ny-27

Thursday, August 3, 2017 at 2:16 pm
posted by Howard Owens in health care, affordable care act, Chris Collins, ny-27.

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Photo by Maria Pericozzi.

The future of health care coverage for some Americans has become uncertain. If your employer provides health coverage through an HMO or PPO, you're probably OK. If you're on Medicare or Medicaid, you're probably OK. But if you're one of the 51 million of U.S. residents who must buy your own coverage, you might be watching the news coming out of Washington with concern.

After seven years of promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans in Congress have been unable to do either. Now, President Trump is threatening to defund the CSRs (cost sharing reductions) that help insurance companies contain coverage costs. He may not be able to do that, at least in New York, but there are other actions Trump can take to hamper the health care exchanges. The funding reductions and uncertainty are creating turmoil for insurers and consumers alike.

There are a reported 3,700 Wyoming County residents who purchased their health insurance through the New York exchange for 2017.

A month ago, The Wyoming County Free Press spoke with Rep. Chris Collins at length about his views on health care, with a follow-up interview last week, and learned that Collins doesn't think anybody needs worry about their coverage. When the House repeal and replace bill, the American Health Care Act was still alive (at the time of our first talk), he was confident that bill would be better for New Yorkers. Last week, when the so-called "skinny repeal" was still on the table (it since failed in the Senate), he thought whether it passed or not, New Yorkers would still have no trouble getting the coverage and care they needed.

The Congressional Budget Office has issued reports saying from 15 million to 25 million Americans could lose health benefits if either of those bills passed, but when pressed, Collins maintained there remained viable ways for anybody who needed coverage to get coverage.

Collins believes we have the best health care in the world, that Medicaid should be the same in all 50 states, that Republicans will never support universal health care, and he plans to continue the push to shift the cost of Medicaid from county taxpayers to the state.

"My buddy just had two grandchildren that were born twins two and a half pounds each," Collins said. "They finally just came home at six pounds. In days gone by the outlook for those kids would not have been good. The advances are tremendous in this country. I think we stand alone in this country with many of those and there's a cost that goes with it. We can get better everywhere. We have to go step by step but we've got to get rid of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act). That's imploded."

That implosion, Collins said, is not because of anything the Republicans did -- eliminating support for risk corridors, creating uncertainty about the future of funding for individual market insurance, blocking the expansion of Medicaid, and not working on amendments to the original language of the act; rather, Collins said, it is because the ACA was doomed to fail.

"It was a house of cards that was never realistic," Collins said. "I called it out for what it was on day one."

On risk corridors, that was a flawed plan from the beginning, he said.

"I'm saying they (insurance companies) gamed the system," Collins said. "They priced the product low when they knew they would be reimbursed by the government. That all turned to mask how bad Obamacare was. It was masked for three years through this risk corridor reimbursement. Well, now the emperor's got no clothes and we see him standing there naked. That's what ended up happening when we stopped (the risk corridors). Now they have three years of actuarial data to know where it's got to be priced and sure enough, Blue Cross Blue Shield just announced a 47 percent price increase."

There are reports that the insurance companies are owed more than $5.8 billion. Collins said they are owed nothing.

"They got their money," Collins said. "They got their money and now they have three years of actuarial data. They should be on their own."

Provisions in the Affordable Care Act such as risk corridors were meant, according to groups such as the Kaiser Foundation, to provide safe guards for insurance companies against taking on a wave of people with pre-existing conditions.

Remember, before the ACA, those 51 million Americans in the individual pool could be denied coverage if they didn't already have insurance or changed insurance -- such as going from an employer-based plan to an individual plan -- if they had a pre-existing condition, or that condition might not be covered.  The ACA, which became law in 2009 and took effect in 2014, made that practice illegal. Risk corridors were intended to recognize a period of instability while insurance companies took on millions of people who had been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions all in a short period of time.

The risk corridors were not directly funded by the Federal government. It was expected that some insurers would under estimate and some would over estimate their costs. The risk corridors set a range of acceptable variance and then used profits from above that range to reimburse insurers who fell below that range.

Collins contends no insurance companies were profitable in the first three years of the ACA, or profitable enough to fund the risk corridors. 

"The young and healthy did not sign up," Collins said. "They are not signing up. Therefore the people in these plans are sicker. Those are the ones who flocked to them. There was never any money on the surplus side to give to the companies who all, in a race for the most patience, I would say negligently, priced their products knowing their losses would be covered by the federal government for a period of time. That was the house of cards. Set to fail. And it has failed. It was not anything the Republicans did."

