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Philosophy, Law and Politics

How Do Federally Funded Entities Provide for the Family Planning of Minors and Vulnerable Adult Populations?

The Comments Letter below was Submitted Today Regarding  Proposed Rulemaking  by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

July 22, 2018

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health

Office of Population Affairs

Attention: Family Planning

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 716G

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20201

Via Electronic Submission to: www.regulations.gov                                                        

                         Re: Docket No.: HHS-OS-2018-0008 (“Family Planning”)

Dear Assistant Secretary,

            I write with interest in the proposed amendment of 42 C.F.R. Part 59, and, specifically, the promulgation of regulations, to be codified at 42 C.F.R. § 59.17, by the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS” or, alternatively, the “Department”). The proposed rules concern current agency restrictions upon funding pursuant to 42 U.S.C §§300-300a-6, originally enacted in 1970 as the Public Health Service Act (P.L. 91-572) (the “PHS Act” or the “Act”).  Please consider this letter formal comments upon this proposed rule in response to the Department’s notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comments, as published in the Federal Register, on June 1, 2018. (83 Fed. Reg. 25502-25533). I support this proposed rule, in part, and I believe it achieves the primary objectives of the Act, “to support preventive family planning services, population research, infertility services and other related medical, information, and educational activities.” (H.R. Rep. No 91-1667, at 8-9 (1970) (Conf. Rep.) (as quoted in 83 Fed. Reg. at 25502).

            The Department envisions that proposed new rule 42 C.F.R. §59.17 will aid in the achievement of the expressed statutory purpose in the new rule’s implementation of a requirement that entities receiving funding for the authorized purpose, both public and private not-for-profit, duly comply with all applicable State and Local laws requiring notification or reporting of sex crimes against both minor and adult clients. See, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, P.L. 115-141, Div. H, sec. 208, 132 Stat. 348, 736 (2018) (83 Fed. Reg. at 25519-25520). In providing this protection to both minors and vulnerable adult populations, the proposed rule imposes an ongoing obligation upon funded family planning counselors to “comply with all State and local laws requiring notification or reporting of child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, incest, intimate partner violence or human trafficking (collectively, ‘State notification laws’),” regardless of the age of the client. (to be codified as 42 C.F.R. §59.17(a)).

          Under the proposed rule, each funded entity would reconcile this broader purpose with its prefunding certification attestation as to compliance with a further duty that it: “encourages family participation in the decision of minors to seek family planning services.” Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, Public Law 115-141, Div. H, sec. 207, 132 Stat. 348, 736 (2018)(quoted in 83  Fed. Reg. at 25503). This narrower duty also requires that it “provides counseling to minors on how to resist attempts to coerce minors into engaging in sexual activities.” Id. And, as previously stated, in doing the foregoing “no provider of services … shall be exempt from any State law requiring notification or the reporting of child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, or incest.” Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, Public Law 115-141, Div. H, sec. 208, 132 Stat. 348, 736 (2018) (as quoted at 83 Fed. Reg. 25503).

              Apart from the regulatory provisions setting forth the type of family planning counseling funded under the proposed amendment of 42 C.F.R. Part 59, the Department should consider that the concern intended to be met by this amendment envisions that certain adults and certain unemancipated minors are residents within compromised households and relationships. They are without full exercise of their legal privilege and right of self-governance, and, as presumed by the current and proposed regulations, live without legal recourse. Most importantly, many in a compromised living situation, act improperly and contrary to criminal law prior to becoming the victim envisioned by the proposed rule.  They engage in what is properly denominated criminal conduct when acting in self-defense so that they do not, if able, become the type of victim this proposed rule seeks to aid. In remedy, perhaps the Department should impose upon funding receipts a similar requirement to report all instances of general criminal conduct within the family unit or relationship, as to all adults and all children, even if the possible misconduct is not related to acts of sexual abuse.

          In the explanation of the proposed rule, the Department acknowledges that funded family service providers at times do not inquire as to the age of the child or teenager receiving services, for maintaining confidentiality encourages young people to seek counseling. (83 Fed. Reg. 25520). Similarly, compromised adults and children might not disclose problems of nonsexually related criminal conduct. Yet, compromised individuals develop an unfounded sense of personal shame and self-blame, even when they are not those who act in self-defense before services are needed.

