Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hendren Underpaid Labor Arrangement Ends

Senator Jim Hendren owns a plastics factory. Apparently, people sentenced to a drug rehabilitation program wound up working in Hendren's factory and payments went to the rehab outfit rather than the workers. The workers did not even get the minimum wage. The light has been shined, and the practice has ended, but come on people, can this guy not draw a serious challenger?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

If I Could Ask the Governor

A friend and I were talking about how the Governor, and even his main spokespeople, hardly ever seem to get asked hard questions by the media. Further, the most superficial non-answers are routinely taken at face value without follow up. Compare this to the belligerent hectoring that President Trump or his spokespeople get from the media. So I thought "what if I could ask the Governor or his spokesman three questions?" What would I ask him?

So here are the three questions I would want to ask the Governor, or let's say his spokesman since not even my fertile imagination can see a situation where the Governor would submit to my questions.....

#1) The set up: First I would slap this article on the table from last month where the Governor touts $175 million in cuts to Medicaid. Beside it I would lay down this article from earlier this month which says that Medicaid spending overall is way up.

Here is my article with the background that puts these two together.... https://www.arneighbors.org/medicaid-spending-up-despite-cuts-to-disabled/

The bottom line is that under the perverse incentives of the Obamacare Medicaid program the FEDS pay more for states giving healthcare to able-bodied adults than traditional Medicaid gives to blind people, autistic people, people without arms and legs- the truly disabled. Because of that Hutchinson is slashing the budget of everyone who gets traditional Medicaid to pay for keeping Obama's Medicaid expansion for able-bodied adults.

So my first question to the spokesman would be...

Here is an article from last month where the Governor touted $175 million dollars in CUTS to Medicaid. Here is an article from this month that says that due to surging expansion in Medicaid  under Obamacare the state's spending for Medicaid is way UP. Behind the numbers is this reality- we have two Medicaid programs in Arkansas - there is the traditional one that helps blind people, autistic people, paraplegics, people who are truly disabled. That is the one the Governor is slashing. The other Medicaid program is the one for able-bodied adults under Obamacare, which the Governor relabeled "Arkansas Works". That is the one where spending is exploding. My question concerns the Governor's moral priorities: Do you think the voters of this great state approve of the Governor's slashing the care budgets for the truly needy in order to provide more money trying to save Obamacare Medicaid for the able-bodied?

Now I expect him to answer in part by saying that the Governor is working to reduce costs in both areas because he is shifting people from 100%- to 138% of FPL from Obamacare Medicaid to the Obamacare Exchange. When he does I would come back with.....

What you are touting as some kind of solution is no solution at all- it is the start of the next crisis. I have three things to say about that. First of all, Senator Bryan King and others tried to warn the Governor that the numbers and the budget would swell if we kept Obamacare Medicaid and he was totally blown off- so now that the Governor admits the same thing about the numbers the decent thing for him to do, and you can do it right now for him, is apologize to Senator King for dismissing his fair warning. Secondly those people are not getting off welfare by moving to the exchange, the taxpayers are still getting stiffed by this move it just comes from a different program. Or they would be if not for my Third point, President Trump just signed an executive order defunding that program. He did it because it had been funded illegally all along. Congress never appropriated the money, Obama just spent it anyway. Donald Trump just put an end to that. The mechanics are too complicated to describe here, but the impact is likely to be that a single person who makes over 250% of the FPL, $37,650, is liable to see a huge rate increase to pay for subsidies for those that the Governor is now adding to the exchange. He is playing fiscal whack a mole. He is not solving anything because he is not facing the real problem- we need to end Obamacare in Arkansas, it has a lot of crazy rules that result in a lot of crazy outcomes. It is dragging us to fiscal destruction and pushing people in wheel chairs off the health-care cliff first is not going to change that....


#2) My second question has to do with the appearance of impropriety with a sitting senator, David Sanders (R) Little Rock, working for a non-profit funded by state grants.....

"My next question has to do with both crony capitalism and the Governor's approval of something that appears improper regarding a member of the legislature. So Arkansas has an economic development commission which is a nice sounding name but unfortunately in practice it can wind up being the rich taxing the poor to fund a grant to the buddy of some insiders. I don't approve of taxing my neighbor so the state can give it to an insider to open a business which competes with his. We should not even have it, but we have it, and it turns out that since 2008 that commission has been giving tax dollars to someone called "Innovate Arkansas" and letting them hand out the money. Now State Senator David Sanders (R) Little Rock, just took a job running "Innovate Arkansas". So here is a legislator who votes on how much money to give the Commission and that commission then decides how much money to give to "Innovate Arkansas" which he directs.

