March Madness: American Health Care Act

“I’m just a bill, sitting here on Capitol Hill..” 

Schoolhouse rock Bill

The American Health Care Act of 2017 was pulled before a probable defeat on the floor of the House of Representatives today. Here’s a recap of its journey.

After months of anticipation and secrecy, the American Health Care Act of 2017 plan was released by House Republicans on March 6th consisting of two bills. One bill was introduced into the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the other to the House Ways and Means Committee.  The bills passed both committees the next day on a party-line vote and without a Congressional Budget Report (CBO) cost analysis.  It wasn’t until March 13th that the CBO released its budget estimates. The CBO report is often used as a tool for debate prior to any votes. On March 16th the bill passed the House Budget Committee with a vote of 19-17.  It’s important to note that three Republicans on that committee joined the Democrats in opposition.  The bill, HR 1628, then went to the House Rules Committee which sets the terms for the final debate when the bill comes to the House floor for a vote.  The committee approved a provision that allows for the “same-day” rule (or often referred to as martial law), essentially allowing the bill to be voted on the same day even as it is still having changes made to it before being voted out of committee.

In contrast to the fast movement of the American Health Care Act, the Affordable Care Act during the Obama Administration underwent months of negotiations, markup, and debate before its final passage.   It was introduced by Speaker Pelosi in July of 2009 and passed in the House November 2009 and was ultimately not signed into law by then President Obama until March 23, 2010.

Here’s a visual recap of its journey:

AHCA HR 1628.png

Teamsters Local 633 Right to Work Campaign

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This past January, O’Neill and Associates was approached by Teamsters Local 633, a New Hampshire-based labor union of employees in the transportation and delivery industry.  The Teamsters were concerned by the pending passage of “Right to Work” legislation in the New Hampshire State House. The proposed bill was expected to significantly weaken the strength of labor unions in NH. With only a few weeks until a final vote, O’Neill and Associates was able to launch a high-impact, month-long campaign to mobilize the Teamsters’ 4,700 members against Right to Work. O’Neill and Associates, in collaboration with the Teamsters, focused engagement efforts on three areas: traditional media, social/digital media, and member-to-member communication.

O’Neill and Associates helped generate news stories and editorials urging the House of Representatives to vote Right to Work down by targeting outreach to reporters, editors and freelance journalists on the hazards of the bill.

In addition to targeting traditional media outlets, O’Neill and Associates helped Teamsters Local 633 leverage their Facebook account to create and maintain online activism – motivating supporters and providing them with easy-to-understand action items. The Teamsters’ Facebook page was used to post low-dollar paid promotions as well as organic content, and served to amplify the key messages of the campaign and convert awareness into targeted action.

Finally, O’Neill and Associates was able to engage the union’s own members through an internal email campaign.  This campaign provided members with news updates, calls to action and contact information for key legislators.

The energy and enthusiasm throughout this one month campaign against Right to Work paid off.  On the day of the vote, a significant minority of New Hampshire House Republicans joined almost all House Democrats to block passage of the bill, in spite of a last-minute lobbying push by the Governor and Speaker of the House. The final outcome in New Hampshire was an outlier to the national trend of Republicans efforts to successfully implement Right to Work in many states, This campaign can now be a model for other labor unions around the country on how to defeat Right to Work in their communities.

Total Wine & More Shrewsbury Opening

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Attention all wine and beer lovers! On February 23rd, Total Wine & More opened its newest store in Massachusetts, located in the White City Shopping Center on Route 9 in Shrewsbury. The chain’s newest addition is its third store in Massachusetts.

Total Wine & More, the nation’s largest independently owned retailer of fine wine, spirit and beer, opened to the public on Thursday, February 23, but held a sneak peek preview event on Wednesday evening, bringing out more than 300 people to the new store. Customers and guests were encouraged to browse the aisles filled with more than 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits, and 2,500 beers while enjoying beer and wine samplings.

The grand opening celebration include music, free wine and beer tastings, and catered hors d’oeuvres.  A champagne toast, courtesy of Moet Chandon, was offered as store management celebrated the ribbon cutting, officially opening the store for business.