         Perhaps, in remedy, the Department should require funded providers to not only notify or report as to the possibly victimized client to whom services are provided. But, providers should, as well, notify or report to State and Local governments all suspected criminal offenses, committed by minors as well as adults, of which a provider becomes aware in assessing the needs and living situations of their client. Specifically, in addition to reporting putatively criminal  facts  learned of when counseling vulnerable adults, the funded entity would notify or report as to all possible criminal activity of which it becomes aware when complying with the provider’s obligation under the new rule “to conduct a preliminary screening of any [minor under the legal age of consent] who presents with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), pregnancy, or any suspicion of abuse, in order to rule out victimization of a minor.” (to be codified as 42 C.F.R. 59.17(b)(1)(iv).

         In summary, proposed new rule 42 C.F.R.  §59.17 provides, as intended, that “minors and vulnerable populations” within the United States are protected by requiring family planning providers to comply with State and Local laws as to possible abuse. Yet, the providers might also include within their mandatory reporting all possible criminal offenders learned of in the course of providing counseling to both minors and adults, even if the activity does not constitute sexual abuse.  Children, their parents, as well as adults and their families, alike, should benefit fully from guidance made possible with authorized Federal funds, to the extent of present law. With adequate legal monitoring, through notice and reporting, adults, children and their family members may not, not disclose, fully, the factual circumstances resulting in their compromised living situation. For, such difficulty is often a result of criminal activity that proceeds sexual abuse. Only, with adequate disclosure, discussion and remedy will Federally funded family planning guidance be effective.

          The Department’s amendment of 42 C.F.R. Part 59 places the burden of compliance upon the funded provider which must possess adequate procedures for meeting the requirements of relevant State and Local law as a precondition of funding approval. And, this achieves the Department’s purpose of providing for minors and vulnerable populations upon whom the burden would never lie. Perhaps, the Department need only expand this protection to require funded family counselors to apprize State and Local governing officials of all suspected criminal activity within personal relationships, to the extent permitted or required by law.

          I thank you greatly for considering my comments on this rule. And, I may certainly be contacted as indicated above.

Sincerely,

Lori G. Nuckolls

Lori G. Nuckolls

Philosophy, Law and Politics

Greenspace and Culture for All!

The Cincinnati park of Burnet Woods is a wonderful asset of the Cincinnati community, and has been so since first begun in 1872. And, our community is obligated to both maintain and transition this park into a modern greenspace. Cincinnatians and learned science professionals, together, should discuss and decide the proper changes to Burnet Woods and Cincinnati’s greenspaces, generally. The current proposal for two community center buildings in Burnet Woods brings to popular discussion an issue not yet mentioned that is less related to concerns of environmental preservation. Specifically, the proposal to place a building within Burnet Woods that would essentially serve the current purposes of the Clifton Cultural Arts Center asks questions about equal planning for our various neighborhoods in Cincinnati.

Currently, the Clifton center provides cultural events and educational resources to those beyond the neighborhood of Clifton. Many young and old within Cincinnati would like to continue to rely upon the center. And, its location in Burnet Woods would have to be generally accessible by car and school bus. For, it is unlikely that it would be as currently within reach of those visiting by foot from nearby.  But, more importantly, the center would place on public land a resource generally needed, yet unavailable, in most neighborhoods. The Clifton center arose from the needs and requests of one Cincinnati neighborhood. And, it has ably done so. Yet, a similar cultural resource has been long discussed and requested by many neighborhoods similarly in need, including the neighborhood of Ohio Representative Alicia Reece, namely Bond Hill.

Most neighborhoods would not be provided for by the arts center proposed for Burnet Woods. Before the Burnet Woods center is approved, we have an obligation to discuss providing access to cultural arts equally within the city. It is unlikely and unwise that each neighborhood community requesting such a center could request a similar grant of land to do so by the Cincinnati Park Board. The Burnet Woods proposal is not properly precedent, or ratio decidendi.

