Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Just Resolution to Sequestration







February 26, 2013



Dear Members of Congress,

It is with great concern over the effects of the sequester that I write to you today.  These budget cuts will harm real people; they are not an academic exercise and this is no laboratory for testing ideology around the role of government.  Indeed, a recent report by the Coalition on Human Needs shows that 600,000 children and women stand to lose WIC nutrition assistance, 70,000 children may be denied Head Start, and at a time when the need for better mental health care is brought into stark relief by recent violent events, 373,000 people stand to lose access to mental health treatment.  Arguments that the effects of the sequester will not be “that bad” fail to account for the real lives of people who depend on the services that we have committed to provide for the common good of all.

Please find attached Faithful Alternatives to the Sequester, a document offered last summer to Members of Congress by the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs.  In particular, we draw your attention to:

Crushing poverty in a world of abundance is insufferable and our nation has allowed too much injustice and greed to govern our current economic structures.  Instead, we seek to increase equity and equality in this nation. We are alarmed at the growing economic divergence between rich and poor, creating permanent inequalities that are neither just nor socially sustainable. Over the past thirty years, tax policy has too often been used to perpetuate rather than address these inequalities…

It is from this place of concern for the common good, right relationship, and the just working of the economy, that we seek a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  Sequestration was developed as a backstop – a last resort if Congress failed to act in a more thoughtful and balanced way.  Whether Congress uses sequestration or some alternative as a means of achieving deficit reduction, Congress can and must act in a way that reflects our shared values. There are core challenges facing our nation: rising income inequality, persistent unemployment, historically high rates of poverty and anemic economic growth. These challenges must be addressed with justice.

Therefore, we refuse to accept additional spending cuts to programs that serve “the least of these,” and we support extending the tax cuts for low and middle-income families.  In particular, we support a strong, refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, as they are some of this nation’s most effective tools for alleviating poverty. 

Our approach to upcoming sequestration needs to be rooted in our values – a balanced approach that addresses the deficit crisis with justice and compassion.  On the one hand, we need to be good stewards of the resources we already have, making judicious cuts to defense, earmarks, and other wasteful spending, while preserving that which is most important for the good of all.  On the other hand, we must increase revenue, in order to ensure that this nation can meet our need to operate a fair and just economy, which serves all of our human community. The nation’s deficit crisis cannot be solved through spending cuts alone – new revenues must be part of the solution. The need is great and the resources are abundant.  The budget choices we make must reflect this reality.

Please feel free to contact me at the contact information below, or my fellow Co-Chair, Amelia Kegan, Policy Analyst at Bread for the Word, should you have any questions.

With sincere hopes for a just resolution to Sequestration,

Leslie Woods
Representative for Domestic Poverty & Environmental Issues
Office of Public Witness
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Co-Chair
Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs

Urge House to Pass Inclusive, Bipartisan VAWA; Oppose House Leadership Substitute


 House Leadership introduces partisan VAWA that fails to protect all victims

Legislation will be before the House Rules Committee TODAY and debated on the House floor as early as WEDNESDAY

The House Leadership’s version of VAWA, which will be substituted for the Senate’s inclusive, comprehensive version of S.47, is a bill that excludes effective protections for LGBT, tribal, immigrant, and campus victims.  It will likely be on the House floor tomorrow or Thursday.  The PC(USA) Office of Public Witness strongly supports a bipartisan, inclusive VAWA reauthorization, such as the bipartisan Senate-passed S. 47, and opposes this House Leadership substitute bill.

Please email your Representatives and urge them to vote against the House Republican Leader’s substitute VAWA and ask them to vote for the field-approved VAWA that passed in the Senate with strong bipartisan support.  Send a message today!

