Tax the Rich!

By Nancy Latham

Of the many reasons you’re an activist, chances are that this country’s lack of economic justice is on the list. We have an economy that works extremely well for those at the very top, works well for the top 10%, and really fails the bottom 90%. There are several ways to look at it, and they’re all appalling. There’s income inequality: in 2017, the average income for the bottom 90% was $35,628, while the average for the top 1% was almost $1.4 million. Wealth inequality is if anything more shocking: in 2016, three men – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett – had more wealth than the bottom 50% of the entire population. And the top 5% owned two-thirds of the wealth in the United States. And there’s the real world: in 2016, the Federal Reserve found in a survey that about half of Americans would not have $400 to pay for an emergency like a car breaking down or an unexpected medical bill.

And there are so many more outrageous statistics about our economy. Does this make you angry? Meet the Tax March Organization. Tax March is an advocacy nonprofit that sprang up in 2017 with the grassroots Tax Day March that demanded that Trump release his tax returns; they also spearheaded the Not One Penny coalition that fought against the tax scam bill that Republicans shoved through Congress later that year.

Now, Tax March is launching a new campaign to Tax the Rich! On April 13 and 14, 2019, Tax March brought together 75 activists from all over the country to learn more about our wildly unfair tax code, and how – together – we can fight back. Taxing the rich will reduce inequality and help us pay for programs that support the common good, such as the Green New Deal, affordable college, universal health coverage, universal childcare, and more.

Activists Gathered for the Tax the Rich Training, photo by Nancy Latham
Activists gathered for the Tax the Rich training, photo by Nancy Latham

Just as importantly, taxing the rich is good for democracy. Highly concentrated wealth puts power in the hands of the few, distorting our political system as policy-makers respond to the rich donor class rather than to ordinary Americans. And in fact, we saw this in action with the tax scam itself: although the so-called reform legislation was deeply unpopular, it passed anyway. Was it just a coincidence that rich donors made it really clear they wanted the bill, even issuing threats like “Get it done or don’t ever call me again”? You decide …

Our Tax Code is Bad for Democracy
Our Tax Code is Bad for Democracy

At the Tax March training we learned about digital organizing, media strategies, shifting the public narrative, educating voters, and answering tough questions. I came back more fired up than ever to start unrigging the economy! And now, I’m inviting you to join. There will be regular calls with grassroots activists as we push the tax debate to the center of the political stage. If you are interested, reach out to me at nancylatham63@gmail.com, or if you’re on the IEB Slack platform, you can direct message me at @nancylatham and join the #economic_justice channel.

Taxing the rich is fair, and it is right. See you on the front lines, fighting for economic justice.

Nancy Latham is on IEB’s Governance 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.

Photos by Nancy Latham

Urgent – Support AB 392, Reform Police Use of Deadly Force

Action Deadline: Monday, April 8, 2019 –

Last month, we wrote about a pair of bills concerning police use of deadly force now making their way through the California state legislature. Indivisible East Bay supports AB 392, which would provide real reform to address the serious problem of unnecessary police use of deadly force that kills and injures too many people – especially young men of color – in our state. AB 392 is coming up for a vote in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, April 9. That means we need you to act NOW. Especially important: Assemblymember Bill Quirk (Hayward) is on the Public Safety Committee; we are hearing that he is flipflopping and has recently been parroting talking points from law enforcement’s competing, toothless bill. He needs to hear from us! Assemblymember Buffy Wicks is also on the committee and is expected to support the bill, but also needs to her from her constituents.

What to do:

If you are a constituent of Assemblymember Quirk (here’s his district map) or Assemblymember Wicks (here’s her district map):

  • Call your Assemblymember and ask him/her to support AB 392. Here’s a sample call script:

    My name is __________, my zip code is ______, I’m a constituent of Assemblymember ________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask Assemblymember _________ to support AB 392. We need to change California’s policy for police use of deadly force. Too many people, mostly young men of color, are killed at the hands of police every year. We need justice in the form of a tougher, better standard for use of force. AB 392 is a commonsense measure and its recommended policy has been proven to reduce killings. Can I count on Assemblymember ___________ to vote YES on AB 392 in the Assembly Public Safety Committee?

