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Archive for December, 2009

Delaware joins 10 other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in pact to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels

DOVER – Gov. Jack Markell joined the governors of 10 other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states today in announcing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among the states that underscores their commitment toward developing a regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard in a regional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels for vehicles and other uses.

“We need to address the challenges we are facing with solutions that improve our environment and create jobs,” said Gov. Markell. “I am pleased that Delaware has again joined other states in addressing air quality and carbon emissions. This program will spark investment and innovation in alternative fuels and electric cars like those that Fisker Automotive plans to make in Wilmington.”

A Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program is a market-based, fuel-neutral program that would apply to the transportation sector, and potentially apply to fuels used for heating buildings. A regional standard is expected to spur economic growth related to development of advanced technologies and green energy jobs. A low carbon standard also has the potential to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, which represent approximately 30 percent of emissions in the region; reduce regional vulnerability to petroleum price volatility; and facilitate the long-term transition from petroleum-based fuels in the transportation sector.

“Transportation fuels account for a significant portion of Delaware’s air pollution and 25 percent of our state’s and our nation’s carbon dioxide emissions,” said Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara. “A low carbon fuel standard is an innovative market-based approach that will find low-cost solutions to lowering carbon emissions and spurring local investments, and we’re pleased to be working once again on a regional level to address this important issue.”

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding along with Gov. Markell were: Gov. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Gov. John Baldacci of Maine, Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire, Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Gov. David Paterson of New York, Gov. Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania, Gov. Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island and Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the states agree to analyze low carbon fuel supply options, determine the feasibility of achieving a range of reduction goals, including a 10-percent reduction in carbon intensity of fuels, and develop a framework for a regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard to ensure sustainable use of renewable fuels in the region. The Memorandum of Understanding also calls for a study to examine the potential economic impacts of any program moving forward.

The states have already demonstrated the success of regional emissions reduction programs with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which covers greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. A regional program to address transportation and other fuels is considered prudent and efficient among the signatories given the interconnected nature of the fuel distribution system in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.

More information on the LCFS work in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region is available at:  http://www.nescaum.org/topics/low-carbon-fuels

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As part of its government watchdog role, the Caesar Rodney Institute submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Delaware Board of Medical Practice — a division of the Department of State responsible for licensing physicians.

The FOIA request sought any prior complaints against Dr. Earl Bradley, the Lewes pediatrician charged with raping nine children.

Given the large victim pool and history of alleged abuse, CRI wanted to ensure the state had not overlooked or failed to investigate any previous complaints.

In their reponse, the Board of Medical Practice claims that no one had made any complaints against Bradley until this month.

The Board’s e-mail follows:

This is in response to your FOIA request for complaint information concerning Dr. Earl Bradley.

Investigative files, including complaint information, are exempt from FOIA and are not deemed public pursuant to 29 Del C., §10002(g)(3).  However, there are no documents responsive to your request, with the exception of the complaint and motion for temporary suspension which was filed by the Department of Justice on 12/23/2009.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your request.

Regards,

Kay Warren
Deputy Director
Delaware Department of State
Division of Professional Regulation

Phone: (302) 744-4503
Fax: (302) 739-2711

“Delivering Innovative and Responsive Services Through Individual & Team Initiative, Creativity and Leadership.”

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A fine example of what has become of the watchdog role of the state’s traditional media can be seen here.

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Feds grant DOC more time to satisfy Memorandum of Agreement

The Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) has failed to keep it’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, in which it promised to improve inmate health care.

According to an e-mail sent Thursday morning by the DOC, the U.S. Department of Justice has granted the DOC an extension to make the necessary changes, and it has allowed the DOC to remove two institutions from the agreement.

The DOC entered into an agreement with the federal Department of Justice in 2006, after federal investigators determined that shoddy medical care was violating the civil rights of the inmates in state custody.

The e-mail from the DOC touts the improvements the agency has made. It does not specify the amount of additional time granted by the federal government.

