Monday, March 28, 2016

Last Call For Fighting The Bigotry

As expected, the first of many expected federal lawsuits over North Carolina's sweeping new anti-LGBTQ law has been filed. BuzzFeed's Dominic Holden and Chris Geidner:

Three individuals and two LGBT advocacy groups early Monday morning filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the recently passed North Carolina law that nullified local LGBT rights ordinances and restricted transgender people’s access to restrooms. 
“By singling out LGBT people for disfavored treatment and explicitly writing discrimination against transgender people into state law, H.B. 2 violates the most basic guarantees of equal treatment and the U.S. Constitution,” the lawsuit argues.

The complaint argues the law violates people’s equal protection, privacy, and liberty rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and their civil rights under Title IX of the Education Act of 1972. 
The lawsuit is asking for a declaratory judgment that the law violates the Constitution and Title IX and an injunction against enforcement of the law. 
The case was filed overnight in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on behalf of Joaquín Carcaño, a transgender man who works at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Payton Grey McGarry, a transgender man who is a student at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro; and Angela Gilmore, a lesbian who is the associate dean for academic affairs at North Carolina Central University. Also named as plaintiffs are the ACLU of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina. 
The defendants include Gov. Pat McCrory, Attorney General Roy Cooper, and the University of North Carolina and several of its senior officials. 
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina are all backing the litigation.

Considering this odious piece of garbage was only crapped into existence last Wednesday in a 10-hour blitz of bigotry, I guess the Easter weekend made things a little slower than usual for filing, but I'm glad to see the ACLU and Lambda Legal are all on the ball with this lawsuit.

I'm hoping for an injunction that keeps the NC law from going into place while the suit works its way up the system.  We'll see what happens.

Oh, and over in Georgia, GOP Gov. Nathan Deal doesn't exactly want to lose the Super Bowl over that state's most recent attempt at "religious liberty" and will veto the bill pending there

The measure “doesn’t reflect the character of our state or the character of its people,” the governor said Monday in prepared remarks. He said state legislators should leave freedom of religion and freedom of speech to the U.S. Constitution. 
“Their efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it would allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment,” he said. 
The two-term Republican has been besieged by all sides over the controversial measure, and his office has received thousands of emails and hundreds of calls on the debate. The tension was amplified by a steady stream of corporate titans who urged him to veto the bill – and threatened to pull investments from Georgia if it became law. 
The governor’s planned veto will likely infuriate religious conservatives who considered the measure, House Bill 757, their top priority. This is the third legislative session they’ve sought to strengthen legal protections from opponents of gay marriage, but last year’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex weddings galvanized their efforts. 
It is also likely to herald a more acrimonious relationship between Deal, who campaigned on a pro-business platform, and the evangelical wing of the Georgia Republican party. Already, prominent conservatives have vowed to revive the measure next year if Deal chooses not to sign it.

Expect this battle to continue in the states and the courts for some time to come.

The Smoking Remains Of Kynect

So one month after the debut of the new state benefits system to replace Kentucky's successful health care exchange Kynect, which Gov. Matt Bevin is calling Benefind, (a "one-stop shop" for all your Kentucky benefit needs, including food stamps, CHIP, unemployment benefits and Medicaid!) and rolling everything into Benefind to save taxpayer money, Kentucky has discovered a bit of an issue with the centerpiece of Bevinstan.  There's only one slight problem: Benefind is an absolute disaster.

A new state computer system meant to help people get public benefits more easily instead is creating turmoil throughout Kentucky, interrupting health coverage, food stamps or other assistance for countless individuals, according to health and social service advocates. 
People seeking help must wait hours or days, repeatedly calling a state helpline only to get a recorded message that advises them to try later and then hangs up, the advocates said. Others visit overcrowded state benefit offices where they must wait for hours - sometimes the entire day - to get help, they said
"It's really frustrating," said Emily Pickett, a Louisville mother who learned Feb. 29 two of her three small children had been cut off from Medicaid coverage. 
Further, the new system known as Benefind has disrupted the state's highly successful health insurance exchange, kynect, shutting people out of their online accounts or eliminating their health coverage altogether, they said. 
"Benefind is a disaster," said Emily Beauregard, executive director of Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of health advocacy groups. "It's not working."

Of course, the people who warned Bevin that Benefind was a massive failure are no longer in the Bevin administration. Seems Gov. Bevin deals quite swiftly and harshly with those who may expose his administration's many flaws here in Bevinstan.