Assemblymember Quirk (916) 319-2020; Assemblymember Wicks (510) 990-5350

@AsmBillQuirk, I’m your constituent and a member of @indivisibleeb. I support #AB392 to reform the standard for police use of force and save lives. Can I count on you to vote YES on #AB392 in the Asm. Public Safety Cmte on April 9?

Save our healthcare, save our lives

Deadline: Do it now! – Our healthcare is under attack by the GOP, again — or to be accurate — STILL!

In December 2018, the trial court in Texas v. US, a lawsuit brought in February 2018 by several states’ conservative Attorneys General, ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act is invalid. That’s bad, but it’s just a single trial court. The case is now on appeal to the powerful Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where on March 25, 2019 the Department of Justice agreed, urging the appeals court to strike down the entire ACA. That’s scary, but it gets worse: the DOJ’s reversal of its position was apparently taken over the objections of its own Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and those of Attorney General William Barr.

This is of course just the administration’s latest try to kill the ACA (and many many of us, along with it) — but it’s a doozy. As Indivisible National says:

This is the Trump administration’s clearest attempt yet, not just to sabotage, but to completely annihilate the ACA — and in doing so, unleash chaos on our health care system and on millions of Americans lives.

We’re pissed. And we know you are too.

→ It would jeopardize Medicaid expansion in 37 states.
→ It would end protections for preexisting conditions.
→ It would end coverage for young people who’d otherwise be able to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.
→ It would end required coverage of preventive care — like cancer screenings, vaccines, birth control, blood pressure tests and more.

And so, so much more.

You’ve fought for the ACA and sane healthcare policies before. It’s time to join the battle again!

What you can do:

  • Learn more about the legal case in Indivisible’s article
  • Thank California Attorney General Xavier Becerra – he’s one of the state AGs defending the ACA in Texas v. US, and he has announced that he and other AGs will appeal the district court’s ruling striking down the ACA to the Fifth Circuit.
    • Attorney General Xavier Becerra:  (email);  (800) 953-5335 [select English or Spanish, then press 0]
  • Thank your Representative for cosponsoring Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (WA-07) Medicare for All Act (H.R. 1384), and ask them to continue to speak out publicly and to do all they can to support the ACA and to reform our health care system to guarantee health care coverage for all. For more info about the Act, read Indivisible’s article
  • Thank Senator Feinstein and Senator Harris for speaking out, and ask them to continue to do all they can to support the ACA and to reform our health care system to guarantee health care coverage for all
  • Watch for a bill House Democrats unveiled on March 26, the Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions & Making Health Care More Affordable Act, which Leader Pelosi said “lowers health care insurance premiums, stops junk plans, strengthens protections for pre-existing conditions and reverses the GOP health care sabotage.” She also commented, about the DOJ’s position in the Texas v. US lawsuit: “.. . . [T]he Department of Justice becomes the Department of Injustice when it wants to tear down health care benefits.  Because as Dr. King said, ‘people could die’ – people could die.”

Call now!

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Sen. Kamala Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

Support AB 857, Public Banking

By Sylvia Chi

Deadline: now and ongoing –

In recent years, a lot more people have started thinking about who’s running their banks, and who’s profiting – and whether they’re the ones who are losing. Now, California Assembly Bill 857 proposes to allow local governments to apply for a banking license from the state, so cities, counties, or regions could establish their own public banks. The legislation is sponsored by the California Public Banking Alliance (CPBA), a statewide coalition of grassroots advocates representing areas ranging from San Diego to Eureka, as well as Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Beneficial State Foundation, and Friends of the Earth. The East Bay is home to CPBA member Public Bank East Bay (formerly Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland), one of the pioneers of the public banking movement in the United States, and we’re calling on our state legislators to sign on as co-authors of this bill. Scroll down to see what you can do to help!