The substitute bill is not the punitive House bill that the OPW opposed last year; nonetheless, this House version of the bill  fails victims in a number of critical ways:

  • Fails to include the protections for LGBT victims from the Senate bill
  • Removes important provisions added to the Senate bill to protect victims of human trafficking
  • Provides non-tribal batterers with additional tools to manipulate the justice system, takes away existing protections for Native women by limiting existing tribal power to issue civil orders of protection against non-Native abusers, while weakening protections for Native women
  • Contains harsh administrative penalties and hurdles for small struggling domestic violence and sexual assault programs and an additional layer of bureaucracy through the office of the Attorney General
  • Drops the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, which is included in the Senate bill, that improves the handling of sexual violence and intimate partner violence on college  campuses
  • Drops important provisions in the Senate bill that that work toward erasing the rape kit backlog
  • Weakens protections for victims in public housing
  • Drops the inclusion of “stalking” among the list of crimes covered by the U visa (a critical law enforcement tool that encourages immigrant victims to assist with the investigation or prosecution of certain enumerated crimes)
Seventy-eight Senators from both parties and over 1,300 local, state and national professional and policy organizations, including the PC(USA), support the Senate-passed bill as do law enforcement officials, health care professionals, community program and service providers, faith communities, and the tens of millions of survivors and their families, friends, and loved ones who rely on, have benefited from, and used the services and resources provided by the 19-year-old law which has now expired.

We must oppose this partisan substitute and instead pass the bipartisan Senate version of VAWA.  201 Democrats are sponsors of H.R. 11, the House replica of the Senate bill. Nineteen Republican Representatives have asked the House Republican leaders to pass a bipartisan bill that “reaches all victims” and dozens more Republicans support some or all of the Senate provisions that are not included in the Republican VAWA substitute.

Email your Representative Now!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

The House Must Take Up the Senate-passed VAWA


Tell the House to take up the Senate-passed VAWA 
Take two VAWA actions today:

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the Senate passed S. 47, a strong, inclusive bill to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID), by a 78-22 bipartisan vote!  Thank you for all of your hard work to make this happen!  And thank you to our Senate champions and the Administration for their unwavering support.  Email your Senators today to say thank you!

Now we need to tell the House of Representatives to bring the bipartisan Senate bill to the House floor for a vote - and to get this done immediately! Email your Representative today! 

Two links:
For thanking the Senate – the alert will tell you how your Senators voted.
For urging action in the House – the alert will tell you if your Representative is a co-sponsor.

Right now the House leadership is pondering about what direction to take on VAWA. Speaker Boehner has given an opening, saying “No decision has been made about…whether we take up the Senate bill or move our own version of the bill.”  We need to help Speaker Boehner and the House decide to take up the Senate bill S. 47.  Email your Representative today! Survivors of violence cannot wait any longer.

Background on the Bill the Senate passed:

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the U.S. Senate passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S. 47). This strong and inclusive legislation was championed by lead co-sponsors Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID) to a 78-22 bi-partisan victory.

And in addition to the success of an inclusive VAWA, Senators also included a human-trafficking-related amendment that is effectively the same as S.1301, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), a positive bill that had broad bipartisan support last year (including from 15 Republicans). For a factsheet on S.1301, click here. For the bill text click here and for a full list of co-sponsors, click here

Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA has dramatically enhanced our nation’s response to violence against girls and women, boys and men. More victims report domestic violence to the police and the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 64%.  VAWA provides for a coordinated community approach, improving collaboration between law enforcement and victim services providers to better meet the needs of victims. These comprehensive and cost-effective programs not only save lives, they also save money. In fact, VAWA saved nearly $12.6 billion in net averted social costs in just its first six years.

Bipartisan momentum is also growing in the House of Representatives to swiftly pass a strong VAWA reauthorization bill that will protect all victims.

Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI), herself a courageous survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, introduced a VAWA reauthorization bill (HR 11; similar to S.47) on January 22nd. Nearly 200 co-sponsors have joined her in just the last few weeks.

We know that  Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) are attempting to find common ground (click here for more), pledging to make VAWA’s reauthorization an early House priority. We hope that they will continue to work together to reach agreement on a bill that includes all victims. A group of 17 Republican House Members also wrote to Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Feb. 11, to urge them to immediately move to reauthorize VAWA; lamenting that reauthorization is “long overdue”; attesting that VAWA programs “save lives” and “have been a success in curbing domestic violence and supporting victims”; and appealing for their swift action to reach “bipartisan compromise” and to find a “bipartisan plan… that reaches all victims.”  See letter and signatories here.

These signs of bipartisan energy and commitment to VAWA’s reauthorization in the House of Representatives are very encouraging. Email your Representative to today – call on the House to follow the Senate’s lead and bring a strong, inclusive, bipartisan VAWA bill to the floor for a vote in the weeks ahead.


Please thank your Senator(s) who voted for the final VAWA.


Note: both alerts will offer sample language based on your Members’ actions on these bills.

