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.

 

March 2019 meeting with Sen. Nancy Skinner

State Senator Nancy Skinner and her aide Margaret Hanlon-Gradie met with six Indivisible East Bay members, including the founder of California StateStrong, on March 1, 2019, to talk about important bills in the current legislative session. The half-hour meeting was wide-ranging, including discussions of bills that Indivisible East Bay is prioritizing and bills that Sen. Skinner herself is introducing. Read our pre-meeting memo to Sen. Skinner here.

Police Use of force

Two bills this session deal with the issue of police use of force. We asked Sen. Skinner, who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee, to support AB 392. Her support will be critical to the outcome of this bill – and to the defeat of SB 230, a competing, weaker bill supported by law enforcement agencies. In line with recommendations from policing and legal experts, including the California Attorney General, AB 392 updates California law so that police can use deadly force only when necessary to prevent death or serious injury, and requires them to use tactics to de-escalate a situation or use alternatives to deadly force when reasonable. Changing to this standard will mean that officers will be trained to use deadly force less often and will be held accountable when they shoot and kill unnecessarily. Read our article and action item on AB 392 and SB 230 here.

As Committee Chair, Skinner said she cannot signal anything now, but she noted that neither the Public Safety Committee membership nor the chair has changed since last year when they approved AB 931, a bill very similar to AB 392 that ultimately did not receive a vote in the CA Senate. Skinner urged us to make sure Indivisible groups up and down the state are clear on AB 392 and SB 230 and flood their legislators with communications about them. Also, it’s important to work to gain the support of groups and institutions that have personal and moral influence with legislators, particularly the faith community, including the Catholic, Jewish, and African-American congregations.

Criminal Justice Reform

IEB asked Sen. Skinner to support AB 32, which would abolish for-profit prisons. Sen. Skinner supports ending for-profit prisons and Skinner’s budget subcommittee will hold hearings on why we still have prisoners in Mississippi, but in her opinion this is the least of the issues since California only has two privately owned prisons, which are staffed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and which operate under CDCR rules. The main issue in her opinion is that we have way too many people in prison despite sentencing reforms. Skinner suggests the focus should be on bills from last year that didn’t make it through the legislature that would have eliminated various sentence enhancements. She also suggested focusing on Assemblymember Bonta’s AB 1793, which became law last fall; this deals, among other things, with resentencing for marijuana-related offenses whose legal status changed under Proposition 64.

Importantly, Sen. Skinner will also carry a parole reform bill to increase the chance of parole by changing the criteria for the parole board’s “risk assessment.”  Now, only 18 percent of people who come before the parole board are released. The current criteria mostly have nothing to do with the prisoner’s behavior, are not under the prisoner’s control, and are stacked against black and brown people—e.g., family history of incarceration. Senator Skinner urged as many Indivisible groups as possible to email and call their legislators to pass these bills.

Sen. Skinner beat IEB to the punch discussing Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 6, which if approved by voters in 2020 will amend the California Constitution to restore voting rights to Californians on parole. IEB will be working with the community co-sponsors of ACA 6, including our community partner Open Gate, which supports people leaving prison and pursuing their education. Sen. Skinner told us she is a strong supporter of restoring rights to people returning to the community after incarceration. To our request that she co-sponsor ACA 6 when it comes to the Senate, she responded that voting rights are “very important.”

Anti-Poverty

We thanked Sen. Skinner for introducing SB 18, the Keep Californians Housed Act, co-authored by two other East Bay representatives, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Buffy Wicks. Among other things, this bill establishes a Homelessness Prevention and Legal Aid Fund in the State Treasury.

IEB asked Sen. Skinner to fund the CalFood Program at $24.5 million, to enable food banks to meet emergency needs. We asked her to support the following bills:

  • AB 1022 (Wicks), a top priority of our community partner the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB), addresses the need to end hunger for adults (Able-Bodied Adults without Children) who are harmed by the federal 3-month time limit to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Senator Skinner said this bill should not be a problem, depending on the appropriations amount.
  • SB 285, co-sponsored by the ACCFB, would ensure all eligible Californians have access to CalFresh/SNAP by phone, online, and in-person through dignified means and within an integrated safety net that supports health and well-being. Senator Skinner said she is a strong supporter of making sure everyone who qualifies for SNAP gets it, and she has carried bills to this end in the past.  She thinks this will pass.
  • SB 499, Hunger-Free Schools, and AB 842, Hunger-Free Preschool and Child Care, would increase K-12 schools’ capacity to provide healthy school meals, and are spin-offs of legislation that Senator Skinner carried, so she is a strong supporter.

Finance

We asked for Sen. Skinner’s support of the public banking charter bill sponsored by the California Public Banking Alliance. This will create a new type of charter/license specifically tailored to public banks, which are defined as banks wholly owned by public entities (cities, counties, school or water districts, or combinations thereof). She replied that she is a strong supporter of work around public banks.  She will have to see the language before saying she will co-author.

Senator Skinner is carrying a corporate income tax bill, intended to make corporations share some of the huge savings they reaped from the Trump tax overhaul. Corporate income taxes used to supply about 30% of the state’s general fund; that is now down to less than 9%. Under Sen. Skinner’s bill, the higher the ratio between the corporation’s top officer’s pay and the median employee pay, the higher the tax rate.

We look forward to working with Senator Skinner in the current session.

Join the meetings! Indivisible East Bay meets with the staff of our Members of Congress frequently. Be part of our team! It’s a fascinating way to find out more about the things you care about. Meetings are announced in the IEB weekly newsletter; subscribe to the newsletter for this and more!

