Friday, January 04, 2013

COP 24/7: To the Extreme in 2013

A New Year Ahead: COP 24/7 Periscope Up

We off and running as the city continues to recover from Christmas Blizzard 2012 which walloped the hell out of folks while still being pretty outside. Many were asking for a "white Christmas" and they got just what they asked for and more. As Winter season 2013 find its footing, this forum forges ahead in our hot pursuit of breaking news, interesting factoids, trending topics and of course our version of "what's really going on."  Get ready, Get set, put the periscope up and let the chips fall where they may.

New Year, New Congress
On January 3, 2013, the 113th Congress convened for the first time and welcomed 95 new members into its ranks. Although the November elections did not significantly alter the parties’ power, the makeup of the 113th Congress is much different from any of its predecessors.
There are now 20 female Senators, many of which are newly elected. In fact, New Hampshire is the first state to send only women to both chambers of Congress. For the first time in history, white men no longer constitute the majority of Democrats in the House. Although the overall majority of Members of Congress continues to be white men, the 113th Congress has among its ranks 41 African-Americans, 36 Hispanics, 10 Asian Americans, and two Native Americans. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is the first openly gay Senator, and Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is the first openly bisexual Member of Congress.
The 113th Congress will make decisions on many issues relevant to the HIV/AIDS community, including striking a deal on the sequester, the budget, and possibly the Ryan White CARE Act. AIDS United will continue to work on behalf of those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS throughout the 113th Congress.

Click here to see some Committee Assignments relevant for the HIV/AIDS community.
MLK Day Strut Plans Continue
Organizers of  the "MLK Day Ma' Rainbow Strut, January 21 in recognition of the legacy of Martin Luther King are seeking participants as the date approaches. Spearheaded by community based organization, Centers for Artistic Revolution, the effort will be apart of the official "marade" yearly produced by the Martin Luther King Commission including a free luncheon afterwards. 

It appears that someone got on the ball at the commission and updated the MLK website. 
The calendar content on the site has been refreshed with new info on upcoming events that jump off 1/12/13 with Susan Taylor, Editor Emeritus of Essence Magazine at UAPB, Noon in the Black and Gold Room on the campus.

For more info check out our link to the site to0 an array of other events across the state which includes information on FREE Bus Rides provided by Central Arkansas Transit on 1/21/13.

The once embattled commission is now under the executive leadership of Deshaun Scarbrough whom states that organization is seeking a "new direction, new approach" of operating. Scarbrough writes on the website,

" We are aggressively working to revitalize old partnerships, while developing new ones. We are also re-energizing our DREAM KEEPERS and expanding the Commission’s presence in the community. We hope you will visit or call our office soon, to learn how you may assist in the effort, to live the dream and make change happen."

The groups website also showcases a host of supporters and sponsors ranging from the Design Group to the local Denny's franchise, whom offer supportive donations toward the organizations program such as The Dream Keepers Program which helps empower youth to gain an appreciation for community service through teamwork. For more information on the strut or RSVP for the luncheon contact 501.244.9690. Information about the commission can be found at . Stay tuned to COP 24/7 for more updates!!!

The Fiscal Cliff Averted (For Now)
Early in the morning of New Year’s Day the Senate passed HR 8 "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" by a vote of 89 – 8, with three Senators not voting. Later that night the House of Representatives passed the bill without amendments by a vote of 257 – 167. President Obama signed the legislation on January 2 . The passage of this legislation averted the January 1 and 2 deadlines that would have extended certain tax relief provisions enacted in 2001 and 2003, provided for expedited consideration of a bill providing comprehensive tax reform, two month delay of sequestration and for other purposes. We will outline below some of the provisions of the bill that may affect HIV/AIDS programs and healthcare funding.

The debate in the lame duck session of Congress was long and difficult between Election Day and New Year’s Day as President Obama, the House and Senate tried to address the fiscal crisis with a large grand bargain to solve the funding that is needed to avert the cuts that have been called with to avert the planned sequestration cuts, keep the Medicare doctors from receiving a 27% pay cut, ensure the long-term unemployed continue receiving benefits and many other issues. In the end the “grand bargain” did not come to fruition.

HR 8 permanently extended reduced tax rates and benefits enacted in 2001 and 2003 for most Americans. This bill increased taxes on individuals earning more than $400,000 and couples earning more than $450,000, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated this change will bring $600 billion of revenue over the next 10 years. HR 8 also postponed the cuts from sequestration by 2 months. According to Congressional Quarterly the cost for the 2 month delay was $24 billion, this was paid for with $12 billion in revenue from retirement accounts and $12 billion in cuts to the budget cap for FY 2013 and FY 2014. The amount for FY 2013 is $4 billion and $8 billion from FY 2014 evenly divided between security and non-security discretionary accounts. The cap for FY 2013 for non-security is actually higher than what has thus far been allocated by $3 billion. It is not clear if how that additional funding will be allocated. The Security side has a different problem, its allocation is $6 billion less than what has previously allocated.

HR 8 also again extended the scheduled 27% deduction in Medicare doctor payments for one year. As we look to implementation of the Affordable Care Act it was important to avert that cut and possible loss of doctors who would agree to see Medicare patients. This funding was offset by several funds related health care. The most prominent is the continued reduction in the rates paid to hospitals for uncompensated care called Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH). The Affordable Care Act included reduction in this funding as states were encouraged to adopt Medicaid expansion, leaving fewer people without health insurance and in need of uncompensated care. CBO estimates that this fund will be reduced by $4.2 billion over the next ten years. Since the Supreme Court made expansion optional we must continue to remind state officials that the funding to treat those most in need will continue to shrink and Medicaid expansion will be important in caring for their citizens.

HR 8 extends for one year unemployment insurance for the chronically unemployed, makes permanent tax cuts for the middle class, continues exemptions to estate taxes (with an increase in the rate from 35% to 40%), and makes permanent the alternative minimum tax patch that would have prevented higher income earners from paying taxes using credits and deductions instead.

The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program was repealed in the legislation. CBO did not allocate a numerical value to this repeal since the bill had been suspended since October of 2011. The CLASS Act was meant to be a self sustaining fund to provide cash benefits for long term care services. It was determined to pay for itself for a 10 year window, but it was not sustainable over the 75 year window that needed to be proven.
The White House released the following fact sheet detailing “the Tax Agreement: A Victory for Middle-Class Families and the Economy can be found here .

A fact sheet in outline form on some of the issues from the fiscal cliff deal from the National Priorities Project can be found here. Their mission is to make our complex federal budget transparent and accessible so people can exercise their right and responsibility to oversee and influence how their tax dollars are spent.


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