Tag: businesses

How Wisconsin GOP state legislators encouraged Mylan to increase EpiPen prices for the entire country

Thanks to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC), a group that maintains a database of political contributions to state candidates in Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin progressive group Citizen Action of Wisconsin, we now know that a political action committee (PAC) for Mylan, the pharmaceutical company that, among other things, makes the EpiPen that is used to treat severe allergic reactions, has publicly lobbied Republican members of the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass legislation designed to financially benefit the company. According to records from WDC, a total of ten members of the Wisconsin Legislature received campaign contributions from Mypac WI, the Wisconsin state-level PAC for Mylan’s political operations, seven of whom are still in the Legislature, and one of whom is now a member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission:

Legislator Name Date Contribution Received House of Legis. At Time of Donation Amount
Last First Year Month Day
Edming James 2016 July 1 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
Craig David 2016 June 27 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
LeMahieu Devin 2015 November 17 Wisconsin State Senate $500
Vukmir Leah 2015 August 22 Wisconsin State Senate $500
Nygren John 2014 February 10 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
August Tyler 2014 January 18 Wisconsin State Assembly $500
Kramer Bill 2014 January 13 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Severson Erik 2014 January 7 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Steineke Jim 2014 January 7 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Strachota Pat 2014 January 2 Wisconsin State Assembly $250
Name in italics indicates that individual is no longer a state legislator as of the writing of this blog post, but was a state legislator at the time donation was received; of the three who are no longer state legislators, Pat Strachota is now a member of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission. Table was created using the HTML table generator available here.

Mylan has also spent a total of $66,500 since 2013 lobbying Wisconsin legislators on issues “…affecting the manufacture, distribution, or sale of prescription drugs and medical devices”, as well as on issues “relating to generic pharmaceuticals”. According to Wisconsin lobbying records, Mylan spent $42,000 and a total of 151 hours on lobbying efforts in Wisconsin during the 2013-2014 state legislative session, and Mylan spent $24,500 and a total of 103 hours on lobbying efforts in Wisconsin during the 2015-2016 state legislative session. In both legislative sessions, Mylan’s sole authorized lobbyist was listed as Robert Welch.

Two pieces of legislation, both of which are now Wisconsin state law, were heavily supported by, and were designed to financially benefit, Mylan: 2013 Wisconsin Act 239, and 2015 Wisconsin Act 35. 2013 Wisconsin Act 239 allows for the availability of, and, in appropriate emergency situations, the use of “epinephrine auto-injectors” in Wisconsin public, private, and tribal schools. 2015 Wisconsin Act 35 allows for the availability of, and, in appropriate emergency situations, the use of “epinephrine auto-injectors” “by certain authorized entities”, which include recreational camps, educational camps, colleges, universities, day care facilities, youth sports leagues, amusement parks, restaurants, businesses, and sports arenas. Neither of the two laws require Mylan to justify price increases to government officials in Wisconsin, even though the laws authorize state and local government entities in Wisconsin to purchase and maintain EpiPens at the expense of Wisconsin taxpayers. While the two pieces of legislation serve a public purpose, given that timely dispensation of epinephrine can save the life of a person having a severe allergic reaction, given that Mylan’s EpiPen dominates the marketplace for epinephrine auto-injectors, and that EpiPen prices have risen dramatically as recently as earlier this month, it’s clear to me that Mylan’s political lobbying efforts in Wisconsin are designed to financially benefit the company, as well as financially benefit the political campaigns of Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin.

I do not have any food allergies that require the use of epinephrine, but many Americans in all 50 states do. I find it disgusting that A) Mylan is drastically raising the price of a very important drug/device without any real justification and B) that, because of Mylan’s actions, taxpayers are being forced to spend more money than necessary on their medicine, which many people need. Furthermore, by not including any kind of accountability measure on Mylan that would have required Mylan to legally justify any kind of price increase to Wisconsin officials, Wisconsin Republicans have effectively encouraged Mylan to raise the price of EpiPens for the entire country.

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With a stroke of a pen, Mike Pence legally eliminates Hoosier Hospitality

Hoosier Hospitality has been legally eliminated in Indiana. I’m not kidding.

Mike Pence, the far-right Republican Indiana Governor, signed into law a religious discrimination bill that, among other things, will allow business owners to refuse service to gays, lesbians, and other groups of people because of the owners’ religious beliefs.

