Protest proposed rule limiting food aid

Action Deadline: April 2 – The war against people who need help getting food on the table never ends. We fought for a 2018 Farm Bill that didn’t cut aid or impose harsh time limits for millions of SNAP/CalFresh (food stamp) recipients, and we won in a bipartisan victory! But now Trump’s Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to sneak in the back door with an executive order that would impose work requirements on people receiving food aid, limiting benefits to just three months for unemployed and underemployed individuals without dependent children. This could potentially disqualify 755,000 beneficiaries. States have always had flexibility to waive time limits on SNAP in areas that don’t have enough jobs. This proposed order would ignore the realities facing low-income Americans. We said NO to cutting food aid from the Farm Bill – let’s say NO to this too. The USDA’s mandatory comment period runs through April 2, and you can leave comments here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/02/01/2018-28059/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-requirements-for-able-bodied-adults-without-dependents#open-comment

Read on for suggestions for what to say, and for more info.

What you can do:

Leave a comment on the Federal Register website by April 2, 2019. The USDA is required to take and respond to public comments.

The Federal register page for the proposal, with information and a link to a page where you can leave a comment, is https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/02/01/2018-28059/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-requirements-for-able-bodied-adults-without-dependents – to comment, click the green button on the right side that says “SUBMIT A FORMAL COMMENT.” You can also read other people’s comments by clicking the link under the green button.

The comment page itself is https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/02/01/2018-28059/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-requirements-for-able-bodied-adults-without-dependents#open-comment

What to say:

The comments below are suggestions. It’s very important to write in your own words whenever possible and especially to add your own thoughts; identical comments are bundled together and not given individual weight.

  • I oppose stricter time limits to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • There are already strict rules for people who don’t have children or dependents (“able bodied adults without dependents”) who get food assistance through SNAP.
  • We should not make the existing rules even worse by taking away state flexibility to waive time limits if there aren’t enough jobs for low-income people.
  • Exposing more people to time-limited benefits, taking away states’ ability to waive time limits, and expanding the people the strict time limits apply to will only increase the number of people facing hunger in this country.
  • Personal comments:
    • Why is protecting access to food assistance for people struggling to find enough work important to you personally?
    • Why is it important to your community? What’s the situation like where you live?

More info:

The Farm Bill that passed with bipartisan support in December 2018 (the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018) authorized and funded SNAP and included time limitations for unemployed able-bodied adults without children, with permission for states to waive the limits if they found that there were not enough jobs that the people in question could find. Under the new proposal, the USDA proposes to do away with this flexibility, regardless of whether there are sufficient jobs for low-income people struggling to find work. Essentially, if a childless adult between 18 and 49 years old can’t get and keep a job for at least 20 hours a week, they can only get three months of food aid over three years.

Childless people in depressed areas are just as hungry as anyone else who can’t find work and can’t afford food. The current proposal blames the poor and the hungry for their own poverty and hunger. It’s a story proven time and again to be false as well as cruel. It doesn’t help anyone find a job, it doesn’t lift anyone out of poverty, and it doesn’t keep anyone from going hungry.

As one former food stamp recipient said in a moving essay:

In his speech, Trump adjudged the state of America “an economic miracle.” But what is the miraculous quality of snatching food from more than three-quarters of a million Americans? Does one in eight food-insecure Americans point to positive economic awe? Can we safely celebrate economic prosperity when 43 million human beings live disposed to the violence of poverty?

Tell the USDA: NO.

For more background read our prior articles about SNAP:

Repeal the AUMF, NOW

Deadline: Before we bomb anywhere else –

After 9/11, Congress enacted Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to retaliate against Al Qaeda and to wage war in Iraq. Congress never intended those AUMFs to be open-ended blank checks for presidents to create or pursue wars on their own; yet 18 years later, they are still being used as the legal pretext for American combat operations in close to 20 nations around the world. Young men and women not even born when those AUMFs were enacted are now fighting the endless wars the AUMFs have spawned – all in violation of the Constitution and the War Powers Act of 1973, which require an Act of Congress for the country to enter into war.