Now we used to complain about the "revolving door" between legislators and entities which get money from the government. The legislators would appropriate money for an organization and later that organization wold hire the legislator. But this is even more unseemly. This is like quantum physics where the guy offering the bribe and the guy taking the bribe are the same person- Sanders is on both sides of the "revolving door" at the same time! He can actually vote to fund something so it can fund an entity which pays him! It seems to me that this is a new level of impropriety in state government, why did the Governor approve of this shady move?


#3) This question is about his award of a DHS Info Tech contract to the highest bidder.. https://www.arneighbors.org/red-flags-galore-in-awarding-contract-to-highest-bidder/

In 2015 Senator Bryan King called Arkansas Works/the Private Option a "scam" because the state was signing up everyone they could and were very slow to do eligibility checks since the FEDS were just making monthly payments for every person signed up. When they were finally forced to verify eligibility it turned out that there were people on the program that were dead, people from every state in the union were enrolled in Arkansas Works, people who had gone back home to Mexico, people who had long ago found jobs that had health care. So they were finally purged from the rolls but tons of payments were made to Arkansas insurers by FEDGOV on the basis that they were covering these ineligible people. Now we learn that after twenty years of using the same vendor for DHS Information Technology, the Governor directed that a new vendor which bid about twenty million dollars HIGHER be given the contract.

Now it just looks pretty bad when DHS is in a situation where the FEDS could ask to do an audit and try to find out how much they overpaid and suddenly after twenty years we just have to have a new information technology bidder even though it costs a lot more and even though the Senate committee never approved the switch. My question is what steps are you taking to make sure that the records that the feds would need to claw back these over payments are not lost in the transition to the new vendor?


I don't expect the Governor or his spokesman will ever be asked any of these questions by the MSM in this state, so compliant and docile have them become. As always in this country, we have this mess because we don't care enough to do anything to change it and care more about making excuses for whatever political party we ID with than actually reverting to self-government. If you are ready to really do something about it I encourage you to do this.. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Red Flags Galore in Awarding Contract to Highest Bidder

Last month Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson decided to proceed with a controversial move to award a large state contract to Deloitte Consulting even though their bid was twenty million dollars higher than the competing vendor, Northrup Grumman, who had fulfilled the contract for the last twenty years without notable complaint! The contract was related to Department of Human Services Information Technology services. 

The particulars of this story are worth looking into for many reasons, not the least of which is it shows how the legislature in this state has been neutered by the executive under essentially one-party rule (for what to do about it see here). It especially demonstrates that the establishment media in this state calmly passes on the most absurd and brazenly irregular claims of the administration as if they were not in the least bit out of the ordinary with no serious effort to dig into what real professional journalists ought to consider a big story. I will examine some of the claims surrounding this issue and you will see what I mean. Here is a link to the AP story on it, which I will reference, but the information for that article was drawn from one in our sycophant state-wide paper, the Democrat-Gazette.  

Legislative committees are supposed to review changes in large state contracts. The house committee voted overwhelmingly to do the review (opening the door to a change of vendors) but the Senate Committee voted it down. Because they did not vote the way the Governor wanted, they got the opportunity to vote again. But they again voted it down! The Governor then decided to proceed anyway! And here is how he described the action...
"Now that the Legislature has had its opportunity for review of the pending DHS contract with Deloitte for IT services, I will instruct the procurement director to approve the contract in accordance with his legal authority, which is the next and final step in the procurement process," Hutchinson said.
So his position is that so long as the legislature had their "opportunity for review" it is irrelevant whether or not they actually choose to do a review! They had an opportunity to approve doing what he wanted but since they choose not to take advantage of that "opportunity" he is going to do it without their approval! This is not "checks and balances" at its finest friends.

Then notice this paragraph from the story, which no one would put their name to because it is so absurd that no one with any sense would want to put their name on it. It was just thrown out there in the face of all contrary evidence.....
Advocates of the Deloitte Consulting contract said it would cost $5 million less annually than the current contract with Northrop Grumman. They added that Deloitte was awarded the contract based on its technical expertise.
Deloitte bid $74.3 million for the three year contract while the current vendor bid $54.4 million.  That without-attribution statement about Deloitte being "$5 million less annually" should not even be in the story. It only confuses people as to the truth- the Governor awarded the contract to the high-bidder over the people who have been doing it for twenty years by the specs!

Here is Hutchinson with his Clintonesque triple-speak again...
"The Deloitte contract was considered by the legislative committee multiple times, discussed in depth and received numerous votes," Hutchinson said.
Yes, it was "considered" and discussed by the committee, but the conclusion of that discussion in the Senate was that Deloitte should not get the contract! It received "numerous votes" but those votes were not favorable to Deloitte. That is like your city council putting a sales tax increase on the ballot in a couple of elections, and when they fail to pass they increase the taxes anyway simply because the proposal was "voted on multiple times". 