According to a study by Common Wealth Fund, some insurers lost their shirts under the ACA while others raked in record premiums. Then, in the first quarter of this year, health insurance providers had their most profitable quarter ever.  The volatility over the past three years in the health care exchanges is exactly what you would expect to find in a newly created market, according to a paper co-authored by conservative economist Craig Garthwaite.

The loss of risk corridor protection isn't the only shoal in the storm weathered by the Affordable Care Act.

There were more than 100 lawsuits filed against the ACA, some of them backed by Republicans. The fact that some of those challenges prevailed is evidence, Collins suggested, that the health care insurance law was bound to fail.

"This was a fundamentally flawed plan trying to get universal health care," Collins said. "The biggest issue was the Supreme Court struck down the exchanges being mandated across the country. That was the beginning of the end. That was not the Republicans. That was the Supreme Court ruling on an unconstitutional aspect of Obamacare. This thing was bound to fail."

The Affordable Care Act was meant to help lower the cost of health insurance for the approximately 51 million Americans (in a nation of 302 million adults, or 17 percent of the population) who are not covered by employer-provided health insurance or already receiving Medicaid or Medicare. Most of these Americans, prior to the ACA, did not have health coverage.  Since passage of the ACA, an additional 20 million people in the United States now have health insurance.

The ACA expanded Medicaid (though some states rejected the expansion) to include low-income workers (that's about six million of the 20 million mentioned above). There are also more people covered under their parents' plans because the law extended required coverage for children up to age 26.

A key provision of the ACA -- and one most reviled by conservatives -- is the individual mandate. The mandate was intended to push healthy young people toward signing up for insurance so their premiums (because on average they wouldn't require care resulting in claims) would help keep costs down for people with more health concerns.  People in the individual market who don't buy insurance can be assessed a tax penalty. 

The bill also required companies with more than 50 employees to provide insurance. Like the individual mandate, this provision has been unpopular and one report said as many as 22 percent of small businesses are hiring few workers as a result.

One thing Collins believes about the ACA is that the bill was really a trick to institute universal health care in the United States.

"The Democrats want universal health care," Collins said. "No if ands, or buts. Hillary Clinton wanted that. Barack Obama wanted that. They never could get there and that's when we ended up with the abomination that I call Obamacare."

At the time the ACA passed, the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate, with enough votes in the Senate (58 Democrats and two Democrat-leaning independents) for Obama to get through just about any legislation he wanted, including single-payer, Medicare-for-all, or any other universal system.

The ACA seems to be largely based on proposals first put forward by the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. That that is not an indisputable fact. Stuart Butler, a Heritage director, says it's not true but there are documents out there that show Heritage and Butler pushing coverage for all Americans with an individual mandate.

At the time Butler was offering any kind of proposal for health care, Bill Clinton was president and Hillary Clinton was heading a commission aimed and creating universal health care for the nation. To counter the Clinton plan, Republicans were proposing alternatives, including the Heritage plan.

Republicans remain steadfastly opposed to universal health care, Collins said, even though Trump has seemingly promised just that during his campaign for president.

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said on Jan. 11. “We’re going to have a healthcare that is far less expensive and far better.” 

In an interview with 60 Minutes in September 2015, he said, “I am going to take care of everybody. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

Collins deflected questions about Trump's promises.

"I don't speak for the president," Collins said. "I would say on the campaign trail he talked about a lot of different topics."

And in response to a follow-up question, Collins said, "The life I live is here now, and Republicans will never support universal health."

Interestingly, not all conservatives agree. The American Conservative has recently published two columns suggesting that within five years Republicans will embrace universal health care and that universal catastrophic coverage is what is best for the nation.

Collins is opposed to universal health care, he said, because he believes it's inferior to what we have now.

"(I) would point to the situation in Europe certainly the situation in Canada where we have Canadians pouring over the border to get health care that's just not available within their universal health care system," Collins said. "You look to Europe; the elderly are denied health care. The ROI is not there, whether it's a new hip for it or something else -- how old are you? What's your life expectancy? Some of the life-saving cancer drugs are not available in Europe from a cost perspective because those nations budget health care." 

According to this op-ed in the Denver Post from 2009, the idea that Canadians come here for routine coverage is a myth, though when Canadians do come to the United States for care, for whatever reason, their universal healthcare plan covers their medical expenses. (Colby Cosh, a journalist in Canada, read the Denver Post piece after I sent him a link on Twitter and he said, "Some of its plain nonsense, like 'no waits for urgent care', obviously."