And now the Trump administration is threatening to start new wars against Iran and Venezuela. Tell our Members of Congress: It’s time to call a halt to all of these endless wars. Read on for what you can do; more background follows the call scripts and contact info.

What you can do:

On February 14, 2019, Representative Barbara Lee introduced H.R. 1274, a bill which would repeal the 2001 AUMF. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier has cosponsored it; Rep. Eric Swalwell has not. There is no similar legislation in the Senate to date. Tell your Members of Congress that you want them to:

  • take all appropriate action to repeal previous AUMFs,
  • halt/oppose US military intervention taken without Congressional authorization, and
  • reject the administration’s assertion that the AUMFs permit Trump to order further military strikes without Congressional authorization.

What to say:

For Representative Barbara Lee, email; (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661

My name is ___________,  my zip code is _______ and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Rep. Lee for introducing H.R. 1274 to repeal the 2001 AUMF, and I hope she will also introduce a bill to repeal the 2002 AUMF. I also want Rep. Lee to publicly reject the administration’s claims that the AUMFs provide a legal basis for military action or intervention against Iran, Venezuela, or anywhere else, without specific congressional authorization.

For Representative Mark DeSaulnier, email; (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095

My name is ___________,  my zip code is ________ and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Rep. DeSaulnier for cosponsoring HR. 1274 to repeal the 2001 AUMF, and I hope he will also introduce and support legislation to repeal the 2002 AUMF. I also want Rep. DeSaulnier to publicly reject the administration’s claims that the AUMFs provide a legal basis for military action or intervention against Iran, Venezuela, or anywhere else, without specific congressional authorization.

For Representative Eric Swalwell, email; (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

My name is ___________,  my zip code is ___________ and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Rep. Swalwell to co-sponsor and vote for HR. 1274 to repeal the 2001 AUMF, and also to introduce and support legislation to repeal the 2002 AUMF. I also want Rep. Swalwell to publicly reject the administration’s claims that the AUMFs provide a legal basis for military action or intervention against Iran, Venezuela, or anywhere else, without specific congressional authorization.

For Senators Feinstein and Harris:

My name is ___________,  my zip code is _________ and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Senator ____ to introduce and support legislation similar to H.R.1274 to repeal the  2001 AUMF, and also to introduce and support legislation to repeal the 2002 AUMF. I also want the Senator to publicly reject the administration’s claims that the AUMFs provide a legal basis for military action or intervention against Iran, Venezuela, or anywhere else, without specific congressional authorization.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Background:

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Congress enacted an AUMF that instructed the President:

to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons …

At the time this was commonly understood to authorize military action against Al Qaeda and against the Taliban in Afghanistan and possibly Libya and Somalia – and nowhere else.

In 2002, Bush-II convinced Congress to enact another AUMF, authorizing military force to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein. This led to the Second Iraq War; it has been used to justify U.S. military operations that continue in Iraq to the present day, and  the American military presence in Syria.

According to a 2016 report by the Congressional Research Service, in the intervening 16 years these two AUMFs were cited 37 times in connection with military actions in 14 countries and on the high seas. Since that report was written in 2016, they continue to be cited as the legal basis for military intervention around the world, with U.S. military personnel deployed and equipped for combat in Afghanistan, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria,  Turkey, Uganda, and Yemen. The AUMF has even been cited by the Department of Justice as authority for engaging in electronic surveillance of Americans in ACLU v. NSA – without obtaining a warrant of the special court as required by the Constitution.

Under the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Act, enacted in 1973 to prevent another undeclared war like Vietnam, only Congress can declare war – yet our country is involved in armed interventions against an ever-increasing number of organizations, factions, and clans, at great and increasing cost in lives and treasure. Now it could get worse, as some of the war hawks in the Trump administration seem to be signaling a plan to claim that the AUMF provides a legal basis for U.S. military strikes against Iran without further congressional authorization. Military strikes against Iran would be a huge, and possibly catastrophic escalation with unforeseeable consequences. Meanwhile, Trump is asserting his willingness to intervene militarily in Venezuela to overthrow the current government and install one that he favors – exactly the kind of unilateral presidential adventurism the War Powers Act was enacted to prevent.