If your Representative is one of the 201 sponsors sponsors (all Democrats) of the House version of the Senate VAWA (H.R. 11), thank them and encourage them to talk to and work with their Republican colleagues to get a bipartisan VAWA passed.  (For further updates on sponsors, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php, choose Bill number, type in H.R. 11 and search.)

If your Representative is one of the 17 Republicans who signed onto a letter to Republican House leadership urging a bipartisan VAWA that reaches all victims, thank them and urge them to talk to Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor and suggest to them that the Senate bill should be considered on the House floor.  See letter and signatories here.  Twitter handles for these members are at http://www.tweetcongress.org.

If your Representative is NOT on the sponsor list, call on them to join the movement in the House for an inclusive VAWA.

Two links:
For thanking the Senate – the alert will tell you how your Senators voted.
For urging action in the House – the alert will tell you if your Representative is a co-sponsor.



Leslie Woods hosts "Faithful Budget" conversation on Ecclesio.com

This week, OPW's own Leslie Woods, Representative for Domestic Poverty & Environmental Issues, has been guest-hosting a conversation about "A Faithful Federal Budget" on ecclesio.com.

Read her article laying out the need for a Faithful Budget and her colleagues' invited responses:

www.ecclesio.com









A Faithful Federal Budget: What Does it Look Like and Why Does it Matter?
by Leslie Woods, Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness
"The federal deficit is not this nation’s most pressing problem. While it is a long-term problem that needs a long-term solution, more urgent are the problems of rising inequality, economic injustice, contempt for the common good, and a startling lack of civility that allows us to demonize the “other” while avoiding responsibility for our collective sins and our complicity in our unjust systems.  Indeed, much more important than the fiscal deficit is our human deficit, where need, hunger, and insecurity result from our lack of investment in people and the community structures that keep people safe, healthy, and happy."



Challenging the False Notion of Scarcity
by John Hill, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society
"How can it be that in the midst of the greatest jobs crisis since the Great Depression, with millions unemployed and millions more underemployed, our leaders in the hallowed halls I had just ridden past seem more concerned with cutting spending and protecting privilege than building community and more justly sharing prosperity?...
"I fear we have so bought into the notion of scarcity that is being peddled – mostly by those who have plenty – that we fail to recognize its fallacy, ask faithful questions and embrace God’s economy of abundance."



The Federal Budget Deficit: the foundation of a healthy economy and prosperous nation that can pay its debts
by Edith Rasell, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
"Putting people back to work and back to paying taxes; strengthening the economy to reduce spending on unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicaid, and other safety net programs; and raising taxes on those who have most greatly benefited from the last 40 years of skewed economic gains are the best way to reduce the deficit...
"Unemployment, not the deficit, continues to be the nation’s main problem."




Tax Reform: The Next Big Thing in the Federal Budget Debates 
by Amelia Kegan, Bread for the World
"The fiscal cliff ended with a deal that raises about $620 billion in new tax revenue over the next decade. Some say that the tax decisions were made and behind us. But for those of us who care about our country’s ability to address hunger and help people move out of poverty, the fiscal cliff deal cannot be the last word on revenues. As Congress struggles to find another one to one and a half trillion dollars in deficit reduction, we absolutely need more revenues if programs that reduce hunger and poverty are to remain effective and funded."

Read these and many more thought-provoking conversations and articles 
on www.ecclesio.com.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

One week left 'til the Sequester


One week left…

On March 1st, new federal budget cuts will begin to take effect.  If Congress does nothing, many hundreds of thousands of people will be hurt by across-the-board cuts (sequestration) to education, nutrition, job training, home heating assistance, public health, mental health, and social services, to name only a few areas. In the absence of a resolution, there will be $31.4 billion in spending cuts to domestic programs like WIC, Head Start, child care, housing, home energy, homeless aid, education and training, and much more.  Medicare alone will be cut by $11.2 billion. 


Congress should replace the sequester with a balanced approach that reflects our collective responsibility to our human community.  There are core challenges facing our nation: rising income inequality, persistent unemployment, historically high rates of poverty and anemic economic growth. These challenges must be addressed with justice, but the sequester will only exacerbate them.

