Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is it time for Indiana to legalize marijuana?

Deanna Martin | Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – A state senator is asking a question she hopes will spur debate over sentencing laws and possibly save Indiana millions of dollars: Should the state legalize marijuana?

Democratic Sen. Karen Tallian of Portage said she wants a criminal law and sentencing study committee to examine Indiana’s marijuana laws next summer and come up with recommendations.

Other states have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana or created programs to allow medical marijuana, and Tallian said it’s time for Indiana to have the discussion.

Tallian said Republicans who control the Senate have assured her they will give a legislative hearing to her proposal, which would direct the summer study committee to examine the issue.

Friday, January 7, 2011


The next Whitley County Democratic Party breakfast will be March 5th, 9am, at the CC Deli in downtown Columbia City. Cost is $7 per person. Breakfast sandwiches and biscuits and gravy will be served. Email your RSVP to whitleydems@gmail.com today!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Health Care Reforms Hit Seniors after Ball Drops

WASHINGTON - One of the biggest stories of 2010 was the battle over the new health care reform law. People worried about what it means for them will find out soon enough.

Some key provisions take affect at midnight, CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

Millions of seniors are about to get their first taste of health care reform, and a lot of them will probably like it.

For the first time, the 45 million seniors on Medicare can get free annual physicals. No more co-payments. They'll get free screenings for diabetes and cancer. That includes mammograms and colonoscopies.

"We think it will make the lives and wellness of seniors much better, and in the end it will help drag down costs as diseases are caught sooner before they become more costly to treat," said James Chiong, executive director of the Health Information Campaign.

Another plus: shrinking the so-called doughnut hole. Medicare patients used to have to pay the entire cost of their prescriptions after they spent $2,830 until expenses reached $6,440. Now, they'll get a 50 percent discount on certain brand name drugs and pay 7 percent less on generics.

There are also less popular provisions. Medicare patients earning more than $85,000 as individuals and $170,000 as couples will pay higher premiums for prescription drugs. Non-prescription drugs like cold and allergy medicines can't be reimbursed through tax-free flexible spending or health savings accounts.

However, the biggest worry could be something else entirely.

"I think there's a very real concern about having adequate numbers of Medicare doctors," said Dr. Herbert Pardes, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System.

That could mean long waits to see the doctor.

"I think they will see delays in the timing of their appointments," said Pardes. "I think a number of doctors who have been frustrated because of the Medicare fee level will actually stop taking Medicare, so that's a real worry for all of us."

Republicans have promised to do what they can to stop or roll back health care reform, but advocates say most of these first provisions taking effect are quite popular and will be hard for anyone to take away.

State lawmakers to face tough budget decisions

DEANNA MARTIN | Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers will be staring at many tough budget decisions when they start their 2011 session on Wednesday.

They've watched Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels slash millions of dollars in state spending over the last two fiscal years — and Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley says lawmakers will now have to do their share of budget cutting.

They'll have to do it without the $1 billion in federal stimulus money that they had when writing the last budget two years ago.

The revenue forecast released in December shows that Indiana is expected to take in $13.4 billion during fiscal year 2012 — about $500 million less than current spending. But Daniels says he believes the state can have a balanced budget without tax increases or more funding cuts to schools.