To celebrate the Shrewsbury store’s grand opening, Total Wine & More partnered with the Worcester performing arts center, Mechanics Hall, which received 10 percent of all wine sales from the store’s opening weekend. Over the past year, Total Wine & More has worked with over 8,000 non-profit charitable organizations across the country, providing nearly $7 million in-cash and in-kind donations that has helped their partners raise more than $35 million for great causes.

Total Wine & More is optimistic that its new opening in Shrewsbury will help the community as a whole, bringing more than 50 jobs to the area as well as great offerings for customers including affordability and an unparalleled selection and expertise about beer and wine to Central Massachusetts.

Total Wine & More currently has stores in Natick, Everett, and Shrewsbury, in addition to over 170 stores nationwide.

One Charlestown? Yes, Please

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My name is Mimi Tovar and for 27 years I have lived in the Bunker Hill Apartments (BHA) or “projects” as it is also referred to. I, along with many other residents of the BHA have been negatively impacted by the crumbling infrastructure of the projects and for many of us, living here has caused many health problems – including anxiety, fear, anti-social behavior, asthma, depression – and much more. But it’s all we can afford.

As we are all aware, Boston is changing and growing. As a result, many low-income families have been relocated because they can no longer afford to stay in their homes – and been pushed out by developers. However, One Charlestown is different. Corcoran-SunCal has made a commitment to residents here. They want to keep current residents and invite new ones, because they understand that a thriving and enriching community is found in diversity. The team has been considerate and involved from day one, seeking opinions and input on the project. They have seen, with their own eyes, the horrid conditions we live in, and they want to change that – for us and for Charlestown. I fully support the redevelopment project and cannot wait until I can finally call it home. And many of my neighbors feel the same way.

One Charlestown will be better for all of Charlestown, not just BHA residents. ‘One Charlestown’ breaks down barriers of class and income, and will help everyone get to know each other as people, and come together as a community.

We’re looking forward to finally raising our children in a safe and united community. A place that we don’t have to worry about letting our kids play outside because of exposure to used needles or what lies in our hallways. We don’t want to fear the next overflow of sewerage water because of old plumbing or worry about mold creeping in our walls because of poor ventilation – while waiting six months to get hot water. We no longer want to be prisoners in our own homes and we don’t want to continue to be pushed aside because we live in the projects.

Like everyone else, we want what is best for our children, for them to live productive and safe lives. One Charlestown will give our children a fighting chance because they will no longer have the stigma of being rejected or judged because of the location they live in. Our children will no longer be known as just the “project kids” and that will open doors for them.

We are eager to be part of the Charlestown community. We believe this is what we have waited for, for many generations. So it is with arms wide open that I welcome, support and encourage the rebuilding of our lives through this new redevelopment project of One Charlestown.

Mimi Tovar is Founder of weROCnews.com and a resident of the Bunker Hill Apartments

President Trumps’ Address to a Joint Session of Congress: Reactions and Unanswered Questions

Joint Address.png

By: Jennifer Krowchun

Last night President Trump laid out before Congress and the American people a list of campaign promises and a 50,000 foot view of his vision for our country.  A number of broad ideas were presented, some very partisan and others that could find supporters on both sides of the aisle. With no specific details on the table, the President has left Congressional Republicans with the task of developing realistic legislation within the $4 trillion federal budget and that doesn’t increase the deficit.

Economy

President Trump reiterated his request that Congress draft and pass legislation that would produce a $1 trillion investment in U.S. infrastructure — financed through both public and private capital — focused on creating millions of new jobs and on buying and hiring American.  For Congress to even consider a major infrastructure investment, it will first need to address the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

Healthcare

Everyone can support a healthcare plan that calls for cheaper drugs and insurance costs for patients and doctors, coverage for pre-existing conditions and more resources for states to address Medicaid coverage – but the fundamental issue is finding ample funds for these programs if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. Democrats have long championed the need for paid family leave and affordable childcare and President Trump embraced this last night in an effort to portray a message of unity. Still, what is the plan to make this more than a talking point?

On the idea of Heath Savings Accounts, some see these as good policy as they require employees to plan for healthcare expenses in the future.  However these accounts are often tied to high deductible health insurance plans and affect middle class families whose budgets are already stretched thin.