Next is the one that really gets me. Again, no names are attached to the statement because that would get too close to accuracy and accountability......
State officials said Deloitte won the bid after scoring higher in a technical evaluation by a committee of state employees. The technical evaluation made up 80 percent of the overall score, while the cost made up 20 percent.
Well I could ask how they arrived at those weighted measurements, but the real problem is that this is not a real bidding process. That's not how they do it in private industry. In a real bid you lay out the technical specs in advance and people bid based on those specs. If they don't meet the specs, they are not a part of the bidding process. If they do, you take the lowest bidder. You don't say "well you meet the specs and you have been doing this for us without complaint for twenty years but now we are going to have what we call a technical evaluation that is way more important that cost." The one who meets the specs for the lowest cost wins the bid.

This is especially true when the parameters of the technical evaluation are unknown and it is done by who-knows who and they can wind up with jobs in this same firm three years from now. It invites corruption. This is too obviously some fig-leaf to attempt to give legitimacy to a very illegitimate move.

And that brings us to a very important question. Why the urgency to change information technology vendors after being satisfied with the same one for twenty years? One possible reason ties into a question I asked two years ago- Is Arkansas' ruling class involved in welfare fraud on a massive scale? State Senator Bryan King referred to our special version of Obamacare as a "scam" because there was a strong financial incentive for Arkansas to sign up as many people as possible for the program, eligible or not, and keep them on that program for as long as possible, eligible or not.

They were finally forced to verify eligibility of some program recipients- long after they were legally required to do so- and discovered that tens of thousands of people that FEDGOV was paying Arkansas Insurers to cover were dead, moved out of the state, in prison, or got a job that had other health care. They were not eligible, but the state just kept its mouth shut and so FEDGOV kept sending payments in! I can't help but wonder if the records in DHS could be examined in a way that would detect a deliberate pattern of evasion. If so, a lot of people, Republicans and Democrats alike, would be very anxious for those records to be scrubbed. What better way to obscure things than to change vendors? The incriminating evidence can be "lost in the transition" before anyone who can put it together gets a chance to look.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Jan Morgan's List of Complaints Against Governor

Gun range owner and FOX News commentator Jan Morgan is exploring a primary challenge to Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Below are some of her issues. These are actions by the Governor that conservatives don't like, but some things on the list are things that nobody should like. And I would add a couple of things to that list. For example, he seems to hand out a lot of patronage jobs. Ex-legislators that get run out of office due to their following his agenda instead of listening to the people they are supposed to represent seem to wind up with cushy government jobs. I also dislike his Medicaid priorities- do whatever gets the most matching dollars from DC, even if it means cutting Medicaid to the truly disabled in order to fund Obamacare for able bodied adults. Her list follows...
* Tax increases.
The Governor opposed giving an income break on military retirement pay unless the bill included increased taxes on the rest of the state to offset any reduced tax collection. The bill he supported and helped pass included a military retirement pay exemption and a tax break for soft drink manufacturers, while imposing more tax on us which not only makes up for the tax breaks but also increase taxes by a projected $5.9 million dollars annually.

*More tax increases.
The Governor signed into law a special tax increase on new tires and a new special tax on used tires to fund growing government to monitor tires from initial sale through disposal.

* More taxes demanded.
The Arkansas House of Representatives rejected a sales tax on the internet and higher gas and diesel taxes. Governor Hutchinson vowed to fight on in his support of the taxes.

*Revenue problem not a spending problem.
In having to make some cuts in his increased budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the Governor claimed it was a revenue problem not a spending problem.
Awarding contract to the highest bidder. Despite recent state money problems, an ever-increasing state budget, and legislative opposition, Governor Hutchinson awarded a three-year contract for information technology services for the DHS in the amount of $75.3 million instead of to the contractor bidding $54.4 million.

*Money giveaway to private colleges. Despite months of public criticism over individual legislators giving state General Improvement Funds to a private colleges and after the Governor had to cut his overly optimistic general revenue budget, the Governor gave $150,000 in emergency funds to three private colleges in Pulaski County: Arkansas Baptist College, Philander Smith College, and Shorter College.

*Picking winners and losers. The Governor continues to pick winners and losers by giving away state funds to private businesses ranging from a Taekwondo center to a steel mill seeking to become a competitor to an existing Arkansas steel mill, etc.

*Governor Hutchinson supported continued authority for the two parts of Obamacare that needed state action – Obamacare Medicaid Expansion and authority for a state run Obamacare Exchange. He calls his Obamacare Medicaid Expansion by the name “Arkansas Works.”

*More Obamacare.
Governor Hutchinson criticized congressional efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, wanting to keep much of it.

*Religious freedom.
In 2015 Governor Hutchinson stopped a Religious Freedom bill that had passed both houses. He didn’t want to go on record as vetoing the Religious Freedom bill, so he demanded the bill be recalled and another bill be drafted. The weaker bill quickly passed. Many of the cosponsors of the first bill were offended and refused to sponsor the weaker bill and didn’t vote for the weaker bill.