There does seem to be some issue with the elderly being denied care in Great Britain (care rationing), but apparently, that is not how their care should be handled since they can sue if denied care.  

While there is a report in England recently of patients being denied expensive treatment, those same treatments are available elsewhere in Europe, and American pharmaceuticals tend to be substantially less expensive in Europe than the United States.

The idea, however, that drugs make health care more expensive for Americans, is a myth, Collins said.

"There's so much misinformation out there," Collins said. "For instance, if you surveyed the average American they will tell you the biggest cost driver and the biggest problem we have are prescription drugs. That's what they say. But that's not the reality. As I understand that prescription drug coverage is nine percent of health care cost. Ninety-one percent is everything else. So if all these, and they are expensive drugs, and as I just illustrated through my ill-venture down in Australia, nine out of 10 drugs are going to try and fail, there's a huge cost. It's got to be recovered one way or the other but you're simply not going to have new R&D and new drugs to cure the next disease."

Pharmaceutical research, however, is not a totally free-market system. While drug companies fund about $60 billion of the $100 billion spent on R&D each here, about 1/3 of that tab is paid for by taxpayers (with the rest covered by charitable contributions). Many drugs are formulated based on publicly financed research and some drugs are developed through a public-private partnership.

Even so, Collins expressed no interest, when asked, about reforming the current patent law system that gives drug makers monopoly pricing on drugs, though he did say he supports making it easier for patent-expired drugs to enter the generic market.

"None of us would ever suggest that anything's perfect," Collins said.

He said he's especially interested in reducing the approval process around what is called "biosimilar" drugs. Biosimilars are the same in every respect to FDA approved drugs, except for some inactive ingredients. The process for biosimilars was supposed to be reformed under the ACA.

While not addressing the patent issue, he said he would like to see new drugs get to market faster.

"It begins with things that we've done, that I helped with, with the FDA and the 21st Century Cures Act, to get drugs to the market quicker," Collins said. "I sat down with the administrator of the FDA and asked her about her personnel needs and the skill set she needs to get drugs to market quicker, to save lives, to treat illnesses, to treat debilitating diseases because the quicker they get to market the cheaper they'll be. There's a cost. Whatever it does and it takes you eight years to get it to market, and we can get it down to five years, we can save the net cost, and I believe it will be substantially reduced."

Whether the Republicans let the ACA die, repeal it outright, repeal and replace it, Collins doesn't believe that people are going to die for lack of health insurance.

The poor, he said, will continue to be covered by Medicaid. As for people not eligible for Medicaid, nobody will face bankruptcy because they can't afford health care.

"We, Republicans, and everything we've said are they don't have to go bankrupt," Collins said. "That's was the old system. The old system said, because it was no safety net whatsoever, you have to go on Medicaid. The only way to get on the Medicaid was to go bankrupt. Well, that's not where we are today. Where we are today -- we don't know where it's going to end but certainly, American Health Care Act said very simply, you can get insurance."

It might be expensive insurance because if you were without insurance when you developed what carriers would consider a pre-existing condition, the insurers could charge you premiums that are 30 percent higher for 12 months.

"You are perhaps in that uncomfortable slice of working poor and your numbers didn't work and you did not have coverage through your employer and you made the decision to not carry that insurance," Collins said. "There were other things that took priority in your life. We're not going to now force you into bankruptcy, which was the old way. What we said is there would be a 30-percent added cost for 12 months then you would go back into the community rate. Personally, I think that is a pretty fair compromise."

The AHCA seems to be dead, at least for now, and Collins defended it at length during our conversation. You can read his comments in the transcript (links to the full interviews below).

Even with the AHCA seemingly consigned to legislative history, Collins said the proposal he backed to provide mandate relief for cash-strapped counties hit with the high costs of supporting Medicaid isn't dead. He will continue to pursue that legislation, he said.

"John Fasso and I are going to continue to pursue our Medicaid language and find something else to attach it to because we have some other must pass stuff," Collins said. "We've got S chip that's got to pass. We've got some extenders that need to pass, so let's just say John Fasso and I are not giving up on the Medicaid piece regardless."

Many economists have raised concerns about the lack of free market mechanisms in health care, a key factor in driving up costs.  Employer-provided health insurance distorts the market, creates what economists call the principle-agent problem (the ultimate consumer isn't making the key buying decisions) and information asymmetry (buyers have less information than sellers). Liberal economist Dean Baker has been especially vocal about the American Medical Association, which he labels a "cartel."   The "cartel" he contends, is able to artificially reduce the number of hospitals and doctors in the U.S. to constrict supply and drive up costs.

