"Fast Track": Montana Senate Says No To Bad Trade Deals

Thursday, March 1, 2007

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Joining us on the conference call will be:
Richard Brodsky, New York State Assemblyman, sponsor of NY AO1423
Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Washington State Senator, sponsor of WA SB 5120
Nathan Newman, Policy Director at Progressive States Network
Ben Scott, Policy Director of FreePress
Debbie Goldman, Research Economist at the Communication Workers of America

Growing Economy

by Nathan Newman

"Fast Track": Montana Senate Says No To Bad Trade Deals

Early this week, the Montana State Senate took a shot at out-of-control U.S. trade policies when it overwhelmingly passed (44-6) a resolution calling on Congress not to renew the President's "Fast Track" trade promotion authority.  That fast track power gives the President the ability to negotiate trade deals with no amendments allowed by elected officials, leading to a history of bad trade deals that limit opportunity for workers and state legislatures' ability to govern.

The vote in Montana is especially significant, since the U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman is Max Baucus from Montana, so, as D.C. insider The Hill newspaper notes, Baucus "is being put under pressure from Democrats in his state to reject an extension of fast-track trade authority, which expires this summer."

In the past, Baucus has been instrumental in the passage of fast track, a tenuous position in a state as economically populist as Montana. More recently, while Baucus still says he is open to a replacement for fast track, he has been demanding stronger labor and environmental provisions and a stronger role for Congress in developing new trade deals. 

Along with resulting in catastrophic trade deficits and lost jobs, bad trade deals like NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO have significantly eroded state government sovereignty to regulate businesses and even how states spend their own government dollars in their communities. 

More Resources

Strengthening Communities

by J. Mijin Cha

Oil and Gas Drilling: Not the Way to Preserve the Roan Plateau

Over a dozen groups have filed protests against a plan by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to open up the top of Colorado's Roan Plateau to leases for drilling, which could be put up for bid as early as November.  Oil and gas drilling already takes place on the plateau, but federal land managers have chosen to open the top of the Roan Plateau for drilling without waiting until resources at the bottom of the plateau are tapped.  Oil in the undeveloped plateau could supply the U.S. with all of 5.8 hours worth of its oil needs.  Gas in the undeveloped Plateau could supply the U.S. demand for a little over a month.  All this in exchange for permanently scarring the unique landscape and rendering it unfit for hunting and recreation.  And, more unsettling, is that the BLM recognizes the ecological and recreational importance of the area.  A recent BLM study found that streams on the Plateau would meet the requirements to be designated as part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System by Congress.  The BLM Draft Management Plan recognizes that several areas within the Plateau met the criteria to be designated as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.

Challenging the Oil & Gas Industry: The Roan Plateau is just one of a number of key environmental areas that the BLM is looking to open up to oil and gas drilling, so the movement in Colorado has implications for challenging the hold of the oil and gas industry on federal land policy throughout the West.

The fight over the Roan Plateau has brought together new allies: sportsmen and environmentalists.  They have joined concerns about preserving the ecological integrity of the area with concern about the loss of recreational areas-- and the loss of the $5 million a year generated for the local economy from hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. 

The Save Roan Plateau group offers letters that can be sent to the Congressional delegation and the Colorado Governor protesting the BLM plan.  Advocates should also on Colorado state legislators to introduce legislation to set money aside to petition the BLM to designate the Roan Plateau as a national recreational or wilderness area.  The existing National Park Service, Land and Water Conservation Fund could also be tapped to provide matching grants to the state for purchasing the land if BLM agrees.  In fact, Montana's Governor Schweitzer just asked the state's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to get $15 million of the state's surplus to buy land for new state parks and greater access for public recreation.

Colorado can purchase the Roan Plateau and maintain it's beauty and continue access to sportsmen for hunting and fishing.  Doesn't that sound more beneficial than ruining it all for 5.8 hours of oil use?

More Resources

Valuing Families

By Adam Thompson

Beating the drug industry at its own game

Pharmaceutical companies spend $11.4 billion each year on marketing.  Much of that is spent on salespeople, known as "detailers", who visit doctor's offices to pitch the latest drugs, in order to increase prescriptions for their company's products-- usually at the expense of older, cheaper, and often more effective drugs. 

States are catching on and starting to beat the drug companies at their own game.  Working with academic institutions, several states are establishing "counter detailing" programs, also known as "academic detailing", to counter sales pitches from PhRMAceutical companies.  They are sending out their own "detailers" armed with unbiased, scientific, and user-friendly information about the effectiveness of new and old drugs.  Counter detailing saves states and health plans money by reducing unnecessary spending on costly prescriptions versus cheaper and equally effective generic medications.  Additionally, counter detailing helps to ensure patients are being prescribed the most effective drugs for certain conditions, whether the drug is the cheapest or the most expensive.