*Sharia law.
The governor didn’t sign HB1941 of 2017 (Act 980) to prohibit the use of Sharia law in Arkansas courts. It became law without his signature.
Sanctuary campuses. The Governor opposed HB1042 of 2017 to prohibit the creation of sanctuary college campuses in Arkansas. The bill did not pass.

The Governor opposed SB744 of 2017 which would have limited bathrooms in schools and other buildings to one sex. The bill did not pass.

On the 2A front:
* During the 2017 debate over handgun legislation, Governor Hutchinson rubbed salt in the wounds of Second Amendment supporters by making sure to meet with and have a big photo op with Moms Demand Action, Michael Bloomberg's radical anti-gun organization who advocated for more gun restrictions in Arkansas .

Republican legislators, when approached about their anti-gun legislative votes which further restricted law abiding gun owners in this state, and were contrary to Republican Party platform, said they were strong armed by the Governor .

Although acknowledging that Arkansas is a Constitutional Carry state, Governor Hutchinson refused to publicly clarify this, refused to push for lower concealed handgun licensing fees, and refused to sign one of the few pro-gun pieces of legislation.

* Campaigning against Republicans who follow the party platform.
The Governor injected himself into a Republican primary race in 2016 by trying to unseat Republican Representative Josh Miller who is too conservative for the Governor. Asa endorsed the challenger and made the maximum contribution to the challenger though the Governor’s Political Action Committee (PAC). With the Governor’s influence, the challenger was well funded but the Republican voters said “NO” to the Governor and re-nominated Representative Miller.

Looks like 2018 will bring more of the same attacks with fiscally conservative Republican Senators in the Governor’s crosshairs.
Using bogus budget numbers aimed at hurting fiscally conservative Republican legislators.

*In 2016 his administration used bogus budget numbers and ridiculous doom and gloom claims of pending budget cuts if some Republican Senators continued to refuse to BREAK their promise to voters to oppose Obamacare Medicaid Expansion (which the Governor renamed “Arkansas Works”). The Governor’s administration’s bogus tactic led the Batesville Guard newspaper to embarrass itself by blindly accepting the ridiculous claims.
Now one problem she is going to have in a GOP primary is that a lot of the incumbent legislators are going to back Hutchinson. Especially once the filing period is over or they think they are in a safe seat, (which most of them are absent a new party).

One thing that could be done to counter this is to put a new group on the ballot to recruit credible candidates to run against the GOP insiders all the way to November. Then they would be reluctant to alienate part of their base in the primary because they would need those folks in November. You can do your part to help make that happen. Go here, print out a petition and get ten Arkansas voters to sign it, and then mail it in to the address shown.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

State's Spending for Medicaid Up

....despite the fact that per-person spending for traditional Medicaid is way down. What could explain this discrepancy? Get the details here. Expanded Medicaid coverage for able-bodied adults under Obamacare, disingenuously called first "The Private Option" and then relabeled with minor tweaks as "Arkansas Works". Coverage for these folks went UP 3.4% while coverage costs per person for traditional Medicaid went down on a per person basis. Total costs are rising because about a tenth of the time when someone signs up for "Arkansas Works" they send them to traditional Medicaid instead. So our state's integration with Obamacare is swelling the ranks of both Medicaid programs to the budgetary breaking point.

It is going to get worse. Arkansas was finally forced to purge its Obamacare rolls of thousands of people who were not eligible for the program, often because they no longer lived here or already had other coverage. People in those groups did not cost us a lot of money (but insurance providers still collected payments from FEDGOV for them). Now that they are gone, expect average costs to go up. In addition, at the mid-point of this fiscal year the FEDS started asking Arkansas to take what will be an increasing share of the costs. If we don't start shedding folks from this program it will be a fiscal disaster for us. The Governor is trying, but so far he seems to be caught in a trap of his own making. He wanted to suck every dollar he could out of taxpayers when DC was collecting the taxpayers but now that they are starting to come out of his budget he is scrambling.

The Governor is pushing hard to drive down the costs of traditional Medicaid- maybe in a way which will impact services for the truly needy and disabled. But he seems to be doing it to find fiscal room to keep the other Medicaid program- the one from Obamacare for able-bodied adults. So far most of his hard choices have fallen squarely on the shoulders of traditional Medicaid because the state pays a bigger share of the tab in that program than it does in Obamacare Medicaid. But this perversely cuts services to the very ones that most people don't mind paying taxes for, such as the blind, those with autism, and other disabled people in order to keep funding for health care for able-bodied adults. At some point, we are going to have to get some kind of priority other than taking as much taxpayer money as DC is willing to hand out.