Enough. Too much. We need to keep this from spreading, and more: we need to withdraw the authority already granted before further damage is done. We need to repeal the AUMFs, NOW.

Protect the payday lending rule

By Sylvia Chi

Action deadline: May 15, 2019, 9 PM Pacific time – GET CASH NOW! The payday lending industry is getting its money’s worth from the Trump Administration: after they invested heavily in Trump’s inauguration and re-election committees, as well as Republican lawmakers and organizations, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has announced its plans to reverse an Obama Administration rule to protect borrowers from predatory, short-term, “small-dollar” loans. The industry, which targets low-income and minority communities, is also enjoying the pay-off from relocating its annual conference to the Trump National Doral Miami and influencing academic research in their favor.

On February 14, the CFPB unveiled its proposal to rescind the 2017 payday lending rule, which would have required lenders to confirm that customers would be able to pay back their loans, thus protecting borrowers from predatory lending. Reversing the rule means that payday lenders will be able to make loans with typical interest rates as high as 400 percent, without checking whether borrowers have the ability to pay off the loans’ high interest rates and fees. The biggest irony? The CFPB itself was created thanks to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a way to protect borrowers – not industry.

You can help stop this reversal from going into effect! Keep reading for instructions on how to submit comments opposing the deregulation of payday lenders and more background on the CFPB’s proposal.

What you can do:

Submit a public comment about the CFPB’s rollback by May 15, 2019. Go to this link and click on the blue “Comment Now!” button in the upper right. Or navigate to www.regulations.gov and search for CFPB-2019-0006.

What to write:

Here are some suggested comments, based in part on the Center for Responsible Lending’s overview and initial analysis. Please personalize your submission as much as possible to make it more effective. Especially effective: share any personal experiences you have about the harms of payday loans or the debt trap. Submit your comments by 9 PM Pacific time on Weds. May 15, 2019.

Be sure to include reference to Docket No. CFPB-2019-0006.

My name is _____, and I am writing in reference to Docket No. CFPB-2019-0006. I oppose the proposed rulemaking for the following reasons:

  • Rescinding the “ability to pay” confirmation requirements would make it easier for predatory lenders to coerce borrowers into an inescapable debt trap.
  • Getting trapped in a “debt cycle” from payday and similar loans causes substantial injury to borrowers.
  • The evidence that supports the 2017 rule’s key findings is sufficiently robust, reliable, and representative, and there is no evidence to support rescinding the rule.
  • CFPB’s mission is to ensure that consumers may access fair and transparent markets for financial products, not to increase revenues for payday lenders.
  • CFPB should not weaken its interpretation of legal standards for “unfairness” and “abusiveness.” The new interpretations proposed here would make it harder for CFPB to protect borrowers and ensure fairness in the marketplace.

Learn more:

The 2017 rule applied to loans with a term of 45 days or less, longer-term “balloon-payment” loans, and single-payment vehicle title loans, in which borrowers put up their own cars or trucks as collateral. The CFPB previously concluded that as many as four out of five payday borrowers either default or renew their loan because they cannot afford to pay off the loan. The 2017 rule, which was originally slated to go into effect in August 2019, was finalized after five years of research, data collection, and public feedback, and was intended to protect low-income borrowers from getting trapped in a “cycle of debt.”

How does the CFPB justify this proposed rollback? Critically, CFPB does not dispute that payday loan-caused “debt traps” result in substantial injury to borrowers, although they do cite concerns that the 2017 rule might cause a lower number of payday loans, less revenue for lenders, decreased access to credit for borrowers, and reduced consumer choice and competition among lenders. Nor do they claim that the evidence relied on in developing the 2017 rule is so insufficient that the rule would fail judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act. Instead, CFPB claims that it is “prudent,” as a matter of policy, to hold the 2017 rulemaking to a higher standard, suggesting that evidence must meet an unspecified level of “robustness,” “representativeness,” and “reliability.” But although they claim that the evidence relied on in developing the 2017 rule is now “not sufficiently robust and reliable” to support the identification of “unfair and abusive” practices, they decline to investigate further or to offer evidence that rescinding the rule would not be “unfair and abusive” to borrowers. Instead, CFPB is re-interpreting its legal authority to weaken its standards for what practices count as “unfair” or “abusive.”

