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Sewell, LaHood introduce bipartisan bill to strengthen ambulance services, combat fraud

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-Selma) and Congressman Darin LaHood (R-Illinois) have introduced H.R. 6269, a bipartisan bill to prevent upcoming Medicare cuts to reimbursements for ambulance service providers.

In order to pay for better reimbursement rates, the legislation reduces reimbursements for fraudulent ambulance service providers, specifically targeting providers who primarily provide non-emergency transportation.

Rep. Sewell said that the, “Bill ensures that good actors in the ambulance industry don’t have to pay for the crimes of bad actors.”

“It is vital that we support emergency services providers in our rural areas, yet upcoming modifications to Medicare payments threaten to unfairly impact 24-7 emergency ambulance services in rural America,” Rep. LaHood said. “These changes will disrupt providers’ ability to plan and offer comprehensive services around the clock to rural patients, like many of my constituents throughout Central & West Central IL. Our bill would correct this by reforming the program to reflect the reality of the work these providers do in our communities, while continuing to assist all ambulance services to assure they meet the needs of Medicare patients in the 18th District.”

“When emergency strikes, our communities depend on a network of reliable ambulance providers, and today’s bill supports that network by preventing Medicare cuts to ambulance reimbursement,” Rep. Sewell said. “In order to strengthen Medicare, our bill also cracks down on fraud within the ambulance industry, weeding out deceptive providers who take advantage of fragile dialysis patients and drain Medicare of funds with unnecessary ambulance transports. Today’s legislation finds a commonsense solution to the challenge of providing all Americans with access to emergency transportation which Members on both sides of the aisle can support.”

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“I want to thank my colleague Congresswoman Sewell for co-authoring this bipartisan legislation with me, as well as the stakeholders throughout the 18th District, and I look forward to working together to get this vital legislation passed,” Rep. LaHood said.

The bill has been referred Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).
The legislation is anticipated to have a bipartisan Senate companion introduced in the coming weeks.

On February 9, 2018, the House passed a government funding bill which included a proposal by Rep. Sewell to increase ambulance reimbursements for providers in rural areas.

Rep. Terri A. Sewell represents the Seventh Congressional District.

Sewell is seeking a fifth term. She has no Republican opponent.

She sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was recently appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Sewell is a Chief Deputy Whip and serves on the Democratic Caucus’s Steering and Policy Committee. She is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and serves as Vice Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, and Vice Chair of Outreach for the New Democrat Coalition. She is the only Black woman to have ever represented the State of Alabama in the United States Congress.

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Shelby, Jones press Commerce Department to enforce anti-dumping laws to protect American catfish farmers

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Senators Richard Shelby (R) and Doug Jones (D) were part of a group of eight U.S. Senators calling on Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to implement U.S. antidumping laws strongly and impartially to ensure U.S. catfish producers are competing on a level playing field.

Sens. Jones and Shelby joined Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) raised what they believe to be serious concerns over recent deferential actions by International Trade Administration (ITA) toward a Vietnamese catfish exporter, the Hung Vuong Group, which the Senators say could affect the critical process to determine whether Vietnam continues to violate U.S. antidumping laws.


SEE MORE: Read the letter.


“We are troubled by this series of events, as in recent years Commerce has consistently found significant dumping by Vietnamese fish fillet exporters, and has determined repeatedly that many exporters have been uncooperative in responding to the Department’s questionnaires,” the Senators wrote. “The decision by Commerce to consent to a Vietnamese Embassy official’s request to allow uncooperative Vietnamese parties to impede your Department’s proceeding with further delays will have a catastrophic effect on the domestic industry. Our catfish farmers rely on strong enforcement of U.S. antidumping laws to ensure they can compete on a level playing field.”

“Vietnamese respondents or any other parties that fail to comply with requests for timely and accurate information, do not deserve more favorable treatment than U.S. catfish producers,” the Southern Senators wrote. “We hope your Department will remain committed to strong implementation of U.S. antidumping laws, and that procedural rules will be applied to all parties in an impartial manner.”

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The Senators argue that ITA, a Commerce Department agency, in recent months has deviated from standard practices to grant the Hung Vuong Group (HVG), a leading Vietnamese exporter, extensions to provide evidence of its compliance with U.S. antidumping laws. The Senators charge that the agency actions contradicted its own earlier actions to reject incomplete HVG data and to apply standard dumping margins to HGV products.

Since 2003, ITA has found that frozen fish fillets from Vietnam have been sold in the United States at less than fair market value, resulting in economic damage to U.S. catfish producers.

The Senators also met with USDA Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) Administrator Carmen Rottenberg recently to receive an update on her agency’s catfish inspection program for both domestic and foreign products.