The discussion of providing beyond the neighborhood recreation centers is a difficult one, and neighborhoods such as Bond Hill have long puzzled the question of transitioning an aged commercial business district for modern use. A small cultural center was proposed for an area near the intersection of Reading Road and California Avenue. It would have been similar to the current centers in Kennedy Heights and Pleasant Ridge. Perhaps it, alone, would not have completely sufficed. Yet when does capitalism not permit trial and error of not-for-profit ventures as for our for-profit, start-up entrepreneurial ones. Essentially, the Burnet Woods center only initiates review and discussion obligatorily within the purview of our discussion of fair and equal neighborhood planning.

For our neighborhoods stymied as to a beginning, even a small urban gardening space, such as one upon a space near the proposed cultural center in Bond Hill, would begin discussion with a venture not requiring a permanent decision or commitment, and which, even if only short term, would ameliorate an available space.

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

Philosophy, Law and Politics

Clarity and Equality in the Ohio Sales Tax Statute?

 

The following Comment Letter was submitted today to the Ohio General Assembly Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review for consideration during its review of a proposed amendment of an Ohio Sales Tax regulation regarding interstate commerce.

 

May 10, 2018

Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review

The Ohio General Assembly

Vern Riffe Center

77 South High Street

Concourse Level

Columbus, Ohio 43215

Sent Via Email to: jcarr1@jcarr.state.oh.us

Re: Department of Taxation Proposed Amendment of Rule Number 5703-9-39 (Interstate commerce)

Dear Members of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review,

I write with interest in the proposed amendment of Rule Number 5703-9-39 of the Ohio Administrative Code by the Department of Taxation regarding the imposition of a tax upon retail sale transactions between Ohio residents and out-of-state vendors. The Rule Summary and Fiscal Analysis submitted by the Department of Taxation to accompany this proposed amendment states that the Department seeks merely to make grammatical corrections in the Rule and not adopt any substantive changes.

The proposed amendment does not adequately revise the text of the Rule to correct certain wording that is confusing to citizens and residents of the various States who would engage in commerce, as well as those engaging in commerce abroad. For, it does not clearly indicate that purchases are exempt from taxation if delivered via an interstate carrier to either the buyer or the agent of the buyer and, instead, gives the sense that the exemption applies only to interstate carrier deliveries made to an agent.

Similarly, the proposed amendment retains reference to “an agent of his” in acknowledgement that Ohio purchasers of goods from foreign vendors may avail themselves of an agent to receive the goods purchased. Legal drafters in the 21st century style to no longer use personal pronouns reflective of gender when the concept of gender is not materially relevant to the import and substance of the law.

Finally, the Rule would also lessen confusion if it did not refer to the sales tax as a “retail sales tax” unless such is done consistently throughout Ohio Revised Code Chapter 5703: Sales Tax and Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 5703-9: Sales and Use Tax. For, the sales tax is more often referred to as an “excise tax,” and O.R.C. §5739.02, in implementing the sales tax, expressly states that “an excise tax is hereby levied on each retail sale made in this State.”

In respect of the foregoing, I offer the following modification of the amendment, with proposed changes italicized:

5703-9-39 Interstate commerce.

When tangible personal property is sold within the State and the vendor is obligated to deliver it to a point outside of the State, or to deliver it to a carrier or to the mails for transportation to a point outside of the State, the Ohio Sales sales Tax tax does not apply. However, where tangible personal property pursuant to a sale is delivered in this State to either the buyer or to an its agent, of his other than an interstate carrier the retail Sales Tax sales tax applies, unless the delivery is made by means of an interstate carrier, notwithstanding that the buyer may subsequently transport the property out of the State.

 The grant of a sales tax exemption for purchases made by Ohioans from out-of-state vendors whom, themselves, have no physical presence within Ohio or nexus with Ohio, is a great encouragement to the advance of commerce. It provides economic efficiency to domestic purchasers and encourages reciprocity in the tax policy of other States.

I thank you greatly for considering my comments on this Rule. And, I may certainly be contacted as indicated above.

Sincerely,

Lori G. Nuckolls

 

In Pursuit of Both Common Good and Public Interest, Governmental Entities Should be Required to Promote Self-Governance (Written testimony before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review of the Ohio General Assembly.)