Override Trump’s veto

Deadline: now and until Tuesday March 26 – 

Trump’s February 15, 2019 declaration of a national emergency to build a wall is a flagrant attack on our democracy: an illegal, anti-democratic power grab that plays directly to his racist base. On February 26 the House passed H.J. Res. 46, a joint resolution to terminate the national emergency, by a vote of 245 to 182. On March 14 the Senate also passed it, 59 to 41, with Republican Senators Alexander, Blunt, Collins, Lee, Moran, Murkowski, Paul, Portman, Romney, Rubio, Toomey, and Wicker voting with the Democrats. All of our Members of Congress voted in favor.

Trump vetoed the Joint Resolution on March 15. The House is scheduled to hold a veto override vote on March 26; a two-thirds majority is needed for it to pass.

What you can do NOW: 

Thank your Members of Congress for voting YES on the joint resolution, and tell them to:

  • Vote to override the veto (the House votes first, and the Senate will only vote if the House overrides). 
  • Sponsor and support the Protecting Disaster Relief Funds Act, companion bills in the Senate and House that would prohibit Trump from taking funds granted to the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the Army Corps of Engineers in recent appropriations, and using those funds to build a physical barrier on the border. Senator Harris is an original cosponsor of S 534; please thank her, and ask Senator Feinstein to sign on. As of March 19 none of our East Bay reps has cosponsored the House bill, HR 1214; ask your Representative to sign on.

What to say:

For Representatives DeSaulnier, Lee and Swalwell:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for voting for the Joint Resolution to terminate Trump’s unconstitutional emergency declaration. I want Representative ______ to vote to override Trump’s veto, and also to cosponsor House Bill 1214, the Protecting Disaster Relief Funds Act. 

For Senator Harris:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank the senator for cosponsoring Senate Bill 534, the Protecting Disaster Relief Funds Act, and for voting for the Joint Resolution to terminate Trump’s unconstitutional emergency declaration. If the House votes to override the veto, I want the senator to vote to override it in the Senate. 

For Senator Feinstein:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank the senator for voting for the Joint Resolution to terminate Trump’s unconstitutional emergency declaration. If the House votes to override the veto, I want her to vote to override it in the Senate. I’d also like the senator to cosponsor Senate Bill 534, the Protecting Disaster Relief Funds Act.

  • 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

ALSO! Spread the word to everyone you know, especially if they have GOP Members of Congress. Send them this article, and if they need it, point to this handy link with contact info for their MoCs.

Read our prior articles for background:

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

Tell Congress: Fund Libraries, not the Wall

Whoops, he did it again! The newly-released Presidential budget again proposes eliminating the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent grantmaking agency that provides approximately $189.3 million funding for libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). The proposal also cuts the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL), a program administered by the Department of Education (yes, that’s Betsy Cruella DeVos’s stomping grounds) that helps school libraries buy books, materials, and training focused on serving students in underserved communities across America.

LSTA and IAL probably give the biggest economic and social bang for the buck in the entire federal budget. LSTA grant funds go to every state, every year, according to a population-based formula. Each state contributes matching funds and decides how best to use their grants. Over the past few years in California, LSTA has funded improving access to legal information in Eastern Alameda County; computer training for adults; bringing books to communities without libraries; special needs and inclusive library services; summer tutoring; and so much more. Without this funding for libraries, Americans across the country run the risk of losing access to valuable services, training and education that are only possible when they’re supported by the federal government.

Think about it. Under $200 million to educate and serve people of all ages, all over the country. Versus another $8.6 billion for the presidential budget’s obscene proposal for the border wall …

Fortunately, Congress has prevented this exact travesty in previous presidential budgets; library services are one of the few things with bipartisan support. But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You need to make your voice heard!

What you can do:

Ask your Members of Congress to publicly oppose cuts to federal library funding and commit to fighting for libraries throughout the appropriations cycle.

  • Print postcards to mail to your Members of Congress! We’ve designed a sheet with four postcards for you to send to your two Senators and your Representative. Give the extra to a friend! Print on stiff paper, with your document set to landscape orientation.
  • Call or email your MoCs and say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am strongly opposed to cutting federal funding for libraries from the 2020 budget as the Administration wants to do. Federal library funding isn’t a big part of the budget but it funds important programs for everyone. These budget cuts would make libraries provide more services with less money, or cut services altogether. Our communities need our libraries and we need you to help save library funding through the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Library Services and Technology Act, and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program.

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 

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:

Phone and text bank for 2019 special elections

Think nothing is happening in March 2019, so far from November 2020? Think again! Hero phone and text bankers in West County, who wore their fingers to the bone dialing and texting for the 2018 Blue Wave, are jumping back into weekly (mostly) phone and text-banking parties on Tuesdays from 1 to 3 PM in El Sobrante.

They’re focusing on the many upcoming special elections, starting with an April 2 race for the Wisconsin supreme court, where redistricting cases are likely to come up, and a May 21 Pennsylvania congressional district 12 special election for a House seat previously held by a Republican (the Democratic candidate is already selected so there’s no primary).

Come help slow the trump train by texting and making calls! Join any of these West County phone or text-bank parties, some Tuesdays beginning March 12, anytime between 1 to 3 PM. We’ll update this article as more events are added, so check back! For all details and to RSVP:

All are welcome, from newbies to experienced! The hosts will train you and make sure you’re comfortable calling or texting. Bring your phone, charger, and earbuds (for your comfort) AND a laptop or tablet (or when you sign up, let them know you’d like to borrow one), and don’t forget your good cheer and positive energy to #Resist! And bring friends!

Any questions, contact host Nancy Klein at nancyklein44@gmail.com or 510-917-4045

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.

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.