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Urge Senators to Lift the Cap on Charitable Donations!

Please tell Senate Finance Committee members that limiting the amount of funds non-profit organizations can raise in Vermont to fund their missions is the wrong way to raise revenue.

The Vermont House has passed legislation that would cap itemized deductions at 2.5 percent of the state standard deduction ($15,500/individual; $31,000/couple). The bill, which reportedly raises $33.2 million, is now before the Senate Finance Committee. Please contact members of the Senate finance Committee at http://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2016/25 and tell them that such a cap could have an adverse effect on the good work the AHA is doing in Vermont.

In a response to Vermont’s non-profit community recently Senate Finance Committee Chair Tim Ashe stated the following, “…one thing is clear – Vermont’s tax system is in need of change. We currently tax the things that are not growing, and we do not tax the things that are growing. I am in no jag whatsoever to merely raise new taxes to “get us through this year.” We really do need a long-term approach so that both government and our non-profit partners have stable funding for planning and operational purposes.”

We agree. Please tell committee members that implementing excise taxes on tobacco and sugary drinks could raise significant revenue for the state but more importantly, deter unhealthy behaviors that lead to diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer that are costing the state millions.

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Spending Half a Billion on Chronic Diseases - Reason Enough to Tax Cigarettes and Sugary Drinks?

As legislators currently weigh options to fund health care priorities in Vermont, it makes sense to look at funding sources that target health care problems.

Vermont is spending a half a billion dollars each year treating chronic diseases caused by obesity and tobacco – half a billion! While legislative money committees are charged with raising revenue to meet state fiscal needs, they are also charged with doing what’s in the best interest of Vermonters, and that means doing what’s most helpful for the long-term as well.

Science shows a 10% increase in the price of tobacco and sugary drinks would have a public health benefit, decreasing adult smoking by 3-5%, youth smoking by 7% and sugary drink consumption by 8%.

No other revenue option on the table would have as substantial a health impact. The closer we can get to a $1 tax on tobacco and a penny an ounce on sugary drinks, the bigger the health impact for Vermonters.

Let your legislators know financial decisions should not be based solely on balancing the budget but also on making wise decisions that will serve the public best now, and our children for years to come.

Contact your legislator at http://legislature.vermont.gov/people/search/2016 or call them at 1-800-322-5616 and urge them to support significant cigarette and sugary drink excise taxes to help reduce the burden of chronic disease in Vermont.

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Just around the Corner

Over the past several years, there have been local efforts in communities throughout the state to improve access to healthy food in communities where supermarkets and grocery stores are scarce. The American Heart Association is working with our partners at The Food Trust, Partnership for Healthy Kids and other organizations to create a statewide network of healthy corner stores in communities where it is sometimes difficult to find healthy food options.

In March, The Food Trust hosted a training for partners that are working to bring healthy corner stores to their communities. The training provided helpful resources and tips for working with corner stores and shared best practices.

The American Heart Association has been advocating for funding for the Healthy Corner Store Initiative to make healthy food accessible in every area of the Garden State. I am looking forward to continuing to work with you, our advocates, to continue these efforts in the coming months.

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Flashes of Memories

I called my paternal grandfather Pop Pop. He would have been 106 today. He passed away when I was a young girl, but I have wonderful memories of him. I remember him in flashes. Catching sand crabs at Dennis Shores on the Cape, working on some photography project in the basement of his house in NJ, teaching him how to make tape rolls when he ran out of double-sided tape (I am pretty sure he probably already knew how to make tape rolls), listening to him play piano and just laughing and having fun. He was a wonderful musician and grandfather.

My daughter still plays with the doll house he made for me and my sisters and we still have the nightlight he made for me out of letter blocks.

Heart disease did not kill Pop Pop. Cancer did. His death certificate said: "Carcinoma, primary site unknown. Of course, like many men in his generation, he smoked. Pop Pop, however, was a very logical person. In the 1950’s when the first reports came out linking tobacco to cancer, he quit. He did not want cancer. His father had cancer of the jaw that left him disfigured for the rest of his life.