The Senators point out that FSIS inspections in FY2017 and FY2018 resulted in more than six million pounds of catfish being rejected for not meeting U.S. food safety standards. As the FSIS has worked to fully implement the inspection program, the number of eligible exporters has dropped from more than 90 in 2017 to 27 in 2018.

The Senators wrote, “To express serious concern over a recent action by the International Trade Administration to reverse an earlier decision in the antidumping proceeding involving frozen fish fillets from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This reversal will adversely impact catfish farmers and processors in our states, and is inconsistent with this Administration’s commitment to strong enforcement of U.S. trade laws.”

“We have been informed that an official from the Embassy of Vietnam met with Commerce Department officials on May 15, 2018,” the Senators stated. “The following week, Commerce reversed its decision and allowed HVG to refile its untimely response. Commerce then compounded the negative effect of its decision on American catfish farmers by extending the deadline for its preliminary finding, allowing HVG more time to justify the data in its late filing. As a result, HVG received a preliminary finding of no dumping.”

“As Commerce officials travel to Vietnam in the near future to verify HVG reported data, we respectfully request that you strongly urge them to conduct this verification rigorously, and not tolerate further delays or obstruction from HVG or other Vietnamese officials,” the Senators asked.

94 percent of American catfish is raised in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Sixty to seventy percent of the catfish sold in the U.S. is imported, much of it from Vietnam.

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National

Brooks warns of potential debilitating national insolvency after deficit jumps 17 percent

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, issued a warning about the potential for a “Debilitating National Insolvency and bankruptcy that robs America of the prosperity and peace we have long enjoyed” following the release of the Treasury Department’s preliminary Fiscal Year 2018 deficit projection of $779 billion and the Comptroller General’s statement that America’s fiscal path is “unsustainable.”

“Yesterday’s Treasury Department report confirms that, when it comes to financial responsibility, Washington is a total and complete bipartisan failure,” Brooks said. “Thankfully, because of free-enterprise economic reforms, America’s economy is booming and federal revenues are up. Unfortunately, Washington spending has once again outstripped and left revenue growth in the dust.”

“At $779 billion for FY 2018, America’s deficit is 17 percent worse than last year’s $666 billion deficit. [3] Worse yet, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that next year’s deficit will near the $1-trillion mark,” Brooks wrote in a statement. “Even worse yet, the CBO estimates all subsequent deficits will blow past $1 trillion per year. [4] America’s total debt has exploded to $21.5 trillion. [5] U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro has once again evaluated America’s deficit and debt situation and warned Washington that our financial path is ‘unsustainable’ (accounting language for ‘an insolvency and bankruptcy is in America’s future if we do not change our financially irresponsible path’).”

“American taxpayers shelled out about $325 billion in debt service costs in Fiscal Year 2018,” Rep. Brooks continued. “To put $325 billion into perspective, it is more than 15 times what America spends annually on NASA and more than 6 times what the federal government spends annually on transportation. Absent constructive change, the CBO warns Washington that debt service costs will exceed $800 billion per year within a decade. [7] $800 billion is more than what America currently spends on national defense.”

“This financial data points to one dangerous outcome: a debilitating national insolvency and bankruptcy that robs Americans of the prosperity and peace we have long enjoyed,” Rep. Brooks warned. “I cannot overemphasize how the voting public throughout America must do a far better job of studying and understanding economic issues well enough to elect senators and congressmen who have both the intellect to understand the threat posed by America’s deficits and accumulated debt and the backbone to do what it takes to prevent the economic destruction of a nation it took our ancestors centuries to build.”

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The primary driver of the debt has been entitlements, Brooks said. So-called “mandatory spending” on expensive social programs including: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are increasing much faster than federal revenues or GDP. The Republican Congress has increased spending on Defense, cut taxes, but has not addressed exploding entitlement costs. The improving economy also means rising interest rates which dramatically increases the cost of servicing the national debt, which has ballooned to $21,634 billion.

Congressman Mo Brooks is seeking his fifth term in the United States Congress. He faces former Huntsville city attorney Peter Joffrion in the general election on November 6.

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National

Alabama has small but growing immigrant population

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama has a smaller immigrant population than many other states, but the immigrant population is growing and several industries rely heavily upon immigrants for labor, according to an analysis from the American Immigration Council.

As the Trump Administration continues to implement hard-line policies, including family separation, asylum crackdowns and travel bans, immigration remains a top issue as the November midterm elections near.

