Political notes from around town
|By Walt Sorg|
Yorko boycotts forum
Lansing city Councilwoman Jessica Yorko created a mini-storm by boycotting a meet-the-candidates forum over the weekend at Grace Lutheran Church. Yorko had a campaign volunteer deliver a hand-written note explaining her decision.
Yorko said in her note: “Unfortunately, the last forum I participated in that involved questions driven by one of our at-large councilmembers was not, in my view, helpful for voters because rather than questions focused on the issues and my positions and priorities, the questions were all framed as personal attacks.”
Others identified the Council member as Carol Wood and the earlier forum as one at Grace United Methodist Church sponsored by the Colonial Village Neighborhood Association. Wood, a member, lives across the street from Grace Lutheran.
Yorko instead sent campaign information, including her response to a League of Women Voters questionnaire, and also referring voters to her responses to questionnaires from City Pulse and the State Journal.
Chairing the board
Victor Celentino, D-Lansing, has tossed his hat into the ring; Brian McGrain, D-Lansing, told commissioners he’d like to become vice chairman.
Under the law, families with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level will become Medicaid-eligible in late March (the exact date depends on when the Legislature adjourns at the end of this year). From January until the expansion, families at 100-to-138 percent of FPL can get subsidized coverage through the insurance exchange.
Families under 100 percent of the poverty level are not eligible for insurance premium subsidies, and paying full price for coverage is financially impossible for them. The lack of coverage could have meant federal tax penalties.
The administration has ended that possibility by clarifying that the deadline for obtaining coverage is March 31.
Administration officials said that the clarification of the deadline is unrelated to the many technical problems that have emerged with the website, HealthCare. gov, in its first three weeks. Instead, they said, it is designed to clear up a timing confusion about the requirement that most Americans buy health coverage or face a penalty.
Supporters of the health care law are privately grumbling about the Legislature’s refusal to set up a state-run health care exchange (which would have been paid for by the federal government). States with their own exchanges are all reporting few problems with enrollments, and seeing robust applications for insurance. Seventeen states have state-run exchanges.
Drug testing the unemployed
HB 4952 strips unemployment benefits from people who refuse to take drug tests as part of a job screening, or who fail an employer drug screen. The legislation does not require employer reports to the state.
The bill has an exception for doctorprescribed drugs (such as Vicodin or Oxycontin), but does not extend the exception to medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is not prescribed, but is allowed for patients “certified” by a physician as having a medical condition for which marijuana is considered appropriate. The legislation will likely face court challenges.
Opponents say the law is designed pri marily to give the appearance of cracking down on drug abuse by poor people but will have no real impact. Instead, they say, the bill’s primary benefit will be in providing material for 2014 campaign brochures of supporters.
Amendments offered to the bill requiring drug testing of legislators were rejected.
Expanding smoking ban
“Nothing should be off the table when it comes to a child’s well-being,” Singh said. “This is simple, commonsense legislation that works to promote the health and safety of minors in Michigan.”
The prohibition would apply to under-18 drivers, even if they had no passengers. Singh notes that it is already illegal for a minor to possess and use tobacco, although that law is rarely enforced.