The effects of the religious discrimination bill on Indiana’s economy are already negative and far-reaching. Gen Con, the largest tabletop game convention in North America, stated its intention to move the convention from Indianapolis to an as-of-yet-unspecified location in another state or country prior to Pence signing the religious discrimination bill into law. Additionally, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is looking to move its scheduled 2017 General Assembly from Indianapolis to a location outside of Indiana. The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, has signaled that they’ll hold the 2015 Final Four in Indianapolis (presumably because moving the Final Four to another venue on nine days notice would be a logistical nightmare, if not virtually impossible, for the NCAA), although the NCAA has publicly condemned the religious discrimination legislation, and it’s possible that the NCAA may refuse to hold future NCAA championships in Indiana and move the NCAA headquarters to somewhere outside of Indiana.

Also, a special note to Democrats and progressives regarding religious discrimination legislation: Don’t use the Republican/conservative framing by referring to the legislation as “religious freedom” legislation, as all you’re doing by using their framing is reinforcing the right’s narrative. Refer to it as religious discrimination legislation, as that’s what it is: it allows business owners and other types of employers to discriminate against others based on religious beliefs of the business owners and employers.

The Progressive Response to the State of the State of Illinois Address

Earlier today, Bruce Rauner, the Republican governor of our state that we instinctively know as Illinois, outlined his plan to drive down wages, infringe on the rights of Illinois workers, and destroy an already weak Illinois economy.

Prior to giving his State of the State address, Rauner went around the state using PowerPoint slides to publicly bash our state’s public employees, whine about public employees being, in his view, overpaid, spread lies about worker’s rights and public employee pay, and blame public employees for our state’s fiscal problems. Additionally, it was reported yesterday that Rauner strongly hinted that he wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights for our state’s public employees. Given that Rauner has given his top administration officials pay raises and appointed a $100,000/year chief of staff to his wife despite the fact that his wife has no official duties whatsoever, for Rauner to give his cronies pay raises while wanting to drive down public employee salaries is blatantly hypocritical.

In his State of the State address, Rauner called for gutting our state’s workers’ compensation system, lowering property taxes while our state and local governments have billions of dollars in unpaid bills, allowing local governments and/or voters to bust unions at the local level, prohibiting project labor agreements, eliminating prevailing wage laws, and privatizing public education to benefit his political cronies. Rauner did have a few good ideas that he talked about in his address to the people of Illinois, such as banning trial lawyer donations to judicial campaigns, merging the offices of state comptroller and state treasurer, and increasing funding for early childhood education.

While there is no disputing the fact that our state is in a fiscal mess for a large number of reasons, the primary reason why our state is in such a fiscal mess is because the wealthiest Illinoisans, such as Rauner himself, don’t pay enough state income taxes thanks to an ridiculous provision in the Illinois Constitution that prohibits the General Assembly from passing legislation to tax the incomes of wealthier Illinoisans at a higher rate than the incomes of poorer Illinoisans. The flat tax requirement in the Illinois Constitution prohibits our state from raising the revenues that would be needed to pay off our state’s unpaid bills and put our state on solid financial footing. I would strongly support a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution to allow the General Assembly to levy a progressive state income tax in order to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans, cut income taxes for the poorest Illinoisans, and put our state’s finances back on track. Additionally, I would strongly support eliminating all tax breaks for businesses, such as the ridiculous tax break that Sears and CME Group received a few years ago, as this would also bring in more revenue to the state that can be used to pay off unpaid bills.

Regarding public employee pensions, another reason why our state is in a fiscal mess, I would strongly support a pension reform proposal that would phase out the current public employee pension systems in our state, but still allow public employees who have paid into the current pension systems to still receive the benefits they’ve earned once they retire, and require all new state and local elected officials, appointed officials, and hired public employees who receive a full-time salary but had not previously paid anything into the current public employee pension systems in our state to pay into a newly-created public employee pension system that is designed to be fully-funded and provide our state’s future elected officials, political appointees, and public employees with a steady retirement income once they retire. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose any pension reform proposal that cuts benefits for those who have currently paid into the pension systems, creates a 401(k) system for public employees, and/or turns an existing pension system into a 401(k) system.

Regarding cutting spending, I would support an audit of the entire state government and every single county, township, city, town, village, and other type of local government entity in our state in order to find actual wasteful spending and propose common-sense solutions to cut actual wasteful spending and help save the state money in both the short term and the long term. Make no mistake about it, I will strongly oppose cuts to public education, social services, and other government services that reduce the quality of service by our state and local government agencies.