Immigration

The theme of the President’s speech was “the renewal of the American Spirit.”  Immigration is a cornerstone of our country and its vast economic impacts across industry sectors needs to be recognized and addressed seriously.  Corporations, universities, hospitals, financial institutions are already dealing with the consequences of the first executive order that was halted the by federal courts.  Going forward, what will future enforcements look like and what will they cost the economy?  What will they do to our international relationships?

In the end this address was good for the President’s base as they continue to feel that they are being heard. The coming weeks should be interesting and informative as policy details emerge and budget implications become clearer.

The President’s Budget: An O’Neill and Associates Education/Refresher on the Federal Budget Process

As we continue to assess the Trump administration’s policy initiatives, there is growing anticipation surrounding President Trump’s first budget. As we approach this milestone, we thought it would be helpful to share this review of the federal budget process.

Every year the President of the United States submits a budget request to Congress that is drafted in close coordination with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The budget request outlines funding levels for all federal departments and independent agencies, including spending and revenue proposals as well as any new policies and initiatives with significant budget implications.

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 says that “the President submit the budget between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February.” More recently, Presidents have traditionally sent a budget request to Congress the first week of February for the coming fiscal year, 2018 in this instance, which begins on October 1st. The budget submission is typically delayed in a new President’s first year in recognition of the complexities of transition.  Before the inauguration, the transition team indicated that we might anticipate a draft proposal or “skinny budget” from President Trump in the first 100 days. However, recent reports suggest that the Trump administration may be preparing a full budget request for as early as mid-March to late spring. This timing is not really surprising as the President’s nominee for OMB Director, South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney’s was only approved by the full Senate on February 16th – the longest confirmation wait for an OMB director ever according to RollCall.

More information on the agenda and funding priorities of the Trump administration will likely be revealed when the President addresses a joint session of Congress on February 28th.  President Trump’s speech will not be a formal State of the Union address. Newly inaugurated president’s often deliver a speech on their agenda and goals rather than an assessment on the state of the country. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing today that we can expect the President’s speech to include broad policy initiatives, focused on defining success, as well as look back at what he has accomplished the last month. Additionally the President will share some of his goals to work with Congress on healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure.  O’Neill and Associates’ federal lobbyists will be live tweeting the speech. You can follow along at #OAPolitics and a follow up analysis will be posted to our blog as well.

Once the President’s Budget request is finally released, it is referred to the House and Senate Budget Committees and to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for an analysis and scoring of the proposal to project the budgetary impact of policies.  With the budget request and CBO budget report, the committees each submit a budget resolution in the House and Senate, respectfully.  Budget resolutions have traditionally been submitted in early April, but we anticipate a later timeframe this year. The House and Senate each considers its own resolution before voting on and passing the resolution.  Once passed, the House and Senate each names a handful of members to a joint conference committee to negotiate a conference report – a reconciliation of any differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions. The final joint budget resolution must be approved by both the House and Senate to be binding. Interestingly, the budget resolution is not a law and does not require the President’s signature. However, it is a guide for Congress in the appropriations process. In a future blog post, we will take a more in-depth look at the appropriations process and the role of Congress, the President and even the role clients can play with former House Appropriations Committee staffer, O’Neill and Associates Vice President AmyClaire Brusch.

Development Boom’s Benefit to Boston Residents

img_6120By Chris Tracy

With new development often comes neighborhood concern. Any project that adds more density, residential units and vehicular traffic to streets can cause anxiety and fear of what’s to come from new development. Boston is no stranger to these challenges; Bostonians love their unique neighborhoods and the quaintness that each individual neighborhood has to itself.

During the past few years, Boston has undergone tremendous growth, not only in the downtown and urban core but in every neighborhood in the City (Read about Boston’s Building Boom).  At some point in the development process, every project encounters residents who care deeply about their communities and are concerned with how their community might change. Some residents view new development as only catered to a future resident, with no benefit to existing residents. This is why the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) and City of Boston staff often are met with the question from current residents: “How does this benefit me?”