The new proposed rollbacks also delay the rule’s implementation date from August 2019 to November 2020, and remove related underwriting and reporting requirements that apply to payday and related lenders.

 

Sylvia Chi is an attorney and activist in Oakland, with expertise on environment and energy issues.

 

 

You Can Help Get Coal Outta Richmond!

By Janis Hashe and Janet Scoll Johnson

Push is quickly coming to shove in the accelerating fight to end coal transport through Richmond. An ordinance that would prohibit new coal handling and storage infrastructure and phase out existing coal operations over a period of years is scheduled to come before the Richmond City Council in late March or early April. The Sierra Club/Sunflower Alliance-backed group No Coal in Richmond is going door-to-door in heavily impacted areas, collecting signatures on a letter to city council members urging them to support the ordinance. Want to help? Read on for more info, and see our action items later in this article.

You might well ask: Why does the Bay Area, a region famous for its environmental leadership, still have coal trains coming through our communities? Why do we have huge, uncovered piles of dirty, dusty coal sitting right next to our Bay at the Levin-Richmond Terminal on the Richmond waterfront? Why is the Port of Richmond one of the last three ports left in the state to export the dirty fossil fuel when California doesn’t even use coal power?

The answer, of course, is money. The coal (and even more dirty petroleum coke, aka petcoke) are being shipped overseas, primarily to Asia, where they are still being burned for power. So, we are exporting our poison to communities overseas … only to have the dirty air drift right back to us in the trade winds.

Due to the falling price of clean energy and the commitment of activists, the coal industry is in retreat in the U.S. We’ve retired 259 coal plants in seven years — that’s one plant retired every 11 days. And more than three million people work in the clean energy economy, which now employs more people than fossil fuels in almost every state in the country. But the coal industry can still make money from overseas sales, and it does not care about the impact on public health or the environment.

What you can do:

1. Help pass “No Coal in Richmond”

Help us get signatures, through canvassing and tabling at local events, to support the strongest possible measures to end this public health and climate menace. 

What: No Coal in Richmond Door-Knocking
When: Saturday 3/2, Sunday 3/10, Saturday 3/16, Sunday 3/24; 1:30–4 pm
Where: Meet at the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center, 2540 Macdonald Ave., Richmond
RSVPaction@sunflower-alliance.org

You’ll get a quick briefing, pick up materials and a map, and leave from there with a partner. The work is gratifying and easy; 95% of the people who open their door say “No coal in Richmond? Where do I sign?” If the scheduled times don’t work, and you can door-knock with a local canvasser or help the organizers in other ways, please send an email to action@sunflower-alliance.org

2. Richmond residents, tell your City Council to pass the ordinance

If you’re a Richmond resident, you can call City Council members to urge them to support the ordinance, and you can show up to the meeting in which the ordinance will come up for its first vote. At this time it looks like the ordinance will be placed on the agenda in late March or early April. To help, or if you have questions, contact Janet at action@sunflower-alliance.org  

 

Janis Hashe is a freelance writer/editor/teacher/theatre person. She has been politically active in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chattanooga and now Richmond. Her deepest personal commitments include fighting climate change, ending factory farming and overturning Citizens United. She’s a member of Indivisible East Bay and the CA-11 team.

Janet Scoll Johnson is a long-time Richmond resident and an organizer for No Coal in Richmond and Sunflower Alliance, which works on the front lines of local fights against fossil fuel pollution and infrastructure expansion in the S.F. Bay Area and throughout California.

February AMM in Dublin

By Ward Kanowsky

Indivisible East Bay’s most recent All Members’ Meeting was held on February 24 in Dublin, the first time IEB has held the meeting in CA-15.