The United States has only 3.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared to 3.7 in Canada and 4.2 in the United Kingdom. At 2.2 physicians per 1,000 people, the United States ranks 52nd in the world, though a tad higher than Canada or the United Kingdom. The United States spends more, much more, per capita on health care than any other nation on earth, yet ranks 43rd in life expectancy.

We asked Collins about the underlying causes of high health care costs in the United States and he didn't answer the question directly.

"Well there's one big issue and it's lifestyle," Collins said. "Two-thirds of our country is obese. Through that, all kinds of things happen whether it's diabetes, whether it's joints, whether it's heart, or whether it's cardiovascular. If you want to look up and down in health in the U.S., it's we got a weight problem. So what can we do? We got to talk about it. We've got to remind people of it. Health insurance companies now have fitness plans. Government plays a role and then people play a role. I'm just a firm believer in personal accountability. We make decisions good and bad. Certainly, our health decisions are more under our control, not to say that bad things genetically don't happen but there's an awful lot of the health care world that we do control individually. We're not doing a very good job."

PDFs transcripts for full interviews:

Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 3:48 pm
posted by Billie Owens in ny-27, climate lobby.

Press release:

The newly established NY-27 Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is offering a Climate Advocate Training workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 27, at Richmond Memorial Library, 19 Ross St., Batavia.

The workshop will mark the beginning of the first CCL chapter in NY’s 27th congressional district, which includes all of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, and Wyoming counties, and parts of Erie, Monroe, Niagara, and Ontario counties.

The session is free and open to all residents of NY’s 27th congressional district. It will teach citizens of NY-27 the nuts and bolts of building political (impetus) for a livable climate.

James Hansen, Ph.D, former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says: "Most impressive is the work of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a relatively new, fast growing, nonpartisan, nonprofit group… If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group.”

According to Nicholas Kristof in his April 13, 2017 OpEd in The New York Times: “Citizens’ Climate Lobby [has had] an [outsized] influence on policy."

Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is completely nonpartisan and achieves change by building respectful relationships with lawmakers and focusing on specific market-based, consumer-friendly solutions that have received support from conservatives and progressives alike.

The May 27th workshop will include a mini-training on lobbying congress. Citizens’ Climate Lobby has an active and growing Conservative Caucus. We are interested in welcoming new conservative members who want to support the growth of clean energy infrastructure, and protect families and communities from the risks of the extreme manifestations of climate change.

“I’ve heard from many Citizens’ Climate Lobby members that joining the organization has made them into truly empowered citizens, and that they can see the results of their work on climate policy,” says Paige Dedrick, of East Aurora, who is taking on the role of group leader for the NY-27 Chapter.

“I am deeply concerned about climate change, and I’ve found CCL to be a great way to impact policy and work with strong, engaged citizens toward a healthy climate and economy. We are hoping to find other members of our community looking for that same kind of opportunity.”

In addition to meeting with our members of Congress, CCL offers many varied roles for volunteers. All are welcome to attend the workshop to learn more. Refreshments will be served at the May 27th meeting; please RSVP to Paige Dedrick, 716-863-3373.

Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 11:52 am
posted by Howard Owens in Chris Collins, ny-27.

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The event last night was billed as a "town hall," a chance for all constituents in New York's 27th Congressional District to come to the Alexander Fire Hall and voice their issues, raise their concerns and ask questions of Rep. Chris Collins.

If Collins bothered to show up.

Of course, he didn't.

In his place on the dais was an empty chair.

If he had filled that chair, he would have found himself on a panel of people billed as experts in various topic areas who, rather than represent the range of political ideology in the 27th District, seemed to largely hold liberal and progressive viewpoints.

The more than 400 people who attended were all given 8 1/2 x 11 colored pieces of paper -- raise green when you agreed with a speaker's point and red when you disagreed. Rather than showcase a diversity of opinions, green cards tended to go up in unison for points favored by the audience and red cards raised altogether when audience members wished to jeer a negative point made about Collins or the current presidential administration.

This, though Michelle Schoeneman, in her opening remarks, suggested the audience might represent a range of political views and party affiliations.

"Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, whether you are conservative or liberal, whether you voted for Collins or not, you are all here because you care enough about democracy to take time out of your busy lives to make your voices heard," Schoeneman said.

