Arkansas kicks 17,000 people off Medicaid in three months; other states plan to join in

As working people in several red states celebrate the official expansion of Medicaid due to victorious ballot initiatives, others living under the boot of cruel Republican governors are beginning to lose their health care en masse.

Last summer, Arkansas became the first state to implement work requirements as a condition of receiving Medicaid, a new and pernicious hurdle made possible by waivers offered by the Trump administration. The new law requires some Medicaid recipients ages 30-49 to spend at least 80 hours a month working, volunteering, or looking for a job. So far, 17,000 vulnerable people have been kicked off their bare-bones state healthcare because they did not meet the threshold.

That number is bad enough, but the context makes it even more disgusting. Most people on Medicaid in Arkansas were not required to report their hours because they were already either employed, have a small child at home, disabled, or otherwise unable to work. The Kaiser Family Foundation broke down the numbers for November, and they don’t paint a pretty picture:

“The large majority (83%, or 53,975 people) were exempt from the reporting requirement for November 2018,” the center reports, “while 78% of those not exempt (8,426 out of 10,768) did not report 80 hours of qualifying work activities.”

It’s clear that people on Medicaid want to work, as nearly 98% of those exempt were indeed employed for more than 80 hours a month. So what happened to the non-exempt people?

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Iowa county elects a black woman, GOP again floats changes to the whole electoral system

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Republicans lose an election, then decide they want to change the rules.

Earlier this month, voters in Johnson County, Iowa elected Democrat Royceann Porterto the Board of Supervisors, making her the first African-American supervisor in the county’s history. Now, Republicans are making noise about wanting to remake the entire system, changing from at-large elections (which is how nearly every Iowa county does it) to district-based contests.

Republican Phil Hemingway, who got thumped 56-43%, thinks that geography is why he lost. Via local KCRG TV:

Following his recent defeat, Hemingway is analyzing what went wrong during that special election. At least playing a factor, he says, electing supervisors to county-wide positions. It could be benefiting Democrats as the large metro population tends to vote left, overshadowing right-leaning rural votes.

“I think can’t look at the results of this past special election and draw any other conclusion but that.”

Democrats dominate the Board of Supervisors in Johnson County, but that’s not due to any flaw in the government structure; Johnson County is home to Iowa City and is the most liberal county in the state, which makes Democratic dominance of local politics no strange coincidence or irregularity. It’s in the state’s second congressional district, represented by Dave Loebsack. Trying to get more Republicans in office isn’t ameliorating a problem, it’s creating an unnatural imbalance.

Ironically, the at-large representation system has been used to disenfranchise black voters in the South, as it negates the power of geographically concentrated minorities. In the case of Iowa City, some Democrats say that Republicans are actually spread out enough that changing the system may not even make a difference.

Rod Sullivan, Democrat, and longtime supervisor felt the switch to districts wouldn’t really change much. He explained the law requires equally proportion populations in each of what would be five divisions of about 31,000 people. Metro zones, he said, would still likely be a big influence on each of them.

“Now you’ve got a North Liberty district, a Coralville district,” said Sullivan. “There would be two district’s completely contained in Iowa City. Plus another 15/20,000 Iowa City residents who would be combined with rural residents. There is just no way you can divide it up and get a district that is all rural.”

This is a broader Republican goal, as earlier this year, the party proposed messing with the way larger counties select representatives across all of Iowa, so as to dilute Democratic power in those counties. Right now, counties can choose to break things up into districts, but the GOP wants to FORCE them to do so.

We have to remain vigilant, because Republicans are like vampires that live on fresh democracy — they do their most bloodily efficient work under cover of the night. After all, in just the last month, the GOP has gutted voter-approved initiatives in Michigan (while considering doing so elsewhere) and launched attacks against fair redistricting in states across the country.

Previewing special elections in January and early February: A rising Democratic star, wingnut Republicans

Thought election season was over? Sorry, to paraphrase Jimmy Buffet and people who enjoy life more than me, it’s always election season somewhere.