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The meeting included a fascinating and engaging slate of guest speakers from throughout the district, and attendees had the chance to follow up with them during the smaller breakout group sessions:

  • Arushi Avachat, a junior at Foothill High School in Pleasanton and a co-president of Students for Social Change, talked about the power of youth activism in the fight for social justice. Following the Parkland school shootings in early 2018, Arushi and others student activists planned a district-wide walkout in local schools for common sense gun control. ​​The Parkland shootings also inspired the creation of the local chapter of SSC, a national organization with chapters based in high schools; the chapter continues to expand its cause by partnering with Women’s March Empower Coalition and focusing on other important social issues such as voter registration and LGBTQ+ rights.
  • Kyoko Takayama from Tri-Valley Grassroots Organizing (TV-GO) talked about the ins and outs of community organizing. TV-GO is a coalition of progressive groups in the Tri-Valley area of CA-15, including Moms Demand Action, Organizing for Action, Swing Left, Indivisible, and others, working together and independently on important legislative issues and campaigns. Kyoko highlighted an example of organizations working effectively together that resulted in a key win: TV-GO partnered with Tracy-GO and helped to get Josh Harder elected in nearby CA-10 in the recent 2018 midterm elections.
  • Newly elected Hayward city council member Aisha Wahab spoke about her experiences in running for public office, including some of the biased, anti-Muslim sentiment she encountered along the way; during her campaign she was asked if she accepted contributions from ISIS and her car was broken into. Aisha endured and her dedication, as well as an outstanding resume proving her qualifications, resulted in her being the first Afghan American elected to public office in the United States.

IEB member Ion discussed the recent conference held in Santa Monica by California Indivisible chapters, and IEB Governance Committee member Elizabeth gave a compelling presentation about the importance of 2019 elections in the state of Virginia. Read Elizabeth’s article here.

Finally, it wouldn’t be an All Members Meeting without an action item: many of us wrote postcards in support of Nasreen Johnson, who is running for Fresno’s county board of supervisors. If Nasreen is elected, the board will have a Democratic majority.

Several members from neighboring chapter Livermore Indivisible joined us – thank you all for coming out and for your active participation! We encourage participation from interested individuals and groups from anywhere in the East Bay at all our events!

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.

Photographs by Heidi Rand

 

2019 Virginia elections: IEB can help

Editor’s note: At the February 24 All Member Meeting Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee member Elizabeth Douglas spoke about the importance of the 2019 state elections in Virginia. If you missed the meeting, here’s Liz’s presentation:

By Elizabeth Douglas

All 100 House and 40 Senate seats in Virginia will be up for grabs during 2019 state elections! It’s important to remember that Virginia, a purplish state at best of times, may have gone for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but only just barely (by ~212,000 votes!)

https://www.nytimes.com/elections/2016/results/virginia
Image Source: The New York Times, Election 2016 Virginia Results

Image Source: The New York Times, Election 2016 Virginia Results

So why should Californians make efforts to “keep Virginia blue” in 2019 (or, at least get it from purplish to blue-ish)? How does this affect us? Not only is this election of vital importance to Virginia state legislation, but getting more Democrats in the Senate and House of Delegates would protect the state from radical redistricting by Republicans in 2021. Recently, Virginia legislation has had the power to affect Americans nationwide on issues like gender equality (lookin’ at you the ONE Republican who voted not to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment).

And of course, we cannot – CANNOT – have Trump win Virginia in 2020. Trump has been gleefully taking advantage of the recent Virginia controversies plaguing the top three Democrats, baiting his base in Virginia with disgusting lies like the one about Governor Northam executing babies. And if they take the bait, believe us, Virginia will switch.

Indivisible East Bay should take the lessons learned from the fantastic accomplishments of the 2018 elections, and work with other Indivisible groups (e.g., Indivisible Berkeley), Resistance Labs, and partner organizations like Vote Forward, to help Virginia. We hope to kickstart these activities in May, so stay tuned for more news to come on how to help in the Virginia 2019 elections.