The town hall took on the feel of a partisan political rally when Schoeneman concluded her remarks and said Collins might have a rough go of it in the next election.

"Mr. Collins, if you’re watching this right now, I’m here to tell you that is your last term," Schoeneman said. "Come 2018, we will have a new representative. It may be a Republican. It may be a Democrat, but it will not be you. We will vote into office a person who does not consider it unreasonable to want to talk with you. We will listen and weigh every decision that is made."

That was the loudest applause line of her opening remarks and the room was filled with green cards held high.

The expert panel included a 22-year-old organic farmer from East Aurora who runs a 24-member CSA (Community Supported Agriculture group) and an educator who runs I Am Syria and is the founder of the Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide, even though a couple of the nation's top experts on agriculture and immigration live right in Genesee County.

Dean Norton, former president of the New York Farm Bureau who helped draft comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 (it didn't pass, though Collins supported the bill), said he got an invitation through Instant Messenger that he didn't see until after the event was over, though he didn't specify if the invite was to speak or just attend.

Maureen Torrey, who runs with her family one of the largest produce farms in the region, and has been to Washington, D.C., and traveled the nation in support of immigration reform, said she was invited to attend but was not invited to be on the panel.

Even though economics and trade, as well as foreign policy and criminal justice, were all big topics in the recent presidential campaign, there were no experts on the panel in those subject areas, even though in the county and in the region there are available experts.

Comprising the expert panel were:

  • Healthcare: Gary A. Giovino, professor, and chair, Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at UB;
  • Great Lakes and Rivers: Barry Boyer, who taught environmental law and administrative law at UB;
  • Small business: Ginine Capozzi, owner of KnowledgeForce Consulting LLC in East Amherst;
  • Local Environment, fish, and wildlife: Dick Thomas, retired from a 33-year career with the Department of Environmental Conservation;
  • Education: Chris Cerrone, cofounder of WNY for Public Education;
  • Diversity and social justice: Jeremy Besch, head of Upper School at the Park School in Buffalo;
  • Immigration: Andrew Beiter, director of I Am Syria and founder of the Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide;
  • Climate change: Sandra Chelnov, who is "deeply concerned" about climate change and has attended several conferences;
  • Laura Colligan, owner of Dirt Rich Farm in East Aurora.

The town hall was sponsored by several progressive organizations, GLOW Progressives, WNY Peace Center, Buffalo Resists, Sister District of WNY, Invisible NY 27th, Turning Emotion into Action, ACTion Buffalo, and Citizens Against Collins.

As part of each experts' introduction, the speakers were invited to say a word about why they were there. Some speakers gave just a brief introduction, others used the time to share stronger opinions.

Giovino said the current healthcare system is designed to help you get well, but to ensure you keep coming back.

"My concern about healthcare is that it’s for profit," Giovino said. "In every other country, every other rich country, it’s not for profit. I think capitalism is a great thing, but when it comes to health, we need a catalytic converter on that engine."

Thomas said the environment is his passion.

"I think it’s everybody’s passion whether we know it or not," Thomas said. "Elections are guided by politics and not so much guided by science. Environmental protection suffers from the ebb and flow of global leadership changes and at the same time, that environment is generally not working in many cases. Under our current federal government leadership, the divide between economic interests and the environment is wider than it ever has been."

Besch got a laugh with his introduction.

"I’m a white guy who does diversity work," Besch said.

He added later, "For a long time this country has had a political environment that has sort of secretly and quietly marginalized already marginalized groups to drive a culture of fear to push its agenda. What I’ve seen in recent years is that action is no longer quiet and secret. Preservation of wealth and privilege is coming at the expense of those who don’t have either of them. If we don’t find ways stand up and stop that then a situation that is already pretty precarious and getting worse is going to get a heck of a lot worse and a heck of a lot more quickly than I think any of us care for."

Capozzi said she's tried to talk with Collins many times about a range of issues that affect small business owners, from healthcare to immigration to tax policy to education to workforce readiness and manufacturing.

"There isn’t a part of our communities that is not impacted by the small business community and he doesn’t have anything to say," Capozzi said. "Literally, nothing to say, since May of 2014. I’m really concerned about our opportunities, or lack thereof, to talk to the congressman across all spectrums and all areas of business and all the impacts that affect us."

Cerrone slammed support for school choice.