In short, a public bank is one that’s owned by a government, accountable to the public, and managed by professional bankers. (For a longer description, check out Wikipedia.) In the US, the main example of a public bank is the Bank of North Dakota (BND), a state-owned institution founded in 1919 that holds state and other public deposits. BND functions mainly as a bankers’ bank, partnering with local community banks and credit unions to issue loans. It has few retail functions, but its partnership with local financial institutions makes North Dakota home to one of the most robust local banking sectors in the country.

AB 857 would allow local governments in California to create their own versions of BND, strengthening our local financial institutions and keeping our public money in the local economy. Currently, Wall Street banks are the only option for banking services for most local governments. These banks enjoy record profits and anticipate regulatory rollbacks. But why should our communities support them, since they profit from financing and enabling precisely the same fossil fuels, private prisons, destruction of communities, and other reprehensible activities that our communities are actively fighting? Public banks can be a much-needed alternative to the mega-banks, help counteract the risky trend towards bank consolidation, and serve as a source of strength for local economies. They can even help finance the projects proposed in the Green New Deal.

Public banking is possible right here in the East Bay. The city councils of Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond, together with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, authorized a feasibility study for a regional public bank, which reached positive conclusions. After reviewing the study, the Finance and Management Committee of Oakland City Council voted to forward the study to the full City Council, which accepted it. The next step toward creating a public bank for the East Bay is to develop a business plan and apply for a license – which doesn’t exist yet. We need AB 857 to pass so the East Bay can move forward on creating our own local public bank.

AB 857 is gaining support in the state legislature, but the East Bay’s representatives haven’t yet signed on. Let them know you want them to support and co-author AB 857!

What you can do:

Ask your state senator and assemblymember to commit to co-authoring and supporting AB 857. If you don’t know who your state representatives are, enter your address here to find out.

What to say:

My name is _______, I’m a constituent, and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I support public banking as a way to strengthen the local economy. We need to pass AB 857 so the East Bay can move forward on creating our own local public bank. A public bank can help the East Bay by providing low-interest loans for underserved small businesses and affordable-housing developers, and for building needed public infrastructure. Please co-author and support AB 857.

  • Senator Nancy Skinner (email) 510-286-1333 (district) or 916-651-4009 (Capitol)
  • Assemblymember Rob Bonta (email) 510-286-1670 (district) or 916-319-2018 (Capitol)
  • Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (email) 510-286-1400 (district) or 916-319-2015 (Capitol)

 

Sylvia Chi is a member of Public Bank East Bay and legislative chair of the California Public Banking Alliance.

Sign on! Petition and bills to reform charter school laws

By Emily Filloy

Deadline: Now and ongoing –

Are you sick and tired of billionaires backing charter schools, while public schools scramble to pay teachers a living wage?

The proliferation of charter schools and the disastrous effect they have on our public schools was brought to the public’s attention in the recent Los Angeles and Oakland teachers strikes. In the Oakland Unified School District alone, charters cost the district $57 million a year—plenty to give the teachers the raise they need. Now that former Governor Jerry Brown is no longer blocking the road to any charter law reform, legislators have proposed a package of reform bills that would give Oakland, LA, and other heavily charter-impacted districts some much-needed relief.

We need you to do two things:

  • First, contact your Assemblymember and State Senator in support of these four bills: AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508. Read on for more info, a call script and contact info.
  • Second, sign the CharterLawReform.com petition. This petition demands five fundamental changes to state charter law that would go a long way to leveling the playing field. Once the playing field gets leveled, the billionaires creep back under the rocks they crawled out from. When you sign, this petition will automatically send your state reps a notice that you want them to reform the Charter School Act.

Background:

Throughout Jerry Brown’s tenure as governor, he refused to sign almost all charter reform legislation, even bills requiring charter schools to follow the Brown Act and other sunshine and anti-conflict of interest legislation. Now, Governor Newsom has already signed SB 126, dealing with oversight of charter schools! We know that if we can get reform bills passed, Newsom will sign them; but to do that, we need to keep pressure on the legislature. The charter industry is rich and powerful – spending billions to elect pro-charter legislators and school boards and to fight reform legislation. We citizens need to let our reps know that selling out our public schools to privatizers is not okay.