For further reading about the Virginia elections, the 2017 Politico article “For Democrats, Virginia’s Elections Are a Petri Dish” illustrates what a difficult state this is to win for Democrats. Even former Republican governor Jim Gilmore said of the 2019 elections: “This race [2017 Virginia elections], and any future races leading up to a redistricting are vital—they’re absolutely vital.”

Or, as recently elected VA-10 Democrat Jennifer Wexton puts it…

https://twitter.com/JenniferWexton/status/1097983475318226944

Source: https://twitter.com/JenniferWexton/status/1097983475318226944?s=19

Elizabeth Douglas is a mom, runner, and activist from Alameda. She is also a Climate Reality Leader (Seattle 2017) with a strong interest in protecting our ocean and corals.

Meeting with Feinstein State Director 2/6

By Larry Baskett

On February 6, 2019, Indivisible East Bay braved the rain to attend our first meeting with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state director, Jim Lazarus, who is newly in the role but has worked for Feinstein on and off ever since she was mayor of San Francisco (his most recent job was for the SF Chamber of Commerce). Field Representative Abby Ellis, who has met with us before, joined in.

We led with an ask to stop Trump’s expanded plans for nuclear weapons development (including low-yield nukes) and space-based missile defense (“space wall,” i.e. Reagan’s “Star Wars” redux). The new nuclear arms race is bad news even before one considers who’s in charge. There weren’t ideas on how to stop withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. When we asked for Sen. Feinstein to use her position on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to work on the issue with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, as well as whether Feinstein was committed to a long-term goal of the elimination of nuclear weapons, Lazarus said they would check with the DC office. On the no-nukes goal, we recommended contacting former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry.

On Trump’s racist southern border policies, we asked for Feinstein to follow up on her efforts to legislate restrictions on Trump using funds via “emergency declaration.” For instance, she could work with ranking Senate Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee Member John Tester to strip out language that would allow it. Lazarus and Ellis said they’d follow up. They said that the federal bureaucracy is pretty independent and that city bureaucracies seem more responsive on the matter. Lazarus also said when Feinstein’s staff visited the San Diego youth immigrant facility (ahem, prison), the conditions were better than one might expect from reporting elsewhere… which was good to hear, but not very reassuring, seeing as how the whole system is a gross injustice. We asked for Feinstein to visit personally, as she has previously committed to doing.

Also, we asked Feinstein to cosponsor the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2018, S.2522. Currently foreign adoptees with American parents, children who would have qualified for citizenship but who for whatever reason didn’t go through the regular process, don’t have a formal recourse to become citizens. This issue personally impacts a loved one of one of our members.

Regarding the rapid pace of confirmations of conservative hack judges and Sen. Mitch McConnell’s plan to accelerate them, we asked for more outspoken protest and procedural hardball from Feinstein, citing Sen. Mazie Hirono’s close questioning and consistent “nay” votes and Sen. Harris’ recent commitment to vote NO on all judges in protest.

We also asked for opposition to attorney general appointee William Barr, noting that a president under investigation shouldn’t get his own pick of AG. We didn’t get much of a response on this; Feinstein did subsequently vote against Barr.

We brought up ever-rising health care costs, including the recent SF General Hospital scandal about soaking non-Medicare patients. We asked Feinstein to support a bill to outlaw “surprise medical billing” with a policy that would put the onus on providers to work out billing with insurers rather than with patients.

We also asked for support of single-payer insurance (Medicare for All). Ellis said that Feinstein supports a public option and broadening California Access Care; she also asked how we’d fund single-payer. Lazarus pointed out that other countries with public systems started them a long time ago and that even Medicare today takes private supplemental insurance for better coverage. This was not encouraging.

We discussed the idea of public banking to fund Green New Deal programs and tied it into developing efforts with Public Bank East Bay and the California Public Banking Alliance. Lazarus said he’d look into it and mentioned the possibility of a statewide public bank as well as banking services for the now-legalized marijuana industry.