Sequestration was developed as a backstop – a last resort if Congress failed to reduce the deficit in a more thoughtful and balanced way.  As Christians, we believe that our economic system must be rooted in fairness, justice, and equal opportunity.  Without these values, our economy is, quite literally, demoralized.  Thus it is our responsibility, both individually and collectively, to respond to those who are in need. 

Therefore, the first rule should be that deficit reduction should not increase poverty.  Congress must not replace the current sequester with policy that will be even worse for those who are already struggling to make ends meet.  We must explore responsible alternatives to sequestration that will be more consistent with our faith and sense of compassion.  The nation’s deficit problem cannot be solved through spending cuts alone – new revenues must be part of the solution. 


To raise revenue, the tax code should be made more progressive (that is, tax liability increases as income increases), system-wide health care costs should be controlled, and unnecessary tax expenditures should be eliminated.  Further, Congress should seriously scrutinize the Defense budget, which has doubled in size in the last fifteen years.  Outdated weapons systems and an over-reliance on the apparatus of war are no way to build peace and true security in a troubled world. 

Our partners at the Coalition on Human Needs have recently released new national and state-specific fact sheets that highlight (or lowlight) the effects of these devastating cuts.   Just a sampling of the impacts in fact sheets for every state and for the U.S are startling:  Up to 125,000 families and 100,000 formerly homeless people losing their housing (or having to pay much more), 600,000 young children and moms losing WIC nutrition aid, 70,000 children denied Head Start, nearly 76,000 people with disabilities losing Voc. Rehabilitation services, 373,000 adults and children with serious mental illness losing treatment.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Farm Bill and Fiscal Cliff: What Happened?



Congress avoided the looming fiscal cliff through a last-minute, temporary fix passed in the wee hours on Jan. 1, 2013. The 2001 and 2003 income tax rates will be extended for people with incomes up to $400,000 ($450,000 for couples), while those above that threshold will see an income tax increase from 35% to 39.6%. Capital gains and dividend tax rates also increase to 20%, up from the prior 15%.[i] 

Regarding the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, Congress passed a two-month delay, thereby leaving the 113th Congress with an abundance of time-sensitive new "cliffs" to tackle.

At the end of last September, 2012, Congress also passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to ensure the continuation of most federal programming and operations until March 27th, 2013. Accordingly, the 112th Congress successfully punted to the 113th Congress, thus perpetuating the culture of fiscal uncertainty that has painfully enveloped almost all facets of federal budgetary life.  Further, because Congress has paralyzed itself with major fiscal disasters every few months for the last two years, very little other policy of note has been accomplished.  The slow-turning axle of governance has ground practically to a halt.

This "punt" culture is also evident in Congress' inability to accomplish a reauthorization of the Farm Bill, our nations food and farm policy, which historically has enjoyed broad bipartisan support.  But Congress allowed the 2008 Farm Bill to expire on Oct. 1, 2012, and included a short-term, partial extension in the Jan. 1st deal that "averted" the fiscal cliff.  Food and farm programs authorized by the farm bill are now scheduled to expire October 1st, 2013. Though many important programs that invest in just and diverse food systems have not been extended and carry no funding into this New Year, they begin the process of negotiating a bill all over again.

The fiscal cliff deal, including this flawed Farm Bill extension, was drafted by Senator Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden, despite last-minute efforts for a better Farm Bill extension by Senator Debbie Stabenow and House Representative Frank Lucas. For more on this proposed bill, read here. This current extension continues the 2008 Farm Bill, including its economically damaging direct commodity subsidies, while at the same time not funding vital programs for new farmers, minority farmers, healthy food markets, rural job programs, renewable energy, specialty crop and organic research, and organic farming.[ii]

Some have speculated that the politically charged threat of doubled milk prices (owing to the expiration of the 2008 Bill and subsequent reversion to 1930s and 40s farm law) served as the impetus to continue the unpopular and expensive direct commodity subsidies.[iii] Perhaps there is truth to this, and if so, it further epitomizes the carelessness of this last-minute extension plan. The crafters of this temporary fix ignored the bipartisan calls from Republicans, Democrats, and even the American Farm Bureau Federation, who have all called for an end to direct payments. This Farm Bill temporary extension missed an good opportunity for important deficit-reduction savings from direct payments and ceded important gains toward supporting new and minority farmers, investing in rural development  and growing local food systems - all gains as a result of expired and un-extended policy from the 2008 Farm Bill. For more about 2012 progress regarding the Farm Bill, read here.