"Chris Collins supports the Trump-Betsy DeVos privatization schemes that will devastate our local, public schools," Cerrone said. "If this raised achievement, I would be all behind it, but studies show that school choice sounds good, but choice does not work. It does not raise achievement, which is our number one concern, but also it’s a boon to those who want to privatize and profit off our tax dollars with no accountability." (Fact Check: the studies are not as one-sided as Cerrone states, but decidedly more mixed.)

Beiter said he came to the event to talk about the refugee ban and the "war on immigrants." He was critical of the Trump Administration's position on immigration.

"His policies are wrong and xenophobic," Beiter said. "They also hurt the economy, our agricultural development and who we are as a people."

Walter Eckert, of Mendon, asked the first question and it was on immigration, so it went to Beiter.

"It's the businesses that employ illegal immigrants who are breaking the law," Eckert said. "Why do we not charge the employers of illegal immigrants?"

Beiter said that was a good question and he blamed greed.

He said agriculture in New York is a $3.5 billion industry and farmers fear with a clamp down in illegal immigration they will not be able to fill vital positions. He said in Niagara County, there are 1,200 migrant workers between May and November. He said these workers are exploited by farm owners.

"On one level this is a human tragedy," Beiter said. "It's slave labor that lowers the prices of our groceries, so the answer to this is comprehensive immigration reform. I think what you’re going to see as to why these businesses and corporations are not prosecuted is because they’re profiting from it." (Fact Check: The average migrant farm worker makes $12 an hour in the United States, with some earning as much as $15 an hour, and migrants are also provided housing at no cost on many New York farms.)

He said during the George W. Bush administration and the first part of Barack Obama's two terms, there were attempts at immigration reform, but that greed prevented these reforms.

"These issues tried to get on the table, but they were put down because corporate America makes too much money from our brown-skinned brothers and sisters who are here in our communities," he said.

Actually, there was comprehensive immigration reform bill considered in 2013. Dean Norton helped draft it and Collins supported it. It didn't pass.

Collins has said many times that never in his political career does he participate in town hall meetings because he doesn't find them productive. He would rather meet with small groups of people around specific topics. He has said he will talk with any constituents who ask for a meeting.

Maureen Torrey, for example, has said she and other farmers have had a productive relationship with Collins. 

"Since the election, Congressman Collins and his staff have been working with the agriculture community in his district with all the family farms and agribusinesses in his district weekly," Torrey said. "He has held bipartisan meetings on trade, immigration, and the economy of agriculture. He has been working hard to arrange meetings and educate people on what our needs are. He knows our issues and hasn't been afraid to speak them. He talked about our needs on national TV. He has opened doors for us. For the first time in many years, I feel we are making progress on issues."

There were also people at the event who let reporters know that they've requested meetings with Collins, but they haven't gotten a response.

The Wyoming County Free Press has been trying to arrange an in-person, hour-long, multi-topic interview with the congressman since late January. We've made at least a dozen requests and despite assurances that such an interview will take place, and statements by Collins himself that will sit down for an interview and that he enjoys being interviewed by The Free Press and would be happy to talk, we have yet been able to secure a date for such an interview.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION & DISCLOSURE: One of the organizers, Jane Cameron, has said I was invited to be a speaker at the town hall. I honestly didn't remember the invitation. I found the email from March 30 where she said she wanted to talk with me about "your possible participation in a Town Hall ..." I wasn't sure what she meant by this, but I said I would cover the event but that I don't participate in partisan politics. She also said there were two conservatives on the panel without specifying who those individuals are.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 10:23 pm
posted by Howard Owens in Chris Collins, ny-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement after the President’s address laying out his strategy to eliminate the ISIS threat.

“It is clear, we cannot allow for the same mistakes that have gotten us into this situation,” Congressman Collins said. “The current events in Iraq and Syria prove the absence of American leadership enables and emboldens our enemies, and puts our country and citizens at risk. I fully support actions to eliminate the threat posed by ISIS and protect our citizens at home and abroad.”

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm
posted by Howard Owens in Chris Collins, ny-27, agriculture.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement today on the passage of H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, which would prevent the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers from implementing the proposed rule that would redefine “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.

“Redefining the scope of ‘waters of the United States’ is a dangerous expansion of government authority,” Congressman Collins said. “I have heard from many farmers and small business owners in my district who believe the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers rule will have a devastating effect on their productivity and ability to stay in business. In May, I led a bipartisan letter with Rep. Schrader of Oregon, signed by a majority of the House, asking the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw this overreaching rule. The passage of today’s legislation will ensure that this rule is withdrawn and our farmers and small business owners will be protected.”

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