August 1, 2015

Sen. Fischer joins in call to take money from Planned Parenthood (AUDIO)

Sen. Deb Fischer speaks at the news conference in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Deb Fischer speaks at the news conference in Washington, D.C.

A Nebraska United States Senator has joined with other senators calling for Planned Parenthood to be stripped of federal funding in wake of shocking videos released to the public.

First one, then another.

Now, a third video released; clandestine recordings of Planned Parenthood executives discussing abortion procedures that spare organs so they can be used later for medical research.

In one video, the Planned Parenthood official appears to be haggling over the price of fetal body parts.

Sen. Deb Fischer stated during a news conference Planned Parenthood should no longer receive federal money.

“People all across this country are horrified and appalled by the images that we have seen on the videos and the conversations that we have heard on those videos,” Fischer stated during the news conference held in Washington, D.C. “What is especially shocking is the lack of compassion towards women and unborn children.”

Fischer is co-sponsoring legislation by Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa which would strip funding from Planned Parenthood and give it to other health organizations.

Republican leaders, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, joined a number of senators at the news conference.

Fischer had already co-signed a letter Ernst wrote to the federal Department of Health and Human Services to request help investigating Planned Parenthood. Sen. Ben Sasse also signed the letter.

The senators accuse Planned Parenthood of violating federal law and medical ethics. The letter requests the department retain all electronic and paper records which might be pertinent to the investigation.

The Center for Medical Progress shot the videos clandestinely while dining with Planned Parenthood executives.

Planned Parenthood receives about $500 million a year in federal funding.

Dar Danielson of Radio Iowa contributed to this report.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Congressman Smith pushes to ease regs on rural hospitals (AUDIO)

Congressman Adrian Smith

Congressman Adrian Smith

A Nebraska Congressman says federal rules don’t just hurt the bottom line of rural hospitals, they interfere with patient care.

Congressman Adrian Smith proposes changes for two federal rules.

One requires a doctor be on hand, even for routine medical decisions; a burden on rural hospitals which Smith says should be able to rely on other trained medical professionals on hand.

“We need to stand behind that training and entrust our providers to make good, professional decisions in the best interest of the patient without the federal government getting in the way,” Smith tells Nebraska Radio Network.

The other rule targeted by Smith requires hospitals guarantee a patient-stay not exceed 96 hours for the hospital to receive reimbursement from Medicaid or Medicare.

Smith would lift the rule for Critical Access Hospitals.

Smith’s legislation got a boost when the Brown County Hospital CEO Shannon Sorensen told Ways and Means Committee members the rules added undue burdens for her hospital in Ainsworth.

[Click here for our story on Sorensen’s testimony.]

Sorensen testified at a committee public hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Sorensen told committee members Brown County has only one physician and requiring him to be at the hospital for routine procedures is unrealistic; often causing her hospital to postpone medical care. A strict interpretation of the 96-hour rule will cost Brown County Hospital Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, vital to the hospital’s bottom line, according to Sorensen.

Congressman Smith sponsors H.R. 169, the Critical Access Hospital Relief Act, removing the 96-hour precertification requirement for patients at Critical Access Hospitals. He also sponsors H.R. 170, the Rural Health Care Provider Relief Act, which would delay the physician supervision requirement for a year until its impact can be studied.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Gov. Ricketts confident no more unemployment checks will go to inmates (AUDIO)

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts says his administration has taken steps to insure inmates no longer receive unemployment checks.

Ricketts says the discovery that 180 inmates received $156,000 in unemployment checks is an example of his administration is doing a better job of working together as agencies. Ricketts says cooperation between the Department of Correctional Services and the Department of Labor uncovered the violation of state law.

Many of those incarcerated who received unemployment compensation were locked up in county jails. One inmate received $4,300 in unemployment benefits.

Ricketts says recent changes in unemployment compensation should insure it doesn’t happen again.

“We made the announcement last week with regard to requiring folks on unemployment to work with a coach. So, again, if you have to do that to be able to collect on claims, that’s one of the ways that we’ll be able to prevent people who are in our corrections system from being able to collect,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Earlier this month, Ricketts announced the Department of Labor will launch a new reemployment system aimed at helping the unemployed find jobs. The program will require nearly everyone receiving an unemployment check to enroll in an individualized reemployment plan to remain eligible for benefits. It is partially funded with federal money. It begins in October.

Ricketts says he has full confidence that Corrections Director Scott Frakes and Labor Director John Albin will address the problem of incarcerated individuals receiving unemployment benefits illegally.

The Nebraska Department of Labor says the inmates got the jobless benefits, because it had no reliable way to determine checks were going to people who were incarcerated. Officials recently have development a computer program to cross-check applicants for unemployment benefits.