The top official in charge of complaints at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services was fired one business day after he said he warned his bosses that people were so angry over problems with a new public benefits system that he feared some might become violent, endangering state workers. 
Hundreds of callers have grown increasingly frustrated over the abrupt loss of benefits such as Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, said Norman "Chip" Ward, the former executive director of the cabinet's ombudsman's office. 
Many are furious they can't reach anyone on a state hotline to handle questions about benefits they said were wrongly canceled under the new system know as Benefind. 
"I expressed my concern that something bad was going to happen," Ward said in an interview Monday, adding he was worried an angry client might visit a local state benefit office and become violent. "It was really reaching a boiling point." 
Among the cabinet officials Ward said he notified of his concerns on March 18 were Secretary Vickie Yates Glisson; Tim Feeley, deputy secretary; Adria Johnson, the commissioner of the Department for Community Based Services, which handles public benefits; and Steve Davis, the cabinet's chief of staff. 
In an interview Friday, Davis declined to elaborate on Ward's dismissal, saying the decision to fire the ombudsman was "a personnel matter." Davis said he is acting as the current ombudsman. 
Ward said that as a political appointee he lacks merit protection and Davis gave him no reason for firing him.

So now, Bevin has taken a state government system that actually worked and has replaced it with a broken system in order to save costs.  And Bevin is blaming everything on his predecessor, former Gov. Steve Beshear.

Bevin blamed the backlogs on former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration, which created the original version of Benefind but hadn’t opened the program to the public before the end of his term. 
“We were told that it was, it had been double-checked, it was user-ready and it was time to unveil it. You have found out firsthand that it’s not exactly as we expected it to be,” Bevin said in a Youtube video addressed to employees of the Department for Community Based Services, which manages the program. 
“I know it’s frankly been scary in some measure, with just the onslaught of people that have been piling up, the amount of work that is at hand,” Bevin said in the video.

So Bevin is blaming Dinosaur Steve for the mess and firing the whistleblowers who say otherwise. But that's how Gov. Bevin rolls, you see.  Not too much accountability here in Bevinstan. You'd be forgiven for thinking Bevin dismantled Kynect and then replaced it with a mess of a system to make sure that people couldn't get their benefits they were entitled to get.

We can't have government actually working in he Commonwealth, you know.

Sanders And The Superdelegates

Running a pretty big victory lap after this weekend's wins in Hawaii, Alaska and Washington state, Bernie Sanders is confident that Democratic party superdelegates will start jumping from the Clinton ship any time now.

"I think the momentum is with us," Sanders said on CNN's "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper on Sunday. "A lot of these superdelegates may rethink their positions with Secretary Clinton."

The Vermont senator swept Saturday's Democratic contests in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii, easily winning the majority of the 142 pledged delegates in those states. The biggest prize of the day was in Washington, which offered 101 delegates to be split up on a proportional basis.

The latest delegate counts still put Sanders behind Clinton, however, with 1,004 pledged delegates to her 1,712.

Of those, 469 are superdelegates who have pledged to Clinton and only 29 have pledged to Sanders.

Sanders on Sunday said those superdelegates may begin to see the "reality" that he's the best candidate to beat GOP front runner Donald Trump.

"I think when they begin to look at reality, and that is that we are beating Donald Trump by much larger margins than Secretary Clinton" Sanders said. "And then you've got superdelegates in states where we win by 40 or 50 points. I think their own constituents are going to say to them, 'Hey, why don't you support the people of our state and vote for Sanders?'"

Bernie Sanders has a long way to go, frankly.  Yes, he's still in the race, and no Clinton hasn't put him away yet.  But I think Sanders is engaging in a bit of wishful thinking here. He needs to make up more than 200 pledged delegates from the remaining primaries, and unless you think he's going to win states like California and New York by the kind of margins he got in Washington's caucus, that's not going to happen.

Sanders knows however that he needs both superdelegates and big primary wins to pull this off, and it's still very much a long shot.  However even if he doesn't win he does have influence, and Clinton is eventually going to have to deal with that. Juan Williams:

Sanders’ “socialist” label is a liability in a general election. The Vermonter will hurt Clinton’s effort to win support from political moderates, especially older voters. Sanders would also be a bridge too far for Republicans disenchanted by their party’s wild primary season and the prospect of either Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as the GOP’s presidential candidate. 
Adding Sanders to the ticket would also create an opening for Republican ad-makers. They would gleefully target his past congressional votes opposing tax cuts, the Patriot Act and new military defenses against a possible Iranian missile attack. 
But if Sanders is not to be made the prospective veep, Democrats will have to find something else to give him. After all, he has exceeded all expectations during the primary season. The depth of his support was underlined by his three strong victories on Saturday in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington. And Democrats live in fear of a him mounting a third-party run along the lines of the populist campaign run by Ralph Nader in 2000 that arguably gave the White House to George W. Bush. 
The heart of this troublesome political puzzle for Democrats is how to get Sanders’s passionate supporters to line up behind Clinton. In early March, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found a third of the people voting for Sanders saying they “cannot see themselves voting for Hillary Clinton in November.” 
The Nation magazine, a leading voice of the left, reported recently that “nearly 60,000 people have signed the ‘Bernie or Bust’ pledge,” vowing to remain loyal to him even if Clinton wins the nomination.

The next battle is April 5 in Wisconsin for both parties, the state has a open primary. We'll see how this all shakes out, but the better Sanders does going forward, the higher a price he can extract come July.


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