Immigrants represent nearly 4 percent of Alabama’s total population. In 2015, 169,972 foreign-born individuals lived in Alabama. Another 3 percent of residents are native-born U.S. citizens who have at least one immigrant parent, according to the analysis. About a third of Alabama’s immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens. Another 30,000 are eligible to become naturalized, the analysis found.

As the number of immigrants living in Alabama grows, it’s still lagging behind other states. Georgia, for example, has an immigrant population that comprises 10 percent of its total population. About 17 percent of Texas’s population is immigrants, and in California, the number is even higher at 27.3 percent.

State, Mo Brooks sue to block counting of immigrants in 2020 census

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Alabama has sued the U.S. Census Bureau, seeking to block the counting of undocumented immigrants in the 2020 census. Alabama officials fear Alabama could lose a congressional seat when reapportionment happens because Alabama’s total population growth is slower than many other states.

According to documents obtained through a public records request, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office has spent at least $4,914 paying the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigration think tank, for a demographic analysis of all 50 states to determine how immigrant populations make affect reapportionment.

A number of the Center for Immigration Studies’ reports have been disputed by other groups such as the Migration Policy Institute, the libertarian Cato Institute, PolitiFact and the Immigration Policy Center. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated CIS as an anti-immigrant hate group.

While the population is relatively small, industry relies heavily upon immigrant labor. Almost 13 percent of all workers in life, physical, and social sciences are immigrants, as are 12 percent of construction and extraction employees, according to the American Immigration Council’s analysis.

While a large portion of immigrants living in Alabama are naturalized citizens or legal residents, the analysis showed that nearly 40,000 U.S. citizens in Alabama are living with at least one family member who is undocumented. About 39 percent of the immigrant population — or 1.3 percent of the state population in 2014 — is undocumented.

More than 100,932 immigrant workers comprise about 5 percent of Alabama’s workforce, the analysis showed. The top industries for immigrant workers are manufacturing, construction, accommodation and food services, retail trade and health care.

Immigrants paid $719.7 million in federal taxes and $252.6 million in state and local taxes in 2014, and, as consumers, they spent $2.7 billion on Alabama’s economy. As entrepreneurs, immigrants in Alabama generated $179.3 million in business revenue in 2015.

Undocumented immigrants, despite their legal status, paid more than $62.3 million in state and local taxes in 2014, the analysis found, and that contribution would rise to $80 million if they achieved legal status. Those who had enrolled in President Barack Obama’s DACA program paid an estimated $13.2 million in state and local taxes in 2016.

All in all, immigrants have $2.7 billion in spending power.

The American Immigration Council drew from U.S. Census data and other sources to develop their analysis, which provides the latest demographic and economic contributions of immigrants in each U.S. state.

 

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Elections

Alliance for Retired Americans endorses Lee Auman for US Congress

Brandon Moseley

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The Alliance for Retired Americans announced that they have endorsed Democrat James Lee Auman for U.S. Congress in Alabama’s 4th congressional district. The Alliance represents more than 4.4 million retirees, including 68,337 in Alabama.

The Alliance wrote: “[we believe] that [Lee Auman’s] election to the House of Representatives will enhance the quality of life for older Americans.”

The Alliance cited Auman’s commitment to preserve Social Security and Medicare, as well as his dedication to provide more affordable health care for older Americans.

“Older Americans have the right to retire with dignity,” Auman said. “I am committed to supporting Alabama’s retirees by keeping health care affordable and earned benefits protected.”

Auman has also been endorsed by American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the Alabama Democratic Conference, and the New South Coalition.

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Auman is running against popular eleven term GOP incumbent Congressman Robert Aderholt of Haleyville.

Auman’s repeated calls for Aderholt to debate him have been ignored.
On Tuesday, the Advertiser-Gleam, Arab Tribune, and Sand Mountain Reporter will hold a political forum in Guntersville, Alabama. Lee Auman accepted the invitation to participate. Robert Aderholt’s office has yet to respond to the request by the legacy media outlets.

“I’m looking forward to speaking with and hearing from voters,” Auman said. “As his constituent, I wish the Congressman would offer the people of his district the same respect.”

Martha Gravlee, Auman’s campaign manager said. “By refusing to respond, Aderholt has made one thing clear: he cares more about playing a political game than the people he was elected to represent.”

The political forum will be held at the town hall in Guntersville, Alabama at 6:00 p.m. tonight.

Auman faces a daunting task. Not only is Congressman Aderholt an incumbent with much more financial resources to spend, the Fourth Congressional District is the most pro-Donald Trump district in the entire country.

Lee Auman is a former camp manager.

The general election will be November 6.

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Sewell, LaHood introduce bipartisan bill to strengthen ambulance services, combat fraud

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