We asked whether Feinstein was open to following Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s lead on a 70% or higher top marginal tax rate and/or Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s lead on a wealth tax, for economic justice and fairness. Lazarus didn’t know Feinstein’s position. He brought up how the Constitution was amended to authorize an income tax, and while he cast doubt upon a federal wealth tax’s constitutionality, he noted that many states do have an asset tax, in the form of a property tax. He was also concerned about wealth flight overseas. Again, the direction of the conversation wasn’t very encouraging.

Feinstein has found an as-yet-not-public cosponsor for her homelessness relief bill. It would involve grants via the Health and Human Services Administration to fund a variety of nonprofits and local agencies in support of housing for the poor. The emphasis would be on the states most impacted, like California, New York, and Florida.

Finally, we asked for a public town hall meeting with the Senator. Lazarus wasn’t sure and said that it depended upon the Senate’s schedule, with the likeliest time being during an August recess. Next time, hopefully we can get more specificity from Lazarus on Feinstein’s public positions and responses to our requests.

Larry Baskett is a mechanical engineer from Berkeley who spent a year on staff at the California State Senate and who previously volunteered with Wolf PAC, the campaign finance reform organization.

 

Indivisible California Conference 2019

By Nancy Latham

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On February 16 and 17, about 200 people from Indivisible groups all over California came together in Santa Monica’s Lincoln Middle School (where Stephen Miller went – we exorcised his ghost) for an invigorating weekend of learning, connecting, and thinking about the future! The five people from Indivisible East Bay who went to the Summit attended workshops on:

  • The critical importance of the California legislature, and how we can make a real impact there
  • Building effective alliances with social justice organizations,
  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Leveraging our influence with members of conference
  • Getting ready for the 2020 races

What we talked about most over the weekend: the fact that we are steadily building our people power. Our organizations are getting stronger, and we have so much talent and passion to bring to the social justice space. We can join with other groups that have been in the advocacy field for decades, helping to amplify their voices at the local, state, and federal level. We can collaborate with groups in other parts of the state and the country to pressure our representatives in more focused and aligned ways.

Want to join us for more networking events like this? We’d love to have you! Contact our volunteer coordinator at andrea@indivisibleeb.org.

Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governing Committee, and is a passionate member of the Resistance. In her day job, she works with non-profits, foundations, and government agencies that support greater equity and justice through initiatives in youth development, education, housing, and community development.

Terminate the tax on periods – period!

By Rosemary Jordan

Action deadline: March 8 and ongoing – Taxing period products is absurd and unjust. Under California law, health items like walkers, medical identification tags, and prescription medications – including Viagra! – are not taxed. But menstrual health products are not tax exempt in California, even though they are considered medical necessities by the Federal Drug Administration. This regressive tax harms women and girls living in deep poverty the most. It holds back our youth while they are already saddled with expenses. California state Assembly Bill 31 seeks to end this injustice.

Introduced by East Bay Assembly member Rob Bonta and co-authored by other East Bay lawmakers (Bauer-Kahen, Glazer, Quirk, Skinner, Wicks, and Wieckowski) and joined by over a dozen other co-authors and sponsors, AB 31 would make menstrual pads, tampons and reusable cups tax exempt. AB 31 has support in the Assembly and the Senate, from Republicans and from Democrats.  

But just like the last two times a similar bill was introduced, this is no slam dunk.  The legislature and the Governor need to hear loudly that it’s time to advance Menstrual Equity in California – not by compromise half-measures, but by a full exemption from sales tax for all period products.

Indivisible East Bay has joined a Support Letter that also includes California NOW, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, CA State Strong, and over 70 other organizations and individuals. The American Academy of Pediatrics in California is sending their own letter of support, and cities and counties across California are taking up resolutions in support of AB 31. Now it’s your turn!

What You Can Do:

Take Action Now: Get Postcarding!

The best thing you can do now, as we await hearings in Sacramento in March: gather your friends together for a postcarding event. We need to tell our elected officials that we want this bill to pass! Download postcard templates, scripts and addresses here.

Tell your elected officials: Support AB 31!

Can’t put together a postcard party? Please take a moment to contact your Assemblymember and also the chair of Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation, which must pass AB 31 for it to proceed in the Assembly.