Right now, this package of four bills would reform laws that currently favor charter schools over public schools throughout California:

  • AB 1505 would make the decision of a local school board to deny a charter petition final. Currently, if a local school board denies a charter petition, the operator may appeal first to the county and then to the state. Like bad parenting—if mom says no, try dad.
  • AB 1506 would impose a cap on the number of new charters, allowing a new charter to open only if an existing one closes.
  • AB 1507 would end the ability of a district to authorize a charter school and then place it in another district. Yes, that happens.
  • AB 1508, introduced by East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta and coauthored by Senator Nancy Skinner, expresses the intent to allow school districts to take into account the fiscal, academic, and facilities impacts of a proposed charter on the district schools where it is to be located. This means that a school board can say, “No, we can’t afford yet another charter school.” Combined with AB 1505, which eliminates appeals, this would allow local school districts to once again have control over the number and location of its schools.

What you can do:

 Sign the petition: CharterLawReform.com

 Contact your state representative in support of AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508.

Contact the members of the Assembly Education Committee, where these bills will be heard:

Spread the word!

What to say:

For your local representatives:

My name is___________. My zip code is_________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m urging Assemblymember/Senator __________ to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508.  This package of bills will begin to hold charter schools accountable to local communities and ensure that charter proliferation won’t destabilize another school district. Can I count on Assemblymember/Senator ________ to support these bills?

For members of the Education Committee:

My name is ________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m urging you, as a member of the Education Committee, to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508. This package of bills will begin to hold charter schools accountable to local communities and ensure that charter proliferation won’t destabilize another school district. Can I count on Assemblymember/Senator ________ to support these bills?

 

Emily Filloy is a retired OUSD teacher whose grown children are graduates of Oakland Unified School District. She and other educators started Educators for Democratic Schools to fight for the survival of public education.

 

Repeal the Hyde Amendment for EACH Woman

In 1973, abortion was legalized throughout the US in Roe v. Wade. A short three years later, low-income women all over the country effectively had that right put out of reach by the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal Medicaid funding for almost all abortion services. The Hyde Amendment has been an impenetrable fortress in Congress year after year. But this might be the year it finally falls – thanks in large part to Members of Congress from the East Bay.

The Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Woman Act would in effect overturn the Hyde Amendment. In the House, H.R. 771 is sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee, who first introduced it in 2015. Our other East Bay Representatives, Eric Swalwell and Mark DeSaulnier, have signed on as cosponsors. The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 12, 2019 as S. 758, with Senator Kamala Harris as an original sponsor. Senator Feinstein is not yet a cosponsor – however, she has a long history of being pro-choice. (IEB is talking to Sen. Feinstein’s staff about her position on the legislation and we’ll update this article as soon as we have any news.)

As the fact sheet about the EACH Woman Act says:

1. First, it sets up the federal government as a standard-bearer, ensuring that every woman who receives care or insurance through the federal government will have coverage for abortion services. The EACH Woman Act restores abortion coverage to those:

  • enrolled in a government health insurance plan (i.e., Medicaid, Medicare), including those who live in the District of Columbia;
  • enrolled in a government-managed health insurance program (i.e., FEHBP, TRICARE) due to an employment relationship; or
  • receiving health care from a government provider or program (i.e., Indian Health Services, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Veterans Administration).

2. Second, it prohibits political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care. Federal, state and local legislators will not be able to interfere with the private insurance market, including the insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act, to prevent insurance companies from providing abortion coverage.

Said Senator Harris:

No woman should ever be denied her fundamental reproductive rights. The Hyde amendment disproportionately targets the most vulnerable populations. I’m proud to co-sponsor the EACH Woman Act, protecting reproductive rights and increasing access to critical health care for all women.

And Rep. Lee:

No woman should be denied the full spectrum of reproductive health care because of her zip code or income level – yet that is the reality for too many low-income women and women of color. The EACH Woman Act ensures that every woman is empowered to make critical decisions about her own pregnancy – and has coverage for all pregnancy-related health care, including abortion – regardless of her financial situation. I am proud to reintroduce this bill with the support of my colleagues and the trailblazing women leading the fight for reproductive justice around the country.