As a kid growing up in the 1980’s, I always figured that the tobacco killed—or at least hastened the death of Pop Pop (as it probably did 3 of my 4 grandparents). However, I am also the generation of Joe Camel and many of my friends collected Camel Bucks for cool rewards. Camel Lights were the cigarette of choice (they were "Light" so they could not be too bad—right?).

Luckily, FDA has finally taken some small control of the industry and they can no longer use "light" or other misleading words to market their cigarettes. However, they can still market their deadly products. In fact the Federal Trade Commission’s latest report shows an almost 10% increase in their marketing budget. The tobacco industry spent $9.6 BILLION to market cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in 2012. That is more than $1 million an hour.

They apparently want more and more little girls to lose their grandparents to cancer and heart disease. They want more and more kids to get addicted to tobacco to keep up the vicious cycle and increase their profits.

I do not. That is why I spend my days in Augusta trying to create public policies that reign in the terrible toll of tobacco. I do it for Pop Pop and my other grandparents in the hope that the kids of my daughter’s generation know their great-grandparents and can make great memories that come in more than flashes.

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Making Schools Nutritional Safe Zones

The Committee on Children recently voted in support of legislation ensuring the food marketing that is shown in schools is aligned with the National School Lunch Program. The American Heart Association believes if schools cannot serve a particular unhealthy food item in school the food industry should not be allowed to market the unhealthy food item to students in school. This legislation is building upon the achievements the State of Connecticut has made in making sure our school children are offered healthy foods in schools and that students are learning lifelong lessons on the importance of eating healthy. School aged children are already being bombarded by the food industry to consume unhealthy foods in aggressive marketing campaigns. This legislation will reinforce the efforts by the American Heart Association to make the schools nutritional safe zones.

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Public Health Passes CPR in Schools

The Public Health Committee recently voted out a bill requiring high school students learn Hands-Only CPR and AED awareness before graduating. There was overwhelming support for the legislation and committee members spoke glowingly about the bill during the comment period before the vote. This was a great victory for the American Heart Association volunteers who testified at the Public Hearing. The Bill has picked number of cosponsors since the public hearing, currently the number stands at thirteen, including newly elected State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. The next step for the bill is a vote in the Education Committee. American Heart Association volunteers have been reaching out to to the members on the Education Committee to ensure the CPR in Schools Bill successfully moves out of the committee. There are currently 21 states that require high school students learn CPR before graduating, and Connecticut is on track to become the 22nd state to have students learn the lifesaving skill.

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Still Climbing...

I think of the Maine budget process as a rock climb:

1) Sprinting is not the best option

2) It makes sense to think about each step to make sure you aren’t left hanging without a foot hold

3) Always make sure you have a partner and a safety harness

4) 6-year olds may be better at this than grownups

So far, we are half way up the mountain (or wall).

I was joined by over 50 others testifying against the cuts to Maine’s public health system. These cuts, proposed by the Governor, included 46 position cuts in the Maine CDC; virtual elimination of the Healthy Maine Partnerships; gutting Maine’s tobacco control and prevention program; massive cuts to school-based health and public health nursing and other important chronic disease prevention programs. By all accounts the public hearing was a success. I hope you caught some of the media coverage.

The next step was the analysis by the Health and Human Services Committee. This is where #3 comes in. I work very closely with Hilary Schneider, my counterpart at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Work sessions on the budget can take hours and don’t lend themselves well to people with other responsibilities, such as families. Hilary and I live near each other and have kids in the same after-school program. We actually plan our legislative schedules around who can pick up the kids. Some days she stays late and I plan to pick up the kids, other times, we swap. Having that safety harness allows us to concentrate on our jobs and do our best to advocate for public health funding.