What to do? First, plan now to attend an advocacy and training weekend April 5-8, 2013, focused on Food Justice.  Compassion, Peace, and Justice Training Day and Ecumenical Advocacy Days will be focusing on these issues and the Lobby Day, April 8, will focus on a holistic approach to Farm Bill reauthorization.  This is an important chance to weigh in with legislators and ask them to create a more "faithful" version of the legislation. To read the interfaith community's vision of principles for a faithful Farm Bill, read here.

As the Farm Bill is being drafted once again in this 113th Congress, we ask that you would be in prayer: prayer as expressed in your quiet time, and prayer in your advocacy work for a faithful Farm Bill. We encourage you to contact your legislators and advocate for a Farm Bill that abides by the principles set forth in the interfaith document.  And stay tuned for more direct action opportunities by phone and email!

As we move into this next phase of fiscal cliff and farm bill negotiations, we join in prayer for our elected officials and leaders. May they act with justice and compassion, seeking policy that invests in the general welfare and that ensures that all people have access to healthy and nutritious food.



[i] http://money.cnn.com/2013/01/01/news/economy/fiscal-cliff-senate-bill/index.html
[ii] http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/farm-bill-extension-fiscal-cliff/
[iii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-muller/farm-bill-fiscal-cliff_b_2467971.html


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Call to Reduce Gun Violence



LENTEN PETITION CALLING FOR COMMON-SENSE MEASURES TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons (and daughters) of God.
- Matthew 5:9


The 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted the resolution, Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call, in exercise of its responsibility to help the whole church address matters of “social righteousness.” The resolution calls both the Church to support and the federal government to establish laws that will prevent and reduce gun violence. The PC(USA) recognizes the seriousness of gun violence in the United States, where more than 30,000 lives are lost each year due to firearms.  We call on all people to conscience to make earnest strides to challenge the pervasive culture of violence that permeates our social fabric.


During this Lenten Season we are joining other faith groups in prayerful engagement and direct action to reduce our culture of violence and to bring peace to our homes, streets, and public venues. Our role as Christians is to be peacemakers. Peace is more than the absence of conflict.  Peace requires our active participation in the work to serve the common good. Making peace often stirs controversy, because it requires engaging in faithful witness on behalf of Jesus Christ, despite the resulting discomfort. Peace exposes human frailty and sin in order to make repentance possible. Jesus affirms that his presence and teachings in the world will create division among those who are closest to him (Matthew 10:34). Therefore, the gospel is a double edged sword that evokes unrest while creating a platform for peaceful reconciliation.

As we journey together through this period of spiritual discipline and contemplation, while also experiencing gun-related grief and trauma in our communities and nation, let us remember that New Life awaits us on Easter morning. 

This petition, calling for common-sense federal measures to reduce gun violence, is one small piece of a larger strategy to address the culture of violence that pervades our nation.  We will deliver this petition to Congress during Eastertide.  Sign it now!

As you move through your Lenten discipline, make this petition – signing it, circulating it, inviting your friends and congregation-members to sign it – one of your personal commitments.  In addition, try these other action steps toward raising awareness and reducing violence and poverty in our nation.

  1. Pray for our President and the United States Congress as they struggle with the issue of gun violence.
  2. Encourage your Pastor(s) to preach sermons, teach bible studies, and become involved in the efforts to change our culture of violence and to eradicate gun violence in your local community.
  3. Host a screening of TRIGGER: The Ripple Effects of Gun Violence, the PC(USA) documentary on eradicating gun violence. Hold congregational and community discussions in your house of worship.
  4. Participate in a Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend, March 15-17. 
  5. Write and/or call your Congresspersons and the President each week during Lent stating your support for federal legislation to reduce gun violence. (See the requested actions outlined in the petition). To find contact information for your Members, click here.
  6. Read the gun violence policy of the PC(USA) - Gun Violence and Gospel Values: Mobilizing In Response to God’s Call
  7. Register and make plans to attend Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day (CPJ) and Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) in Washington, DC, April 5-8, 2013 (attend both events in one weekend) to receive training in how to become an advocate for justice issues.



As members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and people of faith and conscience, we believe that God desires health and wholeness for all of God’s children – not cycles of despair, poverty, and violence.

