112th Congress

LWV New Hampshire: We deserve honesty from House leaders

When New Hampshire House leaders chose politics over facts in the voter ID debate, the New Hampshire League of Women Voters called them on it: “We deserve honesty from House leaders.”
PFAW Foundation

DOJ and DOE Resolve Harassment Allegations in Minnesota School District, Plus Call to Action on Bullying

On Monday, DOJ, DOE, six students, and the Anoka-Hennepin School District proposed an agreement resolving complaints of sex-based harassment of middle and high school students in the school district. And in Congress, we need you to take action on bullying.
PFAW

Michigan Primary raises citizenship question

“Are you a citizen?” was the question posed by the Michigan Primary even before voters were asked to decide between President Obama or Santorum and Romney.
PFAW Foundation

Virginia poised to tighten voter ID requirements

In a tie-breaking vote cast by its Lieutenant Governor, Virginia yesterday came one step closer to tightening its voter ID requirements.
PFAW Foundation

Every Child Deserves a Family

Half million children in the foster care system. 120,000 eligible for adoption. Every child deserves a family.
PFAW

Pew report reveals our real voting problem

The Pew Center on the States’ Election Initiatives today released Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient, detailing an astonishing voter registration crisis in this country.

“Voter registration is the gateway to participating in our democracy, but these antiquated, paper-based systems are plagued with errors and inefficiencies,” said David Becker, director of Election Initiatives at the Pew Center on the States. “These problems waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence, and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections.”

Mr. Becker makes an important point: our problems are found in a system that hasn’t kept up with the times. The solution is to modernize that system, not cause further harm by prioritizing politics over participation.

Last fall’s The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation, details just how harmful the politics can be.

“This report reveals just how the far the Right Wing is willing to go to win elections,” continued Keegan. “Eroding the achievements of the Civil Rights movement by disenfranchising voters is abhorrent. All Americans have a fundamental right to vote, and we need to be vigilant to make sure that ever eligible voter is ready and able to vote on Election Day."

The Brennan Center for Justice continues:

“Last year, a slew of states passed new laws making it harder to vote. Notably, none of those laws addressed the concerns highlighted in this study. Rather than erecting barriers between eligible American citizens and their right to vote, we should be opening pathways to a modern voting system. Voter registration modernization is a common sense reform that would cost less, register many more voters, and curb any possibility of fraud. It should be put in place without delay.”

There is no question that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that eligible Americans can exercise their right to vote. But the goal should be fair and honest enfranchisement, not the politics of distraction.

PFAW

UPDATE: Stop School Bullying this GSA Day!

As you know, PFAW recently celebrated GSA Day 2012 and the work of Gay-Straight Alliances that bring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight allied people together to stop bullying, homophobia, transphobia and hate, and we called on you to be part of the solution.
PFAW

President Obama calls for DC budget autonomy

The budget proposal that President Obama released earlier today is the first in a series of executive and congressional actions that will fund the government in the next fiscal year. Among the thousands of pages of tables and spreadsheets are two items of note to DC democracy advocates.

Appendix, Page 1317:

The District of Columbia annually receives direct Federal payments for a number of local programs in recognition of the District's unique status as the seat of the Federal Government. These General and Special Payments are separate from and in addition to the District's local budget, which is funded through local revenues. Consistent with the principle of home rule, it is the Administration's view that the District's local budget should be authorized to take effect without a separate annual Federal appropriations bill. The Administration will work with Congress and the Mayor to pass legislation to amend the D.C. Home Rule Act to provide the District with local budget autonomy.

Appendix, Page 1321:

SEC. 817. Section 446 of the Home Rule Act (D.C. Official Code sec. 1–204.46) is amended by adding the following at the end of its fourth sentence, before the period ": Provided, That, notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, effective for fiscal year 2013, and for each succeeding fiscal year, during a period in which there is an absence of a federal appropriations act authorizing the expenditure of District of Columbia local funds, the District of Columbia may obligate and expend local funds for programs and activities at the rate set forth in the Budget Request Act adopted by the Council, or a reprogramming adopted pursuant to this section." (Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2012.)

In the absence of voting rights, budget autonomy is an important step toward enfranchising our nation's capital. DC should have control over its local revenues without having to clear that spending through Congress, and those local revenues should not be held hostage in the event of a government shutdown.

As the President himself points out, the Administration must work with Congress and the Mayor to ensure that these statements move from words to actions.

Click here for more information from DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

PFAW

FINAL PUSH: Online March for Trust Women Week!

There are now over 100,000 participants in the Online March for Trust Women Week. We’re making our final push today. Please join now!

Today, as we celebrate the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, women’s reproductive freedom and health are still under attack.