What to say:

My name is ____, I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay and I’m a California voter (for your own representative, include your zip code). I want AB 31 to pass in California. Menstrual equity begins with ending the Tampon Tax. Please vote YES on AB 31!

Get more involved!

You can add your name to the Support Letter, write letters to the editor, and/or get your city council to pass a support resolution. And you can join other supporters of AB 31 for hearings in Sacramento! To get involved, email endthetampontaxinca@gmail.com.

 

Graphic credit: Lynn LaRocca

Rosemary Jordan is Co-Founder of Alameda4Impeachment, a registered Indivisible group and a partner in the Citizens Impeachment Coalition, which includes representatives of cities, towns and counties nationwide (including four in the East Bay) that have passed local Impeachment resolutions. Rosemary also serves on the Steering Committee of All Rise Alameda and is co-leader of the End The Tampon Tax In California campaign. She has over 20 years of professional experience in healthcare and aging.

No Boots No Beds No Wall

Action Deadline – ASAP: Tell Your MoCs to Reject a Budget Deal that Expands ICE and Funds Trump’s Border Wall

As the clock ticks down to another government shutdown, negotiations on the federal budget funding deal continue, with Senate leaders saying on February 11 that they reached a tentative agreement including $1.375 billion for border “barriers,” including 55 miles of new fencing. Unacceptably, the deal also excludes Democrats’ demands to limit immigrant detention funding for ICE. House Democrats must stay strong and reject any additional funding that will allow Trump to tear more families apart.

Let’s be clear: we don’t want another shutdown. But, as Indivisible National put it:

choosing between protecting immigrants and keeping the government running is a false choice—especially with Democrats in control of the House. This bill goes too far in fueling Trump’s deportation force, even if it technically doesn’t have funding for a concrete wall. Congress still has time to pass a clean, year-long continuing resolution (CR), that would keep the government open, and that wouldn’t expand Trump’s deportation machine any further.

Please tell your Members of Congress that we demand a bill that keeps the government open with NO new funding for:

  • Beds: In two years, Trump has dramatically expanded the number of immigrants being incarcerated. In President Obama’s last year in office, 34,000 immigrants were in ICE detention. Now the number is close to 50,000—far above the 40,500 for which Congress had authorized funding. How can ICE detain more people than Congress has authorized? Because DHS uses their transfer and reprogramming authority to effectively steal money from other programs, such as FEMA, to jail more immigrant families. It is Congress’s responsibility to end this financial shell game and add strict limits on DHS Secretary’s transfer and reprogramming authority.
  • Boots: Negotiators are considering giving Trump more Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents. Don’t be fooled. HSI agents are ICE agents — and funding for HSI agents is funding for Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. ICE HSI agents conduct highly militarized worksite raids. The National Immigration Law Center has a great resource with more information on HSI agents here. Congress must NOT increase HSI’s funding — it must cut it and prohibit HSI from arresting workers, while conducting this type of “papers, please” enforcement. 
  • Trump’s racist wall: Negotiators are currently considering including $1.375 billion for border wall funding, which will devastate local communities, as private land is seized using eminent domain, just so Trump can fulfill his hateful campaign promise to build his racist wall along the southern border. It’s critical to keep up the pressure on our Members of Congress and tell them NOT ONE PENNY for Trump’s hateful wall. There must also a policy rider to prevent Trump from using an emergency declaration to transfer and reprogram Defense Dept funding for wall construction. 

 

What you can do:

Call to Action: Ask your senators and House rep to reject any funding deal that expands ICE’s power, funds Trump’s border wall, and maintains DHS’s ability to “reprogram” money to ICE.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m asking ____ to reject the current working budget deal in favor of a bill that keeps the government open with NO new funding for increased detention beds, additional ICE agents, or Trump’s racist wall. Please don’t give in to threats of a shutdown and don’t let our country be held hostage. Please support ONLY a clean budget deal, and place strict limits on reprogramming and transfer authority!

Senators (please call both):

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

House of Representatives (please call your Rep only):

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11_: (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13): (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15): (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065