We therefore believe that we have a responsibility to reduce such injustice in our midst, wherever we see it.  We therefore call upon the United States Senate and House of Representatives to approve federal legislation that will --

Reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 – banning all assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Assault weapons are weapons of war and have no place in the hands common citizens. Most mass shootings in this nation involve such weapons.

Require universal background checks when purchasing any firearm. Many states do not require background checks, making it simple to acquire a gun for persons with criminal records, persons who do not know how to handle a gun, or persons who suffer from mental illness. Guns only belong in the hands of those who know how to handle them with correct intention.

Make gun trafficking a federal crime. Currently, gun trafficking is prosecuted under a statute that prohibits selling guns without a federal license. This crime carries the same punishment as trafficking chicken or livestock.


Please forward this petition to friends, church members, organizations and/or other persons and institutions.

Post cards are available for large groups and/or congregations who desire to collect many signatures at once (such as church coffee hour).  Please contact our office at ga_washington_office@pcusa.org to request petition post cards. 

Friday, February 8, 2013


 

25 Groups Call on Obama Not to Block Food, Medicine to Iran

 
A broad coalition of 25 national organizations, including the Presbyterian Church (USA), called on President Barack Obama to take action to ensure that Iranian civilians are not blocked from accessing food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods under existing U.S. sanctions.

According to recent reports, a growing number of Iranians are facing difficulties accessing food and medicine, in part due to sanctions imposed by the United States. The Iranian government's mismanagement and lack of economic transparency has also worsened the situations for Iranian patients, but there are still simple actions that the U.S. government can take to ensure that Iranians are not blocked from accessing food and medicine due to the U.S. sanctions regime.

Click on the link below to read the letter.

http://fcnl.org/issues/iran/coalition_calls_on_obama_not_to_block_food_medicine_to_iran/index.html

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Invitation: Screening of TRIGGER, the PC(USA)'s new documentary on Gun Violence


Senate VAWA Vote Tomorrow - Call Now!


The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday, Feb. 7.  We need a strong, bipartisan vote in favor of this reauthorization in order to compel the House to take it up next.  Call now!

When you reach your Senators’ offices, ask for the staff person who handles VAWA.


The following Senators are already co-sponsors of VAWA.  Make sure to include a “thank you” if they represent you:


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

FMLA 20th Anniversary Celebration






Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which President Clinton signed it into law on February 5, 1993.

For the specifics of the FMLA, please read more here: http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/ 

The FMLA works. Workers have used it more than 100 million times to take critical time off to care for family members or to recuperate from their own illnesses, without putting their jobs at risk or losing their health insurance.[i]


Presbyterians have long supported policies that promote healthy families, particularly as they relate to issues of employment. In 2004, the 216th General Assembly urged the church at all levels to "advocate for local, state, and federal legislation that might strengthen family life," including:

"Induc[ing]  employers  to offer  more  flexible work  hours,  more  paid  leave for  the care  of dependent  persons  and child-related activities, more telecommuting  options, more possibilities for part-time jobs with prorated wages and  benefits,  family-supporting wages for all workers, and more available, affordable, and flexible child care programs.[ii]

The FMLA is an important milestone of family-friendly legislation that makes it all the more possible to care for our families and work outside the home.  Most people have interacted with the FMLA through parental leave (both for birth or adoption of a child), and in addition to providing for time to care for the arrival of a new child, FMLA also provides for workers to take protected, unpaid leave to care for a sick parent, spouse, or child, or to recuperate from their own serious illness.

Think Progress' Infographic on Paid Leave in Developed Nations
But not all workers can afford to take the unpaid leave the FMLA ensures and about 40 percent of workers are not even eligible for FMLA, because they work in organizations with fewer than 50 employees or are otherwise exempted from FMLA’s protections.[iii] 

As we celebrate the great strides through the passage of the FMLA 20 years ago, we must also look forward, making efforts to make U.S. family policy even more family-friendly. Of the developed nations of the world, the U.S. is the only nation that does not mandate paid leave for the birth of a child. 


With your help, we can both celebrate the traction this issue has gained over the years and also move into a future where healthy families have are better sustained, supported, and nurtured.