The Tea Party Congress has moved aggressively to shut down women's access to reproductive health care and deny women the basic right to choose by targeting their health insurance and key healthcare providers, most notably, Planned Parenthood. In the states, a movement is afoot to make abortions illegal by conferring the status of “personhood” on embryos, and various state legislatures have taken up bills that would erect insurmountable barriers to women exercising their right to choose.

People For the American Way is proud to be partnering with the Silver Ribbon Campaign and an extremely broad coalition of organizations to promote the Virtual March celebrating Trust Women Week.

It is imperative that we begin 2012 with a powerful event that builds solidarity and momentum for reproductive health, rights and justice.

Join the Virtual March now and send your views to Congress and other elected officials where key decisions are pending about reproductive health, rights and justice.

You'll see your actions on an online map where you can also see who else is joining you, nearby and nationwide.

Choose from messages like:
  • “I trust women and I vote”
  • “Reproductive rights are human rights”
  • “We are the 99%. Fix the economy, and stop the war on women”
  • And more.
Join the march now and then help spread the word!

You can find out more about Trust Women Week at http://oursilverribbon.org.

Thank you for standing up for women’s rights and against right-wing attacks on reproductive freedom.
PFAW

UPDATE: Online March for Trust Women Week!

PFAW has made a very strong showing among the more than 80,000 people who have already joined the Online March for Trust Women Week. If you haven’t yet, please join now!

Today, as we celebrate the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, women’s reproductive freedom and health are still under attack.

The Tea Party Congress has moved aggressively to shut down women's access to reproductive health care and deny women the basic right to choose by targeting their health insurance and key healthcare providers, most notably, Planned Parenthood. In the states, a movement is afoot to make abortions illegal by conferring the status of “personhood” on embryos, and various state legislatures have taken up bills that would erect insurmountable barriers to women exercising their right to choose.

People For the American Way is proud to be partnering with the Silver Ribbon Campaign and an extremely broad coalition of organizations to promote the Virtual March celebrating Trust Women Week.

It is imperative that we begin 2012 with a powerful event that builds solidarity and momentum for reproductive health, rights and justice.

Join the Virtual March now and send your views to Congress and other elected officials where key decisions are pending about reproductive health, rights and justice.

You'll see your actions on an online map where you can also see who else is joining you, nearby and nationwide.

Choose from messages like:
  • “I trust women and I vote”
  • “Reproductive rights are human rights”
  • “We are the 99%. Fix the economy, and stop the war on women”
  • And more.
Join the march now and then help spread the word!

You can find out more about Trust Women Week at http://oursilverribbon.org.

Thank you for standing up for women’s rights and against right-wing attacks on reproductive freedom.
PFAW

What a Difference 18 Years Makes

Sometimes it’s hard to see what it means to make change. Last week OutServe brought us a notable exception.

Not long ago, this video could not have been made. It’s because so many people worked so hard over the past 18 years to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that this issue could be raised so openly from within the armed forces. And all of our work on It Gets Better and safe schools will be better for it.

PFAW

Stop School Bullying this GSA Day!

Following the increased media attention paid to bullying-related suicides in 2010, Senator Al Franken took a strong stand on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and those who are perceived to be LGBT. His Student Non-Discrimination Act (S. 555) protects them from school-based discrimination, much like Title IX does for gender discrimination, and much like other areas of law do for various protected classes. It recognizes bullying and harassment as discrimination, and it provides both for remedies against discrimination and incentives for schools to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Today, Senator Franken has an important video announcement for you regarding S. 555.

On the occasion of GSA Day 2012, when we celebrate the work of Gay-Straight Alliances that bringing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight allied people together to stop bullying, homophobia, transphobia and hate, PFAW has called on you to be part of the solution.

Below are some quick talking points (more detailed talking points here) you can use in your call and to help promote awareness about the bill.
  • Celebrate Gay-Straight Alliance Day by supporting and cosponsoring the Student Non-Discrimination Act.
  • Bullying and harassment are forms of discrimination, but federal civil rights statutes leave LGBT students, and those who are perceived to be LGBT, unprotected.
  • Bullying and harassment in schools is a pervasive national problem.
  • Both Americans overall and education professionals in particular recognize the problem and support congressional action.
  • When students lose their sense of safety, they lose their access to quality education.
  • As Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it should address the bullying and harassment problem.
  • This isn’t just a question of education. It’s a matter of life and death.
Please call your senators now: Capitol Switchboard - (202) 224-3121

You can let us know how your call went with our online call report form.

More than one third of the Senate already supports the Student Non-Discrimination Act. You can check for your senators on the list here and if one or both of your senators are on it, please make your call a “thank you” call.

PFAW

Join the Online March for Trust Women Week!

Yesterday, I asked you to join the Online March for Trust Women Week. PFAW supporters are among the 66,000 and counting who’ve already marched. If you haven’t yet, please join now!