The Justice Department had three options, as the DOC was not expected to fulfill it’s portion of the MOA. The DOJ could have brought suit against the state, quit the MOA without further action, or granted the extension.

The full text of the DOC’s email follows:

Department of Correction & US Department of Justice
Announce Extension of Medical Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
Significant progress cited, reduction in scope from initial agreement

The Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) announced today that it has extended its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on inmate medical and mental health care services with the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ). The extended agreement is greatly reduced in its scope from the original MOA and credits the State of Delaware with “significant” progress already made over the past three years.

During the time period covered by the current agreement, the State has come into full or partial compliance with 98 percent of the provisions – 214 out of 217 – contained in the original MOA. As a result of that effort, the extension eliminates provisions at every facility.

Improvements at the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution were so substantial that the women’s prison is released entirely from the extended agreement. In addition, Sussex Correctional Institution has been removed from the medical care portion of the extension.

The new agreement, effective December 30, 2009, continues the role of the Independent Monitor, Joshua W. Martin, III of the Wilmington law firm of Potter Anderson and Corroon LLP, for the next year; however, the agreement specifically calls for the reduction of the role of the Independent Monitoring Team during the first year, and for the DOC to begin self-monitoring and reporting to the USDOJ during the second year.

The extension permits an extremely collaborative relationship between the DOC and the USDOJ to continue as the agencies share the common goal of bringing the State into full compliance with the MOA.

“I am pleased to sign this agreement,” said DOC Commissioner Carl C. Danberg. “Significant progress has been made as we continue to address the needs of inmate health care, and that effort is acknowledged in this new agreement. Through this extension, we are renewing our commitment to completely satisfy the MOA.”

While admitting there is still improvement to be made, Commissioner Danberg notes that the agreement itself reflects the State’s enormous progress over the past three years:

“Since monitoring began in early 2007, the State of Delaware and Department of Corrections staff have cooperated thoroughly with the Independent Monitor and his staff, as well as with the Department of Justice; have demonstrated a strong and consistent commitment to addressing the challenging issues posed by meeting the requirements of the MOA; and have shown a willingness to proactively and voluntarily undertake measures to improve conditions throughout the system.”

  • “DOJ acknowledges that significant improvements have been made in many areas covered by the MOA during the past three years, and that the State has achieved substantial compliance with many specific provisions of the MOA.”
  • “In recognition of the substantial progress made towards improving the quality of medical and mental health care delivered at the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution (“BWCI”), the greatly improved internal monitoring mechanisms established by the State, and the State’s demonstrated commitment to sustaining and building on these improvements, the Parties agree that BWCI is hereby released from the requirements of this Amended MOA….
  • “The DOJ also acknowledges that substantial improvements have been made to the quality of medical care delivered at the Sussex Correctional Institution (“SCI”).”

“Through this agreement, the Department of Justice confirms the tremendous strides we have made in providing inmate heath care in the State of Delaware,” said Danberg. “Using that as a foundation, we will continue to move forward and aggressively address the provisions in the new agreement.”

“This is good news for Delaware,” said State Representative J.J. Johnson, Chair of the House Corrections Committee.  “The U.S. Department of Justice has clearly indicated that significant progress has been made, but we have more work to do. This agreement commits the State to finish what we started.”

The two agencies entered into the original MOA on December 29, 2006, when the State agreed to take specific actions intended to improve medical and mental health care services at four prison facilities – Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (previously known as Delaware Correctional Center), and Sussex Correctional Institution.

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This is not the Christmas I had in mind. And the title of this post is in no way in jest.

For the first time in 114 years, the Senate has cast a vote on Christmas Eve – a vote for a terrible bill that has seemingly been part of a twisted game of telephone. In this case the message (the bill) began with one person and, once it made it through the Senate with plenty of special carve outs in exchange for votes, ended as something far different than how it originated.

President Obama recently wrote regarding the health care billl, “As with any legislation, compromise is part of the process.”