"We envision a society in which families assume primary responsibility for the care and guidance of their own members, supported by other citizens, members of faith communities, and social institutions. It is preferable that those institutions with the best combination of knowledge of the family situation and adequate resources respond to family needs.ii



[ii] from "Transforming Families," 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Minutes, 2004, pp. 759-760.
[iii] “Parental Leave Policies in 21 Countries: Assessing Generosity and Gender Equality,” by Rebecca Ray, Janet C. Gornick, and John Schmitt, published by Center for Economic and Policy Research, http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/parental_2008_09.pdf



Monday, February 4, 2013

Senate to vote on VAWA this week!

The Office of Public Witness sent three letters about the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to the Senate this morning (Feb. 4): one thanking the lead sponsor of the bill, S. 47, Senator Patrick Leahy; one thanking the 59 Senators who have cosponsored the bill; and one to the remaining 39 Senators who have not cosponsored it.   To find the list of current cosponsors, visit the Library of Congress' website. The Senate is expected to begin debating this measure this evening.  Below, please see the letters thanking the cosponsors and urging support from those who have not yet cosponsored the bill.

Click here to send a message to your Senators in favor of S. 47!

To the cosponsors of S. 47:


February 1, 2013

Dear Senator:

In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we believe that “domestic violence is always a violation of the power God intended for good.”  We believe that “God the Creator is preeminently a covenant-maker, the One who creates, sustains, and transforms the people of God. Domestic violence and abuse destroys covenants in which people have promised to treat each other with respect and dignity.”*

Because of these convictions, we strongly support a robust reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, we thank you for co-sponsoring S. 47, and we trust that you to vote in favor of it when it comes before the Senate early next week.  Further, we urge you to oppose any weakening, harmful, or non-germane amendments and only to support changes to VAWA that are endorsed by the bill’s chief sponsor.

As you know, VAWA’s programs support state, tribal, and local efforts to address the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  These programs have made great progress towards reducing the violence, helping victims to be healthy and feel safe and holding perpetrators accountable.  This critical legislation must be reauthorized to ensure a continued response to these crimes.

Again, we  thank you for cosponsoring this bill and look forward to its passage, so that we can build upon VAWA's successes and continue to enhance our nation’s ability to promote an end to this violence, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to keep victims and their families safe from future harm.  For our part, we commit to continued ministry with victims and survivors of violence and to do all we can, through our ministries and our advocacy, to end this desperate cycle of violence and brokenness.

We give thanks for your service to our nation and for your leadership on this issue.

Sincerely,

The Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II
Director for Public Witness


* Belief statements are quoted from Turn Mourning Into Dancing! A Policy Statement on Healing Domestic Violence, approved by the 213th General Assembly (2001) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


To Senators who have NOT cosponsored S. 47: 


February 1, 2013

Dear Senator:

In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we believe that “domestic violence is always a violation of the power God intended for good.”  We believe that “God the Creator is preeminently a covenant-maker, the One who creates, sustains, and transforms the people of God. Domestic violence and abuse destroys covenants in which people have promised to treat each other with respect and dignity.”*

Because of these convictions, we strongly support a robust reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, we ask you to co-sponsor it, and we urge you to vote in favor of S. 47 when it comes before the Senate early next week.  Further, we urge you to oppose any weakening, harmful, or non-germane amendments and only to support changes to VAWA that are endorsed by the bill’s chief sponsor.

VAWA’s programs support state, tribal and local efforts to address the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  These programs have made great progress towards reducing the violence, helping victims to be healthy and feel safe and holding perpetrators accountable.  This critical legislation must be reauthorized to ensure a continued response to these crimes.

Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA has dramatically enhanced our nation’s response to violence against girls and women, boys and men.  VAWA provides for a coordinated community approach, improving collaboration between law enforcement and victim services providers to better meet the needs of victims. And while VAWA has unquestionably improved the national response to these terrible crimes, much work remains to be done to address unmet needs and to enhance access to protections and services for all victims. We urge you to sponsor and vote for S. 47 in order to build upon VAWA's successes and continue to enhance our nation’s ability to promote an end to this violence, to hold perpetrators accountable and to keep victims and their families safe from future harm.

For our part, we commit to continued ministry with victims and survivors of violence and to do all we can, through our ministries and our advocacy, to end this desperate cycle of violence and brokenness.
We give thanks for your service to our nation and for your leadership on this issue.

Sincerely,

The Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II
Director for Public Witness


* Belief statements are quoted from Turn Mourning Into Dancing! A Policy Statement on Healing Domestic Violence, approved by the 213th General Assembly (2001) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)