This push for pro-choice, pro-woman legislation is good news indeed. And the timing couldn’t be better, coming hard on the heels of the decision of the Sixth Circuit in Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio v. Hodges that the state can cut funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions. That decision was handed down by six judges, four of whom were appointed by the Current Occupant. Boys and girls, in case you haven’t figured it out by now – this is why voting matters.

What you can do:

You better believe that the anti-choice forces will be screaming about the EACH Woman Act, and will have their members screaming at all the cosponsors. Our MoCs need to hear from us that they’re doing the right thing. Thank them and tell them that part of the reason you support them is that they are pro-choice – and you want them to be proactive about it!

What to say:

For Senator Harris:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for sponsoring S. 758, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support you because you’re pro-choice and I want you to keep being a leader to improve reproductive rights and make things better for women in California and throughout the U.S.

For Senator Feinstein:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Senator Feinstein to cosponsor S. 758, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support Sen. Feinstein because she’s pro-choice and she’s been a strong advocate for women’s rights and reproductive rights. I hope she will sign on to S. 758 very soon.

For Representative Lee:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for sponsoring H.R. 771, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support you because you’re pro-choice and I want you to keep being a leader to improve reproductive rights and make things better for women in California and throughout the U.S.

For Reps. Swalwell and DeSaulnier:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for cosponsoring H.R. 771, the EACH Woman Act. We need this legislation to overturn the Hyde Amendment. I support you because you’re pro-choice and I want you to be a leader to improve reproductive rights and make things better for women in California and throughout the U.S.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

Dumpster Fire’s Budget: $8.6 B for the wall, slash social services

One thing we can say for the Dumpster Fire-in-Chief: he doesn’t give up. OK, we could say more, but let’s stick with that for the moment. He doesn’t give up. His budget for 2020 is out, and he’s still at it with the damn funding for the damn Wall. 8.6 billion dollars, to be specific, which as Reuters points out is “more than six times what Congress allocated for border projects in each of the past two fiscal years, and 6 percent more than Trump has corralled by invoking emergency powers this year.” The budget also includes “an overall 5 percent increase to the Department of Homeland Security budget over fiscal 2019 appropriations, including $3.3 billion, or 22 percent more, for Customs and Border Protection, and $1.2 billion more for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a 16 percent hike, officials said.”

Where’s that money gonna come from?

Check out the horrifying chart in this article from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Our Members of Congress have already spoken out: Senator Feinstein released a statement; Senator Harris posted several tweets, and appeared in a Newsweek article; Representatives DeSaulnier, Swalwell and Lee all tweeted in opposition to the budget.

What you can do:

It’s true that Congress rarely approves a presidential budget, but our Members of Congress need our support as they take strong stands in opposition to Trump’s budget and its disgusting priorities. Thank them for what they’ve done, and tell them to keep fighting!

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

What to say:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am appalled by Trump’s budget for 2020 – $8.6 billion for the wall, more money for homeland security, keeping tax cuts for the rich and a huge deficit but slashing the EPA and social services. I want to thank _____ for speaking out against the budget, and I want _______ to continue to speak out against it. Our budget should prioritize taking care of our environment and our people, especially those most in need.

 

Bring the Resolution (for a Green New Deal)

You may have heard since our last post on the Green New Deal that we now have a pair of resolutions in the House and the Senate “Recognizing the Duty of the Federal Government to enact a Green New Deal”! To keep the Green New Deal on our policy agenda, call your representatives and urge them:

  • to vote for the resolutions if they have the chance, and
  • to keep pushing for legislation to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs in our growing green economy, and support all communities and workers through the transition.

See the call scripts at the end of this post; read on for an update on the Green New Deal resolutions and other, related legislation, and what the Republicans are doing in response.