Two recent Boston Globe articles (“Boston Reaps Tax Windfall from New Construction” and “Average Boston-Area Rent Falls for the First Time in Almost 7 Years”) have addressed how building new units and adding residents to the tax base can actually be a positive thing for current residents. In addition to softening tax bills for homeowners and lowering rents for renters, the new development and added tax base generates additional revenues for City services.

Every project will have supporters and detractors and messaging is central to both sides. Change is not always bad, and often times can have a tangible benefit to those who at first glance may not like the change being discussed.

To learn more about our community relations services visit our website www.oneillandassoc.com or call us at 617-646-1000.

CEO’s Corner: American Activism

220px-Thomas_P_O'Neill_III“We the People…” From our very founding, activism has been a fundamental element of the America’s DNA. Our Constitution not only declares, but protects our rights to activism—to assemble, to speak openly, to have a free press, and to choose our government. The activist spirit runs deep in Massachusetts. Colonial patriots in Boston and its suburbs rose up in 1775 to fight for freedom. Abolitionists like Amos Adams Lawrence expanded that fight in the 19th Century. Suffragists like Julia Ward Howe gave it additional meaning in the 20th Century.

In the past several decades, grassroots movements for civil rights and voting rights, worker protections, environmental protection, disabled and LGBT rights have inspired generations of Americans and changed our country for the better.

More recently the growth of the Tea Party movement and the 2016 presidential election energized  constituencies that rekindled American activism, and in turn have energized a force in response, as seen in the historic Women’s Marches in cities across the US and the world– and just last week in the response to the Trump Administration’s travel ban. I am very proud that Massachusetts continues to be a leader in so many of these initiatives.

While elections and marches are defined by messaging and voter turnout, successful movements also recognize the need to engage directly with Congress, and to seek opportunities to shape policy at the state level. The Trump Administration is only two weeks old but there has already been a flurry of executive actions and even a Supreme Court nomination. While every newly-elected President promises change, every Congress has a responsibility to vet that agenda.  And in an activist democracy every citizen has responsibility to express their support for or opposition to the direction the country is going.

Lawmaking is intentionally complex. The Founding Fathers and the legislative leaders that followed them recognized there is a purpose to process. The Congressional committee structure and House and Senate rules ensure time for thoughtful deliberation and adequate public input. Legislative delays are not always the enemy to progress, but rather an opportunity for debate. There will be votes and points of order at every turn as Congress considers repealing the Affordable Care Act, re-writing the tax code, increasing infrastructure investments, and perhaps radically amending regulations on immigration, banking, the environment, health care, and higher education. As these policy priorities are considered, legislative relationships will be critical and the voices of voters, industry and other stakeholders will be paramount.

I believe we will see a lot more American activism over the next four years. It’s what gave birth to our country and what for more than 200 years has made our country great.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s 2017 State-of-the-State

highres_120403_oneill_jamiedunbar-0269By: Jamie Dunbar

Having worked for two former Republican Governors in Massachusetts, I was struck by the Governor Baker’s closing remarks.  His words are a reminder of the class, collegiality and confidence we have been fortunate to witness in our great state.  At a time where our national elected leaders and political party apparatus are as divisive as they have ever been, Governor Charlie Baker made it clear that will not be the case here in Massachusetts.  Governor Baker addressed the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with his plans, commitments and strategies for the coming year.  He highlighted several accomplishments such as relocating GE’s headquarters to Boston and the efforts underway on issues ranging from economic development, combating the opioid epidemic and improving transportation infrastructure.  After extoling strides made to lower unemployment, provide predictable energy costs and improve services for children and families, the Governor spoke candidly on his vision for governing in the current political environment.  His theme was one of respect, inclusiveness and bi-partisan cooperation.  Governor Baker, a Republican in a deep blue state, has experienced high approval ratings and favorability since taking office.  He is lauded for working well with the Commonwealth’s super majority Democratic legislature and for finding areas of common ground.  While acknowledging he may not agree with legislators on every issue, the debate will be driven by respect, courtesy and compromise.  This is how the Commonwealth will be governed in his Administration.  These are not always the easiest waters to navigate, but with leaders committed to progress and civility, citizens will be better served.