  • Pennsylvania's Independent Drug Information Service is supported by the state and run by Brigham and Women's Hospital, in affilation with Harvard Medical School.  Over the past year, 10 counter detailers have made 1,200 visits to 500 doctors in Pennsylvania.  While cost-savings data has not been compiled, the Boston Globe reported that counter detailers decreased unncessary prescribing of the heart drug Celebrex by highlighting less costly painkillers, comparing each drug's heart risks and stomach-sparing benefits.
  • Vermont's Academic Detailing Program is housed at the University of Vermont College of Medicine Area Health Education Center.  Because the PhRMAceuticals are not involved and there is no financial incentive for the academic detailers, they can present unbiased and scientifically based information.  Vermont presents a good model to states with its use of Area Health Education Centers (AHEC), which were established by Congress in the 1970's to address medical staffing needs in under-served areas.  Almost every state has an AHEC program.
  • Oregon's Drug Use Research and Management program is housed at Oregon State University's College of Pharmacy.  The program provides expertise to the state's Medicaid programs and includes a website with tools for prescribers. 
  • New York based non-profit No Free Lunch is an organization of physicians and other medical professionals who work to educate their peers about PhRMAceutical detailing and disseminate unbiased and evidence-based information about prescriptions.

In an effort to take counter detailing to the next level, Prescription Policy Choices, a non-profit focused on developing policies that reduce prescription drug prices and increased access to medications, is working with Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts to develop a multi-state academic detailing project. 

It is no surprise that PhRMA sales reps would have a huge impact on the prescribing practices of medical professionals, if they are the only people providing information.  Counter detailing is an effective way to ensure the medical field is receiving up to date, scientific and unbiased information about prescription drugs, old and new.  This is important to reducing prescription drug spending, as well as to ensuring the quality of prescriptions being written.

More Resources

Research Roundup

Research Roundup

An analysis by the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities find that the President's budget provides less than half the funds states need to maintain SCHIP enrollment-- and erects fiscal incentives for states to cease providing SCHIP to many children and low-income parents.

Looking at the offshoring of service jobs overseas, The Brookings Institution projects that twenty-eight metropolitan areas will lose between 2.6 and 4.3 percent of their jobs to offshoring over the next decade.  The impact will be especially sharp in areas with high shares of information technology and "back-office" service jobs.

According to a McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty-- severe poverty meaning a family of four with an annual income less than $9,903.  The number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005, contributing to a drop in the median houshold income for families over that period.

Here's a handy tool for state legislators to understand the importance of the Earned Income Tax Credit to their constituents, a spreadsheet of how many people are receiving EITC payments and how much EITC money is being received in each legislative district, both upper and lower chambers.    Speaking of EITC, the North Carolina Justice Center has produced a new report on why that state needs a state EITC, as has the Connecticut Association for Human Services.

Despite the claims of the rightwing business lobbies, most regular small business owners are not against a rise in the minimum wage, according to a recent survey by a leading payroll service provider.  Only 25.6% are against some kind of minimum wage increase and 49% think the minimum wage should be raised to at least $7.25 per hour.

Good Jobs First highlights more corporate subsidy giveaways, including nearly $260 million for Google in North Carolina, over $25 million to Microsoft in San Antonio and highlights an out-of-control bidding war between Lousiana and Alabama for a German stell mill.

"Fast Track": Montana Senate Says No To Bad Trade Deals

Progressives States Network, Montana Resolution to Halt “Fast Track”? to Bad Jobs and Low Wages is a First Step Towards Fixing Washington’s Failed Trade Policies

Montana S.J.R. 17, Resolution opposing "Fast Track" authorization

Public Citizen, Make Trade Work for States: A Once-in-a-Decade Opportunity to Replace Fast Track

Forum on Trade & Democracy, Trade & Federalism

Oil and Gas Drilling: Not the Way to Preserve the Roan Plateau

Save Roan Plateau

Roan Plateau Eligibility Report for the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System

Roan Plateau Energy Development, The Wilderness Society

The Denver Post, Last Ditch Bid to Halt Roan Drilling

Who Owns the West?  Oil and Gas Leases in America's West, Environmental Working Group:

Beating the drug industry at its own game

Prescription Policy Choices

Physician's News Digest - PA launches academic detailing

New England Journal of Medicine - Improving drug-therapy decisions through educational outreach.  A randomized controlled trial of academically based "detailing"

American Medical Student Association - Counterdetailing Initiative

National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices - PhRMA Watch

Eye on the Right

As you no doubt now know, Al Gore has been accused of hypocrisy regarding his home's high energy bills. Keith Olbermann, record-straightener extraordinaire, shot back with a deeper analysis of the figures.

Whatever the energy numbers, what's interesting is where the accusation came from: a release by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, supposedly an "independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization" according to their website, and a "think tank" according to Fox News. For a center ostensibly focused on thought and research, they have released surprisingly little of either; no "policy briefs" since October of 2005, their last "policy report" came 11 months ago. On the other hand, their press room is a flurry of activity.

It turns out, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research is a lauded member of the auspicious State Policy Network, a veritable rogues gallery of state-level right-wing organization. It seems the Tennessee Center for Policy Research is just another sign of the State Policy Network's loose standards for the thinking half of "think tank."

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate


Please shoot me an email at if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

John Bacino
Editor, Stateside Dispatch


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