The text below is of a letter submitted yesterday, Christmas Day, in comment testimony before the Ohio General Assembly Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. It concerns proposed rule making by the Attorney General for the State of Ohio in implementation of federal funding to provide support services to victims of sexual abuse. It is to be considered during the Committee’s next regularly scheduled meeting, tentatively scheduled for January 8, 2018.

Lori Gayle Nuckolls, Esq.

December 25, 2017

Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review
The Ohio General Assembly
Vern Riffe Center
77 South High Street
Concourse Level
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Sent Via Email to: jcarr1@jcarr.state.oh.us

Re: Attorney General Proposed Rules 109:7-1-05 (disbursements) and 109:7-1-06 (definitions)

Dear Members of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review,

I write with interest in the proposed addition to the Ohio Administrative Code of new rules 109:7-1-05 and 109:7-1-06 by the Attorney General regarding the implementation of funding provisions for rape crisis programs under the auspices of the federal centers for disease prevention and control and denominated in the Ohio Revised Code as the “Rape crisis program trust fund.” Ohio Revised Code § 109.921. This program, as enacted, envisions comprehensive services for victims of sexual trauma.

The Ohio Revised Code mandates the Attorney General to provide funding to a “Rape crisis program,” which, as most broadly defined by statute, includes a “nonprofit [nongovernmental] entity that provides a full continuum of services to victims of sexual assault, including hotlines, victim advocacy, and support services from the onset of the need for services through the completion of healing ….” § 109.921(A)(1)(c) (emphasis added). And, the Ohio Revised Code states that “[a] rape crisis program that receives funding … shall use the money received …  for the following purposes [among others]:” “(2) …  hotlines, victim advocacy, or support services.” O.R.C.  § 109.921(D) (emphasis added). However, in contradiction to the foregoing express grant of statutory authority for the funding of “victim advocacy,” the new rule 109-7-05 proposed by the Attorney General expressly prohibits the use of funds for “Lobbying activities.” Proposed Rule 109-7-05(F)(1).

It does not seem that the Attorney General has included a definition of “Lobbying” in the proposed new rules. See, Proposed Rule 109:7-1-06 (definitions governing the trust fund). Nor does a definition of either “advocacy” or “lobbying” seem to appear in any other source of authority that would be applicable to this funding provision, apart and distinct from those generally previously existing under Ohio law. See, O.A.C. § 109:7-01-03 (definitions governing trust fund) and O.A.C. § 109:7-1-04 (procedures for submitting funding requests). See also, O.R.C. §101.70(E) (to “Actively advocate” deemed “Legislative lobbying.”); O.R.C. § 121.60(I) (“[C]ontacts made to promote, oppose, or otherwise influence … an executive agency decision” deemed “lobbying activity.”); and O.R.C. § 3517.20(A)(1), (2), & (3) (defining “Political communications” as those statements “for or against” or “advertising”).

The funding by the Attorney General should encourage productive informal discussions on diverse topics. The proposed funding would, and is needed to, do so. However, the prohibition on lobbying efforts in the proposed rule should be clarified for those entities to be funded. Discussion by program participants should relate to important, current issues in the community, especially as to those seeking support for transitions in difficult times. Activities financed under this trust fund would be an act of the governmental or nonprofit entity, and would not constitute a use of the funds by individual persons in behest of personal expression on various topics. Thus, some revision is indicated for the avoidance of express contradiction of the proposed rules with the authorizing legislation, and even as to contradiction within the very proposed rules, as to the use by the Attorney General of both “advocacy” and “lobbying.”

I offer that the Attorney General should modify the proposed rules to not expressly reach issues of “lobbying,” which under Ohio law includes advocacy. Rather, the Attorney General should only expect funding recipients to remain in compliance with the general laws governing lobbying and political influence. Consequently, funded centers could guide program participants on an individual basis as to personal issues and only be reviewed if they as fund recipients assert interested positions. This would prohibit persuasive statements or presentations by the funded entities which would constitute lobbying under Ohio law, yet still permit funds to support conversation among participants. And, the written informational material and oral presentations of advocacy organizations unaffiliated with the fund recipients could be made available in the ordinary course to permit informed decision making by program participants.

I thank you greatly for considering my comments on this rule. And, I may certainly be contacted as indicated above.

Sincerely,

Lori G. Nuckolls