Regarding strengthening our state’s economy, I strongly support raising the state minimum wage here in Illinois to $15/hour and indexing automatic, annual minimum wage increases to productivity. Additionally, I strongly support creating a North Dakota-style economic development bank here in Illinois to issue and/our guarantee loans to factories, farms, small businesses, and other types of businesses that have to be repaid in full with interest. These two proposals would lift thousands of Illinoisans out of poverty, establish a minimum wage that values work, and help entrepreneurs start up new businesses and create jobs without pocketing government benefits to simply pad profits. Busting unions and driving down wages is something I strongly oppose because those policies would do absolutely nothing to strengthen our state’s economy or empower Illinoisans.

Regarding campaign finance, ethics, and government reform, while a federal constitutional amendment to repeal the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped Rauner and his cronies buy the last gubernatorial election would be required to allow Illinois to enact meaningful campaign finance reform, I strongly support eliminating the conflicts of interest that are currently allowed by our state’s campaign finance system, such as a couple of conflicts of interest that Rauner mentioned, prohibiting unions from donating to candidates for public office that they’d have to collectively bargain with if said candidates are elected and prohibiting trial lawyers from donating to judicial candidates, and one that Rauner did not mention because he’s effectively opposed to it, prohibiting business owners and managers from donating to candidates for public office that could use the public office in question to directly benefit said business owners and managers if elected. Additionally, I would support setting the maximum campaign contribution for a statewide office here in Illinois at $250 and enacting even lower limits for state legislative and local offices. Additionally, I strongly support implementing a pair of public campaign finance systems, one for judicial elections and one for other non-federal elections. The judicial public campaign finance system would prohibit judicial candidates from receiving campaign contributions from other people and/or funding their own campaigns, require that all judicial candidates receive a set amount of campaign funds from the state, and require that judicial candidates receive the same amount of campaign funds from the state that their opponents receive. The public campaign finance system for other offices would allow candidates for those offices to receive $4 of state funding for every $1 they receive in contributions and/or self-fund their campaigns with. Additionally, I would support enacting what I like to call the Bruce Rauner Rule, which would outright prohibit candidates for statewide office here in Illinois from donating or loaning more than $100,000 of their own wealth to their campaign, and set even lower self-funding limits for other offices. On term limits, I would support limiting the offices of governor and lieutenant governor to one elected term, limiting the other state executive offices to two elected terms, limiting state senators to five elected terms, and limiting state representatives to eight elected terms, and anything stricter than that would receive my opposition. Some other government reform ideas I support include allowing Illinois voters to recall all non-federal elected officials, converting the Illinois General Assembly into an unicameral legislature with at least 177 members via a state constitutional amendment, and amending the Illinois Constitution to establish a truly non-partisan redistricting process for congressional and state legislative districts.

Regarding reforming the criminal justice system, I strongly support legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana, which would reduce the incarceration rate in our state and provide our state with much-needed tax revenue. Additionally, I’m open to various ideas to reform the criminal justice system in order to make our prison system more about rehabilitating convicted criminals instead of simply punishing them and make our criminal justice system more fair. For example, one idea that I strongly support would be requiring independent investigations of deaths that occur in the hands of state and local police here in Illinois.

Regarding education, I strongly oppose implementing school voucher programs here in Illinois, expanding charter schools, or any other school privatization scheme. I strongly support repealing Common Core State Standards and replacing them well-rounded, developmentally appropriate K-12 academic standards developed by the state and are held accountable by measures other than assessments and standardized tests. Additionally, I strongly support getting rid of the emphasis on career preparation in K-12 education, since I believe that career preparation should be the responsibility of higher education institutions, not the K-12 system. Also, I strongly support increasing funding for public schools in our state and making our state’s K-12 school funding system fairer to poorer school districts.

Illinoisans are worth more than speeches, political buzzwords, and PowerPoint presentations about driving down wages, busting unions, and making our state’s economy even weaker than it currently is, and Illinoisans are certainly worth more than Bruce Rauner’s far-right policies to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy our state’s economy. It’s time for Illinoisans to push for progressive policies to protect workers’ rights, strengthen our state’s economy, put more money into the pockets of poor and working-class Illinoisans, provide a world-class education system for our state’s K-12 and college students, and provide for a more perfect Illinois.