Today, as we celebrate the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, women’s reproductive freedom and health are still under attack.

The Tea Party Congress has moved aggressively to shut down women's access to reproductive health care and deny women the basic right to choose by targeting their health insurance and key healthcare providers, most notably, Planned Parenthood. In the states, a movement is afoot to make abortions illegal by conferring the status of “personhood” on embryos, and various state legislatures have taken up bills that would erect insurmountable barriers to women exercising their right to choose.

People For the American Way is proud to be partnering with the Silver Ribbon Campaign and an extremely broad coalition of organizations to promote the Virtual March celebrating Trust Women Week.

It is imperative that we begin 2012 with a powerful event that builds solidarity and momentum for reproductive health, rights and justice.

Join the Virtual March now and send your views to Congress and other elected officials where key decisions are pending about reproductive health, rights and justice.

You'll see your actions on an online map where you can also see who else is joining you, nearby and nationwide.

Choose from messages like:
  • “I trust women and I vote”
  • “Reproductive rights are human rights”
  • “We are the 99%. Fix the economy, and stop the war on women”
  • And more.
Join the march now and then help spread the word!

You can find out more about Trust Women Week at http://oursilverribbon.org.

Thank you for standing up for women’s rights and against right-wing attacks on reproductive freedom.
PFAW

With Nominations, the Senate GOP Legislates by Gridlock

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

The Senate GOP under President Obama has mastered the art of proactive apathy. Not content with neglecting their own jobs, Senate Republicans have expertly used their own dysfunction to prevent other parts of government from doing theirs. These efforts have consequences far beyond bureaucratic procedure: whether it's by crippling the courts or attacking agencies that hold corporations accountable, Republicans are making it harder for individual Americans to access the rights that a functioning government protects.

This week, Senate Republicans added two new public disservices to their resume. On Tuesday, they shattered the 2005 "Gang of 14" deal that prevented filibusters of judicial nominees in all but extraordinary circumstances, setting a standard that no nominee for the D.C. Circuit will be able to meet. As President Obama said about the filibuster of Halligan's nomination, "The only extraordinary things about Ms. Halligan are her qualifications and her intellect." And then on Thursday, they blocked President Obama's nominee to head a new federal agency simply because they do not want that agency to exist -- a move that will have untold consequences on future attempts to staff the executive branch.

These political power plays by a minority of senators are far more than "inside the Beltway" procedural dust ups. They signal the emergence of a party that is so intent on tilting the playing field in favor of the powerful that they will sacrifice basic public service in order to serve the interests of a powerful few.

On Tuesday, all but one Senate Republican refused to allow an up-or-down confirmation vote on Caitlin Halligan, a D.C. Circuit Court nominee who in any other year would have been easily approved by the Senate. The GOP struggled to find a reason to oppose Halligan on her merits, ultimately settling on a handful of trumped-up charges and the ridiculous argument that the D.C. Circuit, with one third of its seats vacant, didn't need another judge. When George W. Bush was president, many of these same Republicans loudly proclaimed that filibustering judicial nominees violates the United States Constitution, ultimately agreeing to the "Gang of 14" deal that judicial nominees would only be filibustered under "extraordinary circumstances." The vote on Halligan shattered that deal, opening the door for further political abuse of the judicial confirmation process.

On Thursday, the story repeated itself when the GOP succeeded in blocking a vote to confirm Richard Cordray to lead the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, is as non-controversial as they come. He has a history of working with banks and with consumer advocates. He's backed by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, including the Republican who beat him in last year's election. Republicans in the Senate don't have any problems with Cordray. But they've made it very clear that they'll do everything in their power to keep the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from performing the functions that it is required by law to carry out. They don't want anyone to lead the agency, because without a Senate-confirmed head, it cannot perform all of its legally assigned duties. This is not conjecture on the part of progressives; Republicans have brazenly admitted it.

Unfortunately, these votes are not aberrations. They are part of a clear pattern of the Senate GOP since President Obama's election. Unable to accept the results of an election they lost, and unable to get their own way on everything, they have resorted to obstruction and dysfunction. They have abused the extraordinary power the Senate minority is granted , blocking everything they get their hands on, sometimes, it seem, simply because they can. In the process, they are damaging America's system of justice and accountability and betraying the voters they were elected to serve.

Perhaps they are doing this to serve the powerful corporate special interests that do not want courts and agencies to hold them accountable, or perhaps they are doing it to score political points against a Democratic president, or some combination of those reasons. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. Either way, they are abusing their positions and throwing sand in the gears of the Senate to make it harder for ordinary Americans to get our day in court and to defend ourselves against the powerful. It's a deeply cynical strategy, and ultimately a deeply harmful one.

