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Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Wisconsin Supreme Court hears lengthy arguments in lame-duck lawsuit

Conservative and liberal state Supreme Court justices pressed attorneys on both sides of a lawsuit targeting the Wisconsin's lame-duck laws during a lengthy round of oral arguments Monday.

While the court, which has a 5-2 conservative majority, peppered lawyers representing the Legislature, governor, attorney general and others with a series of questions, justices also seemed to signal an openness to some arguments from Democrats during the first hour of comments.

The arguments came in a case that was filed in February by five unions and alleges the December 2018 extraordinary session violated the separation of powers by limiting the authority of the incoming attorney general and governor.

The laws require Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul to get approval from a Republican-controlled legislative committee to settle cases, allow the Legislature to hire its own attorneys and get involved in lawsuits and more.

Read more: https://madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/wisconsin-supreme-court-hears-lengthy-arguments-in-lame-duck-lawsuit/article_521b670e-36be-56a6-92e3-64e3c79bd7dd.html

Trump administration gives Wisconsin the go-ahead to conduct drug tests for unemployment benefits

MADISON - The federal government has cleared the way for Wisconsin to perform drug tests on some applicants for unemployment benefits, but it's unclear how soon the state will implement the program.

Republicans who controlled state government in 2015 approved a budget provision to conduct drug tests in some cases, but they needed approval from the federal government before they could implement the program.

This month, President Donald Trump's administration issued rules allowing Wisconsin and other states to test those who seek unemployment compensation if the only jobs they can do are in fields that routinely perform drug tests.

The state Department of Workforce Development oversees unemployment insurance in Wisconsin and will be responsible for the drug testing program.

Read more: https://www.postcrescent.com/story/news/politics/2019/10/21/wisconsin-gets-ok-conduct-drug-tests-unemployment-benefits/4021839002/
(Appleton Post-Crescent)

Trial for doctor, ex-wife in $4.4m health care scheme underway

GAINESVILLE -- Prosecutors say Erik Michael Schabert, 49, and Mika Kamissa Harris, 50, submitted insurance claims for surgeries and treatments that never took place to treat falsified skin condition diagnoses.

Maria Carpenter, an bookkeeper for an insurance company in Newberry, told a jury Monday morning that she had received skin care treatment at Reliant Family Practice in January 2015 for some discoloration on her forehead and adult acne, including one chemical peel.

What wasn’t true, she said, were the notes her skin care provider wrote in her patient file, which claimed Carpenter had 95 total skin lesions, or abnormal growths, all over her body.

The federal trial for Reliant owner Dr. Erik Michael Schabert, a licensed osteopathic physician, and his then-wife and office manager Mika Kamissa Harris, a licensed cosmetologist, entered its third week Monday. The two are accused of filing $4.4 million in false insurance claims to Blue Cross Blue Shield and Medicare between January 2013 and July 2016, and falsifying patient symptoms and diagnoses in the process.

Read more: https://www.gainesville.com/news/20191021/trial-for-doctor-ex-wife-in-44m-health-care-scheme-underway

Judge rules Tampa taxing hotel visitors illegally

A circuit court judge has ruled that a hotel room surcharge — collected by the city of Tampa on top of its existing maxed-out bed tax — is an “illegal tax,” according to a spokesperson for the Florida House, which sued the city over the $1.50-per-night fee two years ago.

The House Speaker at the time, Republican Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes, set out to stop the city from collecting a special “marketing fee” on each room night after a WTSP-TV report spotlighted the controversial charges, created by Tampa in 2017 to generate new revenue for tourism marketing. State law prohibits a city or county from taxing hotel guests more than 5 or 6 cents on the dollar, depending on the county’s annual tourism figures.

Attorneys from GrayRobinson, representing the city of Tampa, argued the case lacked merit, for the $1.50-per-night charge was a “fee,” and not a “tax.” They also accused Corcoran of assaulting “home rule powers.” But the case proceeded for the last two years, even as Corcoran was succeeded as Speaker by Rep. José Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican.

Judge Rex Barbus announced the state’s motion for summary judgment would be approved last Thursday, according to the House spokesperson. The state successfully argued that a per-night fee on hotel stays was a charge on an activity that varies over time, and therefore, a tax that was never authorized by the Legislature.

Read more: https://floridapolitics.com/archives/309165-judge-rules-tampa-taxing-hotel-visitors-illegally

Florida schools: Computer science now counts as math credit - is this a good idea?

Florida is one of 47 states allowing computer science to count as math credit. But are these changes helping students or hurting them?

In 2013, a who’s who of the tech world came together to launch a new nonprofit called Code.org. The purpose of the organization was to get more computer science into schools.

Billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates donated millions of dollars to the group. According to the organization’s last annual report, Code.org spent more than US$91 million between 2013 and 2018. Of that amount, $6.9 million went to advocate for state legislation across the country.

As part of the organization’s mission to “make computer science count” in K-12 education, code.org takes credit for having influenced graduation policies in 42 states. Today, 47 states and the District of Columbia allow computer science classes to count in place of math classes like Algebra 2. Prior to the organization’s work, only a few states allowed computer science to count for math credit.

Read more: https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20191015/florida-schools-computer-science-now-counts-as-math-credit---is-this-good-idea

Senators weigh Gov. DeSantis' suspension of Broward sheriff amid testimony about deadly mistakes

Members of the Florida Senate’s powerful Rules Committee clashed Monday over whether Gov. Ron DeSantis had sufficient grounds to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from office or had overstepped his authority.

George Levesque, a former Senate general counsel chosen just last week to represent the governor, told the senators not to hold to strict rules of evidence but to vote on “whatever moves your conscience.”

“At the end of the day, it is a political decision,” Levesque said.

“This is not the right way of doing business,” retorted Republican Sen. Tom Lee, insisting that evidence should rule the day, not what he called an implied “quid pro quo” for voting in support of the governor.

Read more: https://www.floridaphoenix.com/2019/10/21/senators-weigh-gov-desantis-suspension-of-broward-sheriff-amid-testimony-about-deadly-mistakes/

Feds asked for information about Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in City Club of Chicago subp

Federal investigators sought information about Democratic Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan in a subpoena and search warrant served on the City Club of Chicago as part of a probe into ComEd’s lobbying practices, sources told the Tribune on Monday.

The emergence of Madigan’s name on the paperwork is the latest indication that authorities are looking at the powerful veteran speaker as part of their burgeoning investigation. Madigan spokeswoman Eileen Boyce said she had no comment.

The City Club subpoena and search warrant, executed in mid-May, also requested information about several ComEd officials, including Anne Pramaggiore, a source said. She is a former top ComEd official who abruptly retired last week as CEO of Exelon Utilities. A source has told the Tribune that she was one of the focuses of the federal investigation.

Two other longtime ComEd lobbyists — John Hooker and Fidel Marquez — are also named in the subpoena and search warrant, a source said. Pramaggiore and Hooker have declined to comment, and Marquez has not responded to messages over the last few weeks. Hooker and Marquez are under federal scrutiny, sources have told the Tribune.

Read more: https://www.chicagotribune.com/investigations/ct-city-club-of-chicago-feds-raided-search-warrant-20191021-c6dqwp2ewjfatfmq4keio6taum-story.html

Holy Cross Hospital cutting more than half its beds, including labor and delivery, amid financial

Holy Cross Hospital cutting more than half its beds, including labor and delivery, amid financial challenges

Holy Cross Hospital is cutting more than half its beds, amid financial challenges facing a number of hospitals.

In all, Holy Cross will go from 264 licensed beds to fewer than 110 beds, said Airica Steed, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Sinai Health System, which operates the hospital in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood. Service cuts include the temporary suspension of OB/GYN care.

Holy Cross has been running in the red as it grapples with low reimbursement rates from government health insurance programs and a shift from patients needing overnight care to more patients getting care without overnight stays, said Karen Teitelbaum, president and CEO of Sinai Health System. The hospital has been losing about $2 million a month since July.

“We really are making sure that whatever changes we make, we’re ensuring we have ample beds of the right kind to continue to serve the community,” Teitelbaum said.

Read more: https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-sinai-health-system-cutting-services-labor-20191021-efy43fgc3vf4vk3xy3k7egspey-story.html

Sen. Elizabeth Warren to join Chicago teachers on picket line

Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is set to join the city’s striking teachers on the picket line Tuesday.

The senator will bring her campaign to Chicago in a visit to Oscar DePriest Elementary School at 139 S. Parkside Ave. in Austin on the West Side, her campaign said.

“I called Chicago teachers on strike to let them know I’m standing beside them,” Warren wrote on Twitter. “They’re out fighting for the future of our students—and I’m with them all the way. #PutItInWriting #FairContractNow.”

The tweet included a video of a phone call she made to a teacher that donated to her campaign. “Be strong in the Chicago teachers strike,” she says in the video “ ... I know you are out there fighting for the future of our children. ... Stay on the picket lines as long as you need to.”

Read more: https://chicago.suntimes.com/2019/10/21/20925992/cps-strike-sen-elizabeth-warren-chicago-teachers-union-ctu

Beto O'Rourke: Donald Trump has broken the law and is working in the best interests of Russia.

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