Compromise occurs when you meet in the middle, when there is give in take to come to a concensus. Compromise does not occur when certain states are given exemptions and special status in order to buy votes. That is bribery.

The supporters of this bill in the Senate have put special interests and pure selfishness above the greater good in this vote. They’ve put party loyalty over the public good. This is clearly evident in the carve outs. We are talking about $1.2 billion in carve outs to buy the votes (an amount equal to 1/3 of Delaware’s entire operating budget). Christmas came early for Ben Nelson, Chris Dodd and Mary Landrieu.

Other carve outs include:

  • Eliminating or reducing the Medicaid unfunded mandate on Nebraska, Vermont, and Massachusetts (starting on page 96, line 9)
  • Exempting certain health insurance companies in Nebraska and Michigan from taxes and fees (starting on page 367, line 6)
  • Providing automatic Medicare coverage for anyone living in Libby, Montana (starting on page 194 – section 10323)
  • Earmarking $100 million for a “Health Care Facility” reportedly in Connecticut (starting on page 328)
  • Giving special treatment to Hawaii’s Disproportionate Share Hospitals (starting on page 101, line 6)
  • Boosting reimbursement rates for certain hospitals in Michigan and Connecticut (starting on page 174 – section 10317)
  • Mandating special treatment for hospitals in “Frontier” States like Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming (starting on page 208 — Sec 10324)

In a recent interview, Harry Reid stated something along the lines of “Any Senator who doesn’t have something in this bill, well that doesn’t speak well of that senator.”

Is that really what this is about? This is not the twelve days of Christmas. This is a monumental action that will have a severe impact on our nation.

Even though they’ve cast their votes (even with no carve outs in the bill for Delaware) you can call the offices of Senators Carper and Kaufman and let them know how you feel. The bill still has to be meshed with the House version. Call Senator Carper. Call Ted Kaufman. Let your voice be heard!

For Senator Carper:

Washington, DC: (202) 224-24418-2190

Wilmington: (302) 573-6291

For Senator Kauffman:

Wilmington: (302) 573-6345

Washington D.C.: (202) 224-5042
There is one additional way you can take action. Over a half dozen state attorneys general have begun looking into whether the health care bill is constitutional.  When states are treated separately as a result of the carve outs, there may be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 5th Amendment.
There are plenty of Delawareans who are hurting right now. Yet, Senators Carper and Kaufman seem to have no problem supporting legislation that will have Delawareans subsidize folks in Nebraska or Louisiana.

You can urge Attorney General Biden to stand up for Delaware and the Constitution by joining the growing list of state attorneys general who have begun investigations into the constitutionality of this provision and into the “vote-buying.” You can call Attorney General Biden’s office at (302) 577-8400.

Since it is the holidays, I’ll end on a positive note. There has been little press given to H.R. 847, introduced by Representative Vern Buchanan. This legislation will require any health care negotiations to be open to the public. This is a no brainer. If you make a call to Carper or Kaufman mention that they should support this good move as well, maybe they’ll have a Scrooge type revelation.

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Here they are without fanfare: the good, the bad and the funny.

10. Markell’s First Governor’s Prayer Breakfast Highlights “Service Beyond Self”

9. Markell Encourages Delawareans to Provide Accurate Census Data

8. Governor, First Lady break ground on vegetable garden at Woodburn

7. Delaware Named One of the Nation’s Top 10 States for Cyclists

6. Markell Praises Announcement of DSU-UD Football Series

5. Delaware Department of Correction Announces New Bid for Prison Medical Contract

4. Governor Markell signs bill promoting plastic bag recycling

3. Markell Encourages Delawareans to Eat Locally Grown Fruit and Vegetables

2. Delaware ‘Should Have Its Day in Court’

1. ‘We Thought That The State Should Have A Chance To Make Its Case At Trial’


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For what it’s worth…

Both the New Castle County Council and the Wilmington City Council have passed resolutions supporting dredging the Delaware River.

Both resolutions, which lack any force of law, call on Gov. Jack Markell to support the dredging.

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