Senate Resolution 59, introduced February 7th, and House Resolution 109, introduced February 8th, are identical resolutions that in some form include all of the Green New Deal features we’ve described in our previous blog posts: to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs and ensure economic security for all people, invest in sustainable infrastructure, secure a clean and healthy environment, and promote justice and equity for Indigenous peoples, people of color, immigrants, rural communities, and other groups experiencing discrimination or disinvestment. In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced Senate Joint Resolution 8 as a trolling attempt to to sow division among Democrats who have differing policy views on how to address the climate crisis. S.J.Res.8 – which has the best shot at getting a vote this Congress of the three resolutions – contains the same text as the Democrats’ resolutions, but could, if it passed both houses, theoretically go to the President for his signature, unlike the Democrats’ simple resolutions.

To achieve the ends of the GND, the resolution text describes a 10-year “national mobilization,” including a long list of goals and projects that range from investment in climate resiliency projects to overhauling the transportation system to cleaning up hazardous waste sites to promoting international technology exchange. The resolution plans to achieve these goals through “transparent and inclusive consultation” with affected communities and workers, training and education, research and development of renewable energy technologies, creation of jobs with family-sustaining wages, and enacting and enforcing rules and regulations to protect workers and the environment.

The resolutions recommend concrete, achievable, affordable, and necessary solutions. Two economists writing for Forbes argue that increased taxes on the wealthiest people and increased borrowing are safe, sustainable, and effective funding sources, and that our economy has the capacity to increase productivity enough to provide jobs for all those who want one. Research efforts have identified detailed solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reaching 100% renewable energy in the US. Experts agree that the technology already exists to achieve the Green New Deal’s environmental goals.

While we definitely want to go out dancing to celebrate this awesome step towards addressing climate change, and while we support these pieces of legislation and urge our Members of Congress to vote for them, we also want to point out that these are resolutions, not bills. They are symbolic statements of position or intent by the voting chamber; they do not require any action once passed, and will not lead to concrete change without further legislative action. In essence, the resolutions are an important first step, and since they’re a symbolic gesture without any commitment of resources, they allow our representatives to show support for the big ideas that we need in order to tackle climate change, while leaving debates over the details for a later discussion. As Vox climate writer David Roberts put it, the resolutions aren’t intended to serve as a policy blueprint, but are “a prelude to two years of intense policy development” – so Democrats should unite around the Green New Deal’s goals, which means supporting them even in the form of McConnell’s S.J.Res.8  if and when it comes up for a vote.

We in the East Bay are fortunate that our MoCs have solid pro-environment track records. However, our Senators and Representatives all have nuances in their policy approach and varied areas of interest for climate action. See what they say and how they vote below (NOTE: All vote scores are based on the League of Conservation Voters Lifetime National Environmental Scorecard).

What you can do:

Call your Members of Congress NOW and keep calling! We don’t know yet if or when a vote on the Green New Deal will be held, so we need to keep the pressure on.

What to say:

For Sen. Feinstein:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank the Senator for her continued and vocal support of federal action on climate change, and for returning donations that violated her No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. I also want the Senator to vote in favor of the Green New Deal resolution, not just vote “Present.” Climate change is the most urgent challenge of our time, and supporting the Green New Deal would demonstrate that the Senator understands the kind of action we need to take to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming.

For Sen. Harris:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Senator Harris for co-sponsoring Senate Resolution 59 in support of a Green New Deal.  This is an important first step that we need to take in order to address the current climate crisis. I want the Senator to continue to publicly push for a Green New Deal, to talk with her colleagues to encourage their support, and to pressure the Senate leadership to put this resolution up for a vote.

For Reps. DeSaulnier, Lee and Swalwell:

My name is ____, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Representative ________ for co-sponsoring House Resolution 109 in support of a Green New Deal. This is an important first step that we need to take in order to address the current climate crisis. I want Representative ________ to continue to publicly push for a Green New Deal, to talk with (her/his) colleagues to encourage their support, and to pressure the House leadership to put this resolution up for a vote.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

Your East Bay MoCs and the Green New Deal

 Sen. Dianne FeinsteinSen. Kamala HarrisRep. Mark DeSaulnierRep. Barbara LeeRep. Eric Swalwell
Supports the Green New Deal?In spirit, yes, but she she has her own draft resolution (on hold for now).

Cosponsor of S.Res.59

Cosponsor of H.Res.109

Cosponsor of H.Res.109

Cosponsor of H.Res.109
What have they said?Feinstein is a solid supporter of science, and says “Climate change policy should always be based on objective science and never on politically biased panels.”