A new interagency effort has begun to crack down on fraudulent unemployment claims involving the Nebraska Crime Commission as well as the Departments of Corrections and Labor. The effort plans to prosecute those involve and seek restitution.

State Labor officials say they have begun the process of recovering the fraudulent claims, both the unemployment checks distributed, plus a 15% penalty.

How the inmates received the checks remains somewhat of a mystery. Some used friends and family to file claims. Some inmates might have file for unemployment checks directly from jail.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Officials warn EPA renewable fuels proposal could hurt Midwest (AUDIO)

Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks during a news conference at Novozymes in Blair

Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks during a news conference at Novozymes in Blair

State officials, agricultural leaders, and business executives warn that Nebraska’s economy could be harmed if the Environmental Protection Agency follows through with a proposal to lower the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).

General Manager Kyle Nixon of Novozymes says the company plans to expand its facility in Blair if demand for ethanol remains strong.

“The ethanol industry has proven that it can deliver. The technology is there and it is consistently developing. The RFS works,” Nixon tells supporters during a news conference held at the plant in Blaire, “We are asking our employees, our Blair residents, and everyone in the state of Nebraska and Iowa to have their voice heard in support of the RFS.”

Gov. Ricketts speaks with Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds at Novozymes as Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson looks on

Gov. Ricketts speaks with Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds at Novozymes as Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson looks on

Gov. Pete Ricketts tells the crowd the EPA proposal would cut back on the standard and harm the state economy.

Ricketts says the current Renewable Fuel Standard creates jobs and helps the environment.

“And it’s important for us to be able to take care of the environment by using ethanol. It also allows us to be less reliant on foreign oil,” according to Ricketts. “So, you can see this is an industry that really creates win-wins, not only for Nebraska and Iowa, and creates great jobs here in the Midwest, but it’s important for the entire country.”

Ricketts urges residents to protest the change as the Monday deadline for taking public comments fast approaches.

“What now the EPA is considering doing is pulling the rug out from underneath our ethanol industry, the companies that depend on the ethanol industry, and our farmers here in Nebraska by slashing billions of gallons from that renewable fuels standard,” Ricketts says.

The governor’s office released an economic analysis by Fuels America released this year that claims the RFS is driving $184 billion in economic activity and more than 850,000 jobs with $46 billion in wages across America.

The local impact for Nebraska is estimated at $11.1 billion and nearly 40,000 jobs. Likewise, the impact for Iowa is projected at $19.3 billion and 73,000 jobs.

The United States produces 14 billion gallons of biofuels a year.

Nebraska officials claim the EPA is reneging on its commitment to follow Congressional action in 2007 that revised the RFS.

Novozymes is a leader in the biofuels industry. Enzymes from its Blair plant allow agricultural products like corn starch and corn stover to be converted into conventional and advanced biofuels. Nixon says a cut back in the RFS could alter plans to expand the plant in Blair.

Those are the news conference urged the public to oppose the change in the RFS before the Monday deadline expires.

Click here for a link to post comments on the RFS.

AUDIO:  News conference held at Novozymes on the Renewable Fuel Standard. [24 min.]

Planned Parenthood videos prompt senators to call for investigation (AUDIO)

Both of Nebraska’s United States Senators have called for an investigation of Planned Parenthood in wake of the release of videos purporting to show its executives discussing the trafficking of fetus body parts.

Both Sen. Deb Fischer and Sen. Ben Sasse call the videos appalling.

They have signed a letter drafted by Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa requesting the federal Department of Health and Human Services aid Congress in an investigation of Planned Parenthood practices. The senators accuse Planned Parenthood of violating federal law and medical ethics. It requests the department retain all electronic and paper records which might be pertinent to the investigation.

The videos have been released by the Center for Medical Progress, both shot clandestinely while dining with Planned Parenthood executives.

Sasse issues a caution for those wanting to watch the videos.

“The real news here is just how disgusting it is to talk about marketing and selling and making a profit off of baby body parts,” Sasse tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I want to be clear to your listeners that if you try to watch the video it will make you sick.”

At least 50 senators have signed the letter so far.

Sasse, who has long held that Planned Parenthood should not receive federal funding, says the organization should be stripped of the $500 million it receives each year from the federal government.

“But I think the more fundamental thing that needs to happen is we need to pause as a culture and reflect on the dignity of human life and how we can have a higher regard for that great gift,” Sasse says.

Fischer released the following statement regarding the letter:

“The videos of Planned Parenthood executives negotiating the price of baby body parts are appalling. This organization receives nearly a billion dollars in taxpayer funding each year – which I oppose – and these practices must be investigated thoroughly.

“I am disgusted by these revelations. Congress has a duty to conduct robust oversight and determine whether this organization has broken the law. If so, they must be held accountable.”

PDF of letter to DHHS

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]