January 8th

Virginia: Special election for State Senate, District 33

Democrat Jennifer Wexton won her race for Congress this fall, necessitating a special election to fill her northern Virginia State Senate. Wexton was first elected to the seat in a 2014 special election and won a full term in 2015. She won that race by 13% and the seat has been in Democratic hands since the 2005 election, making it a pretty safe blue seat.

Still, given the tight margins of the Virginia State Senate —- Republicans hold a two-seat majority — it’s important to not take anything for granted.

The Democratic nominee for this special election is Jennifer Boysko, who represents the 86th district in the House of Delegates. She has a long history in Democratic and progressive activism, having gotten involved with the Dean campaign early on in the 2004 election cycle. She wound up chairing Howard Dean’s campaign in Virginia, then ran for office herself for the first time in 2012. After losing by 32 votes, Boysko ran again and won her rematch for the House of Delegates in 2014.

During this very shortened campaign, Boysko has focused mostly on economic opportunity, pushing for independent redistricting to break the GOP’s gross gerrymander in Virginia, and reducing gun violence.

CLICK HERE to donate to Boysko’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

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Missouri Republicans join the GOP anti-voter parade, plan to ignore elections and keep their gerrymander

The Republican Party’s post-election assault on democracy continues, with the latest front opening up in Missouri.

In November, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Missourians passed a constitutional amendment nicknamed Clean Missouri, which will fundamentally change elections in the gerrymandered state. Gifts (from lobbyists) to lawmakers will be limited to $5, state officials will be subject to open records transparency laws, former state officials will have to wait two years to become lobbyists, and most significantly, a nonpartisan “state demographer” will now be appointed to draw state legislative districts that achieve partisan fairness.

Analysis has suggested that the redistricting provision will at first benefit Democrats, as the state’s current map is chopped up to keep Republicans in power. And because they value power (and steak dinners) over democracy, the state’s GOP leaders are openly discussing gutting and repealing the voter-approved amendment.

“Fundamentally, you think when the people vote you shouldn’t be changing that vote,” new Governor Mike Parson, who replaced corrupt ex-Gov. Eric Greitens last year, told the AP. “But the reality of it is that is somewhat what your job is sometimes, if you know something’s unconstitutional, if you know some of it’s not right.”

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Diving into the worrisome poll numbers for Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, a cruel jerk even Republicans hate

It took nearly a century for Republicans in Kentucky to gain full control of the state government in Frankfort. Thanks to the autocratic tendencies and boorish attitude of Gov. Matt Bevin, their hold on all levers of power may be short-lived.

Earlier this week, Mason-Dixon released its first poll of this coming November’s Kentucky gubernatorial election, and it’s not looking good out the gate for Bevin. The first-termer trails his most likely opponent, Attorney General Andy Beshear, 48-40, while also trailing State Sen. Rocky Adkins, 42-41. It’s still early, and many have pointed out that Bevin trailed through most of his first election in 2015 before pulling it out in the end, and those things are both true. But the underlying numbers are troubling for Bevin and encouraging for Democrats.

Bevin’s struggles are not just a result of national dissatisfaction with Republicans or antipathy toward Donald Trump. Kentucky voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, then re-elected most GOP legislators in 2018 (though more on those numbers in a bit). Kentuckians just really hate Matt Bevin, who has paired assaults on working people with brash, venomous public remarks.

The governor has just a 38% approval rating, while 53% of Kentuckians disapprove of his performance in office. The dissatisfaction isn’t concentrated in cities and the more liberal parts of the state, either. While he’s the furthest underwater in the Louisville metropolitan area (31-60) and around Lexington (31-61), there is not a single region of the state where he’s above water. The closest he comes is 45-48 approval-disapproval in Western Kentucky. This is significant because Bevin took 106 of Kentucky’s 120 counties in 2015, winning rural voters as well as plenty of suburban and urban voters.

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Bevin’s struggles are also not limited to the gender divide that has so defined American politics of late. He is overwhelmingly hated by women, with a 33-57 approval-to-disapproval spread, but men also are unhappy with his performance, with a 44-48 margin. In the 2018 midterms, men still supported the Republican Party, voting 51% for the GOP. Speaking of midterms, those are also instructive, though the lessons you take from the numbers really depend on how you want to interpret them.

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