, urge Donnelly to take a stand against the administration’ s pressure to pass S. 2248, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2007. We also urge Congress to support legislation that will ensure that government agencies obtain individual court warrants before wiretapping the communications of Americans and make sure telecommunications providers do not receive blanket retroactive immunity for violating the rights of innocent citizens.

For 88 years the League of Women Voters has been a strong advocate of the democratic principles that serve as a bedrock of our republic. Certain fundamental principles guard our freedoms and these must be preserved. These include independent judicial review of law enforcement actions and prohibition on indiscriminate searches.

While we recognize that our nation must guard against terrorism and other threats to national security, it cannot violate basic Constitutional principles while claiming to protect itself. As such, wholesale warrantless wiretapping of Americans is unacceptable.

Lisa A. Plencner

President, League of Women Voters, South Bend