PFAW

Empty Talking Points, Job Creators Edition

Republicans in Congress, who are currently in the process of stalling a tax cut for the middle class because it would be paid for by a miniscule surtax on the wealthiest, are adamant that the president’s plan for a payroll tax break will hurt small businesses and the wealthy people they like to call “job creators.”

Today, an NPR reporter went looking for some of those job creators who would stop hiring once they’re hit by a 3.25 surcharge on their income taxes. The reporter did her due diligence and asked for names from Republican congressional leaders and business lobbyists. None of them were able to present her with a small business owner who would talk about being hurt by the millionaire’s surtax. Then she tried something new:


So next we put a query on Facebook. And several business owners who said they would be affected by the "millionaires surtax" responded.


"It's not in the top 20 things that we think about when we're making a business hire," said Ian Yankwitt, who owns Tortoise Investment Management.
Tortoise is a boutique investment firm in White Plains, N.Y. Yankwitt has 10 employees and in recent years has done a lot of hiring.


As a result, Yankwitt says he's had many conversations about hiring, "both with respect to specific people, with respect to whether we should hire one junior person or two, whether we should hire a senior person."


He says his ultimate marginal tax rate "didn't even make it on the agenda."
Yankwitt says deciding to bring on another employee is all about return on investment. Will adding another person to the payroll make his company more successful?


For Jason Burger, the motivation is similar.


"If my taxes go up, I have slightly less disposable income, yes," said Burger, co-owner of CSS International Holdings, a global infrastructure contractor. "But that has nothing to do with what my business does. What my business does is based on the contracts that it wins and the demand for its services."


Burger says his Michigan-based company is hiring like crazy, and he'd be perfectly willing to pay the surtax.


"It's only fair that I put back into the system that is the entire reason for my success," said Burger.


For the record, both Burger and Yankwitt have made campaign contributions to Democrats in the past, but they say their views on the surtax are about the economics of their businesses and not their politics.


And they're not alone.


"I, like any other American, especially a business owner, I want to make as much money as I can and I want to keep as much money in my pocket as I can, but I also believe in the greater good," says Deborah Schwarz, who owns LAC Group, an information management firm with offices nationwide and in London.
Surtax or no, Schwarz says she hopes to keep hiring.


"We're going to keep on writing proposals, going after contracts, hopefully winning them, and when we do we're going to continue to hire people," says Schwarz.


All of this contradicts the arguments about job creators being made by Republicans in Congress.

Republicans are stopping a tax break for the middle class because of a myth about “job creators” they they aren’t able to back up with any actual examples, while actual job creators are keeping on investing in their own futures and that of their employees.
 

PFAW

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover’s Story Comes to ABC

Following the increased media attention paid to bullying-related suicides last fall, PFAW took a strong stand on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and those who are perceived to be LGBT. Last Friday, ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition turned its attention to the story of Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover.

On April 6, 2009, 11-year-old Carl Walker took his own life after being relentlessly bullied at school. Carl's family has focused their energies on helping others. They have turned this tragic event into something positive by lobbying for new state and federal laws against bullying.

The 3rd floor of the Walker home is where Carl took his own life. As a result, the family cannot bear the sadness of being on that floor. They need a new home that would meet their current needs yet also honor Carl in a positive way. Know anyone who can help?

Ty Pennington and designers Michael Moloney, Tracy Hutson, Jillian Harris, John Littlefield and local builders N. Riley Construction, Inc., as well as community volunteers, are tasked with building a new home while the Walkers are whisked away on a dream vacation to Hollywood.

As part of the episode, ABC teamed up with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network:

GLSEN worked with the Makeover team to create Stand Together, a community of people dedicated to taking action against bullying, with Sirdeaner Walker - a leading advocate on this issue - as the driving force behind the movement. The online hub featured in the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episode is designed to raise awareness about the overwhelming number of bullying incidents in our nation's schools. Those touched by her work of making schools safe for all students can get involved and make a pledge against bullying and harassment by visiting www.standtogether.tv.

Stand Together is a great new tool to show how diverse the fight against bullying has become. They are well over one hundred thousand strong and still growing.

PFAW will continue its own advocacy to make sure that lessons are learned from stories like Carl's. Just this week, we sent a letter to the Senate supporting the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

S. 555 protects students from school-based sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, much like Title IX does for gender discrimination, and much like other areas of law do for various protected classes. It recognizes bullying and harassment as discrimination, and it provides both for remedies against discrimination and incentives for schools to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Ultimately, this is about stopping abhorrent behavior that prevents victimized students from accessing quality education. All children deserve far better than that.

Senator Franken is the sponsor of the Student Non-Discrimation Act.

On a personal note, Carl's story will remain saved in my DVR as a reminder of why I – why all of us in this fight do what we do.

PFAW