Of course, #4 is a bit of a joke, but the budget process is not for the faint-hearted. Despite all the education, phone calls, and piles of evidence, the Republicans on the HHS committee stood lock-step with the Governor and voted to recommend cuts to public health. The Democrats did not. Their decision may seem to defy logic, but politics is not logical. It does not always mesh with actual facts.

The next step is back to the Appropriations Committee. I hope that the Committee members stop and make sure that they are positioning Maine best for a safe future. Otherwise, they better hope their carabineer clip is strong and their rope is not frayed because we are all going to fall.

 

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Countdown to CPR in Schools Report

The countdown has begun...The NYS Department of Education is required to issue a report to the NYS Board of Regents by April 19th.  Many of you have taken actions to help get us where we are - we've reached out to lawmakers, the Governor; we've tweeted and posted on Facebook; we've shared our stories with friends, family and the media; we've called, emailed and written letters...and we're in the final stretch.  We know CPR in Schools will save lives and that is why we keep sending messages to the Board of Regents.  One person that has bravely shared her story is Katarina Weigel. 

On July 15th, 2010, Katarina was at her high school volleyball practice.  She doesn't know what happened next but the people around her remember.  She went into sudden cardiac arrest.  Her coaches performed CPR and used the automatic external defibrillator. She doesn't  look like the face of sudden cardiac arrest.  She was just 15.  Since that time she has learned that sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anytime. The faces of sudden cardiac arrest will surprise you.  

Now she has educated her high school about the importance of CPR, shared her story with elementary school children and adults, used social media to push for CPR in schools an attended numerous events explaining how easy CPR can be learned and preformed. 

And this week...she reached out to each and every member of the Board of Regents to tell them to say YES to CPR in Schools.

If you want to help NYS become the 22nd state to have CPR training in our schools, please email Julianne Hart at julianne.hart@heart.org.

 

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Rhode Island Senate to Vote on School Marketing Bill

Great news!  On March 25, the Senate Education Committee voted to recommend passage of our bill that would prohibit unhealthy food and beverage advertising in Rhode Island schools.  A vote before the full Senate is expected soon.

National, state, and local efforts have greatly improved the nutritional quality of foods served in our schools, but some schools still allow the advertising of foods high in calories, fat, and sugar. You might assume that since it can’t be served in school it can’t be advertised there, but companies have found the loophole and we need to close it. Schools should be a safe and nurturing environment – we need to make sure our kids don’t get bombarded by ads trying to make them lifelong customers of fast food or soda companies.

We’re almost there Rhode Island!  According to a recent report, more than 80% of Rhode Island middle schools and high schools already prohibit unhealthy food and beverage advertisements in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses and in school publications.  Let’s get to 100% and ensure a healthy school environment for all Rhode Island students. 

Be on the lookout for more action alerts on this important issue as it moves through the legislative process!

 

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Rhode Island House Committee Considers Funding CPR in Schools

On March 18, Dr. Brian Silver, President of the American Heart Association’s Rhode Island Board of Directors, asked the House Finance Committee to include funding in the FY 2016 Budget to purchase new CPR manikins for all public high schools in the Ocean State.  Dr. Silver noted in his testimony that the relatively small amount of funding requested could go a long way toward helping schools implement the 2013 CPR in Schools Law.      

The CPR in Schools Law requires high school students to receive hands-on CPR training and an overview of automated external defibrillator (AED) use prior to graduation as part of the health education curriculum.  While there are many ways this can be accomplished, providing purpose-built CPR manikins will help ensure quality training for all students.     

Right now, approximately 90 percent of people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest do not survive – most die because they do not receive bystander CPR.  The death rate is staggering and tragic.  With your help, we are going to change that in Rhode Island by creating a generation of lifesavers and heroes.  CPR is one of life’s critical lessons – let’s make sure our students are as prepared as possible to save a life.  

Click the following link to ask our state leaders to include funding in the FY 2016 Budget for CPR in Schools: https://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/composeletters.aspx?AlertID=36483 

Many thanks to Dr. Silver for testifying on this important issue!

 

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