Read Feinstein’s latest statement here.
Harris has made a clear statement of support on GND in her most recent Medium Post.

NOTE: Equity must be at the center of environmental policy for Harris, as noted when we went to visit her in DC.
No public statement on the GND.

DeSaulnier has prioritized protecting fuel efficiency standards & promoting zero-emissions vehicles.
“We must take action on climate change — now.”

Lee was an earlier supporter of the GND, and supported a proposal for a Select Committee for the GND.
“I am working to encourage innovation in the field of renewable energy and energy conservation.”

Check out his strong track record from previous sessions of Congress.
How have they voted on environmental legislation?*90%
Pro-🌍
100%
Pro-🌍
99%
Pro-🌍
96%
Pro-🌍
95%
Pro-🌍
*Note: All vote scores are based on the League of Conservation Voters Lifetime National Environmental Scorecard

Elizabeth Douglas and Sylvia Chi contributed to this article.

Photograph “Green New Deal Presser” © Senate Democrats 

No on SB 230

Remember Stephon Clark? You should. Almost exactly a year ago, in March 2018, he was chased by the police into his grandmother’s back yard in Sacramento, shot multiple times, including in the back, and killed, because the police were suspicious of . . . his cell phone. Now the Attorney General has announced that the police who shot him will not face criminal charges. It’s past time to change when police can use deadly force. Your voice is needed: There are two competing bills in the California state legislature, but only AB 392 is good. The other, SB 230, is a weak bill being pushed by law enforcement as a counterpoint to AB 392. Contact State Senator Nancy Skinner, Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee today. Read on for more info, a call script and contact info.

The Sacramento Bee says that AB 392 would provide “serious reform – not window dressing” to address the problem of death and injury caused by police use of deadly force. We need that kind of reform. When this bill was before the legislature last year, as AB 931, it passed the Senate Public Safety Committee, of which Senator Skinner is the chair, but did not pass the Senate. This year, there’s a second chance.

But SB 230 is coming up before Senator Skinner’s Public Safety committee first. Supported by law enforcement agencies, this bill would allow law enforcement officers to use deadly force, even when they have other options available and even when there is no actual threat to others. Although the bill addresses training and policy, it does so in a superficial and vague way, providing no requirements and setting no minimum standards. It does not address the fact that police in our state kill people at significantly higher rates than the national average, and disproportionately kill people of color, particularly those who are unarmed, and does not do anything to prevent future tragedies of this kind. Although it requires all agencies to maintain use of force policies, it includes no requirements for these policies, other than “guidelines” without specificity. SB 230 would thus authorize agencies to issue policies in direct conflict with the recommendations of the California Attorney General, which emphasized clarity and specificity on use of force policies. SB 230 similarly provides toothless training guidelines with no requirements beyond a short list of subjects to be given “adequate consideration.” Beyond the subject, there is no specificity on what standard officers should be trained to. This is NOT the kind of reform we need.

What you can do:

Contact Sen. Nancy Skinner at (916) 651-4009 or (510) 286-1333. Since she is chair of the committee that the bill is before, you can contact her even if you aren’t her constituent; however, if you do live in her district, you should mention that fact.

Check out this list of members of the Senate Public Safety Committeeif any of them represent you, contact them, or if you know anyone in their districts, please send them this article.

What to say:

My name is ___________, my zip code is ___________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m asking Senator ______ to vote NO on SB 230 when it comes up before the Senate Public Safety Committee. This is a weak policing bill being pushed by law enforcement as a counterpoint to AB 392, which is the real progressive police reform that our state needs to save lives. SB 230 doesn’t deserve to pass the Senate Public Safety Committee. The Public Safety Committee already passed the stronger policy through committee last year as AB 931. It would be disappointing to see the committee pass a weaker bill this year. Can I count on Senator ___________ to help block SB 230 in the Public Safety Committee?

Add for Senator Skinner: I would like Senator Skinner to use her leadership to kill SB 230 in her committee. 

 

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: